Nel's New Day

August 17, 2017

DOJ Warrant: ‘There Should Be an Uproar over This’

Filed under: protests — trp2011 @ 10:43 PM
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A recent guideline to surviving an authoritarian government comes from 80 years experience in surviving Polish resistance. The first directive is “assume all communications and activities are monitored.” As the author points out, surveillance roots out dissent, builds mistrust among people, and controls the actions of the general population. It forces everyone to monitor their speech and actions as if they are being constantly watched. This scrutiny escalated after 9/11 with the PATRIOT Act, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is raising it to a level in the United States that people had not thought possible.

For many decades, almost all people in the nation considered voting to be a right easily achieved if they are eligible according to age and a few other requirements. With a restrictive 2005 Indiana law upheld by the Supreme Court, people began to understand that voting might be a privilege mostly for white, financially comfortable people. Over half the states, including almost the entire South, have limiting ID laws; many of them also have other laws restricting over 5 million eligible voters at the polls. DDT is now cutting down voting since his new voting commission has requested detailed voter registration information from all the states. In Colorado alone, at least 5,000 people, some of them who had actively assisted in the voting process, have deregistered because of DDT’s demand for their records. They express fear at what he will do with the information.

[Note that DDT’s response to people’s request for privacy is to ask, “What do they have to hide?” What a question from a man elected president who refuses to release his tax returns and hides everything else he can about his administration.]

With his strong support of white supremacists, DDT and his DOJ are upping the ante on dissenters against his administration, going far beyond widespread ridicule about respected journalists and media outlets. Initially, AG threatened to subpoena journalists and force them to give up their sources before grand juries in lieu of prison. Now information has been released that the DOJ is trying to collect complete information about 1.3 million visitors to an anti-DDT website, #DisruptJ20.org, on DreamHost, regarding protests on DDT’s inauguration day.

John Borchert, deputy chief of the Felony Major Crimes Trial Section of the Justice Department, signed the search warrant on July 12 seeking “evidence about individuals who participated, planned, organized or incited the January 20 riot.” DOJ is demanding “all information that might identify the subscribers…including names, addresses, telephone numbers and other identifiers, email addresses, business information…and source of payment for services including any credit card or bank account information.” DreamHost said that the DOJ wants “the time and date of the visit, the IP address for the visitor, the website pages viewed by the visitor (through their IP address), and even a detailed description of the software running on the visitor’s computer.

Regarding the DOJ warrant, ACLU stated:

“One of the core principles enshrined in the Fourth Amendment is a prohibition on general searches — meaning, the government cannot simply go fishing for a wide range of information in the hope that some kind of useful evidence will turn up.”

DreamHost refused, stating that the users’ information “could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.” The host already disclosed information relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation after 214 people were charged with vandalizing a car and breaking windows. DOJ now wants information about everyone who visited the site, however, not just the people who have broken laws. The warrant doesn’t say why or what will happen to the information on the 1.3 million visitors.

TechFreedom president Berin Szóka supports DreamHost’s refusal on the basis of the Fourth Amendment:

“The Founders outlawed general warrants precisely to prevent governments from harassing their political opponents en masse. If the DOJ can unmask over a million Internet users simply for visiting a website, without any further alleged connection to criminal activity, then no American is safe to use the Internet to access dissident speech. The fear of being unmasked — and subjected to harassment, or far worse — will chill the speech of millions more.”

Phishing for records of all visitors is comparable to getting search warrants for everyone in a city of 1.3 million if a criminal is suspected of residing there.

DDT is also accelerating his repression of dissent by increasing the severity of charges against the 214 protesters in Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day 2017 to a felony level that includes inciting rioting, conspiracy to riot, and destruction of property. For many of them, prosecutors have no more proof than their presence at the protest and their black clothing, but they will go to trial—next March. If they fight the charges in court and lose, they could be in prison for 70 to 80 years, just for breaking windows or perhaps nothing. When Wilbur Ross came back from Saudi Arabia, he marveled that they faced no protesters. The sentences of prison and death there for protesting could be replicated in the United States. At least 18 states consider 30-plus bills to curb protests by increasingly severe penalties for demonstrators.

U.S. customs and Border Protection tried to get Twitter records in March for an account that supposedly shared material from federal employees who disagree with DDT’s policies. After Twitter sued, DOJ dropped the request. A woman was tried in May because she involuntarily laughed during AG Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing. She was responding to Sen. Richard C. Shelby’s (R-AL) statement about Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” The DOJ argument was that her laugh constituted “disorderly and disruptive conduct” meant to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of Congress. Last month, a judge threw out the conviction for Desiree A. Fairooz, 61, but ordered a new trial on September 1.

Robert Mercer, the billionaire who owns Breitbart and bought the presidency for DDT, also has Cambridge Analytica, the source that has profiles of 5,000 pieces of data on about 220 million voters in the U.S. and uses the information to target them through their emotions. Basically, it’s a propaganda machine. As a communications director Andy Wigmore said, “The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.” Gaining detailed information about the 1.3 million is a great addition to Analytica. These records can be used to prosecute—and persecute—anyone who opposes DDT in a highly technological redo of the Joseph McCarthy witch hunts for “political dissidents.”

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, said:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has said that forced disclosure chills speech. Visiting a website is First Amendment activity and this is quite troubling.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) told Sessions:

“When the government attempts to seize personal information, including email and physical addresses, for more than a million Americans who visited a website, it shows that the president is willing to use his Justice Department and the machinery of government to go after his political opponents.”

Even some Fox commentators don’t support DOJ’s actions. Judge Andrew Napolitano said talked about its “very serious constitutional problems.” He added that DOJ may have gone to a superior court for the warrant request, rather than a federal judge because “none of them would sign it.” Napolitano said, “There should be an uproar over this.”

DreamHost’s scheduled hearing tomorrow, August 18, in DC Superior Court has been postponed. Judge Robert E. Morin, who overturned Fairooz’s conviction, may be assigned the case some time in the future.

As Heather Heyer, the counter-protester killed by a neo-Nazi, said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” We need to be outraged by the DOJ collecting information from protest websites.

There has been no mention of subpoenas for white supremacist websites setting up their violent actions in Charlottesville (VA) last weekend. Of course, The Daily Stormer has lost its domain name and access through U.S. hosts. Even Russia and China won’t give a home to its website. The group can go onto the dark Web, but not being indexed in popular search engines may cut down on recruiting–for a while.

 

October 1, 2016

Who Are the Trump Supporters?

People follow Trump because they admire him—“say it like it is,” avoid “political correctness,” make money by cheating and call is capitalism, and make up their own rules. There are some specific characteristics of Trump supporters (TS) based on his values and approaches:

A desire to be ruled, not governed: The top predictor of being a TS is a belief in authoritarianism. TS are inclined to believe in obedience; they want strong leaders and respond aggressively to outsiders because they feel threatened. Trump’s promises to close mosques, ban Muslims, build a wall, and the generality of “make American great again” rises above constitutional rights or capitalism. The model for Trump is Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia.

Lack of class (as in quality): TS appreciate that Trump ridicules a disabled person, calls POWs losers, denigrates women because he doesn’t find them physically attractive, makes inappropriate sexual comments about his daughter, blasts a Gold Star family, etc.

Willingness to cheat and lie to people: Trump deflates his numbers to get low taxes, incessantly tells falsehoods, defrauds his employees, rips off people for his own benefit, etc. He fits the description of a pathological liar as words automatically pour out of his mouth that contradict what he’s said earlier or just “misrepresents” reality.

Racist beliefs: Trump embraces the alt-right movement, led the birther movement, belittles minorities by accusing them of being criminals and rapists, demands that judges in his thousands of lawsuits be white, fires minorities because of their skin color, etc.

Misogynist way of life: Trump’s attacks on Megyn Kelly brought his sexist attitude to the forefront of media, and he continues to incessantly insult women. In debates he brags about the size of his genitalia and claims that female opponents are too ugly to be president. Approached about his abusive statements about women, he doubles down on the outrageous comments by blaming the women for his beliefs. An acquaintance from Trump’s days in a military academy said that they learned about women from Playboy magazine and that Trump never got over this sexism.

Deficiency in religious/spiritual ethics: Trump grew up with the gospel of prosperity and has continued this conviction throughout his life. (See “Willingness to cheat and lie to people.”)

No credence in the U.S. Constitution: Republicans have rabidly sworn for the past almost eight years that President Obama doesn’t obey the constitution, yet GOP members ignore Trump’s plans to break the First Amendment by curbing free speech while forcing one religion on the nation’s entire population. He also wants to remove due process from anyone who annoys him—which covers a large number of people—and remove birthright citizenship, both enshrined in the constitution.

Rejection of hard work: For the most recent presidential debate, Hillary Clinton studied the issues, prepared specifics, and practiced for her encounter with Trump. People, including Trump, made fun of her because she worked hard to be ready for a difficult job—that of the President of the United States. Trump came in with no preparation, almost unable to stand for 90 minutes, but was praised for his energy and excitement. No information, just rude interrupting and repetitive generalities.

A reason for Trump to not prepare might be that he suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect, an overweening confidence in his ignorant sense of superiority. With this effect, incompetents fail to recognize their own incompetence. Because they don’t understand that they are not good at something, they fail to see their personal flaws and don’t bother to work on self-improvement. The more incompetent they are, the greater their confidence.

For example, Trump is supremely confident that the solution for defeating ISIS is to steal oil from Middle Eastern countries, both a militarily impractical solution and a violation of international law. Not understanding cyber warfare, he makes a reference to “400-pound” hackers sitting on their beds. Trump thinks he can create stability in Asia by getting China to invade North Korea although both countries have nuclear weapons and China is a sponsor of North Korea. The man with no experience in politics or public policy accuses the former secretary of state as lacking “basic ability” compared to him.

People question why Clinton is only a few points ahead of Trump despite her superiority in knowledge and ability. The GOP, who now has no idea what to do with the monster they created, led its constituency into a state of racial resentment and bigotry in order to move the country’s assets to the wealthy. This audience is ripe for Trump support after watching the bullying star of a “reality” TV show for fourteen years and another year of almost all the media—not just the Fox network—promote him in a competition for ratings. At the same time, the media, both cable and mainstream, has spent 30 years constantly accusing Clinton of being “untruthful” and “untrustworthy.” Finally facing veracity, the media is helpless to change the situation that they created.

Think of “an egomaniac who ‘only loved himself’ — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization…”  A man with “bottomless mendacity” who magnifies himself with “a slick propaganda machine”—a “big mouth” who rose to power, embraced by millions for his “doctrine of hatred.” A man who promises to lead the country “’to a new era of national greatness,’ though he was typically vague about his actual plans.” A man whose “ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity” and those who found him an “evening entertainment.” Conservatives believed that they could “fence” him in.

These quotes are from a book review by Michiko Kakutani about Volker Ullrich’s new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939. The parallels between Donald Trump and the man who almost ruled the world are frightening.  

Hitler, who played on the people’s bitterness and resentments, was described as “so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth.” Editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.” Aaron Blake writes about “Trump’s tendency to make up facts, spew utter distortions and rely on innuendo.” Hitler claimed to be the visionary leader who could restore law and order just as Trump does, perhaps getting his lines from reading Hitler’s speeches. Hitler gained power from the uncompromising government dysfunction by giving his supporters the belief that they needed “a man of iron” to shake up the country. That’s what TS think that Trump will bring them.

The country has survived presidents who were hot-headed (Lyndon Johnson), dishonest (Richard Nixon), unprepared (Ronald Reagan), and overwhelmed (George W. Bush). But the U.S. has not faced a fascist who appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment, creates anger with the political and economic establishment which includes an attack on NAFTA, and expresses extreme intolerance toward non-Christian people. That’s what Patrick Buchanan did in the 1992 campaign when conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that this mix of “nativism, authoritarianism, ethnic and class resentment” follows the classic mold of fascism.

Throughout history, fascism has started with lack of economic opportunity giving the wealthy almost the entire pie. As promoters of two political sides separate into their corners, the center vacuum leaves a space. The “center” fills with people who maintain superiority to everyone except the “right kind of people”—in the U.S., that means people born here who manage to have large salaries. The “superior” people dehumanize everyone else by calling them animals, thugs, and terrorists. If indiscriminate murderers are white, they are “mentally damaged.” All others are sub-humans.

A large middle class during the 1950s, more educated and financially well-off, disappeared when stagnating incomes throughout GOP leadership decreased advantages of savings, education, and healthcare. “Trickle-down economics” and deregulating Wall Street moved more wealth to the top. The two Bill Clinton terms during the 1990s started a reversal, but the appointment of George W. Bush to the presidency created a hit to the economy from lower taxes, trillions of dollars in war expenditures, and the severe recession from deregulation of borrowing.

People who support Trump come up with many excuses for casting their votes for Trump, but they could not support him if they didn’t believe that he is right in all his lying, fraudulent, racist, sexist, authoritarian, anti-constitution, nativist, incompetent, ill-prepared approaches toward ruling.

January 19, 2016

Tale of Two Debates

Presidential candidate debates from two political parties last week demonstrated a world of difference. 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In the first of two presidential candidate debates last week softball questions gently thrown by Fox Business facilitators turned into a knock-down, drag-out fight among seven GOP candidates. Donald Trump came out on top, Marco Rubio failed, and all the others except Ted Cruz disappeared. Several of them complained about the lack of release of ten sailors who were released the day before, after only 16 hours.

The “big time” GOP debate began with bashing the President of the United States. Cruz accused President Obama of “betrayal,” and Chris Christie described him as “a petulant child” before he claimed he would kick his “rear end out of the White House.” Rubio charged that the president “doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” Then they battered Hillary Clinton, who Jeb Bush described as “just a disaster.”

The real fight, however, started as Bush talked about “backbench senators” and Trump’s “unhinged comments” and Rubio attacked Christie as a liberal. Then they got serious, delving into birther and flip-flopping accusations toward their candidate colleagues. GOP solutions were more guns, more income inequality, and more anger and violence. Marco Rubio actually said that everyone needs to buy guns because ISIS is coming to your house.

Both debates took place in South Carolina where black people comprise 27 percent of the population. Both debates occurred the week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and were staged just one block from the historic church where a white man killed nine black people during a prayer service less than seven months ago. Yet the word “black” was uttered only twice among GOP candidates: black lung and black market. Also missing during the GOP debate was any reference to issues of specific concern to over half the population—women. The result was a pack of jackals in a cage where they were tossed red meat from laissez-faire moderators and wild audience applause.

Recent presidential debate moderator Hugh Hewitt, however, managed to even out-bizarre the GOP candidates. In talking about positions espoused at the GOP debate, Hewitt said:

“Fact checking doesn’t matter in these things. What matters is personality, an aura and your command presence. And of all those two, the best command presence last night was Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. And I keep marveling at how Donald Trump can dominate a television screen.”

The fact-free zone of GOP presidential campaigns is not new: Mitt Romney used this style against President Obama in 2012. It’s just that Republican pundits now admit that their candidates are welcome to make up anything that they want on the spot, leaving the audience misinformed rather than just ignorant. Jeb Bush explained he knew Clinton was going to be indicted because “I only get my news from Fox & Friends, so that’s all I get.”

The fact-free approach has become so blatant that full-time fact-checking would result in volumes rather than articles. They even lie about falsehoods easily checked, for example Cruz’s answer to a question about his not disclosing a $1 million loan from Goldman Sachs, his wife’s employer at the time, for his 2012 campaign. He first talked about how hateful the New York Times is and then launched into pretending he had done so. The problem was Cruz’s failure to list any bank loans on his FEC report. All his publicity about how he and his wife had scraped the bottom on their financial barrel to fund the campaign was bogus. So was Chris Christie’s claim that he didn’t support Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court justice, a claim disproved by a New Jersey Star-Ledger headline.

