J’accuse: Our national failure and disgrace

J’accuse

Cross posted from http://www.Skyislandscriber.com

In 1898 the French writer Emile Zola published an open letter critical of the French government titled “J’accuse” – I accuse. I’ll get back to that in a moment. But first …

J’avoue

I confess.

Viewing the TV news last evening I discovered something ugly about myself. That thing I discovered is that I no longer had a visceral, emotional reaction to the news of the latest mass shooting. The numbers, 59 killed and 527 injured, are mere statistics. The videos of people getting shot and running for their lives are visual props for the nightly news.

I don’t think it’s just me. I think it is a cultural malady afflicting Americans. We have seen this cycle so often that our innate reactions, our primordial reflexes, have now been inhibited by repeated mass shootings with no consequences. David Fitzsimmons in this morning’s Daily Star perfectly captures this cycle of insanity.

We psychologists know about latent inhibition in which “a familiar stimulus takes longer to acquire meaning (as a signal or conditioned stimulus) than a new stimulus.” That is, in the present context, repeated exposure to mass shootings via the broadcast news renders us less capable of feeling revulsion that such events should cause.

You think I’m over-reacting? Consider this op-ed in this morning’s Daily Star, As a longtime gun owner, I wonder what to say. The author, Stu Bykofsky, says “As a lawful gun owner, as a defender of the Bill of Rights — all of them — I say you can’t saddle the 99.9 percent of gun owners who have done nothing wrong with the sins of the 0.1 percent who have criminal intent. But it gets harder for me to say that, to believe that, each time something like this happens. It gets harder to justify those deaths as the cost of living free.

So we are to believe, on this twisted logic, that those 59 people voluntarily gave up their lives to insure some one’s freedom to own assault weapons? I guess I have not been rendered totally insensate. This guy pisses me off. And so does the inability of the most powerful nation on earth to protect those 59 people.

And all that brings me back to my cold start.

J’accuse

I accuse.

I accuse the gun industry of promoting profits over people.

I accuse the National Rifle Association of propaganda in defense of weapons of mass murder. I accuse the NRA of abandoning their original purposes in favor of becoming a political machine divorced from anything other than its own ends.

I accuse our political leaders, every one of them, of being craven cowards. I accuse our political leaders of favoring the gun lobby that bribes them to do the will of the gun industry and NRA. I accuse our political leaders of trading the lives of their constituents for guns and bullets. I accuse Congress of being complicit in those murders.

I accuse the news media of being the means by which our aversions to blood and gore have been extinguished.

I accuse our religious leaders of accepting an association between God and guns. I accuse our religious leaders of doing nothing to prevent more murders of God’s children.

I accuse the American people for tolerating the murders of their fellow citizens – adults and children alike – in the name of an archaic document. I accuse my fellow Americans of rewriting their Constitution so as to bestow a right to bear weapons of mass murder. I accuse my fellow Americans of living in mindless fear, of being so afraid of all that surrounds us. I accuse my fellow Americans of being gulled by the gun industry and the NRA and the political leaders into believing that more guns mean more freedom and security.

I accuse, then, most of all, the United States of America for its failure as a nation. I accuse the USA of failing “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …” I accuse the USA of inflicting unjust injury on its citizens. I accuse the USA of fostering domestic discord. I accuse the USA of harming the general welfare. I accuse the USA of the dishonest equation of guns and liberty. I accuse the United States of America of accepting and condoning the deaths of its citizens.

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The Constitution Applies to All

I was honored to do the coin toss for Military Appreciation Night at a high school football game recently. Thankfully, the loss of the toss didn’t determine the outcome of the game for the home team. They went on to win the game and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to many of the other veterans who had attended the game.

One Air Force vet thanked me for my service and after some small talk, he told me how horrible he thought it was for NFL players to “take a knee” during the National Anthem. I told him I had a different take that I’d like to share with him.

I said my perspective was that I had served to ensure those players had the freedom to exercise their First Amendment rights. He hesitated a second and then said “well, I just don’t think it’s right”. I told him that I didn’t think the Ku Klux Klan’s views are “right” nor do I like how they express them. But, to paraphrase what Michael Douglas’ character said in The American President, “I may hate to the core what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”.

I believe those football players who “take a knee” have as much right to make a statement in any legal way they see fit, as the Neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville had to express their displeasure with the statute removal. But…when such expressions turn dangerous and deadly, that’s another matter entirely.

To all those who claim they love our country and support our Constitution, I say you can’t pick and choose who gets to enjoy the rights bestowed on citizens of these United States. Millions of servicemembers paid the ultimate price because they believed in our ideals. We best honor their sacrifice by continuing to live by, and protecting, those ideals.

Why America must fix income inequality – and do it fast

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

FACT: Economic inequality in America has been on a steep rise for over 40 years.

FAC T: The inequality curve persisted regardless of which political party controlled Congress and regardless of which political party controlled the White House.

FACT: CEO compensation has risen dramatically while worker wages have stagnated or declined.

THEORY: America is about to have a second Civil War.

Back in Feb 2016 I posted on a Politico essay by a very rich guy named Nick Hanauer: Read this one (again):The pitchforks are coming … and are central to the 2016 election.

Now yesterday morning (Aug 30 2017), NPR’s 1A interviewed Nick Hanauer on inequality and what the 1% can do to prevent the pitchforks from coming (Zillionaire To Other Zillionaires: “Pay Up”).

Billionaires: Pay up or else...
Nick Hanauer to Billionaires: It’s this or the pitchforks

You probably don’t know Nick Hanauer, but he has more money than you. As a self-proclaimed “unapologetic capitalist,” Hanauer deals in millions the way many Americans deal in hundreds … or tens.

A few years ago, Hanauer called on his fellow one percenters to address America’s growing income inequality.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Hanauer’s advice hasn’t exactly been heeded. And he’s now telling the super-wealthy to pay workers more to avoid an uprising.

Thing is, is anyone listening?

The short answer is “no”.

Here is a 2017 update in Politico, To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism. Pay your workers a decent wage and maybe you can stave off the pitchforks that are still coming for us. by NICK HANAUER, July 18, 2017.

My own ideas about the effect of inequality on social instability align with the work of social scientist Peter Turchin. He and his collaborators use mathematical models to study the rise and fall of societies—an analysis that postulates a new American civil war arriving as soon as 2021 (and in a highly-armed nation already suffering from an epidemic of gun violence, he doesn’t mean “civil war” metaphorically). For the first time in history, polls show that most Democrats and Republicans identify Americans from the opposing party as the biggest threat to our country. So yes—if you have a deep sense that something is very wrong with our nation, you are almost certainly correct.

This is stunning. If you want a look at what this might mean, check my post from yesterday about the American War. If the prediction about the timing is even close, it means that we have four years to correct the economic misdeeds of four decades – 40 years. I’m taking on as a project reading Turchin’s book and writing a précis of it. Stay tuned.

America can be fixed. But Trumpism is not the answer – it is the symptom of the social/political consequences of gross inequality. If you want to know what Trumpists are doing about the fear of an impending revolt, see AZBlue Meanie’s post yesterday on An authoritarian vision of ‘law and order’. Trump has just renewed the flow of military grade hardware to local police departments. Exactly who do you think such arms will be used against? Hint: it ain’t the 1%. Hanauer explains: “You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state.”

America can be fixed but, ironically, the folks best positioned to do something about it are Hanauer and his real audience – the other multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires. The solution, according to Hanauer, is to immediately raise the minimum wage. That may not be cake, but it sure as hell would put more bread on the table of millions of working Americans. Consult Hanauer’s essay for data on the effects of raising the minimum wage. In all cases studied, increasing the minimum wage proved good for the economy.

Hanauer identifies what won’t work.

President Trump promises to restore the middle class to its former glory by bringing back old industrial-era jobs—as if slashing environmental regulations could somehow make coal competitive again with plummeting solar prices, let alone our fracking-induced glut of cheap natural gas. This is magical thinking. Manufacturing as a percentage of the overall economy, and of jobs, has been declining globally for decades. This trend will not reverse. Trump cannot restore the middle class with empty promises to bring manufacturing jobs back from the dead.

Many of us wealthy folks are laudably philanthropic; we feel like we are already doing our part to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. And this is true, to some extent. But if my thesis is correct—if the only cure for what truly threatens our democracy and our capitalist economy is to enact laws and standards that ensure that businesses pay people enough to lead secure, dignified lives—then some of our effort may be misdirected. Philanthropy is useful, but only about $100 billion per year is spent on helping disadvantaged folks. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would increase income for the bottom 60 percent of Americans by about $450 billion per year. No philanthropy comes close to the scale of that one policy.

So let’s get on with fixing America. If you are reading this, you are a progressive or Democrat or Berniecrat and you most likely belong to some related organization. If your organization does not have as its top priority addressing income inequality now, your organization is part of the problem. You can quote me on that.

More on the Magical Moderate Makeover of Martha McSally: A "centrist" she is not

McSally and AHCA vote
From AZBlueMeanie

Cross posted from skyislandscriber.com

Now that the Obamacare repeal seems dead, I’m watching the magical moderate makeover of Martha McSally with a witches brew of some amusement and some anger. You might recall that she exhorted her Republican colleagues in the House to “get this fucking thing done”- “this” being the AHCA repeal and replace bill that would have kicked 23 million people off of health insurance. And she then voted for that bill.

Now McSally is riding a different horse. She is part of a supposed “centrist” group in the House working up a way to save Obamacare.

Before proceeding, let me remind you of how one can arrive at a “centrist” group. It’s called averaging. Suppose the group consists of two Republicans, one voting with Trump 51% of the time and the other voting with Trump 49% of the time. The average is a centrist 50%. Now suppose a different group, one Republican voting with Trump 100% of the time and the other voting with Trump 0% of the time. The average is still 50% – (100 + 0)/2. Martha McSally, until recently, was voting 100% Trump (now her record is 97.5%). I see nothing “centrist” about McSally.

Politico.com reports on Centrist lawmakers plot bipartisan health care stabilization bill.

The [so-called centrist] push was intensified after the Senate’s repeal collapsed in the wee hours of Friday morning when Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined with all Senate Democrats to reject the GOP’s “skinny repeal."

The Problem Solvers caucus, led by Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), is fronting the effort to stabilize the ACA markets, according to multiple sources. But other centrist members, including Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and several other lawmakers from the New Democrat Coalition and the GOP’s moderate Tuesday Group are also involved.

Their plan focuses on immediately stabilizing the insurance market and then pushing for Obamacare changes that have received bipartisan backing in the past.

The most significant proposal is funding for Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies. Insurers rely on these payments – estimated to be $7 billion this year — to reduce out-of-pocket costs for their poorest Obamacare customers.

Locally, the proposal was reported in today’s Green Valley News by editor Dan Shearer in Bipartisan effort tackles health care and defended by McSally in an editorial Bipartisan collaboration will make a statement.

But this proposal may be DOA. Politico acknowledges that Trump could still kill Obamacare by withholding those payments.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off the payments, deriding them as a “bailout” for insurance companies. White House counselor Kelly Conway said on Sunday that Trump will decide “this week” whether to scrap the subsidies — which could make the markets implode.

For more on McSally and related issues see this morning’s post, The rehabilitation of Martha McSally as a mythical moderate Republican begins, at Blog for Arizona by AZBlueMeanie

Oh, this is rich. Rep. Martha McSally, who rallied House GOP members to pass House Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act in the House with the battle cry of “Let’s get this fucking thing done!”, has now joined a bipartisan House group to stabilize “Obamacare.”

This is like the arsonist who burns your house to the ground and then pretends to be a hero by rescuing you from the fire she set. And the GOP-friendly media in Arizona is playing along with McSally’s attempt to rehabilitate her image by again pretending that McSally is a mythical moderate Republican when she votes with Donald Trump’s agenda nearly 100% of the time.

If GOP leaders actually revive an Obamacare repeal plan, you can bet that our mythical moderate Republican Martha McSally will again vote to take health care away from millions of Americans and to gut Medicaid.

Just in case there is any doubt remaining on that matter, here is part of what McSally had to say in her GV News editorial.

To be clear, I think the Affordable Care Act was not the right approach to fix the broken health care system that existed before its passage,

What other approaches might she admit and support? Yesterday in speculating about the GOP’s future I posted this:

… Last night CD2 Rep. Martha McSally was interviewed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC. He asked her if defunding the ACA cost reduction payments, as Trump has threatened, is the right thing to do. He asked and asked and got only dodges and fog. …

Now I obtained Monday’s transcript. Here are (lightly edited) snippets.

Hayes: … in congress now that efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have yet again failed, some lawmakers are now looking for bipartisan solution to strengthen the law.

Politico reports their proposal includes funding, those cost sharing subsidies to help low income Americans, as well as easing insurance requirements for smaller employers.

And two of those lawmakers join me now. Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, and Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally of Arizona.

Congresswoman, let me begin with you. Do you think it is appropriate for the President to be essentially threatening to take away that money and spike peoples premiums as a means of gaining political leverage over the law?

McSally: Well, Chris, thanks for having us on. Let me be clear, this is a hot button issue, and we still have sincerely held different beliefs about what is a sustainable health care system. … [lots more here but no answer to the question]

Hayes: … I just want to come back because I did ask you a question, whether you think it is appropriate for the President and not just to threaten, but a thing he might do which is to hold back the money– you talk about costs are too high for people and people are having problems, that would explicitly making that problem worse. He shouldn`t do that, should he?

McSally: As you can see from our plan that we released, 43 members of congress nearly equally on both sides aisle, one of the elements is to fund those cost sharing reductions, those CSRs. But not just throwing money at the problem and not being fiscally responsible because structurally it needs some changes. So the Stability Fund is absolutely critical to address those with the highest expenses and most complex medical needs so we can help drive down premiums and provide more options so the that young healthy people are in the market.

She never did answer the question which was about the morality of Trump’s threat to stop cost sharing payments.

I wrapped up my McSally segment yesterday with this:

… Former air force pilot McSally is scarfing up all kinds of good PR with her problem solving caucus but does not have the right stuff when it comes standing up to Trump. Shame on her.

The NRA’s False Choice

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing, but this article written by Marine officers (there are no former Marines) is just too “on target” (please pardon the pun) not to share. I have nothing to add other than I agree entirely, especially with these two sentences:

“Indeed, true patriotism is not partisan, and the love of country and exercise of Constitutional rights is not the purview of any one group.”

“We renounce the false choice presented by the NRA that Americans need to pick a team between the First and Second Amendments.”

The NRA Has Entered the Province of Cowards
by Joe Plenzler, flipboard.com
As Marines, we fought to defend the U.S. and its freedoms. The NRA’s new video campaign is dedicated to a xenophobic policy of violent hatred and intolerance undermining freedom.

Over the past few weeks, the National Rifle Association has deployed several hyperbolic, incoherent, irresponsible, and divisive videos demonizing half of the American population in their efforts to recruit new members—beginning with Dana Loesch, followed by Greg Stenchfield, and most recently by U.S. Navy veteran Dom Raso.

Such fear-based incitements to hate and violence are the province of cowards.

These ads are official NRA TV products sponsored by Ruger and Kimber, both firearms manufacturers.

The NRA, founded by Union officers after the Civil War, was established as an organization dedicated to civilian marksmanship, gun safety, and Second Amendment rights.

However, this recent video campaign is a crescendo of increasingly partisan rhetoric on the part of the NRA, demonstrating that they are now dedicated to a xenophobic policy of violent hatred and intolerance that increases polarization and discord within American society.

In tone and content, the videos are eerily reminiscent of the thugs and bullies that have historically executed violence in support of authoritarian regimes.

These NRA ads are a clear and sophisticated effort that use well established propaganda tricks to appeal to scarcity, fear, and the basest of human emotions. For instance, the unnamed “they” at the beginning of Loesch’s video establishes a cognitive frame for the viewer to insert their own personal boogeyman.

Moreover, the videos conflate the American public’s right to peacefully assemble, protest, and criticize their government with the violent criminal behavior of a small number of rioters.

The NRA props up the Second Amendment by undermining and vilifying the protections afforded in the First, and paints everyone who may disagree with the current administration, our country’s justice system, or the NRA’s partisan political position with a very dark and unjust broad brush.

The NRA ads depict a dystopian, violent present whose danger can only be met by heavily armed citizens, when in fact a recent 2016 FBI report shows violent crime in the US to be at a 20-year low despite the more than 33,000 gun-related fatalities in our nation every year.

Additionally, the NRA’s use of stock riot footage misrepresents the character of the anti-administration protests. The data on the protests since the inauguration show that less than 0.5% of all protests have resulted in any property damage, and even fewer have resulted in physical injury.

To the NRA, we ask Qui Bono—to whose benefit? This fear-mongering certainly does not benefit the American people.

The truth is that the NRA is engaging in shameless fear tactics to increase membership so they can put more money into the pockets of politicians in Washington so firearms manufactures can increase sales resulting in profits and returns to shareholders.

They are selling a false narrative that there is only one right way to be a patriot.

