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.)

Opinion | The Rules of Impeachment – The New York Times

“. . .  Central to the resolution’s ambitions are ensuring order, transparency and fairness as the inquiry moves to the public stage. Rules are being set for conducting public hearings (including who gets to question whom and for how long), publicly disclosing depositions and issuing subpoenas. Guidelines have been established for the participation of Mr. Trump and his lawyers and the transfer of evidence from other committees to the Judiciary Committee, where any articles of impeachment would be considered. The rules providing for the minority party to call its own witnesses are basically the same as those set by Republicans during the Clinton impeachment.

Indeed, many of the procedures outlined in the resolution, and in a related set of procedures drawn up by the Judiciary Committee, are in line with those followed in the impeachment inquiries in 1974 and 1998. These include the president receiving copies of all evidentiary material; the president and his counsel being invited to all hearings; and his counsel being permitted to ask questions at the presentation of evidence, submit evidence on the president’s behalf, question witnesses, object to the questioning of witnesses and so on.

Perhaps the most notable departure from precedent is a provision concerning the Judiciary Committee stipulating that if the president “unlawfully” refuses to make witnesses or evidentiary material available to the investigating committees, “the chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the president or his counsel under these procedures to call or question witnesses.” “

Elizabeth Warren’s Days Defending Big Corporations – By Stephanie Saul- The New York Times

“Elizabeth Warren had never taken on the federal government before.

But in 1995, she found herself up against the Clinton administration, representing the Cleveland-based conglomerate LTV Steel.

Even though LTV had sold off its coal mines during the 1980s, a new law required it to contribute to a health fund for retired miners.

LTV believed that it should not have to pay. Those claims, the company said, should have been handled as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

Ms. Warren’s job was to convince the Supreme Court to hear LTV’s case.

The court declined, but for Ms. Warren, the issue would fester. Over a decade later, when she ran for the Senate from Massachusetts in 2012, the Republican incumbent, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, tried to use her work for LTV against her, unleashing an ad calling her a “hired gun” who sided “against working people.” Notwithstanding the attack, Mr. Brown lost his seat to Ms. Warren.

The LTV case was part of a considerable body of legal work that Ms. Warren, one of the nation’s leading bankruptcy experts, took on while working as a law professor — moonlighting that earned her hundreds of thousands of dollars over roughly two decades beginning in the late 1980s, mostly while she was on the faculty at Harvard. Much of it involved representing big corporate clients.”

David Lindsay:  Wow. Terrific and interesting writing by Stephanie Saul, thank you.

This complicated dive into Warren’s corporate work while at Harvard, reinvorces what an extraordinary lawyer she is. She was tough as nails, not working always for widows and orphans, but almost always picking cases where she could try to protect the institution of bankruptcy.

Violent Video Was Product of Right-Wing Provocateurs and Trump Allies – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The creator of a gruesome video that showed a fake President Trump killing journalists and political opponents and that was played at a meeting of a pro-Trump group over the weekend is part of a loose network of right-wing provocateurs with a direct line to the White House.

The unidentified creator of the video operates under the name of “The GeekzTeam” and has proclaimed on Twitter to be a “red blooded American with ZERO tolerance for the liberal agenda.” Like many in the online group, the person specializes in creating pro-Trump internet content, often by remixing the president’s image into clips from popular movies and television shows.

Another of the provocateurs, Logan Cook, who often has posted the videos on MemeWorld, his website, participated in a social media summit at the White House in July and took his children to meet the president in the Oval Office, accompanied by Dan Scavino, the White House social media director.

The connections underscore how the president’s escalating war on what he calls the “fake news” media has elevated people from the far-right fringe into allies who defend Mr. Trump with extreme language and images.”

Opinion | The House Can Play Hardball, Too. It Can Arrest Giuliani. – By Josh Chafetz – The New York Times

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Josh Chafetz is the author of “Congress’s Constitution.”

CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

“In his letter to House leadership, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, drew a line in the sand: The administration will not “participate in” the impeachment proceedings in any way. The odd language of “participate in” — presidential impeachment is not meant to be a collaboration between Congress and the president — obscures the central thrust of the letter: The White House is refusing to respond to any subpoenas or other demands for information from the House.

Of course, other administrations have fought with Congress over access to information, but those fights have centered around clearly articulated objections, supported by legal reasoning, to turning over specific documents or allowing specific officials to testify. The Trump administration’s wholesale refusal to treat congressional information demands as legitimate is so different in degree as to become different in kind.

