Unlikely Voter

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Protestors are urging Amazon to stop selling facial recognition technology to the government, but they’re missing the real problem here.

Amazon, being one of the big tech companies, has had good reason to invest large amounts of money in getting smart people to learn how to code new things. Sometimes the new technologies immediately bear fruit in useful business ways. Sometimes you have to find a way to make money off of them.

Amazon’s smart people worked on some facial recognition technology, and one way they found to make money off of it was to sell it to the government. Government loves this kind of technology.

Oddly, the reaction of ACLU and other interest groups is to protest Amazon selling this technology to the government. This is wrong. It’s wrong because it doesn’t solve the problem. If Amazon stops selling this technology, someone else will start. If you want government not to use this technology, the actual way to solve the problem is to change the law so government won’t use it.

It’s a legitimate point for society to debate, that facial recognition might be a technology too powerful for government to use. Creating databases of the movements of people may create dangers for people, when (not if) that database is broken into. The only winning move is not to play at all, so this argument goes.

It’s not Amazon’s fault that government will leap at the opportunity to do this, without considering the privacy, security, and moral dimensions to the decision. That’s the fault of elected officials, and the careerist staffers they manage. Go to the legislatures. Solve the problem for real.

Scapegoating a corporation is lazy and ineffective. Stop it.

Back in December it seemed like Republicans were going to get walloped this year. But as of now, are they even set to lose the House at all?

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After promising to get tough on Iran, Donald Trump caves as meekly as Barack Obama by waving the white flag to China on ZTE sanctions.

Even if Donald Trump gets out of the Iran deal, what is it going to matter? Any country in the world can funnel technology to Iran through China, and Donald Trump will punk out and give them a pass for it.

ZTE is a Chinese firm tied to their military aerospace and signals intelligence industries. Their board’s senior members are stacked with members of state-run military firms. ZTE defied global Iran sanctions. When they were caught, they refused to take any corrective actions. So the US Government slapped them with 7 years of trade sanctions.

The Chinese ordered Donald Trump to jump, and his answer was “How high?” He is complying with everything they demanded of him. He’s been whipped. Now Chinese firms can defy US sanctions at any time, and the Trump administration is powerless to stop it.

Why is Trump taking orders from the Communists? It’s reasonable to speculate they’re blackmailing him with the leverage of North Korea, but only time will tell if that’s how they have a hold on him.

In the United States, Apple makes a big show of defying the government, by giving citizens tools to assert our right to privacy. In China, Apple is actively collaborating with the government against the people.

Tim Cook’s statements explaining his willingness to oppose the government were strong, to:

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

But Cook has gotten quiet when it comes to the mass crackdown in China:

Recently, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) requested that CallKit functionality be deactivated in all apps available on the China App Store.

During our review, we found that your app currently includes Callkit functionality and has China listed as an available territory in iTunes Connect.

This app cannot be approved with CallKit functionality active in China.

So Apple will comply with any request made by the Chinese government. So much for caring about making the users less safe!

Three polls, three races, all close results. We’re starting to see what the 2018 Senate Battleground looks like, as Democrats try to beat the odds and take the Senate.

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Today some well-funded special interests are celebrating, but have no fear: Internet price controls are not coming back.

They didn’t tell you that during the Net Neutrality Red Alert, did they? Net Neutrality is all about content and price controls, not freedom. So it’s a shame that the Senate today attempted to bring it back by invoking the Congressional Review Act to vote to repeal the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order.

It’s a meaningless vote though. Even though the 51-49 Senate was easy enough for the Democrats to flip with the more left-leaning members of the Republican caucus, the House of Representatives is a different matter.

House votes are far more likely to be party-line votes, and the Republican majority there is far less likely to challenge the Donald Trump administration in an election year. The House will not join the Senate in this vote, and nothing will happen.

I’m not worried. The FCC voted to do the right thing. It’s the law of the land. Internet regulation is being rolled back to the sensible levels of the past, only with greater transparency than ever before. The Restoring Internet Freedom Order was a good idea, and we should keep it.

This is going to be a bad year for Republicans, but the Senate race this year is so stacked in their favor, it’s practically impossible for them to lose control of the body this year.

Even after the Republicans choked away the Alabama seat, they have a 51-49 edge in the body. In the event of a 50-50 tie, votes by the Vice President Mike Pence will tilt the body to the Republicans, so Democrats must net a two seat gain in order to take control of the body.

