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322 posts
  • Opinion
Google's search engine has captured more than 90% of the global market, according to StatCounter.com.
Google's search engine has captured more than 90% of the global market, according to StatCounter.com. (Google)

Republicans who fear that Silicon Valley’s tech titans are actively suppressing conservative voices and ideas have focused their suspicions lately on Google, the internet’s dominant search engine. The Wall Street Journal gave them more ammunition on Friday, reporting that leaked emails from inside Google showed employees discussing ways to “tweak the company’s search-related functions to show users how to contribute to pro-immigration organizations and contact lawmakers and government agencies” in the days after President Trump announced his travel ban.

This story comes about a week after Breitbart News published a leaked internal video showing upset Google executives and employees commiserating about Trump’s surprise victory in November 2016. According to Breitbart, the video “reveals an atmosphere of panic and dismay amongst the tech giant’s leadership, coupled with a determination to thwart both the Trump agenda and the broader populist movement emerging around the globe.”

Google insists that its search results remain unaffected by the opinions of the people who work on the technology, however strong or uniform they may be. In a statement to the Journal, the company declared, “Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology — not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies.”

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  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
  • Rule of Law
 Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Sept. 5.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Sept. 5. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

With friends like this, Judge Brett Kavanaugh needs no enemies.

My colleague Mike McGough just outlined the idiocy of President Trump’s tweets in support of Kavanaugh on Friday. Meanwhile, a key member of the judge’s nomination-support team, Ed Whelan of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy think tank, offered a profuse but partial apology Friday for a series of tweets that accused one of Kavanaugh’s high school classmates by name of committing the alleged sexual assault that Christine Blasey Ford has claimed that Kavanaugh committed against her 36 years ago.

Note here what Whelan isn’t apologizing for: airing an elaborate and wholly speculative explanation pointing the blame for the alleged assault away from Kavanaugh. Whelan’s string of tweets, which have since been deleted, offered floor plans of a house that he said matched the description Ford offered of the site of the assault. He also noted the resemblance between Kavanaugh and the classmate who lived at the house — and included pictures of them to underline this point.

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The government has arrested 41 would-be guardians of migrant children in places like Florida's Homestead Temporary Shelter.
The government has arrested 41 would-be guardians of migrant children in places like Florida's Homestead Temporary Shelter. (Susan Stocker / Sun Sentinel)

The federal government has a problem. Each month several thousand unaccompanied minors show up at the southern border and turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents hoping to make the case that they deserve sanctuary. The government usually turns those children over to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours (or at least it’s supposed to), which then tries to find family members or other guardians to take them in while the deportation cases proceed. Often the children wind up in foster care.

As of Thursday, the government was holding 13,000 migrant children in detention centers, according to CNN. Yes, 13,000. It’s an indictment of the nation that it abides the incarceration of children who come to the door seeking help. And enriches private prison companies in the process.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
President Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 19.
President Trump speaks to the press on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 19. (Getty Images)

It was a mystery that left political reporters scratching their heads: Why was President Trump being so restrained in his comments about Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were high school students?

The president’s comments about the accusations were amazingly … presidential. As late as Thursday, he told a rally in Las Vegas: "Brett Kavanaugh — and I'm not saying anything about anybody else — but I want to tell you that Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting.” He later added: "So we will let it play out, and I think everything is going to be just fine."

That was then, this is now. On Friday morning Trump tweeted this:

  • Opinion
  • Plastic Trash
A plastic straw and pieces of a red balloon were found inside this dead shearwater bird.
A plastic straw and pieces of a red balloon were found inside this dead shearwater bird. (Denise Hardesty / via Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a law that does very little, yet may actually affect more Californians than any other piece of legislation this year.

It has to do with disposable plastic straws, untold millions of which are used by Californians every day.

The new law, AB 1884 by Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), requires that food service providers hand out a single-use plastic straw only when someone asks for one. It’s not a ban, although it will certainly be characterized as one by plastic makers and their allies.

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Activists hold up signs as the L.A. City Council votes Tuesday to ban the sale and manufacture of fur products within city limits.
Activists hold up signs as the L.A. City Council votes Tuesday to ban the sale and manufacture of fur products within city limits. (Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council members unanimously voted Tuesday to start the process of driving fur sellers out of the city, a move that delighted animal-rights activists while accomplishing, well, not much. 

The motion by Councilmen Bob Blumenfield, Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell declares, “The fur industry is one that has consistently been associated with inhumane practices,” both in terms of “deplorable” living conditions and the shocking methods used to kill them without marring their pelts. It adds, “By eliminating the sale of new fur products, Los Angeles has the opportunity to promote a community awareness of animal welfare and to continue to lead in the field of progressive animal welfare reform.”

The city attorney will now draft an ordinance prohibiting businesses in the city from manufacturing or selling new garments, accessories and other products made from fur. That ordinance will then go to the council for review and, if passed, on to Mayor Eric Garcetti for his signature.

President Trump said the declassified material would reveal 'Big Stuff.'
President Trump said the declassified material would reveal 'Big Stuff.' (Alex Wong / AFP-Getty Images)

In announcing that President Trump had ordered the declassification of several documents related to the investigation of possible ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made it sound like there was no politics involved. 

The disclosures were designed, Sanders said, “for reasons of transparency” and to accommodate requests from Congress.

But Trump himself said the quiet part out loud. On Tuesday he approvingly tweeted a quote from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y): “What will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the important information was kept from the court, there’s going to be a disproportionate influence of the (Fake) Dossier. Basically you have a counter terrorism tool used to spy on a presidential campaign, which is unprecedented in our history.”

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

In the days and weeks to come, the question of whether a drunken, teenage Brett Kavanaugh did or didn’t  sexually assault Christine Blasey Ford is one that many members of Congress and the media will do their best to parse.

For others in the political world and the punditocracy, however, “did he or didn’t he” doesn’t seem to be the operating question.

Instead, there is a different query floating around the internet, expressed most directly on MSNBC today by New York Times columnist Bari Weiss:

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  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
  • The Swamp
Adlai E. Stevenson is shown at the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, when he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Adlai E. Stevenson is shown at the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, when he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (Associated Press)

In September 1999, as the race to succeed President Clinton was heating up and rumors were swirling about Republican candidate George W. Bush’s past indulgences, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed that probably seemed quaint even in its day. The piece by a pair of law-school academics, Steven Lubet and  Steven A. Drizin, recounted how the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1952, Adlai E. Stevenson, defused a potentially explosive secret buried in his past by leveling with the reporter who dug it up.

The journalist, Time magazine’s William Glasgow, discovered that a 12-year-old Stevenson had shot and killed a friend at a Christmas party — an event that had gone unreported since it had happened 40 years previously. An inquest had determined that the shooting was accidental; nevertheless, Glasgow confronted Stevenson about it as he was preparing a cover story on the candidate for the magazine.

Here’s what happened, according to Lubet and Drizin: “There was never a doubt as to how the candidate would respond. His father and grandfather both had been elected to high office, and he would follow their examples of honesty and probity. ‘You know,’ he said to the reporter, ‘you are the first person who has ever asked me about that . . . and this is the first time I have ever spoken of it to anyone.’ Then he proceeded to explain all of the details in a quiet matter-of-fact way.”

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
A container ship sails by the business district in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Sept. 13.
A container ship sails by the business district in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Sept. 13. (Chinatopix via AP)

President Trump announced Monday that he’s slapping a 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, on top of similar tariffs imposed earlier this year on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. Once the new tariffs are in place, Trump’s levies will apply to almost half the value of the products we buy from China.

Too bad the president doesn’t seem to understand who will pay these tariffs.

At an event earlier Monday, Trump talked about the trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada, then said, “China is now paying us billions of dollars in tariffs, and hopefully we'll be able to work something out.” That’s exactly backward. The tariffs Trump imposed on Chinese goods are paid by the businesses and consumers in this country that buy them.