Republicans still trying to keep folks from voting

…Even as Americans start heading to the polls for this year’s presidential primaries, laws remain in flux in a number of states — including North Carolina and Texas, where voter ID requirements are being challenged in court.

Now the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency charged with helping to improve the running of elections, has added to the confusion. And unlike most voter ID conflicts — which involve showing identification at the polls — this comes earlier in the process, when residents are first registering to vote.

The EAC has been in a long legal battle with Kansas regarding the state’s requirement that residents show proof of citizenship when they register to vote — even if they use a federal registration form, administered by the EAC. The federal form, which can be used throughout the United States as an alternative to local voter registration forms, requires individuals to swear that they are citizens. It does not require a birth certificate or other document as proof.

But late last week, the EAC’s new executive director, Brian Newby — a [Republican] former county elections official in Kansas — sent a letter to the state saying that the agency had updated the instructions on filling out that federal form to include the proof-of-citizenship requirement for Kansas residents. This came after previous EAC executive directors had refused to add the requirement.

That led one of the EAC’s three commissioners, Thomas Hicks — the only Democratic appointee — to issue a highly unusual statement Tuesday calling for Newby’s letter to be withdrawn. He said it “contradicts policy and precedent previously established by this commission,” and he called on the commission to review the matter in a public forum…

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach’s push to require proof of citizenship is part of a larger, national fight over adding new voting restrictions, in what sponsors claim is an effort to prevent voter fraud. Opponents say it’s an effort to suppress voting rights.

Which is, of course, obvious. Nationwide, all of the Republican efforts to claim voter fraud by anyone from illegal migrant workers to Martians have failed. Here in New Mexico the state wasted $200K of taxpayer money to investigate claims by Republican officials of voter fraud by non-citizens. They came up with about a dozen people registered essentially by mistake – mistakes made by the folks registering them. Almost none of whom actually tried to vote.

But, wasting money trying to prove that states need to keep people from voting is OK as far as today’s Republican Party is concerned. If they reduce the number of potential voters who might not be old white men – they figure on another generation of maintaining whatever power they have. Especially if you add in ignorance, lousy education, gerrymandering and all the other old-fashioned methods for corrupt politicians to win and stay in power.

White House appoints tech researcher – then denies him security clearance


What’s the Pulitzer Prize worth to the White House?

Ashkan Soltani, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and recent staffer at the Federal Trade Commission, recently began working with the White House on privacy, data ethics and technical outreach. The partnership raised eyebrows when it was announced in December because of Soltani’s previous work with the Washington Post, where he helped analyze and protect a cache of National Security Agency documents leaked by Snowden.

His departure raises questions about the US government’s ability to partner with the broader tech community, where people come from a more diverse background than traditional government staffers.

It also suggests that nearly three years later, the Snowden episode remains a highly charged issue inside the Obama administration. Recently some current and former administration officials said the former NSA contractor sparked a “necessary debate” on surveillance, even if they disagreed with his tactics…

…In December, Megan Smith, White House chief technology officer and a former Google executive, welcomed him to her team with an effusive post on Twitter that referenced Soltani’s account handle, @Ashk4n.

Soltani since then has been on loan from the FTC to the White House. He was in the process of getting approved for a clearance to work in one of America’s most secured office buildings. Soltani said he passed his drug test and the Federal Bureau of Investigation hadn’t yet finished his background check, meaning it would have been too early for the bureau to weigh in on his employment…

…Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, said he wouldn’t speculate on why Soltani was being denied a job, though he did note that he published many stories that likely irked America’s intelligence officials.

“My guess is there are people who are never going to forgive him for that,” said Soghoian, who lauded Soltani’s technical acumen.

“At a time when the government can’t get cybersecurity right they deeply need people like Ashkan in the White House,” he said.

The move is a blow for Smith, the White House CTO, who has spent the past year trying to lure more pure-blood technologists to government. It can be a tough sell. Compared to Silicon Valley, the pay is less, the hours are longer and the cafeteria isn’t free.

Soltani, 41 years old, has been drawn to working on public policy issues since spending years as a private security researcher. In addition to the Post, he has worked with the New York Times, the University of California Berkeley and the Wall Street Journal. In October of 2014 he joined the FTC as its chief technologist, where he worked on consumer protection issues.

He, along with his Post colleagues and the Guardian, won a Pulitzer prize in 2014 for their coverage of the Snowden affair…

❝“I’m definitely ready to go back to the west coast for a bit,” said Soltani, an avid mountain biker.I just wish I hadn’t spent all my money on suits instead of bike parts.”

Perish the thought our government should rely on principled talent, dedication to constitutional freedoms. Better stick stick with what is most available in Washington – well educated and obedient drones, dedicated to power and greed.

Absolutely the best quote out of Washington DC in weeks.

Empire State Building gets in the way of drone

drone dork

A New Jersey man was flying his drone over Manhattan Thursday night when a historic landmark, the Empire State Building, very rudely got in its flight path. The drone crashed into the skyscraper’s 40th floor and ended up tumbling down a few stories to rest on the ledge of the 36th floor…

The drone pilot, 27-year-old Sean Riddle, enlisted the help of the security guards at the Empire State Building to try to get his robot back. Security said sure and then went right behind Riddle’s back and called the cops. Riddle was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and violating the city’s rules on flying these unmanned aerial vehicles.

Cops say they’re not sure if the drone is still stuck up there or not, so maybe keep an eye out when you’re on 34th Street.

Dork!