Recently in politics Category

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.

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.


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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.

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

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:"


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.

This article lamenting the power of hate propaganda in open societies notes that "demagogues don't actually need to silence or censor their opponents:"

It turns out their followers are quite happy to succumb to wilful blindness, believing what they want to believe even as contradictory evidence stares them in the face.

One result of this is open societies remain surprisingly susceptible to misinformation that instigates intimidation, discrimination and violence against vulnerable groups. Untruths doled out in hate campaigns find ready buyers even in a free marketplace of ideas.

The unholy appeal of outright lies has been on stunning display in Donald Trump's rise as the Republican candidate for the US presidency. Independent fact-checking organisation PolitiFact has found 71% of his statements to be mostly false, false or in the "pants-on-fire" category.

This phenomenon is not new. More than a decade has passed since satirist Stephen Colbert coined the word "truthiness", referring to stuff that some people lap up because it feels right - even though it definitely isn't.

Sadly, the piece continues, "the invective is not confined to idle gossip, but converted into blueprints for action: remove them; ban their places of worship; censor their viewpoints; restrict their practices; kill them:"

Often this emerges as straightforward hate speech or misinformation that incites hostility, discrimination or violence against a group. Or it is expressed as righteous indignation, accusing the targeted community of behaving in a manner that causes outrage.

These twin tactics - the giving and taking of offence - meld into a potent political strategy that I call "hate spin". Its practitioners manipulate the visceral, tribal feelings of their audience in order to mobilise supporters and defeat opponents in their quest for power.

Jon Chait speculates about the GOP's Age of Authoritarianism and asserts that "the horrors Trump has unleashed are the product of tectonic forces in American politics:"

Trump has revealed the convergence of two movements more extreme than anything in the free world that may yet threaten the democratic character most Americans take as their birthright.

"There is no longer any such thing as a Republican who is not conservative," he writes, which helps explain the worsening polarization:

During the Obama administration, a spate of right-wing primary challenges eradicated what was left of the party's vestigial moderate wing and cowed its remaining mainstream members into submission.

"By Obama's first term," he continues, "authoritarian personalities identified overwhelmingly with the GOP:"

In its preference for simplicity over complexity, and its disdain for experts and facts, the party has steadily ratcheted down its standard of intellectually acceptable discourse: from a doddering Ronald Reagan to Dan Quayle to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin. From this standpoint, Trump is less a freakish occurrence than something close to an inevitability.

He identifies "a course that may sometimes be discomfiting but could satisfy every faction" as "libertarian ends achieved through authoritarian means."

In a September National Review cover story, co-authors Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru, two of the right's most erudite intellectuals, acknowledged that Trump has made some questionable statements that "certainly do not sound like the views of a person with a deep esteem for the constitutionally limited role of the president or for the delicate balance of our system of government." But, they quickly insisted, Hillary Clinton's support for executive actions, laws that create more bureaucracy, and liberal judges poses "a more concrete and specific threat than Trump." Indeed, "mainstream liberalism now subverts and threatens our democracy," and so they concluded that the safer choice, from the standpoint of the republic's stability, would be to hand control of the Executive branch to Trump. This is how a party consensus forms. The more strident wing openly endorses authoritarianism, and the "moderate" wing refrains while agreeing that authoritarianism is still preferable to liberalism.

No matter how awful Trump actually is, in other words, their fears of Hillary are much worse--such as, to quote one such example, Maine's Republican governor Paul LePage exclamation that "every single day we're slipping into anarchy." Although "Trump will probably lose," Chait continues, "That loss will provide little more than a temporary reprieve:"

The Republican-controlled House will be as conservative as ever, perhaps even more so. All the nice-¬sounding legislative programs Clinton offered up to soothe her restless base on the left -- affordable child care and college, improvements to Obamacare, -infrastructure -- will be dead on arrival, making Clinton appear ineffectual. Or worse than ineffectual: Republicans will crank up the investigative machinery and produce endless media coverage of ¬scandals, real or trumped up.

