Archive

November 8th, 2016

Now Hillary Clinton knows how Scooter Libby felt

    As Democrats exhale after FBI director James Comey's announcement that his probe into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server remains closed, my thoughts turn to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

    You may remember him. He was the aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who Democrats said disclosed the identity of an undercover CIA officer named Valerie Plame to the late columnist Robert Novak.

    Like the e-mail scandal that obsesses Washington on the eve of the election, Plamegate on its surface was about the mishandling of state secrets. Also as in the investigation into Clinton's e-mail, Comey played an important role. After being confirmed as deputy attorney general, Comey recused himself from the case and recommended that his friend Patrick Fitzgerald take it up as a special prosecutor.

    But the main similarity between Libby's ordeal and the ones facing Clinton and her aides is how both targets were tried and convicted in the press before facing a trial. So it's worth noting that last week on Nov. 3, Libby was reinstated to the DC bar -- a signal that the bar considers his perjury conviction to be less than convincing.

‘I’m With Her’: The Strengths of Hillary Clinton

    One of the great misperceptions of this political year, among many Democrats and Republicans alike, is that Hillary Clinton is a third-rate candidate with no core or convictions — oops, wrong word, but you get the point.

    So in this last column before the election I want to pitch you the reasons to vote for Clinton and not just againstDonald Trump.

    I’ve known Clinton a bit for many years, and I have to say: The public perception of her seems to me a gross and inaccurate caricature. I don’t understand the venom, the “lock her up” chants, the assumption that she is a Lady Macbeth; it’s an echo of the animus a lifetime ago some felt for Eleanor Roosevelt.

    (When Roosevelt spoke up for Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, a letter in The Los Angeles Times thundered: “When she starts bemoaning the plight of the treacherous snakes we call Japanese (with apologies to all snakes), she has reached the point where she should be forced to retire from public life.” Strong women sometimes drive people nuts.)

Ugly campaign presages crisis of government

    One word describes this U.S. presidential election: dismal. That has ominous implications for the important tasks of governing over the next several years.

    Elections in which big issues are joined have value because they provide a governance agenda to be debated and decided.

    Both sides bear responsibility for the sorry state of politics this year, but the overwhelming blame belongs to Donald Trump. He has largely waged a campaign of venom and cruel insults that was substantively shallow. If you waded through his deepest policy thoughts your ankles wouldn't get wet.

    Let's suppose he wins on Nov. 8. What would be his mandate? To build a wall along the Southern border and make Mexico pay for it? Even a number of his supporters know that's a foolish fantasy. To round up and deport millions of undocumented workers? That would cost a fortune and would be socially catastrophic. To start a trade war with China, the world's second-largest economy? That would be a replay of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

Anxious about the election? Here's some perspective.

    It's hard to recall another time as uncertain as this.

    Americans are worried that they are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, that they won't have enough money to retire or pay medical bills, that jobs are becoming less secure, and that the next generation will be worse off financially than their parents. And they are downright frightened by the election.

    About the only thing partisans agree on is that a victory for the other side would be a catastrophe. There has been talk of insurrection, national collapse, even nuclear war. Unsurprisingly, The Washington Post tracking poll finds 61 percent of likely voters worry about Donald Trump becoming president and 56 percent are anxious about the possibility of a President Hillary Clinton. The American Psychological Association reports that 52 percent of American adults are experiencing election-related stress. "I've been in private practice for 30 years, and I have never seen patients have such strong reactions to an election," clinical social worker Sue Elias told the New York Times.

    But here's a consoling thought: We've felt this way before. Many times.

November 7th

President Havoc

    This is no ordinary election. Time for a reminder of what's at stake:

 

    Climate policy and the clean-energy economy: For anyone who accepts the scientific consensus that global warming poses a clear and present danger, there is only one choice. Hillary Clinton will continue along the path laid out by President Obama and other world leaders. Donald Trump has claimed, ridiculously, that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

    For the first time, the three nations most responsible for spewing heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- China, the United States and India -- have all formally agreed to curb emissions. The landmark Paris agreement is the biggest and most important step taken to date. Clinton would honor the accord; Trump would renounce it on his first day in office.

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Your WiFi-connected thermostat can take down the whole internet. We need new regulations.

    Late last month, popular websites like Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and PayPal went down for most of a day. The distributed denial-of-service attack that caused the outages, and the vulnerabilities that made the attack possible, was as much a failure of market and policy as it was of technology. If we want to secure our increasingly computerized and connected world, we need more government involvement in the security of the "Internet of things" and increased regulation of what are now critical and life-threatening technologies. It's no longer a question of if, it's a question of when.

    First, the facts. Those websites went down because their domain name provider -- a company named Dyn -- was forced offline. We don't know who perpetrated that attack, but it could have easily been a lone hacker. Whoever it was launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against Dyn by exploiting a vulnerability in large numbers -- possibly millions -- of internet-of-things devices like webcams and digital video recorders, then recruiting them all into a single botnet. The botnet bombarded Dyn with traffic, so much that it went down. And when it went down, so did dozens of websites.

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November 6th

The Internet of Things is a cyber war nightmare

    The world got a glimpse of the future last month when a large-scale cyberattack prevented access to hundreds of key websites, including Twitter, the online New York Times, and Amazon. The "distributed denial of service" attack against the New Hampshire-based DNS provider Dyn, which blocked access to major online services for users as far away as Europe, fulfilled the direst predictions of technologists and security researchers alike.

    The attack exposed the clear reasons for concern about the coming age of an Internet of Things, in which more household devices are connected to the web. What's less immediately clear is what should be done to ensure the internet's most likely future iteration remains safe.

    To date, the vast majority of disruptive and even destructive cyberattacks have been the work of militaries, foreign intelligence services, or other state-sponsored hackers. These actors are usually operating under some degree of political direction and interests and tend to moderate their use of malicious code for disruptive or destructive purposes.

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Why it's right to keep the brakes on the Dakota Access oil pipeline

    In 2014, President Barack Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. While there, he read aloud these words from Chief Sitting Bull: "Let's put our minds together to see what we can build for our children."

    Today, it is the children of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who have put their minds together to help envision a safe future for themselves and who are leading an international campaign to protect their drinking water - and the drinking water of 17 million people downstream - from the threats posed by the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which would cross the Missouri River less than a mile upstream of their reservation.

    Perhaps inspired by these young people, thousands of people, predominantly from tribes around the country, have gathered in peaceful demonstration and prayer near the pipeline construction site while the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe pursues legal options to protect itself.

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Who Broke Politics?

    As far as anyone can tell, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — and the leader of what’s left of the Republican establishment — isn’t racist or authoritarian. He is, however, doing all he can to make a racist authoritarian the most powerful man in the world. Why? Because then he could privatize Medicare and slash taxes on the wealthy.

    And that, in brief, tells you what has happened to the Republican Party, and to America.

    This has been an election in which almost every week sees some long-standing norm in U.S. political life get broken. We now have a major-party candidate who refuses to release his tax returns, despite huge questions about his business dealings. He constantly repeats claims that are totally false, like his assertion that crime is at record highs (it’s actually just a bit off historic lows). He stands condemned by his own words as a sexual predator. And there’s much, much more.

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What makes America so great for Sunni and Shiite Muslims

    In the beginning of Shakespeare's tragic play "Romeo and Juliet," a street brawl erupts between Montague and Capulet servants, sworn enemies who fight each other on behalf of their masters. Based on recent sectarian violence, it seems he could have been writing about Sunni and Shiite Muslims, two religious tribes currently engaged in a mutually destructive waltz stretching 1,400 years.

    But that simplistic analysis betrays a rich legacy of mutual understanding, cooperation, inter-marriages and relative peace that has also defined their relationship since the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632.

    My personal history is reflective of that statement.

    I'm a Sunni Muslim whose best friends growing up in Fremont, Calif., were Kashif and his little brother Atif, who have described themselves as hailing from a "hardcore Shia" family. We are all shy sons of Pakistani immigrants, united by our utter dorkiness, lack of social skills and inherent love of lentils.

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