Two Weeks Worth of Excerpts from Bizarro World

I want to share some links to some very interesting articles that I have come across recently which document the Bizarro World we now live in

Bernie Sanders brand of economic populism has great appeal, even across the blue/red divide.

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/17/can-the-red-blue-partisan-divide-be-overcome-bernie-sanders-thinks-so/

Women have less protection under the constitution than guns.

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/16/mira-sorvino-women-have-less-protection-under-the-constitution-than-gun-owners/

Phase two of tax cuts – GOP now wants Dems to help make the middle class tax cuts permanent before the midterm elections. Do you think Dems should help because this policy would be good for “we the people”? Do you think they should refuse to help with this fix because Republicans are only interested in doing this in order to change the 2018 election?

http://thehill.com/policy/finance/378861-gop-pushes-for-phase-two-of-tax-cuts

Trump is an un-American president. Is lying to an ally like Trudeau of Canada the last straw, is it the huge deficit that will accrue if the new GOP spending bill passes? What will be the last straw?

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/opinion/trudeau-trump-deficit.html

The alt-right is in disarray but their ideology has moved left into the mainstream Republican policy agenda.

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/19/alt-right-is-dying-but-powerful-conservatives-are-mainstreaming-its-ideas/

I don’t find the current incarnation of the GOP very funny but apparently the trending meme about the Meat Loaf dialogue in the Senate suggests that humor is not completely dead.

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/08/569365614/lawmakers-start-quoting-meat-loaf-lyrics-just-because

Both parties have used a strategy that this author calls “constitutional hardball” (I call it sedition) – but the data suggests that this has been practiced more often on the right in asymmetric fashion.

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/18/tilting-the-playing-field-how-republican-constitutional-hardball-has-reshaped-politics/

Hillary was right, Trump is backward

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/15/hillary-clinton-was-right-the-parts-of-america-that-support-trump-are-stuck-in-the-past/

Mississippi is trying to pass a new law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Is this against the letter of Roe v Wade or just the spirit of Roe v Wade and why can’t men leave women’s reproductive rights for women to decide? When men decide what women can and cannot do this smacks of regression and undermines women’s rights in general.

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/15/mississippi-moves-toward-15-week-abortion-ban-claiming-it-will-help-women/

Twitter fight on Bernie Sanders reveals an on-going troll operation.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/democratic-bot-network-sally-albright_us_5aa2f548e4b07047bec68023

Koch is sending teachers free lesson plans in social studies. You can just imagine what deficiencies might be contained in this material (a lot of important -isms). And teachers have been using these materials for quite some time.

https://www.theroot.com/millions-of-students-are-quietly-being-taught-the-koch-1823742091

Rising seas threaten Easter Island antiquities

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/14/climate/easter-island-erosion.html

Trump’s war on the press – by Thomas Edsall who always gives lots of backup data.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/opinion/trump-press-freedom-fake-news.html

An all-expense paid trip to Europe for a blogger – hurry the deadline is soon.

https://www.news4jax.com/news/dream-job-company-looking-to-hire-people-to-tour-europe-on-all-expenses-paid-trip

An ex-CIA agent opines about Trump’s guilt, danger to democracy, etc.

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/12/veteran-cia-agent-on-trump-corruption-like-weve-never-seen-before/

Constitutional Rot

https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/555860/

Did Cambridge Analytica have any effect on the 2016 election? Do they still have the data they “stole” from 50 million Facebook users, data which showed what they like and post  and what their friends also like and post? Obviously people who are selling things that are not products find value in the same algorithms retailers use.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/opinion/facebook-cambridge-analytica.html

Cambridge Analytica also offered to try to use the Russian strategy of “kompramat” to get something to hold over the heads of politicians if that might help Trump.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/us/cambridge-analytica-alexander-nix.html

Trump has staff sign nondisclosure agreements.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/03/18/trump-pushed-white-house-staff-sign-non-disclosure-agreements-report/436778002/

ACLU says NDA’s are unconstitutional.

https://www.salon.com/2018/3/19/aclu-donald-trumps-white-house-non-disclosure-agreements-unconstitutional/

Feel free to read the articles that interest you and to capture the “url” if you wish.

 

Any Trump Wednesday Another Nor’easter

 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Washington feels depressingly similar to the nor’easters arriving daily as lake effect on my back doorstep. The stuff piles up day after day burying us in snowy fallout we are quite sick of. It’s not a perfect metaphor because snow is occasionally beautiful. But the only beauty I have seen lately in Washington is those children against school terrorism, sitting silently for 17 minutes with their backs turned to the White House, the symbol of their government.

It’s not a perfect metaphor because the snow will eventually melt, but the heavy burdens of a country that is so wrong; the heavy weight of a nation that has a President who is wrong, will not melt away. It must be chipped away day by day, but it can’t be chipped away because it keeps getting thicker and heavier news cycle after news cycle, and, apparently, we don’t have the right tools for the job.

So on this Wednesday we say goodbye Rex Tillerson. You were a terrible Secretary of State but we will now be stuck with Mike Pompeo who will be an even worse Secretary of State. Our President, who could barely face children whose friends were gunned down in their American school because he is such a coward, tells South Korea that he will meet with Kim Jong-un who is truly quite frightening (he assassinates people). It is, however, highly unlikely that it will be possible to find a spot that is secure enough to suit the President, who talks as if he is brave, but who proves that he is not.

Goodbye Dodd-Frank, hello new financial and/or housing bubble. The banks can get away with anything. Wall Street can cook up new rip offs to tank the economy and line their own pockets. Hello almost new gun control laws, and goodbye to those same laws almost as soon as the grieving parents and children left the building.

Say goodbye to your pension Andrew McCabe, exiting the FBI after 21 years of service. It wasn’t enough to get you to retire early – you need to get shafted for all eternity, because fake Hillary stuff.

Goodbye House investigation into Russian intervention in our election and hello to newly sainted Trump who is not ever guilty of anything. Goodbye Stormy Daniels, even though Trump never signed the non-disclosure documents you may still not be able to disclose any incriminating evidence. You got screwed literally, you will get screwed again figuratively, and now we are getting screwed too because here is another crime that will never unseat a bad President.

Our President makes it look so easy to look very guilty, to actually commit a crime, and yet to walk away from it unscathed because he has learned to play the game so well. He inspires many Americans to try this too. No wonder this nation feels more like scam-merica than ever. Our phones ring all day long but we can’t answer them because we might be scammed. We are afraid that every time we go online we could lose our identity. Computer hacking has gotten to be so common that it may end the Tech Age. We’re afraid that even if our own computer is turned off some bad actor like Experian will fumble and expose our data (or sell it).

Goodbye James Schwab, spokesman for Homeland Security  who took issue with the things Jeff Sessions had to say about Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf – about recent deportation activities in California. He refused to issue false facts and when he could not get a new statement he quit his job. Hello Wall, he wants the transparent one, “We have to be able to see what’s happening on the other side.”

Someone tried to sell a decommissioned helicopter – oops – that was an NCIS rerun.

Goodbye to Sergei Skripal and Yulia, the ex-spy and his daughter killed with a chemical nerve agent in Salisbury, England. Our President was the last to accept that Putin was responsible and to offer lukewarm support for Theresa May.

Hello Conor Lamb, a Democrat in Pennsylvania in a district so gerrymandered to favor the GOP that the courts ordered that it be redrawn. Good for you, and may you be just the beginning of a blue tsunami. (Something positive crept in.)

Hello “Space Force”. I guess we will be weaponizing space before we even are able to go there.

We also learned this week that Trump and his followers may be in a state of “collective narcissism”. Yikes!

This is only one Wednesday in the Trump administration and I’m sure I missed a lot. I want this attack on our democracy to end but it will be some time before I get my wish. In fact the snows of winter will most likely have come and gone many times before our would-be dictator lets go of his hold over us and is finished with turning our lives upside-down. I am wishing for an end to the storms in Washington even more than I am wishing for Spring and I am in despair with waiting. Eight years of Obama was not nearly enough.

Goodbye Stephen Hawking, you deserve peace. You were a gift to all of us and we will remember you.

(I wrote this before I saw the Steven Colbert show last night, but our thoughts were obviously in sync.)

Media Takeover: Why Does Sinclair Want Local News

From PanAm Post

 

Our media is involved in a takeover, possibly by the Koch brothers and their Conservative web of organizations, or at least by Conservatives, and we are not paying enough attention to this. Last week one of the newscasters on my local TV station read this statement:

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media, more alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

Then the anchors are supposed to strike a more positive tone and say that their local station pursues the truth.

“We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”

This is exactly the type of irony that modern Conservatives seem to love. They claim that they are protecting you from the very thing they are doing to you. Fox News and other Conservative media have invented “fake” news and now they are warning you to protect yourself against it. But they are using their brain twisting propaganda, their sleight of mind, because they are actually the people who are pushing “fake stories without checking facts first.” Conservatives love to pretend that liberals are the guilty party and they use name calling and table turning to make their case. They are hoping that by the time they are done listeners will no longer know what is fact and what is “fake” and then they will be able to sell us any old thing, or idea, or “truth”.

It is probably a fair assumption to make that most listeners pretty much accept at face value anything they hear on the news, especially the local news, which until now has been fairly trustworthy. It is difficult to propagandize the weather, or the local police blotter, or local sports, although if someone wanted to they could probably do it. I just don’t think anyone ever gave it a thought before now. Very little time on local news channels is devoted to national or international news. Any national news story on a Sinclair station can now be assumed to have a Conservative or, more likely now, a Trumpian bias.

I don’t know about you, but when I was coming up we were taught to abhor state-mandated news and to see it as a warning that our democracy was turning into an authoritarian state. In fact, dictating what the media could or could not say was a key feature of authoritarian government. Russia was famous for going back to old news and changing it to match a current ideology. We used to smack our foreheads here in America, the land of the free, and wonder how people could be fooled by this. If they remembered what the story used to be how did they rewire their brain to accept the new version. Perhaps they didn’t do that, but knew that they had better pretend that they accepted whatever the state dished out. Authoritarian leaders rule by fear and that is why we watch carefully for any signs that our democracy might have been co-opted by a dictatorship.

Well here we are at this moment, with a leader who does not seem to believe that a democracy can foster strong leadership, a man who crosses his arms, strikes a pose, and says that he will be our strong leader, a man whose role models for strong leadership all head dictatorships. Here we are with a leader who uses fear to govern, although not necessarily fear of himself (yet). Here we are at this moment with a leader who is allowing Conservative media outlets to ignore FCC rules against one outlet owning too many stations, trashing our protections against a media takeover. Here we have this company, Sinclair Communication (Broadcasting) controlling more local stations than anyone has ever even wanted to own and still seeking a merger with Tribune Media which would allow them to control more local stations. Alarm bells should be going off all over the place, but this story is not considered “sexy” enough to get much play in media that is still “free”.

Why does Sinclair want all of these local stations if not to push out propaganda disguised as a local news, to hit people where they live? Doesn’t this frighten you? It frightens the hell out of me. It is often quite subtle though, now that Sinclair has learned not to slap us in the face with known Trump mouthpieces. It confuses listeners even more if they offer up some stories that almost seem like real news and then present us, once in a while, with something more key where a swerve to the right matters.

The last story I saw was about imposing a federal gas tax to pay for infrastructure. It sounded like a real story discussing the pros and cons of a 25 cent increase per gallon to be used for fixing roads and bridges. We have raised infrastructure money before with a gas tax. But oddly, at the end of the story, is a small commentary about what the Koch brothers have to say about this. Michelle Macaluso (a known newscaster for Sinclair) takes us, at light speed, through a chart showing how the gas tax would affect consumers at various tax brackets. The Koch brothers are opposed to putting a tax on gas. They could, in fact, be the actual authors of that pledge GOP lawmakers made to the organization Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Grover Norquist, the pledge that makes a very positive-sounding promise that taxes are never to be raised (be careful what you wish for). Why were the Koch brothers and their opinion even included in this local report of a national news story. Perhaps because the Koch brothers are deep in the middle of the current rush to acquire media outlets for Conservatives. Look for connections between Sinclair, Nexstar, Meredith and even the head of the FCC, Ajit Pai. If these folks have their way there will be a one party system in the media and in Washington, and America will be ruled by a single ideology, the Conservative Way.

