McConnell blasted for letting trial run past SOTU; even Chris Wallace calls Dems ‘petty’ and ‘spiteful’ for it

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Because of pressure mostly from Senate Democrats but also from some of his colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed late Friday to postpone President Donald Trump’s acquittal vote until next Wednesday.

The decision provoked frustration in some, though for different reasons.

Here is the McConnell-Schumer Senate deal which extends impeachment to next Wednesday. Story first reported by @OANN pic.twitter.com/b2pKhBma2i

— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) February 1, 2020

Chris Wallace, one of Fox News’ most vocal Democrats, responded by blasting the Democrats for being so “petty” and “spiteful.” The remarks came after fellow FNC contributor Dana Perino opined about the Democrats’ motivation for pushing for a delay.

“I think one of the things that the Democrats want, and I don’t know why they think this would be helpful, is to be able to have the headline say, ‘An impeached president gives State of the Union,’” she said.

The president’s SOTU address is scheduled for Tuesday, a day before Trump is to be formally acquitted.

“I think it is so petty on the part of the Democrats and spiteful,” Wallace promptly chimed in. “End this. Land the plane!”


(Source: Fox News)

Others aimed their criticism at McConnell instead, including Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs and frequent FBN guest Ed Rollins, the co-chairman of the Donald Trump Great America PAC.

“Why in the world would the majority leader agree to run this thing through the state of the union address?” Dobbs asked in exasperation late Friday.

“He won, and the bottom line is that he should have shut it down tonight. And who cares if it’s in the middle fo the night? The whole thing is in the middle of the night,” Rollins replied.

“So what’s the profit in him doing this?” Dobbs pressed.

“There’s not,” Rollins replied. “There’s a danger to it because you have another whole weekend of the co-conspirators — The New York Times — leaking more Bolton stories and raising more hell. He’ll be on all the talk shows.”

Listen:


(Source: Fox Business Network)

Shortly before the Senate began the process of voting on whether or not to allow witnesses to testify in the president’s trial, the Times dropped yet another Bolton “bombshell.”

This one alleged that the “president asked his national security adviser last spring in front of other senior advisers to pave the way for a meeting between Rudolph Giuliani and Ukraine’s new leader.”

Within an hour of the “bombshell” dropping, the Democrat impeachment managers began making closing arguments that reportedly contained quotes from that very story.

“[T]he House managers begin their closing arguments, and guess what? They’ve got charts, they got graphs, they got quotes from the New York Times leak!” conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh noted at the time.

“It’s the playbook, and it is now so obvious, it’s become a joke. Every senator in that room knows exactly what’s going on here. We’re listening to closing arguments that are a coordinated, last-gasp, hail Mary for witnesses or what have you, that the New York Times found somebody to leak ’em something else from the manuscript of Bolton’s book.”

Dovetailing back to Dobbs, he shared his concerns on Twitter, as did other notable conservatives.

Look:

Why in the world would Senate Majority Leader McConnell allow this Radical Dem assault on @realDonaldTrump and the nation to run through the State of the Union and go on Wednesday when he could wrap it up tonight or at least tomorrow? #MAGA #AmericaFirst #Dobbs

— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) January 31, 2020

Get the vote done Tuesday.

Exonerate the President BEFORE the State of the Union Address Tuesday so America can officially and symbolically turn the page from this duplicitous impeachment.

Tuesday night needs to be @realdonaldtrump‘s. https://t.co/koYyhxOQOv

— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) February 1, 2020

Why is McConnell pushing this now to Wednesday?

— Jeremy Frankel (@FrankelJeremy) January 31, 2020

Someone needs to ask all those ‘muh Cocaine Mitch’ people why McConnell is cutting deals with Schumer to extend the impeachment trial. Weird!

— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) January 31, 2020

Reports have emerged suggesting that “Cocaine Mitch” may have delayed the acquittal vote for his own personal benefit.

“A joint fundraising committee allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is hosting a fundraiser in the Miami area over Super Bowl weekend,” The Hill has confirmed.

“McConnell for Majority Leader, a joint fundraising committee, has scheduled a fundraiser at 4 p.m. Saturday at a ‘South Beach Miami Location Provided Upon RSVP,’ according to an invite obtained by The Hill.”

While it’s not clear whether the majority leader will attend the event, some have speculated that his scheduled presence at the event would certainly explain his inexplicable decision to delay the president’s acquittal vote.

So is this why McConnell didn’t force a vote tonight or tomorrow? Cause that would be bad https://t.co/n19AMOVDYg

— jim manley (@jamespmanley) February 1, 2020

To be fair, however, the president himself reportedly signed off on the delay.

“Before agreeing to the delay, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) phoned Trump to get the president’s approval, according to a source familiar with the conversation. Trump then signed off on the decision,” Politico reported.

It’s not clear what the strategy here is, though knowing the president, there is indeed most likely some sort of strategy at play.

Senior Staff Writer

V. Saxena is a staff writer for BizPac Review with a decade of experience as a professional writer, and a lifetime of experience as an avid news junkie. He holds a degree in computer technology from Purdue University.

Latest posts by Vivek Saxena (see all)

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Birth Tourism: Pregnant Nigerian Women To Be Denied United States Visa Under New Policy – Motherhood In-Style Magazine

The United States Government on Thursday gave visa officers more power to block pregnant women abroad including those from Nigeria from visiting America. Under a new rule, the US Department of State directed visa officers to stop “birth tourism” — trips designed to obtain citizenship for children of pregnant women to the country.

The President Donald Trump’s administration is using the new rule, which takes effect on Friday, to push consular officers abroad to reject women they believe are entering the United States specifically to gain citizenship for their child by giving birth.

The visas covered by the new rule are issued to those seeking to visit for pleasure, medical treatment or to see friends and family, a report by The New York Times, said.

Conservatives have long railed against what they call “anchor babies,” born on American soil and used by their parents to bring in other family members.

President Trump has also criticised the constitutional provision that grants citizenship to most babies born on American soil.

It is not clear whether such “birth tourism” is a significant phenomenon or that “anchor babies” do lead to substantial immigration, but many conservatives believe both issues are real and serious.

“Birth tourism poses risks to national security,”

Carl C. Risch, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs at the State Department, wrote in the final rule.

“The birth tourism industry is also rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes.”

Consular officers were already unlikely to grant visa to women, who they believe were travelling to the United States solely to give birth. But with the new rule, the White House seems to be signalling to officers abroad that those close to delivering a child would be added to a growing list of immigrants unwelcome in the United States.

Nigeria is number three on birth tourism list in the United States after Russia and China. On Tuesday the US announced plans to impose fresh visa restrictions on countries including Nigeria.

Trump’s administration said the move was necessary to prevent potential acts of terrorism, as countries on the list don’t adequately vet their travelers to America.

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Facebook keeps policy protecting political ads | ABS-CBN News

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Facebook logos are seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019. Johanna Geron, Reuters/file

SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.

The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.

By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.

In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.

Reaction to Facebook’s policy broke down largely along party lines.

The Trump campaign, which has been highly critical of any attempts by technology companies to regulate political advertising and has already spent more than $27 million on the platform, largely supported Facebook’s decision not to interfere in targeting ads or to set fact-checking standards.

“Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is much better than the approaches from Twitter and Google, which will lead to voter suppression.”

Democratic presidential candidates and outside groups decried the decision.

“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

Warren, who has been among the most critical of Facebook and regularly calls for major tech companies to be broken up, reiterated her stance that the social media company should face tougher policies.

The Biden campaign was similarly critical. The campaign has confronted Facebook over an ad run by President Donald Trump’s campaign that attacked Joe Biden’s record on Ukraine.

“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Biden, said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”

But many Democratic groups willing to criticize Facebook had to walk a fine line; they have pushed for more regulation when it comes to fact-checking political ads, but they have been adamantly opposed to any changes to the ad-targeting features.

On Thursday, some Democratic outside groups welcomed Facebook’s decision not to limit micro-targeting, but still thought the policy fell short.

“These changes read to us mostly as a cover for not making the change that is most vital: ensuring politicians are not allowed to use Facebook as a tool to lie to and manipulate voters,” said Madeline Kriger, who oversees digital ad buying at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Other groups, however, said Facebook had been more thoughtful about political ads than its industry peers.

“Facebook opted against limiting ad targeting, because doing so would have unnecessarily restricted a valuable tool that campaigns of all sizes rely on for fundraising, registering voters, building crowds and organizing volunteers,” said Tara McGowan, chief executive of Acronym, a non-profit group that works on voter organization and progressive causes.

