Phoney Diplomacy, the “African Queen,” First Lady Shows Happy Side in Ghana

CAPE COAST, Ghana — With the unrelenting Ghanaian sun serving as her spotlight, Melania Trump has stepped out of her husband’s shadow, apparently showing the world what some 5,200 miles of breathing room away from her home city can do.

On Wednesday morning, on the second day of a four-nation African tour, the first lady looked more comfortable striding into a meeting with local leaders on the coast of Ghana than she has perhaps ever looked in Washington.

Given the bedlam of late in the American capital, that may be understandable. But as she makes her first big solo trip abroad, Mrs. Trump seems ready to show another side of herself: the happy one.

Mrs. Trump has offered simple acts of grace on behalf of an administration with a fraught diplomatic history with Africa. She has spent much of her time just expressing appreciation to her hosts.

“Thank you very much for having me,” she told the Ghanaian first lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, when the two met.

“Thank you for having me,” she said to a small cluster of Ghanaians before entering a palace hall.

“Thank you for your warm welcome,” she signed in the guest book of a stone fort through which thousands of enslaved people once passe

From the moment she touched down here on Tuesday, Mrs. Trump has done her best to soften the image of an administration known for its sharp elbows, and of a president who outraged many Africans with his disparaging remarks.

How well it will work remains to be seen.

Marie-Franz Fordjoe, a journalist, said it might take more than a visit from Mrs. Trump to heal the bruised feelings. The visit, she said, is “insignificant, as we are very much aware of President Trump’s isolationist foreign policy and his overt aversion to people of color.”

There, as the waves of the Gulf of Guinea crashed against the shore, the first lady wandered the passageways, poking her head into hatches that offered a view into the depths of ancient dungeons where slaves were kept in hellish conditions until they were sent abroad. (When Mr. Obama visited, he said the castle “reminds us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil.”)

Mrs. Trump spent a few minutes in a dungeon that once housed male slaves before they were dragged across the threshold of the “door of no return” and to waiting ships. She paused at the archway — and then stepped through.

Mrs. Trump generally avoids journalists, but at the castle on Wednesdaykk, she fielded their questions. Her tone was sober.

“I will never forget the incredible experience and the stories that I heard,” she said. “The dungeons that I saw — it’s really something that people should see and experience what happened so many years ago. It’s really a tragedy.”

Mrs. Trump’s visit has so far lacked much fanfare.

In Cape Coast, a group of men at the palace strung up a large welcome sign in the courtyard in which it appeared that her first name had initially been misspelled. In Accra, the Ghanaian capital, the usual buzz associated with a visiting high-profile personality seemed to be missing.

Nana Amba Eyiaba, queen mother of Cape Coast, said Ghanaians had anticipated Mrs. Trump’s visit with a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

Katie Rogers, NYTimes, Oct. 6, 1018

Ray Myers

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Senator “Whitehouse” Slams Supreme Court Nominee

WHITEHOUSE REVEALS KAVANAUGH’S PRO-CORPORATE, RIGHT-WING RECORD IN SCOTUS HEARING OPENER

Judge Kavanaugh advances right-wing and corporate interests 91 percent of the time Kavanaugh sided with conservative “friends of the court” 91 percent of the time

Washington, DC – At today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pinpointed Kavanaugh’s troubling bias in favor of right-wing and corporate interests throughout his career in Republican politics and on the federal bench, and compared Kavanaugh’s partiality to the same bias that has taken root in Chief Justice John Roberts’s Supreme Court.

Senator Whitehouse’s as-prepared remarks are below.

Whitehouse also released analysis, incorporated into his opening remarks, of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence and Kavanaugh’s judicial record.  Summaries and links to the full analysis are provided below.

