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Amped Status's List: Government & Politics

  • Nov 21, 17

    "If you want a simple but accurate explanation for why civilization so often veers toward evil, here's a theory worth considering: Psychopaths are overrepresented in positions of power and they make sociopaths out of large numbers of us.

    Robert Hare, psychology's most famous expert on psychopaths distinguishes psychopaths from sociopaths as follows."

  • Nov 16, 17

    "The reports adds that further undermining Americans’ faith in the U.S. democratic process, “RT broadcast, hosted and advertised third-party candidate debates.” Apparently, the DNI’s point is that showing Americans that there are choices beyond the two big parties is somehow seditious.

    “The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham,’” the report said. Yet, polls have shown that large numbers of Americans would prefer more choices than the usual two candidates and, indeed, most Western democracies have multiple parties, So, the implicit RT criticism of the U.S. political process is certainly not out of the ordinary.

    The report also takes RT to task for covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reporting on the environmental dangers from “fracking,” topics cited as further proof that the Russian government was using RT to weaken U.S. public support for Washington’s policies (although, again, these are topics of genuine public interest)."

  • Nov 16, 17

    "
    THE REVELATION THAT WikiLeaks secretly offered help to Donald Trump’s campaign, in a series of private Twitter messages sent to the candidate’s son Donald Trump Jr., gave ammunition to the group’s many detractors and also sparked anger from some longtime supporters of the organization and its founder, Julian Assange.

    One of the most high-profile dissenters was journalist Barrett Brown, whose crowdsourced investigations of hacked corporate documents later posted on WikiLeaks led to a prison sentence.

    Brown had a visceral reaction to the news, first reported by The Atlantic, that WikiLeaks had been advising the Trump campaign. In a series of tweets and Facebook videos, Brown accused Assange of having compromised “the movement” to expose corporate and government wrongdoing by acting as a covert political operative.

    Brown explained that he had defended WikiLeaks for releasing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, “because it was an appropriate thing for a transparency org to do.” But, he added, “working with an authoritarian would-be leader to deceive the public is indefensible and disgusting.”

    He was particularly outraged by an Oct. 26, 2016 message, in which Assange had appealed to Trump Jr. to let WikiLeaks publish one or more of his father’s tax returns in order to make his group’s attacks on Hillary Clinton seem less biased. “If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” the Assange-controlled @Wikileaks account suggested. “That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing on Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.”"

  • Nov 15, 17

    "Senate leaders’ new version of their tax bill adds a provision repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, the requirement that most people enroll in health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. The revised Senate bill also sunsets most of its individual income tax cuts after 2025, to comply with Senate rules that prohibit bills considered under fast-track “reconciliation” procedures from increasing long-term budget deficits. But the revised bill maintains a permanent cut in the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 20 percent. The savings from individual mandate repeal would pay for about one-third of that permanent rate cut, Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates show.

    Eliminating the individual mandate would:

    Increase the number of Americans without health insurance by millions starting in 2019, when the individual mandate would be repealed, and by 13 million in 2027, according to recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates. That would increase the uninsured rate for non-elderly Americans from about 11 percent to about 16 percent.
    Increase individual market premiums by about 10 percent, according to CBO. That amounts to a premium increase of hundreds of dollars per year for about 7 million mostly middle-income consumers — and over $1,000 per year for many older people.
    Create further instability for the individual market, especially in the near term. Substantial declines in enrollment and much greater uncertainty and confusion would make it harder for insurers to forecast their risk pools. Some might opt to exit the market altogether. "

  • Nov 12, 17

    "“America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”

    Next, Watts suggested  a government-imposed campaign of media censorship: “Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced: silence the guns and the barrage will end.”

    The censorious overtone of Watts’ testimony was unmistakable. He demanded that government news inquisitors drive dissident media off the internet and warned that Americans would spear one another with bayonets if they failed to act. And not one member of Congress rose to object. In fact, many echoed his call for media suppression in the House and Senate hearings, with Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jackie Speier agreeing the most vehemently. The spectacle perfectly illustrated the madness of Russiagate, with liberal lawmakers springboarding off the fear of Russian meddling to demand that Americans be forbidden from consuming the wrong kinds of media—including content that amplified the message of progressive causes like Black Lives Matter."

