March 9, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


Twitter and Elon Musk Face Legal Risks in FTC Probe (Ryan Tracy, March 9, 2023, WSJ)

After a series of incidents in which the company broke its promises to protect users' privacy and security, Twitter effectively agreed to put itself in the penalty box. It has been under an FTC order since 2011, and last year agreed to new, more-intrusive sanctions as part of a $150 million settlement of new alleged violations.

If Twitter doesn't live up to the commitments it made under that deal, the FTC could seek more severe financial penalties and sanctions.

"Unless Twitter can really prove to the FTC that it is adhering carefully to the new consent decree, which has lots of provisions that are supposed to ensure compliance-monitoring, record-keeping, all those things, then they're going to get another enforcement case," said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor who previously ran the FTC's consumer-protection bureau.

Cobun Zweifel-Keegan, managing director at the International Association of Privacy Professionals, said the rapid-fire changes being made at Twitter could expose the company to legal risks, if regulators determine that the changes weren't deliberated carefully as required under the FTC order.

"Any time a decision is being made very quickly, that could easily raise questions in the mind of a regulator about whether a compliance, design and review process is being followed," Mr. Zweifel-Keegan said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


Trump Lawyer Admits to Falsehoods in 2020 Fraud Claims (Alan Feuer, Mar. 9th, 2023, NY Times)

Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who represented President Donald J. Trump after his loss in the 2020 election, admitted in a sworn statement released on Wednesday that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several of her public claims that widespread voting fraud led to Mr. Trump's defeat.

The admissions by Ms. Ellis were part of an agreement to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado, her home state. Last year, the officials opened an investigation of Ms. Ellis after a complaint from the 65 Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


The Pentagon is funding experiments on animals to recreate 'Havana Syndrome' (LARA SELIGMAN, 03/09/2023, Washington Post)

This news of the ongoing animal testing, which has not previously been reported, comes after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence determined last week that there is no credible evidence that a foreign adversary wielding a weapon caused the health incidents.

Gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, peanut allergies, Havana Syndrome, Iranian schoolgirls, gender affirmation, long Covid...

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


New York prosecutors offer Trump a chance to testify before grand jury (Shayna Jacobs and Josh Dawsey, March 9, 2023, Washington Post)

In New York state, the target of a criminal investigation can request an alert when a case against them is being heard by a grand jury. The requirement is designed to give the target a chance to be heard by the panel in his own defense.

"Everyone will advise him not to go in," said a Trump adviser who is one of the three people with knowledge of the situation that confirmed the notification.

No defense attorney has ever voluntarily let Donald testify because he's a human perjury trap. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


ROY THOMAS ON THE HISTORY OF DOCTOR STRANGE: The legendary editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics shares secrets about the once-obscure sorcerer-superhero in his introduction to the new collection from The Folio Society (ROY THOMAS, 3/09/23, CrimeReads)

Yes, strange as it may seem--and hard as it may be to believe today, with two cinematic blockbusters now under his sash and key roles in several other super-hit films as well--back in the 1960s and for decades afterward, Doctor Stephen Strange was one of Marvel's less important, and least popular, marquee-level heroes. (In fact, Marvel editor Stan Lee later revealed the hero was nearly christened 'Mr Strange', but instead he got promoted to being an actual doctor, because Marvel already had a 'Mr Fantastic.')

He started off his four-color life in a mere five-page throw-away story by scripter Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963), basically just filling space behind a cover feature wherein the Human Torch battled the Wizard and Paste Pot Pete. . . and with another five-page science-fiction vignette taking up half of the mag's remaining oxygen. 'Dr. Strange, Master of Black Magic!' was therefore the inevitable choice to lead off this volume of some of the greatest sagas starring the man who would eventu- ally become the Marvel Universe's Sorcerer Supreme. It wasn't a bad little adventure, introducing both Doc and the otherworldly villain Nightmare, who's been bedeviling him ever since.

Two additional Dr. Strange five-pagers were spread out over the following four issues, and by the fourth Doc story--'The Ori- gin of Dr. Strange' in Strange Tales #115 (December 1963)--it's clear that the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko team are running on all cylinders. And, as usual, the result whenever Lee and Ditko were, even briefly, on the same page creatively is nothing less than spectacular: a backstory that gives the mustachioed wizard a very human, even tragic background (as a greedy, self-indulgent surgeon who loses the use of his hands--and thus his livelihood, even his reason for existing--in an auto accident) that contrasts starkly with the Lost Horizon-influenced renewal of life he finds in what some then referred to as 'the Mystic East.' This was far from the first pop-cultural artifact to be influenced by James Hilton's 1933 novel that introduced the hidden land called Shangri-La (and even more so by the 1937 movie version), but it was definitely the best and most enduring of those offshoots. For this story, the page count was increased from five to a whole eight.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


The Most Interesting Think Tank In American Politics (MOLLY BALL , MARCH 7, 2023, TIME)

Niskanen (pronounced Niss-CAN-enn) was founded in 2014 by Jerry Taylor, one of Washington's great mad geniuses. A thinker of uncommon intellectual flexibility and charisma, Taylor blazed a 30-year trail through the world of policy thought before flaming out in scandal. But he started out as a conventional movement conservative--a "wild-eyed Reaganite," as he describes it today.

As a college student at the University of Iowa in the 1980s, Taylor worked for the political campaigns of Sen. Chuck Grassley and former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. When his college loans ran out, he ditched school and moved to D.C. to work for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the influential pro-business state-level conservative lobbying group. After a few years, he was recruited by Cato to work on environmental issues. Climate change was just starting to come on the public radar as an issue, but it hadn't yet acquired a polarizing left-right valence. (The conservative UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for example, was at that time an early evangelist for addressing "global warming.") Taylor's job was to change that, convincing right-wingers that the science was a sham and the "solutions" being proposed would constitute an unwarranted attack on Americans' liberty and prosperity.

Taylor had no background in the subject, but he read voraciously and had a knack for marshaling evidence to make persuasive arguments. For more than 20 years, he was wildly successful in a role he describes as Cato's "lead climate denier." The doubts he helped to sow became conventional wisdom on the right, lending ammunition to Republicans who blocked climate action for decades. But over the years, Taylor grew uncertain about his own conclusions. The more he looked at the evidence, the harder he found it to deny that the scientists sounding the alarm about climate were correct. He naively assumed his objective-minded allies in the libertarian movement would, like him, want to follow the data where it led. Instead, he found his views distinctly unwelcome among his colleagues.

Taylor left Cato, proclaimed himself a climate hawk, and founded his own think tank. He named it after William Niskanen, a former Reagan economic adviser and Cato co-founder whose 2011 death led to a power struggle in which the Koch brothers sued to seize control of the institute. To inhabitants of the insular world of professional libertarians, the name was an obvious middle finger to Taylor's former home. (To everyone else, "Niskanen" meant nothing; the name remains a puzzling albatross for the organization.) In his new incarnation as a climate denier who'd seen the light, Taylor was instantly embraced by the environmental movement. The center was soon flush with money from liberal foundations.

Taylor oriented the nascent organization around his broadening doubts about libertarian ideology, which he increasingly saw as overly rigid and fixated on the wrong things. He made common cause with an emerging cohort of thinkers who questioned libertarianism's traditional home on the right side of the political spectrum. Libertarian values could just as easily lead to an embrace of left-wing causes like same-sex marriage and drug decriminalization, but organizations like Cato tended to ignore those issues in favor of a relentless focus on shrinking government. "Liberaltarians," led by Taylor's former Cato colleague Brink Lindsey, argued that the Bush Administration had betrayed libertarians with its foreign adventurism and big-government excess, and called for a "new fusionism" of libertarians and the political left.

When I met him in 2015, shortly after Niskanen's founding, Taylor was fixated on the idea that libertarianism's anti-statism was counterproductive to its supposed project of maximizing individual liberty. The Nordic countries, he pointed out, combine a robust welfare state with a strongly capitalist ethos. (Hammond would later articulate this agenda as "the free-market welfare state.") At the time, I found Taylor interesting but not particularly relevant: Niskanen seemed to be serving a niche within a niche.

Then Trump was elected, and suddenly Taylor had a lot of company among right-wing apostates. Scores of D.C. conservatives in good standing--Hill staffers and lobbyists, opinion journalists and advocates, lawyers and party veterans--found themselves politically homeless, appalled by the new President's actions. Taylor invited them to Niskanen, where he began hosting a secret, off-the-record weekly gathering called the Meeting of the Concerned.

"It was sort of comically sad," Bill Kristol, the former Republican commentator and operative, recalls of the meeting's early days. "As each Republican politician, organization and institution capitulated to Trump, it was like, 'There goes another one.'" It was at one of these meetings that Kristol met a young lobbyist named Sarah Longwell. The two would go on to found Defending Democracy Together and the Bulwark, cornerstones of a now-robust center-right anti-Trump infrastructure.

Conservative solutions to liberal problems.
Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Have we reached electricity's carbon-free tipping point? (JOHN QUIGGIN 9 MARCH 2023, Inside Story)

Total electricity demand is currently a bit over 25000 terawatt hours a year, growing at an annual rate of around 3 per cent. So, to meet the growing demand, we need to generate an additional 750 terawatt hours from solar and wind. (Other carbon-free sources, such as hydro and nuclear, have been essentially static.)

Assuming solar PV generates at full power for 2000 hours per year, each gigawatt of solar capacity generates an annual two terawatt hours of electricity. Meeting additional demand with solar alone therefore requires adding between 375 gigawatts of solar PV per year, with any shortfall made up by wind.

The good news is that is already happening.