The Other Heroes of 9/11( 2 )

The four-legged ones:

The working dogs didn’t have the protective gear, but they worked tirelessly, to search for anyone trapped alive in the rubble. Corliss recalled that the rescue teams rarely got even four hours of sleep. The rescue dogs acted as therapy for the brave firemen and rescue workers of the emergency services, their little ray of hope amid death and debris.

During the aftermath of 9/11, search and rescue dogs found so few living people that it caused them great stress because they believed they had failed. Handlers and rescue workers had to regularly hide in the rubble in order to give the rescue dogs a successful find and keep their spirits up.

One of the unsung heroes of 9/11 was a guide dog, Roselle, who led her blind owner, Michael Hingson, from the 78th story of the North Tower, a staggering 1,463 steps out of the building to the safety of a subway station.


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The Day Zero That Didn’t Come( 1 )

But did touch off a lot of concerns:

The prediction had been that after years of an intense drought, Cape Town’s dams would be so depleted and local reservoirs so bone-dry that one day in the autumn of 2018—between March and May in the Southern Hemisphere—the city would cut off the water flowing to taps. That date, the “Day Zero” in question, captured the attention of Western press. Photographs of the brown, cracked mud flats where drinking water once flowed abounded. Papers wrote breathlessly about the doomsday scenario of mobilizing military assets to secure water distribution points, fearing the possibility of violent clashes over resources.

Day Zero didn’t happen—and as Wolski told me, it may have never been in the cards. But, over the course of a year, the idea really did deeply change the city all the same. Water scarcity, and the potential for a catastrophe, spurred upheaval and anxiety. During that time, a local government pushed a water-conservation agenda more ambitious than just about anything the world had seen. Cape Town faced political fallout and experienced widespread protests. Divisions between the haves and the have-nots in one of the most unequal cities on Earth became the center of discourse. The racial wounds of a post-apartheid country opened once more.

In its march to slash water consumption drastically, this metropolis of 4 million people also became a harbinger of how water will constrain global cities in the future, and how climate change will bring turmoil and a new slate of challenges to places where class and racial divides are deep. Day Zero is still hypothetical, but Cape Town’s reality will soon impact many global cities, where water will become a constant concern, and democracy will become contingent upon the taps.

Israel offered to help with desalination technology. It’s technology that cannot come fast enough.

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Not Fit For Humans( 12 )

Take your sticking paws off our floorplans, you damn ants.

Evolving Floor Plans is an experimental research project exploring speculative, optimized floor plan layouts. The rooms and expected flow of people are given to a genetic algorithm which attempts to optimize the layout to minimize walking time, the use of hallways, etc. The creative goal is to approach floor plan design solely from the perspective of optimization and without regard for convention, constructability, etc. The research goal is to see how a combination of explicit, implicit and emergent methods allow floor plans of high complexity to evolve. The floorplan is ‘grown’ from its genetic encoding using indirect methods such as graph contraction and emergent ones such as growing hallways using an ant-colony inspired algorithm.

Conceptualizing these floorplans in my mind is weirdly disorienting. I mean, logical and all that, but spacially I would just have no idea what I was doing or where I was going.

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The Worst Nonviolent School Exercise Ever( 8 )

I’m sorry, what?

An Ohio school superintendent has apologized for a class exercise that asked middle school students to choose from a list of racially, ethnically and religiously diverse candidates to save or leave behind if Earth were “doomed for destruction.”

The assignment presented 12 potential spaceship passengers, including “a militant African-American medical student,” “a Hispanic clergyman who is against homosexuality,” “an Asian, orphaned 12-year-old boy,” “a homosexual male professional athlete,” and a “60-year-old Jewish university administrator.” The students were instructed to select eight to take to safety on another planet, ranking them from the most deserving to the least.

“It’s disturbing all the way around,” said Bernadette Hartman, whose son completed the assignment during an eighth-grade social studies class at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls, a large suburb near Akron.

How did anybody think this is a good idea? Is it even “backfiring” when you’re basically pointing the gun at yourself?

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Signal Disturbances( 5 )

Barbara McClay has some interesting thoughts on virtue signalling, to which I have nothing to add:

When, around 2015, “virtue” began to be appended to “signaling,” its main function was to make the unspoken aim of the signaling in question explicit. Whereas before you might have been signaling that you were smart, now you were signaling that you were a good person. But whatever you’re doing, it is, and will always be, about what people think about you, either to the exclusion of any other reason or before any other reason. (The degree to which this diagnosis can also apply to rationalists and neo-reactionaries remains unclear.)

To what extent is “virtue signaling” a useful, or at least meaningful, phrase? That the desire to be thought of a certain way can preclude the desire to be a certain way, or at least complicates the latter, is certainly true. That sometimes people say and do things just to be seen saying and doing them is also true.

Take rich white parents who profess to believe in the importance of desegregation of schools but who send their own children to segregated-in-all-but-name schools. Both of these actions (the professed antiracism, the choice of school) involve signaling of a kind, since the name of the school you send your children to can sometimes carry more heft than the substance of their education. At the same time, choosing to send your children to an integrated school could also be understood to be a virtue signal—that you’re so obsessed with appearing right-minded that you will make decisions that might penalize your children. {…}

Like hypocrisy, virtue signaling should function as a reminder to people that what they say or write should be more than empty words. But more often it is a way of saying you don’t need to listen to any words, because they’re all empty. To signal virtue is bad if signaling overrides actual virtue; to borrow Robin Hanson’s terms, one should say that X is, and ought to be, about Y. More often, however, the accusation of virtue signaling is a way of trying to avoid the question of whether X really is about Y by elevating motive over the content of beliefs.

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One Way To Deal With Problematic Cops( 13 )

Well this is definitely interesting:

A written statement from Gardner said, in part, that prosecutors have “the responsibility to defend the integrity of the criminal justice system. Police officers play an important role in the criminal justice system, and the credibility of officers is one of the most important attributes of the job.”

“A police officer’s word, and the complete veracity of that word, is fundamentally necessary to doing the job. Therefore, any break in trust must be approached with deep concern,” the statement said.

Sgt. Keith Barrett said Police Chief John Hayden was unavailable for an interview but issued a statement on his behalf:

“The police division did receive an exclusion list created by the Circuit Attorney’s Office. While we are seeking legal guidance on how this affects the police division, we have also taken steps to notify each of the involved employees. At this time, we are considering how best to proceed and what if any actions to take. Any further inquiries should be directed to the Circuit Attorney’s Office.”

Source: St. Louis prosecutor says she will no longer accept cases from 28 city police officers | Law and order |

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A Matter of Class( 17 )

Why Social Class Matters, Even if We Don’t Agree on What It Means – The Chronicle of Higher Education

By the 1990s, the “death of class” thesis took to the field: a number of sociologists, of various ideological persuasions, were suggesting that class was a historical artifact, ready for the dustbin. Others, in the Simpsonian tradition, doubted whether it had ever been a useful designation. The sociologist Peter Calvert’s study The Concept of Class (1982) argued that the idea was so muddled as to be useless, even dangerous. The great literary scholar P.N. Furbank, writing in the 1990s, proposed that “class” was “a baneful concept and one which we need at least to try to unthink.”

In the years since, many scholars have decided to get on without it, while many others have devised increasingly intricate, multidimensional metrics for measuring it. Leaving the medieval scholastics in the dust, we now have — among other metrics — the Erikson-Goldthorpe-Portocarero schema (EGP), which spawned Casmin, the Comparative Study of Social Mobility in Industrial Nations; the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC); the Cambridge Social Interaction and Stratification scales (Camsis); and the more narrowly tailored Standard International Occupational Prestige Scale (Siops), to say nothing of various small-is-beautiful proposals for “microclass” metrics. Nisbet, anticipating such developments, insisted that real class would be a tangible, easily observable relationship, and that “the proof of existence of a social class worthy of the sociological name should not have to depend upon multivariate analysis.”

When I was younger, it was more people to my left who wanted to talk about social class as something distinct from economic class. Since then, the right has embraced it enthusiastically (though only applying it to whites) while more and more people I talk to on the left want to reduce it to economics (when talking about whites).

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Apple Lays Down Some Foundation( 4 )

It’s happening! And for once, I am sorry not to be an Apple consumer.

