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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.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Mike Bloomberg under fire for past comments on race

Opinion | The Equality That Wasn’t Enough - The New York Times

An 1870 print illustrating rights granted by the 15th Amendment.

Please read this.  Most Americans have little knowledge of American history.  It is not sadly,taught in most schools, either in the North or the South.

"Shortly after acquitting President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Senate Republicans moved to confirm two nominees for the federal judiciary. The first, 38-year-old Andrew Brasher, was elevated from a Federal District Court in Alabama to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The second, Cory Wilson, is a 49-year-old state appellate judge in Mississippi. He’s being considered for a federal district judgeship in the state.

Like all Trump nominees, they are conservatives. But they stand out for their hostility to voting rights. In 2013, Brasher filed a brief in support of Shelby County, Ala., in Shelby County v. Holder. Congress, he wrote, did not have the power to reimpose the “burden” of federal election supervision, as it did in its 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. “It is not a necessary and appropriate exercise of federal power under the different conditions present today,” he added. The Supreme Court agreed, ending federal “pre-clearance” for new voting laws in several states and allowing new forms of voter suppression.

Wilson also took a dim view of election oversight in his state, calling instead for strict regulations on voting. The federal government, he wrote in a 2013 op-ed, “might spend less time chasing agendas that aren’t there and more time investigating the voter fraud and other irregularities.”

There’s an irony to the fact that it was these two nominees who were on the docket. This month is the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. The last of the three Reconstruction amendments, it gave black men the right to vote. It sparked a revolution and a backlash, as racist white politicians used loopholes in the amendment (as well as outright violence) to undermine and eliminate black political power in the 1870s and ’80s. By the end of the 19th century, the 15th Amendment was a dead letter throughout the South.

But it didn’t have to be. There was an alternative vision that would have created a far more expansive right to suffrage — an alternative that almost became law. Yes, there would still have been a backlash. And yes, none of the debated visions gave suffrage to women. But they still created a broader right to vote, which, because of its scope, would have been a more secure right to vote. The 15th Amendment, in short, could have been much more than it was.

The version we have says that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” and that “the Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

This was close to the original language, introduced by Representative George S. Boutwell of Massachusetts, a Radical Republican and staunch proponent of civil rights for black Americans. But other Radicals thought the federal government could go further than enfranchising black men. Just a few weeks after Boutwell introduced his resolution, Representative Samuel Shellabarger offered an alternative, which went beyond race-based discrimination to essentially guarantee the franchise to all men:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall deny or abridge to any male citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one years or over, and who is of sound mind, an equal vote at all elections in the State in which he shall have such actual residence as shall be prescribed by law, except to such as have engaged or may hereafter engage in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, and to such as shall be duly convicted of treason, felony, or other infamous crime.

This is still a negative conception of rights — restrictions on what the state can do versus entitlements for the people themselves. And yet, as the historian Alexander Keyssar notes in “The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States,” Shellabarger’s amendment would essentially have ended “property, tax, nativity and literacy requirements” in addition to racial discrimination. This was the whole point. As Shellabarger noted, the Boutwell proposal still “leaves to the States the power to make discriminations as to who shall vote,” which could be turned against the formerly enslaved. “The body of this race, made ignorant and destitute by our wrong, may substantially all be now excluded from the elective franchise under a qualification of intelligence or property,” he continued. “Let it remain possible, under our amendment, to still disfranchise the body of the colored race in the late rebel States and I tell you it will be done.”

Shellabarger’s plea fell on deaf ears. Most Republicans favored black male suffrage, but still wanted restrictions on other groups, including European immigrants and Chinese laborers. A sweeping amendment for the “elective franchise” would have opened the door to a truly universal suffrage. It was too much. The House killed his amendment in favor of Boutwell’s.

Debate continued in the Senate, where Republicans split along the same lines. Senator William Stewart, a conservative Republican from Nevada, introduced a narrow amendment similar to Boutwell’s and urged immediate adoption. “This question can never rest until it is firmly disposed of,” he said. “It must be done. It is the only measure that will really abolish slavery. It is the only guarantee against peon laws and against oppression.”

On the other end was Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts (later vice president under Ulysses S. Grant), who, like Shellabarger, thought there was more to do than simply end racial restrictions. “Let us give to all citizens equal rights, and then protect everybody in the United States in the exercise of those rights,” Wilson said. “When we attain that position we shall have carried out logically the ideas that lie at the foundation of our institutions; we shall be in harmony with our professions; we shall have acted like a truly republican and Christian people.” Until we do that, he continued, “We are in a false position, an illogical position — a position that cannot be defended.”

To that end, Wilson’s amendment specified, “There shall be no discrimination in any State among the citizens of the United States in the exercise of the elective franchise in any election therein, or in the qualifications of office in any State, on account of race, color, nativity, property, education, or religious belief.” He, like virtually every other Radical Republican, allowed for discrimination by age and gender. But this amendment, unlike the alternative, would create a broad right to vote and hold office. It would also be inclusive of everyone who might come to the United States.

“I am in favor of the proposition of the senator from Massachusetts because it invites into our country everybody,” Senator Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania said, “the Negro, the Irishman, the German, the Frenchman, the Scotchman, the Englishman, and the Chinaman. I will welcome every man, whatever may be the country from which he comes, who by his industry can add to our national wealth.”

Wilson faced opposition. Democrats opposed any federal regulation of voting, while moderate and conservative Republicans still wanted restrictions on immigrants as well as literacy and property requirements. He prevailed, however, and the Senate approved his more sweeping amendment in revised form.

The House was less kind. It rejected the Senate resolution, beginning a tortured back-and-forth between the two chambers as they tried to accommodate each other. Eventually, congressional leadership appointed a conference committee to hash out the differences. The committee, which included Boutwell and Stewart, produced an amendment almost identical to their original proposals. Wilson and his allies were outraged. But time was running short — this was a lame duck session, scheduled to end the next month. The Radicals backed down and, on Feb. 26, 1869, Congress passed the conference report. The 15th Amendment was ready for ratification. A year later, it was on the books.

This was a narrow right to suffrage. Even still, as the historian Eric Foner argues in “The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution,” it was a “radical change in the political system.” It affirmed that black American men were now “equal members of the body politic” and opened the door to truly universal suffrage.

Unfortunately, that would have to wait. It’s not just that the 15th Amendment neglected women — setting off a schism in the women’s rights movement, between those who supported the amendment and those who didn’t — but that by rejecting the broad language favored by the more radical of the Republicans, Congress allowed restrictions based on property, literacy and native birth. And just as Shellabarger predicted, white Southerners rejected black enfranchisement at their first opportunity.

Through terror and violence, former Confederates toppled Reconstruction governments. With power in hand, they resurrected white supremacy and suppressed black voting. The Supreme Court could have been an obstacle to these efforts to reimpose the conditions of slavery. But it took a narrow view of the Reconstruction amendments, including the 15th. It allowed the white South to build impossibly high barriers to black voting, using the exact tools anticipated by proponents of a more extensive right to vote.

In 1890, Congress attempted to pass a law for federal supervision of congressional elections. However, Foner notes, “it fell victim to Republican infighting and a southern filibuster in the Senate.” As the new century dawned, voting rights for most African-Americans were dead, killed by white hostility in the South and white indifference in the North.

But this wasn’t inevitable. The Wilson amendment nearly became the 15th Amendment, and in that world, there might have been more energy for black rights — for voting rights writ large — in the face of Southern intransigence. Americans would not have had to wait until the 1960s to fully exercise their right to the franchise. We would still have anti-voting reactionaries, but they would have had to work harder to make their ideas a reality.

There’s a chance I’m thinking too small. An America that guarantees the right to vote and hold office for blacks and immigrants in 1870 develops very differently from the one that doesn’t. Women’s suffrage might have come quicker. The idea of using government to ameliorate economic divides might have caught on earlier — the inequality of the Gilded Age might have been tamed before it ran out of control.

“No matter how unpopular it is, no matter what it costs, no matter whether it brings victory or defeat, it is our duty to hope on and struggle on and work on until we make the humblest citizen of the United States the peer and the equal in rights and privileges of every other citizen of the United States,” Wilson declared in defense of his amendment. There’s always reaction — and there will always be backlash. But imagine if 150 years ago we had taken a longer step toward universal suffrage. It might have put us closer to, as Wilson put it, “the complete triumph of equality and justice” — or at least a lot closer than we are now."