READ:  The Roberts Five: Advancing Right-Wing and Corporate Interests 92% of the Time

A review of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence during the Roberts Era reveals that in the most controversial and salient civil cases – those decided by bare 5-4 or 5-3 majorities – when the right wing of the Court has voted en bloc to form the majority, they do so to advance far-right and corporate interests a striking 92 percent of the time.  In those cases, the “Roberts Five” – Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Justice Antonin Scalia (replaced last year by Justice Neil Gorsuch) – have reliably voted in lockstep to help Republicans win elections, to protect corporations from liability, to abridge civil rights, and to advance the far right social agenda.

READ: Brett Kavanaugh in Partisan 2-1 cases: Advancing Right-Wing and Corporate Interests 91% of the Time

A review of Brett Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence on the D.C. Circuit reveals that in the most controversial and salient civil cases – those decided by bare 2-1 majorities – when Kavanaugh is in the majority with another Republican-appointed judge, he votes to advance far-right and corporate interests a striking 91 percent of the time

READ: The Roberts Five: Siding with Conservative Amici Curiae 92% of the Time

An examination of the Roberts Court’s 5-4 decisions reveals that, when the Roberts Five (Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice Kennedy, Justice Scalia/Gorsuch, and Justice Thomas) forms the Court’s majority, they agree with conservative amici curiae (“friends of the court”) 92 percent of the time.  Further, in these cases, the Roberts Five has endorsed the positions advanced by the high-profile conservative groups the Chamber of Commerce, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, and the Washington Legal Foundation 100 percent of the time.  In its 5-4 decisions, the Roberts Five have opened up the doors for dark money to flood the political system, rolled back important voting rights and environmental protections, and made it easier for employers to discriminate against their employees.  

READ: Brett Kavanaugh: Siding with Conservative Amici Curiae 91% of the Time

An examination of District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s written opinions reveals that he sided with conservative amici curiae (“friends of the court”) 91 percent of the time.  In these cases, Kavanaugh wrote opinions limiting collective bargaining rights, letting polluters pollute, blurring the line between the separation of church and state, protecting corporations from liability, and expanding the scope of the Second Amendment.

READ: Select Cases Showing Brett Kavanaugh Delivering for Right-Wing and Corporate Interests

Before beginning his remarks, Whitehouse joined colleagues in calling out the Trump administration’s dubious assertion of privilege over 100,000 pages of documents related to Kavanaugh, and the eleventh-hour dump of an additional 42,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush administration – documents Democrats had no hope of reviewing fully before Kavanaugh’s hearing began.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Complete Statemeny

Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement

September 4, 2018 – AS-PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

When is a pattern evidence of bias?

In court, pattern is evidence of bias all the time; evidence on which juries and trial judges rely, to show discriminatory intent, to show a common scheme, to show bias. 

When does a pattern prove bias?

That’s no idle question.   It’s relevant to the pattern of the Roberts Court when its Republican majority goes off on its partisan excursions through the civil law; when all five Republican appointees — the Roberts Five, I’ll call them — go raiding off together, and no Democratic appointee joins them.

Does this happen often?  Yes, indeed. 

The Roberts Five has gone on 80 of these partisan excursions since Roberts became chief. 

There is a feature to these eighty cases.  They almost all implicate interests important to the big funders and influencers of the Republican Party.  When the Republican Justices go off on these partisan excursions, there’s a big Republican corporate or partisan interest involved 92 percent of the time.

A tiny handful of these cases don’t implicate an interest of the big Republican influencers — so flukishly few we can set them aside.  That leaves 73 cases that all implicate a major Republican Party interest.  Seventy-three is a lot of cases at the Supreme Court.

Is there a pattern to those 73 cases?   Oh, yes there is.

Every time a big Republican corporate or partisan interest is involved, the big Republican interest wins.  Every. Time. 

Let me repeat:  In seventy-three partisan decisions where there’s a big Republican interest at stake, the big Republican interest wins.  Every.  Damned.  Time. 

Hence the mad scramble of big Republican interest groups to protect a “Roberts Five” that will reliably give them wins — really big wins, sometimes.

When the Roberts Five saddles up, these so-called conservatives are anything but judicially conservative. 

They readily overturn precedent, toss out statutes passed by wide bipartisan margins, and decide on broad constitutional issues they need not reach.  Modesty, originalism, stare decisis, all these supposedly conservative judicial principles, all have the hoof prints of the Roberts Five all across their backs, wherever those principles got in the way of wins for the Big Republican interests. 

The litany of Roberts Five decisions explains why big Republican interests want Kavanaugh on the Court so badly that Republicans trampled so much Senate precedent to shove him through; so let’s review the litany. 

What do big Republican interests want?  Well, first, they want to win elections.

What has the Roberts Five delivered?

Help Republicans gerrymander elections:  Vieth v. Jubelirer, 5-4, license to gerrymander.

Help Republicans keep minority voters away from the polls:  Shelby County, 5-4 and Bartlett v. Strickland, 5-4.  And Abbott v. Perez, 5-4, despite the trial judge finding the Texas legislature actually intended to suppress minority voters.

And the big one:  help corporate front-group money flood elections — if you’re a big special interest you love unlimited power to buy elections and threaten and bully Congress. McCutcheon, 5-4 counting the concurrence; Bullock, 5-4; and the infamous, grotesque 5-4 Citizens United decision (which belongs beside Lochner on the Court’s roll of shame).

What else do the big influencers want? 

To get out of courtrooms.  Big influencers hate courtrooms, because their lobbying and electioneering and threatening doesn’t work.  In a courtroom, big influencers used to getting their way have to suffer the indignity of equal treatment. 

So the Roberts Five protects corporations from group “class action” lawsuits:  Walmart v. Dukes, 5-4; Comcast, 5-4; and this past term, Epic Systems, 5-4.

The Roberts Five helps corporations steer customers and workers away from courtrooms and into mandatory arbitration:  Concepcion, Italian Colors, and Rent-a-Center, all Roberts Five.  Epic Systems does double duty here: now workers can’t even arbitrate their claims as a group.

Hindering access to the courthouse for plaintiffs generally: Iqbal, 5-4.

Protecting corporations from being taken to court by employees harmed through pay discrimination, Ledbetter, 5-4; age discrimination, Gross, 5-4; harassment, Vance 5-4; and retaliation, Nassar, 5-4.  Even insulating corporations from liability for international human rights violations: Jesner, 5-4.

Corporations aren’t in the Constitution; juries are.  Indeed, courtroom juries are the one element of American government designed to protect people against encroachments by private wealth and power.   So of course the Roberts Five rule for wealthy, powerful corporations over jury rights every time — with nary a mention of the Seventh Amendment.

What’s another one?   Oh, yes.  A classic: helping big business bust unions.  Harris v. Quinn, 5-4; and Janus v. AFSCME this year, 5-4, overturning a 40-year precedent.

Lots of big Republican influencers are polluters. They like to pollute for free.

So of course the Roberts Five delivers decisions that let corporate polluters pollute.  To pick a few:  Rapanos, weakening wetland protections, 5-4; National Association of Home Builders, weakening protections for endangered species, 5-4; Michigan v. EPA, helping air polluters, 5-4;  and, in the face of emerging climate havoc, there’s the procedurally aberrant 5-4 partisan decision to stop the EPA Clean Power Plan.

Then come Roberts Five bonus decisions advancing a far-right social agenda:  Gonzalez v. Carhart, upholding restrictive abortion laws; Hobby Lobby, granting corporations religious rights over the health care rights of employees; NIFLA,  letting states deny women truthful information about their reproductive choices—all 5-4, all the Republicans.

Add Heller and McDonald, which reanimated for the gun industry a theory a former Chief Justice once called a “fraud”; both decisions 5-4.

This year, Trump v. Hawaii, 5-4, rubber stamping President Trump’s discriminatory Muslim travel ban.

And in case Wall Street was feeling left out, helping insulate investment bankers from fraud claims: Janus Capital Group, Inc., 5-4.  

No wonder the American people feel the game is rigged.

