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Fake News Weaponized

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Thankfully, no one was hurt. But you may have heard that a man from Salisbury, North Carolina, Edgar Maddison Welch, shot up a pizza joint in Washington, DC today in an effort to 'investigate' the "Pizza Gate" conspiracy theory.

What on earth is Pizza Gate, you may ask? It's a Reddit-based far right conspiracy theory alleging a child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta out of a DC pizza shop.

Here's a tweet tonight from the son of Michael Flynn, the incoming National Security Advisor.

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2 days ago
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2 days ago
What is this I don't even? It's like they used a conspiracy theory Mad Lib...
2 days ago
Oh, and click through to the actual article for the reason why the tweeter's father is relevant. Junior isn't just Flynn's son, he's his chief of staff.
2 days ago
This is being done with full knowledge--I.e., deliberately. It's a page out of the Isis playbook. If you can get crazy people to cause fear, you create a feedback loop until everyone is crazy.
2 days ago

All Evidence Points to Favors Between Judge Richman And His Pal, Det. Lillienfeld

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November 28, 2016 (Fault Lines) — It’s no secret that police officers have access to tremendous amounts of sensitive data. As investigators, their powers are almost limitless. The have access to interdepartmental reports, state and national databases, and even reports of outlying agencies. With that power and access, law enforcement is entrusted to utilize these resources for legitimate purposes. Well, and if you are Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detective Mark Lillienfeld, for friendly favors as well.

Lucky for Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Richman, he had a friend in Lillienfeld. After a confrontation with a housekeeper over dog poop, Richman found himself the subject of a criminal complaint. Judge Richman was accused of battery after the housekeeper suffered bruises and cuts to her face following her confrontation with Richman. Unfortunately, the battery had been investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department rather than Lillienfeld’s agency. Yet, that didn’t stop Lillienfeld from getting involved.

Like any good law enforcement officer, Lillienfeld was all too eager to help put away the bad guy. Oh wait, that’s not what he did. Shortly after the Los Angeles Times reported the charges against Richman, Lillienfeld jumped in to help his friend. Lillienfeld and Richman were longtime acquaintances.

The detective and the judge had known each other since at least 1996, when Richman was a prosecutor handling an attempted murder case Lillienfeld investigated. The detective would later visit the judge’s home to get warrants signed. Lillienfeld’s wife worked in Richman’s courtroom, transcribing hearings as an official court reporter.

As detailed in a Los Angeles County prosecutor’s memo, on October 24, 2013, Lillienfeld contacted a Los Angeles Fire Department investigator to look in to any medical runs or calls involving the housekeeper that may have occurred on July 18, 2013, the date of the altercation between Richman and the housekeeper. It was clear Lillienfeld was looking for any information regarding emergency services that might have been rendered to the housekeeper. The fire department investigator responded that he did not have access to EMS records and that a search warrant could be served for further information.

The next day, Lillienfeld queried local and state databases for information on the housekeeper. Not satisfied with his investigation, Lillienfeld then accessed criminal history databases. Still coming up short, Lillienfeld assigned a crime analyst the task of further researching the housekeeper.

At some point during his investigation, Lillienfeld learned that the housekeeper had been pulled over and investigated for suspicion of driving under the influence. Though no charges were ever filed against the housekeeper, the Ventura County Sheriff maintained a report of that investigation. Lillienfeld promptly requested that report. Ventura County complied with the request and produced its report, bearing an official stamp indicating the records were not to be duplicated.

Finally, it appeared Lillienfeld came up with something that would help his friend. Apparently, he did not realize his friend would submit the ill-gotten report into official court documents.

It is a misdemeanor for a law enforcement officer to obtain information from confidential criminal records and reports for personal reasons or furnish it to someone not involved in the investigation.

Not only had Lillienfeld accessed confidential records for personal reasons, but he appears to have furnished it to his friend, Judge Richman. Surely, that’s not what happened here, right?

The city attorney handling Richman’s prosecution was surprised to find the police report submitted in a mitigation package by Richman’s lawyer, thus he made inquiries as to how the arrest report might have been obtained. The city attorney contacted Ventura County and learned the report had been released to Detective Lillienfeld upon his request. The city attorney attempted to contact Lillienfeld by phone and email to no avail.

