If we blow up the children over there, they can't come here.
Donald Trump's goal of reversing everything Barack Obama ever did is set to take a bold new step soon, with the reversal of Obama's 2014 directive mostly getting the US military out of the business of using or stockpiling landmines. The order was a step toward bringing the US a little closer to compliance with a 1997 international treaty banning the devices, which kill or maim between 15,000 to 20,000 civilians annually, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. And despite his order, Obama did not have the US join the 1997 agreement, also known as the Ottawa Convention, because the US military still thinks it needs landmines on the Korean Peninsula to deter a North Korean invasion of the south.
Obviously, since Obama did it, it has to be overturned, so yesterday Vox's Alex Ward reported that an "internal State Department cable" says Trump will rescind Obama's order that the US "not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines (APL) in the future, including to replace expiring stockpiles." Trump's order also does away with the part of Obama's order banning the deployment of the deadly things anywhere outside Korea, so look forward to landmines coming to a conflict zone near you!
None of the reporting we've looked at mentions it, but we can't help but speculate Trump may also have a stiffy for mining the US-Mexico border. He's almost certainly been told civilized countries don't do that, just like they don't dig moats full of alligators and poisonous snakes. But Trump got out of the civilization business a long time ago, when he advocated torture during the 2016 campaign and salivating at the thought of shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs' blood. If Breitbart commenters want landmines at the border, then Trump wants them too. When he eventually talks about it at a rally, remember, Yr Wonkette called it first.
Yes, that is a real clickbait headline. (The answer is "mayonnaise." Not gonna find out.)
Also fuck you.
Despite the pillar-of-fire reminders from Australia that climate change is here, with devastating effects, 2020 is also bringing us some good climate news.
For one thing, despite Donald Trump's attempts to prop up the coal business, 2019 saw the second largest drop ever in the number of coal-fired power plants in the US. In fossil-fuel-humping Texas, the amount of electricity generated by wind in 2019 nearly equaled the portion of the state's power (20 percent) generated by coal, and wind power in Texas is on track to surpass coal power in 2020. That's partly due to the growth of wind, even with the Trump administration ending a clean-energy tax credit, but mostly, again, to the decline of coal. (Natural gas still accounts for 47 percent of the state's electricity, however.) And nationwide, coal consumption dropped 18 percent in 2019, which resulted in a 2.1 percent drop in US greenhouse gas emissions for the year -- a welcome change from 2018, which saw an increase. Even money management giant BlackRock has announced it will no longer invest in coal, resulting in a brief boost in pun futures.
And now, as the Energy and Policy Institute reports, two major big financial services outfits, the capital-est of capitalists, indicate that the sooner electric utilities shift from coal-fired plants to renewable power generation, the better for their bottom lines, and the better for ratepayers and shareholders. Why, yes, the magic of the marketplace can help the shift to green energy, although to get the reductions in emissions the world needs, we're still going to need a radical shift away from petrocapitalism.
Fix it? Why would they want to fix it?
[Updated with new development; see end of article.] Yesterday was the open enrollment deadline for people to sign up for plans on the Obamacare exchanges for 2020. You might think the Department of Health and Human Services would take all the steps necessary to make sure Healthcare.gov, the signup site, could handle all the extra traffic expected on the final day of open enrollment -- and if not, to make damn sure anyone having problems could get signed up. Hahaha, if you expect that, you have not been paying attention! On Sunday afternoon, as traffic got heavier, this is what greeted people trying to sign up for insurance:
A spokesperson for HHS's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is in charge of running the website and helping Donald Trump dismantle Obamacare with plausible deniability, told The Hill that the site "remains open for business." Just not actually signing anyone up while it was all glitchy, you see. Besides, said the spokesperson, anyone who left a message at the phone number shown on the error screen would hear back from CMS and get their insurance. The spokesperson also said the site has a friendly "waiting room" function that handles heavy traffic, although they also said it would only affect a "portion of customers." But that message up there is no "waiting room," it's just a note on the front door saying "Good luck, try leaving a message."
Russia, if you're listening ... AND WE KNOW YOU ARE.
BUT HER BLOODY EMAILS! While the State Department continues to send threatening letters to former Hillary Clinton staffers about retroactively classified emails from literally 10 years ago, Donald Trump and his team of dipshits are spilling the country's national security secrets over unsecured cellphone lines. The Washington Post reports that Commander OpSec and his personal attorney Rudy Loose Lips have likely supplied Russia (and China, and Israel, and Saudi Arabia ... ) with mountains of delicious intel as they plotted their Ukraine scheme over unencrypted commercial phones. About which the GOP says ... NOTHING. Because all their howling about Hillary Clinton's private server was bullshit, of course.
In fact, Trump has made a habit of yammering on his personal Obamaphone from the minute he waddled into the White House. Convinced that his nightly sexxxxx chats with studmuffin Sean Hannity were no one's business but his own, Trump refused to use a landline which would log the calls. Because he didn't want mean old John Kelly to find out about them and stop him from taking national security advice based on howler monkey noises from Jeanine Pirro on a bender.
Except for the part where they're breaking the world.
Sacha Baron Cohen received the Anti-Defamation League's International Leadership Award on Thursday, and the comedian used his acceptance speech to denounce the social media giants that are actively attacking our democracy. Cohen rarely gives interviews when he's not disguised as someone ridiculous, but he believed this occasion warranted an appearance from his "least popular character," himself.
Cohen argued that democracy demands "shared truths," while autocracy thrives on "shared lies" (or "alternative facts"). Autocracy is rolling merrily along, because companies like Facebook either gullibly or complicitly promote the theory that two plus two is sometimes five if enough people believe it. Thus, all opinions -- and conspiracy theories -- are created equal. Mark Zuckerberg perversely defends propaganda as free expression, but he profits from the "hate and violence" shared and clicked on his platform.
COHEN: Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It's why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It's why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it's no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, "Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook."
You know, allegedly.
POP QUIZ: If you were a person serving as the unpaid lawyer to the most criminal president in American history, AND you were also under federal investigation and just had to retain defense lawyers because of your extracurricular activities in pressuring foreign countries to meddle in the 2020 election campaign for the benefit of that president, AND your Ukrainian-American Chucklefuck pals who were part of that scheme were under indictment and living in Ankle Bracelet Jail, AND you had a well-known propensity for accidentally confessing your crimes and your president's crimes whenever you go on TV or when your ass texts a reporter or when your fingers text a reporter or when your ass calls a reporter or when your mouth calls a reporter, ON A SCALE OF ONE TO "LOL OH MY GOD NO" ...
How much should you start a podcast?
Where you'll have zero adult supervision and can just ... say things?
And you will not have 17 hot dogs in your mouth at all times to prevent you from just ... saying things?
Yeah well nobody ever accused Rudy Giuliani of having good judgment:
Zuckerberg still thinks freedom of speech is the freedom to lie.
Facebook employees are pushing back at CEO Mark Zuckerberg's decision to let politicians (and probably Russia) post ads on the social media platform stating whatever they hell they want about whomever they want to smear. So far, 250 employees have signed an open letter that's visible on Facebook's internal message board. That's a small fraction of the company's more than 35,000 employees but it's a notable chip in the wall.
You can read the full text here, but this is a key passage:
Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing.
Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn't protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.
The letter details the obvious flaws in Zuckerberg's position. The Facebook CEO has tried to present himself as the Frederick Douglass of co-opted Martin Luther Kings of comedy and free speech. Like Dr. Frankenstein, Zuckerberg assumes everyone will thank him later for the monster he's created. He remains oblivious to how Facebook spreads disinformation from the powerful while suppressing minor voices (hi!) with arbitrarily enforced rules.
Has Rudy Giuliani's bottom confessed any crimes to you lately? Today might be the day!
It feels like a long time ago, because so much happened this weekend. Donald Trump went as "Barack Obama Killing Terrorist" for Halloween, and then he went to a baseball game and Americans told him what they thought about that.
But it was just Friday afternoon when we learned that Rudolph Giuliani's ass makes phone calls, and they are perfect.
As NBC News reporter Rich Schapiro explains, it was a dark and stormy night, October 16 to be specific, and he was asleep at the time:
Only You Can Prevent Russian Fuckery In 2020.
As the Trump administration tells Americans not to worry about the creepy Russians knocking on our back door, the FBI has launched a video series to help 2020 candidates up and down ballot. The videos' messages seem to confirm everything the Trump White House and congressional Republicans say isn't happening -- that Eurotrash dudes are still trying to screw with US elections. Strangely, the FBI's videos come just as the administration forces out the very super nerds whose sole mission is to protect the White House from cyber threats.
Lies and racism are fine as long as you sign your real name.
At Georgetown University yesterday, Facebook bossman Mark Zuckerberg gave a great big speech about free speech to explain why he won't do anything about false political ads, even when they included demonstrable lies, not just shadings of opinion. He was a regular John Stuart Mill on digital media's great power to let the people be heard, and insisted that the beauty of Free Speech is that it brought us the Civil Rights Movement, not to mention all the anime porn you can download. And he didn't say anything new at all, except that it was coming from the guy whose company's mistakes involving what reaches readers can be a matter of life and death, like when Facebook literally helped spread genocidal messaging in Burma. But he's very sorry about that, and has installed a patch that should reduce genocides quite a bit.
There really wasn't anything all that new in his argument: The best answer to offensive speech is more speech, and the marketplace of ideas will make sure the truth is known, and please never mind that those with the most money can extend their speech farther and louder while Facebook makes huge profits.
Zuck certainly sparked some negative engagement, however, when he suggested Facebook somehow embodies the ideals of civil rights heroes, who were fighting for the right to be treated as full human beings under the law, not for the beauty of unregulated expression.
How Dare You Say We Showed The Fake Trump Murder Spree Video, Says Trump Conference That Showed The Fake Trump Murder Spree Video
Triumph of the ill.
Visitors to a pro-Trump conference at Donald Trump's Miami resort last week were treated to a super-violent video featuring a fake Donald Trump shooting his way through a "Church of Fake News" filled with figures digitally altered to represent Trump's enemies. In the video, lifted from the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, the fake Trump is seen gleefully shooting, stabbing, and otherwise slaughtering baddies whose faces have been replaced with various evil liberals, news outlet logos, or just labels for things good Americans hate and want to die, like "Black Lives Matter" or "fake news." The New York Times broke the story Sunday afternoon after an attendee of the three-day "American Priority Conference," aka AMPFest, got cell phone video of the clip to a Times reporter.
Featured speakers at the conference, held at Trump National Doral Miami, included Trumpworld luminaries Donnie Jr. and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, plus all sorts of top-flight wingnuts like Rep. Matt Gaetz, Dinesh D'Souza, Charlie Kirk, and Dana Loesch. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was also supposed to appear. Sanders and a flack for Junior told the Times neither had seen the video. Organizers of the conference are busily backing away from the video, because heavens, supporters of the guy who fantasizes about shooting undocumented immigrants, or at least impaling them on spikes, would never condone violent imagery.
I see what we did there.
Apple is not a fan of paying taxes.
Apple's European headquarters is in Ireland. In 2014, Apple paid Ireland just 0.005% of its revenue in taxes. This is par for the course, not just for large corporations generally, but also for Apple specifically. As noted by Gizmodo, "last year Apple paid $0.00 in federal tax in the US despite making $11.2 billion in profit."
The EU said, "Not in our jurisdiction," and the European Commission ordered Apple to pay €13 billion ($14 billion USD) in back taxes. Naturally, Apple balked. So now it's taking the European Union to court over the order. Because taxes are for poor people. Or something.
Incredibly, Ireland is taking Apple's side.
Probably outlaw your catalytic converters too.
The Trump administration is expected to announce today that it's revoking California's ability to set tougher fuel efficiency standards than the federal government, because sweet Jesus that man hates California and he really wants to own the libs. The move is part of the administration's wider rollback of any vestige of federal action aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, because Fox News told Donald Trump science is a hoax, and that eliminating Barack Obama's regulations on CO2 will bring American industry roaring back to life. Get ready for a raft of lawsuits, since California's authority to set its own air quality standards was built right into the 1970 Clean Air Act, and has been repeatedly renewed by Congress.
Oh, yes, and the move will add an extra frisson of uncertainty to the auto market, as vehicle makers are already coping with Trump's trade war with China and his repeated threats to impose tariffs on Mexico, both major sources of parts for US automakers. No big, it's only a major economic sector, why should that worry anyone? Blame Democrats for failing to give up their silly obsession with "doing something" about global warming.
Just as long as short-sighted greedheads aren't running everything. Uh-oh.
One of the big rightwing talking points against pursuing clean energy just got a lot weaker, thanks to a pair of new reports from the Rocky Mountain Institute. We've been told forever that wind and solar (and large-scale storage) will never ever be cheap enough to be economically viable, despite the huge decline in costs of renewable energy over the past decade. Now, the RMI studies project that by 2035, renewable energy will actually undercut the costs of natural gas, to the point that 90 percent of planned new natural gas power plants, and the pipelines that would need to be built to fuel them, won't be able to compete with clean energy. This is good news for the climate, and good news for electric ratepayers -- but only if utilities decide to skip building those gas power plants, which run the risk of becoming expensive white elephants whose losses would have to be eaten by ratepayers.
Instead of natural gas, which has become hugely cheap due to all the fracking, being a "bridge" from coal and oil to a clean energy future, it might make a lot more economic sense for utilities to expand their use of clean sources now, and remember that somebody trying to sell you a bridge is probably running a con.
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