Mar 022017

Haven’t posted one of these in a while, hope it’s not too overwhelming.

Also, this one will be Trump-heavy, for obvious reasons.


This Is How Your Hyperpartisan Political News Gets Made.  You gotta give it to capitalism – it can be pretty damn efficient.
“both sites whipped up a post … The resulting stories read like bizarro-world versions of each other — two articles with nearly identical words and tweets optimized for opposing filter bubbles … These for-the-cause sites that appeal to hardcore partisans are in fact owned by the same Florida company”


Is Trump a time traveler? It’s the only hypothesis that makes sense.


Awesome Portal trick-shots :)


“In Japanese, “E” means image and “Moji” means character.”
The Oral History Of The Poop Emoji (Or, How Google Brought Poop To America)
I thought that Emoji was etymologically related to “emoticon”. Waddaya know.
Story itself is pretty interesting, includes a lot of cultural history that I found fascinating. And this:
“the most common use is probably “that’s unfortunate, and I would like to punctuate my comment with a reiteration that I am displeased at what has just been expressed.” It’s the anti-like.”


The year is 1910. Adolf Hitler, a struggling artist, has fought off dozens of assasination attemps by well meaning time travelers, but this one is different. This traveller doesn’t want to kill Hitler, he wants to teach him to paint. He pulls off his hood to reveal the frizzy afro of Bob Ross.”
The writing prompt itself is good but the true value of this link is that it introduced me to the ol’ Reddit switcheroo, a few comments down. AWESOME.


Guess I’ll be getting burners if I ever go overseas. This is the cyberpunk dystopia I was promised. Sigh. I’ll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you.


WHY PURITY CULTURE DOESN’T TEACH CONSENT. Also some talk about the implications (which can probably be imagined)
“They don’t teach consent because teaching consent would undermine one of their basic assumptions about people. Namely, the assumption that every single last person– most especially men, but also women– are basically nymphos who are straining at their leashes every single second of every single day and if you let that sex-crazed beast out for even just a moment then BAM it’s all over and you’re not a virgin anymore and that’s horrible because now you’re a half-eaten candybar or a cup full of spit.”


I Helped Create the Milo Trolling Playbook. You Should Stop Playing Right Into It.
“I wrote the book as an explicit warning about how broken our media system was and why it needed to be fixed.

Someone like Milo or Mike Cernovich doesn’t care that you hate them—they like it. It’s proof to their followers that they are doing something subversive and meaningful. It gives their followers something to talk about. It imbues the whole movement with a sense of urgency and action—it creates purpose and meaning.

the most effective retorts against the alt-right were when Trevor Noah had Tomi Lahren on his show and when Elle Reeve profiled Richard Spencer for Vice. Both came off looking mostly like jokes. Tomi Lahren showed her age. Richard Spencer revealed his movement to be mostly a collection of a few thousand sad dorks.”


Dog Wick – The ol’ John Wick Switcheroo


A fascinating peek into a conference of people that will (IMO) literally shape the entire future of our species (or lack thereof).
“The technical people at the conference seemed to think this idea of uncertainty about reward was technically possible, but would require a ground-up reimagining of reinforcement learning. If true, it would be a perfect example of what Nick Bostrom et al have been trying to convince people of since forever: there are good ideas to mitigate AI risk, but they have to be studied early so that they can be incorporated into the field early on.”


I NEVER expected someone to munchkin their way into a spot on America’s secret assassination agency by simply slipping the president a piece of paper to sign that he doesn’t read. That is *cartoonish* plotting.
Suddenly it seems like giving the executive branch the ability to kill anyone without trial or oversight or even a record of the decision was a bad idea… I guess screwball comedy + real life = kafkaesque absurd horror.
(fairness note: that may not be what 45 is actually angry about, so this is partly speculation. But I couldn’t resist the image of Road Runner slipping Wile E Coyote an executive order he doesn’t read)
“But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.”

From a friend:

“I am the very model of a fair, aspiring rationalist
I’ll analyze my priors and modify, unabashed, a miss.
I know logical fallacies, and though I try my very best
I know I still make errors when the stakes are at their… hairy-est :)

For his scientific knowledge, though he’s curious, and reads a lot
He cannot speak in detail what the specialists have truly wrought
But still in matters logical and liberal-transhumanist
He is the very model of a fair, aspiring rationalist!”


What really worries me is 45’s purging of government bureaucrats and installing loyalists in their place. Especially his doing so in the agency that is literally in charge of secret assassinations.
“Third, popular attention must focus less on whether we agree with what the government is doing, and more on whether the system of checks and balances we have in place is working. It is a much bigger deal that the DHS felt they could ignore a federal court than that Trump signed an EO blocking green card holders in the first place. It is a much bigger deal that Trump removed a permanent military presence from the NSC than that he issued a temporary stay on immigration. The immigration ban may be more viscerally upsetting, but the other moves are potentially far more dangerous.”
(I know, I know, the first mistake was creating an agency of secret assassinations. But that boat has kinda sailed)


I think I have more respect for Uber now. They turned off surge pricing, like they generally do for disasters and emergencies, so they don’t appear to be profiting off disaster. They didn’t impose their politics onto their drivers. And they are financially supporting those drivers affected by 45’s ban. I wish more people would do some research before tweeting & hashtagging… What’s not to like?
“thousands of drivers who use Uber and come from the listed countries, many of whom take long breaks to go back home to see their extended family. These drivers currently outside of the U.S. will not be able to get back into the country for 90 days. That means they will not be able to earn a living and support their families—and of course they will be separated from their loved ones during that time.
We are working out a process to identify these drivers and compensate them pro bono during the next three months to help mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table.”


All those times I railed against the pledge’s desecration, and blacked out “under god” on our money, and I was told “It’s no big deal” and “Stop being a dick, you’re the Angry Atheist stereotype.” …
This is why!
“”I feel that if a Muslim woman wants to move into this country, she needs to leave her towel home. Because the reason this country is here and safe today is because of Jesus Christ,” Bill says. “We were one nation under God.” […] A lot of Americans think one of the great things about this nation is that you can worship whatever god you want. Bill shook his head at that notion.
“That is something I believe that has come along with political correctness and all this other garbage,” he said, insisting that America is a fundamentally Christian nation.”


“I’ve done human rights work that had me working in proximity to the U.S. military, so at a professional meeting a Lefty called me a Nazi.
So if you tell me that I’m a Nazi… and tell me you’re in favor of going out and beating up Nazis, guess what? I am suddenly very interested in the physical safety of Nazis.
And I’m *Jewish*”
(post is crazy long, but that’s the most relevant part IMHO)

Oh how I hate the media. Are they TRYING to help Trump?
This article leads with DeVos’s Gun vs Bears comment. It’s also the highlight line under the picture when you share on Facebook: “She wouldn’t say guns don’t belong in schools–and cited a school’s need to protect itself from “potential grizzlies.” Bears, that is.”
That just means she’s really shitty at social posturing. We all know the correct PR answer is “Guns never belong in schools!” and then to demure and say “of course some exceptions can be made in extreme situations, such as to protect our children from rampaging bears.” The fact that she was honest and led with “Well sometimes guns are necessary” shouldn’t be a strike against her. I prefer honesty over political double-talk.
In fact, this makes me sympathize with her very much, because I hate bullshit. So when the rest of the article goes on to point out how absolutely clueless and incompetent she is, I’m now asking myself “How much of this is true, and how much is it the source doing it’s best to smear her?”


Obama commutes bulk of Chelsea Mannings sentence. I seriously did not expect that to happen. I have to update in the direction of being less cynical? Or, I guess if I’m the correct amount of cynical I should be surprised-in-a-good-way about as often as I’m surprised-in-a-bad-way. I should start tracking how often each happens, but the fact that this stood out so much might mean I’m still not cynical enough. Bleh.


3 disease resistant GMOs could address climate change and save farmers billions
“For example Simplot, the makers of the Innate potato estimate farmers will need to annually apply 25-45 percent less fungicide to its GM potatoes. Furthermore, widespread adoption of these potatoes could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 146 million pounds (the equivalent of taking 14,000 cars off the road).”


That Vow To Defund Planned Parenthood: Easy To Say, Hard To Do
“75 percent of that government support comes from the Medicaid program to pay for direct medical services provided to low-income patients, including contraception, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment. The remaining quarter comes from other sources, primarily the Title X federal family planning program. The Congressional Budget Office estimated last year that the group gets approximately $390 million annually from Medicaid and $60 million from Title X.
… taking away Planned Parenthood’s access to Medicaid funding would require a change in the federal law that guarantees most Medicaid patients with a choice to use any qualified provider.”


Sometimes I wonder if one can be too charitable to one’s opposition. The Rude Pundit seems to think so, and I enjoy this moxy. :) He ends with some claims I’m not fond of, but does make good points. (snips for length)
“I have more respect for these dumbass motherfuckers than any of the wannabe Jane Goodalls observing the ways of the chimps. Because I don’t treat them like fucking children. We’re talking about fucking grown-ups who make fucking grown-up decisions, and I’m gonna treat them like grown-ups.
“To rural Americans, sometimes it seems our taxes mostly go to making city residents live better. We recognize that the truth is more complex, particularly when it comes to social programs, but it’s the perception that matters — certainly to the way most people vote.”
And there you have the reason why liberals are called “elitist.” We actually know that most of our taxes go to the Republican-run states. We aren’t fucking hypocrites who condemn government, elect people who want to shrink government, and then are pissed off when the government doesn’t offer enough services.
What you’re calling “elitism” is just simply not being ignorant. We don’t have our heads shoved up Jesus’s ass. And when the left gets angry because of how fucking dumb some of the shit coming out of rural and red mouths is, we’re told we need to understand what they believe. No, we’re just gonna say that stupid is stupid.”


Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable
“Most Americans conceptualize a hypothetical end of American democracy in Apocalyptic terms. But actually, you usually learn that you are no longer living in a democracy not because The Government Is Taking Away Your Rights, or passing laws that you oppose, or because there is a coup or a quisling. You know that you are no longer living in a democracy because the elections in which you are participating no longer can yield political change.”


Oh god yes!! A judge “slapped a half-million-dollar bill on the lawyers and said that they were personally responsible for paying it, not their client.
This unusual decision could make lawyers hesitate to take patent trolls as clients”
A potentially fatal blow against patent trolls


10 Japanese Travel Tips for Visiting America – showcases both how awesome the new Google Translate is, and how interesting being seen by people outside your culture is. (From 1. THERE IS A THING CALLED “DINNER PLATES.” AND WHAT GOES ON THEM IS A MIGHTY DISAPPOINTMENT, through 10. BUT DARN IT ALL, THEY’RE SO WEIRDLY OPTIMISTIC YOU JUST CAN’T STAY IRRITATED AT THEM.)

This excerpt is so long it could be a post by itself, and it’s only a fraction of the original post. :) But so worth reading! Is is by the Ada Palmer who wrote Too Like The Lightning, who I interviewed a few months ago.
On Progress and Historical Change
“In the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon invented progress.
Medieval Europe came to the realization that God had a moral message to relate through its progression. God planned the Crucifixion and wanted His Son to be lawfully executed by all humanity, so the sin and guilt and salvation would be universal, so He created the Roman Empire in order to have there be one government large enough to rule and represent the whole world. The empire didn’t develop, it was crafted for God’s purposes, Act II scene iii the Roman Empire Rises, scene v it fulfills its purpose, scene vi it falls. Applause.
Francis Bacon invented progress. If we work together — said he — if we observe the world around us, we can base new inventions on our new knowledge which will, in small ways, little by little, make human life just a little easier, just a little better
It really took two hundred years for Bacon’s academy to develop anything useful. There was a lot of dissecting animals, and exploding metal spheres, and refracting light, and describing gravity, and it was very, very exciting, and a lot of it was correct, but–as the eloquent James Hankins put it–it was actually the nineteenth century that finally paid Francis Bacon’s I.O.U., his promise that, if you channel an unfathomable research budget, and feed the smartest youths of your society into science, someday we’ll be able to do things we can’t do now, like refrigerate chickens, or cure rabies, or anesthetize. There were a few useful advances (better navigational instruments, Franklin’s lightning rod) but for two hundred years most of science’s fruits were devices with no function beyond demonstrating scientific principles. Two hundred years is a long time for a vastly-complex society-wide project to keep getting support and enthusiasm, fed by nothing but pure confidence that these discoveries streaming out of the Royal Society papers will eventually someday actually do something. I just think… I just think that keeping it up for two hundred years before it paid off, that’s… that’s really cool.
As “progress” broadened to include unsystematic progress as well as the modern project of progress, that was the moment we acquired the questions “Is progress natural?” and “Is progress inevitable?” Am I powerless? Can I personally do anything to change this? Do individuals have any power to shape history? Are we just swept along by the vast tides of social forces?
Every year in my Italian Renaissance class, here at the University of Chicago, I run a simulation of a Renaissance papal election, circa 1490-1500. when I tell people about this election, and they ask me “Does it always have the same outcome?” the answer is yes and no. Because the Great Forces always push the same way. The strong factions are strong. Money is power. Blood is thicker than promises. Virtue is manipulable. In the end, a bad man will be pope. And he will do bad things. The war is coming, and the land — some land somewhere — will burn. But the details are always different.
The Great Forces were real, and were unstoppable. The dam was about to break. No one could stop it. But the human agents — even the tiniest junior clerk who does the paperwork — the human agents shaped what happened, and every action had its consequences, imperfect, entwined, but real. The dam was about to break, but every person there got to dig a channel to try to direct the waters once they flowed, and that is what determined the real shape of the flood, its path, its damage. No one controlled what happened, and no one could predict what happened, but those who worked hard and dug their channels, most of them succeeded in diverting most of the damage, achieving many of their goals, preventing the worst. Not all, but most.
There are Great Forces. Economics, class, wealth gaps, prosperity, stagnation, these Great Forces make particular historical moments ripe for change, ripe for war, ripe for wealth, ripe for crisis, ripe for healing, ripe for peace. But individuals also have real agency, and our actions determine the actual consequences of these Great Forces as they reshape our world. We have to understand both, and study both, and act on the world now remembering that both are real.
So, can human beings control progress? Yes and no. The system is more complex than it seems. A change which achieves its intended purpose also throws out-of-whack vital forces you did not realize were connected to it.
“Has social progress has failed?” or “Has liberalism failed?” or “Has the Civil Rights Movement failed?” they have also done what all movements do in a dynamic historical system: they have had large, complicated consequences. They have added something to the fish tank. Because the same Enlightenment impulse to make a better, more rational world, where everyone would have education and equal political empowerment BOTH caused the brutalities of the Belgian Congo AND gave me the vote.
I gradually got better at understanding the fish tank. the doctors gradually figured out how the eye really does function. some of our civil rights have come by blood and war, and others have come through negotiation and agreement. we as humans are gradually learning more about how our world is interconnected, and how we can take action within that interconnected system.
we really have achieve some of what Francis Bacon and his followers waited for through those long centuries: we have made the next generation’s experience on this Earth a little better than our own.”


TRUMP AND THE BATMAN EFFECT “Trump has put a lot of effort into crafting his image as a person who repays favors – you think businesspeople aren’t going to notice that kind of thing?
… we are in for four years of sham Trump victories… Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities, but nobody’s going to notice”


Do Women Date Assholes? A Study.
“With the exception of narcissism, all measures of assholery appear to be either uncorrelated with or weakly negatively correlated with romantic success. The p-values are high enough and correlation coefficients low enough for most measures of assholery that I am comfortable saying that assholery is just uncorrelated with romantic success. That is, an attractive asshole has no more and no fewer partners than an attractive nice guy.”
Another bit of a surprise to note for my cynicalness-judging metric.


So I’ve been buying cage-free for the past five years in an attempt to make chicken lives less miserable, and it turns out it doesn’t matter at all, and may in fact be worse. :( Fuckin’ fucks. Score one for not-cynical-enough.
(trimmed for brevity. cw: descriptions of unpleasant animal deaths)
“…cage-free reforms likely harm laying hens. The most comprehensive study to date was conducted by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES). The most important and informative figure is the mortality rate. The study found significantly higher mortality in aviary(cage-free) systems, with 11.7% of birds in the such systems dying before the end of the production cycle.
Many of the excess deaths in the aviary systems were due to cannibalism and vent-pecking, wherein a hen’s cloaca is pecked out until she dies. Additionally, far more of the hens necropsied in the aviary systems were found to be emaciated. Ammonia levels were also higher, because the birds live in their own feces and kick them into the air. A much larger number of hens in the aviary systems were found to be “dirty.”
The study also found that it takes more hens to produce the same number of eggs in an aviary system, evidently because more of them are dead.”


Rick and Morty Theory: Why Rick is so Depressed. I didn’t realize it was possible for me to like this show even more. The video starts actually being interesting at 1:25, so skip to there.


“In February, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a warning of the consequences of a breach in the dam. For a statement written by diplomats, it is extraordinarily blunt. “Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning,” it said. Soon afterward, the United Nations released its own warning, predicting that “hundreds of thousands of people could be killed” if the dam failed. Iraq’s leaders, apparently fearful of public reaction, have refused to acknowledge the extent of the danger. But Alwash told me that nearly everyone outside the Iraqi government who has examined the dam believes that time is running out: in the spring, snowmelt flows into the Tigris, putting immense pressure on the retaining wall.
If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours. Along the riverbanks, towns and cities containing the heart of Iraq’s population would be flooded; in four days, a wave as high as sixteen feet would crash into Baghdad, a city of six million people. “If there is a breach in the dam, there will be no warning,” Alwash said. “It’s a nuclear bomb with an unpredictable fuse.”


Reading Fake News, Pakistani Minister Directs Nuclear Threat at Israel


So uh… I think Michigan is soon gonna have a economic boom similar to the one Colorado had three years ago when we fully legalized pot. Well, maybe not as sudden and steep of a boom. But probably longer-lasting. Michigan lets self-driving cars on roads without human drivers.


The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does. Most interesting article on Shazaam that I’ve seen yet. Brains are fun! Note: memetic hazard warning for anyone who hasn’t fully rejected solipsism already.


“Our ancestors survived deprivation and lethal weather during this season, every year, for millennia. We can recreate these conditions in the modern day by turning off the WiFi.” – A Friend (paraphrased)


Now that there’s more than just the one charity working on AI risk, an EAF poster does some research/calculations to compare them.


So This is Basically Steven Universe. Hehehe.


Is Twitter a dystopian technology?
“Each person, in order to feel emotionally safe from the constant attacks that he feels like he’s getting on Twitter, might be pushed to join an ideological group – like a prison gang, for protection.
Ideological polarization creates few costs for the user. It really doesn’t make my online experience much worse to join the BernieBros, or the Alt-Right, or the Social Justice Warriors, or GamerGate, or the Libertarians, or whoever. I sacrifice a little bit of opportunity to say maverick, unorthodox things, and in return I get a whole bunch of people who have my back and are willing to beat off waves of attackers on a daily basis.
But ideological polarization might be very costly for society.”

  3 Responses to “Link Archive 12/8/16 – 3/1/17”

  1. So much to comment on, let’s start at the top:

    I think I might be playing the wrong kind of RPGs. In World of Warcraft women basically wear the same armor as men (or cows for that matter). And my favorite RPGs, Tales of Symphonia, Grandia II and Disgaea there aren’t many where this stuff applies. Well, some females wear less armor, true, but in those cases we’re talking about part of an evil god (actually I’m not so sure which one of the two was more evil but both definitely weren’t good, I’d say), a robot and a demon. And when the majority of the male cast doesn’t wear metal armor I don’t see why the women would have to.

    The next thing (about capitalistic media delieving what generates clicks) is a huge problem. Media has to be independed from anything involved in the story it reports on. If the people working in the media are selected by a company or political party or something else they have an incentive to report in favor of those that have power over them. If it’s the people they obviously report what the people want to hear (and if it’s multiple exclusive things they obviously have multiple outlets for that). I don’t think this problem can be easily solved from the media’s side, I think people that want to be informed have to read both sides of the story and I guess filter out what’s contained in both of them as the closest they’ll get towards the actual truth. Which is different because when something opposes your own views (or overdoes it for your side) you can’t really take anything they make seriously any more at some point.

    About bringing your phone on international flights: I don’t know how much you can do with phones, I haven’t bought a smartphone yet. :-)
    But apart from that, there are ways to encrypt things so there are two passwords. If you use the normal password you get access to your data. If you use the other password you get access to different data instead. Or delete the whole thing or whatever. That was probably invented to combat exactly the situation described there. I don’t know what they do to you after you made them wipe your harddrive though.

    On the agency of secret assassinations:

    Oh and on the nation under god and all that… I’m not american, I might be mistaken on that part of history.. but wasn’t there something about the declaration of independence being secular and government being secular and all that? The US seem to be sort of unique in the western hemisphere about how religious they (or strong forces within it) are. I can’t imagine Flanders (from the Simpsons) in any european country.. or, well, to be fair, we have some creationists over here too but I think they are way more uncommon over here, by an order of magnitude or two.
    And people having a problem with what muslim women wear never seem to have the same problem with christian nuns wearing more or less the same thing.

    I’ll have a look at the rest later. :-)

    • Oops, sorry about the typo(s) – I already found one, the media isn’t delieving but it’s “delievering”.

      Anyway, maybe there is a way to solve this from the media side: Just report confirmed facts. No speculation or interpretation. That also means, don’t ask people for their opinions. If there’s a protest and the protesters claim that there are 500,000 people protesting and police claim it’s 50,000 don’t report any of those numbers. Just say “people are protesting” and show images or movie clips of that. I wonder if there’s already something like that.

      Oh and the patent troll thing was awesome! Thanks for linking that!

    • > I think I might be playing the wrong kind of RPGs. In World of Warcraft women basically wear the same armor as men (or cows for that matter).

      I think things are getting better, in part due to the mockery people heap upon this sort of thing. :) But when I was playing WoW in the early years, it was pretty common for the female armor sets to be significantly skimpier than the male ones, for the exact same set. Here’s the female vs male “Glorious” set…

      > but wasn’t there something about the declaration of independence being secular and government being secular and all that?

      Yes, there is. It is often ignored, and the people who do stand up for it in the courts are often derided and sneered at. :/ Still, it’s a little bit of protection, and it sometimes helps to dull the worst offenses.

      And yeah, the US is a hell of an outlier in its levels of crazy religiousness. /sigh

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