We Resist: Day 379

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One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures (plus the occasional non-Republican who obliges us to resist their nonsense, too, like we don't have enough to worry about) is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

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Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: As Long as We're All Having Fun While the Ship Sinks and BREAKING: Trump Declassifies Nunes Memo; Congress Publishes It.

Obviously the big news today is the Nunes Memo, which Donald Trump reportedly wanted released before he'd even read it (I suspect he's never read it at all), but it's not the only news today...

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Jim Sciutto and Nicole Gaouette at CNN: CIA Chief Met with Sanctioned Russian Spies, Officials Confirm.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo did meet with the head of Russia's foreign intelligence agency, an official barred from entering the US under 2014 sanctions, as well as the head of Russia's internal security agency, according to a US official with direct knowledge of the meetings.

...CIA Director Mike Pompeo defended the meeting in a Thursday letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, declaring that he and other officials met with Russians for the same reason their predecessors did — "to keep Americans safe."

Schumer, whose staff was briefed on the meetings and the legal process involved before giving a Tuesday news conference, said the meeting represented "a serious national security issue." And he continued to blast Pompeo on Thursday.

"If this administration is ignoring sanctions, that's very serious," the New York Democrat told CNN, noting that in the letter, Pompeo didn't directly acknowledge that he had met with his Russian counterparts. "Director Pompeo's refusal to answer that question is deeply troubling."

...Asked about allowing Naryshkin entry to the US, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, "I can tell you in a general matter if something is considered to be in the national security interest of the United States, just like other countries, we have the ability to waive that so that people can come into the United States."

Nauert added that, "it is no secret that despite our many, many differences — and we just talked about them — with the Russian government, we also have areas where we have to work together, and one of those is combating terrorism and ISIS, and so I will leave it at that."
Couple of things:

1. To my understanding, the special dispensation to which Nauert alludes can only be given by the Secretary of State, so we need a direct answer from Rex Tillerson on whether he provided one, accompanied by documentation if he says he did. Because otherwise, Pompeo broke the law by meeting with Sergey Naryshkin and Alexander Bortnikov.

2. It's fascinating (and stomach-churning) to me that Nauert is defending Pompeo's meeting by very specifically citing "combating terrorism and ISIS," because, as I've carefully documented, the absurd idea that the U.S. should ally with Russia to defeat ISIS in Syria played a peculiar role in the 2016 presidential campaign:
Before the 2016 election, joining forces with Russia to defeat ISIS was not a mainstream position, on either side of the aisle, because, as Hillary Clinton explained during the second presidential debate, Putin "isn't interested in ISIS" and Russia's assault on Aleppo was instead intended to destroy Syrian rebels opposed to Assad's regime.

Nonetheless, during the 2016 election, the one in which Russia interfered with the objective of critically weakening Clinton, every single one of her leading opponents suggested working with Russia in some manner, using the justification of joining forces to defeat ISIS.
A more cynical person than I, ahem, might suggest it looks a hell of a lot like a code to conceal collusion as "meeting with Russia to talk about adoption law" has become code for discussing sanctions.

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Idrees Ali at Reuters: Mattis Says Has No Evidence of Sarin Gas Used in Syria, But Concerned. "U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that while he does not have evidence of the nerve agent sarin being used by the Syrian government, the United States was looking into reports about its use and was concerned. ...'We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use... I don't have the evidence, what I am saying is, that other groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground, have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence,' Mattis said. ...'We are on the record and you all have seen how we reacted to that, so they would be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical (weapons) convention,' Mattis said."

When Mattis says "we are on the record" and references "how we reacted," he's referring to the missile strike Donald Trump ordered on the Shayrat Air Base last April during dessert.

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Hey, remember when Trump spilled to the Russians some highly classified intelligence given to the U.S. by Israel? Well, it turns out that it was worse than originally disclosed.

Cool cool cool.

This administration is really doing everything it can to ensure that we have no allies at all. Which will leave us in a very scary and very vulnerable place.

Even worse than we already are.