Opinion | The Equality That Wasn’t Enough - The New York Times

Talking Tech and 2020 with Bill Gates!

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Judge Rejects New York’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy- The New York Times

Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
A federal judge ruled on Monday that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city, repudiating a major element in the Bloomberg administration’s crime-fighting legacy.
The use of police stops has been widely cited by city officials as a linchpin of New York’s success story in seeing murders and major crimes fall to historic lows. The police say the practice has saved the lives of thousands of young black and Hispanic men by removing thousands of guns from the streets.
But the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, found that the Police Department resorted to a “policy of indirect racial profiling” as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers’ routinely stopping “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.”
The judge called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms, including the use of body-worn cameras for some patrol officers, though she was “not ordering an end to the practice of stop-and-frisk.”
In her 195-page decision, Judge Scheindlin concluded that the stops, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg angrily accused the judge of deliberately denying the city “a fair trial” and said the city would file an appeal. 
Striking a defiant tone, Mr. Bloomberg said, “You’re not going to see any change in tactics overnight.” He said he hoped the appeal process would allow the current stop-and-frisk practices to continue through the end of his administration because “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying.” 
The judge found that for much of the last decade, patrol officers had stopped innocent people without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. But her criticism went beyond the conduct of police officers.
“I also conclude that the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” she wrote, citing statements that Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, have made in defending the policy.
Judge Scheindlin ordered a number of remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters. She also ordered a “joint remedial process” — in essence, a series of community meetings — to solicit public comments on how to reform the department’s tactics.
The judge named Peter L. Zimroth, a partner in Arnold & Porter L.L.P., and a former corporation counsel and prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the United States Constitution. The installation of a monitor will leave the department under a degree of judicial control that is certain to shape the policing strategies under the next mayor.
Judge Scheindlin’s decision grapples with the legacy of Terry v. Ohio, a 1968 ruling by the Supreme Court, which held that stopping and frisking was constitutionally permissible under certain conditions. But she said that changes to the way the New York Police Department employed the practice were needed to ensure that the street stops were carried out in a manner that “protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.”
The judge found that the New York police were too quick to deem suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop.
“Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites,” she wrote.
She noted that officers routinely stopped people partly on the basis of “furtive movements,” a category that officers have testified might encompass any of the following: being fidgety, changing directions, walking in a certain way, grabbing at a pocket or looking over one’s shoulder.
“If officers believe that the behavior described above constitutes furtive movement that justifies a stop, then it is no surprise that stops so rarely produce evidence of criminal activity,” Judge Scheindlin wrote.
She found that in their zeal to identify concealed weapons, officers sometimes stopped people on the grounds that the officer observed a bulge in the person’s pocket; often it turned out that the bulge was caused not by a gun but by a wallet.
“The outline of a commonly carried object such as a wallet or cellphone does not justify a stop or frisk, nor does feeling such an object during a frisk justify a search,” she ruled.
She emphasized what she called the “human toll of unconstitutional stops,” noting that some of the plaintiffs testified that their encounters with the police left them feeling that they did not belong in certain areas of the city. She characterized each stop as “a demeaning and humiliating experience.”
“No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life,” she wrote. 
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Lalit Clarkson, 31, a union organizer, said after the ruling that “the stop-and-frisk policy criminalizes a whole race and community of people, just for going to work, going to get some food, going on a train to go downtown.”
The decision, he said, represents the legal system’s validation of what the black community has known for a long time: that the stop-and-frisk tactics rely on racial profiling.
“What we know, in our community, to be the truth, has never before gone through a massive legal process” and been “shown, point by point, step by step” to be true, he said. 
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg responds to a federal judge’s finding that the controversial police practice violated the constitutional rights of minorities.
The judge’s ruling, in Floyd v. City of New York, a 2008 class-action lawsuit that represents the broadest legal challenge to the department’s practices, follows a two-month nonjury trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan earlier this year. Her decision cites testimony of about a dozen black or biracial men and one woman who described being stopped, as well as the conclusions of statistical experts who studied police paperwork describing some 4.43 million stops between 2004 and the middle of 2012.
But the stops were not the end of the problem, Judge Scheindlin found. After officers stopped people, they often conducted frisks for weapons, or searched the subjects’ pockets for contraband, like drugs, without any legal grounds for doing so. Also, she found that during police stops, blacks and Hispanics “were more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.”
About 83 percent of the stops between 2004 and 2012 involved blacks and Hispanics, even though those two demographics make up just slightly more than 50 percent of the city’s residents. Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly have explained that disparity by saying it mirrored the disproportionate percentage of crimes committed by young minority men. But Judge Scheindlin dismissed the Police Department’s rationale.
“This might be a valid comparison if the people stopped were criminals,” she wrote, explaining that there was significant evidence that the people being stopped were not criminals. “To the contrary, nearly 90 percent of the people stopped are released without the officer finding any basis for a summons or arrest.”
Rather, Judge Scheindlin found, the stops overwhelmingly involved minority men because police commanders had come to see them as “the right people” to stop.
“It is impermissible to subject all members of a racially defined group to heightened police enforcement because some members of that group are criminals,” she wrote.
Mr. Bloomberg pledged that lawyers for the city, in appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, would argue that the judge was biased against the police. As evidence, he cited the fact that the judge, who has overseen numerous stop-and-frisk cases over the last decade, had encouraged the plaintiffs to steer the Floyd case into her courtroom by marking it as related to an earlier case she had overseen.
The mayor said the judge did “not understand how policing works” and had misinterpreted what the Constitution allowed. "

