Category Archives: Op-Eds

The Cure for Weinstein is a Cultural Change

Woman Being Stalked (stock photo from Pond5)

How many women did Harvey Weinstein victimize?  When did he  start down the continuum leading from Hollywood’s shamefully tolerated “casting couch”  overtures to  increasingly flagrant sexual harassment, and finally (if we believe his accusers, as I think we should) open sexual assault? We’ll probably never know.

But one thing we do know: There was a first time, a Victim Zero. While neither that victim nor the others should be blamed for what happened to them, it’s worth asking why there followed a Victim One, and a Victim Two, and so forth, spanning decades, before Weinstein was finally brought low for his depredations. And why so many others remain in the shadows, sexually victimizing women and men, adults and children, with impunity.

We need a culture change. The current culture of planting seeds of fear — the “stranger danger” mentality and such — before victimization and offering sympathy after clearly isn’t getting the job done. Instead of #MeToo after the fact pageantry, this problem calls for the inculcation of a strong, affirmative #NotMe attitude — an unwillingness to be Victim Zero, or to remain silent as other victims inevitably follow.

What must be rooted out is the sickness in our culture that lets sexual predators leverage fear into opportunity to commit their crimes and shame into an ability hide those crimes.

It has to start with parents and  extend to friends, mentors and  communities. Our children need to be brought up to understand that there’s nothing they can’t bring to the rest of us, and that we will back them completely should they encounter someone who attempts to victimize them.

We have to shift the fear away from would-be victims and strike it into the hearts of would-be victimizers. We have to make it preemptively clear that we will always ostracize those who harass and punish those who assault, not those who are harassed or assaulted.

We must send our young people out into the world understanding that when they walk away from — or, if necessary, run away from or defend themselves against — a Harvey Weinstein, it will be Weinstein, not them, who pays the price. And while systems of criminal  justice must and should presume innocence and work diligently to establish the truth, victims must know, to their very core, that they enjoy a starting presumption of belief from the rest of us.

The goal is simple, but this is a war. As Carl von Clausewitz pointed out, “everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.” It’s not going to be easy. But I believe we can prevail, for ourselves and for our loved ones. Let’s make a better world, a world in which our Harvey Weinsteins become outcasts, not billionaires.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Hillary Clinton: Cold Creepiness with a Side of Corruption

Photo from MaxPixel, Creative Commons CC0.

 

On October 16, failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took her public pity party (and not so subtle hopes of somehow magically overturning the 2016 election) abroad, calling out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as “a tool of Russian intelligence …. a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator” in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s show “Four Corners.”

Clinton’s evidenceless accusations don’t seem to  carry much weight with Assange himself. He doesn’t find her “a credible person.” “It is not just her constant lying,” he says. “It is not just that she throws off menacing glares and seethes thwarted entitlement. Something much darker rides along with it. A cold creepiness rarely seen.”

Was Clinton’s latest lunge at Assange and WikiLeaks a preemptive strike? An attempt, perhaps, to get ahead of extreme ugliness in the coming news cycle?

On the same day, the US  Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that its former director, James Comey, had begun drafting his concluding statement on the “Servergate” investigation into Clinton’s mishandling of classified information — a statement technically exonerating Clinton, although between the lines the final draft clearly admitted that she didn’t face indictment because, well, she’s Hillary Clinton — months before even interviewing Clinton and other key witnesses.

Then, a day after Clinton’s diatribe, news broke that the FBI knew as early as 2009 about Russian attempts to gain control of 20% of the US uranium supply and new uranium sales opportunities in the US through corrupt means, but covered that information up for several years.

In fact, the cover-up remains at least partially in force. The Hill reports that in the run-up to last year’s election, the US Department of Justice (then under control of Hillary Clinton’s co-partisans in the Obama administration) threatened the FBI’s confidential informant in the case with criminal prosecution for violating a non-disclosure agreement if he sued to recover the money he’d spent helping the FBI make its case.  The informant’s lawyer is now seeking DoJ permission to talk to Congress about the case.

During the period in question, Russian sources paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to Hillary Clinton’s husband (former president Bill Clinton) and donated millions more to the family’s Clinton Foundation. And Clinton, at the time serving as US Secretary of State, dutifully bulldozed a  path through the American bureaucracy for Vladimir Putin. That sequence of events looks like what most people would call “bribery” and “influence peddling.”

What was that about nihilistic opportunists who do the bidding of dictators again?

If there was in fact collusion between the Russian government and a 2016 presidential campaign, it’s reasonable to ask: Were the Russians working with Trump’s campaign to defeat Clinton, or were the Russians paying back Clinton’s campaign for her faithful service to them by helping her gin up her claims of a Trump/Putin conspiracy? Or both? Or something else?

The effort to “Get Trump” may eventually bear fruit, but it’s starting to look like the effort to “Get Clinton” may do so first.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Microsoft Corp. v. United States: Jeff Sessions Wants Open Borders, But Only for Police

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On October 16, Morgan Chalfant of The Hill reports,  the US Supreme Court agreed to  hear the Justice Department’s appeal  in Microsoft Corp. v. United States.  The question before the court: Are search warrants issued by American courts valid abroad?

In 2013, Microsoft refused to turn information from a customer’s email account over to law enforcement pursuant to a warrant in a narcotics investigation. The information, Microsoft noted, was stored on a server in Ireland. Ireland, as you may have learned in elementary school, is neither one of the fifty states nor a US territory.  It’s a sovereign state with its own laws. US search warrants carry no weight there.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with Microsoft, and the full court denied the government’s request for a rehearing. Apparently they learned geography as youngsters, too.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, maybe not so much. But he does seem to have a perpetual burr under his fur about “national sovereignty.” Sessions is on record criticizing both “illegal immigration” (under the US Constitution there’s no such thing) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement as attacks on US sovereignty. So why is the Justice Department he leads seeking a declaration from the US Supreme Court  that US search warrants override the sovereignty of Ireland? American exceptionalism much?

Hopefully the court will uphold the Second Circuit’s decision and make it clear to Sessions that the whole border/sovereignty thing goes in both directions.

But the tech sector and individuals who value their privacy shouldn’t just sit still and hope for the best. What we need is a the continued erosion of “national” borders and the perfection of individual borders that are, as a practical workaday matter, mostly impenetrable to people like Jeff Sessions. While the former may take some time yet, the latter are already partially available and the unavailable part represents opportunity for reasonably entrepreneurial “sovereign states.”

The available part, as you might guess, consists of strong encryption. The sooner Microsoft and other email and data storage providers implement well-crafted end-to-end encryption for their users — encryption the providers do not hold the keys to — the sooner the data in question will become useless to the Jeff Sessionses of the world. “Oh, you have a warrant? OK, fine, here’s what you asked for. Good luck reading it.”

The unavailable part consists of (hopefully more than one) “data haven” states: Countries whose governments are willing to write strong data privacy and freedom protections into their laws, believably commit to sticking with those protections, then stand back and watch as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, et al. build huge data centers and perhaps even decide to re-domicile themselves (presumably paying lots and lots of taxes in both cases).

Sometimes the Supreme Court gets things right, but it’s definitely an imperfect and untrustworthy vessel to entrust with the protection of our privacy and our rights. Better to take those rights into our own hands with encryption, and decentralize their protection across friendly sovereignties.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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