After years of false starts, both at the movies and on TV, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation just got a 10-episode, direct-to-series order from Apple, according to Deadline. The company acquired the rights to the property earlier this year, with Dark Knight writer David S. Goyer and Sarah Connor Chronicles’ Josh Friedman attached to executive produce and showrun. Skydance, the company behind the current Terminator, Mission: Impossible, and Star Trek franchises, is also on board.

Foundation is based on a series of novels by the legendary writer; they tell a vast, sweeping, story of a group of people placed across the universe working to better position humanity for the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which currently rules the galaxy. And before you say “Galactic Empire? That’s a Star Wars ripoff,” it’s actually the opposite. Asimov’s first Foundation story was in 1942, and then the novels began in 1951.

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New Jersey Governor Ends Bear Hunting on State Lands( 45 )

An interesting development in New Jersey, not supported by science but only by public sentiment from anti-hunting groups. From the NY Times

On Monday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed an executive order effectively ending the state’s planned 2018 bear hunt on all state-owned lands. It was an attempt to fulfill a campaign pledge to environmental activists.

But those same activists were not exactly thrilled.

“Stopping the hunt on state lands does not stop the hunt,” said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It only changes where the bears get killed. The hunt will continue on other public lands, including county parks, water company lands and private lands. We still need Governor Murphy to keep his commitment to ban the bear hunt completely.”

Although Murphy is a Democratic governor, it would be unfair to say this is entirely a partisan issue. Yes, the anti-hunting crowd generally finds their home on the Left, but the Democratic party is also home to plenty of moderate and conservative Democrats who support hunting rights:

The governor’s office argued that the executive order went as far as Mr. Murphy could within his executive authority, absent an agreeable legislature. And Mr. Murphy hasn’t enjoyed an especially agreeable relationship with Stephen M. Sweeney, the Democratic Senate president. Mr. Sweeney is the co-chairman of the New Jersey Angling and Hunting Conservation Caucus and he has kept legislation restricting the hunt from the Senate floor in the past.

How best to deal with New Jersey’s bears has been an ongoing issue for several decades:

The debate over how New Jersey’s residents and bears should get along dates back decades. Black bears were regularly hunted in the state until 1970, when fewer than 100 bears remained. The hunts were halted until 2003, when Gov. James E. McGreevey reinstated them amid increased complaints about bears raiding garbage cans and beehives, damaging crops, and killing livestock and pets.

But Mr. McGreevey scuttled the hunt again in 2004, facing criticism and outrage from environmentalists over his decision. A limited bear hunt returned for a year in 2005 after renewed complaints of bears on private property, permitted only in a 1,600 square mile area in the northwestern part of the state. Then Gov. Jon S. Corzine canceled the 2006 hunt by delaying state regulations authorizing the coming bear seasons.

The hunts resumed in 2010 under Gov. Chris Christie and have continued since.

The most damning charge against the decision comes from a recent report which explained the impact of the hunting ban. From A report released just before Murphy took office said ending the bear hunt could cause New Jersey’s bear population to double by 2022.”

Writing for MeatEater, Steven Rinella says:

“In a move that blatantly caters to anti-hunters and ignores science-based conservation tools, New Jersey’s governor outlawed bear hunting on the state’s public lands. This undermines the ability of wildlife managers to do their job and prevents hunters from enjoying their public lands. Meanwhile, “State officials have estimated around 3,500 bears live in northern New Jersey, and… that New Jersey has the densest bear populations on the continent.”

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Rep. Duncan Hunter and Wife Indicted( 27 )

There was another indictment of note in the deluge of legal news yesterday, this time in California. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife are subject to a 60-count indictment including wire fraud and campaign finance violations.

San Diego Union-Tribune:

The indictment, filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego, accuses the couple of converting more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and filing false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission to cover up the true nature of the expenses.

The 60-count indictment accuses the couple of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, falsification of records and aiding and abetting in the prohibited use of campaign contributions. Within hours of its issuance, Hunter assailed the investigation as politically motivated just weeks before the fall campaign season gets underway. House Speaker Paul Ryan nevertheless announced that Hunter had been stripped of his committee assignments.

Hunter, 41, has been under scrutiny since April 2016, when the FEC and then The San Diego Union-Tribune began questioning expenses of campaign funds on video games, private school tuition, oral surgery and a garage door for the couple’s Alpine home. Spending of campaign funds for personal use is banned by law, to protect against undue influence by donors who might benefit from congressional actions.

By November 2017, Hunter had repaid his campaign more than $60,000 for what he identified as personal, mistaken or insufficiently documented expenditures. Under financial pressure, the congressman sold his own Alpine home and moved into the home of his father, who shares the same name and preceded him in Congress.
As a member of Congress, Hunter receives an annual salary of $174,000. Margaret Hunter, 43, was the congressman’s campaign manager, paid $3,000 a month until April of 2017. They have two daughters and one son.

The Hunters used campaign funds for ski trips, hotel stays and European vacations, according to the indictment. They dined everywhere from Spago to Taco Bell, from Mister A’s to Weinerschnitzel.

The Hunters and their supporters are claiming the spending to be oversights, and suggest political motivation for the charges:

Hunter’s father, former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, could not be reached by the Union-Tribune on Tuesday. On 10News, he defended his son, saying Margaret Hunter was responsible for the larger expenses, and Hunter had nothing to do with them. He said expenses at restaurants are normal for campaigns because the candidates can’t accept contributions at their official offices and must go elsewhere to conduct campaign business.

The former congressman went on to accuse prosecutors of being motivated by their political agenda. In defense of his son’s character, Hunter reminded reminded the voters that Hunter had a strong record of service to his country.

“This is the same guy who, when we were attacked on 9/11, quit his job right downtown, walked across the street, joined the Marine Corps, and deployed in three combat tours for our freedom” Hunter said. “Wait for the verdict.”

That defense, however, strains credulity if even a portion of the allegations are true. Prosecutors have laid out accusations of a systematic pattern to not only spend, but also conceal and misdirect funds.


Hunter’s campaign credit card allowed the family to take lavish vacations that they could not otherwise afford, according to the indictment filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego.

Investigators found that Margaret Hunter concealed the name or location of their destination by purchasing tickets for personal vacations by using websites like Expedia. Among the trips using campaign funds: a 2015 family vacation in Italy over Thanksgiving totaling more than $14,000; an April vacation in Hawaii costing $6,500; and a $3,700 trip to Las Vegas and Boise in July 2015.

In addition to family trips to fast food and fine dining establishments, as well as venues like the Del Mar Racetrack, the Hunters allegedly also spent thousands of dollars of campaign funds on routine purchases for personal items at Costco ($11,300), Walmart (more than $5,700), Barnes & Noble, Target and Michael’s craft store.

In one of Margaret Hunter’s trips to Target, she allegedly spent more than $300 in campaign funds for “a tablecloth, three square pillows, a three-brush set, a metal tray, four temporary shades, four window panels, a white duck, two Punky Brewster items, a ring pop and two five-packs of animals,” according to court documents. She described the purchases as being needed for “teacher/parent & supporter events.”

Hunter repeatedly pushed back on inquiries from his treasurer about his and his wife’s spending. For example, the Hunters allegedly spent nearly $2,000 on a November 2010 birthday gift for a family member to attend a Pittsburgh Steelers game at Heinz Field. When questioned by his treasurer about whether the expense was campaign related, the congressman gave a curt response: “Yessir.”

When the treasurer explicitly told the congressman in December 2010 that he could not use campaign funds “for a leisure outing at which the discussion occasionally focuses on the campaign,” Hunter asked the treasurer if he was “trying to create some kind of paper trail” on him.

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Manafort Found Guilty on 8 Counts, Mistrial on Remaining 10( 4 )

Paul Manafort, the one-time Trump campaign manager on trial for bank fraud and tax charges related to his overseas consulting work, was found guilty on 8 counts, and a mistrial declared on the remaining 10. The guilty verdicts include 5 Charges of tax fraud, 1 charge of hiding a foreign bank account, and 2 charges of bank fraud. For the 68-year old Manafort, sentencing will amount to the rest of his life in prison. The verdict comes after a trial in which his defense rested without presenting any evidence or calling a witness.

This was probably right at the time, and seems even more so today.

While Manafort will be the one sitting at the defendant’s table, there is even more at stake than one man’s liberty. The trial inevitably will be seen as a referendum on the Mueller investigation as a whole. A conviction will serve as powerful vindication and legitimization of Robert Mueller and the entire special counsel office’s investigation. Anything short of conviction, on the other hand, will cause convulsions of joy among the “Rigged Witch Hunt” crowd and surely will evoke legendary bursts of Twitter gloating by the president.

