How to defeat “alternative facts”

We’ve seen strong signs of a successful liberal coalition in the past couple of weeks, with multiple and varied protests against Trump’s Muslim ban. Efforts like this have to be narrowly focused, in order to bring in the largest number of supporters. It worked very well this time.

(Note: If you aren’t a regular follower of this blog, please read this post to understand how I’m using the word “liberal.” I’m using it in its original sense, from before it became associated with massive government power.)
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Trump keeps his promises — in blood

In 2015 Donald Trump said, “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

Nawar al-AwlakiHe has kept his promise. Trump’s first military raid killed Nawar al-Awlaki, the 8-year-old American-born daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, whom the US had previously killed. Calling Anwar al-Awlaki a terrorist is stretching a point; he preached violence but isn’t known to have directly engaged in terrorist acts. That was good enough for Obama to order his assassination, though, and it’s likely Trump considers him a terrorist as well. (He’d have been allowed in the US under Trump’s ban, though, since he was a US citizen.)

Are there any words left?

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America: 1776-2017?

The day has come. Will history record January 20, 2017 as the death of the United States as a free country? I don’t know. Trump has said that today mass deportations will occur under his command. I don’t see how he can cause any significant number of people to be “gone” today, but he could still issue orders to set it in motion. It will require mobilizing police and perhaps military forces on a huge scale and will directly impact all lives, not just immigrants’.
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Peter Thiel, Star Wars, and Capitalism

Peter Thiel, a Trumpist who does libertarian impersonations, has argued that Star Trek is communist while Star Wars is capitalist. He may have a point, but his example on the latter is a seriously poor choice.

On Star Trek he repeats an often-made and valid point. According to Gene Roddenberry, the Federation doesn’t use money because replicators can make anything without limit. This ignores the fact that there are other kinds of scarcity besides goods. Starfleet needs highly trained people who are willing to spend years away from home. They can’t just run a James Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard through the transporter and then produce additional copies. If they could and did, they’d be the Borg.
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Introducing Techno-Liberty

My newest blog project is Techno-Liberty. Quoting my own “About” page:

I’ve created this blog as a resource for discovering the ways that technology can advance liberty. You’ll see occasional forays into libertarian politics, but mostly it will be about technical issues: encryption, privacy, blockchains, data accumulation, secure communication, and so on.

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New Hampshire towns can legally misrepresent election results

As I previously reported, the website for the town of Kingston, NH falsified the town’s vote totals, concealing the existence of any votes for candidates other than Democrats and Republicans. I sent a written complaint to the Attorney General’s office over a month ago. Today I finally got a response from Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano. It says, in part:

While I recognize your frustration in not seeing your chosen candidates on the document displayed by the town, there is no New Hampshire law that prohibits a town from posting additional, informal, or partial reports of election results. Given that the full results were publicly reported consistent with New Hampshire law, I do not share your conclusion that the Town of Kingston has sought to deceive members of the public.

Reporting some votes and concealing others on an official website is deception by any standard I can think of. According to the Attorney General’s office, though, they can legally get away with it, as long as the correct results are reported somewhere else. From what Buonamano says, it would appear they can report just one party’s votes, or just the votes for their favorite candidates, if they feel like it.

Is it any wonder that so many people don’t trust the election process?

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Why I won’t attend the NH Liberty Forum

I would have liked to register for the New Hampshire Liberty Forum this coming February. They always have interesting speakers, and I run into people I haven’t seen in a long time. Unfortunately, the Free State Project, which is organizing the event, has made it an unreasonable choice to take. They require all attendees to waive all claims of liability against FSP, even if its negligence kills people.
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Catching my own errors

I tweet links to news stories. Sometimes these stories turn out to be wrong. A while ago, I read this account of a Muslim woman’s report that she had been assaulted and called a “terrorist” in a New York subway station because she was wearing a hijab.

More recent reports say that she made up the story and has been arrested for making a false report.

Which account is true? I don’t actually know. The woman has reportedly “supplied verbal and written confessions to the police,” but police have been known to bully confessions out of people. Certainly the recent news casts serious doubt on her story, and anyone evaluating it ought to know about the recent events.

So I may have reported an event that didn’t happen. This isn’t what I’d call “fake news”; I reported a legitimate news story and checked more than one source to confirm it. Any of us can discover we’ve conveyed inaccurate information; the important thing is to follow up with a correction.

It’s a bit like computer security. You can’t always stop every piece of malware from getting through, so you have to check what may have gotten past your defenses and take corrective action.

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Welcome to the doctor’s. Please remove your wallet.

I’m gradually getting convinced that the entire medical business is a scam. At my last visit to the doctor, at a practice affiliated with St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, I got a flu shot and a pneumococcus shot, in addition to the normal cursory examination. Since then I’ve received a bill which informed me that those two jabs ran up a cost of $737, of which over $100 isn’t covered by insurance. Normal, honest businesses tell you before you spend sums in that range.

The description was very vague, with amounts for “professional services,” “vaccine,” and “pharmacy.” Nothing said which shot contributed to how much to the costs. I called the doctor’s office, which directed me to the central billing office, which directed me to the St. Joseph Hospital office. I called and had to leave my number because “all our agents are currently unavailable.” They didn’t call me back. I called an hour later and reached someone.
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A disturbing collaboration against “extremist” speech

The Guardian reports that “Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have pledged to work together to identify and remove extremist content on their platforms through an information-sharing initiative.” This amounts to high-tech blacklisting, and it could be very bad for people trying to convey unpopular ideas.

The article freely conflates “extremist” and “terrorist” content, as if anyone who advocates an extreme position must intend to support it with violence. Does this include extreme pacifists, I wonder? Perhaps even extreme programming?
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