Saturday, June 30, 2018

Trolls and Sociopaths


Trolls and Sociopaths
The Internet, Political Science, and Democracy
In all the old writing about anarchism, I have not seen any discussion of the actual failures of attempted anarchism I have observed. In all the political science literature on democracy I have seen, I have not seen anything about sociopathy. (There is a great deal of political science I have not read and likely there is something, perhaps in recent literature. But I have read enough to know that this is not a major area in the discipline.)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: I Gloat

Because, you see, I predicted her.

Over a month ago, Jim Wright asked “Describe to me that candidate. Folks, give me a list of the attributes a Democratic candidate MUST have in 2020 for you to show up and vote.”

I thought about that for a while, and then I wrote “Turning Out the Left” in which my answer was, broadly, a socialist with integrity and courage.

And here is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who I didn't even know about when I wrote that post.

I called it. I gloat.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Was Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign Sabotaged By Sexism In Her Own Party?

A lot of the complaints about Hillary Clinton's campaign were about how lackluster it was. Yet Clinton is a sharp and effective politician, and knows perfectly well how to run a campaign. She had and has extensive and loyal support. So perhaps her own staff just didn't think she was up to the job and didn't let her do her best. Perhaps she was referred to the wrong staff by people who wanted her to fail. Perhaps…I don't know. More certain knowledge will probably have to await historical study.

But whatever the case, I think it likely sexism within the Democratic Party played a part in her loss.

(We now pause to observe a bird banging its head against a cage.)

Corruption!

It appears that Mr. Justin Kennedy, son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a Deutsche Bank employee who loaned money to Donald Trump.

I wonder if Trump (or perhaps Michael Cohen) has something on Mr. Justin Kennedy?

Guns, guns, guns

The easy availability of powerful, rapid-firing modern firearms enables widespread stochastic terrorism.

A Few Later Thoughts on Bitcoin and Social Media

It may be that large-scale public social media can only be deployed ethically if operated as non-profit socialist organizations, otherwise they degenerate into profitable toxic troll farms. Both of the ancestors of modern large-scale public social media (mailing lists and Usenet) were cooperatives. The pre-Facebook blogosphere was semi-cooperative.

Are Bitcoin and similar digital currencies subject to 51% attacks by state actors?

Bitcoin et al are neoliberal by design. Would it be possible to create a digital currency or similar system that would be Keynesian by design?

A telling observation

"What ever happened to civility?" "You labeled it 'political correctness' and decided it was something bad." – David Houston

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: The Politics of Bitcoin


David Golumbia. The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. (Available at Powell’s and other fine bookstores near you.)
This small book – perhaps 35,000 words, almost a pamphlet – places the Bitcoin bubble in political and economic context. The author, Professor David Golumbia of Virginia Commonwealth University, is a former software engineer and financier turned academic.
The Politics of Bitcoin is largely an overview of the marketing of Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies which, Golumbia finds, is full of right-wing conspiracism and financial flummery. Theories about the evils of central banking, sometimes anti-semitic, and the evils of government regulation are rife. He also points out that as money, so far Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies so far are failures.
The book provides an introduction to Bitcoin and blockchain for people unfamiliar with those, and the mainstream economic understand of money, for people unfamiliar with that.
Money, by the usual economic definition, is “a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account.” Golumbia points out that Bitcoin is at most useful as a medium of exchange. Even so, Bitcoin is only used in a few markets, mostly those for illegal goods and services. Bitcoin is extremely volatile, and because of this is not useful as a store of value and a unit of account; as with any volatile currency one has to spend it quickly, lest its value be destroyed by the shifting market. So far, the main success of Bitcoin is as medium for speculation. It has all the problems of an unregulated currency, as well as a few unique to its technology. It is a sign of the failure of the economic theory behind Bitcoin that it can inflate and deflate rapidly. If the na├»ve economic ideas underlying the design of Bitcoin were valid, it would be a rock-steady store of value.
He also points out that the technology, by design, has a strong, perhaps insuperable, bias towards neoliberal economic models, making regulation of an economy through banking and fiscal policy difficult; an economy based on Bitcoin would be similar to a late 19th century economy, enormously subject to fraud and boom and bust cycles – in other words the abandoned economics in which all but the very wealthy suffer.
It is a useful book, gathering all these arguments in one place. The extensive bibliography in particular is valuable. If Professor Golumbia continues working on this subject, I would be interested in seeing interviews with some of the original cryptocurrency theorists, who are still, as far as I know, alive, as well some coverage of the left-wing anarchist hopes for cryptocurrency. So far as I know those have been exploded, but I think studying their failure would be worthwhile.
So, a worthwhile book. Four stars.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Taney Court II: consequences of the failure of the rule of law

As far as I can see the rule of law at the Federal level is over for at least a decade to come. We are now governed by the whims of the wealthy and powerful. It will be important to remember this: Federal law is now a matter of whim.

The full extent of this failure will be felt in all aspects of our lives. Civil rights, women's rights, labor rights, yes, but also such fundamentals as enforcement of contracts against wealthy institutions. We had a foretaste of that in the failure to respond effectively to massive fraud in the real estate market. It will spread to other markets. Steady employment will probably become a thing of the past.

I don't see how our current economy will be able to survive in such a legal regime; our very lives will be in danger.

Taney Court II: the End of the Rule of Law

Journalist David Neiwert juxtaposes the language of horrific Korematsu v. United States case with the language of the decision in Trump v. Hawaii.

Korematsu:
Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders—as inevitably it must—determined that they should have the power to do just this.
Trump:
The  forcible  relocation  of  U.  S.  citizens  to  concentration  camps,  solely  and  explicitly  on  the  basis  of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential  authority.    But  it  is  wholly  inapt  to  liken  that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying  certain  foreign  nationals the  privilege  of  admission …
What Chief Justice Roberts wrote about Korematsu is flat false: it also was not explicitly about race. In fact, by saying that laws that are de facto racist while not prima facie racist on the face are acceptable, he is replicating the racist logic of Korematsu as well as the long history of laws written in euphemisms, echoing the logic of Plessy v. Ferguson (“separate but equal” only of course it never was equal), and that of Dred Scott v. Sandford, which found that since people had been enslaved they were not people in the sense of the Constitution. This use of euphemisms show plainly that the authors very well know that what they decided was against an honest construction of the law.

If judges consistently construe law to be consistent with the whims of the powerful, rather than the spirit and letter of the law, there is no law, only the whims of the powerful. Until the composition of the Court changes, there is no rule of law in the United States.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Taney Court II

Well, they did it. Despite anti-Islamic rhetoric from the Trump administration, in the case of Trump v. Hawaii, the Roberts Court held that the Administration's travel ban is not discriminatory and therefore continues in effect. Three weeks before, the same Court and same justices held that statements critical of religion by a state board invalidated a decision in the discrimination case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Not at all coincidentally, all three of the Court's women dissented.

There is no law any more, only the whim of the Court's conservatives.

There will be more analysis forthcoming but, in addition to the specific awfulness of this decision, it is deferential to dictatorial power on the part of the Executive, which, at a time of enormous abuse of such power, is idiotic.

In the coming decades we will probably see the Court rule in favor of various racist, sexist, and classist policies. We will see attempts to re-implement the system of racial segregation at the state level. I do not believe the fight is lost. People will fight, and fight hard. In many states they will win. But we will likely enter a period of internal terrorism; a second Civil War.

Thank you Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kennedy, and Thomas. Thank you Democratic Senators who didn't fight the nominations of Alito and Gorsuch when it mattered.

Goodbye to the United States for at least a generation.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Tweetedy-tweet-tweet

Let’s stop guessing what will persuade voters to turn out; instead let’s test our ideas. To find out what the people want, go to the people. – twitter

The Democratic Party has for a long time existed as a coalition between liberal and conservative wings. That coalition is under great stress, yet it is the only thing that might stand against the fascists. (See this old post for analysis.) – twitter

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

May 7: The Final Step into Fascism

It was May 7th that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregarde Sessions III announced the policy of separating the children of refugees from their families.

Since that day we have had a drumbeat of authoritarian decisions from the Trump Administration. He has alienated long-time allies and given concessions to Kim Jong-Un, one of the most brutal dictators. Again they promulgate the fascist policy of culling the unfit by withdrawing medical care. Now they talk of establishing concentration camps for the children taken from their parents.

And you who thought that a Trump Administration would not be so bad: you have cursed yourselves. You who are participating: you have cursed yourselves. Do not think now that you will now escape judgement.

Perhaps he had always known, somewhere in the deepest recesses of his mind, that he would indeed eventually take that last step into Satanism, but if so, he had very successfully suppressed it. – James Blish, The Day After Judgement

Tweets to an anti-semitic African-American

No-way Jews own the banks. No-way Jews own Hollywood. Jeez, this is public information, it's easy to check. Jews have done OK in the USA, but the superrich are still largely WASP.
Time was, Jews were lynched in the South.
Every Jew in the USA is the child or grandchild of refugees. Every single one of them.
Jews hoped, for a long time, they could be accepted in the civilized countries of Western Europe, the most civilized of which was … Germany. When the Jews of Europe direly needed refugee, the United States turned them away. Jews can pass, Jews can act like they fit in, but when the chips were down and the jackboots march, Jews will die.
After the Holocaust how can you even write this?

The Rothchilds are one superrich family – there are dozens of those. They don't run the world banking system.
You don't say because Beyonce is rich and successful that black women run the music biz.
Most of the people who talk about the Rothchilds running the world – they're white. In fact they're white supremacists. Some are outright Nazis. Please, do yourself a favor and don't give credence to your enemies.
He blocked me.

We are evolving in reverse.

Democrats, Centrists, and the Resistance: In Which I Offend Everyone

From a series of tweets directed to Clintonbots:
I think Bernie is getting a bum rap, and Hillary Clinton got a pass on some pretty awful things. And, regardless of all this we've got to come together and fight the fascists. This means that, on the one side, the left has to swallow its objections to the center, and on the other side, the Democratic leadership has to stop trying to push the left out. It's a lot easier to get people to turn out for you when you haven't pushed them away. 
The Democratic leadership is still acting as though a meaningful compromise with the Republicans is possible, and that is a chimera. And here is Sanders out there saying it. Good. I don't see how he could win the Presidency, but he's good in the Senate and I hope he stays there and keeps fighting the good fight. Meantime, lets do as much as we can to turn out the vote this year. 
I am thinking that Kamala Harris may be the best choice for the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2020.
There was no response.

Democratic Party centrists are turning into fascist sympathizers.

I think there's a good chance the Resistance will loose the next two elections. The Democratic leadership, as far as I can tell, does not recognize an existential threat. It is still trying to shoot the party of its left wing at a time when Democrats need all the support they can get. The left wing is discouraged after 20 years of attacks from from the Democratic leadership. They're not going to turn into fascists, but they are going to be unenthusiastic supporters of the Democratic Party, and isn't that how we got into this mess?

How do resurgent feminists, energized African-Americans, and young anti-fascists fit into this picture? Probably we get more women in Congress, possibly the next President will be a woman – but a lot of the women in Congress are centrists, and are maintaining the split in the resistance. African-Americans, hard to say. They're an energized group, partly because state terrorism is deployed against them, but will the Democratic Party offer them enough to win their support? And what will they do with that energy if they do not get significant support? Young anti-fascists are the people who have grown up in schools subject to the stochastic terrorism of the right wing. The Parkland survivors are their voice. Again, a lot of energy there, but what is their political program beyond firearms regulation? And what will they do if they do not get anything significant from the Democratic leadership?

Turning Out the Left

(Remarks on Jim Wright's Hunting the Unicorn to Extinction.)

Duty motives you, and me, and many of the people who comment at Stonekettle. Unfortunately, as your Twitter responses showed, we are not a majority. If we want people to show up, I think it is our job to make the case, in terms that persuade people for whom duty is not a sufficient motivation.

The Democratic leadership is an obstacle.  Some Democratic candidates might as well be Republicans. Most of them are rich and insulated by their wealth from the hardness of most people's lives. (As David Dayen reminded us recently, every single bank deregulation bill of the past 30-40 years was bipartisan.) The Senate Democratic leader voted to confirm a torturer for Director of the CIA. And so on, and on.

If the goal is to build a Democratic coalition that defeats the fascists of the Republican Party, it will take strong leadership and careful planning to  both satisfy the liberals and keep the more conservative factions in the Party. At this time, I see no interest in building such a coalition in the  Democratic Party leadership.  With the Democratic leadership opposed and no major leftist leader within the party, I do not see how the left is to be brought to enthusiastically support the Democratic Party in the next four years.

Trump Didn't Start a Nuclear War

In other words, he did something not completely insane.

Am I supposed to be grateful?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Law is the Loser, part n: DOJ Opposition to the Affordable Care Act

Andy Slavitt, on Twitter, writes about an exceptionally egregious example of the contempt for the law on the part of the Trump administration.
The DOJ, responsible for upholding the rule of law, is not defending the people in a frivolous lawsuit to say that without the mandate, the rest of the ACA can’t be enforced. – https://twitter.com/ASlavitt/status/1004897703401312256
This is, for many reasons, disgusting, and three Department of Justice lawyers have already quit over it. But I want to draw attention to the contempt for the law on the part of the highest law enforcement official in the USA shows. This is what happens when you put a  racist southern prosecutor in charge of the Department of Justice. Lawyer Nicholas Bagley comments:
I’m frightened for what this says about the rule of law. […] The Trump administration has just announced that it doesn’t care that a law was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. All that matters if that it hates the law and has a (laughable) argument for casting it aside. That’s not a rule of law I recognize. That’s a rule by whim. And it scares me.
The rule of law will be decades recovering from the damage the Roberts Court and the Trump administration has done to it.

Black Socialists and Bernie Sanders

“The whole world is under obligation to the Negro, and that the white heel is still upon the black neck is simply proof that the world is not yet civilized.” – Eugene V. Debs

It occurs to me that the claims the Bernie Sanders cares only about class issues and not at all about racism and sexism erases generations of African-American socialism, a long and proud intellectual history to which Sanders himself, though Martin Luther King, Jr., is heir.

Here's a few names and faces, from the Democratic Socialists of America.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Surely there must be an exception."

No. There isn't.

"The Shirley Exception is a bit of mental sleight of hand that allows people to support a policy they profess to disagree with. It's called the Shirley Exception because … well, I mean, *surely* there must be exceptions, right?" – Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin) on Twitter.