Posts Tagged ‘conservatives’

Brexit: most Tory members would choose no deal over May’s plan

January 4, 2019

Survey also finds that in two-option poll, 76% would choose no deal over remain

Only 29% of Tory members would vote for May’s Brexit deal, compared with 64% who opt for no deal. Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA

More than half of Conservative party members want Theresa May’s Brexitdeal to be rejected in favour of leaving the EU with no deal, according to a survey.

The poll, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), found a majority of the Tory rank and file are convinced that leaving the EU without a deal is better than the prime minister’s Brexit plan.

In a three-way referendum, with the options of leaving without a deal, staying in the EU or leaving with May’s deal, 57% preferred leaving without a deal. Only 23% of members said they would vote for May’s deal in a three-way referendum.

The findings were released on Friday by the ESRC-funded party membersproject, run from Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University.

Just 29% of Tory members would vote for May’s deal, compared with 64% who would vote to leave without a deal, if there was a two-option referendum.

Among party members, opposition to the deal negotiated by their own leader outweighs support by a margin of 59% to 38%.

More members (53%) think May’s deal does not respect the 2016 EU referendum result than the 42% who think it does.

The findings are a further blow to May, who hopes to win a majority in parliament for her EU deal, which is expected to be put to the vote later in January. In November, she appealed directly to the public in an attempt to put pressure on rebellious backbenchers to fall in line.

The survey result will spur on a minority of MPs who want the UK to leave on World Trade Organization rules.

It comes after the EU refused to hold further meetings to discuss May’s Brexit deal, and as the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, warned no deal would become far more likely if MPs rejected the prime minister’s proposals.

Academics surveyed 1,215 ordinary Conservative party members, together with a representative sample of 1,675 voters.

Prof Tim Bale, who led the research, said the findings showed No 10 could not depend upon constituency associations to persuade Tory MPs to back May’s deal.

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 Theresa May’s new year message: back Brexit deal – video

“The Tory rank and file, it seems, are convinced that no deal is better than May’s deal,” he said. “Tory members’ dislike for the PM’s deal really comes out when we asked about a referendum in which the choice came down to her deal or no deal.

“Only 29% of Tory members would vote for Mrs May’s deal, compared to 64% who would vote to leave without a deal.

“But that’s as nothing to Conservative party members faced with a referendum offering just two choices – remain or no deal. Some 76% of Conservative party members would plump for no deal,” he said.

Bale suggested there were two specific issues behind the opposition to May’s deal, the first being the Irish backstop.

“Tory members have become convinced that the Irish backstop is a bad idea,” he said, with 40% believing it was a reason to reject the deal, and 21% thinking it was irrelevant because May’s deal “is a bad one anyway”.

The second issue is 76% of members being sceptical about warnings that a no-deal Brexit would cause serious disruption, he said.

“Tory members, like Tory voters, are utterly unconvinced, despite their own government’s best recent efforts, that a no-deal Brexit would cause serious disruption.

“Some 72% of voters currently intending to support the Conservatives think the warnings are ‘exaggerated or invented’ – a figure that rises to 76% among Tory members.

“Meanwhile, those members are convinced by a margin of 64% to 19% that leaving without a deal would have a positive rather than a negative effect on Britain’s economy in the medium to long term,” he said.

Nearly half (48%) of Conservative members think May is doing fairly badly or very badly as prime minister, and 44% think she should quit if parliament rejects her deal, he said.

“In short, Mrs May has failed not only to convince the country, and quite probably parliament, that her Brexit deal is a good one, she has also failed to convince the party faithful,” Bale said.

The research showed that a greater proportion of Tory members think the government has made a mess of negotiating Brexit than those who just support the party.

Among voters as a whole, 71% feel that the government has made a mess of negotiating Brexit, according to Bale’s analysis. That figure drops to 56% among those currently intending to vote Conservative.

But the poll of party members found that 68% of Tory members think the government is doing badly at negotiating the country’s exit from the EU – a proportion that rises to 78% of those party members who voted leave in 2016.


Trump School-Safety Panel Targets Obama Policy on Race and Discipline

December 18, 2018

Commission urges end of guideline seeking fairness in student punishments, avoids gun-control issue

Image result for broward county sheriff, cars, photos

A sheriff’s patrol car near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., site of the Feb. 14 massacre that left 17 people dead and led to the creation of the federal commission on school safety.

WASHINGTON—President Trump’s commission on school safety has recommended revoking a federal guideline directing schools not to punish minority students at higher rates, a stricture that some Republicans and other activists feared has led schools to avoid punishing potentially violent students.

The commission, formed after the school shooting Feb. 14 that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla., largely sidesteps making any recommendations to tighten access to firearms, falling far short of what Democrats and most education policy officials say is necessary to reduce the frequency of gun-related violence.

The 177-page report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and will be released publicly Tuesday afternoon, does recommend that individual states or districts consider arming school personnel, either teachers or law-enforcement officials present in school buildings, particularly in rural areas where supplemental help would take longer to arrive.

It urges districts to take steps to “harden” their exteriors, including installing blast-proof glass.

