Michael Cohen Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison( 22 )

President Trump’s long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen has been sentenced of 3 years in prison, after having plead guilty to 9 charged crimes in federal court.

ABC News

Before leveling his sentence, U.S. Judge William Pauley said “Cohen pled guilt to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct” and “lost his moral compass,” according to a Newsday reporter inside the courtroom.

Judge Pauley added that “as a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better.”

Cohen pleaded his case for leniency in front of a federal judge in Manhattan, accusing President Trump – his former boss – of causing him to “follow a path of darkness rather than light” and “cover up his dirty deeds,” according to the Newsday reporter.

Prosecutors in the Justice Department’s Southern District of New York charged Cohen with eight felony counts in August, including tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, and campaign finance violations. Special counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, tacked on an additional count of lying to Congress last month.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to all nine counts.

Cohen, who once defiantly declared he would “take a bullet for Donald Trump,” will have to settle for a prison term instead, not to mention a decidedly less than supportive former employer:

“He’s a weak person,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn before departing for Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“He was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence with things unrelated to the Trump Organization,” Trump said, citing Cohen’s legal issues with mortgages and the IRS.

Trump speculated that “what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.”

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Full Speed, Opposite Direction( 2 )

Ammon Bundy Quits Militia Movement in Solidarity With Migrant Caravan

Ammon Bundy is best known as a leading light of the American militia movement (a motley coalition of various different flavors of firearms enthusiasts who hate the federal government). He’s famous for getting into armed standoffs with federal agents and violently occupying bird sanctuaries. His friends are the kind of folks who co-chair pro-Trump veterans groups; his father is the kind of man who says, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro” — and proceeds to explain why black people were “better off as slaves.”

So, this being 2018, Bundy naturally just disavowed the militia movement in solidarity with the migrant caravan, suggested that nationalism is actually the opposite of patriotism, and said that Trump’s America resembles nothing so much as 1930s Germany.

Last week, Bundy posted a video to Facebook in which he criticized President Trump for demonizing the Central American migrants who were traveling in a caravan to seek asylum in the United States.

This is the biggest return character plot twist since Scott Ritter came back as an anti-war activist.

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The Sentimentally Great Economy( 65 )

Conor Sen: A Steady Job Beats a Higher Paycheck

Despite this “hard economic data,” the “soft economic data” — public sentiment — shows that the economy and labor market are perceived to be about as good as they’ve ever been. Gallup has been asking the public every month since 2001 what it considers the nation’s most important problem, and in November only 13 percent responded with an economic problem. The just-completed midterm elections were largely a referendum on health care and President Donald Trump, not on the economy. […]

As a worker, I’d rather be in a labor market with lots of job postings, a low level of jobless claims and a sustainable level of wage growth. It’s certainly preferable to being in one fueled by speculative excess, where I have to constantly worry about when the mania is going to collapse. I’ll take 3 percent wage growth today with good prospects for being employed tomorrow over 4 percent wage growth today and unemployment tomorrow. […]

The good news for workers today, and perhaps why their optimism is higher than some economic data might suggest, is that there’s no reason why this labor market can’t continue for at least several more quarters. The excesses of the past couple years have been in financial markets, not in the real economy. Bubbles in cryptocurrencies, cannabis and private technology companies should not lead to a heavy-handed response from the Fed. Household leverage remains low, and business investment remains modest.

It’s remarkable how much of the employment web site ads I see are aimed at employers rather than people looking for work. That’s a new phenomenon. And like Sen, I don’t think a recession is necessarily right around the corner, as many are predicting. Wishful thinking? Maybe.

On the other hand, there are still some indications that our labor market still has some work to do.

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Please Update Your Bookmarks( 0 )

… if you’re still using our original URL.

As we finish up the server migration, one of the last steps will be moving over the ordinary-gentlemen-dot-com domain. During this process, it may stop forwarding to ordinary-times-dot-com. This is temporary, but we should all probably go ahead and update our bookmarks anyway and now seems like a pretty good time to do so.

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Troop Opposition To Trump Growing( 17 )

Support has dipped a bit, but opposition is up and the gap has closed:

President Donald Trump’s approval rating among active-duty military personnel has slipped over the last two years, leaving today’s troops evenly split over whether they’re happy with the commander in chief’s job performance, according to the results of a new Military Times poll of active-duty service members.

About 44 percent of troops had a favorable view of Trump’s presidency, the poll showed, compared to 43 percent who disapproved.

The results from the survey, conducted over the course of September and October, suggest a gradual decline in troops’ support of Trump since he was elected in fall 2016, when a similar Military Times poll showed that 46 percent of troops approved of Trump compared to 37 percent who disapproved. That nine-point margin of support now appears gone.

“The troops are turning Democratic!” is a thing I’ve been hearing since 2004. Maybe it’s happening now, or maybe it’s just Trump.

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Quiet For Quiet( 0 )

Sometimes people don’t like that they kind of want peace:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Hamas to ISIS earlier this week and said that there was no diplomatic solution for the conflict, but also said that war should be a last resort, and Israel will do what it can to avoid it. The responses were not particularly accepting. Yet the cabinet’s decision – or lack of a decision – on Tuesday seemed to follow that reasoning.

There was no vote in the cabinet on what to do next, since no ministers put up a fight against security officials’ suggestions, which Netanyahu strongly supported – Israel should follow a “quiet for quiet” formulation, meaning that it will hold its fire as long as Hamas does.

A strange thing happened almost immediately after sources briefed reporters that the cabinet unanimously decided to accept a ceasefire with Hamas: ministers began denying it.

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Too Sexy For That Job, Too Sexy For That Job…( 9 )

This doesn’t surprise me at all, actually.

According to a new study carried out in the US and UK, handsome men are more likely to be seen as a threat by their bosses and are hence less likely to score equally powerful positions. The study involved researchers at University College London’s School of Management and the University of Maryland in the US carrying out four separate experiments in four different offices, according to the Daily Mail. They found that when men were hiring other men to work with them, their decision was negatively affected by the attractiveness of the candidate and the type of job. Women’s perceived hotness, shockingly, did not prevent them from being desirable additions to the boardroom.

“Managers are affected by stereotypes and make hiring decisions to serve their own self-interests so organizations may not get the most competent candidates” said professor Sun Young Lee, lead researcher at the University of Maryland. “With more companies involving employees in recruitment processes, this important point needs attention. Awareness that hiring is affected by potential work relationships and stereotyping tendencies can help organizations improve their selection processes.”

Men have a tendency to be really catty (for lack of a better term) when it comes to attractive actors. It took a decade before guys would admit that Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio had talent, and I think a lot of that is based on assumptions that they were just pretty boys.

I remember a guy back when I was in college or just out of it. Took me a long time to warm up to him. I realized at some point it was because I was making assumptions about him based on his gorgeous appearance. It wasn’t even jealousy in any real sense. It was just a sense of “guys that look like that.”

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California Congressman gives “nukes” as reason that any American civil war would be a short one( 34 )

John Cardillo, of Newsmax (yeah, I know… he’s not the point), tweeted this:

If the tweet disappears, it’s a link to an article by NBC talking about California Congressman Eric Swalwell calling for a confiscation of assault rifles.

A Republican Bluecheck (somebody I’ve never heard of) made a tweet in response and the congressman in question tweeted back this (the link is good as of right now but here’s a screenshot if, for whatever reason, the tweet isn’t there later):

California Congressman gives "nukes" as reason that any American civil war would be a short one

(Image is taken from Rep. Eric Swalwell’s twitter banner.)

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A Japanese History of America, 1861( 4 )

This whole thread is amazing. A couple of snippits.

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The People v Facebook( 15 )

Goodness gracious:

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and sparked a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.

While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

In Washington, allies of Facebook, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, intervened on its behalf. And Ms. Sandberg wooed or cajoled hostile lawmakers, while trying to dispel Facebook’s reputation as a bastion of Bay Area liberalism.

I’ve long believed that Facebook is particularly vulnerable, compared to many of the companies presently considered to be their peers, because they don’t offer a hard service nor are their central to the Internet or computing experience. They need goodwill. Which makes stuff like this so potentially bad for them, and also compels them to do it in the first place.

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Police Kill Good Guy With A Gun( 193 )

Jemel Roberson was a security guard at Manny’s Blue Room, a bar in Robbins, Illinois. Patrons there got drunk and were asked to leave and, although they initially did so, they then returned and started shooting. Roberson was armed. He returned fire and eventually apprehended one of the shooters. Then, the Midlothian Police Department arrived. Patrons told the police that Roberson was a security guard at the bar.

Four people were injured in the shooting but will survive. A fifth was shot and killed. The fifth was Jemel Roberson. He was, by every imaginable measure, the platonic ideal of the NRA’s “Good Guy With A Gun” argument. The police killed him anyway. His heroism had not mattered in the end. 

Meanwhile, all of the following people survived their encounters with the police:

The police are capable, in other words, of not shooting, or at least, it would sure seem like it. They choose not to in certain cases. Roberson’s mistake was not being one of those certain cases.

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized after fall in her office( 13 )

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the hospital after falling in her office Wednesday night, the Court announced in a statement on Thursday.

Ginsburg, 85, went home after the fall but continued to experience “discomfort overnight” and went to George Washington Hospital early Thursday. Tests revealed she fractured three ribs and she “was admitted for observation and treatment,” according to the statement

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Jeff Sessions Resigns as US Attorney General( 58 )

On a news day that was already anything but slow, the White House announced that Jeff Sessions has resigned from his position as attorney general, at the request of President Trump.

From CNN:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, effectively firing him.

Sessions’ resignation letter has been delivered to White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to remain in charge of the Russia investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump did not answer a direct question about Sessions during his news conference Wednesday, saying that on the whole he is “extremely” satisfied with his Cabinet.

No word yet on who may replace Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, but his Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker, will take over as Acting Attorney General in the interim, per Fox News.

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The Perseverance of the Monarchy( 20 )

It survives!

It is good that it does. There is nothing to say that Britain, Australia or any other country has to have a monarchy. It would be perfectly understandable if Australia decided to break its monarchical ties with Britain. There are many who would argue that it would be an essential step in Australia’s coming of age, the point at which it would finally outgrow its colonial master. There are few in Britain who would seek to stand in the way of Australian republicanism.

Yet monarchy has proved remarkably durable in Australia. We are nearly a generation on from 1999, when Australians voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to retain the monarchy, defying the wishes of a Constitutional Convention of appointed worthies. In the event, every state bar the Capital Territory rejected the proposed appointed presidency. There is little indication that the result would be any different now. While some polls have put support for a republic at just over 50 per cent, the polls in 1999, too, showed republicanism on course for victory. In the end, however, the public denied the political class what it wished for — which was its own aggrandisation.

That is the point about republicanism — in Britain, Australia and elsewhere. While it can seem notionally attractive, its appeal tends to wane when people realise what would almost certainly replace it: a party politician as head of state. ‘Would you like Britain to be a republic?’ is a question which is sure to elicit a different answer to ‘Would you like Tony Blair or David Cameron to be installed at Buckingham Palace and to swan around the world representing Britain?’ The current incumbents of the White House and the Elysée Palace do nothing to promote the cause of republicanism — one a narcissist and the other with the air of Napoleon. It is marked how modest, both in lifestyle and cost to the taxpayer, Elizabeth II — and all other monarchs of western democracies — seem in comparison.

The best part is how it was basically saved by its millennial generation. It’s actually so strong that Charles may not even have to abdicate and let it pass him by, which some people suspected would be the only way it could be saved.

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Goliath vs Goliath: Retailers & Banks( 3 )

It’s Amazon vs MasterCard

One possible change would be that high-end Visa and Mastercard rewards cards could become more like American Express: accepted at fewer retailers. But another likely effect is retailers, especially giant retailers like Amazon, would gain more leverage to negotiate down the fees they pay to accept premium cards.

If that happens, banks may have to cut back the generosity of rewards programs to adjust to lower transaction-fee income.

That’s what happened after Australia capped credit-card interchange fees in 2003: Merchants’ costs to process cards fell sharply, as did the generosity of rewards paid to credit-card holders. Annual credit card fees went up.

Philip Lowe, then an economist at the Reserve Bank of Australia and now its head, said he was “confident that these lower costs will flow through into lower prices for goods and services,” estimating they would lower consumer prices overall by 0.1 or 0.2 percent.

I am more sympathetic to the retailers position, though the ones they list (Amazon, Target, Home Depot) don’t exactly inspire me. But a lot of retailers aren’t those big shots. This seems like a bit of an extension of the question of whether retailers can do a surcharge. All of this rides on the scarcity of card providers.

Which actually makes me wonder if the biggest of the big, like Amazon and Walmart, can’t at some point circumvent the credit card companies altogether. Feel free to tell me in the comments why that is so off-base.

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Social Capital & The Internet( 2 )

Is the Internet tearing down social institutions? Maybe.

Our results paint a complex picture. We find that, after the advent of the broadband in the area, several indicators of social capital started to decrease with proximity to the node of the network, suggesting that the exposure to fast Internet displaced some dimensions of social capital, but not all of them. There is no evidence that broadband access displaced routine interactions such as meetings with friends.

However, fast Internet crowded out forms of cultural consumption that are usually enjoyed in company, such as watching movies at the cinema and attending concerts and theatre shows. In addition, broadband penetration significantly displaced civic engagement and political participation, i.e. time-consuming activities that usually take place during leisure time, are not pursued in order to reach particularistic goals, and generally relate to a non-self-interested involvement in public affairs.

Associational activities have been often mentioned as a form of bridging social capital creating positive societal and economic externalities, and the finding in this paper suggests an explanation for their reportedly declining trend.

The developing role of fast Internet use, however, certainly calls for further investigation, as social media dramatically changed the role of Internet use. A more recent wave of Internet studies suggests that social media may also support collective action and political mobilization, especially in young democracies and authoritarian regimes, thereby providing a potentially positive contribution to the strengthening of political participation.

The internet has been a lifesaver for me as I have moved from one place to another to another, though I really do have to be careful not to let it become the entirety of my social life. Especially given that wherever we end up, my local social options are going to be more limited than for most people.

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The Importance of Placebos( 5 )

One of the dangers of patient satisfaction surveys and websites:

If we keep overprescribing [antibiotics], they will be completely ineffective. The consequences of this are huge,” Mangione-Smith says.

Why, then, do physicians prescribe them when they’re not called for?

One reason might be to keep their ratings high.

In the study, reviews for the telemedicine service were quite high overall — 87 percent of encounters earned 5 out of 5 stars for patients. But the reviews were significantly higher if the patients received a prescription, especially if it was for an antibiotic. Seventy-two percent of patients gave 5-star ratings after visits with no resulting prescriptions, 86 percent gave 5 stars when they got a prescription for something other than an antibiotic, and 90 percent gave 5 stars when they received an antibiotic prescription.

In fact, no other factor was as strongly associated with patient satisfaction as whether they received a prescription for an antibiotic.

Hadn’t heard this about anti-biotics before. It’s hard to describe the rather intense pressure my wife is under to prescribe pain-killers. Of the handful of times her safety has been threatened, all but one involved drugs she wouldn’t prescribe.

Even though there’s no addiction issue, it’s not hard to imagine that there are lesser variations of this for anti-biotics.

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It’s Important To Work( 5 )

Your life may depend on it:

We estimate the causal effect of permanent and premature exits from the labor force on mortality. To overcome the problem of negative health selection into early retirement, we exploit a policy change in unemployment insurance rules in Austria that allowed workers in eligible regions to exit the labor force 3 years earlier compared to workers in non-eligible regions. Using administrative data with precise information on mortality and retirement, we find that the policy change induced eligible workers to exit the labor force significantly earlier. Instrumental variable estimation results show that for men retiring one year earlier causes a 6.8% increase in the risk of premature death and 0.2 years reduction in the age at death, but has no significant effect for women.

Implications:

  1. A work component to UBI might be smart.
  2. Does this matter for younger people? If so, it endorses child care so that people like me have regular jobs.
  3. The protestant work ethic is redeemed!
  4. It’s actually impossible to tease out all of the confounding factors for something like this.
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Multiple Dead, Dozen Wounded in Pittsburg Synagogue Attack( 0 )

The Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill part of Pittsburg, PA, a historic Jewish neighborhood, was attacked by what is reported as a lone shooter. The synagogue was holding various Shabbat services and there are dead and casualties, including responding law enforcement officers. The suspect was taken into custody alive.

CNN:

Multiple people have been killed in Saturday morning’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, according to a city official.

The shooter surrendered to Pittsburgh police and was being transported to Mercy Hospital, said Curt Conrad, chief of staff for City Councilman Corey O’Connor.

Another law enforcement official told CNN at least 12 people have been shot.
Three police officers were shot, officials said earlier at an impromptu press conference. It’s unclear if they are part of those casualties.

The shooter made anti-Jewish comments during the incident, a law enforcement official told CNN.

Police respond to the shooting Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Jason Lando previously said there were “multiple casualties.” Officers were dispatched to the scene after receiving reports of active gunfire at the synagogue, he said.

Initial reports on the suspect:[1]

The President weighed in prior to boarding Air Force 1:

[1] Whereas normally we withhold and do not broadcast shooters identities with things like school shootings and other such events, with there being no doubt to the suspect here, and the motives and his background being relevant, we have done so here

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Charm, Charming, and Charmed( 9 )

charm

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906

The term “Charm” isn’t used all that much anymore, and to be honest the last time I heard it used in day-to-day conversation was to sound purposefully formal in describing someone. So maybe there is something to the notion that it has fallen out of favor. Life’s Little Luxury, by Joseph Epstein writing in The Weekly Standard, takes a deep dive into the disappearing aspect of charm in public spaces.

If Ponce de León were alive today, viewing older billionaires with oxblood-colored hair, aging actresses with skin drawn so tight by cosmetic surgery they cannot close their eyes at night, old men whose jogging pace resembles nothing so much as that of infants just beginning to walk, former student radicals now sporting gray ponytails or topknots, no doubt the Spanish explorer would give up his legendary search for the fountain of youth and resign himself to aging as gracefully as possible. George Santayana thought it a great sin, the greatest, to set out to strangle human nature. The attempt to stay perpetually young is the most common attempt to do so in our day. It is also among the most effective ways to divest oneself of charm.

Charm will not feed the hungry, help end wars, or fight evil. I’m not sure that it qualifies as a virtue, and, as is well known, it can be used for devious ends. Yet charm does provide, among other things, a form of necessary relief from the doldrums, the drabness of everyday life. Sydney Smith, the 18th-century clergyman and himself an immensely charming man, wrote that “man could direct his ways by plain reason and support his life by tasteless food; but God has given us wit, and flavour, and brightness, and laughter, and perfumes to enliven the days of man’s pilgrimage and to charm his pained steps over the burning marle.” If your vocabulary is as limited as mine, you will have to look up marle, which turns out to be “unconsolidated sedimentary rock or soil consisting of clay and lime, formerly used as fertilizer.” What Sydney Smith was too charming to say straight out is that charm helps us to get over the crap in life, which, as anyone who has lived a respectable number of years knows, can be abundant.

In his Notebooks, the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott posited what he thought an ideal character. This, he held, was composed of integrity, the inheritance of civilization known as culture, and charm, the three joined together by piety, by which Oakeshott meant reverence for life. “Charm,” he wrote, “compensates for the lack of everything else: charm that comes from a sincere and generous spirit. Those who ignore charm & fix their appreciation upon what they consider more solid virtues are, in fact, ignoring mortality.” Since we all die, all are merely guests briefly here on earth, we have an obligation to get the most of our limited time, or so Oakeshott believed. In his reading, then, those who ignore charm are ignoring one of life’s genuine pleasures.

It’s a long piece, but do read it all and draw your own conclusion on what you may, or may not, find charming.

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Honesty in Advertising( 6 )

Focus-Group tested honesty, which is really the best kind when you think about it.

Hoping to fix that, the new campaign will roll out in states beyond Nebraska in the spring of 2019, the Nebraska Tourism Commission said in a press release.

Advertisers tested the campaign and slogan in other states earlier this year and found that it made people more likely to visit the state, and for longer, the tourism commission said. Respondents also said they got the self-deprecating humor in “Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone,” and that the humor was one of the keys to the campaign’s success.

“The new brand platform is defined by honesty,” said John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism executive director. “The overarching concept of honesty is rooted in a mindset that values transparency, purity and simplicity. A way of embracing the not-so-obvious bits of life. We feel we’ve accomplished just that.”

Nebraska seems like an okay place to live, but not sure why I would want to visit there.

South Dakota, on the other hand, I can imagine both. That they came up with this ad is a point in their favor.

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The Gamble Case( 8 )

I don’t recall Gamble v. United States being discussed at Ordinary Times yet. But it touches on something about which I have long been curious and yet am not sure where I stand. Here’s Ken White’s summary of the case, from a post that actually is about something slightly different:

The issue at hand is the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which says the government can’t “for the same offence . . . .be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Most commonly double jeopardy means that the government can’t charge you again with the same thing after they lose at trial. There’s a notorious exception to it called the “Separate Sovereigns” or “Dual Sovereignty” Doctrine. Under this doctrine, different “sovereigns” can try you for the same crime because they have separate interests in punishing the crime. This most commonly allows the federal government and a state to prosecute you for the same crime, on the theory that they have distinct interests and reasons to do so. This famously happened when the federal government prosecuted the police officers who beat Rodney King even after they were acquitted in state court.

The Dual Sovereignty Doctrine has always been controversial and somewhat unpopular. This term, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case in which it could overturn the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine. That case is Gamble v. United States — you can read all about it here, on the indispensable SCOTUSblog.

White’s explanation, further on, cites an amicus brief that claims dual prosecutions could still be done. One takeaway is that we could still prosecute state-level actors for civil rights violations. But I don’t understand all the legalities. I’ve read a couple of briefs already, and I plan on reading more as this case makes its way to being heard.

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Capitalists Clean Up( 33 )

From The Washington Post, “Even janitors have noncompetes now. Nobody is safe.” [The company is now claiming the employee was treated in this way because policies were “misapplied”, but the article is still worth a read. – Eds.]

 

One of the central contradictions of capitalism is that what makes it work — competition — is also what capitalists want to get rid of the most.

That’s true not only of competition between companies, but also between them and their workers. After all, the more of a threat its rivals are, and the more options its employees have, the less profitable a business will tend to be. Which, as the Financial Times reports, probably goes a long way toward explaining why a $3.4 billion behemoth like Cushman & Wakefield would bother to sue one of its former janitors, accusing her of breaking her noncompete agreement by taking a job in the same building she had been cleaning for the global real estate company but doing it for a different firm.

(We have discussed this subject before at OT. The tyranny of employer over employee continues.)
sweeping photo

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Windows & Window Blinds( 10 )

What happens when technology is good enough?

[PCs] remain essential to our functioning, and despite the advent of tablets and smartphones, PCs have resolutely hung on as our work device of choice. What has declined, however is their sales. Since 2010?—?the peak year for computer sales?—?rates have gradually eased. They are occasionally boosted by increased adoptions in emerging economies, but on the whole, rates have settled into an apparent permanent stagnation.

At first glance, this seems surprising, given that computers are 1) more central to our lives than ever, and 2) surely increasing their penetration as computer illiterate generations die off and “digital natives” come of age. However, those cannot offset the withering of the most important driver of the industry: upgrades.

People are holding on to their computers for longer. It’s not a coincidence that this is happening now. In (roughly) 2010 a crucial barrier was passed—for the first time ever, the available hardware adequately matched the tasks that were asked of it. Computers booted up with minimal fuss. They opened and saved documents instantly, and crashed increasingly rarely. Internet-based programs went from tolerably slow to satisfyingly quick. And the tag team of USB drives and good Wifi seemingly put an end to the search for better port technology.

In short, computers had become good enough.

I wrote on this a bit the other day, sort of. But if phones are settling in, PCs are settled. The last four versions of Microsoft Windows all have roughly the same hardware specs. And as with the phones, the main liability with getting a computer that’s a few years old is hardware failure rather than innovation. Like with cars, where we seen only incremental improvements over the last decades while we wait for them to be able to drive themselves.

The piece itself is on the similarities of the future to now, and I think it still holds. Self-driving cars will probably look a lot like regular car (as opposed to Jetsons flying cars and such). The next innovation for smartphones will be unnoticeable from the outside: Batteries that can run all day without question.

In the end, we’re all just waiting for Google Glass to pan out, aren’t we?

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The Herrera Case( 5 )

From NCSL

Clayvin Herrera, a member of the Crow tribe, shot an elk in Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming in 2014, and was charged with hunting without a license during a closed season. Herrera claims that an 1868 treaty giving the Crow the right to hunt on the “unoccupied lands of the United States” allowed him to hunt on this land.

In Herrera v. Wyoming, the Supreme Court will decide whether Wyoming’s admission to the Union or the establishment of the Big Horn National Forest abrogated the Crow’s treaty right to hunt in the forest.

To decide this case, the lower court applied a 1995 Tenth Circuit decision, Crow Tribe of Indians v. Repsis, which raised the same question. In Repsis, the Tenth Circuit held that the “Tribe’s right to hunt … was repealed by the act admitting Wyoming into the Union” and that “the creation of the Big Horn National Forest resulted in the ‘occupation’ of the land.”

The Tenth Circuit in Repsis relied on an 1896 Supreme Court case, Ward v. Race Horse, involving off-reservation hunting rights and decided against a tribe. Four years after Repsis, the Supreme Court decided another off-reservation hunting rights case, Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, in favor of a tribe.

At issue in this case is whether Mille Lacs overruled Race Horse and Repsis.

According to Herrera, Mille Lacs indicates Repsis was decided incorrectly. Herrera argues: “Repsis unambiguously held that ‘[t]he Tribe’s right to hunt reserved in the [1868 Treaty] was repealed by the act admitting Wyoming into the Union.’ Indeed, for good measure, it declared Race Horse ‘compelling, well-reasoned, and persuasive,’ and it cited Race Horse for the proposition that the hunting right preserved in the 1868 Treaty was a ‘temporary right’ that was ‘repealed with Wyoming’s admission into the Union.’ Mille Lacs rejects that reasoning across the board, from the notion that statehood abrogates treaty hunting rights to the ‘too broad’ construct of ‘temporary’ rights.”

Herrera also argues that the establishment of the Big Horn National Forest did not abrogate the Crow’s treaty rights. Indian treaties are interpreted as the Indians would have understood them.

The Crow Tribe understood “unoccupied lands of the United States” in the 1868 Treaty to mean “land undeveloped by white settlers.” In short, prohibiting “entry or settlement” on land by creating a national forest does not cause that land to become “occupied.”

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Fantasy vs Science Fiction( 42 )

It’s often said that Star Trek is science fiction whereas Star Wars is fantasy with space ships. This sort of explains the difference:

Chiang offered a short discursus on the history of science. In his telling, the pivotal moment was the emergence of chemistry – a genuine science – from the magical discipline of alchemy. The latter involved the purification of the soul alongside the purification of a base metal into nobility, while the former was grounded in observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and systematization. Alchemy failed and chemistry prevailed, said Chiang, because the soul is of no consequence.

This corresponds to the personalism of the fantasy genre. The magician is always chosen, set apart from others as the bearer of a special destiny. For Chiang, this implies hierarchy, elitism. He contrasts this with science fiction, which he construes as egalitarian. The science of science fiction is – in theory if not in practice – available to everyone. Star Wars is instructive here. Although anyone might pick up and fire a blaster or fly a starship at light speed, only the elect can wield the Force. Star Wars is thus fantasy and not science fiction.

No fan of hierarchy, Chiang observes that fantasy stories are rarely set in post-industrial revolution settings. He explains this by way of Marx’s theory of the alienation of labor: the worker’s estrangement has the effect of erasing difference and collapsing social hierarchies into the binary of proletariat and bourgeoisie. This flattening?—?tightly yoked to the mechanical world-view?—?makes it difficult to believe in a personal universe. Everyone is ontologically equivalent in the eyes of the market. Thus fantasy stories set in capitalist societies require a greater suspension of disbelief.

I’d always thought that magic and technology (applied science) made for an interesting dynamic. It’s pretty easy to imagine that those who are powerful through magic would have a pretty natural hostility towards science, which allows the masses to accomplish many of the same things that they can do. So for it to work, you either need the magical to be very limited in number (like the Jedi) or limited in what they can actually do.

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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( 156 )

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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