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"Information" in the Time of Trump #3

This is a continuation of the topic "Information" in the Time of Trump #2.

Pro and Con

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Edited: Mar 22, 7:09am Top

Author recommends Zuckerburg "turn off" Facebook. Someone would recreate it, though--better for Z to fix it, instead. Oh, wait--is MySpace any better?

The case against Facebook
It’s not just about privacy; its core function makes people lonely and sad.
Matthew Yglesias | Mar 21, 2018

...Rumors, misinformation, and bad reporting can and do exist in any medium. But Facebook created a medium that is optimized for fakeness, not as an algorithmic quirk but due to the core conception of the platform. By turning news consumption and news discovery into a performative social process, Facebook turns itself into a confirmation bias machine — a machine that can best be fed through deliberate engineering.

...Meanwhile, Facebook is destroying the business model for outlets that make real news.

...“overall, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with well-being,” whereas networking socially in the real world was positively associated with well-being and “the negative associations of Facebook use were comparable to or greater in magnitude than the positive impact of offline interactions.”

...They should turn off Facebook...


Mar 27, 1:47pm Top

Yikes! Thankfully I use spouse's account and neither of us that active on FB...

How to download a copy of everything Facebook knows about you
Todd Haselton | 23 March 2018

Facebook keeps a treasure trove of information on you, which goes all the way back to when you first started to use the social network.

You can download your own archive of this information if you want to see what Facebook knows, or if you want to leave the social network and take your history with you...


Mar 28, 6:28am Top

>2 margd: Thanks for the link. I've been troubled by how much time I waste on Facebook looking at interesting, but unimportant, lists. I really like Facebook for staying in contact with extended friends and interest groups, but I'm uncomfortable with how much information I put out there. Hmmm.... I wonder if LT shares data? I'm considering closing my account on Facebook, but doubt if I actually do.

Apr 3, 12:17pm Top

A new study suggests fake news might have won Donald Trump the 2016 election
Aaron Blake | April 3, 2018

...study from researchers at Ohio State University finds that fake news probably played a significant role in depressing Hillary Clinton's support on Election Day. The study, which has not been peer reviewed but which may be the first look at how fake news affected voter choices, suggests that about 4 percent of President Barack Obama's 2012 supporters were dissuaded from voting for Clinton in 2016 by belief in fake news stories.

Richard Gunther, Paul A. Beck and Erik C. Nisbet, the study's authors, inserted three popular fake news stories from the 2016 campaign into a 281-question YouGov survey given to a sample that included 585 Obama supporters — 23 percent of whom didn't vote for Clinton, either by abstaining or picking another candidate (10 percent voted Trump, which is in line with other estimates).

Here are the false stories, along with the percentages of Obama supporters who believed they were at least “probably” true (in parenthesis):

Clinton was in “very poor health due to a serious illness” (12 percent)
Pope Francis endorsed Trump (8 percent)
Clinton approved weapons sales to Islamic jihadists, “including ISIS” (20 percent)

...Overall, about one-quarter of 2012 Obama voters believed at least one of these stories (26 percent). And of that group, just 45 percent voted for Clinton — compared to 89 percent who believed none of the three.

...for fake news not to have made the difference (according to these data), Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would have had to be uniquely impervious to the effects of fake news, compared to the rest of the country.

The survey also notably doesn't measure what effect fake news might have had on increasing Trump's support, instead only focusing on how it depressed Clinton's. That could actually increase the shift. But even with this limited purview, it suggests it made a significant difference.

And it suggests it may well have cost Clinton the presidency.


Edited: Apr 3, 12:21pm Top

And Russia is still at it:

Russian bots flock to Laura Ingraham feud with Parkland student: report
Avery Anapol | 04/02/18

...Hamilton 68, a website that tracks Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence campaigns, found that the use of the hashtag #IstandwithLaura spiked 2,800 percent over the weekend

...Another bot-monitoring project, Botcheck.me, reported that “David Hogg” and “Laura Ingraham” were the top two-word phrases being shared by Russia-linked accounts.

Russia-linked bot accounts typically seize on divisive issues in American politics. In the days after the Parkland shooting, trending hashtags among Russian bots included “#Parkland, #guncontrolnow, #Florida and #guncontrol.”

Botcheck also found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111 and @foxnews were in the top accounts named in tweets from Russia-linked accounts over the weekend...


Apr 4, 6:56am Top

Facebook suspends 273 accounts and pages linked to Russian misinformation agency
Adi Robertson | Apr 3, 2018

...Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that this update was “about taking down IRA pages targeting people living in Russia,” as opposed to ones designed to influence foreign elections. “This Russian agency (Internet Research Agency) has repeatedly acted deceptively and tried to manipulate people in the US, Europe, and Russia — and we don’t want them on Facebook anywhere in the world,” he wrote.

...Facebook has consistently denounced the IRA for betraying Facebook’s core ethos of “authenticity.” Last year, it identified around 3,000 divisive ads aimed at American users during the elections, and suspended 30,000 allegedly fake accounts in the leadup to the French presidential election, alongside a system for fact-checking news. Facebook released a tool that lets people see if they liked or followed a propaganda account, and it plans to update this tool to include these new pages....


Edited: Apr 4, 1:16pm Top


Media experts across the country are voicing horror about WJAR’s parent company — Sinclair Broadcasting — having its news anchors and reporters across the country voiceover a corporate message that sounds much like language often used by President Donald Trump.


Here's the Deadspin video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fHfgU8oMSo

And here is a CNN story in reaction:

Apr 5, 8:00am Top

Ingraham's attack on Hogg was despicable (as was her attack on football player), and he was right to respond.
I was uncomfortable, though, with his not accepting her apology and moving on to task at hand.

David Hogg's attempt to end Laura Ingraham's career sets dangerous precedent
Joe Concha, opinion contributor — 03/30/18

...if a boycott succeeds here, it sets the kind of precedent that will forever change what the First Amendment is supposed to stand for.

Ingraham wrote an ill-advised tweet that had zero upside. She's apologized since.

Hogg won't accept and will continue to push back, via social media and a Friday morning CNN interview, an effort that won't end until Ingraham vanishes from the airwaves...


Apr 5, 8:27am Top

>9 margd:

Ingraham's attack on Hogg was despicable (as was her attack on football player), and he was right to respond. I was uncomfortable, though, with his not accepting her apology and moving on to task at hand.

I agree. His response was as heavy-handed as hers. The only difference being she is an adult who should know better than to verbally mock a minor. Whether her apology was heartfelt or not, ideally he should have accepted it. Nastiness on either side just perpetuates the cycle.

Edited: Apr 7, 8:53am Top

What use might an Admin who regards press as enemy make of a DHS global database on journalists and bloggers? Rough 'em up at Airport. Regulate 'em?
Might he or a son-in-law, say, share such info with Putin, Duertes, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia--all known for crackdowns on naysayers?
Might security-conscious Pruitt want his own database of his own detractors?

Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers
Cary O'Reilly - Bloomberg Government | April 5, 2018

• Seeks contractor that can monitor 290,000 global news sources

• ‘Media influencer’ database to note `sentiment’ of coverage

...a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation.

“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” according to the statement. DHS agencies have “a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners,” it said.

The DHS wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents. It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.

The request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through “fake news.”...



Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And 'Media Influencers'
Michelle Fabio | April 2018

...On May 3, UNESCO will once again mark World Press Freedom Day "to inform citizens of violations of press freedom — a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered."

...What could possibly go wrong? A lot.

DHS's "Media Monitoring" Plan
...to "identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event."

"Any and all media coverage," as you might imagine, is quite broad

...browsable by "location, beat and type of influencer," and for each influencer, the chosen contractor should "present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer."


Why "Media Monitoring" and Why Now?
DHS says the "NPPD/OUS National Protection and Programs Directorate/Office of the Under Secretary has a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach Federal, state, local, tribal and private partners." Who knows what that means, but the document also states the NPPD's mission is “to protect and enhance the resilience of the nation’s physical and cyberinfrastructure."

...Within the context of increasing concerns over "fake news" and foreign interference in elections, an action such as the DHS's database might seem, at first glance, to be a sensible approach.

Not exactly.

Unfortunately, increasing government encroachment on the freedom of the press is the sinister backdrop to all of this...global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years. The independent watchdog organization blames "new threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies" as well as "further crackdowns on independent media in authoritarian countries like Russia and China." And then it goes one step further.

