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TBR News June 18, 2020

Jun 18 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. June 18, 2020: Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not
the place to discuss it
Comment for June 18, 2020: “Trump has exhausted the approval of many of his once rock solid supporters and this disapproval is also evident in the mass of the middle class. Rising unemployment, closure of busineses, evictions, mass income loss are all painfully obvious and equally obvious is the lack of concern on the part of the administration to these serious, and growing, problems. If one takes a kaleidoscope apart and removes the colored pieces of plastic inside, these pieces can be studied in detail but what no one can predict is the random patterns that emerge when placed back inside the mirrored tube. So it is with social issues such as the current problems, but if one blocks up the spout of a boiling tea kettle, the lid always blows off.”

Trump Approval Rating

June 11-13
Abacus Data
Approve Disapprove
38%     54%

The Table of Contents

• Bolton says Trump unfit for office as book alleges sweeping misdeeds
• John Bolton’s bombshell Trump book: eight of its most stunning claims
• The AFL-CIO’s Police Union Problem Is Bigger Than You Think
• Facial recognition tools under fresh scrutiny amid police protests
• America: Too Weak to Rein in Its Own Empire?
• Months before election, Trump finds himself at odds with most Americans’ views
• Supreme Court blocks Trump plan to end DACA program
• Supreme Court rules for ‘Dreamers,’ rejects Trump’s repeal of immigration program
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Bolton says Trump unfit for office as book alleges sweeping misdeeds
June 18, 2020
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton said the U.S. president is unfit for office, according to interview excerpts released on Thursday after portions of the top aide’s upcoming book revealed a withering portrayal of his ex-boss.
“I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Bolton told ABC News in an interview. “I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job.”
The longtime foreign policy hawk, who left the White House in September, accused the president of sweeping misdeeds in order to seek re-election, including explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help, according to portions of his behind-the-scenes account.
Trump also expressed a willingness to halt criminal investigations to favor dictators he liked, Bolton said in excerpts published in several major newspapers on Wednesday that allege far more extensive accusations of impropriety than those that drove Trump’s impeachment.
Trump, a Repulican seeking re-election on Nov. 3, bristled at the allegations and slammed Bolton’s character, calling his former adviser a “liar” and a “dope.”
The U.S. Justice Department has sued to block Bolton from publishing the book, citing risks to national security, but publisher Simon & Schuster dismissed the accusations and said the thousands of copies have already been distributed.
Excerpts were widely published in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the New York Times.
In the memoir, Bolton cited multiple conversations in which Trump demonstrated “fundamentally unacceptable behavior that eroded the very legitimacy of the presidency.”
“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election,” Bolton told ABC News.
Trump told China’s Xi in June 2019 to go ahead and build camps for its mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups despite the Trump administration’s criticism of China’s mass detention.
Bolton also wrote that Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” even as the U.S. government has said it does not favor using force to topple Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
At a summer 2019 meeting in New Jersey, Trump made some of his most alarming remarks to date on the media, saying journalists should be jailed so they have to divulge their sources and “should be executed,” Bolton said, according to one excerpt.
Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

John Bolton’s bombshell Trump book: eight of its most stunning claims
White House tried to block publication of The Room Where It Happened, but the book has been leaked to media outlets
June 17, 2020
by Max Benwell and Guardian staff
The Guardian
Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has made a series of explosive claims about the US president in his new book The Room Where It Happened, according to numerous news reports and an excerpt.
Most notably, Bolton claims Trump asked China to use its economic power to help him in the 2020 election, and tried to kill criminal investigations as “favors” for dictators he liked.
The explosive allegations came after a White House lawsuit sought to block the publication of Bolton’s book. But ahead of its scheduled release next week it has now been leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post, which reported on some of the stunning claims. An excerpt also appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
Here are eight of the most shocking revelations:
1. Trump pleaded with China to help win the 2020 election
According to the excerpt of Bolton’s book published by the Wall Street Journal, Trump asked China to use its economic power to help him win a second election.
In one instance, Trump and President Xi Jinping were discussing hostility to China in the US. “Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton writes.
“He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”
2. Trump suggested he was open to serving more than two terms
In another eye-opening exchange published in the Wall Street Journal, Trump also seems to support Xi’s idea of eliminating presidential term limits. “Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him,” Bolton writes. “Xi said the US had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly.”
3. Trump offered favors to dictators
Bolton’s book reportedly details cases where Trump tried to kill criminal investigations as favors to dictators. One incident published in the Washington Post includes a 2018 discussion with the Turkish president, Recep Erdoğan. Bolton says Erdoğan gave Trump a memo claiming that a Turkish firm under investigation in the US was innocent. “Trump then told Erdoğan he would take care of things, explaining that the southern district prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.”
4. Trump praised Xi for China’s internment camps
According to Bolton, Trump was also approving when Xi defended China’s internment of Uighur Muslims in detention camps. “According to our interpreter,” Bolton writes, “Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
According to leaked Communist party documents published in November, at least 1 million Uighur Muslims are detained in the camps.
5. Trump defended Saudi Arabia to distract from a story about Ivanka
Trump made headlines in November 2018 when he released a bizarre statement defending the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. It included lines such as “The world is a very dangerous place!” and “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
According to Bolton’s book, making headlines was the point. A story about his daughter Ivanka using her personal email for government business was also in the news at the time. After waging war on Hilary Clinton during the 2016 campaign for doing the same thing, Trump need a distraction.
“This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump reportedly said. “If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”
6. Trump’s top staff mocked him behind his back
From what has been reported, it sounds like Bolton’s book provides one of the clearest insights into the despair of Trump’s top officials behind the scenes.
In one example given by the New York Times, Bolton claims he received a note from the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, after Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, simply saying, “He is so full of shit.” On top of this, Pompeo also allegedly said a month later that Trump’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea had “zero probability of success”.
7. Trump thought Finland was part of Russia
Bolton’s book reportedly details some giant holes in Trump’s knowledge. In one instance, Bolton says Trump didn’t seem to know basic knowledge about the UK, asking its former prime minister Theresa May: “Oh, are you a nuclear power?”. On top of this, he also alleges that Trump once asked if Finland was part of Russia, and repeatedly mixed up the current and former presidents of Afghanistan.
8. Trump thought it would be ‘cool’ to invade Venezuela
According to the Washington Post, Bolton claims Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool”, and that the country was “really part of the United States”.

The AFL-CIO’s Police Union Problem Is Bigger Than You Think
by Matthew Cunningham-Cook
June 18, 2020
The Intercept
After the near murder of a 75-year-old man on a sidewalk in Buffalo, New York, the city’s police union, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, responded with organized demonstrations of support for the officers who shoved the elderly man to the ground.
After the murder of George Floyd, the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation was defiant, with President Bob Kroll, who had recently defended his role in three police shootings, attacking Floyd as a criminal, and lashing out at local politicians for not allowing the police to be rougher on protesters. The Sergeants Benevolent Association in New York City, which has attracted reprobation for doxxing NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter Chiara, has also moved to a furious war footing. The Louisville Metro Police Union in Kentucky rallied around the killers of Breonna Taylor, as the officers involved haven’t been fired, let alone charged.
The reactionary intransigence has brought into focus the role of police unions in creating conditions for unchecked violence. On June 8, the Writers Guild of America East, a 6,000-member AFL-CIO affiliate that represents television writers and digital journalists (including at The Intercept), passed a resolution that urged its parent body to “disaffiliate” the International Union of Police Associations, the sole police-only union in the federation. “As long as police unions continue to wield their collective bargaining power as a cudgel, preventing reforms and accountability, no one is safe,” WGAE wrote in a statement.
The resolution drew broad support inside the AFL-CIO but also opposition, and it has so far been rejected. Lost in the debate, however, is that the unions who were the immediate inspiration for the resolution would be untouched. Neither the Minneapolis, New York City, Louisville, or Buffalo unions are part of the IUPA or any other AFL-CIO union. Three are independent unions and one, in Louisville, belongs to the arch-reactionary Fraternal Order of Police. And, adding more complexity to advocates of disentangling police unions from the broader organized labor movement, the IUPA, with its 100,000 members, is far from the only union within the AFL-CIO that represents cops.
Police have a small but politically and ideologically influential presence in some of the country’s largest and most progressive unions, like the United Food and Commercial Workers; the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Government Employees; and the Communications Workers of America. All are major members of the AFL-CIO union federation.
The Change to Win union federation, which broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005, is home to the Service Employees International Union, which has thousands of law enforcement members in its International Brotherhood of Police Organizations/National Association of Government Employees chapter, as well as the Teamsters, which represents tens of thousands of police and corrections officers.
Police unions, compared to others within organized labor, tend to be more rigidly ideological and are adept at organizing. That combination means police unions can often pull their coalition partners — particularly in corrections, probation, and the building trades — to the right on issues that go beyond strict policing concerns.
Bill Fletcher Jr., a former education director at both the AFL-CIO and AFGE, and a leading expert on race and labor, said that he has witnessed past efforts at major unions to address issues related to criminal justice reform or racism, and seen them collapse in the face of internal police opposition. “The leadership of the overall union will cower in the face of this” law enforcement opposition, he said, “in part because they are afraid that the law enforcement units will leave. That has happened in every union that I’ve worked with and every union that I have observed.” And unlike other groups of union members, police in particular will often vote with their feet to join other unions, a practice that is very uncommon in the rest of labor — giving them additional leverage over internal union deliberations.
“Having law enforcement units in other unions, whether it is AFSCME, UFCW or the Teamsters, has a very conservative impact on the union,” Fletcher said. “The law enforcement units tend to be very well organized and very conservative. They will intervene when there are union debates on anything that has to do with law enforcement, the movement for black lives or issues of immigration and detention.”
Indeed, the AFL-CIO, which represents 12.5 million members in over 50 affiliated unions, swiftly rejected the WGAE’s resolution. “We believe the best way to use our influence on the issue of police brutality is to engage our police affiliates rather than isolate them. Many of our unions have adopted a code of excellence for their members and industries that could and should be applied to those who are sworn to protect and serve,” the AFL-CIO’s board wrote in a June 9 statement. “We believe the labor movement must hold our own institutions accountable. A union must never be a shield from criminal conduct.”
One organization that is undoubtedly watching the controversy inside the AFL-CIO closely is the Fraternal Order of Police, which is not affiliated with either the AFL-CIO or Change to Win federations and was one of only a few unions to endorse Donald Trump in 2016.
A vote by the AFL-CIO Executive Council to expel IUPA could be a boon to the FOP, if other police union members walked out the door with them. With union density lower than at any time in the last 80 years, unions often feel that they cannot afford to lose any more members.
Setting police unions fully apart from the rest of organized labor would, some advocates hope, heighten the already existing internal contradictions and hasten a reckoning. That reckoning, some unions worry and some conservative opponents of labor hope, would boomerang onto other public sector workers, who are disproportionately African American. And after a decade of nonstop attacks on public sector collective bargaining rights, union leadership is concerned about changes to police union collective bargaining resulting in weakening protections for all public sector workers, as has been proposed by numerous right-wing think tanks.
Ben Sachs, a labor and industry professor at Harvard Law who recently launched a project to reform police union collective bargaining to end police abuses, understands the concerns of union leaders and others that a push to reform police union collective bargaining could endanger a broader subset of workers.
“It is absolutely critical that any reforms remain tightly focused on the actual problem here, which is police violence. Any changes to police collective bargaining law should apply only to collective bargaining practices that directly implicate police violence. We can’t allow changes to police collective bargaining to become a stalking horse for those with a political agenda to undermine other public sector unions,” Sachs said. “At the same time, this is an immediate and enormous crisis. That has to be dealt with in a robust way. If that means that being open to some changes to police collective bargaining laws, it’s incumbent on us to be open to that.”
Veena Dubal, a University of California, Hastings College of the Law professor who resigned from the Berkeley police oversight commission due to its toothlessness, argued that demands to defund or abolish the police reflected the tension of attempting to address the ways that police collective bargaining agreements protect violent cops without infringing on public sector collective bargaining rights.
“Rather than open the door to the de-unionization of public sector workers, a much better strategy is a social movement strategy,” which would include the AFL-CIO saying it didn’t want to be associated with cop unions, said Dubal. That strategy, Dubal argued, would recognize that “police aren’t workers even in the same way that firemen are workers. Police defend property. They have historically defended white property. We’re not in a place where that is going to change.”
The end goal, Dubal said, would be to “take the emphasis away from the unions and refocus on defunding and abolition of police departments. As labor movement activists we have to push back against racism and the institutionalization of racism amongst and our communities. That was the failure of labor in the 1960s. … We’re not going to achieve the racial equality and economic justice in the labor movement if we don’t continue to make these strides.”
Saladin Muhammad, a former organizer with the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America and current co-coordinator of the Southern Workers Assembly, meanwhile believes the AFL-CIO should expel the IUPA unequivocally — and that mainstream unions should consider expulsion of their law enforcement units as well. “I believe if the Minnesota cops would have come out — not just one or two but hundreds of them — come out and condemned what happened to George Floyd, that might have been an important statement. But they didn’t. This blue wall of silence that exists as a part of police culture has stopped this kind of open challenge by police to police brutality.”
“Expelling the police is one question but it doesn’t stop them from functioning the way they function. But it is a step forward,” said Muhammad, who argued that the rank and file must also take action to address systemic racism.
“As an African-American, this killing with impunity that exists really speaks to the question of whether the working class is going to unite on a multinational, multiracial basis around conditions that affect a section of the working class. Responding to these kinds of acts has to begin to be seen as an obligation of the working class and of trade unions,” said Muhammad.
Steven Pitts, a professor at the UC Berkeley Labor Center who has led racial justice discussions for many unions, argued that the behavior of cops is a bigger issue than the presence of their unions within the AFL-CIO. “What we need now is to stop cops from killing Black people. Sometimes symbolic steps can be useful. But the final marker in the sand is to restrain the power of the police to kill Black people. We need to identify the concrete policies and procedures that allow cops that we know have issues around race and brutality — it may be an issue of collective bargaining, arbitration, or disciplinary records — once we identify those things and then we make them a condition of further acceptance in the AFL-CIO. Expelling cop unions would then become a tool to change those policies and procedures that lead to brutality. If we can’t draw a direct line from expulsion to the elimination of bad practices, then I’d want to focus on the bad practices.”
Unions should also focus on empowering Black workers to fight against anti-Black racism. “How do you bring power to those that are powerless? How do you increase the power of Black workers, Asian workers, Latino workers and so forth? Otherwise we’re asking people, like the AFL-CIO leadership, who have good hearts but they will behave imperfectly if workers of color lack power in society,” Pitts said, noting that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka “makes a calculus to say things in one context and differently in another and our job is to change the context. That’s a matter of power.”
There are few historical examples of unions getting kicked out of the labor movement. The UE, which Muhammad was formerly an organizer with, was one of the communist-led unions expelled from the CIO. After its expulsion, over 90 percent of its 700,000 members were pressured and red-baited into joining more conservative unions, all of whom were much less progressive on racial justice issues.
“I think that SEIU, AFSCME, and the Teamsters should consider expelling their cop locals,” said Muhammad. “There’s a real strong element of business unionism that is making some unions reluctant [to expel]. I haven’t really seen any of the major unions that have cops really struggle with the cops and … expel members of their union who have committed these vicious acts and killings.”
“Expelling a law enforcement unit from an international union would depend if there was a violation of the constitution,” Fletcher said. Indeed, that’s the argument the WGAE made in its resolution on expelling IUPA, which argued that “police unions are incompatible with the AFL-CIO’s stated goals: ‘to vanquish oppression, privation and cruelty in all their forms.’” The resolution went on: “the policies or ­activities of [the IUPA] are consistently directed ­toward the achievement of the program or purposes of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, terrorism and other forces that suppress individual liberties and freedom of association and oppose the basic principles of free and democratic trade unionism.”
Fletcher said that if the AFL-CIO held a nationwide discussion, one of the results may be that the police unions could choose to leave, noting that the AFL-CIO completed a racial justice commission in 2017 in response to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 and 2015. The IUPA did not participate in it. “The AFL could look into law enforcement and part of it would be about race and one of the consequences is that the IUPA could decide to leave. There might be police units of AFL-CIO affiliates that would object to such a discussion. But there’s a big difference between them deciding to leave and them being thrown out.”
The conversation around police unions often centers around their collective bargaining agreements, which typically make it difficult to terminate an officer for misconduct. Police unions also have a stable of friendly arbitrators jointly approved by management and union who typically issue decisions that are much friendlier to officers than arbitrators in typical public sector collective bargaining. In states with public sector collective bargaining, such agreements are made possible by laws that are friendlier to police and fire unions than others, allowing them “interest arbitration” to settle contracts, a process far friendlier to unions than typical collective bargaining.
Union leadership is concerned that efforts to reform the police collective bargaining process could backfire and endanger public sector labor rights more broadly. AFSCME President Lee Saunders, who is African American, spoke to those concerns in an op-ed in USA Today, where he wrote, “Just as it was wrong when racists went out of their way to exclude black people from unions, it is wrong to deny this freedom to police officers today.”
Conservatives, ranging from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page to libertarian think tanks, have been making the argument that problems with police union collective bargaining justifies the elimination of public sector collective bargaining rights altogether, in violation of international labor law.
In major confrontations, police unions have already failed to show solidarity with other public sector unions. In Wisconsin, where the notorious Act 10 revoking collective bargaining rights for public employees provoked mass demonstrations in 2011, GOP Gov. Scott Walker carved cops out of his assault, depriving teachers and other public workers of the political protection that could come from a broader coalition. The police unions did not stand with the other workers.

Facial recognition tools under fresh scrutiny amid police protests
June 17, 2020
by Chris Mills Rodrigo
The Hill
Nationwide protests against police brutality are renewing scrutiny of facial recognition technology, prompting tech giants like Amazon and IBM to scale back their sales of the software to law enforcement at the state and local level.
The criticism of the programs is also reigniting congressional efforts to craft federal regulations for the technology.
IBM was the first major company to make a splash on the issue, announcing in a letter to Congress last week that it will end its facial recognition business entirely.
CEO Arvind Krishna said the decision was made in part due to concerns from activists and civil rights groups that law enforcement may be using the technology to identify individuals participating in the demonstrations that have erupted across the nation following the police killing of George Floyd.
Amazon followed IBM’s lead a few days later, although the company made a much more limited commitment, saying that for the next 12 months its facial recognition technology, known as Rekognition, will not be sold to police.
Critics, however, have pointed out that Amazon did not address its sale of the technology to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and has actively expanded partnerships between its video doorbell system Ring and police since Floyd’s killing.
Microsoft announced Thursday that it will maintain its ban on selling facial recognition tools to police departments until there is a federal law governing the technology. Amazon also suggested it’s hopeful that its one-year moratorium will give Congress enough time to implement “appropriate rules.”
While the protests have been an “inflection point,” Meredith Whittaker, the co-director of the AI Now Institute, told The Hill that pressure for companies to change their facial recognition policies has been building for some time.
“The moments like this don’t happen without a lot of ongoing work,” she told The Hill in an interview Tuesday, pointing to work by MIT researchers Joy Buolamwini and Deborah Raji as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that found persistent biases in the controversial technology against people of color and women.
Despite increasing bipartisan criticism of facial recognition technology, there is no federal law spelling out how, when or where such technology can be used.
In the House, legislation is most likely to emanate from the Oversight and Reform Committee.
The committee has held multiple hearings on facial recognition, first led by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), an early critic of the software, and this year it appeared close to a bipartisan consensus on declaring a federal moratorium.
Both Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said in February that legislation was being drafted to freeze federal use to allow more time for research around the topic.
While that effort was derailed in recent months — by the coronavirus and some reshuffling of committee members — negotiations have restarted in recent days, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) told The Hill in an interview Tuesday.
There is now “broad consensus” on the committee for some sort of moratorium, he said, and “now we need to find a consensus on the solution.”
Gomez, a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee who has been a vocal critic of facial recognition since being misidentified as a criminal in an ACLU study, said concerns about the technology being used on protesters has pushed lawmakers to draft legislation.
“It’s always been a concern of ours, on how facial recognition is being used especially when it comes to people exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said. “It’s something that was deeply concerning before these protests and it’s deeply concerning now.”
Maloney told The Hill on Tuesday that the committee plans to introduce a facial recognition bill in the “coming weeks.”
Apart from a moratorium on federal use, Gomez said limiting police from misusing facial recognition is a focus of his. While the broader Democratic proposal on police reform, the Justice in Policing Act, addresses the issue, the California lawmaker said it alone would not be enough.
“This issue is so big, one piece of legislation is not going to solve it,” he said. “We have to tackle it from multiple directions.”
Beyond the Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the influential Congressional Progressive Caucus, is also drafting legislation to put a freeze on the technology, a spokesperson for the lawmaker told The Hill on Tuesday.
On the other side of the Capitol, there are multiple proposals to regulate facial recognition technology.
Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) introduced a bill that would place a federal moratorium on the tool until Congress passes a bill establishing standards for its use.
It would also prohibit state and local governments from using federal funds for the technology and create a commission to provide recommendations on future federal government use.
Merkley praised IBM’s move last week, saying the risks facial recognition pose for communities of color is a “very real concern.”
Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bipartisan bill this year that would require law enforcement to obtain a court order to use facial recognition software for extended surveillance. However, civil rights groups have been critical of exceptions in the legislation for “exigent circumstances” where a court order would not be needed.
The majority of the efforts on Capitol Hill have been focused on the biases in facial recognition technology.
In addition to the research on bias referenced earlier, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency within the Commerce Department, released an expansive study in December finding that the majority of facial recognition systems have “demographic differentials” that can worsen their accuracy based on a person’s age, gender or race.
But Michael Kleinman, the director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative, told The Hill that unbiased facial recognition technology could just make the problems worse.
“Where this technology is used for mass surveillance, ‘solving the accuracy problem’ and improving grades does not address the impact on the right to peaceful protest,” he said. “And so, in some ways, improving accuracy may only amount to increasing surveillance and disempowerment of the already disadvantaged.”

America: Too Weak to Rein in Its Own Empire?
Donald Trump ‘withdrawing’ troops from Germany isn’t a crisis of national confidence; keeping them there is.
June 17, 2020
by Matt Purple
The American Conservative
A grievous blow to international security has just been dealt. President Donald Trump has announced that American troops are to be withdrawn from…Germany. Yes, Germany. Why are American troops in Germany? Because we have to fight them over there so we don’t fight them here, you see, and there are few generators of terrorism and chaos in the world today quite like the Berlin club circuit.
The real surprise isn’t that we’re pulling troops out of Germany; it’s that they’re still there 75 years after World War II ended. And according to the White House, they aren’t even all being withdrawn, just a quarter of them, a reduction of 9,500 that will leave 25,000 American boots on German soil. And of the 9,500, a senior administration official tells Reuters that at least some will be redeployed elsewhere. Poland, with its closer proximity to Russia and plans to build a Fort Trump panderopolis, is a likely destination.
Which is to say: this is less a withdrawal than another Trumpian “withdrawal,” a stagey bit of realist theater that ultimately leaves America just as militarily overextended as she was before. It’s similar in that way to Trump’s “withdrawal” from Syria last year, which saw American forces leave only to boomerang back in on a cynical mission to protect that country’s oil fields. Yet that hasn’t stopped the usual suspects from shrieking about how Trump is playing demolition man to the postwar order. Critics have accused him of initiating the Germany pullout to spite Angela Merkel. Twitter this week was hot with speculation that he was acting at Putin’s behest. House Republicans, channeling the Hans Blix puppet in Team America, sent Trump a letter.
Hans Binnendijk, a fellow on the Atlantic Council, warned at DefenseNews that pulling American troops out of Germany could undermine NATO attempts to protect Europe against Russia. The alliance’s “deterrent posture,” he intones, “is already fragile.” Worse, “a withdrawal would be a clear signal that Trump is not serious about defending Europe. It would undercut the very deterrent strategy that both the Obama and Trump administrations have put in place to contain an aggressive Russia.”
But who’s really undermining deterrence here? Who’s really unserious about defending against spooky Russian imperialism? Is it the United States, which is burying itself in debt to maintain tens of thousands of troops on the European continent? Is it Donald Trump, who has beefed up America’s military presence in Poland and sent an additional 20,000 soldiers to Europe for anti-Russian military exercises? Or is it Germany, which since the Cold War has slashed its armed forces to fund its benevolent welfare state and balance its budgets? Is it the Bundeswehr, the German military, which internal reports have found to be plagued by deterioration and dysfunction? Is it Angela Merkel, whose government announced two years ago that not only would it not meet NATO’s required 2 percent of GDP on defense spending, it wouldn’t even clear its own downscaled goal of 1.5 percent?
Germany now says it intends to hit the 2 percent mark by the lickety-split deadline of 2031. If Russia really is the primed-to-blow menace that the foreign policy establishment claims, then such foot-dragging ought to have elicited outrage from Arlington to Foggy Bottom. Instead the response was mostly muted. The elite narrative still holds: Donald Trump is steering America towards ruin and Angela Merkel is the new leader of the global sisterhood of the traveling pants. That the reality, at least on military spending, looks like the molecular opposite matters little. That America’s troop presence has clearly enabled the problem, entitling the Germans to protection without ever making them pay for it, is rarely acknowledged.
Elsewhere, at the Free Beacon, the hawkish writer Matthew Continetti has his own dire assessment of the “withdrawal.” Most of what he writes is the usual Kagan-esque noisemaking: as the U.S. pulls out, chaos moves in; neurotic “host governments” are in constant need of reassurance; et cetera. But Continetti also makes a more striking claim: pulling troops out of Germany, he says, is of a kind with the protests and riots that followed the killing of George Floyd. The reason? Both are symptoms of “a loss of national self-confidence, an outbreak of intellectual and moral uncertainty, and an unpredictable, erratic, and easily piqued chief executive.”
Continetti is certainly correct that Trump is erratic. And I suppose he’s right about “intellectual and moral uncertainty,” if only because international relations done right rarely offers up absolute certainties. But the baton twirler in his parade of horribles, “a loss of national self-confidence,” now that’s interesting. It, too, is technically correct—hefty majorities of Americans tell pollsters we’re headed in the wrong direction—but Continetti skips over the reasons why. He says nothing about our invasion of Iraq and subsequent failures there, which brought to an end the credibility and swagger that America enjoyed internationally after the Cold War. He’s mum, too, on how our wars in the Middle East have served to distract us from simmering problems closer to home, which have lately come to a boil.
It isn’t a marginal downsizing of America’s empire that’s shown a crisis of confidence; it’s the fact that the empire is still there, long after it stopped being a net positive. That the United States is still supplying boots and bases to the most powerful country in Europe is preposterous. That it’s still trying to mend the Middle East more than a decade after Iraq fell apart is lunacy. That it’s still covering the defense of South Korea, another wealthy powerhouse, is self-defeating. It isn’t that Americans don’t want to bring the troops home; Trump was elected on a platform to do just that. It’s that Washington lacks the mettle to change course. It doesn’t want to accept that change is necessary; it certainly doesn’t want to undertake the discomfiting business of shuttering bases and ruffling allies. Far easier to let the thing run on autopilot, flying drones on borrowed money, relegating it all to faint background noise.
If we really had our national confidence about us, we wouldn’t be afraid to respond to shifting circumstances. We would follow Dwight Eisenhower’s example after the Korean War and set about bringing the military-industrial complex in line with our needs. We would demand that other countries step up, content that multilateralism need not be incompatible with leadership and even a little nationalism. We would stop pretending to be the global savior. Instead the establishment seethes because Trump has acknowledged the Third Reich is no longer a threat. May God have mercy on the cabarets.

Months before election, Trump finds himself at odds with most Americans’ views
June 18, 2020
by James Oliphant, Chris Kahn, Jeff Mason
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The temporary fences that separated protesters from the White House have come down. But its occupant, President Donald Trump, appears to be more isolated than ever.
Recent opinion surveys, including a poll from Reuters/Ipsos this week, continue to show Trump trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden significantly with just over four months until the Nov. 3 election.
But more revealingly, they show a president increasingly disconnected from the American electorate whose views have changed rapidly following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while in Minneapolis police custody.
The lightning-quick shift in public opinion has caused the National Football League and NASCAR to embrace athletes protesting racial injustice, and some companies to rename brands criticized for racial stereotypes, such as PepsiCo Inc’s (PEP.O) Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup.
Trump takes the less-popular side of issues that Americans right now say matter, such as the coronavirus pandemic and police reform, according to an analysis of Reuters/Ipsos polling data since March.
It also shows him steadily bleeding support among a broad swath of voters, even ones that have been most loyal to him such as rural Americans and white evangelicals.
Biden now has a 13-point lead over Trump, the biggest recorded by the Reuters/Ipsos poll since Democrats began their state nominating contests earlier this year, powered by substantial gains among suburban residents, independents and high-income earners.
Even traditionally Republican-leaning groups – men, white suburban women and those older than 55 – have recently flipped for Biden, the polling analysis shows. Trump led elderly voters until May.
Several former White House officials said the president needed to demonstrate more that he understood black people’s challenges in the United States.
“He does need to be more open to (the) legitimate concerns that a lot of minorities and African Americans are facing,” one official said, asking not to be named to speak freely.
Trump’s supporters said there was plenty of time to turn things around, and a likely economic rebound would bolster his re-election bid just in time for November.
Record upside surprises in U.S. economic data in recent weeks have raised expectations for a “V” shaped recovery from the COVID-19 recession that sent unemployment soaring.
But Trump’s apparent reluctance to try to unite a country convulsed by multiple crises, instead endearing himself further to his base of hardcore supporters, would leave him with the economy as his last saving grace, experts say.
In one silver lining for the president, 43% of registered voters in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll said they thought Trump would be a better steward of the economy than Biden, while 38% said Biden would be better.
“His continued focus on his base is costing him among a handful of moderate Republicans and independents,” said John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University who reviewed the polling data. “If this trend continues, this election could end up being very lopsided against the incumbent.”
The Trump campaign did not respond to the poll findings. But Trump has insisted on Twitter he is aligned with the nation’s values, saying his supporters are part of a “silent majority” – a phrase used by Republican President Richard Nixon 50 years ago during a similar period of social unrest.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
The numbers tell a different story.
While polls show nearly two thirds of respondents sympathize with the protesters over police brutality, Trump has openly flirted with deploying the military to “dominate” them. Earlier this month, police in Washington forcibly removed peaceful protesters so that Trump could pose for photographs in front of a church near the White House.
Trump has also rejected growing calls for sweeping police reform proposals in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing. Reuters/Ipsos polling shows 82% of Americans want to ban police from using chokeholds, 83% want to ban racial profiling, 92% want federal police to be required to wear body cameras and 91% support allowing independent investigations of police departments that show patterns of misconduct.
None of those measures were included in a police reform measure Trump signed this week.
Trump dismissed the threat of the coronavirus early on, and sparred with state governors as they tried to slow its spread. He will resume his signature rallies on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as new COVID-19 cases are spiking in the state and 76% of Americans remain concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll.
A fresh reminder of Trump’s disconnect came on Monday, when his handpicked choice for the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, penned a landmark decision that granted protection against workplace discrimination to gay and transgender workers. Just last week, Trump’s administration moved to strip healthcare protections from transgender patients.
LOSING RELEVANCE?
Trump has always walked the razor’s edge as a candidate. “His presidency has never been in tune with majority opinion in this country,” Geer said.
But Trump was able to position himself in 2016 as an anti-establishment insurgent, stoking the fears of white working-class voters about jobs leaving the country and an influx of immigrants. That helped him win the state-based Electoral College count, which determines the presidency, even though he lost the popular vote.
Trump’s long-standing pledge to crack down on immigration has been pushed off center stage, however, as the coronavirus and the economy became chief concerns. Even among Republicans, only 8% say immigration is their top concern in the latest poll, a big drop from January 2019, when 34% of Republicans listed it as the most important problem facing the country.
Analysts also say that kind of grievance-centered politics geared toward white Americans may have lost relevance amid a reckoning over the injustices faced by African Americans – and that as president, Trump has struggled to find others to blame for the state of the nation.
Between April and June, Trump’s approval rating among white evangelicals dropped 11 percentage points. Approval among rural voters tumbled 14 points over the past month, with more than half saying they are sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter protesters.
Alex Conant, a Republican strategist, said that the party was bracing for a “very bad” year in 2020, with Trump’s poll numbers affecting other key races in the Senate and down the ballot. But he added that November was not a foregone conclusion.
“Five months is a long time in politics,” he said.
Reporting by James Oliphant, Chris Kahn and Jeff Mason; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney

Supreme Court blocks Trump plan to end DACA program
June 18, 2020
by John Kruzel – 06/18/20
The Hill
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to block the Trump administration from ending an Obama-era program that shields nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation, upending a key feature of President Trump’s immigration agenda.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices said the administration failed to give an adequate justification for terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as required by federal law.
The dispute before the Court is not whether [Department of Homeland Security] may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.
The ruling keeps intact a program that is open to an estimated 1.3 million non-citizens who are eligible for DACA by virtue of having been brought to the U.S. as children, and who have maintained residency and meet the education or military service requirements and other criteria.

Supreme Court rules for ‘Dreamers,’ rejects Trump’s repeal of immigration program
June 18, 2020
by David G. Savage
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — In a striking rebuke to President Trump, the Supreme Court Thursday rejected his plan to repeal the popular Obama-era order that protected so-called Dreamers, the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children.
Led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court called the decision to cancel the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, as arbitrary and not justified. The program allows these young people to register with the government, and if they have clean records, to obtain a work permit. At least 27,000 of these DACA recipients are employed as healthcare workers.
Trump had been the confident that high court with its majority of Republican appointees would rule in his favor and say the chief executive had the power to “unwind” the policy.
The decision follows several other defeats this week for Trump. On Monday the court rejected the Trump administration’s position that a 1964 civil rights law should not protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination, and separately it sided with California in a legal battle over so-called sanctuary laws.
The DACA case was perhaps the year’s biggest immigration dispute at the high court.
Today’s decision is similar to last year’s ruling that blocked Trump’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
On Monday, Roberts spoke for the same 5-4 majority, and his opinion follows the same reasoning. The chief justice said Trump’s Homeland Security officials did not put forth a valid reason for revoking the DACA program, just as he said it did not provide a valid reason for adding the citizenship question.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what, if anything, to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”
It is a remarkable turn of events for Roberts and the court. Two years ago, the chief justice wrote a 5-4 opinion deferring to Trump and upholding his travel ban on foreign visitors and immigrants. Now he has switched sides in several momentous cases and blocked Trump’s action as unwarranted and unjustified.
The Obama administration announced the policy in 2012 and said the government had no interest in arresting and deporting young people who were working in this country, contributing to their communities and obeying the laws. The order allowed them to register with the government, and if they had a clean record, to obtain a work permit.
The policy proved to be popular with Republicans as well as Democrats, and it went largely unchallenged until 2017 when Trump’s Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, a hardliner on immigration, decreed the policy of “deferred” enforcement was unconstitutional and should be revoked.
President Obama relied on his executive authority over enforcement policy when he announced the DACA policy in 2012. Obama said he wanted federal agents to pursue criminals, drug traffickers and smugglers, but “defer action” against those who had done nothing wrong and were contributing to their communities and the nation. At the time, Obama was urging Congress to adopt an immigration reform law, but those hopes were dashed in 2013 when House Republicans blocked a broad reform measure that passed by a large bipartisan majority in the Senate.
Several months after taking office, Trump and his homeland security advisors announced they planned to “wind down” the DACA program. They did so based on an opinion from then-Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions that Obama’s policy was illegal.
University of California President Janet Napolitano, who launched the DACA program when she was Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security, filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in federal court in San Francisco along with California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. They argued that Trump’s lawyers had not put forth a valid reason for terminating the popular program.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup agreed in January 2018 and handed down a nationwide order that put the repeal on hold. Trump’s lawyers had acted based on “a flawed legal premise,” he said, adding that “DACA was and remains a valid legal exercise” by immigration officials.
The administration appealed, but in November 2018, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court upheld the judge’s order in a 3-0 decision.
The Supreme Court refused to intervene for a time, but agreed last year to hear the government’s appeal in U.S. Department of Homeland Security vs. Regents of the University of California, along with parallel cases from New York and Washington, D.C..