Facebook has played down the business opportunity in political ads, saying the vast majority of its revenue came from commercial, not political, ads. But lawmakers have noted that Facebook ads could be a focal point of Trump’s campaign as well as those of top Democrats.

Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the reelection of Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.

Criticism seemed to stiffen Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.

Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.

Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.

There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.

On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Trump.

But Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Trump’s reelection, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.

For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this, the better.”

2020 The New York Times Company

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‘You Should Ask Mr. Soleimani’: Pompeo Drops Mic When Asked if Impeachment Makes Trump Vulnerable (Video) ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

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RUSH TRANSCRIPT:

It was a quick hit except they stayed for almost ten years. Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.

>> Chris: But just this week, the U.S. Deployed 100 Marines to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, plus 752 the region and now another 3500. If the president pulling us out of endless wars in the Middle East or with his action this week did he take a big step back in?

>> Secretary Pompeo: Endless wars are the direct result of weakness and President Trump will never let that happen. We are going to get it right, we’re going to get the force posture right, we are going to get our facilities as hardened as we can possibly get them to defend against what Iran may potentially do, but make no mistake, America’s mission is to have our footprint in the Middle East reduced while still keeping America safe. Safe from rogue regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran and from terrorist activity broadly throughout the region. Someone’s was it fair to say that while the big strategy is to pull the U.S. Out of endless wars, at least in the short term there could be more of a commitment?

>> Secretary Pompeo: The Obama Administration created an enormous risk to the American people in Iran. This administration is working to reduce that risk.

>> Chris: Some analysts suggest that the impeachment of President Trump has emboldened enemies like Iran and North Korea to think that they can confront him. Do you think that is misguided as it may be, that some of our enemies think that this president is more vulnerable because of the impeachment effort?

>> Secretary Pompeo: You should ask Mr. Soleimani.

>> Chris: I understand that, but he was going ahead before you killed him and the question is do you think that impeachment is emboldening our enemies?

>> Secretary Pompeo: I don’t. I think that our adversaries understand President Trump and our administration will do the right thing to protect the American people everyplace that we find risk.

>> Chris: Secretary Pompeo, thank you. Thanks for coming in on a very busy weekend.

>> Secretary Pompeo: Thank you.

>> Chris: When we come back, Democrats raised questions about the wisdom and legality of the president’s decision to take out Soleimani. We will talk with a top You have a brother in the second battalion? Yes sir. They’re walking into a trap. Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow’s attack. If you fail, we will lose sixteen hundred men. Your brother among them.

Cross-posted with Mental Recession

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Iran Attacks U.S. Bases in Iraq; MSNBC Spews False Iranian Propaganda, Pelosi Attacks Trump From Party (Video) ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

As predicted, Iran has retaliated for the US attack that took out the terrorist Qasem Soleimani. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) sent missiles at two Iraqi military bases used by American forces, al-Asad, and Erbil.

Per the Pentagon

At approximately 5:30 p.m. (EST) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq.  It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Erbil.

We are working on initial battle damage assessments.

In recent days and in response to Iranian threats and actions, the Department of Defense has taken all appropriate measures to safeguard our personnel and partners. These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region.

As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region.

That the missiles were fired from Iran is a major escalation. Usually, their attacks are conducted by one of their proxies and initiate from Iraq.

The White House said President Trump was monitoring the situation and consulting with his national-security team.

Both CNN and Fox are reporting there are casualties on the Iraqi side. No word on American troops

Iran’s Press TV has released a video of the attack:

UPDATE #1 7:40PM Iran’s Press TV reports

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has targeted the US airbase of Ain al-Assad in Anbar province in western Iraq after vowing to retaliate the US assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“Tens of surface-to-surface missiles” were fired at the strategic airbase and the attack was later confirmed by the US officials.

The IRGC has called for a complete withdrawal of US troops from the Arab country, asserting that it would not differentiate between the US and Israel in retaliating against the assassination of the Iranian national hero.

“We warn US allies providing bases for the [American] terrorist army… that any country serving as the origin of bellicose and aggressive attacks in any form against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted,” read the IRGC statement

UPDATE #2 8:00 PM President Trump will address the nation tonight. Fox News has unconfirmed reports that there are no American casualties. This is a key moment for the President. His message to the country and the next steps against Iran may determine the future of his presidency.   

UPDATE #3 8:20 The IRGC says if the US responds by bombing on Iranian soil it will target the cities of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and Haifa, Israel, in the third wave of operations.

