Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Law

Are You Tilting at Windmills or Can You Handle the Truth?

We at the Colonies welcome people of all beliefs, including those who believe in alternative facts; even those who tilt at windmills.  The phrase, alternative facts, was coined by Kellyanne Conway, to explain why the new administration had claimed its inauguration crowd was bigger than that of the 2009 Obama inauguration.  The National Park Service tweeted a side by side photo comparison showing the claim couldn’t possibly be true.  The Department of the Interior promptly shut down the NPS twitter account. 

For example, one of our readers who I will call Sasquatch (the mythical hairy, upright-walking, ape-like being)  did not agree with the latest post about the impact of the Michael Cohen investigation moving to New York.  Sasquatch concluded that I was a loser and a whiner. Now, I did lose a pair of gloves over the winter, but Sasquatch could not have known that.  Furthermore, I never whine, although sometimes I rhyne. That’s rhyme.

I decided to see who Sasquatch was and whether there were other “facts” which Sasquatch believed, but in fact were false.  I went to Sasquatch’s Facebook page and found this meme: 

The meme, with a quote by Thomas Homer-Dixon, a Canadian ecologist, allegedly concludes that the windmill pictured above requires so many hydrocarbons to build that it could run indefinitely and never generate enough power to save the hydrocarbons discharged in construction.  Is that the truth?  No, it’s not, unless the windmill is set down in a windless spot.

If the windmill is erected in a place that is windy, it will recoup the carbons in clean energy savings in as little as 3 years. If poorly placed,  it may never recoup its carbon cost. 

The meme based on the quote from Dixon’s book, Carbon Shift, purposely left out an important sentence.  According to fact-checking site, https://www.snopes.com:

In August 2015, a meme posted to the Google+ group “The Secret Society of Anti-AGW-ACC Cultism,” an organization that claims climate change is a hoax, started circulating online. While that meme (shown above) does reproduce the words of Thomas Homer-Dixon, the Associate Director of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, it elides a crucial section of the passage to significantly change its meaning.

“In his book, “Carbon Shift: How Peak Oil and the Climate Crisis Will Change Canada (and Our Lives),” Dixon wrote that some windmills might not recoup their energy construction costs, a windmill at a good location could pay back the energy costs of creating it in under three years. That section was omitted from the above-displayed version of the quote:

‘The concept of net energy must be applied to renewable sources of energy, such as windmills and photovoltaics. A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons. The question is: how long must a windmill generate energy before it creates more energy than it took to build it? At a good wind site, the energy payback day could be in three years or less; in a poor location, energy payback may be never. That is, a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.’

The meme distorts the truth. By example, drilling an oil well that turns out to be dry will be a net loser, just like a windmill set up in a windless place. The meme leaves out this critical fact, and Sasquatch, who didn’t bother to question it, is none the wiser and in fact propagates the lie by reposting it.  Alternative facts are lies—untruths and half-truths, told to advance a false agenda.  Really, Sasquatch, you also need truth-tellers on that wall.

Command and Control at the Polling Station

 

Last October lawyers of the Supreme Court battled over the composition of the House of Representatives for the foreseeable future. Two cases address the extent to which a party in power is permitted to reshape its state’s districts to maximize that party’s partisan advantage. Yesterday a federal district court held that a North Carolina Redistricting plan violated the Constitution. The case joins cases from Wisconsin and Maryland which call into question whether the rule of law governing partisan gerrymandering needs to be revised.

Courts have previously decided that gerrymandering along racial lines is unconstitutional, and they have stated in principle that doing so along partisan lines is as well. Improved use of computer modeling provides legislators with more sophisticated ways to shape congressional districts. These models use the traditional rules to generate the optimum configuration within a state for the benefit of the party in power. The term, “efficiency gap,” has been employed to describe the inversion of representation in proportion to the voting population. We can expect to hear that term more in the coming years.

While partisan gerrymandering is banned in principle, courts have struggled to create a test that bars it effectively. This being Llaw, the wording of the test is decisive. The language of the rule affects the outcome of later cases, as lawyers and judges tinker with possible interpretations. Eventually the Supreme Court’s words will be read back to it, and the nine Justices, not necessarily the same nine, will have to interpret its interpretation.

Karl Llewellyn, a noted 20th century legal scholar, stated that the law is the way people resolve disputes. The statement itself is subject to interpretation. It is at once both self-explanatory and impenetrable. Indeed, in a given case, a dispute is adjudicated. But Law is a judicial tool used to set parameters for personal freedoms, culture, business and suffrage. The Law is more than a means of calling balls and strikes. Its a means of defining the strike zone.

 

The Times Still are A-Changin’

 

Our law school put on a show every year, spoofing the faculty. Ham that I am, I participated  in all three shows. I want to tell you about one of them. 

It was 1977, and I was in my second year. Two classmates and I wrote the script, and two others penned lyrics for our song parodies. Except for two that I had written. One was a parody of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.”  It was called “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which means “the thing speaks for itself,” riffing on accident lawyers. The lyrics were funny enough, and we had a tort professor named Robert Waters, who many students called Muddy. The other song was an original entitled, “Be My Chicken.”  It was a pastiche of blues songs with risqué double-entendres. It had nothing to do with law.  

I rehearsed both songs for the cast and crew. They decided that the Chicken song was too dirty. It included the word “cock,” as in rooster. But I didn’t  mean rooster, Besides, rooster didn’t scan. The Chicken song was cut, but the ambulance chaser song remained, and it got lots of laughs.  Did I mention that Professor Waters was African-American, and I performed in black-face? In today’s America, the reactions would be the opposite.  I still do the Chicken song at parties, while the other received a suitable burial. I am embarrassed by my lack of judgment and empathy, but it was Florida in the Seventies. Red Ipsa Loquitur, y’all.

“My Fair Lady” is a 1956  musical about an uneducated Cockney girl who becomes  an elegant, middle-class woman under the tutelage of a self-proclaimed misogynist and elitist.  They fall in love – sort of—and she comes back to live under his aristocratic roof, the curtain falling as she retrieves his slippers.  She makes this choice despite the declared affections of an idle-rich young man, who haunts the woman’s neighborhood, winsomely singing,”Let the time go by, I don’t care if I can be here on the street where you live.” In other words, a Stalker.

In the 1978 film, “Animal House,” all types of debauchery and mayhem are exploited for laughs, including a college freshman’s attempt to intoxicate and have sex with an under-age girl. Statutory Rape.  Now that scene would end up on the cutting room floor.

Also in 1978, Rodney Dangerfield joked,” I have three children —one of each.” His joke about homosexuality was a harbinger for the politics of gender identity and its bathroom conundrum.

These are cultural touchstones marking the changes in sensitivity on issues of race and sexuality in American culture in the last sixty years.  We can look at the past as unenlightened, but except for myself perhaps, the talents behind these celebrated works were not cave dwellers. The current outpouring of accounts of sexual assault helps us as a culture move from the theoretical to the actual.  Millennials may know intuitively what we boomers had to learn. 

Victims of sexual assault have broken free of repressed and suppressed recollections, many involving cultural icons.  The accounts offer a look into sexual roles  going back thirty or more years to the present. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of rape. Bill O’Reilly has paid off cases of sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey and Roy Moore allegedly forced themselves upon minors.  Louis C.K. has admitted to exposing himself and jerking off in front of  several female comics,  a rumor that had circulated for years.  Those women have issued reports now.   At first, they did not speak up, in deference to his power in show business and that he’d been generous helping them build their careers. 

The case of Al Franken raises different  issues.  Franken, then a comic on a 2006 USO tour, admits  to aggressively kissing another entertainer in a scene calling for a “stage kiss.” This scenario was a recurring gag in 1982’s “Tootsie,” in which Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing character is repeatedly over-kissed by her soap opera co-star with a reputation for such hi-jinks. By the way, Dustin Hoffman himself stands accused of misconduct. The USO tours were enormously popular during earlier wars, when Bob Hope paraded a number of voluptuous women, immodestly dressed, in front of an audience of drooling GIs.   With Franken, the kiss, which was immediately repulsed by the victim, was embellished by a photo taken of Franken fondling or appearing to fondle the victim’s breasts while she was asleep on a transport plane.  The photo was included in a commemorative album distributed after the tour,  to the victim’s horror. 

Franken’s behavior creates a different kind of problem for the people who traditionally side with the victim.  Franken is now a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota, and he unfailingly takes the victim’s side in these situations. His allies and constituents are forced to reconcile Franken’s private lechery with his admirable public work.  Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnist, has called for his resignation or at least an ethics hearing. He is receiving a pass from many of his supporters.

