drwex: (Default)
http://pressthink.org/2017/06/white-house-daily-briefing-trouble/

Sometimes the most insightful things about the dumpster fire are also the most depressing. This one hit me square between the eyes, and it starts with the simplest statement:
Wake up: Trump is not trying to win the support of anyone who is not naturally aligned with him.

Oh. *foreheadsmack* Yes. That is true and it explains so much.

Jay Rosen goes on to give examples and expound on it. For example, it explains why the administration has gone from unfriendly to hostile to outright war on the media. Mainstream media are the enemy. They exist solely to be demonized to froth up the faithful[1], who wouldn't read or watch those liberal eggheads anyway and who've been trained for years not to trust anything that appears outside the carefully constructed echo chamber. [2]

We're all used to situations in which our elected leaders try to broaden their appeal after victory. People have, I suppose, forgotten the degree to which Obama worked to reassure people that he was the President for all Americans, not just black Americans. We've certainly forgotten that Republicans used to talk about "big tent" ideals and tried at least to portray themselves as welcoming. Now the face of the Republican party is locked in a permanent sneer. Loyalty to DJT is valued above all else, and anything that questions whether the Dear Leader is right, or sane, or fit to rule is taken as evidence that the Dear Leader is under attack and needs the faithful to rush to his defense.

And it's all driven from the top. When Trump emits spectacularly hateful and misogynistic statements we might hear a little tut-tutting from the Republican establishment but they don't open up any space between themselves and the Dear Leader because there isn't a continuum anymore. There is either you are with us or you are our enemy and Republicans know they cannot win elections without the faithful. So they'll just go on like this was business as usual and this is exactly the process of normalizing the outrageous that I feared would happen.

But back to the mainstream media for a bit. Rosen argues (correctly I think) that this is a dominance game. Trump has all the power and he's using it to force the mainstream press to beg, to humiliate itself, to submit, and to support his agenda. That stupid yank-grab-squeeze handshake isn't an accident, folks. It's how he displays his dominance. The faithful lap it up and so he keeps doing it. To the extent that the press continue to play into this game they're signing all our death warrants.

Part of that denormalization is that "persuasion" gets written out of the equation. Dear Leader (Rosen argues and I agree) has no interest in persuading or convincing anyone who doesn't already believe. Thus being hateful and misogynistic is just fine because you're not trying to make anyone else believe your ideas - you're just trying to build up your dominance in a very playground-bully style. You issue insults and if people respond they're playing your game and reinforcing your style or if they ignore it they're normalizing bullying and reinforcing Dear Leader's bond with the faithful.

This applies to other supposedly outrageous behavior we've seen from the dumpster fire including blatant lying, put-downs, favoritism, and litmus-test loyalty. There's no effort to convince because that's not important; what is important is how forcefully you can attack your enemies - you heard this in the language that White House spokespeople used to defend Trump's sexist tweets. In their view Dear Leader is "attacked" and has to "fight back". This is exactly what the faithful want to believe, so lying to shape the narrative that way is normalized.

Rosen's piece stops there, but I want to go a couple steps further. First, what are the media to do? Dear Mainstream Media, welcome to being black or a woman in America. Not only do you have to be good at what you do, you have to be better than your (white|male) peers. Jackie Robinson didn't just have to be a good ballplayer - he had to be a f**king superstar, one of the best of his generation. Today if you're a woman in business or tech you have to be immaculate and beautiful and smarter than everyone else but don't let people know that. Et cetera.

Mainstream media have gotten used to playing on easy mode and suddenly Dear Leader has twisted the difficulty knob up to 11. The CNN story that had to be retracted is going to haunt us. I guarantee you that in 2018 and 2020 they're going to be chanting to the faithful about how CNN is fake news because they published a false story. Trump is already putting out videos of himself physically attacking "CNN". (https://news.google.com/news/video/e8ELJIc8HeE/d5z5Uh_6iaE4l1MEW8efv2_Wy6pAM?hl=en&ned=us) which is just absolute blood in the water for the piranha faithful. The media need to be on their A game and not giving away points and scoring own goals.

To be frank, being on their A game is going to be profitable. MSNBC, one of the earliest and most aggressive anti-Trump outlets, has seen a 73% year-over-year growth in viewership. (Numbers from Nielsen audience tracking, reported here: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/340318-media-reaps-dividends-from-trump-attacks)

And what about us? You and me. Time to ante up, if you're not already doing so and your wallet can take it. Pick an outlet you like that's doing reporting you care about and subscribe. Put your dollars to work paying people who are going to help us win this thing. Reporters gotta eat, too. I've been a supporter of The Progressive for decades and I'm thinking about adding a Washington Post subscription to my list.

I find it depressing to be wrong. When Trump was elected I objected to the "not my president" movement, arguing that we needed to accept the electoral victory and acknowledge - just as we insisted for eight years that people on the other side acknowledge Barack Obama was their president. But if Dear Leader wants to give up the mantle of being my president, so be it. Now if he'd just abdicate all the way, instead of the half-assed way...


[1] an earlier draft of this piece referred to these core Trump supporters as "sheeple". I think that characterization is true to a large degree - groupthink and reflexive dogma dominate independent inquiry and deep insight for these people. But I'm trying to avoid overtly negative terms because I think it's important to emphasize that these people also deserve clean air and water, effective schools and safe roads-and-bridges. They need job opportunities and meaningful futures for their children. That they will never be our allies doesn't make them undeserving of fair treatment, the same as we demand for all.

[2] I deeply disagree with the accusation that the left is guilty of "bubble" thinking. Data show that people with left/liberal/progressive views get information from more and broader sources, and engage more with opposed viewpoints than do people with right/conservative/regressive views. Moreover, the right-wing bubble has been carefully and deliberately constructed to be a self-reinforcing echo chamber for the purpose of isolating the faithful from distressing ideas. That such cynicism exists among the conservative rich elites is unsurprising, but still depressing.
drwex: (Default)
I originally wanted to do another bullet-point list to cover a bunch of things but the first thing about kids turned out to be a full entry on its own, so let's try this again...

- Politics. I've been on the phone a fair bit. Living in MA means I mostly call my Congresscritters to thank them and encourage them to keep #resist -ing. Still, I called the Governor about the Paris accords (yay, let's get this sh*t done and maybe have a planet to leave to our children because fuck DJT).

I called three state Senators and three Reps who are on the committee trying to pass marijuana legislation because the Senate version is a lot closer to what I and the majority of others voted for last time around. The House version seems to be a repeal-by-legislation effort that I think is BS. I also want the Lege to tackle some of the crucial issues that weren't defined in the referendum, such as establishing a uniform standard for intoxication, drafting rules for part-time residents or people who live outside MA but commute here for work or entertainment, and so on.

I'm still nominally involved with the local ACLU "People Power" group, which seems to be about 4-5 of us. We did meet with the Burlington Chief of Police, who's an interesting fellow, and found him much more receptive than I expected. We already had a good reception from the Middlesex County Sheriff so this is more heartening. We're unlikely to go on a full sanctuary city route like, say, Somerville. But we seem to have more law enforcement support than not. I'm all for tackling our Town Meeting in the fall when it reconvenes but getting the other people in the group motivated is proving challenging. Sadly, the ACLU doesn't seem to have a lot of skill or organization behind this so a lot of people are sort of floundering.

- Work. It sort of is. We're starting the annual review cycle which is always stressful for me and is going to be more stressful for my minions if only due to them being junior and not used to this kind of thing the way I am. I'll have more to say about work in a locked entry at some point.

- Car, house, big stuff. We're on the verge of finally getting the house painted. You'd think finding contractors to do this stuff would be easier but I find myself wandering the virtual hallways saying "someone please take my money to do this work" a lot. People are busy, just don't show up, or turn out to be incompetent. On the other hand, sometimes it's really nice to have a professional on the job, as when we called a plumber to deal with a backed-up sink and it turned into $1300 worth of work. Yay project creep; yay having people with the right skills and tools on hand to get it done in a few hours.

I continue to find my car "OK" six months in. I doubt I'll ever be bowled-over excited about it, but it's functional and it gets the mileage I want. As noted in the earlier entry, we're going to have to replace Pygment's car soon so shopping for that has commenced.

- Project Social continues to be a dismal near-failure. I am just not able to arrange time with as many people as often as I'd like. People be busy, y'know? It sounds silly to write this just before I head out the door to a social evening with one of my favorite people but over the long arc of weeks and months it's clear I'm not doing enough right things in this space.

- Arisia is moving along at the slow pace you'd expect from summer. I'm working hard to fill all the important jobs in my half of the division. Once I have those in place I'll feel better and may be able to relax a bit more. Yah, right.

- Looking forward to vacations in July, one to see the g/f and Gettysburg and then a getaway with Pygment. Lots of my cow orkers are taking at least July 3rd off and many are taking the whole week but it doesn't hook me that way. I hope we can make it to some good fireworks on the 4th and maybe one or two of the parties that traditionally happen that day and that will be enough for me.

How about you guys? What's your top bullet point (or two) right now?
drwex: (Troll)
So much has happened since last update it's not even vaguely possible to try journaling it.

I'm just going to talk about the kids here for a bit )
So that's my kids - how about yours?
drwex: (Default)
I have been trying, and failing, to write about what I can only term the Healthcare Massacre. This entry is incoherent and doesn't have a nice point but if I don't get it written I'm never going to be able to write other stuff, so here goes...

Shortly after Trump was elected, I wrote that I was feeling like we'd been here before. One of the things I will forever curse Reagan about is his refusal to see AIDS for what it was, refusal to fund research, and associated refusal to treat people with a then-fatal disease as human beings deserving of dignity, respect, and compassionate care.

Hundreds of thousands of people died of AIDS; I knew only a tiny handful of them and a slightly larger handful of the people who cared for and survived them but their stories have stayed with me. Then I saw a photo of a wheelchair-using activist being loaded into a police van from a protest outside Mitch McConnell's Senate office to which someone remarked that we might be witnessing the birth of a new ACT UP, a way to give a voice to those whose cries are not being heard. I read stories like this: https://twitter.com/aliranger29/status/878428841773019136

Go ahead, read that and say with a straight face that you need a tax cut more than that child needs to live. I won't even address the obscenity that this child will be condemned to death so billionaires can get an even bigger tax cut than you and I will get. Ali's story is just one example and of course we sympathize with cute children but he's representative of that population whose voices are not heard. Perhaps they do need an in-your-face advocate like ACT UP to clear a space for them on the national stage.

But I can't think of ACT UP without thinking about those people I stopped hearing from in the 80s. Engaging with this issue in any meaningful way is hard enough. I look at my children and think about what would happen if one of them needed lifetime medical care, of a sort that could blow the lid off "lifetime caps." Oh, right. They very likely will.

As I said, this is kind of stream-of-consciousness. I don't have a neat conclusion nor a snappy retort. I don't want another issue to have to focus my energies on. But I can't let this one go - the ghost voices in my head are too strong.
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: (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: (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.

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