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Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

Facebook Faces Congress

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

As usual, The Heritage Foundation is “right on”
when it comes to digging deep into the maze of corruption and lies rampant in our culture and society, on all levels, today.

The Heritage Foundation
The Daily Signal
April 9, 2018
Commentary By Hans von Spakovsky and Klon Kitchen

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration, the rule of law and government reform—as a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and manager of the think tank’s Election Law Reform Initiative. Read his research.

Klon Kitchen is senior fellow for technology, national security and science policy at The Heritage Foundation.

When Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress Tuesday and Wednesday he will have plenty of explaining to do to answer a torrent of criticism that has been leveled at his company in recent weeks.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most important questions we think lawmakers should ask Zuckerberg when he is scheduled to testify at a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on Tuesday and then before the House Commerce and Energy Committee on Wednesday. We list these below—but first, here’s some background.

Facebook’s handling of its users’ personal data has sparked privacy concerns as well as questions about how others—including political campaigns—have used that data.

Zuckerberg was invited to testify before Congress after multiple sources reported that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica gained access to as many as 87 million Facebook profiles. Cambridge Analytica allegedly used that information improperly after it was hired by the Donald Trump presidential campaign. This raises two questions.

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First, what information did Cambridge Analytica acquire and how did it come by that information? Zuckerberg has indicated publicly that he knows the answers to these questions, so Congress should have no trouble sorting that out.

Cambridge Analytica used the information to craft sophisticated, targeted political ads. And that raises the second—and far more interesting—question: Did Cambridge Analytica’s actions constitute a novel use of Facebook user information, or is this precisely how the social media company intends the data to be used by its paying customers?

What members of Congress and the general public need to keep in mind is that nothing is free. While individuals who use Facebook don’t have to pay for it, Facebook makes money—and lots of it—using their information.

Facebook’s net income was nearly $16 billion last year. The company sells advertising to commercial clients seeking to target Facebook users based on profiles derived from those users’ online activities.

That very same ability—to identify and reach users most likely to be receptive to a client’s product or service—was valuable not just to the Trump campaign, but also to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election effort. Indeed, it was the Obama campaign that pioneered the use of such data to win elections.

In light of this, here are 10 of the most important questions that we suggest lawmakers ask Zuckerberg when he appears before Congress:

1. Mr. Zuckerberg, you recently said: “At Facebook, we are squarely in the camp of the companies that work hard to charge you less and provide a free service that everyone can use.” If users of your platform are not the source of your income, who is?

2. Specifically, what services do you provide to your paying customers and how much access do you give them to the data of Facebook users?

3. How do political campaigns leverage your services, and what are your rules governing campaign-sponsored advertisements and access to individual Facebook user data? What will be the impact of new rules you announced Friday to require people to reveal their identities and verify their location before they are allowed to buy political or “issue” ads?

4. Carol Davidsen, the director of data integration and media analytics for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, said: “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized what we were doing.” She noted that “they [Facebook] were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.” Did Facebook, in fact, let the Obama campaign use Facebook data in ways that were outside of the company’s normal and acceptable use standards? If so, why? Who at Facebook made this decision?

5. Did the Mitt Romney presidential campaign receive access to the same information and company expertise provided to the Obama campaign? If not, why not? Who at Facebook made this decision?

6. You and other Facebook executives tell users that “we do not sell your data.” Are you asserting that all marketing and targeting data that is sold to commercial customers is anonymized and generalized so that no individual Facebook user can be specifically targeted or marketed to?

7. Doesn’t the Obama campaign’s use of your information to identify and target individual so-called “persuadables” on Facebook contradict the above claim?

8. Did the way that the Obama campaign used Facebook’s data influence your decision to change your data use policies in 2014? If so, how?

9. Does Facebook now, or has it ever, deliberately collected the content of users’ phone calls and/or messages via any of your company’s applications or services? If so, what have you done with that data?

10. Why have you suggested that the government may need to regulate you and other tech companies? Why don’t you simply adopt the practices you believe are necessary to protect the privacy of your users without requiring government coercion?

Modern technology is changing how we communicate. Those changes bring major advantages, but they also raise serious questions. One of those questions is: How much privacy do users of a social media platform like Facebook have a right to expect when they post personal information to share with their families, their friends, and the world at large?

Internet companies owe their customers straightforward answers to those questions. But government regulation should be a last resort. For now, calls for more such regulation are premature. We must first examine the extent and nature of the problem, and then assess the pros and cons of all possible solutions.

Originally published by Fox News.

