Monday, February 20, 2017

Shopify, brietbart, bumbling thoughts on free speech

I have some thoughts, and although they are not nearly as well thought out as Tobi's, here they are any way.

So while I’m still disappointed that @shopify won’t kick breitbart off their platform, I admire them for sticking with their principles of free speech.

. @tobi and @shopify are probably correct. I want them to kick breitbart in the shins, but that's more emotional than well thought out. 

Also, I really like @denvan's suggestion for Shopify to donate proceeds from breitbart's store to causes antithetical to what breitbart stands for. Make them mad enough to quit hopefully.

That being said, I do have uneasiness about it: keeping breitbart because of freespeech makes me uneasy not just from the way they use free speech to spread lies and hate and to actively harm people, instead of using it to debate differences of opinion. 

I'm uneasy Not just because of that, but also because of the way they use liberal democracy's free speech to constantly lie and in so doing destroy people's belief in truth, thereby destroying liberal democracy itself. That's straight from the authoritarian/Nazi playbook. 

Others have put that into words much more eloquently than me. Sorry for the bumbling. So yes, free speech is super important, but I feel like there's a limit. Death threats are an obvious example of a limit, but harmful propaganda is on the spectrum there too, and maybe it shouldn't be given a platform. If breitbart is far enough over on that spectrum to cut them off, I'm not sure. 

Another analogy: a restaurant should be required to serve everyone regardless of race or religion or sexual orientation, but they should also be allowed to ban someone who yells at, intimidates, or threatens the other customers.

Addendum: if Milo is still an editor and he's openly promoting pedophilia, is not that a good enough excuse to drop breitbart? 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trump Thoughts. How bad is it going to get?


Here are some of my thoughts on Trump being elected. I was hoping to just bang something quick and cathartic out, so I could get back to work, but nope, it gets pretty dark, and took a lot longer than I thought it would. This is not intended as a persuasive piece, and it’s not a call to action. I don’t really know what to do. I’m writing out my thoughts just to try to corral them. And to see what people think, so maybe they can talk me out of thinking it’s going to get as bad as it looks.

“Going through the mental exercise of imagining how bad things can get is unpleasant, but necessary if you are to be prepared.” I’ve set this up as a best case scenario and a worst case scenario. The worst case scenario gets really dark, and I hope we never get there, but unfortunately, it’s fairly plausible. The best case scenario isn’t all that great either, but it’s better.

If you have any thoughts, lemme know.
I’m pulling a lot of this from memory of insightful things I’ve read on the internet. I could probably produce links for most of this, but since this is an exercise for myself, I didn’t think there was a need for it.

Short version best case scenario:

Somehow Trump is only partially successful in turning the US into his own personal piggy bank (kleptocracy), somehow the courts and public outrage and electorally vulnerable senators limit the damage to things like health care, and prevent racism and bigotry from becoming official government policy. Somehow Obama appoints a judge to the open Supreme Court seat before Trump takes office. Somehow environmental protections are not completely gutted. Then Trump and his admin do something so incompetent and/or wrong that they actually lose the 2020 election, because somehow the Democrats get their shit together and retake the Senate and a number of state legislatures. This scenario depends on a lot of ‘somehow’s, so it’s not actually looking very plausible at all.

Short version worst case scenario:

Trump is successful in turning the US into his own personal piggy bank, and in so doing turns the country into a full banana republic where the democratic institutions are irretrievably broken. The US doesn’t have a fair election in the foreseeable future. Trump and his underling use the security departments to exact revenge on the long list of people Trump carries a grudge against. Trump starts foreign wars based on personal vendettas, misinformation and Russian influence, and to make money for himself, and to help win his re-election in 2020. Muslims and immigrants do get rounded up and deported. Activists and protest movements get labelled as terrorists and get arrested without due process and tortured. The free press is obliterated. The federal and supreme courts get packed with Trump loyalists. The Republicans succeed in rigging the vote to return Trump in 2020, but it may not matter anyway because a terrorist attack on the US initiates an indefinite state of emergency and the removal of whatever is left of democratic institutions. The global and the US economies tank (wars, parasitic kleptocracies, etc.) and the mood gets really nasty. Racist attacks escalate and minority communities live in a constant state of fear with little in the way of state protection. Accelerating climate change triggers more wars, conflicts and unrest and refugees, eventually finishing off human civilization before the lifetimes of my children are over, if my children survive that long.

