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Most comments: 387

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2017-01-30 00:43:26 (387 comments; 242 reshares; 733 +1s; )Open 

The news continues to develop almost faster than I can type analyses. But I've tried to round up the most critical updates from the past few hours, together with a discussion of what they mean.

The short version is this: we're seeing the formation of an "inner circle" of government, including Trump, Bannon, Miller, Kushner, Priebus, and possibly Flynn and Conway, who have been taking deliberate steps to hobble the ability of all other parts of government – the rest of the Executive branch, Congress, and most especially the courts – from controlling them. Somewhat unexpectedly, they went straight for an attempt to grab extraordinary physical powers over people (yesterday's Muslim ban), rather than trying to boil the frog slowly; in the context of other moves taken over the past week, this starts to look like a coherent strategy.

Power, including the power toexecu... more »

Most reshares: 242

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2017-01-30 00:43:26 (387 comments; 242 reshares; 733 +1s; )Open 

The news continues to develop almost faster than I can type analyses. But I've tried to round up the most critical updates from the past few hours, together with a discussion of what they mean.

The short version is this: we're seeing the formation of an "inner circle" of government, including Trump, Bannon, Miller, Kushner, Priebus, and possibly Flynn and Conway, who have been taking deliberate steps to hobble the ability of all other parts of government – the rest of the Executive branch, Congress, and most especially the courts – from controlling them. Somewhat unexpectedly, they went straight for an attempt to grab extraordinary physical powers over people (yesterday's Muslim ban), rather than trying to boil the frog slowly; in the context of other moves taken over the past week, this starts to look like a coherent strategy.

Power, including the power toexecu... more »

Most plusones: 733

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2017-01-30 00:43:26 (387 comments; 242 reshares; 733 +1s; )Open 

The news continues to develop almost faster than I can type analyses. But I've tried to round up the most critical updates from the past few hours, together with a discussion of what they mean.

The short version is this: we're seeing the formation of an "inner circle" of government, including Trump, Bannon, Miller, Kushner, Priebus, and possibly Flynn and Conway, who have been taking deliberate steps to hobble the ability of all other parts of government – the rest of the Executive branch, Congress, and most especially the courts – from controlling them. Somewhat unexpectedly, they went straight for an attempt to grab extraordinary physical powers over people (yesterday's Muslim ban), rather than trying to boil the frog slowly; in the context of other moves taken over the past week, this starts to look like a coherent strategy.

Power, including the power toexecu... more »

Latest 50 posts

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2017-02-21 02:46:11 (38 comments; 24 reshares; 217 +1s; )Open 

And I can't quite believe this, but there's yet another positive story to share today. This is about a paper that came out recently on particle physics. Like an awful lot of papers in particle physics, it proposes an extension to the Standard Model (our best current understanding of the field, which has done remarkably well in predicting an awful lot of things) which can explain a lot of currently open questions about the universe.

However, this paper has some nice features which most papers of this sort don't. There's a sort-of tradition in particle physics (which I'm embarrassed to admit I've participated in) of publishing "pissing on trees" papers: you come up with some theory, show that it's not inconsistent with what we've observed so far about the universe (and it turns out there are an awful lot of things you can do which aren't inconsistent,... more »

And I can't quite believe this, but there's yet another positive story to share today. This is about a paper that came out recently on particle physics. Like an awful lot of papers in particle physics, it proposes an extension to the Standard Model (our best current understanding of the field, which has done remarkably well in predicting an awful lot of things) which can explain a lot of currently open questions about the universe.

However, this paper has some nice features which most papers of this sort don't. There's a sort-of tradition in particle physics (which I'm embarrassed to admit I've participated in) of publishing "pissing on trees" papers: you come up with some theory, show that it's not inconsistent with what we've observed so far about the universe (and it turns out there are an awful lot of things you can do which aren't inconsistent, even once you take the full scientific rigor of professional physicists into account), and publish it as "maybe." This is called "pissing on trees" because if it turns out later that this theory was right, then you've published one of the original papers on it, and a great deal of credit will follow; that is, you're staking out your claim ahead of time, but not really producing anything that valuable, because most of these "maybes" are pretty far-out.

This "SMASH" paper (short for "Standard Model + Axion + Seesaw + Higgs," a short description of the three kinds of extension to the SM it provides) does considerably better, though. With a fairly minimal extension to existing physics (proposing three new families of particle, each of which is considered not-outrageous) they manage to explain a bunch of difficult open problems in physics at once. And rather nicely, the SMASH hypothesis is straightforwardly testable – to the extent that several planned experiments already in the works should be able to say a definitive "yes" or "no" to it within the next decade.

I won't try to give a full explanation of the things it explains, since this gets really technical really fast. The short list is inflation (what force caused the universe to expand really rapidly in its early history, so that its current size is "really big" rather than "about the size of a grapefruit"), reheating (how inflation stops and that energy of expansion somehow gets converted into matter instead of a big, empty universe), dark matter (what is this mysterious substance which appears to form a quarter of the mass of the universe, yet be transparent to light?), baryogenesis (in particular, why is there so much more matter than antimatter in the universe? It's handy for the "not going boom all the time" business, but it's far from obvious why it should be true), and stability (why at daily-life energy scales, certain high-energy properties of physics don't cause Higgs bosons to suddenly become infinitely heavy and attractive or similar weird things which many theories fall victim to).

There are plenty of theories which explain these individually, but SMASH is nice in giving systematic answers to all of them – which makes me far more interested in it than in most papers of this sort.

Of course, it'll take a lot of experiment to see if this goes anywhere, but for once, we actually have an existing experimental roadmap which will answer that. :)___

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2017-02-21 00:49:42 (134 comments; 5 reshares; 198 +1s; )Open 

Even more promising news for the day: Trump has somehow convinced LGEN McMaster to take on the role of National Security Advisor. As the article below goes into, McMaster has a reputation for being a competent, intelligent grown-up. He is also bald, white, tall, and muscular, which means that he looks enough like Trump's idea of a military / intelligence leader that Trump may actually listen to him.

Given that it's been made clear that the NSA will not have full authority over staffing at the NSC, and eg does not have the power to kick Bannon off his council, it's been expected that it would be very hard to hire anyone good for this role - the first candidate mooted, Harward (also known as as a grown-up) basically said Hell No. But apparently McMaster will take that risk. So best of luck to him, and hopefully he'll manage to achieve something useful!

(The NSA is the... more »

Even more promising news for the day: Trump has somehow convinced LGEN McMaster to take on the role of National Security Advisor. As the article below goes into, McMaster has a reputation for being a competent, intelligent grown-up. He is also bald, white, tall, and muscular, which means that he looks enough like Trump's idea of a military / intelligence leader that Trump may actually listen to him.

Given that it's been made clear that the NSA will not have full authority over staffing at the NSC, and eg does not have the power to kick Bannon off his council, it's been expected that it would be very hard to hire anyone good for this role - the first candidate mooted, Harward (also known as as a grown-up) basically said Hell No. But apparently McMaster will take that risk. So best of luck to him, and hopefully he'll manage to achieve something useful!

(The NSA is the President's chief advisor on natsec issues, and chairs NSC meetings which the President doesn't attend. This has nothing to do with the other NSA, the National Security Agency, which is the agency that does signals intelligence and crypto and the like.) ___

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2017-02-21 00:25:38 (160 comments; 40 reshares; 387 +1s; )Open 

And in yet more amusing news for the day, apparently there is still one line in polite society that you can get in trouble for crossing. Milo Minderbinder Yiannoupolos' defense of pedophilia (how "inter-generational relationships" are often crucial to the development of young people, especially among gay men, and it just goes on from there into a sort of NAMBLA manifesto) has gotten him disinvited from CPAC and his book deal cancelled.

Twitter is currently a mass of people saying "I was fine with him before, but this is too much!," of people replying on the lines of "wait, you were fine with the doxxing of trans students, and the abuse campaigns against game developers, and all the racist and violent speech, but this you're not OK with?," and a lot of other people (myself included) just shaking our heads and saying "OK, apparently this is what it takes... more »

And in yet more amusing news for the day, apparently there is still one line in polite society that you can get in trouble for crossing. Milo Minderbinder Yiannoupolos' defense of pedophilia (how "inter-generational relationships" are often crucial to the development of young people, especially among gay men, and it just goes on from there into a sort of NAMBLA manifesto) has gotten him disinvited from CPAC and his book deal cancelled.

Twitter is currently a mass of people saying "I was fine with him before, but this is too much!," of people replying on the lines of "wait, you were fine with the doxxing of trans students, and the abuse campaigns against game developers, and all the racist and violent speech, but this you're not OK with?," and a lot of other people (myself included) just shaking our heads and saying "OK, apparently this is what it takes for people to notice that he is not a nice guy."

But let's not dwell on that! Let's instead enjoy a seasonally appropriate recipe from +John Scalzi​. Mmm, Schadenfreude Pie...

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2006/09/26/how-to-make-a-schadenfreude-pie/___

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2017-02-21 00:12:53 (19 comments; 6 reshares; 122 +1s; )Open 

Something else interesting: having an independent judiciary does, indeed, appear to strengthen democracies, even when they are facing turmoil. This is true even though judges don't have many enforcement powers of their own - it's more about how this legitimizes the rule of law itself, and makes attempts to damage it seem illegitimate to the public itself. 

Something else interesting: having an independent judiciary does, indeed, appear to strengthen democracies, even when they are facing turmoil. This is true even though judges don't have many enforcement powers of their own - it's more about how this legitimizes the rule of law itself, and makes attempts to damage it seem illegitimate to the public itself. ___

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2017-02-20 21:10:01 (43 comments; 77 reshares; 338 +1s; )Open 

It's really nice to be able to share good news for once. A new study in JAMA Pediatrics studied the effect of same-sex marriage laws on teen suicide rates. They looked at 32 different US states which changed their laws at different times, as a way of disentangling this effect from other effects.

The net result? Legalizing same-sex marriage leads to a 7% overall drop in teen suicide attempts, and a 14% drop among LGBT teens.

It turns out that being publicly told that you're an accepted member of society and not a pariah does make a difference in people's lives, especially teenagers. Who woulda thunk?

But the upshot of this is: All of you who worked on this, in one way or another? You just saved some lives. Well done.

The article itself is available online: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2604258

(NB: For clarity,... more »

It's really nice to be able to share good news for once. A new study in JAMA Pediatrics studied the effect of same-sex marriage laws on teen suicide rates. They looked at 32 different US states which changed their laws at different times, as a way of disentangling this effect from other effects.

The net result? Legalizing same-sex marriage leads to a 7% overall drop in teen suicide attempts, and a 14% drop among LGBT teens.

It turns out that being publicly told that you're an accepted member of society and not a pariah does make a difference in people's lives, especially teenagers. Who woulda thunk?

But the upshot of this is: All of you who worked on this, in one way or another? You just saved some lives. Well done.

The article itself is available online: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2604258

(NB: For clarity, that's a 7% drop in the rate, not a seven percentage point drop drop. We should be so lucky as to have any one thing eliminate seven percentage points. As a baseline, a weighted 8.6% of all high school students, and 28.5% of LGBT high school students, attempted suicide in the year before same-sex marriage legalization. Suicide is the second most common cause of death among people aged 15-24 in the US.

For those who want technical notes: The paper seems to have done a very careful job on statistics, testing a wide variety of alternate hypotheses and ruling them out from the data. One test worth calling out: the two-year leading indicator (suicide rates two years prior to law changes) was not correlated to suicide rates, indicating that this was not triggered by general changes in the state which were also leading to this; the two-year trailing indicator (two years after), however, was correlated, with the same correlation as the immediate future, indicating a lasting effect rather than a one-off.)___

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2017-02-19 22:07:58 (16 comments; 22 reshares; 236 +1s; )Open 

We've had nothing but political news for a while; let's talk about something more fun. Those of you who have been reading here for a while will remember this – how the secret of why barns are painted red lies in the hearts of dying stars.

We've had nothing but political news for a while; let's talk about something more fun. Those of you who have been reading here for a while will remember this – how the secret of why barns are painted red lies in the hearts of dying stars.___

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2017-02-19 02:26:04 (9 comments; 18 reshares; 132 +1s; )Open 

Something random and cool: the graphic design of W. E. B. DuBois. I particularly like "Conjugal Condition of American Negroes according to age periods" for its visual clarity, and "The Amalgamation of the White and Black elements of the population in the United States" for a subtle but important use of color: he has black and white, but the central "Mulattoes" section shades from one color into the other, so that it's made clear that the lines which bound it are somewhat arbitrary, and these shade smoothly into the white population.

A rather pointed political statement, that. :)

___Something random and cool: the graphic design of W. E. B. DuBois. I particularly like "Conjugal Condition of American Negroes according to age periods" for its visual clarity, and "The Amalgamation of the White and Black elements of the population in the United States" for a subtle but important use of color: he has black and white, but the central "Mulattoes" section shades from one color into the other, so that it's made clear that the lines which bound it are somewhat arbitrary, and these shade smoothly into the white population.

A rather pointed political statement, that. :)

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2017-02-19 00:45:07 (120 comments; 7 reshares; 225 +1s; )Open 

Something which may surprise people: I'm not fundamentally opposed to Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court. While I certainly disagree with him on a number of issues, I also have the sense that he is someone I could respect and take seriously. In particular, he seems to have a long history of listening to all sides with complete seriousness and respect, taking their arguments seriously, and ruling fairly.

There have been a lot of comparisons between him and Justice Scalia, but I increasingly suspect that they miss the mark. While they may both be personally conservative, and have similar legal approaches with regards to things like textualism, I am getting the sense that they differ as people as much as any two people possibly could.

In particular, Scalia was known for loving to be clever, and letting that cleverness expose a mean streak. He had a particular fondness for... more »

Something which may surprise people: I'm not fundamentally opposed to Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court. While I certainly disagree with him on a number of issues, I also have the sense that he is someone I could respect and take seriously. In particular, he seems to have a long history of listening to all sides with complete seriousness and respect, taking their arguments seriously, and ruling fairly.

There have been a lot of comparisons between him and Justice Scalia, but I increasingly suspect that they miss the mark. While they may both be personally conservative, and have similar legal approaches with regards to things like textualism, I am getting the sense that they differ as people as much as any two people possibly could.

In particular, Scalia was known for loving to be clever, and letting that cleverness expose a mean streak. He had a particular fondness for rulings where consistency of the law would lead to a perverse outcome in a particular case, or for decisions and dissents where he could skewer people and advocate some particular line of reasoning. When he was urging meanness in his decisions, I always got the sense that he profoundly enjoyed it – and that was the heart of everything I never trusted about him.

I don't see anyone who knows Gorsuch suggesting anything similar of him. Instead, his record suggests he's much the opposite: that while he's personally conservative, he listens to (and is friends with) liberals as well, and can have serious discussions of issues which are not marred by an obsessive wanting to be right. His rulings seem to reflect this, taking a wide range of arguments seriously.

So while I don't expect that Gorsuch would rule the way I hope he would on a variety of cases, and while I deeply question the way we seem to be reifying this idea of "conservative seats" and "liberal seats" on the Court which need to be restocked from people of similar political affiliation, I think he could prove to be a reasonable and capable justice.

Of course, by saying this I've pretty much jinxed it, and will now be presented with all sorts of information (or worse, with future rulings) that prove the contrary, because the universe is perverse that way. But I'm at least tentatively hopeful, in much the same way I was (and has been borne out) when Chief Justice Roberts was nominated.

Knocking on wood, here.___

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2017-02-18 22:52:46 (38 comments; 49 reshares; 351 +1s; )Open 

This is amazing, beautiful and terrifying in a way which is hard to describe. A glacier the size of lower Manhattan calved off Greenland, and by chance, it was caught on film. It's hard for the human mind to process the scale of what's happening; there are no obvious visual references, and at first it looks like a Michael Bay-sized explosion. It's only when they superimpose some markings on the film for scale that you realize how much bigger it is than that; those things that looked the size of houses are really the size of mountains.

You will very rarely get to see the effects of climate change on the timescale of minutes; this is one of them.

h/t +Kee Hinckley

Man points camera at ice – seconds later he captures the impossible on film as a piece of glacier the size of the Lower Manhattan falls into the ocean.___This is amazing, beautiful and terrifying in a way which is hard to describe. A glacier the size of lower Manhattan calved off Greenland, and by chance, it was caught on film. It's hard for the human mind to process the scale of what's happening; there are no obvious visual references, and at first it looks like a Michael Bay-sized explosion. It's only when they superimpose some markings on the film for scale that you realize how much bigger it is than that; those things that looked the size of houses are really the size of mountains.

You will very rarely get to see the effects of climate change on the timescale of minutes; this is one of them.

h/t +Kee Hinckley

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2017-02-18 22:28:40 (47 comments; 17 reshares; 238 +1s; )Open 

I find this news oddly pleasing: even as fin fish and shellfish populations plummet, the cephalopods are booming. It's not quite clear why, except that perhaps they're better-suited to adapting to these rapid changes.

Part of this is no doubt due to their fairly rapid life-cycle; something I'm quite curious about is whether this has pushed a further adaptation towards sophisticated intelligence. Octopodes already have spectacularly complex minds, but likely for different reasons than we do. Social hunting and scavenging are things that have driven a lot of intelligence development in terrestrial species -- think of crows, and raccoons, and humans. Octopodes, on the other hand, have this wonderful advantage of being able to get into any sort of place, but the associated disadvantage of not having any armor or protection. They've had to use their brains to survive, as well as to get... more »

I find this news oddly pleasing: even as fin fish and shellfish populations plummet, the cephalopods are booming. It's not quite clear why, except that perhaps they're better-suited to adapting to these rapid changes.

Part of this is no doubt due to their fairly rapid life-cycle; something I'm quite curious about is whether this has pushed a further adaptation towards sophisticated intelligence. Octopodes already have spectacularly complex minds, but likely for different reasons than we do. Social hunting and scavenging are things that have driven a lot of intelligence development in terrestrial species -- think of crows, and raccoons, and humans. Octopodes, on the other hand, have this wonderful advantage of being able to get into any sort of place, but the associated disadvantage of not having any armor or protection. They've had to use their brains to survive, as well as to get their hands on food.

