Later On

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Archive for January 31st, 2021

Biden’s initiatives bring hope — and that worries the Republican party. They are working to kill the initiatives.

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

The most prominent story these days is that the Republican Party is sliding toward a full-on embrace of authoritarianism. Former president Trump’s exit and ban from his favorite social media outlets has left a vacuum that younger politicians imitating Trump’s style are eager to fill by rallying people to the former president’s standard.

Notably, Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have tried to step into the former president’s media space by behaving outrageously and becoming his acolytes. Gaetz last week traveled to Wyoming to attack Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third most powerful Republican in the House, for her vote in support of Trump’s impeachment. Not to be outdone, yesterday Greene tweeted that she had spoken to Trump and has his support, although neither her camp nor his would comment on her statement.

Republican state parties have also thrown in their lot with the former president. In Arizona, the state party voted to censure former Senator Jeff Flake, the late Senator John McCain’s wife Cindy, and Governor Doug Ducey for criticizing the former president. In South Carolina, the state party formally censured Representative Tom Rice for voting to impeach Trump, and Republican lawmakers are starting to consider stripping Cheney of her party position, a development that led former President George W. Bush to indicate his support for her this weekend. She has already drawn a primary challenger.

Across the country, Republican-dominated legislatures are trying to suppress the voting that led to the high voter turnout that fueled Democratic victories in 2020. According to the Brennan Center, which tracks voting rights, 28 states have put forward more than 100 bills to limit voting. Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, whose voters chose Biden this year after going for Trump in 2016, all have introduced plans to lower voting rates. So have other states like Texas, which have voted Republican in recent years but show signs of turning blue.

The former president would like to solidify power over the party, but he has his own problems right now. The top five lawyers in his team defending him against the article of impeachment in his Senate trial all quit this weekend. Trump apparently wanted them to argue that the attack on the Capitol was justified because Democrats stole the election from him. Recognizing that this is pure fantasy—courts have already thrown this argument out more than 60 times—which could put them in legal jeopardy, the lawyers instead wanted to argue that it is unconstitutional to try a former president on charges of impeachment.

Tonight, Trump’s office announced that David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor, Jr., will lead his defense. Schoen represented Trump advisor Roger Stone when he challenged his convictions; Castor was the district attorney who promised actor Bill Cosby he would not be prosecuted for indecent assault. The impeachment trial is scheduled to start on February 9.

There are signs that some Republicans have finally had enough of their party’s march toward authoritarianism, especially as pro-Trump Republicans grab headlines for their outrageous behavior, including shutting down a mass vaccination effort at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for about an hour yesterday.

Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a 2010 Tea Partier but now one of the ten Republicans in the House to vote in favor of impeachment, told Anthony Fisher of Business Insider that “My dad’s cousins sent me a petition — a certified letter — saying they disowned me because I’m in ‘the devil’s army’ now….”

Kinzinger announced today that he has started a political action committee (PAC) to finance a challenge to Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. Calling Trump’s loyalists in the Republican caucus “political terrorists,” Kinzinger said in the video launching the PAC, “Republicans must say enough is enough. It’s time to unplug the outrage machine, reject the politics of personality, and cast aside the conspiracy theories and the rage.”

It also appears to be sinking in to Republicans that momentum is on the side of the Democrats. Biden’s executive actions have generally been popular, and his support for workers threatens to shift a key constituency from the Republicans to the Democrats.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus proposal offers to give to ordinary Americans, hurting badly from the coronavirus recession, the kind of government attention that has lately gone to wealthier Americans. Among other things, it calls for $1400 stimulus payments, extends unemployment benefits, provides funds for state and local governments, and establishes a higher minimum wage. While Biden has said repeatedly that he would like Republican support for this measure, the Democrats have enough votes to pass a version of it without Republican support.

This would put Republicans in the position of voting against a measure that promises to be popular, and at least ten Republican senators would prefer not to do that. Today, they offered their own $600 billion counterproposal, and asked for a meeting with President Biden to discuss it.

In their letter to the president, they hinted that they think the nation has devoted enough money to the economic crisis already, noting that there is still money unspent from the previous coronavirus packages. But they did not state that reasoning explicitly, perhaps recognizing that this argument will not be popular from people who voted for Trump’s 2017 tax cut, which disproportionately benefited the wealthy, when one in seven adults say their households don’t have enough food to eat.

“We want to work in good faith with you and your administration to meet the health, economic and societal challenges of the covid crisis,” the senators wrote. After years in which Republican senators refused to discuss bills with the Democrats, this is a change indeed.

But perhaps not enough of one. In the Washington Post, James Downie noted that a proposal that is less than a third of Biden’s package is not a compromise. It also cuts stimulus checks down to $1000, cuts supplemental unemployment insurance, gives no local or state aid, and kills the minimum wage increase.

When asked why Democrats should compromise rather than go ahead without them, as Republicans repeatedly did when they held the majority, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) told “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union,” respectively, that Biden should honor his call for unity and that refusing to do so would kill future hopes for bipartisanship.

In an article in The Guardian today, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich dismissed Republican concerns about the national debt, noting that if they were worried about it, they could just tax the very wealthy. “The total wealth of America’s 660 billionaires has grown by… $1.1 [trillion] since the start of the pandemic, a 40% increase,” he noted. Those billionaires could fund almost all of Biden’s proposal and still be as rich as they were before the pandemic hit.

Reich suggested that “ . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2021 at 11:17 pm

Here’s What Happens to a Conspiracy-Driven Party: The Know-Nothings and their political demise

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Zachary Karabell writes in Politico:

The rise of QAnon beliefs in Republican politics has been treated with a degree of shock: How could a fringe Internet conspiracy theory have worked its way into the heart of a major political party? The ideas behind the QAnon movement are lurid, about pedophilia and Satan worship and a coming violent “storm,” but the impact is real: Many of the pro-Trump Capitol insurrectionists were QAnon supporters, as is at least one elected Republican in Congress.

As tempting as it to take the rise of conspiracy theories as a singular mark of a partisan internet-fueled age, however, there’s nothing particularly modern or unique about what is happening now. To the contrary. Conspiracy theories as they say, are as American as apple pie — as are their entanglement with nativist politics.

Those currents have usually flowed beneath the surface, but for a time in the middle of the 19th century, they broke out into the open, powering a major political movement that dominated state governments, ensconced itself in the House of Representatives and became a credible force in presidential elections. The American Party, popularly referred to as the “Know Nothings,” may not have seized the White House, but its story bears an uncanny resemblance to what’s happening within today’s Republican Party.

The sudden implosion of the Know Nothings should also serve as a warning to Republicans that the forces that have propelled them to the apex of American politics, helping Donald Trump win the White House, can also tear them apart, leaving barely a trace. The Know Nothings today are a barely remembered footnote to American history; if it continues on its current path, today’s version could end much the same.

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Much like QAnon, the Know Nothings started life as a secretive cabal convinced that the country was being controlled by an even more secretive cabal — and much like Trump-era Republicans, their anxieties were rooted in a country that seemed to be changing around them.

In the late 1840s, the United States was being flooded with immigrants, in this case from Ireland. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of poor Irish Catholics led to a rise of political groups in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia convinced that these immigrants could form a fifth column taking direction from the Pope. Under orders from Rome, the theory went, these immigrants would undo American democracy and steal jobs from hard-working native citizens whose economic prospects were hardly secure even in the best of times.

Though these groups had actual names, such as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, their membership at first was guarded and secretive. Asked about their views and political plans, members would reply only: “I know nothing.” The nickname was born.

Fringe movements need both oxygen and fuel. The panic over an influx of Irish-Catholics was the oxygen, and the fuel was provided by the break-up of one of the two major American political parties, the Whigs, after 1850. The Whig Party was never a coherent coalition, and when it finally cracked under the weight of North-South division over slavery, the Know Nothings suddenly emerged from the shadows to become a viable political force.

Given that there were both Northern and Southern contingents, the Know Nothing movement avoided the issue of slavery, instead directing the passions of its supporters toward laws against drinking (the Irish were seen as overly fond of drink; they were Catholics; they were in thrall to the Pope; hence alcohol was evil); laws against immigration; laws in cities such as Chicago banning any new immigrants from municipal jobs; laws to prevent immigrants from attaining citizenship.

These were not marginal moves. At their height, the Know Nothings, newly christened the Native American Party (long before that connoted the original inhabitants of North America), controlled the state legislatures and governorships of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine and California. They also held numerous seats in state assemblies throughout the South, and they sent more than 40 representatives to the House and several senators, all adamant. Most of them supported stringent nativist, anti-immigrant legislation; all emerged from conspiratorial clubs that had spread theories about possible Papist aggression and plots against the sovereignty of the United States. (In their grotesque accusations about Catholic priests and nuns strangling babies and holding young women against their will, it’s not hard to see an early version of QAnon’s core obsession with imagined globalist pedophiles.) In 1856, the name was shortened to the American Party and its leaders nominated former president Millard Fillmore as their candidate for president under the slogan “Americans Must Rule America.”

nd then, almost as quickly as the Know Nothings surged, they split apart. Formed from scattered groups sharing a sensibility and an animus into a loose national coalition, the party was never tightly organized, much like the Tea Party in our time. Northern and Southern branches were just as divided over the issue of slavery as was the Democratic Party in the 1850s, which also began to break apart into two distinct camps. The rise of the newly founded Republican Party in the northern states also siphoned off Know Nothing support. Fillmore managed to get 21 percent of the vote in the 1856 presidential election and win Maryland (which was then bitterly divided over slavery, which was then legal in the state). But that was not the start of national party; it was the end of one.

Though the political movement collapsed, the anti-immigrant nativism of the Know Nothings never really went away. Even during the Civil War, when all other issues were subsumed, the passions stirred by the Know Nothings were never far from the surface. The New York Draft Riots of 1863 were in part an uprising of Irish immigrants after years of discrimination, with African-Americans bearing the brunt of their rage. After the Civil War, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned all immigration for 20 years. Those currents also worked their way into the Populist and Progressive movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, which ultimately became a prominent strain of both parties, the Republicans under Teddy Roosevelt and the Democrats during the Woodrow Wilson years.

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There are lessons here for the Republican Party today. History doesn’t repeat itself. It does, as Mark Twain quipped, often rhyme, which means that its echoes resonate over subsequent generations in ways that can offer guidance, though never clear pathways. One lesson for 2021 Republicans is that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and the conclusions and prescriptions are interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2021 at 12:50 pm

Combating Misinformation When A Loved One Is Caught In A Web Of Conspiracies

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Sarah McCammon reports at NPR (and there’s a 5-minute audio of the report at the link):

On Jan. 6, Hilary Izatt was watching TV when she began to worry.

“My husband and I are both political scientists; we’re kind of nerdy; we watch C-SPAN a lot,” Izatt says. “And when we were watching C-SPAN is when the rioters started breaking into the Capitol.”

Izatt, 39, is a doctoral student in political science at the University of Michigan. She says her dad, who lives in Utah, had told her he was traveling to Washington, D.C., to join the massive pro-Trump rally planned for that day.

What she saw unfolding on the screen scared her.

A different — dangerous — reality

“I was mostly worried for his safety and I texted him and he got back to me and he just said, ‘Don’t believe everything you’re watching on TV,’ ” she says. “So I don’t believe like C-SPAN? I’m not sure what he meant by that.”

“But it was this realization that I think we’re coming from two very different realities.”

Izatt’s father declined to comment, but Izatt says she believes he was not among the group that stormed the Capitol. Still, she’s uncomfortable with the idea that he was there that day at all.

Like Izatt, many Americans are feeling like they’ve lost loved ones to a web of conspiracy theories and false information circulating online. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, for example, found that only 1 in 5 Republicans accept Biden’s victory.

Ideas have consequences

“Beliefs are real in their consequences,” says James Hawdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech.

He says the widespread acceptance of disinformation is not only divisive but also dangerous for the country.

“We act on our beliefs. If you truly believe the country is under attack … if this, of course, is not true … obviously it poses a threat,” Hawdon says.

People often latch onto pieces of misinformation that align with their worldview and gradually begin to accept even bigger lies, he says.

“You can get people to step, take small steps off the path of truth or reality or whatever you want to call it, more easily than taking a big leap,” Hawdon says. “But once you’ve gone several yards off that path, then the big leap’s pretty easy to make.”

Those ideas often are appealing because they validate part of a person’s belief system or identity, Hawdon says, and they’re difficult to shake.

Lost in “La-La Land”

Dennis, a retiree from Maryland — who asked that we use only his first name for fear of his safety in the current climate — has grown increasingly worried about his daughter’s embrace of false ideas about the election.

“She’s talked about the election being stolen and I’ve pushed back on that — you know, the standard, ‘Where’s your proof? And how do you suppose this happened?’ ” Dennis says.

His daughter, Paula, lives near Baltimore and works as an office manager. In an interview with NPR, she says her father told her she was “in La-La Land, but I really don’t feel that I am.”

Paula says she has been a conservative all of her life. She says she distrusts elected officials and cannot believe Biden won — despite what many courts and elections have repeatedly confirmed — and regardless of what her dad said about her grasp of reality.

“I was a little bit irritated, but my response is, ‘Well, I’m there with 70 million other people, then,’ ” she says.

Getting to the root cause

Hawdon, the violence prevention researcher at Virginia Tech, says one long-term solution could involve better education in data literacy to help young people learn how to sort through fact and fiction. In the short term, if a loved one is spouting misinformation, he advises pushing back kindly — and trying to understand what led to that belief.

“I don’t really believe people started off believing that there are pedophile rings under a pizza place,” he says. “Something got them down that rabbit hole and you have to understand what that root cause is.”

Just as people often take small steps toward conspiracy theories, Hawdon says, they may need to gradually move away from them, too.

Deen Freelon, an associate journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill specializing in politics and digital media, says a heavier hand is necessary in some situations.

“People don’t understand that they have a problem,” Freelon says. “A light touch is really not going to do it here; we really have to pull out all the stops because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t.”

Freelon says that may mean withholding contact for a while or prohibiting grandparents who are condoning insurrection from spending time with grandchildren.

“People lost their lives,” he says. “So this is really serious.”

“Crazy ideas” with consequences

Hilary Izatt says she’s unsure how to talk to her dad, but she anticipates some tough conversations.

“I think a lot of Americans are. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2021 at 12:42 pm

A Vast Web of Vengeance: Weaponized social media and the harm it does

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Kashmir Hill reports in the NY Times:

Guy Babcock vividly remembers the chilly Saturday evening when he discovered the stain on his family. It was September 2018. He, his wife and their young son had just returned to their home in Beckley, an English village outside of Oxford. Mr. Babcock still had his coat on when he got a frantic call from his father.

“I don’t want to upset you, but there is some bad stuff on the internet,” Mr. Babcock recalled his father saying. Someone, somewhere, had written terrible things online about Guy Babcock and his brother, and members of their 86-year-old father’s social club had alerted him.

Mr. Babcock, a software engineer, got off the phone and Googled himself. The results were full of posts on strange sites accusing him of being a thief, a fraudster and a pedophile. The posts listed Mr. Babcock’s contact details and employer.

The images were the worst: photos taken from his LinkedIn and Facebook pages that had “pedophile” written across them in red type. Someone had posted the doctored images on Pinterest, and Google’s algorithms apparently liked things from Pinterest, and so the pictures were positioned at the very top of the Google results for “Guy Babcock.”

Mr. Babcock, 59, was not a thief, a fraudster or a pedophile. “I remember being in complete shock,” he said. “Why would someone do this? Who could it possibly be? Who would be so angry?”

Then he Googled his brother’s name. The results were just as bad.

He tried his wife.

His sister.

His brother-in-law.

His teenage nephew.

His cousin.

His aunt.

They had all been hit. The men were branded as child molesters and pedophiles, the women as thieves and scammers. Only his 8-year-old son had been spared.

Guy Babcock was about to discover the power of a lone person to destroy countless reputations, aided by platforms like Google that rarely intervene. He was shocked when he discovered the identity of the assailant, the number of other victims and the duration of the digital violence.

Public smears have been around for centuries. But they are far more effective in the internet age, gliding across platforms that are loath to crack down, said Peter W. Singer, co-author of “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media.”

The solution, he said, was to identify “super-spreaders” of slander, the people and the websites that wage the most vicious false attacks.

“The way to make the internet a less toxic place is setting limits on super-spreaders or even knocking them offline,” Mr. Singer said. “Instead of policing everyone, we should police those who affect the most people.”

The Babcock family had been targeted by a super-spreader, dragged into an internet cesspool where people’s reputations are held for ransom.

Mr. Babcock was sure there was a way to have lies about him wiped from the internet. Many of the slanderous posts appeared on a website called Ripoff Report, which describes itself as a forum for exposing “complaints, reviews, scams, lawsuits, frauds.” (Its tagline: “consumers educating consumers.”)

He started clicking around and eventually found a part of the site where Ripoff Report offered “arbitration services,” which cost up to $2,000, to get rid of “substantially false” information. That sounded like extortion; Mr. Babcock wasn’t about to pay to have lies removed.

Ripoff Report is one of hundreds of “complaint sites” — others include She’s a Homewrecker, Cheaterbot and Deadbeats Exposed — that let people anonymously expose an unreliable handyman, a cheating ex, a sexual predator.

But there is no fact-checking. The sites often charge money to take down posts, even defamatory ones. And there is limited accountability. Ripoff Report, like the others, notes on its site that, thanks to Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, it isn’t responsible for what its users post.

If someone posts false information about you on the Ripoff Report, the CDA prohibits you from holding us liable for the statements which others have written. You can always sue the author if you want, but you can’t sue Ripoff Report just because we provide a forum for speech.

With that impunity, Ripoff Report and its ilk are willing to host pure, uncensored vengeance.

Google results are often the first impression a person makes. They help people decide whom to date, to hire, to rent a home to. Mr. Babcock worried that his family’s terrible Google search profiles could have serious repercussions, particularly for his 19-year-old nephew and his 27-year-old cousin, both just starting out in life.

Two weeks after Mr. Babcock discovered the pedophile posts, a friend called: He’d heard about the accusations from another village resident. Someone had spotted them while Googling an ice-cream parlor the Babcock family owned. Mr. Babcock soon installed a home security system; he’d read about vigilantes going after accused child molesters.

He and members of his extended family reported the online harassment to police in England and Canada, where most of them lived. Only the British authorities appeared to take the report seriously; a 1988 law prohibits communications that intentionally cause distress. An officer with the local Thames Valley police told Mr. Babcock to gather the evidence, so he and his brother-in-law, Luc Groleau, who lives outside of Montreal, started cataloging the posts in a Google document. It grew to more than 100 pages.

In October 2018, while scrolling through items deep in his Google results, Mr. Babcock came across a blog where a commenter falsely called him “a former janitor” who was “masquerading as an IT consultant.” It was similar to attacks elsewhere, but this one had an author photo attached: a woman with long, reddish hair, wearing a black blazer and chunky earrings.

Mr. Babcock stared at the photo in shock. He hadn’t seen it in decades, but he recognized it instantly. The woman’s name was Nadire Atas; this was her official work portrait from 1990, when she worked in a Re/Max real estate office the Babcock family owned outside Toronto. She had initially been a star employee, but her performance deteriorated, and in 1993 Mr. Babcock’s father had fired her. Afterward, she had threatened his father, according to an affidavit filed in a Canadian court.

Mr. Babcock felt lightheaded. A memory came back to him: When his mother died in 1999, the family had received vulgar, anonymous letters celebrating her death. A neighbor received a typed letter stating that Mr. Babcock’s father “has been seen roaming the neighbourhood late at night and masturbating behind the bushes.” The Babcocks had suspected Ms. Atas, who was the only person who had ever threatened them. (Ms. Atas denied making threats or writing the letters.)

Decades later, it appeared that she was still harboring her grudge — and had updated her methods for the digital age.

Mr. Babcock searched Ms. Atas’s name online and found a blog written by a Canadian lawyer, Christina Wallis. It was the first in a trail of clues that would eventually reveal the breadth of Ms. Atas’s online campaign.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” wrote Ms. Wallis, borrowing a quote often attributed to Mark Twain. She described how Ms. Atas had waged an online campaign against her, her colleagues and her family, including branding them pedophiles.

Mr. Babcock got goose bumps.

His brother-in-law, Mr. Groleau, contacted Ms. Wallis. She had represented a bank that foreclosed on two properties Ms. Atas owned in the early 2000s. Dozens of people had come under online attack: employees of the bank, lawyers who represented the bank, lawyers who represented those lawyers, relatives of those people and on and on. The attacks seemed engineered to perform well in search engines, and they included the victims’ names, addresses, contact information and employers. (Ms. Atas denies being the author of many of these posts.)

For years, Ms. Wallis and her colleagues had been pursuing lawsuits and contacting the sites and technology platforms that hosted the material. Nothing had worked. The smears remained public, and the consequences became real.

A relative of one lawyer said she spent months applying for jobs in 2019 without getting any offers. The woman, who asked not to be named because she feared Ms. Atas, said her bills piled up. She worried she might lose her home.

Then she decided to apply for jobs using her maiden name, under which she hadn’t been attacked. She quickly lined up three interviews and two offers.

These situations — where one angry person targets a large group of perceived enemies — are not uncommon. Maanit Zemel, a lawyer who specializes in online defamation, represents a group of 53 people who have filed a lawsuit saying they were attacked online by Tanvir Farid after he failed to get jobs at their companies. (Mr. Farid’s lawyer declined to comment.)

For victims, these sorts of attacks “can literally end their life and their career and everything,” Ms. Zemel said.

The victims in the Atas case live in Canada, Britain and the United States. In June 2020, Matthew Hefler, 32, the brother-in-law of a colleague of Ms. Wallis, became one of the latest targets. Mr. Hefler, who lives in Nova Scotia, is a historian who recently completed his Ph.D. in war studies. He is trying to find a teaching job. But anyone who searches for him online will encounter posts and images tarring him as a pedophile and “pervert freak.”

Until recently, Mr. Hefler had never heard of Ms. Atas. He had no clue why she was attacking him. “You discover that someone you’ve never met, across the country, is running a one-man troll farm against you,” Mr. Hefler said. “It’s a nightmare scenario.”

In October 2018, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Something must be done. Section 230 requires substantial revision.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2021 at 10:50 am

Republicans seem always to have been hostile to (and ignorant of) science. Antonin Scalia is a good example.

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This Salon article by Bruce Hay was published 27 February 2016, shortly after Scalia’s death:

In the two weeks since his death, many have spoken about Antonin Scalia’s undeniable impact on American law.  As attention shifts to filling the vacancy he has left on the Supreme Court, I would like instead to talk about his less appreciated impact on contemporary physics. But first, a bit of background.

Antonin Scalia generally detested science. It threatened everything he believed in. He refused to join a recent Supreme Court opinion about DNA testing because it presented the details of textbook molecular biology as fact. He could not join because he did not know such things to be true, he said. (On the other hand, he knew all about the eighteenth century. History books were trustworthy; science books were not.) Scientists should be listened to only if they supported conservative causes, for example dubious studies purporting to demonstrate that same-sex parenting is harmful to children. Scientists were also good if they helped create technologies he liked, such as oil drills and deadly weapons.

His own weapon was the poison-barbed word, and the battleground was what he once labeled the Kulturkampf, the culture war. The enemy took many forms. Women’s rights. Racial justice. Economic equality. Environmental protection. The “homosexual agenda,” as he called it. Intellectuals and universities. The questioning of authority and privilege. Ambiguity. Foreignness. Social change. Climate research. The modern world, in all its beauty and complexity and fragility.

Most of all, the enemy was to be found in judges who believe decency and compassion are central to their jobs, not weaknesses to be extinguished. Who refuse to dehumanize people and treat them as pawns in some Manichean struggle of good versus evil, us versus them. Who decline to make their intelligence and verbal gifts into instruments of cruelty and persecution and infinite scorn.

I worked for him early in his tenure on the Supreme Court. He had visited my law school when I was a student, and I was smitten by his warmth and humor and sheer intellectual vibrancy. When I applied for a clerkship at the Court, my hero Justice Brennan quickly filled all his positions, so Scalia became my first choice. He offered me a job and I thought I’d won the lottery. I knew we differed politically, but he prized reason and I would help him be reasonable. A more naive young fool never drew breath.

I can attest to the many nice things people have said about the Justice. He was erudite and frighteningly smart. He said what he thought, not what was expedient. He was generous to friends and family. He loved his clerks and helped them get dream jobs. And we returned the favor by not thinking about what we were doing, then or afterward. What I took for the pursuit of reason in those chambers was in fact the manufacture of verbal munitions, to be deployed against civilian populations. From the comfort of our leather chairs, we never saw the victims.

Anyway, about his contribution to physics. I am close to one of the victims of his operation, a transgender woman named Mischa Haider, whom I got to know during the course of her work on a Ph.D. in physics at Harvard. She’s an extraordinary polymath — gifted violinist, writer and novelist; fluent speaker of a half-dozen languages; math genius. And physicist. Her intellect would have made our brilliant Justice want to hide his head in a bag, to borrow his charming words from last year’s marriage equality ruling. Those who have any doubt about trans mothers should meet Mischa’s children.

Since coming out as trans a few years ago, this remarkable woman has suffered a debilitating depression. Partly from the transphobia she encounters daily at the allegedly enlightened Harvard; from the constant stares in public; from the indignity of worrying about things the rest of us take for granted, like walking in the street or using a public bathroom without fear of taunts or violence, or taking her children to the park without fear of being humiliated in front of them.  And from the pain of rejection by family and former friends who, despite her prodigious achievements, are somehow ashamed to be associated with her.

Beyond all that, it’s her knowledge of what the “culture war” means for trans women across the country, women who are shunned by their families, who are often unable to get jobs and therefore live in poverty, who face shocking levels of assault and murder (2015 was a record year), who attempt suicide at a rate greater than 40 percent. Who are generally excluded from the protection of antidiscrimination laws. Who, on the contrary, are at this moment the subject of dozens of pending pieces of transphobic legislation around the country, such as bills to stigmatize trans children by forcing them to use separate locker rooms at school or to jail trans women for using public bathrooms that match their identity. The drumbeat of organized hatred, calling to mind yellow stars and separate drinking fountains and worse, makes my friend feel like a nonperson, unwelcome in her own country. All this, for the crime of not matching someone else’s idea of how women are supposed to look.

She’s decided to leave academic physics after finishing the doctorate. She has become . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2021 at 9:47 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Law, Science

Will Congressional conflict reach this point?

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This was seen in South Korea’s National Assembly a few years ago (31 July 2015):

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2021 at 9:08 am

Some earlier posts checking out the Rockwell 6S baseplates, including comparison to the Feather AS-D2

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A reader emailed me a question this morning on how the Rockwell 6S R1 baseplate compares to the Feather AS-D2. As it happens, I did this comparison a few years ago. Here are the posts in reading sequence. R3 is not included since that was my regular choice at the time. (I now routinely use R4.)

R2 compared to AS-D2   
R1 compared to AS-D2  
R5 evaluated  
R6 evaluated with a surprise

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2021 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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