Yes, technically two members of the Democrat caucus claim to be independent, but they both submit to the party whip and fully participate in the party caucus. One of them, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, even ran for the party’s nomination for President in 2016. So I will dispense with any pretense that Sanders and Angus King of Maine aren’t full members of the Senate Party.

Up this year is Class 1 of the Senate, along with two special elections from Class 2. the amount that this split favors Republicans is overwhelming.

Consider that Republicans not up this year number 42, while the Democrats not up this year are only 23. That means Republicans only need to win 8 seats out of 35 to hold the Senate. How easy is that?

Widely-accounted safe seats in Mississippi (Roger Wicker), Nebraska (Deb Fischer), Utah (Orrin Hatch retiring), and Wyoming (John Barrasso) account for half of it right there. That’s a virtual lock for Wicker, Fischer, Barrasso, and (probably) Mitt Romney to be Republicans 43, 44, 45, and 46.

That leaves four. Republicans have two more seats that are widely rated as “Likely”: Mississippi (Thad Cochran retired, Cindy Hyde-Smith appointed) and Texas (Ted Cruz). It’s conceivable for either of these seats to swing the other way, but when Cook in particular moves a seat to Likely as he has for Cruz and Hyde-Smith, it would be most unexpected for those seats to go the other way.

Beyond that, there are eight more seats widely rated as toss-ups: Arizona (Jeff Flake retiring), Florida (Bill Nelson), Indiana (Joe Donnelly), Missouri (Claire McCaskill), Nevada (Dean Heller), North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp), Tennessee (Bob Corker retiring), and West Virginia (Joe Manchin). Between the eight toss-ups and the two “likely” seats, Republicans just have to win half, plus their safe seats, to get to 51 seats.

Winning half of the toss-ups may sound hard in a wave year, but look at the states. Seven of the eight toss-up states went for Donald Trump. Further, Democrats like McCaskill and Donnelly faced remarkably weak Republicans last time, and are unlikely to get so lucky this time.

On top of that, Democrats have their own Leaners in Trump states they have to defend: Montana (Jon Tester), Ohio (Sherrod Brown), Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin). If Ted Cruz isn’t safe, then we can’t count them as safe, either.

Analysts often point out how lucky Donald Trump was in 2016. It’s true. But Democrats were also lucky in the 2012 Senate elections. They have to get more lucky than that if they want to net two seats and win the Senate this year.

Marco Rubio took to Twitter this morning to call the President’s statements on ZTE “crazy,” but the situation is actually worse than he lets on.

Rubio directly quoted Donald Trump’s statement and didn’t hold back:

Yes, it is “crazy” to allow ZTE free access to our technology. But it understates the case to say that ZTE “can be forced to act as a tool Chinese espionage”. The company is rigged to be a tool of espionage.

Take a look at the ZTE Board of Directors. Vice Chairman Jianheng Zhang is tied to CASIC, a state-run military contractor. Vice Chairman Jubao Luan, same. While Chairman Yimin Yin is allowed to have his title, the state military-political apparatus is there to watch him, and make sure ZTE is there to service the state whenever necessary.

Other board members are tied to the government in other ways, such as the People’s Political Consultative Congresses, which are organs for the Communist Party of China to direct policy.

This is the corporation Donald Trump is directing the Commerce Department to support. It really is crazy.

The United States withdrew from the Paris agreement, but did you know we were still acting as the global police for the agreement? The Trump administration has ended that.

The United States was going around snooping on what other countries were doing, with respect to Carbon Dioxide emissions, even though we haven’t been a party to the major agreements in that area. We never ratified either treaty, neither Kyoto nor Paris. They were never binding on us, and the Presidents who ‘agreed’ to them never followed process to get there.

Constitutionally we were not participating, and yet NASA was active in them anyway. NASA had set up the Carbon Monitoring System in 2010, and had been operating this entire time as a global carbon cop. They were apparently relying on this too, which is odd:

The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.

But the Donald Trump administration has killed off the Carbon Monitoring System project. We’re going to let the Europeans do it themselves, instead of participating in them crippling their own economies.

On Wednesday, many websites are going to host a mailing list building form from a little known advocacy group. Here’s what you need to know about their Net Neutrality campaign.

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Chinese manufacturer ZTE got caught violating Iran sanctions, and was slapped with a severe export ban as a result. China is lobbying the Trump team to ease up.

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We all expect Donald Trump to get good poll results from Rasmussen Reports. They’ve been giving him good results even when everyone else was showing him far behind. But what if they’re not the only ones now?

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Gallup did a poll of religion in America, by state. I thought it would be interesting to chart that against Barack Obama’s 2012 vote share.

Here are the results.

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