Here’s why the FBI arrested a cryptocurrency developer for speaking in North Korea – Nicole Karlis


Virgil Griffith (@VirgilGr/Twitter)

Is Virgil Griffith a folk hero, a criminal, or just a techie wrongly accused? Here’s what we know

Is cryptocurrency enthusiast Virgil Griffith a friendly unofficial liaison to North Korea à la Dennis Rodman, or is he a criminal helping North Korea evade United States sanctions?

The 36-year-old cryptocurrency developer, whose life story reads like the screenplay to a thriller, has been making headlines since his arrest on Thanksgiving — purportedly for giving a talk to North Koreans on how to launder money via cryptocurrency. Yet it is unclear still whether Griffith is some kind of anti-imperialist folk hero, a traitor to his country, or just a hapless techie caught up in something way bigger than himself.

Here’s what we know: On November 28, Griffith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport. It is unclear why he was in Los Angeles; as an American living in Singapore, he could have been traveling for the holidays to the United States. Formally, he was arrested because of a trip he made to North Korea in April 2019.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Justice Department in the Southern District of New York, Griffith spoke at a conference called the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) last April. During the presentation, he supposedly described how blockchain and cryptocurrency technology could be used by the DPRK to launder money.

Cryptocurrencies are electronic currencies that can be digitally traded. The most well-known is Bitcoin, though there are literally thousands of others of various trading volumes and structure. All cryptocurrencies are decentralized, and are not controlled by any government, though governments occasionally issue their own coins. The U.S. federal government says Griffith’s presentation in North Korea constituted a transfer of technology, which violates the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and Executive Order 13466, which says Americans can’t export any goods, services, or technology to the DPRK without a license from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Griffith is currently sitting in jail, and will be held until bail is posted, according to a statement by his lawyer given to cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk. Griffith’s defenders believe the arrest was an overreaction. He now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Who is Virgil Griffith?

Griffith is a programmer who first gained notoriety in the hacker community for creating WikiScanner, a public database that existed between 2002 and 2007. WikiScanner linked anonymous edits on Wikipedia to the organizations where those edits originated, using the public IP addresses that are logged by Wikipedia. Griffith said he created the tool with the intent of “creat[ing] minor public relations disasters for companies and organizations I dislike.” The tool produced a trove of insight into how corporations spread misinformation and propaganda amid PR disasters, and famously revealed how corporations like Exxon would spin oil rig disasters on their respective Wikipedia pages. It also helped citizen journalists observe whitewashing of Wikipedia pages by big corporations. In 2008, the New York Times called Griffith an “Internet Man of Mystery” in a profile piece.

Prior to his arrest last week, Griffith had other run-ins with the law. In 2003, the educational software maker Blackboard sued to prevent him from presenting research on security flaws in the company’s software.

In 2014, Griffith received a Ph.D. in computation and neural systems, which is when he moved to Silicon Valley, according to his LinkedIn page. Since October 2016, he has worked as a research scientist for Ethereum, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency.

What is Ethereum?

Ethereum is a blockchain-based cryptocurrency and a decentralized computing platform. While it is often associated with Bitcoin, there are substantial differences. First, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital cash system that enables online Bitcoin payments. Ethereum is a ledger technology that enables companies and organizations to build other cryptocurrencies, or tokens, using the same protocol as Ether, the cryptocurrency made by the Ethereum platform, which can be distributed on different blockchains. Most recently, China’s internet firewall, which is used by the government to regulate access to foreign internet sites, blocked an Ethereum block explorer website, according to Coindesk.

What did Griffith talk about at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference?

Article continues:

Beyond conspiracy theory: Trump and the Republicans are waging an all-out war on reality – CHAUNCEY DEVEGA DECEMBER 5, 2019 12:00PM (UTC)


Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Robert Mueller and Adam Schiff (Getty Images/AP Photo/Salon)

The Ukraine scandal, and Donald Trump himself, are just markers in a vast campaign against empirical reality

Words have actual definitions. Conspiracies do in fact exist.

A conspiracy consists of two or more people acting in private to advance their own interests against and contrary to those of other people.

