Monday, October 30, 2023

Last Call For Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

Yet another 2022 GOP state redistricting gerrymander struck down as unconstitutional for disenfranchising Black voters, and this time the state in question is Georgia.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that Georgia’s district lines must be redrawn to ensure adequate representation of Black voters in Congress and the General Assembly, finding that the state’s maps illegally weakened their political power.

The decision could result in the election of additional Black representatives next year, with Democrats hoping to gain a seat in the U.S. House, where Republicans currently hold a 222-212 majority and control nine of 14 Georgia congressional seats. Before the General Assembly’s 2021 redistricting, the GOP held an 8-6 advantage in Georgia.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones concluded that the Republican-controlled General Assembly violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in elections.

Jones’ order requires legislators to create an additional majority-Black congressional district west-metro Atlanta by Dec. 8. His ruling also calls for two more state Senate districts and five more state House districts with Black majorities in the Atlanta and Macon areas.

“Georgia has made great strides since 1965 towards equality in voting,” Jones wrote in his 516-page order. “However, the evidence before this court shows that Georgia has not reached the point where the political process has equal openness and equal opportunity for everyone.”

Georgia Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikema Williams called Thursday’s ruling a “resounding victory” for democracy.

“Republicans knew they couldn’t win on their ideas, so they resorted to redrawing the maps in their favor instead,” she said.

Josh McKoon, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, called Jones a “partisan Democrat ally.” Jones was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in 2011 by then-President Barack Obama.

“It is simply outrageous that one far left federal judge is invalidating the will of the elected representatives of the people of Georgia who drew fair maps in conformity with longstanding legal principles,” he said.
If by "conformity with longstanding legal principles" you mean "the centuries-long history of Southern states disenfranchising Black folk" then yes, Goergia's GOP is definitely conforming.  

Black voters in Georgia accounted for nearly half of the state’s sharp population growth — over 1 million new residents during the past decade — but state legislators shaped districts in a way that resulted in Democrats losing a seat in Congress during last year’s elections. Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats while most white voters back Republicans.

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who leads more than 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia and was a witness in the redistricting trial, said Thursday’s order was a “long march to justice.” His organization, the Sixth District of the A.M.E. Church, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“It is unfortunate that, decades after the Civil Rights Movement, we still need to defend and promote the right for the African-American community to vote (but) make no mistake that we will continue to fight for these causes, not only because the facts and the law are on our side, but because democracy is our country’s most important tenant and is always worth fighting for,” Jackson said.
You're damn right they are worth fighting for.
Black Lives Still Matter.

Ridin' With BidenGPT

The White House has issued a long-anticipated executive order involving the regulation of artificial intelligence systems, which I know absolutely sounds like part of the opening exposition in the first five minutes of a Terminator franchise movie, but this is a dose of necessary reality here in 2023.
President Joe Biden signed a wide-ranging executive order on artificial intelligence Monday, setting the stage for some industry regulations and funding for the U.S. government to further invest in the technology.

The order is broad, and its focuses range from civil rights and industry regulations to a government hiring spree.

In a media call previewing the order Sunday, a senior White House official, who asked to not be named as part of the terms of the call, said AI has so many facets that effective regulations have to cast a wide net.

“AI policy is like running into a decathlon, and there’s 10 different events here,” the official said.

“And we don’t have the luxury of just picking ‘we’re just going to do safety’ or ‘we’re just going to do equity’ or ‘we’re just going to do privacy.’ You have to do all of these things.”

The official also called for “significant bipartisan legislation” to further advance the country’s interests with AI. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., held a private forum in September with industry leaders but has yet to introduce significant AI legislation.

Some of the order builds on a previous nonbinding agreement that seven of the top U.S. tech companies developing AI agreed to in July, like hiring outside experts to probe their systems for weaknesses and sharing their critical findings.

The order leverages the Defense Production Act to legally require those companies to share safety test results with the federal government.

It also tasks the Commerce Department with creating guidance about “watermarking” AI content to make it clear that deepfaked videos or ChatGPT-generated essays were not created by humans.

The order adds funding for new AI research and a federal AI hiring surge. The White House has launched a corresponding website to connect job seekers with AI government jobs:

Fei-Fei Li, a co-director of Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, said in an interview that government funding is crucial for AI to be able to tackle major human problems.

“The public sector holds a unique opportunity in terms of data and interdisciplinary talent to cure cancer, cure rare diseases, to map out biodiversity at a global scale, to understand and predict wildfires, to find climate solutions, to supercharge our teachers,” Li said. “There’s so much the public sector can do, but all of this is right now starved because we are severely lacking in resources.”
And while this is a start, these remain guidelines without real enforcement consequences. Actual laws have to be written by Congress, and they keep dragging their feet as AI keeps getting further and further ahead. Ethical, social, and environmental concerns are great to have, but all this lacks any real hard and fast penalties for companies that violate them.

As it is, the major players in AI like Amazon, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, all have a long history of violating federal antitrust, commerce and labor regulations. Asking them to play nicely here is not going to hold up for much longer when trillions are at stake in the years ahead for whichever company masters the process of successfully stealing a planet's worth of intellectual property to feed their Frankenstein's Monster first.

We're going to need something much, much stronger, if not an international treaty with watchdog organizations and monitoring the way we have for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons currently.
On top of that, we have to make it stick. We're not going to of course, not until it's well far past being too late. 

We may already be past that point now, to be frank.

Israeli A Serious Problem Here, Con't

While the Israeli ground war ramps up and the death toll in Gaza is now well over 8,000, the world is not standing idly by as Palestinians are bombed and Israelis are hit with rockets, and while the most obvious candidate and route for this disaster to expand is Hezbollah and Iran, it turns out the more immediate threat may in fact be Turkey.

President Tayyip Erdogan addressed hundreds of thousands of supporters at one of the largest pro-Palestinian rallies since the Israel-Hamas war began, courting his Islamist political base a day ahead of the centenary of Turkey's secular republic.

"Israel has been openly committing war crimes for 22 days, but the Western leaders cannot even call on Israel for a ceasefire, let alone react to it," Erdogan told the crowd in Istanbul, who waved Palestinian flags.

"We will tell the whole world that Israel is a war criminal. We are making preparations for this. We will declare Israel a war criminal," he said.

In an hour-long speech, Erdogan also repeated his assertion that Hamas was not a terrorist organisation, describing Israel as an occupier.

Turkey has condemned Israeli civilian deaths caused by Hamas's Oct. 7 rampage through southern Israel, which killed 1,400, but Erdogan this week called the militant group Palestinian "freedom fighters".

He also criticised some Western nations' unconditional support for Israel, drawing sharp rebukes from Italy and Israel.

Unlike many NATO allies, the European Union and some Gulf states, Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. It has long hosted its members, supports a two-state solution and has offered to play a role in negotiating the release of hostages abducted by Hamas during the Oct. 7 assault.

Political analysts said Erdogan was keen to reinforce his criticism of Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip and to overshadow Sunday's celebrations marking Turkey's secular roots.

Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and director of the Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies, an Istanbul-based think-tank, said Gaza's worsening humanitarian crisis and pressure from political allies had prompted Erdogan to sharpen his rhetoric.

Turkey "will protect its principles and share these with the international community, but it needs to do this with a more delicate diplomacy if it expects to play such a diplomatic role," Ulgen said.

The heads of allied nationalist and Islamist parties - which helped Erdogan secure victory in tight May elections - attended the rally at Istanbul's old airport. Erdogan criticised opposition parties for not calling Netanyahu a "terrorist" and for using the same term with reference to Hamas.

Needless to say, a NATO ally coming in on the side of Hamas against Israel right now would be the definition of catastrophic. Erdogan spouting saber-rattling rhetoric is one thing, but if this gets worse, or gets military, all bets are off. 

Turkey could in fact be the key to brokering a cease fire, but not if Ankara continues down this path.

Of course, there's always the usual suspects who could make things worse as well

We'll see.
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