America and the Liberal International Order by Michael Anton

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Note: Michael Anton is Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications, National Security Council. This article was prepared before the author accepted his current position. The views here reflect only those of the author. They do not represent the views of the Trump administration, the National Security Advisor, or the U.S. government.
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In a year of upset political apple carts, none were rattled harder, or lost more fruit, than traditional notions of American foreign policy. Donald Trump shocked a lot of people over a lot of issues. But no anti-Trump Republican economists orchestrated elaborate letters, with hundreds of signatories, to swear they would never serve in a Trump administration. No dissident Republican trade negotiators ostentatiously switched parties and vowed to support Trump’s opponent. Nor did Republican immigration experts flood the cable networks to renounce and denounce their party’s nominee.

Yet all of the above—and more—happened with respect to foreign policy. The specific reasons why Republican foreign policy operatives chose to denounce Trump’s plans may never be clear. We shall instead explore what we think they had in mind.

Nearly all opponents of President Trump’s foreign policy, from conservatives and Republicans to liberals and Democrats, claim to speak up for the “liberal international order.” A word may have been different here or there (e.g., “world order”) but the basic charge was always the same. Whether voiced by Fareed Zakaria and Yascha Mounk on the left, Walter Russell Mead in the center, Eliot Cohen and Robert Zoellick on the right, or Robert Kagan on the once-right-now-left, the consensus was clear: Trump threatens the international liberal order.

Guarding the Liberal International Order

Sticklers may notice two problems with this argument. First, while a few critics hung their anti-Trumpism on the peg of “temperament,” most preferred to charge Trump with policy recklessness—yet then went on to insist that Trump had no policies at all. We shall leave this objection aside as excusable political hyperbole.

The second problem is much greater: why is it that no one quite got around to saying what, exactly, the “liberal international order” is? One must, therefore, infer a definition from their complaints, and I shall try to do so fairly, the goal being to understand these writers as they understand themselves.

In ideological terms, the liberal international order (hereafter “LIO”) is the post–World War II consensus among the victorious great powers (excluding the Soviet Union, and later mainland China) on (in descending order of consensus) security, trade, and internal political arrangements. In more concrete terms, it is the constellation of institutions built to further that consensus: the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, and other, later entrants such as the World Bank.

Celebrants of the LIO seem to think that no explanation of its utility or value is necessary. Affirmation is enough because its goodness is self-evident. Trump’s implicit questioning of that order, therefore, sounds blasphemous. And clerics tend to confront blasphemy not with patient clarification but with strident denunciation.

That the foreign policy establishment of the United States is a kind of priesthood is not necessarily a bad thing. Priests can be useful. Aristotle identifies the priestly function as one of six elements vital to his best regime. More to the point, in every regime, strategy is determined and diplomacy is conducted by an elite. Thinkers and doers from Plato to Machiavelli to the American Founders saw no way around this reality and no reason to find it unjust or worrisome.

Yet the arrangement becomes a problem when the elite forgets or at least can no longer articulate the original rationale for the policies it still advocates. That is the situation American foreign policy has faced since the end of the Cold War, if not before—a situation Trump pointed out in often pungent language.

With respect to foreign policy, the restatement of seemingly obvious truths is salutary for two fundamental reasons. First, many Americans do not necessarily know what our interests or strategy are. Restating the basics is often the only way to make clear certain truths that may not possess inherent clarity, and to connect perfectly clear truths with other, more obscure truths.

Second, the priesthood sometimes protects its status by muddying the simple and clear, and pretending that the complex is clear and obvious—but only to themselves. Restating key elements of foreign policy is therefore essential to wider participation in political discourse. The foreign policy priesthood looks down on such restatements as “simplistic.” But it is important to understand that they will look down on any heterodox analysis—simplistic or complex, old or new, factually detailed or broad-brush—and they will dismiss these analyses in seemingly contradictory terms. This one is too detailed, stuck “in the weeds,” and misses the forest for the trees, while that one is too vague and high-level and lacks specifics. The only common thread is that the priesthood is protecting its guild.

And make no mistake: the foreign policy establishment is very much a guild. This fact is true in the prosaic sense. The priesthood operates and draws income from the LIO’s constituent institutions. It’s also true in the higher sense that the language and ideas of the LIO are the intellectual frameworks of all foreign policy discussion—the water in which fish do not know they swim.

The Trifocal Lens of American Foreign Policy

The original rationale for the LIO was the same as the original rationale for every major successful framework for American foreign policy. Those who advocated for it and built it did so because they thought it would best protect our security and interests at that time. What was different—and unprecedented—is that in 1945, America found itself not just a major economic power or even a military great power, but a superpower. This was not a position the American elite who fought and won the Second World War sought. It was an unexpected, and to many unwelcome, fruit of victory. Soldiers wanted to go home. Families wanted their men back. Civilians wanted an end to privation and sacrifice. The nation as a whole wanted to lay down a burden that most had not wanted to take up. To speak anachronistically, they wanted a “return to normalcy.”

But those Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas called “Wise Men” believed that the question—What now?—required an unprecedented answer because of the unprecedented situation. If isolationism had served American interests in the past, they calculated, it would not do so in the foreseeable future. But to fully understand their logic, one must understand that they saw American interests in terms essentially no different from the views of the American Founders.

Once, as a young man looking to get a rise out of people, I stated that America’s proper foreign policy objectives were to avoid becoming poorcontemptible, or dead. As an older man with experience in the national security bureaucracy, I naturally blush at that recollection and today recognize the advantages of stating things in the positive: America’s national interests are to pursue and promote prosperityprestige, and peace. This formulation may seem simplistic, but these obvious goals have too often been forgotten by the defenders of the status quo, who have confused means for ends.

More specifically, America should seek to further its economic interests as a commercial republic and to maintain and increase the American people’s standard of living and the American nation’s aggregate wealth. This, in turn, enables us to do great things—such as building massive and complex infrastructure projects, maintaining a strong and cutting-edge military, putting a man on the moon, and so forth.

We should also seek to maintain our standing in the world, our alliances with friends, and the fear and respect of enemies, to make possible or at least easier whatever it is that we want to do in the world. Contempt and respect are abstract and insubstantial but highly relevant to the pursuit of the other two goals. Avoiding poverty, getting and staying rich, and avoiding death by deterring or, if necessary, winning wars, require or are greatly aided by high standing in the eyes of other nations.

Peace

Though here stated last, the first priority of every state is to protect its own safety and the safety of its citizens. Traditionally or historically, this has meant preventing invasion, conquest, enslavement, even destruction, or else at lesser level raids, sackings, and the like. Today one would have to add terrorism and nuclear attack—categories, alas, perhaps not exclusive.

Unusually, the United States, for much of its history, has not faced existential threats. Raids and sackings were common on the frontier, but did not threaten the nation’s very life. Since expelling the British, U.S. territory has been invaded only once, in 1814, and raided once, in 1916. Since then, we have suffered two mass casualty attacks on American territory. Not bad for 240 years.

The reason for this impressive record is, of course, our enviable location: protected by two vast oceans and sharing borders with only two nations, both mostly peaceful (Pancho Villa and drug cartels aside).

For Americans, it is thus a much simpler matter to avoid death than it is for most other nations. Yet we should not be too confident on this score. Invasion by a hostile power, while extremely improbable, is not impossible. It has been contemplated and planned before, though the practicality of occupying the country is probably out of reach of any power today. Thankfully, our circumstances insulate us from many of the consequences of strategic folly.

Death, then, is far more likely to come at the hands of terrorists, or perhaps a nuclear attack by a foreign power, presumably the result of tensions arising from some other crisis somewhere ratcheting out of control.

Prestige

Contempt and its opposite, prestige, are elusive qualities in international politics. Yet everyone knows them when they see them. When the Iranians seized ten American sailors in January 2016 and held them hostage for propaganda photos, those sailors—and our entire country—were being treated with contempt. Being insulted like this and passively accepting the insult increases the contempt felt for us by other nations. This was of course but a small example. A graver example is the contempt engendered by fighting two of the world’s weakest and poorest countries for a decade and not being able to win—and, worse, winning and then casually throwing the victory away. Pointless apologies, gratuitous insults to allies and friends, failure to honor commitments, transparent groveling to enemies—these rub salt in the open wound of contempt. Perhaps the largest contributor to contempt, however, is a general sense of decline. Nations palpably on the way down tend to earn the contempt of other nations in spades.

Prestige, by contrast, is engendered by strength, wealth, and the sense of being a rising (or at least stable) rather than a declining power. It is made firm by one thing above all: victory.

Contempt matters in international politics for two principal reasons. First, being held in contempt increases the probability of the other two bad outcomes, death, and poverty. A nation held in contempt will have a more difficult time making and maintaining alliances. It will be at a disadvantage in negotiations. It will more likely be probed, tested, needled, aggravated—in part because the offenders can, in part because they want to see how much they can get away with. War—death—is a possible result. A nation held in contempt is likely to have less influence in regions vital to its national and commercial interests. Formal and informal relationships will form in indifference to or even opposition to those interests. A shrinking of that nation’s commercial prospects—making it harder to import necessary resources and limiting its export markets—is likely to result in relative poverty.

The opposite accrues, across the board, for nations that are respected and (yes) even a little bit feared. As an evil but not stupid man once put it, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” Too much fear can be a problem, though. Recall Thucydides on the cause of the Peloponnesian War: “And the truest quarrel, though least in speech, I conceive to be the growth of the Athenian power; which putting the Lacedaemonians into fear necessitated the war.” A delicate balance is therefore always required, which means prudence is always required.

The second reason contempt and prestige matter has to do with the effects on the soul of patriotism and national pride. People like to be a part of something greater than themselves. This emphatically includes their nation. Patriotism is thus a natural phenomenon. It is satisfied best when people feel that their nation is strong, or at least not weak. This does not mean that satisfaction is possible only if one is a citizen or subject of a great power. It does mean, however, that the soul suffers when one feels that one is part of a declining or benighted nation.

A related aspect of prestige is the fate and health not just of one’s nation but one’s civilization, religion, or “sect” (in the Machiavellian sense of overarching cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious, “civilizational” framework). Western ennui today stems partly from the sense that our “sect” is going down. Similarly, our enemies’ exuberance stems partly from the sense that, at long last, theirs is going back up.

Contempt and prestige also attach to how and how well a nation treats the other nations within its sect. Rome, for instance, lost a great deal of prestige by refusing aid to Saguntum when that city was besieged by Hannibal, the act which opened the Second Punic War. This refusal was seen as a contemptible betrayal—which had repercussions far beyond the expected consequence of one ally refusing to honor its commitments to another. The effect is similar to the feeling engendered in third parties when they observe one relative or family member abandon or refuse to help another in distress.

Such natural feelings are hard to acknowledge today when “all men are created equal” is taken to such absurd lengths that it is considered immoral to prefer one’s fellow citizens to strangers on the opposite side of the world. One observer has accurately noted that a key criterion of modern liberal “virtue” is how indifferent or even contemptuous one is of one’s own and how strongly one prefers the “other.” The further your loyalties leap, the better person you are. This cosmopolitan orientation is not, however, the natural or “default” state of mankind but rather emerges only in prosperous, altruistic, high-trust, late-stage (corrupt) societies. Most men, most of the time, favor people who are part of their communities and prefer to help them when they can.

This feeling also extends to political systems, if a little less viscerally. We feel a kinship to other democratic states and a distaste (at least) for nondemocratic states. We may support authoritarian regimes against a much worse alternative but we never feel terribly good doing so, and many among us will always object.

In global ideological struggles, there is a sense that your “team” either has momentum or does not. American prestige was damaged by standing idle as democracy was crushed in other countries during the Cold War, for example. The Chinese and the Russians today feel the same way about their systems, whatever one wishes to call them. All of this energy contributes to national, civilizational, and “systemic” prestige, which in turn encourages other powers, players, and bystanders to “bandwagon”: to join or at least follow what they perceive to be the winning side. As noted, “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.”

Prosperity

If avoiding death is our most obvious national interest and avoiding contempt the least, avoiding poverty is somewhere in the middle. Yet it is especially important for a commercial republic. Unlike the necessity of avoiding death, seeking prosperity is more akin to a choice. It’s not essential that we be rich, but we want to be rich. Riches are not a core vital interest of republics. Lycurgus famously banned luxury from Sparta. Early Rome was quite austere. Two millennia later, Machiavelli argued that the best republics “keep the public rich and the citizens poor” while Montesquieu made a forceful case for republican poverty.

Yet Montesquieu made an even more forceful case for commercial republicanism as a vent for men’s industry and ambition. On this specific issue, America clearly chose the path of commercial republicanism. We chose Athens over Sparta, Carthage over Rome, London over Geneva. Having made that choice, we elevated prosperity to a national interest. It is built into the character of our people; there’s no turning away from it now.

Our commercial relations around the globe are thus matters of national security. We need to prevent the formation of cartels or, if and where we cannot, undermine their effectiveness. We need to prevent hostile powers from dominating regions with high concentrations of strategic resources or exerting undue influence on potential trading partners. We also need to ensure that our own exporters are permitted access to foreign markets and that our trade policies advance our own economic interests.

The Post-1945 Liberal International Order

When the liberal international order was born in 1945, it served the purposes of American peace, prestige, and prosperity well. Now more than seventy years later, times and circumstances have changed. Let us first consider the context of 1945. In terms of our survival, America’s security appeared virtually unassailable. It had participated in the defeat of the Axis powers. Its armed forces occupied nations half a globe away in both directions, adding a strong military buffer to the protection of the oceans. Yet in the Soviet Union we faced a stronger potential adversary than any in our history. To deter and contain it, we would need not just a strong military but also a strong network of alliances.

Our prosperity might have seemed unassailable at that moment: the United States controlled 50% of global GDP. Yet, as a commercial republic, our economic health depended on that of our trade partners. You can’t sell to the broke. Hence it was in our interest to devise new international economic arrangements to revive the shattered economies of Western Europe and Northeast Asia.

Our prestige was unquestionably at its peak. But it was also precarious. We could easily have thrown it all away by forsaking allies, abandoning countries we had bled to liberate, and acquiescing to further Soviet expansionism. Hence remaining engaged, even increasing our engagement, was in the national interest.

In 1945 and the years that followed, all three of our core national interests were well served by the creation and maintenance of the LIO. The LIO was not an end, but a means to preordained ends. Its contemporary defenders have forgotten—or never quite understood—this aspect of the LIO. They treat the LIO as the end, as the sempiternal embodiment of American interests, when in fact its creation was a response to the challenges of a particular time. Are those challenges permanent and unchanging? Some may persist, but the world looks a lot different today than it did in 1945. So why must the instruments of American foreign policy be preserved in amber?

Are our three core national interests still served by the LIO? For the most part, they are—with important exceptions that require correction. But sometime around the end of the Cold War, the LIO acquired a logic of its own that demands the preservation of its every aspect without reference to America’s basic interests. Reorienting American foreign policy does not require abandonment of LIO institutions in toto, but neither does it prevent intelligent reform. It certainly does not require its continued expansion into the establishment of a universal and homogeneous state, as some imagine.

Reforming the Liberal International Order

How best to remain safe, rich, and respected? Let us consider the ways in which the LIO might be reformed.

First, our trade policy is in obvious need of reform. The LIO elevates “free trade”—really, phonebook-thick agreements that regulate every aspect of trade, mostly to America’s disadvantage—to holy writ. It does so for political reasons as well as ideological ones, such as the often-inappropriate invocation of David Ricardo. The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has been composed entirely of true believers in the free trade doctrine for several decades. But the world economy has changed significantly since 1945, to state the obvious. In certain cases, at least, the conditions underlying that period’s commercial policy orientation (and the theoretical impulses behind it) no longer apply. The Trump administration is right to be skeptical of free trade ideology and to revisit trade policy based on core interests and commercial realities.

We could also be more sensible about our alliance structure. NATO is far from irrelevant today, but it could surely be made more relevant. Certainly, decades of joint exercise, interoperability rules, interchangeable weapons systems, and the like should not be tossed aside lightly, especially among countries with long histories of deep bonds and common interests. But it is reasonable to ask: What is the alliance for once its original purpose has evaporated? If it can be reformed to better address the threats of our time—terrorism, mass illegal migration—all to the good.

We must also ask: Why is it in our strategic interest to push that alliance’s borders ever outward? What do we gain by pledging American blood to defend places where it would take us a 48-hour airlift to mount a forlorn defense with one regiment? In what way does committing to impossible things enhance prestige?

The case for continued expansion of the LIO seems feeble indeed and has recently been taken to absurd extremes. One school of thought—let us call them the “neocons”—holds that since democracy is “our team,” and that team’s overall health improves when its prospects are expanding, then surely it is in our interest to democratize the world. No?

No. That is to say: America would likely be better off if the world were more democratic than it is, given that democracy correlates highly with friendliness or at least non-opposition to American interests, whereas “authoritarianism” (or, to be more precise, “tyranny”) correlates highly with opposition and even hostility to American interests. But in some regions, democracy also correlates highly with instability, which breeds war and chaos that are antithetical to American interests. In others, the rhetoric and mechanism of democracy are used—one man, one vote, once—to squelch robust democracy and impose a tyranny worse than what preceded the “democracy.”

Sticking with the LIO’s original context between 1945 and 1989, its first purpose was to preserve democracy where it already existed and was under threat, either by foreign conquest or foreign-directed internal subversion. Second, it was to restore democracy to “captive nations” whose liberty had been seized by a foreign power. Third, it was to develop democracy (gradually) in countries with substantial economies, deep reserves of human capital, and civil intuitions capable of serving as soil in which democracy could grow. Never did it mean imposition of democracy—much less suggest this imposition was a vital American interest.

Democracy is a precarious flower. It will not grow just anywhere. There are a great many patches of land we could easily seize that are nonetheless fit for growing only cacti or weeds. If we see the democratic flower struggling to bloom in a place where and at a time when we have the capacity to water it, and it is in our interest to do so, by all means, we should consider it. But the fact that America has a “team interest” in the success or non-failure of democracy does not mean that we have an interest in trying to impose democracy in places where it is almost certain to fail. In fact, the opposite is true, because glaring failures undermine our prestige.

I would ask careful readers to please note that, for all the criticism of the foreign policy establishment, nothing here has specifically criticized the LIO per se. It served our interests well in the times and places for which it was built. It remains superior to most alternatives, including paleo-isolationism and neocon overreach. Confusion may arise from the implicit conflation of the LIO with the latter. It is not an outrageous error to make, precisely because the neocons have expended a lot of effort since the end of the Cold War to meld the two in the public mind, beginning with the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine strategy paper drafted in the Pentagon in 1992 and continuing in 2014 with Robert Kagan’s New Republic think piece “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire.”

The very phrase “liberal international order” hints at the problem. It is at least a better term than President George H. W. Bush’s “new world order,” for the simple reason that the LIO has never prevailed over the entire world and never had a chance to. The failure to see this limit was, it seems, the core mistake of America’s post–Cold War foreign policy. The establishment thought it could take a system built (more or less) for the OECD or the Rich Nations Club and make it work everywhere. That was never possible and still isn’t. The “liberal international order” is thus better termed the “liberal rich-country order” or—if you prefer foreign policy jargon—the “liberal functioning-core order.”

Even if one were to assert that America’s national interest is to build and maintain a liberal order in every corner of the globe (which it isn’t), we would still face the thorny problem that America lacks the means to do so. We have to choose. What do we choose and on what basis?

In sum, the reach of “liberal international order”—while mostly beneficial to American interests—is in practice a lot smaller than the whole world. Even when created in 1945–1950, it was never intended to encompass the globe. It was built to protect the interests of America and its non-Communist friends in Europe and Asia and (in an update to the Monroe Doctrine) keep Communism out of the Western Hemisphere. The Middle East was added later, in stages, as Anglo-French hegemony collapsed after Suez, as the original Western-friendly Arab kings fell, and as the West (and the United States especially) became net oil importers. The attempt, beginning in 1991–92, to extend that order over the whole world was a case of American eyes being much bigger than our stomachs (or teeth), a confusion of ideology and interests. In fact, however, such expansion was never necessary to core American interests—peace, prosperity, prestige.

The uncertainty of the present moment does not derive primarily from President Trump’s supposed disregard for the fundamentals of the liberal international order. On the contrary, the uncertainty arises from a growing awareness of the disconnect between the instrumental policies of that order and its overriding purpose. In restoring a sense of the core objectives behind the LIO’s institutions, Trump actually shows a greater regard for it. These institutions will survive only if prudently amended to serve their essential purposes and meet their members’ needs.

Trump’s campaign was driven by the basic awareness of ordinary citizens that American peace, prestige, and prosperity were not being served by our foreign policy. Among the many reasons to be hopeful about President Trump’s foreign policy is that he seems to understand that correcting the errors of the neo-interventionists does not require adopting those of the paleo-isolationists.

While orienting foreign policy around American peace, prestige, and prosperity still leaves room for disagreements in policy formation, focusing on the ends rather than the means marks a dramatic change in the way our diplomats see things. The quicker we make that change, the quicker we will find clarity in strengthening the institutions that make the American people safe, respected, and wealthy—and the quicker we can reform those that do not.

About The Author
Michael Anton is Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications, National Security Council. This article was prepared before the author accepted his current position. The views here reflect only those of the author. They do not represent the views of the Trump administration, the National Security Advisor, or the U.S. government.
This article originally appeared in American Affairs Volume I, Number 1 (Spring 2017): 113–25.

America and the Liberal International Order

WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 Password Linked to JFK’s ANTI-CIA Quote:

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JFK in Limo - Dallas - 1963 150pcnt

On Tuesday (Mar. 8, 2017) WikiLeaks began releasing a series of encrypted documents dubbed “Vault 7,” detailing the surveillance activities of the CIA.

As part of the release, the organization posted to Twitter a password for “Vault 7” that read as follows:

“SplinterItIntoAThousandPiecesAndScatterItIntoTheWinds.”

That password was a subset of words spoken by President John F. Kennedy 54 years ago, only a month before he was assassinated:

“I will splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the wind,” were his exact words, according to a Kennedy administration official who spoke with The New York Times for a report published three years after JFK’s death.

Speaking in a History Channel program several years ago, Samuel Halpern, author of “The Assassination of JFK,” claimed that the threat stemmed from Kennedy’s frustration with the CIA, which he believed was becoming a “state within a state.”

It also originated, in part, with the then president’s vehement opposition to Operation Northwoods, a CIA-bred plan that called for “the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities” — all to manipulate the American people into supporting a war against Cuba.

Listen to Halpern below:
Samuel Halpern, author of “The Assassination of JFK”

How exactly does this all tie in with WikiLeaks? Conspiracy theorists have long believed that JFK’s assassination was orchestrated by the CIA as retaliation for him preventing Operation Northwoods from being carried out and out of a desire to stop him from clamping down on the agency’s growing power.

The theory is that CIA officials killed the president to protect the agency’s position.

This brings us back to WikiLeaks, which has begun releasing documents that purport to expose the CIA’s shady behavior — and at a time when it seems much of the intelligence community is hostile to President Donald Trump, trying to undermine him at every turn.

Coincidence or conspiracy? You tell me.

H/T Heavy.com

See the Conservative Tribune:

http://conservativetribune.com/meaning-behind-wikileaks-password/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=conserv_tribune

WikiLeaks Releases CIA’s CYBER Methods & Means:

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CIA_Headquarters_Seal - The Cracks Are Showing

By Robert Healy at America Speaks Ink

This week, the transparency organization, WikiLeaks, released an extraordinary number of documents that apparently came from the inner cyber sanctum of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Giving it the name Vault7, the trove of documents exposed to the world by WikiLeaks reveals a copious amount data relating to CIA hacking abilities, not just with regard to computers, but to the technological exploitation of various devices, including smartphones, iPads, smart TVs, and more.

The following statement was tweeted by WikiLeaks about the information:

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, Trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems, and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

There are a multitude of items for most people to be concerned about. Of these, the primary one is that the CIA seems to be lacking a serious security system to protect this kind of data from getting into the wrong hands. As WikiLeaks makes clear, whoever has the computer code has the power to inflict extraordinary damage across the globe, and no doubt could do so without having to leave the comfort of their own living room.

This is an extremely serious national security catastrophe representing a very clear and present danger to this nation no matter how anyone spins it, and it is monumentally bad news for the CIA, the U.S. government, and people everywhere because we have no way of knowing who else has this extraordinarily dangerous data or if it is already being set up and used by someone at this time.

The next prominent concern should make it clear that not every kind of technology should make its way into places it clearly does not belong. Using televisions as a means of spying on people is straight out of George Orwell’s novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, and yet companies are installing their spy tech right into them.

A few years ago, Samsung made news because it was discovered that their “smart” televisions were spying on people who bought them. The Daily Beast published an article in which they noted the following sentence hidden within the company’s lengthy privacy policy regarding these new TVs and their voice-command feature: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

Samsung’s “smart” televisions were specifically singled out in the CIA documents that were released, in which a program called “Weeping Angel” (a name apparently referencing the television show Doctor Who) can be used to compromise a Samsun F8000.

As reported in The Guardian:

The  document dealing with Samsung televisions carries the CIA logo and is described as secret. It adds “USA/UK”. It says: “Accomplishments during joint workshop with MI5/BTSS (British Security Service) (week of June 16, 2014).”

It details how to fake it so that the television appears to be off but in reality can be used to monitor targets. It describes the television as being in “Fake Off” mode. Referring to UK involvement, it says: “Received sanitized source code from UK with comms and encryption removed.”

Though not specifically mentioned, it should be noted that earlier this year, television manufacturer Vizio was fined over $2 Million by the FTC for spying on 11 million customers. In an article about the infraction, The Washington Post stated:

According to the lawsuit, Vizio was literally watching its watchers — capturing “second-by-second information” about what people viewed on its smart TVs. That included data from cable, broadband, set-top boxes, over-the-air broadcasts, DVDs and streaming devices. Vizio also is accused of linking demographic information to the data and selling the data — including users’ sex, age and income — to companies that do targeted advertising.

These revelations should prove to be a lesson to everyone. If any of you have a “smart” TV in your home at this time, you might want to consider replacing it with a standard TV without all those technological bells and whistles. Well, if you value your (and your family’s) privacy in any way, that is.

The final concern should truly scare the hell out of everyone in the U.S. and throughout the world, because mentioned among the various aspects of hacking the CIA has developed for all of those various electronic devices like phones and TVs, this one stands out like a red flashing light: the ability to hack our cars and trucks.

In a CBS report on the WikiLeaks documents, they noted, “One document discusses hacking vehicle systems, indicating the CIA’s interest in hacking modern cars with sophisticated on-board computers.” In an additional report, they added, “Although WikiLeaks didn’t have details on how that might be used, it said the capability might allow the CIA to “engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”

This revelation immediately reminded me of a Wired article from 2015, in which two people, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, engaged in a successful experiment using a “zero-day exploit” (just one method mentioned in WikiLeaks’ statement above) to take control of a Jeep Cherokee driven by Andy Greenberg, author of the article, using a laptop computer. The article and their experiment made national headlines and Chrysler conducted a recall of 1.4 million vehicles as a result of their demonstration that the vehicle could be remotely hacked and controlled.

It also reminded me of the controversy that surfaced two years previous to the Jeep Cherokee experiment, surrounding the untimely death of Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings, whose article, “The Runaway General”, led to the downfall of General Stanley McChrystal.

Hastings’ Mercedes crashed in what authorities concluded was an accident resulting from traveling at high speed, but for others, it remains a mystery with numerous unanswered questions attached to it. Surveillance video posted by LA Weekly shows the vehicle passing by a pizzeria in its final moments before the fatal crash.

One of the first questions to be brought up concerning Michael Hastings’ death was whether it was possible that his car had been tampered with or if it could have been hijacked remotely. The matter had been put to rest as far as the official record is concerned, with any such thoughts dismissed as being in the realm of conspiracy theory.

But we are reminded by the former head of U.S. counterterrorism during President George W. Bush’s administration, Richard Clarke, that the idea cannot be so quickly discarded as officials would have us believe. As he stated to Huffington Post, “in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber-attack. And the problem with that is you can’t prove it,” and added that “I think you’d probably need the very best of the U.S. government intelligence or law enforcement officials to discover it.”

And now we have definitive proof, courtesy of WikiLeaks, that the CIA is actively developing that exact kind of capability, to hack vehicles for the purpose of undetectable assassinations. Who is to say it didn’t already exist at the time that Hastings’ car had crashed, but that it is actively being improved as newer, more sophisticated technologies are introduced into newer models of cars and trucks? How far-fetched can this be now that we actually know about it?

No doubt there will be more revelations to come from these documents as they are vetted and written about and discussed by various outlets in the future, but from what we already know, it’s quite enough to shake the Earth under our feet and rattle us out of our complacency when it comes to the intrusive nature of the various technologies we are using in our lives.

This has been a massively loud wake-up call for everyone. Do not let this fall into the media’s well-honed memory-hole. We need action regarding these revelations from our elected officials, and we need it now.

 

By Robert Healy at America Speaks Ink –

http://www.americaspeaksink.com/2017/03/important-parts-wikileaks-cia-document-release/

Progressives: What Are You Afraid Of?

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Could our progressive friends possibly fear the face of evil, as epitomized by Bill Ayres. Bill Ayres, who was one of the founders of Weather Underground, a communist terrorist group? I guess not, as he and/or his cronies were only responsible for the bombing of government buildings, a New York judge’s home, a San Francisco police station, and a military dance hall, etc. All perfectly legitimate protests in the eyes of the left, I suppose, as I certainly never see any of you condemning what Ayres et al., did, but instead – especially over the past year – taking the country more in his direction and supporting those who have little to no respect for the law.

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Yet, you constantly prattle on about how worried you are concerning Donald Trump, when Ayres holds the title of Distinguished Professor and is a tenured ‘scholar’ at the University of Illinois at Chicago, teaching our kids!!! But I guess that doesn’t concern you at all, either? I know, too, I may sound a bit flippant, but I really am trying to understand your thinking as opposed to just accepting Dr. Michael Savage’s conclusion that liberalism is a mental disorder.

So let me ask you. What would you seriously have to say if someone of Bill Ayres’ ilk, who was also a leader of the KKK, and burned crosses and engaged in terrorism, etc., had actually held a fundraiser at his home for the purposes of kicking off Donald Trump’s political career? Would that concern you? And if Mr. Trump had close ties to that type of individual, wouldn’t that surely be a deal breaker related to his fitness for the presidency? I definitely think it should and would be.

But how could something of such notorious revelation NOT CONCERN YOU, when Mr. Ayres did precisely what is alluded to, above, for President Obama? Your hypocrisy, and inability to truly look at the facts and critically think for yourselves, is astounding!!!

I know, I know. I should have said ‘so-called’ progressives, in the title, as mobs running the streets both burning cities and robbing stores hardly constitutes being forward – looking or innovative and instead is rather more regressive behavior reminiscent of the middle – ages is it not? Thus, I would have added ‘so-called’, prior to the word progressive, but I simply didn’t have room in the title. It is curious, however – how those who have led us so far back like to play linguistic games so as to cover the truth of their movement.

This is another reason I very much hate political labels given that they are so fraught with misunderstanding. Because not too long ago, as you will recall, progressives were nothing more than your everyday garden variety liberal. So why the change? Several reasons, but the main one is Ronald Reagan winning the Cold War and sending the U.S.S.R to the ash heap of history, along with liberalism through this historic victory, by showing that their ideas had been so wrong, for so long. Thus the reason for the new marketing effort and the re-branding of ‘liberalism’ as ‘progressivism’ so as to give people the idea that democrats were somehow moving the country forward and getting something done. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

Though intellectual honesty, something quite anathema to the left, compels me to say that on very rare occasion, indeed, progressives may have an idea that makes some semblance of sense, but that is clearly the exception and not the rule. Especially when, given that providing a first-rate education for mostly minorities, trapped in so many failing schools should be one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century, the so-called progressives through opposition to school choice, hardly show themselves as open-minded, up – to – date reformers seeking to improve and move society forward, but more so radical obstructionists. When on the other hand, conservatives have tried, doggedly for years, to give the aforementioned young men and women the kind of education they deserve and would undoubtedly benefit our country as a whole, for decades to come.

Also, for lack of better parlance and consistency – and though we know the progressive movement is hardly that (progressive) – I am nonetheless going to use the word ‘progressive’ to largely define the left and democrats, and the word ‘conservative’ to define the right and republicans.

With my wanting to ask the question of progressives, especially as to Donald Trump, what in the world is it that you fear given all we’ve seen over these past 8 years? Are you afraid that Trump might somehow, in his political ascendancy, associate and hob knob with, or perhaps even spend time at a terrorist’s home, for the purposes of raising money and accruing power as President Obama did with Bill Ayres? Because what I wrote above is the truth and so is this.

The KKK, really a non-entity in the United States, who does close to nothing, and is composed of nothing but potbellied, beer drinking losers, endorsed both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But neither of those individuals had any control over who endorsed them, while the both of them detest racism. President Obama, on the other hand, for the precise same thing you FALSELY accuse Donald Trump of doing, not only associated with but made friends with unrepentant terrorists for the purposes of gaining political power.

Or perhaps you’re afraid that the rich will get richer and the economy may not be as robust as the Obama economy in the future? Well, on that score, again, I think there is hardly need for worry. As President Obama’s economy not only grew slower than George W. Bush’s, but 30% more of the gains in wealth under President Obama, also went to the wealthy.

So as the above illustrates, we know the rich have already gotten richer, but are you afraid the poor will get poorer? Once more, I really don’t think there’s any need for worry, as in so many areas during the Obama years, we had people depending upon the welfare system, more so than ever, and the poverty level is not in any way meaningfully going down.

The events of September 11, 2001 were certainly scary too. Therefore, perhaps you have concerns about more terrorist attacks on American soil? Yet, there’s no need in my mind to be concerned again inasmuch as, did you know that following 9/11, there wasn’t even one instance of domestic terrorism until such time as President Obama took over the reins? Consequently, given that President Trump would surely govern more in the way of treating terrorism as an act of war, rather than as some silly law enforcement nuisance, I doubt that he can undo what President Obama has unleashed overnight, but I’m also rather sure that he will do a much, much better job of containing it.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re concerned about the social fabric of America, race relations regressing and there being a large number of individuals who have a total lack of respect for law and order? Well, guess what? That’s already happened, too, as President Obama gave false credence to the absurd idea that our police were out hunting black men for sport and needlessly helped set the country back in race relations, for how long, no one really knows. While at the same time he gave tacit approval to our police being murdered and assassinated by having the group, Black Lives Matter to the White House, which gave the terrorist organization legitimacy in the minds of many.

But, oh, dear gracious, Donald Trump is now going to be president. What a scary, scary thought indeed. Quite honestly, if all this carrying on by the left wasn’t so sad – I would laugh – as things, over the past 8 years, really couldn’t have been much worse! Because I can only guess, too, is it that you are somehow afraid America is now going to return to a law and order society where everyone is treated the same. Or is that somehow, in your book, wrong too?

Kate Steinle, of course, was murdered because of the progressive City of San Francisco refusing to return an illegal alien killer over to ICE. Is that what you fear? Criminal illegal aliens being turned over to law enforcement so that beautiful, young bright American citizens can go on to live their lives in peace and be conscientious contributing members of American society? Or perhaps you fear illegal aliens being permitted citizenship prior to all those hard working individuals from other nations who followed the law, and earned their citizenship the right way? Well, again, the left is already fighting quite, quite hard for that to happen, whereas president-elect Trump has thrown a wrench into their plans, so what precisely is your worry?

