At what point can a citizen defend himself against an assault by a police officer?

Or, for that matter, what about a good Samaritan coming to the aid of a victim being beaten by someone who turns out to be a police officer?

I came across the following video from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) showing what appears to be a police officer assaulting, for no obvious reason, a member of the public. And at the moment, the victim of this assault has been charged with several crimes, yet the officer has not.

The officer is white. The victim, Anthony Promvongsa, is a Loatian-American.

This, following so closely on the heels of the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez in the killing of Philando Castile and a recent visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, has got me thinking more about the relationship of the public to law enforcement. Specifically, at what point is a member of the public allowed to defend him- or herself against an assault by a police officer? Continue reading

Spotify’s “sponsored content”: payola by any other name…

by Amber Healy

SpotifyIt’s too soon to know whether the new “sponsored content” policy helps artists or harms them.

Payola is the practice—the illegal practice—of a record label paying a broadcaster to play a song or artist at a higher rate than other artists.

There was a massive scandal decades ago in which radio stations were found to accept bribes to favor this artist or that one. It brought down some of the biggest names in the then-fledgling industry, including Alan Freed, the man credited with coining the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll,” and Dick Clark.

But times have changed. Things are different. And there’s no law governing the use of cold hard cash to encourage streaming platforms to promote artists for the right price. It also indicates a change in practice for Spotify, which called for a halt to payola-type practices back in 2015. At that time, the Swedish company announced it would “explicitly prohibit” users from taking cash to include songs on its curated playlists, the Financial Times reported.

Tech Crunch first noted this week that there was a new opt-out feature on Spotify, titled “Sponsored Content.”

Continue reading

I’ll go where Ted Nugent just led. Zero violence!

ted-nugent-80650_960_720I just heard the most amazing interview, the Curtis & Eboni show at 77WABC:  Ted Nugent Accepts Responsibility; Says Tone Down Rhetoric

It is exactly what it sounds like. There’s a couple of moments toward the end of the twelve-ish minutes where it almost sounds like he’s tempering his statement a little, but I think if you listen for yourself and not rely on anything taken out of context later, you’ll hear a clear admission of going too far in the past and a clarion call to take it down a notch, everybody. Continue reading

The UK election: Another fine mess you’ve got us into

poundsinkingThe English have a fine word for the political mess it finds itself in at the moment–kerfuffle, which is defined as “a commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views.” Boy, if there was ever a kerfuffle, we’re in one right now.

Theresa May and the Tories, who were expected to have a 100 seat majority even as late as the morning of the election by some polls, actually lost seats, and its Parliamentary majority. The result of this is the Tories can’t form a government on its own, unless it tries to form a minority government (which has happened before in postwar history, under Labour in the 1970s). Jeremy Corbyn, who, if you believed the press and even many Labour politicians (cue Tony Blair), was expected to lead the party to electoral disaster, didn’t. In fact, the reverse occurred. Labour received 40% of the vote (as compared with the Conservative’s 42%), its best showing in years. It’s the biggest Labour Parliamentary gain since Clement Atlee.

So there is a lot of crow to be eaten around now, or should be, anyway. We could start with the pollsters, who were generally calling for a solid Tory victory, with one two exceptions. The YouGov poll was the most notable outlier, with its outright prediction of a hung Parliament, which is exactly what we got. It was rejected outright by practically everyone when it was released prior to the election, however. So, like the last two major elections (the 2015 Parliamentary election, and the Brexit vote) the vast majority of pollsters got it completely wrong. Continue reading

Donald’s long history of doing things just because he can

Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should do that thing.

Trump meets Comey at an Oval Office reception (Image Credit: Andrew Harrer / POOL / EPA)

In case you missed it, the Washington Post broke a story about Donald revealing classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. In response, Donald tweeted that he has the “absolute right” to share classified information with anyone he likes.

Donald is right. The President is the ultimate authority when it comes to deciding what to share or not. If the President wants to burn an intelligence source (resulting in the imprisonment or death of that source), the President has the authority to do so. If the President wants to publish detailed notes describing exactly how an intelligence agency does gathers their intelligence, the President can do so. There are only two checks on the President’s ability to do this. The first is the President’s advisors convincing the President not to share sensitive information. The second is the Congress’ Constitutional authority to impeach, find the President guilty of treason or other crimes, and remove him from office.

Ultimately, though, this is an issue of what a President can do, vs. what a President should do. And that’s the problem with Donald – so far as I can tell, he’s never bothered asking himself whether he should do something. If Donald could, Donald did. Continue reading

SVR this week means Science Video Roundup

Title: SVR means Science Video Roundup this week

Saturday Video Roundup this week is all science videos.

First, Neil DeGrasse Tyson on science as a method to discover truth and how that truth is true whether you believe it or not.


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Obamacare repeal exposes House Republicans’ policy nakedness (update #2)

After seven years of political games without having to govern, House Republicans are damned if they repeal Obamacare, and damned if they don’t.

(Image credit: The Nation)

Updated: Added WaPo link and quote at the bottom.

Update #2: Paul Ryan pulls the AHCA. See CNN link and details at the bottom.

So the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare), the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was supposed to go to a vote yesterday. That didn’t happen. So the AHCA is being debated on the House floor and voted on today instead. After Donald threatened to “walk away” from repealing Obamacare if the House couldn’t pass the bill today. And after the Congressional Budget Office re-scored the amended bill as still costing 24 million people their health insurance and reducing the deficit by less than half of what the introduced bill did ($150 billion over 10 years for the amended bill vs. 334 billion originally).

The wonderful thing is that, no matter what the House Republicans do today, they lose. Either they overreach and risk losing their seats in 2018, or they fail to deliver on their “repeal and replace Obamacare” campaign promises and risk losing their seats in 2018. Either way, they lose. Continue reading

Unnamed sources? Journalists should teach readers why they were used

On Thursday, four journalists for CNN reported:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

CATEGORY: JournalismInformation. Indicates. Associates. Communicated. Suspected. Operatives. Possibly. Coordinate. Information. US officials.

Huh? Could this lede be any more vague? This lede is all may have — which leaves open the possibility of may not have.

The story, reported by Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Shimon Prokupecz, contains unnamed sources in 10 of the story’s 18 paragraphs. The FBI director is named, but only in reference to stories reported earlier. White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov are named, but only in chiding the findings of the story. Two paragraphs near the end of the story contain no sources and appear to be the conclusions of the reporters.

Continue reading

The Congressional Budget Office scores Trumpcare: immoral

Obamacare gave 23 million people medical insurance; Trumpcare will strip it away from 24 million.

Congressional Budget Office logo

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Trumpcare will cost 24 million people their health insurance, with 14 million of those losses coming next year (assuming Trumpcare passes this year).

As the end of 2016, Obamacare lowered the uninsured rate from right before Obamacare took effect to 10.9%. That’s about 23 million more people with health insurance.

Medicaid (the medical insurance program for the poor) would be cut by $880 billion over the next 10 years. That reverses the tax increase levied on the wealthy to pay for the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and the CBO estimates that Trumpcare will result in 14 million poor people losing Medicaid over the next 10 years. 14 million people.

I’ve been happily paying higher taxes without complaint for years so that my income could subsidize health insurance for people who couldn’t afford it – like friends and former coworkers who had been out of work and either had to self-insure for an insane amount of money or go without insurance and pray they didn’t get sick. It was the moral thing to do in 2013, and it still is. Continue reading

Steve Milloy, a liar-for-hire and immoral hypocrite, was part of Donald’s EPA transition team

Milloy has been manufacturing fear, uncertainty, and doubt for dirty industries since he helped the tobacco industries continue addicting and killing customers in the 1990s.

Steven J. Milloy (image credit: Fox News)

Steven J. Milloy (image credit: Fox News)

Donald doesn’t care about the truth. He doesn’t mind the truth, but when the truth or objective reality get in the way of Donald’s plans, he keeps the plan and jettisons the truth. I learned yesterday about one of the more insidious examples of this fact, specifically in reference to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Not only did Donald tap Myron Ebell, a denier of the reality of industrial climate disruptionNote 1 who is associated with the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead his EPA transition team, but Steve Milloy was one of the members of the team as well.

Milloy is not be a household name, but he’s long been known as a liar-for-hire who is willing to sell his dishonesty to any dirty industry facing regulations that might curtail their profits, especially the tobacco industry, the agriculture industry, and the energy industry. I personally have been aware of Milloy since 2007, when I first stumbled across a “survey” that he had created in order to manufacture fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about the reality of industrial climate disruption. Continue reading

Hensarling lies about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on NPR

Jeb Hensarling is resorting to “alternative facts” in his quest to drag the US back to the bad old days of “innovative” mortgages and unregulated financial companies that gave us the Great Recession.

Jeb Hensarling (image credit: Dallas Morning News)

Jeb Hensarling (image credit: Dallas Morning News)

Last week I heard an interview on Morning Edition that had me fuming at my radio. Steve Inskeep interviewed Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) about Hensarling’s goal to eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB). After listening to the interview, I had a question for Mr. Hensarling: are you a liar, or do you actually believe your own bullshit?

Hensarling, who has been pursuing the destruction of the CPFB as the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said

Somebody has to protect consumers, not just from Wall Street but protect them from Washington as well. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has hurt consumers. Free checking at banks has been cut in half. Banking fees have gone up. Working people are finding it more difficult to get mortgages.

The bottom line is the best consumer protection are competitive, innovative markets that are transparent.

Yes, it’s true that some working people are having a hard time finding mortgages, but it’s not because mortgage markets aren’t transparent, competitive, or innovative. It’s because those working people are not making enough money to afford the house they want, or have poor credit histories. Free checking isn’t available as much any more because banks are no longer allowed to make up the costs of the free checking by charging exorbitant overdraft fees. In other words, the CPFB is doing exactly what it’s chartered to do – protect consumers from predatory banks and bankers. Continue reading

Donald attacks the media, FBI, and intelligence agencies over Flynn’s “resignation”

A real President would promise to find out just how deeply Russia has influenced his Administration. Then there’s Donald Trump….

Donald and Michael Flynn during the campaign (image credit: Yahoo News)

Donald and Michael Flynn during the campaign (image credit: Yahoo News)

Three days ago, I wrote a post I titled “After Michael Flynn’s resignation, Donald will be out for blood.” In it, I wrote

Donald lost tonight, and every time he’s lost he’s gone on Twitter or stood before an audience to rant against whoever was responsible for his loss. I anticipate that Donald will attack the media again for reporting the facts about Flynn and his Russia contacts. And I expect he’ll instruct his new Attorney General to figure out who in the FBI was investigating Flynn, and who leaked the information that Flynn was being investigated….

Two days ago, we learned that Donald knew about Flynn’s Russia contacts, and that Flynn had lied about them, since January 26. And supposedly, Flynn was asked to resign because of “eroding trust” between him and Donald. Riiiight.

I don’t know about anyone else, but if I found out my National Security Advisor had been lying to me and was susceptible to blackmail by foreign powers as a result of it, I’d have fired him almost immediately, not waited two weeks until the media broke the story and forced my hand. Because, you know, national security. But maybe that’s because I take stuff like this seriously, rather than treating the Presidency like a business investment. Continue reading

Quotes from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Donald’s immigration ban

9th_circuit_sealToday a three judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that they would not overturn the injunction blocking most of Donald’s immigration and travel ban Executive Order. I read the entire ruling, and I’ve extracted several key or amusing quotes from it below. Many of these were quotes that I posted first on Facebook, but I wanted to collect them all in one place.

As I said after DeVos was confirmed, “We cannot let our defeats demoralize us into inaction any more than we can permit our victories to lull us into a false sense of security.” But for tonight, enjoy the 9th Circuit’s very polite yet firm rejections of pretty much everything the Administration argued. Continue reading

What is a liberal? Fairness is my core value

Liberals should talk about our values. And we should start with fairness.

Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

Over the last few years, I’ve read liberals saying that we need to talk about our values more openly, to own them, to assert that they are just as much American values as conservative values are. But I’ve never been comfortable talking about my values. Partly that’s because I’m an introvert. Partly because sharing such important stuff about myself feels a bit like everyone’s nightmare of showing up to give a presentation and realizing you’re naked before the crowd. And partly it’s because some of my values have shifted over the years as I’ve matured and experienced more of life, and I’m sure that some of them will shift again in the future.

But since Donald’s election I’ve been thinking about my values a lot. I’ve already chosen to fight for my values via my writing, and I’m prepared to fight for my values by putting my personal safety on the line if need be. So I figured that, if I’m going to be willing to risk my career or my physical well-being, I’d better be damned sure I know what my values are.

After a great deal of thought, I’ve finally realized what my core value is. The one value that matters more to me than any other. The one value against which all my other values are weighed, and from which most of my values spring. The one value with which I weigh the character of everyone I encounter.

Fairness. Continue reading

The Second Amendment is not a blank check to own every weapon imaginable

Do you agree with the majority of Americans that gun control is both right and appropriate?

U.S. Marines fire an MK19-3 40 mm grenade machine gun at Range K-211 during weapons training in Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 6, 2008. The Marines are assigned to Charlie Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Maxton G. Musselman/Released)

U.S. Marines fire an MK19-3 40 mm grenade machine gun at Range K-211 during weapons training in Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 6, 2008. The Marines are assigned to Charlie Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Maxton G. Musselman/Released)

Consider, if you will, the following list:

  • switchblade
  • tactical knife
  • rapier
  • saber
  • katana
  • M1917 revolver
  • Saturday Night Special
  • M1911 semi-automatic pistol
  • 3D printed plastic pistol
  • M1 Garand 30-06 rifle
  • Remington 870 shotgun
  • AR-15
  • HK CAWS automatic shotgun
  • M16A4 assault rifle
  • C4 explosive
  • hand grenade
  • Continue reading

American vs. unAmerican values, as compared to the Declaration of Independence

Values that stand in opposition to those described in the Declaration of Independence are unAmerican values.

Engraving of the Declaration of Independence (image credit: Monticello.org)

Engraving of the Declaration of Independence (image credit: Monticello.org)

Without the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America, there is no United States of America. That makes the values laid out in those documents American values, by definition. And any values that run contrary to the values in those documents, again by definition, unAmerican.

The Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…

Equality. The concept of natural human rights. The rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (among others). The concept that the people have a say in their government. These are the American values defined by the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading