Pluralistic: 07 Feb 2021

Today's links

The FBI has never heard of me (permalink)

Back in January, I got a very odd call from an FBI Special Agent, who wanted to discuss a blog post I'd written summarizing a Popular Mechanics article on the physics of monument toppling, having received a complaint about it.

Thankfully, I have access to some of the very best civil liberties lawyers in the nation, namely my colleagues at EFF. Andrew Mackey, an EFF lawyer who specializes in this kind of thing, had a talk with the agent, who agreed that I'd broken no laws and dropped the matter.

Aaron did one better. He helped me draft a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI along with a demand that my record there be expunged, as is my right under settled precedent.

To their credit, the FBI responded very quickly to this written request! Within days, I had a letter back from them.

To their shame, the FBI responded by saying they had NO records at all of this incident, so there was nothing further I could do.

Now, this is obviously a lie. FBI agents make records of complaints, of their assessment of complaints, of the calls they make to follow up on the complaint, and of their assessment of those calls, It is inconceivable that this incident generated no records.

But this is par for the course for the Bureau, which routinely flouts transparency law with these kinds of responses. Now, Aaron helped me prepare an appeals letter, which points all of this out and strongly reminds them that responding to requests like mine isn't optional.

As with my initial FOIA letter, I'm posting this appeal so that others can refer to it when making their own appeals in similar situations. I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice, but it's a good place to start.

Compared to climate denial, Qanon is benign (permalink)

"Serious" figures on the right say that presence of an open Qanon conspiracist in the GOP Congressional caucus represents a crossroads for Republicans: does the party support reality-based policies, or will it surrender to unhinged conspiracies?

Says John Quiggin: the right surrendered a generation ago, when it embraced climate change denial: "all the governments in the world, backed up by every major scientific institution, were advancing a fraudulent theory of global warming."

This position wasn't merely something party bosses threw at low-information voters, either: the intellectual, libertarian wing of the party, like Cato's Pat Michaels, advanced an explicit, conspiratorial account of the climate emergency.

" … it’s not the science determining how much it’s going to warm. A lot of people don’t know this, but it happens to be true, and you know, we could speculate as to why that paper was published right before the 2016 election? I wouldn’t want to impute causation, but gee …"

"So now, the academy roots for anything that is big government that it feels it can tie onto to maintain this relationship. The roots of political correctness, there are many, manifold and varied. But one of them certainly was the enslavement of the academy."

As Quiggin points out, climate denial is far more consequential, unhinged and reality-denying that Qanon. Qanon, stop the steal, etc at least posit that there's a conspiracy in service to a massive, ambitious goal, stealing a nation or a planet.

"By contrast, Michaels wants an equally expansive conspiracy with tens of thousand of particpants (including lots of rightwing governments), whose object is – the establishment of an emissions trading scheme?"

Colophon (permalink)

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 500 words (107753 total).

  • A short story, "Jeffty is Five," for The Last Dangerous Visions. Friday's progress: 301 words (3747 total).

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 30)

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla