FBI Analysis Fingers Russian Spy Agencies For U.S. Election Hacks

Source: HuffPost

Emphasis Mine

The FBI squarely blamed Russian intelligence services on Thursday for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, releasing the most definitive report yet on the issue, including samples of malicious computer code said to have been used in a broad hacking campaign.

Starting in mid-2015, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the FSB, emailed a malicious link to more than 1,000 recipients, including U.S. government targets, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a 13-page report co-authored with the Department of Homeland Security. (bit.ly/2iuT8cp)

While the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence had said Russia was behind the hacking in October, the report is the first detailed technical analysis provided by the government and the first official FBI statement.

Russia has consistently denied the hacking allegations.

The FBI issued its report on the same day that President Barack Obama announced a series of retaliatory measures, including the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence operatives and the sanctioning of the GRU and FSB. The Kremlin denounced the sanctions as unlawful and promised “adequate” retaliation.

According to the FBI report, among the groups compromised by the FSB hacks was the Democratic National Committee, which was again infiltrated in early 2016 by another Russian agency, the military GRU. 

The report largely corroborates earlier findings from private cyber firms, such as CrowdStrike, which probed the hacks at the DNC and elsewhere, and is a preview of a more detailed assessment from the U.S. intelligence community that President Barack Obama ordered completed before he leaves office next month, a source familiar with the matter said.

Much of the information provided in the report is not new, the source said, reflecting the difficulty of publicly attributing cyber attacks without revealing classified sources and methods used by the government.

Some senior Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress have expressed outrage at what they called Russian interference in America’s elections, diverging from their own party’s president-elect. The allegations and sanctions mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Throughout the raucous campaign, a steady stream of leaked Democratic emails clouded the candidacy of party nominee Hillary Clinton. In the aftermath of her defeat, Democrats have accused Russia. Meantime, Trump, a Republican, has questioned whether Russia was truly at fault and told the Democrats to get over it.

“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in a statement on Thursday.

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, tapped people seen as friendly to Moscow for administration posts and rejected assessments by intelligence agencies on the hacking.

The FBI said hackers gained access to and stole sensitive information, including internal emails “likely leading to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members” and public leaks of that information.

The report did not name hacked organizations or address previous conclusions reached by the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI, according to U.S. officials, that Russia sought to intervene in the election to help Trump defeat Clinton.

See:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/russian-spy-agencies-election-hack_us_58666756e4b0de3a08f7fd27?qy2amr2hldyn2q33di

 

Trump Is Going After Health Care. Will Democrats Push Back?

Source:NY Times

Author:

Emphasis Mine

Where should Democrats head after their recent electoral rout? As it happens, coming fights about federally subsidized health insurance offer the party a golden opportunity to engage people far beyond its urban strongholds, in communities that will be hard hit by Republican plans to shrink Medicaid, privatize Medicare and eliminate the taxes that pay for Obamacare subsidies.

Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, and Republicans maintained congressional majorities, because of overwhelming victories in small cities, outer suburbs and rural counties. Yet the president-elect and the Republicans are poised to deliver blows to the social fabric and economic underpinnings of those very communities. Along with Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, congressional Republicans say they want to move quickly to revolutionize all types of federal health insurance spending, using special procedures that require only 51 votes in the Senate.

Congress will be asked not only to cut the taxes levied on businesses and the rich to finance Obamacare benefits for 20 to 30 million low and middle-income Americans; Republican leaders also plan to slash federal commitments to Medicaid, giving states the authority to shrink this health care program for the poor and elderly. And Republican House members, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, seem determined to abolish traditional Medicare insurance for retirees and replace it with “premium vouchers” that would throw older Americans on the mercies of private insurance markets and require them to pay more for their care.

Trump voters will be especially hard hit if just part of this sweeping agenda comes to fruition.

Conservatives often point to poor blacks and Latinos as the primary beneficiaries of federal health insurance programs. But such rhetoric obscures the enormous importance of Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare subsidies to economically struggling white Americans living in small cities and rural areas. In Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton with overwhelming support outside big cities, about 17 percent of residents are 65 or older, above the national average. Meanwhile, some 16 percent of Pennsylvanians benefit from Medicare, and 18 percent from Medicaid. With the bulk of Medicaid going to elderly and disabled residents, that program is the single largest federal subsidy flowing into the Keystone State.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also hit Pennsylvania hard. Under the act, some 468,000 low-income Pennsylvanians had gained Medicaid coverage by August 2016, and another 439,000 bought private coverage on the Obamacare marketplace, with more than three-fourths of those people getting tax credits averaging $251 per month. Health care is often sparse in nonurban areas, and the providers that do exist depend on federal insurance programs that help many patients pay for care. If radical Republican cutbacks in federal contributions to health insurance are enacted, Pennsylvania hospitals and health care businesses will lose vital revenues, leaving many lower-income and sick Pennsylvanians at risk of losing access to care.

This is the case in other states as well, meaning many rural and small-town Trump supporters may soon see that Make America Great Again means accelerating economic decline and social devastation. Mr. Trump shows little understanding of the intricate interplay of subsidies and rules in the health care system, and probably has no inkling that federal taxes collected from liberal states like California, Massachusetts and New York heavily subsidize vital health services, businesses and family benefits in the very places that voted heavily for him. In delegating plans for huge health care cutbacks to hard-right congressional Republicans, he will be hurting his own base. But will Mr. Trump suffer repercussions if the Republican Congress plows ahead? Its proposed changes are unpopular — including repealing the Affordable Care Act, which only one in four Americans support — and eliminating benefits usually arouses anger in the affected groups. But political punishment will not be automatic, because Democrats currently have little organized presence outside urban areas. Small cities and rural areas are overwhelmingly represented in Congress and state capitols by Republicans, who will do all they can to displace blame.

For the Democratic Party, the coming Republican assault on public health insurance represents a huge political opportunity. But to seize it, the party will have to beef up state committees and place a priority on activating volunteer supporters everywhere — getting people to write messages to local newspapers and social media sites, and reach out to hospitals, health care providers and nonprofits to beat the drums about losses the Republicans are inflicting. Even if Democrats cannot soon win outright majorities beyond their urban base, they must be actively involved in communities damaged by Mr. Trump’s false campaign promises.

Democrats cannot just defend Medicare; they must loudly point out that repealing Obamacare means eliminating the taxes that subsidize health care for low- and middle-income people. That huge and immediate tax cut for the rich would lead to the demise of subsidized health insurance for millions of less privileged Americans in rural, suburban and urban communities. Proclaiming this truth could help Democrats gain a new hearing from many Trump voters. But it remains to be seen whether the party can rise to the challenge of showing up everywhere.

See:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/opinion/trump-is-going-after-health-care-will-democrats-push-back.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_ty_20161221&nl=opinion-today&nlid=67843644&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

How do we stop Trump & the GOP? An insider’s guide by Congressional staffers

Source: DailyKos

Author:VTGenie

Emphasis Mine

During the past month it’s been easy to got locked into a demoralizing cycle of anger, frustration, and profound sadness about the future of our country. Breaking the cycle is difficult, given the daily deluge of Trump’s obscene cabinet picks and Congressional Republicans’ plans to reverse so many gains we’ve made during the past eight years. So it is enormously uplifting to read about some practical and concrete advice for how we can fight back.

The guidance is provided in a remarkable document, Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, written by a group of former staffers to progressive Congress members. From small steps that any of us can do, like contacting members of your Congressional delegation, to larger actions that require more planning and organization, this guide provides “insider” information to effectively push-back against the trump/GOP agenda.

Here’s how Mother Jones describes the document:

In clear, confident prose, it lays out a well-reasoned, step-by-step strategy for building a grassroots movement to challenge Trump and his Republican allies in Congress.

Ezra Levin, former deputy policy director for Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who represents a district in central Texas, is the “unofficial spokesman” for the project. Here’s how he describes the group’s thinking.

We thought our value-add to this conversation is to demystify Congress for everybody else. The tea party had a lot of nasty tactics that were needlessly aggressive and petty and scary. But they proved it is indeed possible for a committed, relatively small number of folks across the country to make Congress listen to them and to slow and stop an agenda.

The way we see it, there is a much larger group of people around the country now that feel that way than there was in 2009 and 2010. Progressives are the majority; we won the popular vote by a long shot and Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans representing mainly rich old white men are a minority. If we stand up together and use the effective strategies and tactics the tea party used, we believe we can stop them.

That’s right: they have taken many of the successful strategies of the tea party— minus the disgusting parts— and analyzed what made them successful. For clarity, they include this handy table:

not-tea-party.png

To fully appreciate the amazing work they’ve done, you really need to peruse the guide itself. But to give you some idea, here is their one-page summary (which, as stated in the guide, they explicitly want to be shared):

Here’s the quick and dirty summary of this document. While this page summarizes top-level takeaways, the full document describes how to actually carry out these activities.

Ch. 1:  How grassroots advocacy worked to stop Obama. We examine lessons from the Tea Party’s rise and recommend two key strategic components:

1. A local strategy targeting individual Members of Congress (MoCs).

2. A defensive approach purely focused on stopping Trump from implementing an agenda built on racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.

Ch. 2: How your MoC thinks, and how to use that to save democracy. Reelection, reelection, reelection. MoCs want their constituents to think well of them and they want good, local press. They hate surprises, wasted time, and most of all, bad press that makes them look weak, unlikable, and vulnerable. You will use these interests to make them listen and act.

Ch. 3: Identify or organize your local group. Is there an existing local group or network you can join? Or do you need to start your own? We suggest steps to help mobilize your fellow constituents locally and start organizing for action.

Ch. 4: Four local advocacy tactics that actually work. Most of you have 3 MoCs–two Senators and one Representative. Whether you like it or not, they are your voice in Washington. Your job is to make sure they are, in fact, speaking for you. We’ve identified four key opportunity areas to pressure MoCs that just a handful of local constituents can use to great effect. For each of these always record encounters on video, prepare questions ahead of time, coordinate with your group, and report back to local media:

1. Townhalls: MoCs regularly hold public in-district events to show that they are listening to constituents. Make them listen to you, and report out when they don’t.

2. Non-townhall events. MoCs love cutting ribbons and kissing babies back home. Don’t let them get photo-ops without questions about racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.

3. District office sit-ins/meetings. Every MoC has one or several district offices. Go there. Demand a meeting with the MoC. Report to the world if they refuse to listen.

4. Coordinated calls. Calls are a light lift but can have impact. Organize your local group to barrage your MoCs at an opportune moment and on a specific issue.

Furthermore, this is not just an itemized list of “dos and “don’ts”. Beyond being a guide for action, it is a fascinating window into to how things work, and why. For example, here’s a bit more discussion about the importance of a unified, defensive strategy…

This focus on defense rather than policy development allowed the movement to avoid fracturing. Tea Party members may have not agreed on the policy reforms, but they could agree that Obama, Democrats, and moderate Republicans had to be stopped.

[…]

Tea Partiers primarily applied this defensive strategy by pressuring their own local Members of Congress (MoCs). This meant demanding that that their own personal Representatives and Senators be their voice of opposition on Capitol Hill.

… and how it can be used to achieve our objectives:

Using these lessons to fight the Trump agenda

For the next two years, Donald Trump and congressional Republicans will control the federal government. But they will depend on just about every member of Congress to actually get laws passed. And those members of Congress care much more about getting reelected than they care about any specific issue. By adopting a defensive strategy that pressures MoCs, we can achieve the following goals:

Stall the Trump agenda by forcing them to redirect energy away from their priorities. Congressional offices have limited time and limited people. A day that they spend worrying about you is a day that they’re not spending on ending Medicare, privatizing public schools, or preparing a Muslim registry.

Sap Representatives’ will to support or drive reactionary change. If you do this right, you will have an outsized impact. Every time your member of Congress signs on to a bill, takes a position, or makes a statement, a little part of his or her mind will be thinking, “How am I going to explain this to the angry constituents who keep showing up at my events and demanding answers?”

Reaffirm the illegitimacy of the Trump agenda. The hard truth is that Trump, McConnell, and Ryan will have the votes to cause some damage. But by objecting as loudly and powerfully as possible, and by centering the voices of those who are most affected by their agenda, you can ensure that people understand exactly how bad these laws are from the very start – priming the ground for the 2018 midterms and their repeal when Democrats retake power.

Yes, they acknowledge that we need to maintain our positive progressive vision, and to promote what we are for, not just what we are against. But right now, defending against Trump and the GOP must be the primary focus:

You may not like the idea of being purely defensive; we certainly don’t. As progressives, our natural inclination is to talk about the things we’re for – a clean climate, economic justice, health care for all, racial equality, gender and sexual equality, and peace and human rights. These are the things that move us. But the hard truth of the next four years is that we’re not going to set the agenda; Trump and congressional Republican will, and we’ll have to respond.  The best way to stand up for the progressive values and policies we cherish is to stand together, indivisible — to treat an attack on one as an attack on all.

There’s so much more in the guide that I haven’t touched on here. It contains detailed, practical strategies for anyone who wants to do more than just sign online petitions— whether you live in a “safe” Democratic district or a Republican stronghold.

I’ll close with this statement from the document itself (also excerpted in a New Yorker article about the document):

“Our goal is to provide practical understanding of how your MoCs think, and how you can demonstrate to them the depth and power of the opposition to Donald Trump and Republican congressional overreach. This is not a panacea, nor is it intended to stand alone. We strongly urge you to marry the strategy in this guide with a broader commitment to creating a more just society, building local power, and addressing systemic injustice and racism.”

To the authors of this incredible resource: Thank you .

Tuesday, Dec 20, 2016 · 11:38:03 AM EST · VTGenie

There is a new site for the Guide, along with this statement by the authors:

NOTE FROM THE INDIVISIBLE TEAM Since this guide went live as a Google Doc, we’ve received an overwhelming flood of messages from people all over the country working to resist the Trump agenda. We’re thrilled and humbled by the energy and passion of this growing movement.

We’ll be updating the guide based on your feedback and making it interactive ASAP. You can sign up for updates at http://www.IndivisibleGuide.com.

Every single person who worked on this guide and website is a volunteer. We’re doing this in our free time without coordination or support from our employers. Our only goal is help the real leaders on the ground who are resisting Trump’s agenda on their home turf.

We hope you will take this document and use it however you see fit. We want to hear your stories, questions, comments, edits, etc., so please feel free to ping some of us on Twitter: @IndivisibleTeam, @ezralevin, @angelrafpadilla, @texpat, @Leahgreenb. Or email IndivisibleAgainstTrump@gmail.com.

And please please please spread the word! Only folks who know this exists will use it. Good luck — we will win.

Many thanks to commenters who have brought this to my attention.

See: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/12/19/1612645/-How-do-we-stop-Trump-the-GOP-An-insider-s-guide-by-Congressional-staffers?detail=email&link_id=16&can_id=d57025b8908d671dcc8edc84e5855f8f&source=email-breitbart-supremacists-boycott-of-rogue-one-didnt-go-so-well&email_referrer=breitbart-supremacists-boycott-of-rogue-one-didnt-go-so-well&email_subject=breitbart-supremacists-boycott-of-rogue-one-didnt-go-so-well

Donald Trump is serious about smashing GOP orthodoxy

Source: WashPo

Author: Eugene Robinson

Emphasis Mine

President-elect Donald Trump’s victory tour was more than just an opportunity to strut and preen around the country like a peacock with a comb-over. It was a warning to Republican leaders in Congress that Trump intends to be in charge — and that there will be consequences if the party establishment does not fall in line.

The post-election rallies also served as venues for Trump to make grandiose promises, including some that will stick in his party’s craw.

Trump billed the series of campaign-style events as a way to thank the voters who elected him. It seems obvious that he is addicted to adulation, basks in the grandeur of his own celebrity and chafes at the prosaic labor of assembling an administration. This is a man who cannot be bothered to hear a daily intelligence briefing about threats to the nation, yet finds time to meet with Kanye West.

At the victory rallies, Trump continued his withering onslaught against the truth; he claimed, for example, to have won in a historic landslide, though Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes. He renewed his attack against the news media, pointing at reporters and calling them “very dishonest people.” He offered a “thank you to the African American community” who “didn’t come out to vote” for Clinton.

Amid all the bombast and nonsense, however, there was a clear message for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): The next president expects them to follow, not lead.

Trump held the rallies in two solidly Republican states (Louisiana and Alabama), four traditional swing states (Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa and Florida) and three states he unexpectedly took from the Democrats (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan). He reveled in illustrating that his electoral coalition was unique — and that his supporters were more loyal to him personally than to the party he conquered in a hostile takeover.

In Ryan’s home state, the crowd booed when Trump mentioned the speaker’s name. Trump protested, saying he has come to “appreciate” Ryan and comparing him to “a fine wine” that improves with time. But then, with a smile, he added: “Now, if he ever goes against me, I’m not going to say that, okay?”

During the campaign, Ryan was sharply critical of Trump before reluctantly falling in line. He attended the Dec. 8 rally — and got something of a dressing-down for having suggested, in a “60 Minutes” interview a few days earlier, that the border wall Trump promises to build might actually be a mere fence in some places.

We’re going to work on the wall, Paul,” Trump said, turning to Ryan. “We’re going to build the wall, okay? Believe me.”

There are Republicans in Congress who believe Trump is so naive in the ways of Washington that he can be led around by the nose — that he will basically sign whatever the GOP majorities in the House and Senate choose to pass. Many of those who share this view also were confident that Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would be the party’s nominee. Do they really expect Trump to suddenly be transformed into an orthodox Republican? I don’t.

Trump promised the ridiculous border wall, and I believe he will expect Congress to let him build it. He also promised punishment, such as targeted tariffs, for companies that move jobs overseas. He promised a trillion-dollar program to improve the nation’s infrastructure. He promised massive, budget-busting tax cuts for corporations, the wealthy and the middle class. He promised not only to repeal the Affordable Care Act but also to simultaneously replace it, vowing that those with pre-existing conditions will still be able to get health insurance.

In foreign policy, Trump pledges even more radical departures from the Republican establishment. He has been vocal in his desire for a closer, more cooperative relationship with Russia — one reason, perhaps, why Russian President Vladimir Putin had his intelligence agents work so hard to get Trump elected, according to the CIA and the FBI. For secretary of state, Trump has chosen ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, a man on whom Putin has bestowed the Russian Order of Friendship.

Trump promised during his victory tour to establish safe zones for civilians in Syria, which presumably would require working with Putin, who supports the continued rule of barbarous dictator Bashar al-Assad. Are you ready for that, Republicans? Have you seen the pictures from Aleppo?

The GOP establishment is soon going to have to choose between principle and political well-being. The latter almost always wins.

Read more from Eugene Robinson’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook. You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a live Q&A.

See:https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-is-serious-about-smashing-gop-orthodoxy/2016/12/19/a5ea18ac-c624-11e6-8bee-54e800ef2a63_story.html?utm_term=.9115dbf1dee8&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

To Defeat Trump, We Need a Vision, a Message and Tactics to Match

Source: Portside/ the Guardian

Author: Stephen Crowley

Emphasis Mine

The US is now more politically divided than at anytime since the civil war. And yet, as of next month, America will be much like a one-party state. With a new US supreme court justice, the party will effectively control all three branches of government. Say goodbye to the famous checks and balances of the US political system. Now the balance, and those checks, will have to come from the streets.

The American political system is broken. Trump lost the popular vote by close to 3m ballots. Yet he has shown a readiness to bully political dissenters, and an inability or unwillingness to disentangle his personal financial interests from the business of running the country.

He has nominated Wall Street tycoons, generals and political extremists to top positions. True, his nominees may get tough questioning, even from some Republicans. But make no mistake: personal flamboyance aside, the Trump agenda is essentially the Republican agenda.

Trump will enter office as perhaps the most unpopular newly elected president in history. And yet the famous institutions established by the US constitution, meant to prevent the usurpation of power by any one individual or faction, no long appear up to the task. That civic responsibility – of organizing to prevent tyranny – must now fall to everyday Americans. But that social movement will need to have a strategic vision, one that connects with the justifiable anger that drove many voters to Trump.

Such powerful social movements are not unprecedented in US history: the organized resistance to British colonial rule; the underground railroad and the abolition movement; the strikes and labor organizing of the 1930s spurring the New Deal; the civil rights movement and the various movements it inspired. Our country, and our world, would look entirely different today without the hard work and struggle of these activists, organizers and resisters.

Yet any protest movement against the extremes of the Trump administration must be strategic and not merely reactive. That means that the tactics must align with the movement’s strategic vision. Simply taking to the streets, blocking traffic or marching on Washington will not be enough. Nor will it suffice to simply revive the Clinton coalition.

The bigotry, sexism and racism of Trump and the extremists he has dredged up must be stopped at all costs. But a successful movement must drive a sharp wedge between Trump and many of the disaffected Americans he drew to his campaign. Single-issue protests must be tied to broader concerns, or they will succumb to Trump’s uncanny ability to divide and conquer.

The soft underbelly of the emerging Trump government is the outrageous claim that he and his fellow billionaire appointees have the interests of America’s working class at heart. The campaign of Bernie Sanders demonstrated the potential for a politics that, while celebrating diversity, calls for a solidarity of the many against the powerful few who continue to benefit from capitalism run amok. And under Trump run amok it certainly will. While Sanders did not “win” in the formal political sense, he inspired millions, including many young people who have historically been the foot soldiers of social movements.

Social movements don’t need a majority to be effective. Research shows [1] that governments around the world have been shaken to their foundations, and often toppled, when a mere 3.5% of their populations [2] are organized in opposition. This is because any government, no matter how much it controls the formal levers of power, must also in the end retain legitimacy.

Questioning the legitimacy of those in power is central because it can lead people to question the nature of power itself: does it lie with the formal power-holders, or with the people themselves? Ultimately, whether a major corporation or a global superpower, any hierarchical organization – much like a human pyramid – relies entirely on the many at the bottom to carry out the orders of those on top.

A couple of recent examples, while seemingly small in themselves, point to the potential for a broader movement of social power. The Fight for 15 campaign has been enormously successful in fighting for a livable minimum wage. And now that Trump has nominated a fast-food mogul for his labor secretary, such campaigns can shine a spotlight on the hypocrisy of the president-elect’s promise to provide “good jobs” for Americans.

The decision to halt the Dakota Access pipeline was a huge victory for Native Americans and environmentalists. But a decisive factor in the Department of Army’s decision might have been the thousands of veterans [3] who mobilized to block the pipeline. If an anti-Trump movement could draw in veterans, police officers, rank-and-file union members, in whatever number, it could prove unstoppable.

Such a movement also needs a strategic vision, with a message of solidarity and tactics to match. It has been done before. The future of our country, and indeed our planet, is at stake. We must do it again.

An appeal from The Guardian: “The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too. If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to pay for it our future would be much more secure. Become a supporter. [4] Make a contribution. [5]

Stephen Crowley is Professor of Politics at Oberlin College, and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. For many years he has taught a course on nonviolent protest movements and revolutions. 

See: https://portside.org/print/2016-12-16/defeat-trump-we-need-vision-message-and-tactics-match

Donald Trump’s War on Science

Source: NewYorker

Author: Prof. Lawrence M. Krauss

Emphasis Mine

Last week, the Space, Science, and Technology subcommittee of the House of Representatives tweeted a misleading story from Breitbart News: “Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists.” (There is always some drop in temperature when El Niño transitions into La Niña—but there has been no anomalous plunge.) Under normal circumstances, this tweet wouldn’t be so surprising: Lamar Smith, the chair of the committee since 2013, is a well-known climate-change denier. But these are not normal times. The tweet is best interpreted as something new: a warning shot. It’s a sign of things to come—a declaration of the Trump Administration’s intent to sideline science.

In a 1946 essay, George Orwell wrote that “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” It’s not just that we’re easily misled. It’s that, by “impudently twisting the facts,” we can convince ourselves of “things which we know to be untrue.” A whole society, he wrote, can deceive itself “for an indefinite time,” and the only check on that mass delusion is that “sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality.” Science is one source of that solid reality. The Trump Administration seems determined to keep it at bay, and the consequences for society and the environment will be profound.

The first sign of Trump’s intention to spread lies about empirical reality, “1984”-style, was, of course, the appointment of Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, as Trump’s “senior counselor and strategist.” This year, Breitbart hosted stories with titles such as “1001 Reasons Why Global Warming Is So Totally Over in 2016,” despite the fact that 2016 is now overwhelmingly on track to be the hottest year on record, beating 2015, which beat 2014, which beat 2013. Such stories do more than spread disinformation. Their purpose is the creation of an alternative reality—one in which scientific evidence is a sham—so that hyperbole and fearmongering can divide and conquer the public.

Bannon isn’t the only propagandist in the new Administration: Myron Ebell, who heads the transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, is another. In the aughts, as a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, he worked to kill a cap-and-trade bill proposed by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman; in 2012, when the conservative American Enterprise Institute held a meeting about the economics of a possible carbon tax, he asked donors to defund it. It’s possible, of course, to oppose cap-and-trade or carbon taxes in good faith—and yet, in recent years, Ebell’s work has come to center on lies about science and scientists. Today, as the leader of the Cooler Heads Coalition, an anti-climate-science group, Ebell denies the veracity and methodology of science itself. He dismisses complex computer models that have been developed by hundreds of researchers by saying that they “don’t even pass the laugh test.” If Ebell’s methods seem similar to those used by the tobacco industry to deny the adverse health effects of smoking in the nineteen-nineties, that’s because he worked as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry.

When Ebell’s appointment was announced, Jeremy Symons, of the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “I got a sick feeling in my gut. . . . I can’t believe we got to the point when someone who is as unqualified and intellectually dishonest as Myron Ebell has been put in a position of trust for the future of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate we are going to leave our kids.” Symons was right to be apprehensive: on Wednesday, word came that Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, will be named the head of the E.P.A. As Jane Mayer has written, it would be hard to find a public official in the United States who is more closely tied to the oil-and-gas industry and who has been more actively opposed to the efforts of the E.P.A. to regulate the environment. In a recent piece for National Review, Pruitt denied the veracity of climate science; he has led the effort among Republican attorneys general to work directly with the fossil-fuel industry in resisting the Clean Air Act. In 2014, a Times investigation found that letters from Pruitt’s office to the E.P.A. and other government agencies had been drafted by energy lobbyists; right now, he is involved in a twenty-eight-state lawsuit against the very agency that he has been chosen to head.

It gets worse. As this piece was going to press, word came that Trump’s likely choice for Secretary of the Interior is another climate denier, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a congresswoman from Washington State. McMorris Rodgers has made false statements about the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change; if confirmed, she would be able to further distort public perceptions on this issue by controlling how the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service communicate to the public about climate change. McMorris Rodgers is a long-standing opponent of regulations on emission of greenhouse gases and an ardent advocate for the exploitation of public lands for fossil-fuel production. She would now be in a position to oversee use of federal lands for coal, oil, and gas production, potentially reversing the current moratorium on federal coal leasing, as well as making decisions on offshore oil drilling. McMorris Rodgers has even voted against tax credits for production of renewable electricity. She is about as friendly to the production of fossil fuels as a legislator can be.

The unfolding disaster at the E.P.A. represents only one front in the Trump Administration’s wider war on science. If one way to undermine science is to mindlessly dispute its methods and findings, another is to deprive it of funding, which is what Bob Walker, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign on space policy, is advocating. Walker wants to defund NASA’s earth-science efforts, which he has characterized as “politically correct environmental monitoring.” As the astrophysicist Adam Frank explained recently, in the Times, NASA’s earth-monitoring programs, which incorporate at least fifteen earth-science satellites, do more than investigate climate change; they provide data relevant to agriculture, shipping, medicine, and more. In fact, they are essential for understanding and forecasting weather—which is not to be confused with climate—including extreme weather events that threaten people’s lives. Shutting NASA out of that research prevents it from anticipating and predicting events with wide-ranging consequences.

And the Trump Administration is on course to undermine science in another way: through education. Educators have various concerns about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education—they object to her efforts to shield charter schools from government regulation, for example—but one issue stands above the rest: DeVos is a fundamentalist Christian with a long history of opposition to science. If her faith shapes her policies—and there is evidence that it will—she could shape science education decisively for the worse, by systematically depriving young people, in an era where biotechnology will play a key economic and health role worldwide, of a proper understanding of the very basis of modern biology: evolution.

DeVos comes from a religious family with a long history of supporting fundamentalist religious groups, including the notoriously anti-science group Focus on the Family. Her family has a net worth exceeding four billion dollars, and they have used that money to establish a foundation which has donated hundreds of thousands to pro-life pregnancy centers that lie to women about the risks of abortion. In 2006, DeVos’s husband, Dick, ran unsuccessfully for governor in Michigan, and, as Jane Mayer wrote last month, “the DeVos family doubled down on political contributions and support for conservative Christian causes” after he lost.

Along with her husband, DeVos is an active member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, a small Protestant denomination with the stated belief that “all scientific theories be subject to Scripture.” According to the church’s official statement on science, “Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.” DeVos attended Calvin College, which is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed Church. She majored in business administration and political science. (She does not have a degree in education.) And although she has not spoken out directly on issues such as evolution and the Big Bang, her husband advocated teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in science classes during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign. “I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design—that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory—that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less,” he said. Given her strong support of his campaign, and their joint investment in both conservative and religious causes, as well as her own religious background, it is reasonable to expect that her views do not significantly diverge from his. (DeVos did not respond to requests for comment.)

There is nothing respectable about the idea of “teaching the controversy,” as intelligent-design advocates describe it. We don’t teach modern astronomy by suggesting to students that they feel free to decide for themselves whether the sun orbits Earth or vice versa; instead, we teach them how scientists discovered the realities of our solar system, despite considerable pressure to renounce their own discoveries. Similarly, students should be encouraged to understand that evolution is not some principle laid down on high by a conclave of scientists; they should explore the various empirical tests to which it has been subjected for more than a hundred and fifty years. The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it. It should be easy, therefore, for Congress to make sure that DeVos isn’t planning to drive our educational system off a scientific cliff. During her confirmation hearings, DeVos should be asked whether she thinks it’s appropriate to teach intelligent design alongside evolution in biology classes, or whether young-Earth creationism should be presented alongside the reality of a 4.5-billion-year-old solar system in physics class. An answer in the affirmative to either question should disqualify her as the highest federal government official overseeing public education in this country. If Congress doesn’t exercise its obligation to insure the competence of Presidential appointees like DeVos, then voters need to hold them accountable in the next election.

Taken singly, Trump’s appointments are alarming. But taken as a whole they can be seen as part of a larger effort to undermine the institution of science, and to deprive it of its role in the public-policy debate. Just as Steve Bannon undermines the institution of a fact-based news media, so appointments like Ebell, Pruitt, McMorris Rodgers, Walker, and DeVos advance the false perception that science is just a politicized tool of “the élites.” (Lamar Smith, one presumes, will continue in his role on the House Science Committee.) Science is the one domain in human life where bias and prejudice are systematically eliminated; now those very forces are set to undermine the practice of science in America. It is not only scientists who should actively fight against this dangerous trend. It is everyone who is concerned about our freedom, health, welfare, and security as a nation—and everyone who is concerned about the planetary legacy we leave for our children.

 

See:http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/donald-trumps-war-on-science?intcid=mod-latest

The Clintons’ Dominance of Democratic Politics Is Over—And They Will Not Be Remembered Fondly

Self-inflicted wounds, an out-of-touch candidate and a party more concerned about Wall Street than the working class sealed the Clinton campaign’s defeat.

Source: in these times

Author:kathlene Geier

Emphasis Mine

In the aftermath of a political catastrophe as devastating of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, you’ve got two choices. You can blame the elites or blame the people. I’m gonna go with the elites.

Many liberal journalists, however have taken the opposite view. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss, they have demanded that we dissolve the people and elect another. The Clintonistas have attempted to pin the blame for this fiasco on the voter groups they detest the most: the white working class, the millennials, and the Left. Clinton supporter Jill Filipovic opined that Hillary was too good for us: “Sorry America, you didn’t deserve her,” she tweeted. Many other Clintonites in the media concurred. To Virginia Heffernan, Hillary Clinton was not just a candidate. Instead, she “is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself” who “did everything right in this campaign… She cannot be faulted, criticized, or analyzed for even one more second.”

But outside the pro-Clinton media bubble, ordinary Americans had a far less rosy view of Dear Leader Hillary.

Clinton came within striking distance of winning this thing; that much is clear. Normally, when, like Hillary, you begin your campaign with approval ratings that are already under water, and you’re also running when your own party has held the White House for two consecutive terms, I’d say it would be an uphill climb to victory. On the other hand, Hillary was running against Donald Trump, a man who, at the time of the election, was despised by even more people than she was. Against a normal Republican like McCain or Romney, Hillary probably would have lost decisively. But against Trump, she was the odds-on favorite. The polls were tight but they almost always showed Hillary in the lead. And it ended up being a close, and therefore winnable, election. The margins were close enough that a competently run campaign could and should have put Clinton over the top.

(N.B.: Clinton won the vote 48-46, about where the polls were…)

What we saw instead was gross political malpractice on the part of Democratic Party elites generally and Team Clinton specifically. Yes, factors outside of the campaign’s control, ranging from the Comey letter to racism, sexism, and more, surely contributed to her defeat. But it’s also become clear that a series of fatal miscalculations and spectacular strategic blunders by the party and the Clinton campaign is what ultimately sealed their candidate’s fate.

Here are some of them:

1. This one isn’t so much why-Hillary-lost but why-the-Democrats-lost: the Clintons did the most thorough job of clearing the Democratic primary field of any candidate in modern history. They threw their weight around and made certain that they had endorsements and support from just about every major donor, party official, party organization, and interest group organization (such as labor, reproductive rights groups, environmental groups, etc.).

The Clintons have a history of punishing perceived disloyalty, so it’s easy to see why these groups knuckled under. Every potential candidate stayed out except Bernie, who shocked everyone when what was supposed to be a protest candidacy turned into a major threat. But if the primary process had been open and competitive, we almost certainly would have ended up with a stronger and more popular candidate. I don’t know who that would have been–maybe Elizabeth Warren, maybe Joe Biden, maybe Sherrod Brown, maybe Kirsten Gillibrand, maybe someone else. In any case, the party, and the country, would have been far better off. Democratic Party elites share the blame here, because they never challenged the Clintons’ attempts to ensure a coronation.

2. Clinton also shot herself in the foot by her own arrogant behavior. Setting up the private email server at the State Department, making those buckraking Wall Street speeches, refusing to cut her ties to the Clinton Foundation (and thus avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest)–all of those were Clinton’s freely made choices, and as such they were completely avoidable.

Yes, the email scandal was a load of bunk, but why in the world would she make the stupid decision to set up a private server in the first place, which gratuitously provided endless rounds of  ammunition for her many political enemies? She knew she’d be running for president again, and it’s not like the right hasn’t been hellbent on destroying her for, oh, the past quarter-century or so. It’s worth pointing out that President Obama has had the discipline and smarts to avoid that kind of self-destructive behavior. He and his administration never gave off the faintest whiff of scandal, which is why his enemies were never able to bring him down, try as they might. Seriously, what was Clinton’s excuse here?

Every one of those dangerous misjudgments was a self-inflicted wound that never stopped bleeding, and confirmed the well-founded perception that Clinton was entitled and out of touch. That Clinton never seemed to learn from her past was an ominous sign that her presidency would have been chockful of similar misadventures. After decades of Clinton drama, the public was weary, and no wonder.

3. Relatedly, when Hillary made these foolish decisions, why didn’t the people around her stop her? And that points to another reason why she lost: the mediocrity of her advisers and campaign staff. The Clintons, who seem to prize loyalty over competence, have a long and troubling history of surrounding themselves with extraordinarily unsavory people–sleazeballs and hacks like Mark Penn, Lanny Davis, and Dick Morris, to name just a few. This time around, there weren’t any members of Team Clinton who seemed quite that clownish, so I assumed the personnel decisions were wiser. From the outside, the campaign look professional and competent. But as we’ve been discovering, that perception belied the reality.

4. There is also abundant evidence that Clinton’s campaign royally screwed up its strategy and badly misallocated resources. Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million votes yet lost key Rust Belt states by razor-thin margins. Clinton’s much-hyped, data-driven get-out-the-vote operation was a shocking failure. Working with outdated voter lists, it mistakenly targeted large numbers of Trump voters. In Michigan, state and local officials “were running at roughly one-tenth the paid canvasser capacity that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) had when he ran for president in 2004.” In states like Ohio, Team Clinton’s efforts neglected traditional Democratic constituencies like African-Americans in favor of targeting far less favorable demographics like upscale Republican women. Clinton did not appear in Wisconsin, a state that she lost, after the primary in April, and neither did Barack or Michelle Obama. One Clinton official admitted that the campaign didn’t do more in some states where they knew were vulnerable because they were too busy playing mind games with Trump: they believed they “could keep Trump away—by acting overly confident about their chances.” Heckuva job, Team Clinton!

5. Theda Skocpol has cited another factor in Clinton’s loss: the Democrats’ lack of organizational infrastructure in non-urban areas. The GOP has a strong organizational base in these regions, including get-out-the-vote efforts run by the Christian right, the NRA, the Koch organizations, and the Republican Party itself. But the Dems have let their own party organizations wither on the vine, and the unions which were once the Democrats’ stronghold in the critical Rust Belt region have declined dramatically. When it comes to getting voters to the polls in rural areas, the Democrats are now at a tremendous structural disadvantage. To be sure, this a party-wide, rather than a Clinton-only, failure. But Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama bear strong responsibility here. Each them served for two terms but showed little interest in building the party.

6. Finally, perhaps most consequential of all was the campaign’s failure to advance a strong economic message. Team Clinton’s central strategy was not to mobilize the base, but to appeal to crossover voters. That irrepressible Clinton instinct to triangulate reared its ugly head one more time, and the result has been a world-historic catastrophe. Clinton’s ads and messaging stressed the Trump’s déclassé boorishness rather than a populist economic message that would have resonated with working class voters of all races. But the votes of Republican college-educated women they were chasing never materialized, while turnout and Clinton’s vote shares among African-Americans, Latinos, millennials, and working class whites were significantly down from Obama’s in 2012. In stroke of bitter poetic justice, the fruits of Clintons’ own long-ago policies came back to haunt them. NAFTA and other Clinton “free” trade deals devastated the Rust Belt and created the ravaged communities and the despair that compelled many working class voters in those areas pull the lever for the despicable Trump.

A post-election report by the pollster Stanley Greenberg confirms that Clinton’s decision to shun a progressive economic appeal was a fatal error. Greenberg found that “polls showed fairly resilient support with white working class women, until the Clinton campaign stopped talking about economic change.” When the Greenberg team tested a Democratic message attacking Trump for his character vs. a message “demanding big economic changes” and attacking Trump for “supporting for trickle-down and protecting corporate special interests,” they found that the economic message “performed dramatically better,” particularly among key voter groups like millennials, white unmarried women and white working class women.

(N.B.: see https://charlog.blog/2016/11/29/the-frame-is-the-name-of-the-game/)

The election is over, and with it, so it is the Clinton’s quarter-century long domination of Democratic politics. And so lately I’ve been thinking about the Clintons’ historical legacy. It’s not a pretty picture. The neoliberal economic policies of Bill Clinton, which Hillary strongly supported–free trade, deregulation, the obsession with deficit reduction–led to soaring levels of economic inequality, flat or declining wages for most Americans, and record low rates of labor participation. The Clinton crime bill ruined countless lives, especially black lives. Welfare “reform” immiserated poor families and led to a dramatic upswing in rates of extreme poverty. Under the watch of Presidents Clinton and Obama, the Democratic party at the state and local level was allowed to slowly die away. Today, the Democratic party as an institution is probably weaker than it’s ever been at any time in its long history. The Democrats now control none of the three branches of government and only 18 governorships and 13 state legislatures.  In the weeks leading up to the election, many political observers were confidently predicting an historic Trump defeat followed by a meltdown of the GOP. But–plot twist!–it’s the Democratic party that has collapsed into a smoking heap of rubble.

Team Clinton repeatedly reassured us that Hillary was the most highly qualified and most hyper-competent person evah! to run for president. They possessed the unshakeable conviction that they, the best and the brightest, could not possibly fail–so much so that on election day, her aides prematurely uncorked the celebratory champagne. So extreme was their recklessness that they actually wanted to run against Trump. Out of the outrageous hubris, complacency, and incompetence of Hillary’s presidential campaign came the Clintons’ horrifying parting gift to America: President Donald Trump. This is where the Clintons led us. Trump’s election, and the nightmare to which America is awakening, is on them. And it is unforgivable.

I suspect that history is not going to look kindly at Bill and Hillary Clinton. No, not very kindly at all.

Never has independent journalism mattered more. Help hold power to account: Subscribe to In These Times magazine, or make a tax-deductible donation to fund this reporting.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and researcher who has written for The Baffler, The Nation and The Washington Monthly.

See:http://inthesetimes.com/article/19674/hillary-clinton-democratic-party-neoliberal-trump