Republicans’ Worst Fears

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Trump is out to face political suicide. If he could only: keep his bloody mouth shut, STOP TWEETING, and go on a nation wide tour touting all he has accomplished and that he needs more Republican senators and more Republican representatives in order to prevent the Democrats from destroying all he has done.

Washington Examiner

 Trump Confirms Republicans’ Worst Fears

By David Drucker

3/20/18

President Trump is confirming House Republicans’ worst fears about the depth of their midterm woes after spending a weekend lashing out at special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation.

House Republicans were relying heavily on the $1.4 trillion tax overhaul to counteract concerns about the president and revive their 2018 fortunes, burdened with traditional midterm headwinds made exponentially worse by dissatisfaction with Trump’s polarizing leadership.

But they need Trump’s cooperation to pull it off, and the president appears uninterested.

He has sidelined the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in favor of tariffs, while unleashing a tweet storm of attacks on Mueller and the Russia probe that amplify personal traits that make him such a liability for Republicans in November.

He’s a mercurial figure,” Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., who represents a battleground district in suburban Chicago, said in a recent interview with the Washington Examiner editorial board. “If he’d put the Twitter feed away, what a glorious thing; what a glorious thing. But I just don’t think that’s going to happen.”

House Republicans have staked their 23-seat majority on tax reform, signed into law by Trump in late December after clearing Congress amid unanimous Democratic opposition. Tax cuts and economic expansion, plus proof that Republican governance could deliver tangible results, is the party’s recipe for maintaining power.

For a time, it appeared the strategy was working. Trump and congressional Republicans worked together in January and most of February to promote the tax bill, a period that coincided with positive news about the national economy.

Voters’ optimism about the future jumped, Trump’s approval rating ticked up, and the generic ballot gauging which party Americans would prefer be in charge on Capitol Hill swung back toward the GOP. But Trump’s fascination with tax reform and his historic legislative victory had waned by early March.

Last week, during a fundraiser in Missouri to boost the Republican Senate front runner, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, the president briefly mentioned tax reform, reserving much more of his speech to defend new tariffs on steel and aluminum. A few days later, Trump targeted Mueller, an escalation of sorts of his criticism of the special counsel’s Russia investigation — he had never singled out Mueller personally in a tweet.

The president also lit into the FBI after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior agent Andrew McCabe based on the finding of an as-yet unpublished inspector general probe into his role in the bureau’s investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state.

“A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!” Trump tweeted on Monday, as his tirade continued.

But, Trump isn’t completely ignoring the tax law. He did manage one tweet highlighting it in the past week: “Six months ago I promised that we would cut taxes and bring Main Street roaring back — and that is exactly what is happening,” he said. And, his official outside group, America First Policies, is holding town hall meetings across the country to boost the law, featuring Vice President Mike Pence. The next event is Thursday in Manchester, N.H.

And, Trump still stands to boost Republicans in the battle for the Senate, where the party holds a slim 51-49 majority.Democrats are defending a handful of seats in red states that embrace the president. In states with influential rural and exurban populations, like Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia, Trump’s trade policies appeal to working class voters. To them and other Republicans in these conservative bastions, the president’s capriciousness as evidence that he is shaking up Washington — just like he promised.

House Republicans are in a tougher spot, especially after the Democratic upset last week in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, which sided with Trump in 2016 by 20 percentage points. Their majority could hinge on defending nearly two-dozen districts won by Clinton in the 2016 election that are comprised of upscale, educated suburbs inclined to vote Republican but are unhappy with Trump.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the GOP’s way of telling these voters — especially skeptical women — the party was delivering on traditional conservative goals despite Trump’s unorthodox behavior. It’s why House Republicans are so sensitive to the topics and messages favored by the president.

Earlier in the year, it appeared doable. The Democrats’ advantage on the generic ballot dwindled, as Trump and his allies in Congress focused equally on promoting the tax law. But as Trump has drifted back into old habits, the polling has drifted back toward the Democrats. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, Democrats led the generic ballot 50 percent to 40 percent.

“No plan for anyone on the Hill should start with what the president is saying, it should start with what we can get done and send him to sign,” said a veteran Republican operative, advising as to the best way for Republicans to deal with Trump and survive the midterms. “No matter what his daily focus is, the fact remains that if congressional Republicans could pass things and put them on his desk, he would sign them.”

The challenge Republicans face is competing with Trump’s megaphone. Presidents always influence the political landscape; their personas and message tend to define their parties, no matter how hard down-ticket candidates work to create separation.

Trump dominates the media environment more than his recent predecessors, making it that much more difficult for Republicans in Congress to be heard above the din generated by the president. But they’re trying. Along with affiliated big money advocacy groups on the outside, the Republican Party aside from Trump is stubbornly promoting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, viewing their ability to sell the bill as integral to their midterm prospects.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC, and its sister political nonprofit, American Action Network, both aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are investing millions this year to advance the tax bill. So is Americans for Prosperity, the conservative grassroots organization affiliated with the Koch political network.

There are “three keys” to withstanding a possible Democratic wave, a top Republican consultant said: “Localize your campaign; win on the tax issue,” and make the elections a referendum on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

 

Soros/Krasner/Philadelphia is the Victim

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s new district attorney who was backed by billionaire George Soros, recently rolled out sweeping policy changes “to end mass incarceration and bring balance back to sentencing” in the City of Brotherly Love.

The progressive Democrat issued a memo to 300 assistant DAs last Tuesday outlining several bold reforms crafted to reduce the number of people in jail. The procedural shifts instruct prosecutors to stop charging people for possession of marijuana, seek lighter sentences with plea deals, and directs them to obtain approval from supervisors before requesting more punitive penalties.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Krasner highlighted one element of the memo at a news conference Thursday: the requirement that prosecutors, when asking a judge to sentence a defendant to prison, specify how much it will cost taxpayers to keep the person behind bars.

Taken in full, the five-page document – which also addresses policies around plea offers, diversion programs, and some charging decisions – is likely to impact thousands of criminal cases in the state’s busiest prosecutor’s office and one of the nation’s most violent cities.

Criminal justice experts said some of the guidelines appeared to be unprecedented, a blend of research and practices touted by reform advocates but perhaps never made so explicit in writing by a top prosecutor.

The memo encourages prosecutors to consider several department talking points before making their sentencing recommendations, such as:

“The cost of one year of unnecessary incarceration (at $42,000.00 – $60,000.00) is in the range of the cost of one year’s salary for a beginning teacher, police officer, fire fighter, social worker, Assistant District Attorney, or addiction counselor.”

“Pennsylvania’s and Philadelphia’s over-incarceration have bankrupted investment in policing, public education, medical treatment of addiction, job training and economic development – which prevent crime more effectively than money invested in corrections,” wrote Krasner, who had never prosecuted a criminal case before taking office two months ago.

During his thirty years as a defense attorney, Krasner became known for filing 75 civil rights lawsuits against the city’s police department and representing radical activists from groups like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Philadelphia, pro bono. After making his lack of prosecutorial experience a focal point of his campaign, Krasner won in a landslide last November, capturing 75 percent of the vote.

“This is a story about a movement,” Krasner said after his victory. “And this is a movement that is tired of seeing the system that has systematically picked on poor people – primarily black and brown people.”

Black and brown residents constitute approximately 57 percent of Philadelphia’s population.

Soros had contributed more than $1.6 million to a political action committee that supported Krasner’s candidacy.The organization, called Philadelphia Justice & Public Safety, paid for people to walk neighborhoods campaigning on his behalf and also financed television commercials and other advertisements.

Krasner, who was sworn-in on January 2, fired 31 prosecutors who did not share his vision during his first week on the job. Last month, he eliminated cash bail for low-level offenses. His anti-incarceration platform is the latest of many Soros-backed reform efforts intended to reverse local sentencing laws throughout the nation.

In 2011, Soros’ international grantmaking network and other deep-pocketed foundations began funding multi-pronged drives demanding California change its policies on crime and imprisonment. Since then, Soros has spent millions convincing voters in the Golden State to approve ballot measures that reclassified many felonies to misdemeanors and revamped the state’s parole guidelines. Soros-funded political action committees – like the one that supported Krasner – started sprouting up around the country in 2015, established to elect progressive prosecutors on the local level.

As Politico previously reported:

Soros has spent on district attorney campaigns in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas through a network of state-level super PACs and a national “527” unlimited-money group, each named a variation on “Safety and Justice.” (Soros has also funded a federal super PAC with the same name.) Each organization received most of its money directly from Soros, according to public state and federal financial records …

Some of these targeted, Soros-influenced races had been researched by progressive groups that identified potential regions and electorates which might be more receptive to transform its local criminal justice system fundamentally.

“There is without question a national movement toward having progressive prosecutors all over the country,” Krasner told HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” in an interview broadcast last Wednesday. “It’s in Chicago; it’s in San Francisco, Houston, it’s happening quickly. The rate of winning is high.”

Religion Under Assault

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

This is a frightening story of the assault on religion in Canada. Is the USA far behind?

