Trump’s praise for Duterte’s underscores their shared contempt for human rights

Trump’s praise for Duterte’s drug war underscores his contempt for human rights 

via Washington Post’s:  Daily 202 – by James Hohmann with Breanne Deppish – May 24, 2017


THE BIG IDEA: It’s one thing to not “lecture” foreign governments who abuse human rights. It’s something else entirely to praise them for it. And that’s exactly what Donald Trump did last month when he called Rodrigo Duterte.

The Post’s David Nakamura and Barton Gellman yesterday obtained a transcript of his April 29th phone call with the president of the Philippines.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job (you’re doing) on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte at the start of their conversation, according to the document. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

“Thank you Mr. President,” replied Duterte. “This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

Trump, who affectionately referred to Duterte as “Rodrigo” during their chat, then took an unsolicited dig at Barack Obama.

“I … fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” the U.S. president said. “You are a good man … Keep up the good work. … You are doing an amazing job.”

The context of Trump’s comments matters: Duterte is an authoritarian thug. He has overseen a brutal extrajudicial campaign that has resulted in the killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers. His abuses are well documented, including in reports by the U.S. State Department and Human Rights WatchDuterte called Obama the “son of a whore” during a press conference last September. When he promised to curse out the then-president if he brought up his death squads, the White House canceled a bilateral sit-down that had been scheduled. When Obama later raised concerns about his human rights record, Duterte replied that he could “go to hell.” (He often uses unprintable profanity.)

Duterte has publicly compared his campaign to crack down on drugs to the Holocaust, saying he would like to “slaughter” millions of drug addicts just like Adolf Hitler “massacred” millions of Jewish people. “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts. … I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he told reporters last September. While Hitler (who actually killed closer to six million Jews) spoke of a “final solution,” Duterte says his campaign of mass killings is the only way to “finish the problem.”

Eleven days before Trump phoned him, Duterte told a group of Filipino workers in the Middle East that if they lose their jobs because of the falling price of oil they can always come home to work for him. “If you lose your job, I’ll give you one: Kill all the drug addicts,” he said, according to the Philippine Star. “Help me kill addicts … Let’s kill addicts every day.”
Continue reading Trump’s praise for Duterte’s underscores their shared contempt for human rights

Malwarebytes “Operation Fingerprint” working paper

Note: Here is a May 2017 working paper from Malwarebytes discussing ad-based malware

Ethics, and Laws regarding transfer of “privileged” information

by Richard @ Flexible Reality & Other Contributors – May 2017

in reference to: Could journalists be prosecuted for leaking presidential campaign intel? – National Constitution Center


In general, journalists can’t be prosecuted for publishing such “privileged” information, but the person providing it can. Also remember Judith Miller was incarcerated for three months when she refused to name the source of classified information published in the N.Y. Times, her employer – based on a contempt of court ruling. Also, Julian Assange is at risk of arrest for publishing restricted content on Wikileaks.

While the SCOTUS has historically sided with journalists as an extension of protections detailed in the First Amendment there is no Federal “whistleblower” or “shield” law protecting dissemination of ‘privileged’ content.

As with Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden – both have been charged with unlawfully obtaining the information they passed on to Wikileaks. Which is why most major news sources in America now have detailed procedures in place to process receipt of “privileged information”.


The media were unmoved. There was no navel-gazing about the ethics of publishing the transcript, and no groundswell of public opinion against it. That makes it relatively unusual among cases involving leaked, stolen, or hacked information, which often provoke controversy. Such sources are familiar ways to obtain stories—consider the impact of the Pentagon Papers being leaked in 1971—but the emergence of WikiLeaks in 2006 made it clear they will become ever more important in the digital era. Since then, there have been questions over the publication of Sony executives’ corporate e-mails in late 2014, the publication of leaked celebrity nude photos last August, and Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 about the extent of U.S. intelligence operations.

Journalists have been accused of invading privacy, threatening national security, and breaching copyright by publishing such stories, and their sources might lose their jobs, their freedom, or even their lives. So how should reporters and editors decide whether to publish and how much to redact? And what technical know-how do they need to protect whistleblowers?
Continue reading Ethics, and Laws regarding transfer of “privileged” information

FICO scores mischief

The once-vaunted FICO credit scoring system is now being blamed for failing to flag risky borrowers. 

From humble beginnings in 1956, Fair Isaac Corp.’s credit score— developed by engineer Bill Fair and mathematician Earl Isaac to help banks and department stores calculate their customers’ creditworthiness—has come to loom over consumer finance like no other statistical measure ever has. The ubiquitous three-digit FICO score now helps determine everything from the interest rates people pay on their credit cards to their attractiveness as job candidates. Some hospitals have even begun checking FICO scores before admitting patients. “FICO is the wizard behind the curtain of the economy,” says Matt Fellowes, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

But with mortgage defaults surging and credit-card issuers bracing for more problems, the wizard seems to have lost some of its magic. A slew of unforeseen problems, some of Fair Isaac’s making and others not, have combined to weaken the credit-scoring system on which most U.S. lenders and investors rely. The FICO score, last overhauled in 1989, is based on a complex formula using many variables—and yet it can be manipulated fairly easily by ordinary people. In the past few years a group of “credit doctors” and mortgage brokers began devising tricks, some illegal, to help borrowers juice their FICO scores to qualify for credit cards and mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford. At the same time new, exotic mortgages were bursting onto the scene and Fair Isaac was slow to keep up with the changes. By the end of the housing boom in 2006, FICO’s accuracy in predicting the likelihood of a borrower’s repaying a debt had slipped. “The more heavily lenders and bankers relied on credit scores, the more mistakes were made,” says Anthony B. Sanders, a finance professor at Arizona State University and former head of asset-backed research at Deutsche Bank (DB) in New York.

Continue reading FICO scores mischief

In reply to ‘is capitalism dead’ ?

by Richard @ Flexible Reality – May 16, 2017


IMHO the problems we are seeing have some relationship to our political systems; but much more to do with the failure of  Capitalism to progress favorably beyond where it was in the mid 70’s.

In the US, in Western Europe and Japan the ‘Corporate Capitalism’ form of government has not dealt with economic realities from decimation of central cities, monopoly control over critical goods and services, outsourcing of the manufacturing base, globalization, serious social and economic inequality, wage stagnation, workforce segregation, or what to do with surplus labor.

The “Third Way” and “Capital Homesteading” movements appear to be the only reasonable way forward; but the culture, and the powers that be will not allow it to happen, at least at this point in time. So we simply have to wait for a tipping point to arrive which will attempt to address the short-comings of the traditional Capitalist model. Perhaps it will become a form of “Autocratic Capitalism” like in China, perhaps it will be a “Co-Op Capitalism” like what Cuba is trying to do.

Hard to envision all the possibilities, but it is certain the current model will not survive as currently structured.

**************Here are links to articles with the same general title****************


Blasphemy is the topic

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter – No. 81

May 17, 2017


stephenfry.jpgThe Global Madness of Blasphemy Laws 

For most of those who are reading this, laws against blasphemy seem like anachronistic, vestigial restrictions on free expression that no longer apply in our modern world. Recent months have reminded us, however, that blasphemy laws are very much a part of the contemporary human experience, and the consequences of violating them can range from absurd to horrifying. Several secularists and dissidents have met grisly ends this year, including Pakistani student Mashal Khan, beaten to death last month by a mob of fellow students who were angry over allegations of blasphemy, and Indian student H. Farook, murdered by a gang of militants over postings to social media about atheism.

The Center for Inquiry has made combatting blasphemy laws around the world a central part of our mission. We even have a special program dedicated to rescuing secular writers and activists in need of escape from imminent threats to their lives. In recent weeks, we have taken on the crisis on several fronts.

1549751494524276483.pngBlasphemy is the focus of the latest issue of Free Inquiry, CFI’s magazine of secular humanist thought. Making its way to newsstands and subscribers now, this issue features a powerful and sobering cover piece by someone who knows a thing or two about the consequences of blasphemy restrictions: Flemming Rose of Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which ran the “Danish cartoons” of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005, which were deemed such an offense to religious sentiments that they sparked violent protests across the Muslim world. Rose warns about the international threat of states’ blasphemy laws and how governments are stirring up rage among the people, inciting them to carry out acts of murder such as those that took the lives of Khan and Farook.

The issue also includes an important report by Mirjam van Schaik on the machinations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the diplomatic body that seeks to push blasphemy laws beyond borders and into international law.

Blasphemy also became a topic of concern in the west, when beloved actor and humorist Stephen Fry, a longtime advocate of secular causes, became the subject of an investigation by Irish authorities for allegedly committing blasphemy in 2015, when he said some unpleasant things on television about the biblical God’s psychotic behavior. Eventually, the investigation of Fry was dropped, with Irish police citing a lack of outraged victims of Fry’s blasphemy.

DawkinsCFI Board Member Richard Dawkins cleverly stepped into the fracas by reiterating his own “blasphemy” to an Irish newspaper, and dared the authorities to arrest him over it when he next came into the country. He later explained, “I wanted to increase the pressure to repeal this law – partly because the existence of a blasphemy law in a civilised western country like Ireland is taken as an encouraging precedent by some of those countries in the Middle East and Africa, where they have a blasphemy law and it really is enforced.”

Of course, CFI’s diplomatic and international advocacy efforts never stop. For example, CFI President and CEO Robyn Blumner and our public policy director Michael De Dora are signatories on a new petition from the Index on Censorship calling on Denmark to scrap its blasphemy law. Whether these affronts to human rights emerge in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, or Denmark, and whether they are enforced by the state or by the rage of the mob, we will continue to fight for free expression, for the simple idea that ideas don’t need rights. People do.

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Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

Where is the money going?


  • Over 75% of total private sector active employment in the U.S. is in “small businesses” defined as 1-500 employees, and less than 25% are employed in large corporations
  • From a working-age population of 243.3 million people, approximately 111.3 million are employed
  • The chart uses different scales of each element divided by GDP to show tendencies not absolute relationships

Growing up in America from ‘dirt’ to ‘glass’

An observation – by Richard @ Flexible Reality – May 14th, 2017

In the space of two generations America’s children have gone from a culture that viewed them as “dirt” to one that treats them like “glass”.

To the boomer generation, a classic example could be detected in Johnny Cash’s 1969 song: “My Name Is Sue, How Do You Do”, in which the son confronts his absent father over being named Sue.

To the millennials the example is Danae, the character in the comic strip “Non Sequitur” who is almost purely reactive, lives in her own world, and is always attended to by doting parents and an imaginary horse, or Calvin, who could not exist without his imaginary tiger Hobbes.

The post war generation parents who had survived the 30’s Depression, and WWII, raised children by instilling a sense of determination, of grit, of work and effort. Slacker was not even a common word as it is used today until after the War.

The encomienda, or request of the culture post-war was to make children responsible, responsive, and respectable, seen, but not heard. The modern version of the request is to create malleable, endowed, and developed individuals.

The “dirt” motif suggested grit, formation, a clay-like state of being, fertility, being capable of yielding a good crop, whereas the “glass” version is one of reflection, tincture, smoothness, and fragility. Too many times in recent encounters it is possible to detect the loss of resilience, of adaptability, of rigor in modern American children’s training, diversions, games, self-image, and public persona.

Neither form is entirely praise or blameworthy; rather they point to cultural mechanics which emphasize certain traits as being desirable in future citizens. Furthermore, the transition also has yielded a diminution of value in the notions of community, of joint effort, of a “melting pot” culture. Even the use of the word “we” feels condescending rather than empowering.

The 50-60’s child portrayed themselves as having to walk through six-foot high snow drifts to get to school, whereas today they see themselves as a Sisyphusean slug toting a backpack of rocks to a moonwalk.

Exposing the manipulation methods of narsissists and sociopaths

Danielle Drislane
photo by: Danielle Drislane

Toxic people such as malignant narcissists, psychopaths and those with antisocial traits engage in mal-adaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends. They use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility. Although those who are not narcissistic can employ these tactics as well, abusive narcissists use these to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.

Here are the 20 diversionary tactics toxic people use to silence and degrade you.

1. Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three words: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?” Gaslighting is perhaps one of the most insidious manipulative tactics out there because it works to distort and erode your sense of reality; it eats away at your ability to trust yourself and inevitably disables you from feeling justified in calling out abuse and mistreatment.

When a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath gaslights you, you may be prone to gaslighting yourself as a way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that might arise. Two conflicting beliefs battle it out: is this person right or can I trust what I experienced? A manipulative person will convince you that the former is an inevitable truth while the latter is a sign of dysfunction on your end.

In order to resist gaslighting, it’s important to ground yourself in your own reality – sometimes writing things down as they happened, telling a friend or reiterating your experience to a support network can help to counteract the gaslighting effect. The power of having a validating community is that it can redirect you from the distorted reality of a malignant person and back to your own inner guidance.

