Tuesday, June 26, 2018

AMERICAN POLITICS - Employees vs Bosses on Ethics

"Ethics, Politics Pit Tech Employees Against Their Bosses" by Scharon Harding, Tom's Hardware 6/19/2018

How would you feel if you learned that your company was helping ICE make a database of immigrant children or building an autonomous killer drone for the Department of Defense?  Because of their controversial relationships with the U.S. government, big tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon are in hot water, not only with consumers but with their own employees.

A blog post by Microsoft from January has become a hot topic of discussion this week.  The post announces that Microsoft is "proud to support" work conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after the government agency awarded Microsoft a contract for its Azure cloud computing services.

Meanwhile, Amazon is facing criticism for selling its Rekognition face recognition technology to law enforcement in Orlando, Florida and Oregon’s Washington County.

And in March, Google was outed for working with the Department of Defense (DoD) to create artificial intelligence (AI) that can analyze drone [eye in the sky] footage.

While companies and their employees usually celebrate big deals, both political tensions and a lack of transparency has led many workers at these tech giants to demand these contracts be thrown in the trash.

Outrage, Boycotts and Apologies

ICE has been drawing a lot of negative attention, due to its policy of separating undocumented or asylum-seeking families.  This week, numerous Microsoft workers took to social media to share their discomfort with Microsoft working with ICE.  And some people who work outside the company have gone as far as to say they will no longer do business with Microsoft.

As a result, the company was forced to release a statement on Monday stating that it’s not working with ICE or Border Patrol “on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border” and claimed it doesn’t know of Azure being used for such acts.  It added that it’s “dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border”.

In Amazon’s case, the accuracy of facial recognition in general is creating concern.  On Friday, 19 shareholders sent a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos.  Backed by activist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the group claims such deals with the government will hurt Amazon stock and enable discrimination.

The group cites MIT research finding that “the darker the skin, the more errors arise – up to nearly 35 percent for images of darker skinned women.”

"We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants and civil society organizations.  We are concerned sales may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes,” the letter says.

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, University of District Columbia law professor and author of The Rise of Big Data Policing, told CNNMoney this week that there are currently no best practices for determining facial recognition’s accuracy.

"Accuracy is a hard issue to benchmark.  As a society, are we okay with a 50 percent false positive rate, or a 20 percent false positive rate, when it comes to stops, arrests, or police investigation?  The answer to the accuracy question will determine who gets handcuffed and who does not,” he said.  Amazon has yet to respond publicly.

On Google’s end, news that the company had signed an AI deal with the DoD’s Project Maven hit employees hard after going out on an internal mailing list.  DoD’s Project Maven, officially named the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional team, aims to accelerate the DoD’s integration of big data and machine learning and “turn the enormous volume of data available to DoD into actionable intelligence and insights at speed,” the DoD says.  Project Maven reports directly to the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

While Google at the time told Gizmodo that its technology was not being used for military combat, employees were still “concerned” and “outraged,” Gizmodo reported in April.

Come May, about 12 employees resigned from Google, and almost 4,000 signed a petition calling for the end of Project Maven and for Google and its contractors to never “build warfare technology.”

What’s the Point?

But can employees really affect tech companies’ interest in obtaining lucrative government contracts that provide both big bucks and the opportunity to lock down a new market?

Amazon has not commented on its situation and, though Microsoft has made a statement saying that it isn't helping to separate families, it has not terminated its deal with the feds.

Google, on the other hand, announced that it would not renew its contract with the government when it expires in 2019.

In an op-ed for Forbes, Enrique Dans, an innovation professor at Spain’s IE Business School, argues that employees should speak their minds if they feel their company’s practices contradict “basic ethics.”  He states that is particularly doable in the tech field since the industry’s growing so rapidly and workers should be able to find employment elsewhere if needed.  However, he also points out that in other industries, countries with higher unemployment rates, or countries where it’s more common for business and government to work together, challenging an employer’s ethics can be more difficult.

“Can we and should we put a price on our principles?  Is having a conscience the unique preserve of the wealthy and highly skilled?  Obviously not, and it is good news that some employees at U.S. companies are setting a precedent.  If companies are not going to behave ethically of their own volition, at least we can count on their employees to embarrass them into doing so,” Dans wrote.

Indeed, employees can at least draw attention to practices they find unethical via social media and petitions, which are often picked up by the press and could put pressure on companies to reconsider.  It’s reasonable that some tech firms would reconsider a deal if the bad publicity is that damaging, although as we’ve seen this is not always the case, at least not immediately.

At the end of the day, tech executives who are adamant about working for the government may just leave the tech industry and commit to the public sector wholeheartedly.  For example, Eric Shmidt, former CEO and board of directors chairman for Google, and Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s search spam department, both work for the Pentagon now (although they left Google before the Project Maven controversy).

But, as information about how and with whom tech companies choose to work becomes more accessible and widespread, ethical discussions go nationwide thanks to the internet and the press and political landscapes continue to be controversial, it can become harder to wear that badge knowing what it represents.

If employees cannot truly get their company to reasonably align practices with beliefs they hold dear, it may be time to consider if the issue is important enough to warrant a new job search.

AMERICA - What Other Countries See

Monday, June 25, 2018


OPINION - Shields and Brooks 6/22/2018

"Shields and Brooks on family separation at the border, remembering Charles Krauthammer" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join John Yang to discuss the week’s news, including the national uproar over the separation and detention of migrant children and parents at the border and the prospects for immigration reform, plus tributes to conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer.

John Yang (NewsHour):  It has been quite a week in Washington

And here to analyze it all are Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

It has been quite a week.  We saw this unusual coalition of opposition to the President’s policy on the border, the President digging in, defending it, and then changing course.

David, what have we learned this week?


David Brooks, New York Times:  Chaos.


David Brooks:  Chaos reigns.  If you have an administration — usually, when you go into a White House, you say, well, why didn’t you guys do this?  And they say, well, how exactly would that work?  And they try to walk you through the details.

It seems nobody is asking that question.  And so how we do take kids away from parents?  How do we reunify?  No one is asking the practical questions.  It’s just — this is what you have when you have government by tweet.

What is infuriating about it is, the Republican Party exists for a few reasons.  One of them is to understand that government is at its most abhorrent when it can’t see human beings as human beings, and when it treats them as mere data points or as something in a bureaucratic game.

And that’s what we have seen this whole policy.  It’s not treating the people as the human beings.  It’s treating them as just sort of pawns in some sort of larger protest movement.  And that’s what happens.  When government does that, you get horrific pain and suffering.  And that’s what we’re seeing.

John Yang:  Mark?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Every administration is inevitably a mirror reflection of the man at the top.

Sadly, in this case, the Republican Party has become a reflection of the man at the top.  It is a combination of malice and incompetence.

It is shameful beyond description.  The idea of separating children, anybody who’s been a parent or a child or a sibling and knows the pain, the inconsolable pain of homesickness when a child is separated from the mother, even sometimes for a brief period, to do this as a matter of policy is unthinkable.

