Every couple of weeks speculation surfaces that Vladimir Putin has the goods on Donald Trump and is somehow blackmailing him. The same speculators go on to wonder what it is that Putin has.
It is not women. Trump may well have slept with women in Russia while married, but no one really cares. His supporters accept that he is a philanderer. After all, here is a guy who boasted about the size of his penis in a presidential debate. Of course he is going to use it any chance he gets.
Steve Bannon was right. What Putin has over Trump is money laundering. Specifically, Russian money. It will probably come out that either Trump’s business or his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s business depended on laundered Russia money, breaking all sorts of laws.
Unfortunately for Putin, using this blackmail evidence carries some costs. He can’t just say that Trump was money laundering. He has to do it indirectly, which will probably mean sacrificing one of his oligarch allies and charging them with Russian crimes that would then highlight the money trail and expose Trump’s laundering.
In addition Putin’s leverage may decline over time. Special counsel Robert Mueller will likely put it all together on his own and charge Trump’s and/or Kushner’s organizations with money laundering. Of course, Putin retains some leverage in that he could still be able to supply some details that make Mueller’s case airtight.
Any way you look at it, in all probability Trump’s son or his son-in-law is going to need a presidential pardon.
Once we have self driving cars, will there be any privacy left? Probably not. We will have to go to extreme measures to prevent Grandma Google and Frère Facebook from following every journey.
It used to be that you were anonymous in a cab. The driver didn’t know your name and you paid with cash.
Then they started letting people pay for cabs with credit cards, and your anonymity was left at the curb. Still, they weren’t really tracking where you went.
Then Uber came along and tracked everything. Where you came from, where you went, what time of day you traveled and more. But if you didn’t take Uber and drove yourself you still had a chance at privacy.
Self driving cars are likely to be unlocked by a phone app, so the car will know who you are. The car manufacturers are going to track how and where the car drives itself to protect themselves from liability if there is an accident. At this point, the car will know your identity and where and when it went. Do you really think they won’t be linked?
Even if you drive the car manually, all of the sensors required to track you will still be there. Services like Amazon’s Alexa will be riding shotgun with you. Do you really think you’ll be able to turn them off? Even if you could, your insurance company will probably give you a big break on rates if you leave them on.
Especially if you buy it from Amazon Auto Insurance.
The discussion about guns has unfortunately been twisted into a right vs. left identity politics debate: if you are on the left you are ‘against’ guns and if you are on the right you are ‘for’ them. While this is nonsense, it is a testimony to the effectiveness of the NRA that they have been able to turn the question of gun ownership into “us vs. them” at a gut level.
The reality is that the issue is not about whether you are for or against guns. The issue should be about responsible ownership. No one is against cars, even though they kill tens of thousands of people every year. Ooops – cars don’t kill people, drivers kill people. The NRA is right – guns don’t kill people, shooters kill people.
If you want to drive a car, you need to prove that you are a proficient driver. The same should be true for guns. Local governments administer driving tests and issue driving permits (licenses). They should do the same for firearms. Oh wait, they already do, but only if you want to carry a concealed weapon. This should be expanded to owning any gun. In addition, it should be tightened up. In some jurisdictions all you have to do to get a permit is squeeze one round off and you are “qualified.”
You cannot drive if you are under age, mentally impaired or a convicted bad driver. They same is true for guns – the federal government has a program to check the background of gun purchasers. It is imperfect and should apply to private sales, but it exists.
The one thing that has no parallel in gun ownership is insurance. Drivers are required to have a minimum amount of liability insurance in case their car damages a person or property. The private sector provides this insurance.
The private sector offers insurance to gun owners, but it is about replacing their guns if they are stolen which is not the same thing. Gun owners should be required to secure their guns, and the private sector should sell insurance to cover this.
High risk drivers have high premiums. Gun owners with a high risk of being careless about securing their firearms would also have high premiums. How do you define high risk? Let the private sector work it out the same way they worked out who are high risk drivers.
The bottom line is that gun owners should have to show that they have firearms securement insurance, just like drivers have to show that they have automobile liability insurance.
If Donald Trump ever snaps, and that is a very big if, it will likely be on Twitter. Trump will send a series of rambling tweets late at night or or early morning.
Barely coherent, his Twitter rant will do little to help his cause and instead do it significant harm. Trump may backtrack a bit once his advisors get to him later that day. But his supporters will get the message. When it is time to take to the streets, they will be there.
Jeff Sessions is finally redeeming himself. It only took a year of prodding and insults from boss Donald Trump to get Jeff Sessions mobilized.
First he headed all the way out to California to pick a fight over immigration with the “sanctuary state”. Any fight with California is ridiculously easy to start and such red meat for Trump supporters that it boggles the mind that Sessions waited so long to start one.
Once he finally did, the results were worth it. He put the focus on California which was a perfect set up for Trump’s trip out there the following week. They protesters were all charged up and Trump got exactly the press and messaging he was looking for. Great teamwork.
But Sessions was not done. Friday he fired the FBI’s Andrew McCabe for Trump. If one follows the rule that the the more Trump tweets about a subject the more threatened he feels, then Trump is feeling extremely threatened by Robert Mueller’s investigation. He may not be able to get rid of Mueller, but discrediting every one of Mueller’s witness could be good enough, and Sessions just gave him a big hand in doing so.
One had to wonder what is going through Sessions’ mind. On the one had, he probably figures that if he does not become a more forceful Trump supporter he will be on the way out, like Rex Tillerson. On the other hand, as Attorney General he is the key point person in the Administration on defending the Constitution and representing the law enforcement community, which is probably why he took the job in the first place.
Sessions was able to avoid tough decisions at first by recusing himself and keeping a low profile. Understandably, it pissed Trump the loyalty addict off that Sessions wasn’t going out whole hog for him. Sessions had to make a choice – help Trump discredit the FBI and possibly end run the Constitution or be fired. He made his choice and Trump added another pawn to his collection.
Back in the 1990’s Microsoft was the Wicked Witch of the tech world. The techies were upset that the company made substandard software and then forced everyone to use it. For example, Internet Explorer was not as good as Netscape Navigator, but because Microsoft had tremendous clout in the market it could cut business deals that made it hard for consumers to use anything else and muscled Netscape out of business.
The government finally got involved went after Microsoft and got very close to breaking the company up, just like it did with Ma Bell in the early 1980s.
The current captains of tech learned their lesson. Google, Facebook and Twitter make pretty decent software. More importantly, they (mostly) don’t cut business deals that force you use it.
Instead, they work on your addictions. The employ behavioral physiologists and their techniques to get you hooked on their services. The smartphone and ubiquitous internet was a godsend to these companies, because you can feed your addiction to these services anywhere, not just at your desk – in your car, walking down the street, in the toilet, .
What they did not learn from Microsoft’s experience is that anything that gets too big and indispensable will eventually generate backlash. First, politicians from the left railed against these companies for allowing themselves to be used by fake news to influence the election of Donald Trump. Next, politicians from the right are upset that these companies are over correcting.
When both sides of the political aisle have you in their sights, it cannot be good.
It is not clear what the politicians will come up with, but it is clear that the underlying problem is the addictive nature of these services. If people were not so compelled to use them, they wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
Maybe a Surgeon General’s Warning would help:
Social media and search are highly addictive. Quitting greatly reduces serious risks to your mental and political health.