Wednesday, November 30, 2016



                                TRUMP’S BILLIONAIRES CLUB

Ah yes, that great champion of the common man, billionaire mogul Donald Trump, whose foul mouth got him the Presidency, “cause he tells it like it is,” has surrounded himself with billionaires on his transition team.  Latest is Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and Facebook board member.  He joins Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital, Rebekah Mercer, hedge fund heiress and 3 other billionaires.

Hey, a billionaire feels comfortable around fellow billionaires! 
And the cabinet appointments!  Remember The Donald He railed against Wall Street, accusing it of having caused “tremendous problems for us” and vowing to stop it from ”getting away with murder.”

Well, The latest vulture capitalists to be nominated for cabinet posts are billionaire Wilbur Ross, for secretary of commerece,  who has made a fortune cobbling together dying companies Ross and is the chairman of the private equity firm WL Ross & Co. and for Treasurer Secretary, Steven Mnuchin,  a former partner at Goldman Sachs turned Hollywood producer who still has deep ties to Wall Street.

Another billionaire, Betsy DeVos, is his pick for education secretary. 

Other picks, while not billionaires, want to dismantle the EPA, privatize Social Security, repeal Obamacare, cut back on Medicare and Medicaid benefits, reigning in regulations on wall street and corporations. Perhaps, most horribly, regulations on carbon pollution should be severly cut back they say. It is a reactionaries dream team. 

As William D. Cohan has written in Vanity Fair, “The biggest mystery underlying the Trump phenomenon has been why more than 62 million Americans, many of whom have legitimate beefs about the newfangled digital economy, decided to vote for a billionaire who surrounds himself with other billionaires—many of whom profited off the same factors that undergirded their misery. Why in the world did they ever think that a billionaire reality-TV star who lives in a pink-marble mausoleum high above Fifth Avenue, has mansions in Palm Beach, Florida, and Bedford, New York, and flies around the country on his own private 757 would ever care one whit about them?” 


Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Trumping The New YorkTimes FROM BILL MOYERS BLOG

Fear and servility in midtown Manhattan.

President-elect Donald Trump waves to the crowd after leaving a meeting at The New York Times on Nov. 22. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

We have plunged into an emergency, and one reason is that journalists who are supposed to supply a picture of the world failed to do so. Not the only reason, but one reason, which is enough to prompt serious rumination.
wrote last week about journalists searching their souls, trying to figure out what they did wrong in this appalling campaign. Like the rest of us — nobody deserves a free pass in an endangered world — they’re obliged to think deeply about what to do better. Is it too impossibly high-minded and do-goody to insist that their reason for being is to offer the American people what they need to know in order to better choose their course? If that is in fact their mission, they have failed abjectly.

Almost half of the voters have just chosen to be led by a profoundly disturbed ignoramus who refuses to understand he has obligations to Americans who are not members of his family. For journalists who persist in believing their leaders are chosen intelligently, the crisis is apparent and urgent. But the so-called learning curve is getting an appallingly sluggish start. Journalists who should know better are busy complaining about their lack of access to the bullshitter-in-chief, as if access were the golden road to truth and not, often at least, a shortcut over a cliff.
According to the conventions of journalism, access is fundamental. But access runs two ways. Access to “newsmakers” can be purchased with what is known in professional parlance as “beat sweeteners” — softball stories and non-threatening meetings that allow sources access to the journalists who cover them, and by extension, to the public. But these are not ordinary times. While journalists persist in playing by old rules, the president-elect has a different plan. Nor is Donald Trump an unknown quantity. By now it should be painfully evident how he rewards sycophants — with a slap across the face.
For evidence, reader, please peruse the transcript of Trump’s on-again, off-again, back-on again meeting in a New York Times conference room last week. Read the whole thing. It’s not that long. Then consider the Times headline the next day: “Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions.” The lede: “President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday tempered some of his most extreme campaign promises, dropping his vow to jail Hillary Clinton, expressing doubt about the value of torturing terrorism suspects and pledging to have an open mind about climate change.”
Nothing to worry about, then.
Other news organizations followed suit. “Trump brushed aside his campaign promises to jail Hillary Clinton … and denounced the neo-Nazi movement that is celebrating his victory,” CNN trumpeted, and followed with a subhead: “A new view on climate change?” Neither the Times gaggle nor CNN noted that Trump’s chief environmental adviser is an unregenerate paid-for fossil-fuel-happy hack. Trump did not use the “neo-Nazi” label — which would have been accurate — and insisted his campaign chief and very-far-right-hand man Steve Bannon’s Breitbart “News” is a “news organization” — and then came the man’s supreme compliment, “very successful,” later downgraded for no earthly reason to “pretty successful.”

It was Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet who asked Trump about the “alt-right” (read: neo-Nazi) “Hail Trump” rally that had just taken place in Washington. “First of all,” Trump said, “I don’t want to energize [racists.] I’m not looking to energize them. I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group.” And now the whiplash again: “Then, again, I don’t know if it’s reporting or whatever.” What the last sentence appears to mean is that Trump reserves the right to withdraw his vague “disavowal” if he and his lying legions later maintain that the reporting of Nazi salutes, etc., was a distortion perpetrated by the “liberal media.” Trump added: “If they are energized I want to look into it and find out why.” This is supposed to be reassuring. The Timesmen and -women did nothing to break the spell. Among the follow-up questions they did not ask: “You’re not sure they’re energized? Have you heard of the hate crimes? When will you report to us on what your researchers turn up?”
Trump practices the dark art of the perfunctory reassurance and gets rewarded with passing grades: He “moderates” and is “tempered.” He teases one executive (“is he a tough boss?”) and compliments another (“very powerful man”). The article, as opposed to the transcript, gives the strongman an unearned gift: a veneer of coherence. Is this a moment to break into laughter or screaming or crying — this spectacle of bad cop Trump sending good cop Trump out to meet with journalists whom he has described as “sleaze,” and presto! emerging  as a moderate who solicits the good opinion of Thomas Friedman.
I think I’ve been treated very rough…


When journalists sit down at a table with a man so fundamentally ignorant, self-seeking, unscrupulous and unreliable, a man who, when he doesn’t lie, characteristically emits bullshit — the now academically canonized term for propositions whose truth or falsity he doesn’t know or care to know — is it not evident that they must gird themselves at the first sign of flattery, to realize that his mission is to play them, to keep them off-balance?
Here were his first words to the Times group: “Well, I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.” And then the lightning, bipolar pivot: “I think I’ve been treated very rough….”
“Failed” is one of Trump’s favorite adjectives for The Times. In his wholly amoral universe, “failed” is tantamount to “evil.”
And there was Friedman, sucking up to the billionaire by crooning about the splendor of his world-wonders on the way to asking about socially caused climate change, the existence of which Trump has frequently denied. This was not only shoddy questioning, it was a confession of weakness, which matters hugely, since the only human qualities that register in Trump World are strength and weakness. When you genuflect to the majesty of the man’s Pharaonic achievements, you show weakness, and so he proceeds to bullshit you. Thus on climate change: “I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change. You don’t tend to hear this, but there are people on the other side of that issue….I have a very open mind.”
Friedman’s response was a whimper: “But you have an open mind on this?” I suppose that is called nailing down news. It should be called: Giving Trump a gift by putting words in his mouth.
Trump was happy to play along: “I do have an open mind.” Instantly then, he switched the subject back to one of the science-deniers’ go-to canards: “And we’ve had storms always,” whereupon he lurched farther into ignorance and irrelevancy: “You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind.” The man does not know the difference between climate and weather. Was Friedman off-duty?
This is not an open mind; this is a sieve mind linked to a bank account.
Next, El Caudillo de Mar-a-Lago was off to a riff about “clean air” and “crystal clean water” and “safety.” He was an inch away from a reprise of Gen. Jack D. Ripper’s memorable, Strangelovian warning against the Communist conspiracy “to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” But not this time. His next lurch was to the “environmental awards” he’s received for his “very successful” golf courses. And there was this, on golf courses: “Some will be even better [as the sea level rises] because actually like [his Miami property] Doral is a little bit off … so it’ll be perfect….The ones that are near the water will be gone, but Doral will be in great shape.”
This is not an open mind, this is a sieve mind linked to a bank account.

Trump’s Doral gambit was reminiscent of his declaration after the June Brexit vote that his Scottish golf course, Turnberry, was now well-positioned to cash in on others’ misfortune: “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly. For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be a positive.” Friedman did not refer to Trump’s Turnberry Declaration. But not to leave any sycophantic note unsounded or untouched, he bade farewell with this penetrating observation: “I came here thinking you’d be awed and overwhelmed by this job, but I feel like you are getting very comfortable with it.” A few days later, the man whom Thomas Friedman found “very comfortable” let the world know, without a shred of evidence, that “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
How much more of this garbage must spew from Trump Tower before one of our crucial newspapers — one that Trump himself, in full-on ingratiation mode, termed “a world jewel” — calls a halt to tiptoeing around? I cannot help but think that this is more than a tactic to earn access; it is abject servility. It is, as Trump might put it, a show of pathetic weakness. At this late date, do the standard-bearers of “neither fear nor favor” fear that a shortfall in deference will inspire some Trump hack or Breitbart clone to denounce them as “biased”? Are they capable of embarrassment? Have they no shame?


Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph.D. program in communications at Columbia University. He is the author of 16 books, including several on journalism and politics. His next book is a novel, The Opposition. Follow him on Twitter: @toddgitlin.


Cops Are Watching Your Facebook Feed  FROM BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE

November 21, 2016

Cross-posted from The Nation.
On November 8, more than 130 million Americans turned out to cast their ballots in the presidential election. While a presidential election is a critical moment in a democracy, democracy is a year-round endeavor, not just a quadrennial experiment. And a well-functioning democracy requires transparency about the government’s operations, especially law enforcement. That increasingly means transparency around the use of social media.
Last week, the Brennan Center for Justice released a map showing that 151 police departments, cities, and counties across the country have collectively spent millions of dollars on software enabling them to monitor activity on social media—a number that almost certainly understates both the number of jurisdictions and the amounts expended. These tools allow agencies to mine social media posts for individuals’ location and other data; Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram even supplied special data feeds to companies that allowed law enforcement to track protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
According to the Brennan Center’s research, big spenders include the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which spent nearly $200,000 over two and a half years; the County of Los Angeles, which also spent close to $200,000 over three years; and Harris County, Texas, which spent over $150,000 in the same number of years. Only a small fraction of the jurisdictions surveyed have publicly-available policies on how to use social media to monitor civilians.
The new revelations are not surprising. In a recent survey conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, over half of the responding law enforcement agencies reported that they used social media for “listening/monitoring,” and three-quarters for “intelligence.” On the federal side, the Department of Homeland Security, which already monitors social media domestically, recently floated a vague and illconceived proposal to request “social media identifiers” from twenty million travelers per year.
One might ask: who cares? Why does it matter if police detectives or intelligence agents look at what you do on social media, when any other member of the public could do the same thing?
First, what law enforcement and intelligence agencies can do with social media monitoring software often bears little resemblance to what members of the public can do on social media platforms. To be sure, officers may follow individual suspects online—but they can also use powerful proprietary software that purports to leverage “big data” to predict threats before they happen. Whether or not these services work (and do so non-discriminatorily) is a major question—either way, it is far different from the one-on-one eavesdropping that characterizes most public use of social media.
In addition, most people sharing information with their friends don’t fathom that their data is being shared with law enforcement as well. In a Pew Research Center poll, over 90 percent of American adults surveyed said that it was important to be able to control who saw information about them—that is, privacy should not require total secrecy.

As any 15 year old knows, social media is also highly context-dependent. A journalist on the national security beat may follow a suspected terrorist for her reporting—but how will an automated software program, or an intelligence agency, know that the journalist doesn’t subscribe to the terrorist’s message? The situation is even more fraught for adolescents in areas with gangs, who might need to “like” a picture to keep themselves out of trouble with neighborhood gang members but simultaneously get into trouble with law enforcement; one teen spent nineteen months in Rikers Island for appearing in pictures with “crew” members and liking their Facebook posts.
In light of these developments, citizens must demand that elected leaders and police departments be transparent about the social media monitoring services they use, the taxpayer money spent on them, and what they do with the data they produce. They should also demand that both the tools and their use be regularly evaluated to ensure that they are not being used discriminatorily or to target political dissidents. This sunshine is critical to ensuring that their use is in line with community and constitutional values. 


Trump’s Chief Strategist Suggested Taking Right To Vote Away From Minorities THE RING OF FIRE 

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, once suggested that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strip African Americans of their right to vote. Welcome back to the 1700’s, America.
Transcription of the above video:
A woman by the name of Julia Jones, who cowrote a documentary about Ronald Reagan called In the Face of Evil with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist at this point, has come out publicly and said that at one point Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist said that, ‘You know what? Might not be a bad idea to limit the voting rights of black people in the United States.’ Now, we’ve talked in the past about the racist, anti-Semitic, sexist tendencies of Steve Bannon, but this one goes even further, because this is something that with his new position of power he might be able to pull off. He wanted to limit access to voting for people in the United States based on their race. Steve Bannon wants to take us back to the 1700s and halfway through the 1800s. He wants to take away the right to vote from black people. That is not an overstatement. That is what Julia Jones, who cowrote this documentary with him, has said.
Look, we are past the election. Donald Trump won. He’s picking all these racist and just this basket of deplorables to run his administration, and Steve Bannon, right there on the top, probably the worst of the bunch, has a direct line right into Donald Trump. Donald Trump doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. Steve Bannon does, so when Steve Bannon says, “Hey Trump, do this,” Trump will do it. That’s what is so terrifying about this. I mean, it is very likely that we could be seeing some sort of curtailing of the right to vote in the United States, especially with these recount efforts. Donald Trump is getting pissed off about those. He’s claiming undocumented immigrants are voting for Hillary Clinton. We are so close to seeing the reversal of 150 plus years of voting rights advances under the Trump administration. The only thing that’s going to serve to do is give Donald Trump another term, keep the Republicans in control of the House and Senate.
Steve Bannon wants to take away the right to vote from black people, and I cannot say that enough, because that is a terrifying thought, and this man actually suggested that, thinks it’s not that bad of an idea. Again, that will only serve to keep Republicans in power indefinitely, because a Democrat won’t get elected without minority voters, and so they’ll never be able to overturn whatever damage Donald Trump does if we keep perpetuating the Republican cycle. We are at a point in our democracy, a point in the United States’ history, the present I guess, where we have to fight back. We have to stop this madness. We have to stop this madman and his basket of deplorables from turning our country into what it was 300 years ago. Nobody wants to go back to that.
Republicans, some of them obviously do. They don’t want black people to vote. They don’t want women to vote. They don’t want anybody coming into the United States, even though that’s pretty much how the United States became the United States. They just want it to be white guys, rich, wealthy, white guys who kind of own the rest of us. That’s what the Trump administration is already trying to put us back to, and they haven’t even taken office yet. Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, suggested that it’s not a bad idea to take away the right to vote from black people. I want everybody watching this to tell someone that sentence today. Tell them to go tell someone else. It is true, and this is a man who is about to have a huge position of power in Washington DC.