This divisive rhetoric is amplified by their deafening silence on the killing of Phillando Castile, a law-abiding gun owner.

They are preying on a fearful public, and this is unethical.

While we would expect Loesch and Stinchfield to engage in such paid partisan hyperbole, we are embarrassed that a fellow veteran like Dom Raso would stoop to partisan fear-mongering and denigrate himself in the same manner.

We expect more from our veterans.

You see, while we have spent the past 16 years fighting real wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, extreme partisans on both sides of the political spectrum have been intent on waging a culture war at home.

It is time for this to stop.

During our combined 56 years in the United States Marine Corps, we served with Americans from every conceivable political, ideological, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic background—including foreigners who joined our military and helped fight our wars so they could earn a shot at U.S. citizenship.

Our experiences serving in every clime and place have taught us to be grateful for our ever evolving experiment in democracy, and have also shown us that there is no one right way to be Americans.

Indeed, true patriotism is not partisan, and the love of country and exercise of Constitutional rights is not the purview of any one group.

Each of us who volunteer to serve swore an oath to defend the Constitution and all of its amendments for every American—even those we may disagree with.

While we deplore the riotous violence of a few—completely overblown by the NRA—we respect the rights of the people to peacefully assemble and protest. We also respect peaceful civil disobedience. These rights are the cornerstone of our democracy, codified as the First Amendment to ensure that we can disagree, protest, and express our views without resorting to the violence of the past.

We also reject the most recent phenomena of labeling anything disagreeable as false or fake news. We believe everyone is entitled to their opinions, but nobody is entitled to their own facts.

We renounce the false choice presented by the NRA that Americans need to pick a team between the First and Second Amendments.

We believe that the use of intimidation, fear-mongering, and threats of violence to crush the people’s right to peaceful assembly, redress grievances, and maintain a free press is the first step in the march towards authoritarianism.

We believe that ALL of our civil liberties are worth defending for ALL Americans—including protection from the use of excessive lethal force by those sworn to protect and serve our communities.

We reject extremism in all of its forms—both emanating from the right and the left.

We believe that the way forward to bring our Nation together does not come from a clenched fist, rather it comes from an extended hand and a commitment by sane, common-sense, and courageous people to meet in the center and work toward the common good.

We believe that veterans, given the military’s cultural emphasis on service, nation before self, and teamwork can be useful in encouraging respectful civil discourse to solve our nation’s toughest problems.

We strongly believe in the sentiment first expressed by Edmund Burke, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.

We believe that the majority of NRA members deplore the hate and fear-based tactics of the NRA leadership yet their dues and donations continue to resource the NRA’s incitements to hate and violence.

The silence of these good men and women is deafening.

What will you do?

Craig Tucker is a retired Marine Corps Colonel and decorated 25-year combat veteran. His combat command of RCT–7 in Iraq spanned 14 months and included the first and second Battles of Fallujah, numerous smaller actions and a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat action north of Husaybah Iraq.

Kyleanne Hunter is an 11-year Marine Corps combat veteran and decorated AH–1W Cobra helicopter gunship pilot. She served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a tour as the Marine Corps’ Liaison Officer to the House of Representatives. She is a former NRA member.

Joe Plenzler is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and decorated 20-year combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He served from 2010 to 2015 as the spokesman, speechwriter, and staff group director for the 34th, 35th, and 36th Commandants of the Marine Corps. He is a former NRA member. ■

Trump makes war on the states: More on the voter data demand from Trump’s voter suppression commission

Cross posted from skyislandscriber.com.

Donald Trump has picked fights with the judiciary, members of Congress, and the executive branch itself (Comey, Obama). In addition, he has waged all-out war on our free press. Having exhausted potential targets for his infamous and indecent Twump-ly trirades at the national level, he is now picking a fight with state-level election officials.

What started this spat (which is likely to develop into something bigger because of the stakes), is the letter sent to the 50 Secretaries of State by the co-chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (aka by some as the voter suppression commission), Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (The full text of the letter follows the break.)

Nearly 1/3 of the states responded negatively for reasons developed below. In response, Trump says states are ‘trying to hide’ things from his voter fraud commission. But: Here’s what they actually say.

More than two dozen states have refused to fully comply with a sweeping and unprecedented White House request to turn over voter registration data, including sensitive information like partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation and military status.