The one bright light to me, quite honestly, in a dark, dark picture has been organized religion speaking up and speaking out, with the exception of some of the President’s most ardent followers in the evangelical community.  Give credit to the Southern Baptists, the Protestant denominations, to Catholic Bishops, across the board.

Cardinal Cupich of Chicago put it so well.  He said, this is not moral, this is not American, this is cruel, and it is a shame on all of us that it is done in our name.

And I just think that’s where it is.  Beyond the political, which I think is a disaster for the Republicans, for the reasons, many of which David has spoken of, is just immeasurable.

John Yang:  But, David, the President seems to want the make this the center point of the midterm election campaign.

David Brooks:  Yes, the Republicans are having a debate.  Normally, you go with your strength.

And the Republicans have a clear advantage.  The country trusts the Republicans on the economy.  And so, on the normal thing, you would play up the economy.

Trump says, no, immigration is going to be our issue.  And the data point that backs him up — I doubt he’s seen this data point — is that if you ask voters what issue is top most on your mind, right now, it’s immigration first and health care second.

And so he can say, listen, the people care about immigration.  I think it’s what his people care about or what he thinks his people care about.  But the broader trend here is worth pointing out, that over the last two years and over the past 10 years, support for immigration in principle has been rising, not falling.

The number of people who say immigrants are good for the country, we should have more immigrants been rising.  The number of people say we have fewer immigrants, that’s been falling.  And so this is not the rise of nativism.  It’s the rise of Donald Trump mobilizing a certain portion of the electorate.

John Yang:  And yet you say the support for immigration is rising, but Congress can’t figure out what to do.  They have punted again this — a vote on a bill in the House.

Mark Shields:  No, it’s actually — David’s right.  It’s 17 years it’s been improving.

In fact, there’s a 6 percent drop just from last year in the Americans who think that we ought to cut immigration.  It’s down to 29 percent, which is a low.  So, Americans really are, if anything, more welcoming, more enlightened, more acknowledging of the value and importance of immigrants to our country.

But, in Congress, it’s been a political failure.  There’s been no public common consensus established on this issue.  It’s been a failure.  President Bush tried.  President George W. Bush tried.  President Obama tried.  They failed.  And President Trump has been like an arsonist in a gasoline station on this issue.

The only people who really want action right now, heading in November, are suburban Republicans, who are in districts where their constituents are more enlightened, more welcoming, more humane on immigration, and oppose the Republican Party.  And they want to see some action to be able to go back.

But there isn’t.  I mean, Democrats have been excluded from the process, and they’re not playing.  And the mainstream Republicans really don’t give a damn.

David Brooks:  Yes.  But it’s interesting.  It’s been a failure on three ways.

And there’s been sort of the ultra-hawkish side on the Republican side who wants to cut legal and illegal immigration and build a wall and all the rest.  There’s another part, we will call them moderate Republicans, though that may be stretching the term, who mostly care about just enforcing the laws and want to give dreamers a path.  And the realities of the people that are here, they want to give them a path to citizenship.

And those two can’t get along, so you can’t get a Republican policy.

And then there is the Democrats, who say, we aren’t going to play at any of these games, because we can’t be getting rid of families, we can’t be building a wall.

And so we have — we have — we’re going to be — in three weeks, we’re going to be exactly where we were today.  And so Andrew Sullivan in “New York Magazine” wrote a piece which I have some sympathy for.  It said, give the guy his wall.  Pay him off.  Build the damn wall.  It will do nothing, but build the wall, and then get a normal policy given the wall.

And somehow there has to be some solution, or else this problem will be exactly the same in two weeks as it was two weeks ago.


John Yang:  Go ahead.

Mark Shields:  It will be, John.

But I think you have to confront the reality.  This man is a racialist.  He really is.  The language he uses, Donald Trump, three years ago this week, he announced his candidacy.  And you recall what he said.  Mexico doesn’t send us their best.  They’re not our friend.  They send rapists.  They send drug carriers.

I mean, it’s always been.  The Nigerians don’t want to go back to their huts.  They come from the S-hole countries.  It’s always had a racial component.  He doesn’t talk that way about Canada.  He doesn’t talk way about France.  He talks about way about people from the Southern Hemisphere of a different pigmentation.

And I don’t think you can look at any of his statements, whether it’s infecting the country, like we’re talking about lice and vermin.

David Brooks:  Infesting, infesting, yes.

Mark Shields:  Yes, infecting the country.

And so I just — I think — I think this is the breaking point.  I think this is Katrina.  I think this is a defining moment for this Presidency and the American people.

I mean, if you could continue to support Donald Trump on these terms, you’re accepting the fact that he is what he is.

David Brooks:  Yes, I don’t agree.

Just analytically.  I agree with the moral objection, but I suspect there’s a lot of people who are not anti-immigrant, not nativist, they do want to enforce the border.  And they think too many people are coming here for asylum.  And then they think they can get in if they bring kids.

And so, analytically, frankly, I would be surprised if his approval rating went down more than 3 or 4 percentage points over this, if at all.  We will see.

ART - Crystal Bridges

"Crystal Bridges offers a world of art in Arkansas’ backyard" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2018


SUMMARY:  When you think of world-class art collections, you may think Paris, New York, but maybe not Bentonville, Arkansas.  But the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has a mission that's helping to reshape the entire region.  Jeffrey Brown reports as part of our American Creators series.

SAUDI ARABIA - One Small Win for Women's Rights

"Saudi women are finally in the driver’s seat, but not of their own lives" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2018


SUMMARY:  Saudi Arabia has banned women from driving since the 1950s, and is the only country in the world to do so.  But this Sunday that prohibition ends.  Nick Schifrin looks at the state of women's rights in the kingdom, and the long and winding road to allow females behind the wheel.

SUPREME COURT - Digital Privacy Case

aka Law Catches Up to the Digital Age

"What the Supreme Court’s cellphone location data ruling could mean for your digital privacy" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2018


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that police generally need a search warrant to track a suspect's movement through cellphone records -- a limited victory for privacy advocates.  That decision stems from a string of Radio Shack robberies, and the use of data that helped lead to arrests and convictions.  Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss the case.

SPORTS - eSports vs Traditional Sports

"ESports mesmerize as traditional sports worry about decline" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2018


SUMMARY:  It's drawn millions of fans, its competitors get paid big money, and the Olympics are considering adding it.  As an industry, eSports -- professionals playing video games for spectators -- is set to gross nearly $1 billion by the end of 2018.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports from DreamHack Austin.

JOURNALISTS - Nation's Lifeblood

IMHO:  A truly Free Press is vital to keeping our Democracy alive, and protected from the greed for power and sliding into authoritarian government.

"‘Journalists are our lifeblood,’ new Los Angeles Times owner says" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Patrick Soon-Shiong, a multi-billionaire surgeon, entrepreneur and part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, finalized his ownership of the Los Angeles Times [and San Diego Union-Tribune] this week.  Judy Woodruff talks with him about how his upbringing in apartheid South Africa drove his love of newspapers and his vision for the future of the organization despite significant past struggles.

NAVAJO NATION - Hopes and Dreams

"How off-the-grid Navajo residents are getting running water" PBS NewsHour 6/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Lack of access to running water is an issue in many developing countries, but it is also a problem in the United States.  Nearly 40 percent of the homes in the Navajo Nation lack running water or sanitation, and many are in such remote areas that they will never be able to connect to a water line.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on new efforts to bring them basic amenities.

Dig Deep

"Utah’s Navajo residents hope redistricting brings needed resources" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2018


SUMMARY:  There is a heated battle in one Utah county over voting district lines and the effect on Native American representation.  Last year, a federal judge ruled that the districts had been gerrymandered by lumping the Navajo into a single bloc, drawing angry reaction from some.  Special correspondent Tommy Brookbank from the University of Southern California's Annenberg Rural Reporting Initiative reports.


"How do you make the benefits of pre-K education last?" PBS NewsHour 6/19/2018


SUMMARY:  A study suggesting the benefits of pre-K may not be long-lasting has sparked debate in Tennessee, where proposals for state-funded, universal programs are an issue in this year's governor's race.  What’s behind the finding, and what are the keys to quality early education?  John Yang reports from Memphis.

REF:  Porter-Leath

TRADE WAR - China vs U.S.

"The trade battle with China keeps escalating.  What’s at stake for the U.S.?" PBS NewsHour 6/19/2018


SUMMARY:  For months, the U.S. and China have traded tit-for-tat trade threats, but the battle between the world's two largest economies escalated to new levels Tuesday.  Most recently, President Trump warned that he may impose tariffs on 90 percent of everything China exports to the U.S.  Nick Schifrin examines the potential consequences with Edward Alden from the Council on Foreign Relations.

"This Koch-funded advocacy group wants Trump to embrace free trade" PBS NewsHour 6/19/2018

WOW!  I can actually agree with Koch brothers on this!  It can snow in hell.


SUMMARY:  The conservative, libertarian political advocacy group [Americans for Prosperity] funded by David and Charles Koch is undertaking a multi-million dollar campaign opposing President Trump's trade policies.  John Yang talks with Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity, who says the President deserves a lot of credit for the current economy, but that the recent trade tariffs risk undermining those gains.

JUSTICE IN AMERICA - Trump Hampering Prosecutors

"Napolitano: Trump administration taking prosecutors away from serious crimes to handle border misdemeanors" PBS NewsHour 6/19/2018


SUMMARY:  The Trump administration has argued that it has no choice but separate migrant children and their parents who enter the U.S. illegally.  Former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says it does have a choice, and that what’s happening is a humanitarian crisis.  Napolitano joins Judy Woodruff to offer her reaction to the “zero tolerance” policy, as well as the fate of the DACA program.

KOREAN SUMMIT - South Korea's View

"U.S. and South Korea ‘on the same page,’ vice foreign minister says" PBS NewsHour 6/18/2018


SUMMARY:  South Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lim Sung-nam sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss what he sees as the foundations of North Korea’s possible denuclearization and next steps in the process.

AMERICA - 'Concentration Camp' Immigration

aka The slow death of the American ideal and moral conscience and creation of Concentration Camps.

REFERENCE:  U.S. Asylum Law

"As outrage over family separation grows, Trump administration doubles down" PBS NewsHour 6/18/2018


SUMMARY:  National outcry over the separation of immigrant families at the U.S. Southern border grows with every new report.  Democratic lawmakers have joined protests, and Republicans are increasingly expressing their outrage.  On Monday, President Trump again falsely blamed Democrats for his administration's policy.  Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff for more.

"‘Unconscionable’ to put Border Patrol agents in position of separating families, former commissioner says" PBS NewsHour 6/18/2018

IMHO:  My problem with Border Patrol Agents is not their job, but HOW they do their job.  They are using the infamous Nuremberg Defense, "I was just following orders."


SUMMARY:  The former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the nation's largest federal law enforcement agency, says it’s not only heartbreaking that migrant children are being torn away from their parents; he’s also worried about how it affects Border Patrol agents.  John Yang talks with Gil Kerlikowske.

"Trump makes abrupt about-face on family separation after intense pressure" PBS NewsHour 6/20/2018

REMINDER:  After saying he could not do this.


SUMMARY:  President Trump relented on the widely condemned practice of splitting up undocumented families on Wednesday, reversing his decision with the stroke of a pen while seeming openly conflicted about the decision.  Instead, his executive order would detain families together, as Congress scrambles to craft long-term fixes.  Lisa Desjardins reports.

"What asylum-seekers meet when they try to cross legally" PBS NewsHour 6/20/2018


SUMMARY:  U.S. officials have maintained that potential asylum-seekers entering at legal border crossings will not be prosecuted and will be processed in turn.  But the process isn't always that easy.  In a cross-border report from Juarez [Mexico] and El Paso [U.S.], Amna Nawaz follows a grandmother and granddaughter who are fleeing cartel violence.

"Toddlers separated from parents ‘eerily quiet’ or inconsolable at one migrant shelter" PBS NewsHour 6/20/2018


SUMMARY:  For days, the public has seen images of shelters for the more than 2,300 migrant children who have been separated from their parents by the Trump administration.  What do we know about the facilities and the conditions where toddlers and infants are being held?  John Yang talks with Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press and Dr. Colleen Kraft President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Under contract centers = $Big-Money business.  Is that good?  Only if they are a non-profit.

"Migrants risk the dangerous trip to the U.S. because it’s safer than staying home" PBS NewsHour 6/18/2018


SUMMARY:  For migrants, many from Central America, the United States represents the opportunity for a better life, and sometimes the escape from mortal danger.  Nick Schifrin revisits some NewsHour stories of those who made the difficult decision to risk the treacherous journey, then learns more from Jason Marczak of the Atlantic Council.

"More than 2,300 children still separated from parents as GOP wrestles with immigration fix" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump's decision to sign an executive order stopping the separation of migrant families at the border met with mixed reactions.  Advocates are deeply concerned that the order ignores the families who have already been split up, and fear children and parents will never see each other again.  The legality of the order is also in question.  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff for more.

"This judge hopes outrage over family separation is ‘last gasp’ of current immigration system" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Judge Robert Brack of the U.S. District Court of New Mexico says he hopes the moral outrage over the separation of migrant families will be the catalyst to fix the immigration system.  Amna Nawaz sits down with Brack to discuss what he sees as broken, his own sentencing record and the heartbreak of deporting undocumented immigrants who have made lives in the U.S. for decades.

"Immigrant teens placed in Virginia detention facility say they were beaten while restrained, isolated for days" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Claims of severe physical and psychological abuse of immigrant teenagers at a juvenile detention facility near Staunton, Virginia, has prompted Gov. Ralph Northam to launch an investigation, hours after they were reported by the Associated Press.  John Yang talks with the AP’s Michael Beisecker, one of the reporters who broke the story, about the troubling allegations and the child victims.

"Advocates say government gave no thought to reuniting children separated at the border" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2018


SUMMARY:  While hundreds of migrant children have reportedly been reunited with their parents after being forcibly separated, the complicated and chaotic situation raises doubt and fear for many.  John Yang talks with Wendy Young, President of Kids in Need of Defense, and Amna Nawaz, who updates the story of a grandmother and granddaughter who crossed legally to claim asylum, and were separated.

"Process of reunification ‘incredibly frustrating’ for immigrant families" PBS NewsHour 6/23/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump’s executive order on Wednesday halts his policy of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border, but 2,300 children have already been separated from their families since May.  Lawyers who are working frantically to track down the children now say that the administration has done little to help reunite families.  Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

AMERICAN POLITICS - Kansas Voter Suppression Case

"How the Case for Voter Fraud Was Tested — and Utterly Failed" by Jessica Huseman, ProPublica 6/19/2018

From a new Supreme Court ruling to a census question about citizenship, the campaign against illegal registration is thriving.  But when the top proponent was challenged in a Kansas courtroom to prove that such fraud is rampant, the claims went up in smoke.

In the end, the decision seemed inevitable.  After a seven-day trial in Kansas City federal court in March, in which Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach needed to be tutored on basic trial procedure by the judge and was found in contempt for his “willful failure” to obey a ruling, even he knew his chances were slim.  Kobach told The Kansas City Star at the time that he expected the judge would rule against him (though he expressed optimism in his chances on appeal).

Sure enough, yesterday federal Judge Julie Robinson overturned the law that Kobach was defending as lead counsel for the state, dealing him an unalloyed defeat.  The statute, championed by Kobach and signed into law in 2013, required Kansans to present proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.  The American Civil Liberties Union sued, contending that the law violated the National Voter Registration Act (AKA the “motor voter” law), which was designed to make it easy to register.

The trial had a significance that extends far beyond the Jayhawk state.  One of the fundamental questions in the debate over alleged voter fraud — whether a substantial number of non-citizens are in fact registering to vote — was one of two issues to be determined in the Kansas proceedings.  (The second was whether there was a less burdensome solution than what Kansas had adopted.)  That made the trial a telling opportunity to remove the voter fraud claims from the charged, and largely proof-free, realms of political campaigns and cable news shoutfests and examine them under the exacting strictures of the rules of evidence.

That’s precisely what occurred and according to Robinson, an appointee of George W. Bush, the proof that voter fraud is widespread was utterly lacking.  As the judge put it, “the court finds no credible evidence that a substantial number of noncitizens registered to vote” even under the previous law, which Kobach had claimed was weak.

For Kobach, the trial should’ve been a moment of glory.  He’s been arguing for a decade that voter fraud is a national calamity.  Much of his career has been built on this issue, along with his fervent opposition to illegal immigration.  (His claim is that unlawful immigrants are precisely the ones voting illegally.Kobach, who also co-chaired the Trump administration’s short-lived Commission on Voter Fraud, is perhaps the individual most identified with the cause of sniffing out and eradicating phony voter registration.  He’s got a gilded resume, with degrees from Harvard University, Yale Law School and the University of Oxford, and is seen as both the intellect behind the cause and its prime advocate.  Kobach has written voter laws in other jurisdictions and defended them in court.  If anybody ever had time to marshal facts and arguments before a trial, it was Kobach.

But things didn’t go well for him in the Kansas City courtroom, as Robinson’s opinion made clear.  Kobach’s strongest evidence of non-citizen registration was anemic at best: Over a 20-year period, fewer than 40 non-citizens had attempted to register in one Kansas county that had 130,000 voters. [less than 0.03%]  Most of those 40 improper registrations were the result of mistakes or confusion rather than intentional attempts to mislead, and only five of the 40 managed to cast a vote.

One of Kobach’s own experts even rebutted arguments made by both Kobach and President Donald Trump.  The expert testified that a handful of improper registrations could not be extrapolated to conclude that 2.8 million fraudulent votes — roughly, the gap between Hillary Clinton and Trump in the popular vote tally — had been cast in the 2016 presidential election.  Testimony from a second key expert for Kobach also fizzled.

As the judge’s opinion noted, Kobach insisted the meager instances of cheating revealed at trial are just “the tip of the iceberg.”  As she explained, “This trial was his opportunity to produce credible evidence of that iceberg, but he failed to do so.”  Dismissing the testimony by Kobach’s witnesses as unpersuasive, Robinson drew what she called “the more obvious conclusion that there is no iceberg; only an icicle largely created by confusion and administrative error.”

By the time the trial was over, Kobach, a charismatic 52-year-old whose broad shoulders and imposing height make him resemble an aging quarterback, seemed to have shrunk inside his chair at the defense table.

But despite his defeat, Kobach’s causes — restricting immigration and tightening voting requirements — seem to be enjoying favorable tides elsewhere.  Recent press accounts noted Kobach’s role in restoring a question about citizenship, abandoned since 1950, to U.S. Census forms for 2020.  And the Supreme Court ruled on June 11 that the state of Ohio can purge voters from its rolls when they fail to vote even a single time and don’t return a mailing verifying their address, a provision that means more voters will need to re-register and prove their eligibility again.

For his own part, Kobach is now a candidate for governor of Kansas, running neck and neck with the incumbent in polls for the Republican primary on Aug. 7.  It’s not clear whether the verdict will affect his chances — or whether it will lead him and others to quietly retreat from claims of voter fraud.  But the judge’s opinion and expert interviews reveal that Kobach effectively put the concept of mass voter fraud to the test — and the evidence crumbled.

Perhaps it was an omen.  Before Kobach could enter the courtroom inside the Charles Evans Whittaker U.S. Courthouse each day, he had to pass through a hallway whose walls featured a celebratory display entitled “Americans by Choice: The Story of Immigration and Citizenship in Kansas.”  Photographs of people who’d been sworn in as citizens in that very courthouse were superimposed on the translucent window shades.

Public interest in the trial was high.  The seating area quickly filled to capacity on the first day of trial on the frigid morning of March 6.  The jury box was opened to spectators; it wouldn’t be needed, as this was a bench trial.  Those who couldn’t squeeze in were sent to a lower floor, where a live feed had been prepared in a spillover room.

From the moment the trial opened, Kobach and his co-counsels in the Kansas secretary of state’s office, Sue Becker and Garrett Roe, stumbled over the most basic trial procedures.  Their mistakes antagonized the judge.  “Evidence 101,” Robinson snapped, only minutes into the day, after Kobach’s team attempted to improperly introduce evidence.  “I’m not going to do it.”

Matters didn’t improve for Kobach from there.

Throughout the trial, his team’s repeated mishaps and botched cross examinations cost hours of the court’s time.  Robinson was repeatedly forced to step into the role of law professor, guiding Kobach, Becker and Roe through courtroom procedure.  “Do you know how to do the next step, if that’s what you’re going to do?” the judge asked Becker at one point, as she helped her through the steps of impeaching a witness.  “We’re going to follow the rules of evidence here.”

Becker often seemed nervous.  She took her bright red glasses off and on.  At times she burst into nervous chuckles after a misstep.  She laughed at witnesses, skirmished with the judge and even taunted the lawyers for the ACLU.  “I can’t wait to ask my questions on Monday!” she shouted at the end of the first week, jabbing a finger in the direction of Dale Ho, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.  Ho rolled his eyes.

Roe was gentler — deferential, even.  He often admitted he didn’t know what step came next, asking the judge for help.  “I don’t — I don’t know if this one is objectionable.  I hope it’s not,” he offered at one point, as he prepared to ask a question following a torrent of sustained objections.  “I’ll let you know,” an attorney for the plaintiffs responded, to a wave of giggles in the courtroom.  On the final day of trial, as Becker engaged in yet another dispute with the judge, Roe slapped a binder to his forehead and audibly whispered, “Stop talking.  Stop talking.”

Kobach’s cross examinations were smoother and better organized, but he regularly attempted to introduce exhibits — for example, updated state statistics that he had failed to provide the ACLU in advance to vet — that Robinson ruled were inadmissible.  As the trial wore on, she became increasingly irritated.  She implored Kobach to “please read” the rules on which she based her rulings, saying his team had repeated these errors “ad nauseum.”

Kobach seemed unruffled.  Instead of heeding her advice, he’d proffer the evidence for the record, a practice that allows the evidence to be preserved for appeal even if the trial judge refuses to admit it.  Over the course of the trial, Kobach and his team would do this nearly a dozen times.

Eventually, Robinson got fed up.  She asked Kobach to justify his use of proffers.  Kobach, seemingly alarmed, grabbed a copy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure — to which he had attached a growing number of Post-it notes — and quickly flipped through it, trying to find the relevant rule.

The judge tried to help.  “It’s Rule 26, of course, that’s been the basis for my rulings,” she told Kobach.  “I think it would be helpful if you would just articulate under what provision of Rule 26 you think this is permissible.”  Kobach seemed to play for time, asking clarifying questions rather than articulating a rationale.  Finally, the judge offered mercy: a 15-minute break.  Kobach’s team rushed from the courtroom.

It wasn’t enough to save him.  In her opinion, Robinson described “a pattern and practice by Defendant [Kobach] of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules.”  As she put it, “it is not clear to the Court whether Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules.”  She ordered Kobach to attend the equivalent of after-school tutoring: six hours of extra legal education on the rules of civil procedure or the rules of evidence (and to present the court with a certificate of completion).

It’s always a bad idea for a lawyer to try the patience of a judge — and that’s doubly true during a bench trial, when the judge will decide not only the law, but also the facts.  Kobach repeatedly annoyed Robinson with his procedural mistakes.  But that was nothing next to what the judge viewed as Kobach’s intentional bad faith.

This view emerged in writing right after the trial — that’s when Robinson issued her ruling finding Kobach in contempt — but before the verdict.  And the conduct that inspired the contempt finding had persisted over several years.  Robinson concluded that Kobach had intentionally failed to follow a ruling she issued in 2016 that ordered him to restore the privileges of 17,000 suspended Kansas voters.

In her contempt ruling, the judge cited Kobach’s “history of noncompliance” with the order and characterized his explanations for not abiding by it as “nonsensical” and “disingenuous.”  She wrote that she was “troubled” by Kobach’s “failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders, and for failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished.”  Robinson ordered Kobach to pay the ACLU’s legal fees for the contempt proceeding.

That contempt ruling was actually the second time Kobach was singled out for punishment in the case.  Before the trial, a federal magistrate judge deputized to oversee the discovery portion of the suit fined him $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” about a voting fraud document Kobach had prepared for Trump.  Kobach paid the fine with a state credit card.

More than any procedural bumbling, the collapse of Kobach’s case traced back to the disintegration of a single witness.

The witness was Jesse Richman, a political scientist from Old Dominion University, who has written studies on voter fraud.  For this trial, Richman was paid $5,000 by the taxpayers of Kansas to measure non-citizen registration in the state.  Richman was the man who had to deliver the goods for Kobach.

With his gray-flecked beard and mustache, Richman looked the part of an academic, albeit one who seemed a bit too tall for his suit and who showed his discomfort in a series of awkward, sudden movements on the witness stand.  At moments, Richman’s testimony turned combative, devolving into something resembling an episode of 'The Jerry Springer Show.'  By the time he left the stand, Richman had testified for more than five punishing hours.  He’d bickered with the ACLU’s lawyer, raised his voice as he defended his studies and repeatedly sparred with the judge.

“Wait, wait, wait!” shouted Robinson at one point, silencing a verbal free-for-all that had erupted among Richman, the ACLU’s Ho, and Kobach, who were all speaking at the same time.  “Especially you,” she said, turning her stare to Richman.  “You are not here to be an advocate.  You are not here to trash the plaintiff.  And you are not here to argue with me.”

Richman had played a small but significant part in the 2016 Presidential campaign.  Trump and others had cited his work to claim that illegal votes had robbed Trump of the popular vote.  At an October 2016 rally in Wisconsin, the candidate cited Richman’s work to bolster his predictions that the election would be rigged.  “You don’t read about this, right?”  Trump told the crowd, before reading from an op-ed Richman had written for The Washington Post: “‘We find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in various close elections.’ Okay?  All right?”

Richman’s 2014 study of non-citizen registration used data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study — an online survey of more than 32,000 people.  Of those, fewer than 40 individuals indicated they were non-citizens registered to vote.  Based on that sample, Richman concluded that up to 2.8 million illegal votes had been cast in 2008 by non-citizens.  In fact, he put the illegal votes at somewhere between 38,000 and 2.8 million — a preposterously large range — and then Trump and others simply used the highest figure.

Academics pilloried Richman’s conclusions.  Two hundred political scientists signed an open letter criticizing the study, saying it should “not be cited or used in any debate over fraudulent voting.”  Harvard’s Stephen Ansolabehere, who administered the CCES, published his own peer-reviewed paper lambasting Richman’s work.  Indeed, by the time Trump read Richman’s article onstage in 2016, The Washington Post had already appended a note to the op-ed linking to three rebuttals and a peer-reviewed study debunking the research.

None of that discouraged Kobach or Trump from repeating Richman’s conclusions.  They then went a few steps further.  They took the top end of the range for the 2008 election, assumed that it applied to the 2016 election, too, and further assumed that all of the fraudulent ballots had been cast for Clinton.

Some of those statements found their way into the courtroom, when Ho pressed play on a video shot by The Kansas City Star on Nov. 30, 2016.  Kobach had met with Trump 10 days earlier and had brought with him a paper decrying non-citizen registration and voter fraud.  Two days later, Trump tweeted that he would have won the popular vote if not for “millions of people who voted illegally.”

On the courtroom’s televisions, Kobach appeared, saying Trump’s tweet was “absolutely correct.”  Without naming Richman, Kobach referred to his study: The number of non-citizens who said they’d voted in 2008 was far larger than the popular vote margin, Kobach said on the video.  The same number likely voted again in 2016.

In the courtroom, Ho asked Richman if he believed his research supported such a claim.  Richman stammered.  He repeatedly looked at Kobach, seemingly searching for a way out.  Ho persisted and finally, Richman gave his answer: “I do not believe my study provides strong support for that notion.”

