Opinion | Why Is Mitch McConnell So Afraid of John Bolton? – By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III – The New York Times

By Neal K. Katyal and 

Mr. Katyal, the author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump,” and Mr. Conway, an adviser to the Lincoln Project, are lawyers.

Credit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The importance of John Bolton’s offer to testify if subpoenaed in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump cannot be overstated. In a single stroke, Mr. Bolton, the former national security adviser, elevated truth and transparency over political gamesmanship.

The Senate must take him up on his offer, as well as demand the testimony of President Trump and the administration officials he has barred from testifying. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, reportedly has the votes to proceed with the trial despite no agreement with Democrats on new witnesses and to leave it a question to take up after opening arguments. The Senate still must declare that it will call witnesses during the trial.

Everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents — must know that these crucial witnesses will be heard.

The core principle behind the rule of law is that justice is blind and partisan identity should not influence a trial’s outcome. But anyone watching Mr. McConnell twist himself into knots in trying to block witnesses and documents has to wonder whether this notion ever took root in his mind. He has gone so far as to say that “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.” He also said, “There’s no chance the president is going to be removed from office.” “

Opinion | An Open Letter to John Lewis – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Dear Mr. Lewis, I write with a heavy heart. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is a brutal diagnosis, so it’s no surprise that last Sunday night the internet erupted with anguish as news of your illness became public. Treatment may give you a “fighting chance” to continue working “for the Beloved Community,” as you wrote in a statement, but it’s painful to think of what you will be called on to bear in the coming months. You have already borne so much for us.

In the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, a massive screen plays a montage of film and still photos from March 7, 1965, a day now commemorated as “Bloody Sunday.” The images were made at the beginning of a planned march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, to claim voting rights for the African-American citizens of the state. I grew up in Alabama, not far from Selma, and I’ve always known the story of Bloody Sunday, but knowing the story is not the same thing as watching it unfold on a life-size screen. Standing in the National Civil Rights Museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day a few years ago, I watched in horror. What you and your fellow marchers, 600 strong, found waiting for you on the other side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was 150 state police and local law-enforcement officers armed with billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas. They gave you two minutes to disperse.

As the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, you were standing at the very front of the march. You were wearing a light-colored trench coat, and that coat is what makes it possible to follow you in the black-and-white footage of those next chaotic moments. One minute and five seconds after the two-minute warning, evil advanced and the carnage began, even as you knelt in the road to pray.

The beating you took that day from an Alabama state trooper may have fractured your skull, but it didn’t crack your resolve. National news stories carrying photos and film footage from Bloody Sunday finally woke this nation to what was happening in the Jim Crow South, and that awakening ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act five months later.”

Public Servants: TIME’s Guardians of the Year 2019 | Time

Illustration by Jason Seiler for TIME
BY MASSIMO CALABRESI, VERA BERGENGRUEN AND SIMON SHUSTER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY GABRIELLA DEMCZUK FOR TIME

“There are 363,000 federal workers in the greater Washington, D.C., area. In the first week of September, history turned in the office of one of them. The intelligence analyst who blew the whistle on President Donald Trump had just gotten off the phone with the Inspector General’s office. One of a handful of people who had read the analyst’s report alleging that Trump had solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election, the Inspector General had found the analyst’s concerns “urgent” and “credible.” But there was a problem: higher-ups in the intelligence community had spoken to the White House. Both were blocking the IG from sending the complaint to Congress.

There is a particular kind of silence in the offices of the intelligence community. The buildings have multipaned windows with special protective coatings that prevent eavesdropping so virtually all exterior noise is blocked. There are few conversations in the carpeted hallways—people mind their own business—and everyone ensures their phone calls cannot be overheard. Amid the ambient hum of HVAC systems and the occasional ringing of an elevator bell, the atmosphere is one of monastic isolation. Sitting alone in that silence, the analyst asked, “What do I do now?”

The law provides one answer. In 2014, Congress added a paragraph to the statute that created the role of intelligence community Inspector General. “An individual who has submitted a complaint or information to the Inspector General,” it reads, “may notify any member of either of the Congressional intelligence committees, or a staff member of either of such committees.”

For the analyst, it wasn’t an easy call. The attempt to block the complaint had upped the stakes. What would happen if the analyst came forward? Whistle-blowers are protected from retaliation by law, but President Trump had attacked government officials before, and his supporters were even more threatening. Congress was its own minefield. Republicans on the Hill had backed Trump on Russia, the analyst’s area of expertise. Democrats, for their part, were looking for an edge in the 2020 election and might turn a government employee, like the whistle-blower, into one.

But multiple people had told the analyst that during a July 25 phone call, the President had “sought to pressure” his Ukrainian counterpart to dig up dirt on political rivals and pursue a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. The analyst believed that Trump was using the sovereign power of the American presidency in an attempt to stay in office. It was an affront to democracy, the whistle-blower decided. There was only one ethical choice—going to Congress and telling the truth.”

Source: Public Servants: TIME’s Guardians of the Year 2019 | Time

J.K. Rowling’s Maya Forstater tweets support hostile work environments, not free speech – Washington Post

“But here’s what really happened.

In early September 2018, Forstater had been a consultant to the Center for Global Development, which focuses on economic inequality, when she began using her personal Twitter account to tweet about her opposition to potential changes to the U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act, writing, “I share the concerns of @fairplaywomen that radically expanding the legal definition of ‘women’ so that it can include both males and females makes it a meaningless concept, and will undermine women’s rights & protections for vulnerable women & girls.”

She then added: “Some transgender people have cosmetic surgery. But most retain their birth genitals. Everyone’s equality and safety should be protected, but women and girls lose out on privacy, safety and fairness if males are allowed into changing rooms, dormitories, prisons, sports teams.”

Note that, in both cases, Forstater explicitly and unmistakably referred to trans women as “males”; the law to which she was referring — the Gender Recognition Act — explicitly recognizes trans women as female, not male, and the changes being contemplated were about increasing transgender women’s inclusion.

Later that month, in a long series of tweets, she repeatedly misgendered Credit Suisse senior director Pips Buncewho identifies as gender fluid, referring to her as “a man who likes to express himself part of the week by wearing a dress,” “a part-time cross dresser” and “a white man who likes to dress in women’s clothes.” As part of that discussion, she also tweeted, “I think that male people are not women.” (In her own words, Pips prefers to “default to ‘she’ as a pronoun.”)

After that series of Tweets, in a Slack conversation published by the court, Forstater reiterated that her stances — “‘women are adult human females’ or ‘transwomen are male'” — are “basic biological truths,” and “‘transwoman are women'” is one of a number of “literal delusions.” “

Source: J.K. Rowling’s Maya Forstater tweets support hostile work environments, not free speech

J.K. Rowling tried to make her work more inclusive. Then she tweeted support for an anti-trans researcher. – The Washington Post

Dec. 19, 2019 at 12:24 p.m. PST

“J.K. Rowling has long used the Internet to tweak the Harry Potter universe she created, surprising fans with trivial revelations from Ron Weasley’s patronus to the fact that wizards used to poop in their robes. But on Thursday, Rowling changed many fans’ views of her own character when she tweeted her support for a woman who was fired over her anti-trans social media posts.

“Dress however you please,” Rowling wrote on Twitter early Thursday. “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.”

The woman named in Rowling’s tweet is Maya Forstater, a tax expert who lost her job at a think tank after tweeting that trans women can’t “change” their biological sex. Forstater’s contract as a visiting fellow at the Washington- and London-based nonprofit Center for Global Development was not renewed in March, according to the Guardian, after they found her tweets to be exclusionary toward trans people. On Wednesday, Judge James Tayler at the Central London Employment Tribunal dismissed Forstater’s claims of wrongful termination, per the Guardian, calling her “absolutist in her view of sex” and her expressed beliefs “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

Rowling’s tweet triggered backlash almost immediately, attracting condemnation from individual users and organizations alike: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. CC: JK Rowling,” the Human Rights Campaign account tweeted. Replying to Rowling’s tweet, one fan wrote that she grew up reading the Harry Potter series as a trans child, and that the author’s decision “to support people that hate me” brought tears to her eyes.

Rowling’s representatives declined to comment to The Washington Post.”

Source: J.K. Rowling tried to make her work more inclusive. Then she tweeted support for an anti-trans researcher. – The Washington Post

Opinion | A Win for Gerrymandering – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“North Carolina suffers from some of the most extreme gerrymandering in the country. Last year, Republicans only narrowly won the statewide popular vote in congressional elections, 50 percent to 48 percent. Yet they ultimately held on to 10 of North Carolina’s 13 congressional seats. Gerrymandering turned a nail-biter into a landslide.

The good news is that, in October, a state court ruled the congressional map to be illegal, thanks to its blatant “partisan intent.” The judges nudged the state legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, to draw districts that would more accurately reflect voters’ intent.

The bad news is that legislators drew another unfair map, albeit less unfair than the original.

The even worse news is that yesterday the same state court allowed the new map to stand. The judges cited the calendar, saying that rejecting the new map would effectively require the 2020 primaries to be delayed.”

Opinion | What Trump Is Hiding From the Impeachment Hearings – By Neal K. Katyal – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Katyal is a former acting solicitor general and a law professor.

Credit…Illustration by Alicia Tatone; Photographs by Damon Winter/The New York Times, and Guido Mieth and mbell, via Getty Images

“The public impeachment hearings this week will be at least as important for what is not said as for what is. Congress will no doubt focus a lot on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his secret plan to get that government to announce a public investigation of the man he considered his chief political rival, Joe Biden.

But think about what the president is trying to hide in the hearings. He has been blocking government officials from testifying before Congress, invoking specious claims of constitutional privilege. And while the Ukraine allegations have rightly captured the attention of Congress and much of the public, Mr. Trump’s effort to hinder the House investigation of him is at least as great a threat to the rule of law. It strikes at the heart of American democracy — and it is itself the essence of an impeachable offense.

President Trump has categorically refused to cooperate with the impeachment investigation. He has declined to turn over documents related to the inquiry and has instructed all members of his administration not to testify before Congress. Every member of the executive branch who has gone to tell the truth to the House impeachment investigators — like Marie Yovanovich and Alexander Vindman (and maybe Gordon Sondland, too, at least the second time around) — has done so in defiance of the president’s instructions. President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has refused to testify. Secretary of Defense Mike Esper, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, have ignored congressional subpoenas related to the investigation.”

Opinion | How to Be a Whistle-Blower – By Charlie Warzel – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Warzel is an Opinion writer at large.

Credit…Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile, via Getty Images

This article is part of a limited-run newsletter. You can sign up here.

“Last week, at a conference in Portugal, I met John Napier Tye. He is a former State Department employee, a whistle-blower and a co-founder of Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit law firm that represents individuals trying to expose wrongdoing. As you may have noticed, whistle-blowers are very much in the news these days, and Tye is very much in the center of that world.

Today’s newsletter is a Q. and A. with Tye. We talked about whether it’s possible to stay anonymous in 2019, how to protect your privacy like a spy, whether regular people are at risk of becoming targets and how to become a whistle-blower if you’re a witness to something troubling.

This is a condensed and edited version of our conversation:

What are the biggest threats right now to privacy for normal citizens?

It’s useful to distinguish between bulk collection and targeted surveillance. Both are threats. The average citizen is likely already caught up by bulk collection, although the proliferation of targeted surveillance technologies are increasingly threatening whistle-blowers, journalists and others that find themselves on the wrong side of unaccountable governments and security agencies.

Bulk collection affects everyone. A number of governments and companies have the goal of building databases with detailed profile information for every person on earth, or at least every internet user — including where you are at any given moment, who your friends are, what kind of messages and photos you are creating and how you think about the world. They are closer than you might expect.”

How Laws Against Child Sexual Abuse Imagery Can Make It Harder to Detect – The New York Times

“Child sexual abuse photos and videos are among the most toxic materials online. It is against the law to view the imagery, and anybody who comes across it must report it to the federal authorities.

So how can tech companies, under pressure to remove the material, identify newly shared photos and videos without breaking the law? They use software — but first they have to train it, running repeated tests to help it accurately recognize illegal content.

Google has made progress, according to company officials, but its methods have not been made public. Facebook has, too, but there are still questions about whether it follows the letter of the law. Microsoft, which has struggled to keep known imagery off its search engine, Bing, is frustrated by the legal hurdles in identifying new imagery, a spokesman said.

The three tech giants are among the few companies with the resources to develop artificial intelligence systems to take on the challenge.

One route for the companies is greater cooperation with the federal authorities, including seeking permission to keep new photos and videos for the purposes of developing the detection software.

But that approach runs into a larger privacy debate involving the sexual abuse material: How closely should tech companies and the federal government work to shut it down? And what would prevent their cooperation from extending to other online activity?

Paul Ohm, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual property section, said the laws governing child sexual abuse imagery were among the “fiercest criminal laws” on the books.

“Just the simple act of shipping the images from one A.I. researcher to another is going to implicate you in all kinds of federal crimes,” he said.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments.
I’ve worked with computer clients since 1991 who shaked with anger about how hard it is to master their computers.They still do. I say to them, what I say about this article, “Just think, in a hundred years, people will write comedies about how we struggled in the early, dark ages of computer science. Nothing is seemless. Nothing works as promised.”
Plug and play still hasn’t happened everywhere for everyone, and you get absurd stories like this one, where the government expects big tech companies to clean out child porn, but they aren’t allowed to store or share the photos they are targeting to remove from the internet. We are living through a comedy, every day.
The best way to deal with the pain is to laugh, and keep working to slowly improve interconnectivity with some respect for privacy. (David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)
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