Andrew Sullivan: Putin’s First Year in the White House

Look first at Putin’s domestic goals. His core concern, as with any despot, is the legitimacy of his pseudo-democratic autocracy – which means, in turn, discrediting the very different features of the liberal democracies of the West. And in this, he must be scarcely able to believe his luck. After decades of the West’s championing of liberal democracy, the American president has spent his first year attacking it. Trump has exhibited contempt for a free press, describing the bulk of Western journalism as “fake news,” words that have gladdened the hearts of dictators across the planet. He has minimized Putin’s assassination of critical journalists, saying that America has no moral standing to criticize. He has treated the judiciary either as instruments of loyalty — hence his packing of the federal bench — or as pests to be slandered or dismissed. He prefers total loyalty from law-enforcement officials to the actual rule of law. For good measure, Trump has legitimized Putin’s core model of governance — that of a benevolent cult hero of the nation, shored up by religious reactionaries — by plagiarizing it. As for the other critical aspect of Putinism — the looting of the treasury by oligarchs — I give you the latest tax bill. It even carves out special goodies for real-estate investors.

Source: Andrew Sullivan: Putin’s First Year in the White House

America’s founders would be horrified at this United States of Surveillance

Dan Gillmor:

You may believe there’s no possibility of America turning into a thugocracy, that the amassed information – conversations, business dealings, personal health and financial data, media consumption, gun records and so much more – will never be systematically misused that way. But even if you do, ask yourself this: if a young employee of one of the countless private companies administering the surveillance state could get access to so much for idealistic reasons, how vulnerable is this material to people with baser motives?

Rushkoff on Unemployment

Douglas Rushkoff has a great piece on CNN about whether we ought to view unemployment as a problem. This reminds me of Robert Anton Wilson’s RICH Economy, written thirty years ago and seeming more prescient all the time.

America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that’s even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings to get the empty houses off their books.

Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff — it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.

Robert Reich on How to Fix the Budget

You have to give Robert Reich credit for tackling the big problems.

Bottom up means giving all Americans what they need to be productive – universal and affordable health coverage, good schools, a chance to attend college, job retraining, affordable child care, and good public transportation to and from the job, for starters. But as we learned a decade ago, this requires money – even more, now. So the question is how the nation can afford it and ALSO give the soon-to-retire baby boomers the Social Security and Medicare they expect, pay for homeland security and national defense, invest in non-fossil based fuel technologies, and repair the nation’s decrepit infrastructure (recall the pipe that blew out in New York last July and the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis). I haven’t even mentioned the trillion dollars necessary to shield the middle class from the Alternative Minimum Tax. Even if we cut corporate welfare, eliminated subsidies to agribusiness, and banned all earmarks, we wouldn’t have nearly enough.

Menino and the Mooninites

Below is the letter I sent to Mayor Menino regarding the handling of the Mooninite incident. I sent a similar letter to Attorney General Coakley.

Dear Mayor Menino,

I was disturbed by the overreaction of Boston public safety officials to the “Mooninite” displays on January 31, 2007. Even more disturbing is the attempt to scapegoat the two men who installed the displays, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens. Charging these men with a felony is an obvious attempt to divert attention away from the incompetent handling of the event by the Boston Police Department and the City of Boston. If these men are convicted of anything more than littering it will be a gross miscarriage of justice. Please encourage Attorney General Martha Coakley to drop the case.

Similar displays were installed in nine other U.S. cities and somehow they all managed to deal with them without shutting down their major roadways or filing criminal charges. On Tuesday, January 30, the displays were discovered by a public works crew in Seattle and removed without incident. In the future, I hope Boston officials will show a similar level of common sense.

Sincerely, Benjamin Williams

Feel free to use my text verbatim or use it for inspiration if you’re a Massachusetts resident and you want to send your own letter. Here are the mailing addresses for Menino and Coakley:

Attorney General Martha Coakley McCormack Building One Ashburton Place Boston, MA 02108

Thomas M. Menino Mayor’s Office 1 City Hall Plaza Boston, MA 02201

The Democratic Victory: Keep Your Expectations Low

Robert Reich’s assessment of what the new Democratic Congress will try to accomplish is pretty bleak. The only thing I can’t believe here is that Democrats won’t do anything about Iraq. American’s voted the dems in because they are anxious about Iraq and if they haven’t done anything about in two years they will be right back out.

Republican Robo-calling Scam

It seems like the political story of the day is automated voter-supression calls that Republicans are making to Democratic voters in states with close Congressional elections. The calls initially sound like they are on behalf of Democratic candidates and some people are called back 5-7 more times after they hang up. The mainstream media seems to be largely ignoring the story although it is a big story in the blogosphere and on social media sites.