Monday, June 17, 2019

"Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit": controversial book from African professor relates language to ethical and discrimination (anti-gay) problems

I wanted to mention a book originally published back in 1990, “Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit” by Gedaliah Braun.  The book was republished in 2010 (Amazon says not available now in print) and offered on Kindle in 2013.  The publisher seems to be Amazon Digital Services.

On the strike page on Goodreads, she says she left the US in 1976 to teach philosophy in Nigeria. I noticed a comment about a "Muslim president" that seems way off-base. 

On that page, and on other pages, she says that many African languages don’t have the ability to express complex abstract concepts such as conditionality or supposition, so people in this part of the world haven’t learned to process moral concepts the way western individualists can.  They understand tribal authority. She even maintains that complex languages common in the west develop when people live in colder climates and deal with more natural challenges.

This might explain the anti-gay attitudes (and anti-gay laws in past years) that seem purely tribal (fewer children) and irrational.
Here is a Blogger page about her writing.

Wikipedia attribution for photo: 
By Jeff Attaway - by MrPanyGoff, CC BY 2.0,

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Alt-America" author suspended from Twitter because his book cover (in his profile) has a hateful avatar for documentation purposes

Author David Neiwert was suspended from Twitter when his book cover “Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump” graced his profile, with its multiple Klan-head images.  The book is published by Verso (2017).

Twitter policy doesn’t allow depiction of symbols from known hate groups, period, even in commentary.

Pool’s video above shows part of the response sent to Neiwert, as recognizing it is newsworthy but that it will confuse many uneducated viewers and drive them away form the platform, especially in mobile view, where they cannot see the context.  This seems to be a “business driven” policy by Twitter.

Nick R Martin has an article explaining this incident in “The Daily Beast”.  I did not link to the article on Twitter because the images would embed, although I think there are ways to manipulate Twitter settings to warn users about troubling content (My tweets). 

Because of the controversy, I will not embed the Amazon image on this post.

But YouTube's embed of Tim Pool's story does include a picture of the cover with the avatars.  This seems permissible on YouTube right now (for now). So I let this embed stand. It would be possible for Tim to edit the video strike page so that something not containing the avatars appears instead, but that is up to him.

There is a flaw in Twitter's policy in that hate groups will simply change their dog whistles.
This does not bode well for the resolution of the current issue of monetizing livestream news on YouTube (as with Ford Fischer) and Facebook, either.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Jeopardy winner James Holzhauer boned up on children's books

Jeopardy contestant James Holzhauer attracted notice for his use of children’s books in preparing for the quiz contests and the memorization of trivia. 

Karen Springen writes about his use of children’s literature as a preparation strategy. Why?  Writers of these book shave a unique challenge: to make things “interesting to uninterested readers.” This is about creating literacy – and the lack of it in adults later in life is part of our problem with misuse of Internet content today. 

He says he had to be coy about spending too much time in a children’s section to avoid appearing to behave inappropriately.  I’m reminded of Reid Ewing’s 2012 (short film) satire “It’s Free” set in a public library which grazes on a similar point.

Hozhauer’s remarks reflect that writers of these books have to actually think about what their readers want and need, not just on what the writers think they have to say.
Holzhauer is a professional game player with a background in mathematics.  I guess that includes poker, but chess hasn’t been mentioned.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

"The Making of a YouTube Radical": NYTimes booklet exaggerates claims that some people are far-right but is correct about how the site's algorithms augment extreme views

Here’s a particularly shocking “booklet” offered on the front-page of the New York Times on Pride Sunday, “The Making of a YouTube Radical” with the subtitle, “How the Site’s Algorithms Payed into the Hands of the Far Right”, by Kevin Roose.

Roose is author of “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University” (2010, Grand Central. refers to Liberty University in Lynchburg VA) and “Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits” (2014, also G.C.)

The narrative presents the history of Caleb Cain who found himself drawn into a “decentralized cult” of the far right.

It’s true that YouTube’s (and Facebook’s) algorithms gave more extreme views a chance to bring in money because of the lack of gatekeepers.   Some previously little discussed ideas (“replacement”) get attention from the right.  And the far Left becomes combative in an attempt to completely silence topics that it perceives could lead to violence against members of protected classes.  We saw that last week with #Voxadpocalypse”.

But the Roose article, as placed online, shows very hyperbolic sub-headlines calling various persons “far right”  when they are more like normal conservatives, and various ideological slurs against, for example, anti-feminism.

Tim Pool noted in a tweet today that this article would be OK as an op-ed, but not as front page news. He then notes an irony in the narrative of Caleb's re-conversion.  
Cade Metz et al has a parallel article on how A.I. could be weaponized to spread “disinformation”.

Monday, June 03, 2019

"The Revolution that Wasn't" argues that Internet technology really has benefited conservatives

Sean Illing of Vox interviews Jen Schradie discussing her book “The Revolution that Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives”, from Harvard University Press, 416 pages.  This title contradicts the recent complaints about big Tech deplatforming conservatives, but in previous years algorithms tended to favor them. 

While tracing the effect of the Internet, through the Arab Spring in 2011 through the recent abuse of Facebook echo chambers by dictators overseas and election meddling, she notes that conservatives tend to have simpler, more principled ideas that they want to promote, and social media – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc – does that better than advancing group cohesion and solidarity needed by the Left.

As an individual speaker, I tend to agree.  I resist being asked to give my time to groups with identarian priorities (and I am often quizzed about this).   Group goals seem to derive from tribalism, loyalty and combativeness and resist abstract intellectual principles for conduct.  Yet you could say that the Equality Act sounds principled – except that the people being protected are so diverse psychologically that you can’t really group them as a protected class easily anymore.  You could say that both sides of the abortion debate have a principled core concept.

She says that conservatives are more likely to have hierarchal structures in place.  No so true of libertarian conservatives.  And social conservatives may sound principles (like in the Reagan area) or identarian (the split-off of the ethno-alt-right and populism).

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Chernobyl Forum issues revised "book" on the health effects of the 1986 catastrophe in Ukraine

Here’s a curiosity from behind the former Iron Curtain.
The Chernobyl Forum 2003-2005 published a second edition of “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental, and Socio-Economic Effects” with the subtitle “Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine”, on the IAEE site here.  The Moorfield Storey Institute contributed to the report.

James Peron wrote an article for Medium in a column called “The Radical Center” with title “Chernobyl: What Facts Found”, excerpt here. Despite total desertion of the living areas, later studies showed that the health effects and cancer were not worse than from normal air pollution.  Thyroid cancer increased, but thyroid cancer is usually treatable (it was not for Roger Ebert, remember).
By MHM55 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Range". by David Esptein, argues that generalists can do very well in public life

If you’re going to be professional at something and get public recognition for it, do you have to be a prodigy and start early and focus on it from childhood?

According to a New York Times book review by Jim Holt, David Epstein says, not necessarily, in his new book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, published by Riverhead Books.

The idea is that learning environments can be kind, or brutal.  Classical music performance tends to be a kind environment that rewards starting early and sticking with it. Composing may be more nuanced, and some modern composers are quite versatile with their skills:  Jaron Lanier (“You Are Not a Gadget”, and “10 Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now”), well known for large, eclectic compositions (Plays blog, June 19, 2013), is quite versatile with tech for its own sake (as are many other musicians).

The review compares the careers of Tiger Woods (golf) with Roger Federer (tennis), the latter of which is more compatible with generalism.  Medicine is said to be so, despite the fact that interns and residents have to live such unifocal existence.
My own case with piano was a narrow miss. It was not easy for boys to consider this in the Cold War obsessed 1950s and early 1960s. I had an audition in a ritzy NW Washington apartment building with a Dr. Hughes, who was 72 at the time, when I was about 15, for a piano career.  It was indeed close. 

I wound up with a double life, where mainframe information technology rather dead-ended itself after 2000 as a real career field that creates a professional identity. 
Chess requires real focus from early in life to get really good (at least International Master or higher).