Archive

October 14th, 2016

Mass surveillance is part of Yahoo's business model

    Yahoo has been getting a lot of attention lately for its failures to protect personal information. What's perhaps more remarkable, though, is how little privacy American internet users demand.

    First came news that hackers stole personal data on more than 500 million Yahoo users. Now the company is dealing with reports that it helped the Justice Department conduct mass surveillance by scanning email traffic for signs of a terrorist organization. One has to wonder: When Verizon finally completes its planned acquisition of Yahoo, will there be any users left to acquire?

    Yet if there's one thing Americans value more than freedom, it's free stuff. Thanks to decades of conditioning, people have this notion that online services -- e-mail, news, porn, search engines -- should be available without charge, like Yahoo. The employees of internet companies are magically compensated in starlight and dreams, so everything they produce should be gratis.

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Let the Republican blame game begin

    It's the kind of question politicians usually ask when a disastrous election is over: Who's to blame? In Donald Trump's case, the time to start answering is now.

    Trump's graphic boasts about groping women, caught on a 2005 videotape that surfaced Friday, set off Republican desertions in bulk. A debate performance Sunday night featuring a threat to prosecute Hillary Clinton and a scornful repudiation of his own running mate can't have given party leaders much comfort.

    Trump's nomination amounted to a repudiation of those leaders by angry Republican primary voters. But there were enablers who made his nomination more certain and lent credibility to a candidate with few qualifications, principles or commitment to the party.

    Based on conversations with a half-dozen important Republican figures who think Trump will drag down their party in November, these are some prime culprits:

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It matters that Cooper was the first out gay man to moderate a debate

    What do you know about Anderson Cooper? Probably three things: He's a longtime CNN journalist. His mother is socialite and sometime author Gloria Vanderbilt. And he's a gay man. No doubt when his obituary is written, some form of this sentence will be included: "In 2016, Anderson Cooper became the first out gay man entrusted with moderating a presidential debate."

    It's a giant step for LGBT acceptance that Cooper presided alongside ABC's Martha Raddatz on Sunday night at the second of the three presidential debates. On the other hand, it's never easy to go first in the age of identity politics, and Cooper's debut was freighted with objections, notably from conservatives.

    When the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Cooper's inclusion in this year's roster of debate moderators, much was made of his sexual orientation. The New York Times remarked on the diversity of the lineup, while specifically noting that Cooper is "an openly gay man." The gay media also proudly took note of the milestone choice, with the Advocate writing: "No LGBT person has ever moderated a presidential or vice presidential debate in the general election."

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In Virginia, expect a GOP scrum for Kaine's Senate seat

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's Sunday night debate performance did exactly what it needed to do: It stopped the bleeding.

    It will not help him win in November. The Electoral College map shows Virginia continuing its march toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. As this column has said from the beginning, no Republican can win the White House without carrying the Old Dominion.

    Worse for Trump, the polling trends show Florida, Ohio and North Carolina moving Clinton's way, too.

    So it's time for a close look at what comes after November, which at this point, looks like Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D, appointing someone to fill the remainder of Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine's Senate term.

    The leading contender is 3rd District Rep. Bobby Scott. It would be a political winner for McAuliffe and Democrats statewide as the party prepares for the 2017 gubernatorial election.

    On the Republican side, the jockeying for a possible -- and now likely -- 2017 Senate race has been underway for months.

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If Donald Trump has done anything, he has snuffed out the Religious Right

    Donald Trump once bragged to radio shock-jock Howard Stern about walking through the dressing rooms of his beauty pageants while contestants were getting dressed. He could do it, he suggested, because he owned the place.

    This year, religious conservatism stands naked and exposed before the world, while Trump smugly surveys what he has come to own.

    Journalist Mark Halperin noted this weekend that virtually all of the "reaffirmation of support" for Trump, following the disclosure of his sexually predatory recorded comments, were from religious conservative leaders. This is a scandal and a disgrace, but it should not be a surprise.

    We know nothing new about Donald Trump. He has told us about his view of women, his view of sexuality, his views of marriage and family for more than 30 years. He has gloried in reality television decadence before reality television was even invented, in his boasts to tabloid reporters. He reaffirmed who he is over and over again, even during this campaign - from misogynistic statements to racist invective to crazed conspiracy theorizing.

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Donald Trump has now guaranteed that women voters will hand the election to Hillary Clinton

    "I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do." So said Donald Trump during Sunday night's debate. But if there's anything Trump proved during the debate, it's that he just doesn't get it. And it's going to cost him the election.

    A new poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal, taken before the debate but after Friday's release of a tape of Trump boasting about his ability to kiss and grope women with impunity because he's famous, shows Hillary Clinton stretching her lead over Trump to double digits. Though they haven't broken out the results for that poll by gender, in the latest NBC/Survey Monkey poll, 63 percent of voters said they don't believe Trump respects women, up from 55 percent before the release of the tape - a view that was shared by 55 percent of men and 69 percent of women. And in CNN's flash poll of the debate, men thought Clinton won by 49-38, a margin of 11 percent. But women thought Clinton won by 64-30, a margin of 34 percent. Given what happened, that was entirely predictable.

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An otherwise bitter debate actually ended with kindness between Trump and Clinton

    It came in the very last moments of an otherwise tense, awkward and often bitter 90 minutes, but the second presidential debate actually ended in a rare moment of civility.

    The reward for viewers who made it through the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton match was a small dose of positivity. It wasn't quite an antidote to all the nastiness, but it was a refreshingly nice moment.

    The first question of the debate was about how the rhetoric of this campaign has affected children. But it was the last question that could serve as a teaching moment for kids.

    The candidates were asked by Karl Becker, an undecided voter, to name something they admired in the other. And they were able to do it.

    Clinton commended Trump for raising devoted children. Trump praised Clinton for being a fighter who never gives up. Then the two shook hands, which they didn't do before the debate began.

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A 'normal' debate except for the jail threat

    Only one thing mattered from the 2016 town-hall debate: Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, promised that, if elected, he will prosecute his political opponents.

    At least, he promised to prosecute Hillary Clinton, saying that if he wins, "I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we're going to have a special prosecutor." Later, he said that if he was president, "you'd be in jail."

    Clinton, of course, was investigated and cleared by the FBI. But that's not even the point because in the United States of America, and under any constitutional democracy, the government does not designate special prosecutors to harass private citizens who happen to belong to the political opposition. Nor does the president of the United States choose whom to prosecute.

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A Great Fight of Our Times

    Think, for a moment, about the stories that your family likes to tell about itself. They are probably miniature versions of the American story, with progress as the central theme.

    Maybe your great-grandparents arrived here as striving immigrants, and you now talk about how proud they would be. Maybe you’re the first college graduate or doctor in the family, and your parents brag about you. Maybe your grandparents couldn’t vote because of their skin color — and then had the thrill of voting for a president with the same skin color.

    These stories aren’t about only your family. They are also stories of tribal pride — about Italians, Irish, African-Americans, Jews, Asians, Latinos and others — that make people feel part of something larger.

    When progress is the norm, it feeds on itself. People can trust that their own sacrifices will usually pay off. They can endure hard times without becoming cynical and can be generous toward others.

    Now, imagine a different reality: one in which your family — or whole community — had known scant progress for decades.

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Predators In Arms

    As many people are pointing out, Republicans now trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump need to explain why The Tape was a breaking point, when so many previous incidents weren’t. On Saturday, explaining why he was withdrawing his endorsement, Sen. John McCain of Arizona cited “comments on prisoners of war, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women” — and that leaves out Mexicans as rapists, calls for a Muslim ban, and much more. So, McCain, what took you so long?

    One excuse we’re now hearing is that the new revelations are qualitatively different — that disrespect for women is one thing, but boasting about sexual assault brings it to another level. It’s a weak defense, since Trump has in effect been promising violence against minorities all along. His insistence last week that the Central Park Five, who were exonerated by DNA evidence, were guilty and should have been executed was even worse than The Tape, but drew hardly any denunciations from his party.

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