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“New Revelations Pose A Problem For ‘No-Show Rubio'”: A History Of Regularly Failing To Show Up For Work

For pundits, Marco Rubio’s record of not showing up for work has already been dismissed as campaign trivia. For months, the senator’s critics have highlighted Rubio’s history of skipping key votes, important briefings, and committee hearings, and for months, much of the political establishment has been inclined to blow off the issue.

But the Washington Post published a report yesterday that should encourage pundits to take a fresh look at the controversy.

In the anxious weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Florida House hurriedly assembled an elite group of lawmakers to develop plans to keep the state safe.

A spot on the Select Committee on Security was a mark of prominence in Tallahassee. Some of the airplane hijackers had acquired Florida driver’s licenses and trained at flight schools in the state, and legislators lobbied furiously behind the scenes in hopes of being named to the 12-member panel tasked with addressing the state’s newly exposed vulnerabilities.

Among them was a young Republican by the name of Marco Rubio, seen as a rising star in Florida GOP circles at the time, who sought and received one of the coveted slots. It was a rare opportunity for the GOP lawmaker to not only tackle the substance of a major issue, but also earn some credibility.

It really didn’t go well. The Washington Post reported that Rubio “skipped nearly half of the meetings over the first five months of the panel’s existence, more than any of his colleagues.” He also “missed hours of expert testimony and was absent for more than 20 votes.”

In one notable incident, Rubio arrived late for a debate, missed some expert testimony, made a passionate argument against the proposal under consideration, quickly realized his points lacked merit, and then voted for the measure he’d just criticized.

At another point, the article added, Rubio’s indifference to his duties prompted then-State House Speaker Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), who agreed to reward Rubio with the sought after assignment, to “express concern.”

Lately, when asked about his poor attendance habits, Rubio routinely points to the busy schedule of a presidential candidate. But in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Rubio was just a regular ol’ state lawmaker, who had far fewer pressures on his schedule. He nevertheless regularly failed to show up for work.

Making matters slightly worse, this article coincides with a new report from the Tampa Bay Times, which noted that Rubio points to his tenure on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as evidence of his White House qualifications, but a closer look suggests that’s probably not a good idea, given that the evidence ”paints a bleak picture of participation in the day-to-day responsibilities of the job.”

Rubio is on the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Commerce and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees. The Florida Republican has missed 68 percent of hearings, or 407 of 598 for which records were available.

His skipped 80 percent of Commerce hearings and 85 percent of those held by Small Business, records show.

He has missed 60 percent of Foreign Relations hearings since joining the Senate despite making his committee experience a centerpiece of his qualifications for president.

He attended 68 percent of Intelligence Committee meetings, though he has drawn criticism for missing high-profile ones, such as a briefing on the Paris terror attacks.

The argument from Rubio and his supporters is that he’s a presidential candidate, and it’s expected that senators on the national campaign trail are going to have a much lower profile on Capitol Hill. Maybe so. But the Tampa Bay Times’ analysis started with Rubio’s arrival in the Senate five years ago and ends in November 2015 – months before the official launch of his presidential bid.

The picture that emerges is that of a young man in a hurry, who’s eager for a promotion without having done much to deserve one.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Florida Legislature, Marco Rubio, Senate | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The House That Scalia Built”: The Bitter Beginning Of The 21st Century That Scalia And The Bush Dynasty Gave Us

Two waves broke this week: a pair of deaths on our national shore that changed everything. They are inseparable in the annals of our time. Goodbye to all that a Supreme Court Justice wrought, and the House of Bush brought.

If only it were that simple.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead at 79, the Dickensian, most opinionated character on the bench. Friends — many of whom knew him as an operagoer, a city denizen, and an avid socializer — called the father of nine children Nino. His burial is Saturday.

The “master of invective,” as one put it, Scalia was considered brilliant, and was often callous in withering dissents on, for example, gay marriage. Taking a dim view of President Obama’s lead in the delicate Paris Agreement on climate change, his last vote was to immobilize the emissions standards. How nice of five Republican men to disrespect the Democratic president in the world’s eyes. As it happens, the Folger Shakespeare Library is staging “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — fitting, considering Titania’s haunting lines that warn of global warming.

Nobody on the creamy marble Court was more polarizing since the Civil War. The unabashed carrier of the conservative cross, Scalia seldom let up on his pounding force and lashings, even in victory.

On “60 Minutes,” Scalia scolded half the American people, saying: “Get over it!” He referred to the infamous 2000 Supreme Court decision that swung the presidency from Al Gore to George W. Bush by one vote. He had a chance to be civil; he didn’t take it.

Meanwhile, the Bush dynasty hangs onto its last breath with Jeb Bush’s floundering presidential campaign. His brother, former President George W. Bush, left Texas to campaign, but the magic was missing. The 43rd president looked aged. Jeb has a penchant for saying their father, Bush senior, is the “greatest man alive,” or some such.

Here’s the double knell: The House of Bush is the House that Scalia built. At least, he was an architect. Now a tragic link ties those names together.

Their historical cadence will join other follies. “Sophocles long ago/Heard it on the Aegean,” English poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach.” Now I know what Arnold meant when he saw an elegiac sadness in ages and armies.

All we need to do is go back to 2000 — when our known world ended — when five Republican Supreme Court justices gave new meaning to “one man, one vote.” The deciding votes were out of the citizens’ hands; nine officials voted 5-to-4 — freezing a close vote count in Florida to determine the true winner. They shut democracy down.

That rude decision changed the course of the 21st century. George W. Bush swerved into war in Iraq, giving rise to ISIS today. Remind me: What were we fighting for? Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were the pretext to war, when 19 men (15 Saudis) were hijackers in a clever plot. The unprepared U.S. Army and the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, destroyed civil society in Iraq. What a mess.

The Court outrage for the ages must not be forgot in Scalia’s dramatic death, political to the end. The decision is full of rich contradictions. Scalia, who often mocked “nine unelected lawyers” in democracy, sprang into action by stopping vote counting in Florida. The governor of Florida then was Jeb Bush. In unseemly partisanship, Scalia departed from his so-called “originalist doctrine” to strongly urge the Court to stop counting. He also abandoned his emphasis on states having a say in governance by shortchanging the Florida Supreme Court. Hs loyal colleague, Clarence Thomas, followed him every step — Thomas who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Justice Scalia died on a West Texas luxury ranch during a hunting trip. His death was apt, given his pugilistic style in upholding gun rights and every conservative cause in creation. Washington can’t get over that he’s gone, friends and foes alike. The senior sitting justice loomed large as the fiercest player, in every word he spoke and wrote. The vacancy gives President Obama one more try to work his will on a hostile Senate.

It will take time for the country to heal from the bitter beginning of the 21st century that Scalia and the Bush dynasty gave us. And for the record, I will never get over it.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, Bush Family, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cruz, Trump Pray Each Other Away In SC”: There Isn’t A Whole Lot Of Love-Thy-Neighbor Going On

Mike Lee wants you to know that Ted Cruz prays a lot.

The Utah Republican senator told a packed room at a barbecue joint in Easley, S.C., that in Washington, when “all the powers in the world” seem to have turned against people who believe in liberty, freedom, and Jesus Christ, Cruz is always there.

“In those moments, Ted is among the first to suggest we pray together,” he said.

In the final days before Palmetto Staters decide who will win their long-coveted support, the timbre of the race here has taken a distinctly Bible-Belt tone. Instead of speaking to pragmatic New England sentiment and detailing how he plans to win in November, the Texan is explicitly appealing to South Carolinians’ Protestant Evangelical sensibilities.

And Donald Trump, in his own very special way, is making a similar pitch.

But between their supporters on the ground, there isn’t a whole lot of love-thy-neighbor going on.

When asked at the barbecue place about tension between their supporters, Easley resident and staunch Cruz backer Scott Watkins chuckled.

“You mean other than the fistfights?” he said, grinning.

Emotions are particularly frayed in a small-ish region of the densely Evangelical state called the Upcountry, which has become ground zero of the Trump/Cruz Battle Royale. It’s where the pair—and their very passionate supporters—are waging a holy war of Old Testament proportions.

And as is the case with any war, geography matters. The northwest corner of the state is overshadowed by the Appalachian Mountains, and what it lacks in glitz (think Charleston) or policy-making clout (that would be Columbia, smack-dab in the center), it makes up for in religious faith and conservative single-mindedness. About 40 percent of the state’s Republican primary voters live in this Appalachian region, and their support helped save George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush’s then-flagging presidential bids. The forces that dominate Upcountry politics are also ones that outsiders find totally perplexing—and none less so than Bob Jones University. The school has just 3,000 students—one-third of whom were homeschooled—and it’s so conservative that they aren’t allowed to watch any movies above a G rating without a faculty member present (seriously). It’s also a popular pilgrimage location for Republican presidential contenders, since the school’s community is highly organized and politically active.

So while Lee was focused on praying, and Watkins joked about fistfights, others cast the disagreements in more ominous tones. Joanne Meadows, former president of the Greenville County Republican Party, said conflict over whether to back Cruz or Trump had strained some families.

“There are a lot of houses that have been divided,” she said soberly. “There’s a lot of emotion in this.”

She added that she’s backed Cruz since meeting him at a Republican Party dessert social, and that she’s had some very involved debates about her pick with skeptical neighbors.

In this part of the state, though, it isn’t just a question of neighbors sniping at each other over glasses of iced tea. Cruz’s foes have gone after him in labor-intensive ways. Dan Tripp, South Carolina state director for the pro-Cruz Keep the Promise super PAC, emailed over pictures of numerous large Cruz road signs with smaller “TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” signs stapled all over them. One sign had the words “CHEAT,” “FUCK,” and “CHEATER” scrawled on it in orange spray paint.

Tripp estimated that upwards of one-third of the super PAC’s large pro-Cruz highway signs had been stolen or defaced. Even in an ugly South Carolina presidential primary, he added, that’s a lot.

Trump’s messaging to Evangelicals focuses less on his personal faith and more on Cruz’s alleged lack thereof; the mogul has spent the past few weeks questioning the Texan’s devotion to Christianity.

“How can Ted Cruz be an Evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?” he tweeted last week.

There’s a reason Trump singles out Evangelicals; South Carolina is one of the least Catholic states in the nation —2010 data shows only Mississippi and Tennessee have a smaller percentage of Catholics—and Evangelicals made up 65 percent of 2012’s Republican primary voters.

And it could be a winning strategy.

“There are Evangelicals that are extremely skeptical of any politician who tells them exactly what they want to hear, appearing to be too perfect in their philosophy and faith,” said Robert Cahaly, an Atlanta-based consultant who does work in South Carolina.

“As Carson, Trump, Rubio, and the media continue pointing to examples of tactics and actions which are inconsistent with Cruz’s carefully crafted persona, they actually erode the fundamental essence of his support,” he added.

Thus far, it’s working out. Recent CNN and PPP polls show Trump is leading among Palmetto State Evangelicals.

That may be why churches are now battlegrounds. The South Carolina politics blog FitsNews posted pictures of fliers that reportedly blanketed Upstate churches on Wednesday evening (when many host Bible studies and mid-week services). Churchgoers returning to their cars found fliers under their windshields highlighting recent reports that Cruz doesn’t tithe very much.

“Canadian-born Ted Cruz may not even be eligible to be president,” read one flier, next to a picture of the Texan with a Pinocchio nose. “Has a habitually habit of lying and spreading falsehoods on the campaign trail, all while waving a Bible around, taking selfies of himself praying and even signing autographs in the Lord’s House.”

Cruz’s explicitly religious pitch brings its own risks. And if those attacks work and Cruz loses badly in South Carolina, he may have trouble resurrecting his campaign elsewhere.

“If Trump wins South Carolina by double digits in spite of Scalia’s death and the renewed emphasis on the need for a conservative Supreme Court, it calls into serious question Cruz’s ability to rally evangelical voters—the lynchpin of his base,” emailed Robert Jeffress, a pastor from Dallas who has opened several Trump events in prayer but hasn’t endorsed.

That said, Cruz’s backers believe God is on their side. Maryanna Tygart, a retired nurse, traveled from her home in Indiana to South Carolina to volunteer here for Cruz.

“It was so crowded this morning, I tell you what, I was almost in tears,” she said as she waited to get her picture with him at a Republican Women’s Club event in Greenville. “We didn’t even have room big enough or enough phones for people to work, and there were so many people going out door-to-door and canvassing—and it was like, yes! Praise the Lord.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Evangelicals, South Carolina, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Flag Remains A Point Of Tension”: Confederate Cavalry Robocalls For Cruz

South Carolina has a solid track record of picking the GOP presidential nominee. But if one conservative group has any say in it, the nation’s first Southern primary won’t be a cakewalk for Donald Trump.

According to the Post and Courier, a last minute robocall released by pro-Ted Cruz forces paints the New York real estate titan as a carpetbagger who does not understand their way of life. Trump currently boasts a sizeable lead in nearly every poll and is expected to trounce his opponents in the Palmetto State primary on Saturday, but candidates like Cruz can still hope to narrow the gap.

Courageous Conservative Political Action Committee released a pre-recorded message that all but accuses Trump of attempting to burn through Dixie like General William Tecumseh Sherman. Alluding to the 2015 fight that brought down the Confederate flag, the caller says, “People like Donald Trump are always butting their noses into other people’s business.”

“People like Trump,” of course meaning people with “New York values” who won’t fight for the brand social conservatism one might find in places like Rock Hill or Bethune. The downing of the Confederate flag remains a point of tension for many who believe it embodies their heritage and who reject the notion that it has racial implications.

“Trump talks about our flag like it’s a social disease,” the voice goes on to say.

Pollsters at fivethirtyeight.com give Trump a 78 percent chance of winning. Cruz comes in at a measly 10 percent and—after winning the Iowa caucus—this may be his last opportunity to prove that his candidacy is viable. Despite his recent rise in national polling, the Texas senator appears to be locked in a race for second with at least five in other candidates in South Carolina, particularly Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The pro-Cruz PAC wants South Carolinians to know that Trump isn’t on their side and that he agreed with removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.

“Put it in a museum, let it go,” the announcer says, parroting Trump.

Bu the truth is there may not be much that can stop Trump at this point. The pro-Cruz robocall feels like a Hail Mary pass in the fourth quarter, on a fourth down with four seconds left on the clock.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Stance Not Grounded In Principle”: Apple Unlocked iPhones For The Feds 70 Times Before

Apple CEO Tim Cook declared on Wednesday that his company wouldn’t comply with a government search warrant to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers, a significant escalation in a long-running debate between technology companies and the government over access to people’s electronically-stored private information.

But in a similar case in New York last year, Apple acknowledged that it could extract such data if it wanted to. And according to prosecutors in that case, Apple has unlocked phones for authorities at least 70 times since 2008. (Apple doesn’t dispute this figure.)

In other words, Apple’s stance in the San Bernardino case may not be quite the principled defense that Cook claims it is. In fact, it may have as much to do with public relations as it does with warding off what Cook called “an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.”

For its part, the government’s public position isn’t clear cut, either. U.S. officials insist that they cannot get past a security feature on the shooter’s iPhone that locks out anyone who doesn’t know its unique password—which even Apple doesn’t have. But in that New York case, a government attorney acknowledged that one U.S. law enforcement agency has already developed the technology to crack at least some iPhones, without the assistance from Apple that officials are demanding now.

The facts in the New York case, which involve a self-confessed methamphetamine dealer and not a notorious terrorist, tend to undermine some of the core claims being made by both Apple and the government in a dispute with profound implications for privacy and criminal investigations beyond the San Bernardino case.

In New York, as in California, Apple is refusing to bypass the passcode feature now found on many iPhones.

But in a legal brief, Apple acknowledged that the phone in the meth case was running version 7 of the iPhone operating system, which means the company can access it. “For these devices, Apple has the technical ability to extract certain categories of unencrypted data from a passcode locked iOS device,” the company said in a court brief.

Whether the extraction would be successful depended on whether the phone was “in good working order,” Apple said, noting that the company hadn’t inspected the phone yet. But as a general matter, yes, Apple could crack the iPhone for the government. And, two technical experts told The Daily Beast, the company could do so with the phone used by deceased San Bernardino shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook, a model 5C. It was running version 9 of the operating system.

Still, Apple argued in the New York case, it shouldn’t have to, because “forcing Apple to extract data… absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand,” the company said, putting forth an argument that didn’t explain why it was willing to comply with court orders in other cases.

“This reputational harm could have a longer term economic impact beyond the mere cost of performing the single extraction at issue,” Apple said.

Apple’s argument in New York struck one former NSA lawyer as a telling admission: that its business reputation is now an essential factor in deciding whether to hand over customer information.