  • Nov 12, 17

    "Victims of Weisburd

    In a post at the left-wing news and discussion forum, Indymedia, a group of anonymous leftists who described themselves as Victims of Weisburd spoke out about the tactics they had withstood. “Weisburd decides what is ‘threatening,’” the authors complained. “He has decided that effective criticism of George Bush, for example, is threatening. He has decided that display of upside-down U.S. flags on websites is threatening. He considers all effective dissent threatening.”

    The self-described Victims of Weisburd went on to accuse him and his allies of “hacking into the personal computers of their targets,” “getting ‘volunteers’ inside of web service providers and telecom companies to illegally provide the information,” and “report[ing] innocent Americans engaged in legal dissent to federal authorities provoking wasteful investigations which take resources away from the fight against terrorism.”

    Evan Kohlmann, another self-styled terror expert who has collaborated with federal authorities, painted Weisburd’s tactics as self-defeating. "I understand the sentiment but they are doing damage. They are making these guys stronger,” Kohlmann commented to Newsweek, referring to anti-jihadist vigilantes. “They are giving them antibodies."

    A decade after Weisburd was credited for driving hundreds of supposedly extremist sites from the internet, it is unclear what has contributed to the fight against online terrorist enlistment. Today, the internet is filled with an unprecedented number of jihadist websites and recruitment videos that boast eye-popping aesthetic sophistication, and social media is bristling with supporters of Islamist extremism. But as the online jihadisphere expands, so does the bog of national security agencies and private contractors that specialize in transforming geopolitical crises into fantastic profits. For characters like Weisburd, this has meant a wealth of lucrative opportunities.

    Murderous fantasies about Greenwald, blacklisting his publication

    By 2011, Weisburd had transformed himself from solo maverick to a respected cybersecurity expert called to testify before Congress. In December of that year, Rep. Patrick Meehan introduced Weisburd to a hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security as an expert who had overseen “training and briefings to the FBI and CIA” and supposedly authored a textbook “comparing jihadi and street gang videos on YouTube” for the FBI Counterterrorism Division.

    The hearing was dedicated to the danger of online jihadist messaging and was held two months after President Obama authorized the assassination of Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki and his 15-year-old son, Abdelrahman, both American citizens. According to a congressional transcript, Weisburd’s anti-Muslim Internet Haganah was profusely promoted during the hearing.

    Within three years, after earning a living at the intersection of the counterterror and Islamophobia industries, Weisburd expanded his repertoire to encompass the Russian menace. Once an admirer of Vladimir Putin, whom he bizarrely hailed as a “tough Jew,” Weisburd now mocked the Russian president as a gay “queen” who “will slay you in the outhouse.” Weisburd also speculated that Putin had personally recruited journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is openly gay, as his personal concubine.

    Greenwald had earned international attention when he oversaw the release of confidential National Security Agency files provided to him by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Published at the Guardian and Intercept, the damning revelations of a Big Brother-style surveillance state sent national security hardliners like Weisburd into a petulant frenzy. On Twitter, Weisburd openly fantasized about the murder of Greenwald, whom he branded as a "traitor."

    “When Glenn Greenwald accidentally drowns in 2" of water it will not be the slightest bit surprising,” Weisburd commented. Upon hearing that Greenwald was set to testify before Congress, he wrote, “I wonder if The Greenwald has lined up a... bodyguard yet for this trip?” (Weisburd has appeared to fantasize about poisoning Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.) In another instance, Weisburd mocked Greenwald’s sexuality and imagined deploying a “honeytrap” operation to compromise the journalist’s integrity.

    "

  • Nov 10, 17

    "It all started with Brennan, he’s the ringleader in this dodgy caper. But Brennan was not operating as a free agent pursuing his own malign political agenda, but as a strong-arm facilitator for the powerful foreign policy establishment which includes leaders from Big Oil, Wall Street, and the giant weapons manufacturers. These are the corporate mandarins who pull Brennan’s chain and give Brennan his marching orders. This is how power trickles down in America.

    So while the moneytrail may lead back to the DNC and Hillary’s Campaign, the roots of Russia-gate extend far beyond the politicians to the highest-ranking members of the permanent state."

  • Nov 03, 17

    "
    Robyn Beck/Getty Images
    BOOK CLUB
    Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC
    When I was asked to run the Democratic Party after the Russians hacked our emails, I stumbled onto a shocking truth about the Clinton campaign.
    By DONNA BRAZILE November 02, 2017
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    The Friday Cover

    Read more 
    Before I called Bernie Sanders, I lit a candle in my living room and put on some gospel music. I wanted to center myself for what I knew would be an emotional phone call.

    I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested. I’d had my suspicions from the moment I walked in the door of the DNC a month or so earlier, based on the leaked emails. But who knew if some of them might have been forged? I needed to have solid proof, and so did Bernie.

    So I followed the money. My predecessor, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had not been the most active chair in fundraising at a time when President Barack Obama’s neglect had left the party in significant debt. As Hillary’s campaign gained momentum, she resolved the party’s debt and put it on a starvation diet. It had become dependent on her campaign for survival, for which she expected to wield control of its operations.

    Debbie was not a good manager. She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party—she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was. How much control Brooklyn had and for how long was still something I had been trying to uncover for the last few weeks.

    By September 7, the day I called Bernie, I had found my proof and it broke my heart.

    ***

    The Saturday morning after the convention in July, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.

    “What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.”

    That wasn’t true, he said. Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign—and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance."

  • Oct 19, 17

    "An Israeli arms maker has been picked by the US Department of Homeland Security to build a prototype of the wall President Donald Trump has vowed to build along the full length of the US-Mexico border.

    Elta North America is one of eight firms that will receive about $300,000-$500,000 each to build test versions of the barrier.

    Trump now says his wall will be “see through,” suggesting an emphasis on fences and electronic monitoring, rather than concrete.

    Construction of the prototypes is expected to begin this fall near San Diego.

    The company is the Maryland-based subsidiary of Elta Systems Ltd., which is owned by one of Israel’s leading arms companies, Israel Aerospace Industries.

    Elta is not the only Israeli firm that pitched itself to build Trump’s wall. Magal Security Systems, a company that has helped Israel isolate Gaza from the outside world, earlier expressed its interest in winning the contract."

  • Sep 19, 17

    "When Facebook revealed to investigators that a Kremlin-linked troll farm paid the company $100,000 for divisive political ads during the 2016 election, many saw the news as a bombshell. But in a year of unpredictable leaks, scandals and scoops, this just might be the least surprising news.

    Almost everybody with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account saw a political advertisement on the internet last year. The opportunity for a political campaign is obvious. Internet ads give candidates and interest groups the ability to microtarget potential voters more effectively than TV, for far less money. Approximately two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media, while print newspaper readership is a fraction of what it once was.


    And yet, policymakers for years have ignored or outright opposed the need to hold the internet advertising industry to the same standards the country has already agreed on for television and radio. Our campaign finance rules are outdated for the internet age, and rules on the books aren’t enforced. Now, with the revelation that Russia, too, sees the political value in America’s online advertising market, the chickens have come home to roost.

    I warned that Vladimir Putin could meddle in our elections nearly three years ago, as vice chair of the Federal Election Commission, the federal agency charged with not only protecting the integrity of our election process, but ensuring disclosure of the sources of money in politics. Our vulnerabilities seemed obvious: The FEC’s antiquated policies refer to fax machines and teletypes, but barely mention modern technological phenomena like social media, YouTube and bots. The inadequacy of the FEC’s current regulations makes it practically impossible for both regulators and citizens to determine if the funding for a political advertisement online came from a domestic source or an enemy abroad. We had left the window wide open for foreign interference."