Jane Mayer writes at The New Yorker about James Comey's email revelations:

On Friday, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting independently of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sent a letter to Congress saying that the F.B.I. had discovered e-mails that were potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private server. Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey's decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department's longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.

Comey's decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.

Comey's actions are a continuation of his previous efforts--for examples, the July press conference about the email investigation:

At that press conference, Comey stated that the F.B.I. had found no reason to bring criminal charges against Clinton for using a private e-mail server to handle much of her State Department business, but that Clinton and her staff had been "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, extremely classified information." Comey made clear that he had decided to make this comment without any sign-off from the Justice Department. Ordinarily, when no charges are brought, such matters are not exposed to public view, let alone addressed at press conferences.

Mock Paper Scissors explodes over news that "The FBI had Weiner's data A MONTH AGO:"

So... given that FBI Director's 10-year terms are designed to that the sitting preznint cannot fire them, what penalty will Comey face if it really does turn out that this was a hit job (as it almost certainly seems that it is)? I doubt he wanted another 10-year term, and I know that this Congress would not consider impeaching him.

So, would it be irresponsible to speculate that Comey just resuscitated his future career in Wingnut Welfare (which he certainly destroyed by not indicting Clinton as The New Confederacy surely wanted)? It would be irresponsible not to! (Thanks, Peg!)

Let's put this one in Claim Chowder: I predict he's gonna end up in a Right Wing Think Tank (I'll even be specific for this Claim Chowder: Standford's Hoover Institute is my bet).

Digby dismantles the claim that Comey's "integrity is so unimpeachable that he couldn't possibly have partisan motives:"

Assuming that's true, then he's a simple coward. Going against all advice from the leaders of the Justice Department, he went his own way and violated long-standing rules that barred the Justice Department of any appearance of interference 30-60 days from an election. And his reasons are that he believed he had a "choice" between making the Republicans mad and being accused of improperly interfering in a presidential election.

Newsweek excoriates Comey's remarks with the assessment that "Those are the words you use if you're covering your ass:"

It's clear to me that Comey has been successfully mau-maued by the Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump and Jason Chaffetz for his unwillingness to indict Hillary Clinton on spurious nonsense back in July and he was more concerned about looking bad with them than he was about trashing the integrity of the FBI and inappropriately influencing a presidential election. That's pretty shocking.

Sophia McClennan describes he entire 2016 election as an insult to our intelligence, and writes that "the real problem [is] not just that we don't have our facts straight:"

It's that we have collectively lost our ability to process information and make good judgments. To be truly stupid, you need to have poor reasoning skills. So our problem isn't just that we have lies substituted for facts; it is that we don't even know how to process information anymore.

In the era of Fox "News," she laments, "lying has become a common part of our political life:"

Now some 15 years into the era of constant political lying, it is time to realize that we don't only have a war on truth; we have a war on logic. If we focus only on the lies and miss the faulty logic, we get only part of the picture of why we have gotten so stupid. To be truly stupid, you have to have no grasp of what legitimate evidence looks like and no ability to process the information you do have.

She writes that "The Trump campaign is literally a lesson in stupidity and poor logic," and "Our political conversations have become dominated by either/or thinking, false binaries, hasty generalizations, slippery slopes, circular arguments, straw men and red herrings:"

As we have moved towards greater fundamentalism -- market fundamentalism, political fundamentalism and religious fundamentalism -- we have lost the ability to practice critical reasoning. Everything we think now is a belief rather than a reasoned judgment. Ideas can't be questioned, critiqued or debated because to do so would be to shake the foundations of our mind palace. [...]

In our current political climate, any correcting information is considered suspicious and threatening. Facts are no longer to be trusted. We live in echo chambers where our biases become truth claims. Any effort to point them out feels like an affront and leads to conflict rather than conversation. Rather than hone our skills of debate, we sharpen our spears to fend off our challengers.

Robert Parry's modern history of "rigged" US elections takes a different tack from most articles:

The United States is so committed to the notion that its electoral process is the world's "gold standard" that there has been a bipartisan determination to maintain the fiction even when evidence is overwhelming that a U.S. presidential election has been manipulated or stolen. The "wise men" of the system simply insist otherwise.

We have seen this behavior when there are serious questions of vote tampering (as in Election 1960) or when a challenger apparently exploits a foreign crisis to create an advantage over the incumbent (as in Elections 1968 and 1980) or when the citizens' judgment is overturned by judges (as in Election 2000).

"Protecting the perceived integrity of the U.S. democratic process is paramount," he writes, despite anti-democratic events ranging from Nixon's treason in Vietnam and Reagan's 'October Surprise' campaign to George W. Bush's Florida fiasco:

Regarding Election 2000, the evidence is now clear that Vice President Al Gore not only won the national popular vote but received more votes that were legal under Florida law than did George W. Bush. But Bush relied first on the help of officials working for his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, and then on five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to thwart a full recount and to award him Florida's electoral votes and thus the presidency.

"Looking back on these examples of candidates manipulating democracy," writes Parry, "there appears to be one common element:"

...after the "stolen" elections, the media and political establishments quickly line up, shoulder to shoulder, to assure the American people that nothing improper has happened. Graceful "losers" are patted on the back for not complaining that the voters' will had been ignored or twisted.

Al Gore is praised for graciously accepting the extraordinary ruling by Republican partisans on the Supreme Court, who stopped the counting of ballots in Florida on the grounds, as Justice Antonin Scalia said, that a count that showed Gore winning (when the Court's majority was already planning to award the White House to Bush) would undermine Bush's "legitimacy."

"the cumulative effect of all these half-truths, cover-ups and lies," he continues, "is to corrode the faith of many well-informed Americans about the legitimacy of the entire process:"

The hard truth is that the U.S. political process is not democracy's "gold standard"; it is and has been a severely flawed system that is not made better by a failure to honestly address the unpleasant realities and to impose accountability on politicians who cheat the voters.

Bill Clinton Inc

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Russell Berman looks at what he calls Bill Clinton Inc., and asks, "Who is Doug Band, and what did he do for Bill Clinton?"

A little bit of everything, it turns out.

He helped launch the Clinton Foundation, came up with the idea for the Clinton Global Initiative, brokered deals for paid speeches that enriched Clinton, and then started a private consulting firm called Teneo that made the Foundation, Bill Clinton, and Band himself even wealthier.

All of that became clear in the latest batch of hacked emails released by WikiLeaks, which include messages from Band and a 12-page memo that he wrote both explaining and defending his and his company's work on Clinton's behalf. For Hillary Clinton's campaign, the publication of the Band memo is yet another WikiLeaks-induced headache, as it provides even more detail into the unsavory-if-not-illegal intersection of interests at the heart of her family's philanthropic work.

"The Band memo does not directly involve Hillary," writes Berman, "but to Republicans it makes no difference:"

Neither the emails [...] nor Band's memo about Teneo and his work for Bill Clinton suggest that Hillary Clinton took actions as secretary of state to benefit donors to the Clinton Foundation.

The idea of secret Hillary clubs, writes Slate's Michelle Goldberg, is an encouraging one:

One of the emerging themes of the last weeks of the presidential campaign is the resurgence of the right's "unskewed polls" theory, which holds that when Republicans are behind it's because the pollsters are sampling the wrong people. [...]

But the idea that Trump voters are hiding their true allegiance in large numbers strikes me as implausible. It just doesn't track with the swashbuckling, politically incorrect, in-your-face ethos of the Trump movement. Considering the huge gender gap, one would have to assume the shy voters would be a hidden group of Trump men who are telling pollsters they're voting for Hillary Clinton. If you're the kind of man who likes Trump, you're probably not the kind who feels the need to hide it.

On the other hand, there could be some "shy" Clinton voters out there who say they are voting for Trump in order to keep the peace with their aggressively pro-Trump husbands and maintain their standing in their conservative communities.

As usual, the scenario less comforting to conservatives is also far more likely to be true.