Continue reading Exposing the manipulation methods of narsissists and sociopaths

Clean HP/Conexant keylogger

Keylogger discovered in audio driver on several HP laptops

Lazy coding.

 Dozens of HP laptop models have been found to contain an audio driver that silently logs users keystrokes, according to Swiss security firm ModZero. There does not appear to be malicious intent behind the keylogger, as one might automatically assume, but there is the potential that it could be used for nefarious purposes.

Injecting a keylogger into an audio driver seems like an odd thing, and that’s because it is. However, audio chip manufacturer Conexant apparently went that route on several HP laptop models as means of trying to detect when a hotkey is pressed. Shortcuts exist for tasks such as turning a microphone on and off, and that presents a problem.

“The purpose of the software is to recognize whether a special key has been pressed or released. Instead, however, the developer has introduced a number of diagnostic and debugging features to ensure that all keystrokes are either broadcasted through a debugging interface or written to a log file in a public directory on the hard-drive,” ModZero says. “This type of debugging turns the audio driver effectively into a keylogging spyware.”

This has been a part of the driver packaged offered by HP since at least December of 2015. On affected systems, key presses get recorded and stored in a plain text log file. This is found by navigating to C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log. This log is overwritten each time the system is logged back into, but for that session, it continually records keystrokes, including any passwords or private communications that might get typed.

“Obviously, it is a negligence of the developers— which makes the software no less harmful. If the developer would just disable all logging, using debug-logs only in the development environment, there wouldn’t be problems with the confidentiality of the data of any user,” ModZero writes.
Continue reading Clean HP/Conexant keylogger

Ivanka’s dreamworld

Ivanka Trump’s life of privilege undermines the credibility of her new book’s message

BY JAMES HOHMANN with Breanne Deppisch – May 7th, 2017


THE BIG IDEA: Ivanka Trump’s new book unwittingly reveals just how out of touch she is with the lives of the working women who she believes she speaks for.

— President Trump dubiously claimed during the campaign that he was a self-made man. “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars,” he told NBC during a 2015 interview, which he insisted he paid back with interest. “A million dollars isn’t very much compared to what I built!” During a primary debate, when Marco Rubio claimed that he had received a $200 million inheritance from his father, Trump replied angrily: “I took $1 million and I turned it into $10 billion.”

Every fact checker faulted Trump for not giving his father enough credit, for downplaying the connections and the resources he received from the family business. Court documents revealed that the candidate was omitting vastly larger loans and gifts he received over the years. His pop also bailed him out when his Atlantic City casinos went bankrupt.

— The first daughter (now a White House official) also talks at times as if she is a self-made millionaire. “It wasn’t until I built my own business from the ground up that I understood the vastness of launching your own enterprise,” Ivanka Trump, referring to her fashion brand, writes in “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.” “Undeniably, one factor in my success has been the doors that my family’s name and privileged upbringing have opened … But they alone didn’t guarantee my success. … Curiosity, passion, hard work and perseverance have enabled me to prove my value to myself and others beyond my surname. … Anyone who knows me knows that I will outwork anyone…

“My father has always said, if you love what you do, and work really, really hard, you will succeed,” she adds. “This is a fundamental principle of creating and perpetuating a culture of success, and also a guiding light for me personally.”
Continue reading Ivanka’s dreamworld

How to explain to children why the media is biased against Donald Trump

Question: How do I explain to my kids why the media is so biased against Donald Trump?

Answered May 1st, 2017 by Gary Puckering on Quora:  works at Prep Your Data Software

* * * * * *

I’d start by explaining that appearances can be deceiving. Is there a lot of negative news coverage about Donald Trump. Yes. Is it because the media is biased against him? Well, that’s one possibility. But there are others. For example, the media may be biased in favor of things which make Donald Trump a frequent subject of their reporting. Thinks like:

  • Policy statements (actual or implied) that could have a significant impact on people’s lives — such as threats to cancel NAFTA.
  • Falsehoods
  • Contradictions
  • Flip-flopping on issues
  • Retractions
  • Incomprehensible statements

The media is biased towards reporting any politician who exhibits traits like these, just as they are biased towards reporting things like:

  • Fires
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Large economic swings
  • Celebrity problems

When you are biased towards something, it can make you biased against something else. For example, my diet is intentionally biased towards protein and high quality fats. As a result, it’s biased against carbohydrates. It has to be, given my other two biases.