To estimate the number of non-citizens voting in Kansas, Richman had used the same methodology he employed in his much-criticized 2014 study.  Using samples as small as a single voter, he’d produced surveys with wildly different estimates of non-citizen registration in the state.  The multiple iterations confused everyone in the courtroom.

“For the record, how many different data sources have you provided?” Robinson interjected in the middle of one Richman answer.  “You provide a range of, like, zero to 18,000 or more.”

“I sense the frustration,” Richman responded, before offering a winding explanation of the multiple data sources and surveys he’d used to arrive at a half-dozen different estimates.  Robinson cut him off.  “Maybe we need to stop here,” she said.

“Your honor, let me finish answering your question,” he said.

“No, no.  I’m done,” she responded, as he continued to protest.  “No.  Dr. Richman, I’m done.”

To refute Richman’s numbers, the ACLU called on Harvard’s Ansolabehere, whose data Richman had relied on in the past.  Ansolabehere testified that Richman’s sample sizes were so small that it was just as possible that there were no non-citizens registered to vote in Kansas as 18,000.  “There’s just a great deal of uncertainty with these estimates,” he said.

Ho asked if it would be accurate to say that Richman’s data “shows a rate of non-citizen registration in Kansas that is not statistically distinct from zero?”


The judge was harsher than Ansolabehere in her description of Richman’s testimony.  In her opinion, Robinson unloaded a fusillade of dismissive adjectives, calling Richman’s conclusions “confusing, inconsistent and methodologically flawed,” and adding that they were “credibly dismantled” by Ansolabehere.  She labeled elements of Richman’s testimony “disingenuous” and “misleading,” and stated that she gave his research “no weight” in her decision.

One of the paradoxes of Kobach is that he has become a star in circles that focus on illegal immigration and voting fraud despite poor results in the courtroom.  By ProPublica’s count, Kobach chalked up a 2–6 won-lost record in federal cases in which he was played a major role, and which reached a final disposition before the Kansas case.

Those results occurred when Kobach was an attorney for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform from 2004 to 2011, when he became secretary of state in Kansas.  In his FAIR role (in which he continued to moonlight till about 2014), Kobach traveled to places like Fremont, Nebraska, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Farmers Branch, Texas, and Valley Park, Missouri, to help local governments write laws that attempted to hamper illegal immigration, and then defend them in court.  Kobach won in Nebraska, but lost in Texas and Pennsylvania, and only a watered down version of the law remains in Missouri.

The best-known law that Kobach helped shape before joining the Kansas government in 2011 was Arizona’s “show me your papers” law.  That statute allowed police to demand citizenship documents for any reason from anyone they thought might be in the country illegally.  After it passed, the state paid Kobach $300 an hour to train law enforcement on how to legally arrest suspected illegal immigrants.  The Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the law in 2012.

Kobach also struggled in two forays into political campaigning.  In 2004, he lost a race for Congress.  He also drew criticism for his stint as an informal adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential campaign.  Kobach was the man responsible for Romney’s much-maligned proposal that illegal immigrants “self-deport,” one reason Romney attracted little support among Latinos.  Romney disavowed Kobach even before the campaign was over, telling media outlets that he was a “supporter,” not an adviser.

Trump’s election meant Kobach’s positions on immigration would be welcome in the White House.  Kobach lobbied for, but didn’t receive, an appointment as Secretary of Homeland Security.  He was, however, placed in charge of the Voter Fraud Commission, a pet project of Trump’s.  Facing a raft of lawsuits and bad publicity, the commission was disbanded little more than six months after it formally launched.

Back at home, Kobach expanded his power as secretary of state.  Boasting of his experience as a law professor and scholar, Kobach convinced the state legislature to give him the authority to prosecute election crimes himself, a power wielded by no other secretary of state.  In that role, he has obtained nine guilty pleas against individuals for election-related misdemeanors.  Only one of those who pleaded guilty, as it happens, was a non-citizen.

He also persuaded Kansas’ attorney general to allow Kobach to represent the state in the trial of Kansas’ voting law.  Kobach argued it was a bargain.  As he told The Wichita Eagle at the time, “The advantage is the state gets an experienced appellate litigator who is a specialist in this field and in constitutional law for the cost the state is already paying, which is my salary.”

Kobach fared no better in the second main area of the Kansas City trial than he had in the first.  This part explored whether there is a less burdensome way of identifying non-citizens than forcing everyone to show proof of citizenship upon registration.  Judge Robinson would conclude that there were many alternatives that were less intrusive.

In his opening, Ho of the ACLU spotlighted a potentially less intrusive approach.  Why not use the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements System list, and compare the names on it to the Kansas voter rolls?  That, Ho argued, could efficiently suss out illegal registrations.

Kobach told the judge that simply wasn’t feasible.  The list, he explained, doesn’t contain all non-citizens in the country illegally — it contains only non-citizens legally present and those here illegally who register in some way with the federal government.  Plus, he told Robinson, in order to really match the SAVE list against a voter roll, both datasets would have to contain alien registration numbers, the identifier given to non-citizens living in the U.S.  “Those are things that a voter registration system doesn’t have,” he said.  “So, the SAVE system does not work.”

But Kobach had made the opposite argument when he headed the Voter Fraud Commission.  There, he’d repeatedly advocated the use of the SAVE database.  Appearing on Fox News in May 2017, shortly after the commission was established, Kobach said, “The Department of Homeland Security knows of the millions of aliens who are in the United States legally and that data that’s never been bounced against the state’s voter rolls to see whether these people are registered.”  He said the federal databases “can be very valuable.”

A month later, as chief of the Voting Fraud Commission, Kobach took steps to compare state information to the SAVE database.  He sent a letter to all 50 secretaries of state requesting their voter rolls.  Bipartisan outrage ensued.  Democrats feared he would use the rolls to encourage states to purge legitimately registered voters.  Republicans labelled the request federal overreach.

At trial, Kobach’s main expert on this point was Hans von Spakovsky, another member of the Voter Fraud Commission.  He, too, had been eager in commission meetings to match state voter rolls to the SAVE database.

But like Kobach, von Spakovsky took a different tack at trial.  He testified that this database was unusable by elections offices.  “In your experience and expertise as an election administrator and one who studies elections,” Kobach asked, “is [the alien registration number] a practical or even possible thing for a state to do in its voter registration database?”  Von Spakovsky answered, “No, it is not.”

Von Spakovsky and Kobach have been friends for more than a decade.  They worked together at the Department of Justice under George W. Bush.  Kobach focused on immigration issues — helping create a database to register visitors to the U.S. from countries associated with terrorism — while von Spakovsky specialized in voting issues; he had opposed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

Von Spakovsky’s history as a local elections administrator in Fairfax County, Va., qualified him as an expert on voting fraud.  Between 2010 and 2012, while serving as vice chairman of the county’s three-member electoral board, he’d examined the voter rolls and found what he said were 300 registered non-citizens.  He’d pressed for action against them, but none came.  Von Spakovsky later joined the Heritage Foundation, where he remains today, generating research that underpins the arguments of those who claim mass voter fraud.

