drwex: (Default)
2017-06-04 07:49 pm
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[sticky entry] Sticky: Let's just get this out of the way

(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)
2017-07-26 05:57 pm
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Let's talk about who is unfit for the job

It's not going to be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I think Trump's stated policies against trans individuals serving in the armed forces is heinous. It's despicable, divisive, regressive, and just frankly wrong. I've seen assertions of somewhere between 4,000 and 15,000 trans persons serving in the armed forces today. Even if we take the highest number, the resulting amount of cost to the VA care system is minuscule compared to the real costs of meeting our social commitment to care for those who have put their lives and careers on the line for this country.

If Trump actually cared about the costs of medical care for military personnel he'd be paying attention to the VA healthcare system and its needs. But in fact he doesn't care. Nor does he care about trans people. They're just today's convenient targets in his ongoing abdication of the job of being president for anyone who isn't his natural supporter. I hear those folk think he's doing just fine to which I say, "fuck you."

Normally I try to be a little more tolerant but between the attempt to kill people by taking away their healthcare and this nonsense I've run out of tolerant for a while. Trump is manifestly unfit for the job of Commander in Chief; the people he's attacking are either fit or not, a fact that can be determined without ever raising questions of their sex, their gender, their assigned-at-birth gender, or their gender presentation. Disqualification of a class of persons based on a characteristic unrelated to their job performance is a sign of a weak and cowardly leader.
drwex: (VNV)
2017-07-25 11:55 am

OK it's Tuesday but it's still music

This will likely be the only music post this week. Next week I'll begin chipping away at the backlog. But this week I found something enjoyable enough I jump it to the head of the queue.

https://soundcloud.com/user-457571129/ummet-ozcan-presents-innerstate-ep-142
Start with another of Ummet Ozcan's "Innerstate" sets. I have a few of these sets marked that I might say a word or two about but in general these haven't excited me too much. Like a lot of the things I've been listening to they're often overrun with pointless glitch and wub and I click off about halfway through. This one I stuck with and that's a good thing.

I recommend listening - midway through there are two of Ozcan's own tracks - the "You Don't Know Switch" and "Something Just Like This" - that I think are quite good but I couldn't find separate linkable uploads for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccfEUIhxKvs
The real payoff is at the end, though because you get back-to-back goodies. The first is this edit by Dmitri Vegas and Like Mike based off of "Renegade Master" a track popularized by Fatboy Slim (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyWqeJ1vLWo) though it was originally created (but never released possibly due to copyright issues over samples) by a DJ known as Wildchild. This new edit is actually based on a recent mash done by two other producers. It's a fun bouncer of a track and a study in how music travels and mutates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJhn-sicZgU
Then finally stuck on the end like an afterthought - or maybe saving the best for last? - is this gem. "Mariko" by Sagi Abitbul (https://www.facebook.com/sagiabitbulofficial and also https://soundcloud.com/sagiabitbul). Near as I can tell, Abitbul is an Israel-based DJ with origins in eastern Europe (Serbia?). The track is a hot crash of modern EDM sounds with traditional east-European vocals and instruments - can anyone identify the stringed instrument shown briefly at 1:19?

I love this kind of thing - mining a variety of traditional styles for modern inspirations. Damned if I can figure out the language, either; Google thinks it's Bulgarian. Anyway, that led me to find this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NejMwMeZyag
Sagi Abitbul again in collaboration with Guy Haliva (https://www.facebook.com/Guy-Haliva-670327543003366/ and also https://soundcloud.com/guyhaliva) another Israeli. This one I recognize the sounds as being more Israeli/Middle Eastern but the lyrics are likewise a mystery. I've seen claims of Bulgarian, Serbian, and Turkish but damned if I can tell those apart. Still a fantastic sound and I'll be following both these guys to see what else they do.
drwex: (Default)
2017-07-24 11:54 am
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Curbing hate against police

One of the areas where I can differ from other liberal/progressives is in the area of violence against law enforcement. A nice column addressing this came out today from Professor Margulies of Cornell.

Margulies is also very left-liberal and has been deeply into the theories and research around policing and criminal justice reform. I was interested to see that he takes a stand very similar to my own, which is that although acts of murder against police are quite rare (and have been dropping steadily for the last 40 years) there is still a perception that police are targeted and that violence against police is not adequately addressed.

I understand why this is so - we focus attention on the victims of police violence, particularly because those victims are often young men of color who are ignored and denied a voice unless we keep a hard focus on their unjust treatment. But I think we are adult enough to pay attention to more than one thing and in this case that means giving appropriate attention to violence against police without taking attention away from the violence committed against their victims.

Margulies' column notes that police are increasingly being asked to solve problems that they simply cannot solve, and that a first step in reducing violence and tension is for us (society) stop making police the first and only approach to public manifestations of complex intertwined social problems such as addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. He argues we need to change the role and mission of police - if you read his earlier writing you'll see he's a big advocate of place-based policing, reducing overall police presence in favor of concentrating on the handful of individuals and locations that are responsible for the majority of crimes.

I think it makes sense to try these approaches - in particular I agree with Margulies that AG Sessions' attempts to reverse the history of policing are only going to make things worse. And I would go one step further, specifically to address the perception issue. I would make it law that any person who targets police because they are police should be subject to hate-crime investigation and possible prosecution.

At first this seems like a stretch. "Police" are not an identifiable protected class the way black people or women are. But I think that misses the point. When someone firebombs black churches, or vandalizes Jewish cemeteries, or shoots up a gay nightclub they are attacking the visible symbols of identity of a class of persons. Likewise, on those rare occasions when someone specifically targets those in uniform such as happened in Dallas last year they are attacking the class of persons who wear those uniforms. And I believe those attacks should be investigated and potentially prosecuted the same way.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the perception of police being under fire is not matched by statistical evidence; however, when women say they feel a company has created a hostile environment we don't ask them for statistics (or ought not). Instead we (ought to) work to turn the environment around. Part of turning around the environment for police is to stop asking them to solve unsolvable problems; another part can be making a clear public statement of how we feel about violence that targets them.
drwex: (VNV)
2017-07-20 01:49 pm

Still talking about talking about (watching?) music

Yes, I will be posting music entries Real Soon Now, I promise. Probably next week. But first I want to unload some of the stuff in the mental backlog.

I really appreciated all the commentary on the last post. If y'all want to chime in about this one I'd likewise appreciate it. The topic is "Music video WTF" - as in, should I link to videos if I like the song but not the video?

Here, let me give you an example that sits right on the borderline, two videos for "One On One" by Tujamo, with vocals by Sorana. Tujamo is a German producer and EDM spinner; Sorana is an eastern European singer (near as I can guess, Romanian) and this is her first big team-up with a "name" producer. So, OK, great. It's a fun tune and I like her voice, though as with a lot of these things I think it's over-tuned.

First up, the official video for the song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y19FzsqM1as

Minor warning: it's a PoV video done in the style of a lot of porn these days where you, the viewer, are invited to have the gaze of the (male) camera in intimate interactions with a small, very conventionally attractive woman through a series of scenes, including bedroom. There's nothing actually X-rated about this, but I was uncomfortable watching it. In case that gaze isn't intimate enough for you, there's even an official 3D-VR version - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx6OeuZ-mLE

Plus side: she's smiling and active throughout. She appears to be not only enjoying the interactions but initiating things. But if voyeurism isn't your kink (it's not mine, at least not for strangers) then you may (like me) find yourself unable to watch this video and see if there are other alternatives. Here's one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gVZnnxvf38

At least that's just a static conventionally-attractive-skinny-chick-half-dressed-in-provocative-pose. You see that kind of thing selling pretty much any product under the sun everywhere in the industrialized world. But, seriously, what does this have to do with the music?

I usually try to link to SoundCloud for my music choices but lots of things aren't up there and are on YouTube or other visual media.

So, dear readers, what do you make of this? Would you rather I didn't blog video music that sets me off, or blog it with information so you can judge for yourselves?
drwex: (VNV)
2017-07-18 04:10 pm

But first a little talking about talking about music

Once upon a long ago I used to merrily blog music. Yay, it was fun. Sometimes people would leave comments telling me they liked this or that or otherwise indicating that I wasn't just blogging into the void. That's always nice.

Then [personal profile] mizarchivist pointed out that LJ has these things called "tags" and I could tag my music entries. This is helpful to know what's going on, and particularly helpful for back-reference and finding things that are particularly notable. Eventually I got enthusiastic enough to go back and tag my existing couple years' worth of music entries... at which point I promptly ran out of tags. This more than anything else prompted me to move to a paid LiveJournal account because I needed more tags. All is fine until the company owning LJ decides to move the servers into Russian airspace and I decide it's time to move over here to DreamWidth. Which, I shall not bore you with details, will not allow me to have unlimited tags, even if I do pay them.