Of course, the actual charges against Manafort have very little to do with Trump, and nothing whatsoever to do with Russian election interference. The indictment runs 37 pages and 77 paragraphs, but it boils down to this: Paul Manafort made tens of millions of dollars working for Ukrainian political entities and tried to hide that money and avoid paying U.S. taxes on it by lying to his banks and to the IRS. (Manafort faces a separate slate of charges in a different federal court in Washington, D.C., relating to his work as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States and witness tampering. That trial is set for the fall.)

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Michael Cohen Surrenders As Part of Plea Deal( 2 )

Michael Cohen is in custody. The long time attorney, confidante, and alleged “fixer” for President Trump, has surrendered ahead of a hearing reportedly to enter a plea deal, as reported by CNN.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, has surrendered to the FBI ahead of a 4 p.m. court proceeding, where the government is expected to disclose a plea deal, according to a law enforcement source. Cohen reportedly is going to plead guilty to five counts of tax fraud and one count of making false statements to a financial institution.

As part of the deal, Cohen is expected to plead guilty to multiple counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud
and bank fraud, according to three sources. The deal would include jail time and a substantial monetary fine.
Among the sticking points in the talks, the two sides were negotiating over jail time, according to one source.

Cohen is pressing for three years but prosecutors are seeking 50 months.

Cohen has been concerned about asset forfeiture, leaving his family with nothing. Prosecutors made clear that there was a bigger risk should he go to trial and be found guilty that he would have to forfeit assets.

As part of the plea deal under discussion earlier Tuesday, Cohen was not expected to cooperate with the government, one source told CNN. However, by pleading guilty both Cohen and prosecutors would avoid the spectacle and uncertainty of a trial.

The charges are expected to involve activities related to tax fraud and campaign finance. All this comes as former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort awaits jury deliberations in his own trial. No doubt there will be much more to come on this story as it develops.

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Silent Sam Confederate Memorial on UNC Campus, Pulled Down( 65 )

Protests turned to destruction on the campus of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as the much fought over “Silent Sam” confederate memorial fell from its pedestal on the campus grounds.


More than 200 protesters first gathered at the Peace and Justice Plaza at about 7 p.m., before marching to the base of the statue, calling for its removal. By 9:30 p.m., the statue was on the ground and the crowd erupted in cheers.

Chancellor Folt released a statement about the toppling:



“Silent Sam” had been standing on the UNC campus since 1913.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement Monday night, saying that he “understands that many people are frustrated by the pace of change and he shares their frustration, but violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.”

Protesters first sectioned off the area around the controversial statue with large banners, blocking it from view. Throughout the course of the evening, people in the crowd speculated about what might be going on behind the banners, but no one confessed to knowing the plan.
People chanted “stand up, fight back” and “hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist statue has got to go.” Many also held signs.
WRAL’s Candace Sweat said she saw a rope that was connected to something behind the banners, and that she heard a creak before the statue came down.

At one point, there were tense moments between protesters and police officers. Protesters deployed smoke canisters.
One person was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and for concealing one’s face during a public rally.

Around 9 p.m., protesters left the base of “Silent Sam” and marched to Franklin Street, where they formed a large circle in the street, briefly blocking the intersection of Franklin and Columbia.



Protests had been touchy with the police and campus officials all day leading up to the statue’s fall.



Clearly, the debate and protests over monuments isn’t going away anytime soon.

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Trump Revokes Former DCI John Brennan’s Security Clearnace( 19 )

After having hinted that he would do so back in July, President Trump today revoked former Director Central Intelligence John Brennan’s security clearance. The announcement was read by Press Secretary Sanders:


In July, the White House announced that it was considering taking such action, which amounts to an unprecedented use of presidential authority to punish political rivals. At the time, critics quickly seized on the announcement, even as those under consideration downplayed the effect losing their clearances might have.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was not consulted on revoking Brennan’s clearance, an official with knowledge told CNN’s Jim Sciutto. Coats is the top intelligence official working in government and was appointed by Trump.

Sanders’ statement Wednesday cited the CIA’s infiltration of Senate computers during Brennan’s time at the helm of the agency as a reason for the decision, adding that Brennan has “recently leveraged his status” as a former official to “make a series of unfounded allegations” about the administration, which she called “increasingly frenzied commentary.”

So what does it mean? In the short term the reactions will probably fall along the lines of what the responders already thought about President Trump. Critics will claim Brennan as patriotism incarnate for opposing the president and being oppressed while MAGA land will paint him as a traitor, or worse, for defying the president.

In reality it is mostly a symbolic gesture. Most of the targets from President Trump’s July list of potential revocations no longer have clearance. Brennan would have been entitled to retain his for 5 years, unless some unknown measures were taken, which would have expired January 2022. Some will cry out about Brennan’s “free speech” being infringed on, but security clearances are not silencing. The experts will argue over the particulars, but security clearances and classified information is established as within the discretion of the executive, so any pushback would be limited. Even James Clapper, also subject of the Trump Administrations ire for his outspoken criticism, admits the president can do so as he pleases:


“I think this is just a very, very petty thing to do. And that’s about all I’ll say about it,” (Former Obama DNI James) Clapper said on CNN immediately after Sanders’ briefing.

“There is a formal process for doing this,” he added. “But, you know, legally the President has that prerogative and he can suspend and revoke clearances as he sees fit. If he chooses to do it for political reasons, I think that’s a terrible precedent and it’s a really sad commentary and its an abuse of the system.”

Hayden, meanwhile, indicated being stripped of his clearance would be of little consequence to his commentary.

“I don’t go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write,” he tweeted.

The CIA declined to comment on the announcement.

In short, it’s a very Trump-like thing to do; Small on consequence, big on turmoil caused, and comes off as petty and personally motivated.

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Trump Files Arbitration Suit Over Breach of NDA( 10 )

The newest volley in the back and forth war between President Trump and former-reality-star-cum-former-White-House-staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman came today, with Trump filing an arbitration suit against Manigault Newman for what he alleges is a breach of a “non-disclosure agreement”.  Manigault Newman, who served as “liason to the African American community” for the Trump administration until her firing last December, denies that any such agreement covered her time in the White House.  Though the agreement has not yet been made public, many experts agree that the NDA is likely invalid as to Manigault Newman’s time in the White House.

That the President required his staffers to sign NDAs was first revealed back in March, Though it has been conceded on both sides that the Manigault Newman NDA dates back to the 2016 campaign, the Trump camp asserted via Kellyanne Conway that all employees of the West Wing have signed similar agreements. The Trump camp alleges that Manigault Newman’s new tell-all book and her statements to the media regarding her time in the White House is in breach of the confidentiality agreement, for which she “owes millions”.

A few things to note: White House staffers are not employed by Donald J. Trump; they are employed by the United States of America. Thus, any attempt to enforce the muzzling of federal employees would necessarily be by the federal government, not the president or his campaign. Any attempt by the government to limit speech would likely invoke that whole First Amendment thing. True, there are situations involving classified information for which the government may restrict speech, but “I saw the president eat paper and he uses the “N word” is unlikely to qualify as matters of national security.

It’s also true that government entities may have a legitimate interest in the regulation of their employees’ speech, but, as national security lawyer Bradley P. Moss of the Lawfare Blog explains here, federal courts have held that non-classified information revealed by former government employees is not subject to restriction. There exists a “pre-publication review” process for former employees who wish to publish memoirs of their time in government, which gives the government the ability to identify and restrict the dissemination of any classified-but only classified-information. However, this process is for security clearance holders, which does not include Manigault Newman, who had no security clearance at all.

Trump is often criticized for treating the presidency as another of his business ventures, and the use of NDAs is classic Trump. But while NDAs might be useful for ex-wives, former mistresses, and disgruntled beauty pageant contestants, Trump may find that things are different when his staff works for the people of the nation, not him.



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The Manafort Defense Rested Without Presenting A Case( 14 )

Paul Manafort, on trial for bank fraud and tax charges related to his overseas consulting work, will not testify, and his attorneys rested on Tuesday, setting up closing arguments for the one-time Trump campaign manager.

Washington Post:

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The prosecution rested on Monday, and today the defense rested, and Manafort will not take the stand. The courtroom was sealed for nearly two hours this morning, then reopened at about 11:30 a.m. with Manafort coming in 10 minutes later. The reason for the sealed court was not disclosed.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said that closing arguments in the case will begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and jurors will be given instructions in the case after that. They will be sent home at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, after they see the defense formally rest its case.

The lawyers will discuss Tuesday afternoon what instructions they intend to give jurors. Those are wonky, but important, as they will shape how jurors debate the charges of which Manafort is accused.

In fact, the only time Manafort himself has spoken was in response to Judge Ellis’ reminder of his rights in the proceedings:


Manafort spoke for the first time in court during the trial, saying he will not testify.

Manafort told Judge T.S. Ellis that he would not testify during a brief questioning at the podium before the jury was brought in the room. Manafort is not required to testify because of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Ellis made this clear during his brief conversation with Manafort.

“You have an absolute right to testify before this jury,” Ellis said. “You have an absolute right to remain silent before this jury.”

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, and Ellis encouraged both sides to keep them under two hours.

Manafort faces 18 charges of tax and banking crimes and has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The case stands as the first major test for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is currently leading the probe into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — including whether there was any collusion between President Donald Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin.

Arm chair lawyers and social media litigators will go crazy, but this is very common. Shaky defenses rest without presenting all the time, as Popehat outlines here, and if you are not going to call the defendant, might as well hide that fact with a blanket, “we don’t need a defense against these ridiculous charges,” type defense.

Will it work? Who knows, the jury will let us know, perhaps as early as the end of this week. The Trump-centric coverage often misses the point that Manafort has been dirty for years, but proving crime beyond reasonable doubt to a jury is never a sure thing. It only takes one juror, after all. Despite the volume of the debate, we are all in the same boat as to the outcome of this trial: we wait.

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Michael Drejka arrested, charged in slaying of Merkeis McGlockton( 19 )

Michael Drejka has been arrested and charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton. For a quick recap, Sam Wilkinson did a write-up on this case, and the invoking of the Stand Your Ground defense in it, a while back:

Markeis McGlockton was at the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road near Clearwater, Florida.

He had his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, and his three children with him. He parked in a handicap spot and went into the store. Michael Drejka, a man nearby, objected to McGlockton’s choice of parking spots and initiated a confrontation with McGlockton’s girlfriend. Seeing the commotion, McGlockton left the store, confronted Drejka, eventually pushing him to the ground. Drejka then pulled a gun, shot McGlockton once in the chest, killing him. McGlockton was black; Drejka is white. Prosecutors have announced that Drejka was standing his ground, and will not be prosecuting him.

What comes next is entirely based upon what is seen in the paragraph above. Some people will see a man defending his girlfriend and their children from an armed, confrontational stranger who obviously represented an immediate threat to their well-being. (And although McGlockton had no way of knowing this at the time, Drejka has done this before; several months earlier, Drejka had threatened to shoot another man in the same parking lot, regarding that man’s decision to park in the same spot.) Some people will see Drejka simply defending himself, to the maximal imaginable degree, from an aggressor.

But regardless of what people see in this story, Florida law sees Drejka as a victim completely justified in killing McGlockton, all because Drejka can credibly report that he was afraid for his own well-being in the aftermath of having been shoved to the ground. It does not matter that he instigated the conflict; it does not matter that he was the armed aggressor; it does not matter that he is the one that posed the threat; it only matters that McGlockton almost immediately, but only briefly, had the upper hand.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said as much late last week, noting that although he questioned Drejka’s decision to shoot McGlockton, “But I don’t get to, and we don’t get to, substitute our judgment for Drejka’s judgment.”

But that was then, and apparently the now includes bringing up Drejka on manslaughter charges, as covered by the Tampa Bay Times:

Prosecutors charged Michael Drejka, the man accused of killing Markeis McGlockton in a shooting that has reignited a debate over Florida’s stand your ground law, with manslaughter Monday.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Drejka was taken into custody Monday morning. He was being booked about 12:20 p.m. into the Pinellas County Jail, where he will be held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
“It’s about time,” said McGlockton’s father, Michael McGlockton, adding that he was ecstatic. “This is exactly what I wanted. This is exactly what me and my family wanted was to get this guy behind bars.”

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Monday that his office “reviewed everything, and we filed the charge we think we can prove.”

“I’m comfortable that we moved expeditiously to review the case,” he said.

Drejka, who turned 48 since the shooting, had avoided arrest since he shot 28-year-old McGlockton on July 19 because of the controversial self-defense law that eliminated one’s duty to retreat before resorting to force.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced July 20 that his agency was precluded from arresting Drejka because evidence showed it was “within the bookends of stand your ground and within the bookends of force being justified,” which provides immunity from arrest, the sheriff said. He forwarded the case Aug. 1 to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to make a final charging determination.

So why the change? As the Times notes, the prosecutor declined to elaborate but the arrest warrant itself provides some clues:

It follows the same timeline outlined by authorities. The encounter between the two men started when Drejka, of 1116 Charles St. in Clearwater, confronted McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, about why she had parked in a handicap-reserved parking space without a decal at the Circle A Food Store on Sunset Point Road.
McGlockton, inside the store with his 5-year-old son, caught wind of the heated argument from witnesses.

Surveillance video shows him leaving the store, walking up to Drejka and pushing him to the ground. Drejka then pulls out a gun and shoots McGlockton. He told deputies he was in fear of further attack.
The warrant notes what McGlockton’s family and their lawyers have pointed out to show that Drejka’s fear wasn’t reasonable.

“Drejka steadies the firearm with both hands,” it says. “McGlockton immediately backs up when confronted with the firearm. As he backs up to his vehicle he begins to turn towards the front of the store away from the shooter.”
It also notes investigators used a scanner that helps capture measurement and distance to find that Drejka was about 12 feet from McGlockton when he fired the shot.

Several questions must be considered in deciding whether someone can be protected under the law when they use force: Was the person acting lawfully? Did the person have a right to be there? And was the person in reasonable fear of serious injury or death?

State legislators revised the law last year to put the onus on prosecutors to disprove a stand your ground claim instead of on defense attorneys to prove one. That would be hashed out at a pre-trial immunity hearing.

It would seem not just Drejka, but the scope and legal definition of Stand Your Ground law itself, will be on trial this time, at least in the court of public opinion.

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Familial DNA Continues to Crack Cold Cases Around the Country( 24 )

Following the big news last spring that the maddening case of the Golden State Killer was cracked by comparing offender DNA to a commercial DNA website, dominoes continue to fall around the country with the solving of decades-old murders.  It is likely more bitter than sweet for the families of the victims, but must surely be of some comfort to finally know who was responsible for their loved ones’ deaths.

Among the cases solved in the last few months using familial DNA and genealogical databases:

  • The kidnapping and murder of April Marie Tinsley in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1988. April, 8 years old, disappeared off the street as she walked to her friend’s house to retrieve an umbrella. Her raped and strangled body was found a few days later. Despite eye-witness to her abduction and the brazen taunts made by her killer in the years after, the case went unsolved until last month, when DNA left behind by the perpetrator was compared to a geneology database, as was done in the Golden State Killer case. The results led authorities to arrest John Miller, 58. When authorities showed up at his door and asked Miller if he knew why there were there, he did: “April Tinsley”. Miller is in custody and awaits trial.
  • The 1986 rape and murder of 12-year-old Michella Welch who disappeared while out playing with her sisters in Tacoma Washington. Tacoma police in May arrested 66 year old Gary Hartman, a registered nurse employed by the State of Washington, charging him with Michella’s murder. Familial DNA led police to collect a napkin discarded by Hartman, the DNA on which was compared to that found on the young girl’s body. It was a match.
  • The 1992 murder of school teacher Christy Mirack in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Familial DNA from a genealogy database proved the culprit to be Raymond “DJ Freez” Rowe, which was confirmed after investigators collected his discarded gum and water bottle from his gig at an elementary school dance.
  • The 1987 double murder of 20-year-old Jay Cook and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Tanya Van Cuylenburg in Bellingham, Washington. Charged in that case was 55-year-old William Talbott, who raped the young woman before killing both young victims.
  • The 1981 Texas murder of real estate agent Virginia Freeman. The woman’s body was found after she went to meet with a potential buyer at a rural property. The case went unsolved for 37 years, but officials say DNA points to James Otto Earhart, who was executed in 1999 for the murder of a 9-year-old girl.

There appears no end in sight for this trend of solving cold cases – a light at the end of the tunnel for families of the victims, and an oncoming train for the perpetrators.

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Not Fine( 6 )

And it’s not through fines:

Late fines weren’t very effective at getting people to return materials, officials said.

Instead, patrons seem to be more motivated to return items to avoid replacement costs and losing borrowing privileges than they were to avert accumulating fees, officials said.

Late fees were a drain on library resources, and collecting them did not promote a good relationship with patrons, said Tim Kambitsch, the executive director of the Dayton Metro Library.

“A long time ago, the overdue fines stopped having an impact on people’s timeliness of returning items,” he said. “What’s really made a big difference is that we’ve been more aggressive in how people’s borrowing privileges get limited with the new policy if they don’t return items.”

There’s a late episode of the Cosby Show where one of the replacement kids broke the rules and accepted the punishment as the cost of doing so. Cliff and Claire had to explain that it wasn’t meant to be transactional like that.

I thought about that when reading this. Apart from actually going after their ability to check out library books, a lot of people can probably internalize fines as a sort of rental fee. Whereas this makes them feel like they are doing something wrong, and the inability to rent other things out reinforces this fact. This makes it non-transactional.

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The Case For Us To Have a Space Force( 39 )

Think Space Force is a joke? Here are four major space threats to take seriously

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced the Trump administration is laying the groundwork a new Space Force and eventually a separate military branch, dedicated to space.

While the merits of a new organization are debatable, U.S. national security space systems are vulnerable to a wide array of threats, ranging from cyberattacks and jamming to anti-satellite missiles, according to a Center for Strategic and International Studies report published earlier this year. Russia and China, and to a lesser degree North Korea and Iran, are all threatening America’s military through its dependence on space.

“Given our dependence and that of our allies and partners on space, the loss of critical assets today could prove decisive to our ability to monitor critical events like missile launches or nuclear tests, or to successfully prosecute a military campaign,” retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the former chief of U.S. Strategic Command, said in the forward to the report. “Urgent action is needed.”

A number of people have said that if Obama had come up with this a lot of people laughing at Trump and Pence wouldn’t be. Fair enough, thought if Obama had come up with it we’d assume an actual plan with strategic objectives. It the administration is actually serious about this, and not just selling campaign gear, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

President Donald Trump’s re-election team seized on his administration’s push for a “Space Force” on Thursday, pledging to sell branded merchandise to his supporters.

“President Trump wants a SPACE FORCE — a groundbreaking endeavor for the future of America and the final frontier,” read an email from the Trump campaign. “As a way to celebrate President Trump’s huge announcement, our campaign will be selling a new line of gear.”
The letter from campaign manager Brad Parscale then invited supporters to vote on the campaign’s logo for the proposed military branch. The campaign email followed efforts from the Trump administration on the same day to drum up support for the proposal and outline how the Pentagon would take its first steps.
Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech where he called for the creation of a new military service for space by 2020, building on Trump’s previous calls for one, and Trump issued a tweet on Thursday where he said, “Space Force all the way!”

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Hypocrisy & Speech( 14 )

I think this is true, as far as it goes, but is also an inclination to be resisted (albeit not dismissed)

But as Stanley Fish pointed out decades ago, during the first round of political-correctness culture wars (ca. 1985-95), in this sense hypocrisy is simply what human beings do. According to the definition given above, it is virtually impossible to find non-hypocritical judgments. In his famous essay “There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech, and It’s a Good Thing, Too” Fish describes John Milton’s famous celebration of free speech in “Areopagitica,” which commends “the virtues of toleration and unregulated publication in passages that find their way into every discussion of free speech and the First Amendment,” after which “Milton catches himself up short and says, of course I didn’t mean Catholics, them we exterminate.” Here’s the key passage:

I mean not tolerated popery, and open superstition, which as it extirpates all religious and civil supremacies, so itself should be extirpate . . . that also which is impious or evil absolutely against faith or manners no law can possibly permit that intends not to unlaw itself.

Beneath every commitment to free speech, Fish says, is this unspoken but essential question: “Would this form of speech or advocacy, if permitted to flourish, tend to undermine the very purposes for which our society is constituted?” If the answer is Yes, then that speech is unprotected by our laws.

Though perhaps there is a way to incorporate it into our discussion without it leading to a wholesale dismissal of speech that runs contrary to our societal rationale.

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NYC Caps Ride Share Vehicles, Requires Minimum Pay( 3 )

In an effort to combat gridlock on its streets, New York City introduced new regulations affecting rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, placing a moratorium on new licensed vehicles and mandating a minimum hourly wage for drivers. The move was met with dismay by the public, who have concerns about increased cost and difficulty in getting around, and with the company execs. From Lyft’s VP of public policy, Joseph Okpaku via CNN:

These sweeping cuts to transportation will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of color and in the outer boroughs.

We will never stop working to ensure New Yorkers have access to reliable and affordable transportation in every borough.

But the drivers and labor advocates cheered:

‘Workers and New York leaders made history today. It’s not easy taking on Silicon Valley behemoths, but we kept on fighting for what we know is right and today the workers prevailed,’ said Ryan Price, the executive director of the Independent Driver’s Guild. The organization represents more than 65,000 app-based drivers.

Since services like Lyft and Uber gained popularity, traditional taxis, already regulated and capped by the city, have protested what they see as unfair competition. Unfortunately for companies like Lyft and Uber, regulations like those imposed in New York are likely to be considered in other cities around the world who have also expressed frustration with rideshare.

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Tribune Media-Sinclair Broadcasting Merger Off( 1 )

The long running saga of a proposed Tribune Media and Sinclair Broadcasting merger seems to have finally been brought to a close, with Tribune not only killing the deal, but also filing lawsuit against Sinclair for “breach of contract” in an effort to mitigate a $135 million breakup fee.

NBC News:

Tribune cited Sinclair’s “unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations with the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission” in the regulatory review of the merger as the reason for the suit, filed Thursday in Delaware Chancery Court.

“In light of the FCC’s unanimous decision, referring the issue of Sinclair’s conduct for a hearing before an administrative law judge, our merger cannot be completed within an acceptable timeframe, if ever,” said Peter Kern, Tribune Media CEO. “This uncertainty and delay would be detrimental to our company and our shareholders. Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the Merger Agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable.”

The $3.9 billion transaction, set in May 2017, would have combined two of the country’s largest broadcasters into a giant with more than 200 stations. Public interest groups lined up against the merger and Democrats contended that Sinclair was trying to infuse local stations with a conservative bent.

The decision to abandon the merger immediately raises the prospect of other suitors for Tribune Media. Industry sources speculate that the company may wind up selling off its assets in piecemeal fashion. Fox Television Stations had already cut a deal with Sinclair to acquire 7 of Tribune’s Fox affiliate stations for $910 million as part of its divestiture plan.

The deal-breaker on the merger came last month, when FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced that he had “serious concerns” about the transaction. The commissioners voted unanimously to send the merger to an administrative law judge for a hearing, a prospect that likely would add months or a year or longer to the review.

The killing of the merger comes two weeks after President Trump waded into the issue on Twitter, going against his own FCC to criticize the scrutiny by government over the proposed merger.


“So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People. Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!”

Trump’s tweet puts FCC chair Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by Trump, in the awkward position of having to defend the commission and assert its position as an independent regulatory agency that is not directly accountable to the president or other elected officials. Democrat commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel replied to Trump’s tweet on Tuesday with one word: “Disagree.”

At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Wednesday afternoon, Pai would not directly say whether he agreed or disagreed with Trump’s tweet when pressed by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). Pai would only say “I stand by our decision” to send the transaction to a hearing last week after expressing concerns about Sinclair’s bid for Tribune Media.

“Trump’s tweet actually hurts us — because of the conservative line,” one staffer said.

Other Sinclair journalists seconded this point, saying colleagues were unhappy with Trump’s portrayal of the company as “conservative.” While stations have been forced to air pro-Trump commentaries and stories, most journalists at local stations want to be recognized for their straight-forward, nonpartisan work. They don’t want to be labeled by the president or anyone else.

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About Last Night: The Democrat Center Holds in Primary Results, For Now( 23 )

Earlier this week Mark Kruger wrote about the intramural contest within the Democrat party between the rising progressive left and the more established center-left.

But AOC’s success and the media attention it brings heightens the fissures within the Democratic party. The debate is over whether Dem’s should be more socialist. A young, idealistic faction within the party wants to wrestle it further to the left. They advocate big changes in healthcare, housing and education with a primary role for government. An aging “establishment” wing of the party supports incremental changes (or in some case the status quo). It wants to maintain a position nearer to the center.

Much ink and characters have been spilled about the topic, and last night with primaries in Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Kansas, and Washington we have some actual data and fresh results to add to the mix.

Washington Post:

The Democratic Party’s left-wing insurgency found its limits Tuesday night, with voters favoring establishment candidates over more liberal challengers in almost every closely watched race across several states.

In Michigan, former state senator Gretchen Whitmer easily won the Democratic nomination for governor over Abdul El-Sayed, a doctor backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who was vying to become the country’s first Muslim governor.

In suburban House districts across the Midwest, left-wing candidates lost to Democrats backed by party leaders, abortion rights groups and labor unions.

And in St. Louis, where party giant-slayer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez traveled to help another young insurgent candidate topple an incumbent, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) cruised to an easy primary win over challenger Cori Bush.

Six weeks after Ocasio-Cortez stunned Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), signs of a tea-party-like movement in the Democratic Party that would throw winnable races to far-left candidates appear to be fading. Instead, the party’s establishment has embraced ideas like expanding the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the space between its leaders and its disrupters.

“Trump has been the great doctor, stitching up our scars and healing us organically,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

The party’s centrists, who had bemoaned Crowley’s defeat, saw Tuesday night as a turning point. Whitmer, who ran on her record of expanding Medicaid in Michigan — and a memorable promise to “fix the damn roads” — will now lead an all-female ticket in a swing state that Hillary Clinton narrowly lost.

Vox drew mostly the same conclusion, adding “the left” to its column that was headed “losers” from last night along with the “moral victory” of coming close in OH-12.

The left has had a good 2018, don’t get me wrong. But Abdul El-Sayed’s second-place finish in the Michigan Democratic governor’s primary — even after a highly publicized appearance days before the election with superstar Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders — wasn’t its best moment.

Meanwhile, down south in Ohio, a moderate Democrat who explicitly rejects lefty priorities like Medicare-for-all, “Abolish ICE,” and tuition-free college, very nearly won a House district Republicans have held for 35 years. Progressives have made gains this year, compared to the past, but the moderate message still seems to have a place in certain areas.

Two establishment-backed candidates also beat self-styled Berniecrats in Michigan House primaries. The Kansas Second, with former Bernie Sanders staffer Brent Welder facing Sharice Davids, is too close to call, though Davids appears to be ahead.

Right now, it’s easy to imagine a House Freedom Caucus-size lefty caucus if things break right for Democrats. But that kind of support for the democratic socialist policies can have only so much effect, unless progressives start breaking through in more primaries.

At least for one night, any blue wave that might come will still be lead by the center. If the Democrats can manage to ride it.

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Biases and Lies, Told By Us, To Us( 7 )

A while back Jaybird brought up “Priming” while dealing with the Yanni vs Laurel thing. Cognitive bias, however, influences just about every thought you have in one way or another, and dealing with it beyond just behavior in understanding it better is a complex endeavor.
“Why You Lie to Yourself” By Ben Yagoda writing in The Atlantic takes on the subject in a new piece that give us plenty to think about.

Kahneman and others draw an analogy based on an understanding of the Müller-Lyer illusion, two parallel lines with arrows at each end. One line’s arrows point in; the other line’s arrows point out. Because of the direction of the arrows, the latter line appears shorter than the former, but in fact the two lines are the same length. Here’s the key: Even after we have measured the lines and found them to be equal, and have had the neurological basis of the illusion explained to us, we still perceive one line to be shorter than the other.

Biases and Lies, Told By Us, To Us

Müller-Lyer illusion

At least with the optical illusion, our slow-thinking, analytic mind—what Kahneman calls System 2—will recognize a Müller-Lyer situation and convince itself not to trust the fast-twitch System 1’s perception. But that’s not so easy in the real world, when we’re dealing with people and situations rather than lines. “Unfortunately, this sensible procedure is least likely to be applied when it is needed most,” Kahneman writes. “We would all like to have a warning bell that rings loudly whenever we are about to make a serious error, but no such bell is available.”

Because biases appear to be so hardwired and inalterable, most of the attention paid to countering them hasn’t dealt with the problematic thoughts, judgments, or predictions themselves. Instead, it has been devoted to changing behavior, in the form of incentives or “nudges.” For example, while present bias has so far proved intractable, employers have been able to nudge employees into contributing to retirement plans by making saving the default option; you have to actively take steps in order to not participate. That is, laziness or inertia can be more powerful than bias. Procedures can also be organized in a way that dissuades or prevents people from acting on biased thoughts. A well-known example: the checklists for doctors and nurses put forward by Atul Gawande in his book The Checklist Manifesto.

Is it really impossible, however, to shed or significantly mitigate one’s biases? Some studies have tentatively answered that question in the affirmative. These experiments are based on the reactions and responses of randomly chosen subjects, many of them college undergraduates: people, that is, who care about the $20 they are being paid to participate, not about modifying or even learning about their behavior and thinking. But what if the person undergoing the de-biasing strategies was highly motivated and self-selected? In other words, what if it was me?

The whole article is worth a read. So what do you think? Comment below, share and discuss.

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It’s Easier To Sail That River in Egypt( 31 )

This corresponds with my own experiences and observations:

This implies that if the tables were turned — if Republican politicians proposed a climate policy — Republican voters might support it. In our research, that is exactly what we have found.

In one study, we asked Democrats, Republicans and independents to consider one of two carbon-pricing policies: a national cap-and-trade program and a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. But we varied the information we gave about political support for the policies, sometimes saying that a policy was backed by Democratic members of Congress, and sometimes saying that it was backed by Republican members.

In a similar study, we asked Democrats, Republicans and independents in Washington State to consider a carbon tax that was on the ballot in their state in 2016. There, we mentioned either liberal Democrats (like the Green Party of Seattle) or conservative Republicans (like the former secretary of state George Shultz) who in fact supported the initiative.

I wouldn’t say that they necessarily do believe in climate change, but rather that they could believe in it, and relatively easily. It would take some leadership that (a) the right’s leaders haven’t been inclined to show and (b) that they have little incentive to show, almost no upside, and quite a bit of downside.

A lot of people have come to where they currently are on the issue because it’s actually an easier posture to say that climate change isn’t real – or is in serious doubt – than to agree that it is real but disagree on what and how much should be done about it which ends up categorizing you with the doubters anyway.

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A Second West Virginia Justice Faces Federal Charges( 22 )

Mike Stewart, US Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, announced today that West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum will plead guilty to federal criminal charges arising out of the investigation into improper spending by the state’s high court. Ketchum will plead guilty “to an information”, which means that he has agreed to waive indictment by a grand jury as a result of a deal brokered with federal prosecutors.

Ketchum, who resigned his seat on the Court effective August 3rd, reportedly shared Justice Allen Loughry’s habit of appropriating state property for his own use. Ketchum is accused of using a state-owned Buick to travel over 400 miles for golf outings- and charging the gas for these trips to the state.  He also purportedly used the state vehicle to travel the hour-long commute from his home to the state capitol- but did not originally report this perk on his taxes, according to the results of a legislative audit. Prior to his resignation, Ketchum was suspended from the bench pending investigation into the inappropriate spending as well as dishonest statements to investigators by members of the court .

Ketchum has been a justice since 2008. While it is assumed an agreement has been reached between Ketchum and prosecutors, it is unknown whether testimony against his disgraced colleague is part of that deal.

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When Laws Aren’t Laws( 11 )

The problem with this, as with much of “international law”, is that even if you buy into it a law without an enforcement mechanism isn’t a law.

All parties to both these controversies proceed from a common premise: that Israel has the right to use force in order to prevent Gazans from breaching the fence. The dispute comes down to: how much? Critics who allege “disproportionate” or “excessive” force tacitly legitimize Israel’s use of “proportionate” or “moderate” force, while those who insist upon the applicability of human rights law acknowledge that Israel’s resort to force is legitimate if demonstrators pose an “imminent threat” to a sniper’s life.

This presumption holds even at the most critical pole of the debate on Gaza. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem condemned as “illegal” Israel’s resort to lethal force against unarmed persons “approaching the fence, damaging it, or attempting to cross it.” But it conceded that “[o]bviously, the military is allowed to prevent such actions, and even to detain individuals attempting to carry them out.” A senior Human Rights Watch official argued that Israel’s use of live ammunition in Gaza was “unlawful.” But she suggested that “nonlethal means, such as tear gas, skunk water, and rubber-coated steel pellets” would have passed legal muster. The International Committee of the Red Cross cautioned Israel that “lethal force only be used as a last resort and when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.” Even the major Palestinian human rights organizations characterized Israel’s use of force as “excessive,” “indiscriminate,” and “disproportionate” rather than inherently illegal.

But the fact is, Israel cannot claim a right to use any force in Gaza — whether moderate or excessive, proportionate or disproportionate; whether protesters are unarmed or armed, don’t or do pose an imminent threat to life. If it appears otherwise, that’s because the current debate ignores critical caveats in international law and abstracts from the specific situation in Gaza.

And further, a law without an enforcement mechanism that requires a more powerful force to lay down its arms against a less powerful one is even less of a law.

{via Murali}

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23andMe to Share DNA data with GlaxoSmithKline( 4 )

After Facebook was discovered to have sold the data of it’s user to outside companies for various things, the outrage and fallout was strong and  continues to this day. The fact that such a transfer was spelled out in the user agreement did little to assuage the people who felt wronged by it. So it will be interesting to see how the customers of popular DNA testing kits 23andMe react to their samples being handed over to pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for research and testing.

NBC News:

23andMe patrons are asked if they want to participate in scientific research. The new agreement moves this consent firmly into the field of active drug discovery research.

“As always, if our customers do not want to participate in research, they can choose to opt out at any time,” Wojcicki wrote.

Glaxo has invested $300 million in 23andMe and the companies have a four-year deal that gives Glaxo exclusive rights to collaborate with the DNA testing company to develop drugs.

Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, said the companies should pay the 23andMe customers whose DNA is used in any research.

“Are they going to offer rebates to people who opt in so their customers aren’t paying for the privilege of 23andMe working with a for-profit company in a for-profit research project?” he asked.

“It’s one thing for NIH (the National institutes of Health) to ask people to donate their genome sequences for the higher good,” Pitts told NBC News.
“But when two for-profit companies enter into an agreement where the jewel in the crown is your gene sequence and you are actually paying for the privilege of participating, I think that’s upside-down.”

Pitts also questioned whether there were solid protocols for protecting the privacy of 23andMe customers.

The reason the drug makers are so heady on the idea is a simple one: the hard part of doing genetic testing is getting enough material with specific defined conditions. Enter 23andMe, the popular at-home DNA testing kits.

“The over 5 million customers that 23andMe has gained access to is really many larger … 10 times larger, than some of the other databases out there,” he added.

One of the big obstacles to genetics research is getting enough people to donate their DNA and paying to sequence it. The 23andMe database delivers a huge number of customers who have already consented and whose DNA has already been partly sequenced.

The company can go back and do more sequencing on people who have genetic variations that are of interest.

“We are also excited to leverage the patients, to have them be part of this drug discovery process,” Barron said.

Now that it is public, we will see if the customers of 23andMe share the excitement, or, like Facebook users, regret not reading the fine print.

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Trump-Cohen Recorded Conversation Released( 109 )

The Trump Tape is here. Long-time Trump Attorney, and alleged “fixer” Michael Cohen has been in the news for having “tapes” of his conversations with President Trump, and now one such recording has been aired, first reported by CNN:

The Washington Post has a transcript of the Trump Tape

TRUMP: [In background] Good. Let me know what’s happening, okay? Oh, oh. Maybe because of this it would be better if you didn’t go, you know? Maybe because of this. For that one, you know, I think what you should do is get rid of this. Because it’s so false what they’re saying, it’s such bulls—. Um. [PAUSE] I think, I think this goes away quickly. I think what — I think it’s probably better to do the Charleston thing, just this time. Uh, yeah. In two weeks, it’s fine. I think right now it’s, it’s better. You know? Okay, hun. You take care of yourself. Thanks, babe. Yup, I’m proud of you. So long. Bye.
[Into phone] What’s happening?
COHEN: Great poll, by the way.
TRUMP: Yeah?
COHEN: Seen it. Great poll.
TRUMP: Making progress.
COHEN: Big time.
TRUMP: And, your guy is a good guy. He’s a good —
COHEN: Who, Pastor Scott?
TRUMP: Can’t believe this. No, Pastor Scott. What’s, what’s happening —
TRUMP: Can we use him anymore?
COHEN: Oh, yeah, a hundred — no, you’re talking about Mark Burns. He’s, we’ve told him to [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
TRUMP: I don’t need that — Mark Burns, are we using him?
COHEN: No, no.
FEMALE: Richard [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. I’m sorry, Richard [UNINTELLIGIBLE] just called. He — just when you have a chance, he had an idea for you.
TRUMP: Okay, great.
COHEN: Um, so, we got served from the New York Times. I told you this — we were …
TRUMP: To what?
COHEN: … To unseal the divorce papers with Ivana. Um, we’re fighting it. Um, [Trump attorney Marc] Kasowitz is going to —
TRUMP: They should never be able to get that.
COHEN: Never. Never. Kasowitz doesn’t think they’ll ever be able to. They don’t have a —
TRUMP: Get me a Coke, please!
COHEN: They don’t have a legitimate purpose, so —
TRUMP: And you have a woman that doesn’t want this.
COHEN: Correct.
TRUMP: Who you’ve been handling.
COHEN: Yes. And —
TRUMP: And it’s been going on for a while.
COHEN: About two, three weeks now.
TRUMP: All you’ve got to do is delay for —
COHEN: Even after that, it’s not ever going to be opened. There’s no, there’s no purpose for it. Um, told you about Charleston. Um, I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that — I’m going to do that right away. I’ve actually come up and I’ve spoken —
TRUMP: Give it to me and get me a [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
COHEN: And, I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with …
TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?
COHEN: … Funding .?.?. Yes. Um, and it’s all the stuff.
TRUMP: Yeah, I was thinking about that.
COHEN: All the stuff. Because — here, you never know where that company — you never know what he’s —
TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.
COHEN: Correct. So, I’m all over that. And, I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing, which will be —
TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?
COHEN: Well, I’ll have to pay him something.
TRUMP: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] pay with cash.
COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I got it.
TRUMP: Check.
[Tape cuts off abruptly. Separate recording begins.]
MALE: Hey Don, how are you?
-End Transcript-

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White House Says it’s Looking to Revoke Obama-Era Officials Security Clearances( 20 )

So this happened during the White House daily press briefing on Monday:

That list again:
– former CIA director John Brennan
– former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
– former FBI Director Jim Comey
– former CIA director Michael Hayden
– former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice
– former FBI deputy director Andrea McCabe

The question stemmed from statements made earlier in the day by Sen. Rand Paul:

In an unusual move, Paul wrote that he will meet with Trump on Monday to discuss allegations that Brennan is “monetizing his security clearance” and “making millions of dollars divulging secrets to mainstream media.” Paul added that he would ask Trump to revoke Brennan’s clearance.

CNN has reached out to representatives for Brennan and has not yet received a response.

For her part, Sec. Sanders was ready for the question with the list of above officials, and was reading verbatim from notes during both the initial question and the follow-up. Clearly the White House has a plan here. Whether they follow through, have evidence of wrong doing on those individuals parts, and what the response will be, remains to be seen.

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Poll: Majority of Registered Voters Support Term-Limits for SCOTUS( 0 )

Politico/Morning Consult have some polling data out, taken after the Kavanaugh SCOTUS pick, and sixty-one percent support term limits for Supreme Court justices- and support crosses party affiliation, with two-thirds of polled Democrats and 58% of Republicans in favor. 20% overall oppose limits.

Morning Consult:

Sixty-one percent of voters support term limits for Supreme Court justices, including two-thirds of Democrats and 58 percent of Republicans. Twenty percent overall oppose such limits, according to the survey of 1,991 registered voters.

“It’s important to have justices who are reflective of the population they’re bringing judgment upon,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of the group Fix the Court, in a Tuesday interview. “Before Kennedy retired, we still had justices who were appointed during the Reagan administration. A lot’s changed in the world since the Reagan administration.”

Fix the Court, a nonpartisan advocacy group, is pushing a plan that would place an 18-year limit on a judge’s term, which would start as current judges leave and new ones come in. Roth said despite momentum in the legal community and among many Americans in support of term limits, there is no such movement on Capitol Hill and a number of legal scholars argue such changes would require a constitutional amendment.

“Since the post-Watergate Ethics in Government Act that required justices to release their financial disclosure reports, there has been little action in Congress to change the institutional structure of courts,” he said.
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, said while there is support for term limits, the challenge is in how to implement them – whether they are made retroactive or exclusively apply to future nominees.

“If you make it forward-looking, it would take literally 30 years for it to actually make any impact,” he said in a Tuesday interview.

Our own Burt Likko already made his proposal for just such and amendment for change in both nominating and term limits for SCOTUS:

I propose an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:

Section 1. The number of Justices serving upon the Supreme Court of the United States shall be nine, including the Chief Justice.

Section 2. Upon the vacancy of any seat on the Supreme Court, the Attorney General or such other officer as the President may designate shall convene a Selection Committee.

The Selection Committee shall consist of three Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts of the several states, chosen by lot, and four Presiding Judges of the several Federal Courts of Appeal, chosen by lot. In the event of a vacancy or a refusal of a chosen member of the Selection Committee to serve, the Chief Justice or, if there is no Chief Justice the most senior member of the Supreme Court, shall appoint a replacement from the same pool of potential members as the selected committee member not serving.

The Selection Committee shall meet and propose three candidates to the President to fill the vacancy upon the Supreme Court within thirty days of the vacancy. No member of the Selection Committee may themselves be proposed as a candidate.

Section 3. Within thirty days of his receipt of the Selection Committee’s three candidates, the President shall nominate one of those three candidates to the Senate.

The Senate shall convene if not then in session, and approve or disapprove of the proposed candidate within thirty days of the President’s proposal by a majority vote. In the event of the Senate’s rejection of a nominee, the President shall thereafter propose from the remaining proposed candidates within thirty days of the Senate’s rejection, and the Senate shall then approve or disapprove of the proposed candidate within thirty days of the President’s nomination by a majority vote.

If for any reason the Senate fails to act in response to the President’s nomination, the nominee shall be deemed confirmed, effective on the thirty-first day after the nomination is made.

If all three nominees are rejected by the Senate, or the Senate by majority vote indicates that none of the three proposed nominees will be acceptable, a new Selection Committee shall be convened within thirty days.

Section 4. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Would this help or hurt? I’m trying to ratchet down, but not completely eliminate, the role of politics in the process of selecting Supreme Court nominees. And yes, I’m proposing tying the President’s hands a lot and the Senate’s hands at least a moderate amount. For instance, by prohibiting court-packing in section 1.

Lori A. Ringhand and Paul M. Collins write in the Chicago Tribune that while the Garland/Gorsuch/Kavanaugh headlines have stirred up the intellectual exercise of imposing change, the concept of SCOTUS term limits is liable to be just that.

The final argument against term limits may be the most important: They may be impossible to implement. Creating legally enforceable Supreme Court term limits would almost certainly require amending the Constitution. That’s unlikely to happen any time soon. Any solution short of a constitutional amendment would require getting justices and senators to agree to change the norms and customs governing retirement and confirmation. In other words, they would have to voluntarily agree to play by a new set of rules. Given the state of politics today, that may be too much to ask.

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Because Of Course( 2 )

Leave it to this administration to use DNA tests meant to reunite families as DNA testing is being used to keep families apart–not reunify them“>a stall and barrier.

Some of the records that linked parents and children have disappeared or have been destroyed, according to one report. In other cases, the records are sitting in border patrol or ICE files, but the government has claimed that the fastest way to prove that families are related is to give them DNA tests rather than for one agency to call another. (This came two weeks after Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, said that he would be able to find children “within seconds” when questioned about the challenges of reunification.)

In at least some cases, parents were told they’d have to pay for the DNA tests themselves, with money they don’t have. The tests take at least a week for the government’s contractor to process.

As one immigration attorney put it, it could be a delay tactic: The longer the government can keep children and parents apart, the more it can pressure them to accept deportation. Immigration advocates say that DNA tests raise privacy concerns, and only make sense in cases where there’s clear evidence a child might be a victim of human trafficking. When some DNA testing companies offered to donate tests in June in an attempt to help with reunification, some nonprofits working with separated families turned the offers down.

The evidence that they’re actually doing this is kind of slight, but the thing about running the program the way this administration has you don’t get much benefit of the doubt.

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Maria Butina Arrested on Charges of Being Russian Agent( 25 )

A Russian woman is under arrest and charged with acting as a foreign agent, but not as part of the ongoing Mueller Probe. Among other activities, her association with NRA events and other conservative groups are alleged to be part of a plan to win “back channel” relationships with the politically powerful.

Washington Post

Maria Butina, 29, who recently received a graduate degree from American University, was arrested Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, where she was ordered held without bond.

Butina is accused of trying to cultivate relationships with American politicians to establish “back channel” lines of communication and seeking to infiltrate U.S. political groups, including an unnamed “gun rights organization,” to advance Russia’s agenda. Descriptions in court papers match published reports about Butina’s interactions with the NRA.

The case, which is not part of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference, lays out the strongest allegations to date of American involvement in Russia’s influence operations.

Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person was not charged and is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina’s Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.

NRA officials and Erickson did not respond to requests for comment.

National Review:

There are a few key takeaways from today’s news:

First, Butina’s operation predates the Trump campaign. Back in March 2014, Butina emailed U.S. Person 1 and projected that the GOP would “likely obtain control over the U.S. government after the 2016 election.” Moreover, she said that party is “traditionally associated with negative and aggressive foreign policy, particularly with regards to Russia.” She identified the NRA’s significance in Republican politics and hoped to exploit that influence to gain relationships.

Second, the affidavit provides the clearest example yet of an American working knowingly and willingly with a Russian operative to advance Russian interests. U.S. Person 1 enthusiastically cooperated with a project that had nothing to do with advancing Russian gun rights and everything to do with facilitating her access to key Republican leaders.

Third, don’t jump to conclusions about the NRA’s role in Butina’s scheme. There are those who will read Twitter or skim headlines and immediately leap to the conclusion that “the NRA was facilitating a Russian intelligence operation” or that the “NRA helped a Russian agent” without considering that there’s a difference between exploitation and cooperation. So far it appears that she worked with U.S. Person 1 to exploit the NRA’s connections to the GOP. Any claim of cooperation is way ahead of the evidence.

Finally, it’s worth saying this after each new revelation in the ongoing series of Russia investigations (interestingly, this indictment didn’t come from the special counsel’s office but instead from DOJ national-security prosecutors), there is much we still don’t know about Russian efforts to influence American politics and about American participation in Russian plans.

While others are noticing a pattern in who and why she targets certain groups, are quite convinced they know exactly why, and to who, Russia was trying to influence in their plans.
Mother Jones:

In 2015, just a month after Trump announced his White House run, Butina directly asked him a question about US-Russia relations during a FreedomFest event in North Dakota, eliciting a response from Trump that he would likely soften the US stance against the Kremlin. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions,” he said. “I think we would get along very, very well.”

In another apparent indication of her interest in infiltrating US politics, Butina also met Republican Gov. Scott Walker at the 2015 NRA convention. Two days after her FreedomFest exchange with Trump that July, Butina was in Wisconsin to attend the event where Walker announced his own candidacy for the presidency.

In an affidavit unsealed Monday, FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson wrote that Butina attempted to “exploit personal connections with U.S. persons having influence in American politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation.” The filing alleged that Butina established contact with an unnamed American political operative in Moscow in 2013 and obtained the operative’s help meeting influential Americans.

That unnamed operative appears to be Paul Erickson, a longtime Republican activist from South Dakota who has been associated with Butina since at least 2013, according to our previous reporting. Late last year, the New York Times reported that Erickson sought to set up a “back channel” between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin in May 2016. Erickson did not respond immediately to inquiries from Mother Jones, but he was identified Monday in an NPR report as the operative described in the affidavit.

What is clear is, as agents go, Butina was doing exactly what operatives have done for years unseen: infiltrate, build relationships, work contacts. Interesting to note here that this investigation pre-dates the Mueller probe, and has largely run parallel. How much, if any, overlap there might be remains to be seen.

The full affidavit is available to read here:

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