Here’s how the rigged game works: big business and partisan groups fund the Federalist Society, which picked Gorsuch and now Kavanaugh.  As White House Counsel admitted, they “insourced” the Federalist Society for this selection. Exactly how the nominees were picked, and who was in the room where it happened, and who had a vote or a veto, and what was said or promised, is all a deep dark secret. 

Then big business and partisan groups fund the Judicial Crisis Network, which runs dark-money political campaigns to influence Senators in confirmation votes, as they’ve done for Gorsuch and now Kavanaugh.  Who pays millions of dollars for that, and what their expectations are, is a deep dark secret.  

These groups also fund Republican election campaigns with dark money. The identity of the big donors?  A deep dark secret.

Once the nominee is on, the same business front groups, with ties to the Koch Brothers and other funders of the Republican political machine, file “friend of the court,” or amicus briefs, to signal their wishes to the Roberts Five.  Who is really behind those “friends” is another deep dark secret.

It has gotten so weird that Republican justices now even send hints back to big business interests about how they’d like to help them next, and then big business lawyers rush out to lose cases, just to get them up before the friendly Court, pronto.  That’s what happened in Friedrichs and Janus.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the biggest corporate lobby of them all.  It’s the mouthpiece for Big Coal, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Guns, you name it—and this year, with Justice Gorsuch riding with the Roberts Five, the Chamber won nine of the 10 cases it weighed in on.

The Roberts Five since 2006 has given the Chamber more than three-quarters of their total votes. This year in civil cases they voted for the Chamber’s position nearly 90 percent of the time. 

People are noticing.  Veteran court-watchers like Jeffrey Toobin, Linda Greenhouse and Norm Orenstein describe the court as a delivery service for Republican interests: 

Toobin has written that on the Supreme Court, “Roberts has served the interests . . . of the contemporary Republican Party.” 

Greenhouse has said, “the Republican-appointed majority is committed to harnessing the Supreme Court to an ideological agenda.”

Orenstein described, “the new reality of today’s Supreme Court: It is polarized along partisan lines in a way that parallels other political institutions and the rest of society, in a fashion we have never seen.”

And the American public knows it, too.  The American public thinks the Supreme Court treats corporations more favorably than individuals, compared to vice versa, by a 7-to-1 margin. 

Now, let’s look at where Judge Kavanaugh fits in.  A Republican political operative his whole career, who’s never tried a case.  He made his political bones helping the salacious prosecution of President Clinton, and leaking prosecution information to the press.

As an operative in the second Bush White House, he cultivated relationships with political insiders like nomination guru Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society architect of Kavanaugh’s court nominations. On the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh gave more than 50 speeches to the Federalist Society.  That’s some auditioning.

On the DC Circuit, Kavanaugh showed his readiness to join the Roberts Five with big political wins for Republican and corporate interests: unleashing special interest money into elections; protecting corporations from liability; helping polluters pollute; striking down commonsense gun regulations; keeping injured plaintiffs out of court; and perhaps most important for the current occupant of the Oval Office, expounding a nearly limitless vision of presidential immunity from the law. 

His alignment with right-wing groups who came before him as “friends of the court”?  91 percent.  

When big business trade associations weighed in?  76 percent.  This is what corporate capture of the courts looks like.

There are big expectations for you.  The shadowy dark-money front group, the Judicial Crisis Network, is spending tens of millions in dark money to push for your confirmation.  They clearly have big expectations about how you’ll rule on dark money.

The NRA has poured millions into your confirmation, promising their members that you’ll “break the tie.”  They clearly have big expectations on how you’ll vote on guns.

White House Counsel Don McGahn said, “There is a coherent plan here where actually the judicial selection and the deregulatory effort are really the flip side of the same coin.”  Big polluters clearly have big expectations for you on their deregulatory effort.

Finally, you come before us nominated by a President named in open court as directing criminal activity, and a subject of ongoing criminal investigation.  You displayed expansive views on executive immunity from the law. If you are in that seat because the White House has big expectations that you will protect the President from the due process of law, that should give every Senator pause. 

Tomorrow, we will hear a lot of “confirmation etiquette.”  It’s a sham. 

Kavanaugh knows the game.  In the Bush White House, he coached judicial nominees to just tell Senators that they will adhere to statutory text, that they have no ideological agenda.  Fairy tales.

At his hearing, Justice Roberts infamously said he’d just call “balls and strikes,” but the pattern – the 73-case pattern – of the Roberts Five qualifies him to have NASCAR-style corporate badges on his robes.  

Alito said in his hearing what a “strong principle” stare decisis was, an important limitation on the Court.  Then he told the Federalist Society stare decisis “means to leave things decided when it suits our purposes.”

Gorsuch delivered the key fifth vote in the precedent-busting, but also union-busting, Janus decision.  He too had pledged in his hearing to “follow the law of judicial precedent,” assured us he was not a “philosopher king,” and promised to give equal concern to “every person, poor or rich, mighty or meek.”

How did that turn out?  Great for the rich and mighty: Gorsuch is the single most corporate-friendly justice on a Court already full of them, ruling for big business interests in over 70 percent of cases, and in every single case where his vote was determinative. 

The president early on assured evangelicals his Supreme Court picks would attack Roe v. Wade.  Despite “confirmation etiquette” assurances about precedent, your own words make clear you don’t really believe Roe v. Wade is settled law.

We have seen this movie before.  We know how it ends. 

The sad fact is that there is no consequence for telling the Committee fairy tales about stare decisis, and then riding off with the Roberts Five, trampling across whatever precedent gets in the way of letting those Big Republican interests keep winning 5-4 partisan decisions. 

Every.  Damned.  Time. 

###

 Ray Myers

Political Messaging on Facebook

Trump is now the single biggest political advertiser on Facebook. So what’s your favorite addiction? Politics or social media? I think it is now safe to say after the last election, that if you like to get your “fake news” online, you were among those who were the most helpful in getting Trump elected. He may not have gotten the most individual Americans’ votes, but he certainly knew where the most counted and where to place his political ads, Facebook.

He still continues today and will probably continue to take the most advantage of Facebook’s hypnotic hold on those who believe that everything that they read or see online must be true! This is now the age of believing in your own opinions, regardless of what the facts may be. “If it’s online, it must be true.” As discussed on this blog on Monday, political consultants have said that Democrats who are running for election are spending a smaller percentage of their ad budgets on digital ads than their rivals, sometimes as little as 10 percent versus 40 percent for Republicans. That has spurred volunteer efforts in Silicon Valley, which is widely regarded as liberal, to help bring Democratic campaigns into the digital age.

The new digital political age? And if you can’t get enough followers, make them up.

Ray Myers

How to Win an Election – Campaign Technology

Forget about your “hanging chads,” fake news and dirty tricks. Get some savvy technology tools to load onto your campaign bandwagon. And, of course, the right people to make it all work. Democrats obviously have the greater need.

“Democrats are often thought to be tech savvy, because the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 were celebrated for their online touch and because much of Silicon Valley backs the party’s candidates. In fact, . . . Democrats in congressional and state-level races have been out-matched by their Republican rivals, who benefitted from the heavy tech investments during the Obama years and their enthusiastic embrace of targeted ads on platforms like Facebook and Google.

People don’t understand how not far along we are as a party (Democratic). Obama was really good at tech, but it never trickled down to a Senate race, let alone the state-level stuff. (NY Times, 7/14/18).”

Ray Myers

Twitter is Trump’s Song Bird

Twitter used to be an apolitical forum where you could type and hashtag away just about anything that seemed important or “interesting” to you. But times have changed as we all know, and the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has turned it into his most powerful propaganda tool. But can’t Twitter do something about that? A Washington Post reporter recently (Manjoo, 7/5/18) asked that same question to Vijaya Gadde, head of the legal policy and trust office at Twitter. “She declined to answer directly, pointing instead to a January statement in which the company stated that blocking a world leader’s tweets ‘would hide important information people should be able to see and delete.’ But what if that important information conflicts with Twitter’s mission to promote a healthy public conversation? Sooner or later, Twitter’s executives and employees are going to have to make a decision about which is more important, Mr. Trump’s tweets or the company’s desire to promote a healthy public conversation. It’s hard to see how both are tenable.” Ray Myers

Cartoonist Plans to Trump White House Tweets

I am a fan of political cartoons that taunt and tease political leaders. Particularly in the case of over-bearing, pompous, and presumptuous elected officials who believe they are beyond reproach. I think you may have known one or two, but if you don’t, please take a look at the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Rob Rogers, a political cartoonist with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 25 years, recently lost his job for not being politically correct in the eyes of the newspaper’s owners. Here is how he described his ouster by the owners: “I was trained in a tradition in which editorial cartoonists are the live wires of a publication – as one former colleague put it, the ‘constant irritants.’ Our job is to provoke readers in a way words can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.”

Rogers promises that: “The paper may have taken an eraser to my cartoons. But I plan to be at the drawing table every day of this presidency.”

Ray Myers

Death by Twitter – a Cautionary Tale

The most popular show on ABC (American Broadcasting Company), Rosanne, was canceled last week because the star of the show, Roseanne Barr — known for saying and writing stuff that would get most of us fired — did exactly what she was known for doing and got fired. ABC now looks like it is run by idiots because, really, who didn’t see this coming?

The network now has to explain to its licensees, which deliver shows to you and me, why they no longer will be able to get the ad revenue that otherwise would have been coming to them. I guess Rosanne will still get paid, but I really don’t know, and truthfully, don’t care. Twitter has become our most popular and most abused form of social media. Oh yes, the current White House resident is very fond of using it as well.

Maybe he too will get fired some day?

Ray Myers

Loving to Tweet, but Not Engaging with the World

I know this is not my typical tweet about using technology to express and engage with others, so please indulge me for this “special” moment. Trump’s behavior at the recent G-7 meetings was despicable and dangerous in its expression of “I” will not play if “I” can’t have it my way! He does not have that right as OUR elected official. His way or the highway? Don’t believe all the lies and self-aggrandizement he spews forth on his Twitter site, or any place else.

I think The NY Times had it right in Tuesday’s editorial: “But no. Instead, as photographs from the Quebec resort showed, Mr. Trump faced the other leaders with arms defiantly crossed and faced locked in a pout. It was a confirmation that so long as Mr. Trump was on the White House, and maybe beyond that, something fundamental in the community of Western democracies will be missing. America, the leader of the free world and architect of so much of the modern world order, had decided to go its own way.”

How did we get here? Maybe Russia knows?

Ray Myers

Tech to Deceive – Cambridge Analytica Misspeaks?

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Well, those were the “good old days,” when conversations were basically two-way and people didn’t typically search for alternative facts to support their point of view. Now thanks to our vast array of technological tools we can express any or all “viewpoints” and not worry about fact-checking or verification of information. “I saw it online, baby!” And, of course, there are those who put anything online that will advance an alternative “reality.”

Let’s take, for example, our international political activists (antagonists?) from across the sea, Cambridge Analytica. At a recent hearing where British authorities had the first chance to question Mr. Nix, ex-Chief of Analytica, about harvesting personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent. Mr. Nix said Wednesday that he had misspoken in February when he told lawmakers in London that his company has not used information collected from the social network.

So where are we? Is it really about the technology or their masters who manipulate it?

Ray Myers

Not a Twitter Matter, Mr. Trump

Someone please tell the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington , D.C., that he is not an Emperor.  He can not decree or demand that things be done to his liking simply because he wants them.  Or, in his case, simply “tweet” out his demands.  It’s time to tell him “he has no clothes” when he refuses to recognize that any power he has comes from the citizens of this democratic republic.  No number of petulant tweets can supersede that!

On Sunday, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for political purposes – any of any such demands or request were made by people within the Obama administration.

FYI, former President Barack Obama wrote a piece in the Harvard Law Review last year in which he stated: “The president does not and should not decide who or what to investigate or prosecute or when an investigation or prosecution should happen.”  Good advice, I think.

Ray Myers

P.S. Happy Memorial Day. Enjoy the holiday. Back on Wednesday, May 30.

Inside Washington Tech Policy Stories – a Reporter’s View

I (Cecilia Kang) feel like everyone is hunched over their phones in Washington even more than other places. This is a news-obsessed town that is texting and e-mailing at all hours. There seems to be a bit of a generational divide on the use of communications apps. Younger staffers on Capitol Hill often use encrypted apps and direct messages on Twitter. But even some of my older sources (my peers, really) can sometimes text me at all hours. It feels totally appropriate to call, text or Signal late at night or on weekends. Many an interview is done with children heard in the background at a park.

The whole attitude toward the tech industry has changed in Washington, with every growing calls for privacy regulation and antitrust enforcement of giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The biggest stories coming up will be the lawsuits to restore net neutrality, which should begin late this summer. The Trump administration and the F.C.C. have focused on the race for the 5G networks and have acted to thwart competition from China, citing national security concerns. And privacy is the big wild card. Even if stricter privacy rules aren’t introduced in the United States, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation set to take effect next month will most likely spill over in some way into American policy.

Faster is better?

Ray Myers

Goodbye Cambridge Analytica, Your Work is Done (for now?)

The London based firm blamed “unfairly negative media coverage” and said it has been “vilified” for actions it says both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising. As most Americans know by now, its actions included the spreading of false news in support of the election of Mr. Trump, and to the denigration of Hilary Clinton’s campaign.

Cambridge Analytica said it has filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the U.K. And will seek bankruptcy protection in a federal court in New York. “The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers.”

“So sad” as Mr. Trump would say.

Ray Myers

Save Us From Cyberattacks, Somebody?

Have you ever heard about the “Cyber-security Tech Accord?” It has been described as a ” digital Geneva Convention” that would set norms of behavior for cyberspace. Unfortunately, most of us are probably not that familiar with it since the principles it espouses can run headlong into individual governments’ efforts to develop cyber weapons in secrecy.

Microsoft is playing a central role in advancing this accord. Some of their officials have said they briefed the Trump administration on this new agreement and heard no objections. But that may not mean much. Mr. Trump’s adviser, Thomas P. Bosser, who oversees cyber security security, was dismissed last week after John R. Bolton took over as national security adviser.

The cybersecurity coordinator at the White House, Rob Joyce, is widely rumored to be considering leaving his post and returning to the National Security Agency, where he ran the most elite of the cyberforces that attack foreign networks. If Mr. Joyce departs, the White House will have lost its two most senior, and most knowledgeable, cybersecurity policy makers in the span of a few weeks. “You’re fired!” says the former star of the “Celebrity Apprentice.” Now he is playing the part of “President.”

Ray Myers

The New Anti-social Media – #TechtoAbuse

Thanks to Maureen Dowd at The NY Times (2/11/18) we now have a litany of anti-social remarks and behavior by the current White House resident who has twisted his presidential prerogatives into weapons for use against his political enemies, real and imagined. And in many cases, for his own personal and private business profitability. Twitter attacks are just part of his arsenal. Below is a sampling of what she captured in her Sunday commentary.

“We don’t want a president who’s bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators – or who is a sexual predator himself. We don’t want a president who thinks #me is more important than #metoo.”

“We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance to honor Russia and dishonor the F.B.I.”

“We don’t want a president who is on a sugar high of ego, whose demented tweets about nukes and crowd size scare even Omarosa.”

“And finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.”

Ray Myers

Gorging on Social Media

My apologies for not posting on Monday of this week. Let’s just say that I was “in transit” and had a “tech-free day” which leads me to the to the message of today’s post and the one that you will see on Friday as well. It’s all about limiting our daily digital diets. Or as those scholarly Jesuits used to teach us: “Moderation in all things.”

