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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Lies, lies and more lies: This is not how innocent people act - The Washington Post

"Imagine for a moment that President Trump is right when he claims there is, in fact, no Russia scandal — because the entire thing is a hoax, a fraud, a witch hunt — and that neither he nor any of his family members, employees, or associates did anything wrong.

If that were the case, how would they all have conducted themselves as this controversy has gone on?
There’s one thing we should all be able to agree on: If they were all innocent, they would be telling the truth about what they did and didn’t do. That’s because the truth would exonerate them. What has happened, instead, is that one person after another, from the president on down, has lied about their actions, their contacts with Russia and the decisions they made.
In short, they’re acting like the guiltiest bunch of people since Richard M. Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President."
Lies, lies and more lies: This is not how innocent people act - The Washington Post

President Donald Trump Thinking Of Damage Control Instead Of The G20 | V...

Toobin: First day I thought Trump may not finish term

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cindy Hyde-Smith and the True Winner in Mississippi’s Senate Race | The New Yorker

"By 11:50 Eastern Time on Tuesday night, as the results rolled in from laggard precincts, it was clear that Cindy Hyde-Smith had defeated Mike Espy in the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi, but in a larger sense it was history that prevailed. That history—a notably unsightly one for which people ought to be ashamed but which some prefer to burnish into a facsimile of glory—has everything to do with why an inflammatory white Republican in Mississippi never really faced a serious political threat from a black establishment Democrat in the runoff election for the Senate seat.

A series of outrageous statements, regardless of whether they were calculated or clueless, was not sufficient to alienate enough white Republicans from Hyde-Smith. She blithely stated that she would be willing to sit in the front row of a public hanging, in a state whose history is marred by the spectacle murders of black people at the hands of racist white mobs. She “joked” that she was in favor of making it more difficult for certain people to vote in the state where, in 1966, the N.A.A.C.P. activist Vernon Dahmer was killed—his home was firebombed—for the crime of registering black people to vote. Earlier, she had praised Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, as “Mississippi history at its best!” (It was also reported last week that she had graduated from a “segregation academy,” created to sidestep the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, and sent her daughter to a school that had had the same origins.)

Given that Hyde-Smith couldn’t breach the fifty-per-cent mark in the general election, on November 6th—triggering the runoff between Hyde-Smith and Espy, the top two vote-getters—those blemishes led many people to ponder the possibilities of an upset. Some Mississippi Republicans worried that there might be a replay of the Doug Jones upset in Alabama’s Senate race, last year, which is part of why they asked Donald Trump to appear at two separate rallies for her on the day before the runoff election. But the fear wasn’t justified. Hyde-Smith and her Republican opponent accounted for fifty-eight per cent of the votes on November 6th. Barring a significant reason for Republicans to have stayed at home on Tuesday or, almost inconceivably, to have voted for a black Democrat, there was not a strong likelihood that an upset was in the offing. It’s worth recalling that Roy Moore was both unpopular with the Republican establishment and a national laughingstock for weeks leading up to the Alabama election last year. His scandals, particularly the allegations of improper behavior with underage girls (which he denied), emerged during the most intense stretch of the #MeToo moment and disturbed Americans across political lines. None of that applied to Cindy Hyde-Smith.

Espy employed a strategy that had been effective in other states with significant black populations: running up sizable margins with African-American voters, particularly urban ones, while peeling off a large-enough minority of white voters to secure victory. (It was used, for example, in Douglas Wilder’s successful 1989 gubernatorial bid in Virginia.) The strategy is not that different from the one that many white Democrats follow in statewide and national races, but the operative question for black candidates has been the extent to which they can appeal to white electorates. A handful of black Democrats won election in majority-white House districts during the midterms, but the strategy of winning super-majorities of the black vote combined with a sliver of the white electorate has remained the default for black candidates in statewide races. That’s why the gubernatorial defeats of Andrew Gillum, in Florida, and of Stacey Abrams, in Georgia, are so significant. Each was attempting to win over a large-enough share of white voters in highly polarized times and against opponents who played to racial resentments. Espy faced a particularly difficult situation. The population of Mississippi is thirty-eight-per-cent African-American, the highest percentage of any state in the Union, but racially polarized voting there meant it would be difficult to pull in enough white votes to win.