Even Mitt Romney is disgusted with the candidates. He called the Republicans “nuts” for not raising the federal minimum wage, something he calls part of GOP orthodoxy. “As a party, to say we’re trying to help the middle class of America and the poor and not raise the minimum wage sends exactly the wrong signal,” Romney said. None of the GOP candidates pays attention to Romney, however, some of them suggesting that this wage should be $0. Fiorina thinks that the law is unconstitutional.

Rand Paul boycotted the “also-ran” table, but Carly Fiorina tried to carve out a place for her by abandoning her promise to make no personal comments about Clinton. Fiorina’s attack: “Unlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband.” Mike Huckabee wants to train poor people as if they were dogs. The comments just came coming.

“Politician turned reality show star endorses reality show star turned politician.” That’s Ari Melber’s response to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. The newest NBC/WSJ poll shows that almost two-thirds of Republican voters could vote for Trump, an increase of 42 percent in the past ten months from 23 percent to 65 percent. The same NBC/WSJ poll shows that 42 percent of voters view the GOP less favorably compared to 19 percent who like it better.

University of Massachusetts PhD candidate Matthew MacWilliams conducted a poll to determine what lies behind the “Trump phenomenon.” His research showed that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a GOP voter’s preferred candidate—only authoritarianism trailed by the less significant fear of terrorism. Authoritarians obey, rally to, and follow strong leaders while responding aggressively to outsiders. Trump promised to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border and closing mosques through iron-fisted solutions to sometimes manufactured dismay, agitation, and fear.

Writer Rick Salutin compared Trump’s rise to that of European dictators in the 1930s. Trump’s favorite word is “strong”; Chinese and Japanese are “killers”; and the nation has been lost because of “stupid,” “weak” leaders. Trump mocks opponents’ weakness through “low energy.” According to Trump, the growing economic inequalities affecting whites comes from non-whites who are poised to become the majority within the U.S. The unchallenged occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (OR) are prime examples of “Trumpers”—trigger-happy, anti-Islamic, and power-hungry. Trump doesn’t need a platform of informed policy because of his “patriarchal self-proclaimed omnipotence.” Like Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, Trump knows the value of “spectacle and incendiary propaganda” appealing “to emotion, not reason.”

MacWlliams concludes:

“Those who say a Trump presidency ‘can’t happen here’ should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity.”

Even if Trump doesn’t win the primary, he has poisoned GOP campaigns. Benjy Sarlin wrote:

“Trump has defined the Republican primary and the debate showed just how far he’s shifted the conversation. His rivals — even the supposedly more moderate candidates running on their appeal outside the party — are adopting a darker tone, more bellicose rhetoric, and shifting their positions to the right as the contest continues.”

Another reason for the possibility of Trump becoming president is ignorance. Jimmy Kimmel honored MLK Day in his Lie Witness News segment to interview people what they thought about the announcement that Martin Luther King, Jr., who was murdered in 1968, was endorsing Donald Trump.

One woman answered, “I figure if he’s going to endorse Donald Trump for president, then maybe he thinks he will be a good president,” one woman said. Some people thought King should have voted for President Obama, and others believed were surprised when they were told that King didn’t vote for Barack Obama, and others thought that Malcolm X and Hillary Clinton vacation and play golf together at Martha’s Vineyard.

In the Democratic debate, two leading candidates and one polling at two percent argued about how to improve the country. Bernie Sanders is mad at the system, wants universal healthcare, and doesn’t get paid by Wall Street for speeches; Hillary Clinton wants to improve the health care law, thinks that Sanders doesn’t fight enough for gun safety laws, and supports President Obama’s policies. Martin O’Malley complained about not getting enough questions. Discussions were intense as they criticized each other’s positions, but the event was nothing like the free-for-all cage fight of the GOP candidates just three days earlier. It was the “best of times” because it was opposite of the GOP debate.

Now we’ll wait for the first primary results after the Iowa caucus on February 1.

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