Stormy Daniel’s Defamation Suit Tossed, Legal Fees Ordered( 2 )

One of two lawsuits by Stormy Daniels against President Donald Trump was dismissed by Order of a federal judge yesterday. The Order also requires Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees, an as-yet-to-be-determined sum that will no doubt reach 7 figures.

From the New York Times:

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford against President Trump, ruling that the president had not defamed her on Twitter last spring and ordering her to pay his legal fees.

The tweet in question was posted by the president on April 18, one day after Ms. Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, posted a sketch of a man who, she alleged, threatened her in 2011 as she was first considering speaking out about the affair she said she had with Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump called the sketch “a total con job,” depicting “a nonexistent man.”

In its decision, the court sided with Mr. Trump’s lawyers’ argument that the tweet included an opinion, which the president was free to express.
“The court agrees with Mr. Trump’s argument because the tweet in question constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States,” Judge S. James Otero wrote in his decision. “The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
While Trump’s lawyer in the defamation case, Charles Harder, declares the ruling “total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,” the battles between the two are not over. Daniels has also filed suit to set aside a non-disclosure agreement she reportedly signed in the days before the election, regarding her affair with the president. This suit, filed prior to the defamation suit, is still pending. Trump and the company formed by his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to facilitate the NDA have sought dismissal of that suit as well, and have stated they have no intention of enforcing the agreement. They do, however, seek the return of the $130,000 paid to Daniels in exchange for her silence. Daniels and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, have refused the offer of settlement, and have avidly sought to depose the president.
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The World’s Oldest Torrent( 1 )

How a Matrix fan film helped put BitTorrent on the map:

In 2003 the ‘world wide web’ was an entirely different place than it is today.

This was especially true for streaming video. YouTube had yet to be invented, while Netflix only sent out films via the postal service.

It was at this time that a group of New Zealand friends was shooting a fan film of The Matrix, appropriately titled “The Fanimatrix.” With a limited budget of just $800, of which nearly half went into a leather jacket, they managed to complete the project in nine days.

There was a problem though. As video streaming services were still non-existent, distribution was a challenge. The makers managed to reduce the filesize down to 150MB, but even that was too expensive.

TorrentFreak spoke to the film’s ‘IT-guy’ Sebastian Kai Frost, who also had a bit part in front of the camera, in addition to being a wire-work counterweight, gopher, and light holder. According to Frost, regular centralized hosting was not an option.

Setting aside piracy an the like, it’s a very useful technology for open source and public domain. I’m a big fan of Librivox – think Project Gutenberg for audiobooks – and it’s the best way to download large numbers of stuff from their collection. I hope somebody gets it working for public domain comics, too. And Linux distros.

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Warren releases results of DNA test( 128 )

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a DNA test that provides “strong evidence’’ she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations, an unprecedented move by one of the top possible contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.

Warren, whose claims to Native American blood have been mocked by President Trump and other Republicans, provided the test results to the Globe on Sunday in an effort to defuse questions about her ancestry that have persisted for years. She planned an elaborate rollout Monday of the results as she aimed for widespread attention.

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Take A Deep Breath( 0 )

Everything is becoming hyperpolitical…. except politics:

Some suggest that the internet and social media have replaced the older print and electronic media, but the available research does not support that suggestion. If “hundreds of millions of people” really were doing politics on social media, I would share Hanson’s worries, but such a claim overstates the number of social media activists by several orders of magnitude. A 2013 Facebook study that tracked Bing toolbar searches found that 96 percent of the users clicked on zero or one opinion column in a three-month period. In 2017 the Pew Research Center reported that less than four percent of adults consider Twitter an important source of news. (Twitter audiences are exaggerated, but for what it’s worth, President Trump reportedly has 53 million followers; Katie Perry has about twice that many.) Studies of fake news conclude that its impact is minimal.

Researchers have studied the concept of “filter bubbles” or “ideological silos.” This is the fear that the availability of politically slanted media outlets on the internet allows people to isolate themselves and consume only news and opinion consistent with their ideological preferences. Research like the Facebook study noted above fails to find much reason for concern, mainly because most Americans don’t search out any political news, let along limit themselves to ideologically congenial news. Other research finds that internet audiences are, in fact, less politically homogeneous than people’s face-to-face networks. In my personal experience I’ve concluded that the two kinds of people most likely to exist in ideological silos are academics and journalists.