Everyone who feels that our democracy is in mortal danger should be talking about this media takeover, tweeting about this, making memes about this, letting the FCC know that we are watching them. Given the number of old rules and norms being thrown on the trash heap everyday it is difficult to stay concerned about all of it. But when we are faced with unfettered capitalism, and runaway pollution and climate change, and the constant erosion of our rights we must add the assault on our free press (including all media) and continue to remind people of what news is real and what news is not, even if they don’t believe us.

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a19180102/sinclair-broadcasting-anti-media-propaganda/

https://theslot.jezebel.com/sure-sounds-like-sinclair-broadcasting-ju

https://www.mediaite.com/online/sinclair-broadcast-group-reportedly-forcing-its-anchors-to-tape-promos-blasting-media-so-manipulative/

http://variety.com/2018/tv/news/sinclair-tribune-merger-new-york-chicago-station-sale-1202716597/#utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=social_bar&utm_content=bottom&utm_id=1202716597 – Sinclair’s ‘Brazen’ Plan to Sell New York, Chicago Stations With Strings Attached Draws Criticism

 

Conservative Creep – Causes and Cures

From a Google image search – King Law Group

 

To Governor Cuomo and the people of New York State and America:

Why have Conservatives been able to gain such a strong foothold in Central NY?

Here are a couple of stories that might offer us a hint.

Two boys/young men (both 18) in Watertown, NY started a fire in a factory in that town and two firefighters were injured and sent to the hospital in Syracuse.

Scott J. Munson and John H. Long, both 18, were arrested Tuesday by the Watertown Police Department. They were charged with starting a fire that severely damaged a vacant building and caused a brick wall to fall on firefighters who were battling the blaze.

http://www.newyorkupstate.com/northern-ny/2018/02/teens_charged_with_starting_fire_that_injured_two_watertown_firefighters.html

These 18 years olds are no longer in school. What do they do all day? Of course the article did not say, however it looks like they do not have any constructive activities, and perhaps no plans for the future that will lead to any kind of enjoyable, productive lives. Right now they will probably be in jail for a while, which absolutely is not likely, statistically speaking, to lead to any positive outcomes. I am guessing these two did not love school. Did they ever get any help? Did anyone ever ask them what they would like to do and help make concrete plans so they could have a different future? I doubt it. By the time a counselor might have been available to talk with them they were most likely in high school and not open to discussions with adults who seemed to be in positions of authority. So two lives wasted, at least for a while, and these guys are not alone. Boys in the North Country (north of Syracuse, NY are often in the same state as these two when they leave school and girls seem to believe that their only opportunity is to marry someone a bit better off than these two. Fort Drum is nearby offering girls the “Officer and Gentleman” experience (if they are very lucky).

Here’s another recent news story from around Syracuse:

More than 40 school shooting, violence threats in Upstate NY since Parkland (list)

“Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, shooting threats at school across America have come into sharp focus.

In Upstate New York alone, there have been more than 40 incidents of reported or rumored threats of shootings, bombings, arson or other forms of violence against schools in the region and their students and staff. Some have resulted in arrests while others resulted in disciplinary action.”

“Shortly after the Parkland shooting, a wave of threats were made to school districts in Madison, Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe , Rensselaer, Cattaraugus, Erie and Delaware Counties within a few days. Threats were made both in person and on social media. Some were not deemed credible.”

http://www.newyorkupstate.com/news/2018/03/upstate_ny_school_threats_since_parkland_shooting.html

You can read the article, if you are interested in a description of each of the 40 incidents. Most of these children are between the ages of 12 and 15, although at least one suspect is 23. It may be that some of these young children just wanted to get out of school and did not understand what could happen to them, but in some cases weapons were found and threats seemed credible.

There are symptoms that we need to evaluate and remediate  (Causes)

What are we missing in our American towns, villages, and small cities? Why would so many children carry out threat calls or plan terrorist acts? It is a symptom that our society is not offering opportunity and security to our young people. How could it? Even adults don’t find much in the way of opportunity or creativity or productivity or security.

