Saturday, November 09, 2019

Look away! Political distractions and more...


Distract! That’s the GOP ‘strategy,’ ever since it became clear that there was screaming "quid" for every howling "quo."

For example, there are no legal bases for Attorney General Barr’s ‘criminal investigation of the FBI’ for following hearsay leads that led to overwhelming evidence, that led to jury convictions for real crimes. But unleashing the probe will get Trump off Barr’s neck. All of you have RASR cousins etc. who buy into the core Fox line, which boils down to: “Don’t look! There’s nothing under that smoke, so don’t even look! I don’t want to know!” … 

Here are 9 one- or two-sentence answers that demolish their “don’t look!” party line:

1- Rules about hearsay, or ‘bias’ by investigators or witnesses all apply during a TRIAL. Rules of admissibility are far looser during investigations or indictment proceedings, which can hear secret testimony, as happens in a Grand Jury


While there might be cause to “confront” all witnesses during a trial, at this stage protecting whistleblower identity is not only fair, it is traditional and paramount.

2- The House is that Grand Jury, deliberating indictments that the Senate would then try.

3- Impeachment is Constitutional, not judicial. Moreover - and dig this well - it’s not even remotely analogous to criminal trial, where life or liberty might be deprived. The closest parallel is that it’s about an employment issue - far more like a company’s board of directors deciding to fire a corrupt CEO.

4- The House can make its own rules on proceedings leading to a vote of impeachment, as when the GOP rammed through impeachment of a husband for fibbing about a 3rd base consensual infidelity. Only here’s a fact conservative Judge Napolitano made clear, discomfiting whining Fox hosts: Pelosi, Schiff etc. are now following - precisely - rules established in 2015 by a Republican House under John Boehner, when Republicans hoped to impeach the utterly stain-free Barack Obama.

5- Having declared an absolute right of Congressional oversight over Clintons and Obama (who handed over everything and prevented no one from testifying, amid 25 years of never-fruitful “investigations”), many of the same men now howl that a GOP president needn’t cooperate at all, may stonewall and declare himself above all law, even for “shooting someone on 5th Avenue.”* (Yes, Trump’s attorney just said exactly that. See the cogent cartoon by Clay Bennett.))

6- Oh, about those evidence-exclusion” rules that sometimes tossed as inadmissible “the fruit of a poisoned tree….” Conservatives long railed against that doctrine! Now, suddenly-hypocritically, it’s their favorite! 

7- Again: 25 years and half a billion dollars of our money spent chasing Clinton-Obama accusations, including Koch/Fox bribes offered to scores of witnesses - (“Bengahzi!”… “Emails!”) - found nothing whatsoever, a result repeated just last week by Pompeo’s State Department when they cleared Hillary Clinton of any serious or deliberate wrongdoing.

8- There are obvious reasons why the rising oligarchy wants secrecy and darkness enshrined in our political processes. From the Panama Papers to a wave of likely blackmail, we see how much they have to fear from light. Take the link below and see Polemical Judo!

9- Every Trumpian defense consists of “Don’t look! The people mustn’t see facts or truth!  Tax returns, financials, Deutsche Bank records of laundering for Russian oligarchs, testimony from administration officials who never spoke a word to the President and hence have no basis for “Executive Privilege…”

… the actual contents of Trump’s private meetings with communist dictators and “ex”communist KGB-agent mafia dons…

…and Trump’s beloved “Great Wall of NDAs” (the best wall ever) keeping scores of past settlements secret. And the contents of David Pecker’s safe. And the blackmail that turned William Barr into a mafia stooge…

…and for all of that, your “ostrich republican” cousin has one desperate response, keeping his head in his Fox-tuned hole, repeating incantations and chant-rationalizations for why he should not know about any of those things. “I don’t wanna know. Nobody should know. Look away… look away!”

== It can be painfully funny ==


Che Shows The Way! On Saturday Night Live, last week, Weekend Update host Michael Che voiced (brilliantly) a meme I had been spreading about a new and clever way to deal with the weird-crazed phenomenon of Donald Trump. “I don't know how to ask this, but are we sure that it's OK to make fun of this guy?” he asked. “Did you ever read Of Mice and Men? Remember how Lenny was really ‘strong?’ What if Trump is really strong? I've got a cousin who is also strong. And he loves alligators too, but we don't make fun of him.”

It got some good laughs and cheers, but I am quite serious in proposing that some mid-level democrat or pundit use this powerful meme weapon.  Imagine if say Mayor Pete were to hold a news conference and — with tongue only barely in cheek — *denounce* fellow Democrats for their unsympathetic pestering of an addled old man! An emotionally and cerebrally challenged senior who clearly qualifies for extra care and kindness. Feigned outrage that liberals and dems are ignoring their obligations to Trump, under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  

Not only would it draw huge attention and seize that day’s news cycle. It would also directly undermine what George Lakoff calls the fundamental basis of Trump’s base-support — his illusion of playground bully “strength.” Envision what a tweetstorm that would rouse from Two Scoops! It would obsess him and possible burst a blood vessel… and so, on second thought, maybe let’s not. The last thing we want is a Trump  martyr!

Can anyone pass this on to Mayor Pete?  

== Where we're headed ==

This Vox article on “9 scenarios for how the Trump-Ukraine impeachment process could end” is a pretty interesting conversation starter. But it leaves out at least half a dozen more. Such as party leaders talking Trump into taking a leave of absence, or several different weird scenarios under the 25th amendment. 

And the scariest of all… the one that makes Bond-villain logic for Putin and McConnell, giving them their only chance at a win win win scenario, eliminating the liability while riling up his supporters to a rabid frenzy… That scenario is martyrdom.  God Bless the United States Secret Service! I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. Good luck guys! (And if anything happens, you fools better not celebrate! You must be enraged at the deliberate-cynical disposal of an addled old man, just because his usefulness to our enemies came to an end.)

I am a fan of AOC and I am glad the Democratic "Roosevelt wing" is very active. Still, it is vital to avoid splitterism and falling for tricks to harm our enlightenment-patriotic coalition against the Putinist Cabal. Especially, all this piling onto Nancy Pelosi is both unfair and intemperate/shortsighted -- an example of 'sumo' politics that always, always falls into Republican traps. The Judo approach requires timing. Those who question Pelosi's courage or determination bear a steep burden of proof. Under what scenario do they even imagine she is shy over combat? Of course she is being strategic! Why assume anythings else? What matters now is not going for formal impeachment, followed by a failed Senate vote. What matters is:

1-  that formal impeachment hearings might corner Chief Justice John Roberts into ruling in favor of Congressional subpoenas, since that is a process specifically described in the the Constitution. This is paramount! Nothing else matters as much, because once the subpoenas and hearings are unleashed, the Trumpists face evisceration. (And we must be prepared with a plan in case Roberts betrays us.)

2- that the impeachment process must not wind up being seen as just "revenge for Clinton," allowing the Red Base to rally around their martyr. If you think it will be enough just to defeat the GOP in 2020, you have ZERO memory of 2010 and 1994 when they came roaring back. They must be crushed for all this criminality and treason, and removing Trump a couple of months early is less urgent.

3- If you want a huge symbolic victory, then time impeachment so that the senate trial is held in the new Senate that takes hold a couple of weeks before inauguration in 2020. Think about that.

4- tune the meaning. A tsunami of corruption revelations during 2020 will win us defections from the confederacy, while a Senate trial that happens before those defections will win us an earthquake of Timothy McVeighs. Above all, our audience is the so called "deep state" - a fictitious, slanderous term for the brave and devoted men and women who have been preserving the republic by adhering to the law, during a lawless regime. If they see us dotting the i’s while revealing crimes, we keep them loyal.

5- Pence. OMG have folks any concept of reality at all? Trump is largely cauterized by his own blithering moronic behavior. Pence gets in and ALL THE DAMAGE TO THE REPUBLICAN BRAND goes away as he smoothly croons about peace and reconciliation, winning large numbers of relieved officers back into the GOP fold... the leaky Trump White House gets replaced by one packed by Pence with devout Book of Revelations Dominionists, utterly disciplined and dedicated to the end of the world. Literally. Absolutely and literally.

Pace yourselves. Radicalize! Fight! By getting your neighbors ready with tumbrels and torches.

== Consider this ==

The National Rifle Association acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election. Um duh? Today’s traitor U.S. right is absolutely gaga in love with the Putin mob, which has coordinated all out war against all of our institutions and professional castes.

Roughly 500 Soviet commissars were aided by cronies of George H.W. Bush around 1990, in “converting the Russian economy from communist to free enterprise.” Now drop the last two words and replace them with “mafia oligarchy.” All they had to do was replace hammer-sickle emblems with orthodox crosses and wink slyly at the western partners who funded their grab of every USSR state asset.  And that’s just one of two reasons why Bush Senior was – by far – the worst U.S. president of the Twentieth Century.

Finally... Here’s a review article “The Culmination of Republican Decay” - from The New York Review - of the recently released book American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War - and the Rise of President Trump, by Tim Alberta.

And "Trump tries to banish the specter of impeachment with red-state campaign tour.

And in my new book - Judo Polemics - one of my 100+ tactics - is to make him and his campaign pay ALL costs of such trips, In advance.


Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Steps toward openness


I was recently on NPR's "To The Point" with Warren Olney, debating privacy/transparency matters, soon. So it seems appropriate to do a posting on the issue. And no, we'll put aside one political cult's eagerness to end fact-based accountability in America -- and human -- life. Back to politics... and cool science... soon! But now, instead...

The Panama Papers have actually had some effect. The giant spill of documents from a Central American law firm has revealed a vast, international network of shell corporations that hide much of the oligarchy’s lucre, facilitating tax-evasion and organized crime. Now – in part thanks to the efforts of Transparency International - it seems it’s led the EU to actually clamp down on banking secrecy and declare substantial whistleblower protections, and about 40 other nations have pledged at least partial measures. Alas, while the U.S. has been among to top complainers about offshore banking havens, it remains one of the worst offenders when it comes to shell corporations. Especially in Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware.  Joe’s an okay guy, in my book. But he is often a decade behind, and he needs to get in front of this.

Some of my blogs go...bacterial? If you missed my careful decryption of myths about "central planning" and those who support/oppose it without adequate knowledge, see it re-posted on Phil's Stock World.

== Gerrymandering gradually gives way! --

The Equal Citizen campaign of Lawrence Lessig & co. deserves your support. But in wake of John Roberts's decision to choose party over country, the straw Lessig co. now cling to is hope for a 'bipartisan" anti-gerrymandering bill. Huh? You expect GOP defectors from the never-negotiate Hastert Rule? Good luck with that. Meanwhile, you'll find my own proposal what to do next, in the fight against this outrageously criminal cheat, in POLEMICAL JUDO.

In a major upset and victory for the enlightenment, Virginians just voted to leave the Confederacy and go deep blue, which will of course lead to gerrymandering's demise in that state. And let this be a lesson, the most important fight, next year, beyond getting Putin's grip off of Washington DC, is in the state legislatures. Pick a local battle at that level and you can do some real good.

Still, Virginians - there’s one reform you mustn’t overlook, because history shows you may not hold onto power. And when the confeds retake Richmond they will re-establish every crime… unless you enact something they dare not take back. A true referendum process like many (especially western) states have long had, and that many citizenries used to overcome gerrymandering. Create such a full-process in VA and the GOP won’t dare try to end it.

Meanwhile, President Obama and former Attorney General Holder are leading the charge to at least end gerrymandering in the few remaining blue states where it's practiced. So here's one IDEA: Obama and Holder etc. should arm-twist the legislature of Maryland to make an OFFER to TEXAS.

"We'll stop gerrymandering, if you will."

It's plausible! MD legislators will go along because they know TX republicans would refuseTexas will refuse, but it will be a black eye. Texas pols will sneer: "All we have to do is wait. Most blue state voters have been forcing an end to gerrymandering anyway, leaving red states with this cheat advantage, hurrah."

Sure. But that statement will come back to bite them.

In fact, my MINIMAL OVERLAP solution to gerrymandering is designed to get around John Roberts's excuse of "legislative sovereignty." It has the approval (informal) of a friend of mine who sits on a federal bench. (Also in Polemical Judo.)

Summary extract: "Moreover, even if this method has flaws, it is a clear limiting case that deprives the courts of any “we see no clear remedy” excuse. For all its faults, Minimal Overlap is palliative, equitable and enforceable. It also gives a nod to state sovereignty and legislature privilege, by allowing the legislature to continue complete, discretionary control over one chamber, while the other two are set by a neutral computer reacting to their assembly boundaries."

It does an end run around Roberts. Checkmate - in just three sentences. Except there's no way in heck that any of the supposedly clever goodguy lawyers will even look at it.

 == Fact-checking ==

Trump says cities are ‘a mess.’ They’re actually enjoying a golden age. Many city neighborhoods have become the most coveted places to be. Even in Detroit, long a symbol of blight, urban spaces are roaring back.

See this from The Washington Post: “For Trump and his cronies, draining the swamp means ousting experts.” 

== The cleansing power of light ==

Spain is being rocked by a huge scandal that might benefit us all, especially the civilization we dream of achieving. The agency of redemption is the one I’ve long touted — light. A senior Spanish police official has been arrested with terabytes of recordings revealing his nested web of blackmail and his service for years as a secret fixer for Spain’s rich and powerful, spying on their rivals and smearing their enemies.

I've long maintained that the core element of the worldwide oligarchic putsch to end the Enlightenment has to be blackmail. Mere corruption would not be enough to explain to total subornation we see in so many places. (*cough* William Barr.)

The Spanish revelations illustrate the nightmare of the worldwide blackmail cabal -- that a breakdown somewhere - perhaps anywhere - might lead to a cascade of searing-cleansing light.

Before we dive too deep into the next election cycle, it's important to get some perspective. What values do you prioritize above others? Do you have a clear idea where/how you got those values? See my “questionnaire on ideology” where I ask some pretty fundamental questions that probe underneath the comfy reflexes. Example: Do you believe humans knew a natural idyllic condition at some point in the past, from which we fell because of bad, inappropriate or sinful choices, thus reducing our net wisdom? (The Look Back View.) Or do you consider such tales mythological. Wisdom is cumulative and anything resembling a human utopia can only be achieved in the future, through incremental improvements in knowledge or merit. (The Look Forward View.)

If you hold to the Look Back View, then whatever the details – Christian, Hindu, Von Daniken – you will resist having your tenets scrutinized and possibly refuted by evidence. Most of our ancestors had that view, which is one reason progress came slow, and was bloody.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Go Into The Light


Most of this posting is about Transparency  and issues like face recognition.  But essentially it's how those who are fighting hardest to prevent an Orwellian tomorrow keep making the same mistake -- falling into Big Brother's trap.

== Get used to light. USE the light! ==

This article - We Cannot Afford to Lose the Digital Revolution - from The New York Times repeats the same pattern we see every time a concerned and intelligent person looks at information-related dilemmas, nowadays. 

(1) by correctly listing threats to our safety and freedom that will arise from cheaters gathering powers of surveillance and 

(2) absolutely refusing to go beyond the hand-wringing stage, howling that the sky is falling, or demanding we all run and hide! Always ignoring the obvious solution.

“There are four key implications of this revolution that policymakers in the national security sector will need to address: The first is that the unprecedented scale and pace of technological change will outstrip our ability to effectively adapt to it. Second, we will be in a world of ceaseless and pervasive cyberinsecurity and cyberconflict against nation-states, businesses and individuals. Third, the flood of data about human and machine activity will put such extraordinary economic and political power in the hands of the private sector that it will transform the fundamental relationship, at least in the Western world, between government and the private sector. Finally, and perhaps most ominously, the digital revolution has the potential for a pernicious effect on the very legitimacy and thus stability of our governmental and societal structures.” - notes Glenn S. Gerstell.

And now the State of California’s legislature – responding with sincere worry about misuse and with copious good intentions – is threatening to “ban face recognition systems,” a move of stunning technological cluelessness and out-the-gate utter futility. Worse, because there are ways to fix the perceived problems without shouting at the tide – at a tsunami – not to come in.

There are ways to navigate these (and many other) minefields. Some are on the table. Allocate money to innovation aimed at prevention (including attribution and deterrence). Invest in a skilled and confidently well-prepared professional protector caste that can counterbalance elites of money or criminality or hostile foreign powers.

But above all, there is one antidote to all of the failure modes described in that hand-wringing paragraph. 

It's light. Light that flows ever more upon elites that might abuse power, or at the criminals who might prey on us. If we citizens are doomed to live exposed, how about recognizing and accepting that coming world, and using its salient trait in our favor?

 

It never occurs to them. Even when you explain it in detail and show a myriad historical examples… and even after they nod and say “wow, I get it…” the very next day they are running through the street screaming like chicken little.

Dig it. We have one way out – to go into the light. But none of our paladins of freedom will look, or even notice the light is there.  Sometimes I feel as if I am living in “Poltergeist.”

== Well… maybe a little illumination ==

A worthwhile endeavor I have touted before: ChangeAView.com exists to facilitate productive discussions between people who have different perspectives. “Posting to CAV is based on the idea that we only benefit from fully understanding counter-arguments to our opinions -- and whether or not our views change meaningfully as a result, we will most likely gain something, even if that's just an improved understanding of our own position. Responding to another post helps people understand your perspective on their topic, possibly earning a delta if you change someone's view in the process.” 

Of course this approach is based on an assumption that’s inherently ‘positive-sum’… the idea that I express with CITOKATE or “Criticism is the Only Known Antidote to Error”… or at least the human trait that comes in second only to love itself… curiosity.  If you are mature and confident enough to know that criticism helps to make you better – (it even helps refine your methods so that you can better defeat your enemies) – then you might use ChangeAView.

Alas, there are powerful forces within our society who are terrified by positive sum thinking. This includes many oligarchs whose sycophant flatterers tell them over and over that they really are smart; no really! Some do get positive sum (Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, so not all rich dudes are stupid). But those who would rebuild feudalism seem hell bent on crushing the very concept by riling us all against each other, delusionally imagining this might benefit them, over the long run. Hence, the very notion of mutually beneficial argument is in decline.  

I offer another approach, a bit more ferociously competitive, but still aimed at the same place. Helping us solve problems. Helping us grow up a little. For a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition."   
Or else see a condensed version, on my website.

But for now, what’s needed is traffic and discussion and lively activity at positive-sum oriented sites like ChangeAView.com… and for different reasons the discussions at TASAT! Perhaps a better use of time than reading what you’re reading right now!

 == Visions of the Future =

Ring Let Cops Know How Often Their Requests For Camera Footage Were Ignored.” In this case the sousveillance is inherent in the news article and in you spreading it. 

There are two models for omnipresent cameras 
(1) state run and top-down... China and Britain, where cops get instant access
 -- vs 
(2) most cams in the U.S. are privately owned. When asked, everyone in Boston swiftly handed over footage that caught the marathon bomber. But the Seattle pepper spray cops got almost zero cooperation from locals. The difference between those evens in Seattle and Boston amounted to a plebiscite on public trust of the cops and the urgency of their need.

Are these two models of the future? The proliferation of cheap cams will make us all visible, all the time. So what matters is not futilely limiting police view, but the inherent right of citizens to look back and to express (when necessary) vigorous criticism and dissent.

There's an aspect to all of this that is seldom mentioned. In that world of pervasive cams, most kinds of crime will go down or be quickly solved, hence a decent society will have fewer cops. Will that actually be the outcome here? As opposed to China? That depends on us. 

“Every society faces not merely a succession of probable futures, but an array of possible futures, and a conflict over preferable futures. … Determining the probable calls for a science of futurism. Delineating the possible calls for an art of futurism. Defining the preferable calls for a politics of futurism. The worldwide futurist movement today does not yet differentiate clearly among these functions.”

        -- Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1969), as related in a recent essay by John Smart. 

Smart also believes we are heading toward a “DandD world” – one where densification (the migration of leading complexity to physical inner space) and dematerialization (the growth of virtual inner space) will be far more important than our dispersal into outer space. Smart speculates that future humanity may use nanotechnology, and new architectures like quantum computing, to make even denser, more capable, and more intelligent systems than biology has to date.

But it goes on, the incredible foolishness of well-intended folks:

San Francisco recently banned facial recognition technologyThe city’s ban on the technology could set a nationwide precedent.  Okay, this raises a clear point, though not the one intended. Although it happens much less often, some liberals can be as dumb as their confed opponents. How is this supposed to work, when both hardware and software get better at exponential rates. And cameras get faster, cheaper, smaller, better and more mobile quicker than Moore's law? There are already face recognition apps! Nothing will keep all elites from having this, though by law you might prevent average folks, for a while. How is that supposed to help, again?

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And yes, a reminder: See my new e-book POLEMICAL JUDO that sets our current crisis in many perspectives you’ve never seen before! I offer 100+ tactics to counter the would-be destroyers of our Great Experiment.