tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
I think most of us agree that you don't have a debate with a two-year-old over whether it's OK to put butter on the cat. You take away the butter. A two-year-old is not at a developmental stage where that debate is feasible -- that comes later. In the meantime, you stop children from hurting themselves or others (whether it's butter on the cat or running into traffic) because that is your job if you're a parent or even just an adult who happens to be nearby.

You as an adult do not use physical violence against a two-year-old, ever, because a two-year-old is incapable of posing a physical threat to an adult -- we're capable of picking up two-year-olds and physically moving them somewhere else (or at least of asking another adult to do that for us), and you don't use physical violence against someone you can do that to. Just to be super clear about what I'm advocating and not advocating, it is never okay to hit a child.

You as an adult do not use physical violence against a 16-year-old, either, because of the unequal power dynamic that exists between adults and people legally classified as minors. Except... it gets tricky, since you probably can't physically pick up a 16-year-old and move them somewhere else, and a 16-year-old is old enough to pose a physical threat to an adult. I refuse to draw a line that says "here's the age where it becomes okay to respond with violence", but I think most of us would agree it's OK to use self-defense against a 16-year-old who is actively trying to harm you, in the same way that it's OK to do the same against a 23-year-old who is actively trying to harm you. I'm talking about self-defense here, not discipline.

If we're parents, at least if we're good enough parents, we teach our children how to emotionally self-regulate because we're aware they aren't born knowing how to do that and it's a skill they need to be taught. The reason you stop a two-year-old from running into traffic is that they need to survive to get to be old enough to learn how to cross a street. You stop a four-year-old from pulling their brother's hair because they're not yet old enough to learn that they're capable of hurting other people and why they shouldn't. If you expect more than a two-year-old is developmentally capable of, that's going to be bad news for you, the child, or both. (People who know more about child development than me can argue about the specific ages, but hopefully you see the point.) Since a very young child can't understand or set boundaries either for themselves or others, we do it for them until they can do it themselves.

Then the question is: in society, what do we do when we meet adults who never learned those two-year-old or four-year-old lessons, or who did learn them and choose not to apply them because they think they will get something (usually money or power) by ignoring boundaries?

This is what we do:



Very young children can't reason on the level of "if I do X, Y will happen", which is why we have to act directly to protect children we're responsible for, rather than letting them learn for themselves what happens when you run into traffic.

Young children can reason on the level of "if I do X, Y will happen", but can't yet internalize the principle of "I shouldn't do X because I don't want to be a person who does X", which is why practices like time-in work: if they know that acting a certain way results in a parent temporarily withholding attention, they will learn not to do it.

Older children can understand the difference between right and wrong, which is why we can explain to them why hurting other people is wrong and they shouldn't do it, rather than just showing them there will be consequences if they do something wrong.

Adults can understand all of this and choose to suspend their own ability to differentiate between right and wrong in order to operate on a more child-like level of "I do this because I can." Unlike very young children, they're capable of organizing genocides to show just how powerful they are and what they can do.

It is imperative not to use violence against children, for a multitude of reasons. We have no such imperative to protect adults who pose a threat to us. You must never hurt a child because you're angry. Likewise, you must never hurt an adult only because you're angry. It's very reasonable to be angry at someone who threatens your life, and in those cases, you react to the threat to your life and anger is just a side effect. We can solve problems posed by young children without hurting them. Sometimes, adults pose problems to us that rule out the option of not hurting them. We are not their parents, and do not have the power over them that a parent has over a child. We are not obligated to act as their parents, though when there is mutual consent, we can do some of the work parents do for them in a situation-specific way (we usually call the people who do that work "therapists").

In situations where we cannot enforce laws or other boundaries, we must set norms instead. It's usually preferable to set norms with words rather than fists. But words aren't magical, and the limitations of language do not require us to sacrifice ourselves and our friends on the altar of nonviolence. Every piece of available evidence shows that words are insufficient to protect each other from organized groups of adult humans attempting to recruit more humans for Nazism, ethnic cleansing, or genocide (pick your preferred term).

That was the theory; here's the practice:
comic by Master Randall Trang on proper punching technique

Thanks to [personal profile] staranise for this post, and [personal profile] siderea for comments on that post, which sparked this idea.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Rephrasing what somebody said and repeating it back to them is a pretty powerful tool that has several distinct uses (not an exhaustive list):


  1. If you're listening to a friend and want to show that you're really paying attention to what they're saying, you can say, "It sounds like you said X?" Then they'll either say yes, and know that you understand them, or say no and explain what they meant, and you'll understand them better.

    Examples:
    friend: "I keep trying to tell my boyfriend I don't like it when he leaves his socks on the kitchen counter, but he just looks at his phone"
    me: "It sounds like you're frustrated that he's not listening to you"
    friend: "OMG yes!!"

    friend: "I don't like eggplants."
    me: "You mean you think they get too greasy when they're cooked?"
    friend: "No, I mean I'm allergic to them and they kill me."

  2. If you're arguing with somebody who you know you're not going to persuade, and want to accelerate to the point where they say something so ridiculous and unacceptable that you can just point at it and leave, you can rephrase what they're saying to bring out the worst possible interpretation (or just a more complete interpretation) and say, "It sounds you're saying that X? Am I hearing that right?" Then if they agree with you, you can either ask why or leave it at that with the confidence that other people will see why the rephrasing is bad, even if the original euphemistic version wasn't.

    Examples:
    them: "I hate this culture of victimhood that minorities have."
    me: "It sounds like you're saying that it's wrong to be a victim, and victimizing people isn't wrong?"
    them: "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying!"
    me: "Cool story, bro."

    them: "I hate identity politics."
    me: "Are you saying you hate white male identity politics?"
    them: "No, I just meant when women do it."
    me: "Cool story, bro."

  3. If you're talking with someone who you think might be persuadable, and they say something that's ambiguous, you can pick the best possible interpretation of what they're saying, and say, "Yes, I agree with you that X", without the question. Then if they say, "Yes, totally! That's right!" you'll know that you got through (or that they thought so all along) and if they say, "No!! Why would you think I thought X?" you can repeat the process. Either way, it gets you more data.

    Examples:
    them: "My boss told me to make a diversity hire, and that makes me angry."
    me: "Of course, diversity should be a consideration in all hiring decisions."
    them: "Right!"

    them: "We shouldn't lower the bar."
    me: "I agree with you that we shouldn't lower the bar, and that's why we should hold white men to a higher standard in hiring to counter the effect of their unearned privilege and make sure they're only judged on their competence."
    them: "Wait, what???"


I'm writing all this out because I was raised by Usenet, and had it drilled into me then that you should never say anything unless it was original enough to merit the use of precious, precious bandwidth to distribute your message to nodes around the world. It took me a long time to unlearn that training and realize that sometimes, the most important and useful things you can say are rephrasing or mirroring the person you're talking to.
tim: Solid black square (black)
"Tonight I am speechless
My head is filled with pouring rain
As the darkness falls on Montreal
When violence is shrieking
The city streets will run with pain
Until the moon can shed no light at all

And I believe that we have fallen
In the middle of an old highway
And the past is rolling over us
As men begin to understand
What women say
They see history reaching out to smother all of us

So ring the bells of morning
For sorrow and for shame
And let the deep well inside each of us
Swell with outrage
And those of us who know
What went before can come again
Must ring the bells
We must ring the bells of morning.

I met a man once
He held himself tighter than a fist
He was hard and fast in his inflexibility
He was threatened by the future
A product of the past
He was terrified by his own femininity

We must ring the bells of morning
We have everything to gain
And may those of us who comprehend
Commit our lives to change
And though you swear
You can’t let yourself be vulnerable again
Ring the bells
The bells of morning

For if we can’t face ourselves
We will never understand
We can learn to make a cradle
With these stubborn hands
And we will hear the echo
From this shattered land
When we ring the bells of morning

I met a woman once
She told me we might never see the day
When the violence was overcome
She said silence is the fuel
Fear and ignorance the roaring flames
That burn the freedom out of everyone

She said ring the bells of morning
And let none of us pretend
For if you walk the path of silence
You might never reach the end
And those of us who know what went before can come again
Must ring the bells, the bells of morning

Oh ring the bells of morning
Ring them loud and ring them long
Let the mother tongue of strength
Be the peaceful language of this song
And let those ancient voices lead us all into the dawn
Ring the bells, the bells of morning
Ring the bells, the bells of morning
Ring the bells, we must ring the bells of morning"

-- Stephen Fearing, 1989


tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
This article is important:

"This is not going to be a free and fair exchange of ideas. This is going to be a fight. If you have not absorbed that fact yet, you are already losing."


And I want to talk about false equivalences between Trump and Obama, or between Trump and Clinton.

We could have a free and fair exchange of ideas with Obama. That's why he pardoned Chelsea Manning. He's someone I have serious political disagreements with. That's why he didn't pardon Leonard Peltier. Still, he is a person who uses facts and reason to draw conclusions, and operates based on the rule of law.

We could have a free and fair exchange of ideas with Clinton. That's why she changed her way of talking about racial justice from "All Lives Matter" to acknowledgment of systemic inequality after she met with Black Lives Matter activists. She's someone I have serious political disagreements with. That's why she continued to talk about law and order and in favor of building up the military-industrial complex. Still, she is a person who uses facts and reason to draw conclusions, and operates based on the rule of law.

Trump operates based on power, domination, and violence, not a free and fair exchange of ideas. We've seen how he models with that with respect to women's bodies, his business relationships, and reporters who criticize him. His words and actions are the words and actions of a fascist, a totalitarian, an authoritarian.

People say to assume good faith, so within the scope of this post, I'm going to assume that people saying things like, "Some people thought Obama was the antichrist, and that's just the same as some people thinking Trump is a fascist", or things like, "It would be partisan to not meet with Trump when we would meet with Clinton" sincerely believe that.

You're still allowed to conclude, based on the evidence available to you, that Trump is a fascist: that his words and actions meet the definition of fascism. One definition of fascism is "an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization." Words have meaning; it's okay to be part of a shared understanding of what words mean even though no word has "objective" meaning and language is subjective.

You're still allowed to conclude, based on the evidence available to you, that when one party is a fascist party, it is neither morally nor tactically wrong to be partisan. If resisting fascism makes me partisan, then I am partisan. I don't see what's wrong with that. Being partisan means I have beliefs. I don't see what's wrong with holding moral and ethical precepts.

Even if some people say that vaccines are dangerous, you're still allowed to vaccinate your children against polio if you believe those people are wrong.

Equating disagreement within an aspirationally democratic framework with disagreement about whether democracy is worth aspiring to is the epitome of a false equivalence. When the person expressing these thoughts believes them, it means they need to think harder and more critically. When the person expressing these thoughts does not believe them, that's called propaganda: information distributed not to express a person's point of view but to influence action.

We may be in a post-truth world, but that does not mean your own thinking needs to be post-truth. We need every bit of your intellect and discernment right now. You do not need to set your own intellect on fire to keep fascists warm.

REVERSED.

Jan. 18th, 2017 10:47 pm
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Nóirín Plunkett died a year and a half ago. At the time of their death, their ex-spouse Michael Schwern was busy abusing the court system to terrorize Nóirín, suing Nóirín because their friends (of whom I am one) talked online about Schwern's arrest for domestic violence. (Yep, somehow it was Nóirín's fault that Schwern got himself arrested and that other people copied/pasted the link to his arrest record into tweets.)

Who is Schwern? Well, he's the kind of guy who can't stop trying to extort money from his ex even after they're in the grave, and he continued his lawsuit, targeting Nóirín's father. His attorney, a charming fellow named Bear Wilner-Nugent who defends rapists for fun and profit, was happy to go along for the ride. This type of lawsuit is known as a SLAPP lawsuit, because its goal was to silence and intimidate victims who talk about their experiences with sexual assault in public.

Nóirín not being around to talk about it further, there's no one alive who can say for sure that Schwern raped Nóirín. It would be understandable if other people looked at the possibility of being sued for $30,000,000 for telling the truth, and said nothing. What we can say is that Schwern was indecent enough not only to sue his ex-partner for (allegedly) talking about it, but to continue the lawsuit after that person died. You can decide for yourself whether Schwern is a rapist or just somebody who thought suing a corpse was a good way to rehabilitate his reputation.

Thankfully, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of freedom of speech, in favor of victims, and against Schwern and Wilner-Nugent's meritless lawsuit; you can read the decision (PDF) for yourself, but a content warning for graphic descriptions of rape applies. The decision also misgenders Nóirín, whose pronouns are they/them.

None of this will bring my friend back to life, but in these times, it's good to see justice done.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
'We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.'

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", 1963
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I think Yonatan Zunger's essay "Tolerance is not a moral precept" is mostly right-on (and I'm amused to see my friends' bicycle club/radical agitprop collective The Degenderettes in the featured photo), though I wish we'd been listening to the Black women who have been saying similar things for years (decades, maybe?)

I don't agree with the essay's framing of war as justifiable, since war is generally not a matter of self-defense but of offense to enrich capitalists. ("War ain't about one land against the next / It's poor people dying so the rich cash checks." -- Boots Riley.) What I do appreciate about the essay is that it calls attention to the existence of fundamental conflict of interests between groups that can't just be resolved through peaceful negotiation. I think radical redistribution of power and wealth is a better solution than war, but of course, some people might think the opposite.