There are other implications. Early on in this exasperating moment that we call the Trump era, it was possible to take dull comfort in the fact that Trump’s ability to violate the norms of American politics appeared to be unique. In a Trumpian display during the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race, the Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie, crusaded against “illegal immigrants” and defended the state’s Confederate monuments even after white supremacists rampaged in Charlottesville, in the name of preserving a statue of Robert E. Lee. (One of their number is now on trial, accused of driving his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators and killing a thirty-two-year-old woman, Heather Heyer. He pleaded not guilty.) Gillespie lost to the Democrat, Ralph Northam.

Roy Moore cast himself in the mold of Trump during his doomed bid for a U.S. Senate seat. The lesson appeared to be that the precise formula of malignant charisma, bigotry, divisiveness, and misogyny that Trump used to great effect was not replicable. But the wisdom of that thinking has been called into question by some of the midterm results. Hyde-Smith’s victory means that, this month, three Southern white Republicans used cavalierly racist rhetoric in successful attempts to defeat three black Democrats in statewide races. In Florida, Ron DeSantis warned Floridians not to “monkey this up” by electing his rival. In Georgia, Brian Kemp billed himself as a Trump-like conservative who drove a large pickup truck so as to have room for the “criminal illegals” he might round up as he went about his day.

The pre-Trump Republican Party certainly relied on the support of whites who held racially bigoted views, but it struggled for plausible deniability in such matters. With Trump, the racism is out in the open, and so, in some cases, is the willingness of the electorate to tolerate it. The Mississippi race reinforced something that has been impossible to avoid but difficult to accept: Trump’s imprimatur actually helped some Republicans win elections. Nina Simone titled her racial-justice protest song “Mississippi Goddam.” The shame isn’t just that the song remains resonant fifty-four years after it was released but that, looking at the landscape of 2018, there are still so many other places she could sing about."

Cindy Hyde-Smith and the True Winner in Mississippi’s Senate Race | The New Yorker

Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor just came out swinging against policing for profit.










"Tyson Timbs just wants his car back. In 2015, Timbs was charged with selling heroin to undercover officers in Indiana to fund his opioid addiction. After he pleaded guilty, a private law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state to confiscate his Land Rover SUV, valued at $42,000. That’s more than four times the maximum $10,000 fine for Timbs’ crimes. But because he briefly carried drugs in the vehicle, the firm claimed that it could seize and sell it, turning over some of the profit to Indiana and pocketing the rest.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of civil asset forfeiture, also known as legalized theft. Every year, the federal and state governments obtain billions of dollars thanks to the work of prosecutors who expropriate property with some tenuous connection to a crime. Most states use the money to fund law enforcement, called policing for profit. Indiana also lets private attorneys file forfeiture claims against defendants, earning contingency fees and a share of the profit. That’s what happened to Timbs—so he sued, insisting that extreme forfeiture violates the Constitution. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court signaled that it agreed, with an unusual coalition of justices assailing the practice. A decision for Timbs could curb law enforcement abuses across the country, limiting one of the most scandalous components of our criminal justice system."

Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor just came out swinging against policing for profit.:

Toobin on Trump comment: Egregiously inappropriate

CNN obtains two of Trump’s answers to Mueller

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

White House prevents Gina Haspel from briefing Senate on Khashoggi murder | World news | The Guardian

Gina Haspel in Washington DC on 9 May. On a national security issue of such importance, it would be customary for a senior intelligence official to take part.

"The White House is preventing the CIA director, Gina Haspel, or any other intelligence official from briefing the Senate on the murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the defence secretary, James Mattis, are due to give a briefing on US relations with Saudi Arabia to the entire Senate behind closed doors on Wednesday, ahead of a vote that could cut off US support for Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen.

On a national security issue of such importance, it would be customary for a senior intelligence official to take part. On this occasion, the absence of the intelligence community is all the more glaring, as Haspel travelled to Istanbul to hear audio tapes of Khashoggi’s murder provided by Turkish intelligence, and then briefed Donald Trump.

Officials made it clear that the decision for Haspel not to appear in front of the committee came from the White House.

According to multiple reports, the tapes and other intelligence material point clearly to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as having ordered Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

The US president has asserted, however, that the CIA report is inconclusive – a claim greeted with scepticism by many senators who expected to hear first-hand from Haspel on Wednesday on a brutal killing that appears to have help sway several senators against continuing military support to Riyadh for the war in Yemen."

White House prevents Gina Haspel from briefing Senate on Khashoggi murder | World news | The Guardian

Has anti-Semitism returned with a vengeance?

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Faith The Substance Of Things Hoped For"

Manafort Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Mueller Says - The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, repeatedly lied to federal investigators in breach of a plea agreement he signed two months ago, the special counsel’s office said in a court filing late on Monday.

Mr. Manafort’s “crimes and lies” during a series of interviews with prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the F.B.I. relieve them of all promises they made to him in the plea agreement reached in mid-September, investigators wrote in the filing."

Manafort Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Mueller Says - The New York Times

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The average IQ of an American cop is 104, which is pretty low. This Monroe County police and prosecutors' IQs are obviously a lot lower. "A woman who spent more than three months in jail is suing a Georgia county after a roadside drug kit falsely labeled a bag of cotton candy as methamphetamine. According to a lawsuit obtained by local CBS affiliate WMAZ, Dasha Fincher is suing the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, two sheriff’s deputies and Sirchie ― the manufacturer of the test. Fincher was arrested on Dec. 31, 2016, after officers pulled over the vehicle she was traveling in because they believed its window tint was too dark. While the tint was not found to be in violation of the law, a plastic bag containing “a light blue substance, spherical in shape” was located “in the floorboard of the vehicle” following an extensive search. "Woman sues Monroe County for wrongful arrest

Trump’s white evangelical supporters are unchristian on race, immigration, and poverty.


They never had any since the evangelical movement began. "Polls show that on immigration, race, and poverty, white evangelical Protestants have surrendered moral judgment and social responsibility."

Trump’s white evangelical supporters are unchristian on race, immigration, and poverty.:

Brian Stelter: 2 Americas, 2 different news worlds

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ocasio-Cortez Makes Cuomo Look Dumb For 'How Do You Pay' Question

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy - The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end."

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy - The New York Times

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Long, Entwined History of America First and the American Dream | The Nation


"Whenever Trump and his allies rally around that phrase, pundits have been quick to point out that it originated in the isolationist movement before the Second World War. To be sure, the America First Committee popularized the saying in its campaign to keep the United States out of another “European war,” with celebrity pilot Charles Lindbergh serving as its spokesman and conservative publisher William Randolph Hearst throwing his weight behind it: The slogan “America First Should Be Every American’s Motto” soon ran across the masthead of every newspaper he owned. But as Churchwell writes, the isolationists’ campaign represented not the birth of “America First,” as many have claimed, but its death. (Or, at least, its death until Trump resurrected it.)

The phrase had appeared more than half a century before World War II to assert American independence and isolationism. By the mid-1890s, the Republican Party had adopted it as a campaign slogan: “America first; the rest of the world afterward.” The term appeared sporadically over the next few decades before emerging as a national catchphrase during the First World War, beginning with President Woodrow Wilson’s 1915 declaration that “our whole duty, for the present, at any rate, is summed up in the motto: ‘America First.’” Indeed, the phrase proved so popular that both parties’ candidates claimed it in 1916. Republican nominee Charles Evans Hughes ran on a slogan of “America First and America Efficient,” while Wilson stuck with the more efficient “America First.”

While the slogan called for isolationism in foreign affairs (a policy that Wilson would soon abandon in 1917), it also signaled a similar retreat from cosmopolitan politics at home. As the United States drifted into the First World War, nativists increasingly became concerned over the “hyphenates” in their midst: those who called themselves German-American, Irish-American, Italian-American, and the like. It was time, Wilson insisted in 1915, for every immigrant “to declare himself, where he stands. Is it America first or is it not?” Less than a decade later, the United States embraced drastic restrictions on immigration through the National Origins Act of 1924. As a Republican supporter in Congress explained, the policy simply reflected “the doctrine of America first for Americans.”

Not surprisingly, the Ku Klux Klan employed “America First” in much the same way, using it to demand nothing less than “100% Americanism”—which for the group meant 100 percent white Americanism. In 1921, a circular listed the “ABCs” of the KKK: “America first, benevolence, clannishness.” While the Klan was often called the “American Fascisti” during this era, the same arguments were advanced by more openly fascist organizations like William Pelley’s Silver Shirts, an American counterpart to Mussolini’s blackshirts and Hitler’s brownshirts. “The various colored shirt orders—the whole haberdashery brigade who play upon sectional prejudice—are sowing the seeds of fascism,” the writer James Waterman Wise warned. “It may come wrapped in a flag or a Hearst newspaper,” he added, with “America First” on the masthead.

