Leaving the Iran Deal

It just wasn’t working out. Or some such nonsense, I don’t know.

As Krishnadev Calamur from the Atlantic writes, Trump has recently announced that he is no longer going to ratify the Iran Deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In doing so, he will reapply the sanctions previously in place on Iran, however he is likely to enact these things alone, as neither Europe, Russia nor China seem to be terribly interested in applying their own sanctions to Iran, nor do any of the other trading partners of Tehran, such as India. And that is one of the major reasons why leaving the Iran deal is just fucking stupid. I know I should try to be more eloquent, but good fucking god these people have no understanding of planning, or consequence. Or thought.

By simply unilaterally leaving (or rejecting or whatever you want to call it) with neither a plan beyond “Sanctions!”, coordination with other nations to actually cause economic stagnation and damage beyond simply ending Americas already limited involvement in the Iranian economy, or a series of UN responses to politically isolate the Tehran regime. Instead they’ve pulled out and will have to deal with the brunt of the consequences themselves, including the provision in the JCPOA which allows either members to refer to the UN to rebuke and punish nations that flout the agreement. You know, like America has.

And it’s not like the Plan doesn’t have flaws! It is a limited document, which deals with a singular part of the regimes technology and military developments, and does nothing to prevent their involvement or support of dangerous regimes, or terrorist groups or any such thing. It is by no means perfect. But that’s the thing, it was never designed to deal with any of that. It focused solely on the Nuclear ambitions of Tehran, and any perceived limits on other efforts to limit their involvement in the aforementioned groups and efforts can be worked around if those involved were suitably motivated. Which is part of the reason why most people outside of the US think simply leaving the Iran deal out of what looks like some form of spite against Obama, and antipathy for Iran is fucking stupid.

Still, at this stage at least Iran is trying to work with this deal despite the US, openly moving towards negotiations with France and Germany in an attempt to try and at lest look like the reasonable partner in this, and potentially try and bend this situation to their economic benefit. And if I had to guess why that is, any economic benefit they can gain from this deal (and the political stability that provides, remembering the recent protests) is much more valuable than nukes.

 

(and yes, I updated! imagine that)

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Regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

With the recent announcement that Mark Zuckerberg would meet with Congress to discuss the Cambridge Anayltica scandal, and that whole mess having not been discussed on this blog, I figured now is as a good a time as any. And since the latter is significantly less complicated than Facebook, we’ll start with the would-be propagandists. Which probably gives you a good indication of my views on them anyway.

So yes, I don’t think well of people who believe a convincing argument to a would be client is to suggest the hiring of whores, blackmail and of course convincing people via propaganda, but making sure it doesn’t look like propaganda. Rubs me the wrong way I guess. None of which is meant to imply I think they are terribly successful in manipulating people via Facebook and the like. On one hand yes they clearly do manipulate people as best they can with their information, and do so for their (predominately conservative as far as I’m aware) clients. But, at the end of the day if people are willing to believe what they read on Facebook over actual reporting, that is opinion and memes and the like over facts, then they do really only have themselves to blame. I don’t think Cambridge Analytica can really change what people think, just nudge them further to where they were already leaning. I still don’t approve of their methods, hyperbolic bullshit or not.

And all of that doesn’t get into the fact that they basically stole about 50 million users profiles worth of data from Facebook without permission from the users, stored on a private server instead of deleting it, and then using it create said ads, memes, and propaganda to manipulate people. That is something I find deeply twisted, and very dangerous. It is also, as far as I’m aware, not illegal, or against Facebook’s terms of service. Which is also wrong, and needs to be fixed. And look, again, this is the act I find reprehensible, I don’t think they had much of an impact in regards to the American Election, Brexit (which apparently they were also involved in) or anything else, people make up their own minds.

Though at the same time, if we’re not paying attention and just taking in whatever is in front of us, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we were led astray. Regardless, that is my chief issue with Cambridge Analytica, the (in my view) theft of personal data, if not the usage of it in later events.

And part of the problem with that theft is that Facebook knew about this, tried to hide and is now dealing with the fact that in the wake of this reveal, it looks like this ‘Radical Transparency’ Zuckerberg espouses apparently only applies to the Users not the Company. In other words they look like a bunch of hypocrites. Now if this was a normal company, retail or food or whatever, honestly that wouldn’t be a big deal. Big Business is full of hypocrisy, it’s all about the bottom line after all, but Facebook isn’t like any other business. It’s integrated into so much of society, so much of the economy relies on it for outreach and visibility, people still think of Facebook as the social media, regardless of whatever they use, and with over two billion active users, there is a very good reason for that. So this can’t be ignored or brushed off, because we’re not dealing with just a business, we’re dealing with part of Society that doesn’t feel responsible for it’s mistakes.

