Wuhan virus and one last ‘A-Unicornist’ note

As the Wuhan virus spreads, there are a handful of legitimate sources to which people should turn for information. The most notable among all of these is the CDC. Information that comes from there will be heavily vetted and as updated as possible. It also won’t come with the litany of biases that most other sources have. For example, I am referring to this as the “Wuhan virus” because I believe China holds a tremendous amount of blame for this outbreak and I want to do everything I can to ensure that this virus is closely connected to the communist regime. My motivations are simple: Communism is an evil and it should be exposed as such and we should trust numbers coming from China as much as we should have trusted the USSR in the days following the Chernobyl meltdown that nearly ended the world as we know it. In other words, I’m not a legitimate source of information for this virus. The best I can do is reflect what governments and scientists around the free world are saying: stay away from people, wash your hands, and don’t hoard. Beyond that, it would be irresponsible of me to act as a source of information, even if I do having training in biology and experience in commercial labs. Which brings me to ‘The A-Unicornist‘, the focus of my last couple of posts. This is from his personal Facebook page:

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This virus is far more serious than the flu, and anyone who was even vaguely paying attention knew this even back in January. Mortality rates don’t care about sheer numbers from previous years; to downplay this fact is the height of irresponsibility and a person who does such a thing implicitly highlights why those without a college education, much less any actual training in any science, should never be a source of information for anything of this nature.

Maeghan Maloney facing disciplinary hearing

From the Kennebec Journal:

The district attorney of Kennebec and Somerset counties is facing a disciplinary hearing later this month because of an allegation that she improperly discussed a case with a judge.

Maeghan Maloney is due to answer misconduct charges stemming from a conversation she had with a Superior Court justice that led to the overturning of a Sidney man’s conviction on numerous child sexual assault charges and the granting of a new trial of him. She is scheduled to go before the grievance commission of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar on May 20 for a hearing that could result in disciplinary action.

This is the same woman who is married to pretend-doctor Christopher Maloney. The two of them attempted to sue me for engaging in protected speech, and in the process, Maeghan Maloney threatened me with criminal statutes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that is actually a wild breach of basic ethics in any civil proceeding. It doesn’t surprise me to hear she hasn’t changed her ways whatsoever.

Update: She was admonished for her misconduct.

Martin Shkreli engaged in protected speech

Martin Shkreli, the CEO that so-called news organizations inappropriately refer to by the nickname “pharma bro”, recently had his bail revoked:

Shkreli, 34, was hauled off to the Brooklyn Metropolitan Correctional Center on Wednesday night after a judge revoked his bail over a Facebook posting that offered $5,000 to any follower who would grab a hair off Hillary Clinton’s head during her book tour.

The former pharmaceutical executive — who first came to national attention for hiking the price of a life-saving drug — insisted the posting was a joke. The judge, however, wasn’t laughing.

(To be clear, I don’t actually care that he has been nicknamed “pharma bro”. I just think it’s dumb that allegedly professional news organizations have taken to actually using that moniker.)

Here’s Shkreli’s Facebook post:

Shkreli

This is what is immediately clear about that post. 1) It has absurd premises. 2) His offer is absurd. 3) It was posted to his Facebook page, which is run for the sake of being absurd and/or trolling.

None of those things were taken into account by Judge Kiyo Matsumoto. Furthermore, she failed to take into account any of Brandenburg. As a result, she made this incorrect and irresponsible statement:

“This is not protected by the First Amendment,” U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said before revoking the $5 million bond. “There’s a risk that somebody may take him up on it.”

Matsumoto had wide latitude to revoke Shkreli’s bail, so it’s perplexing why she would so intentionally spread misinformation. She ought to be embarrassed that she didn’t even pretend she was applying any basic First Amendment test here. This is a Maeghan Maloney-level understanding of free speech rights.

Shkreli’s bail status notwithstanding, if someone wants to show that his Facebook ‘offer’ was not protected speech, they need to apply the three-pronged Brandenburg test – something the judge didn’t do. Did his speech demonstrate 1) intent, 2) imminence, and 3) likelihood of lawless action? I don’t think it showed a single one.

Let’s start with intent. (This can include instances where a person should have reasonably expected his speech would result in lawless action.) Look at the post and how absurd it is at every turn. He said the Clinton Foundation has murdered people. He said he potentially already has Clinton’s DNA. He offered a tiny sum for a huge risk. It’s wildly clear that he isn’t even remotely serious. Even when he responded to someone where he said “I’m serious”, it’s impossible to believe him. He’s a 4chan poster without the anonymity. No reasonable person could believe that this was a real offer.

Next is imminence. How could this possibly result in imminent lawless action? Someone reading that post would have to 1) be in the same area as Clinton, 2) know she was in the same area, 3) know where to find her in the very near future, and 4) have a way to get close to her. It is 100% impossible that Clinton could have been in imminent danger. Even if a person was in the same city as Clinton and knew it, and even if she was in public at the very moment Shkreli made his Facebook post, that person would still have to have a way to get to her and to get access to her. And if they were across town and had to get in their car to drive to a convention center where they had to buy a ticket to get in? You’ve just lost your imminence.

And finally, likelihood. Give me a break. For it to be likely that someone would take him up on this offer, all of the following would have to be true of someone who read his post:

    They would have to be unaware that Shkreli is a dedicated troll.
    They would have to believe he was serious.
    They would have to be motivated by $5,000 per hair that had a follicle.
    They would have to think that more than one follicle was necessary for some reason, and that’s why Shkreli was incentivizing the capture of multiple strands.
    They would have to believe that The Clinton Foundation murdered one or more people.
    They would have to believe that Shkreli had Clinton’s DNA already.
    They would have to be willing to risk their freedom at the least and their life at the most.
    They would have to know where Clinton was and when she could be found in public.
    They would have to be near that location.
    They would have to be able to get near Clinton’s head.

There are two things in that list that are likely. One, people actually do think the Clintons have murdered people, so it’s not a stretch to say there are probably people who think their foundation has been complicit in killing. Two, I’m sure Clinton’s tour schedule has been published somewhere. But other than that? You could argue that it’d be possible to yank a hair from her head during some fan photograph session, but I don’t imagine that would go unnoticed by her Secret Service detail.

Martin Shkreli’s Facebook post fails every single part of the Brandenburg test. Every. Single. Part. It’s not even a close call that what he said was entirely protected speech – at least outside a bail hearing. And, once again, that’s what makes this so perplexing. Judge Matsumoto didn’t need to make up an incoherent First Amendment claim in order to justify revoking bail. She could have just done it. She ought to be embarrassed at her actions on the bench.

Gawker founder files for bankruptcy

This is just so satisfying:

Gawker founder Nick Denton filed for personal bankruptcy Monday in the aftermath of a Florida jury’s awarding $140 million to Hulk Hogan in a privacy case revolving around a sex tape posted on Gawker.com.

As a result of the verdict, which is being appealed, Gawker’s parent company has gone into bankruptcy and is up for sale.

Denton’s bankruptcy filing Monday says he owes $125 million to Hogan, a former professional wrestler. Filing for bankruptcy helps him keep Hogan from collecting.

Overall, Denton’s filing says he has $100 million to $500 million in liabilities and that his assets are worth $10 million to $50 million.

This meat of this story – Gawker losing in court – isn’t exactly breaking news at this point, but there was a part of this story that made me want to write about it:

Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled the lawsuit filed by Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, against Gawker. That raised concerns about the wealthy using their power to bring down media outlets.

“I am consoled by the fact that my colleagues will soon be freed from this tech billionaire’s vendetta,” Denton tweeted. Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website.

Hogan’s attorney David Houston said in a statement that Denton’s bankruptcy “has nothing to do with who paid Mr. Bollea’s legal bills, and everything to do with Denton’s own choices and accountability. If even one person has been spared the humiliation that Mr. Bollea suffered, this is a victory.”

I was previously unaware of anything to do with Thiel, but I’m happy he was involved. I don’t know who he is or what his politics are, but I’m going to guess he doesn’t ideologically match up with the social justice warrior views of Gawker. Often, the regressive left will use this mismatch of views to justify ruining a person’s life. “Why, we’re just pointing out hypocrisy!”, they’ll say. Don’t believe it. That’s bullshit. They’re getting revenge by doing something wrong. Not only are their motivations ill conceived, but their execution is nothing more than an exercise in the belief that two wrongs make a right. They don’t. Ever.

I’m glad Thiel was able to exact ethically-sound revenge. Gawker did something wrong, so when he had the chance to put the screws to them and point out their hypocrisy, he did so without committing a wrong himself. He’s a better person than Nick Denton and all the people who have ever supported that garbage website.

Uganda adopts circumcision, finds science works

This is no real surprise:

The growing uptake of medical male circumcision by men in the Rakai district of Uganda is leading to a substantial reduction in HIV incidence among men in one of the districts of the country worst affected by HIV, Xiangrong Kong of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2015) in Seattle, USA, on Thursday…

The study found that circumcision coverage in non-Muslim men increased from 9% during the Rakai circumcision study to 26% by 2011, four years after the trial concluded. Every 10% increase in circumcision coverage was associated with a 12% reduction in HIV incidence (0.88, 95% confidence interval 0.80-0.96).

HIV incidence reduction in women lags behind but is expected to catch up in coming years.

We’ve known for the better part of the past decade that circumcision literally saves lives by acting as a high efficacy vaccine that reduces female-to-male HIV transmission by 60% (which is better than the flu vaccine most years). That we’re seeing the positive results of implementing it as a policy isn’t surprising. Science just works.

Scalia, as predicted

Three years ago I made a prediction about Political Figure Antonin Scalia regarding his professed adherence to stare decisis as it relates to same-sex marriage:

Lawrence v Texas established adequate precedence for the constitutional legalization of same-sex marriage. At least it did in political figure Scalia’s view. (In reality, the 14th Amendment established it.) That means that once same-sex marriage makes it way to the Supreme Court in the coming years, Scalia is going to rule in favor of it. That is, if he really does care about stare decisis. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

I hope I’m wrong, but here’s my prediction: Scalia is going to rule against same-sex marriage in overt defiance of the principles he pretends he holds.

What I was arguing here was that Scalia had whined in Lawrence that the Court’s decision to disallow governmental interference in the bedroom of consenting adults had, effectively, established precedence for same-sex marriage. That is, Scalia wrote in his dissent that if the Court could overturn a state’s ability to legislate against something based upon a moral opposition to homosexuality, then it would also have the power to overturn a state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Since Scalia is a self-professed lover of stare decisis – he believes past decisions must be taken into account in new decisions – it would only make sense for him to side with same-sex marriage proponents. Even though he dissented in Lawrence, the decision set precedent that, according to Scalia himself, the Court had the necessary latitude to strike down any ban on same-sex marriage that was premised on moral opposition. Today, however, he dissented in Obergefell v. Hodges, in blatant violation of his alleged principles and in full satisfaction of my three year old prediction.

Stuart Scott

Every so often an icon emerges in the media. Usually, these people were never meant to be the story. We simply expected them to report the stories. If they did that, we would find ourselves discussing what they had told us, not giving a second thought to where we heard it. That is always good enough. That’s the job. But every so often one of these personalities will shine through the morass. Stuart Scott was one of those people. And now he has died at the age of 49.

Scott had been fighting cancer for the past 7 years. I had no idea this was his third bout with the disease. Hell, I had no idea he was ever even sick. Insofar as this was well-known news (and it was), I managed to miss it. Part of that is sheer chance. I simply didn’t happen to see the news stories. But most of that is because Scott never let it show. Looking back I can see some of the weight fluctuations now, but the strength of his personality always hid whatever physical weakness he may have been experiencing at a given time. He always said to keep fighting – fight, fight, fight – and he lived that. The images and tributes over the past day have made it wildly clear that he was speaking more than mere platitudes. He meant what he said and he lived it entirely.

I only ever mention a celebrity death here once in a great while. Sometimes it’s because I feel bad for the odd life the person had (such as when I mentioned Gary Coleman). Most times, though, it’s because I deeply respected the person (such as with Christopher Hitchens). This is like most times. Stuart Scott stood out as one of the good guys. There are a lot of sportscasters I like and I’ll be sad to hear if any of them die, but Scott’s passing is especially heartbreaking. I wish his family the best.

Here are two videos. One is of Rich Eisen giving his on-air farewell only 10 minutes after hearing of his friend’s death. The other is of Stuart Scott delivering one of the best speeches I’ve heard in a long time.