Tuesday assorted links


The Johnson Amendment is a fine idea.

There is no reason people should get tax deductions for contributing to the support of a candidate. This is especially so when you note, as Feldman did not, that churches are allowed to maintain the anonymity of their donors.

Repeal this and you will see the sudden rise of new "Churches of the Eternal Campaign."

It's not a perfect situation today, but let's leave it alone.

"It’s not a perfect situation today, but let’s leave it alone." Good Lord, a genuinely conservative sentiment.

Of course you think the Johnson Act is a great idea. The totalitarian mind always seeks to exclude that which does not fit within their ideological concept of the virtuous state. Leaving it in place means your coreligionists, when back in power, can get back to using the state to harass the religious.

Barring anyone for any reason from participating in the process of self-governance is abhorrent to liberty.

Two in the bush, one in the tush, know what I mean?

The Amendment doesn't bar anyone from anything.

If a church wants to endorse a candidate it is perfectly free to do so, just as you and I are. It just loses the right to be considered a charity for purposes of getting tax-deductible contributions.

The purpose of that deduction is to encourage philanthropy, not to provide tax benefits for political activities.

"Totalitarian mind?" What a load.

So National Review can keep their tax exempt status, but the local Baptist church cannot? The NCAA can threaten the state of North Carolina, but keep its tax exempt status. The churches in the state, however, have to remain silent.

You don't know anything about this topic so you should put yourself on read only. Maybe you'll learn something.

National Review is not 501(c)(3). Also, 501(c)(3)s are perfectly free to promote or oppose policies, simply not individual politicians.


The churches in the state, however, have to remain silent.

No. The churches don't have to remain silent. They can talk all they want, about whatever they want, and will still be 501c3 organizations, as long as they don't endorse candidates. Clergy talk about political issues all the time, in case you haven't noticed, and they do not lose their tax status. It is only endorsement of candidates that is involved.

Instead of accusing me of not knowing what I'm talking about why don't you go learn a thing or two. And take Borjigid with you. Neither one of you seems to understand what this is about.

3 - I love it. WaPo blames their false story on the new administration, not their rush to take Trump down any chance they get.

At some point, journalists are going to have to understand that Trump is a better brawler than them, and they're operating in an environment in which almost no one trusts them. Even if they get most of the stories right, when they get it wrong (especially if its perceived that they got it wrong largely due to their animosity towards Trump), it will backfire, benefit Trump and overshadow anything they got right.

Good, honest, journalist is the only way to hold Trump accountable.

*it's - jeesh.

All media stories on Trump are basically false.

Right. We should just check with you on everything. Or maybe get some alternative facts from Conway.

Do you want my email address?

No thanks. I have a good idea where you get your "information."

What the media is getting wrong borders on the absurd aka the MLK bust and guns in schools for the grizzlies. It undermines what little credibility they have left.


Recognize that this is as much the problem.

The only thing that should distinguish "fake news" is distance from actual reality. It should not be "your side fake."

I was taken in by this, but it is not fake in the sense of a kid in Eastern Europe making it up, for 40,000 Facebook forwards.

The memo was reported with insufficient background, or possibly with some walkback. Those two are actually hard to distinguish, because "clarification" can often be walkback.

"I was taken in by this, but it is not fake in the sense of a kid in Eastern Europe making it up, for 40,000 Facebook forwards."

But isnt this worse? A trusted news org reporting false info vs someone you should not be trusting in the first place?

Actually now I am not sure which is true. A former Joint Chiefs chairman says the HE thinks those words were unusual.


Did Tyler get out-faked on fake news?

Senator McCain and John Bellinger, an adjunct senior fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations and former legal adviser to the National Security Council, also thought that the change was unusual.

So not so much just newspapers making things up.


Obviously more will come of this, and there is no need for any of us to give I final answer, but I think I am justified in having at least a suspicion that the Spicer press conference represents walkback after immediate uproar.

It will be interesting to see if other outlets re-report this in any way.

Luckily, with the Trump Administration firmly in place, the truth of things like the Bowling Green Massacre are finally being reported on.

Though that White House unreported terrorist attack list missed the one that just happened in Quebec - strange how the death of 6 innocent worshippers gets covered up so easily.

"3 – I love it. WaPo blames their false story on the new administration, not their rush to take Trump down any chance they get."

Wow, just wow. Trump may be an idiot, but compared to the Press covering him, he's king of the idiots.

Did no one ever explain to The Washington Post how to issue a correction? Getting a story completely wrong and then attempting to blame it on the subject is not going to help. They'd have been better off just not issuing a correction.

From the article:
"Media organizations look less credible on the real Trump transgressions when they, inadvertently or otherwise, report the routine as scandalous. The White House, on the other hand, looks utterly unable to coherently explain its own policies. Some quiet, professional, off-camera communication between White House staff and reporters — the mechanism that has usually ensured that the truth eventually gets out in previous presidencies — would help."

I don't think that the author realizes that it's their job to not make glaring mistakes. Maybe they could do something completely unorthodox and call the Press Secretary and ask for their side of the story before publishing wrong information.

"The result is that even when the White House does something ordinary, it may be portrayed as radical and dangerous, and even when it tells the truth, it is not believed." Replace 'White House' by 'media' and the statement remains true!

I don't trust at face value almost any of what the WH or the media says. They are obsessed with minutiae so I also don't care. Politics is sausage-making. "IN UNPRECEDENTED MOVE, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTS SAUSAGE MAKERS TO BOIL CASINGS BEFORE FILLING" -- that's a standard "big story" in sausage terms. (I'll leave out the Trump sausage tweet reply)

These details are a complete and total waste of time not to mention exhausting. Give me the broad strokes---nature of society stuff. Because most of them have collapsed

E.g. the travel ban.

Here is the negative effect as concerns immigrants: if you are a legal immigrant from any of 7 countries, then you and your (potentially citizen) family members could be inconvenienced for 90 days, possibly greatly inconvenience and cause for substantial stress, due to policy itself and uncertainty about the administration's future plans.

People interpret this as evidence for the genocidal intent of the Trump administration. But the concrete implication is only: government policy caused a group of people major inconvenience. (For 90 days allegedly). By comparison DHS has created enormous inconvenience/restrictions on travel, for a much larger group of people, and for some 6000 days not 90.

If the ban is temporary as Trump claims then by May people will hardly remember it even happened. Some Holocaust

3- We are seeing more and more of these types of stories and I'm reminded of something Scott Sumner said: "if you aren’t a skilled politician, then don’t do politics. And for God’s sake, don’t get your apprenticeship by running for President."

Scott Sumner is the intellectual equivalent of a dirty Sanchez.

What makes you think that this isn't the sign of a skilled politician? For Trump to advance his agenda he needs a Republican Senate and Congress that isn't afraid of what is written in the New York Times and the Washington Post. I would say he is about halfway there.

He also has the media completely distracted.

"1. Can the Russians take down slot machines?
The machines have no easy technical fix. As Hoke notes, Aristocrat, Novomatic, and any other manufacturers whose PRNGs have been cracked “would have to pull all the machines out of service and put something else in, and they’re not going to do that.”

I don't understand why they can't just program a new ROM and replace the existing one? Maybe something to do with the "security" of the machine makes the ROM non-replaceable, but even then why couldn't you swap the whole board out?

There's a hole in that explanation.

This is not the first time this has happened. https://www.wired.com/2011/07/ff_scammingslots/

I recall reading about an MIT guy who figured out how to decade scratch tickets from the serial code. He went around buying up the winners until they caught him.

If it has value, someone will steal it, fake it or hack it.

Regulatory compliance. Gaming systems have to go through a long approval process by state regulatory authorities. Even if you could prep a new ROM in a few days, it'd take months to get the official sign off.

I could see that being a potential explanation, but the events the article describes have been ongoing since the summer of 2014.

