politics

Mark Zuckerberg is right about Peter Thiel

I believe this is the first time I've ever said this: Mark Zuckerberg is entirely right.

Some in the tech world are in a moral panic about the fact that zillionarie tech baron and Facebook board member Peter Thiel is a major donor to the campaign of the vile Donald Trump. Now, there are many reasons to want to keep as far from possible from Thiel; this is a guy who actually said, way back in 2009, "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible"and spoke of the extension of the franchise to women as a negative development. He's also one of the founders of Palantir, a primary contractor of the "national security" deep state -- a hell of a thing for a self-described "libertarian" to be involved with. So his politics are awful, contradictory, irrational, and inhumane. In that realm, anyone paying attention concluded "fuck Thiel and the horse he rode in on" long before Trump became the GOP nominee, and his support for Trump is actually kind of low on his list of sins.

But the idea that a company should purge itself of board members based on ideological purity, on political opinions and affiliations outside their corporate role, is exactly the sort of self-sorting and silencing of dissent that is taking us down the spiral of partisanship.

Obama administration continues its march towards WWIII

The mess in Syria is the starkest example of why a Clinton II administration, sure to continue to ramp up tensions with Russia and pursue an even more belligerent version of the brutal and stupid foreign policy status quo, could be more damaging to the world than even a Trump administration.

That status quo is actually inching us towards war with Russia.

War. With. Russia. You know, the country some experts believe has us outgunned when it comes to nukes.

Growing up in the Reagan era, I always thought it would be a Republican who brought about nuclear annihilation. Well, given that Hillary Clinton is a old "Goldwater Girl" who gets her foreign policy from Henry Kissinger, maybe that intuition wasn't too far off...the woman most likely to destroy the world is a Republican at heart. So if it comes to it, I'll have that bit of comfort that my instincts weren't completely off as I wait for incineration.

Warmongering in Washington, Preparation for War in Moscow (The Nation)

 Cohen argues that we should be “shocked” less by Donald Trump’s sex talk or by Hillary Clinton’s misdeeds as secretary of state than by the entire political-media establishment’s indifference to Washington’s drift toward war with Russia. Since the breakdown of the Obama-Putin agreement to cooperate militarily against terrorists in Syria, which Cohen blames primarily on the Obama administration, Washington has escalated its warfare rhetoric against the Kremlin and Russian President Putin in particular. The man with whom the Obama administration proposed to partner with in Syria only two weeks ago is now denounced as a “war criminal” for Russia’s fight against terrorists in Aleppo, which was to be “liberated” by the now aborted US-Russian military alliance. The Washington Post was more specific, publishing a leaked account of how Putin might be arrested outside of Russia and put on trial. But the first victim might have been Secretary of State Kerry, who negotiated and advocated the proposed alliance and who now must level against Russia the same charges of “war crimes,” dealing a devastating blow to his own reputation. Putting another nail in the coffin of its jettisoned cooperation with the Kremlin, the White House officially accused the Putin leadership of trying to undermine the American electoral system through systematic hacking, even though it presented no real evidence for the allegation. Meanwhile, the mainstream media continues to base their coverage of US national security in this regard solely on unrelenting vilification of Putin, not on US national interests. Any talk of partnership with Russia, as still advocated by Donald Trump, is traduced as “insanity” (Rachel Maddow on MSNBC).

We do not have "too much democracy" -- in fact rather the opposite.

Matt Taibbi knocks it out of the park here, demolishing the argument that the Brexit vote and the rise of Trump reflect "too much democracy" and we need some expert philosopher-kings to save us.

See also the piece by Roslyn Fuller about Athenian democracy that he mentioned, it is a refreshing look at the Roman rot at the heart of American politics and why we need more, not less, democracy to drive it out -- as she writes, "The constant suppression of societal dissatisfaction, rather than dealing with people’s grievances as they arise is what creates the Trumps among us..

The Reaction to Brexit Is the Reason Brexit Happened (Rolling Stone)

Were I British, I'd probably have voted to Remain. But it's not hard to understand being pissed off at being subject to unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. Nor is it hard to imagine the post-Brexit backlash confirming every suspicion you might have about the people who run the EU.

Imagine having pundits and professors suggest you should have your voting rights curtailed because you voted Leave. Now imagine these same people are calling voters like you "children," and castigating you for being insufficiently appreciative of, say, the joys of submitting to a European Supreme Court that claims primacy over the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.

The overall message in every case is the same: Let us handle things.

But whatever, let's assume that the Brexit voters, like Trump voters, are wrong, ignorant, dangerous and unjustified.

Even stipulating to that, the reaction to both Brexit and Trump reveals a problem potentially more serious than either Brexit or the Trump campaign. It's become perilously fashionable all over the Western world to reach for non-democratic solutions whenever society drifts in a direction people don't like. Here in America the problem is snowballing on both the right and the left.

...

I don't buy it. My admittedly primitive understanding of democracy is that we're supposed to move toward it, not away from it, in a moment of crisis.

It doesn't mean much to be against torture until the moment when you're most tempted to resort to it, or to have faith in voting until the result of a particular vote really bothers you. If you think there's ever such a thing as "too much democracy," you probably never believed in it in the first place. And even low-Information voters can sense it.

Crime is not a disease

80s action movie taglines notwithstanding, crime is not a disease. So why is there a push by prohibitionists to have the CDC researching it and to treat violent crime as a "public health crisis"? (And never mind the fact that the homicide rate is about one-half what it was 20 years ago, which makes for an interesting notion of "crisis".)

It's because criminologists keep getting the "wrong" answer about gun control, while in the 1970s the American public health community explicitly adopted a gun control objective, and has been spinning the science ever sense. It's denialism at its finest: the relevant science hasn't given you the findings you want so you apply the methods of an irrelevant science that give you the answer you want.

This 1994 piece from the Tennessee Law Review lays it out well. Two decades later it's the same old song all over again.

GUNS AND PUBLIC HEALTH: EPIDEMIC OF VIOLENCE OR PANDEMIC OF PROPAGANDA? (www.guncite.com)

Since the 1960s, health advocate sages have written a vast and ever-increasing amount of anti-gun advocacy literature. But the view thus promulgated is strikingly different from the view concurrently emerging from criminological research and scholarship. The divergence was not as clear twenty-five to thirty years ago as it is today. In the 1960s, criminological opinion was dominated by writers who felt more or less as the anti-gun health advocacy writers do today. As two of the most influential of those 1960s writers subsequently admitted: "In the 1960s, there was literally no scholarship on the relationship between guns and violence and the incidence or consequences of interpersonal violence, and no work in progress."

Serious criminological research began in the 1970s and has been pursued more intensively and extensively ever since. The results of that research may surprise lay persons, given the exposure which the popular press has accorded the anti-gun health advocacy literature....

Clinton approved drone murder by cellphone e-mail

So 1) These e-mails were by no means about inconsequential matters, and 2) Clinton was heavily involved in the Obama administration's war crimes. Jill Stein is right: the things we fear Trump might do, Clinton has already done.

FBI criminal investigation emails: Clinton approved CIA drone assassinations with her cellphone, report says (Salon)

An explosive new report reveals just what it is that the FBI is looking to: emails in which then-Secretary of State Clinton approved CIA drone assassinations in Pakistan with her cellphone.

Hillary Clinton wore a $12,495 Armani jacket during a speech about inequality (CNBC)

And this is why so many people feel that the stench of the Clintons must be hosed off the Democratic Party -- perhaps even if the cost is four years of (ugh) President Trump.

Hillary Clinton wore a $12,495 Armani jacket during a speech about inequality (CNBC)

Hillary Clinton took a lot of flak on Monday after a report surfaced that the presidential candidate wore a Giorgio Armani jacket worth more than $12,000 during a speech in April about inequality.

Another anti-Trump protest turns violent, putting Trump closer to the White House

Every time this happens, it strengthens the "we need to 'take our country back' from 'those people'" narrative. It plays right into an Agnew/Nixonesque appeal to the "silent majority". Young Elijah Martinez is absolutely right: this is giving Trump what he wants.

Anti-Trump protesters at Trump rally throw rocks, bottles at Albuquerque police (Washington Post)

ALBUQUERQUE — What began as an assembly of about 1,000 peaceful protesters outside a Donald Trump rally at the Albuquerque Convention Center morphed into madness Tuesday evening when mostly young, raucous rioters joined the ranks, hurling burning T-shirts, rocks and bottles toward the police and police horses trying to contain them.

Several Albuquerque police officers were injured by the projectile rocks, and at least one rioter had been arrested by the end of the night, the department tweeted....

How Democrats abandoned the white working class

You sometimes hear about "intersectionality", the ways in which systems of oppression like patriarchy and racism overlap, and so the interests of those working against them also intersect. You almost never hear about the intersectionality of economic class. It's as if today's "liberals" (so-called) and Democrats don't actually care whether society is built as an oppressive hierarchy, just so long as being an oppressor is an equal-opportunity position. It's no wonder that since the days of the Reagan Democrats -- indeed, going back to the 1960s -- the Republicans have been able to catch this demographic "on the rebound" as it were, after the Democrats dumped the to pursue identity politics.
(Contrast this with how the radical Black Panthers reached out to work with poor whites; and for interesting history, read Kenneth D. Durr's Behind the Backlash: White Working Class Politics in Baltimore, 1940-1980.) The reunion that Sanders suggests would be a powerful thing -- and those in power now sure as hell don't want that.


Burying the White Working Class | Jacobin (www.jacobinmag.com)

These kinds of statements are the name of the game for today’s Democratic elite. The party has established a clear line on the white wage-earning class: they’re all either dying (demographically or literally), irrelevant in an increasingly nonwhite country, or so hopelessly racist they can go off themselves with a Miller High Life-prescription-painkiller cocktail for all they care. As liberal hero and Sanders nemesis Barney Frank put it a couple of weeks ago, “the likelihood that fifty-eight-year-old coal miners are going to become the solar engineers of the future is nil.”

The problem with this line is not just that it’s gross and elitist — it’s that it’s not even true. The working class is bigger than ever, is still really white, and is broadly supportive of a progressive populist agenda.

It just turns out that the Democratic Party outside of Sanders isn’t too interested in that agenda. And it’s even less interested in that specific chunk of the working class that forces liberals to confront head on the naked brutality of the economic system they cherish.

...

After decades of being told white workers would never support socialism because they’re racist, we’re now told that they support the socialist candidate because they are racist. Yes, this is where liberals are in the year 2016.

Pirate radio on the rise

From the "the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers" department:

In Internet age, pirate radio arises as surprising challenge (hosted.ap.org)

In the age of podcasts and streaming services, you might think pirate radio is low on the list of concerns of federal lawmakers and broadcasters. You'd be wrong.

...

Helped along by cheaper technology, the rogue stations can cover several blocks or several square miles. Most broadcast to immigrant communities that pirate radio defenders say are underserved by licensed stations.

South Korea covered up abuse & killings of "vagrants" during 1988 Olympic prep

The Olympics are one of those things that I used to think were really neat but that I learned later were fundamentally exploitive. Add in a country just emerging from a (US-backed, of course) dictatorship and you've got the makings of a horrorshow.

AP: S. Korea covered up mass abuse, killings of 'vagrants' (The Big Story)

Choi was one of thousands — the homeless, the drunk, but mostly children and the disabled — rounded up off the streets ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which the ruling dictators saw as international validation of South Korea's arrival as a modern country. An Associated Press investigation shows that the abuse of these so-called vagrants at Brothers, the largest of dozens of such facilities, was much more vicious and widespread than previously known, based on hundreds of exclusive documents and dozens of interviews with officials and former inmates.

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