  • Aug 15, 17

    "It is now a year since the Democratic National Committee’s mail system was compromised—a year since events in the spring and early summer of 2016 were identified as remote hacks and, in short order, attributed to Russians acting in behalf of Donald Trump. A great edifice has been erected during this time. President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused of various corruptions and extensive collusion with Russians. Half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed into these matters. Last week news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury, which issued its first subpoenas on August 3. Allegations of treason are common; prominent political figures and many media cultivate a case for impeachment.

    The president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled. Forced into a corner and having no choice, Trump just signed legislation imposing severe new sanctions on Russia and European companies working with it on pipeline projects vital to Russia’s energy sector. Striking this close to the core of another nation’s economy is customarily considered an act of war, we must not forget. In retaliation, Moscow has announced that the United States must cut its embassy staff by roughly two-thirds. All sides agree that relations between the United States and Russia are now as fragile as they were during some of the Cold War’s worst moments. To suggest that military conflict between two nuclear powers inches ever closer can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole."

  • Jun 06, 17

    "The PDFs include a matrix of microdots — printer steganography — that could be used to trace the printer back to its source, as Ted Han (@knowtheory), the director of technology at DocumentCloud (whose platform The Intercept used to embed the PDFs in its story), pointed out Monday. And some of the pages were creased."

  • Jun 05, 17

    "RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

    The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

    While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive."

  • May 23, 17

    "Today’s post will focus on Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, a revolting spectacle which I could barely bring myself to follow. It all started Saturday morning as I tried to enjoy a beautiful day with my growing family and parents who were in town for a visit. My day was more or less ruined upon witnessing the appalling scene of Trump and his top advisors dancing with the rulers of the terrorist sponsoring state of Saudi Arabia while clutching swords. I’m sorry for doing this to you, but in case you missed it."

  • May 04, 17

    "Regardless of what the wall eventually looks like – presuming, of course, it ever gets built – a new report by the Government Accountability Office suggests there are plenty of ways for illegal immigrants, illicit drug smugglers and human traffickers to breach almost any barrier the administration might choose to erect. And they could do it by land, sea or air.

    Between 2011 and 2016, for example, 67 cross-border tunnels were uncovered in the Border Patrol’s territory around Tucson, Arizona, and San Diego, according to the report. While the number of cross-border tunnels uncovered declined over the past five years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say illicit cross-border tunnels pose a “persistent threat to national security.”

    Tunnels found in recent years range from crudely constructed holes the run short distances to highly sophisticated, elaborately constructed passageways with lighting, electricity, ventilation and train tracks."

  • May 03, 17

    "Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has launched a brutal war on his own people that has left around 7,000 people dead.
    Purportedly a “war on drugs,” an Amnesty International investigation revealed “the police have systematically targeted mostly poor and defenseless people across the country while planting ‘evidence,’ recruiting paid killers, stealing from the people they kill and fabricating official incident reports.”
    “This is not a war on drugs, but a war on the poor. Often on the flimsiest of evidence, people accused of using or selling drugs are being killed for cash in an economy of murder,” Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan said.
    Trump responded to this vicious campaign by praising Duterte’s efforts and inviting him to the White House. The invitation was extended during a phone call on Saturday, which the White House described as “very friendly.”"

  • May 02, 17

    "They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes....

    Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account....

    It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump...

    The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state....

    All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as “Make America great again.” Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.
    Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored. Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.

  • Apr 27, 17

    "T.J. discusses Scott’s February article, “Do We Have a Legitimate Government?” and what that could mean. They delve into the regulatory state, how culture leads and politics follows, and the decentralization of American society. Scott’s new book, Politics Has Failed, America Will Not, explores these ideas and more."

  • Apr 21, 17

    "Percentage of total articles compared to election day polling data
    MEDIA ATTN ELECTORAL POPULAR
    DONALD TRUMP 54% 57% 43%
    HILLARY CLINTON 46% 43% 47%"

  • Apr 20, 17

    "Quarles served two stints in the Treasury Department, under both Bush administrations, but afterward, he moved to the Carlyle Group, the $169 billion private equity giant. Quarles was part of the financial services team, which appears to be registered in the Cayman Islands tax haven."

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