Of Enemies Abroad, And At Home (#politics, #America, @realDonaldTrump, #loyalty)

We are now being told that the election of Donald Trump represents a virulent strain of tyrannical fascism in American politics, which was before lying under the surface but is now unapologetically out in the open. Certain agitators and political commentators are claiming that they don’t feel safe in a world where Trump is president, implying that there may be physical threats against their life, property or lifestyle under his regime. The conclusion is that Trump is to blame for a politics of potentially open, physical violence across partisan lines.

But if this is what Trump represents, Trump is the necessary response to an earlier dynamic, not the initiator of it. You see, the Left has been successful in its quest to control politically-acceptable speech. The world of man can be controlled by arms, or by words and ideas. If certain words and ideas can not be uttered, then the people who believe in them have no choice but to take up arms in their support. What choice but violence does a person have to convince another of his views, if his views are considered unutterable in society?

We are also told that Trump is committing what amounts to treason in warring with political factions in his own country while buddying up to autocrats in other countries, such as Russia. If the right way, and the only way, to conduct a political strategy is to play by your opponent’s rules, then this criticism may have merit. But politics is war by other means, a game of domination and annihilation. If you are a globalist after global control, you might call a truce here and there with domestic factions to enhance your projection of power outside your borders.

But what if you are a “nationalist” or “patriot”, like Mr. Trump?

If your primary political concern is dominance within your own borders, it is clear who your enemies and your friends are. Your enemies are any domestic political factions which question, criticize or otherwise restrain your full use of power inside your borders. And your friends are any parties, inside or outside your borders, that can either help you defeat your domestic opponents in some way, or who can agree to some kind of truce that lets you focus on defeating your opponents at home.

Make no mistake about it– Mr. Trump is in a war for his political (and potentially even vital) life, such is the nature of politics which has no rules but that which each opponent might individually observe. And looking at the world as he claims to, it seems not only not treasonous, but completely rational, to find friends where they can be found in order to quell the domestic disturbance represented by the Democrats and the American Left. And we can sense the truth of this proposition in observing that while critics of Mr. Trump argue that he should make peace with his domestic opponents to fight external enemies, these critics are not suggesting these opponents make peace with Mr. Trump, nor are these opponents themselves voluntarily laying down arms against Mr. Trump for the time being to take them up against the Great Alien Menace. Actions speak louder than words here.

And what about the spat with the domestic spy agencies? Ignoring the fact that they were un-American and not to be trusted under the Bush regime, and were clearly un-American and autistically-focused on studying the communication patterns of those people they nominally serve under the Obama regime (and when did these people face election and change under any of the last three administrations?), they are supposed to be answerable to the Congress, which supervises them, and the President, who leads the nation they serve.

To raise the claim that Mr. Trump is playing a “dangerous game” in challenging their methods, claim and authority, is to belie the very corruption his opposition to these organizations so far engenders– this may be a hard metaphor for many to understand these days, but it would be as if the appointed chief executive of the owner of a company was playing a dangerous game in challenging the actions and attitudes of the company’s hired employees. This argument has the theoretical cause-effect relationship of American civics exactly reversed.

In case anyone needs reminding these days, why is it exactly that the American intelligence “community” (note: for their to be a community, there by definition must be some who are inside it and some who are outside, that is, citizens of the domain and barbarians at the gates…) is to be considered trustworthy?

Have they demonstrated gross competence at their appointed tasks? Anyone who has not forgotten the failures of September 11th, 2001, must puzzle at the question.

Have they any kind of record of their activities and thinking that is examinable by the public? No, only the Congress and the President have access to that information (if the intelligence agencies are honest in presenting it in the first place!) and there is a clear principal-agent problem in electoral politics presented by these defined secrets.

And what kind of people are they who join these secret cabals, whose jobs seem to consist of lying for a living, trafficking in arms and illicit substances and occasionally murdering people deemed to be strategic problems for themselves or the government they represent?

Well, just that– liars, murderers, professional criminals and reckless thrill-seekers.

A better question than “Why should they be trusted?” is “Why should they be tolerated in a society that claims to have an open government?” Speaking of tyranny and autocratic rule, is there any model more noble in form than the modern spook cartels?

We’ve Always Been At War With Eastasia: Trump & Putin Edition (#politics, @realDonaldTrump, #Frenemies, #USA)

I’ve noticed a trend in the media during this election cycle wherein Trump is attacked anytime he says anything kind or even less-than-hostile about Russia’s Vladimir Putin. As an Enemy of Democracy(tm) and Registered Strongman Dictator(tm), saying anything other than a poorly veiled threat to commit nuclear genocide in the Russian Federation via NATO is apparently a slanderous and indeed, traitorous, thing to say. After all, the Russian state is clearly bent on world domination, much like Hitler, as evidenced by its involvement in Syria, the Ukraine and the EU gas pricing fiasco. This interventionist approach to foreign policy is totally different from the US’s interventions in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria, the Ukraine, and the EU gas pricing fiasco because… well, nevermind, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia and that’s really all one needs to know about these complicated matters.

Is this not the most transparently stupid journalistic approach to American diplomacy there is? The logical end goal of some conflict with an enemy is to defeat them, by force or by fraud, and thereby to convert them into a friend, or at least someone who is no longer hostile. Surely, military dominance and intelligence stratagems are the American state’s preferred means of obtaining this goal over the last 70+ years of history, but do they have to be? If Trump can disarm Putin through charisma, wouldn’t that be just as good so long as a stable peace and a non-hostile footing can be achieved going forward?

Must Putin be the enemy of the United States of America from here until eternity? Why can’t the US state solve its problems without bloodshed, and why do the media jump all over a leading candidate’s overtures with cries of “Treason! Treason!!” if he adopts a tone less bellicose?

Why, to ask is to answer it, dear readers. We know where (and why!) the real traitors lie.

What I Remember From Journalism Classes (#education, #college, #politics, #RiggedSystem, #media)

One of the Trump mantras in the current US presidential election cycle is that the system is “rigged.” Part of what Trump includes in the rigging allegation is the behavior of the US media in being bitterly, but not openly, partisan. The reputation of the media in American political theory is that it is a non-governmental check on official political scheming which serves the vaunted public interest in educating Americans on fact and fraud alike. Through the media, the American people, especially as an electorate, can make an informed decision as they exercise their democratic muscle.

A problem with this theory is that the “gatekeeper” role for the media introduces the same risk of regulatory capture that faces an official government agency. If X is the watchdog of Y, then Y has an incentive to exercise influence on X, up to and including implicit or covert control of X, to ensure Y has the maximum opportunity to pursue its own interest without restraint. If journalists are the watchdog of politicians, or of government and the political process as a whole, than people interested in exercising power without restraint via the political process have a strong incentive to try to control journalists.

There’s plenty of evidence, scandal and recent revelations of such influence and control that has come to light recently, mostly via alternative media “institutions” such as bloggers and not-for-profits like WikiLeaks, such that anyone interested in evaluating claims of a “rigged” system can run a simple search and make up their own mind. I don’t really want to go there with this post. Instead, I want to share some brief reflections and anecdotes from my undergraduate education, which included substantial coursework in journalism.

When I went to college, I initially thought I wanted to be a professional journalist. I later came to the conclusion that the system I would be participating in was “rigged”, and that I couldn’t find any heroes to emulate and that it’d be very unlikely for me to profitably, and safely, practice the kind of truth-telling journalism I was interested in, so I decided to abandon that ambition after completing most of the coursework necessary (I did end up completing the degree). Part of my disillusionment came through my experience in my journalism classes.

The very first class I took was an “ethics of journalism” class, which explored this very issue of the role of journalists in a free society, and the special status as gatekeeper assigned to the profession in American political theory. Unfortunately, most of my classes were disrupted that semester because the graduate assistants in the journalism department were on strike and my professor decided not to hold our classes on campus to avoid crossing the picket lines, a decision she made out of perceived solidarity with their plight. On one occasion, class was cancelled entirely because she decided to participate in a protest. While I doubt all journalism graduate students are on strike all the time at all universities in the US, I also would imagine this experience was not entirely unique, and certainly the ethical or political predilections of my professor at the time were not unusual. If this is the mindset and behavior of people teaching introductory ethics courses to aspiring journalists, what do you think might be the impact on journalism as a system in this country?

Another class I remember taking was something like “topics in media criticism”. I think what I imagined the course would be was something like studying news reporting and investigative journalism pieces and looking at how members of the media critically covered certain issues and people, and also how they responded to criticism from those they targeted. Instead, we ended up writing essays about pop culture media through the lenses of things like Marxism, feminism and sexuality.

Things I found memorable and descriptive about the majority of my classmates: few, if any, were double majoring in or had pursued an independent course of study in economics, so they were unfamiliar with even the most watered-down official market-lite basic instruction on the topic, thus making them unfit to cover 95% of what is newsworthy; while they weren’t ascetics, they seemed to accept that they were unlikely to have lucrative careers and seemed suspicious of people who had higher income-earning potential than they; they were definitely not the sharpest, most ambitious students in the school and were closer to being art students than business school students if you could set those things up as two opposite characteristic poles; they were animated by “social justice” issues and assignments, rather than questioning their premises or the validity of that approach; for those who had double majors, they were typically in subjects such as political science, sociology, psychology and occasionally history (ie, philosophically wishy-washy, non-concrete and dominated by Marxist leftover academics); in physical appearance they were often sickly or weak looking, had more body piercings than average and were often disheveled looking, as if they didn’t much care about how they looked to other people; few if any came from true poverty backgrounds, and few came from any wealth, they all seemed “securely” lower-middle class in background.

Putting these three pieces together, a picture emerges. These journalism students were being instructed on their special ethical status and duties while learning from the example of a person whose behavior and loyalties were compromised; they were receiving explicit ideological instruction in their coursework under the guise of some kind of creative criticism curriculum; finally, their personal backgrounds, interest, capabilities and knowledge probably made them unsuitable, on average, for thinking very deeply about key “public interest” issues and their personal circumstances made it potentially easy to tempt or incentivize them in various ways.

Under conditions like these, is it difficult to imagine how journalism, as a profession, might cater to the kind of people who could willfully do the bidding of special interests in a “rigged” system and either not realize how they were being manipulated, or else be eager to take part in such capers?

Of course, it didn’t work on me, but then I decided not to become a journalist!

American Elites On The 1st & 4th Amendments (@realDonaldTrump, @Oracle, #espionage #BillOfRights)

The 1st Amendment

In Donald Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say, the NYT has arrayed a number of experts critical of Donald Trump’s “contempt” for the 1st Amendment:

“They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Mr. Trump said. “O.K.? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case?”

David Post, a retired law professor who now writes for the Volokh Conspiracy, a conservative-leaning law blog, said those comments had crossed a line.
“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary,” Mr. Post said. “You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”
[…]
Other legal scholars said they were worried about Mr. Trump’s commitment to the First Amendment. He has taken particular aim at The Washington Post and its owner, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
[…]
“There are very few serious constitutional thinkers who believe public figures should be able to use libel as indiscriminately as Trump seems to think they should,” Professor Somin said. “He poses a serious threat to the press and the First Amendment.”
In When Google Met Wikileaks (Amazon link, also available on the web as PDF via Google search, ironically), a transcript and commentary by Julian Assange about his time with Eric Schmidt of Google, Assange says:
Whistleblowing publishers, they [Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen] tell us, need “supervision” in order to serve a positive role in society. As for who should conduct this supervision, they suggest “a central body facilitating the release of information.” No more detail is offered, and none of the obvious dangers of this totalitarian vision are discussed.
[…]
In December 2010, in the wake of Cablegate, various US politicians called for the extrajudicial assassination of Julian Assange, including by drone strike. US senators labeled WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization” and named Assange a “high-tech terrorist” and an “enemy combatant” engaged in “cyber warfare.”
A 120-strong US Pentagon team was set up ahead of the release of the Iraq War Logs and Cablegate, dedicated to “taking action” against WikiLeaks. Similar publicly declared task forces in the FBI, the CIA, and the US State Department were also assembled. The US government began to apply pressure to allied countries to detain Julian Assange, and to prevent WikiLeaks from transiting or operating within their territories.
[…]
In early 2014 documents from the National Security Agency obtained by Glenn Greenwald from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were published, revealing that the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had conducted bulk surveillance against every regular visitor to the WikiLeaks website, collecting their IP addresses and search queries in real time. The documents show how GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) is authorized to perform “Active Covert Internet Operations,” “Covert Technical Operations,” and “Effects Operations” against online “adversaries,” including infiltrating chat rooms; “false flag” attacks; computer network attacks; DDoS attacks; disruption; jamming phones, computers, and email accounts; and offensive operations intended to “destroy” and “disrupt” adversaries.329 The same documents showed high-level internal discussions between the office of the NSA’s general counsel and other officials about the possibility of designating WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign actor” for the purposes of targeting it.

