Tag Archives: politics

Elizabeth Warren: “Let’s be honest – Donald Trump is a loser”

The US Senator lets it rip on Facebook:

Let’s be honest – Donald Trump is a loser. Count all his failed businesses. See how he kept his father’s empire afloat by cheating people with scams like Trump University and by using strategic corporate bankruptcy (excuse me, bankruptcies) to skip out on debt. Listen to the experts who’ve concluded he’s so bad at business that he might have more money today if he’d put his entire inheritance into an index fund and just left it alone.

Trump seems to know he’s a loser. His embarrassing insecurities are on parade: petty bullying, attacks on women, cheap racism, and flagrant narcissism. But just because Trump is a loser everywhere else doesn’t mean he’ll lose this election. People have been underestimating his campaign for nearly a year – and it’s time to wake up.

More on Facebook.

Republicans are surrendering to Donald Trump

The Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove, and Marco Rubio denounced Trump, but they’re now extending olive branches, says Fareed Zakaria at The Washington Post.

The modern GOP espoused free markets, free trade, social conservatism, an expansionist foreign policy, and fiscal discipline, particularly on social spending Zakaria says. (What he doesn’t say is that the Republicans were always hypocrites on these issues, particularly spending.) Now, the Republican leadership are turning their backs on those beliefs to avoid being shut out of power.

[Republicans are surrendering to Donald Trump | Fareed Zakaria | The Washington Post]

Elsewhere, a friend suggests a nasty scenario: Trump and Cruz make a deal and unite. This seems likely.

Ted Cruz’s national security advisor is a crazy Islamophobic conspiracy theorist

Frank Gaffney thinks US officials have submitted to Sharia law and the redesigned logo of the Missile Defense Agency “appears to ominously reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.”

[Think Trump’s an Islamophobe? Meet Ted Cruz’s national security adviser | Haroon Moghul | The Guardian]

I think I’ve had a conversion experience about Trump. But not in the way you’re thinking.

twitter.com

Sure, Trump is a putz, but he’s only incrementally different than most of the Republican leadership for the past 15 years at least. And the Democrats are no prize either.

Trump isn’t the next Hitler. He’s your blowhard uncle, if your blowhard uncle drove a private helicopter with his name on it instead of a rustbucket Dodge Neon.

Donald Trump threatens to send goons to Sanders events

Trump also offers to pay legal fees for a supporter who threw a sucker punch at a protester.

Matthew Yglesias / Vox:

Putting a leader who would condone violence against the supporters of his political opponents in charge of the federal law enforcement apparatus is frightening. Giving him the power to unilaterally issue pardons is terrifying.

There have been clear signs all year that this was the direction the Trump phenomenon was heading, but I assumed that as he got closer to the Republican nomination Trump would tone down his extreme behavior in order to demonstrate his acceptability to mainstream voters. In fact, he has done the opposite. It’s a surprising decision that has truly scary implications for how he might behave were he to actually win the presidency.

Obama Has a Refreshingly Clear-Eyed View of “Allies” Like Saudi Arabia

Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis — our allies. The Middle East isn't strategic to America's interests anymore and the less we're involved there the better off we are.

Kevin Drum:

We failed in Lebanon. We failed in Iraq. We're failing in Afghanistan. We failed in Libya. No matter how cold and distant it seems, there's simply no reason for America to expend vast resources on an impossible task urged on us by a bunch of putative allies who are only interested in using us as a mercenary army. We should protect ourselves against the export of terrorism from the region—which might sometimes require a military solution—but that's about it. It's far past time to ratchet down our engagement in the region and let other countries take the lead if they really want to.

Times Of Israel Removes ‘When Genocide Is Permissible’ Post

“Never, and shame on you for asking.” That’s the answer to that question.

Yesterday I wrote a post criticizing Israel’s most vociferous critics. I endorsed a comment by Yisrael Hasson, a member of Israel’s Knesset. He said: “NATO bombed 5,000 civilians in Kosovo just because it was insulted; 27,000 Iraqi civilians were bombed during the American invasion because they posed a danger to the US; there is not a country in the world that can talk to us about morality.”

In other words: Israel is no worse than other countries.

And that’s the problem, because Israel is also no better than other countries. And, like the US, it’s supposed to be better. Israel and the US are supposed to be shining examples to the world. We were once. Now, well, at least we’re not as bad as our enemies. I suppose that’s something.

The hypocrisy of criticizing Israel

”NATO bombed 5,000 civilians in Kosovo just because it was insulted; 27,000 Iraqi civilians were bombed during the American invasion because they posed a danger to the US; there is not a country in the world that can talk to us about morality.”

— Knesset Member Yisrael Hasson

Via ‘If European Countries Fail To Protect Their Jews, The State of Israel Will’, which notes the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, including crowds marching and shouting, “Death to Jews.”

The death of Palestinian civilians is horrifying and I’m not going to make excuses for it. But this is what war is. It’s not Rambo jumping out of a swamp or John Wayne striding out of the jungle. It’s children being killed by bombs. It’s what happens when America goes to war, when Russia does, when Ukrainians do, in Syria and Libya. It’s all the same thing.

The State of the American Dog

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When a cocker spaniel bites, it does so as a member of its species; it is never anything but a dog. When a pit bull bites, it does so as a member of its breed. A pit bull is never anything but a pit bull.

Powerful, moving, and at times hard-to-read article by Tom Junod in Esquire about pit bulls, and how they parallel the state of America.

Pit bulls are a mainstream American dog. You see a lot of them, the bullet-shaped face where you used to see long, German-shepherd-like noses. Despite their popularity, they’re the dog most likely to be hated, feared, and banned by law from many American communities. Many people believe pit bulls are vicious and violent by nature; others believe they’re gentle, loving dogs, maligned by prejudice and ignorance.

What pit bulls are, says Junod, is dogs, each one an individual, but part of a species capable of both gentle love and aggression. Never forget your dog is a predator, or else you’re setting yourself up for tragedy.

Ironically, all this emotion is heaped on a breed of dog that has no scientific existence. A pit bull is not a breed the way a German shepherd or a collie is a breed. A pit bull is simply a kind of dog that has a number of characteristics: Shape of skull, body type, coat, and so forth. And even that is imprecise — a pit bull is basically what you point to when you’re talking about pit bulls.

Pit bulls are more likely to be owned by poor people, and ethnic minorities. Affluent whites will often cross the street to avoid them.

You learn a lot about America when you own a pit bull. You learn not just who likes your dog; you learn what kind of person likes your dog—and what kind of person fears him. You generalize. You profile. You see a well-heeled white woman walking a golden retriever and expect her to cross the street and give you a dirty look; you see the guy who’s cutting down her trees or pressure-washing her driveway and you expect him to say: “That’s a beautiful dog.” Or: “How much you want for that dog?” Or: “You fight that dog?” You learn that the argument about pit bulls takes place along the lines of class and, to a lesser extent, race. The opposition to pit bulls might not be racist; it does, however, employ racial thinking. If a pit-bull-Labrador mix bites, then the pit bull is always what has done the biting, its portion of the blood—its taint—ineradicable and finally decisive.

Pit bulls are killed by the thousands every day in America. Literally thousands every day. They’re very likely to be brought to shelters, and difficult to adopt out because of their reputation. (And that reputation should not be dismissed out of hand as mere prejudice. Discussions about pit bulls and viciousness are a confusing mix of slander, truth, and self-fulfilling prophecy.)

America is two countries now—the country of its narrative and the country of its numbers, with the latter sitting in judgment of the former. In the stories we tell ourselves, we are nearly always too good: too soft on criminals, too easy on terrorists, too lenient with immigrants, too kind to animals. In the stories told by our numbers, we imprison, we drone, we deport, and we euthanize with an easy conscience and an avenging zeal.

The State of the American Dog

This is such a terrific article that I’d like to study it to figure our how it’s researched and structured. I’ve done woefully little long-form multi-sourced journalism in the last decade.

I feel safer already!

Self-described TSA employee: “You don’t have shit for rights. If you don’t like it shut the fuck up.”

A woman named Rebecca Hains expressed skepticism on Facebook about the TSA’s effectiveness, and a self-described TSA employee excoriated her for speaking out.

Hains was previously famous because the TSA confiscated a cupcake from her because it was a potential security threat. I am not making this up.

Cops already plotting how to get around Supreme Court ruling requiring a warrant to search cell phones

Notice how the focus is on figuring out more ways to search phones, not more ways to make sure they obey the law. This doesn’t make me feel any safer. Quite the opposite.

Law Enforcement, DOJ Already Plotting How To Get Around Supreme Court’s Warrant Requirement To Search Phones

No Life Stories: How Big Data makes our “1984”-inspired ideas about surveillance woefully inadequate

Rob Horning reviews media scholar Mark Andrejevic’s book, Infoglut: How Too Much Information Is Changing the Way We Think and Know, arguing that Big Data allows governments and big business to control behavior without ever knowing who any of us are as individuals. This relatively recent model for surveillance strains our ideas about privacy and surveillance past the breaking point.

Surveillance has become as thorough as technology permits it to be, as the legal restraints devised to limit it in earlier eras have become outmoded, irrelevant. Given that many are becoming alert to the surveillance threat through the way it’s borne by the atomizing technology of smartphones, we tend to imagine the problem is that it can single us out and expose us. Surveillance is conceived as a kind of panoptic voyeurism that selects us for unfair scrutiny and treatment, require us to adopt a superficial conformity as camouflage. It plays on our worry for our personal reputation.

But Andrejevic argues that in an era of mass surveillance, the surveillance apparatus doesn’t care about our individual story. Instead Big Data is interested in broader statistical profiles of populations. Mass surveillance controls without necessarily knowing anything that compromises any individual’s privacy. To the degree that they have access to the devices we use to mediate our relation to everyday life, companies deploy algorithms based on correlations found in large data sets to shape our opportunities—our sense of what feels possible. Undesirable outcomes need not be forbidden and policed if instead they can simply be made improbable. We don’t need to be watched and brainwashed to make them docile; we just need to be situated within social dynamics whose range of outcomes have all been modeled as safe for the status quo. It’s not: “I see what you are doing, Rob Horning, stop that.” It’s: “Rob Horning can be included in these different data sets, which means he should be offered these prices, these jobs, these insurance policies, these friends’ status updates, and he’ll likely be swayed by these facts.”

Mass data collectors don’t want “potentially incriminating information about you as an individual so much as mundane information at the scale of populations,” Horning says. Mass data collectors want to “construct a working model of society in data, so the more conforming you are, the more you need to be watched, to weight the models properly.”

By figuring out what the average, conforming person looks like, powerful institutions can better spot deviant and threatening behavior, to be neutralized (in the case of security) or marketed to (in the case of business). People going through life transitions such as death in the family, divorce, pregnancy, job loss, and relocation are particularly susceptible to advertising.

Of course social media and wearable devices like Fitbit play a big role. We voluntarily contribute to the profiles being built about us.

This form of surveillance and profiling has implications for politics, government, and even our ideas of self.

No Life Stories

“The lesson of Vietnam is that we refuse to learn any lessons from Vietnam.”

Even to dare mention the lesson of Vietnam is to risk painting oneself as weak-willed and lily-livered — to say nothing about being old enough to actually remember Vietnam.

But I think there was a lesson, no matter how unlearned, nonetheless: We poured troops and weaponry into a unwinnable war in order to prop up a despotic government for reckless and unfounded political reasons — the domino theory, which stated that if we didn’t defeat the communists in Vietnam, we would someday be battling them on the Golden Gate Bridge.

As it turned out, after the deaths of more than 58,000 U.S. combat troops, we lost the Vietnam War and evacuated our embassy employees off the embassy roof in Saigon by helicopter in April 1975, in one of the most humiliating film clips in U.S. history.

The dominoes did not fall. Vietnam has bought nearly $2.5 billion in U.S. goods so far in 2014. The red menace is now our red trading partner.

So it goes. Having “left” Iraq after the deaths of 4,500 U.S. troops and an incredible $2 trillion spent, we are now heading back to prop up a murderous despot, who has carried out a religious war against his enemies in part by using U.S. arms.

If Baghdad Falls

Wall Street fuels the billion-dollar Clinton juggernaut

That’s worries both the right and the left. The right worries because of the amount of money the Clinton campaign can bring to the election. The left worries about who the Clintons are beholden to.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have been the power couple’s No. 1 Wall Street contributor, doling out nearly $5 million to the Clintons. As a senator, Hillary raked in $5.7 million from financial services firms, fairly typical for a New York legislator. Financial-services firms accounted for about 12 percent of the total amount raised by the Clintons. By comparison, Mitt Romney – Mr. 47 Percent – raised 13 percent of his 2012 campaign funds from financial-services firms.

Put it altogether and it’s easy to see how Hillary Clinton could become the preferred candidate of Wall Street in 2016.

And that has both the right and the left trembling, but for different reasons.

Republicans worry that middle-of-the-road donors will gravitate to Clinton as a centrist and historic figure who they are comfortable with. After all, it was former President Clinton who eliminated the barriers between commercial and investment banking, a Wall Street priority that now irks many liberals who believe the action led to the financial collapse.

Taken together, the left will view these numbers as more evidence Hillary Clinton won’t have the grit or motivation to push for additional regulations, transparency and oversight that they believe is required to reign in the financial firms.

The Billion Dollar Clinton Money Machine

An end to prisons

Electronic location monitoring using GPS is potentially more effective and humane than prison.

The US should:

  1. Move those imprisoned for offenses short of homicide or sexual assault to GPS-supervised house arrest as soon as is practicable, with a guaranteed, immediate prison stay for those who violate its terms.

  2. Reserve prisons for repeat offenders and those who’ve committed truly heinous crimes.

There are obviously other details to be worked out. You wouldn’t want people convicted of domestic violence to be sentenced to home confinement with their victims, for instance; in those cases, some kind of alternate housing would have to be offered to ensure separation.

But if successful, this plan could reduce admissions by at least half, probably much more. Hopefully, this will just be a temporary measure. In principle, it could get to the point technologically where house arrest becomes as hard to escape as prison is. At that point, abolishing prison outright starts to become imaginable. UK home secretary David Blunkett spoke too soon when he referred to electronic monitoring as “prison without bars,” but that dream is attainable. 

This could be a tough sell in the US. There’s an awful lot of money in the prison-industrial complex. And the American character has a brutal oppressive streak. We like to see people suffer.

Prisons are terrible, and there’s finally a way to get rid of them