The Fake President shuts down participatory democracy. Of course.

The White House has said it will be shutting down its website for petitions from midnight on Tuesday until a new one is set up in late January….

The petition platform was set up under Barack Obama in 2011 as part of his digital democracy initiative…At the time, the White House said that the platform would “give all Americans a way to create and sign petitions on a range of issues affecting our nation”.

If a petition receives more than 100,000 signatures within a 30-day period, the White House is supposed to issue an official response to it…

However, since the start of the Trump administration, all of the petitions that have met this threshold have gone unanswered.

The Fake President doesn’t keep his promises to the chumps who supported him. Does anyone expect him to support any of the steps towards a greater democracy brought by any previous occupant of the White House?

Why Are Republicans Rushing This Tax Scam?


Al Drago for the NY TIMES

❝ So, it seems that Republicans are responding to the devastating defeat in Alabama – which is part of a sustained pattern of underperformance in special elections, demonstrating that bad polls reflect reality, not bad polling, by … doubling down on a massively unpopular tax plan, whose main focus is on cutting corporate taxes.

In fact, they’re rushing to jam the thing through before Doug Jones can be certified, in a stunning act of hypocrisy from the same people who demanded that Obamacare wait until Scott Brown was seated and held up a Supreme Court seat for a year. It’s outrageous. But it also looks like really bad politics, especially given what we know is coming: calls next year for cuts in popular social programs, because of a deficit Republicans just voted to explode. So what are they thinking?

❝ I don’t know for sure, but I’d suggest three possible factors in this mad rush.

❝ First…Today’s Republicans are apparatchiks, who have spent their whole lives inside an intellectual bubble in which cutting taxes on corporations and the rich is always objective #1…that the whole game was to win by playing on social issues, national security, and above all on racial antagonism, then use the win to push fundamentally unpopular economic policies…

❝ Second…The idea is that voters are impressed by your record of wins, or conversely that they’ll turn away if you don’t win enough.

Trumpublicans repeat that stupidity all day long.

❝ Third – “I guess I’ll be looking for a lobbying job/ think tank position/commentator role on Fox News in 2019” – in which case your mission in what remains of your Congressional career is to keep donors and the party machine happy, never mind the voters.

Which is what public service in a 2-party system made up mostly of corporate pimps ends up offering to voters.

Trump gets four times more support than Hillary – from bots


“Pay no attention to those wires coming out of my pants!”

❝ More than four times as many tweets were made by automated accounts in favour of Donald Trump around the first US presidential debate as by those backing Hillary Clinton, a study says.

The bots exaggerated support for the Republican, it suggests, but Trump would still have won a higher number of supportive tweets even if they had not.

The authors warn such software has the capacity to “manipulate public opinion” and “muddy political issues”…

❝ The investigation was led by Prof Philip Howard, from the University of Oxford, and is part of a wider project exploring “computational propaganda”.

It covered tweets posted on 26 September, the day of the first debate, plus the three days afterwards, and relied on popular hashtags linked to the event.

❝ First, the researchers identified accounts that exclusively posted messages containing hashtags associated with one candidate but not the other…

The researchers then analysed which of these had been posted by bots. They identified an account as such if it had tweeted at least 50 times a day across the period, meaning a minimum of 200 tweets over the four days…

In total, that represented a total of 576,178 tweets benefiting the Republican nominee and 136,639 in support of the Democratic one…

Nice to see serious examination of how technology has changed opinion-shaping. Now, I’m still waiting for pollsters to identify how often their telephone polls still rely on calling folks with landlines. And other fossils.

Nutball Bundy refuses to recognize US authority in Nevada court

Jailed Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy refused Thursday to acknowledge federal authority and declined to enter a plea to federal charges that he led an armed standoff against a round-up of cattle two years ago.

After several minutes of confusion about whether Bundy had a lawyer, U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman entered a not guilty plea on Bundy’s behalf and scheduled a detention hearing March 17.

Arguments then will focus on whether the 69-year-old Bundy should remain in custody pending trial on 16 charges, including conspiracy, assault and threatening a federal officer, obstruction and firearms offenses.

Joel Hansen, a Nevada attorney who has represented property rights advocates in a number of cases in the state, served as Bundy’s attorney…Hansen said Bundy’s refusal to enter a plea was a statement that he couldn’t have done anything wrong because federal law doesn’t apply.

Bundy has consistently denied U.S. government authority over rangeland around his 160-acre cattle ranch and melon farm in Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Federal BLM officials said in 2014 that he owed more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties for grazing hundreds of cows illegally for about 20 years

All functional questions regarding taxation by a republican federal government were settled over 150 years ago. Details and challenges come forward every now and then; but, the essentials are settled.

You live in this country you are subject to its laws. Like many others I’ve challenged what I felt were unjust laws – including outside the confines of jurisprudence. Since I was confronting racist laws and bigoted judicial systems in segregated states, I agreed that the protocols of non-violent confrontation, non-violent resistance were best. At the same time I supported our right to armed self-defence.

Little or nothing the Bundy militia creeps has done in their cause ever fit within those definitions. Anarchy gets no support here. Refusing to pay your taxes because you’re a greedy self-centered cattle rancher doesn’t impress either.

VW cheated smog testing on almost a half-million cars

The EPA is accusing Volkswagen of illegally using software to cheat emissions standards, allowing the German automaker to sell half a million cars that produce nitrogen oxide, which creates smog, at up to 40 times the legal limit.

In a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act sent to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, today, the EPA said diesel-powered VW cars used a “defeat device,” a kind of “a sophisticated software algorithm [that] detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test. The effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations.”

The accusation applies to 482,000 diesel-powered, four-cyclinder Jetta, Beetle, Audi A3, and Golf cars sold between 2008 and 2015 in the US, and to Passat cars sold from 2014 to 2015…

The White House has directed VW to recall the affected cars, and the automaker will be required to fix the problem, at no cost to car owners.

“Clean diesel,” by comparison to old standards [think drippy Oldsmobiles] works well and produces better miles per gallon figures. Some of the systems require a bit more owner management which VW may assume Americans aren’t disciplined enough to perform.

The majority of diesel-powered passenger cars in the country are sold by the Volkswagen group – which includes Audi.

Pretty sleazy.

Worriers who feel guilty before doing anything wrong – just may stay on the straight and narrow

A new study found that worriers who begin to chastise themselves at the mere thought of doing something wrong are less likely to behave immorally as a result of their unwavable conscience.

In contrast some 30 to 40 per cent of people fit the opposite category and give very little forethought to how their actions will make them feel – a recipe for unethical behaviour, psychologists say.

Women are more likely to feel pre-emptive guilt than men, and older people tend to anticipate feelings of shame and regret better than those who are younger and less experienced in life.

Writing in the Current Directions in Psychological Science journal, experts explained the difference between guilt – the feeling of remorse when you have done something wrong – and “guilt proneness”, where you anticipate feeling ashamed before you have actually done any wrong.

People who are predisposed to such thoughts make better friends, lovers and employees because they are so aware of their own behaviour that they do not need anyone to supervise them or keep them in check, they said…

Four items drawn from the Guilt and Shame Proneness scale (GASP), a test in which people are required to imagine how they would feel in a variety of different situations, can be combined to form “an important measurement tool for predicting which individuals are likely to behave unethically in their social interactions inside and outside the workplace,” they wrote…

As a result they are less prone to lie, cheat or behave immorally when they conduct a business deal or spot an opportunity to make money, studies suggest.

They are also likely to make better employees because people who think less about the future results of their actions are more likely to be late, to steal or to be rude to clients…

However, a paper published earlier this year indicated that a phenomenon dubbed the “cheater’s high” can outweigh feelings of shame and make people feel good about behaving badly.

Volunteers who cheated during a series of problem-solving tasks were consistently found to feel better about themselves than those who played fairly.

RTFA for the range of conclusions drawn by psychology professionals. What it mostly indicates is that we are a truly screwed-up species.