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Mike Bloomberg panders to win black vote - New York Daily News. Bloomberg is a racist liar.

Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks during a service at the Vernon American Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Okla.

"Mike Bloomberg is pandering.

Everybody knows Mike Bloomberg is pandering. Even Mike Bloomberg knows that everybody knows that Mike Bloomberg is pandering. Yet he panders anyway. Why?

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Because he’s the Pander Man.
He was pandering last year when he stood in the pulpit of a Brooklyn church and said “I’m sorry” for a racially offensive and unconstitutional policy of stopping and frisking black and brown men in every borough when he was mayor of New York.

He was pandering two weeks ago when he opened a campaign satellite office in the heart of Harlem where his own police officers routinely harassed people of color because his misguided policy told them to.
He was pandering a few days ago when he met with Stacey Abrams, who almost became the nation’s first black woman governor, in Georgia to discuss voting rights, years after he manipulated himself into a third term as mayor.
And he’s pandering now.
After stopping and frisking the black community for more than a decade, Bloomberg suddenly loves black men more than Kim Kardashian.
This summer he will be at your family reunion and every black family reunion in America. He is bringing the potato salad and it will be the best thing you ever tasted.
Mike Bloomberg is Jerry Maguire. He is on the phone behind his desk and he is shouting at the top of his lungs: “I love black people!”
Why? Because the road to the Democratic nomination for president goes through America’s black community, and every Democrat running for the White House knows it.
But no one in the race, no one, is trying harder to win — or buy — the black vote than Mike Bloomberg.
And sadly he has been able to get away with the shameless pandering because black people are on board with his end goal, which is to remove Donald Trump from the White House.
In other words, keep your eyes on the prize.
And to be honest, I was no more interested in what Bloomberg had to say about black people than I was about Bill Cosby on the subject. But I listened anyway, and I like some of what I heard.
“You don’t reverse hundreds of years of theft and exploitation only with modern-day attempts to legislate equal rights, especially when those rights are routinely undermined by racism and inequalities that still exist,” Bloomberg said Sunday during a major speech on race relations and black empowerment ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.
“The 14th Amendment that gave citizenship to black Americans and overturned the Dred Scott decision was a historic milestone for America, but it was also a dead letter for many of the very people it was meant to protect and empower.”
Bloomberg delivered the speech in Tulsa, Okla., where, in 1921, America witnessed the deadliest and most destructive act of racial violence in U.S. history. During the riot that broke out, white mobs destroyed a thriving black Tulsa business district, killing between 100 and 300 people.
Bloomberg, a billionaire many times over, admits that he took advantage of opportunities that have been denied to black people “for hundreds of years.”
To help make amends, the candidate is proposing a $70 billion investment in the country’s “100 most disadvantaged neighborhoods,” along with steps to create 1 million new black homeowners and 100,000 new black-owned businesses.
“I believe that this is a country where anything is possible,” Bloomberg said. “And I believe that we have the power to build a future where color and capital are no longer related.”
Bloomberg, 77, may have just changed the game, even if he is late to the party. He is still the Pander Man, but at least he is pandering with ideas and money."