In many respects the American electorate has changed surprisingly little in more than six decades. In 2016 about 10 percent of the eligible electorate made a campaign contribution—to any campaign at any level, the same figure as in the 1950s. Despite media hype about Obamamania in 2008 and Trump rallies in 2016, less than 10 percent of the eligible electorate attended any kind of campaign meeting or rally in those years, the same figure as six decades ago. As for people who knock on doors or make phone calls for campaigns, we are talking about two to three percent of the eligible electorate, the same small proportion as in the Eisenhower era.

Blessed be the normies, for their blood pressure is closer to normal.

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Internet Bill of Rights( 6 )

Kara reports Khanna’s list: … “You should have the right”:

  1. to have access to and knowledge of all collection and uses of personal data by companies;
  2. to opt-in consent to the collection of personal data by any party and to the sharing of personal data with a third party;
  3. where context appropriate and with a fair process, to obtain, correct or delete personal data controlled by any company and to have those requests honored by third parties;
  4. to have personal data secured and to be notified in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered;
  5. to move all personal data from one network to the next;
  6. to access and use the internet without internet service providers blocking, throttling, engaging in paid prioritization or otherwise unfairly favoring content, applications, services or devices;
  7. to internet service without the collection of data that is unnecessary for providing the requested service absent opt-in consent;
  8. to have access to multiple viable, affordable internet platforms, services and providers with clear and transparent pricing;
  9. not to be unfairly discriminated against or exploited based on your personal data; and
  10. to have an entity that collects your personal data have reasonable business practices and accountability to protect your privacy.

Some of these seem pretty obvious. Others, like #5, seem gratuitous, while others such as #3 depend a lot on the particulars. I recommend reading thoroughly.

Source: Nancy Pelosi’s Internet Bill of Rights – Axios

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Nikki Haley Resigns as UN Ambassador( 6 )

Nikki Haley, the United State’s Ambassador to the United Nations, has resigned. In accepting her resignation President Trump says Amb. Haley will leave her position at the end of the year.

NBC News:

In an unexpected development, President Donald Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, plans to resign, according to multiple people with knowledge of her decision.

In an Oval Office announcement alongside the ambassador, Trump told reporters that Haley came to him six months ago and said that she wanted to take a break at the end of the year.

Haley informed her staff Tuesday morning that she plans to resign. The news of Haley’s resignation was first reported by Axios.

Some context to the rampant speculation:

As for all that 2020 speculation:

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The Tiny Chip from Big China( 6 )

It seems to me that this sort of thing could be a bigger threat to world trade than Donald Trump.

Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.

This attack was something graver than the software-based incidents the world has grown accustomed to seeing. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating, promising the kind of long-term, stealth access that spy agencies are willing to invest millions of dollars and many years to get.

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Rescue: Kids vs Pythons( 1 )

We had a snake in our back yard the other day that fascinated our older dog. I had to pick her up and bring her back inside. That snake, however, was nothing compared to this one:

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What jumps out at me is how fast that snake is for something that kills so slowly. Gotta be fast to catch them in the first place, I guess.

Also, python vs crocodile… who do you even root for here?

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Facebook Groups Changing Mission, Members Unaware( 5 )

This is a really fascinating story:

To the naked eye, thousands of users on Facebook are backing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh.

But some of the groups that seem to advocate for his Senate confirmation — and others that defend Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in the 1980s — amassed their followers months or years before Washington’s most politically charged controversy unfolded, according to Facebook’s records, offering yet another sign that public outcry on social media isn’t exactly what it appears to be.

One Facebook group, called “Justice for Justice Kavanaugh!!!”, has more than 4,200 members, and its description says that Ford’s testimony to Congress in September had been “clearly fabricated.” But the group came into existence more than four years before that Senate hearing, Facebook’s data show. It previously acquired some of its members while acting a group that sought to defend Bill Cosby against sexual assault charges, and later, as a group that touted Trump’s proposed “space force.” {…}

The largest group purporting to support Ford, “We Believe Christine Blasey Ford (official),” boasts nearly 1,800 members. Before users there warred with each other over the Supreme Court, however, the group had posts about football under the banner “AllSports 247,” Facebook records show. At other points, its focus was the March for Our Lives and the dating app Tinder.

The Ford support group changed themes “to spark debate. Not encouraging fighting,” said Ryan McGuire, one of the people who oversees it.

Why start a new group when you can just grab someone else’s moribund one?

Some of this seems relatively innocuous (and little of it actually seems Russian, despite the ominous quote). If you sign up for one rightward group it moving on to another rightward cause is not unexpected. Signing up for a 247 sports group, on the other hand…

{Ed Note: We have enough places to talk about the virtues (or lack thereof) of the Kavanaugh candidacy. Would prefer any comments on this one be about the Facebook aspect, or Facebook groups in general. Or just Facebook.}

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San Francisco’s Housing Crisis, Exactly as Planned( 3 )

Plenty of discussion has centered around the California housing situation, especially the prices and lack of availability in the bay area since the tech explosion brought enormous wealth to one of America’s most unique cities, San Francisco. Demolishing the California Dream: How San Francisco Planned Its Own Housing Crisis by Hunter Oatman-Stanford is a detailed examination of the history of that great city, and how it came to be the go-to example of the modern housing debate.

So it’s somehow fitting our national housing crisis would peak in San Francisco, since the city was one of the first to introduce this idea of “local control,” via land-use zoning, more than 100 years ago.

San Francisco’s first street grid, encompassing 12 blocks around the nascent port, was laid out by Swiss sea captain Jean Jacques Vioget in 1839 when California was still governed by Mexico. After the community, then known as Yerba Buena, was occupied by American forces and became San Francisco in 1847, the new alcalde or mayor commissioned Jasper O’Farrell to create a new city survey. O’Farrell slightly corrected the North-South Vioget street grid, establishing regular lots around 46 yards wide with their southern boundary at a new wide boulevard called Market Street, extending perpendicular from the wharf all the way to the hills of Twin Peaks.

South of Market Street—known as SoMa today—was given a separate grid with wider blocks around 92 yards each and streets running parallel to Market and the previously established route to Mission Dolores, now named Mission Street. Though no zoning regulations were established with these surveys, SoMa’s extra-long blocks of marshland, which were less desirable than the more stable ground north of Market, eventually became the default location for industrial uses like manufacturing, wholesale distribution, and warehousing.

However, the push to legally separate noxious pollution from San Francisco’s residential and business districts led to one of the country’s earliest attempts to restrict land usage: In the 1850s, city leaders created a new licensing system for slaughterhouses that forced these businesses to relocate south of Harrison Street in SoMa, with additional regulations in 1864 pushing hog yards and slaughterhouses even further south to Islais Creek.

A few years later, in 1870, San Francisco leaders passed Order 939 Regulating Lodging Houses, also known as the Cubic Air Ordinance, at the urging of anti-Chinese labor groups that formed in response to the Gold Rush immigration boom. The new law required 500 cubic feet of space per occupant of any lodging room in the city, but it was only enforced in areas housing mostly Chinese residents, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

It is a long and detailed article. Notable is that the City of San Francisco had a unique opportunity to re-invent itself after the almost total destruction of the 1906 earthquake and fire that leveled the downtown area, and how those decisions or lack thereof set the stage for decades of controversy. It is interesting what has and hasn’t changed in how planning and zoning are implemented. Read, discuss, and decide for yourself.

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The White North and the Rust Belt( 13 )

Why doesn’t Canada have a Rust Belt. Is it race?

The more he looked, the more one big difference between Canada and the United States emerged: It came down to race. Put simply, U.S. cities tend to have large black and other non-white populations and Canadian cities do not.

American cities like Detroit gained black and other non-white residents in the early to mid 20th Century, sparking a white backlash that devastated those cities.

But Canada, which practiced more restrictive immigration and housing policies, blocked such an influx of non-white residents into their cities. So the relatively few non-white people in Canada could never create the same sort of economic impact as the larger numbers did in American cities.

“There’s no chance they ever would be because there is no city in Canada that is a majority non-white city,” Hackworth told me. “The biggest difference, it’s indelicate to put it this way, is that there’s no threat to white supremacy in Canada.”

Spitballing: I think there may be something to this. I also think that the US has the virtue of being large and having so many cities, it’s easier to simply leave a city behind because there are just as many major cities elsewhere. Replacing St Louis with Phoenix is doable. I’m not sure how Canada replaces Toronto.

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The House (Brand) That Didn’t Collapse( 3 )

In 1986, it was thought that house brands was a fad.

But easy as they are to spot, generics – bargain-priced merchandise sold without a brand name or, for the most part, advertising – are becoming harder to find.

Introduced in the mid-1970’s when inflation was high, the no-name products grew in popularity for a few years. But since 1983, their sales have steadily declined – almost to the point of extinction today in many supermarkets. Among the reasons, say analysts, are an improved economy, more price-cutting promotions by brand-name products and persistent consumer doubts about the quality of generic items.

”Generics are a much less important category than they were a few years ago,” said Michael Rourke, a vice president at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. ”The consumer has lost interest.”

So, for the most part, have retailers. A.&P., for example, has reduced the number of different generic products it carries to less than 100 from twice that number several years ago. At the same time, it has put an increased emphasis on selling national brands. Generic products, after all, carry razor-thin markups – sometimes just a penny or two per item.

What’s really interesting is when house brands are not only competitive with name brands, but actually better. Safeway has outstanding provolone cheese for some reason. Walmart has good salsa (I know, right?). Kroger has a Mountain Dew clone, Citrus Drop, that I often prefer to Mountain Dew. Food Lion has outstanding sliced meats (packaged stuff, not deli).

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One Year Later, Country Music Remembers Las Vegas Shooting( 0 )

Country music is somewhat stereotyped as being heavy on the heartbreak and hard times, but a year removed from a Las Vegas concert turning into the worst mass shooting in American history, there has been plenty of both, along with much soul-searching.

Tennessean

The last possible thing I thought could be happening was somebody shooting a gun at us,” (Jason) Aldean told The Tennessean months later. “Once you figure out what’s going on … what people don’t realize is that we didn’t know where it was coming from. For all we knew he was on the ground backstage walking around mowing people down. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, hands down.”

Country music has spent a year coming to terms with the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, a massacre that, arbitrarily or not, targeted the genre’s fans and its artists. The shooting, which left more than 500 people wounded and 58 dead, strained the gun culture that has long permeated country music, with some major stars taking the once-unthinkable measure of calling for stricter firearm regulations.

Artists have coped through songs that address the tragedy head-on and, despite tightened security in the wake of the attack, some describe a new awareness of their own vulnerability every time they take the stage. At the same time, the country music industry has rallied around its fans and musicians, creating a network of mental health and support programs to help the healing process.

“Country music possesses a really powerful ability to connect not only the hearts of individual fans but our entire nation,” said Academy of Country Music CEO Pete Fisher. “I really feel like country music was the medium in which a lot of that healing was realized, but there’s more healing to go. Country music is about real people and real lives, and if something is on people’s hearts, you can trust country music is going to meet them there.”

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Wages on the Borderline( 4 )

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/saskatchewan-alberta-lloydminster-minimum-wage-increase-1.4844722

Getting a pay rise in the border city of Lloydminster could be a matter of crossing the road.

The gap between the minimum wage in Saskatchewan and Alberta widened to almost $4 on Monday.

Minimum wage-earners in Saskatchewan will see their hourly rates rise by 10 cents from Oct. 1, when the provincial rate increases from $10.96 to $11.06.

On the same day in Alberta, the minimum wage increased by $1.40, increasing the lowest allowable wage from $13.60 to $15.

The city of Lloydminster straddles the Alberta and Saskatchewan borders, meaning some workers on the Saskatchewan side could increase their pay by almost $4 by finding work on the other side of Highway 17.

Business owners and managers on the eastern side of the border are bracing for possible impacts by increasing wages, raising prices and reducing their full-time workforce.

Some might point to this as an argument for a uniform minimum wage, but I expect it to more-or-less work itself out. Businesses on the Saskatchewan side will either raise the wages to compete with the Albertan counterparts, or they will accept having the employees who can’t get jobs on the other side.

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The Urban Mineshaft( 10 )

The Mines:

As I understand it, they treat the Bay Area as like working in the mines. They earn a multiple of the income they would in other industries with their education and skills, and have no particular ties to the region. (Some East Coasters have taken to use the expression “drain to the Bay,” complaining that friends in tech often end up leaving Boston for San Francisco.) The plan is to save money and then retire in their 30s, or take a lower-paying job in a lower-cost city and start a family there. {…}

People endure this overcrowding only when they absolutely need to for work. In a situation of extremely high production amenities (that is, a tech cluster that formed in Silicon Valley and is progressively taking over the entire Bay Area), comfort is not a priority. Joel Garreau’s The Nine Nations of North America describes people in San Francisco viewing the city as utopian for its progressive lifestyle, temperate climate, and pretty landscape. Today, the middle class views the city as a dystopia of long commutes, openly antisocial behavior, human feces on sidewalks, poor schools, and car break-ins. {…}

The mines are not a stable community. They are not intended to be a community; they’re intended to extract resources from the ground, regardless of whether these resources are tangible like oil or intangible like tech. There may be some solidarity among people who’ve had that experience when it comes to specifics about the industry (which they tend to support, viewing it as the source of their income) or maybe the occasional issue of work conditions. But it’s not the same as loyalty to the city or the region.

Source: The Mines | Pedestrian Observations

That which cannot go on forever must end, and this isn’t sustainable, but I don’t know how it ends.

More from Aaron Renn

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College Football Player Christion Ambercrombie in Critical Condition Following Brain Surgery( 0 )

football

Tennessee State football player Christion Abercrombie is in critical condition after head injury necessitated emergency brain surgery, according to reports.

Tennessean:

Abercrombie, an Atlanta native, suffered a head injury late in the second quarter and was rushed to Vanderbilt Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery.

“The last I heard he was in surgery; we’ve been praying for him,” TSU coach Rod Reed said after the game. “I’m going to leave here and go there to see about him.”

“He … just kind of collapsed”

Abercrombie was listed in critical condition following the surgery, according to a TSU release
Reed was unsure about exactly when Abercrombie was injured. “It was right before the half,” Reed said. “He came to the sideline and just kind of collapsed there.”
Abercrombie was administered oxygen on the sideline before being taken away on a stretcher.

Abercombie is a sophomore transfer from Illinois. He came into the game as TSU’s second-leading tackler (13 tackles) and also had 1.5 sacks this season.

He recorded five tackles and a quarterback hurry before being injured Saturday.

The latest statement available:

 

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The Worst Job In The World?( 5 )

Well, the worst job that won’t put you in physical danger:

The uncomfortable reality here is that someone is going to have to look at disturbing images submitted by users to platforms like Facebook. As long as user-generated content platforms exist, some users are going to submit this kind of content, and no mainstream platform is going to want to expose its users to these images.

But there are steps that Facebook can take to make the task less traumatic. The company could warn prospective employees about the nature of the job, reduce the resolution of potentially graphic images, give employees shorter shifts, and allow employees to review less offensive content for a few hours after having to moderate the most extreme, graphic images.

Scola’s lawsuit charges that a Facebook-backed organization called the Technology Coalition published recommendations for best practices to help moderators, including limiting the amount of time employees are exposed to disturbing images, offering counseling, and permitting moderators to switch to other tasks after viewing disturbing imagery. According to Scola, Facebook failed to implement those recommendations.

I can scarcely imagine having to look at that sort of thing all day. And you can’t even use it as a “paying your dues” sort of thing for people to do for a while to prove their work ethic or whatever because the personality required to do that may not track with the personality of people you want for anything else. I guess it’s something you can outsource overseas? In any event, our household is pretty strapped right now and I’m not even sure I could do that job.

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Il Caos( 11 )

Italy Plunged Into Crisis After Introducing Universal Basic Income

Major financial-market indices in Italy plunged Friday morning after the country’s cantankerous populist coalition succeeded in pushing through a big-spending budget that includes a €780 (about $900) per month universal basic income for Italian citizens. The debt-ridden country will pay for the pledges by increasing its debt further; the new budget projects a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP, far higher than the European Union’s 2 percent requirement. There are fears that the chaos surrounding the budget could lead to the downfall of the government.

Potentially good policy in the hands of a bad administration in suboptimal circumstances is the death of potentially good policy.

This likely has some significant EU ramifications, as well.

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Disarming the Police in Mexico( 3 )

Acapulco:

Authorities in southern Mexico have disarmed and placed under investigation the entire police force in the resort of Acapulco, claiming the force has been infiltrated by drug gangs.

Officials in Guerrero state issued arrest warrants for two Acapulco police commanders, accusing them of homicide. It was the latest fall from grace for Acapulco, which was a favourite haunt of film stars in the 1960s but has since fallen victim to warring drug gangs.

The state government said it had taken the step because of “suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups” and “the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave”.

The remaining officers were stripped of their guns, radios and bulletproof vests and taken for background checks. Law enforcement duties in the seaside city of 800,000 people will be taken over by soldiers, marines and state police.

I hadn’t realized that things had gotten so bad in Acapulco in particular. We used to take regular trips to Laredo until the violence became too much. Nowhere can afford this sort of thing, but especially not places that rely on tourism.

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From Hammurabi to .GOV: How Laws Reach the Governed( 9 )

Ignorance of the law is not a defense for breaking the law, as the old saying goes. But how exactly has the law been communicated to the people over time?

Lapham’s Quarterly has a neat way of laying it out in their Charts and Graphs section “Communications Department” entitled “How Laws Reach the Governed.”

And as for that ignorance of the law thing, even in the age of laws being published and publicly accessible on the internet and elsewhere, we still have plenty of room for further change:

But the rule that ignorance is no excuse does not work as well for crimes that are not inherently wrong. Today, there are thousands of crimes that are crimes only because they are prohibited by statute. For these types of crimes—known as “wrongs by prohibition,” or malum prohibitum—the principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse works only when a person knows what the statute requires or, at a minimum, could have discovered what the statute requires with a reasonable amount of effort.

Therein lies the problem. The criminal laws are not always easy to track down and not always easy to understand. In fact, many laws are nearly impossible to understand in all of their complexity, and the whole corpus of federal law is in fact impossible to know. There are so many crimes in the federal law books that no conscientious citizen (or even a conscientious legislator, law enforcement officer, lawyer, or judge) could possibly know what they require. This puts Americans at risk of conviction and imprisonment for the violation of laws that are impossible to find and impossible to know, effectively discarding the traditional protection that conviction requires culpability.

Some things, even with the law, never change.

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History Through The Looking Glass( 8 )

This is why we will always have the textbook battles:

History, for Zinn, is looked at from “the bottom up”: a view “of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army.” Decades before we thought in such terms, Zinn provided a history for the 99 percent. Many teachers view A People’s History as an anti-textbook, a corrective to the narratives of progress dispensed by the state. This is undoubtedly true on a topical level. When learning about the Spanish-American War, students don’t read about Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill. Instead, they follow the plight of foot soldiers sweltering in the Cuban tropics, clutching their stomachs, not from Spanish bullets but from food poisoning caused by rancid meat sold to the army by Armour & Company. Such stories acquaint students with a history too often hidden and too quickly brushed aside by traditional textbooks.

But in other ways—ways that strike at the very heart of what it means to learn history as a discipline—A People’s History is closer to students’ state-approved texts than its advocates are wont to admit. Like traditional textbooks, A People’s History relies almost entirely on secondary sources, with no archival research to thicken its narrative. Like traditional textbooks, the book is naked of footnotes, thwarting inquisitive readers who seek to retrace the author’s interpretative steps. And, like students’ textbooks, when A People’s History draws on primary sources, these documents serve to prop up the main text but never provide an alternative view or open a new field of vision.

History is narrative, narrative doesn’t exist without perspective, and perspective is subjective.

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The Law & The Final Frontier( 59 )

In Star Trek, where are all the lawyers?

It’s not as though they don’t exist in the future; in fact, we do encounter them throughout the run of the Trekverse. But even though starships contain all sorts of experts and scholars and professionals, lawyers never seem to show up on the docket. And when you’re encountering new species with new systems of law on a regular basis, you’d think that would be kind of important, even from a liability standpoint. As queenofmoons puts it:

Even when we do see someone execute a feat of reasonable legal cunning—Picard buying time from the Sheliak, for instance—the fact remains that on a ship of a thousand people, expected to make first contact with new governments with little support, preparing for a legal challenge should not be whatever the busy ship’s captain and its senior mental health professional can whip up on the fly, but a recurring eventuality to prepare for.

Sure, some of this is simply down to who the show wants to spotlight—Trek shows are about their crews, and unless you’re planning to make the starship lawyer a regular in the cast, fans aren’t going to be as interested in watching them argue cases. But shouldn’t there be enough for them to do? It’s amazing watching Picard and Riker go up against each other in “Measure of a Man,” but that doesn’t change the fact that the two of them should never have needed to create this spectacle in the first place. Picard and Riker are both military guys, and their outlying interests don’t have anything to do with law, though Picard’s love of anthropology and archaeology has a few ties in that regard.

I haven’t watched all that much in the way of Star Trek, and most of what I’ve watched is DS9 which is a bit of a different bird. But this is the sort of thing that leaves me finding their universe somewhat less compelling than some of the others.

What do those of you who are fans have to say?

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Another Way to Soak The Rich?( 118 )

Adam Ozimek has one:

Whether it’s expanding educational opportunities, more infrastructure spending, wage subsidies, or tax cuts, many of the plans proposed for improving the country have one thing in common: They cost money. And even if we don’t increase spending or cut taxes, the projected growth of entitlements means we’re probably going to need more revenues in the future anyway. Therefore an important task for economists and policymakers is figuring out the most efficient places to raise tax revenues. One idea that doesn’t get enough discussion is a federal property tax on luxury homes.

Taxing luxury houses has a lot of desirable features. First, many luxury homes are located in areas with highly restrictive zoning. This means the value of the home includes economic rents, which are efficient to tax. In political and fairness terms, taxing wealth that is built on keeping out affordable housing and preventing new development certainly has its appeal.

Taxing housing wealth is also efficient compared with taxing other kinds of wealth because it’s impossible to move and difficult to hide. If you tax financial wealth, you have to worry that wealthy households will park their money in offshore accounts, thereby creating a distortionary cost and also limiting revenues. However, with rare the exception of million-dollar houseboats, you can’t park a mansion overseas. It’s also a lot harder to hide the value of a mansion because house sales data are generally publicly available. Once you know what nearby homes are selling for, combine that with a building square footage and lot size and you can get at least a general idea of what a house is worth. Valuing a home is a much simpler and more transparent task than valuing someone’s financial wealth.

What I like about it is that it’s a way to tax wealth instead of income, and it’s a way to do so where you can specifically target the wealthy. Since it would disproportionately target residents of blue states and blue areas, where real estate costs are higher, you might even get Republicans on board! (Okay, probably not.)

The main area of concern I would have is the camel’s nose. It could become like the AMT where it starts to involve more and more people, or the thresholds could shift downward to where we now have a federal property tax in addition to a income taxes and others.

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Explaining The Indian Head( 0 )

People of a certain age will remember that once upon a time, television signed off at night. They used to play the national anthem. Though it wasn’t really in use when I was young, there was also the Indian Head Test Pattern, for when something went awry. If you remember the color bars, this is what that replaced.

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Cats Like Company( 5 )

So says science:

The motivation for the study was to apply cognitive tests that have already be tried out on dogs and tortoises on cats, in order to clear up some misconceptions around cats’ bad reputation for being unsociable.

“Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities,” the authors wrote in the paper. “Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable. This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.”

The test took 50 cats both from people’s homes and from a shelter and deprived them of food, toys, and people for a few hours. Then, researchers presented the cats with different stimuli within four categories: human socialization, food, scent, and toys.

The researchers concluded that there were no significant differences between the homed and the shelter cats, and that most cats preferred human socialization to any of the other categories. Half of the cats preferred social interaction to every other stimulus type, while only 37 percent preferred food.

My daughter has become obsessed with cats. She draws them every day at school and plays with them at night. Her teacher is begging us to get her one on her behalf. Other than that my wife and I have allergies to some (though few) cats, the main concern we have is that she likes the idea of cats more than she would like an actual cat. She liked puppies until we got one.

Good to know that if we get one they’re not psychopaths, I guess.

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Cash, Please( 1 )

Maybe we should just stop trying:

We conduct two lab experiments and one field experiment to investigate demand for consumption agency in married couples. The evidence we uncover is consistent across all three experiments. Subjects are often no better at guessing their spouse’s preferences than those of a stranger, and many subjects disregard what they believe or know about others’ preferences when assigning them a consumption bundle. This confers instrumental value to individual executive agency within the household. We indeed find significant evidence of demand for agency in all three experiments, and this demand varies with the cost and anticipated instrumental benefit of agency. But subjects often make choices incompatible with pure instrumental motives – e.g., paying for agency even when they know their partner assigned them their preferred choice. We also find female subjects to be quite willing to exert agency even though, based on survey responses, they have little executive agency within their household. We interpret this as suggestive of pent-up demand for agency, and indeed we find that female demand for agency falls as a result of an empowerment intervention.

I have taken to composing lists for everything and would like to think that I have gotten better at gifts, but maybe not.

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Humans Weren’t Meant To Live In Cities: Canada Edition( 16 )

At least, not if those cities are Toronto and Vancouver.

Even though scholars have not proved these factors are the direct causes of Vancouver and Toronto residents exhibiting the least life satisfaction of 98 communities in Canada, the researchers found they are strongly correlated to residents’ lack of a sense of well-being and belonging.

In a new study titled How Happy are Your Neighbours?, John Helliwell, Hugh Shiplett and Christopher Barrington-Leigh discovered Canadians are happier in smaller towns. “We found life to indeed be less happy in the cities,” they write. “This was despite higher incomes, lower unemployment rates and higher education in the urban areas.”

A quick glance here tells me that Winnipeg is the town for me, or maybe Hamilton.

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Manafort Reaches Plea Deal to Avoid Second Trial( 2 )

Paul Manafort, the political consultant and one-time campaign manager for then-candidate Donald Trump, has apparently reached a plea deal to avoid his second trial in Virginia.

 

 

CNBC:

Manafort, who was set to begin jury selection for a second federal criminal trial next Monday, was charged in a superseding criminal information in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

That charging document alleges Manafort engaged in a conspiracy involving money laundering, tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts, violating rules requiring registration of foreign agents, lying and witness tampering.

Criminal informations are routinely filed in federal cases when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty. The charging document will replace an indictment that had been pending against Manafort in Washington court.

Manafort, 69, is scheduled to appear later Friday morning in court. It is not clear if he will enter his plea then, or later.

Mueller’s office, in a prepared statement said, “Additional information will be provided in the near future.”

Manafort was convicted last month at his first trial in federal court in Virginia on charges that included bank and tax fraud. He has been held in jail since June after Mueller accused him in the Washington case of trying to tamper with witnesses against him.

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Where Politics Leads Us( 2 )

We tend to underestimate self-image (as opposed to ideology or self-interest) as a factor in our politics. It turns out, we may also be underestimating the reverse:

We generally think of a person’s race or religion as being fixed — and that those parts of identity (being black, say, or evangelical Christian) drive political views. Most African-Americans vote Democratic. Most evangelical Christians vote Republican. But New York University political scientist Patrick Egan has written a new paper showing evidence that identity and politics operate in the opposite direction too — people shift the non-political parts of their identity, including ethnicity and religion, to align better with being a Democrat or a Republican.

Egan used public opinion data collected through the General Social Survey, one of the most reliable measures of Americans’ views of political and social attitudes that we have. The GSS is conducted every two years and surveys a rotating panel of respondents. Some respondents agree to follow-up interviews two years and four years after their initial interview. Egan’s data set was made up of about 3,900 people who were interviewed three times for the GSS surveys, starting either in 2006, 2008 or 2010 (so the most recent data was from people interviewed in 2010, 2012 and 2014). All three times, respondents were asked to rank themselves on a seven-point ideological scale (from “extremely liberal,” to “moderate, middle of the road,” to “extremely conservative.”) They were also asked questions about aspects of their identity that, at least in theory, are non-ideological — questions like: 1) “From what countries or part of the world did your ancestors come?” and 2) “What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?”

Source: Americans Are Shifting The Rest Of Their Identity To Match Their Politics | FiveThirtyEight

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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 | stltoday.com

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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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