That said, I agree with the central point that tolerance is not an absolute moral law, but rather, conditional on others' behavior. Zunger phrases this as a social contract, but I would phrase it instead in terms of relationships. As your roommate, it's wrong for me to leave my dishes in the sink every night if you always clean up your messes. But it would also be wrong for me to berate you about leaving a cup in the sink one night if normally, you do most of the cleaning (and that's not part of our explicit relationship agreement).

Tolerance is not about what I'm allowed to do to you, but rather, an emergent property of the relationship between you and me. It must arise from a relationship with back-and-forth and reciprocity. It is not given for free.

Almost 3 years ago, I wrote "Against Tolerance", for which I also chose a deliberately provocative title. My take there isn't so different from Zunger's. I was describing a situation like the "war" scenario that Zunger describes: the question of whether homophobes can lead diverse companies is ultimately about a situation in which somebody has already declared war on you. Brendan Eich declared war on me when he started paying politicians to strip away my civil rights. Under those circumstances, I had, and have, no obligation of tolerance towards him. In Zunger's phrasing, my primary priority becomes self-defense.

As I said, I dislike leaning on war metaphors, since they legitimize state violence (which is very different from the violence that individual oppressed people or small organized groups of oppressed people may use in self-defense; by definition, states are not oppressed), the basic principle is the same. Tolerance is not the operating principle when you're under attack, nor should it be.

In fact, I'm inclined to scrap "tolerance" altogether as a counterproductive word (like the phrases "pro-life" and "political correctness", which mean the opposite of what they superficially seem to) than to rehabilitate it as Zunger tries to do, but he provides a helpful framing for those who don't wish to abandon the signifier completely.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
In engineering we ask what-if questions all the time, for example: "What if the datacenter loses power?" This is a descriptive "what-if" because it's trying to identify a scenario that might happen. Further, you're probably asking this in a group of people who share a common goal: keeping a service running. And finally, you're willing to take "it doesn't matter" for an answer: if you're running on a managed platform where somebody else takes care of failover to another datacenter, and someone tells you that, you'll say, "OK, cool, we don't need to care."

In politics, what-ifs are much more likely to be prescriptive. Consider:
"What if women lie about rape?"
"What if women are biologically predisposed to be uninterested in science?"
"What if there's no discrimination against Black people in tech job hiring, and the absence of Black people in the field is solely due to inadequate education?"
"What if resources are scarce and there's not enough for everyone to meet their basic needs?"

People ask these questions, and others like them, because they want to influence how power gets distributed -- in other words, to have a political effect. They don't ask them in order to be prepared for something, they ask them in order to make something happen.

Asking about the datacenter doesn't make power failures any more likely. But asking whether women lie about rape has a direct effect on whether women report rape. Merely asking the question changes reality. Likewise, asking whether women are biologically predisposed to be uninterested in science has a direct effect on whether women choose to follow their interest in science as well as on whether male scientists believe "women shouldn't be here" and feel empowered to harass female colleagues. Asking whether there are no qualified Black candidates for engineering jobs has a direct effect on whether your colleagues see Black candidates as qualified. Again, merely asking the question changes reality, even before hypothetical answers get discussed.

The questions we ask have a direct effect on how we allocate resources. (Also see: [CW: anti-Semitism] Are Jews people? Find out after the break on CNN.) "I'm just asking questions" is not a "get out of thinking of the consequences of my speech, free" card.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
I want to remember to quote these tweets from Samuel Sinyangwe from now on every time someone opens their mouth about "lowering the bar." To wit:

"Of all the facts I've tweeted #onhere, trolls seem to direct the most vitriol at those re: how obscenely white and male US institutions are.

These facts, I'm convinced, are the most challenging to white supremacy.

Because to acknowledge that white men make up nearly 90% of the governing party brings you to one of two conclusions...

Either you believe racism exists or you think white men are so uniquely qualified for nearly every position and nobody else in America is."


There's a dialogue in tech companies that often goes like this:
A: "We need to recruit more diverse candidates."
B: "How can we do that without lowering the bar?"
A: "I'm glad you ask! You see, we're going to hold 'diverse' candidates to the same standards and... [1/937]"

I would like to see it go like this:
A: "We need to recruit more diverse candidates."
B: "How can we do that without lowering the bar?"
A: "Your question is ill-formed, because the purpose of recruiting more diverse candidates is to raise the bar: to improve the quality of our staff by hiring people on the basis of their qualifications rather than because they look the same as existing staff."

B's question is inherently racist. You cannot ask that question without a base assumption that the explanation for the paucity of Black people in tech is that Black people are less competent than white people.

We need to stop justifying why women could be competent, why Black people could be competent, why Latinx people could be competent and instead: (a) call out the assumption of incompetence as unshared (B asks this question because they assume A shares their prejudice, and in the first dialogue, A neglects to make clear that they don't share it); (b) demand evidence for a competence gap rather than rushing to provide evidence against it.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)

"Assume good faith" -- ancient liberal proverb

"Treat every poisoned word as a promise." -- Liel Leibovitz, "What to Do About Trump? The Same Thing My Grandfather Did in 1930s Vienna" (2016-11-14)

"Should I encourage my employer to take a public stand against creating a Muslim registry? I don't know. Of course I wouldn't knowingly participate in the creation of a registry. But Trump wouldn't really do that, would he? Sure, he said he would, but it's such a ridiculous plan. Doesn't he know that? He must. He must have only said that to get votes; surely he couldn't really want or intend to do it."

This is what some of my fellow workers in the tech industry have been saying. Sure, everybody thinks the idea of creating a Muslim registry (or substitute any one of a number of other seemingly-ridiculous Trump campaign promises) is abhorrent, but we also think it's silly and impractical. Why bother taking a public stand in favor of something that's not going to happen?

"Assume good faith" is something that gets taught to white, middle-class Americans. Not all white, middle-class Americans internalize the message, and we're not the only ones who absorb it. But it's most present in those who have enough privilege to be able to suspend vigilance temporarily, while lacking the privilege needed to suspend vigilance for good. We are taught to assume the most charitable interpretation: when interacting with our family members, partners, co-workers, friends, or neighbors, we're taught to not jump to assuming the worst, to assume the other person means well and that if you perceive them acting in a way that's threatening or hostile towards you, to question your own assessment before you take defensive action. If your roommate never takes out the compost, maybe it's because you've never told them that you prefer the compost not to pile up in the kitchen -- to greet them when they get home from work one day with a cry of "Take out the goddamn pile of rot!!" would be unfair. If you get left off an email about a meeting to discuss the project you're leading at work, assume it was a typo rather than a plan to exclude you. And so on.

