Why the Russian election-hacking scandal of 2016 is at least as bad as, if not worse, than Watergate

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(Cross-posted from DailyKos)

During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump charged that Hillary Clinton’s alleged email scandal was worse than Watergate.

But, as we’ve seen many times, Trump tends to project his own guilt onto others, and this may be no exception. What may really be as bad as, if not potentially worse, than Watergate is the alleged collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russian government in efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Politics is about People

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“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

I like to remember the radical King and not just the cliche on this sacred holiday. Politics is about people, and putting real power and agency in their hands. Trump does this by pitting people against one another to compete over the scraps left over in our post industrial economy. Liberals cannot respond to this with technocratic solutions that neglect the reality that humans are cultural and social creatures who crave the dignity of work and the stability of community. Politics are about people in all their wonderful complexity and we should embrace this fully and remember the warnings as well as the ideals of Dr. king.

Mustering the "reality-based community"

Martin Luther King spoke to today’s predicament, if anything even more acute now than when he said the words:

Who doubts that this toughness of mind is one of man’s greatest needs?  Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking.  There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.  Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

We are now at the apex of a propaganda attack on the country, for the benefit of militarism, oligarchy … and the highly idiosyncratic ambitions of the President-elect.

This blog was started in 2004, and the tag line “Reality-based commentary” was inspired by the Ron Suskind article on the Bush administration, in which Karl Rove (probably) is quoted:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Even since the Nixon administration, we’ve seen attacks on the “liberal media”, which really meant that the media reports things that are unflattering to conservative prejudices. Ex-Nixon aide Roger Ailes started Fox News in 1996, fairly explicitly as a right-wing propaganda outlet but with the blackwhite trademark “Fair and Balanced”. Climate scientists are well-acquainted with the use of propaganda to muddy and distort the clearest of facts, crippling the public’s understanding of what is necessary for human civilization to continue to flourish on Earth. Reality — or rather, “reality” — is created, not observed, by those who are wealthy and well-connected enough to attempt it. We know about the Koch brothers; Sheldon Adelson; now the DeVos family; and so forth. Their money is like the gravity of a black hole — it distorts the very nature of reality around it.

So the press has been under fairly successful attack for years. Media is business, and the propaganda offensive by Fox and assorted right-wing media empires have created an expectation in a part of the population, that information unflattering to its prejudices is “biased.” Instead of maintaining a “just the facts” integrity against such attacks, media companies like CNN chase right-wing media market share, adjusting their coverage accordingly. (They thereby lose market share from people who look for something more incisive and substantive than relativistic ideological food-fights … but apparently those viewers don’t exist in adequate numbers.)

Parts of the federal government also provide the public with facts, independent of the demands of those in power, or political oligarchy. And those parts are under explicit threat:

… And on and on. Every day brings a new example. The common theme is that factual claims must be run by the authorities first. They must be made to accommodate the ideologies and predilections of those in power. The authorities will decide.

The incoming administration and Congress want to cut off the supply of credible, factual information to the public. Implicit is the admission that they can’t win if the public possesses it.

There are signs of flailing struggle in the media — even at generally-supine and inessential CNN. We may not yet have passed the Event Horizon for a new age of propaganda, though it’s apparent that a considerable chunk of the public will believe whatever they’re served. Social media bubbles, fake-news and low-quality clickbait-news don’t help. They are the crystal meth of information — providing irresistible jolts of satisfaction while providing no new understanding.

There’s no doubt that we on the left get played as well: Lefty clickbait is apparently a real business, based on my Facebook feed — and some is clearly meant to exacerbate internal conflicts on the left. (That was, after all, the very intent of the Wikileaks hack of DNC and Clinton campaign emails.) If we think we’re immune, we’re kidding ourselves. And we need each other — to stick together even while grappling with internal tensions.

So it’s up to us to re-dedicate ourselves to the “reality-based” community — to each other, and to habits of mind that accommodate new information, and discern from propaganda. We’ll have to search out and support credible, professional sources with integrity. We’ll have to know when we’re getting played. It will be harder than ever, given a stream of disinformation from the very top.

I Just Have One Question About the BMG Outage

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Is there any reason to believe the site was deliberately attacked? Or was it collateral damage from a hack of an ISP, or just technical SNAFU, or what?

Glad to see it back.

Chief Justice Roberts' Role

I think your two rebuttals pretty much answer the question: it's not the Court's role, and certainly not that of the Chief Justice on his own, to undertake these kinds of decisions. But the emoluments question is a real one, and watching how the Congress handles it will be revealing. - promoted by david

A genuinely serious question:

In the face of all of Trump’s known conflicts of interest, possible violations of the emoluments clause, etc., etc, will Chief Justice Roberts, by administering the presidential Oath of Office, be enabling violations of the Constitution inconsistent with his own oath as a justice of the Supreme Court?

My own rebuttals: 1) there’s not yet a case or controversy before the Court; 2) the Court does not impeach. But I would appreciate hearing opinions from those more knowledgeable.

The Affluenza President.

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Trump attorney Sheri A. Dillon said that Trump ”should not be expected to destroy the company he built” when asked if he was going to put his investments, his assets, into a blind trust.  Ms. Dillon wants us to believe that doing so would destroy it, without telling us why or how.  We are simply to accept the spin that without his control, or the control of his hand picked people and his sons, his empire of hotels and golf courses would be destroyed.  I’ve been to a few hotels and golf courses and it’s difficult for me to understand how they can be destroyed if put in a simple blind trust.  But there is the alleged size of this company, and I say alleged because Trump has still refused to offer any proof of what he has, what he owes, and all the strings attached.  The argument seems to be that this is such an huge fortune, it would be unfair to ask Trump to risk losing it…….unfair?

I am a man of limited means. I have a small number of investments, like many people my age, somewhere under a million dollars.  It’s all the money that I have worked my entire life to save up.  It’s my one and only nest egg.  However, if I were being sworn in to office instead of Trump on Friday the 20th, I would be expected to put those investments in a blind trust, and I would do so without hesitation because all those ahead of me did so and so should I.  That would be fair.  And besides, I would  not be putting it in undue peril.   It would be in a blind trust, with a person or persons who were professionals in this area.  Even if disaster struck and they lost it all, I would still have what I was able to save on my $400K a year (plus expenses) president’s salary and a lifetime pension of over $200K a year.

Welcome back BMG - and by the way, Boston is holding it's own Inauguration for the Republic in Dewey Square 1/20/17

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Some realities of identity politics, and what it means to give away individual choice [also called "moral agency"] hasn’t changed much. I love this Old Testament “I told you so” from the Prophet Samuel. I think it applies today, and not only in this country to the real results and risks of choosing a “strong leader” over being a responsible, educated citizen of a viable republic:

Told you so, ~600 BCE edition:

“So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’”
1 Samuel 8:10-18

For those that feel this way, there is a local “People’s Inauguration” where it will be the ideals of participatory democracy and the Republic Benjamin Franklin said would be ours if we fought to keep it, being inaugurated. Guess where? Dewey Square. And you are invited to THIS inauguration – official start time 3:30 PM. http://boston.carpediem.cd/events/2229635-boston-peoples-inauguration-investidura-popular-de-boston-posse-do-povo-boston-at-dewey-square/

"Trump is not a legitimate president"

Update to Fred's post: Trump has, indeed, gone after Rep. Lewis, falsely claiming that Lewis's district is "in horrible shape" and is "crime infested." Surprise. - promoted by david

So says the ‘Conscience of Congress’, Congressman John Lewis.  Because Russia helped elect Trump and destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

As of 11 pm Benedict Donald had not Twitter attacked the Human Rights icon.  But it’s early yet.

Fred  Rich  LaRiccia

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Subtweets PEOTUS

Jack Jenkins, religion reporter at Think Progress, recently asked his Twitter followers: “what theology are you reading right now to cope?” (Cope with the disturbing presidential election results, that is.)

