Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
News of US politics
Speaking of Carly Fiorina and her disastrous regime at HP (and Lucent), here is a good overview of some of the details I only vaguely remembered…
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean of Leadership Studies and Lester Crown Professor of Practice Management at the Yale School of Management, writes, in part:
Here are the facts: In the five years that Fiorina was at Hewlett-Packard, the company lost over half its value. It’s true that many tech companies had trouble during this period of the Internet bubble collapse, some falling in value as much as 27 percent; but HP under Fiorina fell 55 percent. During those years, stocks in companies like Apple and Dell rose. Google went public, and Facebook was launched. The S&P 500 yardstick on major U.S. firms showed only a 7 percent drop. Plenty good was happening in U.S. industry and in technology.
It was Fiorina’s failed leadership that brought her company down. After an unsuccessful attempt to catch up to IBM’s growth in IT services by buying PricewaterhouseCooper’s consulting business (PwC, ironically, ended up going to IBM instead), she abruptly abandoned the strategic goal of expanding IT services and consulting and moved into heavy metal. At a time that devices had become a low margin commodity business, Fiorina bought for $25 billion the dying Compaq computer company, which was composed of other failed businesses. Unsurprisingly, the Compaq deal never generated the profits Fiorina hoped for, and HP’s stock price fell by half. The only stock pop under Fiorina’s reign was the 7 percent jump the moment she was fired following a unanimous board vote. After the firing, HP shuttered or sold virtually all Fiorina had bought.
During the debate, Fiorina countered that she wasn’t a failure because she doubled revenues. That’s an empty measurement. What good is doubling revenue by acquiring a huge company if you’re not making any profit from it? The goals of business are to raise profits, increase employment and add value. During Fiorina’s tenure, thanks to the Compaq deal, profits fell, employees were laid off and value plummeted. Fiorina was paid over $100 million for this accomplishment.
At the time, most industry analysts, HP shareholders, HP employees and even some HP board members resisted the Compaq deal. (Fiorina prevailed in the proxy battle, with 51.4 percent, partly thanks to ethically questionable tactics, but that’s another story.) But rather than listen to the concerns of her opponents, she ridiculed them, equating dissent with disloyalty. As we saw during the debate when she attacked me, rather than listen to or learn from critics, Fiorina disparages them. She did so regularly to platoons of her own top lieutenants and even her board of directors—until they fired her.
These facts have been documented, both with quotes from her own board members and leadership team and with raw numbers in such revered publications as Forbes, Fortune, Business Week, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and leading tech industry journals. I also have extensive first-hand knowledge of this situation, having spoken at length with two of Fiorina’s successors, past and present HP board members, fellow CEOs and scores of HP employees—including many of her own top lieutenants who contacted me directly, such as her head of employee relations.
And I have to point out the obvious: If the board was wrong, the employees wrong, and the shareholders wrong—as Fiorina maintains—why in 10 years has she never been offered another public company to run?
(click here to continue reading Carly Fiorina 2016: Why I Still Think Carly Fiorina Was a Terrible CEO – POLITICO Magazine.)
and on the topic of Lucent:
Yet her celebrated tenure at Lucent has been clouded by what happened two years after she left in 1999. The once-highflying business worth more than $250 billion at its peak nearly collapsed in the face of an accounting scandal and the telecommunications bust. The company laid off 50,000 employees in 2001 alone. Today the company, after merging with Alcatel of France, is worth only about $10 billion.
Lucent, like some its rivals, artificially burnished its financial performance through vendor financing — lending money to customers so they could buy its products. In 2004, the company settled charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that accused it of perpetrating a $1.1 billion accounting fraud.
“It’s unlikely she would have been considered for the HP job once it became clear that Lucent’s success had more to do with loose credit terms and creative accounting than any reinvention of the company as the Second Coming of Cisco,” Rakesh Khurana, a Harvard professor who studied Mrs. Fiorina’s tenure, said in “Backfire: Carly Fiorina’s High-Stakes Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard,” a book by the financial journalist Peter Burrows.
Still, Scott Woolley of Fortune magazine wrote a deeply reported story in 2010 during Ms. Fiorina’s unsuccessful Senate campaign in California that detailed a questionable deal she championed. Mr. Woolley focused on a vendor-financed transaction with a small company, PathNet, a sale that was valued at as much as $2.1 billion, though PathNet had only $1.6 million in annual revenue. It later filed for bankruptcy.
And Ms. Endlich Heffernan’s book connects Mrs. Fiorina to two other failures while she was at Lucent. In one, Mrs. Fiorina was assigned to run Lucent’s consumer products business. Perhaps that division was always destined for failure — it included Lucent’s handset business just as the world was pivoting to mobile communications. But Mrs. Fiorina orchestrated a joint venture with the Dutch electronics giant Philips Electronics that turned out to be a mess, one that she later told The Wall Street Journal was the biggest mistake of her career.
Then there was Lucent’s 1999 acquisition of Ascend Communications for more than $22 billion. That deal may go down in history as one of the worst. Again, however, Mrs. Fiorina wasn’t in charge at Lucent. Was she consulted on the transaction? Yes. But she didn’t try to object to it.
(click here to continue reading The Influence of Fiorina at Lucent, in Hindsight – The New York Times.)
Contained in this article about how poorly Carly FIorina ran HP is the following parenthetical statement, one of my favorite asides in a news article, maybe ever…
The centerpiece of those deals was the company’s $24.2 billion merger with Compaq Computer, which divided the HP board and greatly increased the company’s work force, size and breadth of products.
The deal was so personal to Mrs. Fiorina that she referred to HP as “Héloïse” and Compaq as “Abélard,” a pair whose romantic letters became treasures of medieval French literature, which she studied at Stanford. (Abélard was eventually castrated after fights with Héloïse’s family, a detail Compaq executives were unaware of at the time.)
But the merger, which was announced just before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and amid the dot-com downturn, also led to painful consolidation, cost cutting and layoffs that later haunted Mrs. Fiorina’s Senate race.
(click here to continue reading As Profile Rises, Carly Fiorina Aims to Redefine Record as a C.E.O. – The New York Times.)
Ha! I’m not sure who is Astrolabe in this metaphor, btw.
If college has been a long time ago for you too, here is context:
Peter Abelard (1079 – 21 April 1142) was a medieval French scholastic philosopher, theologian and preeminent logician. He was also a composer. His affair with and love for Héloïse d’Argenteuil has become legendary. The Chambers Biographical Dictionary describes him as “the keenest thinker and boldest theologian of the 12th Century”
(click here to continue reading Peter Abelard – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
Héloïse (1090?/1100? – 16 May 1164) was a French nun, writer, scholar, and abbess, best known for her love affair and correspondence with Peter Abélard.
In his Historia Calamitatum, an autobiographical piece written around 1132, Abélard tells the story of his seduction of Héloïse, whom he met when in 1115 he himself, like Fulbert, became a canon in Paris.
It is unclear how old Heloise was at this time. She is described as an adolescentula (young girl), and so it is often assumed that she was about seventeen at the time, having been born in 1100-1. More recently, however, Constant Mews (and subsequently David Constant) have suggested that the age of seventeen is a seventeenth-century fabrication with no supporting contemporary evidence, and that she was probably as old as 27 at the time. The main piece of evidence for this is that in a later letter, Peter the Venerable writes to Heloise that he remembers her when he was a young man and she was a woman; this, they suggest, implies that Heloise was at least as old and possibly older than Peter. Given that Peter was born in 1092, it would mean that Heloise would have been nearer 27 at the time of the affair. They suggest that this makes more sense of Abelard’s later comment that he sought to seduce Heloise because she was the most famous woman in France for her studies – because, as they suggest, she would have been unlikely to have acquired this reputation by the age of 17. More tentatively, the extent of Heloise’s accomplishment in Greek and Hebrew, and her mature response to the relationship, might indicate someone older than 17.
Abelard tells how he convinced Fulbert to let him move into his house, telling Fulbert that he could not afford to live in his current house while studying, and offering to tutor Heloise in return. Abelard tells of their subsequent illicit relationship, which they continued until Héloïse became pregnant. Abelard moved Heloise away from Fulbert and sent her to his own sister in Brittany, where Heloise gave birth to a boy, whom she called Astrolabe. It is almost unknown what happened to Astrolabe in later life. He is never mentioned by Heloise in her letters to Abelard, and Abelard’s only reference to him outside the Historia Calamitatum is in the verses of advice addressed to him, and thought to have been written about 1135. His death-day is recorded in the necrology of the Paraclete as 29 or 30 October, but no year is given. He is mentioned only once in a later letter, when Peter the Venerable writes to Heloise: “I will gladly do my best to obtain a prebend in one of the great churches for your Astrolabe, who is also ours for your sake”.
Abelard agreed to marry Heloise to conciliate Fulbert, although on the condition that the marriage should be kept secret so as not to damage Abélard’s career; Heloise was initially reticent to agree to the secret marriage, but was eventually persuaded by Abelard. Heloise returned from Brittany, and the couple were secretly married in Paris.
Fulbert, however, began to spread news of the marriage, in order to punish Abelard for the damage done to his reputation. Heloise attempted to deny this, but this ongoing situation eventually caused Abélard to place Heloise for her own safety in the convent of Argenteuil, where Heloise had been brought up. Fulbert and his friends, however, believed that Abelard had simply found a way of getting rid of Heloise, by making her a nun. So, to punish Abelard, a group of Fulbert’s friends broke into Abelard’s room one night and castrated him.
After castration, filled with shame at his situation, Abélard became a monk in the Abbey of St Denis in Paris. At the convent in Argenteuil, Héloïse took the habit at Abelard’s insistence and much against her own wishes. She eventually became prioress there, but she and the other nuns were turned out in 1129 when the convent was taken over by the Abbey of St Denis. At this point Abélard arranged for them to enter the Oratory of the Paraclete, a deserted building near Nogent-sur-Seine in Champagne which had been established by Abelard himself in 1122 (though he had subsequently moved to become Abbot of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys in Lower Brittany). Héloïse became abbess of the new community of nuns there.
(click here to continue reading Héloïse (abbess) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
There are two ways to look at the 2016 primary season:
When gloomy Republican Party leaders regrouped after President Obama’s 2012 re-election, they were intent on enhancing the party’s chances of winning back the White House. The result: new rules to head off a prolonged and divisive nomination fight, and to make certain the Republican standard-bearer is not pulled too far to the right before Election Day.
But as the sprawling class of 2016 Republican presidential candidates tumbled out of their chaotic second debate last week, it was increasingly clear that those rule changes — from limiting the number of debates to adjusting how delegates are allocated — had failed to bring to the nominating process the order and speed that party leaders had craved.
(click here to continue reading Party Rules to Streamline Race May Backfire for G.O.P. – The New York Times.)
There is the political equation analysis, a zero-sum game:
The prospect of a long and contentious nomination fight is only one reason for concern. The three-hour debate, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near here, suggested that Republican leaders had yet to realize their hope of keeping primary contenders from moving far to the right, complicating a general election bid, as happened to Mitt Romney in 2012. The candidates staked out conservative positions on a variety of topics — immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage and vaccinations for children — that, if appealing in such early Republican states as Iowa and South Carolina, could prove problematic in a general election.
In the starkest sign of how unsettled the situation is, what once seemed unthinkable — that Mr. Trump could win the Republican nomination — is being treated by many within the Republican establishment as a serious possibility. And one reason his candidacy seems strong is a change by the party in hopes of ending the process earlier: making it possible for states to hold contests in which the winner receives all the delegates, rather than a share based on the vote, starting March 15, two weeks earlier than in the last cycle. Ten states have said they will do so.
If Mr. Trump draws one-third of the Republican primary vote, as recent polls suggest he will, that could be enough to win in a crowded field. After March 15, he could begin amassing all the delegates in a given state even if he carried it with only a third of the vote. And the later it gets, the harder it becomes for a lead in delegates to be overcome, with fewer state contests remaining in which trailing candidates can attempt comebacks.
Or there is another perspective: the Republican agenda for America is so toxic that they want to hide it from voters, because if voters realize what the Republican plan is, then nobody will vote for Republicans. In other words, once voters hear what the GOP nominees are saying, there is no way in hell a majority of non-mouth-breathing citizens will vote for the Republican candidate.
Conservative positions …could prove problematic in a general election.
Gregg Easterbrook has an excellent essay in The New Yorker about the phony Christians publicly rallying around Kim Davis and other members of the Christian Taliban who want to impose Evangelical Law which is basically Sharia Law. I’d also like to hear Mike “Sanctimonious” Huckabee answer why if his faith is so important, he is without a beard…
It’s undeniable that the earliest scripture books, the ones Christians call the Pentateuch and Jews call the Torah, don’t like same-sex relations. At the Garden of Eden, God decrees that a man will be the husband and a woman the wife. (See the second and third chapters of Genesis, ideally a scholarly translation such as the New Revised Standard; this article cites the N.R.S.V.) In Leviticus 18:22, the text states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” In 20:13, Leviticus specifies that both parties in male-male sex shall “be put to death.”
That seems open-and-shut, though one might wonder why Davis, Cruz, Huckabee and the like seek only to deny gays marriage, rather than execute them as God decreed.
But here’s the thing. Christian theology says the New Testament amends the Old: what happened in the days of the apostles amends what came long before. Acts 13:39: “By this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” (Acts is the founding text of Pentecostalism.) Jesus overturned existing law about sin, the Sabbath, the afterlife and many other matters. His ministry proclaimed “a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (II Corinthians 3:6.) “Letter” in this context means archaic law—that is, the law Davis, Cruz, and Huckabee want applied today.
When conservative Christians justify opposition to gay relations by citing ancient scripture, by the most amazing coincidence they don’t mention the other stuff there. The ancient passages that denounce same-sex relations also denounce eating shellfish and trimming one’s beard. The Christian who says God forbids homosexuality – then shaves before going out for dinner at Red Lobster – is speaking from both sides of his mouth.
In Leviticus, the Old Testament book that calls homosexuality an abomination, God not only sanctions but encourages slavery. Leviticus 25:44–46 , spells out rules for seizing, holding, and selling slaves. And there’s no estate tax: slaves may be kept “as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.” In Deuteronomy 21:18–21, near the passages on the abomination of same-sex relations, ancient scripture directs that a disobedient child be taken by his parents to the city gate and stoned to death.
If banning homosexuality is “God’s authority” to a modern Christian, ritual murder of children ought to be as well. So why don’t today’s Judeo-Christians believe in slavery and filicide? For mainstream Jews, some ancient doctrine has been reinterpreted by rabbinical commentary or civil law; for Christians, premises of ancient scripture have been amended. This happened first via the middle prophets Isaiah and Hosea, who came centuries after ancient scripture—biblical tip: the key that unlocks the beauty of Abrahamic faith is the seldom read Book of Hosea—and then through the ministry of the Redeemer.
What does the New Testament say about homosexuality and gay marriage? Silence on the latter; on the former, there’s one reference. In his Letter to the Romans, verses 1:26-27, Paul observes of idol worshippers, “Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
(click here to continue reading Kim Davis Needs to Read the Bible Again – The New Yorker.)
Ms. Davis and Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz, and the rest are not following their own religion’s text, in other words. Do they wear blends of wool and cotton? Are the men clean-shaven? Yes, so they have chosen to ignore parts of Leviticus, and commandments in other books, the parts that are inconvenient to their hypocrisy, surprising nobody.
Furthermore, in the New Testament, Paul was pretty anti-sex – including between men and women. As Easterbrook continues:
many church-married, monogamous, man-woman, devout Christian couples engage in acts once thought perversion. Beyond this, Paul frowned on all sexual interaction, including by men and women married to each other. (I Corinthians 7:29.) The apostles evinced no interest in any form of carnality. Jesus never wed, and if he experienced erotic longing, the specifics are lost to history. The Old Testament is chock-full with lust and rape: by the New Testament, it’s as if sex has gone out of style. Those who beheld Jesus bathed in the glory of the resurrection believed the long-dreamt golden age about to arrive. Sex just didn’t seem terribly important compared to that.
and the Bible is so contradictory to our modern society, most practitioners pick and choose which parts to ignore, and which to follow:
Of course, believers of all stripes pick and choose. Liberal Christians avert their eyes from Christ’s near-absolute ban on divorce, in Matthew 5:32. Wealthy Christians ignore their Redeemer’s warning that the rich are barred from heaven, in Matthew 19:24. Most Christians would rather not know that Jesus said to give to panhandlers, in Luke 6:30. Right now, the mainly Christian leaders of the European Union don’t seem concerned that Jesus said that only helping the destitute counts in the eyes of God. (Christ says, in Luke 6:33, “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”) Republican candidates thumping their chests about how admirably Christian they are skip the fact that Christ banned exactly such puffery. (Matthew 6:1 reads, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”) The Israeli right pounds the table about ancient scripture, but skips Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
Parenthetically, Kim Davis broke another commandment and is breaking it every day she stays married to her current husband, as noted by Steve Wells:
But there is another fact that isn’t as well known: Kim Davis’s current husband is one of her former husbands, which means that her current marriage is an “abomination before the Lord.”
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 24:1-4
The Bible says nothing about same-sex marriage.* But it clearly says that Kim Davis’s current marriage is an abomination to God. Maybe she should rescind her own marriage license, rather than refuse to give them to others.
* It just says that sex between males is an abomination.
** I wonder which abomination is worse to the god of the Bible? Kim Davis’s marriage or sex between males?
**And that Bible-believers should kill men who have sex with men. (Rather than just refuse to give them marriage licenses.)
(click here to continue reading Dwindling In Unbelief: Kim Davis’s marriage to her former husband is an “abomination before the Lord.”.)
Bottom line, the members of this sect should read their own sacred texts a bit more closely, or else just shut up. Preferably both…
You’ve probably heard about Kim Davis, an elected official in KY who has unilaterally claimed the extra right to decide which biblical injunctions people should follow, based on her interpretation of particular verses, and not others. Note that Kim Davis swore an oath to her god to uphold the Constitution, the same document that does not mention God. In other words, she is sinning when she breaks her oath.
As Noah Feldman puts it:
Whom you swear the oath by is different from what you swear to do. Officials in the U.S. definitively don’t swear to uphold God’s law. They swear to uphold the Constitution, which never mentions God at all. And they swear to uphold laws enacted under the Constitution — which means laws that are in compliance with the establishment clause that prohibits any established or official religion.
That’s the main reason the framers didn’t include God in the oath of office. It would’ve contradicted the proposition in the Constitution that said no religious test would ever be required to hold office under the Constitution.
But by saying she won’t issue the marriage licenses while serving in office, Davis is also, if I may humbly say so, committing a sin: violating an oath she made before God to uphold the Constitution and laws of the U.S. The Constitution requires her to issue licenses for gay couples. Every moment she disobeys the Constitution, she is violating her oath. The Bible doesn’t look kindly on oath-breaking. The only way for her to emerge from the state of sin is to resign.
(click here to continue reading What the Oath of Office Means to a Kentucky Clerk – Bloomberg View.)
and as Andy Ostroy writes in his open letter to Kim Davis:
You have no inalienable rights here under the United States Constitution. In fact, the Constitution protects the very people you are discriminating against, not you. The Supreme Court has affirmed that fact, despite your ignorance, intolerance and ill-advised protestations.
We have laws in America which we all must abide by. We can’t arbitrarily decide which laws to follow and which ones to ignore. That’s called chaos. Let me ask you this, Kim: in a country founded on the principle of separation of church and state and religious pluralism, would any of the following situations be acceptable to you?:
-can an Orthodox Jew refuse to issue marriage licenses to reform and conservative Jews because, according to his religious belief, these are not “real Jews?”
-can a radical Mormon insist on issuing licenses to polygamists?
-can a devout Catholic county clerk refuse to issue you a marriage license after your next (4th) divorce because he believes that marriage is sacred and considers you a sinner?
-can an Atheist refuse to issue licenses to Christians because her religious belief is that organized religion is the root of all evil?
These situations are as absurdly unconstitutional as your attempt to deny gays their legal right to marry because of your personal religious beliefs. The irony is, as a thrice divorced “traditional marriage” proponent, you have degraded this institution more than any gay couple likely ever will. No one’s stood in the way of your choice to marry four times. How dare you prevent others from marrying?
(click here to continue reading An Open Letter to Kim Davis | Andy Ostroy.)
Don’t Ask Me To Believe In Too Many Things
More troubling to me than Christian Taliban like Ms. Davis are the candidates for the GOP nomination who gnash their teeth at the US Constitution, and who would rather have their Evangelical Law supersede the American government. A variant of Sharia Law, but one that elevates right wing Christian precepts and theology above established jurisprudence. These radicals should lose their citizenship and be deported. Bomb throwers like Ted “Calgary” Cruz:
Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny,” [Ted Cruz] said. “Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. . . . I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally.”
Tyranny? Our system of government gives the Supreme Court final say over constitutional matters, and, though Cruz doesn’t like it, the court ordered states to recognize same-sex marriages. In fact, the high court specifically declined to give relief to Davis, and the federal judge who ordered her jailed for contempt of court is a George W. Bush appointee and son of a former Republican senator.
Now Cruz, who took an oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution,” wants people to defy the Supreme Court’s authority? Who is the lawless one?
Cruz isn’t the only Republican candidate seeking the nation’s highest office while encouraging people to ignore its laws. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, declared: “I thank God for Kim Davis, and I hope more Americans will stand with her.”
(click here to continue reading Lawbreaker Kim Davis and the lawless Ted Cruz – The Washington Post.)
These morons should be banned from running for president, at least under the auspices of a major party. Let them run as an independent on the Destroy the United States and All It Stands For Party. Hmm, maybe they already are…
These morons too:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, too, supported Davis, and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) called her jailing “absurd” and said stands such as Davis’s are “an important part of the American way.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said that “you have the freedom to practice religious beliefs out there. It’s a fundamental right.”
Our system of government allows for freedom of speech, mostly, and freedom of religion, mostly, but if you are an official of the government, you have a clear obligation to support the system itself. You’ve taken an oath, remember?
Here is the oath Kim Davis took:
“I, ….., do swear that I will well and truly discharge the duties of the office of ………….. County Circuit Court clerk, according to the best of my skill and judgment, making the due entries and records of all orders, judgments, decrees, opinions and proceedings of the court, and carefully filing and preserving in my office all books and papers which come to my possession by virtue of my office; and that I will not knowingly or willingly commit any malfeasance of office, and will faithfully execute the duties of my office without favor, affection or partiality, so help me God.”
and here is the Senator’s oath:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
(click here to continue reading 5 Briefing on Oath of Office.)
Sounds to me like Senator Cruz and his craven pals are breaking this oath, and thus should be impeached themselves, and barred from running for public office in the future…
The truth is that presidential campaigns usually at this stage in the process are tedious affairs, filled with stump speeches that rarely change, and most sane people can safely ignore the process until the primary season actually begins. Donald Trump running as a candidate of the Trump Party1 has upended all that. I don’t see any plausible path for a Trump electoral college victory, thanks be Kant, but I’ll admit Trump has made the 2016 election more interesting. In a gapers block sort of way, but still, more interesting than having to wade through double speak from John Ellis Bush Bush2 and Carly Fiorina and the rest of the clown car.