Why I’m so worried about Trump as President:

Starting assumptions

  1. Trump isn’t interested in actually governing, because that requires work, and he doesn’t actually want to work, he just wants to be the alpha dog. Without working for it. His politics isn’t about issues so much as it is about dominance. As long as he gets lots of attention and is able to humiliate people at will, he’s good.
  2. Trump has no shame. When thinking about what he could do, we have to be careful not to exclude anything just because we can’t imagine anyone going that far. Trump will go that far if he thinks he can get away with it.
  3. Trump’s standard operating procedure is to use other people’s money to build a project, and to not pay anyone who did the work. And then sue the people he owes money to.
  4. Trump trusts hardly anyone, so his inner circle and cabinet will consist of his family, loyalists and ass-kissers. (not unlike a mafia structure)
  5. Trump cannot let go of his personal grievances, and part of the need to be the alpha dog means that he needs to exact revenge on everyone he thinks has wronged him.
  6. None of Trump or his inner circle cares at all about democracy or the rule of law. There will be no consideration for conflicts of interest or ethics.
  7. None of Trump or his inner circle are capable of empathy or have any sort of moral compass.
  8. Trump hardly reads anything, and neither he nor his inner circle are capable of figuring out the difference between fake news and real news. And if any of them are, they don’t really care
  9. Trump’s advisors and inner circle will be pretty much totally incompetent.
  10. Trump won’t pass up opportunities to enrich himself and his family.
  11. Fascists generally don’t let themselves get voted out. But maybe he won’t be a fascist? He doesn’t have to be, see the Harkaway essay on medium, the idea being that we’re close to checking all the boxes on fascism in the US and the UK, whether we call it fascism or not.
  12. Trump won’t bother with policy or work, so that will be left to his VP and cabinet, who are all some form of unhinged (Gingrich, Giuliani, Flynn), religious extremists (Pence), white nationalists and racists (His sons, Bannon, Sessions) - or all of those things together.
  13. The American voter is adept at cognitive dissonance. That American Evangelicals can vote for such a vulgar lying libertine billionaire while believing he’s lying about everything other than the cause they really believe in, and that he’s somehow going to help the working class, or that they can use a space age smart phone to check satellite generated weather data powered by nuclear generated electricity, all while believing that the earth is 6000 years old and tobacco doesn’t give you cancer.

Best case scenario

  1. Trump and his peers turn the US into a limited Russian style kleptocracy and entrench themselves as the ruling oligarchy, but they don’t bother following through on things like mass deportations. (Trump needs the money to pay off his Russion debts and supposedly that might be why he refused to release his tax returns) He and his family ignore conflicts of interest and siphon off a lot of taxpayer money by directing contracts to their own companies.  
  2. They drastically cut taxes on the wealthy and make up the shortfalls by cutting social programs. Everyone gets even angrier and blames each other while the rich make off with the money, exacerbating racism and bigotry. (yay, wait, this is the best case scenario?)
  3. Somehow the USA doesn’t turn into a fascist surveillance police state and where they label everyone they don’t like as terrorists and arrest them.
  4. Somehow the Senate doesn’t allow the Affordable Care Act to be repealed.
  5. Somehow Paul Ryan doesn’t succeed in privatising Medicare, maybe the Senate holds him off somehow.
  6. Somehow the Republicans in control at the state level don’t succeed in their continued efforts at suppressing the vote and knocking Democrat leaning demographic groups off the voting rolls. They also don’t gerrymander the fuck out of what’s left of congressional districts. They also don’t rig the voting machines, so the USA actually gets a fair election in 2020.
  7. The bad apple police will still get their free passes, but they don’t go nuts, and the rest of the police keep arresting white nationalists and militia members when they attack minorities. (Oh wait, those militia guys in Oregon didn’t get convicted…)
  8. Things will get much shittier for minorities, there will be a lot of hatred out in the open, but the beatings and murders will be scattered and not coordinated. People will mostly stand together and help each other to survive it. (yay, this is again the best case scenario?)
  9. The economy might not tank initially because the Trump regime will completely deregulate the fossil fuel industries, but they only give those industries large amounts of  federal land to wreck, not all of it. Those industries somehow don’t succeed in expropriating all the private land they want, just some of it. Those companies then drill for oil and gas everywhere and dump their waste with impunity.
  10. Or maybe the economy does tank, and enough people see that it’s Trump’s fault, it somehow sticks to him, and they see what a weasley con artist he is. So he loses the next election.
  11. The Trump regime doesn’t cancel NAFTA and doesn’t introduce trade barriers to China, so American consumers still have access to cheap things, AND his supporters start abandoning him because he didn’t follow through.
  12. The Trump regime pretty much kills any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, so the global economy is going to be permanently tanked in the near future, but for the short term it keeps staggering along.
  13. Somehow the clean tech revolution of solar, wind, and electric cars keeps going.
  14. China and other countries take over the battle to slow down climate change, and they get humanity on the path to avoid catastrophic climate change. We still can’t stay under 2C, so it gets bad, but staying under 2.5C is much much better than 3C.
  15. Trump and his cabinet somehow don’t use the FBI and the court system to suppress the free press, and they somehow continue to allow most forms of dissent, and don’t prosecute most of their political opponents.
  16. They only torture foreign combatants, not citizen activists and labour leaders.
  17. And most of all, most Americans are good people and they organize and stand together and keep things from going too far, and Republican congress and Senate will still be worried enough about re-election and somehow grow spines and push back when Trump and Pence try to go too far.
  18. Many people react to the intolerance and fear with tolerance and understanding, and this somehow keeps the white supremacists at bay.
  19. Trump’s crew is an incompetent shit show, and he does something so idiotic and extreme right before the next election that Democrats might actually win. I can’t for the life of me think of anything plausible that he could do that would lose him enough votes for this. Maybe get caught on tape admitting how he’s ripping off middle class whites and blaming it on blacks and hispanics? Would that even do it? ( I tried to think of other possible things he could do, but it would have to be outright violently criminal and caught on video, and wow that got dark fast. )
  20. Congress tries to impeach Trump so they can get Pence in full control, but they time this badly and this pisses off Trumps’ fans so badly they lose a lot of votes, and then Somehow the Democratic party gets its shit together and wins back the Senate in the next election. And maybe even the presidency.
  21. American institutions and rule of law are stronger than in Russia, Turkey, and every other country that’s fallen to autocracy and dictatorships, so the institutions of American democracy survive, even if they are damaged.
  22. The US court and legal system is so complicated and the Trumpists are so incompetent that they don’t succeed in their worst excesses.
  23. Everyone somehow figures out how to deal with the avalanche of fake news and propaganda.
  24. Enough of the courts and the military officers resist orders that would violate the rule of law.
  25. Enough people realize that hate doesn’t trump hate, only love and understanding can do that.
  26. The rest of the world resists Trump’s climate denial and accelerates their climate fight despite the US profligate carbon emissions, so out of the ashes we somehow get a better more fair sustainable world even if it’s permanently damaged by climate change.

Worst Case #1

  1. Trump starts a limited nuclear war. The chances of this are non-zero, but that’s so fucked let’s not even think about that scenario. Full nuclear war, also a non-zero chance, but that means we’re all dead, so that’s right out of consideration. Full nuclear war might not be as bad as having to live through a limited nuclear war, actually.

Worst Case #2 (what I’ll allow myself to think right now)

  1. Trump will concern himself with using government for getting attention and to make himself richer. Trump and his peers enrich themselves at the cost of all the social programs and through war profiteering.
  2. He’ll leave the governing to his cabinet and inner circle, and Trump’s cabinet and inner circle has enough white nationalists and crypto fascists and religious fascists in it that they essentially could be called fascists. (see Harkaway essay)
  3. So his cabinent and the GOP stack the Supreme Court and all the other courts with sympathetic or extremist judges.
  4. These courts allow legislatures to pretty much get rid of the voting rights act, gerrymander all the districts, suppress the vote even more than they just did, and give themselves the power to remove a lot more democratic leaning people from voting rolls.
  5. The US becomes a banana republic rife with systemic corruption. Not just unfair campaign donations and cronyism, but full on mafia style corruption. “We are used to corruption in which the rich buy political favor. What we need to learn to fear is corruption in which political favor becomes the primary driver of economic success.” see Yglesias essay.
  6. Christian parents are allowed to send their gay kids for conversion therapy, and that includes electroshock therapy.
  7. Roe v. Wade is overturned and civil rights at all levels are ignored or threatened.
  8. Abortion clinics get shot up and bombed.
  9. Planned Parenthood gets shut down in Republican dominated states.
  10. People get rounded up and deported, it’s not that many at first because it’s a huge undertaking and the Trumpists are generally totally incompetent. They don’t have to round up everyone though, because the point is to have scapegoats and arresting and/or deporting only some applies the requisite level of cruelty to those not arrested by having their families torn apart, and that keeps whole populations scared.
  11. Racist police know they won’t face consequences for killing and abusing minorities, so they escalate their abuses.
  12. White neighbourhoods are allowed to force minorities to move out.
  13. Bands of militias carry out terrorizing attacks on POC, Muslims, Jews, and LGBQT people and neighbourhoods. The racists and the bigots have a lot of guns.
  14. They don’t need to go on a program of extermination or genocide, they just need to kill and beat enough people who belong to minorities and white sympathizers and urbanites and professionals in order to sow enough terror to maintain control. They just have to set some examples on a regular basis.
  15. Labour groups and protest movements like Black Lives Matter get officially labelled as terrorist organizations, and the FBI or DHS then arrests their leaders without due process and detains them indefinitely. (see the thread by Leah McElrath)
  16. Groups like the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center follow soon after.
  17. Political opponents get discredited by a captured media, and if they still have influence beyond that, they too get jailed with the help of the FBI.
  18. People will get tortured. I don’t want to say that US citizens will be included, and it’ll only be foreign people labeled as enemies, but Trump and the alt right are pro-torture. I’m hoping it doesn’t, and even then, I think it’ll take some time of dehumanizing their opponents to get to the point where they’re ok with it.
  19. The free press is sued into oblivion. (Tech billionaire Peter Theil is on Trump’s transition team, and he did precisely that to Gawker Media because of a personal vendetta.)
  20. Tens of millions lose healthcare. Paul Ryan privatizes and deregulates the rest so healthcare for all but the rich and the well employed is effectively cut off.
  21. The economy tanks because incompetent kleptocracies aren’t very efficient economies, and large amounts of labour have been deported.
  22. Trump and his government won’t get blamed enough (see lack of a free press), and they will effectively blame minorities and Jews and Muslims for the worsening situation, escalating the hate and violence, and allowing the state to take more and more extreme measures against them.
  23. Trump cancels NAFTA and introduces trade barriers. American consumers can’t get cheap goods, and worse still, can’t get affordable staples, and consumer spending plummets. Millions more lose their jobs and their homes and their healthcare.
  24. US climate satellites and satellite data is taken offline, so we will have a lot less data to understand how fast the climate crisis is coming at us.
  25. US climate scientists are completely defunded and/or investigated by Newt Gingrich’s new Unamerican Activities inquisition.
  26. Oh yeah, Newt Gingrich will get to start an Unamerican Activities inquisition to investigate Muslims and whoever else they decide needs to be persecuted.
  27. Climate change accelerates and stomps on whatever’s left of the global economy. (I’m going to have to write something about this but it’s only a matter of time before some large countries start collapsing due to climate change.)
  28. Florida and the East Coast flood enough so that everyone realizes that all coastal property is doomed, causing a real estate collapse. Millions of property owners are left underwater on their mortgages, and the banks holding those mortgages collapse.
  29. Trump starts wars pretty much just to make money for military contractors and his Russian creditors, and to profiteer off the target countries resources and reconstruction efforts.
  30. Demagogues and dictators rise everywhere across the world.
  31. NATO unravels and Russia starts reinvading its neighbours.
  32. Canadian slant: the Trump admin tolerates our multiculturalism, as long as we give them pipelines that send them discounted oil sands oil, and pipelines to send them our fresh water, which they’re going to need because climate change is rapidly drying out most of the south west and the south east.

Other Thoughts:

  1. Holy fuck this is dark. I thought it would be cathartic to write this out so I could get back to work, but uh, nope. Not yet. Fuck.
  2. I really don’t want to believe it can get that bad. A study of history shows us that it can, in fact, get that bad. Often very quickly, and when nobody thinks it will. Maybe this time we’ll escape the unnecessary deaths of 10s of millions of people, but we can’t rule that out.
  3. It is really unpleasant to consider the worst outcomes. They’re horrific. And my kids might have to grow up in a world with horrific levels of violence.  
  4. To try to get out of this dark place, here’s a non-fatalistic list of what to do next:
  5. Remember that in the US and the UK and Canada, tolerant liberals are urbanized, and in a majority in the states and cities where they live, but the no-longer-tethered-to-facts right wing dominates in all the other places in the US, and they are often heavily armed. When things go sideways, will they use restraint, or will they use their guns?
  6. What we can do as Canadians. I don’t know. Fight for tolerance and kindness and understanding, Like Obama tells his kids to Just treat people with kindness and respect and understanding, and expect others to do the same, and call them out when they don’t and fight for that. And hope that the we can withstand the waves of hate. And hope that the US doesn’t become a dictatorship that invades us. And that the global economy doesn’t collapse. Etc.


I like to think I have faith in humanity, that Sesame Street isn’t a fantasy, that our Canadian multiculturalism is strong and can withstand people who want to import this growing wave of intolerance. We definitely have racists and authoritarian leaning people here, but hopefully they’re fewer and further between than they are in the USA.

I think it’ll be somewhere in between the best case (things are bad but civilization is still somehow recognizable) and the worst case (the US becomes a fascist police state that starts wars all over the place and arrests, tortures, and murders its opposition, with no end in sight.) I don’t think they’re going to go on a program of extermination, it’s not going to be completely like Nazi Germany, although the alt-right and the KKK might want that. Maybe It’s going to be like Putin’s Russia or the the oppressive regimes of the middle east. It also doesn’t need to be a program of extermination or genocide to be horrible. They can dislocate people, segregate their neighbourhoods by terrorizing minorities, arrest and murder and beat just enough members of the marginalized groups to traumatize and terrorize everyone else and maintain control. I hope it doesn’t come to that, and I hope that Tobias Stone is wrong, that we’re not about to enter a phase of massive destruction and loss of life, but things are looking all too similar to what they were in the 1920s and 1930s.


Leah McElrath’s list about surveillance, Trump’s cadre, arresting opponents. -
Yglesias essay on systemic corruption:
Tobias Stone on history telling us it’s probably going to get really bad: