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Just Following Orders

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.20.18

Holy shit, this is the same judge I had when I was on jury duty.

A state district judge in Comal County said God told him to intervene in jury deliberations to sway jurors to return a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Buda woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex.
Judge Jack Robison apologized to jurors for the interruption, but defended his actions by telling them "when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it," according to the Herald-Zeitung in New Braunfels.
The jury went against the judge's wishes, finding Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of continuous trafficking of a person and later sentenced her to 25 years in prison. They found her not guilty of a separate charge of sale or purchase of a child.

He might get investigated for this, and he's been reprimanded for stuff before. The details of the case are here, but paywalled. You know, if this kind of thing keeps happening, this place is going to develop a reputation.

Prediction: this thread will mostly be about the name of the New Braunfels newspaper.


 

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Friday WTFuckery

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.19.18

I guess the dumb budget mess possible government shutdown is the thing to talk about?


 

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Stormy Daniels

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.18.18

What is the most miniscule non-scandal that ever wrecked a political career? The guy who had to resign for using the word "niggardly"? (That woman who used a private server for her emails?)


 

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Wah.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.18.18

Not to sound like a pansy, but winter clothes are kind of tiring. All these layers leave me feeling like Ralphie's younger brother. I can't remember having this cold a winter in a long time. (Admittedly it is supposed to be in the 70s this weekend.)


 

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The Rainbow

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.17.18

So,
1. the nonwhite population in the US is nudging upwards as a percent, and
2. we're increasingly self-segregating by race.

I think both of these facts are well-known but I haven't googled anything?

Certainly individual factors can swamp all other housing considerations, but I'd bet that people here are at least thoughtful about segregation when they are seeking housing. Also, one's neighborhood and life can change out from under you, while you stay put. You could be grandfathered into a neighborhood which is increasingly white or diverse, through no effort of your own.

So: are these effects showing up in your life? has your world become noticeably less diverse, more diverse, or about the same, since say 2000?

I keep trying to write a paragraph about how these effects have shown up in my own life, but good lord it reads like the most awkward praise-seeking white anthropologist blather. I'll let other people answer and then maybe I'll pipe up in the comments. I really am curious about whether there are any noticeable trends across people here, though.


 

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Guest Post - Facebook news?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.17.18

Nick S. writes: I'm curious what other people make of Facebook's changes to their newsfeed -- is it noticeable, what do you think motivated the change, and what impact do you think it will have?

Buzzfeed asks, "The world's largest social network wants to go back to an idealized safe space, free of hyperpartisan pages, misinformation, and fake news. Can it? "

Facebook's relationship to news has always been rocky. The company tried for years to make it work for the platform. It hired trending news curators. It worked with publishers, paying them to create live content (BuzzFeed is a partner) and it hosted their articles. But Facebook's commitment to news has always been hampered by an algorithmic approach that prioritizes likes and engagement. In this sense, news, which can be unpleasant and upsetting and controversial, has always been at odds with Facebook's goal. People don't "like" bad news and sharing controversial opinions can result in negative user experiences or, worse, unfriending: the ultimate negative outcome in Facebook's eyes. In many ways, the changes Facebook announced yesterday are the logical conclusion to an increasingly anxious -- and ultimately doomed -- years-long courtship with news. "News on Facebook has actually hurt, not helped, them," another former senior Facebook employee told BuzzFeed.

To hear Facebook insiders tell it, it's unclear how much the company truly wanted to be in the media game. "Public content was all about defeating Twitter originally," said one. Facebook referral data bears this out. In late 2013 -- starting just weeks before Twitter's IPO -- BuzzFeed News reported that traffic from Facebook referrals to more than 200 publisher sites went up 69% from August to October 2013. As the former employee explained, this show of strength ultimately didn't do much to kill Twitter, and perhaps drew Facebook's attention away from its original mission.

Jeff Jarvis has concerns but also feels like the Facebook change is just one element that it causing him to re-think the ideal relationship between journalism and the public:

I have been rethinking my definition of journalism. It used to be: helping communties organize their knowledge to better organize themselves. That was an information-based definition.

After our elections in the U.S., the U.K., Austria, Germany, and elsewhere, I have seen that civility is a dire need and a precondition for journalism and an informed society. So now I have a new definition for journalism, an imperative that I believe news organizations share with Facebook (if it is serious about building communities).

My new definition of journalism: convening communities into civil, informed, and productive conversation, reducing polarization and building trust through helping citizens find common ground in facts and understanding.

I'm note sure the new definition he proposes is actually workable, but it does highlight the challenges of world in which it feels like so much information is available that everyone has the option of finding their own facts.

Heebie's take: I read the link and I'm still not sure what's going on. When I share a news article on FB, it will be seen by fewer people in my feed? Fuck Facebook. I am not planning on deactivating my account or cutting back, because it has a monopoly on certain kinds of social interactions in my life, but I loathe the company with all my heart and soul.


 

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Fill In The Blank

Posted by Ogged
on 01.17.18

Guesses in comments. No spoilers!

Out to dinner, eavesdropping on an Ivy League admissions director. He says the person most mentioned in college essays BY FAR is _____

 

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A Beg On A Blog

Posted by Ogged
on 01.16.18

Does anyone have recommendations for web or iOS crossword apps that are not from the New York Times? I'm enjoying both crosswords and not giving any money to the Times.


 

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Nothing Is News Anymore

Posted by Ogged
on 01.16.18

Nevermind Jared, isn't the real story here that the wife of Rupert Murdoch and girlfriend of Tony Blair might be a Chinese agent? Someone make this movie, please.


 

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Sorcery

Posted by Ogged
on 01.16.18

God, I love these. I'm so completely lacking in this kind of creativity that it seems like magic.


 

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Guest post - The hunt for predator-enablers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.16.18

Witt writes: After many years at my part-time government job, I'm finally being asked to provide a background check and child-abuse clearances. This is part of system-wide effort being undertaken because of a horrific case of child abuse by a former employee. (Not at my location; a geographically distant person in a very different field.)

In general, I'm in favor of this. While my job doesn't involve a lot of direct contact, it involves some, and I don't think anyone with a history of child abuse or violent crimes against children should be doing it. And the "cost" to us innocent employees is pretty minimal -- we have to front about $40 for the various background checks, fill in some annoying paperwork, and have our fingerprints taken. Eventually we get reimbursed the $40.

Here's what makes me wonder, though: The reason the other disaster happened was not just because of a predator, but because of many, many people throughout the system who looked the other way. (This is well documented in public records; it's not my personal opinion.)

I wish there were a realistic, reasonable way to test for "Would you turn a blind eye to predation?"

THAT seems at least as important to check for. But I'm pretty ignorant in this area -- my imagination gets stuck at the Milgram experiment and I can't really come up with ways to test for what I think should be measured.

How would one go about this? Or should one even go about it?

Heebie's take: You're right when you compare it to Milgram - nearly all of us are capable of being complicit or whistle-blowers, and it depends on the culture of the institution. (The frailty of institutions has really been a theme this year, hasn't it.)

One of the most successful campaigns to stop sexual violence at the college level has been this big intervention campaign - teaching incoming students how to identify risky situations that may be happening to someone else and giving them some easy lines to use to disrupt a dynamic. (I have no idea how "successful" is measured. I doubt there is good data showing less sexual violence because the baseline data is pretty hard to come by.)

Besides giving the kids a script, though, there are these extra benefits: 1. A big message that if your friend sees you operating from the script, your friend won't think you're some crazy maverick, because they also got the training. So it decreases the social stigma of intervening only if you know everyone got the same training that you did. Similarly, if everyone in health class got the condom lecture, it's easier to bring up the topic when you're fumbling around in bed, as opposed to being the lone UUer who learned about them at Our Whole Lives. 2. Should sexual assault happen to you despite all this, you've got a larger context to place the event in - you've been told that this is a situation that everyone has an obligation to reduce, not just you, and you've got a context that this is something that administration is used to talking about and you've got firmer evidence that they won't dismiss your claims, because you've actually seen them discuss sexual violence when you first came to campus.

So: predators in any organization? I think at the end of the day, we're mostly wishy-washy students who are trying to read the culture of our new school. It comes from the top down. If you want an institution with employees that speak up, you give lots of signals that speaking up will be taken seriously, and you publicize routes that employees should take to speak up, and you state and enforce consequences for not speaking up. (That doesn't happen for students, but certainly employees can get their ass in hot water for not reporting Title IX violations.)

In short, enablers are made, not filtered.


 

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Guest Post - Long Weekend Longwatch

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.15.18

Mossy Character writes: Interesting lecture by Timothy Snyder on the uses of history. Nothing especially new, but he pulls a lot of different things together well and engagingly. Assuming no-one will actually watch the whole thing, here are some threads.

1. The politics of inevitability: "The notion is, 'It's all going to sort itself out into liberal democracy one way or the other.' [...] If you accept there are no alternatives, politics becomes unbelievably boring."

2. "Usually, 'neoliberalism' is meant as a kind of gesture of helplessness [...] you're just kind of admitting there's no alternative to it..."

3. "The politics of eternity pantomimes history", reduces it to endlessly recurring patterns: "penetration from the outside of a virtuous nation"; "We have always been attacked from the west."

4. "It's very easy to go from the view that 'Things are always going to turn out in the end somehow' to the view that 'things are never going to turn out in the end somehow'."

5. "[America] has only been a democracy in the sense that we understand it for about as long as I've been alive."

6. "People get used to a simulacrum of the previous institutions with in fact only one party that's allowed to function"

8. The virtues of the European Union.

9. "...everything that happens in Ukraine now happens in America but just with less style."

10. The American police are "beautifully, spectacularly decentralized."

Heebie's take: thanks, Mochie! Just now getting back to the world of the internet.


 

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