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Monday Witness

Guest Post: This is France's Moment (Nora Updegrove)

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FranceSeveral months ago, I called on France to learn from America’s mistakes. I told the French that it wasn’t too late to save themselves. They still had a chance to do what we could not – to vote a xenophobic, nationalist candidate out of the race and away from the presidency (though, in their case, Donald Trump is replaced by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right party, le Front national). I warned them of the complacency felt by so many Americans in the days before November 8, of the voice in their heads that said it was okay to stay home on election day. The voice that said your vote doesn’t matter, or that it’s okay to cast a vote to show that you’re fed up with the status quo, a vote for a candidate you never expect to win. The voice that yawns and says, ‘Well, it can’t happen here.’

Monday Witness: It's Time to Recognize a Civil Right Not to be Connected

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ToasterAlong with death and taxes, two things appear inevitable. The first is that wireless connectivity will not only be built into everything we can imagine, but into everything we can't as well. The second is that those devices will have wholly inadequate security, if they have any security at all. Even with strong defenses, there is the likelihood that governmental agencies will gain covert access to IoT devices anyway.

Monday Witness: Bravo for the Enemies of the People

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Stage 140Donald Trump’s escalating attacks on the press should alarm anyone who believes that a free press is essential to the maintenance of freedom and the avoidance of tyranny. That’s what the authors of the Constitution believed, a document Trump pledged on inauguration day to “preserve, protect, and defend.”

Trump’s accusations of falsehood in journalism are particularly dangerous because they invite those sympathetic to the president’s cause to accept his manufactured version of reality and reject accurately reported events and statements. This is a tactic from a very old playbook, and we don’t need to look very far back in history to see where that strategy can lead.

Monday Witness: It's Not All About Us

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TrumpThe drama of President Trump’s ban on immigration played out on multiple levels this past week; legal, as multiple courts weighed in, culminating in one granting an injunction that put the ban temporarily on hold; politically, as protesters clogged city streets at home and abroad; and factually, as the slap-dash way in which the order was implemented became increasingly clear. And then, of course, there were the absurdist moments, as when Trump tweeted about the “so called judge” who stayed the ban, perhaps unaware that the judge’s initial order was only a first step – the same jurist this week will listen to the administration’s lawyers attempt to justify the ban before he rules whether to make the stay permanent.

Monday Witness: The Day Lady Liberty Hid her Face in Shame

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Liberty from BehindLast Friday, America gave notice that it will reject many of the refugees most in need of its protection. At the same time, it turned its back on its founding principles and denied the reality of its own history.

When the Trump administration, by Executive Order, shut the door on travel from seven predominantly Islamic countries – some of them our allies – it also put political expediency before actual danger. At most, it fulfilled a campaign promise that was spurious on its face, because refugee vetting procedures already in place are more than adequate to address security concerns.

Reintroducing "The Monday Witness"

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Swearing InWith the change in administrations, I’ve decided it’s time to revive a series of essays I began posting in 2007. I’ve duplicated the text of that first blog entry below. Sadly, the concerns and moral imperatives I described then are as relevant and urgent now as they were ten years ago.

My goal in these essays will be to lean neither to the right nor the left, but rather to present and analyze issues in a neutral and proactive fashion. If that's an approach that appeals to you, I hope you'll join in the dialogue using comments field below, or by sharing these posts with your friends.

In Startling Reversal, Trump Claims Credit for Groping Women

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TrumpTo the dismay of the Republican leadership but the delight of his core supporters, Donald J. Trump today announced that he had, in fact, sexually assaulted each of the women who has come forward in the last several days. "And not just them, folks," the Republican nominee for president said, "lots more – a huge number more. We’re talking hundreds – maybe thousands. There’s no way I can keep track."

What is Open Source Pharma (and why should you care)?

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I’m writing this over the north Atlantic as I return from most of a week of very compelling meetings at a castle in Germany. Nominally, the subject of the discussion was something generally referred to as “open source pharma” (OSP). But more particularly, the meeting was about working towards saving the millions of lives a year that are lost either to so called “neglected diseases,” or because those stricken cannot possibly afford the price of the drugs that could provide a cure. Even though the actual cost of manufacturing the drugs they so desperately need may be only pennies a pill. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Election Day: What would Darwin Think?

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Last Monday I reposted an entry with a Darwinian theme from the beginnining of the last U.S. presidential campaign. Here's one from the end.

Praises be, it's over — over and done with — finis — no longer plaguing us and finished. I refer, of course, to that quadrennial paroxysm of democratic hysteria we prosaically call a "Presidential Election." Thank God.

Along the way, we heard enough lies, damn lies and Super PAC ads to last us for the rest of our lives, and then some. And early in the process, it seemed like we were living in the middle of the next installment of Men in Black, except that none of the primary candidates went back to their home planets after they were defeated.

At the heart of all this nonsense, though, there is a central reality that never ceases to amaze me: how is it that so many Americans can disagree so fundamentally with each other about so much, each convinced that he or she is possessed of the equivalent of divinely revealed truth while those on The Other Side are possessed by the Devil, or worse?

Standards of Political Civility and Darwin's Finches

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I wrote this piece five years ago. Sadly, it's still timely today. Only the names have been changed to update the idiots

Courtesy Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.Heaven help us all (all us Americans, anyway) — it's election time again. That means we're once more descending into a morass of partisan invective, not to mention lies, damn lies, and (of course) statistics. Except that this campaign year it seems that everyone is behaving even worse than last time, when everyone acted even worse than the time before, when, well, do you sense a trend here?

One hallmark of this year's political "discourse" (to abuse a term) has been the number of astonishingly angry and ill-informed accusations made by some candidates against their opponents (and others). Nothing unusual about that, sad to say. But what is different is the degree of acceptance, and even approval, exhibited by many voters that in earlier years might have rejected these candidates as well as their statements.

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