Making Twitter secure for Trump is more difficult than modifying a Blackberry for Obama

trump-trance

It was a rough day at the NSA when President Trump asked for his Twitter account to be made secure.

“It just really bothered a lot of people — nobody wanted to put anything out there that wasn’t completely secure,” said NSA technical director Richard “Dickie” George in an interview with CNNMoney.

George’s role was to review the president’s neural pathways and write and engineer diagrams for securing the commander in chief’s brain.

In response to Trump’s request, the NSA set up a lab where dozens of experts planned surgery for several months on a high-profile patient: the soon-to-be presidential Trump brain. The course of treatment was to manipulate the organ’s structure to weed out potential threats to secure communication.

The effort turned out to be fruitless. There would be only one possible solution, the NSA concluded: delete Trump’s Twitter account.

“This isn’t a flaw in the technology,” George said, “It’s a problem with the user: we can’t fix his brain.”

(As they say in Hollywood: based on a true story.)

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Trump is more dangerous than ‘the Blob’

With the ascent to power of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration and following 9/11 the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, foreign-policy realists succeeded in promoting the virtues of the national interest — to the detriment of internationalism.

For some years, progressives, antiwar activists, and traditional conservatives have found common cause in opposition to interventionism.

In some ways, Donald Trump’s election is part of that trend.

For that reason, an academic such as John Mearsheimer who sees himself as being outside the foreign policy establishment, sees potential promise in a Trump presidency but he fears the power that remains entrenched in Washington, that has been referred to derisively as “the Blob” by President Obama’s close adviser, Ben Rhodes.

Mearsheimer warns:

The foreign-policy community, which has deep roots and cuts across both of the major political parties, will go to enormous lengths to tame the new president and make sure he sticks with liberal hegemony.

Should it prevail, there will be more terrorism, more failed attempts to spread democracy, more lost wars, and more death and destruction across the greater Middle East.

But there’s a glaring problem with this analysis: it makes no mention of the fact that even before he takes office, it’s clear from his own campaign statements and from the first appointments he has made, that Donald Trump and his administration are Islamophobic to the core.

It’s not without reason that Trump’s election was instantly being celebrated by jihadists across the world.

“This guy is a complete maniac. His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands,” Abu Omar Khorasani, a top ISIS commander in Afghanistan, told Reuters.

Never since 9/11 must the United States have appeared as such an appealing target for terrorism.

Trump is a ticking time-bomb and it seems like just a matter of time before a terrorist plot, either executed or thwarted, sets him off.

And what happens then?

How is a president who gets triggered by a mild rebuke from the cast of Hamilton going to react to some barbaric act provocation?

Where will Trump’s famous counterpunch land? And how much or little will the president actually understand before he feels driven to take what he proudly brands as “decisive action”?

That’s what most of us have reason to fear and what the terrorists eagerly await, confident as they must be that Trump’s overreaction will have the potential to cause even more harm than Bush and Cheney’s overreaction to 9/11.

But to listen to Mearsheimer and some other realists, you’d think that we should be more concerned about the debatable influence of “the Blob” than we are about Trump’s reactivity.

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Trump’s disavowal of the alt-right movement is meaningless

CNN reports: Donald Trump has never been one to shy away from speaking — or more accurately, tweeting — his mind.

But critics say it took him too long to publicly disavow a shockingly racist speech Saturday by a white nationalist leader whose rallying cry mirrored Adolf Hitler’s.

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory,” Richard Spencer shouted from the podium of the annual convention for his think-tank called The National Policy Institute. Spencer calls himself the founder of the “alt-right” movement, a label that’s been applied to far-right extremists advocating for white nationalism.

The scene, taking place less than a mile from the White House, was reminiscent of Nazi-era Germany, with several members of the audience cheering with the straight-arm Hitler salute.

At times speaking in German, Spencer’s 30-minute speech included the unmistakable marriage of Neo-Nazi hate and Trump’s campaign slogan.

“It is only normal again when we are great again,” Spencer said.

A Trump transition spokesman released a short media statement Monday evening, but it took Trump until Tuesday to publicly disavow the group in his own words. And it came only when pressed in a meeting with New York Times reporters, editors and executives,
Of course I disavow and condemn them,” Trump said when asked about the group.

But Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League, says Trump needed to do it sooner.

“There seems to be a pattern in the Trump administration of waiting until the last moment. And we just don’t have the luxury for that. When there are Nazi salutes in D.C., it’s important to condemn it at the moment,” Segal said. [Continue reading…]

Let’s wind the clock back and imagine that Trump had condemned and disavowed Spencer and the alt-right movement within the first few hours of the Washington video going viral — the swiftness of his statement would still have meant nothing more than a growing awareness that he needed to distance himself from a long-standing and increasingly toxic relationship.

If Trump really had a problem with alt right, he wouldn’t have chosen Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and closest adviser.

Neither of them can now credibly distance themselves from ties they have long nurtured.

If Bannon actually had a problem with the movement, he wouldn’t have anointed his publication, Breitbart News, as “platform for the alt-right.”

At his meeting with staff at the New York Times yesterday, Trump said of Bannon: “If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.”

No one in the room had the guts to vigorously challenge him even though Bannon’s ties to alt-right have long been explicit and unambiguous — as Sarah Posner reported in August:

“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July. Though disavowed by every other major conservative news outlet, the alt-right has been Bannon’s target audience ever since he took over Breitbart News from its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, four years ago. Under Bannon’s leadership, the site has plunged into the fever swamps of conservatism, cheering white nationalist groups as an “eclectic mix of renegades,” accusing President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims,” and waging an incessant war against the purveyors of “political correctness.”

“Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it,” former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro wrote last week on the Daily Wire, a conservative website. “With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [technology editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

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The presidency and the pretense

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In August, French president François Hollande said Donald Trump’s excesses “make you want to retch.”

Following her election defeat, Hillary Clinton says we now owe Trump an “open mind.”

Keep an open mind and keep a sick-bag close at hand.

No doubt there are millions of Americans and others around the world who think it’s too late to view this man with an open mind. He has a history.

At least in spirit I’m with those who’ve taken to the streets, chanting “Not My President” — and I hope they all voted too.

As Rachel Maddow correctly pointed out on Tuesday night: anyone who voted for a candidate who couldn’t win was also in effect saying, I don’t care who becomes president.

But votes cast, miscast, or not cast at all — it’s too late to undo what’s done.

Come January 20, like it or not, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the next president.

To a greater degree, perhaps more than ever before, how this president performs will be deeply affected by how he is perceived. His actions will, to an extent, be molded by our judgments.

In one regard, Donald Trump will be exactly like every other president as he enters office: He will at the outset be faking it.

The inauguration is the beginning of the pretense. Donald Trump’s challenge is whether he can eventually leave office without forever having appeared to be an impostor.

Although Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might seem to be engaged in a charade with their current conciliatory tone, there is good reason not to view this as mere capitulation.

In spite of Trump being almost universally perceived as disruptive, to a degree rarely acknowledged, he generally plays by the rules — at least when he’s in the spotlight.

This was evident in the debates where it was Hillary who exerted much more power. She dictated whether they would or would not shake hands. She ignored the moderators while he tended to sulkily submit to their commands. Trump acts out but then usually bows to authority.

As Trump takes on the presidency, our only hope is that he is shaped by the office more than he shapes it in his name.

Whether this happens may have less to do with his intentions than it has to do with our ability to take him seriously. (But one small step that might help America and the world come to terms with the concept of President Trump would be for him to delete his Twitter account.)

He just won the biggest prize he could ever imagine and he did so without displaying a shred of personal responsibility.

Treating him the right way now has nothing to do with believing he deserves to have reached this position of power. As Hillary said, we owe him an open mind — but not in the charitable sense of saying he’s deserves a chance to succeed.

If Trump doesn’t grow into the office and learn how to act and look presidential, we won’t be rewarded with the opportunity to gloat at his failure. On the contrary, we will suffer the consequences of that failure as the presidency metastasizes and becomes thoroughly Trumpified and America becomes even more deeply disfigured through his influence.

Already, Trump followers are on the rampage, acting out because they think their leader didn’t just win an election; they think he toppled the establishment and took over the system. They think Trump now rules America and that they can now live by his rules.

If the rest of us refuse to grant him his honeymoon we are in effect encouraging him to likewise go on the loose and act out as the misfit-in-chief.

There are those who argue that it’s already time to be mounting resistance — that we have no reason to question who he is or what he represents — but I would argue that it’s too soon to judge his presidency; that if we judge it prematurely we will share responsibility in creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not imagining this is going to turn out well. On the contrary, I would say: don’t underestimate how bad it can get.

The growth of a president hinges on his ability to understand and adapt to the limits of power.

If we refuse to grant Trump the honor of the title of his office, then instead of him being encouraged to follow the example of those who preceded him, he will indeed become an exceptional president in the worst possible way.

It turns out that insisting Trump was unfit for office was a foolhardy argument to make. It rested on the assumption not only that he was indeed unfit but for that very reason would never actually become president — but now he has.

What was presented by his opponents as unthinkable is now fact and we have to creatively adapt to this reality.

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How Trump became president

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In one of the many autopsies of the election, Thomas Frank refers to the “tens of millions of good people” who voted for Trump — 59,692,974 to be precise.

Frank’s hinted sentiment — that Trump supporters should not be viewed too harshly because they’re mostly under-educated men and women who could easily be led astray — is commonplace among commentators who don’t want to risk undermining their own strongly professed affiliations with “working Americans.”

It’s the same sentiment one hears expressed so often by people who have little if any personal experience of manual labor and who nevertheless speak passionately about the tragic effects of lost manufacturing jobs — as though life behind the production lines was dignified by the virtues of honest toil and the wholesomeness of Made in the USA labels.

The problem with seeing Trumpism through the impersonal lens of economic determinism is that it tends to marginalize the cultural issues at play and the personal choices made.

But before drilling any further into the question of what led to this election outcome, let’s keep in mind some basic facts:

Donald Trump is about to become the 45th President of the United States because he won the support of just 25% of the electorate.

The outcome of this election, like every other democratic election, was determined by the way each vote was cast.

More than anything else, Trump’s power derives from the abnegation of power by the 103 million eligible voters who chose not to exercise their democratic rights — the Americans who put Trump in power by acting as though they possessed none.

Instead of getting carried away with broad explanations that revolve around the failings of neoliberalism, let’s consider the individual choices at work as millions of Americans left their mark next to the name Trump; and let’s not just treat Trump voters as hapless dupes who got hoodwinked by a conman.

Trump drew the bulk of his support from white, rural America.

Vice News made an honest effort to offer a snapshot of that support in the voice of one man, Don Bowman, surrounded at home by his family in Oxford, Ohio.

What’s interesting about Bowman is that he isn’t just a randomly chosen Trump supporter who fits the right demographic profile — a guy willing to cater to a journalist’s urgent need to gather a few soundbites about the Trump “movement.”

In learning about this particular man, we aren’t limited to considering what he has to say in front of a camera. We can also learn about his personal history and the culture that shaped his thinking, thanks to the writing of his son, J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy.

In the Vice interview, Bowman says this about Trump:

People are tired of what’s going on, and sometimes it’ll take a guy that’s not your normal guy — I call it misfit — and use him to turn this thing around.

What this guy’s saying is real. He’s not afraid to say what he wants to say, and I realized little by little the Republican Party and the foundation I looked up to as a conservative party is as out of whack as the Democratic Party.

My party has sold out to the establishment and the elites and it’s become so far off track that after it’s all said and done, I said, you know what, as crazy as this guy says things, he’s got something that resonates with me, and it is: we need to get back to the foundation of what this country started as.

Do I think he’s our savior? No. But I think he can be used — at least he’s got enough guts to stand up and say: hey, we’ve got to change the way we’re going, because if we don’t, we’re done.

That’s why people will go for a guy like Trump. He may not say the — but at least, he’s willing to say something and stand up for somebody. And our politicians, both sides of the fence, have forgotten who they’re serving here.

People wanted change but they didn’t know what else to do, because this, the political establishment that we have — Republican and Democrat — has went buzzerko — they’re not for the people. Now I believe, and this is my opinion, this is the most important election in the history of our United States. And I believe that if this doesn’t get right now, we’re done.

Trump’s mantra is “what’s going on?” and believe me, he isn’t quoting Marvin Gaye.

Bowman talks about “what’s going on,” repeating the call and response that ricochets between Trump and his followers.

In an artful dodge, Trump poses this as a question, but that’s not for the purpose of initiating a process of inquiry. It’s a nod and wink — I know what’s going on and you know what’s going on. No need to be explicit.

The guy who spent years challenging Barack Obama’s legitimacy, tapping into broad currents of white prejudice that couldn’t accept a black man in the White House, has long made clear what’s going on and who Americans need to get their country back from — an allegedly foreign-born president, the foreigners streaming across the borders, and the foreign countries stealing American jobs.

What’s going on? is the alarm call that points towards everything that threatens the dominion of white American conservative culture.

When Bowman says: “we need to get back to the foundation of what this country started as,” I’m pretty sure he’s not harking back to 1776. The past he’s mourning, the past he wants to bring back to life is Norman Rockwell’s white America, unpolluted by immigration, homosexuality, secularism, and political correctness, where government stayed off people’s backs and the business of business thrived — a time when there was no disputing to whom this country belonged.

In 2008, Sarah Palin used the crass expression “real America” and thus immediately turned America/American into contested terms. Trump’s skill has been in using much vaguer language whose target audience nevertheless harbors no doubt: he’s speaking to us. Trump closed the sale by convincing his audience: I’m your guy. I know who I’m serving.

Nostalgia is mostly an exercise in myth-making — a way of beautifying the past by sweeping away its ugly features — so it’s worth viewing Bowman’s nostalgia in the context of some of the details of his own life, as recounted by his son. This isn’t Norman Rockwell’s America.

Dad gave me up for adoption when I was six. After the adoption, he became a kind of phantom for the next six years. I had few memories of life with him. I knew that he loved Kentucky, its beautiful mountains, and its rolling green horse country. He drank RC Cola and had a clear Southern accent. He drank, but he stopped after he converted to Pentecostal Christianity. I always felt loved when I spent time with him, which is why I found it so shocking that he “didn’t want me anymore,” as Mom and Mamaw told me. He had a new wife, with two small children, and I’d been replaced.

The past that’s easiest to cherish and idealize is a past never known. And as Vance recounts how members of his family viewed each other, there’s less sense of what they were holding on to and much more of what they longed to escape.

Bob Hamel, my stepdad and eventual adoptive father, was a good guy in that he treated [my sister] Lindsay and me kindly. Mamaw didn’t care much for him. “He’s a toothless fucking retard,” she’d tell Mom, I suspect for reasons of class and culture. Mamaw had done everything in her power to be better than the circumstances of her birth. Though she was hardly rich, she wanted her kids to get an education, obtain white-collar work and marry well-groomed middle-class folks — people, in other words, who were nothing like Mamaw and Papa. Bob, however, was a walking hillbilly stereotype. He had little relationship with his own father and had learned the lessons of his own childhood well: He had two children whom he barely saw, though they lived in Hamilton, a town ten miles south of Middletown. Half his teeth had rotted out, and the other half were black, brown, and misshapen, the consequence of a lifetime of Mountain Dew consumption and presumably some missed dental checkups. He was a high school dropout who drove a truck for a living.

We’d all eventually learn that there was much to dislike about Bob. But what drove Mamaw’s initial dislike were the parts of him that most resembled her. Mamaw apparently understood what would take me another twenty years to learn: that social class in America isn’t just about money.

Implicit in warnings about the rural poor having been “left behind” is the idea that they were once keeping up. But their experience of exclusion has been multi-generational — indeed it stretches all the way back to the experiences of the earliest migrants and before.

Trump embraces Americans who feel excluded but he does this by allowing them to disown that feeling by projecting it on others. He helps the rejected become the rejecters.

If this was simply a cynical exercise in manipulating popular support, he might not have carried it off so successfully, but I get the sense that Trump’s insatiable hunger for adulation flows from his own experience of feeling unwanted — of being a man who would be ignored if he didn’t force himself on others; a man driven by a compulsion that has grown so large he’s now about to take control of a whole nation.

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President Obama’s responsibility to fully inform the American people about Russia’s role in the election of Donald Trump

On October 7, the Director of National Intelligence released a Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement saying:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.

President Obama has 73 days left in office and during this time he has a responsibility to act on this finding.

It may be pointless and arguably counterproductive to start formulating and enacting a strategic response to Russia’s interference in the election — especially given the likelihood that this plan would be set aside by the incoming Trump administration and given the cozy relationship that Trump and Putin are already developing.

Obama’s primary responsibility is to go to the greatest lengths possible in informing the public about what the intelligence services already know and what further information can be established and revealed in the coming weeks.