The Encyclopedia of Amereican Loons

James Tracy

James Frederick Tracy is conspiracy theorist and former professor of communications at Florida Atlantic University, who has managed to achieve international fame for his advocacy for Sandy Hook truther conspiracy theories. According to Tracy, the Sandy Hook massacre did not occur but was really a hoax perpetrated by the US government. The media was in on it, too: according to Tracy, the many witnesses interviewed or photographed by the press were actually “crisis actors” portraying the “official story” as part of the cover-up – indeed, Tracy can probably be credited with popularizing the “crisis actor” term, though the idea has been around in whale-to-type online communities for a long time (Ed Chiarini, for instance, has been promoting it for years). The government’s purpose for carrying out the hoax was apparently to help shape public opinion on gun control, and the evidence he cites for the conspiracy cited consists primarily of the usual nonsense gambits that characterize such conspiracy theories:
– Discrepancies in news reports rapidly released during an unfolding event. (Which is somehow evidence that it is all orchestrated, in which case one would expect … consistency, wouldn’t one?)
– Anomaly hunting in descriptions of an event with many quirky details.
– The fact that the police and other official bodies weren’t keeping him continuously updated with any detail relevant to their investigation.
A fourth strategy employed by Tracy, and just as typical for deranged conspiracy theorists, is interpreting the fact that families and people who lost children and family members don’t wish to talk to him, a guy who denies that no one died and everything was staged, about the event – as clear evidence for a coverup as you could find, as Tracy sees it (of course, if they had talked to him, that would have been evidence for a coverup, too).
Though he initially engaged in standard JAQing off when he raised the issue in 2013, he quickly and predictably devolved into harassing Sandy Hook hero Gene Rosen as well as Lenny Pozner, the father of Sandy Hook victim Noah Pozner, demanding that Pozner give him proof that Noah once lived, that Lenny and his wife were his parents, and that they were the rightful owner of his photographic image. The Pozners were naturally unwilling to engage, and when Tracy realized they would not respond, he subjected them to ridicule and contempt on his blog, claiming that the “unfulfilled request” was “noteworthy” because the parents had used copyright claims to “thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event”. Then he claimed that he, James Tracy, was the victim here, whereas “The Pozners, alas, are as phony as the drill itself, and profiting handsomely from the fake death of their son.”
Tracy was dismissed from his (tenured) position in January 2016, although a statement from his former employer asserted that Tracy was fired for repeatedly neglecting or refusing to file standard paperwork disclosing activities or employment outside his job that might pose a conflict of interests. The decision has been (repeatedly) appealed. It is probably worth pointing out that among the courses Tracy taught at FAU was Culture of Conspiracy, a course that his subsequenst actions demonstrate that he was magnificently unqualified to teach – a bit like letting a young-earth creationist teach evolutionary biology. Tracy’s career as a guest on deranged conspiracy theory radio shows – which took off partly because of his affiliation with the FAU – has not suffered, however, and though we don’t usually link to such sites, it is actually rather interesting to watch Tracy gradually fall apart on this one after being asked what proof he would accept.
Tracy’s delusions regarding American mass shootings are not limited to Sandy Hook. He also believes that the Boston Marathon bombing was a false flag operation perpetrated by the government – according to Tracy, the bombing may have been a “mass casualty drill” (which makes no sense whatsoever). Similarly, according to Tracy, “Craft Intl mercenaries carried out San Bernardino shooting”, the terrorist attacks in Paris were “manufactured” with actors, and the mass shooting at an Oregon community college was also a CIA “false flag” operation. His blog has also promoted conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the Oklahoma bombing (“illusions”), London’s 7/7 bombings, the Madrid train bombings, Osama bin Laden’s killing, the 2011 Norway attacks, Charlie Hebdo, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, Pearl Harbor, the World War I sinking of the British ship Lusitania, the 1898 explosion of the USS Maine, the Gulf of Tonkin, Israel’s 1967 attack on the Navy’s USS Liberty, the Colorado movie theater mass shooting, and the Charleston church shooting.
Tracy is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also a global warming denialist. Indeed, Tracy seems to think that climate change is a cover-up for various geoengineering programs, including chemtrails. When Tracy “contacted to Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Lauderdale on a day with high aerial activity of this nature, I was consoled by an overly polite FAA agent that the trails were merely ‘water vapor,’” which is itself apparently very suspicious, especially because the explanation offered is in contrast with the research of various chemtrail conspiracy groups. Moreover, in 2011 his young daughter suffered from “a long-running respiratory ailment which prompted me to send off a small sample of her hair for lab analysis. The results indicated a high level of aluminum. This was disturbing especially given that she had received an abbreviated vaccine regimen, drank water run from a state-of-the-art reverse osmosis filter, and ate only organic food.” You connect the dots
Diagnosis: That Tracy’s actions have hurt FAU’s reputation is to a large extent on them insofar they hired him in the first place. A deranged green-ink kook who is ready to accept any and all conspiracy theories that come his way, though as opposed to most of his fellow conspiracy theorist (like Boston Bombing denier Cass Ingram), Tracy sometimes does come across as almost coherent – at least with respect to grammar. Though he isn’t exactly dangerous at a general level – perhaps apart from providing talking points to opponents of the tenure system – he does cause real harm to real people.

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