Overall, the states that have said they will not be complying at all with the Kobach commission’s request represent over 30 percent of the nation’s population. That could complicate any efforts to build a truly national voter file, although it remains unclear what the commission’s ultimate goal is in collecting the data.

As it turns out, the bipartisan group of state officials withholding information from the commission have been very forthcoming about their reasons for not complying. …

Here are a couple of examples of the responses from Secretaries of State.

“I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat.

“California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach,” he added. "[Kobach’s] role as vice chair is proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens.”

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, another Democrat, struck a similar note.

“The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue — it is not,” Grimes said. “Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country.”

In addition to the states’ responses, voter advocacy groups have been especially critical of the Trump/Kobach play. Snopes.com reports Growing Number of States Reject Voter Data Request From Trump’s Election Commission

Voter advocacy groups have also come out against the commission’s push for access to the data, which it said it wanted by 14 July 2017. League of Women Voters president Chris Carson said in a statement that her group would support any state that refused to comply with Kobach’s request:

There is no justification for this giant fishing expedition. The Commission itself is a distraction from the real issue of voter suppression, and that efforts to “investigate voter fraud” threaten our most fundamental voting rights. This most recent move by Mr. Kobach is an indicator that the so-called Election “Integrity” Commission is not interested in facts, but false accusations and dangerous policy recommendations.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also condemned Kobach’s letters and called on his counterparts in other states to “discourage state and local officials” from participating in the commission’s activities:

This meritless inquisition opens the door for a misguided and ill-advised Commission to take steps to target and harass voters and could lead to purging of the voter rolls.

[From the Washington Post report:] “We’re concerned about unlawful voter purging, which has been something that Kris Kobach has been leading the charge,” said Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, in an interview Friday.

Part of the problem here is that few people trust Kris Kobach and Trump’s war against the states does not endear him to the state election officials.

[Snopes:] Kobach has not elaborated on how information collected by the commission would be kept safe.

Before joining Trump’s administration, Kobach worked as an attorney for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a hardline anti-immigration group. In September 2016, a federal appeals court found that Kobach had provided “precious little” evidence that non-U.S. citizens were engaging in voter fraud.

[Post:]Gupta and others argue that Kobach doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being honest about his work on voter fraud. Just a week ago, a federal judge fined Kobach $1,000 for “presenting misleading arguments in a voting-related lawsuit.”

To learn more about the man who Trump made co-chair of this bogus commission, see Ari Berman’s report on The Man Behind Trump’s Voter-Fraud Obsession. How Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, plans to remake America through restrictive voting and immigration laws.

Here is one reason, among dozens listed by Berman, why Kobach is an existential threat to our republic and deserves both respect and fear.

On June 8, Kobach announced his candidacy in the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial race, telling a room full of supporters in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa that he had “the honor of personally advising President Trump, both before the election and after the election, on how to reduce illegal immigration. And is he doing a good job?” The crowd cheered. If Kobach wins, he could be positioned to run for president as the legal mind who can deliver the promise of Trumpism without the baggage of Trump himself.

Paul Waldman (Washington Post/Plum Line) sums it up in Why we should be very afraid of Trump’s vote suppression commission.

Let’s be clear: The sole purpose of this commission on “election integrity” is to suppress votes and give the GOP a structural advantage in every election. It’s being led by Kris Kobach, whose twin missions in life are to scale back immigration and to make voting more difficult. Other commission members include Ken Blackwell, a far-right activist who as secretary of state of Ohio in 2004 (while he was simultaneously serving as state co-chair of the George W. Bush campaign) tried to disenfranchise people whose registration forms were submitted on insufficiently heavy paper stock. The administration just added Hans von Spakovsky, who before Kobach emerged was known as the country’s most prominent advocate of vote suppression.

These people are not trying to determine whether there are problems with our voting system and find the best solutions to those problems. They have come together to promote the myth of voter fraud and enable vote suppression in order to advantage the Republican Party. No one should be fooled into thinking this enterprise is anything other than that.

If Kobach were successful in obtaining full names, addresses, dates of birth, and last four digits of social security numbers, and then putting all that in the public domain, as he said he would do, he would be inviting identity theft on a national scale. Every Secretary of State should join the resist movement.

Correction to yesterday’s post: Kris Kobach is the Kansas Secretary of State, not the Attorney General. His first name is Kris, not Chris.

The full text an example letter follows – it is the one sent to Maine. Emphases are mine.

