November 2016 Archives

Clinton's AU

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Newsweek's dispatches from an alternate universe offers "a tiny glimpse of what the internet would have looked like on November 9 if Clinton beat Trump, as so many pundits forecast."

Newsweek staff prepared a remark observing that "The highest glass ceiling in the Western world had finally shattered," and Jon Chait made a poignant comment on "the extraordinary nature of the opposition:"

Clinton has absorbed 25 years of relentless and frequently crazed hate directed at her husband, compounded by her status as a feminist symbol, which made her the subject of additional loathing. Her very real missteps were compounded by a press corps that treated her guilt as an unexamined background assumption. She is almost certainly the first president to survive simultaneous leak-attacks by both a faction of rogue right-wing FBI agents and Russian intelligence.

The Intercept's Jon Schwarz has my Quote of the Day:

"Trump could easily have won if he were a tiny bit less stupid, lazy and vile."

both sides

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Slate's Jeremy Stahl suggests that liberals have a fake news problem, too:

A BuzzFeed analysis found that 38 percent of posts from three large right-wing politics pages featured "false or misleading information," compared to 20 percent from three large left-wing pages.

Stahl continues by observing that "it has become increasingly clear that the right wing does not have a monopoly on believing things that aren't true [and] don't even have a monopoly on being fooled by propaganda:"

As the Washington Post reported last week, one organization has started to catalogue the worst media offenders in disseminating anti-western Russian propaganda that has proliferated from Putin-sponsored media organs like Russia Today. Many of the offenders called out as "useful idiots" for picking up on and spreading this propaganda are alternative media sites with a left-wing bent like Naked Capitalism, Black Agenda Report, Consortium News, Truthdig, and Truth Out. (Some alternative media outlets have pushed back against the claim that some among them are witlessly spreading Russian disinformation.)

Sorry, but those liberal sources are apples and oranges--or chalk and cheese, if you prefer--compared to right-wing sites. Having said that, however, the Buzzfeed piece is worth perusing. Its sample is limited to a mere nine news sources (three liberal, mainstream, and three conservative) over the course of seven weekdays, but "the least accurate pages generated some of the highest numbers of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook -- far more than the three large mainstream political news pages analyzed for comparison:"

Our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of posts from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false. The right-wing pages are among the forces -- perhaps as potent as the cable news shows that have gotten far more attention -- that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump.

Here's the breakdown:


It's no surprise, of course, that the Right lies more than the Left, so a factor of two to three is no surprise. I would like to see a follow-up study that's both wider (more news outlets) and over a longer time frame.

TruthOut's suggestions for building a system-changing response to Trump and Trumpism states that we "must begin with -- but also go beyond -- the urgent work of defending, wherever and however possible, the individuals and communities most at risk:"

At the most obvious level, our collective response must build upon the energies illuminated by Bernie Sanders' "democratic socialist" campaign, Black Lives Matter, climate justice, the mobilization in Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Green Party, LGBTQ activism, immigration activism, People's Action and many, many other efforts. It must also find ways to bring such energies together with the community-level organizing aimed at democratizing the economic system from the ground up, starting with the development of alternative institutions and building toward a larger vision.

While confronting the global economic crisis and the collapse of labor power, the piece observes, we must apply lessons from history:

In our own time, anew politics must build a new and different institutional power base, step by agonizing step, along with a compelling new vision of the future based on a radical democratization of the economy, starting at the community level and working up. [...]

Unless an energized new fusion of local organizing, institution-building and national progressive political energies is achieved and steadily brought together around a compelling and transformative vision, the imbalance of power illuminated in the recent election is likely to get worse, not better. Donald Trump will not be the last right-wing politician who will exploit the deepening economic crisis, fear of immigrants, the collapse of union power and the lack of deep economic organizing on the left.

Building on "local socialism" and working toward a pluralist commonwealth lead into ways of facing the challenges of the Trump era:

Clearly, the first challenge of the Trump era is to defend and protect those most threatened -- including Latino and Latina, Black and Muslim communities, the gay and transgender communities, and the women who will likely face a Supreme Court hostile to their basic right to control their own bodies.

The second is to work to achieve whatever limited gains may still be possible through traditional political efforts.

That's a great deal of groundwork to lay in less than two months, but it's also essential for so many reasons.

Yves Smith sees Trump as revealing his true colors, and notes that until recently "a remarkable amount of what Trump might stand for remained not well defined, and radically so:"

While Trump hasn't settled on all the members of his team, the picture that is emerging is that Trump prizes personal loyalty highly, and when his thin bench requires him to go outside his circle, he not surprisingly hires in his image. While he has turned to some Republican insiders, he has a large representation of very wealthy men like his Treasury Secretary pick, former Goldman partner Steve Mnuchin and his Commerce Secretary nominee, distressed investor Wilbur Ross, who like Trump have never held a government post before.

"Mnuchin is unqualified," she continues, and: would be an utter disgrace if they [Democrats] don't put up a pitched battle over Price, since his desire to privatize Medicare should make it possible to rally opposition among moderate Republican voters, as well as call out Trump for reneging on a campaign promise. [...]

We'll see soon enough whether the Democrats and their allies in the punditocracy are prepared to go into effective opposition to Trump, particularly where he has clearly sold out on campaign promises, or whether they continue to engage in unproductive hysterics and dissipate energy on at best secondary targets.

Sean Colarossi writes that Trump's cabinet picks are proof that Trump has no intent of draining the swamp. "That's right, Trump supporters," he snarks, "You've been duped:"

Despite his campaign rhetoric, Trump is not an outsider with plans to distance himself from the moneyed interests and stand up for the people. If anything, the decisions Trump has made since the election show that he is embracing these powerful influences, first by letting them run his transition team and now by asking them to run his government.

It's important to note that many of us knew this would happen. After all, the idea that Trump would assume office and stand up to special interests was always a silly one. If anything, the president-elect's lack of policy knowledge and political experience makes him more susceptible to outside influences, not less.

The idea that a man who spent a lifetime stiffing small businesses and workers is suddenly going to stand up for them is nonsense.

"The swamp Trump promised to drain is only getting deeper," he concludes.

Marcus Johnson makes an excellent point about identity politics:

This election cycle, "identity politics" has become one of the phrases that joined the political lexicon. Even though it's now widely used, many people are still unsure of what "identity politics" means. Identity politics refers to the political interests of women, minorities, and other marginalized groups in American politics. [...]

When the alt-left says "identity politics," what they actually mean is "civil rights." They want marginalized groups to stop fighting for civil rights because that would upset poor white people who might otherwise vote Democratic, if not for minorities and women pushing their issues. Unequivocally, this is a call for white supremacy. Telling minorities or other marginalized groups that their issues are "distractions," and that they must be subservient to the issues of white men is a path that leads right back to 1950s America. It certainly isn't a path that leads to equality or racial justice.

The takeaway? "Opposition to 'identity politics' is opposition to civil rights. Period."

Salon explains how the impossible standard to which Clinton was held is the most common oppression of all--sexism:

Women are seen as threatening stability when they show ambition and seek power. Their success threatens the association of masculine power with order.

From Eve to Clytemnestra to Lady Macbeth, powerful female figures stir up deep-seated and irrational fears of women's proximity to power. They prompt anxieties about masculinity. These fears can be exploited and directed against particular women, as far-right Steven Bannon's campaign against Clinton demonstrates.

These narratives and others like them align the act of doubting women with rationality and objectivity, making them feel legitimate. In other words, it is not only traditionalists who feel that women can't be trusted with power; cultural narratives of blame make it feel right in general to doubt women.

In addition to this, "Clinton was dismissed as unlikable:"

Her voice and looks were harshly scrutinized. Derogatory names were directed at her by her political opponent and a range of commentators in a way that was indistinguishable from sexual harassment.

For her, the standard was perfection, a standard against which only she was measured.

Chris Floyd looks at "the modern McCarthyite morass" of PropOrNot, where "long-time critics of various aspects of American foreign policy...were all mixed in with obvious propaganda mills and clickbait factories:"

The story is a smear piece just like Tailgunner Joe and Roy Cohn used to make. It makes a direct equation between dissent and treason, using the crudest, stupidest kind of cod-reasoning...

And here's another odd fact: PropORNot's list of those who peddle "fake news" doesn't include, which is one of the master bullshit purveyors of the age.

