Sunday, September 30, 2018

Forget it Jake, it's Vaginatown..."

Claire Khaw joins me to talk Kavanaugh, women.

One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
--Deuteronomy 19:15

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Meriting Attention

Way back in 2007 a national crisis was initiated by the press over the prevalence of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, throughout America terrorizing blacks--all prompted by a series of hoaxes of course.

I wrote a little satire (below) and thought I was being clever when I created, for a fictional black studies Professor Balder-Dash, a book called The Myth of Merit.

Then I found the left had already identified merit as a tool of oppression, and the joke was in no way ahead of reality Still, we had to reach the Current Year for Merit, spawn of Reason and Objectivity, to, er, merit being called out by name. Indeed, "merit" just reeks of white-shoe law firms and Anglo notions of fair play; it comes off a lot better than going right after objectivity and reason and makes a good "dog whistle" by which to attack them (soon enough, justice willing, we can abandon the ruse).

Linux' open-source code of conduct for developers has been replaced by a "contributor covenant",
apparently after Linus Torvalds lost a skirmish with its proponents (he taps out in a letter "I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately") that opens:
Open Source has always been a foundation of the Internet, and with the advent of social open source networks this is more true than ever. But free, libre, and open source projects suffer from a startling lack of diversity, with dramatically low representation by women, people of color, and other marginalized populations. 
Part of this problem lies with the very structure of some projects: the use of insensitive language, thoughtless use of pronouns, assumptions of gender, and even sexualized or culturally insensitive names.

Marginalized people also suffer some of the unintended consequences of dogmatic insistence on meritocratic principles of governance. Studies have shown that organizational cultures that value meritocracy often result in greater inequality. People with “merit” are often excused for their bad behavior in public spaces based on the value of their technical contributions. 
Meritocracy also naively assumes a level playing field, in which everyone has access to the same resources, free time, and common life experiences to draw upon. These factors and more make contributing to open source a daunting prospect for many people, especially women and other underrepresented people.

(For more critical analysis of meritocracy, refer to this entry on the Geek Feminism wiki.)
Score one for social justice. Then, Torvalds' daughter, a progressive activist based out of Portland Oregon (who insists Dad had "nothing" to do with her interest in computing, and may actually be honest because she seems more interested in politics), apparently signed on to something called the Post Meritocracy Manifesto that begins:
Meritocracy is a founding principle of the open source movement, and the ideal of meritocracy is perpetuated throughout our field in the way people are recruited, hired, retained, promoted, and valued. 
But meritocracy has consistently shown itself to mainly benefit those with privilege, to the exclusion of underrepresented people in technology. The idea of merit is in fact never clearly defined; rather, it seems to be a form of recognition, an acknowledgement that “this person is valuable insofar as they are like me.” 
(If you are not familiar with criticisms of meritocracy, please refer to the resources on this page.) 
It is time that we as an industry abandon the notion that merit is something that can be measured, can be pursued on equal terms by every individual, and can ever be distributed fairly.
You can run but you can't hide from social justice, Mr. M.

Ah, for the days when all this was a little farther out on the horizon.
OCT 27, 2007
POINT DEFERENCE, WA (UNS*) -- Civil rights leaders in this Seattle suburb are up in arms over what they say is the latest incident in a nation-wide trend of hate crimes involving the public display of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow south.
A noose was discovered hanging from a tree in a remote corner of a wooded park early Friday morning by two children, ages twelve and fourteen. Doug Beedle, head of Seattle's NAACP chapter, said he is considering seeking damages against the city for not moving more quickly to deal with the apparent hate-crime. 
"The city is engaged in a white-wash, treating this as a minor incident. If we hadn't been notified by an alert citizen, the whole thing would've been swept under the rug and treated as something other than what it was." Mr. Beedle did not rule out filing a complaint with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. "We're opening a dialogue with the city, but if they refuse to come around to our way of thinking, we're prepared to take it to the next level. No justice, no peace." 
The childrens' mother, Misty Handringer, who is white, tearfully related that she initially didn't realize the significance of the noose. "At first all I could think about was the other aspect of it. I'm not proud of this, but I was more concerned about the fact that the kids had found a dead body. I was mortified when the ugly reality of it was explained to me. I really thought we were above that sort of thing here. I'm not very proud of my community right now. I guess nowhere is safe." 
Police say it appears the man, who is white, acted alone in stringing up the noose before using it to hang himself. Officials haven't ruled out bringing posthumous charges.
"Allowing this to simply die with the perpetrator would be wrong. Suicide is just the sort of transgressive act that brings out the underlying racism inherent in our society." 
Tanyika Balder-Dash, professor of Afro-American studies at Northwest College and author of The Myth of Merit, said, explaining why the man chose the inflammatory racial symbol for his apparent suicide. "People feel liberated to express their darkest impulses."
The children who discovered the noose are receiving counseling. "First we have to make them aware of the trauma they've suffered, then we can begin to deal with it." Professor Balder-Dash said. "Most distressing of all is that these kids have no idea about the profound image of hatred and oppression they encountered. People don't realize that racism is in fact far worse now than it ever was, due to faltering awareness. I fear we are allowing this image of America's racist past to slip into the past." 
A march is planned for this Monday. The man remains unidentified. 
(*Untethered News Services; Additional reporting for this story was provided by Dennis Dale, who is white.) 
In related news, the U.S. Army has retroactively legalized lynching.

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.


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