The "right" to respect

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:39 am
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
"I am entitled to respect!" That's the cliche line of every power-hungry official. But what happens when you try to universalize that entitlement?

Erika Mantz, speaking for the University of New Hampshire, decreed, "We believe strongly in the right to free speech as recognized by the First Amendment, and we believe equally in the right of every member of our community to feel safe and respected." By putting those claims side by side and saying they're equally valid, she appears to say that "feeling respected" is a legally enforceable right.

It's logically impossible to enforce a right to feel respected for everyone. Enforcing a right requires preventing or penalizing actions which violate it. If A expresses disrespect for B, then defending B's "right" requires taking some kind of action against A. But this can reasonably make A feel disrespected. There's no way to uphold the "right" of both people to feel respected.

The right of free speech and the right to feel respected can't co-exist. If people can't speak against people who do things they don't respect, they don't have free speech. If UNH officials have a "right to feel respected," the university can and should prohibit and punish any demonstration against its policies or actions. When there's a "right to respect," it's always the people in charge who get first claim on it.

As a government institution, the University of New Hampshire is required to abide by the First Amendment. There is no Constitutional guarantee of a right to feel anything.

It's common for people to talk sloppily about rights to feelings, but UNH has gone further than most, claiming them as having equal status to Constitutional rights.

The right to "feel" safe follows the same analysis, strictly speaking. However, it's a more complicated mix, since it's easy to confuse with the legitimate right not to be endangered by people's actions, so I've left it aside.

Rosh Hashana 5778

Sep. 20th, 2017 02:55 pm
filkerdave: (jew roll)
[personal profile] filkerdave

Tonight at sundown marks the start of the Rosh Hashanah and the year 5778. May all of you reading this be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year ahead.

לשנה טובה

A locked-room cat mystery

Sep. 20th, 2017 01:31 pm
madfilkentist: The Catmobile at Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society (Catmobile)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
The Spice Kittens are now up to a quartet: Ginger, Posh, Scary, and Baby. Checking Wikipedia, I see these are all Spice Girls names, but should a shelter really name a cat "Scary"?

Tanglewood Placido was adopted but Domingo wasn't, so now Domingo has to work twice as hard to make a mess of his cage. Vin Diesel was adopted, with exclamation marks after his name on the adoption board. Apparently he finally managed to be nice for a full fifteen minutes. Tanglewood (in the picture) is new and very friendly. He's officially a kitten but nearly full grown.

The excitement came afterward. When we'd finished our work, Virginia and I went to Tom's a mile away to get some stuff for the shelter. I brought it back while she continued home. When I got to the shelter, there was an animal control officer at the bathroom door.

Tiny, a very large gray cat, has been staying in the bathroom for weeks, and we've kept the door closed so she can stay away from the other cats. According to the description, she's declawed, morbidly obese, and very scared. Somehow she locked herself in the bathroom. It has a twist button lock, which isn't easy for a cat to work. You can't open the door from the inside without unlocking it, which makes it unlikely anyone locked it by accident. The officer was trying to pick the lock. I didn't stay for very long, so I don't know what they ended up doing.

Update: Virginia and I just got an email with a sharp rebuke from the director for working there so long and doing such a thorough job. I guess we'll have to remember to do a hastier job next time.

Library irony

Sep. 18th, 2017 06:17 pm
madfilkentist: Scribe, from Wikimedia Commons (writing)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
The Nashua, New Hampshire library has a prominent "No place for hate" sign on its door and a "Banned Books Week" display inside.

There's a certain incompatibility here. It's not a library's role to decide which ideas are emotionally correct. If it isn't a place for "hate," it has to exclude materials which express that feeling. The term is intentionally slippery; people can claim anything they want about the emotional content of views they oppose, and how do you prove them wrong?

Perhaps they mean that patrons whose research goals are "hateful" have no place there. It's not the library's job to decide which kinds of study to help patrons with. Can librarians even draw conclusions from the materials people ask for? I did some web research on the AfD (a German political party whose leader has said Germans should be proud of its soldiers in WWII) earlier today. Would a Nashua librarian decide I must have a "hateful" purpose in researching the AfD and refuse to help me? Even if people really come in seeking to support bad ideas, research could be the best cure for their errors. Turning them away would only reinforce their sense of being persecuted.

Banned Books Week has long been Bland Books Week, with lists mentioning only books that no one could object to. The Nashua Library was unusually daring, with Gone with the Wind among a collection of otherwise innocuous books. There was no sign of The Anarchist's Cookbook or The Satanic Verses. If you look carefully at lists of "banned" books, what they usually mean is that someone unsuccessfully tried to get the book removed from a school library as age-inappropriate. Books that make their holder a criminal or a target of violence never are included.

Maybe that's what they mean by "No place for hate"; if possession of a book inspires hatred, the Bland Books list has no place for it.

Addendum: I was curious where and how Gone with the Wind was "banned." Several sites say that a school district in Anaheim banned it because of "the behaviors of the main character, Scarlet O’Hara, and the depiction of slaves." I don't know whether all use of the book in the schools was in fact prohibited.

However, I did find that in 2000 the Anaheim school district "removed" a biography of John Maynard Keynes partly because "it could cause harassment against students seen with it." The hooligan's veto.
filkerdave: Made by LJ user fasterpussycat (Default)
[personal profile] filkerdave

It pretty much kills any real social media time, especially longer-form stuff like DW. I could probably do more if I turned the computer on at night but I really try never to do that when I'm on a project. There's no reason to.

Maybe things will even out a little. I'd made a commitment to myself to write here regularly, and I haven't quite been able to do it for the past few weeks.

On the bright side, Baltimore is a nice town so far. I'm sure there are parts that aren't nice, but that's true of every city, isn't it?

How to create monsters

Sep. 15th, 2017 06:31 am
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
Yesterday I was reading a rather skillfully done propaganda piece. It got me to thinking about basic techniques for creating monsters — not in the Frankenstein sense, but in the Maple Street sense.

First, you need a group or category of people doing something bad. It helps if they've actually done something bad on a measurable scale, but it's not strictly required. It's enough if they could do something bad. What's important is that you can get your target audience to think of them as "the other."

Next, you need a larger group to equate with the actually bad group. The method can vary. It can be people who look like them, people who share some of their ideas, or people who are defending their rights. If all else fails, outright smears will work. This lets you inflate the threat so people see enemies everywhere.

To insure best results, you need to invoke causes and symbols that people will rally around. Patriotic causes invoked with false analogies will often serve the purpose.

Do all this, and you can accuse lots of people of being members of the seriously bad group. Best of all, anyone who questions your reasoning is automatically part of the baddies.


Keep this pattern in mind. You'll see it in lots of places, promoting lots of different campaigns.

(Argh! When did "disable auto-formatting" become the default on Dreamwidth?)

Just another manic Caturday

Sep. 13th, 2017 12:20 pm
madfilkentist: The Catmobile at Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society (Catmobile)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
The population of the kitten room was down a bit this week, with some cats adopted and not a lot of new ones. Bongo is coming down more than he used to, instead of always finding the highest places to sit. He was very hungry, and I had to bring out seconds of canned food for the free-roaming cats.

Hawkgirl, Sagittarius, Sansa, and Baratheon have been adopted. Salinger was still there, hissing at us. Placido and Domingo continue to make chaos of their cage and are very shy of people. Orchard and Belladonna are eating very little.

A sample copy of the 2018 MRFRS calendar was out for viewing, and Carl is on the January page! The caption says "World's hungriest cat."

Veni, Vidi, Filki

Sep. 13th, 2017 07:03 am
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
I've made a start on my book project on song transformations. Yesterday I borrowed a book on Parody in the Middle Ages from the UNH library. At the same time, I got a UNH library card, which cost me only $48 for a year's borrowing privileges. Nice deal. The book is mostly about prose parodies in Latin, but it should provide a few clues.