Social media’s “role in your life has grown without your permission. No one had that in mind when they signed up for Facebook to stay in touch with their college roommate . . . There is a lot of complexity and uncertainty in the role that these technologies should play in personal and professional life. We’re past the stage where they’re novel, but not to the point where they’re stable (Cal Newport, Georgetown University, 2018).” A common complaint seems to be that there is too much news: I need a break. And fewer tweets from the White House might help (maybe none, remember those days)!

We have gone from “TechtoExpress” (sound familiar?) to “TechtoConsume.”

Ray Myers

We Still Have Football!

As we all know, Trump and company have shut down the federal government, but we still have Super Bowl football and all its hype to entertain us over the next few weeks. I am not sure which is more entertaining over the long run, but we shall find out. But what can I say about all the technological tools involved in informing us about these “winter spectacles.”

Will we all be better informed this time around? Will Twitter be overloaded with barbs and updates about our political and football fanaticisms? I am afraid so. Depending on your personal or political view, are we now headed for a “winter of our discontent” or content for some?

I am sure there are parts of New England where there are many people happier to be watching Tom Brady on the football field than follow all the tweets from the so-called president in the Oval Office, when he is not in Mar-a-Lago.

Ray Myers

Fake News in Print and Online – a Threat to Democracy

So the title of this post may be a little misleading, but let’s face it, we now have a president who has learned to use the power of our digital media to propagandize his agenda and belittle those who dare to oppose him. And this has all happened over the course of his first year in office.  He has apparently raised a very successful anti-press campaign.  He has recently issued “fake news” awards.

“The buzz around the president’s latest anti-press stunt has contributed to a shift in American attitudes towards the press.  In a study released this week by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, 66 percent of Americans who were surveyed  said most news organizations blurred opinion and fact, up from 42 percent in 1984.  ‘Fake news’ was deemed a threat to democracy by a majority of the respondents (NY Times, 1/18/18).” Now who are the real fake news purveyors?

Senator John McCain has risen to the occasion: “We cannot afford to abdicate America’s longstanding role as the defender of human rights and democratic principles throughout the world. Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to opinion and expression.”

Ray Myers

Cyber Security – Mueller Learning on the Job

This is not meant to be a critique of the Special Counsel’s performance in his investigation of the Russian involvement in the election of the so-called President. It’s more a commentary on “why did it take so long? “Some in the legal world have wondered why Mueller had not previously tapped a cyber prosecutor to join his team.”

Legal analysts have said that one charge Mueller might pursue would be conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if he can demonstrate that members of Trump’s team conspired in Russia’ s hacking efforts to influence the election. So now we have gone long past the days of scrutinizing “hanging chads” in efforts to determine the intentions of American voters. Those were the “good old days.” Now we are probing those dark corners of cyber space controlled by international “evil doers.”

From Russia with Love?

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be back on Wednesday, January 17th. Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Chris Christie and Amazon – You’ve Got a Friend in New Jersey!

Poor Chris Christie, soon-to-be former Governor of New Jersey. He didn’t get to be Vice-President after Trump picked Pence, but you never know? There do still seem be a large number of vacancies in the Trump administration in Washington, and he will be looking for a new job after January 16th. But he still seems to be trying to build a political legacy for himself in the Garden State. How about if he gets Amazon to build its second headquarters in New Jersey. What’s not to like?

Here’s the latest on the Amazon legislation package under consideration by the NJ legislature. It would expand the tax credits available from the state Economic Development Authority to entice large companies to bring their corporate headquarters to New Jersey. To be eligible, a business would need to make a minimum $3 billion capital investment in its headquarters and create a minimum of 30,000 jobs that would create a net benefit for the state over 50 years. His administration has endorsed Newark as a headquarters location, but other New Jersey cities, including Camden, have submitted bids.

Newark is a “ferry boat” ride from Manhattan. There’s a building there called the Trump tower. How convenient this all would be. And the so-called President does like to play golf in northern New Jersey. Hmmmmm!

Ray Myers