drwex: (Default)
(slightly modified from a post by Cory Doctorow)

Dear Liberals, Independents, and principled Conservatives
In 2020 there will be a candidate competing against Donald Trump for President. It is very likely this candidate:
  1. Isn't your first choice

  2. Isn't 100% ideologically pure

  3. Has made mistakes

  4. Might not really excite you all that much

  5. Has ideas you are uncomfortable with

Please start the process of getting over that shit now instead of waiting until 2020.

Dear Democratic Establishment
In 2020 we will need to choose a candidate to fight Trump, an actual threat to the survival of the human race. So you might be tempted (again) to ask America to vote for a warmongering, banker-friendly, more-of-the-same candidate, on the theory that we'll vote for the candidate who makes people like you rich as fuck rather than enduring four more years of Trump, even if that candidate is terrible in every way except for not being Trump.

That is a hell of a gamble, and it could literally cost us the only planet we have. Knock that shit off.

Democrats have no future as the "at least we're not Trump" party. Get used to it. You have two whole years; use them wisely.

No love,
Me
drwex: (Default)
So the Dems lost another special election, one into which they had poured a lot of money. It's almost always an error to generalize from special elections to, well, the general election. And there's a lot that can happen between now and 2018 not least of which is the R's continuing to push for a wildly unpopular bill to take away millions of peoples' health care in order to give tax breaks to billionaires. But let's assume they don't fully immolate themselves and the Dems have to come up with a winning plan - what does this election tell us?

1. Probably the most important thing it tells us is that not only is Trump's base not abandoning him, the Republican electorate in general is still willing to close ranks around him. Karen Handel is generally portrayed as a "conventional" Republican but she didn't make any effort to put space between herself and DJT and that strategy paid off. Conversely, the Republicans' attacks on Ossoff linking him to unpopular national Democratic figures didn't dent his support. He got the same 48% in the run-off that he'd gotten the first time around.

2. That failure to move the needle also shows that money isn't as important (for us) as people like to make out it is. Dems poured a lot of money into this election - $25MM by most estimates - and that swayed nary a voter. One might argue that it was necessary to counter the heavy Republican spending or Ossoff might have lost by a larger margin. But that, imo, points to another more important point, which is...

3. The Republicans are going to have to assume that no seat is safe. They're going to have to play a big zone defense and the Dems will be able to sniper at districts they think are vulnerable or where they can produce a good candidate. That gives Dems a tactical advantage. If they're smart they'll tailor their messages district-by-district and avoid big national things.

4. Speaking of tactics, it's disheartening to go 0-for-4 but if you compare Democratic numbers in these four elections they're better than the district numbers in 2012, 2014, and 2016. If Democrats are making gains in heavily red districts it bodes well for similar gains in more purple districts. Unfortunately, those are few and far between. Initial analyses I read said the Democrats have outperformed their past showings by 5-7% in these four elections. If you grant that as a nation-wide boost, then a 5-7 point lift should gain Dems something like 12-15 seats in the House, assuming everything else tracks (which is a wildly wrong assumption, but we have no other data right now). That's not enough to flip the House, but...

4a. Nate Silver's analysis shows Dems outperforming by a much wider margin - he has it at 11-17% and he says that margin puts as many as 60-80 seats into play, well more than the 24 needed to flip the House. The Senate map is less favorable because fewer seats are in play and because the Democrats have historically done not-so-well in state-level races. On the other hand, the margin needed to flip the Senate is also much thinner.

5. What these analyses have in common is the sense that Democrats are failing (a) to provide a coherent message beyond "at least we're not Trump" - which is a failing message from the get-go; and (b) to bring together the coalition that lifted Obama twice to the White House. Or really any coalition. This circular-firing-squad stuff really needs to stop. It's not Pelosi's fault that Ossoff lost (though I think it's long past time for a leadership change) any more than it's Sanders' fault Clinton lost. All candidates face drag and either the candidate is good enough at promoting their message to enough receptive people to overcome that drag or they are not.

That doesn't mean we should ignore the systemic factors disadvantaging voters - the Supreme Court has recently shown a remarkable willingness to take on gerrymandering cases. And we're going to need vigorous legal action to counter the active voter suppression that is targeting minority, older, and urban voters who tend to be more Democratic-leaning. But none of that is going to help if Dems continue running candidates that do not speak to voters' concerns.
drwex: (Default)
Another snippet of what I'm listening to. Shockingly, more London Grammar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLTVQugvros

Here they are covering Fleetwod Mac's "Dreams", which is one of my favorite F.M. songs. I'm not enamored of the keyboard arrangement on this one but Hannah Reid's voice continues to drench me in joy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBhgm75h-sI

Bonus! Here's a vid from last year of them covering Beyonce's "All Night". I'm less fond of the base song but more fond of this arrangement. Go figure.
drwex: (Default)
I want to return to the "free speech, hate speech" discussion I posted about last month. There are two good easily readable articles from actual lawyers that I want to bring to your attention.

First up , "Remaining Faithful to Free Speech and Academic Freedom" written by Vikram David Amar, the Dean at the University of Illinois College of Law. Professor Amar decries the trend on campuses to prevent conservative speakers from delivering invited remarks. Often such obstruction comes in the form of shouting down or physically threatening the speaker (or the audience). Sadly, often such obstruction comes from forces that would consider themselves liberal or progressive. These groups often uphold values of diversity and inclusiveness, but argue that such values only extend to members of disadvantaged groups.

Traditionally, conservative viewpoints are expressed by members of privileged groups (men, cis, able, white, etc.) and the argument goes that such people aren't entitled to the same speech rights. Or, as Zunger and Samudzi argued in the previous go-round, the extension of free-speech rights to (what Amar identifies as) "odious, racist, sexist, hateful speech" is furthering the disadvantages already present in our system and so therefore the solution is to restrict such speech.

As Amar further says:
blockading, obstructing, assaulting, destroying property, and making threats, are not, in any stretch of the imagination, constitutionally protected things to do, no matter what the objective behind them

Use of such tactics in the furtherance of speech suppression is therefore doubly wrong. This is the principle under which it has been possible to remove people who are blockading entrances to, say, health clinics that provide abortion services. We cannot both request such protection for our favored friends and deny it to our hated enemies.

The second item, much blunter and less academic, is "Actually, hate speech is protected speech" an Op-Ed in the LA Times by Ken White, a lawyer perhaps best known for The Popehat blog. When not blogging, White is a practicing criminal defense lawyer.

White makes the point that I kind of belabored last time - the exceptions to free speech are few and narrow and that's for very good reason. Hate speech is protected, unless it can be shown to violate one of the immediacy exceptions, such as when it "...might be reasonably interpreted as an immediate threat to do harm."

He discusses various exceptions and arguments that are worth discussing but points out that even as attitudes in other areas of law (e.g. equal marriage, consensual adult same-sex acts) have changed rapidly, the courts have been unwilling to back off of strong protections for speech. And that's a good thing.
drwex: (Default)
Three separate lawsuits against Trump for violation of the Emoluments Clause. tl;dr I think all three are really wild long shots, but that's how new law gets made and there are some smart people involved here, so maybe. This case could also have interesting implications. This turned into a larger-than-expected entry, so I'll cut it into sections.
What's new this time )
There is interesting stuff in the details, too )
collateral damage anyone? )
(*) And as expected the Justice Department's response has come back as "these people haven't suffered any injury that would give them standing to sue". This is important because if there's no standing then the case can't even go to discovery.

(**) Technically we never declared war in Korea, but generally Presidents have gotten various forms of authorization for the use of military force. And again there's a yawning chasm of lack of legal precedent in this area.
drwex: (VNV)
I've been reading a lot of reviews and commentary on the film, ranging from the adulatory to completely clueless. There is one I want to bring out because it speaks to something I was unsure about.

In comments to my entry, I said that I was "on the fence" about the Native American character and while I gave the film credit for not whitewashing the role - it's played by one of the best and best-known Native American actors working today - I was uncertain. On the one hand he serves an incredibly important narrative role because he can point to Steve and rightfully accuse him (as a representative White person) of crimes every bit as bad as the WWI Germans. On the other hand, Native stereotyping is a huge thing in Hollywood films, so how do Native people feel about this character who everyone calls 'Chief'?

https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/culture/arts-entertainment/film-review-eugene-brave-rock-speaks-blackfoot-wonder-woman-dcs-best-film-ever/

The short piece by Vincent Schilling gives the movie props for Chief speaking Blackfoot to her initially (possibly to test if that's one of her known languages?). It notes that the actor was able to choose his own equipment and gear to maintain authenticity. And Schilling appreciates that the movie portrays Chief as a heroic figure.

I suspect that like any other community, Native American viewers are going to have a variety of opinions about this portrayal, but reading Schilling's comments helps me understand better and like Chief more.
drwex: (Default)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-sIb-b3yWE&list=TLGGgz7PEDd2hZ4wOTA2MjAxNw&index=2

In this "Big Think" video, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (formerly data scientist at Google) talks about some of the analyses he's done on the mountains of search data. The results are not encouraging.

First, people make what might be termed "racist" searches quite often. That's looking for searches using derogatory terms for racial and ethnic groups, searches for jokes that include racist stereotypes and slurs, and so on.

Second, you can see from the geolocation data on where searches originate you see (he reports) a striking east-west divide. East of the Mississippi you get a lot more of these searches than you do west of it. The areas he lists, though, are what we generally think of as "post-industrial" parts of America, such as western PA, eastern Ohio, which makes me think there are more correlations there to be explored.

Regardless of how you characterize those areas, Stephens-Davidowitz notes that if you go back to Obama's first election and map his vote totals against these racist searches - SURPRISE Obama does worst in districts that have a high number of racist searches reported. He notes that this correlation beats out other possible factors including church attendance, gun ownership, etc.
The main factor that predicts where Obama did worse than other Democrats is how frequently they made racist searches on Google

If that doesn't depress you (as it did me) then I'd love to know why.

Now scroll forward to 2016. I am shocked, shocked I tell you to discover that
...the single highest predictor of where Trump was doing well was the measure of racist searches on Google

This is, just to be clear, not me saying that everyone who voted for Trump is or was a racist. But if you voted that way, that is the majority of your fellow travelers. That is the pack you chose to run with. It's an the unexamined undercurrent in American society. Nothing in Google's data can help us understand why these attitudes exist in the places they do and not elsewhere. That task falls to us.

The data do support the hypothesis that Trump didn't create this racist pack - it was there at least as far back as data analysis has gone. It's also clear that, at least so far, these kinds of analyses are best done post facto. For example, searches for information on how to vote in traditionally black areas were much lower in 2016 than in previous election cycles. Post facto we can see that this has some explanatory power for Trump's victory - Clinton did not motivate black voter turn-out the way Obama did. But there aren't enough examples to know which searches are going to be relevant predictors and which are spurious correlations. At least, not yet.
drwex: (Default)
"If a federal judge allows the case to proceed..." is not a good way to start off and the Washington Post buries it a third of the way down, but remember when I nattered on about 'standing' and the Emoluments Clause? Yeah, we're gonna go there again.

Here's the Post story on a new attempt to sue Trump for violating that clause. The Attorneys General of MD and DC have decided to file suit alleging that 45 has violated the clause.

I think it's quite reasonable to make an argument that such a violation has occurred (many such, really). But remember, the question isn't whether there's a violation - the question is whether there is "an injury-in-fact" that can be directly connected to the alleged conduct "and that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." I didn't make up that language - that comes from a recent Supreme Court decision just this month.

Take it a step at a time. The Attorneys General are apparently arguing that Trump has violated their citizens' rights "...to have honest government." Raise your hands if you believe the US Government is honest, Trump or no Trump. Yeah, that's what I thought; I don't much think so, either. Nor, if I put on my legal hat, do I think it is easy to trace a line from the alleged conduct (accepting foreign payments) to any particular additional dishonesty in Washington. Even if you accept that some injury-in-fact (as opposed to in theory) has occurred I can't figure out how to connect it to Trump's acceptance of payments - as opposed, say, to Trump being a sock puppet for Putin.

Finally, and here's the really interesting part, there's the question of what redress can be ordered by the Court. Let's assume for the moment that we get all the other ducks lined up. The Court then says "Now what?" Presumably if the challenged actions relate to Trump's refusal to blind his business interests the remedy would have to address that. Since we can't order Trump to have amnesia and forget which countries contain properties with his name blasted all over them a simple blind trust isn't going to work. He'd have to be ordered to divest of those properties, and divest in some way that would mean he isn't just banking the cash until his term in office is over.

To say that would be an extraordinary remedy is a huge understatement. I cannot imagine any Court ordering it or it standing up to scrutiny on review if somehow a court did order such. Because, really, how many people believe that making Trump get rid of his business conflicts is suddenly going to make him a good, or even passable, President so that the citizens alleged to have been harmed will suddenly get good government? Yeah, I didn't think so, and I doubt you can convinced me you did.

I am torn. I firmly believe this is going nowhere but I also respect that serious legal minds think there is some merit to these cases and I'm no lawyer. I have to admit I could be wrong and we'll find ourselves breaking new legal ground. But I doubt it.

What's interesting, though, is that these cases might serve as a foundation for others who want to challenge conduct by officials in the Administration. I'm thinking particularly of cities that lose school funding to DeVos's charter schemes (in which she has real business interests) and others. There are much more solid cases to be made that officials in the Trump administration are not administering their offices in impartial ways and courts may be more ready to provide clear remedies for such conduct, such as denying voucher programs, ordering restoration of funding, and so forth. The Emoluments Clause doesn't apply to such officials, but there are other laws that do.
drwex: (VNV)
I have to keep doing music as part of my long-term self-care and I would love to share more of it with you. I still don't have a good solution for dealing with the tags/searchability problem, though, so I'm still very limited. Today I've got two long-form sets that ought to keep your ears happy and your butts chair-dancing for a while. (Also you're gonna need it for the political spam that comes next.)

http://www.groovelectric.com/peoplesparty.html
It's been a long time since DJ Steveboy put out a straight-up funk mix. The idea of "new old funk" was what started me listening to Groovelectric years ago and though I enjoy a variety of his sets nothing is as consistently satisfying as the funk. Here we get nearly a full hour of lush horns, rhythms and vocals, plus a cover/remix or two that got my attention (and I promise not to spoil).

https://soundcloud.com/user-457571129/ummet-ozcan-presents-innerstate-ep-138
I have not been happy with most of the last few weeks in Innerstate Radio-land. Frankly too much glitch and wub, I find myself turning it off halfway through. This episode avoids that for the most part. There are also a couple of really nice summery tracks such as Ozcan's own take on "Everything Changes" with Chris Crone. I can't recall any other time I've heard an Ozcan track with simple naked guitar chords. Others, such as "Lady" are more dance-y but still leaning toward the full house sound rather than the edge-y glitch pop.
drwex: (VNV)
Not posting music doesn't mean I'm not listening to it. But I'm not as deeply engaged with it as I usually am. I think that's probably not good for my mental health. Music has such power for me. I'll just give you this one, which nearly brought me to tears just for its sheer beauty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_TXvjDE5Ec

P.S. I'm still enough of a lighting tech geek to want to slap the designer & board op for this show.
drwex: (WWFD)
When I find myself too filled with rage or fatigue at politics I more and more often turn to science news for a break. Because, seriously, there's still amazingly cool stuff going on that will help shape our knowledge and understanding. I am particularly fond of new science that upsets existing dogma - feel free to share such stories with me if you know about them.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/07/science/human-fossils-morocco.html

Here, for example, is a nice piece in the NY Times that talks about how not only have we found new fossils that push the earliest known homo sapiens well earlier - like 100,000 years earlier - but they arguably explode the old paradigm of a "cradle of evolution" where homo sapiens supposedly evolved and then spread.
drwex: (Default)
Try to keep this quote in your head for the next four years:
[A] plaintiff seeking compensatory relief must have suffered an injury-in-fact, that is fairly traceable to the defendant's challenged conduct, and that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.

This quote relates to whether or not someone is eligible to bring a case - called having "standing". It's a test that every court is to use on whether the complaint brought by a plaintiff can be decided on its merits. Many cases don't go forward because the people involved are judged to lack standing to bring the complaint, and it's why organizations seeking to set significant precedents (e.g. equal marriage) wait until they have plaintiffs with good standing arguments.

This is relevant today because there's a lot of - to be frank - bafflegab about suing Trump for this or that violation. Take one example: I think it's reasonably well established that he's arguably violating, say, the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution. I say "arguably" because such a case would have to be argued in a court of law, decided, and appealed likely all the way to the Supreme Court. There's very little caselaw and relevant precedent about this clause. People who tell you that Trump obviously is or is not violating that clause are engaged in political speech, not legal speech.

What matters, though, is that we're extremely unlikely to see Trump actually brought to trial. Trump's various businesses are likely to continue to be sued - a hazard of any business operation - but Trump himself is not likely to appear in court, even leaving aside the question of Presidential immunity to legal actions. The reason being that it's going to be very hard to show that there is a plaintiff who has suffered the kind of cognizable harm described in the quote.

Let's take the worst possible interpretation of things for Trump: foreign powers deliberately steer their agents and tourists and visitors to stay at Trump properties, golf at Mar a Lago, and so on. The foreign government pays the bills for these things and the profits go directly into Trump's pockets. That would seem to be almost definitionally what a violation of the Emoluments Clause would look like. But who is harmed by that?

The average American? We may be outraged at the President's behavior, but outrage is not standing. A competitor? They might argue a business loss due to such an arrangement, to which Trump's lawyers simply shrug and say "prove it - prove that you would have gotten the business in different circumstances." There may exist a marketplace where a Trump business competes head-to-head with only one other, but in general someone who doesn't stay at a Trump hotel has a wide array of other choices. Ditto golfing or whatever. For any competitor to have standing they'd have to show that Trump's conduct led to their injury. All Trump did was plaster his name on his hotels, which he did well before the election, and let the dough roll in. What conduct, specifically, could the courts remedy?

In fact, I don't think anyone - even Trump's ardent opponents - would argue that customers should be prevented from staying at Trump properties. The problem is really that those monies are going into the President's pockets with, presumably, resulting influence flowing back to the paying foreign entity. That's what the Emoluments Clause was meant to stop.

That brings us back to the only actual check on the President's behavior - the Legislative branch. Violations of the Emoluments Clause could well form part of any articles of impeachment. The odds on that happening are, effectively, zero. And even if they did they're not a lawsuit and not subject to the rules of standing I'm discussing.

We might debate how this highlights a flaw in the US system of governance but even if we preempt the debate and just agree that it is, it's not going to change anytime soon. So the next time you hear or read someone banging on about how Trump should be sued for this-or-that I suggest you do what I do and skip on to the next thing because unless they're a law expert on the level of Professor Tribe they likely have no clue what they're banging on about.
drwex: (Default)
Amid the insanity of a 130+ day Gish Gallop that's still emanating from the dumpster fire it's hard to keep a handle on the idea that there are actual facts to be reviewed and data to be analyzed. Let's turn for a moment to one such story:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/06/05/its-time-to-bust-the-myth-most-trump-voters-were-not-working-class/?utm_term=.112ef36b9f08

This weekend, the Post's Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu put together another attempt to bust the "working class for Trump" meme. This has been one of the most popular stories since the election - or even the campaign. The story has been fueled by the fact that the machine Democrats as I ranted yesterday picked a candidate who seemed to have no ability to connect with actual working-class (blue collar especially) voters.

Carnes and Lupu put it directly - most primary Trump voters were affluent, and so were his election-day supporters. Data show that only about 1/3 of his support came from people who have household incomes below USD 50,000 - the current median. A similar number (1/3) had household incomes above $100k. That holds true particularly for non-Hispanic white voters, supposedly the core of Trump's support.

Carnes and Lupu also looked at education levels - Trump voters were reported famously to be people without college degrees. True, but a broader analysis shows that something like 70% of all Republican voters don't have college degrees. Trump drew voters from the high-school educated in line with the voting membership of that party.

Bottom line: the "prototypical" white non-Hispanic voter without a college degree who makes below the median income accounts for only 25% of Trump's vote tally. This "prototype" is a creation of (imo) lazy media looking for an easy story and angry supporters of other candidates looking for an easy scapegoat. Reality, as usual, is more nuanced than easy and if we're going to get rid of this cancer before it kills us we need to start by getting rid of bad myths.
drwex: (pogo)
I find a lot of commentary falling into the duality of "if it's not awesome, it sucks; if it didn't suck it must be awesome." I went into this movie with low expectations and sky-high hopes. It beat expectations but didn't meet my hopes. 3/5 stars

As usual, I can't talk about a number of the problems without spoilers so let me get the non-spoiler stuff up front. This review is divided into
the good )
---------- Below here be spoilers, at least one major; go see the movie then come read this and tell me what you think
the bad )
---------- below here be more spoilers; have you seen the movie yet? No, seriously, go see it. I'm about to spoil the ending.
the problematic )
drwex: (Troll)
The Supreme Court just issued a really important ruling that, at first glance, looks to be about obscure issues in patenting. In reality it affects all of us who have ever re-sold an item we purchased, including things like cars, phones, etc.

tl;dr SCOTUS[1] unanimously slapped down yet another wrong-headed ruling from the CAFC[2] and as a result you do not have to worry about being sued by some random corporation just because you resell something you own.

first some background )
Now in this case )
So what happens now? )
I'm sure that later today will bring more bad news from the dumpster fire in Washington but it was nice to get a big chunk of something good this morning so I figured I'd write about that.

[1] Supreme Court of the United States. Highest court of the country.
[2] Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Was set up to relieve some of the load on SCOTUS in dealing with intellectual property cases. It ought to be the final stop for such cases, but CAFC has been issuing decisions that have leaned heavily toward more restrictions and more favoritism to big rights-holder interests. They also have a long history of getting slapped down because their decisions can be appealed to SCOTUS and they almost always get reversed. Which they then proceed to ignore, but that's another story entirely.
drwex: (Default)
Another numbered list, all vaguely related.

1. In a few days it will be my birthday and I'm asking people to help me make that meaningful by helping others. Yes, I'm asking for money (for Oxfam) and that's not a reasonable thing for lots of people. If it's not on your list please help me spread the word.

2. Soon it will be the Jewish holiday of Shavuot - for most Jews who observe, it will start at sundown tonight. It marks the anniversary of the giving of the Torah (the laws, commandments, and history) by G-d on Mt. Sinai. Traditionally, Jews read the Ten Commandments in synagogue on this holiday, as they were read in the desert originally. It's also associated with eating dairy foods, because all Jewish holidays are about food in some way. HIAS, the Jewish-focused refugee support organization I'm looking to work with, sent out a reminder wishing people a "meaningful" Shavuot.

It's not the first time I've heard this phrase but it's one I like, as a mostly non-observant Jew. I recognize that people perform a wide variety of religious rituals for various reasons and I hope that anyone who does that is able to find meaning in those observances.

3. This morning I avoided serious injury or perhaps death through fate or fortune or random chance - take your pick. I was walking the dog, as I do, on the sidewalk. A landscaping truck coming from behind me was well over the median line, which forced an oncoming truck to swerve quite wide to avoid colliding. In swerving, the avoiding truck went well up onto the sidewalk, a few meters in front of me. Had I been those few meters farther forward I would have been struck by this truck.

As it was I just got my hair mussed by the wind and my day's worth of adrenaline in a few seconds. It was literally over and gone before I could even start shaking.
drwex: (Default)
I was floored waking up to the news that Gianforte - despite assaulting a reporter - won his election. I hope they put this f*cker away and he can not show up to vote for anything more horrid because he's in a jail cell. This is who we have become: the worst of American bullying and thuggery and violence.

More than ever I'm convinced that Trump is the symptom, not the cause. His presence and words and behavior legitimize and embolden this kind of fascist violence, and the islamophobic violence we saw enacted at airports in the wake of the travel bans, and the racist violence we are seeing across the country as immigration officials go after the brown-skinned who might possibly be in the country without proper papers. But that seething hatred, that fascism, racism, sexism, and *phobia was there before. Now it has the upper hand - it's emboldened.

I find myself deeply depressed. Fortunately, Jay Smooth to the rescue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLMF4FxXhbI

There's a URL at the end of the video but I'd like to point out that Jay Smooth now has a Patreon and if you are a fan of his critique and commentary, if you find his insights as useful as I do, you can now show your support as I have by becoming a patron.
drwex: (Default)
I deeply understand why many of the creative people I know are finding it hard to create in this environment. I don't think of myself as particularly creative, but so much of my brain-space is consumed by what's happening to the country and people I love that there's not a huge amount of room for other things. Look it's more numbered points.

1. https://www.facebook.com/FromBusinessToButtons/videos/vb.319214441472944/1424883597572684/?type=2&theater
(Sorry that's a Facebook URL; I couldn't find another. Also the sound quality is bad.) This is Mike Monteiro continuing to be f-bomb laden and in-your-face (if you're a designer) about the idea that ethics are not optional and how it's our job to fight fascism. He's not wrong - design is the gatekeeper to a whole lot of things and if you think about our problems as bad design solutions then you get to think about better designs.

2. Like Monteiro I remain weirdly optimistic. I see people getting energized, women running for office for the first time, and the strong likelihood that the complacent wing of the Democratic party is going to get a swift kick in its lazy ass. All good things. Arguably these are shining stars in a night sky of black-hearted evil but that's OK, I'll take it. I think we're not going to have a President Pence anytime soon, nor do I think we're heading for the sort of full-blown Constitutional crisis that seemed likely a bit ago. I don't think Drumph is going to launch nukes, but I do think we're likely to see more pretextual acts for ongoing violent distractions.

This lull is likely to last until the special counsel's report comes out, at which point I expect ALL the shit to hit the fan. Meanwhile, they still can't stop the signal - latest being that Congress is fighting Flynn's attempt to shield documents. Flynn-the-person can't be compelled to testify but his corporation doesn't have 5th Amendment protection.

I'm starting to be reminded of the proverb about "for want of a nail" which is sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin (see the entry at Goodreads Quotes). I can't imagine that Trump ever thought "gee if I fire this guy it'll bring the whole house of cards down" but that may well be what he gets.

3. I am also reminded of "Nixon's Spirit" from Paul Oakenfold. I wanted to find a version with lyrics but could not. Basically it's a spoken word piece from Hunter S Thompson over Oakenfold's music. Thomson is talking about the damage done to the late 20th century by Richard Nixon. When Thompson says, "You don't even have to know who Nixon was to be affected by his ugly Nazi spirit" I hear relevance to today. Trump, like Nixon, disgraces and degrades the office of President. That may not be a thing we ordinarily care about but it's going to matter, soon.

Think hard about whether you'd rather have crippled ineffectual President Trump or active engaged President Pence in charge between now and 2020. I can't definitively say one would be more damaging than the other. While my heart dearly longs to see Trump scurrying away in the dead of night like the diseased cur he is I fear what would happen in his wake.

4. I am UTTERLY BAFFLED by people who refuse to understand that the attack on the Ariana Grande concert was an attack that targeted women, young girls, and LGBTQ persons. Those are her fans. This asshole didn't drive a truck into a random crowd; he strapped on a bomb and picked a specific concert venue when a specific person was playing. It's like saying that the 9/11 attacks didn't target Americans because non-Americans were also killed. Yes, true, but those attacks targeted Americans. When we come to understand this attacker's motivations I will be floored if we fail to find misogyny and homophobia high among them.

5. I am still capable of being completely elated by seeing my child happy. I'll write more if I can catch up on updates.
drwex: (Default)
Or, why I'm a First Amendment fundamentalist. [profile] jducouer pointed to this article from Yonatan Zunger. As often with Zunger, it's a bit long but very well thought-out and worth your time to read. It just happens to be wrong*.

"wrong*" is a shorthand I use for not factually incorrect but that does not hold up to detailed scrutiny. People can disagree whether something is wrong* while still agreeing on fundamental principles and factual bases. In this case I think Zunger is wrong* in part because he's avoiding the hard part of his argument and in part because he's not considering enough points of view.

Zunger starts off agreeing with ZoƩ Samudzi who made the claim that "...implicit incitement to violence via hate speech is protectable" and identifies this as a weakness. Zunger elaborates that the reason such things ought not to be protected is because hate speech, which he equates with harassment "silence[s] the weak and amplif[ies] the powerful." That's the first wrong* thing. Harassment, a specifically targeted attack, is not the same as hate speech.

I'm not even going to address defending harassment. I know people do defend it, but they're wrong (not even wrong*). Both in law and case precedent, harassment is not protected speech. So that leaves us with a discussion of hate speech. Zunger argues that hate speech amplifies existing social asymmetries - the targets of hate speech are most often people (women, people of color, people of different gender expressions and orientation) that already have unequal burdens just in daily living. "Talking while female" and "driving while black" are actual expressions of the systemic factors that disadvantage leads to. We want to counter that, so let's take seriously a point that a system (of free speech in this case) promotes that disadvantage.

Hate speech, Zunger argues, "has the particular ability to shut down speech by minority groups more than that by majority groups." True. The question is, what do you do about that? Zunger's answer is fuzzy and he doesn't really suggest a way to deal with the problem saying things like "Devising good speech policy is profoundly hard" and "the law must wrestle with this hard problem, and try to place a meaningful dividing line". Which, I'm arguing, is exactly what it does right now, where it comes down permitting a wide array of distasteful and offensive speech.

Having shied away from one hard question it's easy to see how Zunger has shied away from an even harder question, which is why I think his view is wrong*. Ask yourself:
What constitutes "hate speech"? What is "implicit incitement"?

My guess is that you, my mostly white mostly American mostly liberal readers will come up with answers similar to mine. It's no coincidence that Zunger illustrates his article with a comic of Captain America punching a Nazi. We all agree Nazis are bad and antisemitism (and its dual Islamophobia) are bad and that's it. Right? Easy. Done.

Except, what do you say to someone who believes that your insult to their religion is hate speech? What do you say to the person who believes their king is an incarnate god and any statement portraying that person or their family as less than divinely perfect is implicit incitement? What do you say to the person who honestly believes that the Bible is the literal word of G-d and any statement questioning that is an attack on par with saying that women are inferior creatures fit only to bear children? That latter is clearly hate speech so what allows us to restrict that and not restrict someone who questions whether Jesus literally rose from the dead?

Other people see things differently[1]. An attempt to define hate speech in a way that can be applied outside our (first world, white, etc.) preconception circle has to acknowledge that difference or we are simply imposing our views on everyone. Without a clear description of "implied incitement" you are left in a situation where no one can know if their speech is to be permitted, except perhaps if it's cleared by The Group Appointed To Check Speech for Hatred and Implied Incitement. Please tell me who gets to be part of that Group - I'm quite sure it won't be freaks like me but I'm curious to know your selection process. I'm also quite certain that any situation that requires speech to be pre-cleared is going to be far worse for the people who are unfairly targeted and harassed today. History shows that when you have to pre-clear things you get prohibited from stuff like publishing poems about gay love, or comics showing interracial kissing. And on and on. It's not like we're new at this.

Zunger says that the "marketplace of ideas" requires regulation. I agree; we have those. And for very good reasons our chosen regulations target harassment and not hate speech, prohibit actual incitement not implied. The US used to have sedition laws and other things that kept free expression down. We've spent the better part of the last century learning - often the hard way (sorry Eugene Debs) - that these restrictions are generally a bad idea.

So I think it's wrong* to equate harassment and hate speech. I think it's wrong* to slip "implied" in front of incitement while pretending they're the same thing. and most of all it's wrong to assume that everyone shares the same speech values and ideals as we do.

[1] If you have not already read it I highly recommend Bruce Sterling's short story titled We See Things Differently.
drwex: (Python)
You may know I enjoy Indian foods, among them allo mutter - peas and potatoes, basically. I've often said that if I was forced to be vegetarian for the rest of my life I'd likely eat nothing but Indian food. Anyway, I've looked at that phrase more hundreds of times than I can count and it was only today that my brain produced:

Aloo mutter
Aloo fadduh
Here I am at
Camp Granada

You're welcome.

(If you have no idea what I'm banging on about, start with Wikipedia if you must, but it's generally more fun to listen than to read.)

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