And that’s what this is: a mistake. Letting an app steal third party (Friends of Friends and so forth) data to store elsewhere? A Mistake. Hiding that breach when it was discovered? A Mistake. This should not have happened. Users are supposed to be the clients of Facebook, not the commodity, but if Facebook doesn’t understand then unfortunately it’s not the company that will suffer. Even with a boycott (sorry #deletefacebook, but a twitter trend isn’t going to be enough for this), the only people that suffer are the users.

The way I see, the only way this is going to be fixed is regulation, because Zuckerberg isn’t going to fix this, again radical transparency (of the users) is the point of Facebook not the consequence. Social media’s simply too big and to integrated not to be bound by certain rules, and if these companies don’t like that, tough. You screwed up and people, not your business, got hurt because of this; that is the problem. If this was a hacking incident, and only an algorithm was stolen, the situation would be different. But instead Cambridge Analytica took information from unknowing people and used it for profit, for their client, to manipulate them for politics. That is not acceptable and it cannot happen again, most certainly not without the users permission, and not by a company that claims to make propaganda.

So yes regulation, if only because you forced the public’s hand.

 

Citations:
Al Jazeera: Cam,bridge Analytica and Facebook: the Scandal so Far 
Vox: Facebooks Cambridge Analytica Breach 
Reuters: Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress

 

(Christ, that was a rant though, wasn’t it?)

Thoughts on Porter

Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned a few days ago, after information surfaced that during his background check the FBI had uncovered accusations of abuse from his two previous ex-wives. It’s good that he’s left of course, however it later came out that the White House was in fact aware of these allegations since January, and decided to let him remain in his position (with interim clearance for classified documents) until such time as these allegations surfaced. He was even being considered for a promotion to deputy chief of staff, because of course he was.

First off, this man is a disgusting piece of shit and I’m glad he’s gone. That said I unfortunately have to say I understand McGahns motivations, regardless of the moral implications Porter really was one of the few actually competent members of this Administration. It’s not really surprising that he remained, even if it is disheartening on general principal.

Oh and a second staffer, a speechwriter I believe, has also been outed for abuse allegations. Wonder how many more of these pricks will show up.

The Tax Cut Passed

It’s passed the House, it’s passed the Senate and it’ll be on Trumps desk soon enough.

Fuck.

Look I could go into detail regarding the issues regarding the bill, the loopholes and structure, how it doesn’t in fact encourage internal investment and development but movement of resources outside and beyond the country lines to further encourage profit growth. I could talk about the ideological fallacies inherent in the original design of the bill, how “trickle down” policy is a myth, about how tax cuts have never paid for themselves and the consequences these sorts of policies have had on both the economic and social development of one of the more important nations in the world. I could talk about the rank hypocrisies taken on by members of congress, the lies and manipulations, and both the hypocrisy in the final bill as relating to the former points made, and the sheer incompetency regarding the bills design itself.

But I won’t. Because I’m fucking pissed and do not have the patience to dignify this sort of bill with that sort of analysis, especially with so many outlets and (presumably) bloggers already doing so. So instead I will say this: This is a Bad Bill. It is poorly constructed, poorly implemented and unlikely to survive in its current form. Some believe aspects of it remain, salvaged remnants that can be put to use. I’m not sure if I agree with that, but regardless the point remains. This was voted on a party line basis, and as such not only will be beset by partisan opposition, but due to the inherent vulnerability of such a vote, significant repeal efforts, not from a minority in the other party but most if not all of the opposition.

And Republicans know this. And passed it anyway. For their donors. If this is the result of the political system in the US, there is something deeply wrong with it. And it needs to be fixed.

 

(also it looks like Corker did vote because of the kickback clause. My mistake, I assumed the Republicans would be more subtle than that, god knows fucking why)

Trump failed his country today

In the Aftermath of Charlottesville, there was an understanding that all forms of such hatred and oppression must be opposed. Regardless of your personal political ideology, perspective or preference, everyone understood that Nazis are bad, and must be denounced.

Except Trump. Of Course. 

Oh he did, yesterday (two days late), but today he decided to pander to his base, who for god knows why, think it was the left (and Obama’s!) fault for the events in Charlottesville, and blame everybody for events on that day. Because it was easier to blow past logic, compassion, dignity of office and obligation to your country, and even a basic grasp of history than do what was right for all of his nation. A leader cannot favor the wicked over his own, a leader cannot do what is easy and complicit over what is right and good.

But Trump is no leader, and he never was. He is a coward, he is weak and he has chosen to favor his base over his country, and embolden Neo-Nazis over protecting the ones they would harm and kill because of they disagree. Not attack, not the protesters, they weren’t antifa, no. They opposed non-violently, and were struck down for it. Heather Hayer was killed. And it was easier to blame them, than denounce those who claimed these acts in his name.

I don’t care about his policies right now, I don’t know if he does either anymore. This is not how a leader acts. Regardless of creed, regardless of belief, I don’t think anyone outside of his base really believes this is acceptable. This is not how a leader acts, and I don’t think trump will ever understand that.

Short Update: 27 July edition

So, a couple of things have happened and I’m still sorting through them. For starters, the GOP healthcare bill is officially, kinda sorta alive. Its being debated, and despite McCain’s admonishing of the senate, it doesn’t look like much has changed in terms of process. Secondly, Trump is coming after Sessions, whether that’s to fire him in an attempt to remove Mueller or just general dissatisfaction I can’t really say. Trump isn’t predictable but he’s also spiteful enough to remove someone (read: Comey) if they’re not overtly loyal to him.

Oh, and Trump is trying to ban transgenders from the military. Because reasons. No one is impressed.

So in order:

  1. Healthcare’s annoying but currently it doesn’t look like any of the bills are going to pass. A lot of the Republican senate seems to be eyeing the so called ‘Skinny repeal’ as their out, and whether that will go anywhere is up to debate. Literally, in this case, with the Vote-a-rama coming up, and the open amendment period which everyone is seemingly going to use.
  2. The Sessions issue is just weird. Trumps dissatisfaction with his Attorney General is well known, but attacking one of his cabinet members in an interview, openly discussing removing him, and being publicly rebuffed by the Senate in response, all of this just reminds me that Trump really is a weird and disconcerting President. Which leads to point three:
  3. Trumps trying to ban Transgenders from the military was announced via twitter (because of course it was), and apparently blindsided everyone. It’s not law yet, officially, and apparently some people are going to go to court about it if it does, but honestly? I think he just saw something on Fox and Friends and responded. He does that.

It’s been a weird day.

 

Citations:
Politico: Sessions powerful friends stand up to Trump 
Politico: Skinny Repeal Lacks Votes 
Vox: Trumps Ban on Transgenders is annoying Everybody

BCRA is dead, and it looks like the repeal bill will fail too

So, yesterday in addition to the earlier holdout Senators Collins and Paul, two additional Senators, Lee (the arch-conservative) and Moran from Kansas, detailed their opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act and sunk the Bill. Accordingly Trump and McConnell responded with plans to issue the 2015 repeal bill that then-president Obama vetoed and simply get rid of Obamacare altogether. Ignoring the fact that removing a sweeping healthcare bill with facets involving Tax law, Medicare, Insurance and subsequent regulations and individual state laws is simply too difficult to be realistically passed, it looks like said bill will simply fail as well.

Well McConnell, this is what happens when you don’t include the women in your caucus into your little legislative tea party.

Yes, the three Senators who have immediately signaled their opposition to the 2015 repeal bill are Senators Collin (of Maine), Capito (of West Virginia) and Murkowski (of Alaska). And all three were also not included in the crafting of the bill, you know the one that went out of its way to defund Planned Parenthood for a year, massively reduce the numbers of insured citizens and repealed the Medicare Expansion that all of their states used. Cause reasons.

So, the BCRA is dead, Repeal is dead, and now Trump is saying he’ll simply let Obamacare fail, and he will somehow not be blamed for it. Just Price (his health secretary) for sabotaging it, McConnell for not repealing and replacing it, anybody involved in the crafting of the one bill that tried like his Vice President Pence. Oh, and yes Trump, because of course he would be blamed for letting and encouraging it to fail. 

Honestly I imagine most republicans are glad that this is done now. Maybe now they can move onto taxes? Surely that’ll end well. (heh)

 

Citations:

The Atlantic: McConnell Calls for Repeal Vote
Vox: The Ladies Have It