Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Personal loyalties can become a fatal flaw in Presidential politics

In Wikipedia among the things that you can learn about the late President Harry Truman is this:
In 1945, Vice President Truman shocked many when, a few days after being sworn in, he attended the Pendergast funeral. Truman was reportedly the only elected official who attended the funeral. Truman brushed aside the criticism, saying simply, "He was always my friend and I have always been his."
The Pendergast involved was Missouri political boss Thomas Joseph Pendergast who after serving 15 months in prison for failing to pay taxes on a bribe retired.

The funeral was just weeks before Truman became President. Many praised Truman's loyalty to a friend. But four years before, Truman's loyalty to Pendergast almost cost him his second term in the United States Senate. Without that second term, Truman would not have become Vice-President, and the President. But that election risk at the time was for a Senate seat, not for the Presidency.

It is 2016. This person is in the political news again:

Of course you recognize her, right? No? Well here's some information on her:

Doesn't help? Well, if you're not a Muslim scholar or a player in international women's rights, that's understandable.

From a biographical standpoint, we know that Saleha S. Mahmood was born in 1940 in undivided India (now Pakistan). She was married to the late Zyed Abedin, an Indian-born an Islamic and Middle Eastern scholar who also received his PhD at Penn. In the early 1970's they were in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Zyed was affiliated with Western Michigan University.

In 1978 Abdullah Omar Naseef, then-vice president of King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, recruited Zyed Abedin to work for the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), a Saudi-based Islamic think tank. Both Zyed and Saleha Abedin would serve as editorial-board members of IMMA's in-house publication, the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA). After her husband died in 1993, Saleha S. Mahmood, as she is named on the JMMA website, became the director of IMMA; today she serves as editor-in-chief of its Journal.

From all rational appearances (as opposed to the American paranoid right-wing view), Saleha S. Mahmood is a 76-year-old academic, administrator, and editor who late in life is in the middle of the effort to modernize the world's Muslim population without sacrificing the core beliefs of the religion. She apparently does have strong religious beliefs and is not afraid of controversy. Or to put it another way, she's controversial.

She is regarded as a feminist though she is not going to join Bill Maher advocating that Muslim women run out and buy a bunch of short sun dresses.

Now why would this woman be in the news, you might ask?

In Michigan in 1976 Saleha gave birth to a daughter, Huma Abedin, described two weeks ago by Vogue magazine as Hillary Clinton’s "assistant, adviser, and professional confidante for two decades," and "powerful, glamorous, and ubiquitous, many ways the engine at the center of Clinton’s well-run machine, crucial and yet largely out of sight."

This Hillary-Huma relationship has resulted in photos with Saleha Mahmood like this:

Now one might understand that these intelligent women might associate. After all Huma's has been referred to as Hillary's other daughter. It's bound to stir some right wing flurry of paranoia but it is the kind silliness the regular media might ignore.

But this is a picture of Huma, a practicing Muslim, with her now-estranged Jewish husband...

You can forget the possibility of Huma Abedin remaining nearly invisible to the mainstream or any other media.

The Vogue story is about as positive about Huma as one can get, but it has quotes like this about her relationship with Clinton: "Over the years, we’ve shared stories about our lives. We’ve celebrated together, we’ve mourned together"

As one might imagine already too many see parallels between Huma's marriage and Hillary's marriage. And once you've opened up this politically irrelevant discussion, the press can't ignore the fact that most of the public until now knew virtually nothing about Clinton's closest aide except from some challenges on her role from the Congressional right.

Huma has been treated very sympathetically by the Washington Post and others. But in January Vanity Fair offered up this headline Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon or Her Next Big Problem? as others in the press suggested that asset or not she could be a problem for the campaign.

And so this week we have this headline in the Los Angeles Times Huma Abedin is Hillary Clinton's closest aide, and now she might be a liability. At best, this controversy is going to mean a -2% in the national polls for Clinton.

Clinton is fortunate that the New York Post which has battered this subject with its typical sensational stories such as this gotcha one last week Huma Abedin denies active role at radical Muslim journal is not the Columbus, Ohio, Post.