Floyd snarks that, "fortunately, we have the Washington Post and its anonymous experts to guide us through the modern McCarthyite morass." Andrew O'Hehir writes that the 1933 scenario is no longer hypothetical, because Trump's "badness goes well beyond vulgarity, greed and bad hair:"

We don't know whether the election of Trump is an American echo of the winter of 1932-33 in Germany, when a fragile democracy collapsed into tyranny and an infamous demagogue rose to power on a promise of economic renewal and restored national pride, with an unmistakable racial subtext. It's an inflated comparison in many ways: Trump is too lazy and stupid to be a good F├╝hrer, and lacks any semblance of a consistent ideology; his true believers are nowhere near a majority, and are unlikely to participate in any form of mass mobilization that involves leaving the sofa. Kristallnacht is more likely to come back as a hashtag than a physical event. But if you're anything like me, the parallels seem far-fetched first thing in the morning and way too plausible in the middle of the night.

"Resistance and renewal and rebuilding," he writes, "will take many forms, and will take a long time:"

It took years for American politics to deteriorate badly enough that Donald Trump could be elected dogcatcher, let alone president. There's plenty of blame to go around. None of us did enough to stop it from happening, quite obviously. So now we confront a national emergency that must not be denied and an old question out of the history textbooks that cannot be avoided: Whose side are you on?

strange dominance

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Paul Street explains how the GOP rules a nation that hates it, observing that despite their 62% unfavorability rating, "Republicans are about to assume control of all three branches of the federal government:"

They won the U.S. presidency (the executive branch) and retained control of both chambers of Congress (the legislative branch). Donald Trump's presidential victory means the Supreme Court (the top of the judicial branch) will be tilted to a right-wing 5-4 majority sometime next year, with disastrous consequences.

His explanation for "this seeming anomaly" consists of "12 interrelated and overlapping factors behind the strange political dominance of the Republicans in a country that rejects their party." Bad candidates, low turnout, and gerrymandering are on the list, but the most egregious factors are the Electoral College

A seventh factor is the antidemocratic atrocity known as the U.S. Electoral College--an explicitly authoritarian overhang from the late 18th century. For the fifth time in American history and the second time this century (the most recent previous example being George W. Bush versus Al Gore n 2000), the U.S. presidency will be handed to a politician who did not win the popular vote--the final tally is likely to show that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2 million. It is an open violation of the democratic principle of one person, one vote.

and vote fraud and suppression:

In the U.S., right-wing private corporations tied to the neocon establishment are in preposterous charge of proprietary vote-tabulating software--used in the past to subvert elections in the Third World--and voting machines. Along with racist voter suppression, this helped Trump overcome actual voter preferences in key battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina. Trump was right to warn about a riged election but wrong to say it would be rigged against him. The opposite was the case.

Fault still lies with the Al Gore (2000), John F. Kerry (2004) and Hillary Clinton (2016) campaigns for letting the elections be close enough for horrid, widely hated Republicans like George W. Bush and Donald Trump to steal. The elections must be close enough for theft to succeed. With the big voter margins that any half-progressive Democratic campaign (e.g., Bernie Sanders') would achieve over the Republican's in a center-left nation, the gaps between exit polls and voter machine outcomes would simply be too glaring to allow stealing.

The kicker, though, is mass ignorance:

A final factor is the supreme ignorance that the nation's dominant ideological and cultural authorities and institutions have bred in much of the U.S. populace. Independent and critical thinking skills, and honest information and reporting, are under constant assault in the reigning corporate mass media. The double-whammy of infantilizing, unreal media and fading public education generates millions of dumbed-down people who know little about basic things like why the planet is warming, what fascism is (historical literacy being dangerously low) or even the names of the world's continents. An open demagogue like Trump helps such Americans feel better about themselves. He channels their resentment of those who know about things like why the Arctic ice cover is melting.

"Now we are staring into the face of a coming presidency that promises to be catastrophic," he concludes, "something that is going to take heroic and dedicated mass activism to survive."

Devos and Detroit

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Trump's pick for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has a problematic history:

Throughout DeVos' career as a school choice advocate, she has aggressively pushed for the expansion of charter schools. Although many charter schools across the country benefit low-income families seeking an alternative to public schools, educational equity advocates often raise concerns that a lack of accountability allows less effective charter schools to thrive. And DeVos has been at the forefront of efforts to push against this accountability.

DeVos sits on the board of the Great Lakes Education Project, which advocates for its education reform priorities in the Michigan state legislature. This group is responsible for pushing the legislature to end its plans for a Detroit commission to regulate charter schools.

She pushes a familiar "Shock Doctrine" strategy:

Detroit has the second largest share of students in charter schools, at 44 percent, behind New Orleans. Each year, nearly $1 billion of taxpayer money goes to charter schools, but oversight is very weak, according to a yearlong investigation by the Detroit Free Press released in August. [...]

In the midst of all of these issues, DeVos has pushed for less regulation and oversight of charter schools and stated that public schools are failing children--all without advocating for better state funding of public schools.

Trump miscellany

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Charles Blow's statement that no, we can't just get along refers to Trump's recent meeting with the publisher and staff of the New York Times:

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn't seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But he should never have said that he was going to do that in the first place.

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn't encourage the military to use torture. But he should never have said that he would do that in the first place.

He said that he would have an "open mind" on climate change. But that should always have been his position.

You don't get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can't simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never -- never -- forget that.

His parting assessment is bluntly brutal:

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything -- no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts -- to satisfy your ambitions.

Charles Sykes predicts that the Alt-Reality media is about to get worse:

As a #NeverTrumper, I had hoped that the election would prompt a moment of reckoning and introspection, not merely about conservative values but also the role of the conservative media. As someone who has spent much of his career promoting conservative values on my radio show, I was depending on it.

Clearly, that is not going to happen now. In fact, it's going to get a lot worse.

Trump's victory means that the most extreme and recklessly irresponsible voices on the right now feel emboldened and empowered. And more worrisome than that, they have an ally in the White House. [...]

It's possible that a Trump loss would have led to an exorcism of the worst elements of the conservative media. But they saw Trump's victory as their victory too. The newly weaponized conservative media genuinely believe that they have changed the paradigm of media coverage.

Alex Jones, Fox, and the other right-wing propaganda outlets have forged "the new alt-reality bubble"

This may suggest the role of the new right media--which includes talk radio, websites like Breitbart, the Drudge Report, and dozens of ScamPacs--is to keep dissenters in line. The media outlets function best when the dial is set at outrage and since they are too deeply invested to be outraged at any failures or reversals from Trump world, the anger will inevitably be focused on attacking the left and launching purges of the saboteurs and dissenters on the right.

Salon's look at the crony capitalism of Trump's con notes how "Republicans turned around and put Trump, the ultimate crony capitalist, into the Oval Office:"

To the surprise of exactly no one who paid attention during the campaign, the race had barely been called before the pile of xenophobic tangelo rinds was taking full advantage of his new position to work on business deals that will enrich himself, his family and any business owner wealthy enough to fly a private jet to New York and kiss his ring.

Part of Trump's pitch to Republican voters during the primary revolved around the idea that his wealth had come in part from his ruthless exploitation of this crony capitalist system. That his donations to politicians and cultivation of close relationships with them, for example, had helped him build his enormous business empire. Now, he told the voters, he was ready to fix this corrupt system, which had allowed a genius like him to conquer it and make it work for all Americans.

This is, to put it simply, utter bullshit. Even if you were inclined to believe it, everything Trump has done just in the two weeks since the election puts lie to it, from his staffing decisions for his administration to his continuing to conduct private business related to his empire, to his announced policies, like his infrastructure plan.

In fact, the infrastructure plan will likely go down as one of the biggest cons of the early Trump era.

Rebecca Gordon sees no new normal in the impending era, noting with dismay that "the terror that's shaken us the most is that, in the coming years, we might witness the final collapse of the rule of law in this country." Although "the past two administrations at least gave lip service to the rule of law," she continues, Trump is "a president-elect who has said he will simply ignore the law if it gets in his way:"

In a primary debate last March, he insisted that the military would follow any order he gave--whether to torture detainees or to "take out" the families of suspected terrorists. When debate moderator Bret Baier pointed out that soldiers are prohibited from obeying an illegal order, Trump answered, "They won't refuse. They're not gonna refuse me. Believe me. I'm a leader. I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they're going to do it." Apparently he got some advice about saying such things in public; the following day found him walking back the comments, acknowledging that "the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws." But it's pretty clear what he really thinks about the binding power of law.

There's so much to worry about with a Trump presidency.

She mentions the SPLC's counting 437 hate-crime incidents since the election, and makes a personal observation:

I've been remembering the times I've been yelled at, contemptuously addressed as "sir," or chased down the street by people who'd discerned that I'm a lesbian. Donald Trump has spent the last year telling people that their hatred is a good thing, and to feel free to express it with physical violence. It's no wonder some of us are a little scared.