Trump could change the race by stamping his image upon the Republicans in a way they cannot escape. Trump has made himself the symbol of racism against Latinos in the United States. He is absolute brand poison. Democrats are already airing television ads connecting other Republican candidates to Trump.
Another, more potent way Trump could determine the outcome of the race is by running a third-party candidacy. An independent Trump is the perfectly designed Republican-killer. He appeals to a constituency (white nativists) that forms a crucial component of the Republican base, but which bears almost no authentic support for the party’s anti-government domestic-policy agenda. He has the celebrity and money to sustain such a run. An independent Trump run would virtually eliminate any chance of Republican victory.
Republicans’ success requires the party to steer a course between these two outcomes — one damaging, the other ruinous. They must keep Trump within the party without allowing him to contaminate the party. Such an outcome is certainly possible. It will not be easy. More unnerving for Republican power brokers is the fact that the success of their project lies mainly in Trump’s hands. And what Trump is even trying to achieve is difficult to ascertain.
There are two broad possibilities that explain Trump’s campaign. The first is that he has no real plan. His presidential run is the extension of his broader public persona — a bid for attention and to carry out grudges. Trump is running to spite the reporters and pundits who predicted he would never actually enter the race. Or perhaps he started out trying to grab attention, and simply kept going. Or he actually wants to be president in some vague way, and believes or hopes the force of his personality will carry him through. Or he just hates Jeb Bush a lot — one “Trump associate” told the Washington Post that Trump “has two goals: One, to be elected president, and two, to have Jeb not be president” — and would drop out of the race if Scott Walker or Marco Rubio supplants Bush.
(click here to continue reading What Is the Trump Endgame? — NYMag.)
Fox News and its allies have created the Trump monster, and now it is ravaging their carefully crafted Potemkin villages of Tea Party supporters and rage-fiends. I guffaw. I guffaw nearly to the point of tears…Footnotes:
As part of an interesting and long discussion of politics and tech nerds by David Roberts, he makes this historic point:
In postwar, mid-20th-century America, there was a period of substantial bipartisanship, and it powerfully shaped the way political and economic elites think about US politics. The popular picture of how politics works — reaching across the aisle, twisting arms, building coalitions behind common-sense policy — has clung to America’s self-conception long after the underlying structural features that enabled bipartisanship fundamentally shifted.
What enabled bipartisanship was, to simplify matters, the existence of socially liberal Republicans in the Northeast and Democrats in the South who were fiscally conservative and virulently racist. Ideologically heterogeneous parties meant that transactional, cross-party coalitions were relatively easy to come by.
Over the past several decades, the parties have polarized, i.e., sorted themselves ideologically (that’s what the GOP’s “Southern strategy” was about). Racist conservative Democrats became Republicans and social liberals became Democrats. The process has now all but completed: The rightmost national Democrat is now to the left of the leftmost national Republican.
Crucially, however, the process of polarization has been asymmetrical. While almost all liberals have become Democrats and almost all conservatives have become Republicans, far more Republicans self-identify as conservative than Democrats do as liberal, and consequently the GOP has moved much further right than the Democratic Party has left.
Conservative whites, freaked out by hippies in the ’60s, blacks in the ’70s, communists in the ’80s, Clintons in the ’90s, Muslims in the ’00s, and Obama more recently, are now more or less permanently freaked out, gripped by a sense of “aggrieved entitlement,” convinced that they are “losing their country.” (If only someone would come along and promise to make it great again!)
As the GOP has grown more demographically and ideologically homogeneous, it has become, in the memorable words of congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, “a resurgent outlier: ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
As the ongoing Republican primary is revealing in gruesome detail, asymmetrical polarization seems a long way from burning itself out.
(click here to continue reading Tech nerds are smart. But they can’t seem to get their heads around politics. – Vox.)
The political center does not exist – in any real sense – and our constitution empowers the rural minority to have an oversized say in deciding policy.
Third, in practical coalitional politics, the “center” will tend to be shaped not by rational thinking but by money and power. If there is any space left for bipartisanship in US politics, it is around measures that benefit corporate elites.
The right-wing base has a coherent position on climate change: It’s a hoax, so we shouldn’t do anything about it. The left-wing base has a coherent position: It’s happening, so we should do something about it. The “centrist” position, shared by conservative Democrats and the few remaining moderate Republicans, is that it’s happening but we shouldn’t do anything about it. That’s not centrist in any meaningful ideological sense; instead, like most areas of overlap between the parties, it is corporatist.
This paragraph by Paul Krugman made me laugh:
Joe Weisenthal asked me why Donald Trump is riding so high in the polls; as he said, my answer was subtle and nuanced.
But seriously, why is anyone surprised? Year after year the GOP base has been fed fantasies about death panels, senior figures have flirted with birtherism and routinely peddled conspiracy theories whenever good news arrives about health reform or the economy, a centrist president has been portrayed as a socialist who hates America, sitting governors have deferred to craziness over military exercises. Oh, and the unemployed have been blamed for their own plight, food stamp recipients and the disabled portrayed as malingerers. Then along comes Trump, who embodies the base’s values, its intellectual outlook, its deep lack of empathy for the unfortunate. And up goes the cry: “Don’t base voters realize that he’s not a serious figure?”
(click here to continue reading The Face of the Base – The New York Times.)
Donald Trump is the bloviating embodiment of the Tea Party, and all those who supported it for their own nefarious ends. I’m laughing, I just hope I won’t be crying in November, 2016…
Charles Pierce writes an essay on the inevitability of Donald Trump joining the Republican Clown Car, 2015 edition, and you should certainly click through to the short piece, and read it yourself. He concludes:
[Trump] is the inevitable result of 40 years of political conjuring, mainly by Republicans, but abetted by far too many Democrats as well. He is the inevitable product of anyone who ever argued that our political institutions should be run “like a business.” (Like whose businesses? Like Trump’s? Like Carly Fiorina’s Hewlett Packard?) He is the inevitable product of anyone who ever argued why the government can’t balance its books “the way any American family would.”
He is the inevitable result of the deregulated economy that was deregulated out of a well-cultivated wonder and awe directed at the various masters of the universe. Sooner or later, all of this misbegotten magical thinking was going to burp up a clown like Donald Trump. Sooner or later, the conversion of the institutions of the national legislature into vehicles for polite ratfcking was going to burp up a Trey Gowdy, who will interrogate not the actual Sid Blumenthal, but the one that exists in thousands of fundraising letters and chain e-mails. The politics of this country have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of hallucinations today. Wish I could say I was surprised.
(click here to continue reading Donald Trump Joins the Race.)
More details about the TPP, and more reasons for Democrats1 to oppose it.
Have you heard? The TPP is a massive, controversial “free trade” agreement currently being pushed by big corporations and negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TPP would expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “trade” pact model that has spurred massive U.S. trade deficits and job loss, downward pressure on wages, unprecedented levels of inequality and new floods of agricultural imports. The TPP not only replicates, but expands NAFTA’s special protections for firms that offshore U.S. jobs. And U.S. TPP negotiators literally used the 2011 Korea FTA – under which exports have fallen and trade deficits have surged – as the template for the TPP. In one fell swoop, this secretive deal could:
In one fell swoop, this secretive deal could:
Although it is called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. One chapter would provide incentives to offshore jobs to low-wage countries. Many would impose limits on government policies that we rely on in our daily lives for safe food, a clean environment, and more. Our domestic federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with TPP rules.
The TPP would even elevate individual foreign firms to equal status with sovereign nations, empowering them to privately enforce new rights and privileges, provided by the pact, by dragging governments to foreign tribunals to challenge public interest policies that they claim frustrate their expectations. The tribunals would be authorized to order taxpayer compensation to the foreign corporations for the “expected future profits” they surmise would be inhibited by the challenged policies.
(click here to continue reading Trans-Pacific Partnership.)
especially since corporate America is so gung-ho for the agreement:
As big a setback as Friday’s vote on Capitol Hill was for President Obama’s efforts to advance his trade agenda, it was an even bigger rebuff for the leaders of American business.
While there are deep divisions over trade policy among Democrats, and to some extent among Republicans as well, corporate America has been nearly unified in its support of a deal that would lower various barriers to trade and investment between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
Though many sought to put the best face on the vote, business groups and chief executives were quick to voice their displeasure with the House’s rejection of aid to workers harmed by imports, which could doom prospects for eventual approval of a wider trade pact.
(click here to continue reading Business Leaders React With Dismay to Defeat of Trade Bill – NYTimes.com.)
But still, the Democrats are to blame, not the Republicans who have majorities in both House and Senate…
Although certainly a minority, a few business groups oppose the trade pact. Unions, environmental groups and many liberals are also opposed. Many critics cited the job losses that followed the signing of North American Free Trade Agreement more than two decades ago.
There was also some applause for the defeat from groups like the American Sustainable Business Council, a network of progressive business organizations.
“The T.P.P. would give multinational corporations unprecedented power to evade safeguards that protect consumers, workers and the environment. It would hurt smaller, innovative businesses,” said David Levine, the group’s co-founder.
While most economists generally support the White House’s trade agenda, some on the left have kept up a steady drumbeat, warning that it has been structured primarily to advance the interests of Wall Street and major corporations doing business abroad.
(click here to continue reading Business Leaders React With Dismay to Defeat of Trade Bill – NYTimes.com.)
Yeah, economists like the NYT’s own Paul Krugman, who isn’t mentioned in this article, but who says he is against the TPP.Footnotes:
- and Republicans [↩]
I’m probably not the only one amused at the framing of the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal. You see, even though Republicans have majorities in both House and Senate, the TPP failed solely because of those intransigent Democrats! How dare they vote out of lockstep with the President?
The Chicago Tribune’s headline spells it out:
The House vote Friday included two related measures, both of which had to pass in order to send the legislation — which was approved last month by the Senate — to the president’s desk.
A bill to give the president fast-track authority to negotiate future trade deals was approved by a 219-211 vote. But another measure regarding assistance funds to retrain workers — a program typically supported by Democrats — failed 126-302 largely because Democrats voted against it.
Because the Senate had previously approved both measures as a single bill, the House’s failure to pass the retraining measure prevented the overall package from advancing. Supporters plan to hold another vote on the retraining bill early next week, giving the White House and congressional Republicans another chance to drum up votes.
Obama’s push for the legislation was his biggest lobbying effort since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act. He personally pressed fellow Democrats to support the measure in a meeting Friday morning on Capitol Hill and during an unscheduled appearance Thursday night at the annual congressional ballgame at the Nationals ballpark.
(click here to continue reading Obama suffers big loss as trade bill is defeated at hands of Democrats – Chicago Tribune.)
from the NYT, a slightly less pointed version:
He made it personal. He appealed to their loyalty. He asked them to give him what every modern president has had. He argued the facts, disputed the politics, quarreled over the history and at times lashed out at those who still refused to stand with him.
Yet in the end, after years of frustration with Republicans blocking his ideas in Congress, President Obama on Friday found the most sweeping legislative initiative left on his agenda thwarted not by the opposition but by his own party. If not for his fellow Democrats, Mr. Obama would have a landmark trade bill heading to his desk for signature.
(click here to continue reading Washington Dysfunction, With a Twist: Democrats Desert Their President – NYTimes.com.)
The Wall Street Journal’s perspective is clear: Obama should just resign now since there are only 2 years left in his term…
House Democrats dealt President Barack Obama a major setback in his bid for expanded trade-negotiating powers, roundly rejecting on Friday a workers-aid program that was a key component of the bill and leaving the White House’s trade agenda in limbo.
While stinging, the vote was not the last word in the trade fight, as House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said there would be a re-vote by Tuesday on extending the aid program, which is designed to help workers hurt by international trade.