Continue reading

Putin’s assault on our election, Obama’s secret responses, and Trump administration missing in action on preventing future election hacks

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Yesterday evening (Friday, June 23rd), Rachel Maddow reported on a stunning Washington Post story about Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault. I am not in the least ashamed to admit that I cannot do justice to the Post’s story with a few – or even many – snippets. It’s a long article but if you want to understand what the Russians did to our election, and what serious threat remains, you must read this story.

Here are my take-away messages from the Washington Post report.

  • Putin ordered and directed the Russian effort to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
  • Political push-back from Republican politicians, nationally and locally, prevented effective counter-measures.
  • American response was tempered by the fear that Russia would take additional cyber-action to disrupt the 2016 election.
  • Russia still has the means to disrupt future elections – 2016 was practice for a larger-scale intervention.
  • Obama initiated a U. S. program to develop cyber “implants” that could be triggered remotely as part of retaliation for any Russian aggression against our election system or power grid.
  • Trump has not interfered with that program but neither has he pushed for bolstering the security of our election infrastructure.

That last one based on an article by NBC News, Trump White House Has Taken Little Action To Stop Next Election Hack that appeared this morning (June 24).

The Trump administration has taken little meaningful action to prevent Russian hacking, leaking and disruption in the next national election in 2018, despite warnings from intelligence officials that it will happen again, officials and experts told NBC News.

“This attack is really the political equivalent of 9/11 — it is deadly, deadly serious,” said Michael Vickers, a career intelligence official who was the Pentagon’s top intelligence official in the Obama administration. “The Russians will definitely be back, given the success they had…I don’t see much evidence of a response.”

According to recent Congressional testimony, Trump has shown no interest in the question of how to prevent future election interference by Russia or another foreign power. …

Dozens of state officials told NBC News they have received little direction from Washington about election security.

That apparent top-level indifference, coupled with a failure to fill key jobs at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, has resulted in a government paralyzed by inaction when it comes to protecting the next election, experts and government officials told NBC News.

“The Trump administration is woefully missing in action,” said Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Silicon Valley based Open Source Election Technology Institute, a non-profit research group.

“It isn’t happening,” said David Jefferson, a voter security expert and computer scientist in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing, when asked whether he saw a U.S. government effort to address the problem.

What is the Trump administration doing? Apparently, they are pursuing a different agenda.

The White House says it’s sending letters to states and municipalities next week asking them to send data to an election fraud commission. It also points to the signing of a cybersecurity executive order as a step toward protecting elections.

WTF? They’re chasing a bogeyman down a rat hole while the clock is running out on time to strengthen our cyber defenses.

In interviews, dozens of state officials told NBC News they have had limited interaction with the Department of Homeland Security, which is tasked with helping them guard against cyber intrusions. They have seen no major initiative from the Trump administration, they added. …

And the threat remains.

… experts say Russia and other nation-states have shown themselves fully capable of manipulating actual votes.

“It was and is within the technical capacity of Russia and other nation states to interfere with our elections and to change votes, ” said Edward Felton, a Princeton computer scientist who served as deputy chief technology officer in the Obama administration. “We’re fortunate that they chose not to do it.”

J. Alex Halderman, professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, told a Senate hearing this week that he and his team demonstrated the ability to reprogram voting machines “to invisibly cause any candidate to win. We also created malicious software — vote-stealing code — that could spread from machine to machine like a computer virus, and silently change the election outcome.”

… U.S. intelligence officials say, it has to be made clear to the Russians or any other nation that there is a price to be paid for hacking an American election.

John McLaughlin, a former acting CIA director, said he had seen no indication that President Trump and his team have “weighed in with Russians or made clear to the Russians our determination to stop this.”

Links to clips from Rachel’s Friday show

Russian election hacks took US to brink of cyberwar: Rachel Maddow reviews some of the highlights of a lengthy, eye-opening report from The Washington Post about the reaction of the Obama administration to the news that Vladimir Putin was directing a cyberattack on the U.S. election.

Russia 2016 cyberattacks seen as dry run for future elections: Ellen Nakashima, national security reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about her reporting on Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. election and the Obama administration’s deliberations on retaliation.

Uptick in Russian visa requests ahead of 2016 election: Ned Price, former NSC spokesman and senior director, shares with Rachel Maddow insights on the reporting by the Washington Post of an uptick in visa applications from Russia ahead of the 2016 election.