Donald Trump and his agents’ bribery and extortion plot to withhold congressionally approved military aid to force the government of Ukraine to “investigate” Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, with the goal of helping Trump win the 2020 presidential election, is a textbook example of a very real conspiracy.

The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry report summarizes Trump’s conspiracy against the American people and our democracy in stark terms:

 [T]he impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection. In furtherance of this scheme, President Trump conditioned official acts on a public announcement by the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, of politically-motivated investigations, including one into President Trump’s domestic political opponent. In pressuring President Zelensky to carry out his demand, President Trump withheld a White House meeting desperately sought by the Ukrainian President, and critical U.S. military assistance to fight Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.

The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage. In doing so, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.

By defending Donald Trump, the Republican Party and its disinformation news media are also willing participants in this conspiracy.

The Ukraine scandal is also part of a much larger global conspiracy. As exhaustively documented in Robert Mueller’s report, by the U.S. intelligence community and many of our allies, as well as independent analysts and investigators, the Russian government or its agents interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of helping to elect Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin’s elaborate psy-ops campaign and other efforts to manipulate American voters and influence the 2020 presidential election to keep Trump in power are ongoing.

This too is a textbook example of a conspiracy.

There is an ugly and obvious irony here, of course: the Republican Party and its allied media have been master purveyors and architects of ridiculous conspiracies about Hillary Clinton’s emails and “Benghazi,” about Barack Obama’s birth certificate, about “Pizzagate,” the “War on Christmas”, the Sandy Hook massacre and the climate crisis, among other things.

In a failing democracy such as the United States, fantastical right-wing conspiracy theories are a way of undermining the truth, as well as the shared consensus about empirical reality that is necessary for a functioning democracy.

This is both a symptom of society in crisis and decline as well as a tool that authoritarians and autocrats like Trump and his minions use to attack democracy and civil society.

As historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat warned in a recent op-ed for CNN:

A healthy democracy is founded on a tolerance of differences of opinion, but is grounded in a shared body of norms. Autocratic governments, in contrast, need to change our opinion about what violates norms and constitutes crime and corruption. Trump and the GOP, in de facto partnership with Fox News, are creating an alternate reality for followers in which facts are what the President needs them to be. This is a hallmark of authoritarianism.

The Atlantic’s Peter Nicholas summarizes how and why Trump embraces and uses conspiracy theories:

A product of tabloid culture, Trump has long trafficked in conspiracy theories. But as chief executive, he’s used the machinery of government to give the ones especially useful to him the stamp of official validation. (That’s the main reason he now faces impeachment in the House.) These baseless theories are a way for Trump to explain away his problems and undercut opponents. Beyond that, though, they seem to serve distinct emotional needs, feeding a narcissistic ego that cold reality won’t satisfy. His efforts to persuade the public to go along with these self-protective myths have already corroded democratic institutions. The wreckage from that destructive legacy won’t be easily repaired after he leaves the stage. …

The Ukraine debacle is the most extreme case, illustrating just what can happen when the president takes hold of a bad idea and won’t let it go. Repellent to Trump is the notion that he would have lost to Hillary Clinton had it not been for Russia’s electoral interference. … All of which explains why, for the president, the Ukraine fiction is so alluring. It’s a twofer. If Ukraine covertly interfered in the election for Clinton’s benefit, as Trump has suggested, that would both exonerate Russia and cement his 2016 victory. Trump apparently finds that theory so compelling that he risked his presidency to see if he could give it traction.

Political elites deploy conspiracy theories to attack the credibility of their enemies and other rivals. Elites also use conspiracy theories to create a feeling of powerlessness and impotence among the public. If there are awesome forces rigging the system — and distorting reality and truth itself — then how can one organize against or effectively resist them?

Elite-fueled conspiracy theories are also a weapon for focusing rage and anger by the in-group against the out-group (usually racial and/or ethnic minorities and/or political critics) in order to distract from the real problems afflicting a given society.

By comparison, the less powerful are attracted to conspiracy theories as a means of making sense of a world that is often so unequal and unfair.

Moreover, members of marginalized communities — in the United States this means nonwhites, the disabled, the poor, gays and lesbians, and others — have all too often been victims of actual conspiracies by the government and other powerful groups and individuals.