But Friday’s defeat showed the degree to which Mr. Obama’s trade agenda is on shaky ground in Congress. The House voted against the workers-aid program by 126-302. To improve those numbers, House Republican leaders, the White House and pro-trade businesses will need to find ways to win over a combination of Democrats who are skeptical of the overall trade push and Republicans leery of supporting the aid package.
It also underscored the waning influence of a second-term president, particularly on an issue many Democrats see as toxic to their re-election prospects, given concerns in their districts that U.S. jobs are being sent overseas.
(click here to continue reading House Deals Blow to Obama’s Bid for Trade Deal, Rejects Worker-Aid Program – WSJ.)
You get the idea.
The political battle over the enormous, twelve-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership keeps getting stranger. President Obama has made the completion of the deal the number-one legislative priority of his second term. Indeed, Republican opponents of the T.P.P., in an effort to rally the red-state troops, have begun calling it Obamatrade. And yet most of the plan’s opponents are not Republicans; they’re Democrats.
Obama’s chief allies in his vote-by-vote fight in the House of Representatives to win “fast-track authority” to negotiate this and other trade deals are Speaker John Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan—not his usual foxhole companions. The vote may come as soon as Friday. The House Republican leaders tell their dubious members that they are supporting Obama only in order to “constrain” him. Meanwhile, Obama is lobbying members of the Black Congressional Caucus, whose support he can normally count on, tirelessly and, for the most part, fruitlessly. “The president’s done everything except let me fly Air Force One,” Representative Cedric Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana, told the Christian Science Monitor this week. Nonetheless, Richmond said, “I’m leaning no.”
The long, bad aftertaste of NAFTA—the North American Free Trade Agreement, enacted in 1994—explains much of the Democratic opposition to the T.P.P. Ronald Reagan originally proposed NAFTA, but Bill Clinton championed it, got it through Congress mainly on Republican votes, and signed it. In many Democratic districts, NAFTA is still widely blamed for the loss of hundreds of thousands of American manufacturing jobs, and for long-term downward pressure on wages. When President Obama argues that the T.P.P. is not NAFTA, he is correct. It convenes Pacific Rim nations and economies of many stripes, from wealthy, democratic Japan to authoritarian, impoverished Vietnam, and it includes six countries with which the United States already has free-trade agreements. If enacted, it will encompass forty per cent of global economic activity. It is less a traditional trade deal than a comprehensive economic treaty and, at least for the United States, a strategic hedge against the vast and growing weight of Chinese regional influence. What exactly the T.P.P. will do, however, is difficult to know, because its terms are being negotiated in secret. Only “cleared advisors,” most of them representing various private industries, are permitted to work on the text. Leaked drafts of chapters have occasionally surfaced—enough to alarm, among others, environmentalists, labor groups, and advocates for affordable medicine.
(click here to continue reading Why Does Obama Want This Trade Deal So Badly? – The New Yorker.)
It’s hard to think of a fight that has showed President Obama to worse effect than his effort to pass Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership over widespread Democratic opposition. His respect for his opponents has been at low ebb, and since many of his opponents in this fight are Democrats, that means we’ve seen him taking uncharacteristically nasty shots at people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Now, in the aftermath of a vote in which the must-pass-to-pass-the-TPA Trade Adjustment Assistance was defeated, Obama used his weekly address to mislead about what’s going on. House Democrats overwhelmingly voted against the traditionally Democrat-supported assistance program for displaced workers because, according to the rule the House had adopted, TAA was linked to the fast-track TPA bill. No TAA, no TPA. Since TPA passed in the wake of TAA’s defeat, Republican leadership is bringing TAA back for another vote in hopes of getting it, and fast track along with it, through next week. That’s the weird, confusing procedural background—background Obama pretended does not exist as he touted the benefits of Trade Adjustment Assistance in his weekly address.
(click here to continue reading Obama misleads on trade assistance and fast track in weekly address.)
Paul Krugman calls it a defeat of the Davos Democrats, I like that phrase:
OK, I didn’t see that coming: even though I have come out as a lukewarm opponent of TPP, I assumed that it would happen anyway — the way trade deals (or in this case, dispute settlement and intellectual property deals that pretend to be about trade) always do. But no, or not so far.
A brief aside: I don’t think it’s right to call this a case of Washington “dysfunction”. Dysfunction is when we get outcomes nobody wants, or fail to do things everyone wants done, because there doesn’t seem to be any way to package the politics. In this case, however, people who oppose TPP voted down key enabling measures — that is, they got what they wanted. Calling this “dysfunction” presumes that this deal is a good idea — and that kind of presumption is precisely what got successfully challenged yesterday.
Or to put it another way, one way to see this is as the last stand of the Davos Democrats.
Davos Democrats are known as the people who told us to trust unregulated finance and fear invisible bond vigilantes. They just don’t have the credibility to pull off arguments from authority any more. And it doesn’t say much for their perspicacity that they apparently had no idea that the world has changed.
TPP’s Democratic supporters thought they could dictate to their party like it’s 1999. They can’t.
(click here to continue reading Decline and Fall of the Davos Democrats – NYTimes.com.)
A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…
I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.
But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?
In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey.
And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.
(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)
and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:
A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.
Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.
So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”
Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.
Laura Miller adds:
The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.
These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!
Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.
(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)
A police state? Whoever could imagine such a thing in the United States of America? Civil liberties? Ha! The Bill of Rights is no longer required because the War on Terra has usurped them.
This is the real legacy of disgraced former Congressman Dennis Hastert: willingly gutting the Constitution to please the Neo Cons and Dick Cheney, and his little puppy GWB.
Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies.
The Associated Press traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.
For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own planes, also registered to fake companies, according to a 2011 Justice Department inspector general report. At the time, the DEA had 92 aircraft in its fleet. And since 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service has operated an aerial surveillance program with its own fleet equipped with technology that can capture data from thousands of cellphones, the Wall Street Journal reported last year.
Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public.
(click here to continue reading FBI behind mysterious surveillance flights over Chicago, other U.S. cities – Chicago Tribune.)
In other words, we are all assumed to be guilty of something, and thus can be monitored and spied upon without need for quaint antiques like warrants or probable cause.
Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a “cell-site simulator” — or Stingray, to use one of the product’s brand names. These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.
The FBI has recently begun obtaining court orders to use this technology. Previously, the Obama administration had been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology’s use in open court.
Up in the sky! Look! It’s a bird! A plane! It’s the FBI!
From Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett last year:
The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.
The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.
Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.
Even having encryption on a phone, such as the kind included on Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6, doesn’t prevent this process.
Also unknown are the steps taken to ensure data collected on innocent people isn’t kept for future examination by investigators. A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that over-collection of data by investigators, and stockpiling of such data, was a violation of the Constitution.
The dirtbox and Stingray are both types of what tech experts call “IMSI catchers,’’ named for the identification system used by networks to identify individual cellphones.
The name “dirtbox’’ came from the acronym of the company making the device, DRT, for Digital Receiver Technology Inc., people said. DRT is now a subsidiary of Boeing. A Boeing spokeswoman declined to comment.
“DRT has developed a device that emulates a cellular base station to attract cellphones for a registration process even when they are not in use,’’ according to a 2010 regulatory filing Boeing made with the U.S. Commerce Department, which touted the device’s success in finding contraband cellphones smuggled in to prison inmates.
(click here to continue reading Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program – WSJ.)
and a follow up by the same reporter:
The Central Intelligence Agency played a crucial role in helping the Justice Department develop technology that scans data from thousands of U.S. cellphones at a time, part of a secret high-tech alliance between the spy agency and domestic law enforcement, according to people familiar with the work.
The CIA and the U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Justice Department, developed technology to locate specific cellphones in the U.S. through an airborne device that mimics a cellphone tower, these people said.
Today, the Justice Department program, whose existence was reported by The Wall Street Journal last year, is used to hunt criminal suspects. The same technology is used to track terror suspects and intelligence targets overseas, the people said.
The surveillance system briefly identifies large numbers of cellphones belonging to citizens unrelated to the search. The practice can also briefly interfere with the ability to make calls, these people said.
Some law-enforcement officials are concerned the aerial surveillance of cellphone signals inappropriately mixes traditional police work with the tactics and technology of overseas spy work that is constrained by fewer rules. Civil-liberties groups say the technique amounts to a digital dragnet of innocent Americans’ phones.
(click here to continue reading CIA Aided Justice Department Secret Program to Spy on U.S. Cellphones – WSJ.)
Remember when the CIA was banned on spying on Americans, and from conducting operations on American soil? Ah, those were the days…
To civil libertarians, the close involvement of America’s premier international spy agency with a domestic law-enforcement arm shows how military and espionage techniques are now being used on U.S. citizens.
“There’s a lot of privacy concerns in something this widespread, and those concerns only increase if we have an intelligence agency coordinating with them,” said Andrew Crocker of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed a lawsuit seeking more details about the program and its origins.
Shocking, I know, but Exxon Mobil and Chevron, et al, don’t want to alter their profit streams, asking to be able to continue sending bomb trains throughout the country. The reason? Updating the safety equipment would cost money. What a compelling argument, worthy of a 6th grade debate team.
The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main trade group, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block key provisions of the rules, which were unveiled this month by Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary. The petition was filed on Monday.
The trade group, which represents companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, has long argued that forcing oil producers and shippers to use newer tank cars and replace older models would impose high costs on the industry and lead to a shortfall in tank car capacity.
The petition seeks to block a requirement that older tank cars be retrofitted with new safety features designed to prevent them from spilling oil or rupturing in a derailment. It also challenges a requirement that tank cars be equipped with new electronic braking systems or face operational restrictions.
(click here to continue reading Oil Industry Asks Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules – NYTimes.com.)
If Exxon Mobil were forced to spend $100,000,000 updating the bomb cars, ((a number I just pulled out of the air, and probably a lot more than they would actually pay)) would it be a large enough number to reduce their annual profits measurably? In 2014 alone, ExxonMobil reported revenue of $394,105,000,000. Chevron’s reported revenue for 2014 was $211,970, 000,000 by the way. I would hazard a guess their accountants are top notch, and most of the costs of updating bomb trains would be written off as operating expense, right? The oil industry has been making immense, unimaginable profits for decades, or more.
In other words, protesting that updating the rail cars so that they don’t blow up communities and cause fires that last for weeks because updating the rail cars would cost too much is a lame argument. Cries pleading poverty from corporations as wealthy as Chevron is laughable.
Not that the Transportation Department and Barack Obama will listen to me, but my negotiation points would include the tax subsidies the oil and gas industry currently enjoy: fix the bomb trains and you get to keep half of your tax subsidies.
The oil industry’s lobbyists like to argue that its array of tax write-offs (which allow companies to deduct everything from drilling costs to the declining value of their wells) aren’t any different than other deductions for less publicly reviled companies. Cutting them will discourage new exploration and put jobs at risk, they claim.
Yet, some of the breaks are anachronisms that date back almost to the days of John D. Rockefeller. And in a world of permanently high crude prices, there’s very little rationale for subsidizing the bottom lines of companies like ExxonMobil and BP.
Make no mistake, either: Those profits are perfectly healthy. Between drilling and refining, Exxon’s U.S. operations alone earned $7.5 billion after taxes in 2012. California-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation, one of the so-called “independent” oil companies and the top oil driller in Texas, raked in $7.1 billion via its oil and gas division.
(click here to continue reading America’s Most Obvious Tax Reform Idea: Kill the Oil and Gas Subsidies – The Atlantic.)
Electricity is a Bitter Herb…
In a just world, these evil doers would be publicly humiliated, named by name, and forced to stand trial for war crimes at The Hague. The Bush administration too. It’s a travesty that President Obama’s response to war crimes perpetrated by his predecessor was to sweep all the evidence under the rug and shrug, “Bygones…”
The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.
The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.
(click here to continue reading Report Says American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification – NYTimes.com.)
and why did the Bush thugs do it?
The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.