Call Outs

Sanctuary churches; Cambridge Analytica hustles in D.C.; and more.


  • Trump watch: The evidence keeps accumulating that while President Trump’s Muslim ban has been blocked in the courts, it has given overzealous customs and border patrol police license to act on their prejudices. How else to explain why a British math teacher who is Muslim and who was carrying a valid visa to visit the United States with his students and other teachers was pulled off a flight five days ago, as Steven Morris reports for The Guardian?

  • This morning Hillary Clinton called on President Trump on Twitter to speak out against the rise of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish community centers, cemeteries and online. This comes in the wake of news that a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was extensively vandalized over the weekend.

  • The Council on Islamic-America Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, has offered a $5000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons making false bomb threats to Jewish community centers, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports. In doing so, CAIR director Nihad Awad noted the “tremendous level of support” offered to American Muslims by the Jewish community in recent months.

  • There have been 69 bomb threats aimed at 54 centers in 27 states so far this year, according to the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, Bradd Jaffy of NBC News reports.

  • Peter Baker and Sewell Chan report for The New York Times on how a dubious documentary on the supposed rise of immigrant-related violence in Sweden made it from Fox News into the president’s brain and from there into an international incident with a longtime ally.

  • A White House “We the People” petition calling on Trump to release his tax returns is the first in history to reach one million signatures, the Sunlight Foundation notes.

  • If you must read one thing on the Milo Yiannopoulos fiasco, make it Republican Matt Lewis’s take in the Daily Beast. With the annual CPAC conservative conference in disarray after inviting Milo—a known racist provocateur—to keynote, and then dropping him after realizing he also endorsed pedophilia, Lewis says of his fellow conservatives, “The problem is that we too often confuse being politically incorrect with being a hero. It is one thing to defend someone’s right to say something vile; it is another thing to reward him for it.”

  • Tech and politics: Kate Albright-Hanna, the director of video for the Obama 2008 new media team, writes in Civicist about a “story that I’ve never shared until now, which is how the old school D.C. politicos who ran the campaign disempowered the movement-minded innovators inside it who were the heart of Obama’s grassroots rise.” Today’s must-read: “How the Cool Kids Killed Obama’s Grassroots Movement.

  • The SCL Group, the British parent company to Cambridge Analytica, is hard at work winning government contracts in Washington, Matea Gold and Frances Stead Sellers report for The Washington Post.

  • Media matters: Media analyst Jay Rosen digs into why Trump’s attack on the free press “enemies of the people” is so unsettling. He argues that it’s because the American president has the godlike power of ending the world, and thus must constantly do “psychological work” to reassure us that his behavior is rational.

  • In the face of President Trump’s attacks on papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post as “enemies of the people,” one retired journalist decided it was time for the most modern form of social solidarity: he set up a GoFundMe campaign to send pizza to both companies’ newsrooms. It raised $7819 before being shut down—nearly four times the original goal.

  • Our friend and Civic Hall supporter Craig Newmark has committed to buy a lot of pizza for trustworthy journalism, as Ken Doctor reports for Nieman Lab. Six million dollars worth.

  • What sharing economy? Susan Fowler was a site reliability engineer at Uber, and from what she writes in her post on one “very, very strange year” there, the company sounds like a sexual harassment cesspool.

  • Opposition watch: Kanyakrit Yongkiatkajorn reports for Mother Jones on the churches in America that are offering physical sanctuary to undocumented immigrants at risk of having their families torn apart.

  • This is civic tech: Government-sponsored hackathons have a mixed track record, Theo Douglas writes for GovTech, and in this article he takes an in-depth look at how Go Code Colorado, NYC Big Apps, and the Connecticut Data Collaborative are evolving to make their community’s efforts more meaningful and successful.

  • Joseph Cox profiles Matt Mitchell, the founder of Crypto Harlem, for Motherboard.

  • Jessi Hempel reports for Backchannel on NextDoor’s continuing challenge with racism on its social network for neighborhoods.

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Castellanos profiles New York City’s chief digital officer Sree Sreenivasan, who is hard at work figuring out how to make city government’s use of social media more effective.

  • The New York City School of Data conference is coming up Saturday March 4, in tandem with international Open Data Day. This year’s event will be at Rise NYC. Register here.

  • The Ford Foundation Technology Fellows program is seeking to expand; applications are open until March 10.

  • Last but not least, Friday afternoon, New York City Major Bill de Blasio joined with Civic Hall founder Andrew Rasiej at the headquarters of AppNexus to unveil more details on our 14th Street project, Civic Hall Union Square, which will be a community tech hub for the entire city. Here’s coverage on the event from TechCrunch’s Anthony Ha, Amy Plitt of CurbedNY, Theo Douglas of GovTech, Lisa Lacy of The Drum News, Area Development, Progrss Newsroom, and the Union Square Blog. Eve Peyser of Gizmodo hates the building’s design, comparing it to a “white-collar prison” built by Ikea—provoking some delicious comments.