Archive

September 26th, 2016

If printing guns is legal, so is publishing plans

    Can the government block the online publication of files that let anyone make an assault rifle on a 3-D printer? In a defeat for free speech and a win for gun-control advocates, an appeals court has said yes. The court declined to suspend a State Department regulation that treats posting the files as a foreign export of munitions. Although the impulse to block the easy creation of untraceable weapons is admirable, the court got it wrong. The First Amendment can't tolerate a prohibition on publishing unclassified information -- even if the information is potentially harmful.

    Defense Distributed is a nonprofit group devoted to "promoting popular access to arms guaranteed by the United States Constitution." It wants to distribute free online the computer-aided design and text files that would enable anyone with access to a 3-D printer or a computerized mill to make the crucial component of an AR-15 rifle, the semi-automatic version of the military's M16.

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September 25th

A Trump presidency would be an ethical thicket

    As government ethics lawyers who have, respectively, counseled the most recent Republican president and the most recent Democratic one, we have watched Donald Trump's campaign with increasing concern. We have come to believe a Trump presidency would be ethically compromised for the following reasons:

    Opacity. Trump's refusal to disclose his tax returns shields critical information about his finances that is not found in the basic details he is required to provide on his candidate financial disclosure. For example, his disclosure form does not cover his tax deductions and exemptions and any loopholes he takes advantage of; each represents a policy issue on which he has a potential conflict. To take another example, how much tax is Trump paying or sheltering domestically vs. in foreign jurisdictions? That needs to be known to ascertain which nations Trump has financial ties to and where he may be susceptible to pressure. Absent this information, it is impossible to assess the potential conflicts a President Trump would face in making decisions.

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I could have been the little boy in the overdose photos

    A photo recently blazed across the Internet: an Ohio couple in a car, both passed out, having overdosed on opiates. The woman in the passenger's seat is pale and ashen. Her head is lolled over to one side, her mouth agape. She looks dead. It's a deeply disturbing image, even before you notice the child in a car seat behind her, looking right into the camera.

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Humans Have More In Common With Other Mammals Than We Admit

    Suzanne delivered her first calf in a sleet storm, with 40 mph winds. Fearful that the baby wouldn't survive overnight, I took a big risk, lifting the heifer into my arms, backing out a gate and kicking it shut.

    Many cows would have run me down. But I trusted Suzanne's sweet, obliging personality, and she trusted me. As if she'd read my mind, she ran around the barn and was waiting in a dry stall when I arrived with the calf we named Violet.

    Although calves are as playful as puppies, it's a rare cow with a sense of humor. Suzanne, however, would approach and lower her head for petting. Then she'd toss her head, fling your hand up, and shuffle her feet in a little happy dance. The winter she kept Bernie the bull company in their private two-acre pasture, she imitated his habit of eating apple slices out of our hands.

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How Clinton and Trump can win undecided voters

    Really? Are there undecided voters left?

    Yes, as hard as it may be for most of us to believe, after putting up with the ads and sound bites of the presidential race for more than a year, polls show almost 10 percent of voters still haven't made up their minds.

    That's typical. I used to make fun of such voters. I thought they were pathologically indecisive, like people in a supermarket checkout line who go into paralysis when asked to choose paper or plastic.

    But give them some respect. With national polls and some crucial battleground states tightening up into a virtual dead heat, the holdouts deserve new respect. There are more than enough of them to decide whether experienced Democrat Hillary Clinton or entertaining Republican Donald Trump will be our next president.

    To get more insight into their frame of mind, I spent Friday evening with a roomful of undecided voters on the other side of two-way mirror from me and about a dozen other journalists.

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Homegrown violence and the presidency

    The epidemic of violence in the nation's streets, including everything from anti-police protests to lone-wolf terrorism, offers voters in the presidential election a clear choice. Do they want the steady but unspectacular hand of Hillary Clinton or the tough take-no-prisoners style of Donald Trump?

    The contrast seems certain to be played out in next Monday's televised debate at Hofstra University. It will pit the coloring-between-the-lines Democrat against and the wild-swinging, disrespectful Republican with an anything-goes mentality.

    The Obama administration, represented in the upcoming election by its former member Clinton, holds that our national security requires steady police work and intelligence, as well as respect for the rights of all citizens and immigrants regardless of race or religion.

    Trump, on the other hand, eagerly and outspokenly champions extreme methods that impinge on American standards, even including torture. He has openly approved of waterboarding prisoners to extract information that could produce intelligence that saves the lives of Americans in combat or of those in peril in our own communities.

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George H.W. Bush's defection is a big deal

    George H.W. Bush is planning to vote for Hillary Clinton. That's not considered major news by most mainstream outlets. But it should be.

    The story, first picked up by Politico late Monday night from a Facebook post by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Maryland lieutenant governor, got almost no play, for example, from the New York Times. It created only a very small flurry of interest on Twitter, at least judging from my feed.

    The only previous exceptions after Franklin Roosevelt to the norm that former presidents support their party's nominee were presidents who were aged, one president -- Richard Nixon -- whose support wasn't wanted, and one instance in which Jimmy Carter failed to endorse Bill Clinton's re-election in 1996.

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France’s Waste-Not Experiment

    France has embarked on two experiments we should take note of. First, the nation just banned all non-biodegradable disposable plastic cups, plates, and utensils. Second, they passed a law requiring supermarkets to donate unspoiled food they don’t want to charities instead of throwing it away.

    I used to work in a supermarket, so I’ve seen what gets thrown away. In fact, I’ve thrown good food away myself. Perfectly good loaves of bread, bagels, muffins, brownies, and pastries — I put it all in the trash.

    Why? Because I was required to, and I didn’t want to lose my job.

    A few times, I broke the store’s rules. I diverted food from the trash and snuck it out to give it to homeless people.

    I heard various explanations from the staff for why we couldn’t donate the food. One coworker claimed the store didn’t want a huge line of homeless people out the front door if word got out that free food was available. But that doesn’t explain why we didn’t give the food to a shelter.

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Donald Trump's black history fail

    Since June 2015, when Donald J. Trump entered the presidential race, there has been a list of long unseen, unheard or imagined things that have, for the electorate, become real.

    But on Tuesday evening in North Carolina, Trump's prevailing sense that oh so much is wrong with America and that he alone can fix it -- all of it -- may have detached him from reality.

    Speaking to a crowd gathered at a Trump rally in Kenansville, N.C., Trump said this:

    "We're going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever."

    Ever. Got that? Well, those who have cleared the grand bar of eighth-grade history should not.

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Confirmed: Trump campaign is controlling every word of prominent CNN commentator

    An insightful statement has emerged from the Donald Trump campaign. It concerns Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who was apparently fired from his post in June and then quickly signed on as a political commentator for CNN. A couple of weeks later, CNN self-disclosed that their new hire was receiving severance payments from the campaign. Those payments - $20,000 per month to Lewandowski's Green Monster Consulting - continued in August, according to the latest round of campaign finance reports. In response to questions about the setup, the Trump campaign said:

    Corey Lewandowski, who is no longer involved in the campaign, continues to receive monthly severance payments. The campaign will continue to honor its contract with Mr. Lewandowski, which stipulates he will be paid through the end of the year. These payments are in no way compensation for services rendered.

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