Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai unveils his plan to kill Net Neutrality

Ajit Pai, the newly appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under Donald Trump, today announced his plans to undo government oversight of broadband ISPs, and destroy Net Neutrality.

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Vietnam complained of "toxic" anti-government Facebook content, now says Facebook has committed to help censor

Vietnam's government today said Facebook has promised to work with the communist nation to prevent the publication and distribution of banned online content.

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Iran sucks at censoring apps, so the Persian diaspora is using them for unfiltered political discussion

With a (symbolic) (but it's a potent symbol) election looming in Iran, the global Persian diaspora is not lacking for news organs that are producing the kind of unfiltered political news that would get you jailed or killed in Iran. Read the rest

Jimmy "Wikipedia" Wales just launched an anti-fake-news wiki: Wikitribune

Wikitribune (strapline: "Evidence-based journalism") is a newly launched project from Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, conceived of as a crowd-edited, crowd-funded tonic against fake news. Read the rest

Global spy agencies meet for "Five Eyes" intel-sharing network in New Zealand, including U.S. FBI, CIA, NSA

Intelligence officials from the so-called "Five Eyes" network, which includes the United States' FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, are gathering for an annual intelligence-sharing exchange today in New Zealand. Reuters confirmed the get-together, at which spy agency reps from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will also gather.

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Steve Bannon digs the occult

When occult historian Mitch Horowitz's excellent 2009 book Occult America was published, he received a phone call from an admiring fan: Stephen K. Bannon. Over at Salon, Mitch writes about the right wing's weird connection to New Age mysticism:

(Bannon) professed deep interest in the book’s themes, and encouraged me in my next work, “One Simple Idea,” an exploration of positive-mind metaphysics in American life....

Although the media have characterized Bannon as the Disraeli of the dark side following his rise to power in the Trump administration, I knew him, and still do, as a deeply read and erudite observer of the American religious scene, with a keen appetite for mystical thought.

Ronald Reagan, a hero of his, was not dissimilar. As I’ve written in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Reagan, from the start of his political career in the 1950s up through the first term of his presidency, adopted phrasing and ideas from the writings of a Los Angeles-based occult scholar named Manly P. Hall (1901-1990), whose 1928 encyclopedia arcana “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” is among the most influential underground books in American culture.

President Trump himself has admiringly recalled his lessons in the mystic art of “positive thinking” from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the Trump family’s longtime pastor, who popularized metaphysical mind-power themes in his 1952 mega-seller “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

What in the cosmos is going on? New Age and alternative spirituality are supposed to be the domain of patchouli-scented aisles of health food stores and bookshops that sell candles and pendulums, right?

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Macron and Le Pen to face off in French presidential runoff vote, May 7

Early projections in France's presidential elections today show that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron will now face off in a runoff election. Macron came in first, and Le Pen second, in Sunday's first round of voting. Moscow won't be happy if Le Pen loses the next round of voting for the French presidency, now slated to take place on May 7.

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Donald Trump says his own 100-day plans are "ridiculous standards" to be held to

Donald Trump, having failed to accomplish much from the 100-day plan laid out in the "contract with the American voter" still live on his website, now says that he is being held to "ridiculous standards".

Analyzing the accomplishments of a United States president after their first 100 days in office is a decades-old tradition and, of course, a relatively arbitrary one established by the news media to assess a leader’s direction and influence. However, to dismiss its importance after using it as a marketing tool for his policy agenda will surely only serve to shirk those who bought into it.

Aside from providing clear evidence of Trump’s flip-flop on the 100-day benchmark, the contract also provides a clear way to compare Trump as president-elect and president of the United States.

Trump has been unable to hold to many of the promises presented in the two-page document, achieving only 10 of the 28 action pledges.

No-one expected him to get anywhere near them, obviously, but "simulation collapse" is the dish of the day.

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Trump teases “massive” tax cut, “big announcement,” bigger than “any tax cut ever“

Former reality television star Donald J. Trump promised late on Friday to reveal plans for a “massive” tax cut for Americans next week. “Tax reform is way too complicated,” he added. Seriously.

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Putin-linked thinktank wrote plan to swing 2016 U.S. election in Trump's favor

A Russian thinktank controlled by Vladimir Putin's government crafted a written plan “to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system,” reports Reuters, citing three current and four former U.S. officials.

Snip:

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, after the election.

The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.

The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.

It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.

A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said.

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Theresa May says she won't debate party leaders before election

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who surprised the world yesterday when she broke her own promise and called snap elections for June 8, has said that she will not debate the other party leaders before election day. Read the rest

Why is legal immigration to the U.S. so complex, it's almost impossible?

Franchesca Ramsey of MTV’s Decoded breaks down America’s incredibly complex immigration process. Read the rest

Politicians like it when economists disagree because then they can safely ignore the ones they dislike

In a new paper in International Studies Quarterly, John Quiggin and Henry Farrell argue that politicians get in trouble when they buck a consensus among economists, but when economists are divided, they can simply ignore the ones they disagree with -- so politicians spend a lot of time looking for economists who agree with their policies, then elevate them to the same status as their peers in order to create a safe, blame-free environment to operate in. Read the rest

In America, "proximity and shared values" is all it takes to turn protesters into felons

On inauguration day, 214 protesters were arrested in DC on felony riot charges, and now they face up to $25,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison, though no one -- not the cops, not the prosecutors -- believes that more than a handful were involved in property damage or disorderly conduct. Read the rest

Neo-fascist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen says France was not complicit in rounding up Jews

Marine Le Pen says that she is not like her father, the notorious fascist political leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the far-right National Front party (she excommunicated him from the party, but remained chummy enough to borrow millions from him for her presidential bid). Read the rest

Meet the self-taught coder exposing California politics to the sunlight

Watch this inspiring summary of Rob Pyers' journey from laid-off grocery bagger to major player in following the money in California politics. Read the rest

Old Paul Ryan gaffe goes viral: "We're not going to give up on destroying the health care system"

This brainfart from the Republican speaker of the house dates to 2013, not the aftermath of his failure to pass 2017's universally-loathed Obamacare replacement plan. Snopes:

WHAT'S TRUE House Speaker Ryan said he would not give up on destroying the United States' health care system.

WHAT'S FALSE The statement was a gaffe that was taken out of context, not an actual admission of intent. ...

Although Ryan did say “we’re not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system for the American people,” this was merely a gaffe, not a statement of intent. Ryan was referring to the Affordable Care Act and his efforts to not let that law destroy the health care system.

This is fair context, but "merely a gaffe" handwaves what makes gaffes interesting. Lack of intent is not intrinsic to gaffes. Indeed, the fact gaffes tend to reveal intent is embodied by a term a journalists use for political ones to distinguish them from lesser varieties: the Kinsley Gaffe.

The first appearance in print of “Kinsley’s Law of Gaffes” may have been on January 17, 2008, when Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in a post about a Democratic candidates’ debate in his New Yorker blog: No article or blog post of this kind can be complete without a reference to (Michael) Kinsley’s Law of Gaffes, which states that a gaffe occurs when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Perhaps this should be supplemented by the notion of a Deductive Slip, meaning something a politician says, however inadvertently, that can be shoehorned into a pre-existing “narrative.”

Kinsley himself points out that in political cases, the supposed gaffe is never animated by surprise. Read the rest

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