March 21, 2018

I vehemently disapprove of myself for clicking on "A stunning leak rattles Trump and his aides."

I knew it was hype/fake, but I was overcome by curiosity about the details. Don't do that! I hate to compound the error of clicking by linking, but I will. It's Axios.

The "stunning leak" was the information that Trump was advised not to congratulate Putin on his election victory. The leak went to the Washington Post, which published what to me is a nonstory: "Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway."

Axios seems to have a leak about the leak:
The speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration, as aides reeled from a leak that could only have come from a small group of people, each of whom is trusted with sensitive national secrets....
Are they really reeling or do they just want to create the factoid that Trump did it on his own? In which case it's not really a leak at all. For all I know, Trump himself divulged that his aides told him not to congratulate Putin... and maybe that was a lie. This is why I consider it a nonstory. The whole thing is a phantom.

"Police say a video from the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman on Sunday shows her moving in front of it suddenly

"... a factor that investigators are likely to focus on as they assess the performance of the technology in the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle. The Uber had a forward-facing video recorder, which showed the woman was walking a bike at about 10 p.m. and moved into traffic from a dark center median. 'It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode,' Sylvia Moir, the police chief in Tempe, Arizona [said]... 'The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,' Moir said, referring to the backup driver who was behind the wheel but not operating the vehicle. 'His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.'"

Bloomberg reports.

"My intention is not to kill people. I am doing this simply because I want to watch the world burn."

"It's not race-related like the media has speculated... I also enjoy laughing at the massive police presence that just simply cannot find or deanonymize me."

Wrote a Reddit user, claiming to be the Austin bomber. But he said he was "30-50 years old," so I guess he was just a random agent of chaos, since the Austin bomber who blew himself up as the SWAT team closed in was a 24-year-old man.

At first, I thought "deanonymize" was a bad misspelling of "demonize" and then the word "dean" dominated my thinking before I got to "-anonym-" and figured it out. Tech talk.

"Poynter receives $3 million from Google to lead program teaching teens to tell fact from fiction online."

Poynter reports... truthfully, I hope! How would I know? I've never been subjected to corporate-sponsored lie-detection instruction. But I have developed, over more than half a century, my own approach to feeling suspicious, looking closely, thinking, and testing. So the first thing I'd do here is notice who's paying for this and speculate about why.
“Our research has shown that students need help navigating the sea of digital information that they encounter every day. We are excited to embark on this initiative to create classroom-ready materials that will prepare students to confront the challenges of a digital society,” said Sam Wineburg, founder of the Stanford History Education Group and Margaret Jacks Professor of Education at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.
Note the opposition between the "sea of... information" and "classroom-ready materials." There is concern that students get on the internet and look all over the place, following their own interests and finding their own paths. They're no longer limited to the packaged information of mainstream media, so let's at least give them packaged materials about how to face life at sea.
Poynter will launch a fact-checking venture in which teens will work with professional journalists to sort out fact vs. fiction on the internet. Poynter’s fact-checking franchise, which includes the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, will collaborate on the project, applying key findings that grew out of Stanford’s research on how teens consume news. The work of the teen fact-checkers to debunk misinformation will be presented on numerous online and social media platforms, and it will be heavily visual, including extensive use of graphics and other creative means to reach teens wherever they are consuming news.
Oh! The teens will be the fact-checkers, and their work will be appropriated into the Poynter fact-checking enterprise. This seems to fit with the way we're relying on teens to instruct us about morality and policy these days.
"At, we’re focused on developing the next generation of diverse technology creators but we know that coding skills or even digital savviness is not enough,” said Jacquelline Fuller, president of “We are thrilled to be working with Poynter, Stanford and the Local Media Association to help equip young people with the skills they need to assess fact from fiction online."
At Google, I assume, they're also focused on deflecting criticism of Google. $3 million is a very cheap way to advertise its concern for the problems it exacerbates — or can be accused of exacerbating — like hosting the Althouse blog, where the commenters are about to say that this new program will be completely slanted to the left.

March 20, 2018

At Diana's Café...


... you can take aim at anything.

And you can shop for almost anything at Amazon, using the Althouse Portal — the link to which is always in the banner and in the sidebar. Me, I decided to replace all my brooms. I got a horsehair push broom, a microfiber mop system, and a broom/dustpan thingie. The floors are going to be so clean.

"Before you see the latest animated feature from your barista's favorite director, relive his meticulous works from the past that made you kind of happy, kind of sad, and kind of unsure - It's Every Wes Anderson Movie!"

15 years ago yesterday I started a notebook... Day 2 of the Iraq War notebook.

CNN had shots of tanks rolling across the desert and breathless reporting from inside those tanks. I caught snippets of that breathlessness as I watched the war — the driving — on TV:

iraq 2 1 2

CNN touted "these magnificent and historic pictures" and passed along the ideology of war ("We're just doing what's right... invading to liberate the people of Iraq..."):

iraq 2 1 3

We see Fox's Greg Kelly in a Humvee, observing that they're meeting "no resistance" and that if this keeps up, "it's going to be an overwhelming success":

Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland.

It's impressive until you realize the problem that Tom and Lorenzo identify:
[I]t’s admirable Judy Drag, [but] it’s Judy circa 1962 drag; not Judy at the end of her life. To put it bluntly, she was a physical wreck of a person in her last months; devastated and depleted by a lifetime of abuse and addiction, looking decades older than her 47 years... This is just a promo shot and we have no doubt they’ll rough her up for the final scenes of the film, but we’re not quite as impressed as others seem to be....
Here's a picture of Judy in the relevant time period.

"Bird Scooters Have Invaded L.A.’s Westside."

"The Uber-like service for zippy two-wheeled vehicles has taken over the Westside...."
As the public took notice of Bird... Santa Monica officials struggled to regulate the service, which allows users to drop off the scooters wherever they please, assuming the devices are not blocking driveways or endangering the public (the electric contraptions don’t move without an app code and are picked up by trucks every night by 8 p.m.)....

“Preventing car ownership is the goal of all these [car and scooter rental] companies,” [said Bird founder Travis VanderZanden]. “I think if all of us are successful, that’s fine.”

An impromptu performance in an empty subway car that turns out not to be empty.

ADDED: It's hard to see the other person. Here's a freeze frame:

"Deep state."

I'm noticing:

"Trump just hired a deep-state conspiracy theorist as his lawyer. Here’s what Joe diGenova has said" (WaPo): "Genova... told Fox News Channel in January that the [Mueller] investigation is 'a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime. Make no mistake about it: A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.'" Much more at the link.


"The Monmouth University Poll... finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a 'Deep State' of unelected government officials.... Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term 'Deep State;' another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term. However, when the term is described as a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy, nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington...."

That is, the Washington Post is trying to delegitimatize diGenova by pinning a term on him that people might not understand, but that, if they did come to understand, would probably cause them to support diGenova. So not only does WaPo not hurt diGenova (and Trump), as intended, it gives higher profile to a relatively unknown term that has the power to sharpen awareness and concern about the very problem that diGenova is trying to warn us about, and we can see from the Monmouth poll that people are very receptive to that warning.

ALSO: Another term in play there is "conspiracy theorist." If we're going to throw that term around, isn't diGenova's "conspiracy theory" a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory (the theory that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians)?

"'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine/Sandy Parakilas says numerous companies deployed these techniques – likely affecting hundreds of millions of users – and that Facebook looked the other way."

The Guardian reports (and this is different insider from the one I quoted earlier today).
Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012... [said] “My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data” ... Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused....

“It has been painful watching,” he said. “Because I know that they could have prevented it.” Asked what kind of control Facebook had over the data given to outside developers, he replied: “Zero. Absolutely none. Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.”
Here's the earlier post: "'Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users during the 2012 campaign because they supported the Democratic candidate...'"

And here's my post from 2 days ago, criticizing Facebook for making a narrow, legalistic argument Facebook... for itself." I said: "That's not going to work. We didn't give it to X. We gave it to Y who gave it to X. It's a laundering argument." And I recommended that Facebook fall back onto the argument that "It's good to use this data to facilitate communication, especially on topics of great public concern."

I'm still trying to get a grip on this story, but my orientation to it is that I'm skeptical that there was any "leak" or "breach" of security. It think Facebook did what it intended to do, but there's just some static over that choice because it became apparent that Mercer money had energized a right-wing use of the data.

ADDED: Bloomberg reports this morning that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook for possibly violating a consent decree:
Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time.
Did Facebook make changes that they didn't tell users about or did users just not "read or understand" what Facebook told them?

"I realized no one was going to care about my music and my world as much as I did, and this freedom from others' expectations opened up my perspective of what was possible..."

"... as an initially self-funding independent artist. I began building up areas of my career, block by block.... I collected myself, asked for minimalistic budgets and hustled to create something out of nothing. I spent the next three months working 50-70 hours a week as a server in Times Square. I didn’t see sunlight for over two weeks at one point. I saved all of the money needed to fund my next EP and subsequent tour. Two months later, I quit my job as a server, and I have been running a fully sustainable independent artist project for the last four years. You may or may not know who I am. You may or may not have at some point listened to my music, actively or passively. I own all of my masters and publishing and have maintained full creative control of my project and remain the sole, final decision maker. I have accumulated over 150 million streams, sell out 250- to 650-capacity venues across the United States, have toured Europe, and write and executive produce all of my releases.... I am not guaranteed or owed an income from pursuing a passion project. It is the job of myself and my manager to have a vision for VÉRITÉ and create a value with those who want to enter the world I create. This new music industry has opened a door for everyone to have the opportunity to make and share their vision with the world, and I am anxiously excited to navigate this new landscape."

Writes Vérité in "Spotify Isn't Killing The Music Industry; It's A Tool For Enterprising Indie Artists" (Forbes).

"White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however..."

"... are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households. Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools.... Though black girls and women face deep inequality on many measures, black and white girls from families with comparable earnings attain similar individual incomes as adults."

This looks like an important study, and the NYT has done an interesting job of displaying data on animated graphs, but I don't think the title is properly scientific: "Extensive Data Shows Punishing
Reach of Racism for Black Boys."

The data don't tell us the cause of the disparities, only that the disparities exist. In fact, just looking a the data, it seems easier to say that the cause is not racism, because we see black women doing not only as well as white women but a bit better? The article uses the lack of disparity among women as a basis for refuting the hypothesis that black/white disparities can be " explained by differences in cognitive ability":
If such inherent differences existed by race, “you’ve got to explain to me why these putative ability differences aren’t handicapping women,” said David Grusky, a Stanford sociologist who has reviewed the research.
It is quite possible that there's gender-specific racism that is causing this effect...
“It’s not just being black but being male that has been hyper-stereotyped in this negative way, in which we’ve made black men scary, intimidating, with a propensity toward violence,” said Noelle Hurd, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.
And it's also possible that the male reaction to racism is generally very different from the female reaction, but I don't see how these data show that. The article is using the data as basis for speculation.

"Reporters labor under the terrible requirement that what they report must be true. Opinion writers need to endure the less stringent demand..."

"... that what they opine be at least plausible. Nobody ever expects what cartoonists do to be either true or even plausible. That’s why we’re all as happy as larks."

Said Robert Grossman, who lied implausibly about Nixon, Bush, etc. etc. and tied the airplane in a knot in the "Airplane!" movie poster, quoted in his NYT obituary. He was 76.

Asked whether there was something undignified about his caricatures, he said: "Undignified?... Virtually anything has more dignity than lying and blundering before the whole stupefied world, which seems to be the politician’s eternal role."

"The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth."

That's an example of an insult from cannibalism days on Easter Island, brought to us by NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof, who flew all the way to Easter Island to be there to recount the history of Easter Island, which anyone can read without actually going there. Big statues of heads, long-ago deforestation wrecking its capacity to support the people who were advanced enough to make those big-head statues... you know the story. It's not news. Indeed, Kristof serves up readymade quotes from Jared Diamond pop-science book "Collapse' (2005). He does offer 2 sentences of on-the-scene reportage:
Easter Islanders themselves aren’t thrilled about being reduced to a metaphor. They rightly feel great pride in their earlier history and see the collapse as more complex and uncertain.
And yet he fully intends to step on that pride and offer up Easter Island as "A Parable of Self-Destruction." Why go there if you only want the metaphor/parable version of the place anyway? I'm asking a question that encapsulates the message of "How to Talk About Places You've Never Been: On the Importance of Armchair Travel," by Pierre Bayard.

But Kristof did go there:
I came to Easter Island while leading a tour for The New York Times Company, and those of us in the group were staggered by the statues — but also by the reminder of the risks when a people damages the environment that sustains it.

That brings us to climate change, to the chemical processes we are now triggering whose outcomes we can’t fully predict. The consequences may be a transformed planet with rising waters and hotter weather, dying coral reefs and more acidic oceans. We fear for the ocean food chain and worry about feedback loops that will irreversibly accelerate this process, yet still we act like Easter Islanders hacking down their trees....
How on earth — a place we've all been — did Nicholas Kristof think he could get away with that sanctimony?! DO NOT LECTURE US! Let your example come first, and then you can talk. You flew to Easter Island — you led a tour, enticing others to fly to Easter Island — so obviously, you think nothing of your carbon footprint or the carbon footprint of all those other people who jetted out there with you. When your actions are so radically different from your words, I don't believe your words. The depredations of global warming may be coming, but I don't believe that you believe it.

Yes, I know I have alternatives. It's possible that Kristof is an idiot, incapable of noticing or understanding the radical disconnect between his words and his actions. And it's possible that Kristof is a raging elitist, who thinks that he and his close associates needn't stoop to the hard work of self-limitation that he feels fully empowered to impose on others and who thinks that all the people whose opinion matters will share this despicable elitism.

"so obviously, you think nothing of your carbon footprint....When your actions are so radically different from your words, I don't believe your words."

It's like this:

Trump, Bjorn Lomberg or other AGW semi-skeptics: "Why should we limit our use of energy? It won't make the slightest bit of difference as long as India, China and everyone else go on burning all the fossil fuels they want!

Concerned AGW believer: "This is the problem! You are the reason we're not making any progress toward averting this obvious disaster!"

AGW semi-skeptic: "Wow, look at you, lecturing us all about our carbon footprints while you jet all over the world."

Concerned AGW believer: "Look, come on. If I cut out everything I do, it wouldn't make any difference as long as you're all free to go on burning fossil fuels like it doesn't matter."

"So many writers have produced 'I went offline, and here is what I learned' stories that they became a tedious cliché years ago."

"Cliché or no, however, those stories had one thing in common: the writers of them all actually went offline. Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist for The New York Times, took a different tack. He didn’t go offline at all: he just said he did, in a widely discussed column. Manjoo wrote about what he learned from his two months away from social media, and dispensed avuncular advice to his readers about the benefits of slowing down one’s news consumption. But he didn’t really unplug from social media at all. The evidence is right there in his Twitter feed, just below where he tweeted out his column: Manjoo remained a daily, active Twitter user throughout the two months he claims to have gone cold turkey, tweeting many hundreds of times, perhaps more than 1,000. In an email interview... he stuck to his story, essentially arguing that the gist of what he wrote remains true, despite the tweets throughout his self-imposed hiatus...."

Writes Dan Mitchell at Columbia Journalism Review.

"Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users during the 2012 campaign because they supported the Democratic candidate..."

"... according to a high ranking staffer. Carol Davidsen, who worked as the media director at Obama for America and has spoken about this in the past, explained on Twitter that she and her team were able to ingest massive amounts of information from the social network after getting permission from Facebook users to access their list of friends. 'Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn't stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,' wrote Davidsen. Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users during the 2012 campaign because they supported the Democratic candidate.... Davidsen posted this in the wake of the uproar over Cambridge Analytica, and their mining of information for the Trump campaign."

From "'They were on our side': Obama campaign director reveals Facebook ALLOWED them to mine American users' profiles in 2012 because they were supportive of the Democrats" (Daily Mail).

It's not the approach I would choose, fighting creepy with creepy.

(Language warning.)

March 19, 2018

"Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by [Jordan] Peterson’s loathing for 'social justice warriors' and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s."

"Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that 'there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.' Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that 'feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.' Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds ('Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.'). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: 'Compassion as a vice' and 'Toughen up, you weasel.'... [Peterson] seems unbothered by the fact that thinking of human relations in such terms as dominance and hierarchy connects too easily with such nascent viciousness such as misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. He might argue that his maps of meaning aim at helping lost individuals rather than racists, ultra-nationalists, or imperialists. But he can’t plausibly claim, given his oft-expressed hostility to the 'murderous equity doctrine' of feminists, and other progressive ideas, that he is above the fray of our ideological and culture wars."

From "Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism" by Pankaj Mishra (NYRB).