Mike Bloomberg panders to win black vote - New York Daily News

Barr takes control of legal matters of interest to Trump, including Stone sentencing

Image: Attorney General William Barr Makes Announcement On Cyber-Related Law Enforcement Action

"WASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from that job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

A person familiar with the matter has confirmed to NBC News that President Trump has now rescinded the nomination of the U.S. attorney, Jessie Liu, for a job as an undersecretary at the Treasury Department.

On Tuesday, all four line prosecutors withdrew from the case against Trump associate Roger Stone — and one quit the Justice Department altogether — after Barr and his top aides intervened to reverse a stiff sentencing recommendation of up to nine years in prison that the line prosecutors had filed with the court Monday.

But that wasn't the first time senior political appointees reached into a case involving a former Trump aide, officials told NBC News. Senior officials at the Justice Department also intervened last month to help change the government's sentencing recommendation for Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI. While once the prosecutors in the case had recommended up to six months in jail for Flynn, their latest filing now says they believe probation would be appropriate."

Barr takes control of legal matters of interest to Trump, including Stone sentencing

Bloomberg is a racist. New York Police Expert Fact Checks Bloomberg On Racial Profiling | The B...

John Oliver's Quest For U.S. Citizenship Culminated In An "Utterly Petri...

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the presidency – that should set off alarms | Robert Reich | Opinion | The Guardian

Donald Trump speaks to Michael Bloomberg during a memorial service in New York on 11 September 2016.

Mr. Stop and Frisk, the Mayor who ordered the NYPD to defy the US Constitution by profiling Blacks and Hispanics by race.  Bloomberg is Trump lite.

"We haven’t seen his name on any of the ballots in the first four states, but that’s about to change. I’m talking, of course, about multibillionaire presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has a chance of winning the presidency because his net worth is more than $60bn.

The yearly return on $60bn is at least $2bn – which is what Bloomberg says he’ll pour into buying the highest office in the land. It’s hardly a sacrifice for him, but it’s a huge sacrifice for American democracy.

Encouraged by the murky outcome from the Iowa caucuses and the notable lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden, Bloomberg has decided to double his spending on TV commercials in every market where he is currently advertising, and expand his campaign field staff to more than 2,000.

He’s not competing in the first four states with caucuses and primaries but focusing instead on 3 March. So-called “Super Tuesday” will be more super than ever because it now includes California, Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, North Carolina and Massachusetts – a third of all delegates to the Democratic convention.

“It’s much more efficient to go to the big states, to go to the swing states,” Bloomberg told the New York Times. “The others chose to compete in the first four. And nobody makes them do it, they wanted to do it. I think part of it is because the conventional wisdom is, ‘Oh you can’t possibly win without them.’”

Later, he added: “Those are old rules.”

Yes, and the new rules are also to spend billions of your own money, if you have it.

In January alone Bloomberg spent more than $300m on advertising for his campaign. That’s more than Hillary Clinton spent on advertising during her entire presidential run in 2016. It’s multiples of what all other Democratic candidates have spent, leaving even Tom Steyer, another billionaire, in the dust.

The heart of Bloomberg’s campaign message is that he has enough money to blow Trump out of the water. As if to demonstrate this, Bloomberg bought a $10m Super Bowl ad that slammed Trump in the middle of the big game, then bashed Trump again in a national ad just hours before the State of the Union address.

“The Real State of the Union? A nation divided by an angry, out of control president,” a narrator says. “A White House besotted by lies, chaos and corruption.”

If Trump’s tweets are any barometer, Bloomberg’s tactics are getting under the thin-skinned president’s fragile epidermis. According to one Trump adviser, the president “thinks that money goes a long way” and those who believe Bloomberg has no hope are “underestimating him”. Another says Trump “takes money seriously. He’s a businessman.”

The Democratic National Committee is ready to boost Bloomberg into the top tier. Last Friday it abandoned one of its criteria for getting on to the coveted debate stage – the individual-donor threshold, which was used for the first eight debates including this week’s event in New Hampshire – presumably because Bloomberg doesn’t take donations.