It also calls on states and cities to adopt laws making it easier for courts to temporarily remove guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others, known as extreme risk protection orders, and urges states to ease standards under which courts can force people to submit to psychiatric medications or other treatments.

Mr. Trump formed the commission, chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, after backtracking from a public call to place new age restrictions on firearm purchases—an issue he instead asked the commission to study.

The commission’s report calls for further research into the issue, but is otherwise silent on other gun restrictions.

20 Years of School Shootings

20 Years of School Shootings
Since 1998, there have been more than a dozen shootings at kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools that resulted in multiple deaths. These are some of the victims.

White House officials involved in drafting the report said they focused the report on mental health and physical-safety recommendations because they preferred to focus on policies that stand a chance of being enacted.

“The real issue we hear from parents of victims is that individuals who are a danger to themselves or others have firearms in moments of crisis, and we’ve got a solution to that problem,” one official said.

The report’s release marks the third consecutive administration to publish its own recommendations on school safety; the George W. Bush administration released guidelines after the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting, and the Obama administration made federal policy recommendations, including numerous steps to tighten gun access, after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Max Schachter, second from left, the father of a teenager killed in the Parkland shooting, spoke before the school-safety commission in August.
Max Schachter, second from left, the father of a teenager killed in the Parkland shooting, spoke before the school-safety commission in August. PHOTO: PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

That prompted critics to charge that the current administration was studying many of the same proposals around mental health and school climate to be able to say the government took action, without tackling more contentious questions around guns.

“I would argue that there has been a tremendous amount of work already done, so I don’t know how much of the work could be new,” said Bill Modzeleski, who served as the Education Department’s office of Safe and Healthy students during the Bush and Obama administrations.

The report makes a handful of other federal recommendations. It asks Congress to update the federal education privacy law to account for new technologies and urges the Education Department to write new guidelines clarifying that schools can share students’ disciplinary records in many cases. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to look for ways to increase the number of psychiatric-residency slots for graduating medical students.

Most of the report’s other recommendations fall to state or local agencies to implement. It calls on local agencies to develop ratings systems for violent videogames, which the report posits contribute to a culture of violence, and urges all government communications to omit the names of specific mass shooters to discourage copycat attacks.

“This Commission was not established to provide a single solution to this problem, nor did the Commissioners set out to mandate uniform policy to every community,” the report states. “In fact, it is our considered belief that doing so would prove counterproductive.”

The report’s primary federal recommendation—to rescind the controversial Obama-era racial discipline guidelines—became a cause célèbre for some on the right, after reports emerged showing that school officials were aware that the Parkland gunman had exhibited clearly troubling behavior, including drinking gasoline, cutting himself and owning a gun he intended to use.

The guidelines, published in 2014, had long been the focus of conservative dislike, and Mrs. DeVos had targeted them for elimination even before the Parkland shooting. The policy warned schools to ensure they weren’t suspending or expelling black and Hispanic students at higher rates than their white peers, and suggested models schools could adopt to reduce their reliance on punishment.

The guidelines pointed to programs like the one adopted by the Broward County School District, where Parkland is located, which sought to handle some misdemeanor-type infractions with services such as behavioral support, counseling and mentoring rather than arrests. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) in particular pointed to the program as one potential cause of the shooting, and called on the Trump administration to rescind the Obama policy.

“Most out-of-school suspensions come from minor, nonviolent offenses,” said Kristen Harper, who led school discipline initiatives in the Obama Education Department. “So addressing those have nothing to do with addressing school safety.”

The new report recommends that the Education Department replace the policy with its own, and one administration official said it is likely that a replacement set of guidelines would keep many of the Obama recommendations but eliminate the language on racial disparities.

Write to Michelle Hackman at

Theresa May no-confidence vote — Says I’ll contest the confidence vote “with everything I’ve got.”

December 12, 2018

Theresa May’s Conservative rebels are challenging her leadership, but not in Parliament. The embattled British prime minister responded by saying she’d contest the confidence vote “with everything I’ve got.”

Theresa May (picture alliance/empics)

A no-confidence vote in the leadership British Prime Minister Theresa May has been triggered after the threshold of 15 percent of Conservative parliamentarians seeking the vote was crossed, said the MP responsible for internal challenges, Graham Brady, on Wednesday.

Brady said the vote by Conservative lawmakers would take place between 18:00 and 20:00 UTC on Wednesday evening.

Press Association


Enough Tory MPs have requested a vote of confidence in Theresa May to trigger a contest, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady announces

Press Association


Vote on Theresa May’s leadership will take place on Wednesday evening with result announced shortly after.

Read full press release from 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady

View image on Twitter

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The result would be announced as soon as possible after the vote, he said.

Theresa May later said she planned to contest the vote “with everything I’ve got.”

The vote was triggered after at least 48 lawmakers submitted letters to his committee asking for it, according to Brady, who said that threshold was already crossed on Tuesday.

Read more: UK leadership challenge: How does it work?