The full-time faculty at my university has been working for months without a contract. We've had a change of administration, and the new regime is fighting hard against a demand for a very modest salary increase. To put the struggle into words, my colleagues have made buttons sporting a red circle and the words "new normal" with a red slash through it. I've been wearing one to show solidarity with my full-time colleagues. Since Donald Trump's election, I've taken to wearing it off campus as well. It seems like a particularly appropriate slogan these days for those of us who don't want the new normal to mean a return to a very old normal. Having it on makes me feel a bit braver and a bit more hopeful.

She concludes with a welcome bit of optimism that "Hope is the wall we can build, stone by stone, to fence in a future Trumpian autocracy."

NCRM discusses how the Secret Service will lease space in Trump Tower:

The U.S. Secret Service is expected to lease two full floors at New York City's Trump Tower to protect the incoming president and is family. One floor is currently empty, the second currently houses Trump's campaign HQ. The cost to taxpayers for the real estate rental will be $3 million each year, the New York Post reports. [...]

New York City taxpayers are reportedly paying more than $1 million a day to help secure what has become the Fifth Avenue fortress.

Oliver Willis notes that the Russian propaganda campaign "was behind fake news efforts designed to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, according to a Washington Post report:"

According to the paper, Independent researchers say the fake news flood was aided by "a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy."

WaPo's Craig Timberg concurs:

The flood of "fake news" this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia's increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery -- including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human "trolls," and networks of websites and social-media accounts -- echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia. [...]

The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

Additionally, "researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages:"

Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.

PropOrNot's monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were "useful idiots" -- a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.

"The speed and coordination of these efforts," the piece concludes, "allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience:"

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in the U.S. election or hacking the accounts of election officials. "This is some sort of nonsense," Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Putin, said last month when U.S. officials accused Russia of penetrating the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.

fuck work

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History professor James Livingston (author of No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea) suggest a fuck work mindset, writing that "'full employment' is not the way to restore our faith in hard work, or in playing by the rules, or in whatever else sounds good:"

The official unemployment rate in the United States is already below 6 per cent, which is pretty close to what economists used to call 'full employment', but income inequality hasn't changed a bit. Shitty jobs for everyone won't solve any social problems we now face.

Livingston reminds us that "Oxford economists who study employment trends tell us that almost half of existing jobs, including those involving 'non-routine cognitive tasks' - you know, like thinking - are at risk of death by computerisation within 20 years:"

But that is why it's also an intellectual opportunity: it forces us to imagine a world in which the job no longer builds our character, determines our incomes or dominates our daily lives.

What would you do if you didn't have to work to receive an income?

In short, it lets us say: enough already. Fuck work.

He continues, "I know what you're thinking - we can't afford this!"

But yeah, we can, very easily. We raise the arbitrary lid on the Social Security contribution, which now stands at $127,200, and we raise taxes on corporate income, reversing the Reagan Revolution. These two steps solve a fake fiscal problem and create an economic surplus where we now can measure a moral deficit. [...]

Taxing the profits of corporations to finance a welfare state that permits us to love our neighbours and to be our brothers' keeper is not an economic problem. It's something else - it's an intellectual issue, a moral conundrum.

"Character can be created on the job," he writes, "only when we can see that there's an intelligible, justifiable relation between past effort, learned skills and present reward:"

When I see that your income is completely out of proportion to your production of real value, of durable goods the rest of us can use and appreciate (and by 'durable' I don't mean just material things), I begin to doubt that character is a consequence of hard work.

When I see, for example, that you're making millions by laundering drug-cartel money (HSBC), or pushing bad paper on mutual fund managers (AIG, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Citibank), or preying on low-income borrowers (Bank of America), or buying votes in Congress (all of the above) - just business as usual on Wall Street - while I'm barely making ends meet from the earnings of my full-time job, I realise that my participation in the labour market is irrational. I know that building my character through work is stupid because crime pays. I might as well become a gangster like you.

That's why an economic crisis such as the Great Recession is also a moral problem, a spiritual impasse - and an intellectual opportunity. We've placed so many bets on the social, cultural and ethical import of work that when the labour market fails, as it so spectacularly has, we're at a loss to explain what happened, or to orient ourselves to a different set of meanings for work and for markets. [...]

Though work has often entailed subjugation, obedience and hierarchy [...], it's also where many of us, probably most of us, have consistently expressed our deepest human desire, to be free of externally imposed authority or obligation, to be self-sufficient. We have defined ourselves for centuries by what we do, by what we produce.

Livingston finally asks, "How would human nature change as the aristocratic privilege of leisure becomes the birthright of all?"

So the impending end of work raises the most fundamental questions about what it means to be human. To begin with, what purposes could we choose if the job - economic necessity - didn't consume most of our waking hours and creative energies? What evident yet unknown possibilities would then appear? How would human nature itself change as the ancient, aristocratic privilege of leisure becomes the birthright of human beings as such?

Paul Krugman describes Trump's infrastructure privatization scam in, well, less-than-flattering terms:

Crucially, it's not a plan to borrow $1 trillion and spend it on much-needed projects -- which would be the straightforward, obvious thing to do. It is, instead, supposed to involve having private investors do the work both of raising money and building the projects -- with the aid of a huge tax credit that gives them back 82 percent of the equity they put in. To compensate for the small sliver of additional equity and the interest on their borrowing, the private investors then have to somehow make profits on the assets they end up owning.

He summarizes by writing that "it's not about investment, it's about ripping off taxpayers:"

we haven't promoted investment at all, we've just in effect privatized a public asset -- and given the buyers 82 percent of the purchase price in the form of a tax credit.

New Yorker's Ryan Lizza calls Trump's administration a kakistocracy. Lizza looks at Trump's victory speech proclaiming that, "I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country," and notes that, "A week later, those words seem hollow:"

The first sign that our easily distracted President-elect remained unchanged from the campaign came on Thursday. For twenty-four hours, Trump had shown some restraint. His victory speech raised hopes that, despite the evidence of his behavior on the campaign trail, he might be capable of magnanimity.

Trump's whiny tweet about "professional protesters, incited by the media" garners no sympathy:

The rest of the transition team was stacked with Trump loyalists, donors, and family members. Four of the sixteen spots were filled by three of Trump's adult children--Eric, Donald, and Ivanka--and Kushner, his son-in-law. These are the same people Trump promised would be running his business empire, which has interests around the world and could benefit enormously by influencing government policy and staff appointments.

"As of Wednesday morning," writes Lizza of Trump, "He has tweeted twenty-three times:"

Trump, whose first week was marked by seeming chaos in his efforts to put together an Administration. But what we've learned so far about the least-experienced President-elect in history is as troubling and ominous as his critics have feared. The Greeks have a word for the emerging Trump Administration: kakistocracy. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as a "government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens." Webster's is simpler: "government by the worst people."

NCRM's Brody Levesque writes that "Lizza's description is extremely apt given absolute chaos surrounding the president-elect and his advisors:"

Any semblance of an orderly transition now seems on the verge of collapse as each day brings a new revelation that questions Trump's ability to maintain control or even properly direct his apparently unwieldy staff.

He quotes Army Captain Sue Fulton:

"Welcome to kleptocracy. If you think enriching the Trump fortune won't be a condition of Presidential action, you haven't paid attention to what Donald Trump has done his entire life."

David Badash at NCRM is dismayed at Trump's policy plans:

Trump, in his video, says on day one he will withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement. The president-elect also says he will remove "job-killing restrictions" on oil and gas companies, "including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs," Trump promises.

In other words, Trump will "make America great again" by poisoning our air and water, and, although he doesn't say it in the video, will make America great again by getting rid of healthcare, including Obamacare and Medicare. So, when we're all sick from polluted air and water, we can all use our life savings to pay off our medical bills.

In These Times, under the pseudonym Marianne Hastings, calls for a general strike on Inauguration Day:

The message of a nationwide Sick Out on Inauguration Day will help prepare people for the multiple acts of resistance that will be required by us over the next four years. The only thing holding us back from engaging in this collective action is our hesitancy to believe that it is possible. [...]

A general strike and boycott, or Sick Out, would be a commitment not to go to work or buy anything on January 20. It would not focus on any single cause or demand; instead, it would be a show of our collective power in opposition to Trump's extremism. [...] We cannot allow Trump's extremism to be normalized and take shape in our institutions of government.

Plans for a Million Woman March are being laid as well:

Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton came as a shock to many -- and for many women who opposed Trump in particular, Clinton's loss was personally devastating. But in the days since the election, desperation and fear have swelled into a plan for action: a "Women's March on Washington" on January 21, the day after Trump's inauguration and the first full day of his administration.

What started as a viral idea on social media has snowballed into a potentially massive event, with more than 100,000 people already saying on Facebook that they plan to attend. It has the potential to be the biggest mass mobilization yet that America has seen in response to a presidential inauguration -- about 60,000 people protested Richard Nixon's 1973 inauguration at the height of the Vietnam War, and thousands protested George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration. [...] Now that professional organizers have taken the reins, it looks like the logistics will come together, although the broader impact remains to be seen.

