Trump Won’t Bring Joy to Moolaville – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Over the weekend Donald Trump raged against the Russia “witch hunt,” which he claimed was an effort to distract from his push for “historic Tax Cuts & Reform.” And there actually is a relationship — but it goes in the other direction. If Trump survives this crisis — which may mean that American democracy doesn’t — tax cuts will have a lot to do with it.

For Republicans in Congress know perfectly well that Trump is utterly unfit for office and has been abusing his position for personal gain. Many of them surely suspected, long before Monday’s indictments, that members of his inner circle, and perhaps he himself, have colluded with a hostile foreign power.

If they nonetheless circle the wagons around Trump — in particular, if they allow him to fire Robert Mueller, which now seems all too likely — there will be one main reason: Trump offers their big opportunity to cut taxes for the very wealthy. Indeed, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that almost 80 percent of the Trump tax cut would go to people with incomes over $1 million; these people would get an average cut of around $230,000 a year.

But here’s what gets me: The wealthy donors for whom the G.O.P. will apparently do anything, up to and including covering up for possible treason, will get no joy from their tax cuts.”

Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Russian agents intending to sow discord among American citizens disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million users on Facebook, published more than 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos to Google’s YouTube service, according to copies of prepared remarks from the companies that were obtained by The New York Times.The detailed disclosures, sent to Congress on Monday by companies whose products are among the most widely used on the internet, came before a series of congressional hearings this week into how third parties used social networks and online services to influence millions of Americans before the 2016 presidential election.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT

Very good article. I also recommend the related article in today’s online NYT, “How to fix Facebook, We asked 9 Experts” which discusses how to fix fake news on Facebook, etc. I want to add to the list of reforms there, possibly passing a law, making these social media sites financially liable for damages for allowing fake news. After reading these two good articles, I imagine and hope that my heroine, Hillary Clinton, will sue the pants off of Facebook and Google and Twitter. And if she is above that, maybe someone like me will write a fictional play about her doing it anyway.

How to Fix Facebook? We Asked 9 Experts – The New York Times

Good article to start thinking more carefully about fixing Facebook. Here are my favorite two writers. An interesting point early on, Facebook should require real proof of identity, but this reform would hurt dissidents and whistle blowers around the world.

Eli Pariser

“Chief executive of Upworthy and author of “The Filter Bubble.

”Facebook should open itself up for independent research. Right now, Facebook is a black box: It’s very difficult, and in many cases impossible, for researchers to independently look at behavior on the platform. While opening private data to research creates risks, there’s a ton of explicitly public data on the platform that Facebook makes difficult to query at scale. Facebook could also open up many of the tools advertisers currently use for free use by research scientists. It would be a bold move for transparency, and one that would help us understand much better what’s happening on the world’s most important social platform. And it’d be wise to do this before regulators forced them to.The company should also optimize for “time well spent.” Facebook’s greatest superpower is figuring out how to eat as much of our attention as possible. But as Tristan Harris and others have pointed out, that attention often doesn’t yield much — leaving us poorly informed and feeling worse about ourselves. Instead of measuring clicks and likes, what if Facebook optimized for how much value an article or video or game gave us weeks or months afterward? The company could survey of the kinds of content we’ve spent the most time on, and ask us which gave us the most and least value, as a way to balance our impulsive present selves with our greater aspirations.

. . .

Tim Wu

“Professor at Columbia Law School and author of “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads.

”Facebook should become a public benefit corporation. These companies must aim to do something that would aid the public, and board members must also take that public benefit into account when making decisions. Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook’s goals are “bringing us closer together” and “building a global community.” Worthy, beautiful goals, but easier said than done when Facebook is also stuck delivering ever-increasing profits and making its platform serve the needs of advertisers.What if Facebook were actually free to do what it says it wants to? What if it didn’t need to devote so much energy to the evil sides of the business, whether catering to filter bubbles, addicting and manipulating users, seizing data, bending over backward for advertisers and destroying competitors? As a nonprofit or public benefit corporation (like Kickstarter), Facebook could be a much better institution. It could shed its “two masters” dilemma, truly pursue its lofty goals and become a firm of which its users and the world could actually be proud.”