The Heritage Foundation

Religious Liberty is Eroding in Canada. Here’s What Americans Should Learn
The Daily Signal
12/28/17
By Emilie Kao and Zachary Jones

Outside of watching the occasional hockey game or purchase of maple syrup, most Americans pay little attention to Canada.

We may know of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s colorful socks, but little of how unpopular he is among his constituency. We may discuss the single-payer health care system, but are unfamiliar with the government’s disrespect for religious liberty of our neighbors to the north.

Faithful patriots in this country who are concerned by the attacks on free exercise of religion in America should also be concerned by the similar attacks on liberty echoing within Canada, a country with strong protections for religious liberty in its Charter for Rights and Freedom.

In light of the immense trade between our two countries, we must determine if religious intolerance is an intangible export that has escaped our notice.

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Last month, Alberta’s Child and Family Services barred a Christian couple from adopting a child because their religious views about sexuality—views shared by orthodox Jews and Muslims—were incompatible with “the official position of the Alberta government.”

The Ministry of Children’s Services stated that the couple’s belief that sexuality should not be experienced or explored until a person is married, would not create a “safe, healthy, loving, and inclusive home.”

And in June, Ontario passed a law that gave state agencies the power to prevent families from adopting or fostering children if the parents would not affirm the child transitioning their “gender identity” from male to female or vice-versa, calling such a denial “child abuse.”

Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Michigan over legislation that allows faith-based adoption agencies to only place children into homes with mothers and fathers while under government contract.

And much like Ontario, Illinois is requiring foster parents to affirm the gender identity of any child in their care and aid in any medical procedures the child wishes to undergo.

The Canadian government has unilaterally taken positions on sexuality without the consent of its citizenry, much like the Obama administration’s unilateral decision to reinterpret the definition of “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity in Title IX.

But if Americans and Canadians can’t adopt or foster children because they don’t affirm a child undergoing potentially harmful hormone therapies and sex-reassignment surgeries or sexual activity outside of marriage, will the government also begin using this criteria for “good parenting” of biological children?

Will they treat the parenting practices of Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims as suspect if they simply refuse to adopt the latest sexual trends?

Also in Canada, the Supreme Court will soon determine if attorneys who hold orthodox religious beliefs on sexuality are eligible to practice law.

Before Trinity Western University could even open its law school, the accrediting legal societies within Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia voted not to accredit graduates from the university’s school of law, because the Christian university has Orthodox Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality.

Trinity Western University is the only Canadian university to have received an A+ grade in quality of education over the past seven years, yet in 2014, the Law Society of Upper Canada labeled the students’ views as “abhorrent” and “not welcome in the public marketplace.”

Without a degree from an accredited law school, students cannot practice law in the province.

Similarly, in 2015, the mayor of Salem, Massachusetts, lambasted Gordon College, a Christian university, for its beliefs about marriage after the university president wrote to President Barack Obama asking for a religious exemption from a forthcoming executive order on hiring practices related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The mayor decided to prohibit Gordon College and its students from using a local meeting hall they had used for years. Lynn Public Schools then banned Gordon College students who were majoring in education from training as student teachers at local public schools.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges even held a special meeting to consider revoking Gordon’s accreditation.

In both the United States and Canada, governments and accreditors are threatening the ability of graduates of Christian universities to work in the professions for which they have been trained.

Canadian members of parliament also denied member Rachael Harder the chance to chair the Status of Women Committee led by the Liberal Party solely because of her pro-life views. Despite the chair position being procedural, not political in nature, the Trudeau government refused to allow Harder’s “outrageous” views into any kind of position of authority.

Much like a scene from “Mean Girls,” politicians staged a walkout to protest Harder’s appointment because of her viewpoint on abortion. Ultimately, they gave the position to a member of parliament who did not want it.

In the United States, senators, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; and Al Franken, D-Minn., and leftist organizations like the American Bar Association have smeared judicial nominees like Judges Amy Barrett and Steve Grasz and public officials like Kelvin Cochran and Russell Vought as “unqualified” and “hateful,” simply because of their Christian beliefs.

Their ability to serve as judges, work in government, or lead a fire department is being questioned solely because of their religious views.

In both the United States and Canada, the ability to work in government and pursue your dreams is becoming increasingly dependent on one’s beliefs about sexuality, biology, and the beginning of human life.

These developments should concern all those who believe in the right to not only hold religious beliefs in private, but to exercise them in public.

Canada was founded on the idea of religious pluralism, allowing Catholics living in Quebec to freely practice their faith. The United States was founded as a refuge for religious dissenters, as the Puritans fled persecution from the Church of England.

It is this commitment to religious liberty for all that has led America to defend religious minorities around the world, including Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians.

The U.S. and Canada were the only two countries that had ambassadors for international religious freedom. But Trudeau opted to dissolve Canada’s office of ambassador of religious freedom.

If America and Canada, who are traditionally the foremost defenders of religious freedom around the world, are now forsaking that value, what will happen to the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, the Christians and Yazidis facing genocide by ISIS, and the Jews who are facing renewed anti-Semitism in Europe, all of whom the U.S. has fervently advocated for?

Right now, Canadians and Americans of faith have the opportunity to form strategic alliances, especially as they relate to marriage, family, and the free exercise of religion. But the growing threats to religious liberty and freedom of conscience make it especially urgent that these partnerships develop quickly.

Many of the world’s most dire and violent religious conflicts are rooted in lack of respect for religious freedom and religious diversity. There is no time to waste.

The DACA Conundrum

Thursday, September 28th, 2017
  • Well, here we go again. Another fight between conservatives and liberals, another impossible mess that Obama left for Trump and Reublicans( confused , disorganized and splintered as usual). So, the “Congressional Follies” will proceed as promised. A quite complete overview of the mayhem to come was provided by The Washington Examiner in its OP ED section on September 22, 2017:

Build a Wall Around DACA
Washington Examiner
September 22, 2017
President Trump will soon learn what it means to cut a deal with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Democrats will not be satisfied with amnesty for the 800,000 immigrants who entered illegally as children. They will push to expand amnesty, bit by bit, to cover nearly all 11 million illegal immigrants in America. Trump will find that his deal to codify DACA won’t earn him lasting love from Democrats and immigration activists, but merely spur demands that he go further, and stoke outraged attacks if he doesn’t.

DACA carries the seeds of its own expansion.

To prevent this, Trump and congressional Republicans should hold fast and make sure the bill is coupled not only with tougher immigration enforcement but also with root and branch reform of policies on green cards and visas.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has co-sponsored the RAISE Act with Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue. Cotton and Perdue are right that the current green-card policy must go, especially after DACA. This is because siblings and parents of residents and citizens are allowed to immigrate and gain permanent residence in America. This “chain migration” means that those siblings can then bring in their children and children’s wives, who can bring in more siblings, and so on and on.

By legalizing nearly a million new permanent residents, DACA could set off a massive chain reaction.

“If we don’t change underlying laws about chain migration, which account for almost two-thirds of all green cards this country gives out every year,” Cotton warned in a recent interview with the Washington Examiner, that DACA “could be the largest amnesty in the history of the United States.”

“In fact,” Cotton added, “the very first people that would be eligible are the parents of the DACA recipients, which is to say the very people who broke the law by bringing their kids here.”

Cotton’s bill would severely limit family reunification green cards, so adults don’t bring in their siblings, and adults are not automatically allowed to bring in parents. This would limit the ripple effect of DACA.

The RAISE Act, by moving toward a skills-based immigration system, would address the legal issue. Then, there’s the moral hazard issue, which is that codifying DACA would induce many Central and South American parents to send or bring their parents illegally into the U.S. in the hope of a later round of amnesty.

This isn’t imaginary. “There’s a reason why we had a surge of kids at the border two years after President Obama created the DACA program and after the first round of renewal,” Cotton aptly pointed out.

“If you’ve got kids, put yourself in the position of a mom or dad in El Salvador, the most dangerous place in the world, the home of MS-13,” Cotton said. “If the U.S. gives legal status to 20- and 30-somethings who came here as children, what price would you pay to get your child here now?”

If DACA doesn’t come with real border enforcement, this humanitarian crisis is nearly guaranteed.

Finally, there’s the political reason DACA would expand. Who actually believes Democrats want to stop at legalizing and naturalizing the 800,000 who entered as children. That’s merely Step One.

Immigration activists admitted as much in a demonstration this week where they chanted at Nancy Pelosi “All of us or none of us!” demanding amnesty for all illegal immigrants. It would fit the pattern if Democrats one at a time added new classes to amnesty. Seniors first, then people who have been here more than 20 years next, then pregnant women, and those who entered when younger than 25 years old, and so on.

We have little objection to DACA itself, but a country in which every illegal entrant is declared a legal entrant is one that has given up its sovereignty. Or, as Trump put it during the election, a country that has no border ceases to be a country. DACA threatens to spread. Congress, as part of any deal with Schumer and Pelosi, needs to build a wall around it.


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