March 2016 Archives

One Ring for All

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China Unveils Proposal for $50 Trillion Global Electricity Network

by Eric Baculinao

BEIJING -- China has unveiled a proposal for a $50 trillion global electricity network that would help fight pollution and the effects of climate change.

The plan envisions linking existing and future solar farms, wind turbines and electricity plants in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, according to the head of State Grid Corporation of China.

The proposal is in its initial stages and would require huge investment from around the world. If it goes ahead, it would be the world's largest infrastructure project. It could be operational by 2050, according to backers.


The planet faces "three major challenges" of energy scarcity, environmental pollution and climate change, state-run news agency Xinhua News Agency quoted the firm's chairman Liu Zhenya as saying at an international energy conference on Wednesday.
Image: Energy workers examine solar panels in China

"Global energy interconnection" was the answer to these threats, Liu said.

The State Grid Corporation of China envisions a future "global village" of efficient transmission lines to tap and distribute electricity from giant solar farms around the equator and wind stations in the Arctic, according to its website. Liu estimated that the global network could mean clean energy comprising 80 percent of global consumption, displacing fossil fuels as Earth's principal energy source.

China's government invests more than any other country in wind and solar energy.

Energy transmission technology "has matured and clean energy is becoming more economical, so the conditions for building global power interconnection already exist," Liu said in a statement on the company's website.

The Chinese firm's proposal is ambitious but possible, according to Xue Jiancong, energy analyst at China Merchants New Energy Group, a leading renewable energy company.

"It's a brilliant plan," he said. "It might encounter difficulties during construction but it's possible."

Xue added: "Reducing carbon emissions is a global issue and as a great power, China is taking on more responsibility. This plan is good news for the world."

Tweet Bot Becomes Troll

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Microsoft Twitter Bot Learned From Users & Quickly Became a Racist Jerk.

By Daniel Victor

Microsoft set out to learn about "conversational understanding" by creating a bot designed to have automated discussions with Twitter users, mimicking the language they use.

What could go wrong?

If you guessed, "It will probably become really racist," you've clearly spent time on the Internet. Less than 24 hours after the bot, @TayandYou, went online Wednesday, Microsoft halted posting from the account and deleted several of its most obscene statements.

The bot, developed by Microsoft's technology and research and Bing teams, got major assistance in being offensive from users who egged it on. It disputed the existence of the Holocaust, referred to women and minorities with unpublishable words and advocated genocide. Several of the tweets were sent after users commanded the bot to repeat their own statements, and the bot dutifully obliged.

But Tay, as the bot was named, also seemed to learn some bad behavior on its own. According to The Guardian, it responded to a question about whether the British actor Ricky Gervais is an atheist by saying: "ricky gervais learned totalitarianism from adolf hitler, the inventor of atheism."

Microsoft, in an emailed statement, described the machine-learning project as a social and cultural experiment.

"Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay's commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways," Microsoft said. "As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments."

On a website it created for the bot, Microsoft said the artificial intelligence project had been designed to "engage and entertain people" through "casual and playful conversation," and that it was built through mining public data. It was targeted at 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States and was developed by a staff that included improvisational comedians.

Its Twitter bio described it as "Microsoft's A.I. fam from the internet that's got zero chill!" (If you don't understand any of that, don't worry about it.)

Most of the account's tweets were innocuous, usually imitating common slang. When users tweeted at the account, it responded in seconds, sometimes as naturally as a human would but, in other cases, missing the mark.

Now this is a rational Republican I might actually vote for...problem of course is extremist right wing Republican types would vote to defeat

Louisiana Sheriff Accuses Ex-Gov. Jindal and the GOP of Impoverishing His State

Conservative Sheriff Newell Normand last month publicly criticized "that idiot," former Gov. Bobby Jindal, saying he had led his state off a fiscal cliff, and the law enforcement official went on to admonish his fellow Republicans for following obstructionist leaders and resisting tax increases aimed at covering budget problems the Republican governor left behind.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Louisiana faces a $943 million budget shortfall between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30. "The state is also estimated to face a $2 billion shortfall in the 2016-17 budget year," the paper states.

Normand, the sheriff of Jefferson Parish, accused Jindal, whom he once endorsed, of "trying to rewrite history" since leaving office earlier this year.

"What a mess," Normand said at the Metropolitan Crime Commission's annual awards luncheon. "Bobby Jindal was a better cult leader than Jim Jones. We drank the elixir for eight years. We remained in a conscious state; we walked to the edge of the cliff, and he watched. And guess what? Unlike Jim Jones, he did not swallow the poison. What a shame."

Normand assaulted his party's support of austerity economics and its obedience to Grover Norquist, president of the lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform and one of austerity's chief proponents. Before the 2012 elections, Norquist got 95 percent of congressional Republicans to sign a pledge not to increase income taxes on businesses and individuals.

"We cannot cut our way to a balanced budget, because some of the programs that are on the chopping block are the ones that are going to affect everyone of us up here," Normand continued. "And we do not have the assets or the resources necessary to make up for it. We're facing enough challenges today. We do not need to face the stupidity of our leadership as it relates to how we're going to balance this budget and talking about these silly issues because we're worried about what Grover Norquist thinks. To hell with Grover Norquist!"

Normand urged his listeners to abandon obstructionist leaders and pursue compromise with their political colleagues.

"We have some systemic, fundamental issues that need to be addressed, and it can't be handled by parties. It's got to be handled by intellectual individuals, void of a party, void of an overarching philosophy, working together. And what's really incredible to me? Compromise is now a dirty word."

Could the 2016 Election Be Stolen by Electronic Voting Machines?

voting machines.jpgHarvey Wasserman of Columbus, Ohio, has been a vocal critic of electronic voting machines. He co-wrote the book, "What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election." His upcoming book is titled "The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft." We talk to him about his concerns for the upcoming presidential race.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We're in Westerville, Ohio, just outside Columbus. We're at Otterbein University, where I'll be teaching some classes today, or, let's say, talking with students. We're at OTV, which is Otterbein Television. And, Harvey Wasserman, I wanted to talk to you now about voting machines--


AMY GOODMAN: --and your concern over the years that electronic voting could be used to steal elections. Are you still concerned about this?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, electronic voting was used to steal the presidential election right here in Ohio in 2004. John Kerry was the rightful winner in 2004 over George W. Bush. The secretary of state at the time, J. Kenneth Blackwell, and the governor, Robert Taft, used their power of electronic vote count to flip the vote to George W. Bush from John Kerry.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know this?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: We watched it--I grew up here, Amy. We watched it, totally, right up close and personal. We did the accounting. I work with a political scientist named Bob Fitrakis. We're about to come out with another book, The Strip & Flip of the 2016 Selection. They are stripping the voter rolls--and Greg Palast, the great investigative reporter, is doing great on this--removing African Americans, Hispanics, people who might incline to vote progressive, and they--so that--in 2004, they stripped 300,000 people from the voter rolls here in the urban areas. Bush only won by less than 120 [thousand].

And this year, about 80 percent of the vote nationally will be cast on electronic voting machines. There is no verifiability. In six key swing states--Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Arizona--you have Republican governors and Republican secretaries of state, and no method of verifying the electronic vote count. At midnight or whenever it is on election night, those two guys can go in there with an IT person and flip the outcome of an electronically counted vote within about 60 seconds. So all this millions and millions of dollars, people out campaigning and so on, can be negated by an electronic vote flip late at night on election night, and there is no way to verify what's happened.

AMY GOODMAN: They didn't do this with President Obama in 2008.

HARVEY WASSERMAN: They did. He had too many votes; he was too far out. They couldn't--it would have taken them too many, to flip too many states. [inaudible] believe Obama won by well over 10 million votes. The last--the final vote count was in--official, was in 7 or 8 million.

AMY GOODMAN: But what gives you this idea?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Because we've seen it happen. When you compare exit polls, which are generally accurate to within 1 percent, with the electronic outcome, there are huge variations. And we have documented many dozens of different things that they have done over the years to flip electronic votes.

AMY GOODMAN: How does e-voting, electronic voting, work? And who controls the controls on it?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, that's the key. The electronic voting machines are owned by private corporations, which are Republican in orientation, generally. And the courts have ruled that the source code on these electronic voting machines is proprietary. So, even the governments that buy or lease these machines have no access to a final verification process. Even Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify." And we know that the vote count was flipped in 2004. We know it was flipped in Volusia County in 2000.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is Volusia County?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: In Florida, when Al Gore basically was the rightful winner, and George W. Bush won the election. I mean, the only great--

AMY GOODMAN: And they were electronic voting machines?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: In Volusia County, they were, yes. In the southern part of Florida, they used butterfly ballots, as you'll recall. The only good thing we can say about George W. Bush is the American people never actually elected him president. And we're looking now at 2016, at an election that will be very easily flipped, in those six key swing states and elsewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the answer?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: We have to have universal, hand-counted paper ballots. And Bernie Sanders has endorsed that. We have to have automatic voter registration, where people can monitor the registration rolls, because people are being stripped from the registration rolls, mostly, of course, African-American and Hispanic. But this year, we're not going to get that. And this year, it's going to be very, very difficult, in a close election, to monitor exactly what happens, because these are black boxes. We have a wonderful actress named Bev Harris, who's been working with Greg Palast and others, who has shown, in black box voting, that the public has no real access, no verification process for the electronic votes. And so we're going through this huge charade here of a national campaign, primaries and then a general election, where hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent, and on election night, in 60 seconds, the actual outcome can be flipped electronically in key swing states with no verification whatsoever.

AMY GOODMAN: If there are electronic voting machines everywhere, which there are now, right?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Pretty much, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think they can be protected, people can be sure that their vote is counted, that they cast, even using electronic voting machines?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: They can't be. You cannot verify an electronic voting machine. They are privately owned by private corporations, and the proprietary software prevents the public from getting access to the actual vote count. We're going into a national election, and not just the presidency, but Senate seats, House seats. We believe three Senate seats in 2014 were stolen--in North Carolina, Colorado and Alaska--that the Republicans do not have a legitimate 54-seat, or whatever it is, majority in the Senate. And this will happen again. It's not just the presidency. And we've been--we have written seven books about this, Bob Fitrakis and I, from our experience here in Ohio in 2004. And again, we have a Republican governor, Republican secretary of state, no verifiability on the electronic vote count. It will be arbitrary, when push comes to shove, on--midnight, 1:00 on election night--what the outcome will be.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think just Republicans would do it?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Oh, no, Democrats definitely do it. I have--we have strong questions about Rahm Emanuel being re-elected in Chicago, for example. We have no doubt that Scott Walker stole his re-election in Wisconsin.

AMY GOODMAN: Based on what?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Based on the miraculous discovery of several thousand votes in a so-called glitched computer voting machine that gave him a victory where it was clearly a defeat. You know, this is stuff that's been going on a long time. These methods were perfected more or less overseas by the CIA and other covert and overt operations. They came back. It started in 1988 with George H.W. Bush using electronic voting machines in New Hampshire to beat Bob Dole in the 1988 primary. And we have seen since then the use of electronic voting machines all across the country to flip elections after they have stripped the voter rolls. And, you know--

AMY GOODMAN: When you say "stripping the voter rolls," you mean?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Yes, well, Greg Palast has reported on this. In Florida 2000, 90,000 mostly black and Hispanic voters were stripped out of the voter rolls before the election, in a vote count that was won by 600 votes. And in Ohio 2004, 300,000 voters in primarily urban areas were stripped off the voter rolls. People showed up to vote in the same precinct--as did I, by the way--they were--I was denied my absentee ballot, and we had a federal lawsuit on this, which we won and went nowhere after that.

But the reality is that we are voting in black boxes and that the governors and secretaries of state of these key swing states--but wherever you have a governor and secretary of state from the same party, be they Democrat or Republican, they have the power, under the electronic voting system, to flip the outcome of an election, with no verifiability, because the courts have ruled that these privately owned voting machines have proprietary software. It's a nightmare. And it's not democracy. I mean, Bernie Sanders has shown that the election--that the campaign finance is rigged, that the economy is rigged. Why wouldn't they take the very small next step to rig the electronic voting machines?

Find the Transgender

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Which guy in this photo was born female and has transgendered to male?

That Rapey US Military

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Did you know...?

Most victims of sexual assault in the U.S. military are men.

That's right -- at least 14,000 MALE soldiers are raped every year

Stupidity of the Highest Order

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Relative Dangers

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Garbage collectors are more likely to die on the job than police patrol officers

The US military isn't the only industry that often asks the ultimate sacrifice of its workers. Some 4,585 American civilians died in the line of duty in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (pdf). Certain jobs in particular are alarmingly risky:

deadliest jobs.png

That Ridiculous Gender Pay Gap

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As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops

By Claire Cain Miller

Women's median annual earnings stubbornly remain about 20 percent below men's. Why is progress stalling?

It may come down to this troubling reality, new research suggests: Work done by women simply isn't valued as highly.

That sounds like a truism, but the academic work behind it helps explain the pay gap's persistence even as the factors long thought to cause it have disappeared. Women, for example, are now better educated than men, have nearly as much work experience and are equally likely to pursue many high-paying careers. No longer can the gap be dismissed with pat observations that women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs like teaching and social work.

A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines -- for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.

Consider the discrepancies in jobs requiring similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27 percent higher than human resources managers (mostly women), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At the other end of the wage spectrum, janitors (usually men) earn 22 percent more than maids and housecleaners (usually women).

Once women start doing a job, "It just doesn't look like it's as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill," said Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University. "Gender bias sneaks into those decisions."

She is a co-author of one of the most comprehensive studies of the phenomenon, using United States census data from 1950 to 2000, when the share of women increased in many jobs. The study, which she conducted with Asaf Levanon, of the University of Haifa in Israel, and Paul Allison of the University of Pennsylvania, found that when women moved into occupations in large numbers, those jobs began paying less even after controlling for education, work experience, skills, race and geography.

And there was substantial evidence that employers placed a lower value on work done by women. "It's not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance," Ms. England said. "It's just that the employers are deciding to pay it less."

A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation -- working in parks or leading camps -- which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points.

The same thing happened when women in large numbers became designers (wages fell 34 percentage points), housekeepers (wages fell 21 percentage points) and biologists (wages fell 18 percentage points). The reverse was true when a job attracted more men. Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.

While the pay gap has been closing, it remains wide. Over all, in fields where men are the majority, the median pay is $962 a week -- 21 percent higher than in occupations with a majority of women, according to another new study, published Friday by Third Way, a research group that aims to advance centrist policy ideas.

Today, differences in the type of work men and women do account for 51 percent of the pay gap, a larger portion than in 1980, according to definitive new research by Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, economists at Cornell.

Women have moved into historically male jobs much more in white-collar fields than in blue-collar ones. Yet the gender pay gap is largest in higher-paying white-collar jobs, Ms. Blau and Mr. Kahn found. One reason for this may be that these jobs demand longer and less flexible hours, and research has shown that workers are disproportionately penalized for wanting flexibility.

The Real Danger

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Gospel of Doubt

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What do you do when your firmly held beliefs turn out not to be true? When Casey Gerald's religion failed him, he searched for something new to believe in -- in business, in government, in philanthropy -- but found only false saviors. In this moving talk, Gerald urges us all to question our beliefs and embrace uncertainty.

Pigs Come Home to Wallow

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Blowing the Biggest Political Story of the Last 50 Years


By Neal Gabler This piece first appeared at Moyers & Company.

Ah, the crescendo of complaint! The Republican establishment and the mainstream media, working hand in hand in their unprecedented, non-stop assault on the "short-fingered vulgarian" named Donald Trump, would have you believe that Trump augurs the destruction of the Republican Party. Former Reagan speechwriter and now Wall Street Journal/CBS pundit Peggy Noonan expressed the general sentiment of both camps when she said on Super Tuesday that "we're seeing a great political party shatter before our eyes."

But here is what no one in the GOP establishment wants you to know, and no one in the media wants to admit: Donald Trump isn't the destruction of the Republican Party; he is the fulfillment of everything the party has been saying and doing for decades. He is just saying it louder and more plainly than his predecessors and intra-party rivals.

The media have been acting as if the Trump debacle were the biggest political story to come down the pike in some time. But the real story - one the popularity of Trump's candidacy has revealed and inarguably the biggest political story of the last 50 years -- is the decades-long transformation of Republicanism from a business-centered, small town, white Protestant set of beliefs into quite possibly America's primary institutional force of bigotry, intellectual dishonesty, ignorance, warmongering, intractability and cruelty against the vulnerable and powerless.

It is a story you didn't read, hear or see in the mainstream media, only in lefty journals like The Nation and Rolling Stone, on websites like People for the American Way, and in columns like Paul Krugman's. And it wasn't exactly because the MSM in its myopia missed the story. It was because they chose not to tell it - to pretend it wasn't happening. They are still pretending.

It is hardly a surprise that the GOP establishment and their enablers in the media are acting as if Trump, the Republican frontrunner, is a break from the party's supposedly genteel past. Like Captain Renault in Casablanca, who was "shocked, shocked," to find gambling in Rick's establishment, the GOP solons profess to be "shocked, shocked" by Trump's demagogic racism and nativism. Their protestations remind me of an old gambit of comedian Milton Berle. When the audience was applauding him, he would shush them demonstratively with one hand while encouraging them gently with the other.

Neither is it a surprise that the conservative media have been doing the same thing -- decrying Trump while giving us Trump Lite. Indeed, even less blatant partisans who ought to know better, like every "thinking man's" favorite conservative David Brooks, deliver the same hypocrisy.

No, Brooks isn't too keen on Trump (or Cruz for that matter), but he is very keen on some mythological Republican Party that exudes decency. On the PBS NewsHour last week he said with great earnestness, "For almost a century-and-a-half, the Republican Party has stood for a certain free market version of America - an America that's about openness, that's about markets and opportunity, and a definition of what this country is."

Free markets? That's what he thinks defines America? Let me rephrase what I said earlier: Trump hasn't just fulfilled the Republican Party's purpose; he has exposed it. And he also has exposed the media's indifference to what the party has become.

Comment of the Day

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socrates.avatar.jpgSocrates is a trusted commenter Downtown Verona, NJ 11 hours ago

"For a party proud of its patriotism..."

Father Douhat, the modern Republican Party doesn't have a single patriotic bone in its body.

The GOP is a Party First-Country Last organization, happy to abandon its citizens to a bonfire of shredded safety nets, collapsed infrastructure, exploding guns, religious prayer, suppressed voting and cultured stupidity blasting away on the airwaves as the corporate lords and 0.1% kings are obsequiously served hot hors d'oeuvres, the finest champagne and fresh servings of oligarchy.

When did Republicans last serve the national interest ?

When Reagan introduced trickle-down poverty ?

When Jeb and the Supremes suppressed the 2000 Presidential vote ?

When Bush-Cheney hosted the September 11 attacks while asleep at the wheel ?

When Bush-Cheney sent 3,527 American soldiers to die in Iraq and blow up the Middle East for no reason ?

When George W. Bush flew over New Orleans in Air Force One waving to the floating corpses ?

When Bush-Cheney walked Wall St. down the housing bubble aisle and Americans over the 2008 cliff ?

When Mitch McConnell swore to make President Obama a one-term President ?

When South Carolina Representative and Confederate soldier Joe Wilson yelled out 'you lie' during a Presidential address ?

When every measure of progress and forward motion was obstructed, filibustered and denied in the name of 'free-dumb' and 0.1% tax cuts ?

There is only a party proud of its sedition... and the nations they burnt to the ground.

Do Your Job

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Viral Jujitsu

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Study Finds Surprising Benefit of Viral DNA: Fighting Other Viruses

Carl Zimmer

virii.jpgHuman chromosomes. Scientists have found that some fragments of viruses have become part of human biology and perform tasks that benefit us. Credit Biophoto Associates/Science Source

What could be more alien than a virus? It's a nanobiological weapon -- a microscopic protein shell holding a few genes that hijack a cell's internal machinery, forcing it to make new viruses. The battles we fight with these alien enemies brings malaise, scars and even death.

Yet as foreign as viruses may seem, the boundary between us and them is turning out to be remarkably blurry. We use DNA from viruses to do things that are essential to our own survival, scientists are finding. Somehow, we have managed to domesticate some of these invaders.

A number of viruses replicate by inserting their DNA into our own genes. On rare occasions, their genes get passed down to future generations.

At first, the newly acquired genes behave a lot like regular virus genes. They can still coax

But over the generations, they lose the ability to escape human cells. They can still make copies of themselves, but those copies get incorporated into the host cell's DNA. Over time these so-called endogenous retroviruses lose even the ability to replicate, becoming harmless fragments adrift in the human genome.

Endogenous retroviruses first invaded the cells of our primate ancestors more than 50 million years ago. Scientists have identified over 100,000 of these fragments in the human genome, accounting for 8 percent of our DNA.

Some of these fragments have become part of our biology and perform tasks that benefit us. "A host essentially takes over a viral gene and puts it to work for its own ends," said Aris Katzourakis, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford.

Human cells may have even co-opted viral DNA for a particularly ironic purpose: to fight other viruses.

