Archive for oversight

Call to action: Twitter needs to use its power to stop graphically abusive accounts

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nsfw not safe for work animated gif

Warning: Some of the images in this post are not safe for work.

Twitter is an open forum for anyone who wants to tweet their mind. That's great. I partake in a big way. But when I get tweets-- daily, hourly, sometimes piling on one after the other-- that are abusive, insulting, viciously demeaning, hostile, and sometimes violent, then it's time to take action.

Twitter sure doesn't. I know that for a fact, because I've tried over and over again to convince them that in some cases, it stops being free speech and starts feeling like assault.

[NOTE: This post is not about cyber bullies, although they, too, are abusive; I've been harassed and smeared for years by one "progressive" who many of you became aware of and have since avoided. This is about extremist trolls, who also happen to bully.]

I regularly hear from right wing extremists, tea partiers, and total nutcases (that's not hyperbole, there are some very sick people out there). When they're civil, I simply ignore or block them, and even debate them once in awhile. And yes, I admit to succumbing to occasional lapses of playing Whack a Troll just to share their ignorance with my followers, using as much snarky mockitude as I can muster up.

But then there are those who pop in repeatedly to suggest various activities that they want me to engage in-- with my own body or theirs-- and apply colorful words like c**t and suck my c**k, simply because they've read my tweets and don't agree with me. I don't know these people nor am I familiar with their accounts, but they get some kind of perverse pleasure out of following my threads and entering my stream with slurs, attacks, and irrational tirades.

Almost without exception, these trolls oppose me politically, and that's fine. But the intense hatred spewed by many of them is disruptive, highly offensive, and completely out of line.

There is a particularly rabid one who should be in jail or in a padded cell-- again, no hyperbole. If I were to post screen grabs of his avatars, messages, and profile photos, you'd literally want to gag. My own husband couldn't get through them. Unfortunately, catching sight of them is unavoidable when they're in my stream or when I go to block and report.

Imagine the most frantically vile, graphic images depicting blatant racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, bigotry, and self-loathing. They include explicit close-up photos of defecation and the most hard-core XXX porn you can imagine, abominable references, every kind of debasement of women and young men, degrading photos of celebrities and our president and first lady, you name it.

And the crude, twisted tweets he sends me match the vulgar visuals. He has also opened accounts using my likeness (taken from my Twitter account), as well as those of other high-profile liberals like Rachel Maddow, Lizz Winstead, John Fugelsang, Bill Maher, and Rosie O'Donnell, among others.

In short, he is an obsessed, deranged, seething, hostile, psychologically impotent (and likely, physically) conservative coward who consistently targets progressives, mostly women. Here are semi-cleaned up, edited grabs of two of his tamer suspended accounts. Trust me when I say, they get much worse than these:

troll xxx for post banner

troll xxx for post redo

troll xxx my IDHere is one of his defunct profile pages

Screen shot 2011-06-05 at 11.52.53 AM troll xxx wants my IDA tweet he sent out under my name and avi

This is one reason I stay anonymous. It started when a stalker came to close, sending me a Google map of my neighborhood, so that was that.

This person has been suspended well over 500 times. I've reported him to Twitter well over 100 times, and finally contacted my local authorities as well as the FBI more than once. But because he didn't threaten my life, they did nothing. As I type this, he's added at least three more Twitter accounts that I'm aware of.

I've endured this for years, literally. Because of this, I felt it was time to put out a call to action. Perhaps if enough of us demand more oversight from Twitter, especially those of us who are sick to death of being barraged with disgustingly offensive messages and photos, then maybe Twitter will take notice and do something.

It's unimaginable that they can't devise a better system to rid Twitter of such filth.

By the way, when I tried to fill out one of their complaint forms, I didn't have a link to the offending tweet, so the form wouldn't go through. I didn't have a link because I blocked him, and the account was immediately suspended so the tweet was no longer accessible. So I'm snail mailing them, and I'm including about two dozen graphic screen shots of 93 of the suspended profiles I've captured.

Here is the tweet:

"I'd like to take a 12 in figurine of a smiling G W. Bush and ram it up your stinking communist ass."

Please share this post and contact Twitter. It's worth a shot to at least try to turn things around for once. I'm fed up with having to so much as glance at the malignancies that come my way.

Thank you.

Twitter contact information:

Twitter, Inc.
1355 Market St, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94103

And to Twitter users, some general contact info, not that it will do much good:

@Support

@Twitter

@Spam

To file a ticket, go here.

To report an abusive or offensive user, go here.

UPDATE: Here is a sample letter sent by one of my favorite commenters:

Twitter, Inc
1355 Market St., Suite 900
San Francisco CA 94103

Attn: Dick Costolo, CEO

Dear Sir:

I’ve become more and more alarmed by the threatening, harassing tweets bombarding people like GottaLaff and urge you to take them seriously. One man who sends one tweet after another threatening her, even sending her a map of her neighborhood, forced her to resort to using a pseudonym on Twitter and he still doesn’t stop.

Spam is bad enough but when one is verbally bashed and/or threatened it is not to Twitter’s benefit and such tweets should not be ignored. Just reporting or blocking them isn’t sufficient to stop their abuse; they simply open a new account under a different name - as you know.