Indeed, Goldberg "spoke with several Hillary voters who said they had just decided to keep quiet to avoid confrontation:"

Clinton is the first female presidential nominee from a major party, and the opposition chose an aggressive, rank misogynist to oppose her. The fact that some women are reluctant to support her openly in the face of Trump's overheated followers -- especially women who normally vote Republican -- is a perfect example of why the secret ballot is so important. No matter what your community or your family or your employer says, your vote is your private decision. There may be quite a few women like those Iowa evangelicals who will cast a vote for Hillary Clinton this year, and never tell a soul.

Perhaps they won't even tell exit pollsters, which could drive losing Trumpites mad.

Speaking of the Trumptards, Neal Gabler explains how the media manufactured hatred of Hillary--pointing out that "Hillary Clinton wasn't unpopular when she announced her decision to run in April 2015:"

If you look at the Gallup survey in March of last year, 50 percent of Americans had a favorable impression of Clinton, only 39 percent an unfavorable one. So there was clearly no deep reservoir of Clinton hatred among the general public at the time. On the contrary: Americans liked her; they liked her quite a bit.

Already by June, however, her favorability had not only taken a hit. It had plummeted. By July, according to Gallup, her favorability hit an all-time low with only 38 percent positively and 57 percent viewing her negatively -- putting her 19 points underwater [while] "Trump's deficit was 24 percent"

Gabler writes that misogyny "certainly doesn't explain why her numbers nosedived last July," because "policy wasn't what the media were focused on:"

They were focused on emails. There was a court-mandated dump of Clinton's emails late that month, and the media leapt on it with alacrity. This certainly wasn't the first time the public had heard about Clinton using a private email server while Secretary of State. That news had come out in March 2015 and hadn't affected her favorability at all. But the fixation on emails, which had long been an addiction among Republicans and the right-wing media, suddenly became an addiction in the mainstream media as well.

Gabler writes bluntly, "You could say that Clinton was sabotaged:"

And that wasn't all. As reported in a study by Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on media coverage in the pre-primary period, Clinton received especially negative coverage -- overwhelmingly negative. At the same time, both Sanders and Trump received extremely positive coverage. As the report put it: "Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump's positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton's negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end."

Andrew Marantz's analysis of trolls for Trump looks at an allied dynamic among the more rabid conservative media outlets:

In late August, Hillary Clinton announced that she would soon give a speech, in Reno, Nevada, linking Donald J. Trump to what has become known as the alt-right--a loose online affiliation of white nationalists, neo-monarchists, masculinists, conspiracists, belligerent nihilists, and social-media trolls. The alt-right has no consistent ideology; it is a label, like "snob" or "hipster," that is often disavowed by people who exemplify it. The term typically applies to conservatives and reactionaries who are active on the Internet and too anti-establishment to feel at home in the Republican Party. Bizarrely, this category includes the Republican nominee for President. It also includes extremist commentators, long belittled or ignored by the media, whom mainstream pundits are now starting to take seriously.

Mike Cernovich of Danger and Play pushed the #HillarysHealth meme, and claimed that "Donald Trump has proven me right. People are tired of pussies." Despite asserting "I'm not a pure troll," Cernovich is unabashedly partisan: "If there's a story that can hurt Hillary, I want it in the news cycle," he said. One only wishes that his gleeful taunts that "We're going to make a whole new news cycle about her fucking e-mails again!" weren't enabled quite so vigorously by the "liberal" media.

Salon's look at Clinton's ongoing donor mess is much ado about very little--"once again, the Clinton Foundation's fundraising practices have churned up some politically fraught news coverage and questions about the ethical standards put in place for the former president's global philanthropy:"

In August, the foundation announced that should Hillary Clinton win the presidency, it will cease accepting foreign and corporate donations and spin off the majority of its projects to other charities. That was a good first step toward preventing conflicts of interest and also a recognition that the charity's fundraising practices pose political and ethical problems for the Clintons.

Now comes this Doug Band memo, detailing the ways in which Bill Clinton's personal financial endeavors were intertwined with his charity's fundraising efforts. That memo was written shortly before Chelsea Clinton voiced complaints that Band and his associates were misusing her father's name and influence to drum up business for themselves overseas.

It turns out Chelsea was right to be wary of Band. The memo was basically a how-to guide for leveraging a former president's profile into financial gain with as little ethical oversight as possible.

The piece summarizes the problem by writing that "documents like the Band memo make it impossible to completely separate the Clinton Foundation's charitable activities from the Clintons' personal finances:"

That's a perception problem, which the Clintons -- as political figures and philanthropists -- should have been going to every length to avoid. And it's one of many other ethical gray areas that seem to persistently crop up regarding the Clinton Foundation.

out the window

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The system is rigged, writes the Socialist Worker, but not against Trump:

DONALD TRUMP is lining up his excuses for why he's going to lose: the media is against him, Democrats are faking ballots from undocumented immigrants and dead people, blah, blah and blah.

In reality, few people have ever caught as many breaks in life, and for less good reason, than Donald Trump. But like a five-year-old-playing Candy Land, he has never known how to lose without crying foul...

Not surprisingly, the piece makes a pitch for Green candidate Jill Stein:

While Trump complains about biased media personalities serving as moderators--even after he received an estimated $2 billion in free airtime during the primaries alone, courtesy of the supposedly biased media--it was the Green Party's Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson who weren't even allowed to participate, because the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) only invites candidates averaging 15 percent in national polls.

The piece sees "a vote for Stein is the most practical step you can take in this election towards building a third party alternative." Laura Marsh gives us an overview of the Overton Window (see Wikipedia), which essentially defines the Democratic-to-Republican spectrum (lamented above) as the range of acceptable discourse:

Best known until recently as the title of an overheated political thriller by Glenn Beck, in the last year the Overton Window has been cited everywhere from The New York Times to The Rachel Maddow Show. Despite its peculiar origins and limited applications, pundits increasingly invoke it to describe not only Trumpism, but the Sanders surge, Brexit, and more.

The Overton Window refers to the range of policies on any given issue that are, at that moment, popular enough for a politician to campaign on successfully. Just outside of the window lie "acceptable" policies, and beyond those the "radical" and "unthinkable."

"Where we once talked about shifts in public opinion," writes Marsh, "we now talk about the Overton Window moving, implying an unfair tampering with the consensus:"

There is now a window of policies that are acceptable to the Republican base, and another for Democrats, but on the national level, there is no window. Instead of a consensus edging one way or another, we have a choice between two poles. The Overton Window is ultimately a name for what we have lost, not an indication of where we are headed. Its popularity today represents a powerful nostalgia for the center. It doesn't help us overcome fragmentation or rebuild a consensus. Its attractiveness lies in its reassurance that a middle ground once existed.

In contrast, however, I would say that this election is less a contest between two poles than it is between the center and the far-right fringe.

During the aftermath of a rather casual meeting at work today, the subject of the impending presidential election reared its all-too-ugly head. I sometimes lament the absence of a certain former co-worker, almost to the point of missing the steady stream of right-wing misinformation that she could be counted on to recount--and which I could reliably debunk, much to her chagrin. My lamentations were somewhat premature, as her place in the information ecosystem has been at least partially filled.

Today's tawdry tidbit was a vague tale of Wikileaks exposing an alleged Hillary Clinton quid-pro-quo deal regarding Algeria making donations to the Clinton Foundation and her subsequently removing them from the State Department's "terror list." (Clinton's folks also allegedly crowed about getting away with it.) The word "treason" was even bandied about--which is somewhat of a red flag for me.

As often happens in these situations, I took a step back from questioning the details (have we declared war on Algeria, thus making them an enemy to whom acts of "treason" could potentially apply?) to asking questions about the source of the claims. I wasn't free to research the allegations at the time, but the whole miasma of imprecise invective struck me as resembling the typical emanations from conservatism's propaganda swamp.

Later, after a brief bout of rigorous Google-Fu, I found the Wikileaks email in question--but that was the most exciting part of this research excursion. It turns out, not surprisingly, that this whole media molehill (which Gateway Pundit and other even less reputable outlets tried to spin into a "bombshell" or even "treason") was not the mountainous scandal that had been alleged.

In fact, as could be seen in the contemporaneous news stories that were mentioned in the Wikileaks email, this non-scandal is an 18-month-old slander on the part of MSNBC's Joe Scarborough. (Yep, it's that "liberal media" at work again--carrying water for conservatives by making up negative stories about Democrats!)

The tl;dr of the story (based on the work of PunditFact and MediaMatters) is as follows:

• Algeria was never on a "terror list," so
• Hillary never removed them from it, therefore
• there was no "quid pro quo" situation to carp about.
• Joe Scarborough, whose baseless speculation started the story, delivered a "heartfelt apology" for his error, and
• Clinton staffers didn't express joy over exploiting "a legal gray area" (that was a paraphrase of Scarborough's words), but merely referred to him being exposed as a liar as "Really great" and "excellent!"

As usual, corrections receive much less media attention that the inflammatory claims--making this yet another example of a "liberal" network doing the GOP's work. Consider also that it takes longer to research and rebut these tales than it does to create them, thus ceding media time to their spin. Perhaps it's a tactic in conservatives' playbook to get us all (however reluctantly) singing from their infernal hymnal.

Is it any wonder that people are burned out on this election?

"The single most ominous thing that Donald Trump said in all three presidential debates," writes Jeet Heer at TNR, "was a misguided attempt at a quip: "I'll keep you in suspense, okay?" in response to a question about Trump's willingness to accept losing the election. As Heer observes, "It felt like an official declaration that the GOP presidential nominee was prepared to incite a legitimacy crisis rather than accept that he's lost to a woman:"

As always with Trump, the temptation is to interpret this apostasy through the lens of individual psychology. The diagnosis is easy enough: By discounting the election results beforehand, Trump was preemptively assuming the role of a sore loser, exhibiting an irresponsible peevishness all too characteristic of his runaway narcissism and his sexism--and bringing the yahoos of the Republican base along with him.

"Suspicion of the democratic system is so pervasive on the right," the article continues, "because it's driven by the fear that white Christian America is facing demographic doom:"

The evidence is right there in the election results: Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and if current polling trends hold, the GOP will be batting one for seven when the results come in on November 8. Thanks to gerrymandering, Republicans may hold on to a U.S. House majority for a while, and they'll remain competitive in state capitols in the near future. But a whites-only party can't win national elections.

The piece also notes "a long tradition among hardcore libertarians who have a tendency to prefer dictatorships that ensure property rights to social democracies that tax the rich and provide welfare to the masses:"

This is why prominent libertarians like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek supported right-wing wing dictators, ranging from Mussolini (Mises) to Pinochet (Hayek). [...]

While the libertarian turn against democracy is aimed at preserving free-market capitalism, some leading religious conservatives have a different worry: the loss of Christian cultural hegemony. Back in 1999, First Things, a journal of the religious right, hosted a symposium called "The End of Democracy?" that was a precursor of things to come. Prominent Christians and Jews thrashed out the argument that American courts were so relentlessly secular that the entire political system might have to be overthrown. This was radical stuff.

Evan more ominously, "Over the last few years, it's become evident that the First Things symposium was no outlier, but rather an early symptom of the religious right starting to think outside the American political system for solutions:"

More recently, a virtual Vladimir Putin cult has arisen among religious conservatives longing for a return to cultural purity. Putin's macho bearing, his hostility to LGBT rights, and his fusion of nationalism with support for the Russian Orthodoxy all make him an attractive figure to right-wing Christians disenchanted with Obama's socially liberal America.

One of the few positives about Donald Trump's run for president is that he's forced us to see aspects of American culture that many instinctively turn away from. His success has made it much harder to fall into post-racial and post-feminist fantasies--to imagine that hardcore racism and sexism are marginal and declining forces. The same is true of anti-democratic sentiment, a growing threat that is frequently minimized if not utterly ignored.

Slate points out that 70% of Republicans believe that Clinton could only win by cheating:

Donald Trump's message that the election is rigged against him seems to be clearly resonating with Republican voters. If Hillary Clinton wins the election, almost 70 percent said it would be due to "illegal voting or vote rigging," according to a recent Reuters poll. The survey also found that only half of Republicans would accept Clinton as their president. [...]

