mfioretti: trump*

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  1. If the book is all lies, why did Trump go off on Steve Bannon this week?
    The White House appears to be asking people to hold two totally contradictory ideas in their heads:

    The Wolff book is a total fantasy, built on lies and the active imagination of a Trump hater
    Bannon, the former top political strategist in Trump world, is a terrible and disloyal person because of what he told Wolff in the book.

    You don't get to have both of those things be true. Either Wolff is totally wrong about everything or the book -- and Bannon's quotes in it -- is generally credible.
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-07)
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  2. Be smart: We can't say it too often: The real problem with fake news is that people don't believe real news. That's terrible for society and democracy, making good decisions less likely.
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  3. This precipitous collapse in trust in our political class and the vital institutions it oversees has arisen at an infelicitous time. Coupled with a global financial crisis that no one predicted, and amid the disorienting clamor of social media, it has surfaced an uncomfortable epiphany: the gathering realization that those who purport to be in control are, in fact, just powerless bystanders like the rest of us, beholden to their own personal knot of ignorance and bias.

    We have come to know, in some visceral way, that the complexity of the modern world is so intractable that everyone — no matter their status in society — is more or less playing at being sober adults, when in reality we all exist in a state of permanent bewilderment. Like the inner child in the poet Ted Hughes’ famous letter to his son, each one of us has been exposed as “the wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being” we truly are.
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-14)
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  4. La decisione di Trump di riconoscere Gerusalemme come capitale di Israele sottende due messaggi concreti e due strumentali.

    Sul piano fattuale, conferma la strategia elettorale della Casa Bianca. Contrario o incapace di allargare il suo elettorato, in vista del 2020 Trump punta a rendere maggiormente profonda e fedele la propria base. Specie la destra religiosa, assai legata a Israele e spesso decisiva nel fronte repubblicano.

    Quindi intende smascherare la fragilità delle potenze antagoniste. A fronte di una narrazione internazionale per cui Russia e Iran sarebbero diventati gli egemoni della regione, con questa mossa unilaterale e autoreferenziale l’amministrazione Usa dimostra l’incapacità altrui di influenzarne o di neutralizzarne l’azione.

    Sul piano propagandistico, invece, annunciando il trasferimento dell’ambasciata a Gerusalemme, Washington promette al governo israeliano di rendere nuovamente prioritaria la relazione bilaterale. Promessa impossibile da mantenere, poiché nei calcoli statunitensi il Medio Oriente è da tempo scaduto di rilevanza.

    Infine, la Casa Bianca prova a convincere il fronte palestinese che, incassato un risultato tanto suggestivo, ora gli israeliani sarebbero disposti a riavviare il processo di pace e a tollerare significative concessioni in favore dei loro interlocutori. Prospettiva altrettanto irrealizzabile, eppure utile per ammantare di retorica una decisione puramente utilitaristica.
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  5. Brzezinski protégés remain influential in the US State Department, American think tanks and among European Atlanticists. Implicit in the Brzezinski doctrine: Russia is too important to leave to the Russians. With an economy smaller than California, Russia may not have the wherewithal to become “a powerful imperial state spanning Europe and Asia,” it does have a crucial asset. The country is the Land Bridge between industrial giant China and the EU. Linking these two enormous economies would create a Eurasian economic area and would make China and the EU less dependent on the United States, and thereby less dependent on the US dollar.

    Used by permission from Merics (Mercator Institute for China Studies)

    History has a way of defying the grandest of grand strategies. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), so-called free-trade agreements but conveniently designed to economically isolate Russia and China, are virtually dead. Their demise illustrates the stunning role-reversal of the American left and right. President Barrack Obama actively promoted the free-trade deals, while Trump and many of his voters are against. Not surprisingly, Obama has since been exposed as a closet hawk in liberal clothes.

    The mantra that Russia stole the US election will probably continue until the next election (or until evidence is found that it was the US government under Obama that interfered with the US election to help Hillary Clinton – see here and here). For now, the political establishment and its compliant media have succeeded in tainting Putin enough to forestall any plans President Donald Trump may have had for rapprochement with Russia.

    But is it a Pyrrhic victory? A recent article by Michael Hudson, Trump is Obama’s Legacy, explains how the political left, the former champions of the poor and the working class, sold its soul to the billionaire class while perfecting the art of political expediency. Not without irony, Hudson quotes Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotski to sound a warning: “Fascism is the result of the failure of the left to provide an alternative.”

    China, unperturbed by it all, is playing the long game. It is implementing the 13th iteration of its five-year plan and rapidly expanding the One Belt One Road. The giant network, probably the largest infrastructure project in the world today, will ultimately connect more than 60 countries with four and a half billion people. Nothing focuses the mind like a five-year plan, and thinking 10 or 20 years ahead to set priorities for the common good. Once the Russia bashers get over their tantrums, they should try to formulate a few five-year plans themselves. China could send some of its best and brightest economists to help them get started.
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  6. Why are pro-conservative answers collapsed?
    William Lawyer
    William Lawyer, Conservative leaning Libertarian who writes about politics
    Updated Oct 26

    Because Conservative sympathizers are targeted.

    Our answers often get mass downvoted until they are collapsed, and I hardly ever even find out unless I get comments like this:

    We get our answers collapsed or deleted by Quora moderation on trumped up charges, often, I believe, due to mass reporting.

    William Lawyer's answer to My abortion is scheduled tomorrow, but I'm freaking out, what should I do?

    We get our profiles plastered on blogs for mass downvoting, reporting, and harassment. Same thing often ends up happening in people’s profiles:

    You have prominent left wing Quora users promoting and supporting these blogs and giving these groups a a lot of publicity, as detailed by Jon Davis:

    Normally, this wouldn’t even show up on my radar and I probably would have ignored it, if I didn’t see a friend specifically called out who I’ve never seen communicate white supremacist tendencies. This is clearly just meant to attack people who disagree with her as sexists and white supremacists, and whatever else. That said, at this point, it was small fry stuff compared to some of the organized behavior I’ve reported before. I wouldn’t give this sort of nonsense the time of day, but the reason I saw it in the first place was that another Top Writer, well known for creating a following that is hostile to Conservatives answered effectively “Yes”, to the question Should Quora ban the accounts of the users listed on the Quora blog "White Supremacists Exposed"? . That answer led me to see see the blog. At the point when another very popular Top Writer advocated support for this behavior, and seeing that the blog had suddenly had a spike of 10 times the viewership since that writer’s post, I knew that this place had the potential to be exactly the sort of hate groups I’ve advocated against for the last two years on Quora and have the potential of driving actually good Quora conservatives off the site through harassment tactics just like I talk about happening to me. (The War Elephant)

    I am surrounded by the love and praise of many on Quora, but there is no shortage of hateful and angry responses to my comments and answers from individuals who disagree with my opinions:

    You try not to let it get to you, but when you get such a tremendous negative response for so long, it is easy to become discouraged. On several occasions I have even had many Quora users who have been so intent on creating a toxic environment for me on Quora that they have commented with things like pornographic images on my answers in an effort to drive me away.

    (While I have begun to document harassment contemporaneously for my own protection, I will not be subjecting myself to that kind of content, so don’t even ask.)

    I’m not that popular of a writer, I only have 286 followers here on Quora, but if this is what I can expect when nobody knows about me, I’m not eager to join any of the bigger names out there.

    Having seen similar things happen to many other right wing writers on Quora, I must conclude that my experience is not unusual, and having spoken with many of my fellow conservatives about this, I can assure you that the situation for many of them is… equally undesirable.

    Edit: There’s a certain level of irony here:

    Dang blockquotes.

    Hoang Nghiem (严黄)
    Hoang Nghiem (严黄)

    i’m very sorry to see that you’ve become the victim of systematic Quora witch hunts....
    3 more comments from Jonathan Roberts, Justin Busch, Lisa Kinsler
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    About the Author
    William Lawyer
    William Lawyer
    264.9k answer views41.9k this month
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    Is this profile actually Donald Trump?
    How do you turn a banana into a weapon?
    In President Obama's Dallas speech he claims that it is easier for children to obtain a Glock than it is a computer or a book. Is this true?
    If Republicans want to give military soldiers stuff like free health care, paid leave, and free college, why don't they want that for the rest of America?
    The last person you Googled is now dead. How will the world change?
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  7. Some observers have speculated that Trump's volatile week, which has included retweeting anti-Muslim videos from a British hate group and making a racially disparaging remark during an appearance with Native American war heroes, may have reflected a mind scrambled by signs that Flynn was about to enter a plea deal.
    The impact on Trump's temperament and mood -- at a time of a dangerous nuclear crisis involving North Korea -- and the potential of the latest Russia revelations to further distract him -- will be even more closely watched now.
    The sheer magnitude of Friday's events left Trump's defenders within his party with yet another infuriating distraction in their relationship with the President.
    Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina, who is leading his own probe into the Russia issue, refused multiple requests by CNN's Manu Raju to comment on Friday's bombshell developments.
    It is a measure of the shocking significance of the Flynn news that it completely obliterated two other massive political developments -- the apparently imminent passage of the most sweeping tax reform bill for 30 years in a hugely significant victory for Trump and the stunning public humiliation of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by the White House.
    In many ways that's the story of the Trump presidency itself -- everything has been overshadowed by Russia.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-02)
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  8. I do believe that this time is different, the beginning of a massive shift, and I believe it’s the fault of these social networks.

    One of the problems is that these platforms act, in many ways, like drugs. Facebook, and every other social-media outlet, knows that all too well. Your phone vibrates a dozen times an hour with alerts about likes and comments and retweets and faves. The combined effect is one of just trying to suck you back in, so their numbers look better for their next quarterly earnings report. Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s earliest investors and the company’s first president, came right out and said what we all know: the whole intention of Facebook is to act like a drug, by “ giving » you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.” That, Parker said, was by design. These companies are “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya has echoed this, too. “Do I feel guilty?” he asked rhetorically on CNN about the role Facebook is playing in society. “Absolutely I feel guilt.”

    And then, there’s the biggest reason why people are abandoning the platforms: the promise of connection has turned out to be a reality of division. We’ve all watched the way Donald J. Trump used social media to drive a wedge between us all, the way he tweets his sad and pathetic insecurities out to the world, without a care for how calling an equally insecure rogue leader a childish name might put us all on the brink of nuclear war. There’s a point that watching it all happen in real time makes you question what you’re doing with your life. As for conversing with our fellow Americans, we’ve all tried, unsuccessfully, to have a conversation on these platforms, which has so quickly devolved into a shouting match, or pile-on from perfect strangers because your belief isn’t the same as theirs. Years ago, a Facebook executive told me that the biggest reason people unfriend each other is because they disagree on an issue. The executive jokingly said, “Who knows, if this keeps up, maybe we’ll end up with people only having a few friends on Facebook.” Perhaps, worse of all, we’ve all watched as Russia has taken these platforms and used them against us in ways no one could have comprehended a decade ago.
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  9. For Mueller’s findings to have any effect, they will have to break some part of the basic dynamic on the right. Here’s how it works:

    Pundits and yellers in right-wing media compete to freak out the base and reinforce its allegiance to Donald Trump. The base leans on politicians. And most elected GOP officials are in seats safe enough that they fear a primary challenge from the base more than a Democratic challenger. The only way to stave off a primary is to pay obeisance.

    That’s why Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are leaving the Senate. They no longer have any control over what their constituents believe or want, and their constituents believe and want increasingly ugly things. Sen. John McCain is saying all the right things now, but back when he faced his own Tea Party challenger, he sprinted right as fast as he could.

    GOP politicians cannot (or feel that they cannot) cross the base. And the base is currently being lied to about the Mueller investigation at a furious pace. The entire right-wing machine has kicked into high gear, led by the president himself, furiously throwing out chaff about Comey, Mueller, Obama, Hillary, the dossier, the uranium, the emails, and whatever else.

    What if we find out Trump is guilty and just can’t do anything about it?

    As long as the base is convinced that Mueller is an agent of the deep state (or whatever), it will punish any Republican politician that strays from the pack and criticizes Trump. For a GOP officeholder, standing up for democratic integrity could mean sacrificing reelection in 2018 or 2020.

    As long as Republican politicians are frightened by the base, the base is frightened by scary conspiracies in right-wing media, and right-wing media makes more money the more frightened everyone is, Trump appears to be safe. As long as the incentives are aligned in that direction, there will be no substantial movement to censure, restrain, or remove him from office.

    There is no longer any settling such arguments. The only way to settle any argument is for both sides to be committed, at least to some degree, to shared standards of evidence and accuracy, and to place a measure of shared trust in institutions meant to vouchsafe evidence and accuracy. Without that basic agreement, without common arbiters, there can be no end to dispute.

    If one side rejects the epistemic authority of society’s core institutions and practices, there’s just nothing left to be done. Truth cannot speak for itself, like the voice of God from above. It can only speak through human institutions and practices.

    The subject of climate change offers a crystalline example here. If climate science does its thing, checks and rechecks its work, and then the Republican Party simply refuses to accept it ... what then?

    That’s what US elites are truly afraid to confront: What if facts and persuasion just don’t matter anymore?

    Donald Trump has the power to hold on to the presidency, as long as elected Republicans, cowed by the conservative base, support him. That is true almost regardless of what he’s done or what’s proven by Mueller. As long as he has that power, he will exercise it. That’s what recent history seems to show.

    Democrats do not currently have the numbers to stop him. They can’t do it without some help from Republicans. And Republicans seem incapable, not only of acting on what Mueller knows, but of even coming to know it.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe US institutions have more life in them than I think. But at this point, it’s just very difficult to imagine anything that could bridge the epistemic gulf between America’s tribes. We are split in two, living in different worlds, with different stories and facts shaping our lives. We no longer learn or know things together, as a country, so we can no longer act together, as a country.

    So we may just have to live with a president indicted for collusion with a foreign power.
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  10. The American social structure, as Sacks notes, was based on biblical categories. There was a political realm, but the heart of society was in the covenantal realm: “marriages, families, congregations, communities, charities and voluntary associations.”

    America’s Judeo-Christian ethic celebrated neighborliness over pagan combativeness; humility as the basis of good character, not narcissism. It believed in taking in the stranger because we were all strangers once. It dreamed of universal democracy as the global fulfillment of the providential plan.

    That biblical ethic, embraced by atheists as much as the faithful, is not in great shape these days. As Sacks notes: “Today, one half of America is losing all those covenantal institutions. It’s losing strong marriages and families and communities. It is losing a strong sense of the American narrative. It’s even losing e pluribus unum because today everyone prefers pluribus to unum.…”

    Trump and Bannon have filled the void with their own creed, which is anti-biblical. The American story they tell is not diverse people journeying toward a united future. It’s a zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict. The traits Trump embodies are narcissism, not humility; combativeness, not love;; the sanctification of the rich and blindness toward the poor.

    As other relationships wither, many Americans are making partisanship the basis of their identity — their main political, ethnic and moral attachment. And the polls show that if you want to win a Republican primary these days, you have to embrace the Trump narrative, and not the old biblical one.

    The Republican senators greeted Trump on Capitol Hill and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s. But they know which way the wind is blowing. They gave him a standing ovation.

    Even Alexander Kerensky didn’t abase himself so humiliatingly.

    The people who oppose Trump make a big error: “Let’s Get Togetherism.” This is the belief that if we can only have a civil conversation between red and blue, then everything will be better. But you can’t destroy a moral vision with a process. You need a counter-moral vision.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-11-02)
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