The politics and the less invasive nature of the offense support Franken, but so do the outdated  mores of earlier times.  Franken grew up in the sixties and seventies.  Our “take” on sexual matters was different. A male was expected to be the initiator, and the female was the boundary setter. “No” was the word when uttered in combination with a physical withdrawal. The line was thus drawn. One might say that “No”  should have been sufficient.  But there was countervailing  part of the ritual that called for a certain amount of female protest, as if to say, “I don’t l, do this but, well, because it’s you…” Face was saved, parental encomiums heard but not always followed.

Franken and his fellow player were performers in a show. This isn’t meant to suggest that Franken was justified: it was “Tootsie” for real.  As a performer, he knew better. The photo was at the least in bad taste and at worst evidence of a battery, touching without consent while the woman slept.  Franken crossed the line.  Yet, I can’t equate it with the other scandals because it is by degrees closer to the aggressiveness that once was condoned.  However, if later we find out that Stuart Smalley really wasn’t good enough, his show will be canceled too. 

 

Melania Goes to Court

With Donald Trump as President, upon my first glance at the newspaper each morning I ask, “What fresh hell is this?” This morning’s edition carries an especially odious story. Melania Trump has refiled her lawsuit in a federal court in New York against the Daily Mail over her claim that it falsely accused her of working for an escort service in the past. Her first filing in Maryland was dismissed on procedural grounds.

The Article

In August, the Daily Mail ran a story reporting that a Slovenian periodical had run an article stating that Mrs. Trump, a Slovenian native, worked as a high-end escort before marrying the New York mogul.  The Daily Mail retracted the story.

The Mouthpiece

Nevertheless, Melania hired Charles Harder, an American attorney, to attack the Mail and Webster Tarpley, a blogger, for posting and publicizing the Slovenian report.   Mr. Harder recently had celebrated his victory over the Gawker, driving it out of business,  for posting a story about former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan having sex with his former manager’s wife. The wife had admitted that the story was true and that she had leaked it to the Gawker.  Mr. Harder was just the guy for Mrs. Trump. See Escort-Gate.

This morning’s paper reported the refiling of the suit, calling attention to the $150 million claim for damages, as follows:

Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person…to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.

“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance….

The case is Swiss cheese. The claim of defamation is dubious. The Daily Mail only reported statements made by a third-party, disclaiming any knowledge of the facts and casting no judgment on its veracity. Then, Melania Trump is a public figure, and under the libel law, she must prove that the publication was malicious. The claimed harm, the damages, are speculative unless Mrs. Trump had a contract that was canceled; negotiations that were terminate; or a prospect business partner who ran from her like she’d had the Plague.

An Honor to Serve

What was most sickening was that the First Lady is suing because her plan to use her status for financial gain had been torpedoed.  Interestingly, Mrs. Trump has not moved into the White House or assumed any duties, although she did hire a chief of staff last week.  Lindsey Reynolds, a former Bush White House employee, has been named to oversee the First Lady’s portfolio, the first item of which is to clean up the White House so that the tours will be “top-notch.”

It was too much to expect that Mrs. Trump would take on a public service role, like advocating against childhood obesity, as did Michelle Obama, or lobbying for early education, as did Laura Bush.  But it is sad to see that she planned to turn the East Wing into a shopping mall.

The Unmaking Of The Celebrity Apprentice

A politician must have either the hide of a rhinoceros or, if you are an apprentice, you have to grow one. The movement to stop Trump is working in part because  of his thin-skinned, instinctual reaction to the attack on his character. He’s shown his vulnerability to personal attacks in what for him is a predictable way: threatening to sue the media outlets reporting the accusations and countering with similar charges against his opponent or rather against her husband. He’s also responded in some unconventional and unpredictable ways, such as threatening to jail his opponent if he wins the election. Trump can’t contain his rage. He’s taken the bait by focusing exclusively on these attacks and in how the world is out to get him.

Tit-f0r-Tit

He’s legitimizing the accusations by striking back the way he has.  Responding to a female accuser by saying that she was, in effect, not attractive enough for him to grope, is a spectacularly wrong answer. He’s also drawn from the “what not to do” section of the political playbook by threatening to bring down his Party, his political opponents and the nation. Some of his supporters are empowered by Trump’s anger and turned on by his brand of insult politics. Most would stop short of dismantling the country or setting themselves on fire, which is why his fair-weather supporters have deserted him. 

No Country for an Old Apprentice

Being President is hard.  

apprentice

Four Tough White Guys

It’s harder than running for President. The skill set is different, one more reason the Never Ending Campaign is staggeringly wrong for the country. Until recently, Trump was having fun playing Candidate. Lately, the high has worn off. Faced with the far less desirable possibility of being President, Trump should be relieved that he has no hope of winning. His scorched earth strategy ensures his defeat, at the same time laying the groundwork for the rumored Trump cable network. 

Donald, Ignore the Squirrel!

adhdIf Trump wants to win the election instead of the headlines, he needs to get back to the business of politics and away from the politics of personal destruction. If we change the rules with NATO, will the NATO allies draw a tight circle, excluding the U.S. and its trade? Same question for the Pacific Rim. Can the U.S. thrive without reaching the world market of greatest potential? What in the Middle East are we fighting for and why? I’m not satisfied with any stance he’s taken. Yet it would be better if he got back on the subjects.

A Dish Best Served Cold

No one is in a hurry to get Trump back on substance, least of all his opponent. The media are having a field day, even better than when he shamed the Gold Star mother.  This time it’s Trump vs. the media, mano-a-mano, as they say in Trump’s locker room of the mind.  They have their own scores to settle with him.  David MacCraw, VP and Assistant General Counsel for the New York Times, issued a blistering reply to Trump’s Demand for Retraction (letter by Marc E. Kasowitz,Esq.).   

Take Him to the River

Despite Hillary Clinton’s statements to the contrary, she is in no rush to bring the campaign back to core issues, not as long as Trump is flailing like  a landed walleye thrashing in the bilge.  

Only three more weeks, then Trump can be returned to his natural habitat. 

© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

Trump Accusers Are Raising Consciousness

  New accusations from Trump accusers are coming fast now, separate accusations being published Wednesday in the Palm Beach Post and the New York Times.  If not for confidentiality agreements routinely used to gag contestants and staffers, more accusations of criminal behavior would have been leveled at Trump by now, and there is still three weeks to go.

The outpouring of stories has an effect beyond the election.  Women are expressing gratitude for the women coming forward because these stories are revealing  deeper truths about the powerlessness women experience. The assault is momentary and in many cases women can prevent the incident from escalating.  What they can’t do often is to report it, speak up about it, out the attacker.  A young woman subjected to aggressive sexual behavior often is told directly that “it never happened” or that if she speaks of it, she will be punished. Her career derailed.  

In anti-discrimination law, this is a hostile working environment. These claims are especially tough to make when it’s caused or endorsed by the big boss.  Young women in new or first jobs  are given the Hobson’s Choice of calling out a powerful man and facing retaliation and ostracism, or remaining silent, which most of the traumatized women choose to do. 

Keeping silent is an extension of the feeling of powerlessness.  There is no release  from that feeling, so it takes hold psychically. The feeling of powerlessness becomes deeply ingrained and has a negative impact beyond the workplace. 

The Trump scandals, like the Clinton scandals before them, have presented opportunities to teach boys and girls, adolescents and young adults, that predatory sexual behavior often is criminal. Its victims no longer need to be resigned to shame, silence and a feeling of being ineffectual. Boys learn that a parent, sibling, friend or lover may have been victimized and that they may have experienced life-altering consequences. 

Trump Outsourcing American Jobs

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/64636204@N00/14133210831
with permission of creativecommons.org
It took almost no time for Donald Trump to show his hand on American jobs.  He’s against them.  In the computer industry, in which Americans have expertise, if not greatness, he recruited overseas workers  instead . 
Trump made his pitch directly to Vladimir Putin, asking him to put Russian computer hackers to work breaking into U.S. government and Democratic party servers.  The pay offered by Trump: $Zero. He knows American hackers would not work for that rate (although American journalists have been known to do so).
America has some of the greatest cybercriminals in the world. Our country is one of the great hacking powers; we’re terrific; Huge. Yet Trump disdains even to engage or solicit American hackers, expatriating the work and depriving Americans of high quality jobs.
This proves that for Donald Trump creating jobs in America takes a backseat to his personal ambitions.  He did not consider “America First” when he proposed Russian cybercrime. I don’t see why our felons shouldn’t get first crack at the business.
© The Revolted Colonies 2016

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