American Elites On The 1st & 4th Amendments

The 1st Amendment

In Donald Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say, the NYT has arrayed a number of experts critical of Donald Trump’s “contempt” for the 1st Amendment:

“They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Mr. Trump said. “O.K.? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case?”

David Post, a retired law professor who now writes for the Volokh Conspiracy, a conservative-leaning law blog, said those comments had crossed a line.
“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary,” Mr. Post said. “You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”
Other legal scholars said they were worried about Mr. Trump’s commitment to the First Amendment. He has taken particular aim at The Washington Post and its owner, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
“There are very few serious constitutional thinkers who believe public figures should be able to use libel as indiscriminately as Trump seems to think they should,” Professor Somin said. “He poses a serious threat to the press and the First Amendment.”
In When Google Met Wikileaks (Amazon link, also available on the web as PDF via Google search, ironically), a transcript and commentary by Julian Assange about his time with Eric Schmidt of Google, Assange says:

Whistleblowing publishers, they [Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen] tell us, need “supervision” in order to serve a positive role in society. As for who should conduct this supervision, they suggest “a central body facilitating the release of information.” No more detail is offered, and none of the obvious dangers of this totalitarian vision are discussed.


In December 2010, in the wake of Cablegate, various US politicians called for the extrajudicial assassination of Julian Assange, including by drone strike. US senators labeled WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization” and named Assange a “high-tech terrorist” and an “enemy combatant” engaged in “cyber warfare.”


A 120-strong US Pentagon team was set up ahead of the release of the Iraq War Logs and Cablegate, dedicated to “taking action” against WikiLeaks. Similar publicly declared task forces in the FBI, the CIA, and the US State Department were also assembled. The US government began to apply pressure to allied countries to detain Julian Assange, and to prevent WikiLeaks from transiting or operating within their territories.


In early 2014 documents from the National Security Agency obtained by Glenn Greenwald from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were published, revealing that the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had conducted bulk surveillance against every regular visitor to the WikiLeaks website, collecting their IP addresses and search queries in real time. The documents show how GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) is authorized to perform “Active Covert Internet Operations,” “Covert Technical Operations,” and “Effects Operations” against online “adversaries,” including infiltrating chat rooms; “false flag” attacks; computer network attacks; DDoS attacks; disruption; jamming phones, computers, and email accounts; and offensive operations intended to “destroy” and “disrupt” adversaries.329 The same documents showed high-level internal discussions between the office of the NSA’s general counsel and other officials about the possibility of designating WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign actor” for the purposes of targeting it.

I have no doubt that Donald Trump is no 1st Amendment scholar or defender. It also seems true that the 1st Amendment has been on shaky ground for some time and will continue to be even if Donald Trump is not president.

The 4th Amendment

In this video interview of billionaire Larry Ellison, “Larry Ellison Talks Steve Jobs and Evil Google“, Ellison shares his frustration about Larry Page and Google using Oracle tools without license:

I don’t see how you can just copy someone else’s stuff, that really bothers me.

He then goes on to share his opinion about the NSA and whether it poses a threat to American liberties:

The great thing is we live in a democracy, if we don’t like what the NSA is doing we can just get rid of the government and put in a different government. We’ve been collecting this information for so long, long before NSA was collecting it, let me tell you who was collecting it– American Express, Bank of A-, Visa, all of your credit card data, all of your financial records, this whole issue of privacy is utterly fascinating to me. Who’s ever heard of this information being misused by the government? In what way? [Whatever the NSA is doing] is great, it’s essential. By the way, President Obama thinks it’s essential. It’s essential if we want to minimize the kinds of strikes we just had in Boston.

If the government used it to do political targeting, if the Democrats used it to go after Republicans, if the Republicans used it to go after Democrats. In other words, if we stopped looking for terrorists, and we started looking for people on the other side of the aisle.

In Stefan Molyneux’s “The Truth About Edward Snowden” video, we learn the following about the NSA and political spying:

  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) was created in response to the revelation that President Richard Nixon had employed federal resources to investigate his political opponents
  • Since the 1970s, the NSA has operated a worldwide intelligence gathering cooperative dubbed ECHELON through which partner intelligence agencies around the globe agree to spy on other countries’ citizens by request (ie, US requests UK to spy on US citizen as a “foreign citizen” of the UK government) to avoid domestic surveillance abuse charges
  • ECHELON was engaged in commercial spying in Europe; in one instance a German technology manufacturer had an invention stolen and marketed against it by an American firm
  • Since 1999, Microsoft has inserted special “keys” inside all Windows software at the NSA’s request, granting “back door” access to the US government

So senior politicians (aka the president) have in the past abused government surveillance resources for political gain. And the US intelligence apparatus has been used to violate license agreements (“copy people’s stuff”) and abjure property rights in business technologies. One would think, then, that Larry Ellison would be more skeptical of the NSA.

According to this interview, Larry Ellison has the same opinion of the NSA that a random, patriotic and credulous man-on-the-street might have. I find that pretty hard to believe given that Larry Ellison is a billionaire who owns 98% of Lanai all to himself. Here are some possible explanations that seek to reconcile Larry Ellison’s stated beliefs with his personal success and implicit intelligence:

  1. He is lying; Larry Ellison’s company, Oracle, is a major supplier to the NSA and he doesn’t want to put any sweetheart deals at risk.
  2. He is lying; Larry Ellison has made a sweetheart deal with the government and other power elites that he looks the other way/cheerleads NSA spying and in return he gets “protection”.
  3. He is scared; Larry Ellison knows the high stakes of being a billionaire and knows what can happen to a talkative, uppity guy at the top of the totem pole, so he plays dumb and loyal to save his own skin.
  4. He is lying and a hypocrite; Larry Ellison is using the NSA’s access to competitive intelligence for unfair advantage and license agreement violations of his own and is putting up a smoke screen by playing the annoyed priest in regards to the sins of others which are also his own.

