Monday, June 24, 2019

Amazon counterfeits can indeed get in the way

Since Amazon dominates the online bookstore market, counterfeit books (and other goods) seem to have become a problem, as reported on the front page of the New York Times today by David Streitfeld, link.
He starts the article with a discussion of “The Sanford Guide for Antimicrobial Therapy” from a small publisher in Sperryville VA, along US 29-211, on the way to the entrance to Shenandoah National Park and many hikes in my young adulthood. Apparently the book has become the target of counterfeits.  So do many others, especially textbooks.

I had never thought about counterfeit books.  I don’t think it would be a problem with POD. But my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book had a print run in 1997, as did “Our Fundamental Rights”.  I have sometimes seen “collector’s” copies of these show up from third party retailers and I feel flattered. And sometimes the books (or my online notes) have been plagiarized.

There could be a problem of books with gross misinformation (like anti-vax, maybe).  Amazon has pulled books advocating pedophilia after an AC360 report. The book “Hit Man” from Paladin Press led to a lawsuit against the press as an “assassination manual” and the copies were allowed to sell out;  the book does not seem to appear on Amazon now. Paladin Press went out of business in 2017 (Denver Post). 
This would not be as big a problem in traditional book distribution, as to major and independent stores.

I visited the Sperryville property today.  It appears to be a business that gives therapy treatments and the book is incidental.  There was no bookstore open when I visited it.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Major periodical booklet explores whether "school choice" amounts to continuing segregation

An online magazine called “Southern Spaces” has a booklet length article “Segregationists, Libertarians, and the Modern ‘School Choice’ Movement”, by Steve Suitts in Atlanta, link

The general concept is that many parents still want to get to choose whom their kids don’t have to go to school with.

I can remember being taught about Brown v. Board of Education (1954) in “General Education” class in seventh grade middle school, in 1956. But I saw very few black students in middle school or high school through to my 1961 graduation from Washington-Lee (name recently changed to Washington-Liberty).

I suppose that “school choice” will result in private schools with fewer black students that statistics would justify.

That may be less true of Catholic schools.  Many parents will pay for Catholic school simply because they know that, through all the conservatism, they will get a great grasp of fundamental academic skills. Those Covington kids turned out to be very strong indeed.  
I have to admit that I have sometimes heard shocking statements in family gatherings (from my parents’ side) as recently as maybe 2007 still wanting some kind of segregation. It’s infrequent, but it has happened. I think of Kyle Kashuv’s unfortunately foolish behavior at sixteen, as reflection of private conversations of the adults in his life then, probably.

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).