The use of the two phrases came to a head with the advent of World War II. As Churchwell writes, the America First Committee used the exceptionalism of the American dream to argue for isolation from the rest of the world. “Americans! Wake Up!” one of the group’s ads implored. “In 1776, three million Americans dared to sign a Declaration of Independence, unsupported by any foreign navy, unafraid of any foreign economy. And the ‘American Dream’ was born.”

But even as the two phrases came together, they were soon riven apart. Weeks after Pearl Harbor, the America First Committee folded, with Lindbergh and its other leaders promising support for the coming conflict. While some Americans, a newspaper noted, were “still America Firsting” during the war, the phrase and the isolationist policies it represented quickly fell out of favor. By the end of the war, both had been largely discredited."

The Long, Entwined History of America First and the American Dream | The Nation:

Undocumented student earns Rhodes scholarship

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Cindy Hyde-Smith Stumbles In Senate Debate | All In | MSNBC

Why Big Law Is Taking On Trump Over Immigration - The New York Times

"Corporate lawyers at Paul Weiss, a prestigious Manhattan law firm, often spend their days scouring the fine print of client documents and government regulations. But for the past few months, they have been on a different search.

In the firm’s Midtown offices, about 75 lawyers have been trying to find more than 400 parents who were separated from their families at the southern border this year and then deported without their children.

Paul Weiss, where partners charge more than $1,000 an hour and clients include the National Football League and Citigroup, is looking for these parents, pro bono, as part of a federal American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the Trump administration over its family separation policy.

Big Law — a nexus of power where partners are often plucked for top government posts — has emerged as a fierce, and perhaps unexpected, antagonist to President Trump’s immigration agenda. While pro bono work is nothing new, over the past two years, major law firms have become more vocal and visible in pushing back against the administration’s policies.

Top firms have a well-earned reputation as cautious defenders of the establishment, and immigration is generally considered a safe area for pro bono work because it rarely conflicts with corporate clients. Still, both supporters and critics of the president’s agenda have noticed that large firms have been behind several of the biggest court battles.

“What’s different here is that the firms are on a wholesale basis, and dramatically, challenging the behavior of the White House,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and an expert in legal ethics.

Hogan Lovells, which has more than 2,500 lawyers and revenues that topped $2 billion last year, challenged the travel ban and is one of several firms opposing the administration’s plan to cut federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities.

Covington & Burling, a century-old Washington firm with clients such as Uber and JPMorgan Chase, has fought to preserve Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. WilmerHale, another prestigious Washington firm whose top clients include Facebook, represented Chicago in its own successful sanctuary cities case and filed a lawsuit to compel the administration to disclose data on family separations.

This month, Arnold & Porter, an international firm that has advised clients such as the World Bank, represented nonprofits in New York to block the administration’s plan to add a citizenship status question to the United States census.

“Major law firms have really stepped up,” said Becca Heller, the executive director of the nonprofit International Refugee Assistance Project.

Paul Weiss became involved in the A.C.L.U. lawsuit this summer, after the government revealed that among the more than 2,500 families separated at the border were hundreds of cases where parents had been sent home while their children stayed behind in the United States.

The Department of Justice, which has defended the administration in court challenges, declined to comment.

Lawyers at the firms say they are trying to defend the rule of law, not oppose the Trump administration. But critics have been quick to point out that major law firms, like elite law schools, tend to lean left. Their lawyers disproportionately support Democratic candidates, contribution records show.

“I can virtually guarantee you that if Hillary Clinton had won the White House, you would not see these same law firms filing numerous lawsuits against her administration in the name of the rule of law,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

Republican partners, Mr. von Spakovsky said, seldom find support for cases with a conservative bent.

Some firms filing suits are also home to vocal opponents of the Trump administration’s policies, such as Eric H. Holder Jr., a partner at Covington and the attorney general under former President Barack Obama.

On the for-profit side, however, some have represented members of the Trump administration and the president’s associates. Covington defended Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser. WilmerHale, the former firm of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was retained last year by Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Mr. Trump.

More firms started turning their pro bono efforts toward immigration under Mr. Obama, when large numbers of unaccompanied minors began streaming across the border, said Gary M. Wingens, the chairman of Lowenstein Sandler, a firm in New Jersey. “It was not viewed as particularly controversial or left-wing, bleeding-heart work,” he said.

But since Mr. Trump’s election, immigration has grown into a much more divisive and high-profile issue.

Major law firms have taken on sensitive cases before, notably when they provided pro bono representation to detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Still, there are limits. “You don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize your corporate client,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School. During the 2008 housing crisis, for example, many major firms did not represent foreclosure victims because they represented banks.

Immigration does not generally present such conflicts, but tangling with the White House in a public way comes with its own risks. It can rankle clients, who are sensitive to their public image and might have cases before the government.

Several of Paul Weiss’s top clients declined to comment. A spokesman for Citigroup, Edward Skyler, said jokingly, “Given how valuable their time is, which we can attest to, it’s very admirable.”

Paul Weiss, among the firms known to lean left, has a reputation for public interest work, including the 2013 Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage. Brad S. Karp, its chairman since 2008, has recently emerged as an outspoken leader. Thirty-four firms signed onto an op-ed he wrote with Mr. Wingens in The New York Times this summer denouncing family separations.

To date, Paul Weiss lawyers have spent more than $2 million in billable hours on the A.C.L.U. project, the firm said. Paul Weiss is not litigating the case but was appointed by the court to help the nonprofit find and represent deported parents. Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security under Mr. Obama, is a partner at the firm but is not involved in the effort.

“We’re reuniting families destroyed by the administration,” Mr. Karp said in an interview.

Emily Goldberg, pro bono counsel at Paul Weiss, orchestrated the firm’s response to family separations.

In June, Ms. Goldberg received a list of about 175 separated children who had been sent to agencies in New York. Catholic Charities, the organization assigned to provide the children with legal representation, could not find their parents. Ms. Goldberg enlisted the help of lawyers at several major firms, and when they could not find a number of the parents, they concluded the parents had been deported. She contacted Dentons, an international firm with offices in Central America, and its employees started looking for parents there.

Weeks later, the government revealed the existence of the deported parents. The judge in the suit, Dana Sabraw, ordered the government to reunite these families but asked the A.C.L.U. to lead the effort. Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the A.C.L.U. national Immigrants’ Rights Project, turned to Paul Weiss, which became the head of a committee that would work with three nonprofits to find the parents, he said.

“I think we did quickly realize that this was going to be an enormous task,” Mr. Gelernt said. The parents were in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Brazil and Romania.

For more than three months, Paul Weiss associates have been searching for parents and making calls to ask parents if they want their child sent home or placed with a sponsor in the United States.

There have been obstacles, said Steven C. Herzog, a senior lawyer. Some parents are from rural areas and do not have phones. About a third speak indigenous languages.

A few families have promised to fax forms, only to disappear, revealing later that the nearest town with a fax machine was several hours away, said BJ Jensen, the pro bono associate co-leading the search.

When a family cannot be found, or disappears, the lawyers send an investigator with the nonprofit Justice in Motion to look for them. Eriberto Pop Can, an investigator in Guatemala, said he can often guess where parents might be from their indigenous last names such as Choc, Pop and Pec.

The first family he found lived in Cobán, a city in the central highlands. The family had not heard anything about their 7-year-old son in three months, he said.

The involvement of large law firms in immigration-related lawsuits has not gone unnoticed by supporters of tighter restrictions."

“They view the influx of asylum seekers as some kind of humanitarian project,” Jessica M. Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, said of the lawyers. “Whereas a regular American sees it as an affront to our legal system.”

As of this month, Paul Weiss lawyers have contacted all but a handful of the roughly 400 deported parents. The government has released the children of about 260, half to parents in their home countries, half to sponsors in the United States.

But the work may continue.

The A.C.L.U. plans to use the lawyers’s case notes to try to show Judge Sabraw that a number of families were coerced into signing deportation orders, even though they faced danger at home, Mr. Gelernt said. If the judge agrees, those families should be allowed to come back to the United States and apply for asylum, he said.

“That’s our hope,” Mr. Herzog said. “It’s not just our hope,” he added. “It’s our job.”

Why Big Law Is Taking On Trump Over Immigration - The New York Times

Friday, November 16, 2018

Conservatives Lawyers Concerned With President Donald Trump, Rule Of Law...

Donald Trump Lashes Out As His Lawyers Prepared Answers For Robert Muell...

Opinion | How to Find Out What Facebook Knew - The New York Times

"By The Editorial Board, November 15th, 2018

Only Congressional hearings can answer what the company knew about Russian meddling — and when.

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

“Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself,” tweeted Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline on Wednesday night.