"But it is the far-reaching attacks on the news media and their place in a democratic society by Donald Trump, first as a candidate and now as president of the United States, that fuel predictions of further setbacks in the years to come," the report said.

...not even the first time potential regulation of journalists has drifted across the American political scene.

The real question, of course, is what the government plans to do with the information it compiles, and there's been no comment on that beyond what is in the posting, which, by the way, has interest from at least seven companies. Will those on the DHS media database be questioned more harshly coming in and out of the country? Will they have trouble getting visas to go to certain countries for their own reporting or personal vacations? Worse?

Speaking of visas — and showing that social media activity is squarely on the radar of this administration — earlier this week, the State Department placed two notices in the Federal Register seeking comments on its proposal to require that all visa applicants to the U.S. turn over their social media information for the previous five years.

Regarding the DHS media database, we are entering potentially dangerous territory with the government keeping track of the "sentiment" of citizens and foreign nationals...



@AltHomelandSec 7 Apr 2018

So this is going to happen. Possibly the country’s most untrusted agency is going to database journalists. There are pros and cons, nicely summed up by @michellefabio (margd: article above), but the cons definitely outweigh the pros.

@AltHomelandSec 4h4 hours ago
As stated (margd: by fabio), now is the time to contact your representatives if you disagree with what DHS is working on. This is the same agency that tried to unmask @ALT_uscis for no reason and I’d imagine I’d be in this database, so I’m not entirely happy about this either.

@Bill_Capehart 3h3 hours ago
So will they be monitoring domestic terrorist outlets like Daily Stormer, Aryan Alternitive and such or who are we kidding.

@Jacobatf 3h3 hours ago
I recall Nixon doing this, but he called it his "Enemies List"

@JenDifatta 29m29 minutes ago
So, registering dangerous guns = bad. Registering the free press = good. Where are we?

Apr 7, 8:56am Top

Years ago I had a subscription to a magazine called "World Press Review", I think, which was very helpful. It extracted news from all over the world. It usefully tagged it if the originator was left, centrist, or right leaning. It listed if it was influenced by the government. The magazine was invaluable to me because it got me outside of the U.S. bubble of reporting, something I try to do now with Reuters and BBC.

The DHS proposal is not an appropriate function of government as it inadvertently or not will impact freedom of the press.

Edited: Apr 7, 9:40am Top

I was a WPR subscriber, too--and for the same reason!
Also, The Week, which I liked for briefs that sampled various perspectives.

The proposed DHS database can be misused so easily and is no way a sharp enough tool to go after fake or hate news, IMO...

Apr 9, 10:59am Top

>13 margd: The proposed DHS database can be misused so easily and is no way a sharp enough tool to go after fake or hate news, IMO...

Like doing surgery with a blunt object.

Apr 9, 3:51pm Top

I have used Facebook only for its related site, Nextdoor... It is based on your location and people post items for sale/free/wanted, missing kitties, police action, and the like. I have considered dropping my unused Facebook account (I only started when my daughter went away for school) but fear I might miss Nextdoor...

Apr 11, 9:38am Top

Any new laws or changes to 47 U.S. Code § 230 (Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230) should look carefully at how and why online platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) actually moderate speech. "Such, if any, regulation should work with an understanding of the intricate self-regulatory structure already in place in order to be the most effective for users and preserve the democratizing power of online platforms. "

The New Governors: The People, Rules, and Processes Governing Online Speech
Kate Klonick | Apr 10, 2018
131 Harv. L. Rev. 1598 (73 p)

...to best understand online speech (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), we must abandon traditional doctrinal and regulatory analogies and understand these private content platforms as systems of governance. These platforms are now responsible for shaping and allowing participation in our new digital and democratic culture, yet they have little direct accountability to their users. Future intervention, if any, must take into account how and why these platforms regulate online speech in order to strike a balance between preserving the democratizing forces of the internet and protecting the generative power of our New Governors...



...CONCLUSION (p1669 / 72)

As the Facebook Live video of Philando Castile’s death demonstrates (police shooting of black man live-streamed by his girlfriend), content published on platforms implicates social policy, law, culture, and the world. Yet, despite the essential nature of these platforms to modern free speech and democratic culture, very little is known about how or why the platforms curate user content. This Article set out to answer these questions. It began with an overview of the legal framework behind private platforms’ broad immunity to moderate content. This framework comes from §230 (47 U.S. Code § 230 - Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230), the purposes of which were both to encourage platforms to be Good Samaritans by taking an active role in removing offensive content and to protect users’ rights by avoiding free speech problems of collateral censorship. With this background, this Article explored why platforms moderate despite the broad immunity of § 230. Through interviews with former platform architects and archived materials, this Article argued that platforms moderate content partly because of American free speech norms and corporate responsibility, but most importantly, because of the economic necessity of creating an environment that reflects the expectations of their users.

Beyond §230, courts have struggled with how to conceptualize online platforms within First Amendment doctrine: as company towns, as broadcasters, or as editors. This Article has argued that the answer to how best to conceptualize platforms lies outside current categories in First Amendment doctrine. Through internal documents, archived materials, interviews with platform executives, and conversations with content moderators, this Article showed that platforms have developed a system of governance, with a detailed list of rules, trained human decisionmaking to apply those rules, and reliance on a system of external influence to update and amend those rules. Platforms are the New Governors of online speech. These New Governors are private self-regulating entities that are economically and normatively motivated to reflect the democratic culture and free speech expectations of their users. But these incentives might no longer be enough.

The impact of the video of Philando Castile, the public outcry over Napalm Girl, the alarm expressed at the Zuckerberg Town Hall meeting, and the separate Twitter Rules for President Trump all reflect a central concern: a need for equal access to participation and more direct platform accountability to users. These New Governors play an essential new role in freedom of expression. The platforms are the products of a self-regulated and open internet, but they are only as democratic as the democratic culture and democratic partic(i)pation reflected in them. Any proposed regulation—be it entirely new laws or modest changes to §
230—should look carefully at how and why the New Governors actually moderate speech. Such, if any, regulation should work with an understanding of the intricate self-regulatory structure already in place in order to be the most effective for users and preserve the democratizing power of online platforms.


Apr 13, 6:54am Top

In addition to Amazon, Bezos owns Washington Post.

Trump, having denounced Amazon's shipping deal, orders review of Postal Service
April 12, 2018

President Donald Trump abruptly issued an executive order Thursday demanding an evaluation of the Postal Service's finances, asserting the power of his office weeks after accusing Amazon, the online retail giant, of not paying its fair share in postage.

...created a task force to examine the service's "unsustainable financial path" and directed the new group to "conduct a thorough evaluation of the operations and finances of the USPS."

...Postal Service experts and even Trump's own advisers have privately urged him to back off the accusations, noting that the huge number of packages shipped by Amazon is actually helping to keep the Postal Service financial solvent...


Apr 18, 7:50am Top

Sean Hannity 'basically has his own desk' at Trump’s White House
Robert Costa, Sarah Ellison, Josh Dawsey | 4/18/2018

'The bottom line is, during the heat of the campaign when relationships are forged, he was always there, offering good advice, in person and on television'

The phone calls between president Donald Trump and Sean Hannity come early in the morning or late at night, after the Fox News host goes off-air. They discuss ideas for Hannity’s show, Mr Trump’s frustration with the ongoing special counsel probe and even, at times, what the president should tweet, according to people familiar with the conversations.

When he’s off the phone, Mr Trump is known to cite Hannity when he talks with White House advisers.

...The revelation this week that the two men share an attorney is just the latest sign of how Hannity is intertwined with Mr Trump’s world

...Mr Trump and Hannity usually speak several times a week...


Apr 20, 9:52am Top

And now the US is on track for trillion dollar deficits...

Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes.
Posing as ‘John Barron,’ he claimed he owned most of his father’s real estate empire.
Jonathan Greenberg | April 20, 2018


Apr 23, 6:57am Top

>18 margd: Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity linked to shell companies that spent $90M on property: report
Morgan Gstalter | 04/22/18

Fox News host Sean Hannity is linked to a group of shell companies that have spent $90 million buying hundreds of homes across the U.S through the help of foreclosures and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Guardian reported Sunday.

More than 870 homes in seven different states have been purchased over the past decade, ranging from large mansions to rentals for low-income families, according to the newspaper.

For some of the mortgages, Hannity reportedly obtained funding from HUD under the National Housing Act loan program, which was first guaranteed under President Obama’s administration.

Secretary Ben Carson’s department recently increased Hannity’s original $17.9 million mortgage for purchases in Georgia by an additional $5 million, records obtained by the Guardian show.

Hannity did not disclose his cooperation with HUD when he had Carson on his show last June...


Apr 23, 12:26pm Top

>20 margd: What? Fox News didn't do a disclosure.... I mean even the Washington Post disclaims in every story about Bezos that he owns the WaPo.

Edited: May 1, 7:59am Top

This was no “spelling mistake.” It was a deliberate and dangerous head fake. Was Bolton involved?
Laurence Tribe @tribelaw3:54 AM - 1 May 2018

In 'Spelling Mistake,' White House Says Iran Has a Nuclear Weapons Program
Amir Tibon (Washington) May 01, 2018

The statement comes in response to Netanyahu's 'Iran Lied' speech and prior to Trump's signing for the nuclear deal

...The statement, attributed to U.S. President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, included a sentence saying that currently "Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people." ...

...shortly after the statement came out, the White House uploaded a revised version of the text to its website, changing the word "has" to "had," so that the statement would be in line with the official intelligence assessments...


'Spelling mistake' or fake news from Trump's new National Security Adviser? Remember:

John Bolton on: bombing Iran, North Korea, Russia and the Iraq War
Gregory Krieg | March 23, 2018

...In January(2018 Bolton) argued that the administration take more forceful steps to break the terms of the pact (with Iran):
"Spending the next 120 days negotiating with ourselves will leave the West mired in stasis. Mr. Trump correctly sees Mr. Obama's deal as a massive strategic blunder, but his advisers have inexplicably persuaded him not to withdraw. Last fall, deciding whether to reimpose sanctions and decertify the deal under the Corker-Cardin legislation, the administration also opted to keep the door open to 'fixes' -- a punt on third down. Let's hope Friday's decision is not another punt."

...Shortly before the framework of the Iran nuclear deal was set in place, Bolton wrote a piece headlined, "To Stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran." He even considered outsourcing the job to Israel:
"Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed. ... An attack need not destroy all of Iran's nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what's necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran's opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran."

...In 2008, Bolton called for strikes inside Iran as part of a bid to cut off Tehran's aid to insurgents in Iraq. Asked by a Fox News host what he thought would "happen next" if the US attacked, he downplayed the potential for widening the war:
"I think the Iranians need to look very carefully at what risk they would run if they were to escalate. The idea here is not to have much larger hostilities, but to stop the Iranians from engaging in the hostilities that they're already doing against us inside Iraq. And they're doing much the same by aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan. So this is not provocative or preemptive, this is entirely responsive on our part."...


May 1, 11:17am Top

While it's possible it was simply a grammar mistake (has versus had), I doubt it. Looks like its part of an information campaign. "Release this and then we'll walk it back but the people will remember the "has" as fact."

May 3, 11:28am Top

How Courts Are Neutralizing Trump's Deceptions
Quinta Jurecic | Apr 16, 2018

...The president is a fabulist unmoored from the truth. And the confluence of the Russia investigation and Trump’s disturbing behavior toward women shows what happens when a serial liar collides at full speed with a legal system premised on the idea that words have meaning, and actions result in consequences. Trump’s obfuscation has been alarmingly effective in the realm of politics. It will likely prove less so in the courtroom, a space reserved for evaluating facts and weighing the consistency of arguments—though as president, Trump is unlikely to find himself on the wrong end of a criminal prosecution.

...(Stormy) Daniels’s legal efforts to puncture Trump’s falsehoods are a scaled-down version of what’s transpired in the flood of court rulings against the administration’s more controversial policies. Again and again, judges have refused to let Trump get away with his usual trick of evading consequences by simply denying any involvement in what he did or said. Instead, they’ve written his tweets into legal opinions as evidence of animus against Muslims or transgender servicemembers. Law, after all, is a structure of meaning used to weigh facts and arguments and then impose consequences—the opposite of Trump’s glib insistence on the irrelevance of truth. What matters is not how loudly a person can boast but what evidence can be presented.

It’s for this reason that the Russia investigation looms so large. In his sternness and silence, Mueller has become not just a prosecutor or a special counsel but the embodiment of the justice system—the opposite of the dissembler in chief...

...(but) what if the special counsel unveils a catalogue of wrongdoing by the president and those around him, only to find that Trump has succeeded in undermining the idea of truth to the extent that a substantial proportion of Americans simply won’t believe whatever investigators have found?

Where will Americans be then?


May 4, 2:42pm Top

Does anyone know why our local daily said that Mike Pompeo was confirmed "easily"? I read in LT that
ALL the Democrats voted against him, and all the Republicans for him. So, if that is true, how would he have won by more than 2 or 3 votes

May 4, 4:30pm Top

Probably that they got all the votes they needed easily, that is they didn't have to beg.

May 4, 4:33pm Top

Or bring in poor Senator McCain...

May 4, 10:59pm Top

Thanks @jjwilson and margd.

May 5, 10:37am Top

Genealogy sites are Wild West of privacy — here’s what you give away with your DNA
Quentin Fottrell | May 1, 2018

...Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “When you upload your DNA to a company like GEDMatch, you don’t have federal privacy protections under HIPPA.” The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 restricts who is allowed to access medical information, but this only applies to health-care providers, health-care clearinghouses and health plans.

...“Everything the police did is something your Aunt Sally could do,” said Erin Murphy, professor at New York University School of Law. “We are still learning about what the genome will be able to tell us and the legal structures are not in place to circumscribe that information,” she says. “If we are able to use genomes to predict behavioral traits, that could affect your ability to get a job or your ability to get insurance.”

...Parents and children could find out that they’re not related (infidelity, sperm donors outed, etc.)

...Experts say all genealogy sites must now balance the common good with an individual’s privacy. “Isn’t is a good thing to have caught this killer? Yes, it is,” Dixon says. “But what if there’s a significant disease running in your biological family and you are adopted? Should you find and tell your relatives? What about custody cases or ownership claims? All of these questions introduce profound ethical issues. The old world of ‘I have nothing to hide, so I’m not concerned’ is no longer applicable.”...


May 11, 3:31am Top

Tangled web connects alt-right, Russia, and Trump?

Alt-right web domain names registered to (Russian-connected) company that paid Cohen (Trump's fixer)
Curt Devine and Jose Pagliery | May 10, 2018

At least eight alt-right website domain names were registered to Columbus Nova (the US affiliate of the Russian investment company Renova Group, which is chaired by Viktor Vekselberg, who is a cousin of Columbus Nova CEO Andrew and brother Frederick Intrater), the company that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen...

The domains, which include alternate-right.com, alt-rights.com and alternate-rt.com, were created in August 2016 during the presidential campaign season.

That same month, CNN and other news outlets reported on the rising profile of the alt-right movement and its white nationalist connections.

...Frederick Intrater (brother of CEO Andrew) said in a statement that he used his own money to purchase the domains with the intention of later selling them for profit. He said he does not support white supremacy and added that he is Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor...


May 11, 4:04am Top

Among others, I saw the arm-wrestling Jesus ad, courtesy of a good woman, who is socially very conservative...and apparently manipulated by Russia.
In a related story, "Facebook tightens issue ads, political ads to prevent election interference". Can't happen too soon!

Thousands of Facebook ads bought by Russians to fool U.S. voters released by Congress
Jessica Guynn,Elizabeth Weise and Erin Kelly | May 10, 2018

May 12, 1:37am Top

We read every one of the 3,517 Facebook ads bought by Russians. Their dominant strategy: Sowing racial discord
Nick Penzenstadler, Brad Heath, Jessica Guynn | May 11, 2018

...Among the findings:

Of the roughly 3,500 ads published this week, more than half — about 1,950 — made express references to race. Those accounted for 25 million ad impressions — a measure of how many times the spot was pulled from a server for transmission to a device.

At least 25% of the ads centered on issues involving crime and policing, often with a racial connotation. Separate ads, launched simultaneously, would stoke suspicion about how police treat black people in one ad, while another encouraged support for pro-police groups.

Divisive racial ad buys averaged about 44 per month from 2015 through the summer of 2016 before seeing a significant increase in the run-up to Election Day. Between September and November 2016, the number of race-related spots rose to 400. An additional 900 were posted after the November election through May 2017.

Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton. A few dozen referenced questions about the U.S. election process and voting integrity, while a handful mentioned other candidates like Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush...


May 14, 7:06am Top

Bloomberg warns of 'epidemic of dishonesty'
STEVE PEOPLES | May 13, 2018

...former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who warned in a commencement speech on Saturday at Texas' Rice University that "an endless barrage of lies" and a trend toward "alternate realities" in national politics pose a dire threat to U.S. democracy.

...Bloomberg evoked the legend of the nation's first president, George Washington, who as a boy said he could not tell a lie when asked if he cut down a cherry tree.

"How did we go from a president who could not tell a lie to politicians who cannot tell the truth?" Bloomberg asked Rice graduates and their families gathered in Houston.

...he noted that the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real. Trump and his Republican allies have repeatedly called climate change a hoax promoted by America's adversaries.

"If 99 percent of scientists whose research has been peer-reviewed reach the same general conclusion about a theory, then we ought to accept it as the best available information — even if it's not a 100 percent certainty," Bloomberg said.

..."When elected officials speak as though they are above the truth, they will act as though they are above the law," Bloomberg told Rice graduates. "And when we tolerate dishonesty, we get criminality. Sometimes, it's in the form of corruption. Sometimes, it's abuse of power. And sometimes, it's both."

"The greatest threat to American democracy isn't communism, jihadism, or any other external force or foreign power," he continued. "It's our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power."


Jun 1, 12:46pm Top

Self-serving leak? Trump breaks protocol commenting on jobs report before 8:30 am announcement. Perhaps to head off market slide in response to Thursday announcement of tariffs? Asked Former chairman for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman, "How sure are we that he only tells the public and not his friends when he talks to them late at night?” (= insider trading?)

Trump tweet previewing jobs report appears to break protocol: Experts
Alexander Mallin | Jun 1, 2018

...The president's tweet at 7:21 a.m. read, "Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning," previewing what turned out to be a report that exceeded economists' expectations.

...a Labor Department rule (bars) executive branch employees ... from publicly commenting on the jobs report until “at least one hour” after its official release.

...Speaking to reporters ahead of his departure for Texas on Thursday, Trump spoke glowingly about the "best unemployment we've had in many, many decades," though it's unclear if he was just speaking generally about the state of the economy or was speaking specifically to the content of the May report.

...the Obama administration “absolutely interpreted the Labor Department rule as applying" to the president himself...


Jun 2, 3:54am Top

Opinion: Trump’s jobs tweet was a lot worse than insider trading
Rex Nutting | June 1, 2018

His message: Public institutions are only to be trusted when they unquestionably support Donald J. Trump

...these rules were not put in place primarily to protect the integrity of financial markets, but to protect the integrity of government statistical data from misuse and abuse by politicians. These rules aren’t there to protect Wall Street traders who don’t follow Trump on Twitter, but to protect our democracy from the manipulations of politicians.

...The rules that Trump stomped on Friday date back to the early 1970s, after the administration of President Richard Nixon attempted to politicize the reporting of the monthly unemployment and inflation numbers. Nixon ranted in private about statisticians in the BLS (Bureau of Labor Staistics) who wouldn’t spin the numbers his way: “He is an all-out son of a bitch who has been against us for 20 years. We have to be tough on this. We are running the government,” the Nixon tapes showed. Nixon nearly succeeded in destroying the integrity of the BLS (along with a lot else).

Over the next few years, new rules were put into place to restore confidence in the objectivity of the government data. The major change was to formally isolate the career civil servants who produce the statistical reports from their political bosses. Other than those who produce them, only a few officials in the government — including leaders of the Federal Reserve, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and the president himself — have access to the data before they are released.

Importantly, no political official is allowed to comment on the data publicly until they have been in the public domain for at least one hour. With a few exceptions, no administration official has violated this rule. Until Trump did it a year ago, and then again today more flagrantly.

...Trump’s attacks on the credibility of the BLS and the Census Bureau are not that different from his attacks on the credibility of the FBI, CIA or Justice Department. For Trump and his voters, these institutions are to be trusted only when they actively and wholeheartedly support Trump.

The political bosses over the BLS have gotten that message. Why else would the Department of Labor issue a press release on Friday that specifically highlighted the number of jobs created since Election Day? It’s pure political spin, paid for by the taxpayers.

Yes, this violation is a small thing in the grand scheme of things. But erosions of small norms anesthetize us to the erosion of larger norms...


Jun 4, 11:20am Top

BEN WHITE | June 4, 2018

...before he left the White House, former National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn would withhold jobs report data from President Trump until shortly before their release because he was worried the president couldn’t help but say something about them.

Current NEC Director Larry Kudlow followed the usual protocol in calling Trump on Air Force One on Thursday and gave him Friday’s figures. Kudlow did nothing wrong here. But Trump did, even if it wasn’t a direct disclosure of the numbers.

He’s now created a scenario in which traders will be looking for Trump tweets each jobs Friday. Does no tweet mean a bad number is coming? He’s inserted a new variable where none should exist.


Jun 6, 7:25am Top

President Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 497 days
Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly | June 1, 2018

...That’s an average of more than 6.5 claims a day.

When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. But the average number of claims per day keeps climbing as the president nears the 500-day mark of his presidency.

In the month of May, the president made about eight claims a day — including an astonishing 35 claims in his rally in Nashville on May 29...


Jun 6, 12:39pm Top

It boggles the mind.

Jun 13, 6:11am Top

Trump’s false assertion that Canada claims to ‘make’ $100 billion in trade with the U.S.
Glenn Kessler | June 12, 2018

...The Pinocchio Test

Trump says the Canadians say they “make 100 billion dollars” off trade with the United States, but Canada makes no such claim. The $100 billion number was not discovered because the Canadians were caught “bragging” but because his staff concocted a number by misleadingly citing the Canadian statistical website. The facts are not on Trump’s side when it comes to complaining about a trade deficit with Canada, because there is a trade surplus — as admitted in even a report he signed. The president earns Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios (= Whopper)


Jun 13, 12:00pm Top

Trump Administration Can’t Hide Jared Kushner–Led Office From FOIA Requests, Watchdogs Claim in New Court Filing

In its May motion, the administration claimed that the office—despite launching initiatives, implementing programs and imposing duties on government agencies—exists solely to advise President Donald Trump and therefore qualifies for a narrow exception from the rule that all executive branch offices are subject to FOIA.
“Courts have before held that just because an individual might at some point be an adviser to the president, if they’re also running an entity wielding a lot of independent authority, that entity can still be considered an agency,” she said.

Jun 13, 4:39pm Top

Having met with Kim Jong Un, Trump proclaims that, "...Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News..."

So funny to watch the Fake News, especially NBC and CNN. They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago they would have “begged” for this deal-looked like war would break out. Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!

Donald J. Trump
‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump
6:30 AM - 13 Jun 2018

Jun 14, 7:46am Top

The real Destiny Pictures founder claims mistaken identity, distances himself from Trump video

The NSC kept its name off the credits, but later confirmed that it was an in-house production, while the LA-based studio whose name leads the short film had nothing to do with it.

First shown to journalists ahead of a solo press conference by Trump -- the first in well over a year -- some thought they were watching a propaganda video produced by Pyongyang, the Washington Post reported. "What country are we in?" one journalist reportedly asked.

Another, AFP's Andrew Beatty tweeted: "They are playing a propaganda video before Trump presser. Not kidding. What is happening??!!"

Jun 14, 7:57am Top

...and in the Brownsville, Texas immigrant children's shelter, propaganda murals:

and another, with an ironic message, from a line from a speech in which Obama announced protections for some undocumented immigrants:

Jun 14, 8:10am Top

All this strikes me as very concerning. We continue our slide towards nationalism. I'm reminded of Italy under Mussolini.

Jun 17, 4:00am Top

Fresh off primary loss, Rep. Mark Sanford frets over consequence-free lies
Tim Rostan | June 16, 2018

President Trump, the South Carolina Republican complains, is not called sufficiently to account over untruthful statements


Jun 20, 9:22am Top

President Trump seems to be saying more and more things that aren’t true
Ashley Parker | June 19, 2018

...“It’s extraordinary how he is completely indifferent to truth. There’s just no relationship between his statements — anything he utters — and the actual truth of the matter,” said Thomas Murray, president emeritus of the Hastings Center, the founding institution in the field of bioethics. “As far as I can tell, the best way to understand anything he says is what will best serve his interests in the moment. It’s irrespective to any version of the truth.”...


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