Were that the case, this controversy and her personal loyalty to a friend and mentee could enmesh America in a Donald Trump Presidency.

Depending on how she handles it, it may.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A 21st Century Labor Day: What you don't know about the long history of the American labor movement does benefit the wealthiest 1%

If you check your TV schedule for Labor Day weekend, you won't find an annual PBS show recognizing American workers. Nor will you find any national broadcast coverage of parades or fireworks or memorial day type ceremonies honoring workers who died advocating labor causes.

But then again, you won't see either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump leading a celebration despite the fact that angry American workers were their base of support.

The American Labor Day Holiday was literally given to you to smooth over the killing of American workers on strike by U.S. Government officials. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland pushed Congress to establish the holiday as a way to reduce class tension following the Pullman Strike. During that strike thousands of United States Marshals and 12,000 United States Army troops were called out to suppress the strike and about ninety workers were gunned down.

Cleveland’s choice to establish Labor Day in September deflected attention away from another explosive labor action — the Haymarket massacre of 1886, where the deaths of American workers did contribute at least one lasting legacy to the international movement for working-class liberation — a workers’ holiday, May Day, celebrated around the world on May 1.

Tied to the socialist movement, May Day as a national holiday was unacceptable to the American Establishment of the late 1800's. But a response from the Government over the Pullman Strike deaths was needed, so Cleveland selected what we now celebrate as Labor Day in the hopes that working Americans would be mollified and someday forget the labor movement.

But that didn't happen rapidly. Thirty years later, in 1916, Congress passed the Adamson Act creating the first legally enshrined eight hour work day in order to avoid a nationwide railroad strike which would have resulted in deaths.

It would take years before most Americans would forget about the meaning of Labor Day - after The Great Depression, beyond the Revolutionary 1960's, really all the way to the 1980's when the Industrial Revolution was replaced by the Digital Revolution.

During the 1980's decade most Americans seem to have decided they had nothing in common with the laboring class, had no need for organized labor, and literally raised a generation that thinks Labor Day exists for stores to sell stuff much like the Valentines Day "holiday."

To learn a little more about the history of  Labor Day you can read When Labor Day Meant Something and  Labor Day is May 1, today is a boss’s holiday, though you should learn a lot more about what the labor movement struggled to secure for you though that would require reading books. You should at least be aware that there is a Wikipedia entry List of worker deaths in United States labor disputes.

Or you could embrace your ignorance, sit back and enjoy an NPR Jazz Sampler Labor Day Blues And Grooves.

Just keep in mind that the 1% depend upon most workers not understanding that laws like the minimum wage, mandatory overtime, etc., exist not because of some benevolent President but because of the American labor movement. There has always been the 1%, but there isn't much of a labor movement now. Some thoughtful folks might wonder if there is any relationship between that and who benefits from the economic growth....

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Cultural Divide: Will Donald Trump's "Hard 8" Bet Payoff?

The day after Labor Day has traditionally been the start of the post-Convention Presidential Campaign.

Yesterday was three weeks before the day after Labor Day 2016. The Donald is getting ready to start his campaign.

Yesterday, Donald Trump bet his money on the cultural divide, a complex "Hard 8" bet, which he sees as his route to winning on the craps table that is 21st Century American politics.

Democrats and liberals need to understand that, while it is risky for Casino owner Trump, he understands that the payoff is big. Trump feels lucky about it.

After all he's already thrown the dice getting numbers that would have been the losers if he had made the bet earlier or if the numbers were to show up between now and the election. The folks around his table have groaned a bit the past few weeks. After that few weeks of rolling the dice, now he knows how to blow on them for better luck.

More about Trump's bet yesterday after addressing another subject. First let's see if you are at all in touch with the side of the cultural divide, the "Hard 8" side, represented by Trump's bet.

If you haven't been hearing this song you are probably on one side of the American cultural divide:

If you have never heard this song written by Brad Paisley, Chris Dubois, and Kelley Lovelace, clearly you choose to live in a bubble that culturally isolates you.1

It isn't that you shouldn't choose what bubble you live in. It's just that chances are you were probably as shocked by the success of this year's Presidential Election Republican nominee, as surprised as the well-educated liberal and conservative media pundits.

