Apple: We Can’t Give Your iPhone Data to the Government

Apple Unveils iPhone 6

Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off the new iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California. | Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Bravo, Apple…

Time Magazine

“We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers.”

In an open letter posted on Apple’s website, CEO Tim Cook stressed the company’s efforts to keep consumers’ information private and sought to distinguish Apple from how its competitors use personal data.

“A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product,” Cook wrote, referring to how major websites, such as Google and Facebook, use personal information and personal activity online to tailor advertisements to their users. “But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.”

The statement is particularly pertinent after the Sept. 8 announcement of a smartwatch and new apps on the upcoming iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that represent Apple’s most significant foray into health tracking and mobile payments.

“Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers.”

Apple does have a service that tailors ads based on some of what Apple knows about users, but Cook wrote that the service doesn’t pull data from products like Apple’s health apps or the Mail app.

Cook also addressed allegations that the U.S. government has collaborated with major Internet firms to gather data on users, saying Apple has not allowed access to its servers and has “never worked with any government agency from any country” to allow exclusive access to personal information retained by Apple.

Apple also said that iOS 8, the newest iPhone operating system, would automatically encrypt data stored on iPhones and protected by your passcode, making it impossible for even Apple to share that information with the government or law enforcement. That encryption rule, however, doesn’t apply to data stored on Apple’s iCloud storage service.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” said Apple. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

10 things you need to know today: September 18, 2014

Got to give them credit for brevity. 

Got to give them credit for brevity. (AP Photo/David Cheskin)

The Week

The House approves arming Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, voting starts in Scotland’s independence referendum, and more

1. House backs Obama’s proposal to arm rebels to fight ISIS
The House on Wednesday voted in favor of authorizing President Obama’s plan to arm and train Syrian rebels under an expanded effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Some lawmakers expressed reservations, but a bipartisan, 273-156 majority backed the plan. Supporters said ISIS poses too great a threat to ignore. Most Democrats backed Obama but said they would not support sending combat troops, something Obama has vowed to avoid. Obama praised the House and urged the Senate to pass the bill. [USA Today]


2. Scotland independence voting begins
Voters in Scotland headed to the polls on Thursday to vote in a referendum to determine whether todeclare independence from the United Kingdom. Both sides campaigned furiously on Wednesday in a last ditch attempt to tip the historic ballot. Five late surveys put those favoring independence behind those looking to stay in the 307-year union, 48 percent to 52 percent, but 600,000 voters remained undecided, enough to turn the vote in a country of 5.3 million. [Reuters]


3. Australian police thwart an alleged ISIS plot to stage random public beheadings
More than 800 Australian police staged two dozen synchronized pre-dawn raids on Thursday to foil an alleged plot by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporters to terrorize the public bybeheading random victims and posting videos of the murders online. “This is not just a suspicion, this is intent,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Fifteen people were detained in the raids, which targeted 15 homes and 10 cars in Sydney and Brisbane, and came two days after Australia raised its terrorism threat level to “high” for the first time. [The Associated Press]


4. Odile’s rains threaten the Southwest with flooding
Tropical Storm Odile drenched the U.S. Southwest with torrential rains on Wednesday, two days after slamming into Mexico’s Pacific coast as a then-powerful hurricane. Odile dumped more than three inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of Arizona. The downpour was expected to cause major floods in the desert of the Southwest. Authorities in Tucson made 300,000 sandbags to help people prepare for up to five inches of rain. Southern Nevada and northern New Mexico could also see flooding. [NBC News]


5. Biden stokes 2016 talk by visiting Iowa just after Hillary Clinton
Vice President Joe Biden made a visit to the early primary-season prize of Iowa on Wednesday, just days after Hillary Clinton traveled to the state hinting at a possible 2016 White House bid. The official reason for Biden’s trip was a kickoff for a “We the people, We the Voters” tour by the Nuns on the Bus, a Catholic activist group. But, like Clinton’s attendance at retiring Demoractic Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual “Steak Fry” fundraiser, Biden’s visit stoked fresh speculation about his 2016 plans. [Fox News]


6. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford beginning treatment for rare cancer
A biopsy has confirmed a cancer diagnosis for scandal-plagued Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Ford’s renowned colorectal surgeon, Dr. Zane Cohen, said Wednesday that Ford would begin chemotherapy in an aggressive effort to treat his rare malignant liposarcoma, which appeared to have developed untreated for two or three years. Cohen said he was “optimistic” about the treatment, and that the next step would depend on how Ford, who ended his reelection campaign on Friday, responds to treatment. [The Toronto Star]


7. Texas woman executed for the 2004 killing of girlfriend’s son
After the Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal, Texas on Wednesday executed Lisa Coleman, 38, for starving and torturing her girlfriend’s 9-year-old son to death in 2004. The boy weighed 36 pounds when he died — half the weight of a typical child his age. He had bruises and cigarette burns all over his body. Coleman was the second women put to death by lethal injection in Texas this year, and the 15th in the nation since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. [The Christian Science Monitor]


8. Mourners honor slain state trooper as police hunt suspected killer
Hundreds of police officers and civilians gathered in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday for the funeral of Cpl. Bryon Dickson, a state trooper who was shot and killed outside his barracks by a sniper. Another trooper was critically wounded. The barracks in Blooming Grove are surrounded by state game land in the Pocono Mountains. Police are searching for a suspect, Eric Matthew Frein, whom authorities described as an anti-government survivalist. [The Toronto Star]


9. Fed sticks to plan for slowly ending stimulus despite recovery signs
Federal Reserve policy makers concluded a meeting Wednesday saying they would continue with their plan to slowly end their easy-lending stimulus program and raise interest rates, rejecting calls to speed things up due to signs of a strengthening economic recovery. “There are still too many people who want jobs but cannot find them,” Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said. The Fed said, as expected, that it will end its most recent bond-buying campaign after purchasing $15 billion in mortgage-backed securities in October. [The New York Times]


10. Seminoles’ Jameis Winston to be briefly benched over offensive remark
Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher benched superstar quarterback Jameis Winston on Wednesday for yelling a lewd remark in public. The Heisman Trophy winner, still the focus of a Florida State investigation into an alleged 2012 rape, apologized for what he called a “selfish act.” Winston will have to sit out the first half of the No. 1-ranked Seminoles’ Saturday game against No. 24 Clemson. [Orlando Sentinel]


Voter ID laws just decided an election in Mississippi


America Blog

In a special election runoff last Tuesday, Glenn Bolin and Stephanie Bounds both received exactly 177 votes to become the next alderman for Poplarville, Mississippi.

However, while 354 ballots were cast, 355 people showed up to vote. One person showed up without a valid photo ID and was forced to vote by affidavit. They didn’t return to the registrar’s office with the required ID, so the two candidates drew straws to determine the winner. Bolin won.

We can’t be sure who would have won had all of the votes been counted, because no one knows who the 355th voter is or who they supported. In fact, the town drew straws two days after the election instead of thestate-mandated five business days (which would have been yesterday) because no one expected them to show up. As Bolin noted after the initial balloting, “My thinking is that person is not going to come in, because they don’t want all the attention of being the one vote.”

So, the fact that the election came down to straws was very much due to the rejection and subsequent social intimidation of this anonymous voter who was not, by any stretch of the imagination, attempting to impersonate someone else at the polls.

vote fraud

For those of you keeping score at home, when it comes to changing the outcome of elections in the modern era, that’s voter ID laws: 1; voter  impersonation: 0.

I shouldn’t have to restate here, but I will, how mind-numbingly backwards, racist and misdirected voter photo ID laws are. I also shouldn’t have to restate how many better ways there are to reform and improve upon our antiquated election system. This is an embarrassment for Mississippi, and really for any state that has attempted to restrict voting access via ID requirements in the last decade.

I was curious to see what Mississippi State Senator Joey Fillingane (R – Sumrall) and Delegate Bill Denny Jr. (R – Hinds), the law’s sponsors, think about this, so I emailed them. Do they think their laws have been a success? How do they even measure success for laws like this? How does the Poplarville election factor into their evaluation of the law? So far, I haven’t heard back. I’ll update this post if they respond.

Come to think of it, I’d be curious to see how all of the sponsors of similar laws on the books feel about this. Below are links to the sponsors of photo ID laws in the eight states where they are currently on the books. If you live in these states, you know what to do:

Arkansas, GeorgiaIndiana (Indiana’s law is now old enough that its sponsor, State Senator Victor Heinold, is now retired), Kansas, MississippiTennesseeTexas and Virginia. I should probably throw in North Carolina, whose photo ID law is slated to go into effect in 2016.

If these elected officials have the slightest sense of shame over the absolute disaster that has been photo ID in their states, they should say so. At the very least, they should be asked.

Stupid Right Wing Tweets: Chuck Woolery Edition

Stupid Right Wing Tweets: Chuck Woolery Edition

Well, what do you know… another far right “Christian” calling Obama a “Muslim”…

Crooks & Liars

Game show hack Chuck Woolery thinks ‘we have a Muslim problem in the White House.’

What is it with game show hosts? They’re all hucksters and idiots. Pat Sajak is a screaming teabagger and so is Chuck Woolery. But his latest series of tweets may be the stupidest right wing tweets of all.

Via LGF:

Yeah, reluctant my ass. You and your Breitbot pals love this stuff. By any chance are you pals with Breitbart’s father-in-law, Orson Bean?

Zzzzzzzt! You LOSE, Mr. Woolery. You have absolutely no education with which to make such a guess. Next contestant, please.

Now wait a minute. If they’re in the White House, why are you worrying about them coming to a town near you?

There’s a reason the president said ISIS isn’t Muslim. It’s not enough to claim one is Muslim without actually practicing the tenets of the religion. Sort of the same thing as the faux Christians who pretend they’re Christians while judging everyone around them and sticking their middle fingers in the faces of the poor.

As for the President being Muslim, so what if he is? There’s nothing shameful about anyone practicing their chosen religion in a principled way. It happens that he’s not. He can’t have a Reverend Wright problem and be a secret Muslim. It doesn’t work like that, not even in game show land.

I know many Muslims and none of them cause fear in me. The ones who make me afraid are the fundamental “Christians” who think it’s their God-given right to be the American Taliban, telling women what they can and cannot do while oppressing poor people.

Put Chuck in the same category as the rest of the rich Hollywood wingnuts who choose to live in Fantasyland instead of reality.

10 things you need to know today: September 17, 2014

Gen. Martin Dempsey testifies to the Senate.

Gen. Martin Dempsey testifies to the Senate | (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Week

A top general floats deploying troops against ISIS, NASA picks two companies to take astronauts into space, and more

1. Joint Chiefs chairman says ground troops might be needed if ISIS withstands airstrikes
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend sending combat troops to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria if airstrikes fail to defeat the Islamist extremist group and there are threats against the U.S. When President Obama announced he was expanding American involvement in the campaign against ISIS, he said the U.S. would “not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Dempsey was speaking hypothetically, and Obama’s position “has not changed.” [The New York Times, The Telegraph]


2. NASA picks private companies to build spacecraft to carry astronauts
Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, have won multi-billion-dollar contracts to build spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and back, NASA announced on Tuesday. The companies will be the first private businesses to take astronauts into space. Astronaut Mike Fincke said the outsourcing is one of “the keys to the doorway to space,” because it would be a boost to the commercial space industry that could one day take paying passengers into orbit. [Wired]


3. Ukraine ratifies closer ties to the European Union
Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved a historic proposal to expand its economic links to the European Union, starting in 2016. The country’s former pro-Russian president, Victor Yanukovych, was ousted last year after rejecting a similar proposal, triggering a separatist uprising. Lawmakers also granted separatist-held areas temporary autonomy, and granted amnesty to militants. “No nation has ever paid such a high price to become Europeans,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said. [NPR]


4. Labor market improvement leads to a drop in the U.S. poverty rate
The poverty rate in the U.S. dropped last year for the first time since 2006, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The decrease, to 14.5 percent from 15 percent, came partly because the number of year-round, full-time jobs in the country increased by 2.8 million to 105.8 million. Nearly one million of the households with a newfound job included children, leading to the first significant decline in child poverty in more than a decade. Latinos made the biggest improvement with a 2.1 percent poverty-rate drop. [Los Angeles Times]


5. Scotland nearly evenly split ahead of Thursday independence referendum
A day ahead of Scotland’s Thursday independence vote, polls showed neither side with a significant lead. “No” voters, who want to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, held a four percent lead with 52 percent, but that count excludes undecided voters. When they are included in the tally, the secessionists trail by a narrower margin — 47.7 percent “no,” 44.1 percent “yes” — with 8.3 percent still uncertain. British political leaders promised Scotland new powers if it stays in the U.K. [Daily Mail, CNN]


6. Former Auschwitz guard, age 93, accused of role in 300,000 murders
A 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard was charged in Germany on Tuesday with 300,000 counts of being an accessory to murder. The man, Oskar Groning, was a member of Adolf Hitler’s SS unit at the concentration camp. Prosecutors accused him of taking money from new arrivals — providing “the Nazi regime with economic advantage” — and supporting “systematic killings.” Groning said that, as a bookkeeper, he was just a “small cog in the gears,” and that he did not serve the Nazis voluntarily. [The Wall Street Journal]


7. U.N. brokers deal for rebuilding Gaza
The United Nations has pulled together a deal agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians on rebuilding the Gaza Strip, the U.N.’s top Middle East envoy says. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza in an Israeli offensive aimed at halting Hamas attacks in southern Israel. The violence, which also killed 66 Israelis, destroyed an estimated 18,000 houses, leaving 100,000 Gazans homeless. Under the deal, the Palestinian Authority and private firms will have major roles in the rebuilding. [BBC News]


8. New York man accused of plotting with ISIS to kill Americans
A federal grand jury in New York has indicted a Rochester man, Mufid Elfgeeh, on charges that he tried to help the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and plotted to kill U.S. soldiers, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. Elfgeeh, 30, allegedly tried to help three people travel to Syria to join ISIS fighters. Federal authorities also said Elfgeeh planned to kill American soldiers who had returned from Iraq, and bought two pistols equipped with silencers, although the FBI had disarmed them before letting a source sell them. [Reuters]


9. American arrested trying to swim to North Korea
South Korean Marines arrested an American man for allegedly trying to swim across a river into North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un, the communist country’s leader, a defense ministry spokesman said Wednesday. Attempting to cross the heavily fortified border is dangerous. A South Korean man was shot and killed trying to swim across the Han River last year. The arrest came as North Korea is holding three U.S. citizens accused of “hostile acts.” One, Matthew Miller, was sentenced Sunday to six years of hard labor. [The Washington Post]


10. Vikings reverse course and suspend Adrian Peterson
The Minnesota Vikings suspended running back Adrian Peterson early on Wednesday until his child abuse case is resolved. Peterson, the National Football League’s 2012 Most Valuable Player, missed last Sunday’s game after being indicted for allegedly injuring his 4-year-old son by spanking him with a switch, a thin tree branch used for corporal punishment. The team and the NFL came had faced sharp criticism since reinstating Peterson — who has apologized and said he was“without a doubt, not a child abuser” — on Monday. Radisson hotels pulled its team sponsorship on Tuesday. [Bloomberg News]

Biden Triggers 2016 Talk With Iowa Visit

Vice President Biden | Jim Young/Reuters

The Daily Beast

Many believe that Hillary Clinton has the 2016 Democratic nomination sewn up—if she decides to run. That may be premature. Joe Biden also may want to join the contenders. The vice president visited Iowa on Wednesday for a kickoff event in Des Moines for a tour by Nuns on the Bus, a group that draws attention to the effect corporate money has on political campaigns. But some pundits are saying his visit has political implications, especially as it comes days after Clinton also hit the state. Biden is known to have presidential ambitions, but his path is made difficult by Hillary’s presence in the equation. Trips such as the Iowa visit at least keep his name out there.

Read it at Reuters

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Watch 6th Circuit For SCOTUS’ Next Move On Gay Marriage

RUTH BADER GINSBURG | The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

People seeking clues about how soon the Supreme Court might weigh in on states’ gay marriage bans should pay close attention to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a Minnesota audience Tuesday.

Ginsburg said cases pending before the circuit covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee would probably play a role in the high court’s timing. She said “there will be some urgency” if that appeals court allows same-sex marriage bans to stand. Such a decision would run contrary to a legal trend favoring gay marriage and force the Supreme Court to step in sooner, she predicted.

She said if the appeals panel falls in line with other rulings there is “no need for us to rush.”

Ginsburg didn’t get into the merits of any particular case or any state’s gay marriage ban, but she marveled at the “remarkable” shift in public perception of same-sex marriage that she attributes to gays and lesbians being more open about their relationships. Same-sex couples can legally wed in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.

“Having people close to us who say who they are — that made the attitude change in this country,” Ginsburg said at the University of Minnesota Law School.

The Supreme Court returns from a summer recess in early October. Ginsburg wasn’t the only justice on the lecture circuit Tuesday; Justice Clarence Thomas was addressing a gathering in Texas.

Thomas, one of the court’s conservatives, expressed his firm belief in the strict construction of the Constitution during his appearance at the University of Texas at Tyler. As a judge, Thomas said, he’s “not into creative writing,” the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.

And Thomas said he’s motivated by the belief that if the country “is not perfect, it is perfectible.”

Fifteen months ago, the high court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied a range of tax, health and veterans benefits to legally married gay couples. Rulings invalidating state gay marriage bans followed in quick succession.

Ginsburg spent 90 minutes before an audience of hundreds discussing her two decades on the Supreme Court as well as her days as an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer. In a question-and-answer period, she predicted that cases dealing with the environment and technology would make for watershed decisions in years to come.

Privacy of information carried on smartphones in the context of criminal searches could be particularly big, Ginsburg said. “You can have on that cellphone more than you can pack in a file cabinet,” she said.

The liberal justice said the court is the most collegial place she has worked as she fondly described her close relationship with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. She made sure to plug a comic opera about the two of them — “Scalia/Ginsburg” — that will debut next year in Virginia.

And the 81-year-old Ginsburg elicited plenty of laughter by highlighting a Tumblr account about her called the “Notorious R.B.G.” and a never-realized dream job.

“If I had any talent God could give me, I would be a great diva,” she said.

If Obama’s imperial presidency is so awful, why does the GOP let him get away with war?

Could it all be partisan nonsense?

Could it all be partisan nonsense? (CC BY: The White House)

The Week

When it comes to Iraq, Republicans are more than happy to let the president usurp Congress’ constitutional powers

Conservatives haven’t just decried President Obama’s executive overreach. They have accused him of an “imperial presidency.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas used the phrase in the Wall Street Journal, blasting as “dangerous” the “president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat.”

So did John Fund at National Review: “Oh my, how liberals have learned to love the imperial presidency they used to so scorn when Richard Nixon or George W. Bush was in office.”

The Heritage Foundation even ran a helpful explainer on its website: “How is Obama acting like an imperial president?”

So will conservatives let President Obama take the country back to war in Iraq without congressional approval? Because if they do, all that talk of the imperial presidency could come back to bite them.

Obama was a frequent critic of untrammeled executive power when he was running for president in 2008. Back then, those powers were being wielded by George W. Bush, the man Obama was trying to replace.

As late as November 2013, Obama rebutted an undocumented immigrant protester who claimed the president had the power to stop all deportations. “Actually, I don’t,” Obama replied. “And that’s why we’re here.”

“We’ve got this Constitution, we’ve got this whole thing about separation of powers,” he added. “So there is no shortcut to politics, and there’s no shortcut to democracy.”

But recently, Obama has seemed eager to find such shortcuts. He has repeatedly been stymied by the Republican-controlled House and a large GOP minority in the Senate. He faces the prospect of Democratic minorities in both houses next year.

As a result, Obama has occasionally sounded put upon by Congress. He talks about his pen and phone. He issues executive orders. He says that if Republicans in Congress won’t approve his preferred policies, he will act unilaterally where possible.

Some of Obama’s executive actions walk right up to the line. Others cross it. He has been rebuked by the Supreme Court for his unorthodox use of recess appointments. He has had to step back from a plan for “deferred action” that would essentially offer amnesty to some five million illegal immigrants without legislation.

But as bad as some of these presidential moves have been — both in terms of legal process and substantive policy grounds — is there anything more imperial than unilaterally committing American troops to war?

It’s precisely the opposite of what the framers of the Constitution intended when they gave Congress the power to declare war. And it is a much less ambiguous constitutional violation than some of the alleged power grabs that get the right’s imperial presidency juices flowing.

Yet it is also an assertion of presidential power self-described conservatives are most likely to defend. Of the conservative criticisms mentioned at the beginning of this piece, only Fund focuses on Obama considering going to war without congressional approval.

For all his many faults, Bush sought and won congressional authorization for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama has already waged one war without Congress: Libya, an intervention he barely pretended to justify on the grounds of U.S. national interest, with increasingly disastrous results.

Obama was deterred from bombing Syria in 2013 when he finally deigned to go to Congress — and discovered there was vanishingly little support for his position.

To their credit, some Republicans are trying to legitimize Obama’s campaign against ISIS with an authorization of force.

Others, like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are saying nuts to that. “I think the president has an abundant amount of authority to conduct operations,” he has said. “If Congress doesn’t like what he’s doing, we can always cut the money off.”

But how likely is that once forces are already deployed? When Democrats talked about defunding Iraq under Bush, Republicans like Graham made the idea sound almost treasonous.

The case against Obama’s imperial presidency descends into partisan nonsense if the president has more power to go to war than he does to fill a vacancy on the National Labor Relations Board.

And future presidents cannot be reined in if Congress continually gives up its own power, all in a bid to protect itself from political risk — as lawmakers have unmistakably done in matters of war and peace.

If the United States is going back into Iraq, let’s at least do it the way the last two Republican presidents have: with a congressional vote.

It’s the conservative thing to do.

Are the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments conspiring to obstruct justice?

Riot police clear demonstrators from a street in Ferguson, Missouri, August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fourth night of demonstrations over the fatal shooting last weekend |attribution: REUTERS

Daily Kos

Paul Rosenberg asks the question:

Are the police departments of Ferguson and St. Louis County, Missouri, involved in a conspiracy to obstruct justice in the case of Michael Brown’s murder? It seems disturbingly possible, given their actions over the past month, hiding basic evidentiary information from the public in direct violation of the state’s sunshine laws—and  perhaps not even gathering it in the first place. This raises the further possibly that evidence is being hidden from criminal investigators as well, particularly since the investigators have shown no great interest, much less zeal, in getting to the truth of the matter.On Aug. 15, the world saw Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson belatedly release Darren Wilson’s name—and no other information at all about the killing of Michael Brown—while at the same time releasing a report (followed by a video) on an unrelated robbery that Brown was apparently involved in. On Aug. 20 and 21, first St. Louis County, then Ferguson released incident reports on the shootings—reports virtually devoid of any information. These highly questionable revelations stirred a fair amount of public outrage, but few people seemed to realize how truly sinister they were, or how they connected to much broader patterns of official lawlessness that have long bedeviled St. Louis County, and Missouri more generally, as well as many other jurisdictions across the land.

Rosenberg refers to this report from TheBlot magazine:

The chief of police for the Ferguson Police Department misled members of the media and the public when he asserted that his hand was forced in releasing surveillance footage that purported to show 18-year-old resident Michael Brown engaged in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store minutes before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

But there’s a problem.

However, a review of open records requests sent to the Ferguson Police Department found that no news organization, reporter orindividual specifically sought the release of the surveillance tape before police distributed it on Aug. 15.Last month, TheBlot Magazine requested a copy of all open records requests made by members of the public—including journalists and news organizations—that specifically sought the release of the convenience store surveillance video. The logs, which were itself obtained under Missouri’s open records law, show only one journalist—Joel Currier with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch—broadly requested any and all multimedia evidence “leading up to” Brown’s death on Aug. 9.

Other records that would have been subject to Currier’s request, including 9-1-1 call recordings and police dispatch tapes, have yet to be formally released by the agency.

More beneath the fold.

And TheBlot refers to this NBC report:

The Department of Justice urged Ferguson police not to release surveillance video purporting to show Michael Brown robbing a store shortly before he was shot and killed by police, arguing the footage would further inflame tensions in the St. Louis suburb that saw rioting and civil unrest in the wake of the teenager’s death.But on Friday, police released the video that stoked outrage in Ferguson, with Brown’s family calling it “character assassination” and a smear campaign. A law enforcement source told NBC News that Ferguson police wanted to release the video Thursday, but the Department of Justice convinced them to withhold the footage over fears it would spark further unrest.

So, Ferguson’s police chief defied a DOJ request not to release the tape, and blamed it on nonexistent Freedom of Information Act requests from the media. He lied. He lied because he clearly wanted to smear Brown in the public eye. And then the civil unrest that the DOJ had tried to prevent from happening was used as an excuse for more police brutality. But as Rosenberg points out, that’s just the beginning.

But while Jackson’s high-profile statement may have been outrageously false and misleading, it’s the underlying actions of his department in the shadows that are downright criminal, part of a seemingly routine pattern ofactual lawbreaking by the police themselves, both in Ferguson and St. Louis County—a persistent pattern that hasn’t stopped, according to emails provided to Salon even though the Department of Justice has announced it’s going to investigate both organizations.In fact, police are now using the DOJ investigation itself as an excuse for further violationsof the sunshine law, relating to arrests of protesters who continue demonstrating in Ferguson, according to emails provided to Salon (details below). The emails come from Charles Grapski, a legal and political theorist and political scientist, as well as an active citizen with decades of experience filing public records requests, including work with local activists and lawyers in different states across the nation.

In other words, the Missouri authorities are releasing what they want, and lying about why they are releasing it, while withholding releases of information that are actually being requested on the grounds for which the Missouri authorities are falsely claiming to have released the information they wanted to release. But this is about much more than their hypocrisy and lack of credibility.

“Ferguson is deliberately violating both the laws and its own policies to prevent any information from being produced and made public that could be used to hold Officer Wilson to account for his actions,”Grapski wrote in the Aug. 29 post, and he repeated this in interviews with Salon.“They are committing criminal offenses themselves,” Grapski said of both police departments’ public records violations. “It’s not a high crime, but it is class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, and a pretty significant fine, by withholding, by knowingly not complying with the public records law. The records law has teeth, and that is it has criminal sanctions.”

Rothert told Salon something similar, but slightly different. “From what we can tell right now it looks like the Ferguson Police Department never did an incident report,” he said, “which would be contrary to their policy, it would be contrary to the law, and quite, quite suspicious, not to take even an initial statement from someone who’s killed another person.”

The DOJ investigation continues. All questions must be answered, and they only begin with the night that an unarmed black teenager was gunned down by a white police officer. Because that one police officer is not the only one who needs to be held to account for his actions. This would seem not to have been a case of one rogueindividual, but of rogue departments that behave as if they take for granted that they are above the law.Are they?

Paycheck Fairness Act Blocked Again By Senate GOP


Alex Wong via Getty Images


The Huffington Post

Senate Republicans on Monday blocked for the fourth time a bill that would strengthen federal equal pay laws for women.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would ban employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with each other, impose harsher penalties for pay discrimination and require employers to be able to show that wage gaps between men and women are based on factors other than gender.

The bill needed 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster and advance to a final vote on passage, but it fell short Monday by a vote of 52 to 40. Senate Democrats have brought the bill to the floor four times since 2011, and each time Republicans have rejected it.

“The wage gap not only hurts our families, it hurts the economy,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said before the vote. “If it were reversed, I’d be standing here fighting for the men. It’s not right.”

Republicans say they oppose the bill because they believe it would discourage employers from hiring women, out of a fear of lawsuits. The GOP has accused Democrats of staging a “show vote” on the bill in an election year, knowing it won’t pass.

“At a time when the Obama economy is already hurting women so much, this legislation would double down on job loss, all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said before the last vote on the bill in April. “In other words, it’s just another Democratic idea that threatens to hurt the very people that it claims to help.”

Women working full-time in the U.S. earn an average of 77 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the Census Bureau. A small portion of that gap, economists say, is due to employers paying women less than men for the same work.

Republicans are trying to engage women voters ahead of the November midterm elections, but their opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act and other equal pay measures has repeatedly been used against them in campaigns.


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