The misplaced arguments against Black Lives Matter →

“J.F.” at The Economist:

[Black Lives Matter] … welcomes white supporters, has condemned violence and addresses structural racial inequities. Jacob Levy, a political philosopher, argues that BLM is “one of the most significant political mobilisations in defence of freedom” in decades. Its supporters oppose police brutality, mass incarceration, America’s drug war, police militarisation and civil-forfeiture abuses. All of those are causes that liberals, libertarians and conservatives—anyone who fears unchecked state power—ought to cheer.

The misplaced arguments against Black Lives Matter.

Why even Nazis deserve free speech →

Censorship, even against Nazis, is wrong. It doesn’t work. And it backfires, write Greg Lukianoff and Nico Perrino at Politico.

Europe, where Nazi speech is prohibited, has a higher degree of anti-Semitism than the US. Censorship laws will end up being used by people you hate — the Nazis themselves in the 1930s and early 1940s, Vladimir Putin. And free speech is an alternative to violence.

[Free speech] helps us understand what people actually think—not “even if” it is troubling, but especially when it is troubling. 

As Edward Luce points out in his excellent new short book The Retreat of Western Liberalism, there are real consequences to ignoring or wishing away the views that are held by real people, even if elites believe that those views are nasty or wrongheaded. Gay marriage champion and author Jonathan Rauch reminds us that in the same way that breaking a thermometer doesn’t change the temperature, censoring ideas doesn’t make them go away—it only makes us ignorant of their existence.

So what do we do about white supremacists? Draw a strong distinction between expression and violence: punish violence, but protect even speakers we find odious. Let them reveal themselves. 

As Harvey Silverglate, a co-founder of our organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, says, it’s important to know who the Nazis are in the room. 


Because we need to know not to turn our backs to them.

Why Even Nazis Deserve Free Speech. [Greg Lukianoff and Nico Perrino/Politico]

I loved “Lost in Space.” Does that make me a bubble-headed booby?

Will Lost In Space Ever Get Its Props?

Charlie Jane Anders, writing at Wired, praises the 60s camp classic:

“… there’s something wickedly entertaining about a show that’s so joyously campy. The fact that this show has a “villain” who becomes the most compelling character, around whom everything starts to revolve, is kind of awesome. And Dr. Smith is a precursor, in a lot of ways, for the legion of camp “baddies” who became some of pop culture’s greatest heroes — from Dr. Frank N. Furter to Damon Salvatore.

As silly and goofy as Lost in Space becomes, it’s also weirdly transgressive in its exploration of human foibles, and Dr. Smith is kind of an epic clown as well as a trickster figure who makes the show’s weird adventures possible. He’s exactly the sort of self-serving, ridiculous character who shouldn’t be on a fancy sleek spaceship, exploring the cosmos. On Star Trek, Dr. Smith would be a semi-recurring nuisance — like Harry Mudd, for example. But the idea of building a whole show around a Harry Mudd figure is sort of fascinating.”

Oil giant ARAMCO built an American suburb in Saudi Arabia

Inside the Surreal, Saudi Suburbia Built by an Oil Giant [Laura Mallonee/Wired]

Ayesha Malik considers herself an American on paper, a Pakistani by heritage, and a Saudi by upbringing. But she calls herself an Aramcon.

Malik has spent most of her 28 years in Dhahran Camp, the exclusive gated community where employees of the Saudi oil giant Aramco live with their families. Some 10,000 people live in a community about half the size of San Francisco, an oasis of tree-lined cul-de-sacs, swimming pools, and Cub Scout troops. “It kind of looks like where you grew up, if you grew up in a suburban American town,” she says. “Just imagine that, and imagine that’s in Saudi Arabia, and suddenly you’re on another planet.”

It’s a planet she documents beautifully in her new book ARAMCO: Above the Oil Fields.

Aramco produces some 10.5 million barrels of oil each day and holds reserves estimated at more than 260 billion barrels, making it the world’s largest oil company. The company built Dharhran Camp soon after its founding in 1933 to house expat employees. It offers all the amenities of suburbia, including tennis courts, bowing alleys, and other Western touches. “It was supposed to make you feel like you could just pop out from Kansas and come here and your life would be very comfortable,” Malik says.

Saturday afternoon.

My blog

Fuck Trump, fuck Trump, 70s pop culture, 50s design, no really fuck Trump, enterprise cloud and networking, lolol i farted, here’s a bunch of funny toots I saw on the tooter, fuck racism, fuck Nazis, Doctor Who when it’s on, Game of Thrones when it’s on, Minnie is awesome.

Trump says Sun equally to blame for blocking Moon →

Andy Borowitz:

“The fake news is covering the eclipse from the sun’s side instead of the moon’s side, but if you look at it from the moon’s side the sun is blocking the moon’s side,” he said. “There are so many sides you can’t count all the sides.”

Additionally, Trump tore into the sun itself, calling it a “showboat” for its role in the solar eclipse.

“The sun thinks the world revolves around it,” Trump said. “Sad.”

Trump Says Sun Equally to Blame for Blocking Moon. [Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker]

The careful, pragmatic case against punching Nazis. →

When violence breaks out at white supremacist rallies, the Nazis win the PR war, even if they get beaten up, says Jesse Singal at New York Magazine.

Nonviolent counterprotest, some distance from the Nazi rally, is the way to go:

In the U.S., explicitly white-supremacist groups know they are vastly, vastly outnumbered by everyone who hates them — their paltry numbers being an easy thing to forget in the age of social media and especially so this week, in the wake of a real-life white-supremacist murder. So their only hope for relevance is to maximize every potential bit of media coverage. And the best way to do this is to create media moments: scary, evocative images like the torch photos from last weekend, but also as many violently photogenic confrontations with counterprotesters as possible. Producing violence is an underlying, often unstated, goal of many white-supremacist protests and gatherings.

When violence does break out, videos of it race through the internet’s white-supremacist underbelly, serving as incredibly valuable PR material. It doesn’t matter who gets the better of a given confrontation: When the Nazis get punched, it’s “proof” that anti-fascists or liberals or [insert minority group] or whoever else did the punching have it in for “innocent white Americans just trying to protest peacefully.” When the Nazis punch back, it’s proof that their enemies are, to borrow a word from alt-right parlance, “cucks” who are easily bested in the streets. Even when white supremacists lose street fights, they win the long game.

This sort of tactic, said Jeffrey Kaplan, an academic researcher and the author of a number of books on terrorist movements, “is a constant in terrorism or any form of asymmetric warfare,” whether the group in question is jihadist or white supremacist or whatever else. Kaplan, who is an incoming professor at King Fahd Security College in Riyadh, summed up the extremists’ logic like this: “Our numbers are paltry, we are despised by our countrymen and we couldn’t get a date for the life of us, but any action that has enough impact to strike at the heart of the enemy by getting media coverage is a major triumph.” Violent confrontations allow extremists to make a tantalizing offer to the angry, disillusioned young men — they are almost entirely men — whom they hope to groom to become tomorrow’s haters and killers: We are part of a movement to change the world, as you can see from this latest video that movement is working, and you can be a part of it.

What proponents of disrupting racist gatherings often leave out is that there are alternatives that can help delegitimize white supremacists without falling into any of these potential traps, and without setting aside progressives’ normal ethical qualms about violence. For those instances in which a group of white supremacists really are just attempting to rally or to march, have their permits in order, and so on — meaning there’s no legal way for their opponents to prevent the event — Schanzer laid out a fairly straightforward alternative: Counterdemonstrators should respond assertively, vociferously, and in far superior numbers — but at a distance from the extremists themselves. This tactic both prevents the sort of violent conflict American hate groups want, and has the added benefit of drawing at least some media and social-media attention away from the smaller hateful gathering and toward the much larger counterprotest.

It also seems to be the preferred approach of a wide variety of experts and advocates in this area. “The main thing that [hate groups] seek is attention and publicity to disseminate a message of hate,” Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office, told NPR’s “All Things Considered” during an interview about today’s planned “free speech” rally on Boston Common, which some are concerned will be a magnet for hate groups. “And so the best-case scenario is they come and they speak at the Common and there is nobody there to listen.” And Moises Velasquez-Manoff, a contributing op-ed writer at the Timesexplained earlier this week that according to experts, “Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood — of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled.” “I would want to punch a Nazi in the nose, too,” Maria Stephan, a program director at the United States Institute of Peace, told him. “But there’s a difference between a therapeutic and strategic response.” Progressives would be eagerly echoing and retweeting this sort of logic if the wonks in question were talking about ISIS rather than the National Vanguard. Why should their insights suddenly be ignored?

If this line of thinking is correct, anyone disgusted by organized displays of explicit hatred should adopt a stance along the lines of this: “You know what? Let the Nazis rally. Let them try to promote a dying ideology the entire nation finds execrable. Down the road we are going to set up a big, inclusive show of solidarity that will be ten times larger. And anyone who is scared or intimidated or angry should come there, rather than risk their well-being facing down the dregs of society.” To be sure, this approach may not be as satisfying as punching Nazis, but it may increase the odds that in the future, there will be fewer Nazis to punch in the first place.

But perhaps the best reason to try to respond peacefully, whenever possible, is simply that violence is unpredictable and never easily contained (not even in the short term – again, ask those two journalists who got attacked). The risk that whites-supremacist groups could get more and more radicalized and militant needs to be taken seriously, because however scary it was to see what happened in Charlottesville last weekend, things can get much, much worse. And if things do get worse, plenty of the victims will be people who never asked to take this fight to the streets. In most other situations, progressives understand — or claim to understand — the moral gravity of calling for violence. They shouldn’t let a scary but small group of deeply loathed bigots steer them off course.

The Careful, Pragmatic Case Against Punching Nazis. [Jesse Singal/New York]

To China, the US is an upstart. →

Former President Ulysses S. Grant meets with China’s Viceroy Li Hongzhang, 1879.


The US has been entangled with China for the entirety of our history as a nation. But that’s only a few moments of China’s millennia.

China views the West, including the US, as louche upstarts that have interfered and invaded that country, and temporarily usurped China’s rightful primacy an and across the Pacific ocean, writes Simon Winchester in a December, 2016 book review in the New York Times:

By 2049, a crucially symbolic date on the Chinese calendar that marks the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic, Beijing intends two things: to have recovered in full all the territory it lost during the long centuries of what it considers insulting foreign interference and to assert itself in and across the Pacific Ocean to the precise degree its duty and destiny now demand.

Both aims are well on their way to realization. Almost all territory once held by foreigners is now back in the fold: after Ports Arthur and Edward, after Manchuria, after Shandong and Hainan, after Hong Kong and Macau, all that remains outside is the great island of Taiwan. And so far as the Pacific more generally is concerned, the South China Sea is now close to being under Chinese control. The three so-called “island chains” that serve to protect China’s eastern shores, which extend, in some interpretations, as far out as Hawaii, will soon be dominated by an ever-enlarging Chinese Navy, shortly to be bigger and more powerful than anything the United States may be able to muster or afford.

Beijing’s intentions are certain to collide with what Washington has regarded as its own regional obligations. To avoid conflict, the diplomatic demands on both countries will be prodigious….

Thanks, Lisa Schmeiser!

Gathering Storm: A History of the Complicated U.S.-China Relationship Since 1776. (Simon Winchester/The New York Times).

I noticed recently that I need less sleep

I noticed this on my stay-at-home vacation about a month ago. I thought until then that I needed 8.5-10 hours of sleep a night. That’s a lot of sleep. I was chronically sleep deprived during the week, and slept too much on the weekends. I was not happy with this situation.

Then when I was on vacation I slept as much as I wanted to, every day. Which turned out to be 6-3/4 hours a night. Since then I’ve been making extra effort to get that 6-3/4 hours. And I’ve been feeling pretty well rested.

I do get insomnia every couple of weeks, as I have today. It’s not debilitating, just inconvenient.

I don’t know what the cause of this development is, but I’m happy about it.

I think it may have something to do with my wearing a sleep mask to bed. I started doing that about six months ago and I’ve been doing it even more conscientiously recently. I also wear earplugs.