Mr. Cicilline, who is likely to chair the House of Representative’s Judiciary subcommittee that focuses on antitrust law, was responding to a Times investigation, one that painted a damning picture of how Facebook had handled the discovery of Russian misinformation campaigns on its platform. Based on interviews with more than 50 people, the investigation depicted Facebook’s top executives — including Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg — ignoring and downplaying the extent of Russian skulduggery, even going as far as to stall the publication of internal findings.

On Thursday, Facebook pushed back in a blog post that denied slow-rolling its response to foreign election interference.

But familiar questions remain unanswered: How much did Facebook know, and when?

The answers to those questions grow in size and seriousness as the breadth of the effort to befoul the democratic process becomes more and more apparent. In February, the special counsel Robert Mueller brought an indictment against an infamous Russian troll farm, the Internet Research Agency. In July, Mr. Mueller secured an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for their roles in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers and those of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The same officers used both Facebook and Twitter to promote the stolen documents and emails.

In early 2016, people inside Facebook had spotted suspicious Russian activity, which was reported to the F.B.I. But in the days after the 2016 election, Mr. Zuckerberg publicly dismissed the notion that misinformation on Facebook had influenced the election, calling it “a pretty crazy idea.”

Even before the Mueller indictments exposed the extent of a coordinated Russian misinformation campaign, suspicions ran high. Many people had questions; few people were in the position to demand answers. Mr. Zuckerberg was one of those few, and for some reason he did not.

Facebook could have approached its civic duty head-on, but instead busied itself with damage control. Joel Kaplan, the company’s vice president for global public policy, objected to the public dissemination of internal findings on the grounds that it would offend conservatives. The company also chose to strengthen its ties with Definers Public Affairs, a consulting firm founded by Republican political operatives, which then sought to discredit anti-Facebook activists by linking them to George Soros, a wealthy liberal donor who is often the subject of conspiracy theories. Facebook said it cut ties with Definers on Wednesday night.

Russian influence operations and viral false reports should have been anticipated byproducts of Facebook’s business model, which is based on selling advertising on the back of user engagement. In short, Facebook capitalizes on personal information to influence the behavior of its users, and then sells that influence to advertisers for a profit. It is an ecosystem ripe for manipulation.

Facebook is not the only tech company that demands regulatory scrutiny. But Facebook has, perhaps uniquely, demonstrated a staggering lack of corporate responsibility and civic duty in the wake of this crisis."

Opinion | How to Find Out What Facebook Knew - The New York Times

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Absentee ballots missing birth dates must be counted, judge orders

"A federal judge has ruled that Georgia counties must count absentee ballots even if the voter’s date of birth is incorrect or missing, and he is preventing the state from finalizing election results until that happens.

Although U.S. District Judge Steve Jones agreed with the Georgia Democratic Party and Stacey Abrams’ campaign on this issue, he ruled against them on two others. He will not require counties to accept absentee ballots with incorrect residence addresses or to accept provisional ballots cast by people who attempted to vote in a different county than where they are registered to vote."
Absentee ballots missing birth dates must be counted, judge orders

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Vote Counts in Florida and Georgia Bring a Touch of Fairness to a Dysfunctional Election Day | The New Yorker

"A week past the midterms—as citizens in Georgia and Florida fight to have every vote tallied—is a good time to remember that there is no explicit right of universal suffrage in the U.S. Constitution. From the start, the franchise was defined by who could not, rather than who could, vote. On Election Day, people who were unable to meet intentionally restrictive I.D. requirements, which disproportionately affect people of color, were given provisional ballots. This was just the latest chapter in a long history of voter suppression. And, when these provisional ballots were contested immediately after the election, as Republican lawmakers, led by President Donald Trump, began to call fraud on efforts to insure the most fundamental premise of a free and fair election—that every vote counts and counts equally—that chapter grew a lot longer. Although it is not clear what impact these false accusations of voter fraud may have in future elections, what they expose, right now, is a blatant attack on democracy itself.

Prior to the election, Brian Kemp, the secretary of state of Georgia, who was in charge of overseeing his own election while running for governor, repudiated ongoing efforts to restore the one and a half million voters his office eliminated from the rolls between 2012 and 2016, many because of small discrepancies in their addresses, names, or voter histories. Kemp resigned as secretary of state on Thursday, after declaring himself the winner of Georgia’s gubernatorial race, and Governor Nathan Deal appointed a crony, Robyn Crittenden, to take Kemp’s place. On Sunday, Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s challenger, filed a class-action suit to delay certification of the election until every ballot is counted. Late Monday night, in response to a different suit, this one filed on the eve of the election by the Washington watchdog organization Common Cause, the district-court judge Amy Totenberg enjoined the Georgia secretary of state from certifying the election until this Friday. Among other things, Totenberg’s order required Crittenden to provide rolling updates on rejected provisional ballots and to set up a phone line for voters to check their ballots’ status. Meanwhile, the Kemp campaign issued a statement calling “Stacey Abram’s antics . . . a disgrace to democracy.” President Trump weighed in, too, saying on Twitter that Kemp “ran a great race in Georgia—he won! It is time to move on.”

Trump has also inserted himself in the Florida elections, where the races for governor and Senate are so close that they have triggered a recount. “The Florida election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted. To be clear, there is no evidence that ballots have been forged, and, if any are missing, it may be because, like the hundreds discovered in a Miami-Dade postal facility over the weekend, they were never delivered. Scott, the governor of Florida, who is a fraction of a per cent ahead of Bill Nelson in the race for Senate, has used his current office to call on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate “rampant fraud” in South Florida and to urge state sheriffs to impound voting machines. In a letter to Scott requesting that he remove himself from the recount process, leaders at the local chapters of the League of Women Voters and Common Cause wrote that the governor has “intentionally politicized governance of the elections,” and pointed out that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not found any indication of election fraud. On Monday, the election integrity organization, Protect Democracy, filed suit in federal court to have Scott removed from exercising any authority over the election or the recount. Meanwhile, Scott has fired off five lawsuits of his own, including one against the Broward County election supervisor for counting absentee ballots too slowly. “No ragtime group of liberal activists or lawyers from D.C. will be allowed to steal this election from the voters in this great state,” he said at a press conference announcing the suit. (It was dismissed on Monday.)

The rancor and wrangling in Georgia and Florida are the exceptions, but the rule turns out to be that voters across the country encountered impediments to voting on Tuesday, including prolonged wait times, intimidation, and broken voting machines. A woman named Michelle from Porter County, Indiana, posted a long thread on Twitter about her experience as a first-time poll worker that hit many of the discordant notes we’d been hearing from all over the country on Election Day: polls that couldn’t open on time because poll workers hadn’t shown up; polling places that didn’t open at all; missing ballots; ballots that weren’t being counted. The Election Protection Coalition, which runs the largest nonpartisan voter hotline in the country, logged more than thirty thousand calls from voters across the country experiencing problems.

With few exceptions, American elections are overseen by the country’s 3,141 counties and their equivalents, which in turn oversee more than 174,000 precincts. The precincts themselves are watched over by volunteer poll workers, who are tasked with turning school gyms and church basements into one-day civic hubs equipped with technology few of them understand. (Most are retirees; twenty-four per cent of them are over seventy-one.) The amateur quality to the whole endeavor is by design: it’s a way to insure that, at its core, American democracy is local. This was beneficial early Tuesday morning when people were sent away from a Philadelphia church because voting machines were malfunctioning. Once the machines were fixed, poll workers phoned the people who had left to tell them to come back. “They were all neighbors,” Micah Sims, the executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, told me. “They knew who hadn’t been able to vote.”

But untrained (or poorly trained) poll workers were also responsible for sending voters to the wrong precincts, for telling people they had already voted when they hadn’t, for refusing language assistance to non-native speakers, and for aggressively challenging voters’ credentials. In Florida, when a Puerto Rican woman presented her U.S. passport as I.D., she was told, wrongly, that she couldn’t vote because she wasn’t from this country. In Texas, an election worker was heard making racist remarks after challenging the veracity of a voter’s address. In her Twitter account, Michelle, from Indiana, reported that her requests for poll-worker training were ignored. Even if that weren’t so, it’s unlikely that she, or many others supervising elections, would have had the expertise to fix the broken voting machines and jammed scanners that bedeviled numerous precincts—eighteen polling places in Philadelphia alone. Malfunctioning voting machines, most of which are well past their use-by date, were predictable. Many will still be in service in 2020, either because there is no money for replacements, or because, as the election security expert Harri Hursti told me last August, counties are locked into long-term vender contracts.

Four days before the midterms, the secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, told the Council on Foreign Relations, “This is going to be the most secure election we’ve ever had.” On election day, D.H.S. set up a “virtual situation room” in Arlington, Virginia, with a hotline that election officials could call to report problems. Representatives from the major voting-machine manufacturers gathered in an unclassified area along with staffers from Facebook, Microsoft, the National Association of Secretaries of State, and the National Association of Election Officials. (High-level threats were handled in a classified briefing room.) For nearly two decades, Hursti and his colleagues have been ringing the alarm about the insecurity of computerized voting systems, like the ones used in Georgia. Voting machines, centralized tabulators, wireless systems for sending data, electronic poll books, and voter-registration databases are all vulnerable to various kinds of hacking. The 2016 election was proof of concept. This year, Christopher Deluzio, a lawyer with the Democracy Program at N.Y.U.’s Brennan Center for Justice, was an observer in the unclassified section of D.H.S.’s situation room. “It was useful to have the venders there when calls came in about problems with electronic poll books, and especially some of the older machines and software,” he said. But, he cautioned, “it is probably premature to assess how secure the election really was.”

One new security feature touted by D.H.S. was the addition of sensors designed to detect malicious activity on the election networks of forty states and sixty municipalities. (In 2016, twenty-nine states had them.) Although network sensors might have helped secure the election, they might not have helped very much. A Government Accountability Office test found that the sensors failed to detect ninety-four per cent of known malware. Another study showed them failing ninety-nine per cent of the time. Just as crucially, sensors cannot detect insider hacks, especially when those insiders have administrative access to electronic poll books, voter-registration databases, and ballot programming software.

This was acknowledged in Judge Totenberg’s Monday evening order, which noted that “according to Plantiff’s Complaint, information in the State’s voter registration server, used at the polls to determine whether voters are eligible to vote, is vulnerable to multiple security breaches and exploitable by manipulation of voter data. . . . Plantiff further alleges that the Secretary’s knowing maintenance of an unsecure, unreliable voter registration database increased the risk that eligible voters have been and will be unlawfully removed from the State’s voter registration database or will have their voter registration information unlawfully manipulated or mismanaged that prevents them from casing a regular ballot.” As Susan Greenhalgh, the policy director of the National Election Defense Coalition told me in an e-mail recently, “While we gird against the possibility of foreign hackers attacking our election infrastructure, we also can’t ignore the possibility of corrupt insiders tampering with the election systems.”

There is a school of thought that American democracy is harmed by talk of election hacking and system vulnerabilities because these will discourage people from voting. (Apparently, this was one reason that President Obama did not immediately inform the American public about Russian attempts to infiltrate the election system). But this turns out not to be true. A Harris poll from September, which was commissioned by the security firm HackerOne, found that people were actually more likely to vote in the midterms because of their fear of hacking. Last week’s record turnout at least partly confirmed this.

Still, long lines, broken voting machines, and discriminatory I.D. laws are known deterrents that will continue to dog American elections until they are systematically addressed. States actively committed to increasing voter participation, such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Vermont, have passed a series of simple voting reforms, including same-day registration, automatic voter registration when getting a driver’s license, early voting, and enabling voting by mail by lifting restrictions on who can obtain an absentee ballot. Last Tuesday, a majority of citizens in Florida chose to restore voting rights to felons, and, in Michigan, a package of reforms popularly known as “promote the vote” garnered a sixty-six per cent victory, both cases demonstrating the national appetite for an electoral system that is as it is supposed to be: free and fair.

Even as the recounts continue in Florida and Georgia, the newly invigorated Democratic members of the House of Representatives have promised that their first act in the new Congress will be legislation to make voting easier and more inclusive. This is aspirational. It has no chance of passage in the Senate, where Republican members know that maintaining a majority will mean disenfranchising a sizable portion of the body politic. And that is to say nothing of a President who is unacquainted with the practice of democracy."

The Vote Counts in Florida and Georgia Bring a Touch of Fairness to a Dysfunctional Election Day | The New Yorker

Saturday, November 03, 2018

House and Senate Latest, Obama Asks a Question, Beto Video: 3 Days to Go - The New York Times










"Obama poses a question about anger
By the fourth or fifth heckler, former President Barack Obama had an observation.

“Why is it,” he began, at a campaign rally Friday in Miami, “that the folks who won the last election are so mad all the time?”
After his own victory, “at least my side felt pretty good,” Mr. Obama continued. “It tells you something.”

House and Senate Latest, Obama Asks a Question, Beto Video: 3 Days to Go - The New York Times:

Court Rejects Brian Kemp's Attempt To Block New Citizen Voters | Rachel ...