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Archive of Articles in the "Privacy" Category

From The Archives -- Demand Full Media Disclosure: What's Your Tax Bracket?

[ Posted Tuesday, April 17th, 2018 – 20:42 PDT ]

Apologies for the lack of an original column today, and also happy Tax Day to everyone. Yes, those two are connected.

Snark aside, I thought the following article would be worth running again, what with the current debate over Sean Hannity and his lack of full disclosure on the Michael Cohen story. Since it's also tax day, I remembered the one time I devoted an entire article to the concept of journalistic full disclosure. It's from quite a few years ago, and (sadly) nothing has changed. Enjoy, and rest assured, new columns will resume tomorrow.

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Friday Talking Points [480] -- Unnecessary Immature Potshots

[ Posted Friday, April 13th, 2018 – 18:09 PDT ]

James Comey's long-awaited tell-all book is out (to reviewers) and Republicans from the Oval Office on down are already freaking out. So far, the winner of the "most hilariously ironic attempt at spin" award is unquestionably Kellyanne Conway. Conway, of course, absolutely personifies one of the lyrics from Trump's favorite Rolling Stones song ("You Can't Always Get What You Want"), as she easily could have been the inspiration for the line: "She was practiced at the art of deception." In an article about the White House's reaction to the book, Conway was quoted dismissing the book as "a revisionist view of history" and (even more hilariously) accused Comey of taking "unnecessary immature potshots." The ironic part? The very same article begins with: "President Trump lashed out Friday at former F.B.I. director James B. Comey on Twitter, calling him a 'weak and untruthful slime ball' who deserved to be fired 'for the terrible job he did.' " So Comey's book was full of "unnecessary immature potshots," but calling a former F.B.I. director a "weak and untruthful slime ball" is downright presidential. Got it, Kellyanne. Oh, and there's a bridge in New York City we'd like to sell you, too.

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Welcome On Board, John Boehner!

[ Posted Thursday, April 12th, 2018 – 17:23 PDT ]

With just over a week to go before the annual "4/20" celebration of marijuana, former speaker of the House John Boehner just jumped on the legalization bandwagon. This is a rather extraordinary and stunning turn of events, since Boehner was pretty adamant about his opposition to any form of legalization while he was still in office (when he could have actually done some good), but he now says he has evolved on the issue. I, for one, am glad to take him at his word and welcome him on board the pro-legalization bandwagon. The more the merrier, as far as I'm concerned.

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Getting Closer To Trump By The Day

[ Posted Tuesday, April 10th, 2018 – 16:23 PDT ]

Federal agents just searched the homes and offices of the personal lawyer of the president of the United States. That is an extraordinary thing to say, but then we live in extraordinary times. The search warrant would not have been granted unless probable cause existed that Michael Cohen had participated in a crime. Furthermore, that subpoenas would not be effective in securing proof of this crime or crimes, therefore a no-knock warrant was necessary (in other words, to prevent Cohen from destroying evidence). But make no mistake about it, the real target of this search was Donald Trump himself. Because the federal investigations (plural) are getting closer and closer to Trump by the day.

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You Are Not Facebook's Customer, You Are Their Product

[ Posted Monday, April 9th, 2018 – 16:19 PDT ]

There's an important distinction to make before Mark Zuckerberg sits down in front of Congress to answer questions about what Facebook is, what they do, and what they've been up to recently (that they really shouldn't have been). As more and more political scandals swirl around Facebook, and as Zuckerberg prepares to answer for his company's actions, both the congressmen who will be questioning him and the public at large need to understand something that has long been somewhat of a rule of thumb in Silicon Valley. Because anyone who uses an online service that is free should stop to consider this fact. You sign up for Facebook (or whatever other service or webpage) and you are not asked for any money. What this means is that you are not their customer, in the traditional sense, instead you are merely their product. You and your data are a commodity which the company monetizes and sells to whomever is willing to pony up some money to see it.

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Friday Talking Points [478] -- Seeking Lead Lawyer For Difficult Client

[ Posted Friday, March 30th, 2018 – 17:22 PDT ]

By Trumpian standards, this has been a relatively quiet week. After all, the president only fired a single cabinet secretary, and zero high-ranking aides! Plus, Trump hasn't attacked Stormy Daniels on Twitter even once, after her bombshell interview on 60 Minutes last Sunday. For Trump, this shows some newfound restraint.

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Schrödinger's Sex Scandal

[ Posted Thursday, March 29th, 2018 – 17:13 PDT ]

Today, we're going to take a trip down the rabbit hole with Schrödinger's (Cheshire?) cat. If that sounds like a mixed-up metaphor, that's because it is. Our fantastical journey starts off as a Charles Dodgson-style syllogism, but since it contains such circular logic it winds up being an Erwin Schrödinger-style thought experiment. Did they or didn't they? Well, until the wave function collapses into a single eigenstate, President Donald Trump's lawyer's lawyer would have us all believe that they both did and didn't, at the same time. The cat is both alive and dead, in other words. While this may be the most obscure and confusing lead paragraph I have ever personally written, such obscurity seems to be almost required these days, to talk about the growing sex scandal (or non-sex scandal) surrounding Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels.

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Census Bureau Doesn't Always Live Up To Its Ideals

[ Posted Wednesday, March 28th, 2018 – 17:20 PDT ]

The Trump administration just announced that it will be adding a citizenship question to the main U.S. Census form that all United States residents will be getting in 2020. Already, several states have sued to block this move, since it could obviously lead to undercounting the actual population. The Justice Department is attempting to claim that the data is necessary to uphold voting rights, but it strains credulity to picture Jeff Sessions being suddenly concerned about upholding federal voting laws, given his history on civil rights. The Census Bureau is trying to put itself on the side of the angels as well, insisting that individual data would never be turned over to law enforcement agencies so that undocumented immigrants could be rounded up. But their hands aren't exactly historically clean either, which is why it's tough to make the case that anyone refusing to answer the citizenship question on their Census form is somehow being overly paranoid.

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Two State Court Cases With National Political Impact

[ Posted Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 – 17:06 PDT ]

Two completely unrelated court actions are in the news today. There is no real common thread between the two, other than that they both involve state court actions and that both have rather large political overtones. So just to warn you up front, there won't be any sweeping conclusion at the end that ties the two cases together in any way (fair warning).

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Trump Owes Pat Toomey An Apology

[ Posted Monday, March 12th, 2018 – 17:05 PDT ]

President Donald Trump really owes Republican Senator Pat Toomey an apology. Trump also owes the same apology to all the other Republicans he recently taunted by telling them directly that they were "afraid of" the National Rifle Association. This apology is owed because Trump just showed his own cravenness when it comes to crossing the N.R.A. -- on precisely the same issue that Trump castigated Toomey about.

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