“I think Apple did itself a huge disservice,” Susan Hennessey, who was an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the NSA, told The Daily Beast. The company acknowledged that it had the technical capacity to unlock the phone, but “objected anyway on reputational grounds,” Hennessey said. Its arguments were at odds with each other, especially in light of Apple’s previous compliance with so many court orders.

It wasn’t until after the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Apple began to position itself so forcefully as a guardian of privacy protection in the face of a vast government surveillance apparatus. Perhaps Apple was taken aback by the scale of NSA spying that Snowden revealed. Or perhaps it was embarassed by its own role in it. The company, since 2012, had been providing its customers’ information to the FBI and the NSA via the PRISM program, which operated pursuant to court orders.

Apple has also argued, then and now, that the government is overstepping the authority of the All Writs Act, an 18th-century statute that it claims forces Apple to conduct court-ordered iPhone searches. That’s where the “clear legal authority” question comes into play.

But that, too, is a subjective question which will have to be decided by higher courts. For now, Apple is resisting the government on multiple grounds, and putting its reputation as a bastion of consumer protection front and center in the fight.

None of this has stopped the government from trying to crack the iPhone, a fact that emerged unexpectedly in the New York case. In a brief exchange with attorneys during a hearing in October, Judge James Orenstein said he’d found testimony in another case that the Homeland Security Department “is in possession of technology that would allow its forensic technicians to override the pass codes security feature on the subject iPhone and obtain the data contained therein.”

That revelation, which went unreported in the press at the time, seemed to undercut the government’s central argument that it needed Apple to unlock a protected iPhone.

“Even if [Homeland Security] agents did not have the defendant’s pass code, they would nevertheless have been able to obtain the records stored in the subject iPhone using specialized software,” the judge said. “Once the device is unlocked, all records in it can be accessed and copied.”

A government attorney affirmed that he was aware of the tool. However, it applied only to one update of version 8 of the iPhone operating system—specifically, 8.1.2. The government couldn’t unlock all iPhones, but just phones with that software running.

Still, it made the judge question whether other government agencies weren’t also trying to break the iPhone’s supposedly unbreakable protections. And if so, why should he order the company to help?

There was, the judge told the government lawyer, “the possibility that on the intel side, the government has this capability. I would be surprised if you would say it in open court one way or the other.”

Orenstein was referring to the intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, which develop tools and techniques to hack popular operating systems, and have been particularly interested for years in trying to get into Apple products, according to documents leaked by Snowden.

There was no further explanation of how Homeland Security developed the tool, and whether it was widely used. A department spokesperson declined to comment “on specific law enforcement techniques.” But the case had nevertheless demonstrated that, at least in some cases, the government can, and has, managed to get around the very wall that it now claims impedes lawful criminal investigations.

The showdown between Apple and the FBI will almost certainly not be settled soon. The company is expected to file new legal briefs within days. And the question of whether the All Writs Act applies in such cases is destined for an appeals court decision, legal experts have said.

But for the moment, it appears that the only thing certainly standing in the way of Apple complying with the government is its decision not to. And for its part, the government must be presumed to be searching for new ways to get the information it wants.

Technically, Apple probably can find a way to extract the information that the government wants from the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Daily Beast.

“The question is, does the law give the government the ability to force Apple to create new code?” he said. “Engineers have to sit down and create something that doesn’t exist” in order to meet the government’s demands. Soghoian noted that this would only be possible in the San Bernardino case because the shooter was using an iPhone model 5C, and that newer hardware versions would be much harder for Apple to bypass.

But even that’s in dispute, according to another expert’s analysis. Dan Guido, a self-described hacker and CEO of the cybersecurity company Trail of Bits, said that Apple can, in fact, eliminate the protections that keep law enforcement authorities from trying to break into the iPhone with a so-called brute force attack, using a computer to make millions of password guesses in a short period of time. New iPhones have a feature that stops users from making repeated incorrect guesses and can trigger a kind of self-destruct mechanism, erasing all the phone’s contents, after too many failed attempts.

In a detailed blog post, Guido described how Apple could work around its own protections and effectively disarm the security protections. It wouldn’t be trivial. But it’s feasible, he said, even for the newest versions of the iPhone, which, unlike the ones in the New York and San Bernardino cases, Apple swears it cannot crack.

“The burden placed on Apple will be greater… but it will not be impossible,” Guido told The Daily Beast.

 

By: Shane Harris, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Apple, Tim Cook, U. S. Government | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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