Author Archives: Michael Froomkin

Dates that will live in Infamy

President Franklin D. Roosevelt described December 7, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy” in his speech the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 12/7 was a date seared into the memory of those who lived through it, although I think not nearly as meaningful to those who like me were born considerably later. Even infamy may have a half-life, and I suspect that today most people look at ‘Pearl Harbor Day’ on the calendar and don’t think that much of it.

We of the current generations have two dates of our own that live in infamy at least for now: 9/11 and 1/6. What these dates have in common with 12/7 is that they all represent thankfully rare dates on which the United States was attacked. But 1/6 isn’t quite like the others. The attack was from within not from a foreign power. And the evocative power of that date seems less universal, as some have taken to downplaying the significance of the sacking of the Capitol, and of the attempt to set aside the results of the Presidential election.

The January 6 Commission Report sought to nail down the history and to protect the popular memory, and the polity, from they-were-just-tourist revisionists and Big Lie conspiracists. In this, the Committee members were only partly successful, although the (multiple) juries are not just still out, but not even empaneled, as the Trump legal team tries to delay a formal reckoning of his and his associates’ conduct.

Here’s hoping the evocative power of those dates will fade with time in a normal, healthy way rather than being erased by lies or enshrined as the beginning of the end of the ‘American experiment’.1


  1. I was surprised to learn the this phrase, commonly attributed to Democracy in America, does not appear in the French original, but is apparently an invention of Tocqueville’s first English translator Henry Reeve. []
Posted in The Scandals, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

None Dare Call It By Its Name?

Press WatchMy brother Dan is very good at piercing through social niceties. Sometimes this can be a very good thing, as in his column today, at Press Watch, How much of Trump’s support is due to racism?.

Here’s a small taste:

There is one theory that fully explains the massive support that Trump continues to get among the Republican voting base: That they’re racist.

To be clear, this is a theory, not a conclusion.

But it’s certainly a likely enough theory that the mainstream media should be testing it to see if it’s true rather than avoiding the topic like the plague.

[…]

When mainstream journalists do address racism, they do so with euphemisms and denials. These days that means they understate the racist rhetoric from Trump and other leading Republicans, and they actively cover up the racism of his supporters and make excuses for them.

They don’t ignore racism entirely. What they do is worse: they normalize it.

The Washington Post, for instance, had a long, overdue front-page article on Sunday about how Trump and his fellow GOP candidates are taking overtly racist positions – except get this: They substituted the word “polarizing” for racist.

But there’s more, and even better, where that came from.

Posted in 2024 Election, Dan Froomkin, Trump | Leave a comment

“Issues in Robot Law and Policy” Published

book coverI’m happy to announce that my chapter on “Issues in robot law and policy” has been published as part of the Research Handbook on Law and Technology (Bartosz Brożek, Olia Kanevskaia, and Przemysław Pałka, eds., 2023).

It pains me that this is behind a paywall, although many university-based readers may be able to access it online through their library. The chapter achieves something I am rarely able to do: cover a very wide range of material in a short space. (Normally I’m stuck deep into the details.) The editors’ introduction (not paywalled) to the book calls my chapter “a tour de force of the debates ongoing for decades now, critically examining the intuitions tested over the years, as well as the challenges to come” which I think is a bit over the top, but I’ll take it.

The editors have done a pair of promotional videos for the book. There’s a fun one:

… and a more traditional version, which if truth be told is somewhat less fun:

It’s a very comprehensive book, covering a wide range of topics. Get your library to buy one?

Posted in Robots, Writings | Leave a comment

I’m Surprised to be Saying This…

Gaza and Israel

Copyright © 2023 Ecrusized, influenced by user Rr016., Some rights reserved: CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But this column by Thomas L. Friedman, I Have Never Been to This Israel Before  (dated Nov. 9, but appeared in my Sunday paper today), is actually quite good.

A few bits:

After traveling around Israel and the West Bank, I now understand why so much has changed. It is crystal clear to me that Israel is in real danger — more danger than at any other time since its War of Independence in 1948. And it’s for three key reasons:

First, Israel is facing threats from a set of enemies who combine medieval theocratic worldviews with 21st-century weaponry — and are no longer organized as small bands of militiamen but as modern armies with brigades, battalions, cybercapabilities, long-range rockets, drones and technical support. […]

I am stunned by how many Israelis now feel this danger personally, no matter where they live — starting with a friend who lives in Jerusalem telling me that she and her husband just got gun licenses to have pistols at home. No one is going to snatch their children and take them into a tunnel. Hamas, alas, has tunneled fear into many, many Israeli heads far from the Gaza border.

The second danger I see is that the only conceivable way that Israel can generate the legitimacy, resources, time and allies to fight such a difficult war with so many enemies is if it has unwavering partners abroad, led by the United States. […]

But Biden can sustainably generate the support Israel needs only if Israel is ready to engage in some kind of a wartime diplomatic initiative directed at the Palestinians in the West Bank — and hopefully in a post-Hamas Gaza — that indicates Israel will discuss some kind of two-state solutions if Palestinian officials can get their political house unified and in order.

This leads directly to my third, deep concern.

Israel has the worst leader in its history — maybe in all of Jewish history — who has no will or ability to produce such an initiative.

Posted in Politics: International | Comments Off on I’m Surprised to be Saying This…

Trump Trial Testimony: Read It (and Weep?)

Press WatchMy brother, the journalist and now journalism watchdog, had a great idea:

Donald Trump took the stand on Monday in his civil fraud trial in a Manhattan courtroom.

But because television cameras were not allowed inside, the public was only given a filtered look at the proceedings, through the eyes of journalists whose takes varied considerably. Without the ability to record audio, reporters were unable to capture longer passages and exchanges.

Precisely what went on in that courthouse should not be shrouded in mystery. So I tracked down the court reporter working that day, and purchased from her the full transcript. (I raised the money to do so through a GoFundMe. Thank you to all who contributed!)

And now I’m making it public, for all to see. Feel free to download and repost.

You can read Trump’s trial testimony online or read Trump’s trial testimony in PDF.

Thank you, Dan!

Posted in Dan Froomkin, Law: Everything Else, The Scandals | Comments Off on Trump Trial Testimony: Read It (and Weep?)

Happy Halloween!

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