The civil rights and Vietnam protests changed America. Today, they might be illegal.

The civil rights and Vietnam protests changed America. Today, they might be illegal.
By Margaret Sullivan
Sep 24 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-civil-rights-and-vietnam-protests-changed-america-today-they-might-be-illegal/2017/09/22/ae57f778-9ed9-11e7-8ea1-ed975285475e_story.html

What’s the state of free speech in America? 

Sanford Ungar, who teaches about it at Harvard and Georgetown, has a simple, depressing answer.

“It’s a mess,” he says.

It’s not just the problems on college campuses where high-profile speakers haven’t been allowed to talk. It’s not just what happened in Charlottesville, where a counterprotester was run over and killed. It’s not just President Trump’s insistent call for the firings or suspensions of NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence. 

An insidious problem also is developing in dozens of states where legislatures are considering — and sometimes approving — new laws that restrict free speech.

“They are criminalizing things that are pretty routine,” Ungar told me. “Much of the activism of the Vietnam and civil rights era would be completely illegal” under the new laws. 

The lunch-counter sit-ins that were a staple of civil rights protests in the ’60s would, under some new legislation, be punishable because they “disrupt commerce.” And the demonstrations that brought thousands into the streets of major cities to protest the Vietnam War would be a crime because they blocked traffic.

Twenty-seven states have considered such legislation, he said. Twelve bills have become law, and many others remain under consideration.

Some of the bills sound perfectly acceptable at first because their purported aim is tranquility.

But here’s the problem: Meaningful protest isn’t always as mild as milk. The new laws have little tolerance for the tumultuous reality of dissent.

In Iowa, for example, the legislature considered a bill to punish protesters who block highway traffic with up to five years in prison. 

In North Dakota, the governor signed a bill that would punish masked individuals in any public forum who are trying to conceal their identity.

In Arizona, the state Senate approved a bill that would add “rioting” to organized crime statutes, making participation in a protest that turns into a riot a possible criminal racketeering offense.

Florida even considered a bill that, in some cases, would exempt drivers from liability if they struck a protester. 

Traci Yoder, National Lawyers Guild director of research and education, predicts that whether this wave of bills ends up passing or not, the effect may be the same — to tamp down dissent.

“Few people would be as willing to protest if they thought they could easily be arrested, fined, imprisoned or even killed,” Yoder wrote. And most regular citizens aren’t keeping track of the details, she said, but may know that the penalties have been vastly toughened.

It amounts to a nationwide movement to chill speech.

[snip]

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Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far

Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far
After revelations of harassment and bias in Silicon Valley, a backlash is growing against the women in tech movement.
By NELLIE BOWLES
Sep 23 2017
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/23/technology/silicon-valley-men-backlash-gender-scandals.html

SAN FRANCISCO — Their complaints flow on Reddit forums, on video game message boards, on private Facebook pages and across Twitter. They argue for everything from male separatism to an end to gender diversity efforts.

Silicon Valley has for years accommodated a fringe element of men who say women are ruining the tech world.

Now, as the nation’s technology capital — long identified as one of the more hostile work environments for women — reels from a series of high-profile sexual harassment and discrimination scandals, these conversations are gaining broader traction.

One of those who said there had been a change is James Altizer, an engineer at the chip maker Nvidia. Mr. Altizer, 52, said he had realized a few years ago that feminists in Silicon Valley had formed a cabal whose goal was to subjugate men. At the time, he said, he was one of the few with that view.

Now Mr. Altizer said he was less alone. “There’s quite a few people going through that in Silicon Valley right now,” he said. “It’s exploding. It’s mostly young men, younger than me.”

Mr. Altizer said that a gathering he hosts in person and online to discuss men’s issues had grown by a few dozen members this year to more than 200, that the private Facebook pages he frequents on men’s rights were gaining new members and that a radical subculture calling for total male separatism was emerging.

“It’s a witch hunt,” he said in a phone interview, contending men are being fired by “dangerous” human resources departments. “I’m sitting in a soundproof booth right now because I’m afraid someone will hear me. When you’re discussing gender issues, it’s almost religious, the response. It’s almost zealotry.”

Mr. Altizer is part of a backlash against the women in technology movement. While many in the tech industry had previously dismissed the fringe men’s rights arguments, some investors, executives and engineers are now listening. Though studies and surveys show there is no denying the travails women face in the male-dominated industry, some said that the line for what counted as harassment had become too easy to cross and that the push for gender parity was too extreme a goal. Few were willing to talk openly about their thinking, for fear of standing out in largely progressive Silicon Valley.

Even so, “witch hunt” is the new whispered meme. Some in tech have started identifying as “contrarians,” to indicate subtly that they do not follow the “diversity dogma.” And self-described men’s rights activists in Silicon Valley said their numbers at meetings were rising.

Others are playing down the women-in-tech issue. Onstage at a recent event, the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said harassment in Silicon Valley was “rarer than in most other businesses.”

Many men now feel like “there’s a gun to the head” to be better about gender issues, said Rebecca Lynn, a venture capitalist at Canvas Ventures, and while “there’s a high awareness right now, which is positive, at the same time there’s a fear.”

The backlash follows increasingly vulgar harassment revelations in Silicon Valley. Several female engineers and entrepreneurs this year named the men they accused of harassing them, and suddenly tech’s boys’ club seemed anything but impervious. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder, resigned as chief executive after the ride-hailing service was embroiled in harassment accusations. Dave McClure, head of the incubator 500 Startups, called himself “a creep” and stepped down. This month, the chief executive of Social Finance, Mike Cagney, also quit amid a harassment scandal.

In the aftermath, many stood up for gender equality in tech. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s founder, asked investors to sign a “decency pledge.” Many companies reiterated that they needed to improve work force diversity.

[snip]

Guess What’s Showing Up In Our Shellfish? One Word: Plastics

Guess What’s Showing Up In Our Shellfish? One Word: Plastics
By KEN CHRISTENSEN
Sep 19 2017
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/09/19/551261222/guess-whats-showing-up-in-our-shellfish-one-word-plastics

Sarah Dudas doesn’t mind shucking an oyster or a clam in the name of science.

But sit down with her and a plate of oysters on the half-shell or a bucket of steamed Manila clams, and she’ll probably point out a bivalve’s gonads or remark on its fertility.

“These are comments I make at dinner parties,” she said. “I’ve spent too much time doing dissections. I’ve done too many spawnings.”

And lately, the shellfish biologist is making other unappetizing comments to her dinner party guests — about plastics in those shellfish.

In 2016, she and her students at Vancouver Island University planted thousands of clams and oysters across coastal British Columbia and let them soak in the sand and saltwater of the Strait of Georgia. Three months later, they dissolved hundreds of them with chemicals, filtered out the biodegradable matter and looked at the remaining material under a microscope. Inside this Pacific Northwest culinary staple, they found a rainbow of little plastic particles.

“So when you eat clams and oysters, you’re eating plastics as well,” Dudas says.

Funded by the Canadian government and British Columbia’s shellfish trade association, the project aimed to learn whether the shellfish aquaculture industry may be contaminating its own crop by using plastic infrastructure like nets, buoys and ropes. The experiment was a response to those claims by local environmental groups.

But tracking the origins of tiny plastic particles in a big ocean is new territory. So Dudas turned to Peter Ross, who has studied the effects of ocean pollution on sea life for 30 years.

“We’ve long known that plastic and debris can be a problem for ocean life,” says Ross, director of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Pollution Research Program.

In 2013, he began sampling the coast of British Columbia for microplastics. The researchers found up to 9,200 particles of microplastic per cubic meter of seawater — about the equivalent of emptying a salt shaker into a large moving box.

“So, large numbers,” Ross says. “Rather shocking numbers.”

They found plastics that were made small, like the polystyrene beads sold as bean bag filler and fake snow, and nurdles, the hard resin pellets used as a raw material for other plastic products. Microbeads, common in toothpaste and face wash, were also present.

But the majority of microplastics in Ross’ samples resembled those showing up in Dudas’ shellfish. They’re showing up by the thousands along Puget Sound’s shorelines, too. They’re microfibers.

“It’s overwhelmingly fibers,” Ross says. “And they’re being readily consumed at the bottom of the food chain, in zooplankton.”

The research is adding to the evidence of a problem that touches every corner of the planet: from the depths of the ocean abyss to the surface waters of the Arctic to an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Scientists think plastic pollution in the ocean could outweigh the fish there by 2050.

Ross believes that locating the source of microfibers will help slow that trend. So lately, his science lab is looking more like a crime lab.

The detective work begins under a microscope. Researchers study a petri dish that looks like an I Spy book — a white background strewn with small colorful items. They note each particle’s size, shape and color and zoom in to study its appearance: the way a fiber drapes across the dish or frays at its tip.

If particles pass the eye test, they advance to a machine called the Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy.

“This is a fancy forensic machine used at police stations,” Ross says.

[snip]

How Trump is helping to save our democracy

How Trump is helping to save our democracy
By E.J. Dionne Jr., Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein
Sep 22 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/how-trump-is-helping-to-save-our-democracy/2017/09/22/539b795e-9a1f-11e7-82e4-f1076f6d6152_story.html

E.J. Dionne Jr., Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein are the authors of “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported,” from which this essay is adapted.

The election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy. 

We say this even though we believe that Trump poses a genuine danger to our republican institutions and has done enormous damage to our country. He has violated political norms, weakened our standing in the world and deepened the divisions of an already sharply torn nation.

But precisely because the Trump threat is so profound, he has jolted much of the country to face problems that have been slowly eroding our democracy. And he has aroused a popular mobilization that may far outlast him. 

Many of the trends that led to Trump’s election have been with us for years; he has created a crisis by pushing them to their alarming endpoints. Political norms, for example, have been decaying for decades, but Trump has eschewed norms altogether. One reading is that there will be no going back from the diminished public life he has created, and it’s certainly true that the breaching of norms often produces a cascading effect: Behavior previously considered inappropriate is normalized and taken up by others. Yet Trump’s sheer disregard for the normal practices and principles of presidential behavior has cast a spotlight on the vital role that norms play in regulating and protecting our democracy. Only when norms disappear are we reminded of how important they were in the first place.

The steady radicalization of the conservative movement since the 1960s paved the way for Trump by undermining trust in government and promoting a sense that public officials are not interested in solving the problems of everyday Americans. This was a successful strategy for the Republican Party, but it produced the least-qualified and least-appropriate president in the nation’s history. While many Republicans remain in denial, hoping that Trump will deliver them policy victories and court seats, some of them are starting to reexamine their consciences and their long-term political interests. 

A large group of influential conservative thinkers — Jennifer Rubin, Michael Gerson, Max Boot, George F. Will, Peter Wehner, William Kristol and Tom Nichols, to name just a few — has spoken out against the nativist and xenophobic strain in the Republican Party that gave rise to Trump and against his manifest disrespect for our institutions. They want a problem-solving Republican Party, a necessity for our political system to operate. Only a handful of Republican politicians have joined them, but their ranks are growing and include Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona. 

Meanwhile, Republicans’ failure to pass any major piece of their legislative agenda, despite their control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, is a sign that tea partyism provides no plausible path to governing. A purely anti-government creed is out of touch with an American majority that may mistrust government but still expects it to provide significant services, social protections and help in time of catastrophe. We have seen this in the backlash to the efforts to repeal Obamacare. Republicans were scrambling this past week to pass another destructive repeal billthat would leave millions without health insurance, simply because the congressional majority is desperate for a legislative victory. But they have already lost the battle for public opinion.

The Trump era has pushed corporate leaders out of their comfort zones, too. The mass resignations of chief executives from White House business advisory groups in the wake of Trump’s shamefully equivocal remarks about the violence in Charlottesville were one sign of this. So was the strong pushback — from Apple’s Tim Cook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Meg Whitman and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, among many others — against Trump’s elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protecting immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.

And Trump’s victory has led to soul-searching in the media. The election was a near-perfect case study in the dangers of false equivalence, as Hillary Clinton’s significant but certainly not disqualifying problems were often portrayed as more or less comparable to Trump’s obvious inappropriateness for the presidency, his hateful rhetoric and his astonishingly long list of scandals. But many of the country’s leading news organizations have covered the Trump White House’s lying and evasions with straightforward vigor. If Trump has exacerbated the problem of media echo chambers, particularly on the right, he has also created a newly powerful constituency that cherishes a free press — witness the soaring digital circulation numbers of The Washington Post, the New York Times and many other media outlets devoted to hard-hitting reporting and analysis.

The Trump jolt has done more than force the country to a necessary reckoning. It has also called forth a wave of activism, organizing and, perhaps most important, a new engagement by millions of Americans in politics at all levels.

[snip]

BREAKING: Amazon Will Accept Bitcoin By October

[Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Schear.  DLH]

BREAKING: Amazon Will Accept Bitcoin By October
By Justin Danneman
Sep 22 2017
https://squawker.org/technology/breaking-amazon-will-accept-bitcoin-by-october/

According to a newsletter from The James Altucher Report, Amazon will soon begin accepting Bitcoin, which they will officially announce as early as October 26th during their earnings conference call. 

How Reliable is the Source?

James Altucher has (co)founded more than 20 companies, authored 11 books, and has been a contributor to several major publications.

He is a former hedge fund manager and venture capitalist turned activist blogger/podcaster and offers a subscription based mailing list – the source of the Amazon information.

Reading through some of his articles and listening to his podcasts he provides very intelligent insights into basically how to take advantage of the greed based world we live in – in a very positive way. He is often more right, than wrong.

On whether insider trading should be illegal for example, he says this, and it makes a lot of sense:

I don’t think it should be illegal. When someone makes a trade in the market, the knowledge they had in their heads is now encoded directly into the stock market.

The more “knowledge” that is baked into the market, the more efficient the market is. The more insider knowledge that is in stock, the more smoothly they will move and the more they will reflect the actual things that are effecting a company.

I’d rather have insider trading be legal and let the government go after the funds that actually steal money, like the Madoffs.

His newsletter really does offer some amazing information, such as delving into what exactly cryptocurrencies are and how to invest, but what I find the most intriguing is his focus on positivity.

It’s simple physics. The frequency you emit is the frequency you will attract. You want a happier life? Emit a happier frequency. 

Will Amazon Begin Accepting Bitcoin?

Still a speculative statement, yet Google just started, Ebay and PayPal already do, countries like Japan and Russia officially recognize bitcoin as legal payment – it really is only a matter of time before Amazon follows suit …

… or creates their own currency. 

Amazon Web Services back in 2016 did partner up with Digital Currency Group, one of the biggest investors in bitcoin and blockchain firms and startups, in order to:

“… provide such a service so the blockchain providers in DCG’s portfolio can work in a secure environment with clients who include financial institutions, insurance companies and enterprise technology companies.”

In other words, Amazon’s goal is to be the intermediary between DCG’s portfolio and their clients in transacting digital currency. 

[snip]

Netflix, Microsoft, and Google just quietly changed how the web works

Netflix, Microsoft, and Google just quietly changed how the web works
The organization that sets standards for the web just failed to beat back a stupid, greedy technology.
By Adrianne Jeffries
Sep 21 2017
https://theoutline.com/post/2304/netflix-microsoft-and-google-just-quietly-changed-how-the-web-works

This week the World Wide Web Consortium, the non-profit that debates and sets the standards that make all the web’s browsers and websites compatible, held its most contentious vote in history.

The proposed standard that was voted on is called Encrypted Media Extensions, or EME. Basically it standardizes parts of how copyrighted video is delivered within a browser. The most obvious effect of this will be that users will never have to download the Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe Flash add-ons in order to watch a copyright protected video from an authorized source like Netflix. This transition began in 2012 but is now set in stone.

Opponents, who include net neutrality father Tim Wu and stakeholders like the Ethereum Foundation, say this change will make the web less secure, less open, less accessible for people with hearing and vision impairment, and harder to archive. Proponents, who include large media companies like Netflix, argue it would actually make the web more secure, more open, more accessible, and, okay, more difficult to archive, but let’s not dwell on that. If you boil down the reason why EME was contentious, it’s because some people saw it as a gift to large corporations that would make the web worse for users, and extrapolated from there that the web’s most important organization is now in the pocket of Big Capitalism.

The consortium, also know by the awkward acronym W3C, does not normally share the breakdown of its votes. But because this vote was so controversial, it did. Out of the consortium’s 463 members, which include stakeholders from academia to nonprofits to major Silicon Valley corporations, 108 voted yes, 57 objected, 20 abstained, and the rest didn’t participate. The fact that just 185 out of 463 members voted or explicitly abstained may sound like a low turnout, but it was in fact historically high. “We’ve never had such a high percentage in my recollection,” said Jeff Jaffe, the consortium’s CEO.

What is also unusual is that after the vote took place, and the consortium officially endorsed the new standard, one of its members — Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital civil rights group that joined as a full member in 2013 expressly to fight EME— resigned in protest. No member has quit the consortium in protest before, Jaffe said. At least one staff member, Harry Halpin, resigned in protest as well.

There is no consensus on how bad EME will actually be for users. But what’s potentially more concerning is the perception that the organization that architects the world wide web has been colonized by big business. The World Wide Web Consortium was started at MIT in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web, in collaboration with the CERN science center in Geneva with support from DARPA and the European Commission. It has always maintained that it is a “neutral forum.” From early press releases: “The Consortium is neutral forum, and no member has a priori a greater say than another.” “The Consortium is vendor-neutral.” Now, the passage of EME is fueling the perception that the consortium is in the pocket of its large corporate members. The consortium’s press release announcing EME included laudatory statements from the MPAA, the RIAA, and the cable industry. “Thanks for handing the internet to the media corporations,” went a typical response on Twitter. “I sincerely hope that a competitor to your mafia arises and takes control.”

It’s unavoidable that on the internet, the interests of users and corporations will collide. Preserving personal privacy is at odds with serving advertising. Making websites equally fast and accessible no matter what their content is or who owns it — also known as net neutrality — is at odds with Comcast’s bottom line. But the most frequent flashpoint in the users-versus-corporations conflict seems to be copyright.

So many fun things about the internet, like memes and mashups and Let’s Plays and GIFs of the Olympics and videos of Lenny Kravitz’s dick, are subject to be removed at any moment by copyright holders and their creators punished. The whims of copyright holders also outweigh, by default, the need for public awareness of a security flaw in a website or application that, say, millions of people may use. If a security researcher finds a vulnerability, the burden is suddenly on them to figure out how to act on it without ending up in jail for violating copyright law.

[snip]

Harvey. Irma. Maria. Why is this hurricane season so bad?

Harvey. Irma. Maria. Why is this hurricane season so bad?
By Angela Fritz
Sep 23 2017
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/09/23/harvey-irma-maria-why-is-this-hurricane-season-so-bad/

Why has this hurricane season been so intense?

The 2017 hurricane season has been a full-on assault from Mother Nature. We are under siege, and our attackers have benign names like Harvey and Irma and Maria. But they are callous, powerful, indiscriminate, terrifying, destructive, merciless and relentless.

Is Earth trying to eject us from the planet? Again and again and again the harshest of winds and hardest of rains has pounded on the most-defenseless territories we have. The Caribbean islands, hanging out in open sea. The Florida peninsula, jutting out into danger. The Texas coastline, low-lying and concrete-laden. Nearly a full month of back-to-back-to-back disasters.

This hurricane season — not yet even close to finished — has generated more destructive, land-falling storms than the past few years combined. Four of this year’s monsters went on to become Category 4 or 5, and three of those made landfall in U.S. territory. The U.S. has never been hit by three storms this strong in the same season in modern records.

Hurricane Harvey seemed to spin up in an instant before hitting land on Aug. 26, only to come to rest for days over Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. A mind-boggling 19 trillion gallons of rain fell in that storm, which triggered unprecedented flooding. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimates Harvey will cost the state up to $180 billion — more than epic Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Irma was one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. When Irma maintained 180 mph wind speeds for 37 hours, it set a record for most intense storm for such a long duration — anywhere on Earth. It made landfall Sept. 10, strafing the Florida Keys before terrorizing both Florida coasts in vastly different ways. It knocked out power to millions of people, and some are still waiting for the lights to come back on.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico 10 days later as the strongest storm to hit the island since the 1928 San Felipe hurricane. It thrashed the U.S. territory with winds over 100 mph and more than 30 inches of rain. All of Puerto Rico lost power and was under flash flood warnings. The full extent of the damage, and the loss of life, might not be known for some time. It could take months to restore infrastructure.

All of this in just four weeks.

It spurs so many questions: Is this barrage random? Is it part of a natural cycle? Is it the result of climate change? Have we done this to ourselves?

Officials at the highest levels — who create, pass and sign the very policies that affect the environment — are bending over backward to dodge those questions. The political tension is palpable. 

“To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told CNN as Hurricane Irma approached Florida.

When the question was posed to President Trump on his way to visit hurricane-battered Florida, he replied: “We’ve had storms over the years that have been bigger than this.”

To our struggling politicians, Pope Francis offered some advice: Climate change is happening, and you have a “moral responsibility” to do something about it.

“Those who deny this must go to the scientists and ask them,” he said on a recent trip to Colombia. “They speak very clearly.”

If they continue to deny climate change, he added, “history will judge those decisions.”

[snip]