What is called for is substance to add to the assertion of confidence that has already been made.

In the absence of clear evidence, the assertions about Russia have thus far been tainted by the appearance of being politically partisan — all the more reason why Trump will easily be able to sweep away the issue. Even before the election, he had already dismissed the intelligence finding.

There is a glaring irony in this situation.

On the one hand the FBI just directly intervened in a presidential election — an intervention that was strongly criticized from many quarters and that arguably tipped the result in Trump’s favor. On the other hand, if Obama adopts the traditional caretaker role of an outgoing president, he will likely end up effectively burying evidence that the Russian government not only interfered but helped determine the outcome of a U.S. election.

As much as there might now be a common desire to heal the divisions in America, the public has a right to know and fully understand what just happened.

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The uninformed public speculation that might tilt this election

Donald Trump’s election campaign has been fueled, more than anything else, by prejudice — the willingness of his supporters to reach conclusions unsupported by evidence.

Yesterday, in New Mexico, Trump claimed that if Hillary Clinton becomes president the population of the United States could triple in size in one week and grow from 325 million to 975 million!

“Think of it,” Trump said, but as the crowd booed there was little evidence that anyone in front of him was indeed thinking about what he’d just said. Some thought should have produced derisory laughter in response to such an absurd statement.

If 650 million peopled poured across the U.S. borders, this would amount to the largest migration in human history. This would be like every single person in Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America all arriving in the U.S. — in the space of seven days.

Think of it!

Actually, it’s a bit difficult for anyone to think of it unless they are willing to indulge in an idle flight of fantasy.

What Trump was doing yesterday is what he been doing throughout his campaign: attempting to bypass all meaningful processes of thought and connect with the reptilian brain, animated as it is by archaic forces of fear and aggression. When Trump says think, what he’s really saying is be afraid, very afraid.

* * *

The daily drama of politics, in the age of Wikileaks and beyond the long shadow of Watergate, is repeatedly invigorated by the promise of revelations.

Since Watergate involved the mother of all cover-ups, any claim that something has been “discovered” comes charged with the implication that a discovery is the flip-side of a cover-up. What was meant to remain secret has now become known.

But when FBI Director James Comey wrote to Congress to inform them “the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation [of Clinton’s personal email server]” nothing of substance had been uncovered.

At this point, all that is known is that a computer used by former Rep. Anthony Weiner (aka Carlos Danger) contained some emails connected to Clinton aide, Huma Abedin.

It has been reported that there are 650,000 emails, without any specifics about who they were written to and received by or when they were sent. The Wall Street Journal reports, “underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.” Yet it was not until this weekend that the FBI received a court order allowing them to begin reviewing the emails.

If when Comey wrote to Congress, he and those under him had been complying with the law, at that time no one in the FBI had looked at a single of the thousands of emails in question.

When anonymous sources leaked the seemingly hard fact that there are 650,000 emails involved, they were leaking a hard number that again obscures its lack of substance. We don’t know whether hundreds of thousands or hundreds or just a handful are connected to Abedin.

Comey was like a firefighter who runs into a crowded shopping mall and shouts: “There might be a fire. But don’t panic. There might be some smoke — but it could just be steam.”

In his confession to FBI employees he wrote: “I don’t want to create a misleading impression,” but admitted, “there is significant risk of being misunderstood…” Indeed.

Which is why Comey has now been admonished by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, along with close to 100 other former Department of Justice officials, who in an open letter conclude:

We believe that adherence to longstanding Justice Department guidelines is the best practice when considering public statements on investigative matters. We do not question Director Comey’s motives. However, the fact remains that the Director’s disclosure has invited considerable, uninformed public speculation about the significance of newly-discovered material just days before a national election. For this reason, we believe the American people deserve all the facts, and fairness dictates releasing information that provides a full and complete picture regarding the material at issue.

Given the fact that in the remaining days before the election it is reasonable to assume that a full and complete picture will not and cannot be presented, it is also reasonable to assume that uninformed public speculation on the issue will continue without interruption.

And that should suit Donald Trump just fine.

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In health and well-being, youth in America rank below those in Iraq and Bangladesh

In the Global Youth Development Index and Report 2016 (YDI), released by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the United States falls far below its self-acclaimed status as global leader. In overall ranking among 183 states, the U.S. comes 23rd.

Although there is no universally accepted definition of “youth,” the report’s authors primarily use the most commonly applied age bracket of 15-29, in line with other international organizations.

The YDI is a composite index of 18 indicators that collectively measure progress on youth development in 183 countries, including 49 of the 53 Commonwealth countries. It has five domains, measuring levels of education, health and wellbeing, employment and opportunity, political participation and civic participation among young people.

In its rankings within these five domains, the number on American youth that jumps out is for health and well-being: 106 — that’s below, for instance, Iraq (103) and Bangladesh (102).

There’s no mystery as to why the U.S. ranks so poorly in this regard. The primary reason: obesity. And the primary causes of obesity are diets loaded in empty calories combined with sedentary life styles.

The American way of life has become a system of factory farming in which a large proportion of citizens get fattened up and fed into a life-long disease management system. The primary beneficiaries of this system are the pharmaceutical industry, the manufacturers of sodas and junk food, and the entertainment industry.

Suppose a terrorist plot was uncovered revealing a plan to poison most Americans. This discovery probably wouldn’t generate a huge amount of alarm for the simple reason that however evil its ambitions might be, no terrorist organization could actually carry out a plot on this scale.

On the other hand, even though there has never been a corporate conspiracy designed to accomplish this goal, a largely unquestioned obedience to the principle of profit has brought America to this juncture. This is a chronic condition of commercial exploitation and social decay that has been decades in the making.

In “The Global Epidemic of Obesity: An Overview,” a report published in Epidemiologic Reviews, Dr. Benjamin Caballero wrote:

The sedentary lifestyle of the US population was already a concern in the 1950s, when President Eisenhower created the Council on Fitness and Health to promote physical activity in the population. While secular data to assess trends are limited, in 2000 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that less than 30 percent of the US population has an adequate level of physical activity, another 30 percent is active but not sufficiently, and the remainder is sedentary. A longitudinal study of girls aged 9–18 years documented the dramatic decline in physical activity during adolescence, particularly among Black girls. A number of factors may result in limited physical activity at schools, such as budget constraints and pressure to meet academic performance targets. Out of school, physical activity is also frequently limited. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a dramatic decline in the proportion of children who walk or bike to school, from close to 42 percent in 1969 to 16 percent in 2001. At home, the average US teenager spends over 30 hours per week watching television. This activity is not only sedentary but also associated with reduced consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, possibly related to consumption of snack foods while watching television and to the influence of food commercials, most of which advertise low-nutrient-density foods.

In the 1950s, the sugar industry sought to halve the amount of fat in the American diet and replace this with sugar which would result in a 30% increase in sugar consumption and “a tremendous improvement in general health,” according to the president of the Sugar Research Foundation, Harry Hass. The industry turned out to be tremendously successful in boosting sugar consumption, but instead of improving health it has poisoned America, setting multiple generations on a path towards chronic disease and premature death.

 

The 2014 documentary, Fed Up, can be rented or bought here, or viewed on Netflix.

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How good are Clinton’s Trumpologists?

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A science reporter for Business Insider seems somewhat disturbed about the likelihood that Hillary Clinton might be receiving unscientific advice on how to debate Donald Trump in Nevada tonight:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are set to face off tonight in the third and final presidential debate of the 2016 election.

In August, The New York Times reported that Clinton’s campaign brought in psychology experts to help her prepare for her first debate with Donald Trump — which is weird, because that’s not really what psychologists do.

Here is the relevant part of The Times’ article (emphasis mine):

Hillary Clinton’s advisers are … seeking insights about Mr. Trump’s deepest insecurities as they devise strategies to needle and undermine him … at the first presidential debate … Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage. They are undertaking a forensic-style analysis of Mr. Trump’s performances in the Republican primary debates, cataloging strengths and weaknesses as well as trigger points that caused him to lash out in less-than-presidential ways.

There’s not a tremendous amount of information here, but it’s enough to work from if we want to find research relevant to the work these psychologists (or “psychology experts”) are reportedly doing. The strange part is that there isn’t much to find.

Much as I can bemoan the reporting language of the New York Times on stylistic grounds, I will credit its reporters for their precision and/or intentional vagueness in their choice of words. To wit: psychology experts. If this report was referring to psychologists, I venture to assume that’s the term that would have been used.

While professional psychologists should be experts in psychology, there are all kinds of people who can be loosely described as psychology experts even if they aren’t actually psychologists — they might be lawyers, boxing coaches, politicians, or come from any walk of life through which they have acquired particular insight into the workings of the human mind. Psychology experts don’t need to licensed.

As for Clinton’s psychology experts, their particular skill need be no broader than in unlocking the operations inside one mind: Donald Trump’s. Or to be precise: one person. Trump’s way of being is so unreflective and so visceral that his thinking generally appears subordinate to the way he feels for which reason the Clinton campaign should probably have also sought some input from a primatologist.

Much as America and the whole world is already sick this man’s facility to generate a kind of universal consciousness — never before in human history has one living person captured the attention of this many people (an insane observation but surely true!) — one of the political payoffs for the Clinton campaign from the excessive media coverage Trump has received is that his insistence on being in the spotlight has rendered him all the more easy to analyse. What need is there for emails and tax returns when there is an endless supply of pure Trump?

Ultimately, however, irrespective of the extent to which Hillary Clinton’s debate preparation has been guided by genuine insight into her opponent, her success will hinge as much if not more on the moves she makes as they do those of Trump.

At this juncture in the campaign there is a real danger she may suffer from over-confidence — however much she has been told and tells herself to take nothing for granted.

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Wikileaks collides with #TrumpTapes

Trump supporters who in recent months have come to see Wikileaks as a valuable ally, have become deeply frustrated since yesterday afternoon. As #TrumpTapes trends on Twitter, Bill Mitchell asks:


And one “Bronze Age Pervert” from the ranks of the nationalist, fascist, nudist, bodybuilders lining up behind Trump, says:


It’s not hard to understand the pervert’s suspicions about that the timing of the release of the #TrumpTapes.

Even so, for those who assume that by nefarious means Julian Assange got outmaneuvered, why didn’t he just postpone the release of his latest batch of “revelations” about Hillary Clinton?

(But just to be clear: It turns out that the actual sequence of events leading up to the release of the #TrumpTapes story had nothing to do with Wikileaks.)

It required no genius to anticipate what would dominate the news cycle in the hours leading up to the next presidential debate, so why allow the Wikileaks story to so easily get buried?

Is the Wikileaks bureaucracy so cumbersome in its operations that a last minute course correction was impossible? I kind of doubt it, since that really just boiled down to one man’s choice.

On the contrary, the fact that Wikileaks pressed on in such a quixotic fashion is more likely a reflection of its own internal assessment of the shock-value of the latest leaks: that in terms of actual content, they were close to worthless.

Instead, what turned out to look slightly more promising would be another opportunity to promote the narrative of Wikileaks as the victim. At least on social media a few people could cry foul.

In addition, having trolled the media earlier this week with a news conference that turned out to be a boring birthday celebration, and having been berated by Alex Jones as “a Hillary butt plug,” Assange knew his already dwindling credibility would be decimated if yet again he delivered nothing.

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Trump promotes debunked conspiracy theory that Google favors Clinton

Does Netflix want Donald Trump to become the next president? Is Google trying to tip the balance in Hillary Clinton’s favor?

The key to understanding the relationships between powerful corporations and governments is to remember that corporations hope to wield influence in their own favor whoever controls Washington.

As institutional entities, corporate boards and their executives commonly hold power for much longer than U.S. presidents. Indeed, still in power after 18 years, individuals such as Larry Page and Sergey Brin have more secure positions than most dictators.

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In 2012, when Robert Epstein discovered that Google was displaying a security warning blocking access to his website, instead of coming to the most obvious conclusion — that, as the warning indicated, his site was infected with malware — Epstein became convinced that he was a target of corporate malfeasance. The technology giant was supposedly out to crush the little guy. Why exactly Google would harbor “malice” against Epstein was unclear.

Maybe Epstein should have discussed the matter with a therapist to explore his paranoia. Just as importantly, he should have hired a security expert to fix his site. Instead, as a psychologist sadly lacking in self-awareness, Epstein embarked on a quixotic crusade against Google — he’s still fighting. His most recent ally in that fight is Donald Trump.

Were it not for the fact that Epstein has some credentials that sound more impressive than they really are — such as a PhD from Harvard and former editor in chief of Psychology Today — he could more easily be dismissed as just another conspiracy theorist. But when a “distinguished research psychologist” can point to his “peer-reviewed” “research study” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, he surely carries behind him the full weight of scientific authority, right? Not really.

Making a claim reminiscent of the plot in the Netflix version of House of Cards, Epstein says that Google is trying to rig the election to help Hillary Clinton win.

That’s a claim that dovetails perfectly into Russia’s disinformation campaign designed to undermine the credibility of democracy in America. It should thus come as no surprise that state-sponsored RT would gladly help promote Epstein’s claims and now Kremlin-backed Sputnik joins the effort.

Likewise, as a candidate blind to his own shortcomings, Donald Trump has happily jumped on the Epstein bandwagon.

As for the scientific basis of Epstein’s research findings, all one needs to understand is the data provides to his research subjects. When provided with search results that had been skewed in favor of one candidate over another, the subjects views shift in the same direction. But here’s the thing: Epstein hasn’t unearthed a secret Google bias algorithm. He simply constructs the skewed data himself by manually rearranging search results.

Then, having observed the effects of such manipulation, he concludes that if Google was to engineer similar manipulation, it could affect an election outcome. That’s probably true. But it’s one thing to describe what’s possible and quite another to analyze what’s actually happening.

Companies such as Google and Facebook are indeed fully immersed in efforts to manipulate the way people think and feel, but just like every other business they are driven by the simple goal of profit.

Unless a political force arises in Washington that poses an existential threat to Silicon Valley, I think it’s reasonable to assume that none of the technology giants will place their business interests in jeopardy by trying to rig elections.

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Clinton’s perceived statistical error in characterizing Trump supporters

Ta-Nehisis Coates writes: [On Friday], Hillary Clinton claimed that roughly “half of Trump’s supporters” could be characterized as either “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.” Clinton hedged by saying she was being “grossly generalistic” but given that no one appreciates being labeled a bigot, that statement still feels harsh –– or if you prefer, “politically incorrect.”

Clinton later said that she was “wrong” to say “half,” but reiterated that “it’s deplorable that Donald Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia.”

One way of reporting on Clinton’s statement is to weigh its political cost, ask what it means for her campaign, or attempt to predict how it might affect her performance among certain groups. This path is in line with the current imperatives of political reporting and, at least for the moment, seems to be the direction of coverage. But there is another line of reporting that could be pursued — Was Hillary Clinton being truthful or not? [Continue reading…]

Clinton added, “Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.” Her implication seems to be that however irredeemable a proportion of Trump supporters might be, they are insufficient in number or influence to affect how we define America.

America can supposedly accommodate an indeterminate number of people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, or Islamaphobic, and somehow retain its exalted character.

American elections and the way the media covers them, focus so much on the individual personalities of would-be political representatives, that it’s easy to avoid seeing in these democratic processes an opportunity for assessing the condition of American culture.

While Donald Trump can be criticized for having empowered one of the dark sides of America, there’s little reason to believe that the ugly face he has revealed has grown in size due to his candidacy. It has certainly grown in strength because Trump has created a permissive environment for expressions of bigotry. And that environment is certainly dangerous in terms of what it already has unleashed. But had he not run and had an alternative Republican nominee not tapped into the same currents, the fact that they might now not be so visible would be no reason to treat them as less representative of America.

Although Trump supporters like him because they regard his lack of political correctness as a form of candor, one of the many ironies of this election is that he and they are generally just as obedient as anyone else in compliance with many forms of political correctness.

Hillary Clinton’s offense in labeling half of Trump’s supporters as racists of one kind or another derives from the fact that virtually no one disputes that these are derogatory terms. Racism in America is almost universally disavowed. But the fact that nowadays so few people will tolerate being called racist seems to have not as much diminished racism than it has driven it underground. Even overt white supremacists practice their own form of political correctness by characterizing their cause as involving the conservation of what they regard as their endangered “heritage.”

An argument about how a political constituency is getting labeled serves mostly as a distraction from the core issue here: is American society capable of becoming more inclusive? Or is this a society already fractured by so many embattled and conflicting identities that its capacity to come together is severely impaired by a lack of durable social glue?

What does it mean to be an American? should not be a question asked so that politicians can compete in making cliched declarations about America’s greatness. Instead, it should be treated as the first step in arriving at a sound diagnosis of this nation both in terms of its actual strengths and weaknesses.

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