Receiving no explanation from Lillienfeld, the city attorney turned the matter over to the Justice System Integrity Division to determine whether Lillienfeld might have run afoul of the law himself by accessing and then disclosing the confidential report. The Justice System Integrity Division, in turn, provided this information to the sheriff’s internal affairs bureau for investigation.

With the trial over and Richman acquitted in the battery charge, it seemed all was said and done. No harm, no foul. Ultimately the report was of no use in Richman’s case. Yet, that didn’t necessarily close out the internal investigation into why Lillienfeld had involved himself in this case and whether or not he released the report to Richman.

At best, the evidence revealed the report inexplicitly appeared in Richman’s lawyer’s office. Yet, not obtained by his private investigator or subpoena. In the face of his own computer trail, Lillienfeld offered up his defense: yes, he had made the inquiries into the housekeeper, but he did so at the bequest of Sheriff Lee Baca. Never mind that Baca had no recollection of asking the homicide detective to undertake such an inquiry. Surely, he’s just old and on the verge of dementia, or so responded Lillienfield when confronted with Baca’s lack of recollection. Never mind that this would have normally been handled by a different division, as Lillienfeld characterized the inquiry as a threat assessment. Under Lillienfeld’s account, he was checking to see if the housekeeper was a threat to the judge.

Never mind that Lillienfeld didn’t bother to respond to the city attorney’s inquires as he deemed those inquiries to be “unprofessional, snotty, snarky, [and] borderline unethical.” How dare a city attorney inquire of the homicide detective what he was investigating and whether or not he had released a report? Those types of questions were beneath him and such an affront to his own integrity that they didn’t even require a response regarding his legitimate threat assessment investigation as the behest of Sheriff Baca.

Never mind that Lillienfeld was the only person with access to the report. Perhaps some unknown person accessed the file in Lillienfeld’s drawer back at the office and disseminated it without his knowledge.

Never mind that the prosecutor declined to file charges against Lillienfeld for misuse of official information in a totally circumstantial case. We have his word, and his alone, that he was conducting official business when he joined in the investigation of his friend’s criminal case. Yeah, that’s it: it was all official. Nothing to see here folks, move along. There’s no logical explanation for how Lillienfeld’s copy of the housekeeper’s arrest report ended up in his friend’s hands. But just in case Judge Richman needed it, there it was. It’s good to have friends, especially when the friend is a cop.

The post All Evidence Points to Favors Between Judge Richman And His Pal, Det. Lillienfeld appeared first on Mimesis Law.

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9 days ago
Imagine how often this sort of thing happens with the NSA's bulk surveillance information. Transparent and effective oversight is an essential foundation of democracy.
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Trump signals he'll use White House for business gains: 'A president can't have a conflict'

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Most of the time during Donald Trump’s meeting at the New York Times offices today was devoted to explaining how he, Donald Trump, was perfectly free to use the White House as profit center for his business enterprises and that nobody could stop him.


This is of course an iteration of the famous Nixonian theory: If the president does it, it’s not illegal. And this wasn’t a one-off supposition, it was the theme of his defense. He doesn’t have to divest himself from his businesses no matter what past precedent is. He’s perfectly free to mix presidential foreign policy calls with business deals if he wants to.


For the record, or what is left of it, this is unprecedented.

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14 days ago
The Android newsblur app strikes again. Index updated in the background and shared the wrong entry, and now I can't un-share.
14 days ago
well I thank you for the unintended share!
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Facebook: Still Literally The Worst

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Facebook's Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company's decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people's feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It's unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

"They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, "there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics," and that "a lot of product decisions got caught up in that."

"The strength of our community depends on authentic communication."

"The news would be true if you people would just play nice."

The feedback we've gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most.

"Users tell us that things that they think are true make them happy."

"We rely heavily on the community to report content."

"We in the petrochemical industry rely heavily on the community to report toxic spills."

In a Facebook post published after the election, former Facebook product designer Bobby Goodlatte blamed the social network for boosting the visibility of "highly partisan, fact-light media," and for not taking bigger steps to combat the spread of fake news in the lead-up to the election. "A bias towards truth isn't an impossible goal for News Feed," he wrote. "But it's now clear that democracy suffers if our news feeds incentivize bullshit."


"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea."

Move Fast & Break Democracy!

I don't know how Facebook thinks -- who could? But it might be something like this: The real engagement drivers are fun videos, viral things about human cultural identities, the world's largest banana splits, racist things, boobs, and things about aliens. Everyone is upset today that Macedonian teenagers searching for a quick buck wrote that Hillary Clinton had an FBI employee murdered. But what about tomorrow? Let's say you blocked all the publishers from Macedonia. Are you also going to take away the articles that say that healing crystals can lower blood pressure? What about if CBS Sunday Morning does a piece about angels? [...]

For Mark Zuckerberg to say that less than 1% of news on Facebook is a hoax is a little like saying that less than 1% of your brain is malignant cancer. It's not the 1% but the malignancy. It sounds like things are 99% okay, but it's actually a very bad diagnosis.

This is your irregularly-scheduled reminder:

If you work for Facebook, quit. It is morally indefensible for you to use your skills to make that company more powerful. By working there, you are making the world an objectively worse place. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Previously, previously, previously.

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11 days ago
San Francisco

For better or worse

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When I do the occasional interview about all the gay shit I do, I'm often asked, "are games getting better?" What they mean is whether the game industry as a whole is getting more inclusive, more diverse, more tolerant, more progressive, more whatever.

My standard response used to be "a little", then it was "this is a bad question", but these days I'm leaning toward "no, but hopefully it won't matter."

Some journalists hope I'll hand them a nice optimistic little quote to end their article, so that I can resolve their nagging fear that video games will never actually grow up. If you buy that next Halo game and (gasp) enjoy playing it, then are you part of "the problem"? And if you are, hopefully you just have to say 5 Hail Marys and donate to 5 queer people of color Patreons to be forgiven, and that means the numbers are getting better.

My gay sex games are not some sort of statistical outlier that magically increases the arithmetic average gayness of all video games ever made. Initiatives like GLAAD's"studio responsibility" scorecards fall into the same trap -- the idea that culture is a type of math, and as long as the grades numbers are getting better, then we can rest easy with this misleading summary big picture of how people supposedly actually feel.

Steam won't sell Ladykiller In A Bind and refuses to be clear about its content guidelines, but hey, at least Battlefield 1's single-player campaign has a black guy and an Arab woman in it!... ok, now ask yourself this supposedly important and relevant question, "are games getting better?"

I feel that question is asked more often for the benefit of protecting games from criticism ("it's getting better, ok? relax!") and performing a love of games, rather than genuinely reforming games in any meaningful way.

It is a totally

It's the most
toothless kind of intersectionality. intersectionality ever. Instead of linking together different systemic problems to take comprehensive action, we just add together all these "gains and losses" from all these disparate cases so that we can dissolve dissonance about our overall media consumption -- as if this was all about whether Ta-Nehisi Coates approves of you watching Game of Thrones as long as you watch Steven Universe too?

As a gay artist, I have to confess, I don't care which comic book movies you watch. But when my own work gets assimilated into this giant festering ham of All Video Game Culture, and I'm weaponized as an example of how everything is getting better, then I can't help but feel a bit silly for doing all this. (Gay sex in games??? Gee, what will the game industry think of next!!)

I can't help but come to the same conclusions that a lot of people formerly-working-in-games have also come to, which is this: games are capable of have so much beauty and meaning, but this culture is also irrevocably cursed and haunted by a permanent fixation on quantifying itself without ever criticizing itself, and maybe it's time to figure something else out.

All of us misfits who keep hoping games culture will change and get better -- artists, critics, theorists, weirdos -- we're way too late. It's been like this for a while, and it's probably always going to be like this.

To be clear, I'm not quitting game development anytime soon. I'm just coming to terms with my suspicion that this 30-something year old "young medium" will never change and never "grow up" and never be what I hope it will be, and I'll try to perform that disappointment like an increasingly distant aunt who slowly drifts out of her relatives' lives. It's time to start thinking about where I should start re-directing a lot of my energy.

One possible candidate is this thing called "virtual reality," which has proven remarkably resistant to monetization and/or dignity. The root of my cautious hope is based less in the hyperbolic promises of "VR evangelists", and based more in the possibility of a second chance with this media culture:

What if we weren't too late with game culture, what if weirdos had a seat at the table from the beginning? What if we didn't let capitalism shit the bed so badly? What if artists and theorists were there, from its early days, to help guide popular understanding of it? Or is it already too late for VR? I think I'm going to try to find out.

I'm not saying "everyone should quit video games and go into virtual reality" -- but this is just the transition I'm starting to take with my own work, personally, and I feel like maybe a lot of video game weirdos would be better off with transitioning into different fields themselves too.

Because games probably aren't going to get better. They're like this, and they're going to be like this for a long time, or even forever. And we don't have to accept it or encourage it, but all of us have better things to do than to punch a brick wall over and over.

Next time: Toward a progressive agenda and theory of VR, and how to save VR culture from games culture VR
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30 days ago
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Austin PO Armando Perez Gets Off The Second Shot

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October 25, 2016 (Fault Lines) – On April 13, 2016, Darrin Martin, 25, decided to burglarize a car and was seen doing so by the concierge of a nearby apartment building in Austin, Texas. The concierge gave chase and was struggling with Martin when Officer Armando Perez of the Austin Police Department saw the struggle. As Perez pulled up and exited the vehicle, the concierge told the officer that Martin had been breaking into a car. Perez and the concierge tried to subdue and handcuff Martin when Martin pulled a gun and shot Perez in the stomach, below his bullet resistant vest. Perez then drew his gun, shooting and killing Martin.

The video is crystal clear. At 0:27 you hear the officer ask, “what did he do” and the concierge respond. At about 0:50 you see the concierge move back and Perez go for his holstered pistol. By 0:56, Martin has shot the officer and the officer has returned fire while moving away towards cover and safety. At 1:00 Perez puts out on the radio that he’s been shot, and has fired shots.

Look at how quickly this event took to unfold. It started as a normal arrest, an officer seeing someone trying to restrain another person and stopping to investigate. In less than five seconds, Martin has gone from a non-compliant suspect to an aggressor with a firearm. Martin has the advantage and indeed gets the first shot off, one that wounds the officer despite the officer wearing a vest.

You see, when an officer is fitted for a vest, they should always put it on while wearing their duty belt, and should then sit down. If the vest is too long, the pistol belt will push the vest up to where the top of the vest pushes into the officer’s neck. Thus, a properly fitted vest will always have a gap between the pistol belt and the bottom of the vest where the officer is not protected.

Perez had the survival mindset. He knew that he had been shot, but he did not know how bad he had been hit. He focused on the task at hand, drew his own gun and fired into Martin. He then moved to cover and called for help. Perez did an outstanding job to survive in a clear case of self-defense. I would like you to compare this with the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rogue, Louisiana.

In both cases you had a non-compliant suspect on the ground who had a gun. In both cases, the suspect was trying to get the gun out. In Austin, with just one officer and a civilian assisting, the suspect was able to draw and shoot the officer. In Baton Rogue, the officers were not able to control the suspect’s gun arm, and shot the suspect before he could draw the pistol and shoot an officer. The sole difference is that Martin got off the first shot.

Had Martin aimed higher, he could have hit Perez in the head[1] and the game would have been over. Instead, he fired a non-incapacitating round, which allowed Perez to stay in the fight, return fire, and to stop the felonious assault of Martin. There’s been no real protest over the killing of Martin, while there has been ample protest over the killing of Sterling. It is a cognitive disconnect on the part of the public. They realize that the shooting of Martin was justified, but they don’t understand that the shooting of Sterling was just as justified, and for the same reasons.

An officer doesn’t have to be shot or shot at in order to claim self-defense. If the suspect is trying to get a gun, that justifies deadly force by the officer.

That’s not to say it shouldn’t be investigated. It should. I would have been happier if I knew for sure that an outside agency had investigated the officer-involved shooting, but that does not change the facts. The case was still presented to a Travis County Grand Jury, which no billed the officer.

The next time that you want to jump to a conclusion on an officer shooting “too soon,” I would urge you to look at this case again. An officer does not have to wait to be shot in order to use deadly force. There is no requirement for the officer to take a bullet first.

The officer only has to have a reasonable belief that deadly force is immediately necessary to protect his or a third party’s life. That’s it.

Here it is crystal clear.

[1] Which is exactly what happened to Austin PD Officer Jamie Padron in 2012.

The post Austin PO Armando Perez Gets Off The Second Shot appeared first on Mimesis Law.

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