Brexit deal discontent

The move comes as May faces widespread discontent in Parliament over a deal she negotiated over Britain’s planned exit from the European Union on March 29.

On Tuesday, May postponed a parliamentary vote on the deal after it became apparent that it was extremely unlikely to be approved by MPs.

Former British minister Owen Paterson, one of those to submit a letter of no confidence to trigger the vote, described the deal in his letter as “so bad that it cannot be considered anything other than a betrayal of clear manifesto promises.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Owen Paterson MP


My letter to Sir Graham Brady

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Other leading Conservative lawmakers have come out in defense of May.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said a leadership contest was “the last thing the country needs” and that May was “the best person to make sure we actually leave the EU on March 29.” Home Secretary Sajid Javid echoed that view, saying that a leadership election would “be seen as self-indulgent and wrong” and that May had his “full support.”

Several others also issued Twitter statements of support.

Amber Rudd MP


The PM has my full support. At this critical time we need to support and work with the PM to deliver on leaving the EU, & our domestic agenda – ambitious for improvements to people’s lives & to build on growth of wages & jobs.

658 people are talking about this

Brandon Lewis


I fully back our Prime Minister. We have the right Leader of our Party, we have a duty to deliver for our country & I hope all my colleagues will join me & support @theresa_may to deliver for UK.

509 people are talking about this

Anna Soubry MP


.@ OwenPaterson there’s no technology to avoid & new leader wldnt change reality of need for a back stop. Removing @theresa_may at this most critical of times is grossly irresponsible. You & ERG should be ashamed of yourselves. You’re an embarrassment @BBCr4today

667 people are talking about this

‘Ready to fight’

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, May said that any leadership change could give control of Brexit negotiations to the opposition Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn, potentially delaying or halting the Brexit process.

“I stand ready to finish the job,” she said in a speech that repeatedly alluded to her first as prime minister in 2016.

Challenge procedures

All 315 Conservative parliamentarians can cast a ballot in the leadership vote, with May needing 158 votes to win.

If she does, party rules say there cannot be another challenge for a year. If she loses, she will have to resign and is barred from running in the ensuing leadership contest. Her successor as Conservative leader would automatically become prime minister without the need for a national election, albeit potentially inheriting a minority government.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has faced pressure from within his party, and especially from other opposition groups like the Greens and the Scottish National Party, to call a confidence vote against May’s government in parliament where all MPs could vote. Thus far, he has resisted.

tj/msh (Reuters, dpa)

Theresa May Lost Control of Brexit Decisions

December 5, 2018

It was a dramatic day in Parliament — and the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal isn’t until next week. The prime minister lost three votes in the House of Commons, one a historic defeat declaring the government in contempt of Parliament. The defeat forces May, against her will, to release the full legal advice underpinning her Brexit deal.

Yet that landmark vote was just the warm-up act. The second key defeat, on a motion proposed by veteran Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve, was even more important. It could materially shape the final Brexit settlement in the weeks ahead, with a path now open for amendments that could take Brexit in quite a different direction.

Image result for House of Commons, Theresa may, December 4, 2018, photos

When the lower house ended its session in the early hours of this morning, most of Britain was fast asleep. It woke up today to some brutal newspaper front pages.

Allie Hodgkins-Brown


Wednesday’s Daily TELEGRAPH: “The day May lost control”

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Parliament now has the potential to decide on Britain’s “plan B” if, as expected, it rejects May’s divorce agreement with the European Union in the biggest vote of all next week.

“No longer must the will of Parliament — reflecting the will of the people — be diminished,” Grieve said afterwards. “Parliament must now take back control and then give the final decision back to the public because, in the end, only the people can sort this out.”

Every possible outcome — May’s deal, an amended deal, no deal, a general election or a second referendum — seems equally unlikely. But as professional Brexit-watcher Anand Menon pointed out recently, even the most implausible of them may happen.

Today’s Must-Reads

  • Want to understand exactly what happened on Tuesday? Rob Hutton has the lowdown on how Parliament is flexing its muscles.
  • May’s plan raises the prospect of a U.K.-EU customs union, perhaps indefinitely. Ian Wishart has more on what that means.
  • Brexit is sending Britons to the drugstore for antidepressants, writes Mark Buchanan, noting that political chaos has consequences for public health.

Brexit in Brief

Carney Hits Back | Bank of England Governor Mark Carney launched a vigorous defense against what he called “unfair” criticism of the central bank’s Brexit analysis, which said a disorderly departure from the EU could devastate the economy. Among the critics: his predecessor as governor. Carney told the Treasury Committee, which asked for the report, that the work was the result of two years’ effort, involving about 170 staff.

We’re Not Afraid | Some of the biggest money managers aren’t spooked by the prospect of the Brexit deal being voted down. “The best route to agreement is by raising the probability of no deal,” said James Athey of Aberdeen Standard, which oversees $736 billion and has bought the pound against the euro.

Science Investment | Biotech company UCB SA plans to invest about £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in the U.K. over five years as part of a government strategy to spur the life-sciences industry. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG will invest a further £30 million, mostly in a precision cancer research partnership, the government said on Wednesday.