Yesterday evening I found the Holy Grail — with my GPS! It's a restaurant in Epping, New Hampshire, where the Seacoast Libertarian Party held the first of what hopefully will be a tradition of monthly dinners. It's a church converted into an Irish restaurant. We sat in what might have been the organ loft.

The sound of silence

Sep. 12th, 2017 06:32 am
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
What happens when you quit and no one notices? The NEFilk combined con project is truly dead.

Surprising connections

Sep. 10th, 2017 05:45 pm
madfilkentist: Bat drawing with text "Fledermaus Freundlich" (FledermausFreundlich)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
Today the lady who has organized several short hikes in the Kingston area invited people to one in the town forest, across the street from my house. I was the only one who showed up, but we went in anyway. In the course of the discussion, it turned out her parents were from Wernigerode, where FilkContinental will be held in a few weeks! Her family coat of arms can be found in the Liebfrauenkirche. We sang a bit of "Brüderchen, komm tanz mit mir" from "Hansel and Gretel" but didn't run into any witches in the woods.

Grow up? Who, me?

Sep. 9th, 2017 02:32 pm

Terminal stupidity

Sep. 9th, 2017 08:16 am
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist

Equifax supposedly set up a website for people to check on whether they've been affected by its data breach. At least they've convinced CNN that it's a legitimate site. If you can get through to it, it apparently wants six digits of your Social Security number. Here's what it looks like on my browser:

Insecure connection warning for https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/

It gets worse. Here's the whois information for the site:


whois equifaxsecurity2017.com
   Domain Name: EQUIFAXSECURITY2017.COM
   Registry Domain ID: 2156034374_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
   Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.markmonitor.com
   Registrar URL: http://www.markmonitor.com
   Updated Date: 2017-08-25T15:08:31Z
   Creation Date: 2017-08-22T22:07:28Z
   Registry Expiry Date: 2019-08-22T22:07:28Z
   Registrar: MarkMonitor Inc.
   Registrar IANA ID: 292
   Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abusecomplaints@markmonitor.com
   Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.2083895740
   Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientDeleteProhibited
   Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
   Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientUpdateProhibited
   Name Server: BART.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM
   Name Server: ETTA.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM
   DNSSEC: unsigned
   URL of the ICANN Whois Inaccuracy Complaint Form: https://www.icann.org/wicf/
>>> Last update of whois database: 2017-09-09T12:15:37Z <<<

Whois records are supposed to have contact information. There's none. Is it in fact a phishing site? That's still not clear.

Three Equifax executives sold off a large amount of stock, after the breach was discovered but before anyone told them about it. They were just prescient.

A New Hampshire politician said in full seriousness that Clinton should be executed for her Internet sloppiness. I thought that was seriously excessive, but in this case I wonder (not in full seriousness, Equifax lawyers!).

madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
"I never realized they were right until they blocked traffic and made me late for work!" You can count the number of people who have said that on the feathers of both hands.

Yesterday I heard on the radio news that a few dozen people blocked traffic in Cambridge to protest the termination of DACA. I approve of the cause, but why did these people think they'd win anyone to their cause that way?

Of course, they weren't thinking of persuasion but of publicity. They did make the radio news, and I probably wouldn't have heard about the protest otherwise. But the point of protest is to promote a cause, not to get the activists egoboo. Blocking traffic isn't in the same category with beating people up, but it doesn't win over people who are on the fence, much less change the minds of DACA opponents.

A while back, there was a series of protests, blocking traffic and shopping mall entrances, by Black Lives Matter activists. Today unsupported claims of violence by BLM activists are rife in Trumpist circles. Mobbing shopping malls helped to make those claims plausible in many people's eyes.

The protesters who take their grievances out on random people in the street or mall call it "civil disobedience." It's not. Civil disobedience is the refusal to obey an unjust law. The protesters don't think laws against blocking traffic are unjust; they just think they should be allowed to block traffic because they're different.

Getting noticed for a cause is difficult, but that doesn't mean that anything that gets attention is automatically good. When the message people hear is "We're punishing you because of something somebody else did," which side are they going to flock to? Punish them enough and they might even elect a lying, crooked, jerk president rather than support the protesters' side.
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