UPDATE #4 8:30 As Americans were being attacked Nancy Pelosi found time to attack President Trump.

Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war.

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 8, 2020

Nancy Pelosi at Danny Meyer’s Maialino Mare opening in Navy Yard. pic.twitter.com/OMkVtxeEEk

— Anna Spiegel (@AnnaSpiegs) January 8, 2020

UPDATE #5 8:45 Trump will not deliver address tonight, White House official says

UPDATE #6 9:12 Things at the two bases seem to have calmed down but that doesn’t mean it’s over. Some sources are saying the attack was not as bad as first feared. Pentagon reports there were 15 rockets fired from Iran, four failed. The ten fired at Al-Assad did not directly hit the base. Possibly on purpose so they can say they fired back.  Pentagon is preliminarily saying no American casualties. MSNBC is reporting Iranian propaganda that 13 Americans died.

MSNBC is literally doing the work of the Iranians by airing completely unverified, untrustworthy Intel about US casualties

The Pentagon has not reported on any lives lost

Why would the Media air what is so blatantly Iranian propaganda?

— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) January 8, 2020

CNN is reporting that two missiles hit near Erbil. One missile landed inside the perimeter of Erbil International Airport without exploding, the second missile hit an area 33 kilometers (about 20 miles) west of the city of Erbil without causing casualties.

Iran released the picture below which they claim is the launch of the first missile.

Update #7 10:10pm 

Iraq Foreign Minister said the attack is over for now.

Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.

We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020

President Trump just tweeted “All is Well” and he will address the nation in the morning.

All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2020

Per John Roberts of Fox News, the initial assessment is that the Iranian missiles struck areas of the al-Asad base not populated by Americans, according to a US military official and a senior administration official. Some in DC believe the misses were intentional. Iran needed to show a response to save face but intentionally did it in a way that would not hurt Americans.

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Bye Bye AOC? Democrat Socialist Ocasio-Cortez Could Lose House Seat After New Census ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

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Based on the latest census projections, New York State may lose one congressional district, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fears the district that goes away will be hers.

The horror. 😉 A0C Fears Losing Seat Due to 2020 Census.

The Potential Loss of A0C’s District Highlights Why Democrats Fumed Over Trump’s Proposed 2020 Census Changes https://t.co/7xQu3sdo4K

— Junkyard Dogs (@baileyjer) January 1, 2020

Nothing is official yet. The Census Bureau will announce the final count in December 2020, and the congressional districts will be updated for the 2022 elections.

Party leadership is not happy with AOC, which is why her district is in danger.

As we reported in January of 2019, Congressional Democrats were growing sick and tired of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s antics, especially her use of Twitter to attack other Democrats and to get what she wants from the caucus.

Even some progressives who admire AOC, as she’s nicknamed, told Politico that they worry she’s not using her notoriety effectively.

“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” said one House Democrat who’s in lockstep with Ocasio Cortez’s ideology. “There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.

In  July, AOC used the race card against Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Responding to criticism from the speaker, she told WAPO:

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood. But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color,” she told The Post.

AOC appears to suggest that Pelosi is targeting her because Pelosi wants her to get death threats: “It’s singling out 4 individuals, and knowing the media environment that we’re operating in, knowing the amount of death threats that we get …. I think it’s just worth asking why” pic.twitter.com/cueiQi9XC8

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 11, 2019

When one adds the fact that in her first election she primaried and beat Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, who was seen as Nancy Pelosi’s heir apparent to the fact that she’s attacked the party leadership as much as the other party, it’s understandable why AOC fears being left without a district in 2022

There is something that may hold party leadership back from gerrymandering  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district out of existence. In 2022 Chuck Schumer will have to run for re-election. If she is left without a congressional district, AOC may attempt to primary Schumer. And who knows? Schumer is very powerful, but NY is VERY liberal, and a Democratic Socialist like AOC may be their cup of tea.

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Married priests, female deacons: Catholic Church mulls landmark changes | P.M. News

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Pope Francis: Catholic Church mulls 2 big changes on married priests and female deacons

An assembly of Roman Catholic bishops from the Amazon on Saturday proposed that married men in the remote area be allowed to be ordained priests, which could lead to a landmark change in the Church’s centuries-old discipline of celibacy.

The proposal, made in a final document from a three-week assembly, known as a synod, passed by 128 votes in favour to 41 against.