I'd be quite curious to see if we're finding evidence of new foraging or sheltering techniques showing up among our tentacled neighbors, or whether they're simply spreading into ecological niches being vacated by overfishing and acidification.

h/t +Kitty Stryker___

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2017-02-16 22:44:47 (25 comments; 11 reshares; 101 +1s; )Open 

If you're having as long and occasionally surreal a week as I am, you may need some music. This is one of my favorite things to listen to during such a day -- four Romantic violin concertos. (Wienawski's #1 with Gil Shaham; Bruch's #1 with Janine Jansen; Mendelssohn's with Hilary Hahn; and Tchaikovsky's with Itzhak Perlman)

If (like me) you like to read along as you listen, here are links to the scores from IMSLP:

http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto_No.1,_Op.14_(Wieniawski,_Henri)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto_No.1,_Op.26_(Bruch,_Max)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto,_Op.64_(Mendelssohn,_Felix)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto,_Op.35_(Tchaikovsky,_Pyotr)

If you're having as long and occasionally surreal a week as I am, you may need some music. This is one of my favorite things to listen to during such a day -- four Romantic violin concertos. (Wienawski's #1 with Gil Shaham; Bruch's #1 with Janine Jansen; Mendelssohn's with Hilary Hahn; and Tchaikovsky's with Itzhak Perlman)

If (like me) you like to read along as you listen, here are links to the scores from IMSLP:

http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto_No.1,_Op.14_(Wieniawski,_Henri)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto_No.1,_Op.26_(Bruch,_Max)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto,_Op.64_(Mendelssohn,_Felix)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Violin_Concerto,_Op.35_(Tchaikovsky,_Pyotr)___

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2017-02-16 04:07:08 (123 comments; 44 reshares; 243 +1s; )Open 

With a bunch of proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act coming up in the next few days, I thought I'd post a short explanation of how health insurance works -- and why it's not like most other kinds of insurance. This should help you ask the right questions about how proposals will affect you and others.

I'm not offering any answers or opinions here; just the things you need to know to ask the right questions. Answers are your own look-out, this time.

With a bunch of proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act coming up in the next few days, I thought I'd post a short explanation of how health insurance works -- and why it's not like most other kinds of insurance. This should help you ask the right questions about how proposals will affect you and others.

I'm not offering any answers or opinions here; just the things you need to know to ask the right questions. Answers are your own look-out, this time.___

2017-02-15 20:37:54 (95 comments; 8 reshares; 283 +1s; )Open 

My plan: Hand out USB dongles as schwag at security conferences.

They will contain non-spreading malware that does nothing but mark a little bit on Word docs, PDFs, and the like... so that if ever I get a resume from this person, I'll know.

My plan: Hand out USB dongles as schwag at security conferences.

They will contain non-spreading malware that does nothing but mark a little bit on Word docs, PDFs, and the like... so that if ever I get a resume from this person, I'll know.___

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2017-02-14 04:59:08 (128 comments; 48 reshares; 458 +1s; )Open 

So, Flynn is out as National Security Advisor – the second Trump official (after Paul Manafort) to resign over shady ties to the Kremlin. General David Petraeus, who was sacked as Director of the CIA and criminally charged when the FBI found that he had been leaking classified information to his biographer-slash-mistress, is being floated as a possible replacement. He has a meeting with Trump tomorrow morning.

/popcorn

(Incidentally, the White House apparently knew about all of this weeks ago; acting Attorney-General Yates told them. They decided to fire Yates instead, and sit on the story until it came out in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-warned-white-house-that-flynn-could-be-vulnerable-to-russian-blackmail-officials-say/2017/02/13/fc5dab88-f228-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html .

What a country! In SovietR... more »

So, Flynn is out as National Security Advisor – the second Trump official (after Paul Manafort) to resign over shady ties to the Kremlin. General David Petraeus, who was sacked as Director of the CIA and criminally charged when the FBI found that he had been leaking classified information to his biographer-slash-mistress, is being floated as a possible replacement. He has a meeting with Trump tomorrow morning.

/popcorn

(Incidentally, the White House apparently knew about all of this weeks ago; acting Attorney-General Yates told them. They decided to fire Yates instead, and sit on the story until it came out in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-warned-white-house-that-flynn-could-be-vulnerable-to-russian-blackmail-officials-say/2017/02/13/fc5dab88-f228-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html .

What a country! In Soviet Russia, Kremlin controls yo...

Hmm. Maybe things don't change that much after all)___

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2017-02-14 03:33:08 (168 comments; 56 reshares; 287 +1s; )Open 

We've already had one news story today about a senior Trump aide (Michael Alton) who's been writing the intellectual arguments for racism, Carl Schmitt-style, and a second about another senior Trump aide (Stephen Miller) whose history of writing about racism (that is, in favor of) goes back all the way to the beginning of high school.

So let's round out the hat trick with Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President and former National Security editor for Breitbart, who was recently out explaining to the press why Trump's statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day didn't mention Jews.

In this Inauguration Night photo, you can see a medal on his chest, one he often wears. It's the Vitéz Rend, a hereditary order bestowed on his grandfather by Miklós Horthy.

That's Horthy, who was then Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, a (willing) ally ofH... more »

We've already had one news story today about a senior Trump aide (Michael Alton) who's been writing the intellectual arguments for racism, Carl Schmitt-style, and a second about another senior Trump aide (Stephen Miller) whose history of writing about racism (that is, in favor of) goes back all the way to the beginning of high school.

So let's round out the hat trick with Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President and former National Security editor for Breitbart, who was recently out explaining to the press why Trump's statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day didn't mention Jews.

In this Inauguration Night photo, you can see a medal on his chest, one he often wears. It's the Vitéz Rend, a hereditary order bestowed on his grandfather by Miklós Horthy.

That's Horthy, who was then Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, a (willing) ally of Hitler's who presided over the extermination of 75% of Hungary's Jewish population. Vitéz Rend remains on the State Department list of organizations which were under the control of the Nazi Party.

Now, does this mean that Gorka's grandfather was a Nazi? Not necessarily; he might have received the order before Horthy's formal alliance with Hitler in 1939. But there's no reason that anyone wearing the order in 2017 would be unaware of precisely what it stands for, and the choice to proudly wear it in public could only be taken as a rather pointed message.

As Hungarian scholar Eva Balogh puts it: "Many supporters of the Horthy regime were enamored by the Nazis and Hitler and the ‘knights’ were especially so. Put it that way, after 1948 one wouldn’t have bragged about his father being a ‘vitéz.'"

Isn't our new regime fun?___

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2017-02-14 00:27:02 (147 comments; 23 reshares; 205 +1s; )Open 

Stephen Miller: Senior Adviser to the President, widely reported to be the main architect of the Muslim Ban. A believer in racism, especially against Latinos, apparently ever since his conversion to it at the age of 14.

The thing about growing up in the modern age -- Miller is only 31 -- is that if you've been writing about (i.e., in favor of) racism for the past 17 years, there will be a record of it, and journalists will easily find it. And be able to interview people who knew you and can quote you saying things like "I can't be your friend any more because you are Latino," or find your old YouTube videos where you're complaining about "invasions" of Mexican migrants, and so on.

It's not nearly the intellectual argument for racism that Michael Anton has provided; Miller is no Carl Schmitt. Instead, it reads like an angry teenager, who has gotten... more »

Stephen Miller: Senior Adviser to the President, widely reported to be the main architect of the Muslim Ban. A believer in racism, especially against Latinos, apparently ever since his conversion to it at the age of 14.

The thing about growing up in the modern age -- Miller is only 31 -- is that if you've been writing about (i.e., in favor of) racism for the past 17 years, there will be a record of it, and journalists will easily find it. And be able to interview people who knew you and can quote you saying things like "I can't be your friend any more because you are Latino," or find your old YouTube videos where you're complaining about "invasions" of Mexican migrants, and so on.

It's not nearly the intellectual argument for racism that Michael Anton has provided; Miller is no Carl Schmitt. Instead, it reads like an angry teenager, who has gotten older but forgotten to grow up.___

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2017-02-13 23:59:00 (63 comments; 46 reshares; 205 +1s; )Open 

This gets so weird, so fast, that it's hard to know how to describe it. It's about Michael Anton, now a senior member of the National Security Council, and the essays he wrote under the pseudonym "Publius Decius Mus" during the election, which are a combination of an argument for racism, a rather bizarre comparison of a Trump presidency to a cross between United Flight 93 and Russian roulette (this is an argument for Trump, mind you) and a great deal of old Nazi propaganda.

In particular, it's propaganda written by Carl Schmitt, one of the major intellectual backers of Nazism, known for really laying out a lot of the principles of National Socialism. Or as William Kristol put it in his tweet, when Publius was revealed to be Anton: "From Carl Schmitt to Mike Anton: First time tragedy, second time farce." (https://twitter.com/BillKristol/status/827560738109718528)... more »

This gets so weird, so fast, that it's hard to know how to describe it. It's about Michael Anton, now a senior member of the National Security Council, and the essays he wrote under the pseudonym "Publius Decius Mus" during the election, which are a combination of an argument for racism, a rather bizarre comparison of a Trump presidency to a cross between United Flight 93 and Russian roulette (this is an argument for Trump, mind you) and a great deal of old Nazi propaganda.

In particular, it's propaganda written by Carl Schmitt, one of the major intellectual backers of Nazism, known for really laying out a lot of the principles of National Socialism. Or as William Kristol put it in his tweet, when Publius was revealed to be Anton: "From Carl Schmitt to Mike Anton: First time tragedy, second time farce." (https://twitter.com/BillKristol/status/827560738109718528)

(Incidentally, we're starting to see some interesting stories about (Trump's senior adviser and author of the Muslim Ban) Stephen Miller's history of writing on racial topics dribbling out as well -- expect to see a bigger story on that hit in the next few days, as journalists have been digging in to his past and apparently finding a really interesting corpus.)___

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2017-02-13 21:52:08 (28 comments; 14 reshares; 123 +1s; )Open 

This is a good piece on the history of censorship of abolitionist literature and ideas in the US before the Civil War. The comparison to the current situation doesn't go beyond the first and last sentences; this piece isn't so interesting for what it tells us about the present as for what it tells us about our history, and just why freedom of the press is so important.

h/t +Mark Welch

This is a good piece on the history of censorship of abolitionist literature and ideas in the US before the Civil War. The comparison to the current situation doesn't go beyond the first and last sentences; this piece isn't so interesting for what it tells us about the present as for what it tells us about our history, and just why freedom of the press is so important.

h/t +Mark Welch___

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2017-02-13 19:08:31 (111 comments; 21 reshares; 218 +1s; )Open 

The Bear grumbleth; via +Joseph Moosman.

"The Duck quaketh" — from the very first picture book for children, published in 1658: http://buff.ly/2l6xWxJ___The Bear grumbleth; via +Joseph Moosman.

2017-02-13 06:02:15 (64 comments; 1 reshares; 162 +1s; )Open 

[Some of you may have briefly seen a post from me about Trump refusing FEMA authorization for the Oroville Dam. I've taken down this story until I can further verify it. Given how serious it is if true, this story requires an exceptional level of scrutiny.]

[Some of you may have briefly seen a post from me about Trump refusing FEMA authorization for the Oroville Dam. I've taken down this story until I can further verify it. Given how serious it is if true, this story requires an exceptional level of scrutiny.]___

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2017-02-13 04:23:01 (82 comments; 22 reshares; 187 +1s; )Open 

If nothing else, at least the quotes in this article provide a refreshing break from hypocrisy. The argument against hate-crimes laws which include sexual orientation is simple: these laws are a Trojan horse. If they prevent us from beating and killing people, next they'll prevent us from discriminating against them as well.

The "First Amendment Defense Act" (a bill just as disturbing as its faux-patriotic title implies) follows a similar vein: the idea is that discrimination against the LGBTQ community is such a fundamental tenet of people's religious faith that it requires special protection; no law must ever touch it. That bill doesn't even pretend at impartiality; it specifically lists which religious tenets it protects. Religions, or people, who don't agree receive no protection at all.

This is just a sample of the sort of vile world that men like Mike... more »

If nothing else, at least the quotes in this article provide a refreshing break from hypocrisy. The argument against hate-crimes laws which include sexual orientation is simple: these laws are a Trojan horse. If they prevent us from beating and killing people, next they'll prevent us from discriminating against them as well.

The "First Amendment Defense Act" (a bill just as disturbing as its faux-patriotic title implies) follows a similar vein: the idea is that discrimination against the LGBTQ community is such a fundamental tenet of people's religious faith that it requires special protection; no law must ever touch it. That bill doesn't even pretend at impartiality; it specifically lists which religious tenets it protects. Religions, or people, who don't agree receive no protection at all.

This is just a sample of the sort of vile world that men like Mike Pence and James Dobson [eliding the curses which go with their names] mean to create: one in which hatred is elevated to a holy value, and their sick parody of Christianity is a state religion.___

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2017-02-13 01:23:44 (71 comments; 30 reshares; 132 +1s; )Open 

WARNING - If you're anywhere near the dam, GO NOW.

Oh snap. If you're in or around Orville Dam, get out now. Any where near the Feather River up there. Go now, get in the car and go. ___WARNING - If you're anywhere near the dam, GO NOW.

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2017-02-13 00:46:50 (104 comments; 65 reshares; 205 +1s; )Open 

The political analysis continues: What might the next six months of the Trump administration bring?

This is both a dig into some recent items in the news, and a discussion of how it relates to our recent history, our not-so-recent history, and what it could mean for each of us individually.

Also, I have included plenty of pictures of cute animals.

The political analysis continues: What might the next six months of the Trump administration bring?

This is both a dig into some recent items in the news, and a discussion of how it relates to our recent history, our not-so-recent history, and what it could mean for each of us individually.

Also, I have included plenty of pictures of cute animals.___

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2017-02-12 19:27:06 (184 comments; 105 reshares; 403 +1s; )Open 

Some very interesting stuff about the deepening rift between Trump and his inner circle, and the intelligence community. A senior DoD official is quoted: "Since January 20, we've assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM."

What could possibly go wrong with this? 

Some very interesting stuff about the deepening rift between Trump and his inner circle, and the intelligence community. A senior DoD official is quoted: "Since January 20, we've assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM."

What could possibly go wrong with this? ___

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2017-02-06 23:12:03 (116 comments; 59 reshares; 436 +1s; )Open 

Shocking news: Conway Lied Deliberately

Shocking, I know. Who could have guessed?

Last week, Trump's mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway tried to justify his Muslim ban by talking about how Iraqi refugees had planned and perpetrated the "Bowling Green Massacre." This came as quite a surprise to the residents of Bowling Green, not to mention the rest of the country, since this massacre simply doesn't exist. She made it up out of whole cloth to justify a policy.

Conway later claimed that she had simply misspoken a word, and that she was really referring to two Iraqi refugees who had lived in Bowling Green and been arrested for conspiring to help people in Iraq acquire IED's.

Except, no. Cosmopolitan did a bit of journalism to it, and found that she had been using the "Bowling Green massacre" as a talking point with the press all week.... more »

Shocking news: Conway Lied Deliberately

Shocking, I know. Who could have guessed?

Last week, Trump's mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway tried to justify his Muslim ban by talking about how Iraqi refugees had planned and perpetrated the "Bowling Green Massacre." This came as quite a surprise to the residents of Bowling Green, not to mention the rest of the country, since this massacre simply doesn't exist. She made it up out of whole cloth to justify a policy.

Conway later claimed that she had simply misspoken a word, and that she was really referring to two Iraqi refugees who had lived in Bowling Green and been arrested for conspiring to help people in Iraq acquire IED's.

Except, no. Cosmopolitan did a bit of journalism to it, and found that she had been using the "Bowling Green massacre" as a talking point with the press all week. In fact, in an earlier interview with Cosmo, she had gone further, describing it as a massacre of US soldiers in Bowling Green.

Which is to say: the entire thing was a deliberate lie by Conway.

I'm not editing any papers right now, but if I were, I'd have a pretty clear directive for my newsroom: no further coverage of anything Conway says. If she does something, like shoot up a school, you can cover that, but her utterances are approximately as likely to reflect reality as those of the guy with the "The World Will End Tomorrow At Noon" sandwich board outside. And frankly, his story is more likely to be interesting.

For those who want more details, the WP has a summary of her "BGM" uses so far here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/02/06/kellyanne-conways-bowling-green-massacre-wasnt-a-slip-of-the-tongue-shes-said-it-before/?utm_term=.98589cfe0d9a___

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2017-02-06 00:25:41 (28 comments; 36 reshares; 288 +1s; )Open 

It's been a pretty hard few weeks, and my writing definitely hasn't been leaning to the cheerful side. So here's something happier for you: Jackie Chan discovering that his original stunt team is standing behind him.

Hearing what they all have to say about one another is profoundly warming. He is very much a man whose example we should live up to.

It's been a pretty hard few weeks, and my writing definitely hasn't been leaning to the cheerful side. So here's something happier for you: Jackie Chan discovering that his original stunt team is standing behind him.

Hearing what they all have to say about one another is profoundly warming. He is very much a man whose example we should live up to.___

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2017-02-06 00:12:05 (65 comments; 40 reshares; 238 +1s; )Open 

This is a rather clever device. It's a cargo-carrying robot which is designed to follow people around in order to learn where it can and can't go. It's designed to be able to go anywhere a wheelchair can, and the use case they're focusing on to begin with is helping maintenance, gardening, and custodial workers -- people who have to cart things around all day.

h/t +Aleatha Parker-Wood

This is a rather clever device. It's a cargo-carrying robot which is designed to follow people around in order to learn where it can and can't go. It's designed to be able to go anywhere a wheelchair can, and the use case they're focusing on to begin with is helping maintenance, gardening, and custodial workers -- people who have to cart things around all day.

h/t +Aleatha Parker-Wood___

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2017-02-05 23:53:56 (113 comments; 37 reshares; 214 +1s; )Open 

I had been wondering how Bannon planned to work anti-Semitism into his anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant schemes. (Not "if," mind you. You don't become best buddies with the American Nazi Party and have any "ifs" about your anti-Semitism)

Back in 2007, Bannon was pitching a documentary (which was never made) about the Islamic Conspiracy to take over America. His pitch included a focus on the "enablers among us" – a sort of fifth column – which was made from the major media outlets, the CIA, the FBI, civil liberties groups, universities, and "the American Jewish Community."

I had sort of figured that we'd be lumped in with the press and academia (as some of those no-good intellectuals who keep trying to thwart his vision of an ethnically pure, and therefore powerful, America), but I'm rather amused to find the CIA and the FBI on thesame... more »

I had been wondering how Bannon planned to work anti-Semitism into his anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant schemes. (Not "if," mind you. You don't become best buddies with the American Nazi Party and have any "ifs" about your anti-Semitism)

Back in 2007, Bannon was pitching a documentary (which was never made) about the Islamic Conspiracy to take over America. His pitch included a focus on the "enablers among us" – a sort of fifth column – which was made from the major media outlets, the CIA, the FBI, civil liberties groups, universities, and "the American Jewish Community."

I had sort of figured that we'd be lumped in with the press and academia (as some of those no-good intellectuals who keep trying to thwart his vision of an ethnically pure, and therefore powerful, America), but I'm rather amused to find the CIA and the FBI on the same list.

Via +Steve S___

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2017-02-05 23:17:26 (45 comments; 20 reshares; 303 +1s; )Open 

A week ago, I shared a piece titled "Trial Balloon for a Coup." Those of you who read me here probably had little trouble following it: it was an analysis of the (very serious) attacks on the rule of law which Trump had made over the prior few days, and examining what it meant that Trump was apparently trying to test how much he could get away with.

However, when things go viral on the Internet, the Internet gives them meanings of its own. Quickly, things turned into "OMG TRUMP IS TRYING TO KILL US" and "HE'S NOT AN EVIL GENIUS AND THIS IS ALL NONSENSE."

Fortunately, there were also some very thoughtful responses. +Trey Harris' below is one of my favorites. He's got another good follow-up here:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TreyHarris/posts/P8YSS5E7obi

You might also like David Roberts' response over at Vox:
... more »

People are criticizing Yonatan for a piece he didn't write. Not only is it unfair, but subscribing to their worldview could be dangerous.

I have to admit that, while I read +Yonatan Zunger on G+ and Medium pretty faithfully, I've been so overwhelmed with processing raw data about what the Trump regime has been doing—and the difficult research into the deceptively simple question that keeps arising: "has this happened before?"—that I haven't had much time for reading analysis, let alone meta-analysis.

So it wasn't until I heard Yonatan mentioned by someone on a podcast that I knew wasn't on G+ or in even a second-order Googler orbit that I realized some of those articles I'd been skipping were about Yonatan's "Trial Balloon for a Coup?" article on Medium, and it had gone viral into the political-analysis commentariat. (I'd seen the Breitbart article, but that didn't hit me as anything but the typical Breitbart "point and laugh at the silly liberal elitist" article that's a staple of that site.)

Since my posts lately could be read as also doing what these think pieces have accused Yonatan of doing—namely, giving examples of Trump and his inner circle's actions as proof of their autocratic and/or authoritarian intent—I want to briefly contextualize what I've written by way of defense. (I don't pretend to speak for Yonatan; even though arguments against him also apply to me, my defense may or may not not apply to him or be one he subscribes to.)

What my posts have been doing recently has not been using examples from the news as "proof" of intent. What I've been doing is collecting and correlating facts about the regime's actions as evidence of autocratic and/or authoritarian intent. The difference may seem slight, but the distinction is really important.

First off: intent is impossible to prove. Perhaps it's the engineer's mindset, but this is so basic—like it being impossible to prove the negative, or impossible to derive proof from the counterfactual—that I've just let it go unstated and assumed.

Second: I'm not claiming I'm right about my hypotheses. Another thing that scientists and engineers get implicitly but others may not. We hypothesize theories that fit the facts; that doesn't mean we believe them. (In fact, in technical work it's often quite useful to examine a clearly wrong hypothesis that explains the facts in order to find the criteria one might use to discriminate between it and the as-yet unformulated correct theory.) The reason that so many of my posts have had lines like "talk me down" or "can anyone suggest another rationale?" is that I fully realize I'm throwing out hypotheses that will only later, if ever, be put to the test.

Third: the penalty of overreacting and being wrong is much less than that of under-reacting and being wrong. Much, much less. Well, unless one values one's ego more than one's country, one's morals, and the safety and well-being of the least secure among us. The only penalty for overreaction is embarrassment, and I'd much rather have egg on my face than to have the worst come true while I "gave them the benefit of the doubt."

Fourth: harmful policies do the same harm whether they come from malice or from incompetence. The old aphorism, "never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence" is useful to IT people because it prevents emotionalizing and becoming adversarial with one's customers. In a professional setting, this makes sense; the stakes are lower and we aren't trying to accurately predict someone's future behavior. But in considering Trump, a) present harms are the same whatever intentions are behind them, and so deserve the same level of protest, and b) preventing future harms demands we prepare for the worst; see the previous point.

So, in summation: we will only have proof of malevolence after the fact, and that's too late.

Note that Yonatan's article's headline ended with a question mark. That's either been ignored by critical respondents or dismissed as cute, something like scare quotes. They then excoriate him for coming to an "unwarranted", "paranoid", or "overly certain" conclusion (to quote some of the articles I just read). But the question mark is an explicit sign that he hasn't come to a certain conclusion, warranted (or paranoid) or not.

I haven't concluded that Donald Trump is a wannabe dictator, either. His behavior has shown again and again and again that his inner mental life is inscrutable to me. Frankly, I don't care, if the results are the same. Since I will never crawl into Donald Trump or Steve Bannon's brains and experience what it is to have their thoughts (and for that, I think I should be grateful), I will never know whether my guesses about their intentions are correct or not.

I've chosen to err on the side of caution. And caution might in fact be to assume incompetence—if I were writing a paper in 2030 about the Trump presidency. But I'm not. I'm writing now about a regime acting in erratic, inexplicable and frightening ways, and in this case caution requires that I presume an autocrat is pushing us to authoritarianism.

The Vox author in the linked article points out that actual dictators historically aren't geniuses. That's an irrelevant strawman. A couple weeks ago, the media critics were warning us to stop taking Trump literally and take him seriously instead as his supporters do. Today, many of the same media critics are mocking those who have acted surprised at some of Trump's actions because they were literally things Trump said he would do.

Believe the autocrat. Your choice is this: hope for the best, assume he's not an autocrat and therefore you needn't believe him—and be surprised at catastrophe. Or, brace for the worst, presume he's an autocrat until proven otherwise and, having made that presumption, act as if you believe him—I'd much rather do that and be pleasantly (ecstatically, orgasmically!) surprised.

I've made my choice, I've presented my hypothesis, and I'm going to continue warning you about the mounting evidence. What I "truly believe in my heart of hearts" is irrelevant; my internal mental state is as unknowable to you as Trump's is to me. Like Trump, what I act as if I believe is all that matters.___A week ago, I shared a piece titled "Trial Balloon for a Coup." Those of you who read me here probably had little trouble following it: it was an analysis of the (very serious) attacks on the rule of law which Trump had made over the prior few days, and examining what it meant that Trump was apparently trying to test how much he could get away with.

However, when things go viral on the Internet, the Internet gives them meanings of its own. Quickly, things turned into "OMG TRUMP IS TRYING TO KILL US" and "HE'S NOT AN EVIL GENIUS AND THIS IS ALL NONSENSE."

Fortunately, there were also some very thoughtful responses. +Trey Harris' below is one of my favorites. He's got another good follow-up here:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TreyHarris/posts/P8YSS5E7obi

You might also like David Roberts' response over at Vox:

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/31/14442190/trump-is-no-evil-genius

or (if you didn't see it) my own follow-up at Extra Newsfeed:

https://extranewsfeed.com/when-villains-arent-super-f5646d81db6#.y7tx86986

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2017-02-03 23:31:45 (73 comments; 71 reshares; 410 +1s; )Open 

Movies have always loved having technicians magically "enhance" a blurry image, somehow turning pixels into clear pictures. Anyone who knows how computers work has always laughed at these, because there is literally no data beyond the pixels given; there's nothing there to enhance.

Except maybe there is. This program does something clever: it takes a pixelated image, and uses the fact that it knows it's looking at a human face, and what human faces look like, to turn each pixel into a 4x4 grid of its best guess of which colors would have to have been there to both be consistent with a face shape and with the average color it saw.

The fact that this works at all is pretty stunning, but take a look at the output below. On the right are the original pictures, at 32x32 resolution. On the left is what happens after they're reduced down to 8x8, the sort of thing you... more »

Algorithm that increases the resolution of images, synthesizing additional details as needed based on its understanding of what e.g. human faces should look like. Left is an 8x8 input, middle is the enhanced 32x32 version, right is what the 8x8 input originally looked like at 32x32 size.

Paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1702.00783___Movies have always loved having technicians magically "enhance" a blurry image, somehow turning pixels into clear pictures. Anyone who knows how computers work has always laughed at these, because there is literally no data beyond the pixels given; there's nothing there to enhance.

Except maybe there is. This program does something clever: it takes a pixelated image, and uses the fact that it knows it's looking at a human face, and what human faces look like, to turn each pixel into a 4x4 grid of its best guess of which colors would have to have been there to both be consistent with a face shape and with the average color it saw.

The fact that this works at all is pretty stunning, but take a look at the output below. On the right are the original pictures, at 32x32 resolution. On the left is what happens after they're reduced down to 8x8, the sort of thing you would get when a camera is at the limit of its resolution. In the middle is what their algorithm recovered.

The paper (available at the link) shows outputs for other kinds of image as well, e.g. "pictures of bedrooms." It clearly has to be trained afresh for each type of subject matter, and it's not yet clear how much its abilities scale from one kind of subject to a similar one, but it's quite impressive.

h/t +Kee Hinckley

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2017-02-02 08:00:50 (108 comments; 60 reshares; 333 +1s; )Open 

There were a lot of very thoughtful (and some slightly nutty) responses to "Trial Balloon for a Coup?" Some assumed that only an evil genius could successfully threaten our democracy; some asked how you could tell malice from incompetence; some talked about rights and systems.

This is me thinking them through -- and discussing how very non-super villains can be the greatest danger of all.

There were a lot of very thoughtful (and some slightly nutty) responses to "Trial Balloon for a Coup?" Some assumed that only an evil genius could successfully threaten our democracy; some asked how you could tell malice from incompetence; some talked about rights and systems.

This is me thinking them through -- and discussing how very non-super villains can be the greatest danger of all.___

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2017-02-01 19:58:02 (20 comments; 22 reshares; 176 +1s; )Open 

Computer science has its "protective disciplines:" privacy, security, and abuse prevention to protect people, site reliability engineering to protect systems, and more. One thing all these disciplines have in common is that they're trying to prevent catastrophic events – data breaches, harassment floods, and so on – which can have profound effects on people's lives.

But as Tolstoy said, "every happy family is alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." While ordinary engineering thinks mostly about how systems should work, the protective disciplines think about what happens when they fail. And both the risks which people face, and the consequences associated with those risks – what together we call their "threat models" – vary tremendously from person to person.