One hopes so; we need some glimmers of hope, as "the huge, spontaneous groundswell behind the march says a lot about this moment in American politics:"

It's another sign that Trump could spark a new golden age of activism on the left. And it's a sobering reminder of why that might be the case: People are genuinely afraid for their civil rights under Trump, and women in particular could have a lot to lose.

"Especially for women of color, queer and trans women, and women who belong to other marginalized groups," the piece continues, "a Trump presidency could present an existential threat:"

...from a Justice Department that could roll back major civil rights gains, to families being torn apart through mass deportation, to Muslim women feeling too afraid of hateful acts and violence to wear the hijab and freely express their religion, to drastic reductions in access to reproductive health care that would disproportionately harm poor women and women of color.

"The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us -- immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault," a statement from organizers reads. "The Women's March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights."

Melville House is working on a book entitled What We Do Now (the same title as their 2004 book discussing the path forward after Bush was re-elected). In the announcement, Dennis Johnson writes that "the question of the moment for those of us devastated by the takeover of our country by the fascist right: What are we going to do now?"

Let me suggest, simply, that we all do what we can with what we have. What Valerie and I have is a publishing company, and what we've decided to do most immediately is to make a book. We had the title first: What We Do Now.

Which is to say that for the last week or so I've been contacting lots of prominent progressives, begging them for a short essay on exactly that--in whatever their field of expertise is, what can people do to somehow move forward, to keep heart, to not give up?

My idea is to get the book in bookstores for the inauguration. We want to give people a chance to greet that grim day with a sense of community, purpose, and forward motion--and galvanizing them for the long four years ahead wouldn't be a bad thing, either.

Noting that "The normal pre-publication cycle for a book in America is about 18 months," he poses some questions:

What happens when you try to get a book out in less than two months? How does your sales team get the word out to booksellers? How do you get 18 months' worth of marketing done in that time? How do you print and ship the book in time?

Even before you get to that, how do you simply gather the materials and prep them for printing in such a short amount of time?

I'm looking forward to his "mad dash to get the book done, printed, and shipping to stores before election day."

Electoral College

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Peter Beinart observes that the Electoral College was meant to stop men like Trump from becoming president. Although he recognizes the potential "anti-democratic nature" of the Electoral College, he also notes that:

Donald Trump was not elected on November 8. Under the Constitution, the real election will occur on December 19. That's when the electors in each state cast their votes. [...]

The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with "talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity" from becoming president. And they would combat "the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils." They would prevent America's adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump. [...]

When George W. Bush became president after losing the popular vote in 2000, there were protests, but no real question about the inevitability of his taking office. In this way, as in many others, Americans comfortably accept undemocratic elements of America's system of government even as they profess publicly that democracy is sacrosanct.

Beinart admits that, "Before this election, I supported abolishing the Electoral College. Now I think America needs electors who, in times of national emergency, can prevent demagogues from taking power."

Peter Richardson observes that, "With slight variations, three pundits--Matthew Continetti, Ross Douthat and David Brooks--described their plight as a crisis of conservative intellectuals." The problem, writes Richardson, is "a question of motive:"

By presenting themselves as intellectuals even as they confessed their intellectual sins, these writers wanted to have it both ways. Their appeal was this: Please continue to regard us as intellectuals, even though we scrambled your understanding of the nation's most urgent priorities--not here and there, from time to time, but systematically and for decades. In this concerted effort, we followed William F. Buckley and others, who were obviously intellectuals and not merely "conservative opinion-meisters" (the phrase was Brooks') or partisan hacks.

I reject that appeal. Intellectual respectability can't be inherited; it can only be earned by telling the truth and exposing lies, especially when the stakes are high. In all three cases, we should credit the admissions but reject the stealthy self-promotion. Given the writers' indirect support for Trump and its likely consequences, one cheer for them is generous. When it comes to Trump's victory, however, there's plenty of blame to go around. The only question for these writers (and everyone else) is: What will you do to fix it?

It looks like a crisis of ass-covering, and very little else.

Trump's Muslim ban

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Anti-Defamation League's head Jonathan Greenblatt has a strong reaction to Trump's Muslim ban:

"If one day Muslim Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim," Greenblatt said.

The Trumpites are lying, of course, when denying "that he had ever advocated establishing a registry for monitoring people based on their faith." As the Guardian notes: a video shot at a campaign event in Iowa in November last year, Trump said he would certainly implement a database for tracking Muslims, and that Muslims would be legally obliged to sign up.

I've been declaring for years that I will join Muslims when they're in danger, and this is one of those times.

This ban must be not allowed to stand.

"strange numbers"

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Kevin Hartnett's dive into the strange numbers found in particle collisions is a nice read, exploring "a surprising correspondence that has the potential to breathe new life into the venerable Feynman diagram and generate far-reaching insights in both fields:"

It has to do with the strange fact that the values calculated from Feynman diagrams seem to exactly match some of the most important numbers that crop up in a branch of mathematics known as algebraic geometry. These values are called "periods of motives," and there's no obvious reason why the same numbers should appear in both settings. Indeed, it's as strange as it would be if every time you measured a cup of rice, you observed that the number of grains was prime.

Hartnett writes that "mathematicians and physicists are working together to unravel the coincidence:"

For mathematicians, physics has called to their attention a special class of numbers that they'd like to understand: Is there a hidden structure to these periods that occur in physics? What special properties might this class of numbers have? For physicists, the reward of that kind of mathematical understanding would be a new degree of foresight when it comes to anticipating how events will play out in the messy quantum world.

Here's an infographic that might clarify things:



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Let's never stop booing the incoming administration, implores Kali Holloway in examining the Hamilton incident:

Not a single one of us needs to be scolded about the importance of safe spaces by an unhinged racist who has made this entire country an unsafe space for millions of people. This is the same guy who hasn't made a single sincere effort to get his vicious and violent supporters to end their sustained campaign of harassment against people of color and other minorities. This is the same man who once said he'd like to punch a protester in the face; who encouraged people to attack reporters at his rallies; who told crowds that he longed for the days when peaceful protesters were "carried out on a stretcher"; who egged on his supporters' aggression by telling them he would pay their legal fees if they were physically violent with protesters; and who is accused of actually harassing many women going back 40 years.

It's clear that Trump plans to gaslight us all for the next four years. When his baldface lies and hypocrisy are revealed, as they are being right now and will be many times again, let's definitely not be fooled or let him get away with it without calling it out.

Trump's tweet ended with the demand that the "Hamilton" cast apologize. Thousands of his supporters--probably people who chanted "kill the bitch!" at his rallies--retweeted his message with no apparent irony.

As far as the theatrical boycott, Holloway writes that "No one cares they won't be attending that show they never planned to attend in the first place." She implores us to "be displaying our absolute opposition to Pence, Trump and this whole administration in the loudest voices we can muster every chance we get:"

They are unburdened by values or virtue, have shown callous indifference to millions, and are on the road to destroy this country and very likely--in ways direct and indirect--millions of lives within it.

This is no time for silence or complacency. Shame on us if we ever stop booing.

AlterNet writes that the problem with the #BoycottHamilton movement is how easily Snowflake-in-Chief Trump's delicate feelings can be mocked:

If we wanna discuss what is rude Mr. President, I'm pretty sure grabbing a woman by her genitalia ranks higher than booing. #BoycottHamilton -- i miss the yankees (@redrag0n_) November 19, 2016

"The irony of the #BoycottHamilton movement," writes Hrafnkell Haraldsson in his look at how it's been destroyed by Twitter, "is that it's mostly folks who already boycott both hip-hop and knowledge of history." This tweet from John Fugelsang nails another aspect of it:

The irony of the #BoycottHamilton movement is that it's mostly folks who already boycott both hip-hop and knowledge of history. -- John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) November 19, 2016

Haraldsson wondersed, "how do you boycott something you can't get tickets for because it's sold out until next August?" and LiberalAmerica discusses the #NameAPenceMusical hashtag, nothing that "both Trump and Pence are going to flat-out hate some of these postings, which makes it even sweeter:"

Les Deplorables #NameAPenceMusical -- Monique Beatty (@QDreamsOfParis) November 20, 2016

Oklahomophobic! #NameAPenceMusical
-- Amy Shouse (@CupcakeMurphy) November 20, 2016

grab her by the CATS#NameAPenceMusical
-- Kevin Perkins (@Pope_Of_Balt) November 20, 2016

A Streetcar Named You're Fired #NameaPenceMusical
-- nicandro iannacci (@niannacci) November 20, 2016

...and there are many more where those came from.

Sapna Maheshwari demonstrates how fake news spreads with this case study:

Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Austin, Tex., had just about 40 Twitter followers. But his recent tweet about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory -- one that Mr. Trump joined in promoting.

Mr. Tucker's post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr. Tucker got it wrong. There were no such buses packed with paid protesters.

But that didn't matter.

"The next morning, the frenzy began," the analysis continues, as the rumor spread from Reddit to Free Republic and beyond. "By about noon, Mr. Tucker's initial post had been retweeted and liked more than 5,000 times:"

Around 6 p.m., the conservative blog Gateway Pundit posted a story using Mr. Tucker's images under the headline "Figures. Anti-Trump Protesters Were Bussed in to Austin #FakeProtests." The post, which included a mention of "Soros money," has been shared on Facebook more than 44,000 times, according to statistics on the website. [...] Then, shortly after 9 p.m., Mr. Trump sent this tweet:
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair! -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016

Snopes and other debunked their tall tale, but "None of this seemed to have much impact:"

Mr. Tucker's initial tweet continued to generate thousands of shares on Facebook through Free Republic and pages like Right Wing News and Joe the Plumber.

When this crap flourishes so rapidly, what happens to our crops?

resistance agenda

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Robert Reich proposes a 100-Day resistance agenda against Trump--everything from getting Democrats to oppose Trump's agenda, marching and demonstrating, boycotting all Trump brands, writing letters to the editor, op-eds, and social media posts to investigative journalism ("We need investigative journalists to dig into the backgrounds of all of Trump's appointees, in the White House, the Cabinet, Ambassadors and judges"), launching lawsuits ("Throw sand in the gears"), and fomenting intellectual opposition ("Take Trump on where he's weakest--with serious ideas. I'll try to do my part. You do yours, too.").

TruthOut looks at the long con on Trump voters and predicts "a chance that Donald Trump will be impeached:"

If so, the Republicans will lead the effort, and it will probably take place within a year of his inauguration. At that point, the ultra-"conservative" Republican establishment will get what it could never accomplish at the polls -- President Mike Pence.

Pence supports the privatization of public education, favored "an Indiana law that would have guaranteed the right for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people," and signed "the most reactionary anti-abortion bill in the country." Salon's Nico Lang shows us that the backlash against LGBT rights has already begun, writing that "Over the next four years LGBT rights will face a sustained challenge from entities on the far right:"

Although Georgia's "religious liberty" bill passed both houses of the state's General Assembly, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it last April. The legislation, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers based on "sincerely held religious beliefs," was a virtual clone of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in Indiana last year. That law, which was later amended, cost the state a reported $60 million in economic backlash.

Senate Bill 242 "could force educators to out queer and trans students to their parents," Senate Bill 92 "will void local ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination," and the so-called "Women's Privacy Act" would "force transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth:"

The Texas Association of Business has warned that passing such laws could have a detrimental impact on states. The group estimated that the three proposed bills could cost Texas as much as .5 percent of its GDP every year they're enacted. That doesn't sound like much until you do the math. The Texas economy brought in $1.4 trillion in 2013 (the most recent reliable economic measure); at the estimated rate that's a loss of $7 billion a year.

Radical Faeries

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Matt Baume's look back at four decades of Radical Faeries asks, "What the heck is a Radical Faerie?"

That's a hard question to answer -- intentionally. For some people, it's a movement. For others, it's a way of life. And for some, it's a fun pastime.

But whatever it is, its roots were deeply serious. Even before the group's inception, the Radical Faeries were devoted to challenging the status quo, and to queer liberation. Though decentralized

and lacking much structure at all, they are all universally dedicated to freedom: politically, artistically and sexually.

"Those lifestyles were adopted by free thinkers like Harry Hay," he continues, "previously an organizer with the Communist Party and Mattachine Society:"

Because the Radical Faeries are now so popular and unmanaged, it's likely they'll always exist in some form or another. But that also means a dilution of their founding goals -- far from being a radical movement, now they are often regarded as simply an aesthetic. But for those who take Radical Faeriedom seriously, it remains a driving force that pushes queer people to recognize that they are always free to push boundaries and transgress.

Push onward, Radical Faeries--you are much more dangerous than clowns like Milo Y.

VP-elect Mike Pence got treated to a special performance at Hamilton last night, as Crooks and Liars' Karoli Kuns describes:

"On his way into the show, he was booed by people in the audience, something that really seems to have upset New York Times' reporter Maggie Haberman," who complained about "A level of disrespect"

Karoli responds, however, that "I never saw her care much about how a certain former Secretary of State or our current President has been treated." In addition to the audience reaction, however, was the cast's statement:

Vice President Elect Pence, welcome.

Thank you for joining us at Hamilton - An American Musical.

We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.

We hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us.

Thank you.

Andy Towle writes with mock astonishment that "Following a campaign in which he insulted and harassed millions of Americans, President-Elect Donald Trump is suddenly a fan of 'safe spaces.'" Here are Trump's tweets about the incident:

Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016

The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016

TPM shows us who's echoing Trump's complaints, and it's the usual suspects: Newt Gingrich, Michelle Malkin. Michele Bachmann, Laura Ingraham, and Joe Scarborough. Calling the cast's statement "rude" and "harassment" is a bit over the top, though--even if Pence's skin is as thin as Trump's is. Jezebel's follow-up points out the following:

In addition to everything else, never forget that Mike Pence is not a "very good man." He is a very, very, very, very, VERY, VERY bad man.
And if we're being honest, the theater is not historically the safest place for elected officials, either. [Washington Post]

Lincoln didn't even whine this much after his play.
-- Barry Petchesky (@barryap1) November 19, 2016

economic rent

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I've railed against simplistic conservative misreadings of Adam Smith before, so Dustin Mineau's explanation of how economists duped us into attacking capitalism (by explicating the concept of economic rent) was a very intriguing read:

I admit, reading the term, "economic rent" can cause eyes to glaze over quickly. A more accurate description is "unearned income". It is people and companies who make money by doing zero work and risk little or none of their own assets.

Many conservative economists claim to be staunch followers of Adam Smith. They shout slogans such as "Supply and Demand!" "Capitalism"! " "Let the markets work!" However, for anyone who actually read Adam Smith, you would note that the "invisible hand" was not his only observation of the inner workings of capitalism. Adam Smith recognized that many in the economy were making gobs of money, but weren't contributing anything. He was referring to what was eventually called "economic rent".

"Adam Smith and future classical economists," he reminds us, "existed in a time where the noble families of medieval Europe were still the large landowners:"

The nobles had just turned into Rentiers. Because they owned the land, they were able to rent it out to capitalist and workers and claim a portion of their profits and wages by charging "rent". They were able to do this without ever working. It was unearned income.

Much of the work done by economists from Adam Smith until the late 19th century was all about finding and identifying "rent-seeking". These classical economists didn't want to overthrow capitalism, they wanted to free it from the "rent-seeking" parasites.

Because "many modern economists no longer make a distinction between land and capital," he continues, "therefore the concept of economic rent is no longer discussed in our politics:"

Rent-seeking is any income that is unearned. An alternative definition is "profit without a corresponding cost of production". "Economic Rent" can come from ownership of land and just "renting" it out for money. It can also come from collecting so much capital that a firm now has a monopoly and can set the price independent of supply demand considerations, It can be from government monopoly granting, control of other "land" like our rivers, broadband spectrum, or "mineral rights" of land. It can come from control of financial assets like capital gains, dividends, and interest on loans(especially usury). It can also come from political favors from the government.

A side effect of this is that "when progressives rail against the unearned income of the rentiers, we lack the vocabulary to properly express what is happening:"

Instead, conservatives try to make it look like liberals are railing against capitalism itself or against businesses in general. In some cases we may even come to believe it ourselves. Many times when we're fighting against the "excesses of capitalism", what we are actually fighting is parasitic rentiers that are hurting the true capitalists as much as the workers.

"One could argue, he concludes, that "history is repeating itself:"

200 years ago, the conservative vs. liberal mantra was that conservatives were fighting to keep the power of the nobles and large landlords intact. The liberals were the ones trying to free themselves politically and economically from their control. Today it's the same. Conservatives are fighting to maintain the privilege of the Rentiers by pretending to defend capitalism itself. And once again, us liberals are fighting to free the market from the parasitical Rentiers.

NSA's "Project X"

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The Intercept's Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke reveal an NSA spy hub in NYC that's hidden in plain sight, one that's called "Project X:"

It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.

But the building's primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States -- the world's largest center for processing long-distance phone calls, operated by the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T.

Built between 1969 and 1974, the skyscraper's address is 33 Thomas Street:

An investigation by The Intercept indicates that the skyscraper is more than a mere nerve center for long-distance phone calls. It also appears to be one of the most important National Security Agency surveillance sites on U.S. soil -- a covert monitoring hub that is used to tap into phone calls, faxes, and internet data.

