Reading George Fox

Don’t Let Those Bastards Own the Flag

Calling the atrocities un-American is important. We have dismally fail to live up to our ideals again and again. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and a rapist. But his words in the Declaration of Independence are America too.

We have done terrible things. We have made a mockery of our rhetoric again and again. We have killed and tortured and raped and slaughtered.

We must not let that happen again. We must rise to the challenge of our claim that all men people are created equal. Those who are torturing children do not own the flag. The true patriots are those protesting at the gates.

Update 10-13-2018: Was looking back through the blog and noticed the gendered quotation.

They Cannot Wait

This isn’t the preeminent crisis at the moment, but I wrote a response on the urgency of carceral state reform and thought it worthy to post directly on my blog.

The full conversation is here.

You are right that we need to work on getting buy in from the rank and file. But even if you’re correct and the system only fails 20% of the time, that’s thousands of innocent people suffering. They shouldn’t have to wait for justice because it’s hard to get the rank and file on board.

Also, there will be times when it is simply not possible to convince them. If we reduce the incarceration rate to triple the European average, the majority of prison guards will lose their jobs. They are going to fight hard as hell to keep their livelihood.

Or an example from Pennsylvania: if a former prosecutor turned Republican State Senator, multiple rigorous studies, and participating in a five year commission couldn’t convince the DAs to accept reform, the hill is a pretty steep climb. How many people suffered unjustly while we were trying to persuade them?

So, at the same time we work within the system, we must also, as Dr. King said, bring the tensions to the surface. We need to convince a mass movement to put pressure on government to accelerate change. To forcibly alter the perverse incentives.

The Civil Rights movement didn’t spend time convincing White America to support inter-racial marriage; they pushed Loving vs. Virginia through the courts. It wasn’t until 1994 that more than half of America supported that decision.

The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis spent over a decade trying to convince society that LGBT+ folk should be accepted. They barely made any progress. Police still regularly persecuted them. Change only began accelerating when they stopped trying to convince the police and rioted.

You may find these provocative comparisons, but I really do believe even a 20% failure rate is a serious crisis, worthy of aggressive tactics. The system’s victims cannot wait.

Another Broken System with Good People

@dynamitemoth My unconscious came up with a perhaps less controversial parallel overnight. The American healthcare system is full of hard working, caring people who are truly doing their best. Yet we still spend twice as much as other rich countries while covering less people. The system is structured that often the best option is the emergency room, which is also the most expensive option. Insurance is so complex that patients need to make sure that the doctors treating them are on their plan even when the hospital is.1

A personal example: I was in the psychiatric ward of a well respected and good hospital. However, a private company had recently bought it and was cutting the budget to increase profitably. One weekend there were simply not enough staff. Those who were there were incredibly compassionate and good at their jobs, but there weren’t enough of them and patients ended up taking care of other patients. Which of course triggered us creating a shit show cascade of trauma.

There were no evil or incompetent people, yet the situation was terrible. At one of the best hospitals specializing in a specific area of mental health. When the system is broken, the intentions of those inside are not the important part. Structural factors are.

  1. Or that the specific illness is. When I shop for insurance, I make sure specific hospitals are covered. In case I have to go to the psychiatric ward, I want to make sure that my psychiatrist knows the doctors there. One year I bought insurance that covered the right hospital. Except that they subcontracted out their mental health coverage to Value Options. Which didn’t cover that hospital. I had looked pretty hard when choosing insurance, yet I could find nothing on their website indicating the difference. I didn’t think to ask if the hospitals they listed as in network were actually in network for my needs. 

The Carceral State and Good People

@dynamitemoth They have the best of intentions, but it’s within a very flawed system.

The reason that plea deals are used so much is prosectorial discretion: they’ll threaten to charge with more serious counts adding up to an incredible amount of years. It then only makes sense not to risk a trial. It’s also hard to believe that 97% of all cases involve a guilty defendent; that would require nigh infallible police and prosecutors. Also, here’s an explanation of how a federal guilty plea works and the absurdity it can become. Prosecutors are also loathe1 to provide evidence of innocence. There’s a ton of pressure of prosecutors to win cases, so they’ll even block the release of clearly innocent people. Expert witnesses and forensic experts are often relied on again and again even without evidence that the science has any basis in fact.

There are a ton of incentives for detectives to quickly close cases, so they often settle on the first or second suspect. Police are taught to be overly defensive and often escalate situations. Once a department gets a SWAT team, they find reasons to use it. Military supplies and civil forfeiture create perverse incentives to play with the toys and to justify the seizure of money to fund departments. Plus, civil forfeiture cases are charged against one’s property, so even if the initial charges are dropped one may have to fight to get the money back.

Here’s a book about police militarization. The Pentagon gives millions of dollars of surplus equipment to the police every year. Equipment used in war zones.

Defense attorneys are regarded as problems to be worked around. Public defenders are overworked and underpayed.

God help you if you get convicted2 of a sex crime even if it’s for pantsing a classmate when you were 10. Even if the sex offenders have committed dangerous crimes, forcing them to live under bridges probably makes it more likely that they’ll reoffend because what is there to lose? At least in prison one lives indoors.

Then there’s the hell of reporting a sex crime.

Cops might basically rape a person if they suspect that they are a drug mule.

It can take decades to hold rogue cops accountable—of torture.

Even if the purpose of prison is not to rehabilitate, keeping inmates in solitary for decades is torture. Pushing inmates into gangs for their very survival is not a positive outcome for public safety. Our prisons are creating gang members. Prison rape is an atrocity. The system is even traumatic for the guards.

Police are allowed to lie, but if a person makes a mistake during interrogation, they can charge the person with lying to them. Even if they were innocent of the crime the police were investigating. (Never ever, ever talk to law enforcement without a lawyer).

Juvenile courts give tremendous discretion to judges and can end up ruining kids lives. Even when the judges are trying to help.

Police officers in schools help keep students safe, while at the same time turning discipline into a legal matter. Instead of getting detention, students get arrested.

There are good people in the criminal justice system who try to do good work. However, the system is fundamentally broken: providing the wrong incentives and numbing people to the violence it inflicts. I believe shifting our attention from the massive injustice of the system by pointing out there are good people in it is akin to being the white moderate. It’s trying to balance the feelings of police and prosecutors and prison staff against the suffering of those ground up by the system, whether they be innocent or guilty. Change is desperately needed and it’s going to take a massive effort. That must be the focus.

  1. Krasner is doing an amazing job, but this article still demonstrates the depth of the problem. 
  2. Thankfully, this particular absurdity has been fixed; it took years of determined fighting. Even after the law was changed, they had to keep fighting to vacate the pre-existing convictions. 

Fouad Dakwar on Being Palestinian

I often put on this act of a fearless fighter when talking about the mistreatment of my people, but tonight I had a direct one-on-one conversation with someone who actively denies the humanity of Palestinians (one of the apparent majority) that resulted in me crying non-stop for thirty minutes straight. It had me wishing I wasn’t Palestinian because I wished I were part of a group that received some sort of empathy from fellow humans.

The truth is that being Palestinian is one of the hardest things I will ever go through and that no matter how much hope I am given from peers and emerging humanitarian organizations (particularly American-Jewish ones), I will constantly live with the fear that our narrative will conclude the way the Native American one has now- with genocide of the majority of our people, theft of ALL of our land, and the complete dehumanization of our people in order to do it quickly.

We’re on our way there and I don’t know how much more I can ask for help and allyship.

If you somehow don’t condemn the current treatment of Palestinians, delete me from your friends list because we are not friends. My friends must have empathy at its most basic level. This is not a “nuanced” or “controversial” issue when looking at the clear privilege imbalance on either side.

I found this post through a friend, Tala Manassah, on Facebook last night. Originally published on May 20, 2018. Republished with permission. © Fouad Dakwar, All Rights Reserved.

Original Post on Facebook

Pinboard and—RSS

I’m a huge fan of for online bookmarking. Maciej is an awesome developer, has a strong business model1 (so he has no reason to sell your data), and delivered an open API. You can link your account to Twitter2, Instapaper, and Pocket; and also set your account to be completely private.3 There’s even the fun story of the Great Delicious Exodus of 2010.

It also provides an easy way to start link blogging on via its RSS Feeds. If you want to send everything (I don’t recommend this) and have a public account, it’s as easy as adding to your feeds in the same manner as WordPress. I’d recommend choosing a tag, like to_blog,5 and creating a feed just for that: If you want to have more options, you can use up to three tags:

Warning: I do not recommend using private feeds. @smokey let me know that future features may reveal them. If you’ve set up your account to be private, creating the feed is slightly more complicated. You have to add your authentication token6 to the address: I would definitely use https here and if someone gets a hold of your token, they will be able to see all your bookmarks via RSS. Moreover, they will be able to add, change, and delete them through the API.7

One other thing to note, if you use RSS, you will not have any control over the appearance of your link posts. They will all have a title and thus link to your blog for the full content. Also, any markup or tagmojis will have to be entered upon the bookmark’s creation. I am working on an AppleScript that will enable manipulation of bookmarks before posting to; I will share and explain it in a post when I’m done. If you’d like to try to hack about a script on your own, I’m basing it off this earlier script.

Ping me via @Bruce on if you have any questions.

Update 2018-06-07: Added warning about private feeds.

  1. He posts yearly updates on how Pinboard is doing. 
  2. Backing up all your tweets. 
  3. It’s the Anti-Social bookmarking site. 
  4. The examples on the howto page use http, but https works as well. 
  5. Tags cannot have spaces, so I use underscores instead. 
  6. Which can be found on the the password tab of your account’s settings. 
  7. They won’t be able to make any changes to your account though. That requires signing into the website with your password. 

Will The EU Screw Up Lighting?

So the EU is considering regulations on lamps’ power usage.1 If they don’t exempt entertainment lighting2, this is going to be a disaster. All existing equipment (from tungsten to LED to arc) will become obsolete. Touring shows to or from the EU will require major reworking. And there are significant hurdles for manufacturers to even create lights that will both illuminate the stage and satisfy the regulations. So much for the West End.

Oh, and stage lighting uses less energy that keeping the water hot.

Stage lighting comprised 2% of Seattle Rep's energy use in 2010.

  1. And dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines and washer-dryers, computers, televisions. All close relatives of a Source 4. 
  2. As they already have for video projection.