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment as well as the forced sterilization of poor women (most of them black) across the American South are two of the most infamous examples. Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s white supremacist machinations and policies will likely be studied by future generations as an example of a real conspiracy as well.

In a recent interview with Vox, Harvard politics professor Nancy Rosenblum describes how right-wing conspiracy theories have devolved into a new and even more toxic form of “conspiracism” in the Age of Trump:

It’s a way to delegitimize what it means to know something at all. So you often find today that people don’t really care if something is totally true. They’re just looking for something they can hang their hat on, to create enough doubt to justify their core beliefs and sow cynicism at the same time. …

The conspiracists who traffic in this sort of dishonesty aren’t interested in arguments or evidence. It’s about confirming their picture of the world and undermining the institutions charged with reporting the truth in the first place. And it’s a declaration that only their way of knowing is credible and everyone else is brainwashed.

We call this “epistemic polarization”: There is no ground for argument or persuasion or even disagreement. And we think it is more profound and unbridgeable even than partisan polarization…. The right wing wants to delegitimize the government and, really, all of our knowledge-producing institutions. So it’s naturally beneficial for them to spread conspiratorial thinking. The Democrats, on the other hand, generally like government and want to improve it, so they have less reason to embrace conspiracism.

How can right-wing conspiratorial thinking be countered and perhaps even immunized against?

Right-wing paranoid thinkers must be exposed to real facts and accurate information sources that exist outside the alternate reality such people have created for themselves. Unfortunately, research by social psychologists and others has repeatedly shown that the phenomenon of “information backfire” as a manifestation of cognitive bias results in conservatives and other right-wing ideologues actually rejecting new knowledge that is contrary to their prior beliefs.

In the most extreme examples, new information actually forces conservatives and right-wing ideologues to hold more tightly to their previous beliefs.

One must also understand that the paranoid, conspiratorial thinking of conservatives and other authoritarians is not a new problem. In his landmark 1964 Harper’s Magazine essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,”historian Richard Hofstadter observed, “I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

Neutralizing right-wing conspiracism and a belief in untrue conspiracies will be especially difficult in the case of Trumpists and other right-wing authoritarians. Trumpism and other manifestations of the “New Right” are a political cult tied together by collective narcissism and lies. From more “mainstream” media outlets such as Fox News down to the bowels of the right-wing internet, empirical reality is rejected. Political ideology is a type of religion, based on faith and other forms of magical thinking as opposed to logic or facts. In that way, right-wing politics in post-civil rights America is not a story about basic and reasonable disagreements with fellow citizens on matters of policy. It’s a story of political tribalism, in which Democrats, liberals, progressives and others not loyal to Trumpism are an existential threat and enemy to be vanquished.

In service to that goal, facts and empirical reality are made malleable to the point of losing any substantive meaning.

Political scientists and other researchers have also demonstrated that individuals who choose to support a political party or leader will change their beliefs and values over time to fully align with them. Through that process Trump’s delusional world has expanded to envelop others who are now part of his political cult.

At the Independent, writer Larry Womack reflects on the small town he came from and the relationship between right-wing conspiracy theories and love of Donald Trump:

It will surprise no one who has lived in rural America, or pays attention to Trump’s tweets, that Trump voters are more likely to believe conspiracy theories. Institutions like science, education and government are run, after all, by liberals. Many Americans will see a story in the newspaper as less trustworthy than the meme or obvious hoax site shared by someone they know.

Add to the equation a steady diet of fringe media with no accountability itself and you have a rural population that largely believes Trump is no more guilty of corruption than the Clintons, the Obamas, the Bushes, or anyone else. The perception is that he is just being given a hard time because he happens to be one of them.

Trumpists have willingly put themselves inside of an alternate reality, a cave of immorality, authoritarianism and ignorance. In that cave Donald Trump is the sun and Fox News and the broader right-wing media are his mirrors. Trumpism is amplified and surrounds his followers. They bask in its warmth and light. But Trumpists have decided not to notice, or not to care, that their Great Leader’s light will burn them alive.

The power and appeal of right-wing conspiracism, both in the Age of Trump and for years before that, signals to a much larger societal  problem.