To participate in the 19 February debate in Las Vegas, candidates will need to show at least 10% support in four polls released from 15 January to 18 February. Three candidates have met that threshold: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Bloomberg’s wall-to-wall advertising is giving him a good shot.

Last Monday he tied with Warren for third place in a Morning Consult tracking poll. He’s in the top four in many Super Tuesday states. In Texas and North Carolina, he has overtaken Buttigieg for fourth. He has the third-highest polling average in Florida, ahead of Warren, and fourth-highest in Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, whose primaries all fall after Super Tuesday. In the past week, polls have Bloomberg tied for second in New York and trailing only Biden in Missouri. He was also fourth in a Suffolk University poll of Utah, at 13%.

Amazing what money will buy, if there’s enough of it.

Bloomberg has some attractive public policy ideas: he’s for gun control, he wants to reverse climate change and he’s unveiled a plan to raise an estimated $5tn of new tax revenue from high earners and corporations, including a repeal of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts and a new 5% “surcharge” on incomes above $5m a year.

A tour bus passes the Wall Street bull. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A tour bus passes the Wall Street bull. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

But he’s also a champion of Wall Street. He fought against the milquetoast reforms following the near-meltdown of 2008. His personal fortune is every bit as opaque as Trump’s. Through his dozen years as mayor of New York he refused to disclose his federal taxes. Even as a candidate for president, he still hasn’t given a date for their release. And, let’s not forget, he’s trying to buy the presidency.

America has had some talented and capable presidents who were enormously wealthy – Franklin D Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, for example. The problem lies at the nexus of wealth and power, where those with great wealth use it to gain great power. This is how oligarchy destroys democracy.

The word “oligarchy” comes from the Greek word oligarkhes, meaning “few to rule or command”. It refers to a government of and by a few exceedingly rich people or families who control the major institutions of society. Oligarchs may try to hide their power behind those institutions, or excuse their power through philanthropy and “corporate social responsibility”. But no one should be fooled. An oligarchy is not a democracy.

Even a system that calls itself a democracy can become an oligarchy if power becomes concentrated in the hands of a corporate and financial elite. Their power and wealth increase over time as they make laws that favor themselves, manipulate financial markets to their advantage, and create or exploit economic monopolies that put even more wealth into their pockets.

Since 1980, the share of America’s wealth owned by the richest 400 Americans has quadrupled while the share owned by the entire bottom half of America has declined. The richest 130,000 families in America now own nearly as much as the bottom 90% – 117 million families – combined. The three richest Americans own as much as the entire bottom half of the population. According to Forbes, Michael Bloomberg is the eighth richest.

All this has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the political power of the super-wealthy and an equally dramatic decline in the political influence of everyone else. Unlike income or wealth, power is a zero-sum game. The more of it at the top, the less of it anywhere else.

In the election cycle of 2016, the richest one-hundredth of 1% of Americans – 24,949 extraordinarily wealthy people – accounted for a record 40% of all campaign contributions. By contrast, in 1980 the top 0.01% accounted for only 15% of all contributions.

Make no mistake: the frustrations and insecurities that fueled Trump’s rise – and are still the basis of his support – have their origin in this power shift, which has left most Americans with a small slice of the nation’s prosperity and almost no voice in its politics.

A half-century ago, when America had a large and growing middle class, those on the left wanted stronger social safety nets and more public investment in schools, roads and research. Those on the right sought greater reliance on the free market.

But as power and wealth have moved to the top, everyone else – whether on the old right or the old left – has become disempowered and less secure. Today the great divide is not between left and right. It’s between democracy and oligarchy.

Bloomberg is indubitably part of that oligarchy. That should not automatically disqualify him but it should set off alarms. If the only way we can get rid of the sociopathic tyrant named Trump is with an oligarch named Bloomberg, we will have to choose the oligarch. Yet I hope it doesn’t come to that. Oligarchy is better than tyranny. But neither is as good as democracy.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His next book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, will be out in March. He is a columnist for Guardian US."

Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the presidency – that should set off alarms | Robert Reich | Opinion | The Guardian

Thursday, February 06, 2020

ArbiLex, A Harvard Law School Legal Tech Startup, Uses AI To Settle Arbitrations

ArbiLex, A Harvard Law School Legal Tech Startup, Uses AI To Settle Arbitrations

“Legal disputes between two entities vary in complexity and scope. With criminal law, the outcome of these cases is seen as discrete (guilty, not guilty, acquittal, mistrial). In civil law, a discrete view of the consequences of a legal ruling is inappropriate. The size of a settlement in a civil case varies. With claims resolved through international arbitration, the outcomes are on the order of millions and billions of dollars. Lawyers arguing these cases rely on intuition, precedent, and incomplete information. Isabel Yang, 30, realized the qualitative nature of law represented an opportunity for technology to resolve legal disputes, creating ArbiLex as a result. ArbiLex is a data analytics startup for international arbitrations, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to help parties reach resolutions quickly and efficiently. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company was incubated out of the Harvard Innovation Lab.

In today’s global economy, business relationships are established and maintained on an international scale. When these relationships breakdown as the parties find themselves in disagreement, international arbitration exists as an option to resolve these disputes. There are many advantages to pursuing international arbitration as a resolution mechanism, such as enforceability, neutrality, confidentiality, and more. However, one of the main difficulties of international arbitration is the length of time a dispute takes to be resolved. Latham & Watkins, a prominent global firm with notable expertise their transactional and regulatory area practices, states, “for a substantial and complex dispute, arbitration typically takes about

12-18 months from commencement to the final hearing.” For the entities with a material stake in this case, the prolonged efforts to reach an outcome have a detrimental effect on all involved (with the exception of the lawyers who bill by the hour). Shortening the length of time needed to resolve international arbitrations is a crucial driver of a potential market in need of a solution.

Estimating the global market arbitration size is difficult due to a lack of data tracking the industry, as the agreements from an arbitration settlement can and usually remain undisclosed. However, understanding the volume and size of these disputes can provide an estimate of the market size. Global Arbitration Review is a leading online publication on law firms that specialize in international arbitration cases. The digital law reporting outlet notes that the “total value” of the pending cases of their top 30 ranked firms is over $2 trillion. Assuming that these firms’ fees are 10% of the total value of the pending cases, the international arbitration market can be roughly estimated to be $200 billion. A product that could help resolve these disputes faster could capture a small portion of the potential market value in fees.

ArbiLex’s product is a predictive data analytics tool that leverages Bayesian machine learning (ML) to help international litigators use data to complement their intuition in resolving arbitration cases. Bayesian ML differs from traditional ML algorithms as probabilities determined in the beginning, intermediate, and final output of a model rely on initial, reasonable guesses of an event happening, called the prior, instead of only building on the observed frequency of an event occurring. A Bayesian approach to machine learning is preferred for this particular problem because one can leverage an expert’s opinion to quantify the prior probability of a given factor in a case. An informed prior is critical to the success of getting a sensible posterior probability, or a probability that coherently adjusts the prior beliefs from limited past data. The confidential nature of international arbitrations reflects how a Bayesian approach has inherent advantages when compared to frequentist probability underpinning many machine learning models. Furthermore, given the need for a prior, which generally comes from an expert, the output from a Bayesian ML model can potentially be explained how the algorithms arrived at a particular conclusion. The key to the success of the startup’s product is access to experts that international litigators and litigation funds need to resolve these disputes in their favor.

The main benefit of ArbiLex’s product is mapping out risk factors associated with an arbitration case. The startup’s algorithms can help benchmark and quantify probabilities, which allows users to think more probabilistically when assessing settlement outcomes as opposed to maintaining a binary mindset. The deep, technical nature of Bayesian ML and the arcane knowledge of the law is necessary for a team to tackle this problem successfully. 

Yang, a graduate of Oxford University with a Master’s degree in Economics and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, is well versed in the legalese and economics of international arbitrations. Her economic experience comes from her time at the World Trade Organization and the National Treasury of South Africa. Her understanding of international arbitrations stems from her stints as a summer associate at the law firms Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Shearman & Sterling. AribLex’s AI Lead, Raj Agrawal, is an MIT PhD candidate in Computer Science, specializing in machine learning and predictive inference. The two’s formidable partnership and cross-functional expertise could make ArbiLex an invaluable tool in international arbitrations.”