Pope Francis will consider it, along with many other proposals on issues including the environment and the role of women, in a future document of his own, known as an Apostolic Exhortation.

Separately, when he closed the synod’s final working session earlier on Saturday, Francis announced that he would reconvene a commission to study the history of women deacons in the early centuries of the Catholic Church, responding to calls by women that they be allowed to take up the role today.

But the issue of a married priesthood for the Amazon region was by far the most contentious item in the 120-paragraph final document.

The proposal calls for married men who are already deacons in the Church, have a stable family relationship, and are proven leaders in their communities to be ordained as priests.

It said the ordination to the priesthood would have to be preceded by an “adequate formation”.

This solution to the shortage of priests, backed by many South American bishops, would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments more regularly.

At least 85% of Amazon villages cannot attend Mass every week and some cannot do so for years.

Conservatives oppose the change, fearing it would be a slippery slope leading to a married priesthood throughout the 1.3 billion member Church.

They fear that if one part of the Church was allowed to ordain married men as an exception, there would be nothing to stop other areas with a shortage of priests doing the same, even in developed countries.

A CBS News poll last year said nearly 70% of American Catholics favour letting priests marry.

Conservatives are also opposed to women deacons, saying the deaconate is linked with the male priesthood.

Many deacons in the Church around the world today are married men.

Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers. They may not celebrate Mass, but they may preach, teach in the name of the Church, baptize and conduct wedding, wake and funeral services and even run a parish with the permission of a bishop.

In his closing comments to the synod, Francis said: “We still have not grasped the significance of women in the Church.”

Scholars have debated the precise role of women deacons in the early Church.

Some say they ministered only to other women, such as at immersion rites at baptism and to inspect the bodies of women in cases where Christian men were accused of domestic violence and brought before Church tribunals.

Others believe women deacons in the early Church were fully ordained and on a par with the male deacons at the time. The Church did away with female deacons altogether in later centuries.

A commission that handed its report to the pope this year was inconclusive. Francis, who ends the synod ceremoniously with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, gave no details on when the new commission would start its work.

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Scottish Labour leader calls for clarity on Brexit

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Image caption Richard Leonard was speaking to the Sunday Politics Scotland programme

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said his party should have a clear policy to remain in the EU.

Speaking on the Sunday Politics Scotland programme, he said “clarity” was need before Labour put its case to voters.

The Scottish government has, meanwhile, asked for further funding to cope with a possible no-deal Brexit.

The UK government said money would be available where Scotland faces disproportionate costs.

In his television interview, Mr Leonard called for Labour to say its preference was to remain in the European Union.

“We recognise there are parts of the UK – and the overall result was to leave,” he said.

“But I do think that we need clarity in our position.

“So you would expect me to be arguing, as I am, that means we need to be clearer in our position going into any public vote.”

Mr Leonard added: “The Scottish Labour party took a decision frankly in the wake of the European party election results that we needed to be much clearer, that we needed much greater clarity about the position that we were taking.

“For that reason the Scottish executive of the Labour party backed my proposal that we call for an affirmative vote that any deal should go back to the public; secondly, that on that vote there should be a remain option; and thirdly, that we would campaign unambiguously for remain.”

Contingency fund

His comments came as the Scottish government said more money would be needed if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.

It has requested £52m from a contingency fund to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Money from the EU Exit Operational Contingency Fund has been made available ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union on 31 October.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay reiterated the Scottish government’s opposition to any form of Brexit.

He also asked that additional costs associated with it are met including those beyond the end of next month.

Mr Mackay said: “The UK government now seems to be actively pursuing a ‘no-deal’ outcome which is utterly unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs.

“We have requested £52m from the UK government’s fund to help us prepare for a ‘no-deal’ outcome.

“This is the minimum requirement for operational activity but the real costs of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will massively outweigh these and further funding will be required.”

‘Disproportionate costs’

He also said leaving the EU was not Scotland’s choice and called for any related costs to be covered by the UK government.

Mr Mackay added: “The Scottish government should not have to cut spending on public services to fund Brexit preparations.

“As a responsible government, we are already taking steps to protect jobs and our economy from a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and we will set out those plans to parliament shortly but we are facing additional and disproportionate costs to mitigate the impact of such an outcome.

“We will continue make the case for staying in the EU and will stand firm against efforts to take us out against our will.”

The request includes funding to support the effect of no-deal on rural communities, increased demand on Marine Scotland and Police Scotland activities, additional communication to EU citizens in the country, and poverty mitigation measures.

‘Supporting a deal’

A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said: “In 2016, the UK electorate voted to leave the EU.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives have worked to prevent no-deal by supporting a deal.

“The SNP were given £92m for our councils to prepare for Brexit.

“Yet there is no evidence Scottish local authorities have received anything at all.”

It comes after Scotland’s chief economist on Friday predicted a potential £2bn loss of investment because of Brexit.

Forecasts up to April 2020 in the Scottish government’s quarterly State of the Economy Report show £500m of investment could be wiped out if uncertainty continues with the figure rising by the end of the year.

A spokeswoman for the UK government said: “We have allocated the Scottish government nearly £140m in funding for EU exit preparation.

“We will consider the Scottish government’s further bid under the £1bn Operational Contingency Fund in the usual way.”

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Reagan’s racist call with Nixon echoes strongly today

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(CNN)The release by the National Archives of a racist telephone conversation between President Richard Nixon and future President Ronald Reagan (then-governor of California) casts a strobe light on an uncomfortable fact: One of our most popular Presidents was far from the only commander-in-chief to display racial bigotry.

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Nixon, whose own enmity towards African Americans helped propel him to the White House as the coded champion of “law and order,” used Reagan’s words on the call to offer his own distaste for African leaders who dared challenge the West on geopolitical matters.
If all of this sounds depressingly familiar, it should. President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House remains most notable for his consistent attacks on black and brown people, Americans and global citizens through rhetoric that has demonized and dehumanized entire populations, countries, regions and cities, with the city of Baltimore being only the latest target.
    Reagan's racist call with Nixon echoes strongly today (opinion) - CNN
    For some, Reagan’s words will come as a surprise. Ronald Reagan, America’s 40th President, is perhaps most fondly remembered as the former B-movie actor turned swaggering hero of the conservative right. But it shouldn’t be a surprise.
    In the 1960s Reagan tried to suppress teaching and protests by figures on the black left like Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver and student protesters at San Francisco State and elsewhere. He also famously supported a ban on open carry for loaded firearms as governor of California (only after the Black Panthers publicly asserted their right to armed self-defense) and in the 1970s he introduced the racially toxic phrase “welfare queen” into the lexicon of American politics.
    If Richard Nixon opened up the Pandora’s box of racially coded political rhetoric that cemented the Republican Party’s “Southern strategy” of appealing to white voters turned off by the talk of civil rights, busing, and urban rebellion, Reagan offered the entire nation a telegenic icon who professed to have no public feelings of racial animus but an unflinching love for American exceptionalism and all of its accoutrements.
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    Reagan’s racial politics proved to be both substantive and symbolic. His 1980 campaign appearance in Neshoba County, Mississippi (near the site of the notorious murders of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney in 1964) signaled to white voters where his allegiance lay on matters of racial justice. The Reagan Revolution’s reliance on trickle-down economics, promotion of the Drug War in urban communities, and policy assault on the Great Society devastated poor black and brown communities who were unable to participate in the booming economy of the 1980s.
      Perhaps most infamously, Reagan inspired a new generation of political conservatives (from religious Christians to think-tank academic ideologues to federal judges) who argued and struck down legal and legislative remedies that sought to promote racial justice in American democratic institutions. Appointing future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proved the tip of the iceberg for the Reagan administration’s civil rights policies, which found the White House on the wrong side of virtually every single racial justice issue (from crime policy to racial apartheid in South Africa) except for one. Reagan signed the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday into law in 1983 well aware that any veto would have been overridden by Congress. The national embrace of King during the 1980s under a President whose policies were antithetical to the civil rights leaders’ greatest political commitments and boldest dreams reflects an ever-present tension between race and democracy in America.

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      Whereas Reagan symbolically demonstrated his attention to the legacy of racial injustice through the passage of the King holiday, Donald Trump has gone in an entirely different direction. President Trump’s recent visit to Jamestown, Virginia, where he extolled the virtues of democracy while virtually ignoring the labor of enslaved Africans who made colonial North America and its evolution into the United States possible, offers us the opportunity to re-examine the often fraught relationship between race and the presidency. Trump neither possesses President Nixon’s voracious political instincts nor President Reagan’s public air of dignified elegance — yet all three have more in common on race matters than many would care to admit.

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