Too many Americans have rejected the value of expertise and education. Civic literacy is in decline. Democratic institutions and the commons have been systematically gutted by Republicans and conservatives. The country’s schools are broken. The mainstream media has largely betrayed its responsibility to be stewards of democracy and instead has been bullied by right-wing claims of “liberal bias” and a demand that lies be treated as truths and given equal time because of “fairness” and “balance.” Extreme economic and social inequality, which undermine democracy and will eventually destroy it, continue to grow mostly unabated. Literacy and critical thinking have not caught up with new forms of technology such as social media and the internet.

In his 1995 book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark,” visionary thinker Carl Sagan warned of this moment in America:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. …

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

America in the Age of Trump is a country where, as in a science-fiction dystopia, individuals and groups have locked themselves inside their own personal experience machines. In these machines, occupants receive dopamine hits to their brains when they are told what they want to hear as lies become self-serving truths. Those people who live outside of the experience machines can still discern right from wrong, good from evil and fantasy from fact. They look on at the Trumpists and other right-wing political drug addicts with disgust and pity. Unfortunately, the Age of Trump is more than a state of being. It is a force in motion, one that is insatiable in its efforts to transform empirical reality into an authoritarian nightmare.

If Donald Trump wins in 2020 and his successors continue his fascist crusade, TrumpWorld will, for most people, become indistinguishable from the real world. That’s when America’s democracy will be finally and fully lost.

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

https://www.salon.com/2019/12/05/beyond-conspiracy-theory-trump-and-the-republicans-are-waging-an-all-out-war-on-reality/

Daily chart Where are the world’s best English-speakers? – The Economist Dec 4th 2019


A newly updated index ranks proficiency around the world

ENGLISH IS THE most widely spoken language in the world. And of the roughly 1.5bn speakers globally, the vast majority speak it as a second language. So where are the world’s best non-native English speakers? According to a new report by EF Education First, an international education company, Northern Europeans are the most fluent (the Netherlands tops the rankings, followed by Sweden, Norway and Denmark). Middle Easterners are the least proficient (Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia all rank near the bottom).

These results are not comprehensive, however. Nor are they representative. EF’s index is based on the results of a free online test taken by 2.3m volunteers in 100 countries. Only people with an internet connection and time and willingness to take a test are included in the sample, which means the results are biased towards richer countries interested in English. As a result, many African countries do not have enough test-takers—at least 400—to be included in the index.

Such biases aside, the EF’s index produces results that are interesting, if not entirely scientific. Nearly six in ten of this year’s test-takers were female. Women have always fared better than men, but this year men closed the gap somewhat. Some countries saw their proficiency scores decline. This is probably not because their English got worse; more likely, a big increase in the number of test-takers brought in more people with weak English.

In Europe, the powerhouse economies fare surprisingly badly: only Germany makes the top tier of “very high proficiency” countries. France is next, while Spain and Italy are persistent laggards. A study by a Spanish research institute confirmed the bad news: 60% of adults say they speak no English at all. The fact that Spanish is a global language in its own right (the language boasts 400m native speakers) is probably the culprit. If you speak Danish, you need another language to take part in global culture; speaking French or Spanish (or Arabic) means hundreds of millions of people to talk to without English.

Asia is the region of greatest diversity. Only Singapore makes the top tier, but the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and India are not far behind. China is further back but still in the second tier, a few slots ahead of Japan. Languishing in the bottom slots are a clutch of South-East and Central Asian countries like Cambodia and Kyrgyzstan. This correlates with another factor: EF repeatedly finds that English skills are highly correlated with connections and openness to the rest of the world.

The driving force behind cultural appropriation? Capitalism. Alanna OkunDec 5, 2019, 8:00am EST


Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
“Hip-hop culture could break Miley free of the tug-and-pull game she’d been playing with her own sovereignty since she was fifteen years old. She achieved her desired end, though her means weren’t novel.” —White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation
WireImage

“Appropriation gets a bad rap.”

From its very first line, Lauren Michele Jackson’s White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation asks you to think about what words actually mean. The recently published essay collection grapples with how countless products of blackness — language, music, fashion, memes — have been coopted, repackaged, and resold, largely without the consent, or to the benefit, of their creators.

