drwex: (Default)
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: (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 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)
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: (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: (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: (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)
I was floored waking up to the news that Gianforte - despite assaulting a reporter - won his election. I hope they put this f*cker away and he can not show up to vote for anything more horrid because he's in a jail cell. This is who we have become: the worst of American bullying and thuggery and violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] If you have not already read it I highly recommend Bruce Sterling's short story titled We See Things Differently.
drwex: (WWFD)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDLFItfX9Jw

When I posted originally about the issues I want to focus on in my #Resistance I noted that climate change fell just a bit below the cut-off threshold. That was mostly because I feel we need an open and informed news and cultural debate in order for people to understand and advance the work on refugee and LGBTQ issues I care most about. Needing to help with that work in order to do the work on my top two issues meant I felt full up.

So work to preserve net neutrality obviously falls above this line. But so in general does work on free speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom to promulgate the truth. That includes the need to advance and improve scientific understanding. Neil deGrasse Tyson goes farther, as the subject pull quote says. He argues that while it's fine for everyone to have an opinion - indeed, it's our Constitution-granted right - when those in power deny scientific evidence, when they speak anti-science, and when they fail to realize that cutting off scientific research means handing the future of our society to someone else, that's an existential threat.
drwex: (Default)
https://my.oxfamamerica.org/AWbday

Normally a birthday is about the person celebrating the occasion. This year I'd like my birthday to be about one of my chosen issues.

With the help of Oxfam I'm putting out a request for money. If you're the sort who cares about food shortages, meeting the needs of refugees around the world, and who would consider doing something for my birthday please visit this URL. It's the home page for my birthday fundraising campaign. If you would normally get me something please consider giving that money to Oxfam. If money isn't your thing please help me by spreading the word. Obviously this appeal is to my friends and family and people who care about my natal anniversary but anyone who feels moved as I do can join in.

Sharing the things I care deeply about is one of the best birthday presents I can imagine.
drwex: (Default)
even if someplace as established as NPR (Morning Edition) gets them wrong.

Assuming for a moment that the Post story is correct and Trump bragged about something secret to his Russian cronies...

No, it is not actually a violation of any law I can find. It's stupid and incompetent but anyone who didn't know Trump was those things is not going to wake up now. The US President is the ultimate authority on classification levels. He can declassify things at will. There is some pushback against retroactive classification (*) but there is no higher authority on removing classification. Trump has been bleating about how he has "every right" to share this information. Nobody said you didn't have the right, Jackass. We just said it was a really dumb idea.

If it's not illegal, then what's wrong with it? From analyses I've read there are three big problems here:

  1. Trump revealed **to the Russians** information that has not been shared with our allies. Bet that makes them feel good! This is directly damaging to our relationships with those countries.

  2. The information was apparently not developed by US agencies. It was (reportedly) shared with us by a friendly other-national security agency. Longstanding tradition is that if one country shares something it gets a say in how that information is passed along. This is one of the bases of the "five eyes" intelligence-sharing agreement that was highlighted in the Snowden papers. It's also a basis for other non-five countries sharing intelligence with us and if they think Trump is going to spill stuff stupidly to the Russians then they're not going to share with us anymore. That's direct damage to the capabilities of the US intelligence system.

  3. The information apparently contains enough specificity that the Russians can backtrack its source. According to The Post this included the name of the city where the threat was detected. This is where NPR (and others) fell down. When quoting National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster people are focusing on his claim that reports are "false". It's important to read exactly what McMaster said because he's choosing his words carefully:
    At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known

    But nobody I know has said anything about military operations - that's a flat-out red herring, and most people aren't saying that Trump directly disclosed sources or methods. So technically McMaster is correct, but he's doing what spooks always do, which is muddy the waters and create plausible deniability.


  4. Now the question is whether this rises to the level of impeachable offense. In a Post op-ed, Harvard Law professor Tribe listed a number of potential grounds for impeachment. Now we have the possibility that Trump's actions amount to treason, one of the few crimes enumerated in the Constitution. Specifically "...adhering to [the United States'] Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." There's not a lot of good caselaw here, one of the reasons Congress specifically passed laws making it illegal to assist a listed terrorist organization. That law, not treason law, has been used in most of the modern "giving aid and comfort" cases. So that leaves us with impeachment.