One very important aspect of doing this is to understandgroups of v... more »

Computer science has its "protective disciplines:" privacy, security, and abuse prevention to protect people, site reliability engineering to protect systems, and more. One thing all these disciplines have in common is that they're trying to prevent catastrophic events – data breaches, harassment floods, and so on – which can have profound effects on people's lives.

But as Tolstoy said, "every happy family is alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." While ordinary engineering thinks mostly about how systems should work, the protective disciplines think about what happens when they fail. And both the risks which people face, and the consequences associated with those risks – what together we call their "threat models" – vary tremendously from person to person.

One very important aspect of doing this is to understand groups of vulnerable populations: people who are at especially high risk for some kind of event, or who would be subject to especially severe consequences. Some of these populations are huge ("women," "children") and some are small ("journalists," "high-profile activists"), but each is very different, and understanding those needs is a critical task in CS today.

The Enigma 2017 conference (an annual conference on computer security) is wrapping up today, and one of its major themes has been studies on such groups – survivors of domestic violence, journalists, low-profile activists, and so on. Here WIRED tells about one of these reports, +Sunny Consolvo and team's (fascinating) work on understanding how people in, exiting, and after abusive relationships relate to computers, and what they need in each of these phases.___

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2017-01-30 00:43:26 (387 comments; 242 reshares; 733 +1s; )Open 

The news continues to develop almost faster than I can type analyses. But I've tried to round up the most critical updates from the past few hours, together with a discussion of what they mean.

The short version is this: we're seeing the formation of an "inner circle" of government, including Trump, Bannon, Miller, Kushner, Priebus, and possibly Flynn and Conway, who have been taking deliberate steps to hobble the ability of all other parts of government – the rest of the Executive branch, Congress, and most especially the courts – from controlling them. Somewhat unexpectedly, they went straight for an attempt to grab extraordinary physical powers over people (yesterday's Muslim ban), rather than trying to boil the frog slowly; in the context of other moves taken over the past week, this starts to look like a coherent strategy.

Power, including the power toexecu... more »

The news continues to develop almost faster than I can type analyses. But I've tried to round up the most critical updates from the past few hours, together with a discussion of what they mean.

The short version is this: we're seeing the formation of an "inner circle" of government, including Trump, Bannon, Miller, Kushner, Priebus, and possibly Flynn and Conway, who have been taking deliberate steps to hobble the ability of all other parts of government – the rest of the Executive branch, Congress, and most especially the courts – from controlling them. Somewhat unexpectedly, they went straight for an attempt to grab extraordinary physical powers over people (yesterday's Muslim ban), rather than trying to boil the frog slowly; in the context of other moves taken over the past week, this starts to look like a coherent strategy.

Power, including the power to execute every one of the things that Trump promised to do during the campaign, is the primary goal; money, in large, untraceable quantities, appears to be the secondary.___

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2017-01-29 22:32:08 (66 comments; 26 reshares; 247 +1s; )Open 

This is definitely disturbing, but I'm not yet sure what to make of it. The manipulations of press law that +Kimberly Chapman mentions are definitely possible, but I suspect that they wouldn't hold up in practice. My first suspicion is that this is to allow him to start accepting "campaign contributions" – that is, to open a channel for cash bribes from US nationals (which can be done anonymously using various money-laundering techniques legalized by the FEC a few years ago). As his previous campaign spent a great deal of its money "purchasing services" like building rentals directly from Trump, this is a pretty effective way to slip cash into his pocket. Non-US nationals, of course, can already route bribes through his various hotels and businesses around the world.

This is extremely disturbing...Trump has already filed to run again. In doing so, he restricts what non-profits are allowed to say about him.

501c(3) groups - your general American "charity" - are not allowed to directly be involved in a political campaign. There are other non-profit designations for that. You can be in a group fighting a nuclear waste dump and say that Senator So-and-so doesn't support your cause but Senator Such-and-Such does, but you can't then say, "So vote for Senator Such-and Such!"

Generally speaking groups are free to say, "We don't like this current administration because it's hurting our cause in this way, so remember to vote in three years' time because this is a big problem!" this early in a presidential cycle.

But by being already filed to run, it puts non-profits at risk of losing their tax-free status if they speak out against Trump.

This is a very chilling way of silencing critics, and it is NOT NORMAL. Yes, the 501c(3)s can just talk around it, but it means they have to be careful and on higher alert, and you can bet the high-profile ones like Planned Parenthood will have Trump lawyers picking through every word looking for a way to shut them up.

Further, it means he can already start running attack ads on anyone he wants and call it part of his campaign.

Tweets start here: https://twitter.com/resisterhood/status/825435325535252480

Document: http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/fecimg?_201701209041436569+0

___This is definitely disturbing, but I'm not yet sure what to make of it. The manipulations of press law that +Kimberly Chapman mentions are definitely possible, but I suspect that they wouldn't hold up in practice. My first suspicion is that this is to allow him to start accepting "campaign contributions" – that is, to open a channel for cash bribes from US nationals (which can be done anonymously using various money-laundering techniques legalized by the FEC a few years ago). As his previous campaign spent a great deal of its money "purchasing services" like building rentals directly from Trump, this is a pretty effective way to slip cash into his pocket. Non-US nationals, of course, can already route bribes through his various hotels and businesses around the world.

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2017-01-29 08:04:34 (218 comments; 165 reshares; 508 +1s; )Open 

Some updates on the political situation. Everything is very preliminary right now, because it's (apparently deliberately) unclear.

Several Federal judges have issued stays against the "Muslim ban" order. However, there are confirmed reports from multiple sources that Customs & Border Patrol (CBP, part of the DHS) is willfully disregarding those stays, denying access to counsel, moving the people they're holding to undisclosed locations so that nobody can get habeas corpus, and deporting people. This is very certainly not a local commander's decision; it goes up to the Sec'y of HS at least, and directly to Trump at most.

But – and here's the kicker – it's incredibly unclear what the scope of this refusal is. There's no clear news coming out, and we're getting more useful reports from the Twitter feeds of top attorneys in the field(both... more »

Some updates on the political situation. Everything is very preliminary right now, because it's (apparently deliberately) unclear.

Several Federal judges have issued stays against the "Muslim ban" order. However, there are confirmed reports from multiple sources that Customs & Border Patrol (CBP, part of the DHS) is willfully disregarding those stays, denying access to counsel, moving the people they're holding to undisclosed locations so that nobody can get habeas corpus, and deporting people. This is very certainly not a local commander's decision; it goes up to the Sec'y of HS at least, and directly to Trump at most.

But – and here's the kicker – it's incredibly unclear what the scope of this refusal is. There's no clear news coming out, and we're getting more useful reports from the Twitter feeds of top attorneys in the field (both from groups like the ACLU, who have done heroic work tonight, and from attorneys at top firms, who have been joining this pro bono) than we are from anywhere else.

If this is a refusal of unambiguous Federal court orders, then this is serious, serious beyond the scale of anything we've seen in our lifetimes: it's DHS saying that if Trump tells them to do one thing and the courts another, they will do what Trump says and best of luck to the courts trying to enforce that. Which is to say, they're establishing a precedent that DHS actions are not subject to any sort of court review, or to anything other than the personal fiat of Trump – including their right to detain people, deport them, or hold them incommunicado.

Alternatively, this might be something else, a decision by CBP counsel that certain court orders don't apply to certain cases; this is serious too, since they're trying to create "facts on the ground" faster than the courts can react, but it doesn't mean a wholesale rejection of the system of law. I simply don't have enough information yet, and hope to update as we know more.

Separately, there was another story today: Trump reorganized the National Security Counsel. The two most prominent changes are this: Steve Bannon now has a seat on it, and the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were both demoted: they only attend meetings of the Principals Committee which "[pertain] to their responsibilities and expertise."

(The other full members of the PC, incidentally, are the secretaries of State (Tillerson), Treasury (Szubin), Defense (Mattis), and Homeland Security (Kelly), the AG (Sessions), the President's Chief of Staff (Priebus), the National Security Advisor (Flynn), and the Homeland Security Advisor (Bossert). You can read the full order here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/28/presidential-memorandum-organization-national-security-council-and)

The demotion of the DNI and CJCS is surprising and I don't yet know what it means. There currently is no DNI – Coats' nomination is yet to be confirmed. It's hard to imagine what meetings wouldn't pertain to their "responsibilities and expertise," especially given that secretaries with much more specific responsibilities (like Treasury) weren't demoted. Bannon's promotion, however, is more significant: Trump is known for not attending many meetings, and delegating those, and Bannon is likely to be his principal representative in the NSC.

My gut read is that this is something which will prove very important in the long run. Trump's rift with the existing military and intelligence establishments is well-known, and he's made numerous statements, directly and through surrogates, about his interest in constructing alternative establishments reporting directly to him. Bannon would be a logical person to manage that subchain, as his "Chief Strategist" role doesn't come with a large org to manage already, or with Congressionally mandated restrictions. That would be the skeleton of a new internal security system, with the DHS and FBI (both very loyal to Trump) in the loop, together with a new private "security force" rolling up to Keith Schiller that takes over a lot of Secret Service roles, and a hypothetical new intelligence force, with Bannon being either de facto or de jure in charge of all the new organizations, and little to no legal supervision over them.

It's not clear, again, that this is where it's going, but it's definitely the configuration I would keep my eyes open for. It would promote Bannon from a Goebbels to a Himmler, which I suspect he would be just fine with.

So: Many signs out there, but nothing clear yet. These could range from incredibly serious to passing things, depending on how the next week or so plays out.

Update (00:51 PST): The DHS has put out an official statement, and I'll be damned if I can figure out what it means. It starts out by saying that they will continue to enforce all of Trump's orders, and that the orders remain in place, but it does offer a nod (later on) to complying with judicial orders.

Text here: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/department-homeland-security-response-recent-litigation

Update (02:06 PST): The Washington Post's story pulls together a range of official statements, which make it clear that this is deliberate and central policy, ordered personally by Trump. The exact meaning of the DHS statement remains unclear, but most people are reading it as an intent to continue to do whatever they want; it may involve a suggestion that if they don't want to grant a waiver to someone with a green card, they may do it by simply revoking the green card on the spot.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-challenge-trumps-executive-order/2017/01/28/e69501a2-e562-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_airports-1046am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.560b5a336b45

Update (07:55 PST): Sources confirming that DHS lawyers had flagged the banning of legal permanent residents as illegal ahead of time, but were specifically overruled by Bannon. Note the implications both for the deliberacy of the act and for the extent of Bannon's power. Also, Priebus confirmed on "Meet the Press" that the omission of Jews from the Holocaust Remembrance Day statement was deliberate and is not regretted.

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/01/steve-bannon-personally-overruled-dhs-decision-not-to-include-green-card-holders-in-travel-ban-cnn/

Update (12:59 PST): Priebus announced that the order will no longer be applied to those with green cards. The rest of the order stands (including those with visas other than permanent residency), and it remains unclear who has been deported so far, who is still being held, or what exactly CBP will be doing next. Increasing evidence signals that deployment of this policy really was complete chaos, even internally, with the head of CBP not even being pre-briefed.

https://nyti.ms/2jFy45B___

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2017-01-29 00:57:48 (256 comments; 113 reshares; 501 +1s; )Open 

Warning: This is not a piece about cute dogs!
Read the text here before clicking through.

The piece below is not a cheerful one. It started out as a comment on an earlier post, but it grew into a piece in its own right. I was trying to answer +Enclosed Grand Dad's question of why certain groups are particular targets of the Trump regime; that, in turn, grew into discussing what might be coming down the pipe next.

I come from a family for which thinking these things through, and knowing when to jump, has been a critical survival skill. The things in this post are the sorts of things people talk about quietly, while doing silent calculations about their options, but rarely talk about in public. This time, I thought I would share some of the innards with you.

Why the picture of the puppy? Because I stuck several pictures of cute animals, and links to... more »

Warning: This is not a piece about cute dogs!
Read the text here before clicking through.

The piece below is not a cheerful one. It started out as a comment on an earlier post, but it grew into a piece in its own right. I was trying to answer +Enclosed Grand Dad's question of why certain groups are particular targets of the Trump regime; that, in turn, grew into discussing what might be coming down the pipe next.

I come from a family for which thinking these things through, and knowing when to jump, has been a critical survival skill. The things in this post are the sorts of things people talk about quietly, while doing silent calculations about their options, but rarely talk about in public. This time, I thought I would share some of the innards with you.

Why the picture of the puppy? Because I stuck several pictures of cute animals, and links to even more, inside this article. They make this easier to deal with.

I'm going to go pet my dogs now.___

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2017-01-28 05:35:08 (267 comments; 211 reshares; 662 +1s; )Open 

Today, Donald Trump marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with an order against refugees, and a statement that pointedly didn't mention Jews. It talks about horror inflicted on "innocent people;" it makes no reference to how those people were chosen, or why.

And given the executive order of the day, that omission seems far clearer of a message. Among other things, it bans all refugees for the next 90 days (at which point it may be renewed); bans all Syrian refugees indefinitely; and most significantly, bars all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States, regardless of their visa status, for the next 90 days – the time required for the DHS to make a longer-term decision about this.

To clarify what this means, it means that anyone from one of those countries who is living in the US legally, even as a permanent resident, whowa... more »

Today, Donald Trump marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with an order against refugees, and a statement that pointedly didn't mention Jews. It talks about horror inflicted on "innocent people;" it makes no reference to how those people were chosen, or why.

And given the executive order of the day, that omission seems far clearer of a message. Among other things, it bans all refugees for the next 90 days (at which point it may be renewed); bans all Syrian refugees indefinitely; and most significantly, bars all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States, regardless of their visa status, for the next 90 days – the time required for the DHS to make a longer-term decision about this.

To clarify what this means, it means that anyone from one of those countries who is living in the US legally, even as a permanent resident, who was outside the country today cannot return for an as-yet indefinite period. (It may also apply to dual citizens, or to US citizens who were born in those countries; the text of the order is very unclear) I am personally aware of a few hundred people who are directly affected by this, at this stage: people who were out of town for one reason or another and are now separated from their homes and families. From some back-of-the-envelope guessing, I would say that there are at least 5,000 people who were affected today, possibly much more.

Rather impressively, even Dick Cheney described this as "[going] against everything we stand for and believe in."

On the radio today, they were talking about how Muslim communities are concerned about possible "civil rights issues" going forward, but they were rather limited in the concerns they raised. Korematsu is still the law of the land; never overturned, it held that the Japanese internment camps of the 1940's were legitimate exercises of executive power. Those won't happen tomorrow, because there's no extra PR vim in it, and it's still too soon; many people would remember and object. But two years from now, or three, when elections are starting to come up? Internment of nationals of various countries doesn't seem so far-fetched.

After all, Wednesday's orders around building a wall between us and Mexico included provisions to build and staff large detention centers next to them.

And both today's order and Wednesday's instruct the DHS to publish regular reports of crimes committed by immigrants, to remind us all of what we're being protected from. If you haven't read a report like this before, and your German is OK, look up back issues of "Der Jude Kriminell;" I added a scan of one below, although it's grainy.


Oh, the other picture? Those are eyeglasses. You can still see some of that pile at Auschwitz-Birkenau; they didn't keep all of it, they didn't have room. It's next to the giant pile of human hair, and the giant pile of baby shoes.

I just want you to remember what this day remembers.
___

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2017-01-27 20:46:38 (23 comments; 34 reshares; 324 +1s; )Open 

When Search works correctly, it knows what you meant.

When Search works really correctly, it knows what you didn't realize you meant.

h/t +Kelly Ellis

When Search works correctly, it knows what you meant.

When Search works really correctly, it knows what you didn't realize you meant.

h/t +Kelly Ellis___

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2017-01-27 08:11:03 (39 comments; 45 reshares; 364 +1s; )Open 

From pictoline.com, which seriously needs to sell posters of these.

(ETA: As +Mikhail Kyraha spotted below, that tattoo on Marie Curie's arm -- PoRa -- spells "Пора" in Russian: "It's time!")

From pictoline.com, which seriously needs to sell posters of these.

(ETA: As +Mikhail Kyraha spotted below, that tattoo on Marie Curie's arm -- PoRa -- spells "Пора" in Russian: "It's time!")___

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2017-01-23 21:02:03 (20 comments; 9 reshares; 121 +1s; )Open 

Significant updates to Google Voice starting to roll out today!

As it turns out, the rumors of Google Voice's abandonment have been greatly exaggerated.___Significant updates to Google Voice starting to roll out today!

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2017-01-23 20:59:52 (163 comments; 112 reshares; 335 +1s; )Open 

By Presidential decree, January 20th, 2017 has been named "National Day of Patriotic Devotion."

I shit you not. It is in the Federal Register, right here:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/24/2017-01798/special-observances-national-day-of-patriotic-devotion-proc-9570

Our new government's propaganda department apparently has very twentieth-century tastes. I'm mentally interpreting this as an attempt to say "День все-страны преданности Родине" in English, possibly by a fluent but non-native speaker.

h/t to @kenklippenstein over at Twitter for spotting this.

By Presidential decree, January 20th, 2017 has been named "National Day of Patriotic Devotion."

I shit you not. It is in the Federal Register, right here:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/24/2017-01798/special-observances-national-day-of-patriotic-devotion-proc-9570

Our new government's propaganda department apparently has very twentieth-century tastes. I'm mentally interpreting this as an attempt to say "День все-страны преданности Родине" in English, possibly by a fluent but non-native speaker.

h/t to @kenklippenstein over at Twitter for spotting this.___

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2017-01-23 02:58:28 (164 comments; 59 reshares; 283 +1s; )Open 

For most magazine publishers, if someone shows up with incontrovertible proof that your magazine has a long history of association with Nazi groups - say, your own back issues dedicated to Holocaust denial together with detailed money and personal trails linking your founders, your contributing writers, and your staff to a wide range of openly Nazi organizations between the second World War and the 1980s - the normal response would be to issue a statement that you regret the past affiliations of your magazine, and that these things in no way reflect your current editorial stance.

Today, I learned some really interesting things about Reason magazine, that darling of political Libertarianism. For example, that when faced with such evidence, not only is their response not to disavow Nazism, but instead to attack the journalists who turned this up as part of an "anti-Libertarian... more »

For most magazine publishers, if someone shows up with incontrovertible proof that your magazine has a long history of association with Nazi groups - say, your own back issues dedicated to Holocaust denial together with detailed money and personal trails linking your founders, your contributing writers, and your staff to a wide range of openly Nazi organizations between the second World War and the 1980s - the normal response would be to issue a statement that you regret the past affiliations of your magazine, and that these things in no way reflect your current editorial stance.

Today, I learned some really interesting things about Reason magazine, that darling of political Libertarianism. For example, that when faced with such evidence, not only is their response not to disavow Nazism, but instead to attack the journalists who turned this up as part of an "anti-Libertarian conspiracy."

Also, that when this is the response journalists get, their first instinct is to dig deeper and find out why, which is what leads us to discover that it is not merely their past staff, funders, and contributors who have these associations, but their present ones as well. And that they and their funders (including Charles Koch, personally) have been routing significant sums of money towards neo-Nazi groups since the 1960s at least.