In other words they and you are out of touch with the reality facing the 40% of Americans who would like to vote for Trump. It's a very foolish position for you to be in because you probably have made decisions that made their lives worse.

Now don't misinterpret this song used here as something it is not. In February after a Republican debate Brad Paisley commented...

...which, not surprisingly, got him into hot water with a huge (using a Donald Trump word) number of his fans.

If you go to the YouTube page for the video above, among the comments was this one...

...which would be a typical response from a typical Paisley fan.

If you think Paisley's fans are rednecks, think again.  The commenter is this Paisley fan who was one of five Knox County students to sit on stage with Obama at Pellissippi State Community College in January 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee. In this report about the speech given months before anyone, including Bernie Sanders, announced they were running for President in 2015, we should have learned from the intellectual press:
When Obama said he proposes bringing the cost of community college "to zero," the room erupted in a standing ovation. Obama pointed to Gov. Bill Haslam's Tennessee Promise and announced he plans to call his proposal "America's College Promise."
In fact, you would have to wonder how many tech-savvy Bernie supporters let Bernie get away with presenting his free tuition proposal without mentioning Obama's proposal, but you need not have wondered because most Bernie supporters were political inactivists who would have never seen this YouTube video nor heard the proposal repeated in Obama's 2015 State-of-the-Union Address:

The proposal was introduced in both houses of Congress as S.B. 1716: America’s College Promise Act of 2015 and H.R.2962: America's College Promise Act of 2015 where they languish in committees.2 It is, of course, part of Hillary Clinton's Education Policy Vision. But so long as the Bernie supporters remain political inactivists when it comes to Congressional elections, it will continue to languish in committees.

Then again, this policy proposal would not have inspired the Feel the Bern folks because it is an economic proposal aimed at the very people who will be the voters responsible if Trump beats Clinton as explained here in the post The innane bigotry of the educated is the reason why Trump's “I love the poorly educated!” is a winner as well as discussed in detail in the post series here Dissidents in American Politics. It is a proposal to get the high-school-only's and the high-school-dropouts to go to community college, not to make it cheaper to go the University of California.

There is one thing worse than being out of touch with the 40%. It is being a Bernie supporter who thought that free tuition was a Bernie idea. You aren't just in the lefty bubble but also in a bubble of bigoted ignorance inside the lefty bubble - the "double bubble". You don't want to know about what Democratic Establishment Politicians are trying to do because you want to believe everything wrong in your life is someone else's fault. And you won't help them get that free tuition for community college students.

Which brings us back to Trump's bet. As he announced in a story in The Wall Street Journal:
Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, an outspoken Trump supporter and a former Goldman Sachs banker, will assume the new position of campaign chief executive. At the same time, Mr. Trump also is promoting Kellyanne Conway, a veteran GOP pollster and strategist, to become campaign manager. Ms. Conway has been a campaign adviser for several weeks.

“I want to win,” Mr. Trump said in an interview Tuesday night in which he disclosed his hires. “That’s why I’m bringing on fantastic people who know how to win and love to win.”

The appointment of Mr. Bannon is likely to stir its own controversy. Breitbart News, which he runs, is a freewheeling populist news site that has served as a kind of platform for Trump supporters. He has, among other things, helped produce a movie about the personal wealth of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump has known Mr. Bannon, a former Naval officer, for years. Mr. Bannon will take a leave of absence from Breitbart.
If you don't follow or at least occasionally look at Breitbart News, you can read the erudite New York Times pieces What Is Breitbart News? and Meet Stephen Bannon, the Trump Campaign’s New Chief Executive to get a thorough overview. But the Washington Post story also offers an extensive analysis with these key paragraphs:
Trump’s stunning decision effectively ended the months-long push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump’s presentation and pitch for the general election. And it sent a signal, perhaps more clearly than ever, that the real-estate magnate intends to finish this race on his own terms, with friends who share his instincts at his side.

While Trump respects Manafort, the aides said, he has grown to feel “boxed in” and "controlled" by people who barely know him. Moving forward, he plans to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.

Trump's turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primaries with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski's mantra was "let Trump be Trump" and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture, the aides said.

In Bannon especially, Trump is turning to an alter ego — a colorful, edgy figure on the right who has worked at Goldman Sachs and made several films, including a documentary about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Bannon, in phone calls and meetings, has been urging Trump for months to not mount a fall campaign that makes Republican donors and officials comfortable, the aides said. Instead, Bannon has been telling Trump to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist.

Trump has listened intently to Bannon and agreed with him, believing that voters will ultimately want a presidential candidate who represents disruption more than a candidate with polished appeal, the aides said.
Perhaps the most cogent analysis comes from Deadline Hollywood which understands that 21st Century winners are defined by audience size and fan commitment (which applies to Apple devices as well as movie stars), not by critical discussion and wonky analysis:
Donald Trump, playing to what he knows best – media – has brought in scorched-earth-er Steve Bannon to shake up his campaign, as polls show the candidate sliding in key states, and news headlines showed him losing control of his narrative.

Word that the Breitbart CEO, known for his take-no-prisoners style, had joined Camp Trump comes hours after reports ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes was giving Trump debate a advice/resource/consultation/whatever. Bannon has been with Breitbart since the launch of the web site that has been a virtual Trump campaign newsletter with posts about Hillary Clinton’s health, Clinton’s emails, fond looks back at Bill Clinton’s canoodling over the years, etc.

Today’s news guarantees, if nothing else, that the upcoming debates between Trump and Clinton are going to be the very definition of Must See TV. Sorry, NFL.
If you don't understand that final "Sorry, NFL." comment you need to get out of the double bubble.3

Finally, the Washington Post story noted:
“Buckle up,” wrote a Trump strategist in a text message Wednesday to The Washington Post.

Several people close to Trump said Bannon and Conway have decided to target five states and want to devote the campaign’s time and resources to those contests: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is in those states where they believe Trump’s appeal to working-class and economically frustrated voters has the best chance to resonate, the people said.
Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. From the Brad Paisley song:
We work in the factories and the fields
Assembly lines, the coal mines
And the steel mills

We might fix your water pump or your AC
Bring your apple pie and fill your glass of tea
We'll take that FedEx package to your door 
I live in Democratic California and I know that my vote is not going to change the outcome in this election. Also the song's descriptions do not apply to me and therefore even if I lived in one of those states I wouldn't be a Trump campaign target, though I do listen to country music sometimes.

Trump placed his bet on a table surrounded by folks that live in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania who fit the description. It's a risky bet, but Nate Silver's historically successful 538 Election Forecast system (which right now says Clinton has a 70%+ chance of winning but did have her in the 50%+ numbers a month ago) tells us that absent some major event hurting Clinton it is the only bet for Trump:

Except Trump now decided it is safe to do it with an ex-Goldman Sachs banker/online media mogul which should be a source of skepticism for Trump's base. Maybe I am out of touch.

1I have taken the liberty of reorganizing the lyrics of the song to make a point:

We work in the factories and the fields
Assembly lines, the coal mines
And the steel mills

We might fix your water pump or your AC
Bring your apple pie and fill your glass of tea
We'll take that FedEx package to your door

We crank up our music Friday nights
On two thousand country stations
And we drink ice-cold beer on Friday nights

That's what we do but there's more to us than that
If you wanna know who we are
It's on the logos of our caps

We're all across the map, down city streets and old dirt roads
We're the fabric of this nation
And we're a nation all our own

We're Mountaineers, we're Volunteers
We're the Tide that rolls, we're Seminoles
We're a herd of Longhorn steer
We drive Ford and Chevrolet
Cheer 24 and 88
We're Wildcats, we're Wolverines
We're Tigers, Buckeyes, Bruins
Bulldogs, Hogs and Hurricanes
We pray before we race
Cheer 14 and 48