Like Richman, von Spakovsky seemed nervous on the stand, albeit not combative.  He wore wire-rimmed glasses and a severe, immovable expression.  Immigration is a not-so-distant feature of his family history: His parents — Russian and German immigrants — met in a refugee camp in American-occupied Germany after World War II before moving to the U.S.

Von Spakovsky had the task of testifying about what was intended to be a key piece of evidence for Kobach’s case: a spreadsheet of 38 non-citizens who had registered to vote, or attempted to register, in a 20-year period in Sedgwick County, Kansas.

But the 38 non-citizens turned out to be something less than an electoral crime wave.  For starters, some of the 38 had informed Sedgwick County that they were non-citizens.  One woman had sent her registration postcard back to the county with an explanation that it was a “mistake” and that she was not a citizen.  Another listed an alien registration number — which tellingly begins with an “A” — instead of a Social Security number on the voter registration form.  The county registered her anyway.

When von Spakovsky took the stand, he had to contend with questions that suggested he had cherry-picked his data.  (The judge would find he had.)  In his expert report, von Spakovsky had referenced a 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office that polled federal courts to see how many non-citizens had been excused from jury duty for being non-citizens — a sign of fraud, because jurors are selected from voter rolls.  The GAO report mentioned eight courts.  Only one said it had a meaningful number of jury candidates who claimed to be non-citizens: “between 1 and 3 percent” had been dismissed on these grounds.  This was the only court von Spakovsky mentioned in his expert report.

His report also cited a 2012 TV news segment from an NBC station in Fort Myers, Fla.  Reporters claimed to have discovered more than 100 non-citizens on the local voter roll.

“Now, you know, Mr.  von Spakovsky, don’t you, that after this NBC report there was a follow-up by the same NBC station that determined that at least 35 of those 100 individuals had documentation to prove they were, in fact, United States citizens.  Correct?” Ho asked.  “I am aware of that now, yes,” von Spakovsky replied.

That correction had been online since 2012 and Ho had asked von Spakovsky the same question almost two years before in a deposition before the trial.  But von Spakovsky never corrected his expert report.

Under Ho’s questioning, von Spakovsky also acknowledged a false assertion he made in 2011.  In a nationally syndicated column for McClatchy, von Spakovsky claimed a tight race in Missouri had been decided by the illegal votes of 50 Somali nationals.  A month before the column was published, a Missouri state judge ruled that no such thing had happened.

On the stand, von Spakovsky claimed he had no knowledge of the ruling when he published the piece.  He conceded that he never retracted the assertion.

Kobach, who watched the exchange without objection, had repeatedly made the same claim — even after the judge ruled it was false.  In 2011, Kobach wrote a series of columns using the example as proof of the need for voter ID, publishing them in outlets ranging from the Topeka Capital-Journal to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.  In 2012, he made the claim in an article published in the Syracuse Law Review.  In 2013, he wrote an op-ed for the Kansas City Star with the same example: “The election was stolen when Rizzo received about 50 votes illegally cast by citizens of Somalia.”  None of those articles have ever been corrected.

Ultimately, Robinson would lacerate von Spakovsky’s testimony, much as she had Richman’s.  Von Spakovsky’s statements, the judge wrote, were “premised on several misleading and unsupported examples” and included “false assertions.”  As she put it, “His generalized opinions about the rates of noncitizen registration were likewise based on misleading evidence, and largely based on his preconceived beliefs about this issue, which has led to his aggressive public advocacy of stricter proof of citizenship laws.”

There was one other wobbly leg holding up the argument that voter fraud is rampant: the very meaning of the word “fraud.”

Kobach’s case, and the broader claim, rely on an extremely generous definition.  Legal definitions of fraud require a person to knowingly be deceptive.  But both Kobach and von Spakovsky characterized illegal ballots as “fraud” regardless of the intention of the voter.

Indeed, the nine convictions Kobach has obtained in Kansas are almost entirely made up of individuals who didn’t realize they were doing something wrong.  For example, there were older voters who didn’t understand the restrictions and voted in multiple places they owned property.  There was also a college student who’d forgotten she’d filled out an absentee ballot in her home state before voting months later in Kansas.  (She voted for Trump both times.)

Late in the trial, the ACLU presented Lorraine Minnite, a professor at Rutgers who has written extensively about voter fraud, as a rebuttal witness.  Her book, “The Myth of Voter Fraud,” concluded that almost all instances of illegal votes can be chalked up to misunderstandings and administrative error.

Kobach sent his co-counsel, Garrett Roe, to cross-examine her.  “It’s your view that what matters is the voter’s knowledge that his or her action is unlawful?” Roe asked.  “In a definition of fraud, yes,” said Minnite.  Roe pressed her about this for several questions, seemingly surprised that she wouldn’t refer to all illegal voting as fraud.

Minnite stopped him.  “The word ‘fraud’ has meaning, and that meaning is that there’s intent behind it.  And that’s actually what Kansas laws are with respect to illegal voting,” she said.  “You keep saying my definition” she said, putting finger quotes around “my.”  “But, you know, it’s not like it’s a freak definition.”

Kobach had explored a similar line of inquiry with von Spakovsky, asking him if the list of 38 non-citizens he’d reviewed could be absolved of “fraud” because they may have lacked intent.

“No,” von Spakovsky replied, “I think any time a non-citizen registers, any time a non-citizen votes, they are — whether intentionally or by accident, I mean — they are defrauding legitimate citizens from a fair election.”

After Kobach concluded his questions, the judge began her own examination of von Spakovsky.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s a pretty good distinction in terms of how the two of you define fraud,” the judge said, explaining that Minnite focused on intent, while she understood von Spakovsky’s definition to include any time someone who wasn’t supposed to vote did so, regardless of reason.  “Would that be a fair characterization?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am,” von Spakovsky replied.

The judge asked whether a greater number of legitimate voters would be barred from casting ballots under the law than fraudulent votes prevented.  In that scenario, she asked, “Would that not also be defrauding the electoral process?”  Von Spakovsky danced around the answer, asserting that one would need to answer that question in the context of the registration requirements, which he deemed reasonable.

The judge cut him off.  “Well that doesn’t really answer my question,” she said, saying that she found it contradictory that he wanted to consider context when examining the burden of registration requirements, but not when examining the circumstances in which fraud was committed.

“When you’re talking about … non-citizen voting, you don’t want to consider that in context of whether that person made a mistake, whether a DMV person convinced them they should vote,” she said.  Von Spakovsky allowed that not every improper voter should be prosecuted, but insisted that “each ballot they cast takes away the vote of and dilutes the vote of actual citizens who are voting.  And that’s —”

The judge interrupted again.  “So, the thousands of actual citizens that should be able to vote but who are not because of the system, because of this law, that’s not diluting the vote and that’s not impairing the integrity of the electoral process, I take it?” she said.

Von Spakovsky didn’t engage with the hypothetical.  He simply didn’t believe it was happening.  “I don’t believe that this requirement prevents individuals who are eligible to register and vote from doing so.”  Later, on the stand, he’d tell Ho he couldn’t think of a single law in the country that he felt negatively impacted anyone’s ability to register or vote.

Robinson, in the end, strongly disagreed.  As she wrote in her opinion, “the Court finds that the burden imposed on Kansans by this law outweighs the state’s interest in preventing noncitizen voter fraud, keeping accurate voter rolls, and maintaining confidence in elections.  The burden is not just on a ‘few voters,’ but on tens of thousands of voters, many of whom were disenfranchised” by Kobach’s law.  The law, she concluded, was a bigger problem than the one it set out to solve, acting as a “deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote.”

Monday, June 18, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 6/15/2018

"Shields and Brooks on North Korea summit takeaways, Trump’s family separation policy" PBS NewsHour 6/15/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including President Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the conclusions of a watchdog report into the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, the politics of the Trump administration separating families at the U.S. border, and more.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome to both of you.

Let’s start with what happened this week on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

David, the President met, historic meeting, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea.  The President comes away saying there’s no more nuclear threat, he’s got very good personal chemistry, personal relationship with Mr. Kim.

What’s your take?

David Brooks, New York Times:  I read a joke this week that the lion can lie down with the lamb, but you got to get a new lamb each day.

So, I give him more credit than a lot other people that I’m reading.  We were — and people who really knew the North Korean situation were terrified six, eight, 10 months ago that we were really heading in a bad direction and things — there was some danger of things spinning out of control.

And now that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Now, there’s — tensions have settled.  There seems to be no risk of any confrontation or war.  And so, to me, that’s the big story, and that’s the lead and that’s a good thing.

Now, once you get down to the second and third paragraph, it begins to deteriorate quickly.  And the things Trump said about the regime, calling a murderous dictator a tough guy, that’s horrific.

The way human rights are treated, the way he just flippantly tossed off the practice, the war games, is horrific.  But, to me, those are serious deficits.  He did a good thing in the worst possible way.

Judy Woodruff:  What’s your take, Mark?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Well, Judy, quite frankly, a few months ago, you had two major powers flexing their nuclear biceps and issuing threats, serious threats, to each other, and we thought we were on the edge of war.

We’re not today.  That’s good.  I have no idea what’s in it — I don’t know anybody else who does — in the agreement.  The President has assured us there’s no longer…

Judy Woodruff:  Well, there’s not an agreement yet.

Mark Shields:  There’s not an agreement, but in the documents.

But to treat North Korea as this — this is a regime that stands alone in the world, for hundreds of thousands of people being exterminated, that has consistently, as a matter of policy, used rape and forcible abortions and starvation on its own people.  Hundreds of thousands of people have been exterminated.

And for the President to blithely — I’m not, you know, insisting that human rights be the centerpiece, but it has been important in every American element of foreign policy over the last generations.  I mean, from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan, it’s been central.

And human rights — the United States didn’t invent human rights, but, as Carter said, human rights, to a great degree, did invent America.  And the President is blithely indifferent to that…


David Brooks:  It’s also as a foil to what happened in Europe or in Quebec with the G7 the week before.

And you see him with two different sorts of relationships.  With somebody like Putin or with somebody like Kim Jong Un, it’s like dictator to dictator.  It’s like, we understand how to deal with power relationships.  He feels comfortable in that kind of thing.

When he’s dealing with Trudeau or Merkel, it should be friends, and it should be a relationship on affection and mutual trust and reciprocity.  And he’s a little uncomfortable in those circumstances.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you explain that?

David Brooks:  Well, I think, through his business life, he’s not had a series of relationships based on friendship, trust, and reciprocity, and affection.

He’s had relationships based strictly on self-interest and the urge to dominate.  And he just feels comfortable in one kind of relationship.  And, frankly, that’s even true within his White House.  He has relationships based on who’s useful to who, not we are a band of brothers in this together.

Judy Woodruff:  But, at this point, Mark, your point is that at least we’re not — we don’t think we’re on the verge of war.

Mark Shields:  No, we aren’t.  And I think that’s good.  I think that’s a positive.

Churchill said it far better and shorter, that jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war.  And I think that’s true.

NORTH KOREA - Government by a Despot

"Witness to starvation and executions, North Korean defectors hope Trump broaches human rights" PBS NewsHour 6/15/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump has repeated that the nuclear weapons issue is now more important than 70 years of human rights atrocities committed by the Kim dynasty in North Korea.  Two defectors with harrowing stories of starvation, deprivation, public executions, losing parents, and finally their escapes, speak with Nick Schifrin about what the hope for Trump’s North Korea diplomacy.

IMMIGRATION - Trump's Zero Tolerance Policy and Children

aka "In the Service of Satin"

NOTE:  This is a change in Policy, NOT a Democrat's law.  Prior policy was to allow immigrants seeking asylum to be allowed entry to await a hearing, which meant children were not separated from parents.

"What is life like for detained migrant children?  An inside look at a government shelter" PBS NewsHour 6/15/2018


SUMMARY:  Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families after illegally crossing the border in April and May, according the Department of Homeland Security.  In Southern California, one of the more than hundred facilities that houses unaccompanied migrant children opened its doors to the media on Friday.  Amna Nawaz talks with Jean Guerrero of KPBS about what she saw there.


OFF STAGE :  "How dare they accuse our Fearless Leader!  He's God's anointed!"

"Trump and his children accused of using charitable foundation ‘like a piggy bank’" PBS NewsHour 6/14/2018


SUMMARY:  The New York State Attorney General sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation on Thursday, alleging "persistently illegal conduct" and mismanagement at the President's charity.  Amna Nawaz fills in the details with David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, whose reporting helped instigate the probe.

MIAMI - U.S. HIV Epicenter

"Why Miami is the epicenter of new HIV cases in the U.S." PBS NewsHour 6/14/2018


SUMMARY:  The tourist mecca of Miami is also a hotbed of HIV transmission.  While city and state officials have launched an ambitious plan to tackle the crisis, William Brangham and Jason Kane join Jon Cohen of Science Magazine to look at how and why it’s gotten so bad.  This report is part of the NewsHour’s ongoing series “The End of AIDS: Far From Over,” with support from the Pulitzer Center.

IG REPORT - Investigating the FBI

"Political bias did not affect Clinton probe, watchdog report finds" PBS NewsHour 6/14/2018


SUMMARY:  The much-anticipated report on the probe of Hillary Clinton's email practices was released Thursday.  It runs hundreds of pages, finds fault with the FBI, and may be fodder for Republicans and Democrats alike.  While the watchdog found that political bias did not influence the probe, the report found that former Director James Comey had been “insubordinate.”  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff.

"How will the FBI adjust after the Clinton email probe report?" PBS NewsHour 6/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Thursday’s report from the Justice Department's internal watchdog goes into detail about how the department and the F.B.I. handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation.  What does it mean for the bureau’s reputation and what changes might occur in the aftermath?  Judy Woodruff gets analysis from former Justice Department officials John Carlin and Thomas Dupree.