Sure, but IGT makes hundreds of new games every year. Largely because gamblers get bored of the old slot games, and need constant novelty to stay engaged. The casinos themselves lack the expertise, or even the IP rights to modify the slot software. Which means it's on IGT to patch the bug. One, they're not exactly going to be jumping over backwards to advertise that they're making games with security flaws. Two, they're not going to release a patch until it gets approval in every single state.

So combine a PR coverup, a monopolist vendor who jealously guards its software, a pipeline backed up with tons of new games, and waiting for the slowest of 30+ state bureaucracies. Things aren't exactly moving quick.

3. So according to Cowen "the media story was basically wrong"? Jackson Diehl: "Reporters scrutinizing the document (a presidential memorandum released to the media that laid out the structure of the NSC) quickly noticed one big anomaly: Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chief executive, was named as a regular participant in the Principals Committee, the second-tier body that feeds reports and recommendations to the NSC, which is chaired by the president. That, indeed, was and continues to be alarming to those who fear Bannon’s agenda of radical populist ethno-nationalism. The second apparent piece of news in the document, however, was deceiving: A line said that the director of national intelligence and Joint Chiefs chair — who by law are permanent members of the National Security Council — would attend meetings of the Principals Committee only when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” In other words, concluded the first news reports, downgraded!" Okay, it turns out that the presidential memorandum was, as Diehl indicates, "deceiving". Whose fault is that? Diehl concludes that it's largely due to a "White House . . . utterly unable to coherently explain its own policies". When it's communications between the White House and the media, that's unfortunate; when it's communications between the White House and the leaders of other (sometimes antagonistic) countries, that's the recipe for disaster. Of course, the bigger story, ignored by Cowen, is that national security policy is being formulated not by the NSC but by the small group of advisers close to Trump, including Bannon, MIchael Flynn, Stephen Miller, and Andrew Jackson, a motley crew of presidential advisers if ever there was one. [No, Andrew Jackson thankfully hasn't ascended from the dead - he remains in Hell where he belongs - but his presence is felt as his portrait hovers over the ignoramus Trump like beelzebub.]

rayward, your losing touch with reality.

The headline of the story is: "The media botched this Trump story last week — and that’s bad for everyone"

Yes, the story was Wrong. It wasn't even basically wrong. It was just wrong.

If you're observant you'll notice the clue in the headline. That would be the word "botched". That means they are admitting they were wrong.

Columnists (and journalists) don't write the headlines, which more often than not do not reflect what's actually in the column (article) including this one by Diehl, which you obviously did not read. Too long, I suppose.

"...which you obviously did not read. Too long, I suppose."

Is that the best you got? rayward, would you like some suggestions on how to be a better commentor?

The media "botched" the story. It's pretty clear this is true for anyone that has a 10th grade reading comprehension level.

I'll be specific. Here's the very first line of the story: "The result is that even when the White House does something ordinary, it may be portrayed as radical and dangerous, and even when it tells the truth, it is not believed. "

So, the White House said something true and the media didn't believe it and reported incorrect information.

But wait there's more:
" In other words, concluded the first news reports, downgraded! ... But there was no demotion."

Yes, look there it's confirmed. Those reports were wrong. Hmmm, what's another word for getting something wrong. What's that word? Starts with a B.... Oh yeah, that's right, Botched is the word I was looking for.

And here is the best part:

"He [Spicer] said that “we called several outlets who were misreporting the topic to better inform them. ... To no avail.

I'll translate that for you rayward, because it's a complicated scenario. A) The Press was Wrong B) The White House told them they were Wrong and C) They ignored what the White House said, and went ahead and kept repeating the Wrong information.

Thanks for your patience, and I'm always happy to help!

Obviously you didn't read it. I suppose you were too old and got fatigued partway through

Do as you like. I don't trust the media. I don't trust academia.

I stop reading when I smell bull shit or I when my lips become fatigued. Since the millennium, it's always the olfactory offensiveness that shut me down.

And, don't forget! "The future is female." And, "Ms. DeVos is out to destroy education."


It is not clear to me what crime the Russians have committed. If I find a flaw in a casino game that I can take advantage of, without tampering with the mechanism itself, is it really illegal for me to do so?

Yes, it is. If you read the story far enough, they'll even cover the arrests, prosecutions and convictions.

A handful, to be honest - and based on crossing state lines.

That's only what made it a federal crime

What's long and green and smells like Miss Piggy's butt?

Yes. I saw that they were arrested and so on.

Maybe I should ask why this is criminal. Counting cards at blackjack is legal, I think.

They are using technology to win, that is what is illegal. You can't bring a timer to the roulette table, either.

It's not clear to me that this constitutes a violation of device laws. Specifically because the device is not being used during actual play. Rather the device is only being used to indicate *when* to play. I.e. it vibrates prior to one hitting the spin button. The slot isn't "in play" when the device is active.

Let me borrow an analogy. Suppose I'm using a smartphone app that helps me practice counting cards. I practice on it at the casino buffet before going to play blackjack. Did I violate device laws? Common sense would say no, because I didn't actually use it in play. Even if the device helped me play at advantage, and influenced the type and timing of my play. Otherwise we could blanket ban card counting simulators.

I see. Thanks. I didn't know that was the law.

I'll be careful not to wear a watch the next time I play roulette.

It's criminal because the casinos pay the politicians to make it illegal to systematically beat the house. Our laws were not handed down by Moses. They are written by men with agendas.

Wow, that's some deep thinking there.

Bingo again! Casinos may be "too big to fail."

If the "player" didn't lose, on average $300 a trip, the casino would fold, and tax revenues would decline. Ergo, the gaming and political interest are "joined at the hip."

Do a web search (I'm boycotting Google) on (two) lawsuits involving famed poker pro Phil Ivey for baccarat "card sorting."

Stock markets do it too. What the Hunt brothers were doing in trying to corner silver was dubious. But the rules were changed to retrospectively ban what they were doing and push them into bankruptcy.

Recently some computer nerd figured out how to panic trading programs into selling off stocks. When one of them did it, they all did it. He then cleaned up. Turns out that is illegal too. Well it is now.


"what crime the Russians have committed": being Russian. Isn't that enough for you? They're coming to eat your babies, for heaven's sake.

Notice the lack of arrests in most cases - casinos are allowed to ban people, but being able to beat a game (card counting, for example) is generally not illegal. It is just not allowed ro continue the second a casino recognizes it happening.


#3: part of the headline "and that’s bad for everyone" is surely just a lie?

The article is a classic "We made a mistake, but it wasn't really are fault" CYA assessment. And it's idiotic. It's clear that the media jumped to a bad conclusion, ignored the calls to correct the mistake and then got pissed off when Spicer called the stories "utter nonsense". Apparently Spicer was right, and the press was wrong and they are having to admit that.

#3...Nothing is going to change because of the ubiquitousness of leaks.While they often produce real information, they are always tied to an agenda at a particular moment. In the new administration, with so much influence up for grabs, a lot of the negative leaks are probably coming from members of the administration, including very high up members. Bannon, being a polarizing figure, is probably getting helpful leeks and hurtful leaks. Bannon is probably leaking on himself. To me, the really interesting question is finding out what the current factions are. With the rush to report, any competent government functionary can pass along b.s. that we'll will muddy the story, and that's all they want from any particular story. It's always going to take time to understand what's really going on, but we're not very patient today.

Is Bannon Welsh?