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Ali Breland at the Hill: Senate Receives Official Net Neutrality Notice from FCC. "The Senate has received the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) official notice of measures to scrap net neutrality rules, two congressional sources confirmed. The notice is one of the first procedural steps in starting the 60-day deadline Congress has to stop the FCC's net neutrality repeal with the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The House must also receive notice, and it must be published in the Federal Register for the rest of the process to start. Sources said that it has yet to be determined when this will happen but noted it could be as early as Friday or next week. After the 60-day deadline, Congress would no longer be able to use a CRA resolution to stop the FCC's plan from continuing." MAKE YOUR CALLS.

[CN: References to self-harm; violence; child abuse; misogyny] Paul Lewis at the Guardian: 'Fiction Is Outperforming Reality': How YouTube's Algorithm Distorts Truth.
Much has been written about Facebook and Twitter’s impact on politics, but in recent months academics have speculated that YouTube's algorithms may have been instrumental in fuelling disinformation during the 2016 presidential election. "YouTube is the most overlooked story of 2016," Zeynep Tufekci, a widely respected sociologist and technology critic, tweeted back in October. "Its search and recommender algorithms are misinformation engines."

If YouTube's recommendation algorithm really has evolved to promote more disturbing content, how did that happen? And what is it doing to our politics?

...[Guillaume Chaslot, a 36-year-old French computer programmer with a PhD in artificial intelligence and former Google employee who has spent the last 18 months exploring bias in YouTube content] believes one of the most shocking examples was detected by his program in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. As he observed in a short, largely unnoticed blogpost published after Donald Trump was elected, the impact of YouTube's recommendation algorithm was not neutral during the presidential race: It was pushing videos that were, in the main, helpful to Trump and damaging to Hillary Clinton. "It was strange," he explains to me. "Wherever you started, whether it was from a Trump search or a Clinton search, the recommendation algorithm was much more likely to push you in a pro-Trump direction."

...Chaslot sent me a database of more YouTube-recommended videos his program identified in the three months leading up to the presidential election. It contained more than 8,000 videos — all of them detected by his program appearing "up next" on 12 dates between August and November 2016, after equal numbers of searches for "Trump" and "Clinton."

...I spent weeks watching, sorting and categorising the trove of videos with Erin McCormick, an investigative reporter and expert in database analysis. From the start, we were stunned by how many extreme and conspiratorial videos had been recommended, and the fact that almost all of them appeared to be directed against Clinton.

...There were dozens of clips stating Clinton had had a mental breakdown, reporting she had syphilis or Parkinson's disease, accusing her of having secret sexual relationships, including with Yoko Ono. Many were even darker, fabricating the contents of WikiLeaks disclosures to make unfounded claims, accusing Clinton of involvement in murders or connecting her to satanic and paedophilic cults.

...The sample we had looked at suggested Chaslot's conclusion was correct: YouTube was six times more likely to recommend videos that aided Trump than his adversary. YouTube presumably never programmed its algorithm to benefit one candidate over another. But based on this evidence, at least, that is exactly what happened.
Fucking hell. FUCKING HELL.

[CN: White supremacy] Blake Montgomery at BuzzFeed: White Supremacists Are Targeting Colleges "Like Never Before," Researchers Say. "White supremacists are targeting colleges 'like never before,' with the number of posters, banners, and other messages on campuses up 258% in 2017, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League. 'They see campuses as a fertile recruiting ground, as evident by the unprecedented volume of propagandist activity designed to recruit young people to support their vile ideology,' ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. Comparing the fall semester of 2016 (Sept. 1 to Dec. 30) to that of 2017, the ADL found that the number of instances of white supremacists putting up stickers, posters, and banners on college campuses went from 41 to 147, an increase of 258%."

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You know how I keep calling Republicans the Democracy Killers? Well, here are a couple of good examples why:

1. Steve Bousquet at the Tampa Bay Times: Judge Strikes Down Florida's System for Denying Felons' Voting Rights.

2. John Baer at the Philly Inquirer: The Emerging Story Behind the Story of Pennsylvania Gerrymandering.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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