But underneath that apron or that uniform
Yeah, we're one big country nation, that's right
2 S.B. 1716: America’s College Promise Act of 2015 - U.S. Senators Primary Sponsor Ms. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and co-sponsors Mr. Booker, Mr. Brown (D-OH), Ms. Hirono (D-HI), Mr. Murphy (D-CT), Mr. Leahy  (D-VT), Mr. Durbin (D-IL), Mr. Heinrich  (D-NM), Mr. Cardin (D-MD), Ms. Stabenow  (D-MI), Mr. Markey (D-MA), and Mr. Whitehouse (D-RI). Not a sponsor Mr. Sanders (I-VT)
H.R.2962: America's College Promise Act of 2015 -  Representatives Primary Sponsor Mr. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) and co-sponsors Mr. Hinojosa, Mr. Clyburn, Mr. Butterfield, Ms. Judy Chu of California, Ms. Linda T. Sánchez of California, Ms. Adams, Mr. Moulton, Mr. Takano, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. Richmond, Ms. Brown of Florida, Mr. Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Mr. Blumenauer, Ms. Bonamici, Ms. Bordallo, Mr. Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania, Mrs. Capps, Mr. Cicilline, Ms. Clark of Massachusetts, Mr. Conyers, Mr. DeSaulnier, Ms. Edwards, Ms. Eshoo, Mr. Fattah, Ms. Fudge, Mr. Al Green of Texas, Mr. Gene Green of Texas, Mr. Gutiérrez, Ms. Hahn, Mr. Honda, Mr. Jeffries, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Kilmer, Mr. Kind, Mr. Larson of Connecticut, Ms. Lee, Mr. Levin, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Ted Lieu of California, Mr. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Mr. McDermott, Mr. McGovern, Ms. Moore, Mrs. Napolitano, Mr. Norcross, Ms. Norton, Ms. Plaskett, Mr. Pocan, Mr. Rangel, Ms. Roybal-Allard, Mr. Rush, Mr. Sablan, Ms. Loretta Sanchez of California, Mr. Schiff, Mr. Serrano, Mr. Swalwell of California, Mr. Takai, Mrs. Torres, Mr. Van Hollen, Ms. Wilson of Florida, Mr. Yarmuth, Mr. Beyer, Mr. Pascrell, Mr. Delaney, and Mr. Keating.

3Trump's objection to the debate schedule was because two of the three debates are scheduled on the same nights as NFL games. Because Trump is in another bubble of ignorance he misrepresented how the debates were scheduled. They are scheduled well in advance of an election by a commission not at all well-balanced between the ordinary football fans versus The Establishment (the Academic Oligarchy and the Shareholder Capitalists) that includes the following members:
Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation
John C. Danforth, Former U.S. Senator
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., President, Purdue University
Charles Gibson, Former Anchor, ABC World News with Charles Gibson
John Griffen, Managing Director, Allen & Company LLC, see also Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference
Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO, California Community Foundation
Reverend John I. Jenkins, President, University of Notre Dame
Jim Lehrer, Former Executive Editor and Anchor of the NewsHour on PBS
Newton N. Minow, Senior Counsel, Sidley Austin LLP
Richard D. Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners LLC
Dorothy S. Ridings, Former President, the League of Women Voters and former President and CEO, Council on Foundations
Olympia Snowe, Former U.S. Senator
Shirley M. Tilghman, Former President, Princeton University

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Freedom of Speech" as a right actually has a definition that includes a kindness obligation

We need to start holding websites, particularly social media websites, responsible for the failure to uphold the "kindness" obligation that is part of the definition of the right of free speech and expression.

We need to do so particularly when the owners of the websites have become billionaires by failing to meet the kindness obligation.

Controversy over abusive behavior on the internet is beginning to erupt. Most recently this piece appeared on BuzzFeed News “A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment which begins with the explanation:
For nearly its entire existence, Twitter has not just tolerated abuse and hate speech, it’s virtually been optimized to accommodate it. With public backlash at an all-time high and growth stagnating, what is the platform that declared itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” to do? BuzzFeed News talks to the people who’ve been trying to figure this out for a decade.
Perhaps in this article the most significant paragraph describing the history of these billionaires gives us a sense of a level of arrogance and ignorance in the evolution of social media on the internet:
Working with Alexander Macgillivray, a die-hard free speech advocate who was then a Google attorney, Blogger made a core principle of the universal right to publish, despite outside criticism. “We don’t get involved in adjudicating whether something is libel or slander,” Goldman told Forbes in 2005.
This is a Trump-like approach to something that has become lost in "conventional wisdom." "Freedom of speech" is a cherished American right ... except, of course, most American's have no idea what it is. You are basically ignorant if it comes a shock to you that freedom of speech is a government granted and legally limited freedom that comes with obligations.

So without repeating all the research and details offered at the Wikipedia page, I'll just quote the summarizing words:
Freedom of speech is the right to communicate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship.

Governments restrict speech with varying limitations. Common limitations on speech relate to libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, non-disclosure agreements, the right to privacy, the right to be forgotten, political correctness, public security, public order, public nuisance, campaign finance reform, perjury, and oppression. Whether these limitations can be justified under the harm principle depends upon whether influencing a third party's opinions or actions adversely to the second party constitutes such harm or not.
In the United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

You'll notice that this is all about government. Our "cherished American right" is about the protection of speech from government restriction although the Supreme Court, as explained by Wikipedia, "has recognized several different types of laws that restrict speech, and subjects each type of law to a different level of scrutiny."  The most well-known type of exclusion was enunciated by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Wikipedia also explains another concept:
The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". Article 19 additionally states that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals."
Just to make it clear, Article 19 of the ICCPR reads as follows:
Article 19
  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
    1. For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
    2. For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
In other words, at no time has there been some societal grant of freedom of expression to any person "through any media of his choice" without placing on that person "special duties and responsibilities."

If there is one word that can be used to generally define those special duties and responsibilities, that word is "kindness" meaning a behavior marked by humane characteristics reflecting a pleasant disposition and concern for others.

At no time has there been some law requiring any private sector publisher, internet service or other media provider to define and engage in the protection of free speech and free expression, particularly to allow speech and expression not only devoid of kindness but filled with hatred and harm.

Newspapers and magazines in the 20th Century prior to the internet selectively printed articles and letters to the editor. And many still do today. If you felt your message wasn't getting out there, you could have your own book or newspaper or flyer printed and distributed, all at your own expense.

Again, protection of free speech and expression is a societal activity mutually engaged in through government, including the courts which we seem sometimes to forget is a branch of government. It is not defined through individual action particularly when that action is motivated by profit.

It takes a significant level of arrogance for those involved in providing a web site to believe that their role is to define and assure free speech and freedom of expression. Today that kind of arrogance can be found only in "Silicon Valley" - meaning among newly rich tech folks who have as a primary motive for daily living making as much money as possible, a motive that colors how they define free speech and expression and the special duties and responsibilities associated therewith.

Arrogant techies wave as a flag Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (a common name for Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) that granted providers and users of the internet certain immunity from liability for anything someone else puts on the internet through them.

But Congress when adopting the Act included the so-called Good Samaritan provision which also protects the same people from liability for restricting access to certain material or giving others the technical means to restrict access to that material. In other words, immunity still allows for kind behavior.

There is no private sector context for the term "free speech." Employers have no obligation to let you say whatever you want in the workplace. I have no obligation to let you into my home so you can say whatever you want to me.

Websites like Twitter or Facebook may have immunity from legal liability for whatever the "assholes" post or tweet.

But the Good Samaritan provision is there to allow the billionaires who run those web sites to indicate to us how they balance making money against the "special duties and responsibilities" that should cause them to reduce their wealth ever so slightly in the name of kindness by limiting the activities of the "assholes."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why shouldn't we pick on Bernie "The Investment Mogul" Sanders?

This week we learn that Bernie and Jane "plopped down nearly $600,000" for a "lakefront camp" which "has four bedrooms and 500 feet of Lake Champlain beachfront on the east side of the island — facing Vermont, not New York. The Bern will keep his home in Burlington and use the new camp seasonally."

Or as the right wing Washington Examiner put it Bernie Sanders just bought a third home. Tell that to the 99 percent.

The bemused politically conservative British tabloid The Daily Mail offered with its story this photo...

...under the headline...

...though to be fair about it they did note "The Sanders family had recently sold a lake house in Maine, which had been passed down from his wife's side of the family."

The Sanders now own real estate that reportedly include homes in the Washington D.C. neighborhood of Capitol Hill where the median home price is roughly $726,000, a home in Vermont that values at approximately $320,000, and this $600,000 home - all totaling to real estate worth $1,646,000.

But, of course, that is not all.

Looking at the couple's assets other than real estate, a Money Magazine analysis of the Sanders other investment wealth concluded Bernie Sanders Is a De Facto Millionaire, as have others who have ignored the Sanders' "do-what-I-say" preaching and looked at the "not-what-I-do" of the man.

It bothered some that the millionaire couple only donated $8,350 to charity in 2014 making him the target of a story How Sanders’ charitable giving may undermine his central message:
But despite being in the top 4 percent of U.S. earners and living in relatively cheap Vermont, Sanders gave a mere 4 percent of his income to charity. Furthermore, his effective tax rate was a mere 13.5 percent. This is less than Mitt Romney, who was roundly criticized for paying a low percentage in taxes.

Unless we learn more from Sanders, which might put these numbers in a different context, he is a victim of his own critique: He is not paying his fair share.
In the tradition of the typical "hot-and-bothered" quadrennial-only American voter, Bernie supporters denied the truth about Bernie's personal finances during the primary campaign.

But now they are going to take care of his hypocritical behavior with tweets as noted in this story Fresh Off His Campaign to Make Socialism Great Again, Bernie Sanders Buys $600,000 Summer House:
Twitter was swift to respond to the irony:

But Bernie still has his defenders on the internet as we learn from Please Stop Shaming Bernie Sanders for Buying a House which offers up Bernie's curious redefinition of socialism that during the primary campaign went right over the heads of most of his fervent, but ignorant, quadrennial-only-American-voter followers:
These tweets also seem to fundamentally miscomprehend what Sanders' democratic socialism is actually about.

“To me, democratic socialism means democracy. It means creating a government that represents all of us, not just the wealthiest people in the country,” Sanders said at a fall debate.

Sanders' campaign platform focused on income inequality via regulating big banks, reforming campaign finance, and making healthcare and college more affordable. These jabs use a misapplied pop-cultural caricature of socialism to portray Sanders as hypocritical, but miss the point that his democratic socialism never called for "taking people's stuff," or preventing people from doing well enough to buy houses.
Actually, if these folks would switch from their Twitter app to a Wikipedia app (they may have to download that because I don't believe most care about learning anything), they could learn:
Democratic socialism is a political ideology that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production, often with an emphasis on democratic management of enterprises within a socialist economic system. The term "democratic socialism" is sometimes used synonymously with "socialism"; the adjective "democratic" is often added to distinguish it from the Marxist–Leninist brand of socialism, which is widely viewed as being non-democratic in practice.

I'm old like Bernie, and though I am not as wealthy as Bernie, my life is comfortable. So I can't begrudge him his wealth.

But I wish he had been more honest than the typical politician because Bernie knows democratic socialism indeed calls for "taking people's stuff" and limiting their wealth. He just wasn't honest with the very poorly educated ignorant college students and graduates supporting him who don't want to learn anything about political history.

At least neither The Donald nor Hillary can mislead people into thinking they live like the ordinary family.

It would have distinguished Bernie from politics-as-usual if he regularly offered up a disclaimer that for a couple their age the Sanders are among the 1%.1

1 You likely do not understand who "the 1%" mathematically are which I point out in 4. Dissidents in American Politics: Who are we angry at? as part of my series reflecting the theme: " One can't help but ponder, to consider the historical context, about how too many 20th Century American dissident voters (and yes, all current voters were born in the 20th Century) brought America back to where we are today."