Joseph Mitchell- Chronicler of the Unsung and the Unconventional- Dies at 87 – The New York Times

“Joseph Mitchell, whose stories about ordinary people created extraordinary journalism in the pages of The New Yorker, died of cancer yesterday at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan. He was 87 and lived in Manhattan.At the height of his creative powers, from the 1930’s to the mid-60’s, Mr. Mitchell tended to avoid the standard fare of journalists: interviews with moguls, tycoons, movie stars and captains of industry. Instead, he pursued the generals of nuisance: flops, drunks, con artists, panhandlers, gin-mill owners and their bellicose bartenders, at least one flea circus operator, a man who sold racing cockroaches, a bearded lady and a fast talker who claimed to have written nine million words of “An Oral History of Our Times” when, in fact, he had written no words at all.

Mr. Mitchell was also the poet of the waterfront, of the limelight of New York’s greatness as a seaport, of the Fulton Fish Market, of the clammers on Long Island and the oystermen on Staten Island: people who caught, sold and ate seafood and talked about it incessantly. One Sunday in August 1937, he placed third in a clam-eating tournament at Block Island after consuming 84 cherrystones. He regarded that, he said, as “one of the few worthwhile achievements” of his life.

For him, people were always as big as their dreams, as mellow as the ale they nursed in the shadows of McSorley’s saloon off Cooper Square in the East Village. He wrote during a time when New Yorkers were mostly convinced that they were of good heart and that they had the best of intentions, whatever the rest of the world thought of their abrasivness and contentiousness. Mr. Mitchell’s articles offered evidence that they were right.When somebody suggested that he wrote about the “little people,” he replied that there were no little people in his work. “They are as big as you are, whoever you are,” he said.”

The Party of Lincoln Is Now the Party of Trump – by Thomas Edsall – NYT

“. . . Theodoridis summed up the conclusions he and his colleagues reached in a blog post in Scientific American in November 2016: Partisanship for many Americans today takes the form of a visceral, even subconscious, attachment to a party group. Our party becomes a part of our self-concept in deep and meaningful ways.In other words, the assumption that many Republican voters would be repelled by Donald Trump turned out to be wrong; instead party loyalty — “a visceral, even subconscious, attachment” — takes precedence.

In fact, as the political scientists Leonie Huddy, Lilliana Mason and Lene Aarøe argue in an article in American Political Science Review, the most powerful form of partisanship is not principled, ideological commitment to conservative or liberal policies, but “expressive partisanship,” which is more of a gut commitment: A subjective sense of belonging to a group that is internalized to varying degrees, resulting in individual differences in identity strength, a desire to positively distinguish the group from others, and the development of ingroup bias. Moreover, once identified with a group or, in this instance, a political party, members are motivated to protect and advance the party’s status and electoral dominance as a way to maintain their party’s positive distinctiveness.”

DL: In short, beating the Republicans in the elections will be harder than many people think. Until there is a financial crisis.

Here is a comment I liked:
ChristineMcM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 7 hours ago

“Not only are Republicans willing to support Trump, but both Democrats and Republicans are inclined to demonize the leadership of the opposing party.”

Based on this assessment, it’s not a great time to be alive in America unless you’re a Republican. Naturally, GOP Congress people who throw their lot in with Trump will share in his victories or defeats.

Up to now, his only victory has been grabbing and consolidating power. He has yet to achieve some notable legislative achievement, which is why tax reform becomes so damned important.

But I hope these legislators remember one important thing: If and when tax reform brings the country to its economic knees (No exaggeration, read some economic history), Trump will manage to throw all of Congress under the bus.

One would expect the public’s backlash to potential tax reform (when people see who’s paying for the wealthy to get most of the spoils) to be reflected at at the polls, which is why I find article is so sobering.

The data backing up the extent of today’s tribalism and resentment has upended the traditional prototype of voters “who vote with their pocketbooks.”

Worst of all, voters increasingly are not punishing the officials responsible for bad tax and wage policies. It’s really pretty astounding that so many are willing to be lead off s a looming fiscal cliff.

Reply 99 Recommended

Trump Made the Swamp Worse. Here’s How to Drain It. – By BRINK LINDSEY and STEVEN M. TELES – NYT

“. . .  Really draining the swamp means changing the policymaking process to shield it against insider takeover and manipulation. For starters, congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized. Legislators would then be better able to make their own assessments of complex regulatory issues without having to depend on the biased expertise of industry lobbyists.

Philanthropists need to put their dollars behind a network of organizations to counter the organizational presence of the forces of upward redistribution. The Ford Foundation did this in the 1970s by investing in a network of environmental law firms like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. More recently, the Eli and Edythe Broad, Walton Family, Robertson and other charitable foundations have made similar investments in educational reforms.”

DL: Bravo. I’ve been thinking about some of these ideas, but these gents have expressed the problem and solution well.

Chris Coons: Why Jeff Flake’s Exit Should Scare Democrats – The New York Times

“Senator Jeff Flake is a conservative Republican from Arizona. I’m a Democrat from Delaware. We have opposed each other on nearly every vote for as long as we’ve served in the Senate. So his announcement on Tuesday that he won’t seek re-election in 2018 should be great news for me.That’s one way to look at it — the senator is nothing more than my political opponent, someone whose loss is my gain.

But that’s not at all how I see things. I may disagree with Mr. Flake on policy, but I consider him an honorable man, a loyal friend and a valued colleague. His retirement is deeply troubling to me because he represents a principled and patriotic Republican Party, one that has long championed strong American leadership around the world, and one I now fear is falling apart.”

DL: That some of the most centrist, and principled Republicans are quitting bodes poorly for the country.

The Real Reason for Republicans’ Silence on Donald Trump – The New York Times

“It’s less striking that a few Republican congressmen have publicly denounced President Trump’s conduct than that most of their colleagues have not. Their fellow legislators have silently accepted his outrages in exchange for policies they’ve always wanted.

At his inauguration Mr. Trump said his presidency was about “transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.” But he and his allies in Congress are transferring power to Wall Street, fossil fuel companies, the chemical industry and other special interests, and are stoking an anti-populist bonfire to incinerate protections for consumers and workers.”

DL: Some of us are paying attention. How do we get this information to the folks who watch Fox News, or their local TV news owned by Sinclair, and listen to right wing talk radio?

A conservative op-ed writer from Colorado wrote 20 or 30 years ago, that if we hadn’t had Roe v Wade and forced legalized abortion on the whole country, there never would have been the huge backlash against it. It created a new energy in organizing the right wing of the country, which led to their taking over state governments, and propelling a new vitality in right wing organizations. We would probably never had a Donald Trump, that Colorado writer would have argued, if the pro abortion forces had made abortion legal the slow but sure way it was working before Roe v Wade, as state after state individually made abortion legal. While that would have taken a bit longer, it wouldn’t have woken up this powerful backlash, that is so vital today to right wing political power.

F.C.C. to Loosen Rules on Local Media Ownership – The New York Times

“It was the latest action by Mr. Pai, who was appointed by President Trump in January, to overhaul the media industry. Since Mr. Pai has taken the top seat at the F.C.C., his deregulatory actions have ushered in the possibility of consolidation in the broadcast television industry.

In the spring, soon after he lifted a cap on how many stations a single company can own, the Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its intention to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The merger, which the F.C.C. and the Department of Justice are reviewing, would give Sinclair access to more than 70 percent of all television viewers in the United States. This week, the commission’s Republican majority lifted rules that required television stations owners to operate a main studio in each locality, which Mr. Pai said was unnecessary and costly for TV station owners.”

Sinclair was featured recently in a Public Televisionn News Hour expose, as extremely right wing, evil, and forcing its editorials on the thousands of local TV news shows it owns. These local news companies do not have editorial control. This is essentially a right wing conspiracy that is real.