The popularity of Fox News in our Central NY communities is another symptom that people want answers. All evening and all weekend long Fox commentators tell the parents of these children that they know the answers, and they tell them that the Democrats ruined American society by forcing programs on the government such as Medicaid, Medicare, Welfare, Disability, Obamacare. The media on the right tells parents that those lefties are letting illegal immigrants stay in this country (although both parties share the guilt for an ineffective immigration system). They convince their listeners that Democrats are “bleeding hearts” (a Catholic symbol that people may actually have on their bedroom walls) and we are too concerned about human rights to take care of American rights. Fox News offers both answers and blame, making sure that the people know who to vote for if they vote at all.

These are not all good people and not all bad people. Many worked all their lives until the factories where they worked closed. Some lost their pensions. Most did not go to high school. They are friendly people who, for the most part, work/ed hard. They do not always encourage their children to do well in school however. They may not all be traditional parents who make dinners and cookies and keep up with the laundry and watch movies with their children, although in farm communities children still help their parents with farm work. But they, and their children, can see that opportunities are fewer, and jobs require fairly basic skills, and paychecks are unlikely to be big enough to cover expenses.

Conservatives make promises to these folks. We will bring factories back (now they say jobs). We will deport immigrants. We will stop giving government money to those who don’t deserve it (minorities) so there will be enough for you. We will make sure you can keep your guns (in case there is a revolution). They offer security.

They never say we will give more money to people who are already rich. They never say that if they replace healthcare with their own plan certain valuable factors will be lost such as coverage of pre-existing conditions, and no lifetime caps. Many of these folks are caregivers for elderly parents and children with disabilities.

Here are some numbers. Notice how much worse the stats are for younger people than they are for older people. These are 2018 numbers.

http://www.newyorkupstate.com/news/2018/02/upstate_ny_unemployment_rates_buffalo_syracuse_rochester_albany_ranked.html

#1 Rome

Total unemployment rate: 5.5%
Total labor force participation rate: 55%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 11.8%
20-24: 10.3%
25-29: 10.4%
30-34: 4.1%
35-44: 4.9%
45-54: 0.8%
55-59: 1.8%
60-64: 3.5%
65-74: 14%
75+: 5.4%

Eligible population: 26658

#6 North Tonawanda

Total unemployment rate: 7.9%
Total labor force participation rate: 66.3%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 26.8%
20-24: 9.2%
25-29: 10.1%
30-34: 6.3%
35-44: 7.4%
45-54: 4%
55-59: 8.8%
60-64: 2.3%
65-74: 11.5%
75+: 0%

Eligible population: 25942

#8 Watertown

Total unemployment rate: 9.2%
Total labor force participation rate: 65.2%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 30.1%
20-24: 10%
25-29: 4.9%
30-34: 6.4%
35-44: 8.2%
45-54: 16.2%
55-59: 7.9%
60-64: 1.1%
65-74: 1.9%
75+: 0%

Eligible population: 21146

#10 Auburn

Total unemployment rate: 9.7%
Total labor force participation rate: 57.3%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 28.1%
20-24: 18.1%
25-29: 16.4%
30-34: 9.7%
35-44: 4.1%
45-54: 7.1%
55-59: 2.9%
60-64: 5.4%
65-74: 1%
75+: 5.5%

Eligible population: 22331

#12 Buffalo

Total unemployment rate: 9.9%
Total labor force participation rate: 58.7%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 29.3%
20-24: 12.1%
25-29: 10.1%
30-34: 8.4%
35-44: 9%
45-54: 8%
55-59: 6.7%
60-64: 6.7%
65-74: 8.9%
75+: 5.5%

Eligible population: 206177

#15 Syracuse

Total unemployment rate: 10.7%
Total labor force participation rate: 56.7%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 34.6%
20-24: 13.2%
25-29: 8.5%
30-34: 8.6%
35-44: 10.5%
45-54: 8.6%
55-59: 5.9%
60-64: 6%
65-74: 3.5%
75+: 3.5%

Eligible population: 116091

#18 Utica

Total unemployment rate: 11.9%
Total labor force participation rate: 57.5%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 27.6%
20-24: 13.9%
25-29: 15.2%
30-34: 13.4%
35-44: 11.4%
45-54: 7.9%
55-59: 7.9%
60-64: 8%
65-74: 4.1%
75+: 4.8%

Eligible population: 47467

Implications:

It is hard to imagine what a young person feels when they live in a community which offers them so little. Kids with skills leave to take jobs in other geographic locations. Kids and young adults without money or training destroy their lives with opioids, or other illegal activities, or grind away at jobs that will never offer enough money to rise up or raise a family with any more hope than they currently have. No wonder people feel hopeless and do even terrible things to get noticed or try to get ahead. No wonder they listen to the same news shows that their parents listen to and come to believe that Republicans have the answers they seek, even though there is no proof that Republican ideas will even leave us with a workable society at all. They blame the recession on Obama, who could not have been responsible for that bad economy since he was not yet in office when the financial bubble broke.

What can we do to restore some balance? (Cures)

Our federal government is just about useless at the moment (I just cannot give Trump credit for the healthier economy yet or perhaps ever.) I will look to Albany to come up with ways to help our young people and reverse the trend of fairly radical conservative influences that are giving us representatives to the US House who are simply Republican rubber stamps or outright Trumpists. All the best solutions will involve approaches to education and training.

This will require spending money in areas of the state that do not provide the state treasury with a lot of money, and it will require bucking the demands of  wealthier downstate constituents, not to mention NY Republicans without losing the ability to get reelected. OK, that’s a pretty tall order. But if the programs that Central NY needs to discover the talents and train the children get a strong start, they will perhaps become more self-sustaining or, at least, less expensive. It will not be easy to convince neglected young people that these opportunities are real because so many programs fail. Find great people, design great programs and they will come. The way our young people’s lives are being wasted or constrained will be a constant drain on our state and our nation. Conservatives are not infiltrating the area to solve its problems. They are only here to exploit people’s discontent in order to get votes. Please get a committee working on some way to get us more balance between the left and the right in Central NY. Find us ways to save our young people. These people feel invisible.

Many of the towns and villages around Syracuse, NY are rural and many are set in the midst of beautiful landscapes. These places offer or could offer entertainments for people who enjoy activities in natural environments. It might be possible to boost the leisure industries in some of these areas without ruining the state of nature that makes them so attractive. Ecotourism, fishing businesses, hiking venues, more winter sports venues, boating activities, legal swimming locations, and the hotels that would be necessary to keep consumers who enjoy beautiful spots happy, would also provide employment for citizens in the area. If the left agrees to act, then people will, soon enough, see that the Conservatives are all talk, talk, talk (small government).

Edward: A Spy Story

Has anyone been wondering, as I have, whether Edward Snowden has anything to do with all of this Russia stuff? Did he offer advice to Russian troll farms? Did he have anything to do with the timing of the releases of WikiLeaks, the hacking at the DNC? Or is he living a quiet life as a Soviet apparatchik, birthing little Snowdens with his girl, living in his rather posh and unstimulating little Siberia à la Doctor Zhivago? I know you will say I have read too much fiction, and I do tend to romanticize things. But there is something about a good spy story that is very satisfying because it is an exercise in both adrenaline and intelligence. And I would still like to know what Edward has been up to.

The answers could be in this very interesting article from September 2017 in Spiegel Online (der Spiegel). This is a fascinating interview between Snowden and a German journalist. What follows are a few tidbits to stimulate your appetite. Is Snowden a spy or just interested in oversight of government spying activities? Is he an expert on intelligence dos and don’ts or is he playing his own game? This is the stuff of spies and it certainly interests me. Enjoy, if this is in your wheelhouse.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/edward-snowden-interview-there-is-still-hope-a-1166752.html

Snowden: My personal battle was not to burn down the NSA or the CIA. I even think they actually do have a useful role in society when they limit themselves to the truly important threats that we face and when they use their least intrusive means. We don’t drop atomic bombs on flies that land on the dinner table. Everybody gets this except intelligence agencies.

Snowden: Since summer 2013, the public has known what was until then forbidden knowledge. That the U.S. government can get everything out of your Gmail account and they don’t even need a warrant to do it if you are not an American but, say, a German. You are not allowed to discriminate between your citizens and other peoples’ citizens when we are talking about the balance of basic rights. But increasingly more countries, not only the U.S., are doing this. I wanted to give the public a chance to decide where the line should be.

DER SPIEGEL: So, what’s the difference between the BND and the NSA?

Snowden: The most important difference is budget. How much play money do they have to throw around the sandbox? That really dictates the sort of capabilities. But Germany has tremendous capabilities because it is so centrally located and you sit on so many favorable geographic points, like the internet nexus DE-CIX in Frankfurt. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. It doesn’t actually matter how bad you are, doesn’t matter how poor you are, if all you have to do is dip a glass in the barrel and you come up with a fish.

Snowden: It wasn’t that difficult. Everybody is currently pointing at the Russians.

DER SPIEGEL: Rightfully?

Snowden: I don’t know. They probably did hack the systems of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party, but we should have proof of that. In the case of the hacking attack on Sony, the FBI presented evidence that North Korea was behind it. In this case they didn’t, although I am convinced that they do have evidence. The question is why?

DER SPIEGEL: Do you have an answer?

Snowden: I think the NSA almost certainly saw who the intruders were. Why wouldn’t they? But I am also convinced that they saw a lot of other attackers on there, too. There were probably six or seven groups. The Democratic National Committee is a big target and apparently their security wasn’t very good. The DNC refused to provide these servers to the FBI, which is really weird. So, I think the reality here was it was narrative shaping about the Russians.

Snowden: I’m not. He doesn’t even have the moral fiber to say, “I think this person is a spy.” Instead, he says, “Whether Mr. Snowden is a Russian agent or not cannot be proven.” You can literally say this about anyone. I thought, and I would hope, that in an open society, we had moved beyond the days when these secret police agencies were basically denouncing their critics. I’m not even mad about it. I’m just disappointed.

DER SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, many people, also here in Germany, have wondered what kind of concessions you had to make to become Russia’s guest.

Snowden: I’m glad you ask because again, this sounds right, he is in Russia, so surely he had to give something up, right? But when you start looking at it, it falls apart. I don’t have any documents or access to documents. The journalists have them and this is why the Chinese or the Russians couldn’t threaten me when I crossed the border. I couldn’t have helped them, even if they had torn my fingernails off.

DER SPIEGEL: It is still hard to believe for many that the Russians would let you in just like that.

This is the most recent article I could find on the subject and it does not disappoint. The article offers far more comprehensive information than the bits I have given here. Does it answer my original question about Edward Snowden? Well I have to say that he seems genuine, but I am not totally convinced that Snowden stayed out of Russian intervention in the 2016 election. It doesn’t seem like something he would do voluntarily, given that his actions at the NSA and since seem to be based in the ethical issues raised by spying rather than any interest in actual spycraft. This is a spy story that will not be wrapped up until sometime in the future.

 

 

In Other News

Behind all the trending news of the week, the news that is so interesting and full of implications about the Trump White House (Hope Hicks is leaving, Jared has no security clearance, Trump v Congress and the NRA on guns, shades of the DACA summit) news which we love to speculate about – and behind the news today of the tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) –  there is plenty of other news about subjects I have been following that gets little coverage on television. Some great articles have been written recently on these topics.

First topic: Unions

The decision in front of the Supreme Court is about something called an agency fee which allows unions to charge fees in lieu of dues to non-members of the union (because  non-members also benefit from the wins unions get on behalf of employees). In this case the unions we are talking about are public employees unions, although there would be implications for all unions.

The opponents of the unions, mostly Conservatives, right-wingers, the Koch brothers, contend that they favor “right to work” laws, laws which get rid of the possibility of charging an agency fee to non-members. Right to work laws hurt unions and, in the long run, employees by robbing the unions of power, of funding, and of leverage. Right to work laws sound like they favor employees but they actually favor employers. This matter was argued in front of the Supreme Court on Monday, 2/26/2018.

An interesting article in The New York Times describes the matter as more heated than one would think. The lawyer presenting the case for the unions is a former colleague and friend of Neil Gorsuch, a member of the same law firm. That suggests some black-robed drama right there as they are believed to be on opposite sides in this case.

The Conservative Supremes accused unions of bringing cities to the brink of bankruptcy to which the unions responded that this is not the point of the case. But evidence of the Freedom Foundation and other right wing groups meddling in the business of the court suggests that the fix is in. If this doesn’t highlight the partisan nature of this Supreme Court then you are clearly blinded by you own political (right wing) bubble.

“Confronted with such briefs and articles, some judges might pull back and think twice about overturning a 40-year-old precedent for reasons so obviously grounded in policy rather than law. But if the effort was to shame the five justices who now hold the upper hand, I think it most likely backfired. The voice that came through to me was one that said: “Oh, yeah? Save your breath. We’ve got the votes and — in case you’ve forgotten — life tenure besides.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/opinion/supreme-court-labor-unions.html

Second Topic: Sinclair Broadcasting – Conservative creep

Sinclair Communications/Broadcasting is still pursuing its merger with Tribune Media even though this puts them over the current limit of  ownership as set by the FCC.

The FCC admits that they are custom-building their policy for Sinclair as we are told in this article from The Daily Beast.

http://thebea.st/2CIv4LZ

But Variety calls out Sinclair’s proposed scam of selling off the media outlets which put it over the FCC limit but signing management agreements with those same outlets so as to maintain control over those markets. If the FCC is forced to stick to existing rules Sinclair has strategies they hope will make their merger happen anyway.

http://variety.com/2018/politics/news/newsmax-sinclair-broadcast-group-fcc-1202713846/

“Newsmax, the conservative news outlet, says Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plans for station sales are a “sham” to gain FCC approval for its proposed   acquisition of Tribune Media.”

Third Topic : Changes at the New York Times

The New York Times has made editorial changes which have created “an op-ed crisis.” NYT was reliably left-leaning and moderate – but after the 2016 election the op-ed section has turned more activist, as have most readers on the left. James Bennet seems to be unhappy with that slant and is trying to introduce “balance”, which means more right wing input, and he is also moving to give new authors coverage, but the new authors he is choosing do not please the traditional NYT reader. The right wing, which has its own 24/7 television channel and plenty of talk radio coverage has been whining about unfair coverage by mainstream media. It is my contention that if the right said anything that could be mistaken for good policy then they would not have to whine and tattle. I am thinking about switching my subscription to the Washington Post.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/new-york-times-op-ed-crisis-james-bennet

Fourth Topic: Deportation

ICE and the mayor of Oakland, California are involved in a conflict over deportations because she keeps warning residents about upcoming deportations.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-oakland-mayor-ice-20180228-story.html

150 to be deported in California is a story reported in the UK press.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5444129/ICE-arrests-150-illegal-immigrants-California.html

From Syracuse, NY, another sanctuary city, we have more news about deportation.

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2018/02/once_tolerated_now_targeted_illegal_immigrants_in_cny_caught_in_crackdown.html

This article asks what happens to family members left behind after deportations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/opinion/american-families-immigrants-deportation.html

Fifth Topic: New Study on Segregation (and it is not good news)

A new study shows that segregation and inequality are worse, and makes the argument that these issues will not be solved by privatization. This article includes excellent graphs and charts.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/28/opinion/the-unmet-promise-of-equality.html

Sixth Topic: Climate Change

The New York Times adds to its Climate Change series with another article headed by a spectacular video showing permanent changes on the Louisiana Delta caused by rising seas.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/24/us/jean-lafitte-floodwaters.html

Seventh Topic: Conspiracy Theories (How they go mainstream)

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/01/how-right-wing-conspiracy-theories-grow-mainstream-pundits-give-them-power/

 

I could go on but I won’t. Clearly there are stories about the White House and then there are the other news stories that describe the aftereffects of what goes on in the White House and Congress. Keeping an eye on how Conservative policies are working is a must if we someday hope to overturn these policies.