Odds Rising? | The U.K. is more likely to stay than leave on March 29, according to Smarkets, an online bookmaker. This is the first time since July that bettors have tipped their wagers that way.

New Regrets | More people than ever think that Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU, a YouGov poll for The Times reveals. It found that 49 percent thought Britain was wrong to vote to depart, the highest figure to date, while 38 percent said Britain was right to choose to leave. This 11-point gap is the largest YouGov has had in this direction.

On the Markets | The pound suffered as tension mounted at Westminster, hitting $1.2659 at one point on Tuesday, its weakest since June 2017. It was at $1.2694 in early trading on Wednesday.

Coming Up | Chancellor Philip Hammond gives evidence to the Treasury Select committee. Brexit debate continues in the House of Commons, with security the day’s theme.

Searching for Brexit | The relentless news cycle might feel somewhat interminable, but we know you’re interested. Online searches for “Brexit” have hit a level not seen since the aftermath of the 2016 referendum, according to Google data. It keeps us busy, so thank you for reading.

Want to keep up with Brexit?

You can follow us @Brexit on Twitter and join our Facebook group, Brexit DecodedFor all the latest news, visit Got feedback? Send us an email.

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Colleagues, friends and family can sign up here, and our new newsletter, the Brussels Edition, offers in-depth coverage of the EU.


Theresa May suffers three Brexit defeats in Commons

December 5, 2018

Theresa May has suffered three Brexit defeats in the Commons as she set out to sell her EU deal to sceptical MPs.

Ministers have agreed to publish the government’s full legal advice on the deal after MPs found them in contempt of Parliament for issuing a summary.

And MPs backed calls for the Commons to have a direct say in what happens if the PM’s deal is rejected next Tuesday.

Mrs May said MPs had a duty to deliver on the 2016 Brexit vote and the deal on offer was an “honourable compromise”.

She was addressing the Commons at the start of a five-day debate on her proposed agreement on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal and future relations with the EU.

The agreement has been endorsed by EU leaders but must also be backed by the UK Parliament if it is to come into force. MPs will decide whether to reject or accept it on Tuesday 11 December.

Mrs May said Brexit divisions had become “corrosive” to UK politics and the public believed the issue had “gone on long enough” and must be resolved.

BBC News

In other Brexit-related developments:

Analysis: A terrible day for May but…

Colleagues congratulate Theresa May on her Commons speech

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg. PA photo

The prime minister has had a terrible day today as the government made history in two excruciating ways.

Ministers were found to be in contempt of Parliament – a very serious telling off – and the government had a hat trick of defeats – the first time since the 1970s that’s happened.

As you’d expect too, MP after MP after MP rose after Theresa May’s remarks to slam her deal as Tory divisions were played out on the green benches, with harsh words exchanged.

But in this topsy-turvy world, the overall outcome of the day for Mrs May’s big test a week tonight might have been not all bad…

What was the legal advice row?

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox
The attorney general said his full advice to ministers should remain confidential

By 311 votes to 293, the Commons supported a motion demanding full disclosure of the legal advice given to cabinet before the Brexit deal was agreed.

The move was backed by six opposition parties, including Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party which has a parliamentary pact with the Conservatives.

It came after Attorney General Geoffrey Cox published a summary of the advice on Monday and answered MPs questions for three hours – but argued that full publication would not be in the national interest.

Labour had accused ministers of “wilfully refusing to comply” with a binding Commons vote last month demanding they provided the attorney general’s full and final advice.

After Labour demanded the advice should be released ahead of next Tuesday’s key vote on Mrs May’s deal, Commons Speaker John Bercow said it was “unimaginable” this would not happen.

In response, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said she would “respond” on Wednesday, but would ask the Commons Privileges Committee to consider the constitutional repercussions.

BBC political correspondent Leila Nathoo explains how things unfolded

An attempt by ministers to refer the whole issue, including the government’s conduct, to the committee of MPs was earlier defeated by four votes.

The privileges committee will now decide which ministers should be held accountable and what sanction to apply, with options ranging from a reprimand to the more unlikely scenario of a minister being suspended from the Commons.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said the result left the government “on the ropes”, adding: “Theresa May’s majority has evaporated, and the credibility of her deal is evaporating with it.”

MPs seek to influence Brexit process

The prime minister suffered a further setback on Tuesday as MPs backed, by 321 votes to 299, changes to the parliamentary process should the Commons vote down her deal next week.

If that happens, the government has 21 days in which to return to the House and set out what it plans to do next.

But Tory Dominic Grieve’s motion means that instead of MPs being confined to merely taking note of what the government tells them, the Commons would be able to exert more influence by voting on what they wanted the government to do as well.

Tuesday’s vote, in which 26 Tory MPs rebelled, could potentially tilt the balance of power between government and Parliament if, as expected, MPs push for a “Plan B” alternative to Mrs May’s deal and also seek to prevent any chance of a no-deal exit.

Mr Grieve, who has expressed support for another Brexit referendum, told Channel 4 News he was not seeking to “guarantee a particular outcome” if Mrs May’s deal went down.

