…and some thoughts on detrumpification
When a disgusting con artist has become President and shown himself to be even less competent for the job than even his opponents thought, and when every single policy, every decision he makes, is wrong, and dozens of people with various motives are involved, complicit, or opportunistic, the situation seems complicated enough. The need to oppose his outrageous actions, analyze his bizarre behavior, and understand how the disastrous election happened, all consume our attention.
We must pay attention, but in doing so we need to avoid both distraction and underestimation. The bizarre, contradictory, petty, and offensive statements and actions of Trump are designed for both effects. That doesn’t mean that he is secretly competent to be President, nor that he is actually a decent human being. He is indeed being himself, which has always served to focus attention away from whatever deception he has planned. In his regime there are sharper, more dangerous minds than his shaping the agenda. We must remember that.
THAT RUSSIAN THING
The issue of the Russian interference, serious as it is, is a bit of a distraction as well. The problem is that some pay too much attention to the Russian part. Russian efforts to influence the outcome of elections is nothing new. Nikita Krushchev wanted to get Kennedy elected, and believed he had actually helped. It’s doubtful that anything he ordered had any effect, but he thought the younger, less experienced candidate would be easier to deal with.
The US covertly and overtly tries to influence the outcome of elections anywhere they may affect national interests (as defined by corporate entities, not the voting public). We know that the US has gone so far as to instigate, finance, and arm rebellions, provide support for coups, and send military force to overthrow regimes, in addition to the usual routine propaganda.
But, for the US to be subject, or vulnerable, to covert attempts to affect one of our elections has been a shock. During the cold war anti-Communist paranoia would have made that difficult. But once the USSR broke up and Russia evolved into something of a conservative capitalist state, the ideological conflict seemed to be over. One might have thought that peaceful coexistence would reign, and might have if the US were not so intent on economic global domination. Attempting to economically invade the Russian sphere of influence in Ukraine, engineering a pro-Western coup, resulted in Russian pushback, which led to economic sanctions, which effectively prevent Russia from developing its valuable untapped oil fields.
Of course, leaving that oil where it is would be of great benefit in slowing climate change, but neither Putin nor Exxon-Mobil saw it that way. Trump’s populist rhetoric diverged from the usual Republican hawkishness into a mix of nationalism and isolationism that seemed to favor ending sanctions and interventionism in general. Neither Putin nor Trump cared about climate change.
So, Russia did what it could to elect Trump, going beyond attempts to influence voters with email hacks and a flood of propaganda websites, attempting to compromise registration and vote tabulating directly. Even so, the important thing is not so much that Russia did to us what our government has done to others, but the high probability that the Trump campaign was cooperating.
Trump did indeed try to remove sanctions at one point, but did not succeed. He has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, which has relieved pressure on the Russian fossil fuel industries to constrain expansion. His lukewarm verbal support for NATO is encouraging to Putin.
The threat of the Trump regime has little to do with Russia.
Better relations and more cooperation regarding Syria would be a reasonable goal. The danger is in the drive of Trump, Bannon, Sessions, and others to gain de-facto power beyond that allocated to the Executive branch. There are plenty of warning signs that the kind and degree of authority the Trump regime wants is far beyond that of any previous Presidency. He has already pushed against every power-limiting entity in Washington with the attitude that his orders should be supreme and his statements should be automatically accepted as truth. He has blatantly disregarded norms and customs of ethical behavior, including the expectation of transparency regarding conflicts of interests. He has even brought up the Presidential power to pardon, and speculated that he could even pardon himself.
The Big Data Threat
First, we should pay close attention to a tactic that may well have been more significant in his election win than Russian help or his public appeals to bigotry. That is the use of “big data”– immense and highly detailed data collection on voters that enables narrowly targeting them with the most psychologically effective messaging. Essentially it is the same method that Facebook and Google use for targeted commercial advertising, but instead of matching interests and products, it identifies personality types in great detail in order to hit them with specific messages to which they are likeliest to be vulnerable.
Politicians have always tried to convey messages relating to different groups’ interests, which is quite natural. The interests of various segments are usually well-known or easily intuited, and in most cases there is no conflict between the various parts of a given candidate’s support base.
The more advanced method goes well beyond that, and the more we understand how it works, the more troubled we should be.
The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked
“There are three strands to this story. How the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state are being laid in the US. How British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire. And how we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.”
Cambridge Analytica is at the center of both the Brexit and the Trump campaigns. Involved are AggregateIQ, SCL Canada, Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, and Peter Thiel, among others. Please read the entire article.
Shadowy tech firm that helped Trump win could be paid to build ‘Minority Report’ crime prediction database
Now, once you’ve read and understand where this is going, consider the Trump regime’s “request” for the personal data on every voter in every state. Already 44 states have realized a refusal is the right course, whether or not they understand the full implications.
Asked for Voters’ Data, States Give Trump Panel a Bipartisan ‘No’
“The vice chairman and day-to-day leader of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity, Kris Kobach, had asked election officials in a letter to turn over the data “if publicly available,” apparently to aid a nationwide search for evidence of election irregularities. Besides election information like voters’ names and party affiliations, the commission sought personal information including birth dates, felony conviction records, voting histories for the past decade and the last four digits of all voters’ Social Security numbers.”
Forty-four states and DC have refused to give certain voter information to Trump commission
Both Republican and Democratic states are rightly considering the demands an over-reach. The supposed incentive for it was based on a Trump lie, one of many, that he should have won the popular vote as well as the electoral college, though he lost it by about 3 million. He claimed they were illegal voters, a statement widely condemned as absurd.
As we all know well by now, truth does not matter to Trump if a lie is more useful. We can wonder if he is really deluded, or we can imagine why he (or Bannon, perhaps) would want this information. Combined with the already vast information available in Cambridge Analytica’s collection, what might be possible?
The other purpose
behind the Trump election commission has gotten more attention because it is more obvious: a nationwide attempt to suppress opposition voters. This is indeed a danger. State-level voter suppression schemes have done considerable harm already, and the commission contains known perpetrators and advocates of that tactic.
Kris Kobach: Co-chair of the commission, Kansas Secretary of State, and perhaps the chief architect of the Right’s coordinated attack on voting rights.
Hans von Spakovsky: worked at the far-right Heritage Foundation, whose president openly admitted that his group was working to impose voter ID requirements across the country in order to elect “more conservative candidates.”
J. Christian Adams: Former Bush Department of Justice Attorney and a longtime critic of the Voting Rights Act.
Ken Blackwell: Former Ohio Secretary of State and current senior fellow at the Radical Right hate group Family Research Council. In 2004 Blackwell became notorious for his efforts to hinder minority voter registration in Ohio in an effort to support the reelection of President George W. Bush.
This plot will likely be attempted whether or not the commission gets any state voter data. That information would not substantiate Trump’s outrageous claims anyway, unless fraudulently altered, but suppression has been done by states based on no evidence at all of voter fraud. Voters should fight back loudly and strongly if Republicans attempt to legislate restrictions on voting. At least this will be a public issue.
Attack on the press
Trump’s war with the press is, naturally, widely known. One of the surest ways to get coverage by the news media is to attack it. But Trump is not just trying to be the center of attention. He is attempting to control the message by trying to destroy the legitimacy of the press, and its ability to point out the countless inconsistencies between his statements and reality.
No one likes negative press coverage, and may complain if it seems unfair, but Trump has taken it to a new extreme. To most of us it seems to be an ongoing absurdity, but to his base of deplorable supporters, it gives them an opportunity to see him as a victim of untruth, rather than the source of lies.
Trump “jokingly” hints at violence against reporters, and his supporters feel empowered to threaten it more overtly. Vladimir Putin, at their meeting in Hamburg, joked about the journalists who hurt the president. In Russia, 82 journalists have been killed since 1993, most of them covering politics, corruption, and crime. That is the kind of power Trump would like to emulate in this country.
We must not underestimate the danger posed by this administration. Trump’s incompetence at governing and bizarre behavior make it easy to discount him as an egotistical clown, but remember that Steve Bannon is providing direction behind the scenes, and there is nothing funny about that.
So, how do we deal with a disaster that is also an ongoing threat of worse to come? In several ways, without letting any of them distract from any other.
 Naturally we must continue to go hard with the investigation, drilling into every illegality and corruption that can be found. That is our best weapon and likeliest chance to remove him before 2020, or at least to neutralize his agenda. Investigating the Russian cooperation with the Trump campaign is extremely important because this is likely where Trump crossed the line. Conspiring with a foreign government for illegal activity designed to help him win the election, and the ongoing attempt to cover up that conspiracy make him vulnerable to impeachment, or at least the indictment and prosecution of those directly responsible. It is the way to removing or reducing the threat to our Constitution and democracy posed by the regime.
 We must vigorously oppose the Republicans who are using this Presidency to pursue their right-wing goals. Some of them may despise Trump, but as the typical ruthless moral-free creatures they are, will exploit him as long as possible for their anti-humanitarian goals.
 But the most important strategy is for Democrats to study and fully understand the Big Data methods of election campaigning. We MUST NOT allow it to be used successfully against us again. If there were a way to ban its use entirely, that would be ideal. It is not a straightforward, transparent technique that most Democrats would prefer. Exposing its use is not enough. We need the ability to use it ourselves to counter them, and use it even more effectively. It is not inherently dishonest, nor does it require keeping it secret. The public should know how they are being influenced. It is only a technologically sophisticated, more scientific approach to advertising, conveying targeted messages to receptive voters.
Reasons to Oppose
Just in case anyone has missed the last several months of news and public discussion, here are some further reminders of the disaster that began on November 8, 2016.
The awareness of the Russian connection, even among Republicans, has produced an anti-Russian reaction that goes beyond any reasonable response. Both the House and Senate have passed bills taking a harsh line, the Senate increasing sanctions, and the House, under cover of anti-North Korea sanctions, threatens to target Russian shipping. None of that is necessary or desirable. Democrats have gone along with this, unfortunately. Threatening North Korea could actually set off a war that would devastate South Korea.
So, Trump’s suspicious dealings and attempts to cover them up have sabotaged any desired improvement in relations with Russia, including whatever financial dealings that he or his cohorts might have planned.
Meanwhile, Trump is a predictable domestic disaster– predictable by anyone except his loyal victims, that is. Those who believed he was for the white working class may not admit they were conned. At least, they think, he favors white people.
He proves that with his attempts to ban Muslims from several countries, which is, and should have been declared, illegal religious discrimination. That doesn’t matter, because it was all for show.
So was the threat of the Mexican border wall. An actual wall probably won’t happen, but thousand of Mexicans who ought to be welcome to stay and work, people with families, are being targeted for deportation. So are Iraqis, some who have lived here for decades. Some are being sent back to a dangerous country they no longer know.
The Republican obsession with taking health care affordability away from the needy may become a reality with Trump’s approval. Naturally he lied when he promised something better.. There are so many outrages that we’re no longer shocked. The racist Attorney General cannot be counted on to enforce civil rights, or prosecute murders by police. He wants to return to long sentences for victimless drug crimes, reversing prison reform, and to stop funding forensic evidence research. De Voss wants to privatize public schools. Trump wants to eliminate Wall Street reforms. He wants to increase income inequality, give tax breaks to the wealthy.
Everything that will insure that ordinary people will remain powerless to change anything or improve our well-being in any significant way, that is Trump’s agenda.
-cosmicrat July 26, 2017