It might seem like the White House has the House of Representatives over a barrel. If the president simply refuses to engage, what can the House do? How does a chamber of Congress go about wringing information from an unwilling executive branch?

Let’s get one thing out of the way at the outset: The answer is unlikely to be found in a courtroom. That’s not to say that the House probably wouldn’t win on the merits. Most of the administration’s arguments are risible, and even many Republican judges will have trouble swallowing them. Indeed, when the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations raised significantly more plausible objections to congressional subpoenas, the courts sided with the House, ordering the executive to turn over the vast majority of the subpoenaed material.”

Opinion | What Hunter Biden Did Was Legal — And That’s the Problem – By Peter Schweizer – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Schweizer is the author, most recently, of “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.”

CreditCreditLarry Downing/Reuters

“In 2016, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $264 million as part of a settlement with the federal government. The reason? An Asian subsidiary of the company had hired the children of Chinese government officials in the hopes of currying favor with their powerful parents — a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Had the same thing happened with a foreign company and an American politician’s family, however, no violation would have occurred — because no equivalent American law prevents a foreign company or government from hiring the family members of American politicians.

This glaring loophole provides political families with an opportunity to effectively “offshore” corruption and cronyism. It gives the politically connected class enormously tempting opportunities for self-dealing, the sort of thing that is blatantly illegal in almost any other context.

Consider two Washington power families: the Bidens and the McConnell-Chaos.

As vice president, Joe Biden served as point person on American policy toward China and Ukraine. In both instances, his son Hunter, a businessman, landed deals he was apparently unqualified to score save for one thing: his father.”

David Lindsay:  I don’t like a lot of red tape, but

“The problem more broadly is that we rely on a hodgepodge of laws that lack the clarity and bright ethical lines found in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That needs to change. International bribery laws clearly state that if a person or entity pays a politician’s family member and gets favors in return, it’s an act of bribery; it’s no different from the politician taking the money himself.

Obviously, the immediate family members of high-ranking politicians have to work — no one is saying otherwise. But given their unparalleled access, they should also be required to be transparent about what they are doing.

At a minimum, we need to strengthen American disclosure rules. Joe Biden and Elaine Chao have to report when someone sends them a $500 campaign donation, or when they make a $5,000 investment in a stock. But when their family members strike lucrative deals with a foreign government or oligarch, the reporting requirements are vague. The personal financial disclosure rules for American public officials should be expanded to include details concerning all their immediate family members (and not just their spouses, as the law currently states), and any dealings with foreign governments.”

All this sounds good, but it makes me nervous. It has to be administered carefully, or it becomes a brake on decent people, while crooks just ignore or game the rules.

Equal-time rule – Wikipedia

“The equal-time rule specifies that U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political candidates who request it. This means, for example, that if a station gives a given amount of time to a candidate in prime time, it must do the same for another candidate who requests it, at the same price if applicable.[1] This rule originated in §18 of the Radio Act of 1927; it was later superseded by the Communications Act of 1934. A related provision, in §315(b), requires that broadcasters offer time to candidates at the same rate as their “most favored advertiser”.

The equal-time rule was created because the FCC was concerned that broadcast stations could easily manipulate the outcome of elections by presenting just one point of view, and excluding other candidates. The equal-time rule should not be confused with the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, which dealt with presenting balanced points of view on matters of public importance.

There are four exceptions to the equal-time rule. If the airing was within a documentary, bona fide news interview, scheduled newscast or an on-the-spot news event, the equal-time rule does not apply. Since 1983, political debates not hosted by the media station are considered “news events,” and as a result, are not subject to the rule. Consequently, these debates may include only major-party candidates without having to offer air time to minor-party or independent candidates. Talk shows and other regular news programming from syndicators, such as Entertainment Tonight, are also declared exempt from the rule by the FCC on a case-by-case basis.[2]

The equal-time rule was temporarily suspended by Congress in 1960 in order to permit the Kennedy-Nixon debates to take place.[3]

The Zapple Doctrine was similar to the equal-time rule, but applied to different political campaign participants. The equal-time rule applies to the political candidate only. The Zapple Doctrine had the same purpose and requirements of equivalent coverage opportunity as the equal-time rule, but its scope included the candidate’s spokesman and supporters, not the candidate.[4]

Source: Equal-time rule – Wikipedia