Surely Twitter can trace an account back to an IP address and demand that they cease such dangerous behavior. I understand that tweets can be sent from IP addresses that are used by many people (at cafes, for instance) but there is such a thing as product liability. I’m urging you to hold the owners of such IP addresses responsible for the damage their users do. Even bar owners who serve people after they are drunk are held responsible for the damage their customers do.

I’ve enjoyed Twitter for a few years and want to continue to do so but such threatening behavior makes a pleasant experience completely abhorrent and there’s a limit to the amount of such behavior I, and others, will accept.

Please develop a policy to identify & ban such people from the Twitter feed.

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Wisconsin report card: 53% of charter schools fell below expectations, 2 got failing grade

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grade F

Back in February I posted, Gov. Scott Walker's budget: Planned Parenthood closes 4 locations; funds school vouchers, charter schools "leaving public schools on life support."

Yes, Scotty not only tries to bust unions, but he also makes it harder on children, including special needs children, to access public education.

By the way, did you know that e-mails linked the Jeb Bush foundation, corporations, ALEC, and education officials? Of course, corporate funders benefited. Leave it to the GOP to put profits over the educational needs of all children.

When schools are privatized, they exist to make money, which leads to cutting corners and catering to those who can afford the high price of a private education. And charter schools challenge teachers’ unions while education opportunities suffer. In Philadelphia, charter school teachers rallied for unionization:

[T]hese teachers are on the frontlines of the education reform movement and among the first to seek to unionize the corporate education sector.

$400,000 was spent by the group that owns the charter of the high school in question to stop that union effort.

At the rally, the teachers were pretty clear about what they were fighting for; and, it doesn't revolve around pay and benefits. Emily Guck who has been teaching at Olney Charter High School for two years explained that since teachers see how policy affects their students on a day-to-day basis, teachers at the charter school should be granted a seat at the table.

Period. That was their priority, not money.

One twelfth grade teacher at the school explained:

"One of the reasons we feel our charter school union drive is so important in the present moment is that over the last decade or so, as we've seen charter schools continue to proliferate, major changes have happened in terms of who actually gets to make decisions about public education. Traditionally, such decisions have been made through collaborations between elected officials, teachers, parents, and administrators. Increasingly, they are now being made in closed-meetings by the unelected board members of private organizations, who may or may not have backgrounds in education, or children in the schools for which they are making decisions."

In Wisconsin, charter schools and voucherizing have consistently been pet issues for Gov. Walker. Let's check in on how that's been working out.

Via JSOnline:

Despite having more freedom over curriculum, budgets and staffing than traditional public schools, the majority of Milwaukee's independent charter schools are not meeting performance expectations, according to statewide report card results for 2012-'13.

Of the 17 independent charters in Milwaukee that received a rating through the state's new school report card accountability system, 53% fell below expectations, with two schools authorized by the City of Milwaukee receiving a failing grade... The schools are publicly financed but privately managed, and are given freedom from bureaucratic restraints on school districts in exchange for upholding a promise to deliver on performance. [...]

[O]n a percentage basis, the 134 schools rated in MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] educated three times as many students learning English and twice as many students with special needs, compared with independent charters. The charter schools enrolled a higher percentage of white students and lower percentage of students in poverty than MPS.

Class dismissed.

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Treasury & Education Secretaries Drop Their Balls On Sallie Mae

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Drop the ball

Senator Elizabeth Warren is at it again, taking on the Treasury Department, the Education Department -- the division that oversees student loans and Sallie Mae--the nation’s largest student loan company. Her questioning was quite simple and direct, "Where are the government's promised return benefits or as the expression goes, "Show me the money!":

HUFFPO:

...because of the enormous benefits the government has provided Sallie Mae,” Warren said, ticking through a list that includes hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts; $600 million in profits off selling loans to the Education Department in 2009 and 2010 under the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans program, known as ECASLA; and special taxpayer-backed credit facilities that enabled the company to borrow billions of dollars at “astonishingly low interest rates.”

All she's asking is where is the US return for giving this program such huge profits. The answer she's gotten so far from Sallie Mae is that there is very little profit. The reason is criminal neglect. So who's going to take the fall?

Then she (Senator Warren) turned the attention to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, asking him whether the agency would terminate its contracts or level a fine against Sallie Mae if it’s found to have violated the service members law.That seemed like a reasonable question the cabinet member. It is his department which sets and oversees policy.

Warren also asked Duncan to detail whether the agency has ever used its authority to fine companies up to $35,000 for individual violations, and whether the department has ever fined or penalized Sallie Mae, investigated the company or determined that it has violated federal contracts.

Someone get caught with their pants down:

pants down

Evidently Secretary Duncan was too tongue-tied to respond. That of course didn't stop Senator Warren from pressing the case on our behalf:

 (Senator Warren) demanded to know under what circumstances the Education Department would feel justified to terminate a contract with a law-breaking company, if Sallie Mae’s past actions have not warranted an end to its federal contracts. Warren sits on the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The fact is Sally Mae, the largest provider of student loans has NEVER faced sanctions by either the Treasury or the Education Department .

It all boils down to why not? Senator Warren deserves to know. We all deserve to know.

What the hell is going on in our financial institutions? The Republicans want to save money? Why not look into the proper running of the current programs they're already supervising. One senator is for sure. Go E.W.

Letter from Senator warren to Jacob LewClick image above for entire letter from Senator Warren to Sec. Jacob Lew, Treasury Department and Sec. Arne Duncan, Department of Education. See if this doesn't boil your oil.

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21st century privacy: The NSA "keeps track of whether, how often and precisely when she called the abortion clinic."

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what's the big deal

Today our own David Garber posted "AT&T Tapping Phones For DEA — Especially iPhones." It goes without saying, we're being watched, or as my Twitter buddy and frequent BLUNT video contributor @Francie57 tweeted:

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times reiterates arguments against the intrusive, warrantless monitoring of unsuspecting Americans. As I read the article, all I could think about was if well-meaning Obama supporters, those who trust him so much on this, will feel differently when a Republican again resides in the White House.

It's hard to fathom how so many on the left seem to be okay with snooping by a Democratic administration, or how a president is automatically trustworthy because of his/her party affiliation.

So that leads us right back to the inevitability of being stuck with a Republican president whom we don't trust. Then what? A public change of heart? An awakening? Regret? Will Americans who currently shrug off the current NSA activities because a Dem is in charge suddenly rethink living in the (Democratic) moment?

And to those who feel invulnerable, think about the unlucky ones who have been wrongly accused and/or convicted of crimes they didn't commit. That happens. A lot.

As for the unlikeliness of being targeted, as easy it is to dismiss the chances of that happening, it only takes being that one person that one time to fully grasp what a nightmare one's life can become.

Foresight is a good thing. (So is ample oversight, by the way.) Substitute the name "Bush" for "Obama" and see if that doesn't offer a disturbingly different perspective, perhaps a more objective one. What would another Bush administration do with the information the NSA collects?

As the ACLU's brief puts it: "Each time a resident of the United States makes a phone call, the [National Security Agency] records whom she called, when the call was placed and how long the conversation lasted. The NSA keeps track of when she called the doctor, and which doctor she called; which family members she called, and which she didn't; which pastor she called, and for how long she spoke to him. It keeps track of whether, how often and precisely when she called the abortion clinic, the support group for alcoholics, the psychiatrist, the ex-girlfriend, the criminal defense lawyer, the fortune teller, the suicide hot-line, the child services agency and the shelter for victims of domestic violence." [...]

In its lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the NSA's collection of metadata is much more objectionable than the warrantless monitoring of phone calls upheld by the court in 1979. That's true.... [Justice] Sotomayor added: "I for one doubt that people would accept without complaint the warrantless disclosure to the government of a list of every website they had visited in the last week or month or year."

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VIDEO: NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year. "That ain't no kind of checks and balances that I'm familiar with."

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eye keyhole smaller

chart NSA violations

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

To those who don't think more oversight is in order, WaPo:

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

Alex Wagner:

While the documents do not reveal how many Americans were affected, they do appear to directly contradict what President Obama said just last week.

Michael Tomasky, these checks don't actually seem to be in place.

Michael Tomasky:

This is a really problematic story for the administration.

I think this is going to swing public opinion which so far has more or less held in the support of the view that we do need a balance and I do care about being protected and that some of this activity is perfectly fine as long as it keeps me safe.

I think we'll see public opinion start to switch a little bit.

It will be interesting to see what we hear on Capitol Hill about this. Are the Republicans -- is the right wing party in the United States really going to hold hearings and investigate the liberal administration over questions of surveillance and intelligence abuse? I suppose it's possible.

Karen Finney:

If there is that kind of an audit going on and the president doesn't know about it, and you're going to send him out in front of cameras to say something that contradicts that audit, that is a major problem. Not only for -- in terms of safeguards and transparency and security, that's a huge communication problem for the president.

So even Republicans aren't going to be able to ignore -- maybe that's the way they'll go after it and question the difference between the statements that have been made and what these documents are telling them. But I think you're going to see some strange bedfellows on this one, because how can you ignore that?

Alex:

Now the Post reveals that the leader of the FISA court that is supposed to provide critical oversight of the government, that spying program, says its ability to do so is limited and that it must trust the government to report when it improperly spies on Americans.

That ain't no kind of checks and balances that I'm familiar with.

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"It would be truly miraculous for church to rectify oversight of its clergy so that sex-abuse cases promptly reported"

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I need a miracle

Today's Los Angeles Times letter to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "The trouble with miracles," Opinion, July 8

How telling that on consecutive days, The Times reports on the Catholic Church's systematic cover-ups of its clergy's sexual abuses and then runs an Op-Ed piece criticizing the church's implausible findings of miracles.

Maybe such claims of miracles performed by former popes or in Lourdes' waters would be deemed more credible if the church first managed to work a universally indisputable miracle. It would be truly miraculous for the church to rectify oversight of its clergy, so that all future sex-abuse cases are promptly reported to the police for investigation and prosecution. Offenders found guilty would be defrocked.

Gene Martinez

Orcutt, Calif.

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