Because in now making it known that America is a sovereign nation of laws, it will also help to protect so many of the beautiful young men and women of Central America who were sent on a death journey to cross into America illegally, but so often couldn’t withstand the physical toll of the trip or were raped and/or murdered by the coyotes entrusted to bring them here. That, to a large extent is going to end, so is it to that which you object, because I really am trying to understand you?

In terms of fiscal matters, I could hardly imagine you’re concerned about a burgeoning national debt, too, but is that it? Since, here again, no need to worry, as I hardly think the soon to be President Trump is going to manage to outspend all of his presidential predecessors, combined, as did the outgoing president.

For my Jewish friends, too, you couldn’t possibly be concerned about the U.S. – Israeli relationship under soon to be President Trump could you? Given the fact that it’s rather well known that the Obama Administration has certainly been most hostile to Israel, and allowing the latest nonsensical resolution to go forward against Israel, and right before Hanukkah – nonetheless – certainly told our Jewish friends how the outgoing president T-R-U-L-Y feels.

Or are you afraid that Donald Trump, as president, will sign a deal, garnering us nothing, at the expense of Israel and which will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East? Sorry, again, but it has already happened.

Maybe you’re afraid that the incoming President Trump will undo a long-standing policy not to negotiate for or pay for hostages? Yep, surprise, surprise, President Obama has already done that too!

Wait, maybe with all that crying and hand wringing I saw, perhaps you’re afraid President Trump would use the IRS to target political groups with whom he disagrees? Oh, wait again, the IRS already did that in targeting conservatives under this outgoing president, too.

Though, then again, if you support the State of California and the democrats’ latest move there to make prostitution legal for underage teens, then maybe Dr. Savage really is right; liberalism is a mental disorder; and there’s nothing more to conclude. But this column is about far more than me giving my opinion, as I want to hear yours, given that we’ll never get anywhere if we never sit down to honestly talk.

Therefore, to be perfectly honest, I think you’re afraid of the Trump Administration actually making real progress. As Trump’s success, combined with democrats and/or progressives doing so little, for so long, has clearly hurt the ‘progressive brand’ rather quickly. And what democrat progressives have done for so long, has been such an unmitigated disaster, that the only way they know how to market their brand is to denigrate others. Hence, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see another name change in the near future, as there’s nothing remotely progressive about trying to weaken the strongest and most benevolent country in world history, but there’s also been very little that’s successful associated with the democrat/progressive brand.

I know, too, that I really do have a rather large readership on the left and I seriously want you to answer my proposed question. Because, objectively – in looking at all that has happened over this past 8 years – it seems almost impossible to me that things could get worse. So as to this issue, my progressive friends, I’m actually going to give you a penny for your thoughts and please prove Dr. Savage wrong by giving me something more back than change.

Until we meet again,

~ Christopher Tyler –

Aside from his educational background (B.S. in political science, MPA and studies at the Leadership Institute and Florida Coastal College of Law), Chris has worked both in and outside the federal government, for several years at the National Archives, and at the Departments of Justice and Housing & Urban Development, as well. Additionally, he has spent the majority of his career working as a political consultant. This gives him a unique perspective from which to comment on national and foreign affairs as he has also previously written for the Examiner, the Florida Times-Union, Opinion Magazine and several other news publications.

Are We on the Brink of the First Cyber World War?

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By Shelly Palmer on LinkedIn: Published on October 16, 2016

Yahoo recently reported the largest hack in historyWikiLeaks is releasing hacked DNC emails at an alarming rate, and according to NBC News “the Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election.” Are we on the brink of the First Cyber World War? Even if the current rhetoric just exacerbates unofficial nation-state-backed cyberterrorism, there is still a significant danger. Are you prepared to function offline? If not, it’s time for some serious business continuity planning, a few muster drills and, most importantly, a tactical approach to disaster recovery.

My Company Does All That for Me

Most well-run businesses have some version of a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). The concept has been around forever. But what is your personal DRP? What if you were locked out of your main email account? What if you did not have access to online banking? What if you could not get online? What if the location-based services on your smartphone would not function? No maps, no Waze, no Uber, no Lyft, etc.? Do you even own a paper map?

It’s Time

Not for nothing, I don’t think strong passwords are going to cut it anymore. It’s time to back up your computer and your smartphone and to do your best to safeguard your important files, pictures, recordings and videos (especially original material that cannot be replaced).

Quite a bit has been written about how to back up your data. I won’t rehash it here. The general theory is to have your data replicated in a couple of places. Services such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, iCloud, and the like all offer various versions of instantaneous syncing between your local storage and the cloud. But most smart people also backup locally to an external drive with tools such as Time Machine (Mac) or File History and Windows Backup and Restore (Windows 10). A backup on a local, physical hard drive that is not connected to the public Internet is a very good idea.

If you’ve opted in to paperless billing, you should also consider printing out bank statements and any other financial or medical documents that you are likely to need if you are cut off from your cloud storage or if your files are maliciously erased.

I Can Always Access the Cloud

While it’s true that there are multiple ways to access your cloud services (Wired or wireless Internet at home or work, public WiFi, a friend’s Wired or WiFi connection, the 3G or 4G wireless networks, etc.), it is possible for a cyber-attack to damage or destroy both wired and wireless connectivity at the same time.

A natural disaster caused it to happen in New York City on Monday, October 29, 2012, during Hurricane Sandy. By midnight, power was knocked out below 39th Street – it did not return for a week. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone lines stopped working as their battery backups drained. Even the old copper wire telephone network was down where the cables were submerged. Cell service was gone by late Tuesday evening and spotty (if you could charge your phone) until the end of the week. All VoIP phone communication was down by Wednesday. There was no Internet, no power, no water pressure, no traffic lights, no street lights, no basic social services – and Manhattan got off easy. The effects were much, much worse in the greater New York Metro and in New Jersey.

All in, it is estimated that Superstorm Sandy caused $65 billion in damages in the US alone. A cyber-attack wouldn’t destroy buildings or roadways, so you might think it would not be as costly. But that would depend on the extent of the damage and the duration of the event.

Data Doomsday Scenarios

I wrote an article in February last year entitled Data Doomsday Preppers, which was my reaction to the thesis of NatGeo’s “Doomsday Preppers” TV show. In homage to all of the cyber-tough-talk this week, let’s re-examine some of the data doomsday scenarios from my previous post.

Tomorrow morning:

  • 20 million Americans wake up to find their bank account balances at zero.
  • 20 million other Americans wake up to find random balances that exceed their wildest expectations. For example: a $25,000 balance where the day before it was $3,800 (the Federal Reserve, US Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service’s 2014 estimate for the average American family savings account balance).
  • 30 million other Americans wake up to find out their hard drives have been erased and their data is gone.
  • Retailers or financial institutions tell 30 million other Americans that their credit cards are canceled because of a data breach, and they will not be replaced for weeks because of the sheer volume of cards that need to be reissued.
  • The top 500 websites are all hit with massive, unrelenting DDOS attacks.
  • The top 10 health insurance providers lose 30 percent of their patient records due to the release of a super cyber weapon.
  • 25 percent of federal prison records are erased or altered.
  • $300 billion in cash goes missing from the US financial system.
  • And, just for fun, hackers cause an algo-trading flash crash that takes 50 percent off the DJIA by 11am (as if any of the above would not be enough to cause a regular stock market crash).

None of this may ever happen. In fact, it probably won’t. What will happen is something no one has thought of (or prepared for). That’s the nature of a successful attack.

So back up your data. Practice a day offline. And make sure you know whom to contact, how to contact them and what to do when (not if) something unfortunate happens in our data-dependent, online world.

About Shelly Palmer

Named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in TechnologyShelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on augmented intelligence and data-driven decision-making. He is Fox 5 New York’s on-air tech and digital media expert and a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com or subscribe to our daily email http://ow.ly/WsHcb

Cyber attacks and the quandary of evolving technology:

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“As our society grows more and more interconnected — utilizing innovative new technologies that make life more convenient — we continue to expose ourselves to greater risks of cyber attack.” By: Javier Ortiz – Falcon Cyber Investments.   

With the digitization of practically all aspects of our day-to-day lives, from banking to healthcare to government, we must be steadfast in the protection of our personal information to prevent cyber hacks and identity theft.

The number of cyber attacks has drastically increased over the past few years. Consider last week’s news that (in the 3/2014 OPM hack) at least 4 million (revised to 20+ million) current and former federal employees have had their personal data (including Security Clearance applications) breached, probably (now confirmed) by China.

Or consider that recently the Internal Revenue Service, one of the United States’ most archetypal institutions, was breached by what the U.S. government now believes were Russian criminals, exposing the personal information (including Social Security numbers) and tax returns of more than 100,000 Americans. With the simplicity of filing your taxes online now comes the threat of foreign actors and criminals stealing and selling your information as well as your identity. This is a very dangerous and serious problem.

Today’s “Internet of Things,” a concept describing how we live in a maze of interconnected data networks fed by billions of smart devices, exposes us to great risk. People no longer think twice about engaging in personal banking on their iPhones or sending sensitive documents over email. The growth of these new technologies has outpaced our ability to secure our information. We need our security systems and processes to catch up.

Once reserved for machine-to-machine communication, technology now allows us to make “things” intelligent — from phones to watches to healthcare devices — all gathering data and storing it in a “cloud.” Your phone, too, knows where you are, all of the time, and could let someone else know — without your knowledge or consent. For a society so ingrained in privacy and freedoms, we don’t seem to mind technology serving as “Big Brother.”

Every device, including our vehicles, is susceptible to attack. With the rise of in-car navigation systems and even smarter in-car technology, like GM’s “Connected Car Services,” we are opening up even more vessels of assault. Soon you’ll be seeing your car perform a Vehicle Health Monitor, communicating diagnostics to your dealership and even booking your appointment, all through apps built directly into the dashboard.

Even with just the “basics” in today’s new cars — automatic braking, parking and lane assist, keyless entry, Bluetooth and a cellular connection — hackers might be able to transform digital commands into an out-of-control weapon. The automotive industry is working to add more security features to protect against the wireless “hackability” of cars, but in many ways and with many of these innovations, we’ve put the proverbial cart before the horse.

In a perfect world, the solution would be to reduce our “attack surface” — a fancy term that for many means having fewer devices connected to the Internet. But as we have become over-reliant on technology to complete everyday tasks, we remain vulnerable to the system. Instead of limiting entry points, we’re expanding them.

Even the most private of our information, our medical history and data, is being hacked and exploited by nefarious actors. With the rise of wearable and other health technology devices linked to the Internet, now able to transmit data directly to your doctor, millions of individuals’ health and financial information is at risk. We no longer live in just an “Internet of Things,” but now also in an “Internet of People.”

In fact, of all the data valuable to cyber criminals, your health records are their most prized, as medical records and information are more usable and last longer than information swiped from your credit card. In underground criminal marketplaces, individual credit card information is worth $1, while a medical record goes for as much as $50.

Insecure technology poses significant costs on our society, and cyber attacks are most certainly not a victimless crime. A study last year by the McAfee, a security firm that part of Intel Security, estimates that cybercrime and economic espionage costs the world economy more than $445 billion annually, not including the toll identity theft takes individually.

For us consumers, the first thing we must recognize is that the Internet is not going away, that it will continue to grow and that each of us is responsible for how we use our Internet-connected devices.

Secondly, we need to learn about how to best use our Internet devices — be they computers, phones, even cars or refrigerators — so that we can protect ourselves from hackers.

Finally, we must demand that our banks, insurance companies, healthcare providers and everyone who asks for our personal information tell us how they will secure it. The more that consumers demand better cyber security the less prone they will be to hackers.

We live in a brave new world — industry and consumers should be working together to benefit from technological advances, while also protecting our privacy.

Javier Ortiz is a Republican strategist, a principal at Falcon Cyber Investments, and an adviser on public policy and regulations for a Washington, D.C. based global law firm.

http://washex.am/1JF7P5e

Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add…

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by Charles J. Sykes

Despite good intentions and wishful thinking, the reality of the failure of schools is easily and readily documented. Charles J. Sykes, the author of Dumbing Down Our Kids, looks beyond the usual favorite scapegoats of the education establishment-parents, society, and money to reveal how the schools themselves can no longer evade blame for America’s educational decline.

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The education reforms of the 1990s are not new. Such ideas, the latest being Outcome-Based Education, “have been tested and retested for decades in thousands of schools. And they have failed.” Even 40 years ago, progressive educational philosophy revealed its fundamental denial of absolutes, objective standards, a priori knowledge, and eternal truths. The present, according to educationists, is the only reality worth knowing.

A natural outgrowth of this Postmodern philosophy is the dominant assumption among educationists that children are “frail and easily damaged psychological growths” that need to be liberated from “oppressive” influences such as family, traditional morality, and even conventional spelling and grammar. Literature and history are no longer important guideposts; moral courage, arduous choices, and virtue are useless. Feelings, say the educationists of today, are the only necessary compass.

This emphasis on feelings inevitably means that schools often infringe on the privacy of families, such as courses encouraging children to report on family problems. “America’s schools,” charges Sykes, “have become backwaters of amateur psychologizing.” The school becomes a “village,” where children are taught they should turn to the schools’ “experts,” instead of parents.

Ironically, Americans routinely dismiss mounting evidence, insisting that their own children and local schools are immune to the so-called crisis. All Americans should set aside their doubts and read this penetrating and comprehensive critique of the nation’s schools. The education of America’s children involves issues that affect every American. “I am convinced,” says Sykes, “that the defining cultural and political debates of the decade will center around the so-called school wars, which will be fought out in the elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools.”

The Impact Of Communal Decline Upon Education by Philip Atkinson (April 2007)

Contemporary education is failing in three blatant ways:

1. Failure To Impose Discipline: Clear thinking is the result of disciplined thoughts. If pupils are not forced to discipline their behavior, then they will not discipline their thoughts and so will be unable to think clearly; this is the very opposite of the purpose of education.

2. Failure To Demand Respect For Teachers: If a lesson is to be heeded the teacher must have the respect of the pupils. In the year 2000, the awed respect that children of my generation (the 1950s) had for their teachers has been replaced by the opposite. School children no longer fear their teacher, for their erstwhile master is now their servant. The cane has been discarded to be replaced by the panic button. Teachers no longer command and demand, but amuse and appease. This must undermine the whole purpose of education.