And in interpersonal relationships, that's often a good principle. That is, assuming good faith, as a personal practice, is a good principle; telling other people when they should assume good faith is a bad one (more about that in future work). The reason is that to the extent that you can choose who to live with, work with, and sleep with, it's a good idea to choose people you can trust. If you trust people, then it's not helpful to assume that they're out to get you. And if you don't trust the people in your life, you have to either work on your own ability to trust or get them out of your life, depending, before you level accusations. That's just common sense, right?

But "assume good faith" is very bad advice when dealing with fascist dictators. If your neighbor says something that sounds offensive or threatening to you, it's probably a good idea to at least make sure you heard them right before you call your lawyer. When a fascist dictator -- someone who's both inclined towards using violence to get what they want, and who has the power to act on that inclination -- says something that sounds offensive or threatening, it's a safe bet to assume that whatever the worst possible interpretation of their words is, that reflects the dictator's intent. That might be a bad way to operate in your close relationships, but is a good way to protect yourself and prepare for violence.

Treat every poisoned word as a promise. When a bigoted blusterer tells you he intends to force members of a religious minority to register with the authorities—much like those friends and family of Siegfried’s who stayed behind were forced to do before their horizon grew darker—believe him. Don’t try to be clever. Don’t lean on political intricacies or legislative minutia or historical precedents for comfort. Don’t write it off as propaganda, or explain it away as just an empty proclamation meant simply to pave the path to power. Take the haters at their word, and assume the worst is imminent.
-- Liel Leibovitz (ibid)

"That's just ridiculous." This is a comforting thing to tell yourself and others. Denial is one of the most powerful tools humans have for tolerating the intolerable. If you think the worst might happen, saying it won't happen will protect you against it, right? It's worked up until now, right?

"That's just ridiculous." Overreacting runs the risk of shame: of being told "you're too sensitive" or, worse, "you showed insufficient chill in the face of something that turned out to be no biggie." We face two possible futures. In one, we're all still alive and I've lived to be seen as someone who overreacted to the threat of a violent, xenophobic rapist with access to nuclear weapons. In the other, we're all dead, but my gravestone says "He had enough chill." I prefer the first one.

"That's just ridiculous." The more you call an idea ridiculous, the more ridiculous it will be, and the less likely it will be that anyone will act on it, right? Kids regulate each other's behavior with words like "you're being silly" -- the same strategy should work when we as citizens level it against a tyrant-in-waiting, right?

It's not ridiculous. It is scary. It's hard to face fear. No one who has power to do so is stopping a fascist from taking control over the United States. That's a scary situation to be in.

Many people associate this kind of fear with childhood, and remember when their parents or other adults would step in and let them know the monsters under the bed aren't going to eat them. Now that we're adults, it's comforting to assume that some benevolent authority figure is going to step in and tell the fascists they have to respect the rule of law. But there are no adults, except us. Denial, shame-avoidance, and dismissal are tools for surviving a situation in which you're powerless. But we still have power.

It's psychologically safer to laugh things off than to admit you're scared. But if you're so concerned with saving face, with protecting your self-image as a chill person who doesn't freak out over nothing, that you put up no resistance in the face of a violent, repressive regime, then how do you think you'll be remembered -- assuming there's anyone left to remember you?

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I'm glad to see that more people are using Dreamwidth because of the concerns over LiveJournal's data governance, or lack thereof.

I want to remind people that when evaluating the safety of a particular data storage and/or hosting provider, there's (a) no such thing as absolute safety and (b) how you decide who to trust with what data depends on a lot of factors.

People are concerned about LiveJournal, for example, because data that are physically stored on servers in Russia are vulnerable to inspection by Russian governmental entities, whereas data physically stored on servers in the US are much less likely to be compromised by governmental entities other than the US government.

How much you trust the US government, or Russian government, etc. is a matter of personal opinion, but it's fact that the expectation of privacy you have changes based on what country or countries the server or servers storing your data are physically located in.

When you store your data with either LiveJournal or Dreamwidth, you're trusting everybody who has superuser access -- at either organization -- with your secrets. Maybe you don't have any secrets because all your posts are public and you never comment on non-public posts. Then you have less to lose, but you still don't have zero to lose. Again, who you trust is a matter of opinion. But it's fact that by storing your data with a particular storage provider, you're granting access to it to anybody who has superuser access on their systems.

The same is true when you store your data with, for example, Google. Full disclosure: I work for Google. This post represents my personal opinions. As someone who works at Google and has access to various kinds of personal data, I can tell you with confidence that if I accessed that data without a valid business reason, I would be fired. This doesn't protect you from -- say -- someone who's so determined to violate your privacy that they're willing to sacrifice their job over it, but it does give you protection that you don't have when you store your data with a small company or small organization.

Neither LiveJournal nor Dreamwidth enables HTTPS-by-default. That means: you can go to either https://dreamwidth.org/ or http://dreamwidth.org/ and if you explicitly choose the first one, your connection is encrypted. If you explicitly choose the second one, it's not encrypted. There are some technical and logistical reasons not to enable HTTPS-by-default, but it exposes users to risk. Less technically: it means that anybody with access to any of the intermediate servers that your data passes through on the way from your computer to Dreamwidth's servers can see what you're sending. Because of how the Internet is designed, that means that to be sure your non-public Dreamwidth posts or comments don't get read by someone you don't want reading them, you have to trust people at many different organizations, and neither you nor Dreamwidth controls which organizations they are. Sites can make things safer for their users by automatically turning all accesses to http:// URLs into accesses to https:// URLs, which means that data getting sent back and forth are encrypted and it would be very difficult for an eavesdropper -- even someone with superuser access at one of the intermediate organizations -- to read.

I also see no reason to believe (given the above) that either LiveJournal nor Dreamwidth encrypts data at rest. That is, regardless of whether you put in an https:// or http:// URL when you access Dreamwidth, the data on their servers are stored in plaintext -- somebody who was able to physically get one or more of their storage disks would be able to access any data stored on those disks with no special knowledge. I don't know this for a fact, but I believe so because: (a) neither org has provided any reason to believe otherwise; (b) there isn't much point in encrypting data at rest when you don't encrypt it in motion.

What does this mean for you?

When deciding where to put your data, you have to ask yourself: if I care who reads this, who do I need to trust if I'm going to believe that only the people who I want to read it will get to read it? With respect to Dreamwidth, you need to trust the US government (since law enforcement can access any unencrypted data they want to, and small companies don't have the legal resources to challenge federal government legal threats) as well as everybody who works for Dreamwidth and has superuser access. But because of how they store and transmit data (and again, this is no worse than how LiveJournal does it), you also have to trust anybody who can snoop on connections or get physical access to their servers and disks. This isn't everybody, but it's potentially a lot of people.

The other question you have to ask yourself is: if my trust gets violated, what happens? What are the consequences? This is why, personally, I'm comfortable posting about my sex life in friends-only posts on Dreamwidth. If any of those posts were exposed to a different audience than the one I chose, it would be embarrassing and uncomfortable for me, but I don't feel it would be dangerous for me. On the other hand, if I was the kind of person who was likely to engage in unlawful political action, I would not post about it on Dreamwidth, even in friends-only posts, because the risk is too high.

Each person has to make these decisions for yourself -- what level of risk you're willing to tolerate is a personal decision. While the decision is personal, many of the facts that go into that decision are objective, and in this post I've tried to explain a few of those facts.

Comments disabled; I'm happy to try to answer any questions I have time to answer over email ( tim_dw@youwere.cool ).

Edited to add: HTTPS:// everywhere is a browser extension that automatically changes non-secure requests to secure requests when possible. Like all security tools, it reduces harm; it doesn't eliminate it. Because you install it on your own computer, it only affects browsing that you do on that computer. It doesn't eliminate the threat that arises from one of your friends who doesn't have this browser extension installed accessing your data insecurely.

Edited to add (2): Mary Gardiner's post about LiveJournal's server move is useful reading, especially the point she makes about how LiveJournal forces secure connections to be insecure (Dreamwidth does not do this).
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
Weekly linkspams are currently fitting into my schedule poorly. I'm going to stop doing them for now. Pretty much everything I bookmark on Pinboard is public and you can see the current-events-related links at https://pinboard.in/u:mappings/t:fascism/ (you can also read my overall Pinboard feed, though that's hard to navigate since I have it set up to bookmark every link in a tweet that I favorite.)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Mostly of interest to people who supported me on Patreon, though I'm also posting this here since the links in past posts to my Patreon page won't work any more (and I don't know of a quick way to edit them to reflect that.)

I've reverted my Patreon account to patron-only status and will no longer be accepting donations via Patreon. Having a Patreon was a good experiment and I'm glad I tried it; with this year's regression in US politics, I've decided that my limited time for activism should be spent primarily on things that aren't writing. I don't intend to stop writing blog posts, but I also don't intend to keep writing at a rate that justifies having a monthly Patreon account. In addition, I just passed my one-year anniversary working at [big company] as an engineer, and (unless something changes) don't have any immediate plans to leave. This both affects the amount of time/energy I have for writing, as well as my comfort level being paid regularly for my writing regardless of how much I produce.

It means more to me than I can say to have people recognize my work in this way, so if you supported me at some point during the past 13 months, thank you. If you're looking for other creators to support instead, I recommend Amy Dentata, Katherine Cross, Sarah Sharp, and Sophie Labelle (creator of the Assigned Male comic strip).

I believe that nobody will be charged for January, but if I'm wrong about that, I will donate all proceeds to charity (as I did for December).

Got money?

Dec. 30th, 2016 07:03 pm
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
If not, you can skip the rest of this post, unless you want to pass the suggestions along to your friends who do have money.

It's almost the end of the year, so you're probably doing what I'm doing: making sure to max out your corporate gift match, if your employer has one.

If you don't know where to donate, here are the groups I donated to just now.

1. Partners In Health - providing direct health care where it's needed most and advancing social justice, on the principle that everybody should have access to the same kind of health care you would expect for yourself or for a friend or loved one. I've been a supporter for years ever since I read Tracy Kidder's book _Mountains Beyond Mountains_ (about PIH founder Paul Farmer). They have a matching fund drive on until 12/31, so anything you donate today or tomorrow will be at least doubled, or tripled if your employer matches funds!

2. TGI Justice Project (TGIJP) - a small community organization based in San Francisco that advocates for incarcerated trans women of color.

3. Scarleteen - reality-based sex education for youth. Shout-out to the amazing work of Heather Corinna and her dedicated volunteers (including [personal profile] ranyart!)

4. National Network of Abortion Funds - I've been supporting them ever since the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009. In the US, it's illegal for public funds (e.g. Medicaid) to be used to pay for abortions. NNAF helps make up for that by directly funding abortions as well as campaigning for legislative change. With the incoming regime being what it is, their work is more important than ever.

5. United We Dream - advocating for immigration reform in the US. (Note that if you go to the donate link from their main home page, it goes to the legislative/lobbying 501(c)(4) organization, which probably can't be matched by your employer if that's a concern for you, though you should still support them anyway. I donated to the 501(c)(3) organization so it would be matched.)

6. MPower Change - a network of grassroots groups led by Muslim Americans. (Donations are administered by Citizen Engagement Lab, so look for that organization when you request donation matches.)

7. Southern Coalition for Social Justice - a North-Carolina-based group that has several focuses, but one of them is voting rights; given that this past election outcome was largely the result of long-term efforts by Republicans to suppress Black people's right to vote, their work is important right now.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
I wanted to pull out so many quotes from The Hidden Author of Putinism
How Vladislav Surkov invented the new Russia
, by Peter Pomerantsev for the Atlantic (from 2014) that I thought this deserved its own post:


The brilliance of this new type of authoritarianism is that instead of simply oppressing opposition, as had been the case with 20th-century strains, it climbs inside all ideologies and movements, exploiting and rendering them absurd.

[describing a novel apparently written by Surkov] 'Egor is described as a “vulgar Hamlet” who can see through the superficiality of his age but is unable to have genuine feelings for anyone or anything'


Like liberals working for Fox News, the new Russian authoritarians use compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance in order to live with their own complicity:

When I asked how they married their professional and personal lives, they looked at me as if I were a fool and answered: “Over the last 20 years we’ve lived through a communism we never believed in, democracy and defaults and mafia state and oligarchy, and we’ve realized they are illusions, that everything is PR.”'


"Everything is PR" is similar to the phrase "virtual signalling" as used by white supremacist: the propaganda that no one holds sincere beliefs and anyone who appears to do so is just performing or trying to make you think they have beliefs:

'“Everything is PR” has become the favorite phrase of the new Russia; my Moscow peers were filled with a sense that they were both cynical and enlightened. When I asked them about Soviet-era dissidents, like my parents, who fought against communism, they dismissed them as naive dreamers and my own Western attachment to such vague notions as “human rights” and “freedom” as a blunder."


Who does the next paragrah remind you of? If his first name rhymes with "Kylo" and his last name rhymes with "Viannopoulous", you might be right.

'Surkov himself is the ultimate expression of this psychology. As I watched him give his speech to the students and journalists in London, he seemed to change and transform like mercury, from cherubic smile to demonic stare, from a woolly liberal preaching “modernization” to a finger-wagging nationalist, spitting out willfully contradictory ideas: “managed democracy,” “conservative modernization.”'


If this sounds like 4chan or rationalism, then you're right too:

"Surkov’s genius has been to tear those associations apart, to marry authoritarianism and modern art, to use the language of rights and representation to validate tyranny, to recut and paste democratic capitalism until it means the reverse of its original purpose."


I think the antidotes to the destruction of meaning and morality are science, math, engineering, emotional self-awareness, genuine art, earnestness, sincerity, vulnerability, relationships, and queer sex (and as a friend said, all good sex is queer to some extent). There is no divide between science and art, only a division between intellectual fields that suffer under toxic masculinity and ones that have a little more individual and group balance in terms of gender.

And that part about the description of Surkov's novel jumps out at me. Hipsterist detachment and irony as a direct path to inhumanity; 4chan's in charge now, not because they're fascists but because of their use of irony to evade the imperative to take moral stances. Shitposting is not a good system of government.
tim: Solid black square (black)


"Everything in my life that I love
Could be swept away without warning
Yet the birds still sing and the church bells ring
And the sun came up this morning"
-- Billy Bragg, "Rumours of War"


  • Michigan Supreme Court Slams The Door On Jill Stein’s Recount Case, by Daniel Marans for the Huffington Post (2016-12-10).
    "Only five of the Michigan Supreme Court’s seven justices considered whether to hear the appeal. Chief Justice Robert Young and Justice Joan Larsen recused themselves after Stein questioned whether they could decide the case independently, since President-elect Trump had put them on a list of preferred candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court."


  • Trump proposes stripping citizenship from political protesters by Ian Millhiser for Think Progress (2016-11-29): "But once a person’s voting rights can be made contingent upon their beliefs, or their silence, then elections become increasingly meaningless."

  • The biopolitics of desire and neo-nazi fashion icons, by Flavia Dzodan (2016-12-06). On the connections between media coverage of "dapper Nazis" and eugenics.

  • The Electoral College is Great for Whiter States, Lousy for Cities, by Emily Dreyfuss for Wired (2016-12-08).
    "In the sweep of American history, this is Alexander Hamilton versus Thomas Jefferson flipped on its head. The Framers designed the Electoral College to make sure that smaller states were not ruled by the tyranny of the majority. Today, rural voters wield disproportionate Electoral College power compared with population centers, while cities preach decentralization as a way of keeping a check on the executive branch....

    At the forum, critics proposed two different ways to sink the Electoral College: abolition by constitutional amendment or an agreement among states that their electors will side with the candidate who wins the national popular vote. But the chances of either happening are slim to none, since the party that has now benefitted twice from the Electoral College system in the past 16 years controls both Congress and the White House (not to mention a majority of state governments)...

    "For eight years, Republicans accused the Obama administration of executive overreach. Now its Democrats warning of too much power in the hands of one president—a president that this time around most voters didn’t even choose."


  • Love Deez Nutz, or Why Van Jones Is Wrong and Maybe Even a Bit of a Bullshitting Magical Negro, or Happy Friday from My Corner of Trump’s America–Whatever You Like–I’m Tired, by Michelle R. Smith (2016-12-08).
    "I can work with white people without exploding my antipathy for the worst among them all over the rest of them. I can teach white people without exploding my antipathy for the worst among them all over the rest of them. I can share public space, transact business, cooperate with, and socialize with white people without exploding my antipathy for the worse among them all over the rest of them.

    And so can millions of other black people. So do we all. Because if we ever did explode–whenever we do explode–we get eviscerated or incarcerated or fucking eradicated.

    And since we do it, and white people rank themselves as better than us–they make all these adamant claims to superior intellect, morality, discipline, and wisdom–they should be able to do it, too. They should be able to interact with us without exploding their supremacist bullshit all over any of us, even if they fantasize about doing it the entire time."


  • Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America, by Lauren Duca for Teen Vogue. I couldn't pick a quote to pull from this -- it's all so good.

  • Diving deeper into Russia's role in the US election (clearer news has come out since these stories were published):


  • A post about coming out as queer in mid-life, by Molly Wizenberg (2016-11-30), the co-host of my favorite podcast, Spilled Milk, and from what I can see, an all-around awesome person.

  • A couple links about systemic racism and why Trump's surrogates don't have worse opinions than him, they represent him:

    • Steve Bannon’s disturbing views on ‘genetic superiority’ are shared by Trump, by Laurel Raymond for Think Progress (2016-11-28)
    • Trump's Proving that Those who Called Clinton 'The Lesser of Two Evils' Didn't Know What Evil Looked Like", by Damon Young for VSB (2016-11-18)
    • Why So Many Liberal White Guys Just Can't Admit the Election Was about Race, Explained, by Damon Young for VSB (2016-11-29):
      "Where can you find them? Trader Joe’s parking lots. Inner-city bike lanes. Jason Derulo listening parties. Giving TED Talks about couscous. Writing for Slate. Producing feminist porn....

      Liberal White people, however? You’d think someone told them their favorite gluten-free bakery has been using wheat.

      ...their steadfast refusal to acknowledge the role race played in the election makes it seem as if they’re playing some sort of devolved, pre-racial game of Taboo. Of course, there was Mark Lilla’s “The End of Identity Liberalism” which I assumed would be the pinnacle of this train of thought — the fuckshit thinkpiece to end all fuckshit thinkpieces. But a few days later, Mother Jones (perhaps the crunchiest major platform on the Internet) published Kevin Drum’s plea for us to be “careful with the White supremacy label.” Here, Drum defines and limits White supremacy to “people believing non-White people are inferior“; ultimately failing to realize that whether they believe we’re inferior doesn’t matter as much as the effort to ensure White dominance. Which is why the White Supremacy label fits. (It also must be said that Drum’s piece was a defense of Crunchy Jesus himself, Bernie Sanders, who also attempted to minimize the value of identity politics.)"



  • Political correctness: how the right invented a phantom enemy, by Moira Weigel for the Guardian (2016-11-30). Long, but has so much in it:

    Every time Trump said something “outrageous” commentators suggested he had finally crossed a line and that his campaign was now doomed. But time and again, Trump supporters made it clear that they liked him because he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought. Fans praised the way Trump talked much more often than they mentioned his policy proposals. He tells it like it is, they said. He speaks his mind. He is not politically correct....

    Trump and his followers never defined “political correctness”, or specified who was enforcing it. They did not have to. The phrase conjured powerful forces determined to suppress inconvenient truths by policing language....

    There is an obvious contradiction involved in complaining at length, to an audience of hundreds of millions of people, that you are being silenced. But this idea – that there is a set of powerful, unnamed actors, who are trying to control everything you do, right down to the words you use – is trending globally right now....

    If you search ProQuest, a digital database of US magazines and newspapers, you find that the phrase “politically correct” rarely appeared before 1990. That year, it turned up more than 700 times. In 1991, there are more than 2,500 instances. In 1992, it appeared more than 2,800 times. Like Indiana Jones movies, these pieces called up enemies from a melange of old wars: they compared the “thought police” spreading terror on university campuses to fascists, Stalinists, McCarthyites, “Hitler Youth”, Christian fundamentalists, Maoists and Marxists.

    Many of these articles recycled the same stories of campus controversies from a handful of elite universities, often exaggerated or stripped of context. The New York magazine cover story opened with an account of a Harvard history professor, Stephan Thernstrom, being attacked by overzealous students who felt he had been racially insensitive: “Whenever he walked through the campus that spring, down Harvard’s brick paths, under the arched gates, past the fluttering elms, he found it hard not to imagine the pointing fingers, the whispers. Racist. There goes the racist. It was hellish, this persecution.”

    In an interview that appeared soon afterwards in The Nation, Thernstrom said the harassment described in the New York article had never happened....

    But soon enough, the term was rebranded by the right, who turned its meaning inside out. All of a sudden, instead of being a phrase that leftists used to check dogmatic tendencies within their movement, “political correctness” became a talking point for neoconservatives. They said that PC constituted a leftwing political programme that was seizing control of American universities and cultural institutions – and they were determined to stop it.

    The right had been waging a campaign against liberal academics for more than a decade. Starting in the mid-1970s, a handful of conservative donors had funded the creation of dozens of new thinktanks and “training institutes” offering programmes in everything from “leadership” to broadcast journalism to direct-mail fundraising. They had endowed fellowships for conservative graduate students, postdoctoral positions and professorships at prestigious universities. Their stated goal was to challenge what they saw as the dominance of liberalism and attack left-leaning tendencies within the academy.

    Starting in the late 1980s, this well-funded conservative movement entered the mainstream with a series of improbable bestsellers that took aim at American higher education. The first, by the University of Chicago philosophy professor Allan Bloom, came out in 1987.
    "The responses that the conservative bestsellers offered to the changes they described were disproportionate and often misleading. For instance, Bloom complained at length about the “militancy” of African American students at Cornell University, where he had taught in the 1960s. He never mentioned what students demanding the creation of African American studies were responding to: the biggest protest at Cornell took place in 1969 after a cross burning on campus, an open KKK threat."
    By making fun of professors who spoke in language that most people considered incomprehensible (“The Lesbian Phallus”), wealthy Ivy League graduates could pose as anti-elite. [ed.: Emphasis added. Sounds familiar? Trump = posing as "anti-elite."]

    ....As Black Lives Matter and movements against sexual violence gained strength, a spate of thinkpieces attacked the participants in these movements, criticising and trivialising them by saying that they were obsessed with policing speech. Once again, the conversation initially focused on universities, but the buzzwords were new. Rather than “difference” and “multiculturalism”, Americans in 2012 and 2013 started hearing about “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces”, “microaggressions”, “privilege” and “cultural appropriation”. [Emphasis added]

    ...As evidence of the “hegemonic” influence enjoyed by unnamed actors on the left, Chait cited two female journalists saying that they had been criticised by leftists on Twitter.

    ....The anti-PC liberals were so focused on leftists on Twitter that for months they gravely underestimated the seriousness of the real threat to liberal discourse. It was not coming from women, people of colour, or queer people organising for their civil rights, on campus or elsewhere. It was coming from @realdonaldtrump, neo-Nazis, and far-right websites such as Breitbart...

    First, by talking incessantly about political correctness, Trump established the myth that he had dishonest and powerful enemies who wanted to prevent him from taking on the difficult challenges facing the nation. By claiming that he was being silenced, he created a drama in which he could play the hero.

    Second, Trump did not simply criticise the idea of political correctness – he actually said and did the kind of outrageous things that PC culture supposedly prohibited.

    'We should not underestimate how many Trump supporters held views that were sexist, racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic, and were thrilled to feel that he had given them permission to say so. It’s an old trick: the powerful encourage the less powerful to vent their rage against those who might have been their allies, and to delude themselves into thinking that they have been liberated. It costs the powerful nothing; it pays frightful dividends....

    Trump drew upon a classic element of anti-political-correctness by implying that while his opponents were operating according to a political agenda, he simply wanted to do what was sensible. [Emphasis added]


    That last part? Basically the fascist playbook: people talking about how much they hate politics and they don't have an ideology are usually trying to subvert the political process in the service of fascist ideologies.

  • 6 Ways Spiritual Thinking Can Reinforce Oppression and Racism, by Virginia Rosenberg for Decolonizing Yoga (2016-11-26). Not explicitly about fascism, yet highly relevant to the strategy of using words to denote the opposite of their actual meaning (a tool in the fascist toolkit):

    Discussing events as “an illusion of the material world” keeps you in an unhealthy illusion that you don’t need to be an agent of change. Retreating to your safe personal cave of “inner peace” can too easily be used as a method of hiding....

    Visualizing world peace is great. What’s even better taking concrete steps toward building that vision in real time.


    I feel that way when white liberals invoke MLK, Jr.'s "arc of justice" line without mentioning the amount of blood that was and continues to be shed trying to bend that arc.

  • Why We Must Protest, by Masha Gessen for Literary Hub (2016-11-21):

    Posting guard is a reasonable and measured response to a clear threat. When a neighbor threatens to poison your dog, you secure the fence. When an aggressive power threatens to invade, a state arms and fortifies its borders. And when an autocrat-elect threatens your liberties, you post guard around them. As constitutional-law scholar Garrett Epps has written, “there is hardly a provision of the Bill of Rights or later amendments [Trump] did not explicitly promise to override, from First Amendment freedom of the press and of religion to Fourth Amendment freedom from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ to Sixth Amendment right to counsel to Fourteenth Amendment birthright citizenship and Equal Protection and Fifteenth Amendment voting rights.” He has not only promised to begin his work of undoing democratic institutions on his first day in the Oval Office—he has already begun, by insulting the protesters and by denying access to media. Waiting to post guard would be foolish and irresponsible....

    The number of people in the streets is very close to being our only hedge against Trump’s power....

    Finally, protest is a powerful antidote to helplessness and confusion. Autocracies work by plunging citizens into a state of low-level dread. Most of the powers commandeered by the autocrat are ceded without a fight, and the power of imagination, the claim to a past and a future are the first to go. A person in a state of dread lives in a miserable forever present. A person in a state of dread is imminently controllable. The choice to protest, on the other hand, is the choice to take control of one’s body, one’s time, and one’s words, and in doing so to reclaim the ability to see a future.


    I really like the idea of protest as trauma recovery.

tim: Solid black square (black)
[CW: violence against women]

27 years ago today, 14 women were killed in an act of sickening violence at the École Polytechnique engineering school in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. They were targeted for being women and for being engineers.