So, by all means explain to your children that the media seems to be biased against Donald Trump. But you should also explain that this is because they are biased towards things which are of interest to the American people. And every time Donald Trump opens his mouth and is found to be lying, contradicting himself, flip flopping or bullying it is un-presidential behavior that the majority of American people — those not sticking their head in the sand — want to know about.

Or try it this way. Ask them this: if your brother lies, contradicts himself, or says something stupid, what do you think his parents or teachers or friends should do about it? Ignore him? Won’t that just encourage him to keep doing it? Or should they call him out on it so he doesn’t get away with it? And if they call him out, does that make them “biased” against him? Or biased against his behaviors?

Not all biases are bad.


Lightweighting predictions

How lightweighting has shaken up the electronics stream

Posted on   by  -via Resource Recycling

A recently released study quantifies the massive shift in device composition over the past 25 years. Researchers tackled the task with an eye toward predicting where materials usage is headed in the future.

The analysis provides a in-depth look at the rise of lightweighting in consumer technology, noting that the total weight of consumer electronics sold annually in the U.S. peaked around the year 2000 and has since declined to 1993 levels, despite hundreds of millions more units currently being sold each year.

The study also identifies which materials have grown and diminished within consumer electronics. Researchers dismantled nearly 150 products to gauge their composition. That information was coupled with a creative method of looking at the electronics market in the same way scientists study biological ecosystems.

“If we want to think about complex systems, where better to turn than nature itself?” said Callie Babbitt, lead researcher on the study, in a webinar last week describing the research results.

The analysis came out of a partnership between the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and the Staples Sustainable Innovation Lab.
Continue reading Lightweighting predictions

The World was well-developed long before the appearance of the Bible

The focus of this article is concerned with the disreputable claims, made mostly by devout Christians, that the Cosmos was an undifferentiated mass before the appearance on Earth of a God some 6,000 years ago. Or alternatively, that “civilization” only appeared courtesy of ‘ancient’ Hebraic culture. Both claims are demonstrably false.

The stele of Hammurabi , (see image), dates to about 1750 BCE or roughly a thousand years before any part of the Christian bible was written.

The entry on Wikipedia gives a good basic introduction to it’s place in history:

The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1754 BC (Middle Chronology). It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a seven and a half foot stone stele and various clay tablets. The code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (lex talionis)[1] as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man.[2]

Nearly one-half of the code deals with matters of contract, establishing, for example, the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity, and sexual behavior. Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently.[3] A few provisions address issues related to military service.

It is clear from any serious study of the physical structure and history of our planet that it formed in it’s more or less modern condition at least several hundred million years ago. We have verifiable physical evidence to prove this dating is accurate.

By the same measure we have the stele of Hammurabi to prove with physical evidence that an ‘ancient’ civilization possessed a very sophisticated law code, alphabet, civil service structure, and ethical system, again, a thousand years earlier than the first writings of what we now call ‘the Old Testament’. If we wish to go further back in history we can point to the Egyptian Old Kingdom which existed a thousand years before Hammurabi, or to the Mesopotamian or Chinese cultures which began four thousand years earlier still.

Sophisticated agnostics and atheists generally do not have a problem with religious beliefs held by individuals at a personal level; but do develop an animus when beliefs are dispensed as facts, especially when accompanied with that mantel of moral or ethical superiority stance well documented in literature. Or when such beliefs are sufficient to deny basic human or social rights to those who do not subscribe to those beliefs.

Thus, the sole arbitrator of what presentation is, as Carl Bernstein wrote, ‘the best obtainable version of the truth’ comes down to actual, physical evidence which can be independently verified by qualified investigators. Beliefs, opinions, and commentary can ‘fill-in’ around the edges; but should never become the basis for considerations of material facts.   – Richard @ Flexible Reality – May 4th, 2017



How Trump could get fired

The Constitution offers two main paths for removing a President from office. How feasible are they?

Hours after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, a post appeared on the official White House petitions page, demanding that he release his tax returns. In only a few days, it gathered more signatures than any previous White House petition. The success of the Women’s March had shown that themed protests could both mobilize huge numbers of people and hit a nerve with the President. On Easter weekend, roughly a hundred and twenty thousand people protested in two hundred cities, calling for him to release his tax returns and sell his businesses. On Capitol Hill, protesters chanted “Impeach Forty-five!” In West Palm Beach, a motorcade ferrying him from the Trump International Golf Club to Mar-a-Lago had to take a circuitous route to avoid demonstrators. The White House does all it can to keep the President away from protests, but the next day Trump tweeted, “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”

Continue reading How Trump could get fired

The intricacies of the First Amendment protection on speech

Trump’s Lawyers Prove They Have No Idea How the First Amendment Works

Yesterday, Donald Trump’s lawyers filed a motion in an ongoing case brought by three Trump protesters who allege they were roughed up and thrown out of a Trump campaign rally in 2016. During the rally in Louisville, Kentucky, then-candidate Trump called from the stage to, “get ’em outta here!” The Trumpeters did just that, and protesters Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah, and Henry Brousseau say that they were battered by the angry crowd on their way out.

The protesters’ claim against Donald Trump won’t be an easy win for plaintiffs, because it requires a bit of domino-effect theory. Trump’s statements are alleged to have “incited violence,” and because that violence actually occurred, Trump should be on the hook for having caused it. Given that Trump’s statements don’t contain clearly violent directives, and that he also made the follow-up statement, “Don’t hurt ‘em,” the plaintiffs have a tough road ahead of them. But in classic Trump fashion, even when the law is potentially on their side, his people manage to get it all wrong.

The motion filed yesterday asks the court to “certify an interlocutory appeal” in the case.  This kind of motion is basically a request for the court to answer a legal question now, and save everyone the time and expense of going through the discovery process, when the answer to that legal question may end the entire case. That’s the part that makes sense.

The part that doesn’t make sense is the substance of the motion. Trump’s lawyers argue that Trump’s statements from the campaign stage couldn’t possibly have incited violence, because those statements are protected by the First Amendment. What’s more, the protesters had no legal right to express their views, and their choice to do so somehow interfered with Trump’s exercise of his First Amendment rights. In other words, if the question is “who suffered harm at that rally,” Trump’s answer is “it’s not you, it’s me.”

If that sounds like a bizarre argument grounded in narcissism and bordering on the Kafkaesque, that’s because it is. Let’s start with the basics. The First Amendment, in general terms, prohibits the government from interfering with an individual’s speech or expression. There are limits there, because not all speech is protected – but even if we’re talking about garden-variety peaceful speech, the First Amendment only prohibits the government from interfering with it. That’s why we don’t see lawsuits for “violation of First Amendment Rights” filed against private people every time one person tells another to shut up.

In the good ol’ days of March 2016, Donald Trump was still [wonderfully] just a private citizen. The protesters at his rally were also private citizens. Since none of these people were acting in any official government capacity, none of them could even have potentially violated anyone else’s First Amendment rights.
Continue reading The intricacies of the First Amendment protection on speech

What do we mean by publicly acknowledged facts

“…the best obtainable version of the truth…”  – Carl Bernstein – Apr. 2017

They all just went away

Where a house has been abandoned, you can be sure there has been a sad story.

I must have been a lonely child. Until the age of twelve or thirteen, my most intense, happiest hours were spent tramping desolate fields, woods, and creek banks near my family’s farmhouse in Millersport, New York. No one knew where I went. My father, working most of the day at Harrison’s, a division of General Motors in Lockport, and at other times preoccupied, would not have asked; if my mother asked, I might have answered in a way that would deflect curiosity. I was an articulate, verbal child. Yet I could not have explained what drew me to the abandoned houses, barns, silos, corncribs. A hike of miles through fields of spiky grass, across outcroppings of shale as steeply angled as stairs, was a lark if the reward was an empty house.

Some of these houses had been inhabited as “homes” fairly recently—they had not yet reverted to the wild. Others, abandoned during the Depression, had long since begun to rot and collapse, engulfed by vegetation (trumpet vine, wisteria, rose of Sharon, willow) that elsewhere, on our property, for instance, were kept neatly trimmed. I was drawn to both kinds of houses, though the more recently inhabited were more forbidding and therefore more inviting.

To push open a door into such silence: the absolute emptiness of a house whose occupants have departed. Often, the crack of broken glass underfoot. A startled buzzing of flies, hornets. The slithering, ticklish sensation of a garter snake crawling across floorboards.

Left behind, as if in haste, were remnants of a lost household. A broken toy on the floor, a baby’s bottle. A rain-soaked sofa, looking as if it had been gutted with a hunter’s skilled knife. Strips of wallpaper like shredded skin. Smashed crockery, piles of tin cans; soda, beer, whiskey bottles. An icebox, its door yawning open. Once, on a counter, a dirt-stiffened rag that, unfolded like precious cloth, revealed itself to be a woman’s cheaply glamorous “see-through” blouse, threaded with glitter-strips of gold.

This was a long time ago, yet it is more vivid to me than anything now.

Continue reading They all just went away

Smugness & Pain Created

via a commentary on Facebook: Apr 29th, 2017


One of many, many infuriating parts of having Trump as the President is the insufferable smugness of conservatives. When they’re not telling you to “suck it up, snowflake” or trying to sell you fake news, they’re gloating: “We suffered for eight years under that tyrant Obummer. Now it’s your turn.”

One man, Scott Mednick had enough with his Republican acquaintances and penned this powerful response


I am surprised you would wish suffering upon me. That, of course, is your right, I suppose. I do not wish harm on anyone. Your statement seems to continue the ‘US v THEM’ mentality. The election is over. It is important to get past campaigning and campaign rhetoric and get down to what is uniting, not dividing and what is best for ALL Americans.

There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did.

And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.” Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.

But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass, I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?

Continue reading Smugness & Pain Created

Atlanta’s Cityhood Movement Explained

Atlanta’s Controversial ‘Cityhood’ Movement

via The Atlantic by Sam Rosen – Apr. 26th, 2017


On the Saturday before Election Day last November, Jason Lary, a former insurance executive, crouched on a rough patch of grass at the center of a busy intersection 20 miles outside of Atlanta in DeKalb County. Lary was holding a hammer, and he tapped carefully on the thin wire base of a campaign sign. “My hand is like Fred Flintstone’s right now because I banged my hand in the night,” he said, noting his latest sign-related injury. This hazard, though, was worthwhile: “If you don’t start [the sign] with your hand, it will bend. It takes longer—guys are 10 times faster than I am. But my sign’s still gonna be up.”

This was a non-trivial advantage for Lary, who for the past month had begun most mornings with a kind of ground-game whack-a-mole. He would put up signs under the cover of night, only to have his opponents dislodge them by hand or, when that failed, run over them with their cars. Nevertheless, Lary was feeling good. “My opposition? Worn down,” he told me. “They don’t even have any more signs. And I kept a stash, knowing this time was coming. This is not my first picnic with nonsense.”

Lary’s opponents were from his own community, folks who were fiercely against turning their stretch of the county into a new city called Stonecrest, Georgia. Lary, the president of the Stonecrest City Alliance, had been working for four years to turn a 50,000-person swath of unincorporated DeKalb County into its own city. If the referendum passed the following week, it would become the latest and most symbolic victory for the “cityhood movement,” a local-government arms race that, for the past decade, has been reshaping the political, economic, and racial landscape of metro Atlanta.

Between 2005 and 2015, eight unincorporated neighborhoods in Georgia’s three largest counties—Fulton, Gwinnett, and DeKalb—voted to form their own cities. In doing so, they rejected the county’s political leadership and withdrew much of their resources from the county’s tax pool. Prior to incorporation, all of these areas were putting more money into the county via taxes than they got back in services. Pulling their money out of the county pool has thus been a boon for these new cities, which can re-prioritize and increase services to meet the needs of their more homogeneous constituencies without raising taxes.

For those left behind in unincorporated parts of these counties, however, the cityhood movement has been disastrous. Data on the overall economic impact of the movement doesn’t yet exist, but the withdrawals of wealthy enclaves have left county governments with a recurring and unpleasant choice: raise taxes or provide less. In 2012, Fulton County’s manager calculated that the cityhood movement had cost the county $38 million per year.

But Lary, his supporters, and his opponents—the folks ripping up his campaign signs—are not the white people at the center of the cityhood movement. Rather, they are a black community: If Lary were to succeed, Stonecrest would become the 15th-largest city in Georgia and the first majority-black city created by its own residents since Reconstruction. Many of Lary’s neighbors and friends couldn’t believe that he was aligning the area with cityhood and employing the strategies of the very people whose political tactics had weakened local black communities for more than a decade. Worse, not only had Lary aligned with the cityhood movement; he had enlisted its most famous advocate.

And so, with a swollen hand, the help of a world-renowned government-efficiency expert, and only a few days left before the vote, Lary was scrambling to convince these folks that he really did have their best interests at heart.

Lary’s predicament is deeply rooted in the spatial and racial politics of metro Atlanta in the post-civil-rights era—and in the story of Sandy Springs, Georgia. Continue reading Atlanta’s Cityhood Movement Explained