...more than eight in ten of those who said fraud is widespread believe Trump would win in a clean race, according to a CBS poll published on Sunday.

H/t to Digby for linking to the Newsweek article on the George W Bush email-deletion scandal that--in compete contrast to Hillary's much smaller case--received very little coverage. "Clinton's email habits," the piece says, "look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration:"

Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House "lost" 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America's recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server--its [sic]was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails. "It's about as amazing a double standard as you can get," says Eric Boehlert, who works with the pro-Clinton group Media Matters. "If you look at the Bush emails, he was a sitting president, and 95 percent of his chief advisers' emails were on a private email system set up by the RNC. Imagine if for the last year and a half we had been talking about Hillary Clinton's emails set up on a private DNC server?"

Most troubling, researchers found a suspicious pattern in the White House email system blackouts, including periods when there were no emails available from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. "That the vice president's office, widely characterized as the most powerful vice president in history, should have no archived emails in its accounts for scores of days--especially days when there was discussion of whether to invade Iraq--beggared the imagination," says Thomas Blanton, director of the Washington-based National Security Archive. [...]

The media paid some attention to the Bush email chicanery but spent considerably less ink and airtime than has been devoted to Clinton's digital communications in the past 18 months.

This seems to have been--at least partly--an attempt to both quash lawsuits and to dodge the 1978 Presidential Records Act (PRA):

Bush administration emails could have aided a special prosecutor's investigation into a White House effort to discredit a diplomat who disagreed with the administration's fabricated Iraq WMD evidence by outing his CIA agent wife, Plame. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who was brought in to investigate that case, said in 2006 that he believed some potentially relevant emails sent by aides in Cheney's office were in the administration's system but he couldn't get them.

The supposedly lost emails also prevented Congress from fully investigating, in 2007, the politically motivated firing of nine U.S. attorneys. When the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed related emails, Bush's attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, said many were inaccessible or lost on a nongovernmental private server run by the RNC and called The White House, meanwhile, officially refused to comply with the congressional subpoena. [...]

Bush aides thus evaded a court-ordered deadline to describe the contents of digital backup believed to contain emails deleted in 2003 between March--when the U.S. invaded Iraq--and September. They also refused to give the NSA nonprofit any emails relating to the Iraq War, despite the PRA, blaming a system upgrade that had deleted up to 5 million emails. The plaintiffs eventually contended that the Bush administration knew about the problem in 2005 but did nothing to fix it.

Eventually, the Bush White House admitted it had lost 22 million emails, not 5 million. Then, in December 2009--well into Barack Obama's administration--the White House said it found 22 million emails, dated between 2003 and 2005, that it claimed had been mislabeled. That cache was given to the National Archives, and it and other plaintiffs agreed, on December 14, 2009, to settle their lawsuit.

The emails "have not yet been made available to the public," and the Obama administration was busy "devoting its political capital to dealing with the crashing economy rather than investigating the murky doings that took place under his predecessor." [See here for some of my contemporaneous remarks.] Eric Boehlert's 2015 MediaMatters piece notes that, in retrospect, "it's curious how the D.C. scandal machine could barely get out of first gear when the Bush email story broke in 2007.:"

I'm not suggesting the press ignored the Rove email debacle, because the story was clearly covered at the time. But triggering a firestorm (a guttural roar) that raged for days and consumed the Beltway chattering class the way the D.C. media has become obsessed with the Clinton email story? Absolutely not. Not even close.

Instead, the millions of missing Bush White House emails were treated as a 24-hour or 48-hour story. It was a subject that was dutifully noted, and then the media pack quickly moved on.

"Just to repeat," writes Boehlert:

In 2007, the story was about millions of missing White House emails that were sought in connection to a Congressional investigation. Yet somehow the archiving of Clinton's emails today requires exponentially more coverage, and exceedingly more critical coverage.

Of course, back in 2007 Fox News seemed utterly uninterested in the Bush email story days after the news broke. A search of Fox archives locates only one panel discussion about the story and it featured two guests accusing Democrats of engineering a "fishing expedition."

From then-Fox co-host, Fred Barnes: "I mean, deleted e-mails, who cares?"


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