Opinion | An Open Letter to John Lewis – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Dear Mr. Lewis, I write with a heavy heart. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is a brutal diagnosis, so it’s no surprise that last Sunday night the internet erupted with anguish as news of your illness became public. Treatment may give you a “fighting chance” to continue working “for the Beloved Community,” as you wrote in a statement, but it’s painful to think of what you will be called on to bear in the coming months. You have already borne so much for us.

In the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, a massive screen plays a montage of film and still photos from March 7, 1965, a day now commemorated as “Bloody Sunday.” The images were made at the beginning of a planned march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, to claim voting rights for the African-American citizens of the state. I grew up in Alabama, not far from Selma, and I’ve always known the story of Bloody Sunday, but knowing the story is not the same thing as watching it unfold on a life-size screen. Standing in the National Civil Rights Museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day a few years ago, I watched in horror. What you and your fellow marchers, 600 strong, found waiting for you on the other side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was 150 state police and local law-enforcement officers armed with billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas. They gave you two minutes to disperse.

As the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, you were standing at the very front of the march. You were wearing a light-colored trench coat, and that coat is what makes it possible to follow you in the black-and-white footage of those next chaotic moments. One minute and five seconds after the two-minute warning, evil advanced and the carnage began, even as you knelt in the road to pray.

The beating you took that day from an Alabama state trooper may have fractured your skull, but it didn’t crack your resolve. National news stories carrying photos and film footage from Bloody Sunday finally woke this nation to what was happening in the Jim Crow South, and that awakening ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act five months later.”

J.K. Rowling’s Maya Forstater tweets support hostile work environments, not free speech – Washington Post

“But here’s what really happened.

In early September 2018, Forstater had been a consultant to the Center for Global Development, which focuses on economic inequality, when she began using her personal Twitter account to tweet about her opposition to potential changes to the U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act, writing, “I share the concerns of @fairplaywomen that radically expanding the legal definition of ‘women’ so that it can include both males and females makes it a meaningless concept, and will undermine women’s rights & protections for vulnerable women & girls.”

She then added: “Some transgender people have cosmetic surgery. But most retain their birth genitals. Everyone’s equality and safety should be protected, but women and girls lose out on privacy, safety and fairness if males are allowed into changing rooms, dormitories, prisons, sports teams.”

Note that, in both cases, Forstater explicitly and unmistakably referred to trans women as “males”; the law to which she was referring — the Gender Recognition Act — explicitly recognizes trans women as female, not male, and the changes being contemplated were about increasing transgender women’s inclusion.

Later that month, in a long series of tweets, she repeatedly misgendered Credit Suisse senior director Pips Buncewho identifies as gender fluid, referring to her as “a man who likes to express himself part of the week by wearing a dress,” “a part-time cross dresser” and “a white man who likes to dress in women’s clothes.” As part of that discussion, she also tweeted, “I think that male people are not women.” (In her own words, Pips prefers to “default to ‘she’ as a pronoun.”)

After that series of Tweets, in a Slack conversation published by the court, Forstater reiterated that her stances — “‘women are adult human females’ or ‘transwomen are male'” — are “basic biological truths,” and “‘transwoman are women'” is one of a number of “literal delusions.” “

Source: J.K. Rowling’s Maya Forstater tweets support hostile work environments, not free speech

J.K. Rowling tried to make her work more inclusive. Then she tweeted support for an anti-trans researcher. – The Washington Post

Dec. 19, 2019 at 12:24 p.m. PST

“J.K. Rowling has long used the Internet to tweak the Harry Potter universe she created, surprising fans with trivial revelations from Ron Weasley’s patronus to the fact that wizards used to poop in their robes. But on Thursday, Rowling changed many fans’ views of her own character when she tweeted her support for a woman who was fired over her anti-trans social media posts.

“Dress however you please,” Rowling wrote on Twitter early Thursday. “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.”

The woman named in Rowling’s tweet is Maya Forstater, a tax expert who lost her job at a think tank after tweeting that trans women can’t “change” their biological sex. Forstater’s contract as a visiting fellow at the Washington- and London-based nonprofit Center for Global Development was not renewed in March, according to the Guardian, after they found her tweets to be exclusionary toward trans people. On Wednesday, Judge James Tayler at the Central London Employment Tribunal dismissed Forstater’s claims of wrongful termination, per the Guardian, calling her “absolutist in her view of sex” and her expressed beliefs “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

Rowling’s tweet triggered backlash almost immediately, attracting condemnation from individual users and organizations alike: “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. CC: JK Rowling,” the Human Rights Campaign account tweeted. Replying to Rowling’s tweet, one fan wrote that she grew up reading the Harry Potter series as a trans child, and that the author’s decision “to support people that hate me” brought tears to her eyes.

Rowling’s representatives declined to comment to The Washington Post.”

Source: J.K. Rowling tried to make her work more inclusive. Then she tweeted support for an anti-trans researcher. – The Washington Post

Opinion | How to Be a Whistle-Blower – By Charlie Warzel – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Warzel is an Opinion writer at large.

Credit…Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile, via Getty Images

This article is part of a limited-run newsletter. You can sign up here.

“Last week, at a conference in Portugal, I met John Napier Tye. He is a former State Department employee, a whistle-blower and a co-founder of Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit law firm that represents individuals trying to expose wrongdoing. As you may have noticed, whistle-blowers are very much in the news these days, and Tye is very much in the center of that world.

Today’s newsletter is a Q. and A. with Tye. We talked about whether it’s possible to stay anonymous in 2019, how to protect your privacy like a spy, whether regular people are at risk of becoming targets and how to become a whistle-blower if you’re a witness to something troubling.

This is a condensed and edited version of our conversation:

What are the biggest threats right now to privacy for normal citizens?

It’s useful to distinguish between bulk collection and targeted surveillance. Both are threats. The average citizen is likely already caught up by bulk collection, although the proliferation of targeted surveillance technologies are increasingly threatening whistle-blowers, journalists and others that find themselves on the wrong side of unaccountable governments and security agencies.

Bulk collection affects everyone. A number of governments and companies have the goal of building databases with detailed profile information for every person on earth, or at least every internet user — including where you are at any given moment, who your friends are, what kind of messages and photos you are creating and how you think about the world. They are closer than you might expect.”

How Laws Against Child Sexual Abuse Imagery Can Make It Harder to Detect – The New York Times

“Child sexual abuse photos and videos are among the most toxic materials online. It is against the law to view the imagery, and anybody who comes across it must report it to the federal authorities.

So how can tech companies, under pressure to remove the material, identify newly shared photos and videos without breaking the law? They use software — but first they have to train it, running repeated tests to help it accurately recognize illegal content.

Google has made progress, according to company officials, but its methods have not been made public. Facebook has, too, but there are still questions about whether it follows the letter of the law. Microsoft, which has struggled to keep known imagery off its search engine, Bing, is frustrated by the legal hurdles in identifying new imagery, a spokesman said.

The three tech giants are among the few companies with the resources to develop artificial intelligence systems to take on the challenge.

One route for the companies is greater cooperation with the federal authorities, including seeking permission to keep new photos and videos for the purposes of developing the detection software.

But that approach runs into a larger privacy debate involving the sexual abuse material: How closely should tech companies and the federal government work to shut it down? And what would prevent their cooperation from extending to other online activity?

Paul Ohm, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual property section, said the laws governing child sexual abuse imagery were among the “fiercest criminal laws” on the books.

“Just the simple act of shipping the images from one A.I. researcher to another is going to implicate you in all kinds of federal crimes,” he said.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments.
I’ve worked with computer clients since 1991 who shaked with anger about how hard it is to master their computers.They still do. I say to them, what I say about this article, “Just think, in a hundred years, people will write comedies about how we struggled in the early, dark ages of computer science. Nothing is seemless. Nothing works as promised.”
Plug and play still hasn’t happened everywhere for everyone, and you get absurd stories like this one, where the government expects big tech companies to clean out child porn, but they aren’t allowed to store or share the photos they are targeting to remove from the internet. We are living through a comedy, every day.
The best way to deal with the pain is to laugh, and keep working to slowly improve interconnectivity with some respect for privacy. (David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)

Equal-time rule – Wikipedia

“The equal-time rule specifies that U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political candidates who request it. This means, for example, that if a station gives a given amount of time to a candidate in prime time, it must do the same for another candidate who requests it, at the same price if applicable.[1] This rule originated in §18 of the Radio Act of 1927; it was later superseded by the Communications Act of 1934. A related provision, in §315(b), requires that broadcasters offer time to candidates at the same rate as their “most favored advertiser”.

The equal-time rule was created because the FCC was concerned that broadcast stations could easily manipulate the outcome of elections by presenting just one point of view, and excluding other candidates. The equal-time rule should not be confused with the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, which dealt with presenting balanced points of view on matters of public importance.

There are four exceptions to the equal-time rule. If the airing was within a documentary, bona fide news interview, scheduled newscast or an on-the-spot news event, the equal-time rule does not apply. Since 1983, political debates not hosted by the media station are considered “news events,” and as a result, are not subject to the rule. Consequently, these debates may include only major-party candidates without having to offer air time to minor-party or independent candidates. Talk shows and other regular news programming from syndicators, such as Entertainment Tonight, are also declared exempt from the rule by the FCC on a case-by-case basis.[2]

The equal-time rule was temporarily suspended by Congress in 1960 in order to permit the Kennedy-Nixon debates to take place.[3]

The Zapple Doctrine was similar to the equal-time rule, but applied to different political campaign participants. The equal-time rule applies to the political candidate only. The Zapple Doctrine had the same purpose and requirements of equivalent coverage opportunity as the equal-time rule, but its scope included the candidate’s spokesman and supporters, not the candidate.[4]

Source: Equal-time rule – Wikipedia

FCC fairness doctrine – Wikipedia

“The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the policy in 1987 and removed the rule that implemented the policy from the Federal Register in August 2011.[1]

The fairness doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.[2][3]

The main agenda for the doctrine was to ensure that viewers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints. In 1969 the United States Supreme Court, in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, upheld the FCC’s general right to enforce the fairness doctrine where channels were limited. However, the Court did not rule that the FCC was obliged to do so.[4] The courts reasoned that the scarcity of the broadcast spectrum, which limited the opportunity for access to the airwaves, created a need for the doctrine.

The fairness doctrine is not the same as the equal-time rule. The fairness doctrine deals with discussion of controversial issues, while the equal-time rule deals only with political candidates.”

‘The Enigma of Clarence Thomas’ Makes a Strong Case for Its Provocative Thesis – The New York Times

CreditCreditAlessandra Montalto/The New York Times

“In “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas,” Corey Robin presents a case that also happens to be a high-wire act — that the Supreme Court justice who almost never speaks from the bench, who writes controversial opinions paying little heed to legal precedent, is in fact quite explicable.

Other observers of the court have portrayed Thomas as a Constitutional purist, determined to uncover the document’s original meaning, but “Thomas’s originalism is at best episodic,” Robin writes, arguing that it doesn’t entirely cohere. More consistent has been something plenty of people don’t know about — and that those who do tend to brush aside as a bygone chapter from Thomas’s past.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Thomas was a self-described “radical” and adherent of Malcolm X. He took up the cause of the Black Panthers and marched against the Vietnam War. He was a black nationalist — and according to Robin, he still is. Far from abandoning his old views on race, Robin says, the longest-serving justice on the current Supreme Court has retrofitted those views to propel a conservative agenda.

“Thomas is a black man whose conservatism is overwhelmingly defined by and oriented toward the interests of black people, as he understands them,” Robin writes. The black nationalism underpinning his jurisprudence is a “secret hiding in plain sight.” “

David Lindsay: This report really surprised me. It is good to learn somethin completely new every day. Before this, I never saw any redeeming quality in Clarence Thomas.

Opinion | Our Children Deserve Better – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“On Thursday, 10 Democratic presidential candidates will debate. It would be a natural opportunity to provoke a national conversation on the subject. But a question about child poverty hasn’t been asked at a presidential debate in 20 years, not since a Republican primary debate in 1999, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.

Presidential candidates have been asked about the World Series, about cursing in movies, even about flag lapel pins more recently than they have been questioned about child poverty. We’ve had 147 presidential debates in a row without a single question on the topic (here’s a petition calling for more questions on the issue). I hope Thursday’s debate won’t be the 148th.

UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.

Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record.”

Opinion | Let the People (of Florida) Vote – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditJoe Raedle/Getty Images

“Winning civil rights is never easy. The fight can stretch on for decades and include setbacks that feel like utter defeat. An enduring lesson of the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century is the need for persistence, because social progress doesn’t come without a fight.

I’d encourage you to keep this idea in mind as I tell you this morning about the fight for voting rights in Florida. Parts of the story are depressing. Yet I think optimism is still the right attitude.

Last year, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to 1.4 million state residents previously convicted of a felony. It seemed like one of the biggest victories for voting rights in years, especially because almost 20 percent of black adults in the state had previously been prevented from voting. In May, however, the state legislature — controlled by Republicans — passed a bill that undermined the amendment, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill in June.”

Two on the Aisle

NYC and Connecticut Theater News and Reviews

Inconvenient News Worldwide

On World Affairs: Politics, the Environment, the Drug Wars, and the Arts

Mereconomics

Providing more on Environmental and Resource Economics

InconvenientNews.Net

Politics, Economics, the Environment, the Drug Wars, and the Arts

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.