But he said it would “allow the UK time to consider its options”, including potentially re-starting negotiations with the EU or giving the public the final say.

What did the PM say?

Theresa May: “Worth taking a moment to reflect on how we got here.”

As she sought the backing of the Commons for her Brexit deal, the prime minister said she was confident the UK would enjoy a “better future” outside the European Union.

She said the “honourable compromise” on offer was “not the one-way street” many had portrayed it to be and that the EU had made it clear that the agreement would not be improved on.

“I never said this deal was perfect, it was never going to be. That is the nature of a negotiation,” she said.

“We should not let the search for a perfect Brexit prevent a good Brexit… I promise you today that this is the very best deal for the British people and I ask you to back it in the best interest of our constituents and our country.”

And what about her critics?

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was a bad deal for the UK and Labour would seek a vote of no confidence in Mrs May if she could not get it through Parliament.

“This House will make its decision next Tuesday,” he said. “I hope and expect this House will reject that deal.

“At that point, the government has lost the confidence of the House. Either they have to get a better deal from the EU or give way to those who will.”

Not everyone agreed with Boris Johnson’s analysis of the Brexit deal…

Nigel Dodds, the leader of the DUP in Westminster, said the agreement “falls short” of delivering Brexit “as one United Kingdom” and would mean entering “a twilight world where the EU is given unprecedented powers over the UK”.

“We would have to rely on the goodwill of others to ever leave this arrangement,” he said.

“So… the UK’s future as a strong and independent global trading nation standing together is in real and imminent jeopardy – an outcome that doesn’t honour the referendum or take back control of our laws, our money and our borders.”

Ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson dismissed the deal as a “paint and plaster pseudo-Brexit” and said its supporters would be “turning their backs” on the 17.4 million Leave voters.

“If we try to cheat them now, as I fear we are, they will spot it and will never forgive us,” he said.

‘Moment of self-harm’

The leader of the SNP in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said beneath the “theatre” of the past few months was the “cold, hard truth” that this deal was “a moment of self-harm in our history”.

He said it was “difficult” and “a real sorrow” to even respond to a motion that could see the UK leave the EU – an institution that he called the “greatest peace project in our lifetime”.

“It is not too late to turn back. Fundamentally, there is no option that is going to be better for our economy, jobs, and for our communities than staying in the European Union.

“And it is the height of irresponsibility of any government to bring forward a proposition that is going to make its people poorer.”

However, in closing the debate shortly after 01:00 GMT on Wednesday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay argued the deal would bring “real changes which will improve the livelihoods of people up and down the country”.

“This deal is a choice between the certainty of continued co-operation or the potentially damaging fracture of no deal, or indeed the instability of a second referendum vote,” he said.

“Rejecting this deal would create even more uncertainty at a time when we owe it to our constituents to show clarity and conviction.”

Includes videos:

In a week of domestic terrorism, a commander in chief mostly missing in action

October 27, 2018

As President Trump on Friday celebrated the FBI’s arrest of a suspect in a spate of attempted mail bombings, he read from a teleprompter to promise “swift justice,” denounce “despicable” political violence and call for national unity.

Yet just two hours earlier — and less than an hour before the arrest — the president had tweeted his frustration that the media’s coverage of “this ‘Bomb’ stuff,” instead of politics, was hurting Republicans’ momentum headed into the Nov. 6 midterm election. By his quotation marks, he even seemed to subscribe to some conservatives’ “false flag” conspiracy theories that the threats were a liberal hoax.

By By   and 

The Los Angeles Times

Even after the arrest, Trump turned from his scripted statement at the White House to address supporters there, reverting to his usual attacks on “fake polls,” the media and “globalists.” That last mention prompted chants against George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who was a target of a pipe bomb, and “Lock him up!,” which a smiling Trump indulged.

It was yet another moment of mixed messages and missed opportunities for leadership from a president who, in times of national crisis, has repeatedly delivered the expected “presidential” performance only briefly and from a script, before returning to his familiar political attacks. In this case, moreover, the attacks were the very sort that had critics charging that his provocative rhetoric — including the harsh jibes at Soros, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others — were what goaded the would-be bomber to target them.

“You want and expect presidential leadership in times like these to be strong, empathetic and consistent. And it’s really the consistency bit where President Trump falls short,” said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist who was a spokesman for former House Speaker John A. Boehner.

“He’ll make the teleprompter speech, say the right thing, and then there’s a 3 a.m. tweet or an aside that goes right back to viewing these events through a partisan or self-centered lens,” Steel added. “It undercuts his sincerity.”

The White House declined to comment on this line of criticism. Aides also refused to say whether Trump had been briefed on the arrest before or after his 10:19 a.m. tweet in which he suggested doubts about the attempted bombs. The suspect, 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc Jr., was arrested at his white van, which was plastered with tributes to Trump and hate messages against Democrats and CNN, which was the intended recipient of at least two pipe-bomb devices.

“Whatever he does, there are followers who model their behavior on his,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative author who has broken with his party over Trump. “In a country of 350 million people, there are going to be more than a few unbalanced individuals who will take him both literally and seriously.”

Yet, Sykes said, “The president will read the right statement and then he immediately reverts to form.”

Trump’s inability to sustain a unifying message in the midst of national trauma — in this case potential assassinations of two former presidents, former Cabinet officials and several members of Congress — sets him apart from all predecessors, according to Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University.

“All our presidents are very political and partisan, but there is this check where in these moments, they have to be unifying,” he said. “It’s low-hanging fruit for a president to respond in a consistent, somber way to something like this. Trump can do it a little bit but it’s almost as if the temptation is too strong to go back to his campaign rhetoric.”

An early, memorable example of what’s become Trump’s familiar behavior pattern was his response to the violence incited in August 2017 by white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va. He vacillated between words of unity and then statements condemning both the racists and the mostly peaceful counter-protesters equally.

On Wednesday, after authorities intercepted suspected bombs mailed to Hillary Clinton, former President Obama, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, Trump made his first remarks to the country from the White House, reading from a teleprompter to decry violence and disunity.

But he stepped on that message almost as soon as he stepped off Air Force One that evening in Wisconsin for a political rally. There, he joked repeatedly that he was behaving and “being nice” by eschewing some of his usual attack lines, against Clinton and Waters, for example.

It was the closest thing to an acknowledgement that his incendiary rhetoric might contribute to the charged political climate. Yet he attacked the media, as usual, for “fake news” that caused the anger.

The next morning, Trump made that point with a tweet:

“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

Trump did not call any of the Democrats who were the intended targets, as past presidents likely would have.

Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff and Cabinet official in Democratic administrations, said presidents typically have had a “sense of their obligation as president to try to comfort people that are being threatened,” regardless of party.

“Everything for him is placed in a political context that he interprets as not requiring the president to kind of play the role of leader of the country,” Panetta said. “He’s in the middle of an election campaign. He’s been doing all of these rallies. I think in many ways there was a sense that whether or not this threat was real or not, that this was just kind of the political volatility that we’re all a part of.”

Trump did use his phone to tweet — about 50 times since the news broke on Monday afternoon of the first suspected bomb at Soros’ New York estate. Six were against the so-called caravan of refugees from Central America walking toward the U.S. border, which Trump has tried to make an anti-immigration campaign issue. Four related to the bomb scare, though just one — a retweet of a post by Vice President Mike Pence — expressed concern for the intended targets while the others criticized the media.

Most memorably, on Friday morning as the FBI closed in on Sayoc, Trump tweeted his complaint against the media for reporting on “this ‘Bomb’ stuff” to the detriment of Republicans. He also tweeted his complaints that Twitter had removed followers from his account, about the cost of illegal immigration and, pre-dawn, against CNN.

“There are certain baseline things that a president should do to unify the country, to step away from partisan politics for at least a few days, to reach out to his political opponents, and he’s done none of these things,” Sykes said.

Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, said Trump is “driven by political approval.”

Fleischer said he would have preferred that Trump display a more traditional style but believes “a sufficient number of Americans shrug their shoulders and say, ‘That’s Trump.’”

As he left the White House on Friday evening for another rally, Trump spoke briefly with reporters and was asked whether the terrorism scare would cause him to further temper his political remarks.

“I think I’ve been toned down, if you want to know the truth,” he said.

He went back to casting blame elsewhere. “The media has been unbelievably unfair to Republicans, conservatives and certainly to me,” he said, and walked away. At the rally in Charlotte, N.C., he repeated the message, to cheers and chants from supporters.

There, after restraining himself at an earlier rally this week amid the attention to the pipe bombs, the president was back to slamming both “Crooked Hillary” — encouraging the usual “Lock her up!” chants — and Waters, though he omitted his usual nickname for her, “Low IQ Maxine.”

“I won’t say it,” Trump told the crowd. Pointing toward reporters, he added, “I want them to say I was so nice tonight.”

Trump Wonders If Facebook Fake News Filters Will Be The End of CNN

October 22, 2018

President Donald Trump took a jab at frequent rival CNN in a Sunday evening tweet questioning whether Facebook news quality filters will put the organization out of business.

Donald J. Trump


Facebook has just stated that they are setting up a system to “purge” themselves of Fake News. Does that mean CNN will finally be put out of business?

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Trump’s tweet appears to have been sparked by a Fox News segment which aired Sunday morning highlighting the Facebook’s efforts to quell false political news heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

Facebook revealed to The New York Times that it has a team of nearly 20 people whose tasks will include monitoring and deleting potentially false political information posted to appear as news.

Facebook has received significant criticism for its handling of the 2016 presidential election in which Russian intelligence agents utilized its platform to post hyper-partisan content beneficial to both parties aimed at widening political divides in the U.S.

Facebook Confirms Surveillance By Corporation Is The Future

October 22, 2018

Facebook on Wednesday briefed journalists on its latest attempt to stop fake news during the election season, offering an exclusive tour of a windowless conference room at its California headquarters, packed with millennials monitoring Facebook user behavior trends around the clock, said The Verge.

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This is Facebook’s first ever “war room,” designed to bring leaders from 20 teams, representing 20,000 global employees working on safety and security, in one room to lead a crusade against conservatives misinformation on the platform as political campaigning shifts into hyperdrive in the final weeks leading up to November’s US midterm elections. The team includes threat intelligence, data science engineering, research, legal, operations, policy, communications, and representatives from Facebook and Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Instagram.

“We know when it comes to an election, every moment counts,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, head of civic engagement at Facebook, who oversees operations in the war room.

“So if there are late-breaking issues we see on the platform, we need to be able to detect and respond to them in real time, as quickly as possible.” 

This public demonstration of Facebook’s internal efforts comes after a series of security breaches and user hacks, dating back to the 2016 presidential elections. Since the announcement of the Cambridge Analytics privacy scandal in March, Facebook shares have plunged -14.5% It seems the war room is nothing more than a public relations stunt, which the company is desperately trying to regain control of the narrative and avoid more negative headlines.

The war room is staffed with millennials from 4 am until midnight, and starting on Oct. 22, social media workers will be monitoring trends 24/7 leading up to the elections. Leaders from 20 teams will be present in the room. Workers will use machine learning and artificial intelligence programs to monitor the platform for trends, hate speech, sophisticated trolls, fake news, and of course, Russian, Chinese, and Iranian interference.

TicToc by Bloomberg


Facebook needed to fight misinformation and malicious activity — so it started this election war room

Nathan Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity, told CNBC the company wants fair elections, and that “debate around the election be authentic. … The biggest concern is any type of effort to manipulate that.” 

In the first round of presidential elections in Brazil, Facebook’s war room identified an effort to suppress voter turnout:

“Content that was telling people that due to protest, that the election would be delayed a day,” said Chakrabarti. “This was not true, completely false. So we were able to detect that using AI and machine learning. The war room was alerted to it. Our data scientist looked into what was behind it and then they passed it to our engineers and operations specialist to be able to remove this at scale from our platform before it could go viral.”

The war room has been focused on the US and Brazilian elections because it says misinformation in elections is a global problem that never ends. Gleicher warns that Facebook is observing an increased effort to manipulate the public debate ahead of US midterms.

FOX Business


Facebook creates ‘war room’ to combat fake news ahead of US midterms 

“Part of the reason we have this war room up and running, is so that as these threats develop, not only do we respond to them quickly, but we continue to speed up our response, and make our response more effective and efficient.” Gleicher adds that it is not just foreign interference but also domestic “bad actors” who are hiding their identity, using fake accounts to spread misinformation.

“This is always going to be an arms race, so the adversaries that we’re facing who seek to meddle in elections, they are sophisticated and well-funded,” said Chakrabarti.

“That is the reason we’ve made huge investments both in people and technology to stay ahead and secure our platforms.”

Big Brother is watching you: surveillance by corporations is the new America.

Facebook Subject To Attacks By Russian Facial Recognition Firms?

October 13, 2018

On the same day Facebook announced that it had carried out its biggest purge yet of American accounts peddling disinformation, the company quietly made another revelation: It had removed 66 accounts, pages and apps linked to Russian firms that build facial recognition software for the Russian government.

Facebook said Thursday that it had removed any accounts associated with SocialDataHub and its sister firm, Fubutech, because the companies violated its policies by scraping data from the social network.

“Facebook has reason to believe your work for the government has included matching photos from individuals’ personal social media accounts in order to identify them,” the company said in a cease-and-desist letter to SocialDataHub that was dated Tuesday and viewed by The New York Times.

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Facebook gave the companies until Friday to detail what data they had taken and then delete it all.

The case illustrates a new reality for Facebook. SocialDataHub and Fubutech have been around for at least four years, relying in part on Facebook data to build products that might alarm some civil-liberty advocates.

By Jack Nicas
The New York Times

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Facebook removed accounts associated with SocialDataHub and its sister firm, Fubutech. Their chief executive, Artur Khachuyan, said his companies had complied with Facebook’s policies.

As Facebook is taking a closer look at its own products amid increasing scrutiny and public outcry, it is finding more examples of companies that have been exploiting its global social network for questionable ends.

SocialDataHub and Fubutech also present another challenge because, Facebook said, at least some of their data collection occurred through web scraping.

Scraping is a rudimentary technique in which computer programmers can pull information off a website. It is difficult to detect and prevent, Facebook said. Scraping can pull any data that’s left public on a Facebook profile — and, theoretically, more private data about the user’s Facebook friends.

Artur Khachuyan, the 26-year-old chief executive of SocialDataHub and Fubutech, said in an interview Friday that Facebook had deleted his companies’ accounts unfairly.

Fubutech does build facial-recognition software for the Russian government and uses Facebook data, but it scrapes Google search results for that information — not Facebook, he said. And SocialDataHub’s main product — a system that assigns scores to Russian citizens based on their social-media profiles for insurers and banks — required permission from the users it rates, he said.

Facebook Purges Over 800 Accounts With Millions Of Followers; Prominent Conservatives Vanish

October 12, 2018

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Just in time for midterms, Facebook has removed 559 pages and 251 accounts they claim have been spreading misinformation and spam. Several of the pages however – some with millions of followers, were pro-Trump conservatives who had spent years cultivating their followings.

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Dan Dicks@DanDicksPFT

I’ve been memory holed from FaceBook! 350k followers poof gone! There is a dangerous precedent being set here where the big tech companies have appointed themselves as the gate keepers of political thought and opinion! Retweet this if you care about free-speech!

Facebook claims that “domestic actors” have been creating “fake pages and accounts to attract people with shocking political news,” reports Bloomberg.

“The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites,” Facebook said in a Thursday blog post. “And they often use their fake accounts to generate fake likes and shares. This artificially inflates engagement for their inauthentic pages and the posts they share, misleading people about their popularity and improving their ranking in news feed.”

Some pages Facebook removed had large followings of real and fake accounts. Nation in Distress, a conservative meme page, was followed by more than 3 million people, according to the Internet Archive, which stores historical versions of websites and other online content. –Bloomberg

Craig Silverman


Facebook has removed “559 Pages and 251 accounts” in the US “that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.” They include:

-Nation in Distress
-Reasonable People Unite
-The Resistance
-Reverb Press
-Right Wing News

That said, not all of the accounts with large followings were conservative; Reverb Press, for example, had over 700,000 followers and constantly attacked President Trump and Republicans, who they referred to as “cheating scumbags.”

A third left-leaning page, Reasonable People Unite, posted a screen shot of a Twitter user who said, “Somewhere in America, a teenage girl is listening to her parents defend Brett Kavanaugh and she is thinking to herself, if something like that happens to me, I have nowhere to go.” –WaPo

The digital nanny state strikes again…

Jason Bermas@JasonBermas

First they came for Alex Jones and now @facebook has taken down @DanDicksPFT Press For Truth page! This is insanity, Dan has been one of the most inspirational and rational independent journalists of our era! @DewsNewz @PrisonPlanet @LeighStewy @PressForTruth

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The social media mob is a danger to society | Opinion

By Daniella Greenbaum, For the Washington Post

As an opinion columnist for Business Insider until my resignation Thursday, I had grown accustomed to strong reactions from readers when I wrote about Hamas (I’m not a fan) or the problems with accusations of cultural appropriation. But I didn’t see this one coming. Commenting on recent criticism of actress Scarlett Johansson for taking a movie role that called on her to portray a transgender man, I made the commonsensical and, I admit, not particularly original observation, that actors specialize in make-believe and ought to be allowed to take any jobs they like.

The brief online post stirred immediate fury — among some of my Business Insider colleagues. As has been reported elsewhere, several people within the organization complained to the editor, who responded by scrubbing the ScarJo post from the site and instituting a new policy of requiring “culturally sensitive” work to be reviewed by an executive editor or an editor in chief before it can be published. As the Daily Beast reported, he also suggested that writers and editors talk with a group of employees who would volunteer to be sounding boards on issues of cultural sensitivity.

Given that in these thin-skinned days just about any subject can be called “culturally sensitive,” and given that a committee would basically ensure that my column became a safe space, I had no alternative but to resign. And so I’ve had the disorienting experience of becoming one small data point in what is a disturbingly large set.

Columnists on the right and the left have known for years about the ferocious blowback that awaits the expression of unpopular ideas. But now the definition of “unpopular” has expanded so widely that reasonable views that might have seemed mainstream just a few years ago can be deemed unacceptable by self-appointed censors. Even publications that pride themselves on holding open-minded values are watching their backs.

We are slowly normalizing the policing of speech and opinion. Sometimes overtly, and sometimes through the intimidation that stops people from saying or writing or publishing what they believe because they know that the social media mob is lying in wait.

These hordes might come from the left or the right. Or from Russian bot farms. The thing to remember is that they are not the majority, not even close. They’re just louder. And they’re here to stay. The only responsible reaction must come from their would-be targets, refusing to allow the definition of what is acceptable thought to be wielded like a cudgel. Some opinion is beyond that pale and deserves to be shunned (not obliterated), but allowing the lines to be redrawn at will by those who have no interest in free speech will ultimately be poisonous for democracy.

The problem is not confined to the college campus, where conservative speakers are being shouted down or disinvited. It’s not confined to the media, where publications and television stations and their audiences seem increasingly comfortable in liberal or conservative silos where conflicting outlooks and even conflicting information are unwelcome. It’s beginning to permeate every area where we use language — every area of life.

The only way to fight it is head on. Defend the idea that more speech is always better. The best way to put bad arguments to bed is to air them out and highlight their weaknesses. Want to eliminate “unsafe” thoughts? Turn them loose in the marketplace of ideas and debate them — don’t try to silence them.

As the definition of what constitutes offensive speech grows ever wider, more and more people who are certain that their views fall somewhere in the mainstream will find themselves backed into corners. Ultimately, even the wokest of the warriors will realize that when it comes to outrunning the predatory mob they’ve created, no space is safe.