“From Halloween costumes to Cinco de Mayo parties to the Washington Redskins, to decorative bindis and other music festival fashion, the new millennium and an avowedly more conscious generation of people is tasked with taking seriously all kinds of cultural masquerade,” she goes on to write. “Yet the more popular — and accusatory — the word ‘appropriation’ has become, the fewer people seem willing to understand the meaning behind it.”

Jackson, however, is certainly one of those willing people (she is also, full disclosure, a friend of mine). Using case studies ranging from the Kardashians to Miley Cyrus to Paula Deen to Big Dick Energy, she explores and pinpoints the term with nuance, curiosity, and wryness. Most crucially, she draws a direct line between appropriation, racism, and inequality in America; it’s not just a matter of who gets “credit” for inventing particular things, but who actually gets to cash the check.

Jackson spoke with me (who, as a white woman and an editor of stories about how and why people buy things, can always benefit from insight on the topic) about how appropriation plays out in terms of what we’re buying, who’s allowed to profit from it, and why it all matters. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Can you briefly talk through your project for this book and your understanding of the term “appropriation,” how it’s potentially been warped or miscategorized, and why you wanted to give us a new working definition?

I like to think of this book as investigating an appropriation of a type that belongs in a wider category of appropriation that isn’t always as charged and it isn’t always as malicious, and certainly isn’t as deliberate as we like to think of it.

“Appropriation” in and of itself is really just taking something and moving it somewhere else and making it, you know, appropriate to that place. There are a lot of things that come out of appropriation that we don’t really think of as appropriation because we like them. [They’re seen as] artistically relevant, as culturally relevant, as important.

One of the examples I use in the book is hip hop, which is an incredibly appropriative genre — it comes together through intergenerational appropriation, through interracial appropriation, intercultural appropriation. And we love that! That’s why hip hop is so magical.

The appropriation I am looking at in the book is a sort of interracial, cross-cultural appropriation from black to elsewhere. I like to think of it as black aesthetics in decay, and what happens when you have persistent inequality; what happens in the cultural realm? That’s really what the book is about.

How does money play into this, the exchange of capital and influence?

America has this really persistent myth about the importance of intellectual property. As a kid, I had this idea that making an invention would be a lot more relevant to my adult life than it ended up being!

We have this idea that if you create something unique, you deserve to be compensated for it. You deserve to be rich for it. You deserve to be so rich that other people will not actually be able to afford health care and housing. And that myth is a reality for a Steve Jobs or for a Bill Gates. [That myth is a reality] if you’re white.

Increasingly there’s this repeated story in our country where actually a whole lot of people don’t get to profit off of the creative insights that they have. That is totally racially structured. That is totally class-structured. So this connection between race and wealth that I’m trying to establish is that the rules of who gets to profit from what they make are totally unequal. We can see this in [areas] that seem to be as frivolous as the makeup you put on your face or the clothes you put on your body. But it all trickles from this initial system of inequality.

Let’s talk about those clothes and makeup. We see this constantly in the fashion industry where it’s like, Prada fucked up this way, Louis Vuitton fucked up that way. There’s a several-days-long cycle of them being called out and then they issue a mealy-mouthed apology, if at all, and move on. Can you talk through how that cycle keeps happening?

I think it all comes down to what we think counts as avant-garde. Not to get too academic about it, but if we look at the history of the avant-garde — not just in fashion but in other sets of concerns, modern art, for example — all these people are still relying on a certain ethnicized aesthetic to be seen as new and unique and funky in these sort of gilded, very white, Western artistic circles. People like Picasso, using this Africa of his imagination to become an artist. We can trace that all the way up to high fashion and the people who are still scraping from black communities, from brown communities, from people and places outside the West to find innovation and to find creativity.

I like to use that quote from The Devil Wears Prada:

It’s so amazing and so fun, because Meryl Streep makes it fun, but as Stella Bugbee points out, it’s ultimately a lie because Oscar de La Renta, or whoever makes cerulean hot, probably saw cerulean on some kid walking down the street who’s not even caring about whatever’s going on in high fashion editorial. He probably saw that and was like, “Ooh, that’s wonderful, I’m going to put it on the runway” and instigates the cycle. But we never start the cycle at the kid that was walking down the street. We start with the person that has all the accolades and all the visibility.