3. Failure To Teach Essential Subjects: The most important lesson for every child is that of learning to read and write, for the use of language is the ability to think. Nonetheless, the education system has abandoned the traditional teaching of reading and writing, with its fixed spelling and grammar, so no longer teaches citizens how to either communicate or think clearly.

A Public Declaration Of Ignorance

On Saturday, November 11th, 2000, the Brisbane paper The Courier-Mail reported that a Harvard history student did not know that there had been two world wars. In an article titled “History lost in the past” journalist Peter Charlton claimed that in answer to a question posed by distinguished historian Simon Schama to his history seminar about the different foreign policy of Italy in World War I and World War II, one student replied:

“Was there more than one world war last century?”

An answer that contradicts any claim of historical education about the twentieth century, as well as revealing an inability to perform simple arithmetic. The nature of the two world wars has so dominated the twentieth century, that not to know there were two world wars is not to know twentieth-century history. While claiming in the year 2000 that the years 1914-1918, or 1939-1946, belonged to the last century, is to expose an inability to perform simple arithmetic. Either error contradicts the notion that this student has been educated, while the student’s presence in a prestigious American university that demands an entrance exam, must raise grave doubts about the integrity of the American education system.

The enormity of the student error raises doubt about the quality of education, and this suspicion is confirmed by the large numbers of works condemning the abysmal state of the education system in the western world.

The Dumbing Down of America’s Colleges by Phyllis Schlafly:

Finally, a prestigious group of college professors has come right out and said that the emperor (i.e., the Imperial University) has no clothes. Many have long suspected that college education has been dramatically dumbed down (like the public schools), but few have had the courage to say so.

The National Association of Scholars (NAS), the nation’s leading higher-education reform organization, has just published a devastating 65-page report on its investigation of the courses offered and required at 50 top undergraduate colleges and universities. The NAS used U.S. News & World Report‘s annual listing of “America’s Best Colleges” (including both private and public). All figures cited below refer to those 50 elite institutions in the particular years chosen for comparison, 1914, 1939, 1964, and 1993.

The NAS concludes that students no longer learn the common core of knowledge once taken for granted as essential to a liberal-arts education. The universities have simply purged from the curriculum many of the required courses that formerly taught students the historical, cultural, political and scientific basics of our society.

The number of mandatory courses has been dramatically reduced from an average of 9.9 in 1914 to 7.3 in 1939, to 6.9 in 1964, and to 2.5 in 1993. The formerly universal requirement that students take a basic survey course in several important areas has virtually vanished.

Universities now offer very few courses that require prerequisites, which means that very few college courses now require any advance knowledge or preparation. In 1914, universities offered an average of only 23 courses per institution that did not require a prerequisite course; in 1964 the figure had risen to 127; today, the number is 582.

Only 12 percent of universities now require a thesis or comprehensive examination to get a bachelor’s degree. As late as 1964, more than half of universities did.

The college year has been shortened by about one-fourth (leaving more time for spring break and other frivolities, but, of course, without any reduction in tuition price or professors’ salaries). In 1914, college classes were in session an average of 204 days a year; by 1939 the number had dropped to 195; in 1964, to 191; and today students and teachers are expected to show up in class only 156 days per academic year.

Maybe the reason why young people can’t write good English is that so few colleges teach writing anymore. In 1914, nearly all universities had required courses in English composition; by 1964 the figure was 86 percent; today, it’s only 36 percent.

Ditto for math. In 1914, 82 percent of the universities had traditional mathematics requirements; by 1964 only 36 percent did; now, only 12 percent do. In 1914, 1939 and 1964, more than 70 percent of the institutions required at least one course in the natural sciences; that figure has now fallen to only 34 percent.

Maybe the reason why the federal guidelines on the teaching of American history turned out to be such a travesty was that most college graduates haven’t studied any history. In 1914, 90 percent of our elite colleges required history; in 1939 and 1964 more than 50 percent did, but now only one of the 50 schools has a required history course.

Literature courses were required at 75 percent of the institutions in 1914, and at 50 percent in 1939 and 1964. Today, not one of the “best” institutions has a literature requirement.

Meanwhile, the total number of courses offered at undergraduate institutions has increased by a factor of five since 1914, and has doubled since 1964, but that doesn’t mean more opportunities to become an educated citizen. The majority of these additional courses are on narrow and idiosyncratic subjects of interest to the professors but almost worthless to the students. The total includes such trendy and trivial courses as Stanford’s “Gender and Science” (which purports to study science free from outdated male assumptions), and Georgetown’s “Unspeakable Lives: Gay and Lesbian Narratives.”

Here are some examples of courses given at Yale University for which students can receive college credit: “Gender and the Politics of Resistance: Feminism, Capitalism, and the Third World.” “Gender and Technology.” “Feminist Perspectives on Literature.” “Lesbian and Gay Theater Performance.” “The Literature of AIDS.” “Contemporary Lesbian and Gay Arts and Culture.” “Constructing Lesbian Identities.” Such courses are just propaganda and entertainment masquerading as education.

The result is that our best colleges and universities no longer turn out graduates who have an elementary knowledge of our civilization and its heritage. They do not learn the basic facts of our country’s history, political and economic systems, philosophic traditions, and literary and artistic legacies.

Quite apart from the fraud of charging an exorbitant $100,000 for a devalued diploma is the fact that we are in danger of losing the national cohesion of a known and shared heritage which has sustained and nourished our unique institutions of freedom within a limited, constitutional government.

The New York Times quoted a critic of this NAS report as arguing that”the real agenda of higher education today is the concern with problem-solving, critical thinking, communicating and learning how to value.”

But how are students going to engage in all those thoughtful processes when their knowledge is so pathetically limited and their composition and communication skills are almost non-existent?

In addition, there is the dumbing down inherent in giving courses that are not college courses at all but are designed to teach students what they didn’t learn in high school. Sometimes these courses are called “remedial,” but the institutions prefer euphemisms such as “second tier” and “sub-freshman.” Such courses were unheard of prior to 1939, and only three institutions offered them in 1964. Today such non-college-level courses are offered in 70 percent of the elite universities, and most of them award college credit.

California state legislators recently discovered the high cost to the taxpayers of the remedial education courses given at the state universities. Last year, 60 percent of new students needed remedial help. California legislators assert that students have been the victims of consumer fraud perpetrated on them by the high schools that gave them high grades. The legislators want to send the invoice for the cost of the remedial courses to the high schools that deceived their students by giving them a 3.8 or higher grade-point average.

The 1996 Governors Education Summit at Palisades, New York, spent two days discussing “standards” for what students should learn in public schools. Longtime American Federation of Teachers president Al Shanker gave this concept a reality check. He said that when, as a teacher, he assigned homework to his class, the pupils invariably responded in chorus, “Does it count on our grade?” He pointed out the fact of human nature that standards aren’t going to make any difference if, no matter what students learn or don’t learn, they can still get admitted to nearly all U.S. colleges and universities.

The standards question in the public schools could be resolved if colleges and universities would abolish their remedial courses and admit only students capable of doing college work. But they won’t because of the easy flow of taxpayers’ money, which makes it so profitable for colleges and universities to admit all the students they can and then send the bill to the taxpayers.

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Dumbing Down Our Kids:

Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add

by Charles J. Sykes

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