"33 Thomas Street," the piece continues, "has served as an NSA surveillance site, code-named TITANPOINTE:"

It has long been known that AT&T has cooperated with the NSA on surveillance, but few details have emerged about the role of specific facilities in carrying out the top-secret programs. The Snowden documents provide new information about how NSA equipment has been integrated as part of AT&T's network in New York City, revealing in unprecedented detail the methods and technology the agency uses to vacuum up communications from the company's systems. [..]

The NSA's documents also reveal that one of TITANPOINTE's functions is to conduct surveillance as part of a program called SKIDROWE, which focuses on intercepting satellite communications. That is a particularly striking detail, because on the roof of 33 Thomas Street there are a number of satellite dishes. Federal Communications Commission records confirm that 33 Thomas Street is the only location in New York City where AT&T has an FCC license for satellite earth stations.

"Much of the surveillance carried out at TITANPOINTE," Gallagher and Moltke points out, "seems to involve monitoring calls and other communications as they are being sent across AT&T's international phone and data cables:"

But the site has other capabilities at its disposal. The NSA's documents indicate that it is also equipped with powerful satellite antenna -- likely the ones located on the roof of 33 Thomas Street -- which monitor information transmitted through the air. [...]

The harvested data is then made accessible through XKEYSCORE, a Google-like mass surveillance system that the NSA's employees use to search through huge quantities of information about people's emails, chats, Skype calls, passwords, and internet browsing histories.

The article notes that, "These revelations were foreshadowed in 2006 by allegations made by Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician [see here, here, and here]:"

Klein stated that the company had maintained a "secure room" in one of its San Francisco offices, which was fitted with communications monitoring equipment apparently used by the NSA to tap into phone and internet traffic. Klein's claims formed the basis of a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers (Jewel v. NSA), which remains ongoing today.

Coincidentally, between 1981 and 1990, Klein also worked for AT&T at 33 Thomas Street. "I wasn't aware of any NSA presence when I was there, but I had a creepy feeling about the building, because I knew about AT&T's close collaboration with the Pentagon, going way back," he told The Intercept. When presented with the details linking 33 Thomas Street to NSA's TITANPOINTE, Klein added: "I'm not surprised. It's obviously a major installation. ... If you're interested in doing surveillance, it's a good place to do it."

A 10-minute film on "Project X" is here:

TruthOut is aghast at how militarized cops are being schooled in terror, noting that one consequence is "the ongoing transformation of Chicago's municipal police into a paramilitary:"

At the same time, funding for social services continues to shrivel. The city's infrastructure for public education continues to suffer. As the month of October began, teachers were already gearing up for another strike against school closures and the prospect of working without a contract.

"No militarized training would be complete without assault weapon exercises," the piece continues, and "many trainings get federal financial support:"

The Department of Homeland Security has a grant program, the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), allocating millions of dollars to qualifying city areas. This current of money joins a historical torrent of capital that the federal government bequeathed police looking to acquire paramilitary capabilities, which began with the oft-touted 1033 Program. Passed by Congress in the late 1990s, this program authorizes transfers of surplus military equipment to municipal law enforcement on request.

Here's the chilling summary:

Federal money has essentially been channeled into an infrastructure that monitors, controls and represses poorer communities that bear the brunt of racism, rather than providing economic support to poorer communicates and reviving the social and educational institutions needed to create a less violent future.

taboo and tolerance

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The Federalist calls IVCF's decision to fire pro-marriage employees an "affirmation," and liberal response to the firings as an "uproar." Mentioning that "a group of former InterVarsity staff recently founded Incarnation Ministries, a new 'LGBTQ-inclusive campus ministry'" belies the claim made by some evangelicals that non-heterosexuality is opposed to Christianity. Also contentious is the declaration that "Sex belongs within marriage, and marriage is between a man and a woman" and the claim that "Upholding this position will come with a cost:"

Indeed, it already has. Hours after the Time article about InterVarsity appeared, I saw Facebook and Twitter posts calling for colleges to kick the group off campus. [...] To be frank, it seems odd that InterVarsity is suddenly a target of protest, derision, and attack. Yes, the organization could doubtless have done better in rolling out the Document on Human Sexuality.

It's not "rolling out" a position paper that's the issue, but firing people for their beliefs.

The anger of InterVarsity's critics is not just about the new policy. Yes, the Document on Human Sexuality and terminating dissenting employees contradicts the sexual libertinism of the twenty-first century West. [...] "This is why InterVarsity's Document on Human Sexuality is so threatening to the intellectual system of same-sex marriage defenders"

No, the document isn't threatening; the firings are the threat.

"perhaps it is evidence that the traditional understanding of marriage is not an arbitrary imposition of patriarchy, but a natural and inherent disposition of humankind."

Nope, not that either.

"By walking backwards [He admits it!] on the marriage question, InterVarsity has put the very intellectual framework of same-sex marriage supporters at stake."

That should win some sort of prize for overly grand pronouncements.

"The furor doesn't appear to show any sign of dying down"

Sorry, but you'll just have to live with the derision you've earned for kicking out former allies who understand sociology and sexuality. Will Christian groups develop anti-evolution positions to justify kicking out members who understand biology, or anti-Big-Bang positions so they can fire members who understand cosmology?

In the spirit of rising above such disagreements, S. Abbas Raza writes about tolerating the intolerable:"

I am writing this today to dissociate myself from the rage many of my friends have been expressing toward those who supported the "wrong" candidate in the recent presidential election in the US. I know that this will not make me popular with anyone; in fact, I am certain that at least some will take offence. But I still want to say some things I believe and which I don't see enough other people saying.

"What is tolerance," Raza asks, "if not the patience to accept that there may be some people whose views (formed by their own immediate cultural environments and their own experiences) deserve criticism by our standards but whom we do not give up on and regard as evil?"

Most leftists and liberals in the West generally correctly resist the temptation to paint whole societies in the developing world as backward and contemptible because their belief systems are at odds with the ethical norms of industrialised democracies. [...] But when it comes to the disadvantaged victims of a predatory capitalism in the US - the working class Americans whose economic conditions have been steadily worsening for more than four decades under every single administration - these progressives find it hard to show any real sympathy.

He concludes that, "we must keep in mind that the highest priority must be to help the working class out of its miserable state and reach a more equitable distribution of resources overall. There is no other way to address the US's increasingly dysfunctional state:"

This is going to require speaking to the half of the US that disagrees with us and convincing them to join us in bringing back and strengthening labour unions, pushing for more progressive taxation (the only real way to reshape the distribution of wealth in the long run), getting money out of politics and doing whatever else it takes. We might even learn something from such conversation.

Chris Hedges laments the fact that our situation is worse than you think:

Widespread social unrest will ignite when Donald Trump's base realizes it has been betrayed. I do not know when this will happen. But that it will happen is certain.

"We face the most profound crisis in human history," his jeremiad continues:

Our response is to elect a man to the presidency who does not believe in climate change. Once societies unplug themselves from reality, those who speak truth become pariahs and enemies of the state. They are subject to severe state repression. Those lost in the reverie of the crisis cult applaud the elimination of these Cassandras. The appealing myths of magical thinking are pleasant opiates. But this narcotic, like all narcotics, leads to squalor and death.

Dara Linddara observes that fear is a totally rational reaction, as many of us "woke up terrified this morning:"

They'll wake up afraid tomorrow, and the day after that, and every day of the newly elected Donald Trump administration. [...]

For perhaps millions of immigrants, Muslims, and people of color in this country, their fear is rooted in the way Donald Trump has run his campaign for the last 18 months -- and 200 years of American history. To these people, optimism is nothing more than denial.

The people who woke up afraid today have been the ones warning, unheeded, that Donald Trump's campaign was not a thought experiment. Now, they are under direct threat from his presidency. And very little that Trump has said or done as a candidate renders those fears anything less than deeply rational.

"The word that defined Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency, to me and many others," she continues, "was this: emboldened:"

White supremacist organizations are rejuvenated. People feel less constrained by "political correctness" to speak their minds about the problems with society -- even to the point, occasionally, of confronting strangers. A generation of children of color is being bullied by threats that the president-elect will send them back -- the policy's appropriation into everyday life is nearly as chilling as the policy itself. [...]

It is not on people who are under threat by Donald Trump's presidency -- under threat by the America that he was elected by promising -- to put their fears aside. It's absurd to ask them to forget everything they've seen that others have ignored.

NYRB's Elizabeth Drew discusses how the Trump victory happened, and notes that "some national polls got it essentially right:"

As some predicted, Clinton won the popular vote but not by an overwhelming number--by the latest count she won 400,000 more votes than Trump, who got fewer votes than either Mitt Romney or John McCain. [...]

"Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 30,000 votes" [and] "In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton by a mere 67,902 votes... And in Wisconsin, the result was 47.9 to 46.9 in Trump's favor"

His lying helped, but so did Clinton's weakness among women:

According to the website FiveThirtyEight, just 34 percent of women lacking a college education voted for Clinton, as opposed to 62 percent for Trump; whereas Clinton won 51 percent of college educated women, while Trump got 45 percent of them. That Clinton's gender gave her no particular advantage among women doomed the prospect of our "first female president." According to political scientist Michael Kesler, writing in The Washington Post, her 12 point margin among female voters was about the same as Obama's in 2008 and 2012.

David Pierson points to Facebook's fake news as part of the problem, despite protestations from their CEO:

"The idea that fake news on Facebook ... influenced the election in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea," [Marl] Zuckerberg said.

"I do think," he continued, "there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason why someone could have voted the way they did is because they saw some fake news."

Despite this deflection, Facebook deserves some blame:

The staggering election-related activity on Facebook comes at a time when the social network has been littered with thousands of fake stories with headlines like "FBI AGENT SUSPECTED IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE" from fake news organizations with reputable-sounding names such as the Denver Guardian.

On a personal front, Micah Lee suggests surveillance self-defense as an important activity:

On Tuesday, Americans handed the U.S. presidency to a racist, xenophobic, authoritarian, climate-science-denying, misogynistic, revenge-obsessed ego-maniac -- and with it control over a vast and all-too-unaccountable intelligence apparatus... [...]

With Trump eager to misuse his power and get revenge on his perceived enemies, it's reasonable to conclude there will be a parallel increase in abuse of power in law enforcement and the intelligence community. Activists who put their bodies on the line trying to protect basic rights -- freedom of religion, freedom of speech, civil rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, privacy rights -- will face the brunt of it.

He lists "some first steps that activists and other concerned citizens should take"--it's well worth checking out.

On an interpersonal level, wear those safety pins to show your solidarity. What began as a post-Brexit movement is now demonstrating "solidarity with those who might be denigrated or made afraid in a post-election America:"


In her look at neural plasticity, Jessa Gamble observes that when "careers require years of internships and graduate degrees, the age of adulthood is receding, practically into the 30s:"

Adolescence, loosely defined as the period between puberty and financial independence, now lasts about 15 years, twice as long as it did in the 1950s [...] when an increasing number of young people are still dependent on their parents. There is some concern that all of this dependence could lead to a lasting immaturity and failure to take on responsibility.

On a positive note, Gamble writes that "according to developmental researchers, there is one lasting gift that extended adolescence can bestow, and it resides in the brain:"

"Neurobiological capital" is built through a protracted period of learning capacity in the brain, and it is a privilege that comes to those lucky enough to enjoy intellectually stimulating environments in late adolescence. Far from a contributor to emotional immaturity, the trend toward an adolescence that extends into the mid-20s is an opportunity to create a lifelong brain-based advantage.

"Some of this evidence," she writes, "comes from brain studies of those who have had access to higher education:"

The window for developing self-regulation closes when adult life settles into a routine, and the brain begins to exchange growth for efficiency. But if an adolescent continues to be stimulated intellectually--through higher education or travel, for example--their brain remains in its formative stage into the mid-20s, and even primes itself for future learning in adulthood. Dubbed "metaplasticity," changing brain circuits through learning during adolescence can make subsequent modifications easier in those areas.

There is, of course, a cost that makes this stimulation an "economically exclusive" prospect:

Protracted brain plasticity often depends on access to a stimulating environment--and the money that entails. Instead of falling into the rote tasks of an entry-level position after college, a debt-free graduate might volunteer overseas for a year and learn a new language and culture.

To maximize neurobiological capital, it soon may not be enough for parents to sock away money in college savings accounts. Some may need to budget for a Neurobiological Runway Fund to cover the post-college years, too.


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GLAAD's annual report on LGBT characters on TV, the "Where We Are on TV" study, "looks at the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services for the 2016-2017 TV season:"

  • Of the 895 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming in the coming year, 43 (4.8%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars GLAAD has ever found. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.

Racist and sexist under-representation are still evident:

  • While this year's report marks a record-high percentage of black series regulars on broadcast (20%), black women remain underrepresented at only 38% of all black series regular characters.
  • This year, 44% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of one percentage point from last year but still greatly underrepresents women who make up 51% of the population.

The Advocate proclaims that "TV has never been queerer," although LGBTQ Nation notes that "More than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series this year:"

While TV remains far ahead of film in gay representations, the medium "failed queer women this year" by continuing the "harmful 'bury your gays' trope," the report said. [...] It's part of a decade-long pattern in which gay or transgender characters are killed to further a straight character's storyline, GLAAD said, sending what it called the "dangerous" message that gay people are disposable.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's CEO, comments that:

"While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it's important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community," said Ellis.

Lynn Parramore's observation that medieval peasants got more vacation time than you is an interesting one, despite the obvious caveat that "Life for the medieval peasant was certainly no picnic:"

His life was shadowed by fear of famine, disease and bursts of warfare. His diet and personal hygiene left much to be desired. But despite his reputation as a miserable wretch, you might envy him one thing: his vacations.

Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.

As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.

"Shor's examination of work patterns," writes Parramore, "reveals that the 19th century was an aberration in the history of human labor:"

When workers fought for the eight-hour workday, they weren't trying to get something radical and new, but rather to restore what their ancestors had enjoyed before industrial capitalists and the electric lightbulb came on the scene. Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. "The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed," notes Shor. "Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure."

Parramore identifies the precarious nature of today's middle-class existence, as well as the irony that "this cult of endless toil doesn't really help the bottom line:"

Study after study shows that overworking reduces productivity. On the other hand, performance increases after a vacation, and workers come back with restored energy and focus. The longer the vacation, the more relaxed and energized people feel upon returning to the office.

(It's almost as if one of the corporate goals of this setup is workers' terrified obedience, rather than mere productivity...)

the blue wall

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Ronald Brownstein asks, is Trump outflanking Clinton?

The Clinton team's decision to focus so much more attention on states that it wants to win--as opposed to those it believes it needs to win--represents one of the central, if often unremarked upon, choices of the 2016 election. It has allowed her to play offense for most of the general election, while forcing rival Donald Trump to spend most of his energy defending states more indispensable to his strategy than to hers.

He fears that Clinton "has left herself open to a flanking maneuver from Trump in any of the seemingly safe Democratic states that he is now targeting--key among them Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin:"

Almost all analysts agree that Clinton has more plausible options for reaching an Electoral College majority than Trump does. And among analysts from both parties, there's broad agreement about the states that offer her the most straightforward path to victory. That path starts with the 18 states that form the blue wall, a term I coined in 2009. These states have backed the Democratic nominee in at least the past six presidential elections; together with the District of Columbia, they offer 242 Electoral College votes. [...]

Clinton's electoral map thus starts with defending Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the three loosest bricks in the blue wall.

Let's hope that her victory is a resounding one--so that Trump can go back to his reality-TV sandbox, and stay out of the news.

Ezra Klein makes the case that Clinton is the most transparent candidate in history, and Trump is the least--although "it doesn't feel that way:"

Even as we are drowning in info about Clinton, we feel we know little about her; her reputation for secrecy, for opacity, for inaccessibility persists. And even as we have very little information about Trump's private dealings, we feel we know much -- perhaps too much -- about him. The result is a window into the strange ways we judge transparency, openness, and disclosure in American politics.

Klein provides a convincing summary:

We have Hillary Clinton's full tax returns going back to the year 1977. We have, with varying degrees of completeness, public schedules from her time in the White House, the Senate, the State Department, and her multiple campaigns -- you can pick any day of the past 25 years at random and have a pretty good chance of figuring out exactly where Clinton was and what she was doing.

We have lists of her campaign's donors and her foundation's donors. We have tens of thousands of emails from her time at the State Department -- emails that have received more journalistic scrutiny than those of any Cabinet secretary in history. Thanks to Russian hackers trying to disrupt the US election, we have thousands of her campaign chair's emails, giving us unprecedented insight into the inner workings of her political operation. We have reams of investigative reports, congressional testimony, and documentary evidence from the inquiries into Whitewater, Benghazi, and Travelgate.

The contrast with Trump is quite stark:

The bulk of our national knowledge of Trump has come not from his disclosures but from his management of his own image -- from the items he leaked to gossip reporters, the television shows he appeared on, the interviews he gave. Digging beyond that image is difficult because Trump has forced his former associates, and even his former romantic partners, to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Klein summarizes the situation this way:

We are in the odd place of knowing more about Clinton than we can process but somehow feeling like we know nothing at all. We simultaneously have vast gaps in our knowledge of Trump even as we wonder why he can't hold anything back. It's a strange election.

Kevin Drum calls her an open book, whereas "Trump's reputation, by contrast, is ridiculous:"

He hides everything and lies about what he can't. And since he runs a private company and has never served in government, he can get away with it. He's not subject to FOIA requests or WikiLeaks dumps or random judges deciding that all his emails should be made public.

This isn't going to change, and at this point it no longer matters whether it's fair. It just is. But it's what produces such bizarre levels of CDS [Clinton Derangement Syndrome, in case you've forgotten.] among conservatives. They've forced so much openness on Clinton in an effort to destroy her, and it drives them crazy that it's done nothing except paint a portrait of a pretty normal politician. Over 25 years, they've managed to uncover only three "scandals" that are even marginally troubling, and every dry well does nothing but convince them that Clinton is even more devious than they thought. By this time, we've tracked practically every hour of every day of Clinton's life for the past decade, and there's almost literally no unexamined time left. But it doesn't matter. The next one will get her for sure!

"On the honesty front," he concludes, "she is Mother Teresa compared to Donald Trump." Due to Mother Teresa's numerous failings, I would have chosen a different example--but Drum's point still stands.

In the course of explaining why market-based healthcare reform can't succeed, Smirking Chimp examines the proposition that "No 'free market' solution to providing health care can work without price controls:" He notes that "In other countries, 'market-based' solutions work because of decidedly non market-based practices, like government-mandated price-setting:"

Any solution that places pricing power in the hands of monopolies and near-monopolies will always fail to deliver an affordable product, whether that market is cable TV or health insurance. Monopolies inevitably lead to high prices.

He quotes from this Jacobin article by Benjamin Day (executive director of single-payer advocacy group Healthcare-NOW), which points out that Aetna, one of the largest insurers, "is pulling out of state health exchanges in 2017. The company's action marks the failure of every market-based reform included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA):"

The last gasp of the ACA's market-based reforms reveals an uncomfortable truth about our health-care system: we cannot afford to expand or even maintain our current access to care without cost controls, and health-care costs cannot be controlled with competition or markets.

The only cost control that works without undermining access to care is also the kind that Republican and Democratic leadership have foresworn this election: public budgeting and rate-setting through a single-payer system, or regulations that force nonprofit insurers to act like a single-payer.

Salon's Chauncey DeVega wrote a piece on peak propaganda which points out that Fox's viewers:

...are much more critical of Obama; are afraid of Hillary Clinton; and have a much more negative attitude about the future of the United States than the general public. Fox News viewers are also much more likely to believe that the presidential election will somehow be manipulated or subjected to fraud and that the American news media is conspiring against Donald Trump. [...]

In all, Fox News is extremely dangerous to the public discourse and consensus politics in America because it creates a feedback loop among conservatives, one that is almost impossible to break.

"This has a deleterious impact," he continues, "on the ability of Republicans to legislate and govern in a responsible manner:"

CNN and other outlets in the American corporate news media are complicit in perpetuating this alternate reality -- they are reluctant to speaking plainly about Fox News and its role in disseminating Right-wing lies and disinformation because they have been bullied into submission by the myth of the so-called "liberal media."

The sum effect of this is that CNN and other major American news outlets elevate Right-wing talking points and falsehoods to the level of factual "news." This legitimizes them as now being worthy of inclusion as an "alternative point of view" that should be spoken to in serious discussions of politics. CNN and the so-called liberal media then circulate Right-wing propaganda to a broader public outside of the Fox News echo chamber.

"It is clear that Donald Trump is good for ratings," he writes with resignation, "in the fantastical world created by Fox News and the Right-wing media:"

This is also true at CNN and for too many other outlets in the news media as well. Unfortunately, the Fourth Estate should be functioning as a watchdog for American democracy but is instead more beholden to money and profit than it is to civic virtue and truth-telling.

Salon's Franklin Foer looks into Trump's connection with Russia's Alfa Bank; it's disturbing, in a coffin-nail kind of way:

In late July, one of these [computer] scientists--who asked to be referred to as Tea Leaves, a pseudonym that would protect his relationship with the networks and banks that employ him to sift their data--found what looked like malware emanating from Russia. The destination domain had Trump in its name, which of course attracted Tea Leaves' attention. But his discovery of the data was pure happenstance--a surprising needle in a large haystack of DNS lookups on his screen. "I have an outlier here that connects to Russia in a strange way," he wrote in his notes. He couldn't quite figure it out at first. But what he saw was a bank in Moscow that kept irregularly pinging a server registered to the Trump Organization on Fifth Avenue.

More data was needed, so he began carefully keeping logs of the Trump server's DNS activity. As he collected the logs, he would circulate them in periodic batches to colleagues in the cybersecurity world. Six of them began scrutinizing them for clues.

(I communicated extensively with Tea Leaves and two of his closest collaborators, who also spoke with me on the condition of anonymity, since they work for firms trusted by corporations and law enforcement to analyze sensitive data. They persuasively demonstrated some of their analytical methods to me--and showed me two white papers, which they had circulated so that colleagues could check their analysis. I also spoke with academics who vouched for Tea Leaves' integrity and his unusual access to information.

This was not a malware attack or the work of bots, writes Foer:

The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation--conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn't an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

Trump's server configuration "looked weird, and it didn't pass the sniff test," and "this capacious server handled a strangely small load of traffic:"

Eighty-seven percent of the DNS lookups involved the two Alfa Bank servers. "It's pretty clear that it's not an open mail server," Camp told me. "These organizations are communicating in a way designed to block other people out."

Earlier this month, the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there's no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the logs, he concluded, "The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project." Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence. Over the summer, the scientists observed the communications trail from a distance. [...]

"I have nothing to do with Russia," he [Trump] told one reporter, a flat denial that he repeated over and over. [but] The sweeping nature of Trump's claim, however, prodded the scientists to dig deeper. They were increasingly confident that they were observing data that contradicted Trump's claims.

One scientist said, "I'm seeing a preponderance of the evidence, but not a smoking gun." The NYT investigated such intriguing tales as how Alfa Bank's founder Mikhail Fridman "rose from operating a window washing company" to become "the second richest man in Russia, valued by Forbes at $15.3 billion:"

The Times hadn't yet been in touch with the Trump campaign--Lichtblau spoke with the campaign a week later--but shortly after it reached out to Alfa, the Trump domain name in question seemed to suddenly stop working. [...] The computer scientists believe there was one logical conclusion to be drawn: The Trump Organization shut down the server after Alfa was told that the Times might expose the connection.

Foer observes:

Four days later, on Sept. 27, the Trump Organization created a new host name,, which enabled communication to the very same server via a different route.

There were, of course, dubious denials from the Trump camp--from "Alfa Bank does not have and has never had any special or exclusive internet connection with Mr. Trump or his entities" to "The Trump Organization has no communication or relationship with this entity or any Russian entity."

"What the scientists amassed wasn't a smoking gun," he admits:

It's a suggestive body of evidence that doesn't absolutely preclude alternative explanations. But this evidence arrives in the broader context of the campaign and everything else that has come to light: The efforts of Donald Trump's former campaign manager to bring Ukraine into Vladimir Putin's orbit; the other Trump adviser whose communications with senior Russian officials have worried intelligence officials; the Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta's email.

We don't yet know what this server was for, but it deserves further explanation.

update (11/2 @ 9:11pm):
Foer's follow-up piece on Alfa Bank offers this caveat:

The computer scientists had no actual examples of email exchanged between Trump and Alfa--only inferences about that prospect, based on their close reading of the logs. I spoke with many DNS experts. They found the evidence strongly suggestive of a relationship between the Trump Organization and the bank but not conclusive.

In addition to "responses from the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank," Foer also provides "a series of valuable objections and credible alternate theories" about the Trump/Alfa connection--including that the server in question [] "was run and managed by Cendyn, a vendor that organizes email marketing campaigns for hotels and resorts:"

At first, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told me the server "has not been used since 2010." She continued, "To be clear, The Trump Organization is not sending or receiving any communications from this email server." The Intercept has since turned up at least two examples of a Trump email, promoting hotels, being sent from that server in 2015 and 2016.

"It seems unlikely," Foer snarks, "that a campaign would so exclusively focus its efforts on a bank in Russia." His explanation for the investigation makes his rationale explicit:

I pursued this story because I was impressed by the emphatic belief of the experts I consulted, my suspicions were raised by the evidence they presented, and I thought I would be remiss if I sat on data that I believed deserves to be evaluated and understood before we elect the next president. The underlying context for the piece is that Donald Trump has cultivated a troubling relationship with Russia, and the U.S. government has identified Russia as trying to meddle in this election.

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