Adonis Diaries

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Google Ideas? What is the hidden agenda of this Jared Cohen?

Julian Assange wrote:

“Only a few months before he met with me,  Jared Cohen was planning a trip to the edge of Iran in Azerbaijan to “engage the Iranian communities closer to the border,” as part of a Google Ideas’ project on “repressive societies.”

In internal emails Stratfor’s vice president for intelligence, Fred Burton (himself a former State Department security official), wrote:

Google is getting WH [White House] and State Dept support and air cover. In reality they are doing things the CIA cannot do…

To be blunt, [Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google’s covert role in fomenting up-risings. The US Gov’t can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag.

In further internal communication, Burton said his sources on Cohen’s activities were Marty Lev—Google’s director of security and safety—and Eric Schmidt himself.

Looking for something more concrete, I began to search in WikiLeaks’ archive for information on Cohen.

State Department cables released as part of Cablegate reveal that Cohen had been in Afghanistan in 2009, trying to convince the 4 major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto U.S. military bases.

In Lebanon, he quietly worked to establish an intellectual and clerical rival to Hezbollah, the “Higher Shia League.”

And in London he offered Bollywood movie executives funds to insert anti-extremist content into their films, and promised to connect them to related networks in Hollywood.

Three days after he visited me at Ellingham Hall, Jared Cohen flew to Ireland to direct the “Save Summit,” an event co-sponsored by Google Ideas and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Gathering former inner-city gang members, right-wing militants, violent nationalists and “religious extremists” from all over the world together in one place, the event aimed to workshop technological solutions to the problem of “violent extremism.” What could go wrong?

Cohen’s world seems to be one event like this after another: endless soirees for the cross-fertilization of influence between elites and their vassals, under the pious rubric of “civil society.”

The received wisdom in advanced capitalist societies is that there still exists an organic “civil society sector” in which institutions form autonomously and come together to manifest the interests and will of citizens. The fable has it that the boundaries of this sector are respected by actors from government and the “private sector,” leaving a safe space for NGOs and nonprofits to advocate for things like human rights, free speech and accountable government.

This sounds like a great idea. But if it was ever true, it has not been for decades.

Since at least the 1970s, authentic actors like unions and churches have folded under a sustained assault by free-market statism, transforming “civil society” into a buyer’s market for political factions and corporate interests looking to exert influence at arm’s length. The last forty years have seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy.

It is not just obvious neocon front groups like Foreign Policy Initiative. It also includes fatuous Western NGOs like Freedom House, where naïve but well-meaning career nonprofit workers are twisted in knots by political funding streams, denouncing non-Western human rights violations while keeping local abuses firmly in their blind spots.

The civil society conference circuit—which flies developing-world activists across the globe hundreds of times a year to bless the unholy union between “government and private stakeholders” at geopoliticized events like the “Stockholm Internet Forum”—simply could not exist if it were not blasted with millions of dollars in political funding annually.

Scan the memberships of the biggest U.S. think tanks and institutes and the same names keep cropping up.

Cohen’s Save Summit went on to seed AVE, or, a long-term project whose principal backer besides Google Ideas is the Gen Next Foundation. This foundation’s website says it is an “exclusive membership organization and platform for successful individuals” that aims to bring about “social change” driven by venture capital funding.

Gen Next’s “private sector and non-profit foundation support avoids some of the potential perceived conflicts of interest faced by initiatives funded by governments.” Jared Cohen is an executive member.

Gen Next also backs an NGO, launched by Cohen toward the end of his State Department tenure, for bringing Internet-based global “pro-democracy activists” into the U.S. foreign relations patronage network. The group originated as the “Alliance of Youth Movements” with an inaugural summit in New York City in 2008 funded by the State Department and encrusted with the logos of corporate sponsors.

The summit flew in carefully selected social media activists from “problem areas” like Venezuela and Cuba to watch speeches by the Obama campaign’s new-media team and the State Department’s James Glassman, and to network with public relations consultants, “philanthropists,” and U.S. media personalities.

The outfit held two more invite-only summits in London and Mexico City where the delegates were directly addressed via video link by Hillary Clinton:

You are the vanguard of a rising generation of citizen activists.…

And that makes you the kind of leaders we need.

In 2011, the Alliance of Youth Movements rebranded as “”

In 2012 became a division of “Advancing Human Rights,” a new NGO set up by . Robert L. Bernstein after he resigned from Human Rights Watch (which he had originally founded) because he felt it should not cover Israeli and U.S. human rights abuses. Advancing Human Rights aims to right Human Rights Watch’s wrong by focusing exclusively on “dictatorships.”

Cohen stated that the merger of his outfit with Advancing Human Rights was “irresistible,” pointing to the latter’s “phenomenal network of cyber-activists in the Middle East and North Africa.” He then joined the Advancing Human Rights board, which also includes Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in occupied Afghanistan.

In its present guise, continues to receive funding from Gen Next, as well as from Google, MSNBC and PR giant Edelman, which represents General Electric, Boeing, and Shell, among others.

Google Ideas is bigger, but it follows the same game plan. Glance down the speaker lists of its annual invite-only get-togethers, such as “Crisis in a Connected World” in October 2013.

Social network theorists and activists give the event a veneer of authenticity, but in truth it boasts a toxic piñata of attendees: U.S. officials, telecom magnates, security consultants, finance capitalists and foreign-policy tech vultures like Alec Ross (Cohen’s twin at the State Department).

At the hard core are the arms contractors and career military: active U.S. Cyber Command chieftains, and even the admiral responsible for all U.S. military operations in Latin America from 2006 to 2009.

Tying up the package are Jared Cohen and the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt.

Hey, mom. Where did you fetch my name from?

A variety of motives are at work when parents consider a name for their child.  

For example, parents may decide to select from traditional names, bohemian, unique, or perfectly trendy names are shuffled around or one parents is adamant on naming after a descendant, or affixing Junior one, two, three…as with the Bushes.

For example, where do lower-end families (economically and in social status…) go name shopping?

Parents try hard to signal something with a name, mostly to send a strong message of their own expectation: How successful their child will be…

Evidently, a name isn’t likely to make a shard of difference, but don’t try to kill the grain of hope in parents wishing to feel better trying to do their best.

Detailed data-bases, extending continuously for decades, have not shown that names are selected based on current celebrities: Names of celebrities of the famous and glamorous are generally symptoms, but not the cause for picking names to newborn.  

Usually, names are borrowed from families, a few blocks over (but never from neighbors), with the biggest car, the most luxurious house, the most educated and rather well-to-do…

The kinds of families that were the first to call their daughters Amber or Heather and now are calling them Lauren or Madison. Or names of boys going from Justin or Brandon to Alexander or Benjamin…

In general, as a high-end name is adopted in mass, high-end families begin to abandon their previous choices of names: It is eventually considered so common that even lower-end parents may no longer want it!

A name send idiosyncratic messages in the community.  

For example, you send two identical CV to an employer with different names such as DeShawn Williams and Jake Williams.  The odds are much higher that Jake will get a call, regardless if the employer is White, Black, or Hispanic. The employer does not want anything to do with a “potentially troubled” individual who lived in bad neighborhood and raised by poor and uneducated parents…

Roland G. Fryer Jr (see note) collected data from the California civil status registers, millions of pieces of data gathered since 1960. Fryer claims that he was interested in “Why mothers give particular names to their child, weird names…” The registers offered valuable bonus of where the mother was born.

Why focus on mothers?

I guess it stand to reason that, most probably, in low-end families, fathers are nowhere to be found when a baby is born?  What if many babies are born of single mothers, and who are not in the age of obtaining a driving license?

Fryer listed 20 most popular names for girls and boys for every decade, and it looks as names can cycle in and out very quickly: Barely three names on the 20 hottest names remain in the next decade list of “hottest names”

I do suspect that this economics professor had a “hidden agenda” and the “name research” was a collateral paper or a smokescreen excuse for undertaking this tedious research.

What do you think could be your real agenda, if you had to spend years pondering on this huge amount of data, and be funded to go all the way through?

I read this Tuesday, May 15, 2012 that Sofia is the most common female name in the US, while Jacob is still the first among the males for the third consecutive year. Isabella was displaced to the second rank after being the first for two consecutive years.

Note: This article was inspired by a chapter in “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt, and this chapter was written by Roland G. Fryer Jr.

Fryer came from a broken poor family: The mother abandoned the child with the father who turned alcoholic and violent. At the Univ. of Texas at Arlington, on an athletic scholarship, Roland quickly realized that he is not an NFL or NBA material, and focused on academic achievement.

He was hired by Harvard as economics professor at the age of 25.




February 2023

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