Friday, September 15, 2017

Links (2 of 2)

I lost 1-2 of the links I planned to show. Drat. But I also found others.

Final love letter to a spacecraft. The Cassini exploratory probe finished its life and mission, which was to send us data about Saturn and its moons. The craft was remotely instructed to crash into Saturn to be sure that it wouldn't contaminate the moons where native life might be possible.

Americans and their white president. A tour-de-force essay by Ta-nehisi Coates. He writes that whites of all kinds, not just working class, gave support to a candidate who reflected bigotry. The essay shows one way to view race relations, but I don't agree with it's the whole story. It's still significant that a black president was elected twice, and with more support than Trump got. Coates does present some chilling facts, however, such as a white felon running in the presidential primary against Obama, and getting a surprising number of votes. The Obama presidency has been difficult for many blacks because they've had to endure heightened disrespect.

More about North Korea. North Koreans have been completely immersed in the propaganda that their only purpose is to serve. That complicates both war and diplomacy. A high-ranking ex-officer suggests a naval blockade to change the dynamic. The comment section is a must-read.

Did voter fraud change this Senate election? That's a good question raised here. There are known weaknesses in New Hampshire election law. The numbers of people using out-of-state IDs were high enough in this very close election. This is plausible, but not enough evidence to say it happened.

US spending. Where the federal spending goes. I'm always looking for this info, so here's a link to a handy graph.

Driverless car crash. This summary and analysis points to the technology not being able to handle complex situations. The driver, however, was lulled into depending on the system. That would happen so easily.

Susan Rice, target of conservative smears. A lot of ugly accusations swirled around her as conservatives tried to win the news cycle when lots of Russia news was coming out. Now she's been cleared, but that information is mostly buried. Blowhard conservatives won't even remember that they defamed her. Amnesia is rampant there.

Migration issues confront Canada. Perhaps for the first time, Canada is dealing with mass migration that is poorly controlled. Will it be too much for this generous, empathetic nation?


Monday, September 11, 2017

For and against the Southern Poverty Law Center

What I remember of the Southern Poverty Law Center is that they had a large and scrupulously maintained database of US hate organizations and individuals, so they were always a good resource for reporters, and even for police and the FBI. Their database also made them invaluable to civil actions against hate groups, several of which were sued into bankruptcy.

I hadn't thought much about the SPLC until a conservative commenter with an anything-goes attitude toward argumentation claimed that the SPLC is itself a hate group. The basis for her dubious claim is that the shooter at the Family Research Council in DC used information from SPLC to target an anti-gay group.

I saw several other claims that SPLC is horrible, and decided to look into it. It appeared that most of the claims against SPLC were due its labeling of anti-gay groups as hate groups. The anti-gay groups and their conservative supporters bristled under the label, believing they were unfairly classed in with the KKK and neo-Nazis. Does this smack of claiming their kind of hate is 'a good kind of hate?'

I read what SPLC had to say about one of these anti-gay groups. The SPLC says that it doesn't label groups as hate groups simply for having labeling homosexuality as wrong or sinful. It had the criteria that the group spread lies, false reports or false research, advocate violence, etc. I noted that SPLC doesn't list the Catholic Church as a hate group, so a group can have religious objections to gays without getting the hated 'hate' label. Fair enough. I decided to contribute for the first time in my life. I felt good about it--that I was making up for lost time and supporting a good organization.

That was starting maybe a year ago, and I contributed 4-5 months ago. Now I'm seeing many more attacks on SPLC. Some of the latest:
  • SPLC doesn't spend much on legal actions, but has a pile of money in offshore accounts.
  • The latest BIG slam is that it mislabels groups and then corporate America cuts off the groups' lifeblood of donations. The Ruth Institute has been cut off in that way, and it has raised a huge amount of attention. (Great PR opportunity!!!!!) I've read 1, 2, 3 articles about the Ruth Institute, the first several weeks ago (no link now) so I was already with familiar with SPLC's rationale for listing it as a hate group. The leader of the Ruth Institute has a long history with anti-gay groups such as the National Organization for Marriage.
My theory is that SPLC is getting notice because of the Charlottesville incidents. Its database provides a lot of information about the white nationalists groups involved, and that makes it look like a strong, helpful, civil-minded organization. Now, if you're a conservative with a chip on your shoulder, you don't like SPLC getting any credit, so you want to attack their credibility. So trot out the old complaints and any current complaints you can find. Call them a far-left group or whatever. The weak-minded will repeat it. For me, I've looked into their explanation for the criteria for listing a hate group, and it's solid. If you support a conservative group labeled as such, maybe you should ask them to cut out the lies and hate, and clear the air on what they actually support. That's my recommendation. Belly-aching that someone is calling you names that you don't deserve doesn't cut it.

A mild message from the progenitor of the Ruth Institute

Extras. SPLC has good reporting on many of the rallies where greater or lesser amounts of violence has broken out. That's helpful too. However, if they are indeed sitting on a pile of money, I may not contribute again. I'll give to other organizations, and give verbal support and clicks to SPLC.

SPLC reports: The rift between the militias and alt-right groups. Many militias want to be open to blacks, particularly military veterans. They share some views with alt-right groups, but not white supremacy. That's why militias will often provide neutral security and stand between alt-right groups and counterprotesters. They support free speech rights, but think a lot of the slogans are rubbish and therefore won't be into the shouting wars and other skirmishes. This is what I've gleaned from reading. Possibly it's wrong.

The killer of two on a Portland train claimed he was protecting free speech. I hope this is wrong and fails as a defense strategy. The killer was outnumbered by three men defending Muslims. Will he claim he feared for his life?

More reporting from in and around Portland. Campus allegations and counter-allegations, protests and counter-protests.

Links (1 of 2)

My tabs overfloweth.

Decoding anonymous sources. A good guide from Lawfare. How to interpret what reporters write, indicating how many sources they have and where they are. A good news organization follows these unwritten rules. Bad organizations pretend they follow the rules, but actually make up sources, use known unreliable sources, misleadingly edit and quote, and don't fire reporters and editors who don't follow good standards.

Now, one of those sources. Seymour Hersh is implicated in the Seth Rich-to-Wikileaks story. He claims it's just a rumor. I should dedicate a post to the Seth Rich story, but I'm too lazy. Briefly, Rich was a low-level staffer at the DNC or Hillary campaign and was killed in his DC neighborhood. Cue the conspiracy theories. Fox News got ahead of itself and coerced a contributor to say stuff he didn't actually believe, prompting him to sue. Seymour Hersh is involved because he is supposedly the source of some of that info. There's a tape of Hersh talking about the case. Strangely the tape begins and ends abruptly. I have suspicions that Hersh contradicts or says it's mostly his speculation. I haven't trusted edited tapes since Shirley Sherrod as smeared. Nonetheless, Hersh isn't saying what he knows. He ought to clear it up since the concern about a conspiracy is important here.

Sheriffs as the supreme law. Here is another right-wing idea to counter big, bad government. The concept is that the sheriff, being locally elected and accountable, is the supreme authority in a county, and doesn't have to enforce national laws. Remember Bull Connor and this doesn't seem so good. Joe Arpaio is supposedly an advocate for this idea. Luckily, he lost his last bid for reelection.

Another worrisome tactic to watch. Using Freedom-of-Information requests to undermine and sue small local school districts. Tactic supported by Steve Bannon. The goal is mirky, but maybe it's hidden in the settlements.

Russian election interference (another example). Something to watch. Fake accounts on Facebook bought ad time from Facebook. The purchase was automated, so even Facebook didn't know it was happening. Parking this timeline of Russia interference denial here. Hoping I can find it again.