I love the part at the end of that chapter where you’re essentially saying that if we want to stop getting in that feedback loop, we might need to completely reformat how we think about fashion — it might mean no more fashion week, it might mean the end of couture houses. This idea that no, it doesn’t have to be this way, is kind of revolutionary!

[Laughs] Yeah, that’s my death-to-capitalism moment. But I’m not going to throw the first brick at fashion week.

How do you see the media’s role in shaping all of this as well? Do you think that the way fashion journalism in particular, and the media more broadly, covers these instances of appropriation is useful?

The media coverage totally feeds into it, but I have so much sympathy. I am not a journalist, but I’m close enough to the field that I know that a lot of people don’t have a whole lot of time to cover these things. Right? Like no one’s giving the average fashion journalist two weeks to do a deep dive on the history of Prada and appropriation or something like that; that’s not something a lot of publications are allowing their staff. So in that case it’s like, yeah, you only get to do the quick blog post and move on because you have like 10 other blog posts within the hour.

So I think, actually, it’s not necessarily the fault of the journalist or the critic, but really the publications and the publishers who are maybe prizing a certain kind of timeliness above thoughtfulness. If there’s anything that needs to change, it’s the people who have the pockets to pay for people to do the research they need to do their jobs.

So we’re back to capitalism again.

Yeah! Funny how that keeps happening.

Toward the end of the book, you write about how black women in particular are seizing the means of production when it comes to opening their own Instagram boutiques. Could you explore this idea of selling directly to people who want to receive this cultural cachet?

Instagram is particularly interesting, maybe because it [changed] more quickly than Twitter or Facebook, in just a few years. It had its stated purpose of [being] a platform for photographs — it’s not about words, it’s not about status updates, it’s all about the visuals.

The platform decided that and the users decided something else. Users decided that Instagram was going to be about text, quotes; it was going to be about long paragraphs about their fitness journey or whatever; it was going to be about selling their wares and making essentially ad hoc websites for themselves, selling clothes or shoes or whatever.

And so it was the users who figured out that actually Instagram could be a great way to make money. Now Instagram is playing catch-up by saying, “Oh no, we want a cut of that.” We can even trace it up to what’s going on with the “Likes” that are going to disappear. People (like Nicki Minaj) have rightfully pointed out that it has nothing to do with mental health; it has everything to do with the fact that “Likes” are monetized, or can be monetized.

So if anything gives me hope, it is the clearly scrambling actions of these platforms to try to keep up with what they’ve wrought and what users have wrought. (For better and for worse, in a case like Twitter where what the platform has become is a place for harassment.)

I still think the idea that the users are more creative than the people behind the platforms is where my optimism lies, if there’s optimism to be found.

Sign up for The Goods’ newsletter. Twice a week, we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/12/5/20995415/lauren-jackson-white-negroes-cultural-appropriation

Impeachment hearings: law professor Pamela Karlan had no patience for Rep. Doug Collins’s insults – Aaron Rupar Dec 4, 2019, 12:00pm EST


Republicans tried to turn House Judiciary’s first impeachment hearing into a sideshow, but Karlan wasn’t having it.

Stanford University Professor Pamela Karlan speaking into a microphone at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment.
Pamela Karlan of Stanford University testified before the House Judiciary Committee on December 4, 2019.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday, Republicans led by ranking member Doug Collins made it clear almost immediately that their strategy would be to interrupt the proceedings at every available opportunity and dismiss testimony from a panel of law professors as meaningless.

But during her opening statement, one of those law professors — Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor and appellate attorney — made clear that she had little patience for Collins’s tactics in particular.

“Here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts,” she said. “So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

Doug Collins is making a mockery out of this

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Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

Pamela Karlan *is not* messing around: “Here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearings … I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

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3,625 people are talking about this

Karlan was responding to comments Collins made in his opening statement, including this shot at her profession:

America will see why most people don’t go to law school. No offense to our professors. But please, really, we’re bringing you in here today to testify on stuff most of you have already written about, all four, for the opinions that we already know out of the classrooms that maybe you’re getting ready for finals in, to discuss things that you probably haven’t had a chance — unless you’re really good on TV of watching the hearings over the last couple of weeks, you couldn’t have possibly actually digested the Adam Schiff report from yesterday or the Republican response in any real way.

Your guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga

Impeachment, explained

Understand the impeachment process, from its history to what comes next. Explore the full guide here.

On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to approve a report summing up its weeks of investigation, which included scores of hours of testimony both behind closed doors and broadcast to the American public. The report’s conclusion was damning — “that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection” — but easy to anticipate if you’d been paying attention to the two months of the impeachment inquiry.

The opening statements offered by Karlan and three other law professors made it clear why Republicans are focused on procedural distractions and making a mockery of the proceedings instead of defending Trump on the merits: Each of them with the exception of Jonathan Turley explicitly said that based on the record of last month’s witness testimony, they’ve concluded that Trump committed impeachable offenses.


The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

https://www.vox.com/2019/12/4/20995296/pamela-karlan-doug-collins-impeachment-hearing-house-judiciary

Impeachment hearings: law professor Pamela Karlan had no patience for Rep. Doug Collins’s insults – Aaron Rupar Dec 4, 2019, 12:00pm EST


Republicans tried to turn House Judiciary’s first impeachment hearing into a sideshow, but Karlan wasn’t having it.

Stanford University Professor Pamela Karlan speaking into a microphone at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment.
Pamela Karlan of Stanford University testified before the House Judiciary Committee on December 4, 2019.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday, Republicans led by ranking member Doug Collins made it clear almost immediately that their strategy would be to interrupt the proceedings at every available opportunity and dismiss testimony from a panel of law professors as meaningless.

But during her opening statement, one of those law professors — Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor and appellate attorney — made clear that she had little patience for Collins’s tactics in particular.

“Here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts,” she said. “So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

Doug Collins is making a mockery out of this

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Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

Pamela Karlan *is not* messing around: “Here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearings … I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

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Karlan was responding to comments Collins made in his opening statement, including this shot at her profession:

America will see why most people don’t go to law school. No offense to our professors. But please, really, we’re bringing you in here today to testify on stuff most of you have already written about, all four, for the opinions that we already know out of the classrooms that maybe you’re getting ready for finals in, to discuss things that you probably haven’t had a chance — unless you’re really good on TV of watching the hearings over the last couple of weeks, you couldn’t have possibly actually digested the Adam Schiff report from yesterday or the Republican response in any real way.

Your guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga

Impeachment, explained

Understand the impeachment process, from its history to what comes next. Explore the full guide here.

On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to approve a report summing up its weeks of investigation, which included scores of hours of testimony both behind closed doors and broadcast to the American public. The report’s conclusion was damning — “that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection” — but easy to anticipate if you’d been paying attention to the two months of the impeachment inquiry.

The opening statements offered by Karlan and three other law professors made it clear why Republicans are focused on procedural distractions and making a mockery of the proceedings instead of defending Trump on the merits: Each of them with the exception of Jonathan Turley explicitly said that based on the record of last month’s witness testimony, they’ve concluded that Trump committed impeachable offenses.


The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

https://www.vox.com/2019/12/4/20995296/pamela-karlan-doug-collins-impeachment-hearing-house-judiciary

The Young Black Farmers Defying A Legacy of Discrimination Vice News November 24, 2019


Kendrick Ransome started out farming a few years ago with just a hoe, a rake, and a shovel. He could have used support getting his hog and vegetable business off the ground, but he was wary of asking institutions for help. “My big brother told me, ‘Stay away from loans,’” said Ransome. In 1925, most farmers in his rural hometown of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, were black. But now, the 26-year-old is an anomaly. “When they did take out loans and they were unable to pay them back, you lose everything you got — that’s including your farm and your land for your family.” Ransome’s fear of institutions is based in the centuries of discrimination black farmers have faced across the country. But despite that history, he and other young black Americans are reclaiming the trade. The forces pushing black farmers off their land in the 20th century were manifold, and the impact was devastating. In 1920, there were more than 925,000 black farmers; by 2017, there were fewer than 46,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.