Many of us are reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), the German Lutheran pastor who devoted his career, and eventually gave his life, to opposing the Nazi regime and the complacent strain of Christianity that chose to accommodate it. The resistance movement that Bonhoeffer and others led is probably most famous for this warning against fascism’s insidious creep:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Bonhoeffer’s writings always offer a bracing dose of courage. During these especially anxious days they also serve as quiet rebukes of the incoming Swaggerer-in-Chief. He was hanged by the Gestapo the year before the PEOTUS was born, yet Bonhoeffer offers antidotes to the odious bombast that surrounds us. In the vernacular of Twitter, in other words, he’s a divinely gifted subtweeter.

***

PEOTUS: Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich.

Bonhoeffer:  Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected.

***

PEOTUS: You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bonhoeffer: Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian’s life.

***

PEOTUS: The world was gloomy before I won – there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10 percent and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars

Bonhoeffer:  It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.

***

PEOTUS: Hillary Clinton is the vessel of a corrupt global establishment that’s raiding our country and surrendering the sovereignty of our nation.

Bonhoeffer: Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves.

***

PEOTUS: Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I’ve spent my entire life and business looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world. That is now what I want to do for our country.

Bonhoeffer: If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.

Northeast warming more rapidly than most of the U.S.

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This should scare the shit out of us.

P.S. I’m so happy BMG is back online, I really missed you guys!

Opaque Massachusetts budget process hides state's real priorities

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(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blogsite)

In a preview this week of the Fiscal 2018 state budget, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center points out a key shortcoming in the budget process.

That process is not transparent, the nonpartisan think tank argues, because it doesn’t provide a needed context for the proposals and decisions that the governor and Legislature make.

As the Budget and Policy Center notes, that needed context lies in the release of a public “maintenance budget” that discloses the projected costs of continuing ”current services” from one fiscal year to the next. Without that “maintenance budget” context, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the public to really know whether proposed funding levels are meeting real needs or falling short of them.

The problem can be clearly seen in the current-year funding of group homes operated by the Department of Developmental Services.

Last January, Governor Baker proposed a $3.7 million — or 1.7 percent — increase in the DDS state-operated group home line item. But while that sounds like more funding for those facilities, it was in actuality a cut when adjusted for inflation.  The inflation rate was 1.8 percent, according to the Policy Center’s numbers.

It's not really about Trump, Part 2

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People both hope for and worry about impeaching Trump and then being left with Pence. I’m not so worried by Pence. He plays by rules we know and know how to fight. And he’s about as charismatic as a piece of plywood. A McConnell/Ryan/Pence triumvirate would have great transparency and not a lot of populist appeal. And the same would have been true with any of the other Republican candidates. Like with Reagan, it would not be so hard to identify threats and develop narratives and strategies for countering them. Unlike Reagan, these are people who personally inspire little more than a sense that they could make for good walking dead characters in a zombie movie.

Trump, unfortunately, represents something that feels fresh, current, disruptive, and therefore, perversely appealing to many people. He plays by a set of rules that are in part tied to his (damaged, narcissistic) personality, and in part tied to strong cultural currents that underlie and are expressive of popular and national angst, including a pervasive sense of vulnerability. This derives partly from the economic dislocations that have been widely discussed in the wake of the election. But it is also rooted in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the “war on Terrorism” and how they have been cast and continue to be used by a variety of interests — political, commercial, military, and otherwise — to “sell” and profit from (in the broadest sense) fear and vulnerability.

I think our biggest long-term challenge as Democrats is to find ways to address this underlying sense of vulnerability and all of the ways in which it constricts the quest for a more progressive future. But more immediately, we need to protect the progress we have achieved. And this means engaging in tough nuts and bolts politics. The politics of morally-driven, outraged resistance. The politics of reaching out to the disaffected and most vulnerable, and coalition-building.

The one big opportunity presented in the current situation is that Trump and the McConnell/Ryan/Pence axis are not well aligned. Trump is a contemporary American cultural icon. He represents populist discontent and mobilization. McConnell is a reactionary cultural throwback. He represents the discontent of the walking dead. There are a lot of potential opportunities in the struggle to channel populist angst. And there are a lot of potential allies and tools in the fight against giving new life to old battles and deadly, morbid inequities.