A Force Awakens

The U.S. Rebel Alliance is here; RepubliCATS; Sanders gained more Twitter followers than most Republican candidates last night; and more.


  • Hacking Star Wars: We’re interrupting this morning’s programming for an urgent message: The U.S. Rebel Alliance is real. And as Civic Hall’s civic imagination fellow Andrew Slack explains in this new post for Civicist, “as we speak, the dream life of Star Wars and the waking life of politics is merging.” And here’s a new video starring Mark Ruffalo, Darren Criss, Heather McGhee (of Demos), Baratunde Thurston (of the Daily Show), and a host of YouTube stars, explaining more.
  • While we’re on the topic of culture hacking, here’s Cats’ creator Andrew Lloyd Webber with his version of “RepubliCATS.”
  • And here’s actor Mandy Patinkin, taking issue with how GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz is embracing his role in “The Princess Bride.”
  • Tech and the presidentials: The internet was mentioned a whopping 18 times during last night’s GOP presidential debate, but if you were paying attention and know anything about tech, you were probably cringing most of the time.
  • With millions of people watching last night’s GOP presidential debate, Twitter reports that the candidates who gained the most followers during the debate’s first hour were, in order: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. You read that right: Bernie Sanders, a Democrat who wasn’t in the debate, gained more followers than every other Republican candidate save Trump. (If you watched the debate live online at CBS News’ site, you saw these insights in real-time, by the way.)
  • Since you won’t find out most of these things from watching debates, the New York Times Interactive department has built a nifty tool for finding out where the presidential candidates stand on a host of top national issues.
  • Net neutrality opponent Marco Rubio has now added his name to a letter attacking the FCC for trying to help municipalities set up their own publicly-run internet services, Brian Fung of the Washington Post reports.
  • If you doubt the impact of Citizens United on this presidential election cycle, check out this one stat: Super PACs and other independent groups have run 35,743 TV ads on broadcast and cable TV, compared to just 291 by traditional advocacy groups, Matea Gold reports for the Washington Post.
  • Brave new world: Google and Facebook could face huge fines amounting to billions of dollars if they fail to comply with tough new European Union privacy rules, Elizabeth Weise reports for USA Today.
  • Security researchers found a huge hole in Target’s gift-registry app, one that allowed anyone to access reams of personal information, Dan Goodin reports for ArsTechnica.
  • FBI Director James Comey testified yesterday on Capitol Hall, calling on tech companies to change their “business models” and stop providing their customers with encryption by default, Dan Froomkin and Jenna McLaughlin report for The Intercept. Told by Senator Mike Lee that encrypted apps would still exist, Comey acknowledged that “the sophisticated user could still find a way.”
  • Related: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is calling for Silicon Valley to do more to counter ISIS’ influence online, David Sanger and Amy Chock report for the New York Times.
  • Trump watch: Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen hears cries of “Sieg Heil” directed at Black Lives Matter protesters at Donald Trump’s Monday rally in Las Vegas. Literally.
  • Kamua Bell explains the #WhitesAgainstTrump movement, which has started trending on Twitter.
  • What sharing economy? Quartz’s Alison Griswold reports on the continuing controversy over Airbnb’s business practices, centering her account on the company’s hyper-controlled approach to data transparency in New York City (they are offering limited viewing hours to internal spreadsheets at a “data room” they occasionally set up here at Civic Hall). The best line in the piece goes to NYC council member Helen Rosenthal, an Airbnb critic. She tells Griswold, “When I met with Chris Lehane (Airbnb’s recently appointed head of policy and a former Bill Clinton aide), he said flat out that he did not agree with our laws. I did not realize that a $25 billion company can just decide which laws they do and do not agree with.”
  • Richie Ross, a veteran labor organizer who worked under Cesar Chavez, is championing legislation in California that would enable gig workers to self-organize and negotiate with the companies whose apps they are working through, George Skelton reports for the Los Angeles Times. He notes, astutely, that Ross’ legislation is unlikely to pass, since business wants to keep these workers exploitable as independent contractors and labor unions want them redefined as traditional employees subject to current labor laws.
  • Related: Seattle’s city council has voted to let Uber and Lyft drivers unionize, Marielle Mondon reports for Next City.
  • Open society: Sam Borden and James Montague report for the New York Times on the rising impact of Football Leaks, a whistleblowing website modeled on WikiLeaks that is driving attention to soccer scandals worldwide.
  • A new report from Philamplify, an initiative of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, calls on the Knight Foundation to “Look Beyond #ShinyBrightObjects” and “Do More to Promote Equity.”