    Both Nixon and Clinton were targeted by Articles of Impeachment introduced by hostile (other-party-controlled) Houses. To my knowledge no sitting President has ever had their own party file such Articles against them. I don't expect it to happen now. Look at how quickly Republicans closed ranks around Trump over Comey's firing, despite the blatant lies involved. Republicans won't agree on a special prosecutor or even the much weaker Select Committee that McCain keeps trying to push. People who think Trump is losing support or that the Republicans will turn on him are putting too much hope in too little substance, I think. All the signs point to him surviving this one, too.

    I still think the odds are better than 50% that he won't finish his full term, but there will have to be something really seismic to flip that switch. A major Republican loss in the '18 elections or the FBI producing an actual smoking gun would be my first two candidates right now, but I can't rule out Trump doing something so incredibly awful as to bring himself down. However, it's worth bearing in mind that all through his presidential candidacy people kept predicting that his blunders and bombast would be his downfall, yet they weren't. Experience does not lean on the side of those thinking Trump will bring himself down; thus, I expect it'll be something external.


    (*) The Progressive atom-bomb story case is a good example (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._The_Progressive,_Inc.) Although the government withdrew its appeal most observers thought they would continue to lose in their attempts to classify retroactively material that the magazine had found on library shelves and assembled.
drwex: (VNV)
So, April was indeed the smoldering crater I figured it would be. I'm back and hoping May will be slightly more sane. I'm still going to try to get the other two April posts written and done. They'll be about family and work mostly so will be f-locked. I think I've caught up on all the posts I didn't read last month but if you put out something you'd like me to see and I didn't comment on it please do leave me a link.

I'm stalled out on finishing my move to DW by the tag limit. Even their premium paid service is maxed at 2000 tags, which my music blogging has already exceeded. This means I can't put tags on any new posts I originate here. That's the last thing I need in order to shut down my LJ. I've written to DW support asking about this and we'll see what they say.

Project Social continues. We made it to a party this past weekend, despite both of us having a lot of inertia and household stress. Then we had people over for game on Sunday. This week will see a dinner with another couple who also need Adult Time and whom we only manage to see a few times a year. Then a date I've been looking forward to for several weeks and maybe a social gathering before SoS.

Next week has an Arisia Divheads meeting but nothing fun social. Likewise the week after that has Thing 1's birthday but no adult social. If you'd like to help alleviate some of this please let me know.

Political things continue to occupy a lot of my brain but not as much as to overwhelm other things. I'm awaiting delivery of a bumper sticker I designed for HIAS. If it comes out well I'll be submitting it to be included in their official line of merch, which is kind of neat. I continue to be concerned about the upsurge in hate and am still looking for a good political organization that I can volunteer with.

Porter Square Books is hosting a "how to get involved, how to volunteer" workshop at the end of this month that I plan to attend, assuming nothing more concrete to do has materialized before then. I'm trying to be mindful that this is a long-term effort but I still want to be doing more.

What are you guys doing to keep sane these days?
drwex: (Default)
I have put my first bumper sticker on my new car. It simply says "I resist". I have one or two more I can give away; if you'd like one, ping me here or personally.

Moveon.org are looking for volunteers to help find and contact the companies whose ads are appearing on breitbart.com - see https://docs.google.com/document/d/1d3uLPk-TfwmpWUozHwR3jh--n3VV0e6odT-47sQhm8o/edit for details and how to participate. You have to turn off your ad blocker, obviously, and if you want they have a convenient browser extension for Firefox and for Chrome to help you out.

These advertisers are called "hidden" because by and large they likely do not know where they are advertising. Instead a third-party ad broker sells spaces that these companies purchase from the broker. They simply collect revenue without any awareness of the context in which their ads appear. So goes advertising on the Internet now. The question becomes "Will these companies care once told that their ads are appearing on breitbart.com?"

If you'd like to help find out, check the Google doc linked above.

Profile

drwex: (Default)
drwex

July 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2 3456 78
9 1011 12131415
1617 1819 202122
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 21st, 2017 04:46 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios