Friday, September 21, 2018

Media v Media

Google's Perspective algorithm is a tool for censoring "toxic" speech based on word combinations that isn't effective enough for censorship proponents. (Who come mostly from media. Oliver Darcy's efforts on CNN were crucial to the campaign to ban Alex Jones. They should just give him the Pulitzer. Come on, msm, you know you want to.) Cable news, formerly more prestigious outlets such as the Atlantic, and of course the Huffpo-sphere all contribute to the campaign prodding the social media companies toward ever more de-platforming and censorship. Tech media provides creative technical advise.

The near future of censorship will focus on individuals and their ability to associate. Taking out Jones isn't just about silencing him, but also about taking out a node of transmission, by which the curious find their way to more serious and ultimately, to the Narrative, damaging content. From the severely progressive site Rantt
Google’s new Perspective algorithm is a good start, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle we can’t solve with the data points from a single comment, even with the most well trained recurrent neural networks. Ultimately, we need to teach computers to follow a conversation and make an informed opinion of a person’s character, something that can’t be done by a single neural net heavily reliant on parsing language.
It's not the character of the content but the content of your character
Understanding how to do it may be one of the most important technical issues we tackle, or lose the web to armies of trolls, bots, and people really into goose-stepping to a strongman’s tune.
Social media executives, down with the cause but retaining sympathy for the bottom line, are pressured from within as well. Their ranks are rotten with progressives clamoring for more censorship, like cops who resent not being able to bust heads:
Tech companies succeed or fail based on the talent of their developers, which gives those workers the leverage to shape the company culture. So when your engineers tell you there's a problem, you listen. That was clear again this week when Twitter engineers took to the site to push back against CEO Jack Dorsey's comments about why notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is still on the platform when other tech companies have banished him. 
Dorsey responded to his engineers publicly, thanking them for their thoughts and pledging to do better... 
The pressure on Twitter to ban Jones from its platform grew exponentially this week, though, after other major companies like Apple, Facebook, and YouTube started taking action against him for violating their terms of service. On Tuesday, Dorsey tweeted, “We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.” 
Dorsey further explained that Twitter couldn’t ban Jones based on “succumbing to outside pressure,” and he called on journalists to continue to fact-check him. This didn’t go over well with journalists—many pointed out that we spend a lot of time fact-checking nonsense, but that it’s not our job to keep a viral disinformation incubator healthy;
spit take 
it’s our job to report facts. The defense also fell flat with some current and former Twitter employees. “There is no honor in resisting ‘outside pressure’ just to pat ourselves on the back for being ‘impartial,’" 
Jack, the call is coming from inside the house...! 
Twitter engineer Marina Zhao tweeted. "I agree with @ekp that Twitter does not exist in a vacuum, and it is wrong to ignore the serious real-world harm, and to equate that with political viewpoints.” @ekp is Ellen Pao, formerly of Twitter and Reddit, who had earlier replied to Dorsey, “We tried treating @reddit as a silo, and it was a huge mistake. People got harassed cross-platform. Also if your site is the only one that allows this hate and harassment, it will get overrun and collapse.”
In the end taking Jones out might be the best thing for the right. The left is defusing a bomb that's already gone off, and if Jones disappears entirely, he takes with him a reputation for crazy that is no longer applied to the right. And in all likelihood the deplatforming of Jones will work as intended.

Here's Motherboard:
“We’ve been running a research project over last year, and when someone relatively famous gets no platformed by Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, there's an initial flashpoint, where some of their audience will move with them” Joan Donovan, Data and Society’s platform accountability research lead, told me on the phone, “but generally the falloff is pretty significant and they don’t gain the same amplification power they had prior to the moment they were taken off these bigger platforms.”
The sad fact is someone like Jones has nothing other than his platform--his voice. Emphasis added:
Deplatforming works “best” when the people being deplatformed don’t have any power to begin with. Nor are we talking about people from marginalized communities who have self-censored or left social media because of far right harassment and hate campaigns (and could, in theory, come back with more proactive moderation by large platforms.)
I say the author's self conscious, he'd say thorough, but following "we're crushing the powerless" with "but not the real powerless" is comic gold. Thank you, social justice man. Who, whom all the way down.

Once they've purged the net to the extent possible, expect to be hounded right into the dark web weeds:
Nonetheless, the concern among academics is that, as hate moves to the darker corners of the internet, that some of their old followers may move with them and become further radicalized. “The good that comes with deplatforming is, their main goal was to redpill or get people within mainstream communities more in line with their beliefs, so we need to get them off those platforms,” Robyn Caplan, a PhD student at Rutgers University and Data and Society affiliate, told me on the phone. “But now we’ve put them down into their holes where they were before, and they could strengthen their beliefs and become more extreme.” The question is whether it’s more harmful to society to have many millions of people exposed to kinda hateful content or to have a much smaller number of ultra-radicalized true believers.
The work of social justice never ends, or, it ends at the barrel of a gun.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Reading the report "Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Far Right on YouTube"

"For a short time on January 4, 2018, the most popular livestreamed video on YouTube was a broadcast dominated by white nationalists. More specifically, it was a stream by YouTubers Andy Warski and Jean-François Gariépy, facilitating a debate between a white nationalist and a libertarian. The debate topic was scientific racism, which they refer to as “race realism”—a contemporary incarnation of the long-standing claims that there are measurable scientific differences between races of humans. Arguing in favor of scientific racism was infamous white nationalist Richard Spencer, known for having popularized the term “alt-right.”1 Ostensibly on the other side was Carl Benjamin, a YouTuber who goes by the pseudonym Sargon of Akkad. During the broadcast, the debate became the #1 trending live video worldwide on YouTube, with over 10,000 active viewers. The archived version of the broadcast has been viewed an additional 475,000 times.


This debate is part of a larger phenomenon, in which YouTubers attempt to reach young audiences by broadcasting far-right ideas in the form of news and entertainment. An assortment of scholars, media pundits, and internet celebrities are using YouTube to promote a range of political positions, from mainstream versions of libertarianism and conservatism, all the way to overt white nationalism. While many of their views differ significantly, they all share a fundamental contempt for progressive politics—specifically for contemporary social justice movements. For this reason, I consider their collective position “reactionary,” as it is defined by its opposition to visions of social progress. United in this standpoint, these YouTubers frequently collaborate with and appear with others across ideological lines. Together, they have created a fully functioning media system that I call the Alternative Influence Network (AIN)."

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hate in Context

An opinion piece in the NYT:
Manal al-Sharif, co-founder and leader of the #Women2Drive movement and founder and CEO of Women2Hack Academy, is author of the memoir “Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening.”

As a Saudi Arabian woman who has lived most of her life under one of the last surviving absolute monarchies in the world, the closest I have come to experiencing democracy has been in challenging the status quo through my tweets.  
In 2016 a lot of Americans felt that way. Donald Trump's victory was more Arab Spring maybe than the Arab Spring--way less foreign intervention, I'll bet.
For activists and citizen journalists in the Arab world, social media has become a powerful way to express dissent, to disrupt and to organize. Digital activism, however, comes at a high price: The very tools we use for our cause can be — and have been — used to undermine us. While social media platforms were designed as a way to connect people online, activists used them as technological tools of liberation, devising creative hacks to defy state censorship, connect with like-minded people, mobilize the masses, influence public opinion, push for social change and ignite revolutions. With these opportunities came risks: The more we posted and engaged, the more vulnerable we became, as our aggregated data was weaponized against us.  
Likewise, after the catastrophe of Trump, the socials and old media rally to shut  down dissent by classifying our arguments Hate--by weaponizing our words against us. Regardless of truth, or genuine "hate" for that matter.
Over time, such data can be used to build an accurate picture not only of users’ preferences, likes and behaviors, but also of their beliefs, political views and intimate personal details; things that even their family and friends may not know about them. 
It strikes me that "build[ing] an accurate picture" of "beliefs, political views" is precisely one of the things those combating Hate Online are trying to do to right wingers.
Attempts to censor right wing speech online look increasingly to focusing on individuals' histories and associations, likes and links, as systems focusing on word combinations to flag actual speech transgressions can always be dodged with creative speech as this article laments:
To try and answer that, we need to step way, way back and first talk about bigotry not as an algorithm, but as social entity. Who exactly are bigots and what makes them tick, not by dictionary definition one would expect to find in a heavily padded college essay, but by practical, real world manifestations that quickly make them stand out. They don’t just use slurs, or bash liberal or egalitarian ideas by calling them something vile or comparing them to some horrible disease, which means the bigots in question will quickly catch on to how they’re being filtered out and switch to more subtle or confusing terms, maybe even treating it like a game.
White supremacists keep behaving in un-hateful fashion, unfortunately. But when did "hate" become forbidden? We lapsed in a fit of absentmindedness from robust freedom of speech into a bizarre system ostensibly censoring the emotion "hate".
Just note how Google’s algorithm goes astray when given quotes light on invective but heavy on the bigoted subtext and what’s known in journalist circles as dog whistles. Sarcasm adds another problem. How could you know on the basis of one comment that the person isn’t just mocking a bigot by pretending to be them, or conversely, mocking those calling out his bigoted statements? Well, the obvious answer is that we need context every time we evaluate a comment because two of the core features of bigotry are sincerity and a self-defensive attitude. Simply put, bigots say bigoted things because they truly believe them, and they hate being called bigots for it.
Google's "harassment tool" did not impress. Richard Spencer's "at the end of the day, America belongs to white men" somehow only scored 29 percent toxic on their meter rating speech from "healthy" to "toxic" (why not "unhealthy"? is this the difference between hate and Hate?). The disappointment with which censorship proponents in the media greet these programs and how they go about testing them (plugging in crimespeak quotes to see if they pass) reveals comically that it's content, and not hate they're after.

If they have their way, perhaps after Trump (or, counter-intuitively, maybe they'll let up, no longer in panic because of him) we can expect internet censorship to focus on individuals and their associations to just choke off the "hate" at the source.

I fear we'll view this already repressive time as when free speech cops thought they could get away with writing tickets on the street, instead of kicking down your door.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Bugmen of the Cloth

Burnaby British Columbia looks like a lovely place just east of downtown Vancouver, with an active refugee resettlement program.
The pastor of a church that helped sponsor a Syrian refugee family said it was “absolutely devastating” to find out one of the family members has been charged with murder in the death 13-year-old Marrisa Shen. Ibrahim Ali, 28, was arrested last Friday, according to police, and has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of the Burnaby teen, whose body was found in Central Park on July 19, 2017. 
Ali came to Canada about 17 months ago as a privately sponsored refugee, the NOW has learned. 
A red circle on a police map shows where the body of 13-year-old Burnaby resident Marissa Shen was found in Central Park on July 19, 2017.  
Residents of Bowen Island had raised $45,000 to support him and a brother as well as a third brother and his family during their first year in Canada. 
A fourth brother had come to Canada four years earlier as a government-sponsored refugee and was already living in Burnaby, according to a story in the Bowen Island Undercurrent. 
The Bowen Island community had partnered with Vancouver's St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church, which has a refugee committee and has helped to settle other families. 
“In terms of the (refugee) work that we do, I mean, the vetting situation is very good,” he said, “and they’re people who are in crisis, and of course our work is to respond to those who are suffering and in crisis as best we can with whatever resources we have available. Always a situation like this gives one pause to review, and we’ll review, but it’s really out of an act of compassion and care that there is the response to the refugee situation, which is not going to stop, right?
The girl was sacrificed to the volcano of "our" simmering "compassion", tended by a bugman priest, demanding more money ("...whatever resources we have available..."), and taking not shame but a sort of pride in the sacrifice of someone else's child--it's "really an act of compassion" ,the "response to the refugee situation", in its totality, so the sacrifices are ennobled. But above all they have to be borne, because the "refugee" crisis is "not going to stop" ("right?" as in "got it?").

The pastor is sorry, but the girl had to go.
“It’s a tragic, tragic thing,” pastor Dan Chambers said of the charges against Ali.
Chambers told the NOW he couldn’t say much because the case is before the courts.
Doubling up on adjectives always has a condescending effect (I picture him shaking his head, biting his lip, "...sad, sad...") but a pastor taking the public equivalent of the Fifth is remarkable.
Like members of the Syrian community and others who work with refugees, Chambers said he is worried the charges against Ali will create a negative perception of refugees and other newcomers. 
It's grimly comic the way every expression of remorse from both the refugee colonies and their liberal benefactors comes with the "backlash" disclaimer (Syrian community: "“At this moment of deep sadness, we earnestly join all Canadians in mourning and hope that this terrible incident won’t result in a backlash against refugees,”).

It should be a cliche: every time they say "negative perception" something awfully negative has happened, which must not be perceived as such.
“I really appreciate the comments that have already been made in the media by people who have been saying this is really atypical; it’s a very rare case,” he said. 
Members of the Syrian community will be lighting candles Friday morning outside B.C. Provincial Court in Vancouver where Ali is scheduled to appear. 
It's not clear who they're lighting the candles for, accused or victim. But the irony gets grimmer still. Like gamblers with someone else's money, the church and donors got Ali by rolling the dice one time too many
In late 2015, Bowen Island residents undertook a campaign to raise $30,000 in 30 days to bring Ali’s brother, his sister-in-law and their three children to Canada. 
But the community ended up exceeding their goal and raising an extra $15,000, allowing them to bring Ali and a younger brother as well, according to a January 2016 article in the Undercurrent.
They thought it would be great to keep the family together.

Pointless in Portland

 Another directionless stream. With Delcroix, Jonathan Pohl, ecce lux and a friendly troll.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


The Carrot and the Stick

All of these fatigued and serious faces showed no evidence of despair...they made their way with the resigned expression of those who are condemned to hope forever.
--Charles Baudelaire, To Each His Own Chimera

Human beings are, necessarily, actors who...can be divided...into the sane who know they are acting and the mad who do not.  
--W.H. Auden

What made my dreams so hollow? 
--Tom Waits, The Train Song 

 You will not be cured. Live long enough and the realization can no longer be deferred. The expectation you've sustained--that has in return sustained you--that over time, with work and luck, you will make yourself whole, is a fraud. A necessary fraud, but a fraud nonetheless. It is not possible. You cannot "find" yourself, as the widely ridiculed cliché would have it--we ridicule it only because it's naïve to speak of it, not because we aren't each guilty of the conceit--because your self is not out there to be found. A thing can't be both seeker and sought. The eye cannot turn upon itself. And the conscious self reduces down entirely to point of view. 

But we can't help trying. Each of us, to the extent we're not simply waiting out mortality eating, shitting, acquiring, procreating--to the extent we're human--is a philosopher. We want to know, and the only real object of inquiry left is the conscious self. It's the last mystery. Everything else is biology, physics, evolution. Technical issues.

The only thing setting us apart from the apes--those living, breathing mockeries of the noble idea of man-in-God's-image--is our ability and need to form this question. So, if the self is one's unique identity, and everything else is animal function, then the searching for the self, absurd and impossible, is the only self there is. The physical world, while infinitely vast, is infinitely explainable. Scientific questions will always arise, but so will their answers. We can assume every one of them has a solution, whether we've found it yet or not. There is only one question that has no answer: Why? In the first place, why?

Man has gone in search of God and he has found the void. The void will not hear our appeals, will neither love nor judge us, will not put things to rights; it is indifference itself. This pathetic lament is the last argument in favor of the existence of God; but I will not be led by an appeal to consequences--no matter how unthinkable the consequences. I will have the consequences, thank you; you can have the appeal. Take your fairy tale, if it sustains you. But take it somewhere else. I retain my sympathy, even some respect, for the religious. But I'm all out of patience for them.

Should I speak only for myself? Okay then. I will not be made whole; I will die as I was born: unfinished, incomplete, ill-adapted and ignorant. I'm okay with this; whatever the case, there's nothing else for it, and I'm in no hurry to prove this thesis. And anyway, I could be wrong. Now don't run off; humor me a bit longer. You've got nowhere to go, and besides, none of this is what I came to say. My concerns are of the petty, selfish variety--the only honest kind, in other words.

I've always been afraid of two things: beginnings and endings. I'm afraid to "take the leap" into new endeavor; I will stay for years in the same physical or metaphorical place purely out of inertia--often in tormented awareness of the fact. But I fear more finishes and finality--at least some part manifestation of my fear of death. I once took a job selling--or trying to sell--cars. I was thoroughly incapable. I couldn't "close". Second only to closing in my dread was opening the sale. Introducing myself. This holds mostly constant for me. The only thing I can bear, the only thing that feels natural to me, is the stringing along of a thing.

I want to fiddle in the middle. Better still to go back periodically, not to the beginning, but to some earlier point. Even as a  young boy I recall wanting to go back in time, to correct mistakes, to retrieve something irretrievable--never anything specific. I've just always been haunted by the vague suspicion I've screwed up. I don't defend this. I know it's untenable; I have paid dearly for it. Still, I despise you for not understanding. I despise your practicality. I despise your literal-mindedness, your impatience with all this, your perfectly logical and correct arguments. To hell with your careers, to hell with your ambition, to hell with your concern! To hell with you, closers, and this world of yours!

I say this because there was another, undeniable aspect to my aversion to closing the deal. Something less flattering still. I don't understand the appeal of bending someone to my will, of seduction--even of women. It repulses me, almost as much as the idea of being seduced. I always feel guilty about it. It is degrading. Maybe it's really just pride, pathological egoism--I refuse to play along, to compromise. I will not bow, I will not appeal, and I will not act the part. I have a few problems, you see, with my character as written in the script. I want to know who wrote these lines anyway. I will not read them--they are all trite cliché. I'm not feeling it. What about the audience? To hell with them. I didn't charge admission. I can't see beyond the floodlights; I'm not sure they're out there.

Yes, I know--the closing must be done; the cars have to be sold. The seductions, and subsequent screwing, must take place. Somebody has to do it. If no one does it, it won't get done, and if it doesn't get done, we'll suffer for it. But must everyone have join in, for Christ's sake? Modern life increasingly demands we all be closers--or closed upon. Closers run the world. What about creativity, you say? There are creators--like those who invented the car. But notice: they don't run things. They have some influence, often very much influence, yes, but they don't have the last word in this world. It's right there in the contract: they get a percentage of the gross, but they don't have final cut. Who does? Politicians? Well, that's what they call themselves, but what they really are is salesmen. Closers. And what they sell is necessarily corrupted. It's used by various interests. The world is run by used car salesmen. They even look the part, only somewhat better dressed. Their patter is, if anything, less honest. But this isn't what I came to say either.

I have given up the ghost--now don't start, it's not as grim as that. And some day--it's inevitable--you will too, if only on your deathbed. You fear this like the onset of dementia in old age, or like falling under the sway of a cult. You see it as death itself. Me, I can't remember truly caring. I have only wanted to escape it. Now I can't fake it anymore--yet I have to go on living. The battle has been lost but there is no surrender, no merciful slaughter; no resolution. I must go on fighting--I'm not the type to put a gun to my head. I am too jealous, too greedy, too envious for that, after all my gloating disdain for concern. I'm not leaving this all to you bastards. I might miss something! So I am condemned, not to die but to live.

But I have sinned; that's the worst of it. Because I have not contributed. It was pride that would not let me step onto the wire. I would not risk it. I have been a free-rider the whole time, the worst kind, the kind who consoles himself with the notion he's been cheated. But I haven't gotten away with it; mediocrity is its own punishment. I committed the worst sin of the healthy and sane: I held back. I was a miser, hoarding himself. Recently I read about a "hoarder" who'd been found, dead for weeks, buried in the refuse he wouldn't part with. That's how they'll find me, amidst the half-baked ideas, the false starts, the if-only regrets that are my refuse. For what was I saving myself? What did I expect to happen? I made an assumption that isn't mine to make--that none of it matters. Now that assumption fails too. What's the first thing to give with age? Certainty.

Those who act are better, nobler; they operate on faith, on the faith there is meaning, despite all evidence to the contrary. It takes faith to buy in without guarantee. And faith is all we ever had to go on in the end, in the absence of signs.
Ironic isn't it? But faith is all we have left in the absence of God.


Is the Democratic Party becoming more progressive or just browning? Is there a difference?

The Hill:
 The story of Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s “upset” primary victory over 10-term Congressman Mike Capuano is a compelling one: young, progressive woman trounces Democratic establishment icon. The district wanted “change.” (At least, that’s how Capuano tells it.) 
Pressley’s victory has drawn comparisons to democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise primary win over moderate Rep. Joe Crowley in New York. But the comparison misses the mark. And the narrative that Pressley’s victory is a harbinger of a progressive ascendancy within the bluest state’s Democratic Party obscures the truth about the results of last week’s primary election. 
The real story is this: Capuano was redistricted out of office. 
Prior to 2013, Capuano represented Massachusetts’s 8th Congressional District. After the 2010 census, however, Massachusetts lost a seat in the House of Representatives. When former Republican Sen. Scott Brown wrote to the redistricting committee advocating the creation of a majority-minority district, Capuano fired back defensively that the 8th was already “majority-minority.”
Why Scott Brown requested the new district I don't know, but Republicans have been known to advocate majority-minority districts where it helps them preserve relatively white districts elsewhere. But they're running out of white people and so are the democrats.

Something tells me the bench won't be very deep on the Democrats' side when being a minority is all but required.

Axis: Bold as Hate

Bernie Sanders sees in the global trend toward nationalism an "authoritarian axis", and proposes a new progressive international front to oppose it in an op ed for the UK edition of the Guardian
 At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, when the world’s top 1% now owns more wealth than the bottom 99%, we are seeing the rise of a new authoritarian axis. 
 While these regimes may differ in some respects, they share key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests. These leaders are also deeply connected to a network of multi-billionaire oligarchs who see the world as their economic plaything.
It remains a mystery what "democratic norms" are threatened by these elected leaders. Trump's calling out news organizations by name for their bias remains just that--and has the added misfortune of being accurate. In calling out the press for its treatment of him, Trump calls them out for their history of actively colluding to mislead a public they disdain.

Indeed, the media leveraging Trump's hostility toward them into an attack on freedom of the press follows a pattern so habitual they don't see it, the same one by which they make of a thug shot by a cop a national racism crisis, or of a baseless rape accusation a national college rape crisis.
Those of us who believe in democracy, who believe that a government must be accountable to its people, must understand the scope of this challenge if we are to effectively confront it.
 Those of us who voted, who demand our government be accountable, are who you confront.
I would be a lot more impressed with these never-ending screeds about Trump's threat to democracy if they at least acknowledged the irony of their position. Much less the paucity of evidence democracy or--please!--national unity are more threatened by Trump's populism than they are by his enemies. the same people who cut Bernie off at the knees when he threatened to make democracy meaningful on the Democratic side. How dare Sanders talk about a threat to democracy after submitting to that and now effectively allying with the same monied and entrenched interests that want to do it to Trump. Bernie can't see the irony for all the irony.

Megaphone-leveraging: Trump's imperious persona and combative style are portrayed as authoritarianism, when he's done nothing authoritarian, and is in fact so isolated he couldn't if he wanted, or knew how to go about it.
It should be clear by now that Donald Trump and the rightwing movement that supports him is not a phenomenon unique to the United States. All around the world, in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.

This trend certainly did not begin with Trump, but there’s no question that authoritarian leaders around the world have drawn inspiration from the fact that the leader of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy seems to delight in shattering democratic norms.
Those shattered democratic norms are as fictional as the bed of shattered glass upon which Haven Monahan led his notorious gang-bang.

So let's hear about this global plot and how it works.
Three years ago, who would have imagined that the United States would stay neutral between Canada, our democratic neighbor and second largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia, a monarchic, client state that treats women as third-class citizens? It’s also hard to imagine that Israel’s Netanyahu government would have moved to pass the recent “nation state law”, which essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, if Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t know Trump would have his back.
An Obama Administration certainly would have opposed Israel's ethnostate law. As for Saudi Arabia, they are embarking on a possibly reckless course of liberalization that the Trump Administration is encouraging. Certainly there's more to this Vast Rightwing Conspiracy.
Other authoritarian states are much farther along this kleptocratic process. In Russia, it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, there is no debate about separation because the natural resources of the state, valued at trillions of dollars, belong to the Saudi royal family. In Hungary, far-right authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán is openly allied with Putin in Russia. In China, an inner circle led by Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad.
Russian corruption is not new. Saudi Arabia's ownership of the country is not relevant to the new nationalism. China's nationalism is hardly new--and the socialist Bernie completely ignores its origins in the communist party. I agree with Sanders that there's a global trend toward nationalism in reaction to globalization. But in trying to paint it sinister, he draws comic connections worthy of Alex Jones; Orban to Putin to China to Saudi Arabia...
We must understand that these authoritarians are part of a common front. They are in close contact with each other, share tactics and, as in the case of European and American rightwing movements, even share some of the same funders. The Mercer family, for example, supporters of the infamous Cambridge Analytica, have been key backers of Trump and of Breitbart News, which operates in Europe, the United States and Israel to advance the same anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim agenda. Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson gives generously to rightwing causes in both the United States and Israel, promoting a shared agenda of intolerance and illiberalism in both countries.
Sheldon Adelson as white nationalist. Who knew? It makes one long for a real alliance of affinity between Isreali and American nationalists.

But the notion shared ideology means affinity between nations is wrong: democracies still compete with each other. Chinese nationalism does not naturally ally with American nationalism--quite the contrary. Isn't a lack of national cooperation the whole problem with nationalism, Bernie?
The truth is, however, that to effectively oppose rightwing authoritarianism, we cannot simply go back to the failed status quo of the last several decades. Today in the United States, and in many other parts of the world, people are working longer hours for stagnating wages, and worry that their children will have a lower standard of living than they do.
Yes. Immigration's role in this goes unmentioned, and it's the immigration issue above all that arouses anti-Trump fervor.
Our job is to fight for a future in which new technology and innovation works to benefit all people, not just a few. It is not acceptable that the top 1% of the world’s population owns half the planet’s wealth, while the bottom 70% of the working age population accounts for just 2.7% of global wealth. 
Immigration plays a role in this, no?
Together governments of the world must come together to end the absurdity of the rich and multinational corporations stashing over $21tn in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and then demanding that their respective governments impose an austerity agenda on their working families. 
Austerity programs. Who Imposes those?
It is not acceptable that the fossil fuel industry continues to make huge profits while their carbon emissions destroy the planet for our children and grandchildren.
Oil companies, just because.
It is not acceptable that a handful of multinational media giants, owned by a small number of billionaires, largely control the flow of information on the planet.
Careful there, mister, you're 'wading into InfoWars territory. Next thing you'll say is they conspire against Trump.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Pozland Dispatch for September 12

Is Serena Williams on PEDs, is getting stabbed a good thing and other questions.

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The Most Current-Year Thing Ever Said

Comes to us by way of The Hill, quoting one of two women made uncomfortable by a surprise stand-up set by recently MeToo'ed comedian Louis CK
"Everyone around me was laughing," one of the women told Vulture. "That was just depressing."
He could at least have had the decency to bomb.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Serene Williams

The most important story in the world last weekend was Serena Williams' public humiliation by the Man after an embarrassing on-court tantrum at the US Open.

I suspect the crackup originates from performance enhancing drugs. Of course she's also mother to a one year-old and, still, Serena Williams.

That narrative--the new mother and old champion returning to the Open at 36 years of age--was scripted to include a victory. It could have been amended perhaps to her graciously losing to an admiring newcomer, if she had that in her.

Naomi Osaka had every story element on her side. Black and Japanese, born overseas, young and gracious, the first Japanese-born person to win a major tennis tournament. If only she had been fortunate enough to face off against a white Becky, she would right now be toast of the globe, diversity's latest It Girl, "empowering" young women worldwide.

Most of the mainstream reactions have been sympathetic to or wholly supportive of Williams, barely nodding to Osaka as an afterthought. It's insipid to point out the double standard, but just imagine a non-black competitor indulging that disgraceful display. Where you now have apologies for Serena ranging from the slightly embarrassed to the totally clueless (NYT to Lady Noire), you would have calls for the brat's good-hair sprouting head.

If there's a marketing Team Osaka they have to be wondering what hit them. Serena didn't just steal her opponent's glory ("thief", indeed) on the court, she's smothered Osaka's story with her own. All those headlines, accepting at least somewhat Williams' bizarre charges of sexism (one of the UK tabloids called it a "sexism row"), have pushed out the host of stories celebrating Osaka. These are time-sensitive. Osaka doesn't get this time back. She doesn't get to take a victory lap because Serena is throwing a fit on the track.

This is also monetary: endorsement deals depend on an athlete's exposure. The hype and buzz surrounding Osaka's dominant win should be the favorable environment in which she signs endorsement deals. Now she comes in with a weaker hand than she deserves; everyone is talking about Serena. The name- and general recognition she earned is not there. Somewhere an agent is doing the equivalent of smashing his racket.

Serena will suffer no significant loss. In fact Nike should be along with an offer soon.

What they're up against is a distinctly black American phenomenon of religious hero worship. We see it in the social model adopted by hip-hop, where thousands of petty dictators of a sort claw and elbow each other to be the art's equivalent of an African Big Man.

There is a female equivalent, the Black Queen, which Beyonce exemplifies. The black appreciation of Bey and such as Serena is religious, adopting the fertility rites of the mother cults of cruder levels of social development. Motherhood for them is transcendent, not mere motherhood; they are queen bees. Pregnant Beyonce embraced this theme on stage, appearing as gilded royalty before worshiping supplicants.

Black Americans, without the aid of Western enlightenment, would ascribe supernatural powers to their heroes and talismanic powers to their bling. In the post-religious age they revert to an earlier religious form, of the god incarnate. Where once royalty made men gods, now celebrity does.

Monday, September 10, 2018


Ernst Roets of the pro-Boer oranization Afriforum addressing South Africa's congress
...the ANC/EFF’s argument that “ownership of land by whites should be regarded as illegitimate because Africa is the black people’s continent, then [they] should be prepared to join forces with white, right-wing fascists in Europe who argue that Europe is white people’s continent, and that there is therefore no place for black people in Europe.”
The analogy Americans, and the West, still draw is between black South Africans and native Americans. Whites robbing an indigenous group of its land. But the analogy would only be valid if America's settlers had set up in, say, New England and created a thriving nation drawing in indigenous migrants, rather than expanding across the continent wiping out the scattered nations. A few local tribes would indeed have a grievance having had their land conquered from them, but the rest would not, and they certainly wouldn't have a claim to the land.

So, are we establishing historic continental privilege? Because I'd like to invoke it right now.

Can South Africa's seemingly inevitable consolidation as a black ethnostate be of a part with rising ethnic nationalism globally? It's like water finding its level.
If you argue that white people in Africa shouldn’t receive equal treatment, but that the rights of black people in Europe should be protected, then you are nothing other than a racist hypocrite,” he declared.
Invoking racism is a loser's game. Even the Boers of Afriforum accede to some land appropriation, with compensation. But the ANC have effectively led black South Africans to believe they, or someone in their family, is going to get a farm. There isn't nearly enough land to go around, and probably not enough farming ability in the population to properly run those they take. It's a question of how appeased the average black South African is going to be by the sight of whites getting theirs. If the ANC actually does start snapping up all the farms, the inevitable food crisis is going to make the appeasement of black South Africans harder still. In that case we can count on the ANC blaming the whites, as we spiral on down.

What South Africa needs is a two-state solution.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Whose Treason?

From that notorious anonymous op ed in the NYT
The dilemma — which [Trump] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. 
Wait a minute. That part about working to frustrate parts of an elected leader's agenda sounds like democratic sabotage. It's the opposite, Anonymous says, without noting the irony
That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office. 
Well then, which parts of said agenda are you thwarting? Are they anti-democratic or unconstitutional? Is there a secret agenda you're derailing? What are these extraordinary crimes for which you're exercising this extraordinary subversion? Because they are the only justification for what you just said you're doing, or for writing this. 
Otherwise this is treason.

For all the hyperbole, the various charges against Trump--that he's an autocrat, literally Hitler, enemy of the press--are based entirely on things he's said. Nothing he's done, nothing he proposes to do, has been unconstitutional or, for that matter, irrational or extreme.

The ill-informed mobs that turn out to protest certainly don't understand this, and it's not clear the respectable Resistance, for all its condescension, understands.

The nation was convulsed with Pussy Hat protests over Trump's flippant remarks on tape from years prior. He's been deemed the worst thing to happen to women since...ever.
Sure, his Supreme Court picks are NARAL's nightmare, but could have been expected from any conservative Republican, and coming from Jeb would not have had such unfortunate side effects as The Handmaid's Tale on HBO. The left continues to predicate much of its legitimacy on abortion rights, so their theatrics are understandable as desperate political strategy, but the idea Trump represents a unique threat to women is delusional.

His supposed hostility and threat to a free press, the "autocrat" charge, is leveraged from his bluster in exchanges with a press that had abandoned any pretense of objectivity toward him.
As a genuine populist leader--from the elite point of view demagogue--Trump called out a corrupt press; for shilling for Hillary, for gaslighting the public on immigration, trade, war. A press that pushes the social media companies, already complicit, to silence dissidents. But it isn't that the press is an ass: Trump has done nothing but use the bully pulpit with extraordinary effect.

Of course Anonymous and the NYT have gone to great lengths here; certainly we'll hear, finally, about Trump's secret plan to kill democracy and decency
 The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
That's it. Trump is not on board with the platitudes.

John Nolte in Breitbart:
Even if everything Woodward’s anonymous sources say is true… So what?

Even if everything the New York Times narcissist says is true… So what?

Look at what these failures and liars and grifters are trying to con you with… Because it has nothing to do with illegality, nothing to do with substance, and everything to do with style.

The corrupt establishment is colluding to head fake America into freaking out over Trump’s style while Trump delivers and delivers and delivers on the substance, on things that actually matter.

Trump has an erratic management style. So what? I’m supposed to care he burns people out, dresses them down, demands they do crazy stuff like at long last win one of these endless neocon wars?

So what?
The elite has escalated the war again, seeking to manufacture a constitutional crisis out of tweets and hysteria.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


On Luke Ford with Jonathan Pohl, Claire Khaw and Babylonian Hebrew

Tuesday's World

A news round-up.

Roxanne Barr says she might to move to Israel
Former sitcom star Roseanne Barr is vowing to quit the United States and move to Israel, according to reports. Barr made her proclamation on another appearance on Rabbi Shmuley’s podcast where she said she is headed to the Holy Land, according to TMZ. 
“I have an opportunity to go to Israel for a few months and study with my favorite teachers over there,” Barr said, “and that’s where I’m going to go and probably move somewhere there and study with my favorite teachers.”
In Breitbart-speak this constitutes a "vow" to move, as if out of pique like those vowing to abandon Trump's United States. But of course Barr has run afoul of the Resistance, and dared notice (publicly, for I don't think she's alone) Valerie Jarret sort of looks like the chimpanzee female lead in whatever godawful Planet of the Apes iteration we're on now. Her defense--probably honest--would've made a great joke in a stand-up act back when we still were allowed a sense of humor: I didn't even know she was black!

Those celebrities who abandoned their vow to abandon the States are making up for it by forcing others to bail. One celebrity's good as another.
Barr also said that she made a “fatal mistake” in apologizing for the controversial tweet about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Many felt the tweet was racist and the subsequent controversy ended in Barr’s firing from her hit sitcom. 
Barr's isolation for supporting Trump in Hollywood must be so total the thought of an aggressive campaign fighting back--as she would if the right was calling for her head--is unthinkable. The Jews of Hollywood call her Hitler, the Jews of Israel shrug.
Barr said that liberals never accept apologizes [sic], but use them as weapons to destroy opponents.
A truism at this point.


Outside of Portland in Beaverton Oregon Nike's campus-style headquarters sprawl over 213 acres, at last count (Microsoft's massive Seattle-area campus is 500 acres). Avenues are named after celebrity sponsors who haven't fallen out of favor yet for raping women or supporting Trump. Company security patrols the wooded bike lane surrounding the facility.

 This empire is putting forth Collin Kaepernick as the face of its thirtieth anniversary "Just Do It" campaign. The reaction was, as they say, swift. Swifter than the flagging quarterback, who lost his starting spot before he found his moral outrage.
Nike’s stock price fell more than two percent in early trading Tuesday. It was the worst performing stock in the Dow Jones industrial average, helping to drag the average to a fall for the first part of the day. While some investors are likely nervous that the company’s decision to prominently feature Kaepernick could inspire a boycott, the stock price of main competitor Adidas was also down more than two percent. The broader stock market downturn was being blamed on worries about tense negotiations over Nafta.

The N.F.L. has struggled to contain the on-field protests, which have also included raised fists and other gestures, which league officials have blamed for dragging down the league. Television ratings have declined and certain segments of the fan base have reacted angrily. President Trump has made the N.F.L. a target for not firing players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.
Kaepernick has had a deal with Nike since 2011, but it's unclear when he was picked for the Just Do It campaign. Seems at some point during the height of the controversy Nike decided to sign him for the ad. Not only is Kaepernick unique in being an unsigned player-sponsor, he's the first to be picked entirely for political activism, not despite it.

Football faces the same demographic dilemma as the white population the NFL takes for granted, as participation fades at the high school level, under demographic-driven pressure from soccer. Not Nike's problem. The NFL, no doubt wishing Kaepernick and his ridiculous afro would just go away, gets to open the new season with the kneeling controversy brandishing its own top-flight ad campaign. Chaos portends destruction, and this devil is delighted.


When the various social media platforms coordinated their deplatforming of Alex Jones, I thought it represented a new level of repression and a possible point of attack for those opposed to it. The Socials represent an information cartel if they're colluding to restrict access, and the common response, that a platform is a private enterprise and a consumer can go elsewhere, is rendered even more meaningless.

Still, there isn't enough coordination for TechCrunch, or at least the latest staff writer-with-a-foreign-name lecturing us on freedoms that never even occurred to people in his own cultural heritage (a new and growing cliche) to explain our principles to us:
What they now need to do is take the next step and start to coordinate policies so that those who wish to propagate hate speech can no longer game policies across platforms. Waiting for controversies like Infowars to become a full-fledged PR nightmare before taking concrete action will only increase calls for regulation. Proactively pooling resources when it comes to hate speech policies and establishing industry-wide standards will provide a defensible reason to resist direct government regulation. 
The social media giants can also build public trust by helping startups get up to speed on the latest approaches to content moderation. While any industry consortium around coordinating hate speech is certain to be dominated by the largest tech companies, they can ensure that policies are easy to access and widely distributed. 
Coordination between fierce competitors may sound counterintuitive. But the common problem of hate speech and the gaming of online platforms by those trying to propagate it call for an industry-wide response. Precedent exists for tech titans coordinating when faced with a common threat. Just last year, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube formalized their “Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism” – a partnership to curb the threat of terrorist content online. Fighting hate speech is no less laudable a goal.
The author laments Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from lawsuits for content, limiting the pressure that can be put on the Socials. "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

The act was of course stripped of its substance regarding the regulation of obscenity by the Supreme Court on free speech grounds. Now that there's an established, monopolistic information cartel (and your internet porn is safe from interruption) the left and the powerful are having second thoughts about the provision.

Section 230 strikes me as the means by which this cartel might be compelled through law or litigation to provide open and free access. That protection from liability for content should come with a commensurate prohibition from engaging in political censorship. Of course, no one admits they're engaging in political censorship; that's what the ever-adaptable concept "hate" is for.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


On Luke Ford today with Collin Liddell and Matt Forney.

Robert Stark and Matt P of Stark Truth TV join in to talk about their documentary (((Supply))) featuring Luke:

Friday, August 24, 2018

Hegemony and Harmony

Jack Beatty writes in Age of Betrayal:
...capitalism was up for debate in Gilded Age America; it had not achieved "cultural hegemony," a concept introduced by the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci to elucidate how regimes rule without force. Hegemony, for Gramsci, is "the 'spontaneous' consent given by the great masses of the  population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is 'historically' caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production."
"Cultural hegemony" is a useful concept, if we strip away the postmodern autism--what's remarkable about a "dominant fundamental group" establishing norms? Is there a place where this isn't in effect?
Nonetheless, it exists, and it's useful to know exactly who wields it and how.

Gramsci the revolutionary invokes it to pathologize the capitalist order he seeks to overthrow. In the process he gives us a fine example of what Noam Chomsky said of post-structuralist theory, that it's all over-complicated truisms. Truisms, I would add, purporting to expose distortions in an implied natural order that doesn't exist.

But cultural hegemony is real. It's inevitable. Isn't the real question who wields it?

The old Wasp elite may have held their poor relations in some contempt, but they recognized them as relations. They would be stingy, they would be exploitative even, but they would not cut them loose, out of noblesse oblige.
Those commanding cultural hegemony now have no connections to the mass, and of course many feel hostility toward it. They are either indifferent to or enthusiastic about cutting them loose.

As ruling elites go historically, they weren't a severe as they look to our Current Year degenerate eyes. But the Wasps aren't in charge any more, not as Wasps at least, having been displaced by the Jews, who determine the course of society by virtue of the "prestige" they've earned through their "position and function in the world of production".

Cultural hegemony is complicated and souped-up now by technology. The old means of transmission was the church, the school, the intact pre sexual revolution family. The "hegemony" was traditional and orderly; oppressive but pacific.

The new hegemony defines itself as opposed to the old order, disdains pacifism and is just as oppressive, in its way. The hostility and dysfunction Grasmsci saw through Marxian goggles in the old cultural hegemony is now here in reality--and money is still fundamental. And Gramsci's radicalism helped, playing its part in discrediting the old order.

The globalist elite, having co-opted Marxism and folded it into capitalism by way of--yes--cultural hegemony are quite adept, if not as confident any more, of squeezing "spontaneous" consent, even enthusiasm, out of the masses, for a social direction no one would have acquiesced to, if they'd been asked. Gramsci had no idea. He must be rolling, leftward, in his grave.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Fake Views

Comes now the New York Times weighing in on Trump's South Africa tweet
Mr. Trump’s comment came after the Fox News host Tucker Carlson presented a late-night program on South Africa, including land seizures and homicides, and described President Cyril Ramaphosa as “a racist.”
The tweet gives prominence to a false narrative pushed by some right-wing groups in South Africa that there have been numerous seizures of white-owned land and widespread killings of white farmers. Some of those groups have brought their claims to the United States on lobbying trips.
The Devil's in the definitions, here of "widespread". There's a post-Apartheid tradition of farm invasions, with the South African government touting a recent decline which Afriforum, the white South African advocacy group, challenges
 According to AgriSA's statistics, farm murders decreased from 66 recorded incidents in 2016/2017 to 47 in 2017/2018. This was less than a third of the highs recorded in the late 1990s, when 153 murders were recorded in 1997/1998. The increase in attacks comes nowhere near the record high seen in 2001/2002, when 1 069 farm attacks were recorded. Farm attacks increased from 478 in 2016/2017 to 561 in 2017/2018... 
[Afriforum director] Roets said the biggest point of debate around farm attacks was their frequency. "If you want to compare the rate at which farmers are being attacked and killed, you need to compare your calculation, not to a rate at which people in South Africa are being murdered, but to a rate at which people in South Africa are being murdered, with the exclusion of social-fabric crimes."
White farmers are protected somewhat by their isolation--of course this leaves them vulnerable once the bad guys find them. But as most victims of violent crime are urban residents in close with criminals, the murder rate for farmers should be well below that of the rest of the population. White farmers aren't killing and raping each other.

The government of South Africa doesn't supply statistics and the international media's response to groups like Afriforum is to shrug and declare it all too mysterious:
The truth is, we don't know. We can't calculate a meaningful murder rate for farmers, because we don't know how many there are. 
Do we include all 810,000 people employed in agriculture? That gives a farm murder rate of 9.1 per 100,000 - much lower than the South African average. 
Or, do we restrict ourselves to the 32,375 commercial farmers counted in the country's last agricultural census in 2007? 
That's what AfriForum, a group that campaigns for the interests of Afrikaners in South Africa, appears to have done. 
It has estimated a farm murder rate of 156 per 100,000 that has been widely quoted in recent days.
I suspect using commercial farms gives you a better representation of white farms than the category of all agricultural workers. Indeed, the broader farm murder rate suggests when taking the threat to white farmers out of the equation living in rural South Africa is far safer than living in urban South Africa.

Below is the Tucker Carlson segment that supposedly inspired Trump's tweet.

It's excruciating watching Carlson and his guest from the Cato Institute invoke "racism" and the hoary "wrong skin color", as if it's the racism that condemns it ultimately.

Apartheid South Africa was as racist as the new South Africa. Clearly its racist aspect was necessary to its preservation. The old racist white South Africa was always going to outperform the new racist black South Africa. Racism has nothing to do with it. Calling out another man's racism is like calling out his bipedalism.

This focus on the racism of the ANC keeps us tethered, as always, to our own imagined sin of racism, providing the necessary moral equivalence. Apartheid's severe order or the ANC's miserable anarchy, one and the same.

The Times piece brushes off Carlson's assertions by noting the land seizures haven't actually started (white farmers are still able to get pennies on the dollar for land) and devotes the rest of its space to--what else?--Trump and Carlson's racism
Mr. Carlson, who has often used inflammatory language on issues of race on his show, has become one of Mr. Trump’s favorite Fox News hosts. Mr. Trump himself has made many racially explosive remarks, and political analysts say they expect him to continue using that language to firm up support among his conservative voter base, which includes vocal white nationalists and white supremacists.
Contrast the media's obscurantism around this issue with their credulity around, say, Iraq WMD, Syrian freedom fighters or Racist Beckys.

But they keep their eye on the ball. The point is to make this a political loser for Trump, a racism scandal. I suspect it will be another incidental win for Trump, as the press finds itself justifying, yet again, brown barbarity in the name of anti-racism.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Predator, Prey

None other than the New York Times has exposed, it would seem, the hypocrisy of early #MeToo leader Asia Argento. Only now I learn her struggle: she was compelled to fake orgasm to get Harvey Weinstein's face out of her vagina, just like Rose McGowan before her, except Argento maintained a consensual sexual relationship with Weinstein for years afterward. When she saw McGowan building a career and heroic identity out of enduring precisely the same thing and calling it rape (who knew?) she wasted no time reacquainting herself with her trauma.

Her accuser's story is about as un-harrowing as her tale of Weinstein (presumably he didn't have to fake his orgasms, but I'm not sure how that affects the balance), and the belated timing of his sexual trauma is as suspect as hers--she suddenly discovered her victimhood after Rose McGowan made it profitable; a month later, he discovered his, which she had just made profitable. A Hollywood hypocrisy cascade.
The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement. Her boyfriend, the culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined the fight. 
But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18... 
The fallout from “a sexual battery” was so traumatic that it hindered Mr. Bennett’s work and income and threatened his mental health, according to a notice of intent to sue that his lawyer sent in November to Richard Hofstetter, [Anthony] Bourdain’s longtime lawyer, who was also representing Ms. Argento at the time.
Bourdain killed himself after being cuckolded by Argento, who was photographed cavorting with a younger, shinier supportive male--a journalist she met through the #MeToo movement.

A more cynical person would see Argento (daughter of Italian horror movie director Dario Argento) as adept at getting what she wants from men, and as comfortable trading career capital for sex as with trading sex for career capital. Morally there's no distinction--unless we're allowed to consider young women are more vulnerable than young men here, which we aren't. But I'm sure the sex is a lot better when you're on top, so to speak, whoever you are.

Leah McSweeney in Penthouse, under the title Toxic Femininity:
Born in Rome, Asia Argento was raised in a family of famous Italian artists. Her father, Dario Argento, is a director and screenwriter best known for his innovative and influential horror movies. Her mother is the actress Daria Nicolodi, who starred in several of her husband’s films. Beyond this, Argento has a lineage of family members who were musicians and composers, including her maternal grandfather, Alfredo Casella.
Ms Argento didn't land in Hollywood off a Greyhound bus. Which makes me wonder: where are the stories of naive girls arriving in Hollywood to be taken advantage of who don't go on to have careers? All the prominent and not-so-prominent actresses with tales of lechery seem to have made careers for themselves--that are winding down due to age or stalled, and they've all come forward after the coast was made clear by two clearly mendacious characters, Rose McGowan and Asia Argento.
On October 10th of last year, journalist Ronan Farrow published a bombshell New Yorker article in which 13 women made allegations against Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein, sharing accounts not only of sexual misconduct and harassment, but also rape.  
Credited with initiating the contemporary #MeToo movement, the article detailed what it called Argento’s “rape” experience with Weinstein, one very similar to Rose McGowan’s own experience with the producer. Wrote Farrow: “Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director, said that she did not speak out until now—Weinstein, she told me, forcibly performed oral sex on her—because she feared that Weinstein would ‘crush’ her.” Argento went on to tell Farrow, “I know he has crushed a lot of people before. That’s why this story—in my case, it’s twenty years old, some of them are older—has never come out.” 
...Argento and McGowan describe Weinstein giving them oral sex, and both say they faked an orgasm in hopes of getting the experience over with as fast as possible... 
Argento went on to have a consensual relationship with Weinstein for several years. The New Yorker article is what thrust the Italian actress into America’s cultural conversation. Before this, the American media knew little about her.
Sometime after Argento and Weinstein were done with their totally non-transactional relationship the aging actress happened to Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain met Argento on the set of his wildly popular CNN show Parts Unknown when he was filming in Rome. Argento, a single mother of two and Italian celebrity, ended up a guest on the show. In February 2017, not long after they met on camera, the New York Post confirmed the two had started dating. One quick scroll through the couple’s individual social media accounts reveals that Bourdain was completely smitten with Argento, posting photos of her on the regular with heartwarming comments.
Bagging Weinstein and then, in her sexual decline, Bourdain, suggests as a sexual adventuress Argento has been very successful. An old Saturday Night Live bit featured a South American baseball star whose limited English led him to answer every interview question with "Bas-e-ball has been berry, berry good to me"; when asked about his big new contract he says it with more emphasis "...berry, berry good...". The Hollywood sexual market has been berry berry good to Asia Argento. It probably was pretty good to Rose McGowan until it wasn't anymore, and #MeToo is likely more about that than anything else.

Taking their participation in that market and selling it now in a different market, as something else, makes this the political-social equivalent of dodgy financial practices like mortgage-backed securities full of bad loans. The clearly deranged McGowan et al are the moral Goldman Sachs of Hollywood, making money at both ends of the deal. Is there likewise a political-social bubble? How does that end?
Bourdain was openly supportive of Argento’s involvement in the #MeToo movement as she rose to be one of its most prominent and vocal crusaders. Bourdain never held back when standing up for her or any part of the #MeToo movement, even defending McGowan and her feminist activism. The #MeToo movement had accrued a strong new male ally in Bourdain...

Bourdain gushed publicly over Argento, and when it came to her career, he was her biggest supporter. This is what you do when you love someone and believe in them. He wanted her to succeed because he adored her. His influence led to her new role as a judge on the Italian version of X-Factor, and he hired her to direct an episode of Parts Unknown when the series filmed in Hong Kong...
But in the days leading up to his suicide, things between the couple seemed to get rocky.
On June 5th, three days before Bourdain’s suicide, paparazzi photos of Argento and the young French reporter Clément, 28, were published in the Italian gossip magazine Chi. The photos showed the two holding hands, kissing, hugging, and dancing in a bar in Rome.

Argento fought to have the photographs pulled. Bourdain was mysteriously no longer following his girlfriend on Instagram. Argento then posted an Instagram story of herself in a Sid Vicious shirt that said Fuck Everyone, and captioned the image: “You know who you are.” Three hours later he killed himself. And she deleted the image off of her instagram story.
Bourdain not only had to endure his public cuckolding by a younger man but the financial shakedown from the jailbait. But there would be no respite in death. The apparent cruelty of her behavior was an immediate problem for brand #MeToo. His still warm body would be thrown under the bus by McGowan on behalf of Argento, too grief-stricken to hoist it, I presume
As numerous eloquent tributes to Bourdain were published, Argento decided she was too grief-stricken to continue speaking publicly, and handed the torch to Rose McGowan. The former Charmed star penned a letter to the public on behalf of Argento, which McGowan’s publicist, Nathaniel Baruch at Brigade Marketing, promptly emailed to Rolling Stone. 
McGowan’s letter opens by saying Argento is now a victim not only of rape but of suicide. “Sitting across from me,” she writes, “is the remarkable human and brave survivor, Asia Argento, who has been through more than most could stand, and yet stand she does. She stood up to her monster rapist and now she has to stand up to yet another monster, suicide. The suicide of her beloved lover and ally, Anthony Bourdain. I write these truths because I have been asked to.” 
You know how to tell if someone is a flake? They use weird, unnecessary phrases like "these truths".
McGowan then discusses Bourdain and Argento’s alleged “open relationship” in an obvious attempt to justify the photos with Clément. It’s too bad Bourdain isn’t here to confirm her statement that he and Argento were “free birds” who “loved without borders.” 
McGowan reminds the reader to “NOT do the sexist thing and burn a woman on the pyre of misplaced blame,” and then says that Bourdain allegedly reached out to a doctor for help with his depression but did not take his advice. (How the fuck she knows that information and why she chose to disclose it remains a big fat question mark.) 
McGowan also states that both Argento and Bourdain suffered from depression, but “she did the work to get help, so she could stay alive and live another day for her and her children,” while Bourdain’s depression usurped him. “His decision, not hers,” McGowan writes. “His depression won.”
Bourdain's battered corpse was actually thrown under the bus a second time--Argento is saying he advised the payoff, implying she might not have. I wouldn't be surprised if Bourdain, whose lawyer handled the scandal for her, paid that hush money.

These women are monsters. Bourdain left an 11 year old daughter and estranged wife who were notably silent during this humiliation--ironic, considering all the mileage #MeToo has gotten out of the idea of "silent" female victims.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Crazy and the Dead

This week, after one of the cats had been living in a blackberry thicket behind the house for over a month, the other one had taken to monitoring the gap in the fence where I took out a board so I could put out food for the runaway--that he's still taking, showing no signs of the illness I initially assumed was his reason for abandoning the house.

The runaway cat has always been skittish and odd, the opposite of the other, a black and white tabby friendly to strangers. Despite this they've gotten along well over the years, and I don't know that I've ever seen them get into a proper fight--despite the fact the older one, despite his pleasant disposition, is always ready to scrap with the random tomcats that come around.

"Give me one more summer" I've murmured to him a few times over the last couple of years, as he's started to show his age. We got him sometime around 9/11. Summer, for some reason, is a conceptual homestretch. This year he entered it showing his decline, growing thinner, stiffer. Nonetheless he remained active. A lifetime outdoor cat, coming and going at will, he was still scaling the fence out back, playing, begging for food.

He stood watch over the gap in the fence--worried about the other cat, I assumed--before crossing over and camping out there himself a couple of days ago. Then the creeping lethargy and stiffness of the past weeks, leaving him to stare off blankly, to curl up with difficulty, became total. He stopped eating, then he stopped coming inside. I brought him in--all skin and bones--one last time; he stared at his food and bolted outside, returning to the hole in the fence and making a bed in the dirt and ivy between it and the creek a few feet off.

For two days he slept there, occasionally lifting his head when I came to pet him, weakly, as if out of duty, before laying back down. A few days earlier I had lifted him onto the fence he couldn't scale anymore and sort of spotted him there so he wouldn't fall. A weak purring in his chest. This was the last time for that. I experienced the whitest sentiment: "have I given my cat enough attention?"

But what a blessed life it was for him. Seventeen summers of absolute freedom to hunt and explore, to play with his companions, to loll in someone's lap. The first night we brought him home he slept on my bed and at some point woke me by scratching my face--he was just trying to play. Last night I came home and checked on him, shining a light down upon him and cooing. He raised his head a little. What must this look like to him I wondered--the light overhead from my phone blinding him, my voice? Cats are too smart to be fooled into thinking they see God, probably.

This morning I found him stretched out, as if sliding down the incline toward the creek below. I carried him inside, still warm, not definitively dead. Put him down, pet him just in case he's still "there" a bit--imagine him having an out-of-body experience, watching all this.

I had envisioned an ideal death for him: he gently going to sleep in a favorite place with the sounds of the household around him. But he saw it coming. Bitter but absolutely right what he chose, to be outside, in the dirt and leaves, with the creek reflecting the moonlight, and the normal rhythms of this small patch of land, of which he's been a part, undisturbed and swallowing him up. He drained it to the dregs.

The other cat remains at large.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Marginal Ross

Ross Douthat dares to go halfway there.

In the aftermath of the 2012 election, when just about everyone assumed Mitt Romney lost because he didn’t win enough Hispanic votes, the election analyst Sean Trende produced a dissenting take. A close look at the results across the Midwest and Appalachia revealed a large population of what Trende called circulated for years on the margins of conservatism, and it had obvious influence over Donald Trump’s campaign strategy in 2016.
His mix of economic populism and deliberate racial polarization was supposed to be demographically foredoomed — but instead it won him precisely those regions Trende’s analysis had highlighted, and the presidency as well. 
Linked at one safe remove from its namesake, Douthat refers to the Sailer Strategy. One marginal place through which Sailer's work regularly circulates is Ross' desk at the New York Times.

With the comic (if understandable) furtiveness with which he introduces Sailer's ideas, it's worth wondering if he takes seriously the conventional assumptions he expresses
The numbers offer a cautionary tale for both emerging-Democratic-majority inevitabilists and for a left whose increasing vehemence about the wickedness of “whiteness” probably encourages the white tribalism that Trump rallied and exploited.
Despite the implicit (and wholly justified) white advocacy in Trump's policies and rhetoric, they are still far from the "tribalism" it opposes. The notion that white nationalism is just mimicry of the racial politics of the left trivializes both. Self-described conservatives have been acting as if leftist excess will blow over any day now
After all, though Trump outperformed pundit expectations, he did not carry a majority, and his Midwestern electoral victory was wide but dangerously shallow. And if he won many of Trende’s missing whites, he also lost other (female, educated) whites whom past Republicans had won.
Female, educated whites are known in other sections of the paper as "Beckys", and their demonization is the latest field of exploitation for Democrats and increasingly panicked progressives. Let's see what another two years does for those numbers.
Those losses point to the likely limits on racial polarization as a Republican strategy. Turning out disaffected whites is more politically effective than most people imagined after 2012, but white voters are ultimately too divided to make a “white strategy” work as a foundation for a real governing majority.
Dividing white voters has been Democratic strategy for years. It's been a couple of years since Trump opened up the possibility that whites can oppose it and act in their own interests. They get less divided the farther Trump gets and the more violent the anti-white campaign gets.

Add to that the very real possibility of throttling down the pace of demographic displacement by restricting immigration, and even a white fertility rebound, as suggested by another mainstream reader of Sailer, Michael Barone, and things get truly interesting.

Don't worry I say; Ross and his liberal friends still have a lot to worry about.

The Alt Right is Dead; Long Live the Alt Right

This Atlantic piece by Adam Serwer, "White Nationalists are Winning", is a torrent of paranoid hyperbole from the bugman's id, but gets the important part right.
A year after white nationalists in Charlottesville chanted, “You will not replace us!,” their message has been taken up and amplified by Fox News personalities. Tucker Carlson tells his audience that “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country.” Laura Ingraham says that “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes” as a result of “both illegal and sometimes legal immigration that progressives love.” They echo the white-nationalist claim that America is at risk because the nation is growing more diverse, an argument that treats the mere presence of nonwhite people, citizen or noncitizen, as an existential threat to the country. White nationalists like Cantwell are cheered to hear their beliefs championed on Fox. Cantwell wrote last year that Carlson “is basically telling white America to prepare for war as directly as he can get away with while remaining on Fox News.”
This was written before today's own goal for the anti-American left, turning a failed rally of twenty people into a story of deluded thousands chasing imaginary Nazis. Some of Jason Kessler's critics on the right predicted a turnout of a few dozen "losers" resulting in humiliation for the right. They got the first part right, at least, but misidentified the losers. It's as if no one is in charge on the left, ultimately. Whatever constitutes the leadership of the left right now is riding the whirlwind of demagogy it's conjured. The irony just keeps coming--the alt right was felled in Charlottesville because of a failure of leadership, or so we're told.

Whatever becomes of the alt right it will have effected a shift in the Overton Window that could make the difference in the end.
But the alt-right and its fellow travelers were never going to be able to assemble a mass movement. Despite the controversy over the rally and its bloody aftermath, the white nationalists’ ideological goals remain a core part of the Trump agenda. As long as that agenda finds a home in one of the two major American political parties, a significant portion of the country will fervently support it. And as an ideological vanguard, the alt-right fulfilled its own purpose in pulling the Republican Party in its direction.
The alt right isn't dead, it's metastasizing.

The left took over America by capturing the moral high ground without ever once apologizing for its militants. Radical elements were key to its advance and remain key, as we saw today, to its defense. The right would do well to emulate that. Just as the left holds the Vietnam War and racism make the violence understandable, if not justifiable, likewise the far less violent fringe on the right is a predictable result of the open campaign of displacement against whites.

If the presence of a radical fringe on the right prompts the sort of embarrassing displays the left put on today, policing that fringe is doing for your enemy what they haven't the self control to do for themselves.

For all its concern over what's embarrassing the right forgot the left has no shame.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Real Comedy v Fake Comedy

Political correctness holds sway as no dispensation before, and with nothing more than, well, political correctness; it's both means and end, in a way. The pre-sixties order in America, still Wasp and Christian, could be publicly skewered. Even Lenny Bruce only ran afoul of authorities for obscenity. But I doubt there's been a period in America where the prevailing order was this off-limits to satire.

A lot of very talented people and resources are dedicated now to making a sort of fake satire, when they proceed from politically correct assumptions. Witness a recent, lamentable Jon Hamm video about that darn white something-or-other.

If sanity reigned, you would see a lot more of the sort of stuff Sam Hyde does. This is what it's supposed to look like, for younger people who only came of age in the Age of Poz.


Unite the Right II

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fear Goggles

Portland has to contort its progressive self to rationalize the violence of "anti fascist" demonstrators, but can't ignore it, due to the Patriot Prayer group's serial trolling of the city. The social justice community here is like Charlie Brown with the football. They know what's coming, they just can't help themselves.

One ignored demonstration might be all it took to get rid of Joey Gibson's provocations. But then, many or most on the left don't want that; they want the opportunity to mix it up with "fascists", to demonstrate, to raise money.

But in the media the farther you get away from the local reality on the ground the more obscure coverage gets.
Steve Sailer on the New York Times' coverage of Eric Clanton, the Bike Lock Bandit:

The story of Eric Clanton, the anti-free speech demonstrator / adjunct philosophy instructor who put on an Antifa mask and slammed seven pro-Trump individuals on the head with his bike lock in Berkeley last year (luckily, nobody died), is pretty interesting. Especially the part about how the “weaponized autism” of 4chan /pol/ participants crowdsourced the job law enforcement couldn’t or wouldn’t do — identifying the masked malefactor from subtle clues. But, the tale contradicted The Narrative about how pro-Trump violence is sweeping the nation, so the New York Times never ever mentioned Clanton’s name. Until yesterday, when it ran the following Associated Press story. I reproduce the NYT’s account in full:
A former community college teacher and anti-fascist activist has accepted a plea deal and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault for allegedly attacking attendees of a Northern California political rally. 
Eric Clanton’s attorney Daniel Siegel said the 29-year-old agreed to the plea deal Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court. He was sentenced to three years of probation. 
The Alameda County district attorney’s office initially charged Clanton with felonies for hitting several pro-Trump demonstrators on the head with a bicycle lock during a 2017 demonstration in Berkeley. Police seized flags, pamphlets and other paraphernalia associated with anti-fascist movements from his apartment. Siegel said medical records showed only one alleged victim sought medical treatment, for a bruise smaller than a dime.
“Smaller than a dime,” so kwitcher bellyaching, fascists! 
Bullet and knife wounds are smaller than a dime too. In fact, getting hit with the smaller-than-a-dime corner of a bike lock sounds worse than taking it broadside. I'm supposing the "no contest" plea enables the NYT to write Clanton "allegedly" committed the assault for which he accepted a deal.

Steve offers a reasonable surmise:
Did Clanton agree to snitch? Or is this normal sentencing in Current Year California? Will AG Sessions start an inquiry that could lead to federal civil rights charges against the anti-First Amendment thug? What exactly are the laws in California about smashing people on the head while masked and why aren’t they terribly applicable in this situation? This country needs rule of law, and part of rule of law is the press holding the justice system’s feet to the fire until obvious questions get answered.
It's hard not to sound hyperbolic, but the media, in acquiescing to the violence with silence and misrepresentation, is complicit in it.

Media v Media

Google's Perspective  algorithm is a tool for censoring "toxic" speech based on word combinations that isn't effective eno...