For a while this has stymied me. I really like the convenience of being able to go back and revisit things I've blogged in the past, and I blog a lot of new artist/DJs in a given month so the list of tags grows with no obvious way to condense them. I'm tired of being stymied though and it finally penetrated my thick skull that this convenience I've grown used to is just that, a convenience. I don't actually have to tag music entries in order to write them. So I'm going to start blogging music again, only with erratic-to-nonexistent tagging. You've been warned.

I realized this because I have re-remembered (I keep forgetting, somehow) that music is important in my relationships. Intimate, certainly, and otherwise. If you and I don't share some musical taste or other, it's likely we're less close of friends than we would be if we did share. For example...

This morning Pygment and I responded to a wedding invitation that included a request to list something that would cause us to get up and dance. At first I snarked that my music tastes would appall most people and DJs wouldn't play it at weddings anyway. Pygment agreed and said something like, "Yeah but imagine if they would, we could get them to play..." and in two clicks I had the track linked below, which we put on the RSVP card. I'll let you know if it plays at the wedding because I will sure as shit be dancing if it does.

We Can Make the World Stop
drwex: (Troll)
2017-07-18 02:00 pm
Entry tags:

I went to Gettysburg and had a good time

Took Amtrak to/from Harrisburg and met up with the g/f to do a couple days of touristing in Gettysburg. Rode down Thursday, back Sunday. Overall good, but I am glad to be in my own bed again. If I'd had more knowledge I would have planned better, but given the knowledge I had at the start I think we planned very well.

Friday we took two pre-planned tours. A "History Nerds" tour that was mostly riding around in an air conditioned bus (quite useful when the temp AND humidity topped 85) and looking at sites with a guy who could firehose details about pretty much everything. We got a fairly complete set of visits and lots of facts. I would have liked it if the bus stopped more often, but it did provide info we used later.

That evening (once it had cooled off from "utterly beastly" to "merely summer sticky") we had a walking tour of the city itself with a hobbyist guide. That was interesting because most of the National Park-level focus is on the battlefield and kind of glosses over the fact that the battle swept through the town multiple times. Our guide had lots of interesting stories and trivia to help contextualize the facts and sites and since it was just the two of us on this walk we got extra time and it was much more conversational.

It was interesting to be reminded throughout just how much of a cultural bubble I live in; for example, the evening guide was explaining how the local Lutheran congregation continues to struggle with whether to do services in (traditional) German or (modern) English, how they vary some week-by-week and how they print variations on the prayer book in one or the other or both languages. I commented, "Yeah, sounds like every synagogue I've ever been to" and the guide admitted she had no idea Jews did that. I get the sense that she likely doesn't know any actual Jewish people.

Saturday we decided to revisit the battlefield in the morning, predicted to be the coolest and least humid hours of the day. Despite some navigation snafus we made it to several of the sites we'd wanted more time at and spent a lot of time wandering around getting a sense for things that's hard to achieve while in a bus.

After a few hours of that we declared a break for lunch at a period recreation inn in town that was OK and fortuitously was across the street from the local cidery that I'd been wanting to try. Between heat, exercise, post-food coma, and a flight of very tasty ciders we decided to ditch the previous plan of going back to the battlefield in favor of nappage. By the time we got up from that it was late and GF wanted to visit the official Gettysburg visitor center and cyclorama.

The visitor center was OK - we saw a short film narrated by Morgan Freeman that talked about some of the impact of the Civil War on slavery and economics. The Gettysburg Cyclorama is one of the last few surviving cycloramas anywhere. This version was originally displayed in the Boston Cyclorama building (who knew?) and moved to the park's visitor center in 2008 after restoration work. It's quite impressive; unfortunately we were the last group of the day and the museum needed to close promptly because there was a wedding using the site right after closing. I would have liked more time to soak it in but such is the nature of things.

After dinner and ice cream we detoured into what is locally marked as the "Soldier's National Cemetery" but Wikipedia calls Gettysburg National Cemetery. The place is a little eerie, particularly the rows of "unknown" markers for soldiers interred there who could not be identified. There's a commemorative marker for Abraham Lincoln as well, which people have placed numerous Lincoln pennies onto. Being my own contrarian self I found a pebble.

It was interesting to me to have a memorial marker there since it's not where he's buried (that's his hometown of Springfield at the Oak Ridge cemetery) nor is it where he gave(*) the Gettysburg Address - that spot is marked by a separate memorial stone. Humans are weird, what can I say.

We skipped doing one of the many "ghost" tours that take place in the evenings and I felt good about that in retrospect. They all seem to be popular but kind of commercial and largely beside the point. My interest is in authentic history, at least to the degree we can understand and experience it. I would have liked another half day on the battlefield - we got to see almost all of Cemetery Ridge (the Union side) and about 3/4 of Seminary Ridge (the Confederate side) but not really view Little Round Top or see the cemetery in detail.

(*) Actually there's some debate about where Lincoln actually stood. He was not the featured speaker of the day - that was the popular orator Edward Everett of MA - and in fact had not been expected to attend. His remarks were so brief that the photographers didn't even have time to set up properly; there is only one popular photo of the address and Lincoln isn't even easy to distinguish in the shot. The location is in dispute as contemporaneous accounts differ and really nobody paid much attention to his speech at the time. The New York Times printed Everertt's address in full but declined to reproduce Lincoln's remarks.

To make matters more confusing, at least five different versions of the Address were printed in other newspapers of the time and all differ in some details from written versions that have been authenticated as being in Lincoln's handwriting. Post-hoc analysis of Lincoln's condition ("ghastly color" and "haggard" were reported) indicate that he was likely feverish at the time of the speech and so may have said things different from what he had written.
drwex: (Default)
2017-07-12 11:06 am
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I was going to write about music, but maybe not just yet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6UZUhRdD6U

Because once again we're in a fight to be able to listen to the music we want, watch the videos we want, load the Web sites we want, message with who we want using the app we want... all of which we've paid for.

Net neutrality ought not to be a new or surprising concept to anyone who reads this blog but Vi Hart breaks it down for you anyway along with a history lesson.

If you don't feel like watching an 11 minute video it comes down to this: Cable companies (Comcast, Verizon, ATT, etc.) pretend we live in an era of cheap quality data service with lots of alternatives. In fact, cable companies have one-provider monopolies over 90% of subscribers and I cannot find a major metropolitan area where any person has more than two cable choices. Even a company with the deep pockets of Google has been unable to break these monopolies and the monopolists have sued numerous cities and towns to protect their monopolies against municipal-funded competition.

All the while providing US consumers with crappy data service. We're middle of the pack or worse compared to other industrialized countries with wide broadband penetration.

Cable companies, and now the FCC, are acting like monopolies didn't exist and like people were getting high-quality broadband services. They're also acting like the ISPs were disinterested parties rather than also being large cable companies whose cable divisions (e.g. HBO) are in direct competition with broadband media services (e.g. Netflix).

Net neutrality is about stopping monopoly providers from using their protected positions to disadvantage competition. It's that simple (though I realize those are long complex words - upgoer five knows almost none of them). If you haven't already called your Congress critters, or written a comment to the FCC today is the day to do that.
drwex: (Troll)
2017-07-10 05:16 pm
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On the 4th of July, a small social report

I realized that "what's up with me" has largely been "the kids." They and their needs occupy almost all of my brain space. They've been away at camp and will be intermittently gone this summer - all the away time doesn't quite line up the way we hoped but it's still a fair set of days of nobody but us and the dog in the house. Very mixed feelings about all that.

I've also realized that I'm not updating the way I'd like to. It's the usual cycle of not-writing that leads to there being so much stuff to write that it's overwhelming and so more not-writing happens. So let's talk first about the 4th because I felt good about it.

Project Social has been one of my ongoing goals since November. Feeling crushed and attacked on a daily basis - if not me then people I know and care about - is a real and disheartening thing. Seeing friends and doing relaxing things with them is a good antidote.

The Fourth there's one friend's party we traditionally go to, and we try to catch some fireworks somewhere. This year we were trying to figure out how to fit in another party with no kids home to do dog care when we got a message from [personal profile] mizarchivist saying she was in the midst of a packing marathon and could use company.

So we adjusted plans to stop by, bring packing supplies over, pack a handful of boxes while we were there, and then take her away to the party, a few blocks from her place. Feed, give tasty drinks, and hopefully provide a useful and refreshing interlude. We all agreed that moving (especially one's own stuff) is a horrid and horrible experience and if things can be done to make lives easier then that's a blessing.

The party was nice, tasty foods and some conversation with people I don't see that often. The attendance has shifted over the years to where I see fewer of my acquaintances there, and so spend less time there. We got home in time to feed the dog and chill a bit before going to see fireworks with Pygment's GF and fiancee (I keep wanting to type "husband" but they haven't quite yet formalized it - soon!) I think they are both excellent people but due to a combination of natural introversion and tiring work travel we don't see them much.

The fireworks show was good and the GF drove, meaning I didn't have to stress out about the traffic - if you've never driven with me in a traffic jam just accept that such things activate my aggression and anxiety a lot more than they ought. But if I'm not driving I can mostly ignore it.

So that was a holiday. Unlike many of my cow orkers I was in the office the 3rd and the 5th and did actual work. It was kind of empty in the building but not horribly so. One-day weekends aren't nearly as good as four-day but that's coming.
drwex: (Troll)
2017-07-07 02:16 pm
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We saw "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and It Was About What I Expected

Finally, Marvel has given us its version of Spider-Man, fit into the Marvel movie universe. Having shown us chunks of it in Avengers and with a fairly revealing trailer the outline of the story was pretty well-known and the plot has only one or two surprises. 3/5 stars for a passable movie that doesn't inspire, particularly, but doesn't turn off.

Like almost all the Marvel movies so far this one rises on the strength of its main portrayal. Specifically, Tom Holland is Peter Parker/Spider-Man for the early 21st century. He's got the embarrassed nerd act down pat, and the wonder-struck teenager done pretty well. He bumbles and improvises and does frankly stupid things.

The script is a bit of a mess- I ended up disliking the ending because it rang false and felt like unnecessary fan service[1]. There are also some really bad inconsistencies, not least of which is the utter lack of concern everyone has about a minor disappearing all the time in all kinds of places. But it's not so terrible as to throw me out of my enjoyment.[2]

That said, the film does nod to several bits of Spider-Man canon and history without hitting anyone over the head about it. Perhaps the best thing about the script itself is that it is not an origin story. Where I felt that Wonder Woman absolutely needed to give us a definitive origin tale, Spider-Man's origin is something we've seen done and done to death. Here what's needed is to situate Spider-Man in the (new) Marvel universe and its ongoing events, not retell how Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. This movie does that.

I do want to give a special shout-out to the movie for representation. Laura Harrier plays Liz, a mixed-race [3] senior that Peter Parker is into. Her movie parents... well, yes, right on. Zendaya is Michelle, the very hip not-a-girlfriend who hides just how smart she is, also mixed background. Jacob Batalon as Ned-the-best-nerd-friend-ever, also clearly not a white guy. Major roles are still white dudes but it's very 21st-century appropriate in my view to have people of all sorts on the screen and nobody makes a big deal of any of it. It just is. The film doesn't pass the Bechdel test, though.

Go see it; it's a fun summer movie and nobody but me expects these things to be great art.

[1] for a change I'm going to try doing this one spoiler-free so you'll just have to watch the movie and see if you agree with me.
[2] Does it bother anyone else that Peter calls her "May" rather than "Aunt May?" I get that they're trying to update a stodgy white-haired old widow into the younger, obviously hotter Marisa Tomei version and I can roll with that, but him calling her "May" throws me every time.
[3] I hate that term; if you have a better one for a person who has one white and one black parent then I'd love to update my vocabulary.
drwex: (Default)
2017-07-03 10:05 am
Entry tags:

Depressing, accurate

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)
2017-06-28 05:04 pm
Entry tags:

So what's up with you, anyway? (2 of N)

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)
2017-06-28 04:16 pm
Entry tags:

So what's up with you, anyway? (1 of N)

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)
2017-06-28 03:34 pm
Entry tags:

Need to get this written down

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)
2017-06-22 10:40 am
Entry tags:

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

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)
2017-06-21 04:43 pm
Entry tags:

Let her sing

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)
2017-06-16 11:18 am
Entry tags:

While I'm doing political thinky stuff

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)
2017-06-15 10:16 am
Entry tags:

And now there are three (politics)

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)
2017-06-12 05:22 pm

Because I'm still obsessing about Wonder Woman

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)
2017-06-12 04:37 pm
Entry tags:

Politics 2: We Are Way More Racist Than We Think

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)
2017-06-12 10:35 am
Entry tags:

Politics 1: Let's get back to that Emoluments thing

"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.