On Doxing: UPDATED

Posted by Sappho on November 10th, 2018 filed in News and Commentary

UPDATE: Rebecca Kavanaugh goes to the police report of the incident at Tucker Carlson’s house and finds that “it completely contradicts him” and that the police report has “no mention whatsoever of any damage to the front door of Mr. Carlson’s residence. Not a scratch.” and “no mention in the police report of anyone chanting anything about pipe bombs or chanting any sort of threats against Mr. Carlson.” The protesters did spray paint an anarchist symbol on the driveway. This considerably changes the severity of the incident (and, if Matt Yglesias was judging the incident from having read the police report while others were judging it from Tucker Carlson’s account, that might explain their different perspectives on the circumstances of Carlson’s wife). Don’t spray paint other people’s driveways – but spray painting a driveway is still much less bad than threatening to use a pipe bomb. So I stand corrected here. My original post is below, and I stand by everything I said about what principles should be applied to doxing.

Favorite take pervading my mentions today is, “That guy *deserved* to get harassed for saying that other guy deserved to get harassed.”

Will Oremus on Twitter

There are, of course, worse things than what just happened to Tucker Carlson, and what subsequently happened to Matthew Yglesias. There are always worse things. Just this week, about 90 miles from my home (California is big), a mass shooter killed a dozen people. One of my blogging and Facebook friends is mourning one of those who died, a student at his school. A huge fire has been sweeping through Malibu, and another huge fire has been sweeping through northern California (wiping out the town of Paradise, where my grandfather once built water generators). There are always worse things.

There’s also some debate over exactly what the protesters did at Tucker Carlson’s home. Did they actually try to break down his door, in an attempted home invasion (really awful), or merely knock on the door and stand outside the home chanting (still scary for his wife who was home alone, but considerably less bad than trying to break down the door)?

So why blog about these incidents? Because they give me a chance to talk about first principles, concerning a much subject that has lately been much debated on the Internet: doxing.

Why is doxing wrong? And are there any exceptions to the “doxing is wrong” rule? If so, what are those exceptions?
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“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest!”

Posted by Sappho on October 27th, 2018 filed in News and Commentary

Here’s how it works: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” And…someone goes out and kills Thomas Becket. The king gets plausible deniability, the deed is done. In an emotionalized, politicized climate, the least stable will take the first actions. And the speaker gets to say: “who, me?” This is why the tone of speech matters, and our leaders are responsible for setting it, always. Unless the violence is randomly distributed…yeah, partisan politics matter.

Author Steven Barnes, on Facebook

In recent years, a term has begun to circulate to capture this phenomenon — “stochastic terrorism,” in which mass communications, including social media, inspire random acts of violence that according to one description “are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” In other words, every act and actor is different, and no one knows by whom or where an act will happen — but it’s a good bet that something will.

Eyal Press, op-ed in the New York Times on 10/25/2018

Just this week:
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They’re bombing my childhood now

Posted by Sappho on October 24th, 2018 filed in Memory, News and Commentary

I was going to make one of those snarky posts on Facebook: Marked safe in the California riots. A wry reference to the “sanctuary city riots” that aren’t happening here. Then I lost my sense of humor, when a terrorist started roaming northern Westchester, bombing my childhood.

New Castle is a small town, containing the hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood. (You can walk between these hamlets in a pinch, and I used to do so when I was a teenager, particularly when I was training for the March of Dimes walk.) It has forests, once roamed by the legendary Leather Man, a Buddha who seems your own special secret when you discover him as a kid, streets where all the Scouts assemble to join the rest of the town in the annual Memorial Day parade (I marched as a child), a Quaker meeting house, and Horace Greeley, my high school, one of the best public high schools in the country. Neighboring New Castle, in different directions, you can find Mt. Kisco (where my family went to church), Ossining (now best known as the hometown of Don Draper in Mad Men), – and Bedford, another town, whose hamlets include Katonah.

I grew up in Millwood, went to school in Chappaqua, and, starting in middle school when my parents divorced, every weekend I would go to my father’s house in Katonah.

On Monday, someone delivered a bomb to the Katonah house of Holocaust survivor and prominent philanthropist George Soros.

On Tuesday, similar bombs were delivered to the DC home of former President Obama, and the Chappaqua home of former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton (the bomb was addressed to the latter).

These bombs could have killed their targets. Or the staff who opened the packages. Or someone else in the neighborhood. (I’m not sure how far the Soros house is from its neighbors, but the Clinton house is right in a residential neighborhood, not so far from the high school I attended).

Katonah and Chappaqua are right near each other.

A terrorist is stalking northern Westchester, bombing my childhood.

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Utopia and Its Discontents

Posted by Sappho on October 20th, 2018 filed in College Life, Memory, News and Commentary

More than thirty years ago, during the summer after my sophomore year in college, I spent two and a half weeks in utopia.

A day before yesterday, I arrived here by train from New York. Now, as I lie here on a Twin Oaks made hammock and listen to music from Jesus Christ Superstar drifting out from Llano, sometimes drowned out by the noise of hammers and saws from Tachai, I don’t really know where to begin in setting down my thoughts.

This particular utopia, Twin Oaks, a commune in Louisa, Virginia, had been founded in 1967. At the time I visited it, it was nearly fifteen years old, already longer lived than most 1960s communes. I have not been back since my visit, but it’s easy to see from articles and the community’s own web site that Twin Oaks is still going strong 51 years after it was founded, even though all of its eight founding members have moved on or died. It’s longevity, I think, is due in part to an inspiration that it had already largely abandoned by the time I visited. Twin Oaks, alone among 1960s communes, was inspired by a utopian novel by behaviorist psychologist B.F. Skinner, Walden Two.

utopia 1 often capitalized : a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions. 2 : an impractical scheme for social improvement. Meriam-Webster

“Utopia” comes from the name of a famous novel by Sir Thomas More. Utopia, “nowhere.” It has two meanings. So, if I ask you, what’s your utopia, you might take me to mean, “what’s your view of ideal laws, government, and social conditions”? What are the ideals and dreams that inspire you?

Or, you might take me to mean, “OK, there, tell me your impossible dream, and why you think it’s practical.” What’s your dream that’s blind to reality, false to human nature, for which you would sacrifice the joys and lives of real people?

We use “utopia” in its first meaning, generally, when we talk about “utopian novels” or (for all their imperfections) “utopian communities.” (Hence, though Twin Oaks is of course not everyone’s human ideal, you don’t think I’m sneering at the community if I lightly refer to it as “utopia.”)

We use the word in its second meaning when we talk about utopian politics. Whatever our dreams, none of us think our own politics are utopian. It’s always the other guy’s politics.
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Voting! Election 2018 information

Posted by Sappho on October 18th, 2018 filed in California Ballot Propositions, Democracy, News and Commentary

Last Saturday, I was at a local small town fair registering voters. So I’m delighted to see the news: California sets record as voter registration tops 19 million

This midterm election is an important one. Here are some resources to help you in voting.

Vote.org lets you check your registration status (do this even if you’ve been registered and voting for years – names get removed from voting lists, and yours may have been removed in error), find your polling place, register to vote or to get an absentee ballot, and sign up for election reminders to ensure that you never miss an election again.

California voters can get both information on ballot measures and information submitted by candidates in all those pesky down ballot races at the League of Women Voters education site Voters Edge. You can get the facts before you vote, and fill out your own sample ballot (your intended votes are stored locally on your device, not on the Internet).

For voters across the US, the League of Women Voters site Vote411.org is your friend.

Ballotpedia is an excellent site for finding information on ballot measures and races anywhere in the country. Want to follow the money and see who is funding what? You can find it all here.

The Institute for Governmental Studies at Berkeley tracks California ballot propositions for every election. Check out their chart of ballot measure endorsements for November, 2018. You can then find the web sites of the organizations in question if you want, for instance, more detail on why a particular paper or organization recommends for or against rent control related Proposition 10. Or any other proposition of your choice.