I have no doubt that Donald Trump is no 1st Amendment scholar or defender. It also seems true that the 1st Amendment has been on shaky ground for some time and will continue to be even if Donald Trump is not president.

The 4th Amendment

In this video interview of billionaire Larry Ellison, “Larry Ellison Talks Steve Jobs and Evil Google“, Ellison shares his frustration about Larry Page and Google using Oracle tools without license:

I don’t see how you can just copy someone else’s stuff, that really bothers me.

He then goes on to share his opinion about the NSA and whether it poses a threat to American liberties:

The great thing is we live in a democracy, if we don’t like what the NSA is doing we can just get rid of the government and put in a different government. We’ve been collecting this information for so long, long before NSA was collecting it, let me tell you who was collecting it– American Express, Bank of A-, Visa, all of your credit card data, all of your financial records, this whole issue of privacy is utterly fascinating to me. Who’s ever heard of this information being misused by the government? In what way? [Whatever the NSA is doing] is great, it’s essential. By the way, President Obama thinks it’s essential. It’s essential if we want to minimize the kinds of strikes we just had in Boston.

If the government used it to do political targeting, if the Democrats used it to go after Republicans, if the Republicans used it to go after Democrats. In other words, if we stopped looking for terrorists, and we started looking for people on the other side of the aisle.

In Stefan Molyneux’s “The Truth About Edward Snowden” video, we learn the following about the NSA and political spying:

  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) was created in response to the revelation that President Richard Nixon had employed federal resources to investigate his political opponents
  • Since the 1970s, the NSA has operated a worldwide intelligence gathering cooperative dubbed ECHELON through which partner intelligence agencies around the globe agree to spy on other countries’ citizens by request (ie, US requests UK to spy on US citizen as a “foreign citizen” of the UK government) to avoid domestic surveillance abuse charges
  • ECHELON was engaged in commercial spying in Europe; in one instance a German technology manufacturer had an invention stolen and marketed against it by an American firm
  • Since 1999, Microsoft has inserted special “keys” inside all Windows software at the NSA’s request, granting “back door” access to the US government

So senior politicians (aka the president) have in the past abused government surveillance resources for political gain. And the US intelligence apparatus has been used to violate license agreements (“copy people’s stuff”) and abjure property rights in business technologies. One would think, then, that Larry Ellison would be more skeptical of the NSA.

According to this interview, Larry Ellison has the same opinion of the NSA that a random, patriotic and credulous man-on-the-street might have. I find that pretty hard to believe given that Larry Ellison is a billionaire who owns 98% of Lanai all to himself. Here are some possible explanations that seek to reconcile Larry Ellison’s stated beliefs with his personal success and implicit intelligence:

  1. He is lying; Larry Ellison’s company, Oracle, is a major supplier to the NSA and he doesn’t want to put any sweetheart deals at risk.
  2. He is lying; Larry Ellison has made a sweetheart deal with the government and other power elites that he looks the other way/cheerleads NSA spying and in return he gets “protection”.
  3. He is scared; Larry Ellison knows the high stakes of being a billionaire and knows what can happen to a talkative, uppity guy at the top of the totem pole, so he plays dumb and loyal to save his own skin.
  4. He is lying and a hypocrite; Larry Ellison is using the NSA’s access to competitive intelligence for unfair advantage and license agreement violations of his own and is putting up a smoke screen by playing the annoyed priest in regards to the sins of others which are also his own.

Interestingly, Donald Trump, no fan of at least one amendment of the Bill of Rights (according to some of the legal scholars quoted above), believes that the Chinese government engages in corporate espionage:

If corporate espionage is bad, why isn’t Donald Trump talking about the NSA and corporate America’s record on business espionage?