6. Feldman is an academic with excellent credentials. But he sometimes reveals by accident how far removed he is from the world beyond academics. The purpose of the prohibition (of religious organizations engaging in political action) isn't to restrict the rights of the religious to express political opinions, but to prevent what are secular, political organizations from masquerading as tax exempt religious organizations. In America, anyone can start a religion, and they frequently do. Many run-down shopping centers empty during the week are full on Sunday as proof. I am not Roman Catholic but once dated someone who was a devout Catholic and we attend her church in the very ethnic (Latin) city in which we resided. Every homily, not some but every homily, warned of eternal damnation for the abortionists, and he signaled loud and clear his preference for the political candidates. The priest no doubt reflected the opinions of the faithful in the pews. Later I dated another Roman Catholic in a very different community and not once, not ever, did the priest even mention abortion or abortionists or any political candidates (other than to pray that God give them guidance). The priest no doubt reflected the opinions of the faithful in the pews. I don't object to political ramblings of priests, ministers, rabbis, or imams. But I do object to secular organizations masquerading as tax-exempt religious organizations. And there are plenty of them. Trump would allow anybody to establish a tax exempt religious organization even if that organization were in reality a political organization. Of course, what Trump means by religious organization is a Christian or Jewish organization. Feldman, a lawyer, will have lots of work after repeal of the Johnson Act.

#5: Live venues are not great profit generating business. People drink more compared to a restaurant and drug dealers roam around , thus there are more conflicts to deal with. Also, income in far from being constant. People in charge of these places once was young and enthusiastic. The objective most of time is not to make large profits but survive. Eventually, they get tired and just want to retire.

Well, Joe Edwards has been making a pretty good fist of it for the last 45 years:


He ain't young anymore, but he's still enthusiastic!

3. Skepticism of media sources is always warranted, and the degree of skepticism can be usefully scaled based on the extent to which a claim comports with, or departs from, that source's typical bias.

This is true.

However, what's remarkable is that the classic 'Papers of Record', NYT, WP, etc aren't even following their own guidelines. A traditional story requires a second source and you go to the topic of the story for their version. Not only did they not go to the Trump Administration, to comment on the story, but they ignored the comments when the Trump Administration did call them.

This is rather unfortunate. I don't trust the NYT's and WP, but I believe that their typical bias would make them a counter to over reach by the Trump Administration, which wasn't the case for the Obama Administration. But now they've gone so far, that I can't reasonably assume that even the basic facts that they report are correct. They are moving towards the Slate/Vox side of the Trust, where I have to assume they aren't even attempting to appear unbiased.

I can agree it seems to be getting worse. While I think the pretense of objectivity has been false at all times, the need to try to appear unbiased and truth-seeking has acted as a restraint on letting their biases run wild. While I think there have been some general trends knocking away at this pretense as a restraining force over the past few decades, anything to do with Trump just seems to be a cue to cast all restraint aside.

#3... Trump was not a politician. He's constructing an administration from scratch. Just remind yourselves of the position the Secretary of State's had in the Nixon and Reagan administration ( meaning Haig ). Right now, there are people who want to influence the administration's foreign policy who are not the Secretary of State. If they can knock him down a peg or two now, they will. Reporter's have biases, but they are also used by people whose inside knowledge they need. Thinking it's just a newspaper's bias is naive.

I didn't say it was just their biases. But biases can prevent reports from doing the kind of truth-seeking that, in theory, would make them useful conduits of information.

Usually, the need to appear unbiased forces them to do some amount of checking on their claims, even when the claim went in the direction of their underlying biases.

Now there is less restraint, and especially when it comes to Trump. So they are more apt to run with a story that paints Trump in a bad light, without feeling the need to check it as carefully as they otherwise would a story about someone else, or as they would have 15 years ago across the board.

This lack of restraint makes it easier for those with other objectives, like you mention, to use reporters to achieve those ends.

"So they are more apt to run with a story that paints Trump in a bad light, without feeling the need to check it as carefully as they otherwise would a story about someone else, or as they would have 15 years ago across the board."

In this case, it appears to be worse than even your description. It seems as if at least two major papers ignored corrective information from The White House and printed follow up articles with incorrect information.

6. Well my church did not hide its politics very much so it really does not matter if the Preacher did not definitively say VOTE BUSH in 2004.

I agree since nobody is listening then we really dont need it.

Unless they were actually busing people directly from church to deliver votes to the polling stations, then your church wasn't even close to the current cutting edge of political practices.

"After Sunday Service, Georgia Churches Get Souls To The Polls

At The Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in Atlanta, about 700 congregants jam the pews every Sunday morning at 10:30. The church is near the edge of DeKalb County, and it's helping lead a "Souls to the Polls" drive.

Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn is running an extremely tight race for Senate against Republican David Perdue, and the difference between victory and defeat could ride on the African-American vote. The push is on to get voters to turn out early — especially at black churches.

In Georgia, more than a million African-Americans voted in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, but only 700,000 hit the polls in 2010. Democrats aren't taking their chances this year."


Everyone has been ignoring the black churches open political activities for years. Repealing the Johnson Amendment would just remove risk from other, less favored, churches.

Endorsing a candidate is entirely different from get-out-the-vote efforts.

3) This piece read like the explanation of an erudite toddler. It's all Trump's fault we erred egregiously; he's not playing by the rules; he's being mean and insulting; he's not being inclusive. Therefore we all rushed to print erroneous trash. I thought the press prided itself in being the Fourth Estate--the unflappable, tempered check on government power. They're supposed to get the truth in spite of the White House--in spite of its obfuscation, its stonewalling, its misdirection. If "some quiet, professional, off-camera communication between White House staff and reporters" is the mechanism that 'ensures the truth eventually gets out,' we're in more trouble than I ever imagined.

He says this damages both sides: the press looks less credible and Trump's White House looks less coherent. Which is the more devastating? The press needs credibility a lot more than Trump needs coherency, especially since it's the press whose public approval is lower than fossilized dinosaur shit. Advantage Trump.

1. Upshot of this for people who play slot machines: there is a timing-based system to beat slots!

That might produce more casino profits than any increase in scammers resulting from the issue going public.

Hmm, ok, I have a new theory.

Maybe the Casino's haven't been slow to patch their slot machines. Maybe they just refuse to admit that the machines have been patched. In which case, a story like the one linked could easily generate a bit of extra revenue.


This actually happens with blackjack, example.

There are many more people who think they can count the cards than people who really can.

I ate at the bun cha place that Obama and Bourdain ate at. It was very good but not as good as this one:


Vietnam is amazing btw.

2. The New Yorker article seems to advance the Bourdain theory that there is no bad food in foreign locations.

Of course, as might be expected the meal with the former POTUS is the centerpiece of the article. Oddly, the globally experienced BHO didn't know how to eat southeast Asian food.

& he didn't know how to use chopsticks [eyeroll]

It's amazing how distorted the debate over the Constitution and government in general becomes with modern assumptions.

For example, the second amendment becomes about something other than enabling the Civil War. Enumerated powers dissolves
into thin air. Churches and schools become tax exempt because they provide social services which would otherwise be provided
by taxes; rather than being free from taxation to continue them wholly immune from state control, which is most often expressed
via taxation (which is the power to control and destroy).

There is a much superior alternative to the Johnson Amendment. Eliminate tax-exempt status for all religious institutions, period, whether or not they engage in politics. There is no reason that the US taxpayer should be subsidizing churches by giving them tax-exempt status.

Maybe e!iminate all tax exemptions period.

Let's see your buddies at VOX cop to blowing the NSC story. Doesn't fit their mission of pigeonholing the news into a progressive millenial bunch of phablet mush.

5. Is this the result of Chinese money driving up the price of real estate? Lots of cash to increase prices, but no cash for actually using the buildings?

Or is it the result of "chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Council, which was established in 2014 to inform and direct the city towards policies that might fulfil its declared intentions to become a world-renowned “Music City.”?

There was a remarkable thing that happened in Greater Toronto. They came up with an exquisite transportation and development plan, and after a few years they found that there was a huge amount of development in areas that weren't covered by the plan. Oddly enough. So maybe this music thing is more evidence of the tender loving care of Toronto bureaucrats.

1: Though this beat-the-casinos story is somewhat reminiscent of the card counters at MIT in _Bringing Down the House_, it's even more reminiscent of the UC Santa Cruz physics grad students who similarly used portable technology to detect patterns -- in roulette wheels in their case -- and have betting instructions transmitted to them in time for them to place bets.

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