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

The man who murdered Bergeron, Colgan, Croteau, Daigneault, Edward, Haviernick, Laganière, Leclair, Lemay, Pelletier, Richard, St-Arneault, Turcotte, and Klucznik-Widajewicz said — before he killed himself — “I am fighting feminism”.

More
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Bruce Cockburn, "The Trouble with Normal"

Epistemology

  • Trump’s lies have a purpose. They are an assault on democracy., by Ned Resnikoff for ThinkProgress (2016-11-27).
    "If Bush and Rove constructed a fantasy world with a clear internal logic, Trump has built something more like an endless bad dream. In his political universe, facts are unstable and ephemeral; events follow one after the other with no clear causal linkage; and danger is everywhere, although its source seems to change at random."

    "Bannon is a skilled practitioner of the “darkness” strategy, but he is not its inventor. The real Master of the Dark Arts is another Karl Rove equivalent: Vladislav Surkov, a top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin."

    "... Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing, which meant that no one was sure what was real or fake. As one journalist put it: “It is a strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused."

    “Trump gaslighted me,” Fields later told Terris for an article about the incident. “I worry now that he’s gaslighting the country.”

    "It is tempting to take solace in the belief that, if Trump cannot be taken literally, his extreme rhetoric might conceal a secret moderate streak. But that hope would be misplaced. Non-linear warfare is intrinsically authoritarian. The president-elect is speaking the language of dictators."

    “Surkov’s philosophy is that there is no real freedom in the world, and that all democracies are managed democracies, so the key to success is to influence people, to give them the illusion that they are free, whereas in fact they are managed,” writes Sakwa. “In his view, the only freedom is ‘artistic freedom.’”

    "First, social media companies need to be held accountable for facilitating the spread of misinformation. Men like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, through their greed and stupidity, have shepherded authoritarianism to power in the United States. By embracing a facile definition of “openness,” they’ve sought to reap the traffic benefits of right-wing propaganda while ignoring its disastrous social consequences....

    Second, journalists need to understand what Trump is doing and refuse to play by his rules. He is going to use the respect and deference typically accorded to the presidency as an instrument for spreading more lies.... That is the choice every news outlet faces for the next four years: Subservience and complicity, or open hostility. There is no middle ground."

    "For the next four years, Donald Trump will seek to shred any institution that threatens his ability to unilaterally determine what is real." [emphasis added]

    The politics of "do it for the lulz". It's like 4Chan collectively got itself elected president.
  • Why I don't like the term "AI", by Chris Martens (2016-12-05). 'But ultimately, it's not the first word in "AI" that bothers me, that makes me hesitant to adopt it as a field I identify with -- it's the second one, intelligence. My issue is not just that "intelligence" is poorly defined and hard to measure, but actually that it highlights everything I find culturally wrong with computer science as a field: a false dichotomy and prioritization of the "smart" over the "dumb", the "rational" over the "emotional", and a supposition that these qualities are immutable and acontextual.' (Full disclosure: I'm quoted in this blog post.)
  • Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it, by George Monbiot for the Guardian (2016-11-30). "As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little, but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people." (n.b. I think any analysis that only considers the role of money in politics without considering the role of racism in politics is incomplete.)
  • ‘Don’t play identity politics!’ The primal scream of the straight white male, by Hadley Freeman for the Guardian (2016-12-02). "It boggles my brain that this even needs pointing out: political elections have always played identity politics. The difference is that the game was heretofore entirely weighted towards the white straight male, which I guess is why it comes as such a shock to that demographic when they are not at the absolute forefront of every single political discussion now."

Political science

  • [CW: neo-Nazi propaganda quoted in a critical context] "Fascism is not to be debated, it is to be smashed", by [tumblr.com profile] smarmygryffindor (2016-12-05) "this is why i say not to argue with fascists, at least, not seriously. if you do, argue with them calmly at first and post sources and all that shit to prove that you’ve got facts and reasoning on your side for the sake of others who will read it, and under no circumstances let them piss you off or upset you. then, once you’ve made your point well enough, just start fucking with them back. don’t make the mistake of thinking arguing with fascists is a debate; it’s all for show, all about who can make the other one look worse. so it’s vital that you point out how fucking inane their talking points are, yes, but it’s also vital that you let them (and everyone else) know that you Are Not Taking Them Seriously. Because you shouldn’t, no one should. You don’t have to prove that human beings deserve rights and racism is wrong."
  • [CW: domestic violence, graphic violence against women, anti-Black slurs, queer eliminationism] Trump's Cabinet, by [tumblr.com profile] quantum-displacement (2016-11-19). The juxtaposition of the list of necessary content warnings and the title says it all, doesn't it?
  • Trump, Cabinet could avoid millions in taxes thanks to this little-known law, by Drew Harwell for the Washington Post (2016-12-02). It's important to maintain our sense of outrage at Trump's unprecedented level of corruption -- that will be key to surviving kleptocracy.
  • Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for Trump, the Businessman President, by Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim and Simon Romero for the New York Times (2016-11-26). Likewise.
  • Shy Person’s Guide to Calling Representatives, by [tumblr.com profile] actionfriday (2016-11-18).
  • What is the social purpose of David Brooks?, by grapesmoker (2016-12-03). "His sociology is risible, and his lack of self-awareness is legendary; this is, after all, the man who unironically taught a class at Yale on the subject of humility and assigned them his own columns."

Economics

  • Men Dump Their Anger Into Women, by Emma Lindsay (2016-11-29):
    "So many men I know are unable to live a happy life when they don’t have a woman who stops them from feeling the negative feelings that accompany their poor life decisions. It’s notable that they often do not stop making these poor life decisions."

    "Why do angry men deserve sex and I don’t? Why do angry men get women devoted to their emotional caretaking?"

    "...we raise men to be angry by default."

    "I’ve noticed that when I am forced to endure male culture too long (say, working as a programmer) I also start having trouble identifying my own emotions."

    "The only men I know who go to therapy are either gay or in a very bad place. Straight men don’t go to therapy for a tune up, like I do, or many of my female friends do. "

    "Most men in my social circle manage their emotions with alcohol, drugs, work, women, or some combination of the above."

    (I'd add only that Lindsay's comments about how men are raised do not apply only to men who were assigned male at birth, and only apply to men.)
  • Lawyers: New court software is so awful it’s getting people wrongly arrested, by Cyrus Farivar for Ars Technica (2016-12-02). Another one about software, license agreements, economic incentives, and moral responsibility. "All lives matter, especially those who are being wrongfully put behind bars due to computer problems."

    The article asks: "How do you blame software?" I don't think this is actually a complicated question. How do you blame a bridge? You blame the people who make it (and -- maybe more so -- the people who profit from the labor of those who make it.) It's time for everyone to hold the software industry liable for professional negligence.

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Tim Chevalier

September 2017

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