Nancy Reagan has died at 94

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No more just say no. She was if nothing else, loyal and dedicated to her lights and her husband.

Condolences to her people.


GOP Inevitable Demise

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One can only hope.

No matter what happens, the Republican Party is hurtling toward disaster

Thursday night's Republican debate clarified that despite all the talk, no genuine coherent party-wide effort to stop Trump is going to happen.

The debate ended with everyone on stage -- people who'd called Trump a con man and a fake, a liar unfit to serve, ignorant, etc. -- agreeing that of course they would support him if he wins. But even before that, in their squabbling and inconsistent messages, the non-Trump candidates showed that #NeverTrump isn't really a thing for the people actually in the race.

For months now, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich (formerly joined by Jeb Bush, Christ Christie, and once upon a time a half-dozen others) have fought to become the Last Non-Trump Standing based on the hazy notion that winnowing would inevitably delivery victory to whoever achieved the honor. Then they all woke up Thursday to the realization that it's too late, and the math no longer works.

To secure a majority of delegates, Rubio would need to win two-thirds of the remaining delegates, which is totally unrealistic. Kasich is even further behind. Cruz is a bit closer, but he's already won his best state (Texas) and doesn't have a lot of growth opportunity. The only hope the establishment has now is for anti-Trump voters to follow Mitt Romney's suggestion and vote tactically in hopes of denying Trump the nomination.

The last best hope, in short, is that the candidates will stop running for president and start running to stop Trump from becoming president. It didn't happen, and even if it does the GOP has set itself up to enter the general election season hopeless divided.
The most important words nobody said in the debate

"If you live in Florida, vote for Marco Rubio."

Ted Cruz didn't say that and neither did John Kasich. That right there was the most important moment of the debate. Florida's winner-take-all March 15 primary will award 99 delegates that, if taken by Trump, will make blocking him almost impossible. Rubio, a Floridian, is polling well behind Trump in most surveys, but he's clearly the non-Trump candidate who is best-positioned to win the state.

To stop Trump, the Republican Party desperately needs all Floridians who aren't for Trump to vote for Rubio.

Roughly the same is true of Ohio, except in Ohio they need people to vote for Kasich.

But none of it happened. Trump had, to my eye, a relatively weak evening. All three of his opponents had their moments, but they were truly their moments.

Cruz hammered home the message that hard-core ideological conservatives should vote for him -- and there are probably a few of them in Florida and Ohio.
Kasich hammered home the message that moderate Republicans looking to put a kinder, gentler face on the part should vote for him to "reignite the spirit of the United State of America."
Rubio has morphed himself into a generic vessel for anti-Trump sentiment and mostly poured his energy into high-energy anti-Trump rhetoric, which is fine for generic Republican types who are basically happy with the current direction of the party.

This dynamic resolves nothing. It leaves Trump with his plurality support nationwide, which translates into a steamroller that will continue to amass delegates and likely win.
Republicans are heading for a nightmare

The bottom line is that the Republican Party is now on track for a major disaster. One possibility is that Trump will eek out a narrow victory against a divided field in the face of dogged opposition from his own party's elite. Far too many anti-Trump things have been said at this point to take them all back, and the divisions inside the party will hurt Trump badly in the general election.

For Democrats, this is fun to watch. But more than fun to watch, it's a key reason why Democrats, though they should avoid complacency about Trump, can also confidently view him as a weaker-than-average nominee. Presidential candidates who run at the head of a united party have no guarantee of victory, but candidates who run without the wholehearted support of their party's prominent leaders and mid-ranking professional staffers tend to lose.

But the alternative is also disastrous.

If the Republicans running against Trump actually did cooperate with some explicit or implicit alternative in mind, then they could assemble an anti-Trump majority and hand the nomination to their champion. But instead they are all running independent, entirely uncoordinated campaigns and simply hoping to work out the nomination via a chaotic convention floor fight of the sort we haven't seen for two generations.

Nobody knows who or what would emerge from that, but one guarantee is it would leave Trump and his supporters enraged and demoralized at what they will see as an underhanded theft of a nomination they earned.

Nobody is really arguing with Trump's ideas

After an extended series of debates in which nobody (except, on occasion, for poor Jeb Bush) really attacked Trump, we have entered a phase in which nobody does anything except attack Trump.

But for all their attacks, they are not really joining the argument that Trump started over the proposition that the GOP should ditch elements of free market ideology and embrace populist nationalism instead.

Trump's rivals don't want to engage in this argument for the same reason that Trump has rocketed in the polls -- most rank-and-file Republicans agree with Trump. So instead, they bite at him over secondary issues -- old campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton, Trump University -- or try to point out problems with Trump that also apply to the other candidates. It was shocking, for example, to see Fox News anchors pointing out that Trump's tax plan isn't remotely paid for. This is entirely true, but it's equally true of every other GOP tax plan of the past 15 years and it never seemed to bother Fox before.

These are real knocks on Trump, but they don't explain the GOP establishment's rage against him. That stems from the divide over the role of populist nationalism in the conservative movement. And whether the establishment candidates want to talk about it or not, the delegate math has now reached a point where a major intra-party blowup is essentially inevitable.

FBI Monitoring High Schools

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The FBI Has a New Plan to Spy on High School Students Across the Country

By Sarah Lazare / AlterNet


Under new guidelines, the FBI is instructing high schools across the country to report students who criticize government policies and "western corruption" as potential future terrorists, warning that "anarchist extremists" are in the same category as ISIS and young people who are poor, immigrants or travel to "suspicious" countries are more likely to commit horrific violence.

Based on the widely unpopular British "anti-terror" mass surveillance program, the FBI's "Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools" guidelines, released in January, are almost certainly designed to single out and target Muslim-American communities. However, in its caution to avoid the appearance of discrimination, the agency identifies risk factors that are so broad and vague that virtually any young person could be deemed dangerous and worthy of surveillance, especially if she is socio-economically marginalized or politically outspoken.

This overwhelming threat is then used to justify a massive surveillance apparatus, wherein educators and pupils function as extensions of the FBI by watching and informing on each other.

The FBI's justification for such surveillance is based on McCarthy-era theories of radicalization, in which authorities monitor thoughts and behaviors that they claim to lead to acts of violent subversion, even if those people being watched have not committed any wrongdoing. This model has been widely discredited as a violence prevention method, including by the U.S. government, but it is now being imported to schools nationwide as official federal policy.

Schools as hotbeds of extremism

The new guidelines depict high schools as hotbeds of extremism, where dangers lurk in every corner. "High school students are ideal targets for recruitment by violent extremists seeking support for their radical ideologies, foreign fighter networks, or conducting acts of violence within our borders," the document warns, claiming that youth "possess inherent risk factors." In light of this alleged threat, the FBI instructs teachers to "incorporate a two-hour block of violent extremism awareness training" into the core curriculum for all youth in grades 9 through 12.

According to the FBI's educational materials for teenagers, circulated as a visual aide to their new guidelines, the following offenses constitute signs that "could mean that someone plans to commit violence" and therefore should be reported: "Talking about traveling to places that sound suspicious"; "Using code words or unusual language"; "Using several different cell phones and private messaging apps"; and "Studying or taking pictures of potential targets (like a government building)."

Under the category of domestic terrorists, the educational materials warn of the threat posed by "anarchist extremists." The FBI states, "Anarchist extremists believe that society should have no government, laws, or police, and they are loosely organized, with no central leadership... Violent anarchist extremists usually target symbols of capitalism they believe to be the cause of all problems in society--such as large corporations, government organizations, and police agencies."

Similarly, "Animal Rights Extremists and Environmental Extremists" are placed alongside "white supremacy extremists", ISIS and Al Qaeda as terrorists out to recruit high school students. The materials also instruct students to watch out for extremist propaganda messages that communicate criticisms of "corrupt western nations" and express "government mistrust."

If you "see suspicious behavior that might lead to violent extremism," the resource states, consider reporting it to "someone you trust," including local law enforcement officials like police officers and FBI agents.

This terrorist threat does not stay within the geographic bounds of high schools, but extends to the Internet, which the FBI guidelines describe as a "playground" for extremism. The agency warns that online gaming "is sometimes used to communicate, train, or plan terrorist activities." Encryption, ominously referred to as "going dark," is often used to facilitate "extremism discussions," the agency states. In reality, encryption is a commonly used form of protection against government spying and identity theft and is often employed to safeguard financial transactions.

Young Muslims are the real targets

At the surface level, the FBI's new guidelines do not appear to single out Muslim students. The document and supplementary educational materials warn of a broad array of threats, including anti-abortion and white supremacist extremists. The Jewish Defense League is listed alongside Hizbollah and Al Qaeda as an imminent danger to young people in the United States.

But a closer read reveals that the FBI consistently invokes an Islamic threat without naming it. Cultural and religious differences, as well as criticisms of western imperialism, are repeatedly mentioned as risk factors for future extremism. "Some immigrant families may not be sufficiently present in a youth's life due to work constraints to foster critical thinking," the guidelines state.

"The document aims to encourage schools to monitor their students more carefully for signs of radicalization but its definition of radicalization is vague," said Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror and an adjunct professor at New York University. "Drawing on the junk science of radicalization models, the document dangerously blurs the distinction between legitimate ideological expression and violent criminal actions."

"In practice, schools seeking to implement this document will end up monitoring Muslim students disproportionately," Kundnani told AlterNet. "Muslims who access religious or political material will be seen as suspicious, even though there is no reason to think such material indicates a likelihood of terrorism."

The Obama administration's Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program is heavily influenced by its British counterpart, which exclusively focuses on spying on Muslim communities and has been deeply controversial from the onset.

Children of the Con

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Clash of Republican Con Artists

Paul Krugman

So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.

But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.

Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?

Donald Trump is a "con artist," says Marco Rubio -- who has promised to enact giant tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55.

"There can be no evasion and no games," thunders Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House -- whose much-hyped budgets are completely reliant on "mystery meat," that is, it claims trillions of dollars in revenue can be collected by closing unspecified tax loopholes and trillions more saved through unspecified spending cuts.

Mr. Ryan also declares that the "party of Lincoln" must "reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry." Has he ever heard of Nixon's "Southern strategy"; of Ronald Reagan's invocations of welfare queens and "strapping young bucks" using food stamps; of Willie Horton?

Then there's foreign policy, where Mr. Trump is, if anything, more reasonable -- or more accurately, less unreasonable -- than his rivals. He's fine with torture, but who on that side of the aisle isn't? He's belligerent, but unlike Mr. Rubio, he isn't the favorite of the neoconservatives, a.k.a. the people responsible for the Iraq debacle. He's even said what everyone knows but nobody on the right is supposed to admit, that the Bush administration deliberately misled America into that disastrous war.

Oh, and it's Ted Cruz, not Mr. Trump, who seems eager to "carpet bomb" people, without appearing to know what that means.

In fact, you have to wonder why, exactly, the Republican establishment is really so horrified by Mr. Trump. Yes, he's a con man, but they all are. So why is this con job different from any other?

The answer, I'd suggest, is that the establishment's problem with Mr. Trump isn't the con he brings; it's the cons he disrupts.

First, there's the con Republicans usually manage to pull off in national elections -- the one where they pose as a serious, grown-up party honestly trying to grapple with America's problems. The truth is that that party died a long time ago, that these days it's voodoo economics and neocon fantasies all the way down. But the establishment wants to preserve the facade, which will be hard if the nominee is someone who refuses to play his part.

By the way, I predict that even if Mr. Trump is the nominee, pundits and others who claim to be thoughtful conservatives will stroke their chins and declare, after a great show of careful deliberation, that he's the better choice given Hillary's character flaws, or something. And self-proclaimed centrists will still find a way to claim that the sides are equally bad. But both acts will look especially strained.

Equally important, the Trump phenomenon threatens the con the G.O.P. establishment has been playing on its own base. I'm talking about the bait and switch in which white voters are induced to hate big government by dog whistles about Those People, but actual policies are all about rewarding the donor class.

What Donald Trump has done is tell the base that it doesn't have to accept the whole package. He promises to make America white again -- surely everyone knows that's the real slogan, right? -- while simultaneously promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, and hinting at (though not actually proposing) higher taxes on the rich. Outraged establishment Republicans splutter that he's not a real conservative, but neither, it turns out, are many of their own voters.

Just to be clear, I find the prospect of a Trump administration terrifying, and so should you. But you should also be terrified by the prospect of a President Rubio, sitting in the White House with his circle of warmongers, or a President Cruz, whom one suspects would love to bring back the Spanish Inquisition.

As I see it, then, we should actually welcome Mr. Trump's ascent. Yes, he's a con man, but he is also effectively acting as a whistle-blower on other people's cons. That is, believe it or not, a step forward in these weird, troubled times.


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