A small piece of security information for you: Whatever (was well as the whole Scalzi.com) site, now operates using https, for extra added security. Mind you, as this site does very little in the way of transactions or anything security-critical, this may not be a big deal to anyone. On the other hand, Google sent me a note recently noting that unless I switched over to https, they’d start blasting “INSECURE” in the URL field of the Chrome browser, so, fine. Now it’s secure. Enjoy the securiosity! No, that’s not a real word. Even so.
Stephen Hawking: I'm worried about the future of the NHS https://t.co/gnVw4ZEPz0— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) August 18, 2017
How the NHS has helped Prof Hawking
Why Prof Hawking is worried about the NHS
What has Jeremy Hunt said?
The government's defence
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt contests Hawking's claims, because he is a plonker and also a liar.
Jeremy Hunt: "Stephen Hawking is brilliant at his only job which is to analyse evidence but he's not brilliant at analysing evidence" pic.twitter.com/bxZReZPhwq— David Schneider (@davidschneider) August 19, 2017
Agents of Mayhem is a passably amusing game shackled forever to the fact it’s less than its peers in every single way.
The other way you can tell that actually autistic people were not involved in this is that if you ask any autistic person what is most important for them in clothing they will tell you it's the fabric it's made of. Many autistic people have comorbid eczema, and a lot of those that don't have sensory issues, which mean that fabric and texture are hugely important in clothing. Something that is in contact with your skin all day needs to be made of something non-irritating; that almost always means 100% natural fibres. Cotton, or bamboo, or silk, or modal. Sometimes wool, but sometimes not. NEVER SODDING POLYESTER. And some of the clothes in that M&S range are 65% polyester. And of course it's very wearying that the only clothing specifically designed to be worn by autistic people is school uniform, because nobody of above school age is autistic, and no autistic child ever wears non-uniform clothing. AND they've "removed pockets for comfort". I have never known an autistic person who didn't want MORE pockets, as long as they are made from 100% natural fibre too.
So what would clothing for autistic people actually look like? Well, from the conversation on twitter today:
- Clear, obvious fabric labelling on the rack/shelf. While most of us just want everything 100% cotton, some of us prefer other natural fabrics like linen, and some actively prefer viscose or modal. Some of us can cope with silk or wool, some can't. Every single one of us, though, would like to see fabrics clearly, obviously labelled on the rack, without having to go hunting through the clothes for a tiny illegible care label.
- No polyester. Not even a little bit. Not ever. No, not even in linings.
- Linings are important! Linings are the bit that is actually in contact with your skin, so they need to be all natural fibres too. Note, though, that this does not mean you can take a garment made out of something horrible and line it with cotton and it will be OK - outer fabrics need to be touchable too.
- Care labels to be made of the same fabric as the clothing, not scratchy plastic.
- Elastic to be covered with the fabric the clothes are made of, not left to be in contact with your skin.
- Flat seams! Or even NO seams!
- For Cthulhu's sake, SOMEBODY make some bras we can wear! It is really, really, incredibly difficult to get hold of cotton bras, to the extent that I have considered making my own. And even if/when you DO find them, they are covered in non-cotton frills and lace and fripperies. And have stupid care labels made of plastic right in the middle of your back.
- Comfort and fit are much much more important than being on trend. I saw an article the other day that low slung waist trousers are coming back into fashion and actually cried.
- Moar pockets, on everything, especially women's clothes - but again, made of the same fabric as the actual clothing
- Stop saying things are "cotton touch" or "cotton feel" or "cotton rich". All this does is bugger up searching for cotton things. And actually, make your website searchable by fabric. That would be amazing.
- Would be lit sensibly, not with migraine-inducing lighting.
- Would have the afore-mentioned obvious, clear clothing labels on the shelf/rack.
- Would sort by size and colour as well as style.
- Would have assistants that wait to be approached rather than badgering you the second you enter the shop.
- Would not have music at all (many many autistic people love music, but find music that they don't like intensely irritating; whatever music you play some of us will like and some won't) and would ideally have sound baffling so that other people's conversations are not intrusive.
- Would open from (say) 12 till 8, rather than 9 to 5. Autistic people are more likely than others to have odd sleep patterns and/or working hours.
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Allow me to pose a question to you. A child tortures animals and grows up enjoying hurting people. As an adult, he now has killed five homeless people that he abducted from poor neighborhoods in his home city. Their dismembered bodies are currently buried in his basement. Which is more likely: that he is a teacher? Or that he is a teacher and he doesn’t believe in any gods?
Think it over and get your answer in mind!
That question was posed to more than 1,300 people in 13 different countries on all 5 continents in a new study published in Nature Human Behavior. Another 1,300 people were asked a very similar question, but they were asked if the man was more likely to be a teacher, or a teacher who is religious.
The scientists found that people were much more likely to associate the serial killer with atheism than with religion.
The interesting thing about that question is that it’s a brain teaser. The correct answer in both cases is that it’s more likely the man is a teacher, rather than a teacher who is an atheist OR a teacher who is religious. It’s just simple logic that there are more teachers in the world than there are teachers who are atheists, and there are more teachers in the world than there are teachers who are religious. It’s called the representativeness heuristic, a kind of logical fallacy type of deal where your brain loses track of basic logic because it wants to associate a particular cause with a particular effect. The classic example of this is to describe a woman in her 30s who has dyed hair and hipster glasses and tattoos, she’s registered as a Democrat, and she doesn’t plan to have children. Is it more likely that she’s a teacher, or a teacher and a feminist?
If you have a very strong feeling of what a feminist looks like and acts like, you may be inclined to choose the latter answer despite the fact that when you think about it, it’s obviously wrong. There are far more teachers in the world than teachers who are also feminist. So researchers use the representativeness heuristic to identify people’s biases without them necessarily realizing it.
In the case of the serial killer, people were more likely to think he was an atheist. But what’s even more surprising is that atheists were also more likely to think he was an atheist. Self-hating atheists, anyone?
When reading about this study in the New York Times, I noticed a few problems with the reporting. One was the conflation of “serial killer” with “psychopath” and “sociopath,” something that the author of the study actually does in his interview despite the fact that psychopath and sociopath are never mentioned in the actual study. Not all psychopaths are serial killers, or vice versa. As an atheist, I would be inclined to think that most psychopaths are atheist as well — not because they lack morality but because they are more analytical thinkers who lack the empathy that I think is necessary to fall for religion. That’s a personal opinion of mine, by the way, not science, though there has been some research that suggests it’s true.
But thinking that most psychopaths are atheists doesn’t mean that I think most atheists are psychopaths. (And obviously, I’d still answer the question correctly regardless because I know it’s a trick question.) And I don’t think most serial killers are atheists, simply because I don’t know or even believe that most serial killers kill out of sociopathy.
This problem also comes up in the quote from the study’s author, who says, “We used this psychopathic serial killer because we thought that, even if people didn’t trust atheists enough to let them babysit their children, they wouldn’t necessarily assume them to be serial killers.”
The New York Times then adds, “But they did — overwhelmingly.” But they didn’t! People did show a bias in thinking a serial killer was more likely to be an atheist, but this study did NOT show that anyone would “assume” atheists are serial killers. They assume serial killers are atheists. That’s still a problem of bias, but it’s not a problem as bad as assuming atheists are serial killers. It may sound minor, but in the first example you’re making an assumption about fewer than 200 people from the last 40 years. In the latter example you’re making an assumption about literally hundreds of millions of people.
What we can say is that people, especially those in more religious countries by the way, are probably more likely to think an atheist is a serial killer than a religious believer is a serial killer. The fact that even atheists have that bias shows how deeply ingrained it is. Only time, and increased public recognition of non-murdering atheists, will start to change that.
My best friend, Anna, who I’ve known for many years and love very much, is currently irritating the heck out of me and I don’t know what to do.
She hasn’t had the greatest dating history, and through the years I’ve always been there for her to give advice, be supportive or just be a shoulder to cry on.
However, lately there has been this girl she likes, and no matter how many times I encourage Anna she just wont tell her that she likes her. Instead its constant discussion about a text she sent, what picture she liked on instagram, how she tweets, so on and so forth. When she doesn’t answer a text from Anna I get a hundred texts from her freaking out about how she must be wrong and she doesn’t like her anymore and that she’ll never find anyone.
It. Drives. Me. Batty. And I feel like a terrible friend for feeling that way. From what I’ve observed theres like a 90% chance that this girl likes Anna back. But she just wont tell her that she likes her. Instead she comes to me.
My own dating history has proven to me that its better to be rejected and move on then to obsess over things. However I realize that not everyone feels that way.
If I hear about this girl’s social media usage one more time, I’m probably gonna explode. If she knew that I felt like this, Anna would feel incredibly guilty and bottle everything up, which I don’t want her to do. I just want the conversation to have a little bit of change. Theres only so many times you can comfort a friend for not having a text responded to before you don’t know what to say anymore.
Want To Be A Good Friend
Dear Want To Be A Good Friend:
I want you to take the weekend and give yourself permission to ignore all texts from Anna about The Amazing Crush Girl. Respond to anything that is not about that, ignore the rest. Mute her if you need to.
Then, I want you to tell Anna, one time, as gently as you can:
“Anna, I think you should tell ________ how you feel about her and I hope she feels the same way. If she doesn’t, she’s really missing out! But the way you are constantly monitoring her social media feeds is kinda creepy, or, at least unhealthy for you, and the way you keep texting me every detail of her posts – sometimes hundreds of texts – is not okay. Please stop sharing these details with me, I don’t like it.”
Anna’s not going to be happy with you when you say this. She’ll tell you you’re being a bad friend, why don’t you want to listen to her, you’re selfish, etc. etc. etc. There will be some kind of blow-up or argument because Anna is fixated right now and it’s like you are trying to take her favorite toy away.
Don’t argue with her if she characterizes you as selfish, uncaring, etc. It’s a ‘neg’ designed to get you to prove how caring you are by doing what she wants you to do.
Don’t try to correct the record or convince her or engage more deeply.
Your script, to whatever she says, is some version of “Okay! But are you hearing me? I don’t want to talk about Crush Girl anymore. I need you to stop texting me and filling me in on her social media activity. Can you agree to that?”
Then end the conversation pretty quickly.
The next thing she’s going to do is test your boundaries. Your job from now in is to ignore all texts about Crush Girl. Only respond to other topics, and reach out about other topics when you want to talk to her. If you gotta mute her for a while, then do it.
When you do hang out, make it very boring to talk about Crush Girl. “Hmmm….interesting…hopefully you can tell her how you feel soon. So, how ’bout those current events?”
She won’t like it, but if you keep not engaging, she will probably get it. And, I know you don’t want her to beat herself up or trigger a shame-spiral or make her feel guilty, but her behavior is not healthy or normal right now and a little bit of “what the hell am I doing?” introspection or perspective from a good friend is not the worst thing in the world?
On a related note:
Hi Captain Awkward,
Long time reader, first time writer!
I am in a polyamorous relationship with “Niles.”
Niles is also dating “Daphne.” Daphne is very sweet, but she spends a lot of time brooding about her ex and other woes. She often just disappears on Niles because her feelings about whatever is going on in her life are so intense. Their relationship currently appears to me to be on this rinse and repeat cycle of romance and withdrawal. I see Niles consistently bend and modify his behavior and needs to accommodate her and most of what he passes on to me about what they talk about is: her, her life, her needs, her feelings, and her ex.
Up until now, I have felt pretty supportive of Niles exploring things with Daphne. And to be honest I think Daphne is a really good person but…I just feel really done with hearing about this behavior cycle, I’m done with the mood shifts that go along with it, and I’m tired of watching Niles just shrink himself to fit into Daphne’s life. Niles sincerely believes that she is worthy of a relationship, and if he just stays the course, he will eventually succeed in showing her how to have a supportive and reciprocal relationship. Like okay, maybe he’s right and sees something I don’t but I dunno ….?? Seems like she’s one of those people who is an amazing person but has trouble with relationships.
Up until this point, I have been more than willing to lend an ear and advice to Niles about how all of this is going with Daphne. We’ve had a lot of deep talks about his feels and what to do and how to relate to her and all that. And now I’ve sort of arrived at this point where I feel like the training wheels have got to come off. It’s been six months of the same stuff with Daphne. He says she’s gotten better but it all smells the same to me. I am worried that I will become the outlet for stuff the two of them need to be hashing out if I haven’t already. Sometimes I worry that my emotional support of him in that dynamic might be making up for what he isn’t getting with her and that seems unfair to me.
Now that I’ve sorta reached my limit, I literally I don’t know what to say anymore to him when he says to me things like, “Oh we stayed up way past when I needed to sleep talking on the phone and I am tired and the conversation felt kinda awkward but it was sooo worth it” or “I haven’t heard from her in days but she needs space now and I’m proud of her for finally communicating her needs” or “omg she is so amazing and being with her is so perfectly wonderful… I feel so alive, I simply cannot imagine my life without her” or “she’s not romantic these days.” Obviously I’m hamming it up but only SLIGHTLY. Actually barely.
To me, that wide variety of statements seems…not good?
He and I have talked openly about how things with them are kinda weird sometimes. But he also knowingly marches on and is very intensely committed on doing so because…love.
So them’s the breaks. I respect his choices but I also want to maintain my sanity in all of this because I feel as though I’ve been looped in to everything. I want to quietly withdraw any emotional life support I have been providing for this relationship with Daphne. I love Niles and I don’t think this is really doing much for him even if he can’t see it. He knows what I think and he has acknowledged the validity of what I’m observing but…love. So pushing my opinions on him louder and with more intensity isn’t going to do anything other than create tension between us.
And truth be told, if the roles were reversed, barring actual danger to me that I couldn’t foresee, I probably wouldn’t want Niles coming at me all the time about how much my relationship with Daphne leaves to be desired…even if he was technically correct, I probably wouldn’t be able to really hear it because…love. I don’t think Niles is in any actual danger nor do I think I am.
But, despite the fact that I’m not in danger, things don’t feel neutral-to-beneficial for everyone involved anymore. To me, it feels as though their thing is draining emotional energy more than it’s contributing to it. Niles doesn’t seem to mind the one-sided nature of their relationship too much; so maybe I should stop caring about that? I care for Niles deeply so it’s really hard to not care.
Maybe the thing I should focus on is that lending emotional support for/having to interact with his relationship with Daphne feels draining to me (and to me, writing to an advice column for help counts as “expending emotional energy on the Daphne thing.”).
I wish someone could look into a crystal ball and tell me when things will change for the better. Till then, I need to figure out how to radiate “bland acceptance of the situation without endorsement.” I don’t want to get painted as that partner who “can’t polyamory” but at the same time I’m just totally over the Daphne thing. I also need to figure out reasonable boundaries and ways to cope with the awkwardness in solo interactions with Niles about Daphne, with Daphne by herself, and the three of us.
Straight Outta Fucks to Give
Dear Straight Outta Fucks:
What would happen if you said something like this to Niles, the next time your time together becomes completely overrun with Daphne-talk:
- “Hey Niles, let me interrupt you – I’ve sort of reached my limit for talking about Daphne and the ups and downs y’all are having right now. But I’m glad to see you! Let’s talk about something else!”
- “Niles, you’re probably not doing this on purpose, but it feels like all our time together is spent talking about your relationship with Daphne. I’m starting to get pretty uncomfortable with it, and I’d like you to find a different sounding board for your ups and downs with her.“
- “The time for talking about Daphne and her feelings is on your dates with Daphne. Right now you’re on a date with me. I’m going to go get a glass of water, do you need anything?“
- “Niles, I don’t really care about Daphne or her exes or her feelings about the world. I’ve been trying to be supportive and a good listener, but when does it end?“
- “Niles, this sounds like a conversation to have with Daphne. I’m not really interested in knowing more.”
- “Hey Niles, sounds like this thing with Daphne is really occupying your thoughts. Maybe we should reschedule our date for another time when we can focus on the two of us?“
- “Huh, what do you think you’ll do about that?”
Would the world end?
Is Niles so fragile that he cannot hear the word “no” about this topic?
Would he use your “no” to accuse you of not really caring about him, like, how dare you not be interested in something so important to him?
Would he accuse you of being jealous of Daphne?
Is it worth finding out to never have to hear about her again?
There’s something in here about emotional labor and fairness and balance and time. To me, he is sucking up all the time he spends with you asking you to do emotional labor and listen to him and comfort him and counsel him about another girl he’s in love with. Is that cool with you? I know you’re worried about appearing jealous, but if we changed “jawing about Daphne” to “Reading the 1972 Encyclopedia Brittanica aloud” it would still be uncool of Niles to do if you indicated you aren’t interested. Obviously when we partner with someone, we all agree to a certain amount of “if it interests you a lot I guess it can interest me at least a little bit” but maintaining that deal requires good faith and self-awareness on both sides. Where is it inscribed that Thou Shalt Let Thy Partners Monologue Forever About Shit That Bores You Without Interruption? (Hint: I don’t think that is written anywhere). And, say you were jealous of how much energy he spends on Daphne and how much he expects you to give a shit about her. Where is it written that you can never feel jealous, or pissed off, or annoyed when someone takes you for granted?
He could tell a friend, or a therapist, or a diary, or howl it at the moon. It doesn’t have to be you, at the expense of your own enjoyment of your relationship.
So, here are my suggestions:
- Who else are you dating outside of the Niles/Daphne sphere? Throw some love and time and energy into that person or people and give yourself some breathing room from Niles. And, go hang out with friends and family. Nurture all of your relationships, not just Niles. He sounds kinda annoying right now and maybe some space will help him work it all out.
- Speak directly to Niles and tell you that you were once happy to hear about Daphne but you think it’s crossed a line and now you’d like him to stop.
- Make it very boring for him to talk about Daphne with you. Him: :Big dramatic Daphne tale.: You: “Huh. Interesting. I got new dish towels, did you notice them? They really tie the room together.” Do not let him endlessly process this with you.
- Treat Daphne with a normal amount of polite friendliness but maybe keep it at arms length? It’s not her fault that you know all of her business, and I think what you have here is a Niles problem vs. a Daphne problem, but if you’re not close now maybe you’re not meant to be.
- Do the three of you need to hang out right now? I’d be a hard pass about that, like, “Have fun, you two, I’m busy!” You asked when things might get better, and I don’t know, but they kinda suck right now, so believe the suck until you see something different.
I would want to know if I were stretching someone’s listening capacity to its limit, wouldn’t you? Not everyone wants that information – “Anna” and “Niles” probably don’t right now because they don’t want anything that will break the spell of the crushes they are involved in – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be said. Directness is kindness here.
Moderator note: Please spell out the whole word – polyamorous, polyamory – vs. the abbreviation”poly” here in the future. For more context, read this. It’s been brewing for a while and it’ s time to make it official CaptainAwkward.com comment policy moving forward. We’re not changing old threads, and we’re also not debating the change in comments, so if you disagree with the change or have feelings about it you can process it in the forums or your own webspace. Thank you!
I have a friend (I’ll call him “Dave”) whom I haven’t seen in person in years, but am still in touch with on social media. Several months ago, he messaged me to tell me that he liked me and would like to go on a date sometime. I didn’t know him very well at the time, but I liked him enough to at least give him a chance. Though the date never happened, we did message each other regularly for a while.
I’m very involved in local theater (we met doing a show together, actually–I’ve stuck with theater since then and he hasn’t), and he mentioned at one point that he’d like to see me in a play sometime. I had just been cast in a show at the community theater in the town where we both live, so I gave him the details for that.
Well, it eventually became apparent that Dave is not a guy I’m interested in dating. I don’t think he’s a bad person; I’m just not attracted to him. At all. When I told him this, he put on the whole “but I just want to be friends, can’t we just talk and hang out as FRIENDS?” act. He then continued to keep sending flirty messages while denying that he was flirting. (“Can’t I tell my friend she’s pretty?” “Can’t I let my friend know when I’m thinking about her?”) I stopped responding to his messages and blocked him from viewing everything I post.
Now the aforementioned community theater play I’m in is just a few weeks away from opening, and I’m very worried that he’s going to show up. (I am very annoyed at my past self for telling him I was in it!) Anyone can buy a ticket, so I can’t exactly tell him he can’t come. At this theater, the actors always do a little meet-and-greet with the audience after the show, so if he does come I’m going to have to interact with him. My anxiety about this is sort of ruining what would otherwise be a really fun and exciting thing. What do I do? Help me, Captain!
Exit, Pursued by Creepy Dude (She, her)
This sucks and I’m sorry, but (good news!) you don’t have to interact with him if he shows up and you don’t have to suffer in silence or in secret.
Talk to the theater and to your friends at the theater. “I had an acquaintance who had a crush on me. He got a little stalker-y and wouldn’t take no for an answer, I’m afraid he’s gonna come to the show. He might not come, but it would make me feel more comfortable if we could put some safety measures in place just in case.” Ask the theater what they’ve done about situations like this in the past. Ask the box office to let you know if “Dave” buys a ticket in advance. You’ll still be freaked out and upset that day if you know he’s coming, but you’ll know what’s coming and you can tell the stage manager that you’ll be nope-ing right out of the post-show meet & greet that night.
If he shows up spontaneously, you can still handle it especially if you have the stage manager & fellow cast & crew to help you. Decide on a code word. You can say the code word if you spot him, and they can enthusiastically meet & greet him – all cheerful and friendly – without raising a fuss while you slip out the side door.
Dave, if you’re out there reading this, nobody wants you to go to that show and everybody sees through your wisp of plausible deniability for your pushy behavior. SHE DOESN’T LIKE YOU.
Letter Writer, I’m wishing you a good show, free of having to see this dude.
This is a good callback to the discussion about persistence from earlier this week. If someone is saying no to you, and you keep pushing, it’s not just a “missed connection.” It can start to become a fear/safety issue very quickly. Is Dave dangerous? I don’t know for sure, but he’s demonstrated that he doesn’t take “no” for an answer, so he’s made danger part of the Letter Writer’s calculus and ruined what should be a fun thing.
WASHINGTON—His skin already starting to bubble, newly dismissed White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon reportedly smiled and said “My work here is done” on Friday before bursting into millions of spores. “Now that I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do, it’s time for me to go,” said a contented Bannon moments before exploding into a cloud of millions of tiny black particles that swirled out the Oval Office window. “Just know that, if ever you need me, call my name into the wind and I will appear. Goodbye, my friends! Goodbye!” At press time, any White House staffers that had inhaled the Bannon spores were dying in agony as the spores began sprouting in their brains.
source is in vegetable state
no but really. bannon got axed today
In the days since the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, there has been a new addition to the online/social-media meta-discourse on the problem of protected political speech in the context of the open and ongoing resurgence of white nationalism and Nazi iconography in American politics. It is a series of memes based on Karl Popper’s idea of the “Paradox of Tolerance,” which he introduced in his 1945 work of political philosophy entitled The Open Society and Its Enemies. Most of the memes are of the usual text-on-photo style, but there is also a popular cartoon version, which I’ll reproduce below:
Most of the memes paraphrase or otherwise do not include the full text of the relevant passage for reasons of space, but since it is relatively short I will also reproduce it here:
Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.—In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right to not tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal. 
The appeal of this passage to those seeking philosophical justification for suppressing the political rights of Nazis and white nationalists (who, after all, are practically the definition of intolerance), should be obvious.
But while Popper might at first seem to be providing a clever loophole in the traditional arguments around free speech that would allow only the most dangerous ideas and ideologies to be censored or otherwise suppressed, he has in fact only managed to disguise the problem by shifting the goalposts. Even if we answer the question of “what kind of political speech should be suppressed” with “intolerant speech,” we are still left with the same old problem wherein the arbiters of what kinds of ideologies are considered “intolerant” and worthy of suppression will inevitably be those who operate the levers of state power.
Given the current political situation in the US, where Republicans control all three branches of the federal government and the vast majority of state governments, there is simply no reason to think they will use that power in ways the left find agreeable or just. Quite the opposite: right-wing critics of Islam have already invoked Popper to justify further abrogating the rights of Muslims, and Republican and alt-right media personalities and provocateurs have spent years painting the left as “regressive” and “intolerant” of other viewpoints, sometimes violently so.
The actual merits of any case for one group being more intolerant than another are unfortunately immaterial in the larger context; once the meta-argument is conceded that intolerance justifies suppression, the targets of the oppression will depend more on who is in power than how intolerant their ideology might actually be.
This is the other half of the paradox, and why Popper includes all that softening language that doesn’t make it into the memes: it is preferable to keep toxic ideas in check with argument and public opinion precisely because the last resort of trying suppress them by force can also prove very dangerous to an open society. In an important sense, once you get to the point where neither argument nor public opinion can keep a dangerous and intolerant ideology in check, you have already lost.
 Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, ed. Alan Ryan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 513.
I love to procrastinate. Actually, no. I hate it. But my brain is just SO good at getting me into that mode. So I totally understand if you are just now realizing that one of the biggest astronomical events of a lifetime is happening just a few days from now.
If you’re not already tuned in to all things astronomy, or maybe if you’ve just been super busy, you’re now getting bombarded with messages to protect your eyes for the big solar eclipse happening Monday, August 21st. At least that’s the case if you’re anywhere in the contiguous United States.
Like all good procrastinators, you went right to Amazon to take advantage of your Prime shipping, but everyone is out of stock of eclipse glasses, or they are being sold at outrageous prices.
That doesn’t mean you are out of options! When online shopping falls through, sometimes you just have to suck it up and go to an actual physical store. I know, I know, but you can totally do this. I don’t have any first hand reports of what store stocks are like right now, but I know several retailers such as Lowe’s were carrying reputable eclipse glasses. I’ve been sending everyone I know to the American Astronomical Society solar viewer resource page, so check through your local stores and see if they still have any. If they are out, it might be a long shot, but call your local libraries, as many had glasses to give out for free. NASA also has a list of a bunch of their official viewing locations that will be giving out eclipse glasses as well. But hurry… my campus library went through my stash of free glasses in less than 6 hours, and the students aren’t even back.
Why do you need special glasses? The sun is REALLY REALLY bright, and you can indeed do damage to your eyes looking at it. It’s not just visible light that can hurt your vision, but infrared and ultraviolet, too, so these films are specially made to protect your eyes from all of that. And this goes a million times extra if you plan to use any kind of magnifying device (like binoculars or a telescope) to view the event. There’s special equipment for that as well.
But here’s the thing. If you’re NOT on the path of totality, the Moon will take a good while (2 and a half hours for my friends back in New Hampshire, for example) to cross the Sun. So it is okay to share glasses with a friend if you don’t mind taking turns. While your buddy is using the viewer, you can play with one of several fun projection methods for looking at the Sun indirectly.
Another way to deal with your own lack of eclipse gear is to go to a local public event. Libraries, museums, observatories, science centers, astronomy clubs, and more all over the continent are hosting viewing parties, and you can find several maps of events here. Chances are good that at once of these, not only will you get to use someone’s eclipse gear for a quick peek, you’ll get an educational experience from a real live astronomy geek!
What if you’re not satisfied with a partial eclipse? You want FULL totality. There is a narrow band across the US that will experience a total solar eclipse, and a LOT of people will want to be on it. Towns and counties are bracing for major gridlock, and hotels have been booked for months. On the bright side, you can make a killing on Airbnb if you’re near the eclipse path. I’ve had my plans set for months, but I still plan on filling my rental car with lots of food, water, gas, and emergency supplies before hitting the road super early in the morning to get to my destination. Check out these money saving tips for eclipse travelers and driving trips from AAA if you decide to venture to totality.
At the end of the day, no one can plan the weather. I’m nervously looking at the “partly cloudy” forecast for my own viewing location, but there’s one thing to remember… make the best of the trip. There might be clouds, traffic, and equipment failures, and we can plan all we can to enjoy those few precious moments of totality. But some things are just out of our hands.
Maybe you didn’t plan for a “once”-in-a-lifetime eclipse viewing trip this time around. Well, lucky you, since the total solar eclipse will be revisiting North America in less than 7 years! Take that, lifetime. Mark your calendars now for April 8, 2024, and maybe do a bit of advanced planning for that one.
Most of all, have fun, be safe, and protect your eyes. Unless you’re a nazi…
Check out the most recent episode of “Just Admit I’m Right” where I join our fearless leader Rebecca Watson and Ken Plume to discuss eclipse plans and playlists. Also, see my earlier post of eclipse resources on One Astronomer’s Noise.
EDIT: On level five, come up in lifts 2 and 3
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX near Waterloo station, 17th August, 12pm onwards. Please note slight change of location, same as last month – Green Bar rather than Blue, e.g. same thing as the previous location but the opposite side. Also please note we are starting an hour later than normal.
Bad book swap! Please bring any book you think is bad, for any reason (too purple, too few vampires, etc.) and swap it for someone else’s bad book. Or just come and chat with us.
The venue sell food in a cafe (standard sandwiches etc.), but they also don’t mind people bringing food in from outside. There are several other local places where you can buy stuff as well. The excellent food market outside has loads of different food options, which can fit most food requirements, or you can also bring a packed lunch.
Meet on the fourth floor, outside the Green Bar (go up in lift 1, sadly not as musical as lift 7).
Here is the accessibility map of the Royal Festival Hall: PDF map
I have shoulder length brown hair and glasses, and I will bring my plush Cthuhlu, which looks like this:
The venue is accessible via a lift, and has accessible toilets. Waterloo tube station has step free access on the Jubilee line but not on the Northern line.
The London Awkward group has a Facebook page, which is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/
My email is Kate DOT Towner AT Gmail DOT com
(September meetup will be the 16th.)
President Donald Trump on Tuesday introduced a new nemesis to join the “fake news” media, Crooked Hillary, and Mexican rapists: the alt-left. “What about the alt-left?” Trump raged at a press conference at Trump Tower, seething over demands that he condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.”
We shouldn’t be surprised that Trump is unwilling to blame white supremacists for the fatal violence that struck Charlottesville on August 12, even when one of their cohort murdered an innocent woman, Heather Heyer, who was protesting their presence in her city. We shouldn’t be surprised because his every deed and utterance has shown that he either holds similar views or is merely content to let them flourish. Nor should we be surprised by his use of the term “alt-left.” The only way he can excuse the actions of violent racists is to create a false equivalence. The press, Trump rambled, had treated the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “very unfairly.”
But we should be at least partly surprised by the origins of this misleading and corrosive term. It is beloved by the likes of Sean Hannity and former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who have used it to denigrate Trump’s opponents. And it has also been popularized—and legitimized—by red-baiting liberals who fear the rise of a progressive populist movement.
Unlike the term “alt-right,” which was coined by white supremacists to give their age-old movement a modern edge, the “alt-left” is an insult. As my colleague Clio Chang wrote in March of liberals who choose to use the term: “A graver sin is the adoption of a term that was created by conservatives to smear the left and discredit criticisms of the growing clout of the racist right.”
It should go without saying, but the left does not promote hate crimes or commit them. It does not strive for an ethno-state. It is explicitly anti-racist and feminist. It demands the redistribution of wealth. You may find that terrifying, but it’s not actually terrorism. And when a horde of white supremacists overran Charlottesville with their tiki torches and Confederate flags, the left was at the front lines, defending everyone else’s right to freedom. A member of the left died for those rights.
But if you pay attention to a number of prominent liberals and Democrats, you would think the American left poses some existential threat to the United States. Here’s Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, the most influential Democratic policy shop in the United States:
I remember last summer when I pointed out Russia's role in leaking/ the elections and the alt-left attacked me for McCarthyism. #backwards— Neera Tanden🖖🏼 (@neeratanden) February 14, 2017
Here’s The Nation’s Joan Walsh:
At what point do some of these guys become the alt-left, a less toxic but still racially blinkered version of the alt-right?— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) August 13, 2016
Here’s Tom Watson, founder of CauseWired, a consulting firm that allegedly “helps organizations inspire people to support causes that change the world:”
The marginalization of the mean and clueless alt left - and their dawning realization of it - is a small upside of our national predicament.— Tom Watson (@tomwatson) November 14, 2016
Here’s Joy Ann Reid, the host of MSNBC’s AM Joy:
"Alt left" -- well done. Perfect descriptor. https://t.co/KQtX39fQDX— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) August 16, 2016
And here’s Eric Boehlert of Shareblue, the social media network that was created by David Brock to help lead the online resistance to Trump:
ha. JFK had family net worth of $1B when he was sworn in--too bad today's alt Left wasn't around to deny him nomination https://t.co/2SoSOc4pVV— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) April 30, 2017
aka, when the Far Right and Far Left converge on messaging https://t.co/sIeExqW0GB— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) June 5, 2017
prediction: by 2020 far Left will be openly denouncing Obama as loudly as they denounced Bill Clinton last year https://t.co/AmwDRHd3GV— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) May 1, 2017
Liberals often use “alt-left” to describe progressives they consider rude or with whom they have Twitter beef; it is personal animus disguised as politics. James Wolcott, writing in Vanity Fair in March, captured the general spirit of disdain and irritation:
Disillusionment with Obama’s presidency, loathing of Hillary Clinton, disgust with “identity politics,” and a craving for a climactic reckoning that will clear the stage for a bold tomorrow have created a kinship between the ‘alt-right’ and an alt-left. They’re not kissin’ cousins, but they caterwaul some of the same tunes in different keys.
The events of Charlottesville should clarify that the only tune the so-called alt-left is singing is that it hates fascists. And yet Markos Moulitsas, founder of what is supposed to be one of the most progressive blogs in the world, decided to regurgitate red-baiting canards the very day a white supremacist killed a counter-protester:
And many on the Left WANTED this. https://t.co/gkNIlbvWbW— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) August 12, 2017
Anyone still pretending last year's election was about "economic anxiety" anymore? I mean, outside of the alt-left that is.— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) August 13, 2017
The function of the term “alt-left” is to collapse the distinction between the activist left and the racist right. That’s why reactionaries like Sean Hannity use it. That’s why Donald Trump has taken it up. We are likely to hear a lot more about the alt-left in the coming months and years—and if liberals continue to use it, they will be doing the right-wing’s work.
So it is time for the entire left to permanently retire the term. It insults the dead and the work the left is doing to stop the rise of fascism in our country. It serves the cause of the right wing, amplifying its noxious tactics of delegitimization. These liberals have invested a lot of energy in an effort to discredit anyone sitting to their left. They are so furious, so disturbed by the emergence of this invigorated movement, that they paint them with the brush of fascism—even while the very people they vilify are on the streets fighting the Ku Klux Klan. In so doing, they have served the purposes of Donald Trump and no one else.
With hundreds of activists facing felony charges, critics say Trump has emboldened authorities across the United States.
Yvette Felarca, right, has been charged with a felony over riots in Sacramento last June [File: Eric Risberg/Associated Press]
After being hit in the head and stabbed in the arm during clashes with white supremacists at the California State Capitol in Sacramento last June, Yvette Felarca was defiant in an interview with local television news.
"Everyone who came here today ... came here united with one goal, and that's to shut down the Nazi scum. And we did that," said Felarca, a 47-year-old anti-fascist activist, with a bloodied bandage plastered to the side of her head.
"They are not nonviolent. They are organising to attack and kill us," she said of the white supremacists. "So, we have a right to self-defence ... that is why we have to shut them down by any means necessary."
The brawls that took place on June 26, 2016, had erupted as more than 300 activists protested against a white supremacist rally organised by the Traditionalist Worker Party and the Golden State Skinheads, both labelled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Last month, Felarca, a middle school teacher whose legal name is Yvonne, became one of hundreds of anti-fascists, leftists and anarchists currently facing felony charges across the country when police arrested her after she exited a flight in Los Angeles. More than a year after the Sacramento violence, she has been charged with felony assault likely to inflict bodily damage and a pair of misdemeanour charges related to rioting. Altogether, she could face up to six years behind bars and $12,000 in fines. Felarca is an organiser with By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a militant left-wing civil rights group that called for that counterprotest along with other anti-fascist groups in northern California.
'Policy of targeting anti-fascists'
Although anti-fascists accounted for six of the seven people who were stabbed in last summer's free-for-all at the capitol, only one of the four people arrested in relation to the incident was a white supremacist, court documents show.
Several protesters were hospitalised after the June 2016 Sacramento riots [File: Steven Styles/Associated Press]
Felony charges were also issued to counterprotesters Michael Williams of the Brown Berets, a pro-Chicano group, and Porfirio Paz and to white supremacist William Scott Daley, who was detained in Colorado Springs after putting an anti-Semitic sticker on a local synagogue.
Shanta Driver, BAMN's national organiser and Felarca's lawyer, said the arrests were "politically motivated", arguing that "there is a policy of targeting anti-fascists" across the country.
"In Sacramento, the police allowed knife-wielding fascists on the grounds of the State Capitol and stood by doing nothing when the fascists stabbed Yvette and other anti-fascist protesters," she told Al Jazeera by email.
In a statement, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office said it had considered issuing arrest warrants for 101 individuals believed to have been involved in the riots, but that it could only charge individuals "whose conduct represented the most egregious offences" due to a lack of evidence. After the four arrests were made, there were no more outstanding warrants, the statement said, explaining that the office was unable to successfully link anyone to the stabbings. Contacted by Al Jazeera, the office declined to provide further comment.
'A giant message'
In nearby Berkeley, the Federal Bureau of Investigations is investigating violent protests that led to the cancellation of a speech at the University of California - Berkeley by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos in February.
Writing on Twitter at the time, US President Donald Trump threatened to pull federal funds to the university if action wasn't taken.
Kim Kelly, a journalist and a member of the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) press collective, said that police, district attorneys and other authorities have been emboldened to stifle anti-Trump protest movements since the president's election.
Meanwhile, Kelly argues, the government has not carried out a similar campaign against those on the far right or the alt-right, a loosely knit coalition that includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis. "It'd be an insult to Janus to refer to the situation as two-faced; rather, let's call it what it is, state-sanctioned repression tactics," she told Al Jazeera.
Since Trump's election, dozens of anti-protest bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, many of which seek to introduce harsher penalties for actions such as blocking traffic or to make it illegal to wear a mask in public.
"That ensuing wave of anti-protest legislation that broke across the country was another harbinger of what was to come, as were the continued arrests of anti-fascist protesters at political demonstrations and the administration's own threatening postures towards free speech, free assembly, and dissent in general," Kelly added.
In Washington, DC, nearly 200 people - among them activists, legal observers, medics and a pair of reporters - are facing upwards of 70 years in prison after being issued a slew of felony charges related to their presence at an anti-fascist march against Trump's inauguration on January 20.
"You can basically have your future seriously compromised by felony convictions."
Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep
On June 7, a group of 16 defendants appeared before a judge in New Orleans, Louisiana, over their alleged involvement in riots on the night of Trump's inauguration. Described by the local police superintendent as anarchists, the defendants are each facing at least one felony charge and misdemeanour counts of inciting a riot and wearing masks in public, according to local media reports.
Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep, said the Inauguration Day arrestees - known as the J20 defendants - represent a concerted government crackdown on anti-fascist and anti-Trump activists.
"That case sends a giant message to anti-fascist and anti-Trump activists that if you participate in a protest you can be held responsible for anything that might occur and subjected to some 75 years in prison," he told Al Jazeera. "You can basically have your future seriously compromised by felony convictions."
And last month, activists in Virginia delivered a complaint to the Charlottesville Police Department accusing officers of surveilling and arresting left-wing activists in advance of far-right rallies.
'Trifecta of repression'
Referring to the "definite surge" in anti-fascist activism taking place in the United States right now, Ross said that activists face a "trifecta of repression" from the far rightists fighting them in the streets, the police and the government.
"I think that it's a testament to people's bravery that, after the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements, they're so willing to stand up again to the violence of fascism that has emerged," he said.
Community members and activists have rallied in support of the Sacramento defendants [Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press]
Ross argued that the far right understands the US government has not identified it as a threat in the same way it has anti-fascists.
Mike Peinovich, an alt-right activist who also goes by the name Mike Enoch and founded The Right Stuff podcast network, recently praised Trump for "giving us the space to destroy".
"We have to use these four years to grow into something that can't be defeated," Peinovich said on the "Fash the Nation" podcast programme, referring to the increasingly vocal and violent far-right movement.
He went on to laud Steven Bannon, a top Trump strategist who used to be the executive director of Breitbart News, who he said "wants us (the alt-right) to be able to operate in that space".
Back in Sacramento, the local Antifa (anti-fascist) group condemned the arrest of Felarca, Williams and Paz. "This persecution is an attempt by the state to silence our movement, to silence dissent against the fascist creep," the statement reads.
BAMN's Driver insisted that measures to crack down on anti-Trump dissent will only serve to galvanise activists. "The movement against Trump and the fascists has shown a lot of strength and will continue to grow," she said.
Dear People Who March To Protect Our History,
I’m sorry to hear that some of you have been caught up with a bad crowd. The President of the USA himself has made it clear – as well as the white supremacists and KKK, there were good people marching to honour the history of the Confederacy in Virginia, standing up for the right to remember the past and the brave people who fought and died in it. I getcha – seriously. Britain is full of statues to charmers like Cecil Rhodes and other bastions of racism, and people as passionate as you also get annoyed when we try to take ’em down. You want people to remember, not forget. To pay attention to our past and where we came from, even if – perhaps especially if! – that past happens to be full of people who believe that if you are black, you are not human. You don’t believe that, because it would obscene and you’re a good person, but people did, and these things happened, and shaped who we are, and frankly we’re all grown-ups, right? And anyway, history is nothing if not seen through the lens of the modern era.
… and I know this is awkward…
… was there a moment, defenders of the diversity of historiographical discourse, when you looked round at your companions and thought “wow. That guy’s got a swastika, and I don’t think it’s in a groovy Hindu way”?
Or maybe even: “Hum, these guys seem to be carrying burning torches through the centre of the town in order to march to a statue in honour of a man who was the leading light of a government which, yes, did go to war over economic inequality but also significantly went to war for the right to own black people like an old china teaset… I wonder if this is a bit of iconography that harks back the KKK instead of, say, a nice candlelit vigil in honour of peace and brotherhood and historiography? Because DUDE, I’m clearly here for the historiography of the thing, but being as I am so savvy about this shit I just wonder whether this might not send the wrong vibe and is in fact a deliberate attempt to intimidate and reinforce old cultural ideas of violence and oppression?”
Presumably at this point, you went away, to reconsider your choices.
And besides, you’re there for history, not pepper spray! You know from your studies that violence only deepens division, especially when those divides are constructs put in place to control and oppress.
You understand certain key truths – that we study history to learn from it, yes, but also to define who we are now and who we want to be in the future. Marxists look at history and see the oppression of the many by the few and the gross injustice and violence inherent in a privileged minority maintaining its control. Brits who marched to protect the statue of Cecil Rhodes might, say, look at the history of the British Empire and see it as a civilizing mission that brought railways, bureaucracy and economic growth to the world. Post-colonialists might look at it and see it as both a physical and cultural genocide, in which peoples, languages and histories were annihilated because ultimately, we British were superior white people, and we knew best, and that’s how cricket goes.
So you get that the past has shaped your present identity. You even see how that might help shape the future – how, for example, the right might look at the past and say “there will never be equality and we are not one human race, violence and domination are our lifeblood WELCOME TO THE HUNGER GAMES”; whereas the left might go “look at the Enlightenment look at humanitarianism look at how much better we’re doing on ideas of justice, globalism, feminism and diversity! Maybe one day Star Trek can come true AND I WANNA BE THE FIRST TO BE BEAMED UP YAY!!”
Unfortunately at this juncture, as you walk briskly away from the racists with their tiki torches and anti-Semetic chanting, you might have to start to wonder exactly what it is you’re actually defending, and what world it is you wanna live in when all is said and done.
Because right now, you’re not actually standing up for the right of history to be remembered. Boy will it be remembered! It will be remembered and studied – libraries are the best. Museums rock. History is for all, it is the story that shapes who we think we are, and unlike say, several centuries of genocide against the Native Americans, or the British massacres of peoples in Malaysia, Kenya, China, India, Egypt, Australia, South Africa… anyway, it’s not a short list…. the American Civil War is definitely getting cultural air time.
Nah… what you’re doing is standing up for the right for certain people in history, and their ideas, to be honoured. Because a statue isn’t a library book. A statue is a monument to an ideal. And the ideal of Robert E. Lee, much like the ideal of Rhodes, is one in which white people are superior, and there’s this fantastical ‘Anglo-Saxon culture’ that is under threat from terrible onslaughts like the music of Bob Marley, or the use of cumin in cooking, or women. Especially women with dark skin, and like… their voices. Saying stuff like ‘equal pay would be good and hands off my body without my consent’. World-shattering shit that your Anglo-Saxon ancestors would like, totally have beheaded people for, like real men. Not these prancing liberal homosexuals with their individualism, sense of self-worth and commitment to people they love, genitalia and all. Real goddamn men. WITH BEARDS AND AXES AND SHIT.
But hey, let’s say you’re not someone who’s identity is constructed entirely out of negatives, by being more than him and smarter than her and sexier than everyone else or whatever it is that gives you self-worth. Maybe you feel like you’re standing up for something else. Maybe you feel you’re standing up for a ideal of something you’ve invested in the Confederacy flag, like independence, resilience, respect… you know, nice stuff.
Except dudes. Again, being as you are awesome good people who just happened to find yourselves marching with a bit of a mixed crowd, you’re probably savvy enough to know that the Southern States have produced enough amazing people, leaders and ideas since 1865 that if you wanted to honour these qualities, you could probably find an alternative outlet for this that doesn’t involve defending slavery. Hell – Ella Fitzgerald is from Virginia, if you wanna get awesome and regional. Or you can go the abstract route – there are ways of respecting brave people who died, without going ‘and whoop slavery!’
Point is, by now you’re probably feeling pretty uncomfortable, because the thought should really have hit you by now that statues honour ideas, whereas history studies them. And the idea that is being honoured through the image of racists isn’t a groovy one. Is your contention that Robert E. Lee was misunderstood? It’s hard to mis-understand four years of warfare in which tens of thousands of people died in a cause that had ‘slavery’ plastered on the wall. As signals go, it’s a biggy.
So yeah. I’m really sorry to hear that you’ve got yourself in this pickle, good people who marched for history. I can see how you might be feeling confused.
Thankfully! As monuments to oppression, racism and violence are toppled, you can still stand up for the ideas you actually believe in. Ideals of shared knowledge, of discourse and debate, of learning from the past and using that understanding, that study of who we were and who we have become, to help create a future that is better than what went before. We have the tools of learning; we have the framework for minds to meet and share their thoughts, changing and growing with each other, and not one of them requires you to bring your own kerosene, though I grant you in Oxford they’ll still ask you to wear peculiar robes.
We have schools, libraries, universities and books.