Day: February 2, 2017

Russian Hacker Sanctions

This is the same group (FSB) that, just a month ago, our intelligence community determined was responsible for the attack on our democracy,” Swalwell told USA TODAY. “We just made it easier for the same group to import into Russia the tools they could use to hack us or our allies again.”

Swalwell said he will explore methods for Congress to enact its own sanctions.

“We have French and German elections coming up, and we just made it easier (for the FSB) to go after them,” he said. “They can sharpen the knives and come after us again.

U.S. eases restrictions on cyber-security sales to Russian spy agency” by Doug Stanglin, USA Today

Sidebar: It is possible this is not at all sinister, but if so it’s a little pathetic that a British newspaper is doing a better job explaining that than White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

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Avenging Merrick Garland

With regard to certain energy-sapping revenge fantasies floating around…

Have you ever interacted with a chronic cheater? Surely you have, on the playground or among your co-workers. In your experience, did imitating their behavior “show them” or make them feel any kind of shame? Or did it confirm to them that cheating is what anybody would do in this situation, and they were right to do it?

I can tell you, if you don’t have personal experience to draw on, there is a ton of social science research which says yes this second thing is exactly what happens.

If you are dealing with a cheater, the best you can manage is to minimize their damage to you, to the extent possible, until they can be excluded from the process. When you start cheating as well, all that does is signal to third parties that you agree with the cheater’s interpretation of what’s acceptable. Which makes it not cheating. Cheater wins! Cheater gets to stay.

If you have a contrasting experience, where “a taste of their own medicine” caused a cheater to reform, I’m interested. Sounds like a fun story to hear. But I bet you don’t have one.

The Microphone You Use All The Time

Day 2 of black history month, let’s say a big hooray for James West. Not the sci-fi, paisley-wearing cowboy James West (hooray for him too), but James West of Bell Laboratories, co-inventor of the Electroacoustic Transducer/Electret Microphone.

I have three small cheap condensor mics in front of me right now – one in my phone, one in my laptop, and one that’s just my microphone. James West made that possible. 90% of the microphones we use these days depend on just one of his patents – including the microphones in hearing aids. He’s a legend.

Thanks for helping us hear each other across time, space, and age, James West.

He’s still alive, by the way. He’s 85. He has 47 U.S. patents, 200 international patents, a purple heart from his service in Korea, the National Medal of Technology, and four kids he loves.

The Advantage of Peaceful Protest

An excerpt from the book The Moral Arc by Michael Shermer, pp 87-88 [with paragraph breaks added by me for easier internet reading]:

From 1900 to 2006, nonviolent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed outright as violent insurgencies.” [Political scientist Erica] Chenoweth added that “this trend has been increasing over time – in the last 50 years civil resistance has become increasingly frequent and effective, whereas violent insurgencies have become increasingly rare and unsuccessful. This is true even in extremely repressive, authoritarian conditions where we might expect nonviolent resistance to fail.”

Why does nonviolence trump violence in the long run as a means to an end? “People power,” Chenoweth says. How many people? According to her data, “no campaigns failed once they’d achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population – and lots of them succeeded with far less than that.”

Further, she notes, “Every single campaign that did surpass that 3.5 percent threshold was a nonviolent one. In fact, campaigns that relied solely on nonviolent methods were on average four times larger than the average violent campaign. And they were often much more representative in terms of gender, age, race, political party, class, and urban-rural distinctions.”

How does this nonviolent strategy translate into political change? If your movement is based on violence, you are neccessarily going to be limiting yourself to mostly young, strong, violence-prone mailes who have a propensity for boozing and brawling, whereas, Chenoweth explains, “Civil resistance allows people of all different levels of physical ability to participate – including the elderly, people with disabilities, women, children, and virtually anyone else who wants to.” It’s a faster track to the magic 3.5 percent number when you’re more inclusive and participation barriers are low.

key takeaways:

1. We need 3.5%. Chenoweth has recently estimated more than 1% of the US population participated in the women’s marches. We’re a third of the way there.

2. Practicing nonviolence is practicing inclusivity. Violent protest elevates able-bodied young males to the exclusion of many other participants.


another good Chenoweth quote:

When people hear the word “nonviolent,” they often think of “peaceful” or “passive” resistance. For some, the word brings to mind pacifist groups or individuals, like Buddhist monks in Burma, who may prefer death to using violence to defend themselves against injustice. As such, they conflate “nonviolent” or “civil resistance” with the doctrine of “nonviolence” or “pacifism,” which is a philosophical position that rejects the use of violence on moral grounds. But in civil resistance campaigns like those occurring in the Arab Spring, very few participants are pacifists. Rather, they are ordinary civilians confronting intolerable circumstances by refusing to obey — a method available to anyone, pacifist or not.

from “Think Again: Nonviolent Resistance” in Foreign Policy

and here’s the master list of all her internet-readable stuff.

Hearing Gorsuch

I have a pretty #resist mindset, but I’d like to see Gorsuch get a hearing. Here’s why.

First, I’ll stipulate that the stonewalling of Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a qualified compromise pick, was damaging to the United States. Mitch McConnell hobbled one of the branches of government. And since Mitch McConnell’s behaviors through most of 2016 suggested he didn’t think Trump would or should win (meaning a Hillary pick) that dangerous obstruction reads like spite and egotism. Vandalous.

However, that wasn’t a decision of the Trump administration. There wasn’t a Trump administration.

I don’t know yet whether I like or dislike Gorsuch. That’s something I’d find out at the hearing. What I do know is that Trump picked him off a list prepped by Republican leadership, and he was nowhere near the scariest person on that list. PLUS Trump brought in a “maybe” of his own to consider, Hardiman (a colleague of Trump’s sister), who is thoroughly moderate. This looks to me like one of the most reasonable good governance attempts Trump has made since his acceptance speech.

Maybe I find out something awful later. I don’t know. Right now, I look at what has been written about Gorsuch, and although there’s a lot of distance between me and him, it still seems like he’s more on my side than Bannon’s side. He has a good record on freedom of religion (not just in favor of Christians – incidentally he’s Episcopalian, one of the most liberal branches of U.S. protestantism) and batting back police and surveillance overreach. He doesn’t believe in an activist court, but he doesn’t believe in an activist executive branch either. He believes in getting stuff done through legislation. That’s hard in the current environment, but it’s not wrong. (Remember how I’m an anti-monarchist? When judges and presidents call the shots, freedoms are built on sand and can be easily knocked down by the next guy in line, as we are seeing.)

There is no chance a Republican administration is going to pick someone who doesn’t make me nervous about reproductive rights. Gorsuch has written extensively about euthanasia and abortion, but so far what I’ve read from him on the subject (not a lot, there are only so many hours in the day) is basically: this is hard and morally complicated and rests on things that can’t be measured or assigned a number value. Thus it’s difficult to write laws that preserve patient autonomy while minimizing unnecessary killing. Which…is true?

I can understand why dems might want to go into the revenge business right now, partly because any time you get a chance to act like Inigo Montoya, it’s appealing. For myself, it seems like denying a hearing for Gorsuch doesn’t hurt the villain in this saga (McConnell) and potentially empowers the villain in the wings (Bannon). I’m not saying vote for him. I’m saying hear him out.

And, lest you forget, the reason I’m mad at McConnell is for hobbling the Supreme Court. I don’t like any strategy that doesn’t offer a path toward filling that seat. If we’re not willing to give anyone a congressional hearing, who and how are questions I need answered.


PS Not only do I doubt we’ll get a better offer; I’m really really dubious we’d actually be able to block him, so I’d rather not radicalize him with a super nasty confirmation process. He’ll be in there for decades. It’d be nice if we nudged him toward Roberts instead of Thomas.


Kate says: Abortion isn’t ‘unnecessary killing’. just, it makes a difference if people think that. if people think that the human being with the uterus is less important than the collection of cells accumulating in said human.

Romie: If you have a brilliant plan to get a Republican supreme court nominee who is going to support every form of abortion in every situation, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, I’m going feel some relief that somebody at least acknowledges that patient rights need to be included in consideration and lawmakers should be careful in what they legislate.

U.S. law is pretty clear about there being a difference between a clump of cells at the beginning of a pregnancy (human tissue, not a human) and for instance a third trimester situation. It’s as false to pretend an eight-month pregnancy is a zygote as it is to pretend a zygote is an eight-month pregnancy. It is in line with current law to refer to some abortions in this way, and also in line with how women who get late-term abortions refer to their lost babies.

I am an intelligent woman who has the ability to say I should be able to control my own body (and defend myself against risks to my life and liberty) without having to pretend all abortions are just a clump of cells. My right to self defense doesn’t depend on the threat being inhuman.