This is The CruX: Periodic link curation, the narratives, investigative reporting, arguments, and dot-connecting we need for refining and weaponizing our own sense-making networks.
Today’s theme: Ultraviolence
“[William] Fears munched on some bread. “You’re Jewish, right?” he said pleasantly.
In fact, I am. And while I happened to be sitting across the table from an admitted fascist who admires Adolf Hitler and has advocated (he says trollishly) “white Shariah,” I didn’t feel threatened by Will Fears. Like so many of the movement’s vague anymen, he presented himself as polite, articulate and interested in cultural politics, and though his views are abhorrent, he stated them all so laconically you might forget that he actually believes in the concept of a white ethnostate. And that’s the point: The genius of the new far right, if we could call it “genius,” has been their steadfast determination to blend into the larger fabric of society to such an extent that perhaps the only way you might see them as a problem is if you actually want to see them at all.“
“COWEN: Right now, there are various devices you can speak to, such as Alexa, and it will play a song for you or buy something for you on Amazon. Just in your mental wish list — something that doesn’t exist now — if there were a function where you could speak to a device, and the device would perform that function for you, what would it be? What do you want that you can’t get right now, as a consumer?
SCHMIDT: Well, if you look at the current generation of devices, what I really want is the Google Assistant to work at scale, which means that I want an assistant that I can talk to that talks back, that is like a human assistant and brilliant, that knows everything.
As an economist, you might want to talk to your assistant and ask them theoretical questions of economics. I can imagine lots of things I would like to ask. Today, sitting there and saying to your Alexa or Google Home, please turn off the lights, strikes me as kind of a low level question. There must be some much more sophisticated things we can do.
Many people believe that we can get to the point where you can have incredibly intelligent assistants that are on these devices, and that much of the interface will be verbal, not text.
I look at you all’s generation, and people . . . I carry my computer around all day, which I’m very happy about. I used to have a computer that was immense, now I have a tiny computer.
From your perspective, a smartphone is your computer, and you would prefer to just talk to it. And I think the technology is finally there to be able to do that. There have been many accomplishments that have surprised me. The quality of image recognition and voice recognition that we have today, I thought would be unachievable in my lifetime. Those are phenomenal gains.”
“If Democrats can’t take the loyalty of minority voters for granted today, when their opponent calls Mexicans rapists and Muslims terrorists, they should beware of assuming that most minority voters will stick with them many years into the future, when the most important dividing lines will have shifted. Decades ago, Irish Americans reliably voted Democratic. Today, they overwhelmingly vote Republican. Projecting their future voting behavior would have been impossible then, and projecting the future voting behavior of Latinos and black Americans is impossible now.“
+“Social Construct of Race Imposes Biology” | Scientific American
“Raff later noted that race does involve biology—but as an effect.
But that doesn’t mean that these racial categories aren’t real in some sense. And what I mean by that is, yes, they are culturally constructed categories, but they actually have biological effects…when we create the race ‘black’ or ‘African-American’ or whatever we’re going to call it, we put people into that category regardless of their genetic background, right?
So, I always come back to this example: President Obama is just as much Irish as he is African-Am-, but we code him as black, right…, when we do that, when we categorize and classify people—that can have biological effects. We know that stress levels in African-Americans are chronically high, because of racism, because of structural racism, these categories that we’ve created, right? That is biological, that’s real. It may not be because of the genetic variants that they had or there may be some complicated interaction there, but these categories that we create, these social categories, have biological effects.””
“That’s not to say Facebook and its ilk deserve three cheers and a round of drinks for securing their platforms and saving democracy. They’re guilty of constructing platforms whose very structure lends itself to exploitation by hoaxsters, manipulators, extremists, and propagandists. As the sociologist and writer Zeynep Tufekci has argued, it’s precisely those characteristics that make social networks such effective vehicles for advertising. My Slate colleague April Glaser made a similar point in the context of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp’s viral smear of his opponent, Stacey Abrams, tying her to the New Black Panther Party.
That should help to explain why even the earnest and expensive efforts that Facebook and others have undertaken since 2016 have succeeded only in narrowing the flood of lies and incitements, not stemming it. A network built on encouraging people to spontaneously broadcast anything that strikes their fancy, and amplifies those messages based on their propensity to spark gut reactions in others, can’t fully root out sensationalism or misinformation without undermining its own core business. Even if it could, the bulk of the damage is often done by the time human content moderators take action.”
“Juvenile delinquency was a major fear in the 1950s, as a new post-war leisure class of children was coming up without having to slave away in factories. All that free time and disposable income had young people out on the streets and getting into trouble. And rather than blaming bad parenting, the nation was looking for a scapegoat and found it in comic books.
Psychologist Fredric Wertham published The Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. In it, he argued that comics were a serious cause of juvenile misbehavior, inspiring violence, deviant sexuality and drug use in children. Although the industry scoffed at many of Wertham’s conclusions, he was taken seriously enough to inspire a hearing in front of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, where William Gaines was brought to the stand to defend his horror books. It… didn’t go well for him.
By 1956, EC was completely out of the comics business but for Mad, which soldiered forward in its own taboo-breaking way to the present day. The remaining publishers formed the Comics Code Authority, a self-governing body that laid down serious restrictions on the content funnybooks could portray for the next few decades.”
+“Palantir Has a $20 Billion Valuation and a Bigger Problem: It Keeps Losing Money” | The Wall Street Journal
“Behind this hot startup image, Palantir has struggled to live up to its reputation.
The company has begun planning an initial public offering but hasn’t turned an annual profit in its 14-year history. It is trying to win more corporate customers, after years of flailing attempts, although some potential clients view Palantir as flippant toward business and are wary of its work for governments and intelligence agencies. It missed sales targets last year after hoped-for contracts fell through.
Its engineers were accustomed to spending profligately—the company sponsored 13-course tasting-menu lunches with lobster tail and sashimi at headquarters—calling such extravagance “Palantir Entitlement Syndrome.””
+“The Senate is so rigged that Democrats may never control it ever again” | Think Progress
“But this unfavorable map is only a small part of the story. In the outgoing Senate — the Senate that placed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court — the 49 senators in the Democratic “minority” represent almost 40 million more people than the Republican “majority.” In the incoming Senate, the Democratic “minority” will still represent millions more people — despite the fact that Republicans grew their “majority” last night.
And this malapportionment is only going to get worse. By 2040, according to Baruch College’s David Birdsell, about 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in just 15 states. That means that the vast majority of Americans will control just 30 percent of the Senate, while the remaining 70 senators are elected by just 30 percent of the nation.
America’s endgame, in other words, is a nation that can no longer meaningfully be described as a democracy — and we are already very far along to that destination. The state of Wyoming has only 573,720 people, according to U.S. Census estimates. That’s 1/68th of the population of California. And yet the 39,776,830 Californians are represented by just two senators — the same number as Wyoming.”
“From a European perspective, though, some questions remain — namely, why set elections up like this and not simply based on the overall popular vote, as is the case in many democracies?
In the case of the Senate, it goes all the way back to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Creating a new form of government required compromises of all kinds to get enough states to approve the document. One of them was to create a legislature with two chambers, one that gave each state equal representation and one that based representation on a state’s population. Having a Congress solely based on population, which some people argue for today, was one of the stalled ideas that led to this compromise.
That system remains in place today in large part because it’s part of the Constitution, which is difficult to amend. Opponents wouldn’t be able to change the system simply by passing a new law.”