Interestingly, Donald Trump, no fan of at least one amendment of the Bill of Rights (according to some of the legal scholars quoted above), believes that the Chinese government engages in corporate espionage:

If corporate espionage is bad, why isn’t Donald Trump talking about the NSA and corporate America’s record on business espionage?


Incoming Library Additions, And Why I Bought Them

I recently purchased 13 books for my library. However, I already regret doing so because I recently finished Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and it helped me to realize I already had a lot of unread books on my shelf that I will realistically never get to read because I’ve lost interest in their subject matter since I purchased them. To add 13 more books to a pile of unread books is wasteful of money and subtly increases my stress as I subconsciously keep track of “my giant stack of unread books.” Instead of reading being a pleasure that I can do when I feel like it, with a book I am currently interested in, I have created the conditions of a never-ending treadmill of progress project. Going forward, I am going to work through as many of these books as I can maintain interest in until one of two things happen: a.) complete the entire stack, at which point I can purchase a new title I am interested in reading, at the time I am interested in reading it or b.) sell/donate/discard all books I have not managed to read before I am overtaken by the impulse to purchase something else, which would serve as a good indicator that I’ve reached the limit of my interest from this current stack.

I have noticed that despite having access to an Amazon Prime account, I almost NEVER use the Prime, 2-day shipping feature. I am always happy to wait 3, 5 or sometimes even more days for books to arrive because I am usually in the middle of several books when I order another, and I have another reserve of several titles unread as well so I never worry about lost reading time. That should’ve been a good indication to me that there was something seriously wasteful in my habit!

That is my plan going forward. In the meantime, I thought it’d be good to record the titles I purchased along with the reason I purchased them. I want to formulate my interest as a question or questions I hope the book will help me answer. After all, this is why we read books– to answer questions we have about the book’s subject matter. I would like to develop the habit going forward of being more aware of my own questions and perceived purpose in reading books, especially to compare against on the occasion that a book positively surprises me and gets me thinking about a question I didn’t have before I arrived at it.

Here are my new books due to arrive soon:

  1. The School Revolution, by Ron Paul; we plan to homeschool our children, but could there ever be a (private) group schooling solution which would meet our family and social needs? I am interested in building alternative educational institutions that can “compete” the state and quasi-state institutions out of existence, is there merit to this idea and has Ron Paul thought through potential models for this that I could consider in my own efforts?
  2. How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell; I read and enjoyed Studwell’s Asian Godfathers and I want to know more about the managed economy models of southeast Asia, what is the true extent of “free market” influence in these major economies and how does it factor in to their growth stories since the 1960s?
  3. Elevating Child Care, by Janet Lansbury; I am interested in “Respect For Infant Education” as I have seen how transformative it is for parent-child relationships and child development after observing friends who use it in their families, what are the principles of RIE and what solutions and strategies does it offer for common parenting situations with infants?
  4. Before The Dawn by Nicholas Wade; what role did genetics and evolution play in early human history and what kind of evolution or genetic change is occurring in modern times and populations? What is the significance of race, genetically?
  5. The 10,000 Year Explosion, by Cochran and Harpending; how have changes in human technological know-how and social organization influenced human genetics at an individual or population level? What feedback loops exist such that genetic changes might result in further changes in technology and social organization?
  6. The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley; I am often mistaken for a pessimist and surely there is a lot to worry about for anyone who is rational and pays attention, but what is there to be optimistic about and why? What is the philosophical relationship between economic development and evolution?
  7. The Secret of Childhood, by Maria Montessori; what is childhood “really about”? What kinds of things are children capable of that we take for granted? How could I parent my future child with greater empathy for their capabilities and individual purpose?
  8. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, by Gordon Wood; was the American Revolution truly a “revolution”, politically and intellectually? What were the principles of government the “Founders” were truly after and why did they think this was an improvement over historical despotisms and English parliamentarism? If republicanism represents a true break with the political past, why isn’t it more common in history?
  9. Hive Mind, by Garrett Jones; is it more important to be part of a high IQ community, or to have a high IQ yourself? Can culture impact IQ (and raise it)? Could one consciously build a community or culture of high IQ people? What kind of outcomes or behaviors might be predictable in such a circumstance? Are IQs increasing or decreasing in the modern era and what is the consequence? Should I try to emigrate to a high IQ place and if so, where is that?
  10. The WikiLeaks Files, by WikiLeaks/Julian Assange; what are some of the high-level takeaways from the major WikiLeaks cable collections to date? How does one effectively search and scrutinize these cables for ones own research purposes? What does the information contained within these cables imply for the actual practice of global governance and foreign policy?
  11. Anarchy, State and Utopia, by Robert Nozick; is there a logically-consistent philosophical case for a minimalist government? Why is it intellectually superior to a private property society?
  12. Invisible Wealth, by Kling and Schulz; why do political borders and different legal systems seem to have such disparate impacts on economic development? Which follows which, the culture/political system or the economy? How sound is the idea of “competition amongst governments” and why don’t we see more countries’ policies moving toward a “developed” mean?
  13. The Logic of Collective Action, by Mancur Olson; what does the logic of collective action say about corporate governance structures in private companies? What warnings or limitations does it reveal for the conduct of public governance?
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