Journalism is interesting.

h/t +A.V. Flox​___

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2017-01-23 00:43:57 (167 comments; 31 reshares; 284 +1s; )Open 

On Twitter, a debate has emerged in the past few days about punching Nazis. But much to my relief, it hasn't been much of a debate; pretty much everyone agrees that punching Nazis is only effective if you swing from the hip, not the arm, and follow through.

As I was writing essays on the limits of tolerance just a few weeks ago, it makes me glad not to have to give that explanation every ten minutes. (It's at https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/tolerance-is-not-a-moral-precept-1af7007d6376, if you want to see it)

But several people have more detailed questions about Nazi-punching, and for them, I can heartily recommend this FAQ I encountered:

http://thoughtsonthedead.com/on-the-propriety-of-punching-nazis-an-faq/

I'd say it answers pretty much any question you might potentially have about the propriety of punching Nazis.

If you want to hear... more »

On Twitter, a debate has emerged in the past few days about punching Nazis. But much to my relief, it hasn't been much of a debate; pretty much everyone agrees that punching Nazis is only effective if you swing from the hip, not the arm, and follow through.

As I was writing essays on the limits of tolerance just a few weeks ago, it makes me glad not to have to give that explanation every ten minutes. (It's at https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/tolerance-is-not-a-moral-precept-1af7007d6376, if you want to see it)

But several people have more detailed questions about Nazi-punching, and for them, I can heartily recommend this FAQ I encountered:

http://thoughtsonthedead.com/on-the-propriety-of-punching-nazis-an-faq/

I'd say it answers pretty much any question you might potentially have about the propriety of punching Nazis.

If you want to hear about some other interesting Nazi-punching–related stories, I recommend this little tidbit from the life of Joseph Greenstein, aka "The Mighty Atom," famed circus strongman:

https://louisproyect.org/2015/03/16/the-mighty-atom/

Or just go over to Twitter and search for "Nazis." The subject has been trending for the past day or so, and there are quite a lot of excellent things to be said on the subject.___

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2017-01-20 06:51:11 (129 comments; 16 reshares; 249 +1s; )Open 

In Judaism, the Torah is divided into 54 portions, one read each week until you go through the whole Bible. Each week's portion is a sort of message for the week, something to remember and interpret.

And what is this week's portion? The beginning of the story of Moses: from the oppression of immigrants to Let my people go.

In Judaism, the Torah is divided into 54 portions, one read each week until you go through the whole Bible. Each week's portion is a sort of message for the week, something to remember and interpret.

And what is this week's portion? The beginning of the story of Moses: from the oppression of immigrants to Let my people go.___

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2017-01-17 22:56:13 (42 comments; 9 reshares; 146 +1s; )Open 

I'm disappointed to see this. A few days ago, I described the platform as one I could endorse without reservation -- but with the edits made to it, and with the attempt to make these edits without telling anyone, I can no longer offer that level of confidence.

Sex workers' rights are human rights; sex workers' rights are labor rights. These rights are crucially important because sex workers are, by both legal and extralegal means, excluded from many of the critical protections which our society offers, down to the level of the protection of one's physical safety that the law is supposed to provide. The sex workers' rights movement, a movement both of and for sex workers, is an important representative force, and the previous platform's support for them was notable and highly commendable. The strange linguistic mush with which it was replaced -- from "we stand in... more »

Four days ago, the Women's March platform took the web by storm for being one of the most progressive and intersectional we've ever seen (https://plus.google.com/+AVFlox/posts/XdAiMgRGL1J). At the time, the document read: "We believe that all workers – including domestic and farm workers -- must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements."

In the past 12 hours, that language has been modified repeatedly, without any acknowledgment of the changes. These are the changes that +Kitty Stryker has identified:

"We believe that all workers -- including domestic and farm workers -- must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and

1.) "we stand in solidarity with those exploited for sex and labor."

2.) "we stand in solidarity with sex workers' rights movements."

3.) "we stand in solidarity with the sex workers' rights movement. We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights."

This is confusing and disappointing. I look forward to seeing more transparency from organizers about this.
___I'm disappointed to see this. A few days ago, I described the platform as one I could endorse without reservation -- but with the edits made to it, and with the attempt to make these edits without telling anyone, I can no longer offer that level of confidence.

Sex workers' rights are human rights; sex workers' rights are labor rights. These rights are crucially important because sex workers are, by both legal and extralegal means, excluded from many of the critical protections which our society offers, down to the level of the protection of one's physical safety that the law is supposed to provide. The sex workers' rights movement, a movement both of and for sex workers, is an important representative force, and the previous platform's support for them was notable and highly commendable. The strange linguistic mush with which it was replaced -- from "we stand in solidarity with sex workers' rights movements" to "we stand in solidarity with all those exploited for sex and labor" -- seems to open the door to joining up with the anti-trafficking movement, a movement notably not composed of sex workers, but instead claiming to "help" them.

And like many claims of help that don't seem to involve the group being "helped," this movement has been helping itself at the expense of others -- from handing people over to the police, to taking away people's livelihoods, all the way out to kidnapping people and putting them to work in sweatshops. There is a political movement afoot to make the "war on trafficking" the new "war on drugs," and it should be viewed with equal suspicion.

I am very concerned that the Women's March decided to make these changes, and even more so that they did so without explanation or notice. This went from a clear and forthright policy statement to one that makes me immediately wonder who they're making deals with.

2017-01-17 19:08:54 (31 comments; 38 reshares; 159 +1s; )Open 

This site is one of the coolest things I've encountered on the Internet in a while. Basically, it channel-surfs through YouTube videos uploaded in the past week which have zero views, showing just a few seconds of each before flipping to the next.

You would think this would be terrible, but instead it's really soothing. It feels like channel-surfing over the world itself, just seeing a few moments of people's lives at a time. In the past few moments I've encountered Hindu chants, someone mortaring bricks, a conversation with a hockey player in some unidentified Slavic language, a band tuning up, a class singing a song in some Southeast Asian language I couldn't identify, and an elephant eating some grass.

h/t +Lauren Weinstein

This site is one of the coolest things I've encountered on the Internet in a while. Basically, it channel-surfs through YouTube videos uploaded in the past week which have zero views, showing just a few seconds of each before flipping to the next.

You would think this would be terrible, but instead it's really soothing. It feels like channel-surfing over the world itself, just seeing a few moments of people's lives at a time. In the past few moments I've encountered Hindu chants, someone mortaring bricks, a conversation with a hockey player in some unidentified Slavic language, a band tuning up, a class singing a song in some Southeast Asian language I couldn't identify, and an elephant eating some grass.

h/t +Lauren Weinstein___

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2017-01-15 05:13:52 (24 comments; 2 reshares; 59 +1s; )Open 

Random interesting discovery: the FSB page that lists its various directors over the years goes seamlessly through all its various reorganizations and renamings, all the way back to "Iron" Felix Dzherzhinsky running the Cheka.

It also lists both Yagoda and Yezhov, despite their both having, um, vanished from the formal records for a while.

I find this straightforwardness oddly pleasing. Terrifying, perhaps, but oddly pleasing.

Random interesting discovery: the FSB page that lists its various directors over the years goes seamlessly through all its various reorganizations and renamings, all the way back to "Iron" Felix Dzherzhinsky running the Cheka.

It also lists both Yagoda and Yezhov, despite their both having, um, vanished from the formal records for a while.

I find this straightforwardness oddly pleasing. Terrifying, perhaps, but oddly pleasing.___

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2017-01-14 02:09:27 (69 comments; 30 reshares; 133 +1s; )Open 

"Genre Soup," or, "[Editor], when you said the author of the series you just bought was a model, I didn't think you meant a Markov model."

h/t +Jaym Gates and KC Cole.

"Genre Soup," or, "[Editor], when you said the author of the series you just bought was a model, I didn't think you meant a Markov model."

h/t +Jaym Gates and KC Cole.___

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2017-01-14 01:56:08 (70 comments; 25 reshares; 205 +1s; )Open 

In the past week, the US has gotten its first introduction in a while to the Russian notion of "kompromat" – compromising material quietly acquired (or sometimes manufactured) and used for blackmail or for more overtly political purposes.

Since there's every reason to believe we'll be seeing a lot more of this in the years to come, Julia Ioffe has written a helpful introduction to its nuances, and to one of its great masters, Vladimir Putin.

Not Putin as the unquestioned leader of Russia: Putin's reputation for skillful use of kompromat goes back to his previous job, as head of the FSB.* In fact, it was Putin's masterful use of the technique against a Prosecutor General in early 1999 which helped cement his rise to the presidency.



* The FSB was the domestic branch of the national police, split off from the KGB by Gorbachev at the endof... more »

In the past week, the US has gotten its first introduction in a while to the Russian notion of "kompromat" – compromising material quietly acquired (or sometimes manufactured) and used for blackmail or for more overtly political purposes.

Since there's every reason to believe we'll be seeing a lot more of this in the years to come, Julia Ioffe has written a helpful introduction to its nuances, and to one of its great masters, Vladimir Putin.

Not Putin as the unquestioned leader of Russia: Putin's reputation for skillful use of kompromat goes back to his previous job, as head of the FSB.* In fact, it was Putin's masterful use of the technique against a Prosecutor General in early 1999 which helped cement his rise to the presidency.



* The FSB was the domestic branch of the national police, split off from the KGB by Gorbachev at the end of 1991. Putin, who had been a KGB officer since 1975, was its head from 1998 to 1999, when he became Prime Minister. It remained the largest Russian intelligence agency until last September, when the SVR (the old foreign directorate) was folded back into it, and the combined organization renamed the MGB. This re-merger is still in progress and is expected to take several more months.___

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