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Member since: Thu May 7, 2009, 11:59 PM
Number of posts: 16,371

Journal Archives

Lincoln's 1860 quote summarizes Trump's position:

You know how Trump blames Democrats the way Southerners blamed people who voted for Lincoln for their decision to secede:

A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, 'Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!'"

Lincoln 1860

Don't Be Fooled: How to Spot a Russian Bot on Social Media

Interesting and timely article as we head into the 2018 elections. Ever notice how threads that attack Democrats virtually get pinned to the top of social media with numerous kicks and one line posts expressing agreement with headings like:

Why don't the Democrats have a plan?
(Insert name of Democrats) is a corporate loving, neo-liberal.
Sad, but true!
I really wish Democrats would fight trump harder.
I hear ya and thank you.

The thread itself would also have a crazy amount of recs in a very short period of time. Well, perhaps those anti-Dem social media posts, with hundreds of one line kicks and numerous records is not by being promoted by real Democrats.


How sure are you that the person you’re passionately “debating” with online is a real, breathing person? How do you know whether they’re just another impassioned supporter of whatever topic and not someone with government (or other) backing?

* * *
Let’s start by differentiating bots and shills.

Bot: A bot is a fake social media account under the control of an organization or government seeking to influence the online community. For instance, a Twitter bot set to retweet certain hashtags and phrases in such volumes that it amplifies the specific topic. Another example is Reddit bots downvoting views disagreeing with the bot controller opinion (while upvoting those that do agree). Bots require volume for success on certain platforms, while at other times only a few can begin to shape the direction of a conversation.

Shill: A shill is different. Shills are real people actively engaging in the shaping of online (in this instance) discussion and opinion—while receiving payment in exchange for their presence. Shills promote companies, governments, public figures, and much more, for personal profit, essentially engaging in propaganda.

Depending on the organization or government, shills can work in conjunction with large bot networks to create intense vocal online movements. And while the combined efforts of shills and bots shape online opinion, these efforts are increasingly affecting more than just social media users.

Democrats Should Ignore Trump/Bernie on Trade. Look to FDR, Not Hoover

I always wonder how did the idea of protectionist trade policies become associated with left? We often hear that Democrats need to look to FDR to regain power. However, what about trade? One the key things FDR did was to reverse the protectionist trade policies of Herbert Hoover. Can you imagine if you had Bernie/Trump type supports back in the day attacking such free trade agreements?


A far more significant indication of the strength of protectionist sentiment can be seen in the broad bipartisan support for Tuesday’s legislation aimed at punishing China for currency manipulation. Both Republican Senator Jeff Sessions and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, for example, have emerged as key champions of the bill. But other Republicans and Democrats have expressed strong reservations about the measure, noting that one possible outcome of the bill might be a trade war with China. In a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Senator Robert Corker even went so far as to liken the bill with the passage of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which he argued resulted in a “deeper depression and a decade of increased joblessness.”

Corker’s reference to damage wrought by Smoot-Hawley is accurate. The passage of Smoot-Hawley did indeed touch off strong counter-measures among our trading partners, leading to the establishment — among other things — of the 1932 British system of Imperial Preference, which allowed goods within the British Empire to be traded with little or no tariff restriction, locking out American goods and commodities and in the process weakening the U.S. economy. What is missing from Senator Corker’s warning is any reference to the tremendous effort that emerged during the Roosevelt administration to do away with protectionism; an effort that would ultimately not only break down the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, but which would also pave the way for the creation of the multilateral global economy we live in today.

The driving force behind this effort was FDR’s Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, who considered the passage of Smoot-Hawley an unmitigated disaster. Hull had been arguing in favor of freer trade for decades, both as a Democratic congressman and later senator from Tennessee. Given the long-standing protectionist tendencies of Congress — which reached their zenith with the passage of Smoot-Hawley, the highest tariff in U.S. history — Hull faced an uphill struggle to accomplish this task. He also had to overcome FDR’s initial reluctance to embrace his ideas, as the president preferred the policies of the “economic nationalists” within his administration during his first year in office. By 1934, however, FDR’s attitude began to change, and in March of that year the president threw his support behind Hull’s proposed Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act — a landmark piece of legislation that fundamentally altered the way in which the United States carried out foreign economic policy.

Convinced that the country was not ready for a truly multilateral approach to freer trade, Hull’s legislation sought to establish a system of bilateral agreements through which the United States would seek reciprocal reductions in the duties imposed on specific commodities with other interested governments. These reductions would then be generalized by the application of the most-favored-nation principle, with the result that the reduction accorded to a commodity from one country would then be accorded to the same commodity when imported from other countries. Well aware of the lingering resistance to tariff reduction that remained in Congress, Hull insisted that the power to make these agreements must rest with the president alone, without the necessity of submitting them to the Senate for approval. Under the act, the president would be granted the power to decrease or increase existing rates by as much as 50 percent in return for reciprocal trade concessions granted by the other country.

The 1934 Act granted the president this authority for three years, but it was renewed in 1937 and 1940, and over the course of this period the United States negotiated 22 reciprocal trade agreements. Of these, the two most consequential were the agreements with Canada, signed in 1935, and Great Britain, signed in 1938, in part because they signaled a move away from Imperial Preference and hence protectionism, and in part because they were regarded as indicative of growing solidarity among the Atlantic powers on the eve of the Second World War. It is also important to note that Hull, like many of his contemporaries, including FDR, regarded protectionism as antithetical to the average worker — first, because in Hull’s view high tariffs shifted the burden of financing the government from the rich to the poor, and secondly, because Hull believed that high tariffs concentrated wealth in the hands of the industrial elite, who, as a consequence, wielded an undue or even corrupting influence in Washington. As such, both FDR and Hull saw the opening up of the world’s economy as a positive measure that would help alleviate global poverty, improve the lives of workers, reduce tensions among nations, and help usher in a new age of peace and prosperity. Indeed, by the time the U.S. entered the war, this conviction had intensified to the point where the two men concluded that the root cause of the war was economic depravity.

Why shouldn't the gun industry be liable for damage done by its products? Calling All Progressives!

On the day of the March for Life it is important to note a key moment when members of Congress did not merely fail to take action to pass gun control laws, but when they actively conspired with gun makers to immunize them from damages and suits that result from their products. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is a United States law which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. Gun makers are making a killing when it comes to profits and the promotion of gun culture. Shouldn't they be held responsible for the damages that flow from their efforts to market and distribute such dangerous products?

Right wingers always talk about responsibility. Well, lets start holding politicians accountable for holding gun makers responsible, rather than coddling them. Here is a great article by noted legal scholar Erwin Cherminsky, the Dean of UC Berkeley Law School:


It is time to stop giving the gun industry special protections that are not accorded to other businesses. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which prevents gun companies from being sued by the victims of gun violence.

The NRA got it right when it called this “the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years.” No other industry enjoys this special treatment.

The massacre in Las Vegas occurred because gun companies make semi-automatic weapons that are easily converted into automatic weapons that can kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time. Gun manufacturers take automatic military weapons like the M-16 and modify them into legal, semi-automatic weapons, like the AR-15. They can be turned back into automatic weapons, through bump stocks or other techniques that are described on many websites. Ammunition magazines with large capacity are manufactured that serve no purpose for hunting or sport.

If gun companies could be held liable the way all other manufacturers can be sued, they would not make such products or they would do far more to ensure the weapons could not be used for mass killings. But the 2005 Act dismissed all pending claims against gun manufacturers in both federal and state courts and preempted all future claims.


Sandy Hook Families Are Still Fighting

As survivors of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High demand answers from pro-gun politicians across Florida and the country, the families forever connected to a similarly infamous school up North are still waiting for a chance at justice. A little over three years ago, several relatives of victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against AR-15 manufacturer Bushmaster—the parent company of which is Remington—seeking both monetary and punitive damages, as well attorney's fees and injunctive relief. At at the time, the suit seemed extremely unlikely to go forward because of a federal law protecting dealers and manufacturers from liability over gun deaths. But in a remarkable move, a judge said more than a year later that discovery could proceed, and even set a tentative trial date of April 3, 2018.

The families hit another roadblock when the same judge dismissed the suit in the fall of 2016. But the plaintiffs kicked the case up to the Connecticut Supreme Court on appeal, where a panel of judges are still waiting to decide if a creative legal argument might get the claim around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA.)

Basically, the lawyers for the families have tried to claim two exceptions to that law. One is that the sale of the AR-15 to shooter Adam Lanza's mom violated a state law; the second has to do with how the gun has been advertised. Although the judges could decide whether the exceptions are valid at any time, Remington recently announced it was planning to file for bankruptcy, adding another wrinkle to an already-strange legal saga.

One Week of Trump Scandals Puts 8 Years of Obama/Clinton "Scandals" to Shame

What were the four biggest "scandals" that Republicans complained about during the 8 years of President Obama's presidency?

1. Fast and Furious - A Justice Department sting operation that allowed illegal gun sales in order to track the sellers and purchasers, who were believed to be connected to Mexican drug cartels. Some guns were subsequently used in crimes.
2. Bengazi - Following protests due to an anti-Muslim video, an attack on a US diplomatic compound in Bengazi Libya lead to the death of U.S. personnel.
3. Clinton's E-mail Server - Hillary Clinton was discovered to have conducted official State Department business on a private e-mail server.
4. Clinton Foundation - Hillary Clinton's charitable foundation received donations from foreign donors, which Republicans alleged was tied to diplomatic favors.

Now, each week, the Trump administration officials engage in public business using private Trump assets and e-mail accounts. Trump's twitter account is treated as both an expression of federal policy, yet Trump frequently blocks critical comments. Members of the Trump family such as Kushner still use private e-mails accounts when conducting diplomatic business with impunity.


The Trump foundation has been used to launder political donations and bribes to Republican candidates. Likewise, Trump campaign contributions are often paid toward private Trump businesses.

Trump Foundation admits to violating ban on ‘self-dealing,’ new filing to IRS shows


As to Fast and Furious and Bengazi, Trump has already repeatedly thrown his military under the bus for botched operations. Likewise, Syria is an ongoing fiasco.



Finally, the above ignores the daily efforts to obstruct justice and subvert the DOJ and ICE into Trump's personal security force to pursue political vendettas, as well as the rampant use of taxpayer dollars for private and personal luxuries by his cabinet secretaries.

In short, in almost every week during the Trump presidency, he manages to exceed 8 years of so-called "scandals" under the Obama administration with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

WaPo - At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals.

This is a fascinating article and study that sheds some light on why Republicans run campaigns heavily based on fear and scapegoating.


When my daughter was growing up, she often wanted to rush off to do fun things with her friends — get into the water at the beach, ride off on her bike — without taking the proper safety precautions first. I’d have to stop her in her tracks to first put on the sunscreen, or her bike helmet and knee pads, with her standing there impatiently. “Safety first, fun second,” was my mantra.

Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect. For example, over a decade now of research in political psychology consistently shows that how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor — although clearly not the only one — in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes.

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.

Until we did.

In a new study to appear in a forthcoming issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology, my colleagues Jaime Napier, Julie Huang and Andy Vonasch and I asked 300 U.S. residents in an online survey their opinions on several contemporary issues such as gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration, as well as social change in general. The group was two-thirds female, about three-quarters white, with an average age of 35. Thirty-percent of the participants self-identified as Republican, and the rest as Democrat.

Trump Imposed Tariffs In Response to Pressure From Bernie Sanders and His Army of Supporters

Today, Trump announced the imposition of tariffs on steel imports, which is a move that Bernie Sanders has long championed.


Along with NAFTA, Sanders said he also would rewrite CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, and the Korean Free Trade Agreement.

He didn’t specify what changes he would make but said U.S. workers shouldn't be forced to compete against people making “pennies an hour.” He also criticized deals that lead corporations to move to countries such as China where there are “virtually no environmental standards” compared to the U.S.

“That is not fair competition,” he said.

His campaign says Sanders also would impose countervailing tariffs on imports from China and Japan “until they stop dumping steel into the United States and stop manipulating their currencies.”

In addition, Bernie has been keeping pressure on Trump to not stop with tearing up TPP, but to also tear up NAFTA, which Trump still has yet to do. Bernie Sanders should call attention to this that Trump is simply stealing from Bernie's playbook, so that when economic exceeds 3% as Bernie predicted under his policies, Bernie gets the credit.


Bernie Sanders Tells Trump to Keep His Promise on Nafta

President Donald Trump is finding an unlikely ally in his efforts to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement: the political left.

Civil-society groups, union leaders and left-wing politicians have opposed almost everything Trump has done. But they’re urging him to stand firm in his attempt to overhaul Nafta -- and face down opposition from business groups, who complain that U.S. companies will be hurt by the proposed changes. Mexico and Canada have called U.S. demands unworkable, including on regional-content requirements for cars and investor-state dispute systems.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an outspoken critic of trade deals in his campaign for president last year, called on Trump to deliver. “When Donald Trump campaigned for president, he promised that he was going to stop corporations from shifting American jobs to Mexico,” Sanders said Wednesday at a rally for the #ReplaceNafta movement in Washington. “For once in your life, keep your promises.”

AlterNet - Could Republicans Just Cancel the Midterm Elections?

Lets say Trump gets his wish and starts a war with a convenient adversary whether it be North Korea or Iran. Lets say Trump then fire Jeff Sessions and picks an AG who is more than happy to go after Trump's political adversaries. Could our Democracy be saved if these two events and Republicans in Congress just go along for the ride by doing nothing?


In his 2017 New York Times bestselling book "On Tyranny," Yale historian Timothy Snyder warned that the American people only had one year to stop Donald Trump from causing serious and perhaps irreversible harm to our democracy, as well as other social and political institutions.

Snyder's concerns were centered on how the rule of law, reality and truth, civil and human rights, and the ways Americans interact with each other as members of a shared community would come under assault by Trump and his allies' agenda. He also sounded the alarm about the possibility that the Trump administration could stage its own version of Nazi Germany's "Reichstag fire" as a way of declaring a national emergency in order to consolidate power.

* * *
When Trump was elected you said America had roughly one year before the country's democracy was irrevocably damaged. You were also concerned that Trump and his allies would stage some type of "Reichstag fire," a staged event that would permit them to expand their control. Where are we with those predictions?

My allusion to the Reichstag fire was meant to be a self-defeating prophecy. I was trying from the very beginning to get that idea out there in order to make it less likely. I think that conversation has now gone well beyond me. I am happy that plenty of other folks have now raised it. My new concern is that there will be something that happens around the time of the midterms. This will allow Trump and his allies to say that the midterms don't really count or that we have to have the midterms under exceptional conditions. Take note of how Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said that the Russians are going to hack the 2018 election and we really can't do anything about it.

I'm starting to wonder whether the idea might be to discredit the election and use Russian interference as a pretext to say that the elections aren't real and therefore we must not have any turnover. It is odd otherwise for Tillerson to say, "Yes, there is Russian interference, but no, we can't do anything about it." It's one thing to say it's not real. It's another thing to say it's real, but hey, you know, what the hell? That is basically Tillerson's position, as I understood him.

Right-Wing Media Uses Parkland Shooting as Conspiracy Fodder

Source: MSN/NY Times

The teenagers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who a week ago lost 17 of their classmates and school staff members in a mass shooting, have emerged as passionate advocates for reform, speaking openly of their anger in the hope of forcing a reckoning on guns.

But in certain right-wing corners of the web — and, increasingly, from more mainstream voices like Rush Limbaugh and a commentator on CNN — the students are being portrayed not as grief-ridden survivors but as pawns and conspiracists intent on exploiting a tragedy to undermine the nation’s laws.

In these baseless accounts, which by Tuesday had spread rapidly on social media, the students are described as “crisis actors,” who travel to the sites of shootings to instigate fury against guns. Or they are called F.B.I. plants, defending the bureau for its failure to catch the shooter. They have been portrayed as puppets being coached and manipulated by the Democratic Party, gun control activists, the so-called antifa movement and the left-wing billionaire George Soros.

The theories are far-fetched. But they are finding a broad and prominent audience online. On Tuesday, the president’s son Donald J. Trump Jr. liked a pair of tweets that accused David Hogg, a 17-year-old who is among the most outspoken of the Parkland students, of criticizing the Trump administration in an effort to protect his father, whom Mr. Hogg has described as a retired F.B.I. agent.

Read more: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/right-wing-media-uses-parkland-shooting-as-conspiracy-fodder/ar-BBJo3TH?li=BBnbcA1

While I think that the paid social media trolls and sock puppets have been around prior to the 2016 election, I think the big change is the brazen willingness of Republicans and most notably Trump to embrace and amplify what was once considered fringe conspiracy theories. The way it worked in the past was that the establishment Republican maintained plausible deniability while the Sean Hannity's, Rush Limbaughs and Alex Jones of the world did the dirty work of pushing racism and conspiracy theories. Indeed, even they would hide their racism with the use of code words and racially charged language.

However, with Trump, you have this feedback loop where Trump himself enthusiastically regurgitates the crazyiest fringe conspiracies. Indeed, as was shown during the 2016 election, Trump's campaign often seemed to be prescient in their ability to anticipate conspiracies or leaks of documents on Wikileaks. Today, Fox will push a RW lie or talking point, then Trump will happily repeat it, which Trump will then cite as validation of his statements.

Compare this to 2008 when John McCain would at least go through the motions of admonishing his supporters not to say that President Obama was a terrorist even as the RW media pushed such conspiracies and lies. Likewise, Romney would play along with the establishment model of letting the RW media apparatus do the dirty work.

Why shouldnt the gun industry be liable for damage done by its products, just like anybody else?

Here is noted progressive legal scholar, and UC Berkeley Law Dean, Erwin Chereminsky on gun manufacturer immunity:


It is time to stop giving the gun industry special protections that are not accorded to other businesses. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which prevents gun companies from being sued by the victims of gun violence.

The NRA got it right when it called this “the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years.” No other industry enjoys this special treatment.

The massacre in Las Vegas occurred because gun companies make semi-automatic weapons that are easily converted into automatic weapons that can kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time. Gun manufacturers take automatic military weapons like the M-16 and modify them into legal, semi-automatic weapons, like the AR-15.

They can be turned back into automatic weapons, through bump stocks or other techniques that are described on many websites. Ammunition magazines with large capacity are manufactured that serve no purpose for hunting or sport.
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