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Kavanaugh hearing transcripts and other links

Posted by Sappho on October 1st, 2018 filed in News and Commentary

Many people like to judge the truthfulness of the two parties, Ford and Kavanaugh, by watching them, listening to them, and getting whatever sense they can from their voices, body language, and general demeanor. I know that I am not good at detecting lies in this way, so I prefer to skip the TV and go for transcripts. Here are some links (a few days late, so you may have read them all, but I’ll save them here for my benefit):

WaPo: Kavanaugh hearing: Transcripts

Vox: Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart (you can click on each line colored pink for a dodge and see whether you agree)

Not directly about Kavanaugh, but related because discussion of Swetnick’s allegations raised some general discussion of date rape drugs, here’s an old Five Thirty-Eight article relating that Rapes Assisted By Drugs Or Alcohol Are All Too Common but actual use of date rape drugs much less common. I suspect that often the actual “date rape drug” is a larger dose of alcohol than the victim thought she had, sometimes because she miscalculated her tolerance and sometimes because, for example, she was given mixed drinks with a stronger than usual dose of alcohol, or her beer was topped off when she wasn’t looking, etc. Of course, date rape drugs or none, “having sex” with someone who’s actually incapacitated by alcohol or drugs is rape. (In at least some cases, a woman may be truly raped, telling the truth about her suspicion that date rape drugs were used on her, but mistaken about that suspicion.)

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On being clerk of a Quaker meeting

Posted by Sappho on September 23rd, 2018 filed in Quaker Practice

I fear I may have lost most of my readers, with my long silences on this blog. It’s been nearly three weeks since my last post, and I’ve been busy with, oh, everything. My sister is still recovering in a nursing home from her multiple spinal fractures (and could still use support for her GoFundMe. I’m still doing all my usual activities, including work, Toastmasters, DBSA, Stanford Professional Women of Orange County, etc. But right now I want to tell you about an activity I haven’t spoken about much.

You know, if you have been reading this blog for a while, that I’m a Quaker. Well, for the past year and a half, I have also been clerk of my Quaker meeting.

“Clerk” sounds, in modern language, like a secretarial role, but the Quaker term “clerk” goes back to the 17th century, when the word had a different meaning. As clerk, it’s my role to facilitate our monthly meeting for business (or meeting for worship on the occasion of business), and also to be a central point of contact for the meeting.

Other roles of the clerk vary from meeting to meeting (and may vary depending on who is retired and who is still working – in my case, I’m employed full time, and our clerk of Ministry and Oversight is retired but still energetic, so she does probably more to keep the meeting going than I do). As clerk, I serve ex officio on Ministry and Oversight Committee. When I attended Palo Alto meeting in pre-cell phone days, the clerk’s phone number would become the phone number to reach the meeting. Now, we have a meeting cell phone, which currently lives in the home of a couple who serve on Ministry and Oversight, and we are considering whether to switch to a Google Voice account. In our meeting, it’s the clerk’s role to close meeting for worship; at one point at Palo Alto Friends Meeting, this task was rotated among Ministry and Oversight.

As clerk, I respond to email to our meeting (but not phone calls, as Al and Dee have the cell phone), sort mail, keep track of the meeting calendar so that I can confirm that our committees start their various tasks (nominations, budget, etc.) at the right times, and share in various Ministry and Oversight tasks, including membership applications and coordinating care of members in need (this might be an elderly couple moving into a retirement home or a member going through a hospitalization). And of course I take part in the ordinary things that I was already doing as a member of meeting (just yesterday I staffed a table at the World Religions tent in the Irvine Global Village festival). When decisions come up in meeting for business where we don’t find unity easy, I may need to be involved in conversations between meetings for business to determine the best way forward.

Because a lot of this activity is shared with Ministry and Oversight, and because the pastoral care part of what Ministry and Oversight does is confidential, some of what I do in any given week may not be something I can share in a blog post, the way I can share my usual political arguments. But this is the general gist of the job.

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My sister

Posted by Sappho on September 4th, 2018 filed in Daily Life

On August 22, 2018, my younger sister Jessie had a severe fall and fractured her neck, and back, and broke her foot, and hit her head. She has had to have an operation to fuse her vertebrae and faces months of rehabilitation. Please hold her in the Light, pray for her, send good vibes her way, according to whatever your spiritual beliefs may be.

Jessie’s GoFundMe page

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Bang the Drum Slowly

Posted by Sappho on August 26th, 2018 filed in RIP

I meant to ask you, how when everything seemed lost,
And your fate was in a game of dice they tossed,
There was still that line that you would never cross
At any cost.

Emmy Lou Harris, in “Bang the Drum Slowly,” a song about her late father

Perhaps you’ll remember him like this: John McCain, war hero, political maverick and GOP standard-bearer, dies at 81

Or perhaps you’ll remember him more like this:

The party of Donald Trump began almost 10 years ago to the day, when John McCain tapped Sarah Palin to join his ticket.

As we watched McCain slowly approach his death of the same illness that killed Teddy Kennedy and my husband’s mother and grandfather, tributes to him poured in from across the political spectrum for our straight talking maverick and man of principle. But so, too, did criticisms. Some were crass and not worth hearing (foremost among these the petty sniping of President “I like people who weren’t captured” Bone Spurs, and those among his followers who seemed to think that McCain’s loyalty was owed not to his country but to his President). But others came not from people seeking blind loyalty to Trump but from people who regretted one or more of McCain’s policy choices.

“De mortuis nihil nisi bonum” is a rule best applied to the funerals of private individuals, and not to the obituaries that take the measure of public figures. A man like McCain wields great power over our lives for both good and ill, and it is fair, now that he is dead, to remember him as both the hero of Hanoi Hilton, who even at great cost refused to be released before his fellow prisoners and as a member of the Keating Five, cleared of wrongdoing but admonished for bad judgment. To be grateful for his deciding vote in preserving the ACA and regret his bad judgment in choice of Vice Presidential candidate.

Fair, too, to note that some of the tributes that come to him after death come from those who did not always show him the same respect in life. When Rove used push polls to suggest that McCain’s Bangladeshi daughter was an illegitimate black child, well, the appeal to racism had a reach that stretched beyond McCain’s family.

“The evil that men do lives after them,” says Marc Anthony in Shakespeare’s version of his funeral oration, “The good is oft interred with their bones.” I always found it an odd statement. Jane Austen’s “Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.” strikes me as truer to how we usually speak of the dead. Not only the young but those who, like McCain, live to a ripe old age, are bound to be praised at the moment of death.

And yet perhaps there’s a touch of truth to Marc Anthony’s speech when it comes to public figures. They can do so much harm when they fail us that we sometimes, in mixed cases, remember most vividly their worst acts. And so Herbert Hoover is remembered far more for his central failure as President, facing the Great Depression, than for his relief work in Europe after World War I.

So don’t hush people speaking of McCain’s faults (though we’re allowed to disagree on what those faults are), or tell them they must wait till after his funeral to raise them. Part of the cost of fame and power is having people take your full measure, for good and ill, at the moment of death. But if there’s anything to be taken from “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum,” as applied to public figures, it’s that it’s good to remember the good as well as the bad, and that if “the evil that men do lives after them,” the good is not interred with their bones.

In McCain’s case, that good is not hard for me to find. There’s his moment of heroism as a prisoner of war in the “Hanoi Hilton.” There’s the grace under pressure of his concession speech to Obama on winning the Presidency “of the country that we both love.” There’s McCain’s persistence in opposing torture, with a moral force that no one could supply better than he, at a time when some Democrats wavered on the issue. There’s the fact that, when Michael Steele grew concerned about the results of his investigations, McCain was the one who could be trusted to put country before party and deliver the “dossier” to the FBI to review the truth or falsehood of the findings. There’s his rejection of birtherism at a time when too many Republicans played coy on the issue. There’s that vote preserving the ACA. And there’s the grace in defeat that led him to choose both the men who beat him in Presidential races to deliver his eulogies.

You may have a different list. You may also have a different list from me of McCain’s failings (for me, “Bomb bomb bomb Iran” was a low point).

The man was far more hawkish than I wanted in a President, and I’ll never regret voting for Obama over him. But at the same time, I never doubted his love for his country, and I never doubted that he had lines that he would never cross.

Here’s McCain roasting Obama at the Alfred E. Smith dinner (be sure to check out the part where he gets serious, around the 5 minute mark).

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The meaning of the word “racism”

Posted by Sappho on August 16th, 2018 filed in Race

There was a column, I think at the National Review, that I meant to respond to, but now when I Google and look for it I keep finding, instead, columns that are less thoughtful and nuanced than the one I remember reading, and that don’t contain words I was sure that I had seen there. So I’ll write my own post instead, about descriptive and prescriptive linguistics and the meaning of words, and how that applies to the meaning of the word “racism.”
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Holy Fire

Posted by Sappho on August 9th, 2018 filed in California Wildfires

Some outside this area have been confused about why we have a Holy Fire.

No, the fire was not named to suggest any divine judgment on our communities. (And, by the way, if the wind starts blowing our way and brings the fire to my own home, it will also come to Saddleback Church, the megachurch led by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Filled Life. It’s possible those evacuated already include attenders of that church.)

No, the place where the fire started was not named Holy Jim Canyon after a cult leader.

The man who gave the canyon its name was actually “Cussin’ Jim.”

So you can think of it as a Holy Fire in the ironic sense. As in, “well, bless that fire’s heart.”

But Holy Jim wouldn’t have used the word “bless.”

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Sandy Hook, Alex Jones, defamation

Posted by Sappho on August 9th, 2018 filed in Law, News and Commentary

OK, I am not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on the net. So I can’t say how the law does work here, just how I think it should work.

  1. Defamation is the action of damaging the good reputation of another. It strikes me that maintaining for years that the parents of children who have been shot and killed were making the whole thing up is damaging their good reputation.
  2. Damages: If you are subjected to death threats and have to relocate several times because someone spreads lies about your six-year-old son who died, it strikes me that damages are involved.
  3. “Public figure”: Normally, in the US, if you are a “public figure,” you have to prove “malice” in a defamation case, which can be hard. But what kind of public figure are the Sandy Hook parents? They’re not powerful politicians, like Hillary Clinton (who might reasonably have trouble if she were to bring a defamation case against people who falsely accuse her of having Seth Rich killed, even though the claim is bullshit, because – public figure). They’re not even the sort of “limited public figure” who chose to put herself in the public eye on a particular issue. Rather, they’re famous only because their children were killed.
  4. How many years did Alex Jones spread this lie in the face of ample evidence that yes, there was a mass shooting at Sandy Hook? To me, that looks like publishing statements with reckless disregard for whether they are true or false? And wouldn’t that be malice? At least enough malice for a case involving people who are only famous because fame was thrust on them when their young children were killed?

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#HolyFire and other links

Posted by Sappho on August 8th, 2018 filed in California Wildfires, News and Commentary

We live near #HolyFire though not near enough to be directly threatened at this time. Here is the Inciweb page for #HolyFire (as of 12 hours ago, 3399 acres and 2% contained).

There is, of course, an even bigger fire in Northern California. My cousin-in-law, who got involved with volunteer fire relief after a fire recently hit his neck of the woods in California, has been posting on Facebook that Upper Ojai Relief, the organization formed to provide relief after the Thomas fire, has been sending fire relief to Northern California.

Meanwhile, it has also been a bad year for wildfires in Greece. The increased severity of wildfires in both California and Greece raise questions about wildfires and climate change.

My friend Daniel Faigin recently blogged about Flaws in the American System and what he would change if he could. On a similar note, the Protect Democracy Project has some proposals on how to make American democracy more robust.

The date for reuniting all the parents and children separated at the border has come and gone, and it’s important to remember that over 500 children are still separated from their parents, in many cases because the parents were already deported without their children. The latest word, last week, was that the court pushed back on the government’s attempt to make the ACLU responsible for finding all the deported parents, ruling that the US government is responsible for finding the parents of separated children.

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Links from a few of my friends’ blogs

Posted by Sappho on July 26th, 2018 filed in Blogwatch

Smash diabetes! by Lance Christian Johnson

Sometimes, in order to save my seven year old son’s life, I give him gummy bears. A friend of mine once helped me out by giving him Cheetos. I’ve also given him cake frosting, which I had to do the last time we took a bike ride. I just told him to open his mouth as I squeezed it right out of the tube.

That’s Life: Peggy on the difficulties of her life during the past few years and how

God never promised us a peaceful and comfortable life. He promised that He’d be with us in the hard times, and that His ultimate plan for us is a good one…by His definition of good, not ours.

Keith Gatling on Avoiding Responsibility?

One of the things we discussed is how much the world had changed since we last saw each other. As an example I used one of our doctors, who is the father of a former student of mine. When I asked how his daughter was, he beamed and said that she was doing well…and was living with her boyfriend in Philadelphia. I mentioned how 30 years earlier the father would be grumbling about his daughter living with her boyfriend, rather than beaming.

I thought this was a good change. My friends, however, didn’t. They saw it as “kids these days” wanting to have sex with none of the responsibility. I didn’t want to turn what was an enjoyable time together into a debate, but I quietly vehemently disagreed with them.

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And all the rest is by the way

Posted by Sappho on July 23rd, 2018 filed in Daily Life

I wake up and check Twitter first thing. The President is threatening war with Iran, probably to distract attention from the upcoming Manafort trial.

I get off Twitter, go downstairs, and get a breakfast of a curried cauliflower dish. I tell Echo to play Dire Straits’ “Why Worry.”

One of the kittens brings me her ball. I throw the ball for her over and over again.

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ACLU Media call — SCOTUS Muslim ban ruling

Posted by Sappho on July 1st, 2018 filed in News and Commentary

A friend of mine attended an ACLU media call right after the SCOTUS ruling on the latest iteration of the Muslim ban. With her permission, I am sharing her notes on the highlights of the call:

ACLU Media call today (12:00 p.m. – 12:42 p.m.) — Highlights

1. This ban won’t last forever. Congress can overrule. SCOTUS can overrule itself.
2. This SCOTUS decision does not make all other Trump policies okay.
3. Decision shows that Constitution and Bill of Rights aren’t working.
4. Can’t mitigate harm this decision does to many people.
5. ACLU message to Dearborn Muslims: wish we could share better news, very disappointing. We stand by you and continue to fight.
6. Going forward: ACLU to read closely the Court decision and explore options, will continue to take Trump to court. People can lobby their legislators.
7. Muslims don’t just come from banned Middle Eastern countries. There are Muslims in Eastern Europe that aren’t banned. Is this a Muslim ban or an anti-Arabic ban? Muslims from Middle East are Muslims of color and not lighter skinned Muslim. Good point.
8. Court turned blind eye. Does this ban suggest the President has unlimited power? ACLU answer: No, prez does not have unlimited power. No court decision is endorsement of unchecked prez power. SCOTUS has historically failed to do its job properly; today is one such example.
9. Court has not recognized Muslim ban for what it is. We rely on court to protect our rights. Policy level, court, public opinion = ways to change status quo.

“This ruling will go down in history as one of the Supreme Court’s great failures. It repeats the mistakes of the Korematsu decision upholding Japanese-American imprisonment and swallows wholesale government lawyers’ flimsy national security excuse for the ban instead of taking seriously the president’s own explanation for his action. It is ultimately the people of this country who will determine its character and future. The court failed today, and so the public is needed more than ever. We must make it crystal clear to our elected representatives: If you are not taking actions to rescind and dismantle Trump’s Muslim ban, you are not upholding this country’s most basic principles of freedom and equality.” https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-comment-supreme-court-muslim-ban-ruling

History of U.S. Immigration Policies


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“It makes a difference to this one”

Posted by Sappho on June 28th, 2018 filed in News and Commentary

I don’t know whether we win this one. Between the upholding of Muslim Ban 3.0, the fact that Congress seems supine, and the difficulty of taking both houses of Congress …

… but I’m thinking “Do not go gentle into that good night”

And also about the story of the guy throwing starfish back into the sea and “it makes a difference to *this* one.”

Any victory won is better than not fighting. If we hadn’t fought, we’d still have Muslim Ban 1.0, and *none* of the separated children returned.

However good or bad our prospects, they can only be better if we resist than if we don’t.

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Suffer the Little Children

Posted by WiredSisters on June 18th, 2018 filed in Guest Blogger, Law, Moral Philosophy, Torture

That’s a mistranslation, of course.  Not a mistranslation from the Greek in which the Gospels were originally written, a mistranslation from the King James English in which most English-speaking readers were introduced to the Gospels.  It actually means “allow the kids to come sit on My lap, don’t stop them.”  But the suffering of children is actually what we’re dealing with right now.

As I understand the legalities of the situation, as officially explained by the government, most of the parents in this situation have been arrested (under a “zero-tolerance” policy) for misdemeanor violations of immigration law, for entering or attempting to enter the US without proper permission, and forthwith tried and sentenced to “detention,” usually for a matter of days or weeks.  Since those squishy-soft Democrats won’t let the government put their kids in jail with them, the kids have to be put someplace else.[1]  The fact that the kids and the parents usually do not know each other’s whereabouts, or when (or if) they will be reunited, is just a matter of normal bureaucratic fog in a very large, very complex system, rendered even more complex by the fact that the various parties speak two or more different languages (or, in the case of really young infants, no language at all.)  Eventually it will all be sorted out, and the parents and their children will be sent back to Honduras or wherever to live happily ever after until they get killed by some gang.

So that’s administration explanation #1: we’re just enforcing the law.  The kids are just collateral damage.

Administration explanation #2, officially, openly, and publicly made by Jeff Sessions among others, gets into the criminal law framework: we are doing this to “deter” other would-be migrants from south of the border from coming north and bringing their children with them.  We have always viewed “deterrence” as a legitimate goal of law enforcement, even when it means inflicting pain on people with perfectly good extenuating circumstances in order to deter less worthy defendants from misbehaving.  In a strictly constitutional framework, that would be at best suspect.  A good criminal justice system should look only at the effect of this punishment on this defendant.  Here, we are not only inflicting pain on the actual lawbreakers (and completely ignoring the fact that many of them may not even be lawbreakers, but merely people trying to exercise the internationally-recognized right to seek asylum from persecution), but also inflicting pain on their children, who have committed no crime at all and are therefore not lawful objects of deterrence.  Consistent with the repeated claims of the Hard Right that the victims of mass shootings and natural disasters are merely “actors,” the administration is using these children as actors, or even props, in security theater meant to intimidate unoffending residents of foreign countries into not darkening [sic] our door.  As to the parents, misdemeanants at worst and would-be asylees at best, this is cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment.  As to the children, it is deprivation of liberty without due process of law, a violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment.

And finally, administration explanation #3, less officially, says that this gross violation of the human rights of the children[2] is a way to pressure the Democrats into giving the administration the highly restrictive immigration law it wants.  That’s not just cruel and unconstitutional, it’s downright cynical.  It is no different from the behavior of the criminal gangs the administration is allegedly trying to keep out—“Do what we want or we’ll kidnap your children.” Or “Do what we want or we’ll kidnap other people’s children.”

Well, there’s no point quoting the Bible to these people—the only part of it any of them seem capable of remembering is the part in Romans 13 where Paul says to obey the government because it is ordained by God.  Many biblical scholars believe the Letter to the Romans was written by Paul in jail. Presumably he didn’t get there by obeying the Roman government. It’s certainly not how he got his head chopped off some years later.  He probably wasn’t advising his fellow Christians to burn that little pinch of incense to Caesar, since it was ordered by the government, which was authorized by God.

God does not authorize the kidnapping and imprisonment of children.  Like Thomas Jefferson, I tremble when I reflect that God is just.


[1] In fact, a number of prison systems, not only in the modern industrialized countries of Europe and South America, but even among the barbarian hordes of the United States, allow incarcerated mothers to keep their infants and small children with them, at least for a year or two, so this is really a specious argument.

[2] Note, BTW, that the United States is the only country in the world that has not ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child—yet another downside of American Exceptionalism.

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Quote of the Day, from Sojourner Truth

Posted by Sappho on June 17th, 2018 filed in Quotes

I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

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Quote of the Day

Posted by Sappho on June 4th, 2018 filed in Quotes

Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say that it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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Round Up: Immigrant kids ripped from parents, CA June primary, economics of Smaug, DNA IQ tests

Posted by Sappho on May 30th, 2018 filed in Blogwatch, California Ballot Propositions, DNA, News and Commentary

Houston Chronicle, Immigrant families separated at border struggle to find each other

Esteban Pastor hoped U.S. Border Patrol agents would free him and his 18-month-old son after they were arrested for crossing the southern border illegally last summer.

He had mortgaged his land in Guatemala to fund his sick toddler’s hospital stay, and needed to work in the United States to pay off the loan.

Instead agents imprisoned the 28-year-old in July for coming back into the country after having been deported, a felony. They placed the toddler in a federal shelter, though where, Pastor didn’t know. Three months later, in October, the father was deported — alone. His child, he said agents told him, was “somewhere in Texas.”

“I cried. I begged,” he said. “No one could tell me anything.”

Momastery: Emergency flash mob for the children on what’s old, what’s new, and a proposal for action:

But first, a summary on what we have learned. There are two separate issues being conflated in the news:

1) HERE IS WHAT IS NEW, AND UNDENIABLY HORRIFIC: Our government has changed its policy about families who cross the border, and it is resulting in families being torn apart.

Historically speaking, with few exceptions, the U.S. has treated immigration violations as civil — rather than criminal — offenses. Therefore, children have not typically been torn away from their parents even when the parents enter the legal system as a result of immigration violations. Families were, at worst, detained together, or they were released with notice to appear at a later court hearing.

However, the current administration has dismissed this historic practice as “catch and release” and in its place has established a “zero-tolerance” policy – subjecting “100% of illegal southwest border crossings” to criminal prosecution – even crossers who may be asylum seekers. So now, parents are ensnared in the criminal system, their children are immediately ripped out of their arms without explanation, and parents and babies are sent to different detention centers – often hundreds of miles away from each other….

(Here I’m going to note that many of the people indignantly defending the new policy with “They broke the law!” have themselves been ticketed for exceeding the speed limit, and would be shocked if one fine day, without warning, the civil penalty for this offense were converted to a penalty that included having their children ripped away and sent to an unknown location. And those who haven’t ever broken any law, including traffic laws, probably have family members who have exceeded the speed limit, and not lost their children for it.)

Daniel Faigin: June 2016 California Primary Analysis (VII): Recap and Summary summarizes and links to posts giving a very detailed look at the California primary ballot.

Jim Burklo: VOTIVATOR: How I’m Voting 6-5-18, Calif. Primary for a different take on the California primary ballot.

Stentor Danielson: Smaug, the greatest and chiefest of capitalists

Carl Zimmer at the Atlantic: Genetic intelligence tests are next to worthless

I called up Yaniv Erlich, the scientist who wrote the intelligence program, to ask him about his prediction. Erlich, I should point out, majored in computational neuroscience, got a Ph.D. in genetics, became an associate professor at Columbia, and is on leave from teaching to serve as the chief science officer at the DNA-testing company MyHeritage. I imagine Erlich’s mother is very proud of her boy.

I bring all this up because Erlich burst out laughing when I told him about my report and told me about his own.

“I also get that on the left side,” he said. “Everything is cool. Many smart people end up there.”

Erlich explained that he designed the program to make people cautious about the connection between genes and intelligence….

You see, we do know genes that correlate with intelligence, but they explain so little of the variance that your genetic IQ prediction is essentially meaningless.

And here is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” sung in Yiddish.

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