Late Night Hate-Fic Open Thread: Entertaining But *Very* NSFW

Owen Ellickson is an evil genius, and if you have a taste for nasty political humor you should most definitely be reading him on the regular. Just not at work, or around people with delicate sensibilities…



Long Read: “Soul of A New (Political) Machine”

I am personally pro-machine, both out of filial piety (my Irish grandparents owed their livelihoods to Tammany Hall) and because the known alternatives are so much worse. Perhaps the concept is due for revival, as the retro vintage artisanal alternative to the kleptocrats of our Second Gilded Age? Are we sophisticated enough, technologically or socially, to harness the machines’ benefits without the corruption for which they were infamous?

Kevin Baker, in TNR — “Political machines were corrupt to the core–but they were also incredibly effective. If Democrats want to survive in the modern age, they need to take a page from their past”:

How is it possible for Democrats—seemingly the natural “majority party,” on the right side of every significant demographic trend—to suffer such catastrophic losses? Explanations abound, most of which revolve around the money advantage Republicans derived from the Citizens United decision. Or the hoary, self-congratulatory fable of how Democrats martyred themselves to goodness, forsaking the white working class forever because it passed the landmark civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965. Or how the party must move to the left, or the right, or someplace closer to the center—Peoria, maybe, or Pasadena.

But there’s a more likely explanation for these Democratic disasters. While 61.6 percent of all eligible voters went to the polls in the historic presidential year of 2008, only 40.9 percent bothered to get there in 2010, and just 36.4 percent showed up in 2014, the worst midterm showing since 1942. What the Democrats are missing is not substance, but a system to enact and enforce that substance: a professional, efficient political organization consistently capable of turning out the vote, every year, in every precinct.

What they lack is a machine.

New York’s Tammany Hall, the first, mightiest, and most feared of the political machines, went online on May 12, 1789—less than two weeks after George Washington took the oath as president in the same city…. [T]he man who turned Tammany into a full-fledged political machine never actually joined the society: that murky intriguer, Aaron Burr. By 1799, Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists held a virtual monopoly on banking in New York, frustrating smaller businessmen who wanted to start their own banks and “tontines”—investment companies that would not only make them money, but also get around property requirements that kept even most white men from qualifying for the franchise. Burr marched a bill through the state legislature that created the Manhattan Company, which promised to slake the island’s thirst for a dependable water supply. But Burr slipped a provision into the bill that allowed the company to invest any excess funds however it desired—which was the legislation’s main purpose all along.

The upshot was that the Manhattan Company laid down a lot of water pipes that were little more than hollowed-out logs. They leaked badly and absorbed sewage, thus contributing to the city’s constant, deadly epidemics of cholera and yellow fever. But Burr’s company used the money it made from the scheme to found the Manhattan Bank (later to become Chase Manhattan, later to become JPMorgan Chase). The Hamilton banking monopoly was thus broken, and new banks and tontines proliferated, allowing financial speculation to run wild, and untold numbers of middle and working-class New Yorkers to gain the franchise for the first time. In this one coup, Burr established the defining characteristics of political machines for all the years to come: They would be first and foremost about making money, no matter the cost to the general good; they would supply significant public works, no matter how shabbily or corruptly; and they would expand the boundaries of American democracy in the face of all attempts by conservatives or reformers to contain it…

… Republicans have always been, for better and for worse, the truly radical party in this country, from the abolitionists and Lincoln’s “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” platform, to Progressivism and Teddy Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism,” to the right-wing conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, to the Ayn Rand utopianism of Paul Ryan. By contrast, machines made Democrats—again, for better and for worse—the party of compromise and inclusion…

***********
By the 1960s, even the mightiest machines were grinding to a halt. The Tammany tiger finally ran out of lives in 1961, put down for good by a coalition of Greenwich Village rebels, whose ranks included Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Jacobs, and Ed Koch. Even Daley’s notorious Chicago organization, the last one standing, was no longer a machine in the old sense, surviving only on a combination of ruthless efficiency and ethnic resentment. The turmoil at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago completely unhinged Daley, who was caught by the cameras screaming “you fucking kike!” at Senator Abe Ribicoff on the convention floor, a previously unimaginable violation of machine etiquette.

Its death, however, did not stop politicians from continuing to rage against the machine. The silliest example of all is the fervent Republican contention that Barack Obama brought “Chicago politics” into the White House, as if the president learned his trade at Dick Daley’s knee. What they really mean by “the machine” is whatever clique of state legislators or local pols have figured out some new means of boodling public funds or soliciting bribes. But that’s simple theft. Today our politicians don’t steal because the machine helps them, but because we have ceded them the entire political system—as reflected in our miserable voter turnouts.

So the machines died, their demise hastened by the sweeping social revolutions of the 1960s and ’70s, which made them look reactionary and ludicrous—pudgy gray men in gray suits and hats, holding back the future. Good riddance. But what was to replace them? For a short time, it was constituent groups: disparate organizations fighting for civil rights and liberties, environmental causes, the poor and the dispossessed, community empowerment, and above all labor, which provided the bulk of the party’s funding and its ground troops. But this new arrangement soon began to unravel as well. As Thomas Frank points out, “Big Labor” was viewed as suspiciously by the Democratic left as the machines were, scourged for its cultural conservatism and support for the Vietnam War, caricatured as hopelessly mobbed-up and resistant to progress…

With the traditional pillars of their party crumbling, the Democrats turned to that balm for all political wounds in America: big money. In the process, they further abandoned their traditional populism, as well as their appeals to working people—appeals that, however imperfectly, stretched all the way back to the start of the machines. And those few leaders in the party who weren’t pandering to corporate and financial interests began to think in idealistic terms that have nothing to do with “practical politics,” habits that prevail to this day. For many years now, liberal/left campaigns have rarely revolved around specific bills or policies, but instead around broader and more abstract demands: climate change, say, or racial equality. The Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements have proven to be balky, fitful vehicles for social change. They lack the ruthless practicality and organization of their right-wing counterparts. Occupy invented the human microphone. The Tea Party took Congress.

Democrats need a Tea Party—less delusional, less hell-bent on destruction—that can do what the machines did…

Baker argues — and I don’t think he’s wrong — that the oligarchs and kleptocrats have bankrolled the Republican “machine” because it’s been a good investment for them. If we’re going to compete with them, Democrats need an equivalent structure that can nuture activists starting at the lowest levels of government (school boards, county commissions). We’ve gotten into the habit of assuming that the “public service” of running for office will mostly be funded by the would-be office holders, which — barring corruption, or outside financial support — means relying on the independently wealthy or the voluntarily penurious. And while we have sometimes been extraordinarily lucky (as when a patrician like FDR or a once-in-a-generation leader like Barack Obama decides to compete) it’s demonstrably not working as a process to keep this messy nation on an even keel.



Long Read: “Massive new Gallop study debunks a widespread theory for Donald Trump’s success”

I’m reading Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool — sequel to Nobody’s Fool — and the Trump voters in this Gallup survey are reminding me of Russo characters. (Certainly shifty, worthless developer Carl Roebuck would idolize Donald Trump.) Despite the mealy-mouthed punditry about “economic anxiety,” these Trump supporters would be the first to tell you they’re doing okay, mostly, considering everything. But they’re constantly irritated by a sense that it used to be so much easier for guys like them. Max Ehrenfreund and Jeff Guo, in the Washington Post:

Economic distress and anxiety across working-class white America have become a widely discussed explanation for the success of Donald Trump… Yet a major new analysis from Gallup, based on 87,000 interviews the polling company conducted over the past year, suggests this narrative is not complete. While there does seem to be a relationship between economic anxiety and Trump’s appeal, the straightforward connection that many observers have assumed does not appear in the data.

According to this new analysis, those who view Trump favorably have not been disproportionately affected by foreign trade or immigration, compared with people with unfavorable views of the Republican presidential nominee. The results suggest that his supporters, on average, do not have lower incomes than other Americans, nor are they more likely to be unemployed.

Yet while Trump’s supporters might be comparatively well off themselves, they come from places where their neighbors endure other forms of hardship. In their communities, white residents are dying younger, and it is harder for young people who grow up poor to get ahead…
Read more



Long (Encouraging) Read: “A Hillary confidante’s letters reveal a window into her friend’s life”

Isaac Stanley-Becker, in the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton was first lady when an influential legal journal featured her in its spring volume, drawing tributes from such luminaries as Elie Wiesel, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and the Queen of Jordan.

But the most intimate portrait came from Diane Blair, a woman Clinton befriended in Arkansas who was not a Nobel laureate or legal scholar and never held elected office. Through 30 years of friendship, Blair knew more than perhaps anyone about Clinton’s private struggles as she became the governor’s wife, moved to the White House and transformed herself into the most famous woman in American politics.

In her tribute to Clinton in the 1995 Annual Survey of American Law, Blair portrayed her friend as a female crusader, setting an example at great personal cost.

“When I was a schoolchild I was both fascinated and horrified by stories of the canaries who were carried down into the mines as early warning systems for the miners; if poisonous gases started seeping into the mine-shafts, the canaries would quickly expire, thereby giving warning to the men in the mines. I wonder now whether Hillary is playing the risky part of national canary for the women of America,” Blair wrote.

Clinton wrote back to Blair in the summer of 1995, calling her a “fellow canary.”

“We flap our little wings harder and harder, while chirping as loudly as our voices permit about what’s happening around us,” she said. “Sometimes we even are heard outside our cages!”

Blair never sought the limelight, but she became one of Clinton’s closest confidantes as the first lady wrestled with what she saw as a legion of political detractors and a hostile press. Clinton turned to Blair with her fears that her husband was “ruining himself” and the presidency because he had no strategy to fight back at his enemies.
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Open Thread: Ever Green (Party)

The NYTimes:

HOUSTON — Minutes before she addressed a boisterous crowd at the Green Party convention here on Saturday, Jill Stein sat in a mirror-walled room backstage, gazing at her reflection with a look of dumbstruck bliss.

“Can you say that again?” Ms. Stein asked.

“You’re at 6 percent in a new poll,” her press director, Meleiza Figueroa, repeated. “Sixteen percent with voters under 30.”…

Even though that forecast appears more than a tad overzealous, the Greens are having a minor-party moment, with Ms. Stein drawing around 4 or 5 percent in other polls. When she ran in 2012, she won less than half of 1 percent of the vote….

Clay Shirky, “There’s No Such Thing As A Protest Vote”

Democracies alternate the coalition in power, but different systems do so in different ways. In multi-party systems, voters get the satisfaction of voting for smaller, ideologically purer factions — environmental parties, anti-immigrant parties, and so on. The impure compromises come when those factions are forced to form coalitions large enough to govern. The inevitable tradeoffs are part of the governing process, not the electoral process.

In America, by contrast, the coalitions are the parties. Our system also produces alternation of power, and requires compromises among competing interests, but those compromises happen within long-standing caucuses; issues come and go, but the two parties remain. This forces the citizens themselves to get involved in the disappointing tradeoffs, rather than learning about them after the fact. No one gets what they want in a democracy; two-party systems simply rub voters’ noses in that fact…

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Long Read: “‘Clock Boy’… can’t escape that moment”

Poor kid. I tell myself that many of us spent our adolescence waiting to escape the grip of our family’s dysfunctions, and mostly succeeded, or at least survived. From Jessica Contrera, in the Washington Post:

The news crew is here, but the famous boy is still asleep. He had just flown 22 hours, back to this squat stone house where he used to live when he was just a regular 14-year-old. His bright green go-kart is still out back. A year ago, he could have woken up and spent hours tinkering with its engine. He could have spent the day on his trampoline, or just watching funny YouTube videos on his phone.

Instead, he’s waking up to the sound of more reporters in the living room. Because he’s not Ahmed Mohamed, a regular 14-year-old. He’s “Clock Boy,” a viral sensation, the accidental embodiment of a national debate about Muslims being dangerous — or not. A black youth mistreated by overzealous cops — or an example of vigilance against potential terrorism…

The reporters are from Fox 4, a local TV channel. [Ahmed’s father] Mohamed invited them here, on Ahmed’s first day back in Texas after nine months in Qatar. They moved a month after Ahmed was arrested for possessing a homemade clock that his school deemed suspicious-looking. The move, it seemed, was an attempt to escape the spotlight, or at least the hate mail and death threats that came with it.

And yet, Ahmed’s summer homecoming was heralded to reporters with a news release sent out by the family and its supporters: Clock Boy is back, and ready to be interviewed…

***********
… His parents had a choice: deal with this quietly, or tell someone. Their son had been placed in handcuffs and interrogated, in a town known for its resentment of Muslims. So they called the media, and soon Ahmed was trending on Twitter, and everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to President Obama was sharing messages of support.

Two days after he was arrested, the charges were dropped.

“This is what happens when we (IPD) screw something up,” one Irving Police Department detective wrote in an email later uncovered as part of a public records request from Vice. “That thing didn’t even look like a bomb.”

And so came the next choice: Let this all die down, or seize the platform they’d been given and use it.

So they put Ahmed on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC and “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.” He told reporters how kids in school called him ISIS Boy. Sympathetic crowdfunders raised $18,000 for his education. He visited the White House, the Google Science Fair and the president of his home country of Sudan (a wanted war criminal, but Mohamed said it would be rude not to accept the invitation)…

His dad tells him that this is God opening doors for him. Something bad happened, but God turned it to make it good. God chose him for this, so he can make the world a better place.

Only now, he feels safer on the other side of the world. As trolls tried to pick apart his story, someone posted the Mohameds’ home address on Twitter…
Read more



Data Classification and Data Spillage or Please Stop Asking Me Classification Questions at 2 AM EDT

A lot of folks here at Balloon Juice, just as a lot of folks everywhere, seem to have a lot of interest in the unauthorized release of classified information and briefings these days. This seems to be due to the current presidential election cycle. Since there are so many questions, I figured it was easier just to point everyone in the right directions.

Lets start with what, exactly, is classified information as defined by the US government. Executive Order 13526/Classified National Security Information defines the terms:

Sec. 1.4.  Classification Categories.  Information shall not be considered for classification unless its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security in accordance with section 1.2 of this order, and it pertains to one or more of the following:

(a)  military plans, weapons systems, or operations;

(b)  foreign government information;

(c)  intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology;

(d)  foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources;

(e)  scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security;

(f)  United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;

(g)  vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security; or

(h)  the development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction.

And the actual classification levels are:

Sec. 1.2.  Classification Levels.  (a)  Information may be classified at one of the following three levels:

(1)  “Top Secret” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(2)  “Secret” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(3)  “Confidential” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(b)  Except as otherwise provided by statute, no other terms shall be used to identify United States classified information.

(c)  If there is significant doubt about the appropriate level of classification, it shall be classified at the lower level.

The people authorized to classify are:

Sec. 1.3.  Classification Authority.  (a)  The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:

(1)  the President and the Vice President;

(2)  agency heads and officials designated by the President; and

(3)  United States Government officials delegated this authority pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section.

(b)  Officials authorized to classify information at a specified level are also authorized to classify information at a lower level.

(c)  Delegation of original classification authority.

(1)  Delegations of original classification authority shall be limited to the minimum required to administer this order.  Agency heads are responsible for ensuring that designated subordinate officials have a demonstrable and continuing need to exercise this authority.

(2)  “Top Secret” original classification authority may be delegated only by the President, the Vice President, or an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(3)  “Secret” or “Confidential” original classification authority may be delegated only by the President, the Vice President, an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section, or the senior agency official designated  under section 5.4(d) of this order, provided that official has been delegated “Top Secret” original classification authority by the agency head.

(4)  Each delegation of original classification authority shall be in writing and the authority shall not be redelegated except as provided in this order.  Each delegation shall identify the official by name or position.

(5)  Delegations of original classification authority shall be reported or made available by name or position to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office.

(d)  All original classification authorities must receive training in proper classification (including the avoidance of over-classification) and declassification as provided in this order and its implementing directives at least once a calendar year.  Such training must include instruction on the proper safeguarding of classified information and on the sanctions in section 5.5 of this order that may be brought against an individual who fails to classify information properly or protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure.  Original classification authorities who do not receive such mandatory training at least once within a calendar year shall have their classification authority suspended by the agency head or the senior agency official designated under section 5.4(d) of this order until such training has taken place.  A waiver may be granted by the agency head, the deputy agency head, or the senior agency official if an individual is unable to receive such training due to unavoidable circumstances.  Whenever a waiver is granted, the individual shall receive such training as soon as practicable.

(e)  Exceptional cases.  When an employee, government contractor, licensee, certificate holder, or grantee of an agency who does not have original classification authority originates information believed by that person to require classification, the information shall be protected in a manner consistent with this order and its implementing directives.  The information shall be transmitted promptly as provided under this order or its implementing directives to the agency that has appropriate subject matter interest and classification authority with respect to this information.  That agency shall decide within 30 days whether to classify this information.

So that’s the basic terminology, but if you really want to understand this, then you need to click on across and read the whole policy statement.

What a lot of the questions I’ve been getting are actually about is what happens if something is reported on that’s classified and then someone with a clearance remarks on it. Given news reporting on US governmental activities, it is often possible to find classified information in newspapers, online news and commentary sites, and on TV and radio news broadcasts. The DOD and other government agencies put out warnings to their employees when this happens. For instance:

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority,” wrote Timothy A. Davis, Director of Security in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence), in a June 7 memorandum.

“DoD employees and contractors shall not, while accessing the web on unclassified government systems, access or download documents that are known or suspected to contain classified information.”

“DoD employees or contractors who seek out classified information in the public domain, acknowledge its accuracy or existence, or proliferate the information in any way will be subject to sanctions,” the memorandum said.

Finally, we have spillage of classified information. Spillage, in this context, is defined as:

Classified (or sensitive) data spills occur when classified data is introduced onto an unclassified information system, to an information system with a lower level of classification, or to a system not accredited to process data of that restrictive category, according to DoD Manual 5200.01-v3, Protection of Classified Information. Although it is possible that no actual unauthorized disclosure occurred, classified data spills are considered and handled as a possible compromise of classified information involving information systems, networks and computer equipment until the inquiry determines whether an unauthorized disclosure did or did not occur.

If you want a more comprehensive understanding of classification and how the US government deals with it, here’s some unclassified links for you all.

Department of Defense Manual 5200.01/Marking of Classified Material

Department of State Classification Guide/DSCG 11-01 (Declassified After Review per FOIA Request)

US Government Publication Office Publishing Guidelines Pertaining to Classified Information

The EPA’s Information Procedure for Dealing with Spillage of Classified Information onto Unclassified Systems

The FAA’s Procedure for Dealing with Spillage of Classified Information onto Unclassified Systems

The Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy

The Center for Development of Security Excellence’s Primer on Original Classification Authority

Update at 2:35 PM EDT

Here’s the link to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s page containing the Intelligence Community’s Directives. You’ll find anything and everything you can think you might be interested in regarding this stuff there.