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Friday WTFuckery

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.23.18

We haven't had one of these in a while. Probably John Bolton is the worst thing this week, but you could also make a strong case for that guy in Sacramento who was shot 20? times while holding a cell phone in his own backyard. Vent away.


 

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Death By Uber

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.22.18

Surely self-driving cars will be mainstream eventually, a claim I'm not willing to level against BitCoin or our AI overlords. But in the short run, I'm siding with those who are voicing concerns. On that Uber killing a pedestrian on Sunday:

Prior to the crash, footage shows the driver--identified as 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez--repeatedly glancing downward, and is seen looking away from the road right before the car strikes Herzberg.
Contrary to earlier reports from Tempe's police chief that Herzberg "abruptly" darted out in front of the car, the video shows her positioned in the middle of the road lane before the crash.
Based on the exterior video clip, Herzberg comes into view--walking a bicycle across the two-lane road--at least two seconds before the collision. In the interior footage, Vasquez appears to be looking down in six of the seven seconds prior to the crash.

I have no intention of watching the video, but you can find it at the link if you're so inclined.

Atrios writes:

There are 12.5 deaths per billion vehicle miles driven. This is the statistic that self-driving cars have to beat in order to be "safer."
Based on this, Uber has had about 3 million test miles (under mostly safer than average road conditions, but I'll leave that aside). They're now at 333 deaths per billion miles driven. Gonna have to go a few more days without a death before they're "safer."

Some say the world will end in BitCoin,
Some say Uber.
From Silicon Valley's brain of zits and groins,
I hold with those who favor BitCoin.
But if twice we were to die by computer,
I think I know the Valley's stupider
Enough that for destruction Uber
Is also dumb
Enough to leave us FUBAR.

(That's the best I could do. Just read it in a rushed meter. I bet the comments can come up with something better.)

Links via Jammies and one of you.


 

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Mass Panic

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.21.18

I was going to post about the Austin bombing situation, but he went and blew himself up. People were starting to get very nervous about packages around here, for sure.

The only other time I remember being part of a city-wide panic is in 1990 when a serial killer was on the loose in Gainesville. I was in 8th grade and they said on the school announcements that none of us should walk home alone. I, being the smartest person ever, scoffed because killing kids walking home on their own was so not this guy's M.O. Technically, I was totally right.

As an adult, I once met a therapist who found out I was from Gainesville and asked about it, because apparently other, less know-it-all people my age found it traumatizing, and enough had crossed paths with this therapist for him to ask out of curiosity. (Gainesville to Austin is a fairly common migration pattern.)


 

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Guest Post - Sovietology

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.20.18

Mossy Character writes: Paper on economic analysis of the Soviet Union, showing Western analysts in general, and the CIA in particular, did in fact detect the economic stagnation of the USSR from the mid-1960s on, and predicted eventual crisis.

Other scholars went a bit further and as early as 1966 actually used the word "crisis."
[...]
An important July 1977 CIA paper called "Soviet Economic Problems and Prospects" is a good case in point. The document began by noting that the Soviet economy faced "serious strains in the decade ahead"; the basic problems that had long been noted "were likely to intensify"
[...]
The interesting thing here is that the Soviets analyzed the problem in much the same way U.S. economists did. The basic problem, according to the Americans, was that the "extensive" growth model had run its course and one had to shift to an "intensive" model and focus on making both capital and labor more productive. Some of the most talented Soviet economists took essentially the same line.
[...]
[CIA Director] Turner himself, in congressional testimony for four years in succession [1977-80], took much the same line. The Soviet growth rate, he said, had fallen and the decline would continue; the economic outlook was "bleak"; Soviet leaders would try to "muddle through" but that policy was not "tenable in the long run"; indeed, "the economic picture might look so dismal by the mid-1980s that the leadership might coalesce behind a more liberal set of policies." [Gorbachev became General Secretary in 1985.]
[...]
the findings here are also important because they shed light on the issue of whether social science can be of real value in practical political terms.

Heebie's take: Saying that the economy is tanking and things are awful is a long way from predicting collapse. Intelligent people have been observing that things are going in the wrong direction here, too, and many of the trends are several decades old, but it seems like things can decline for a long fucking time, sometimes, without reason to believe that anything's going to shake it up.

I'd never heard the word Sovietology before, but I like it, just like I love the word Kremlinologist. The little wikipedia blurb is that:

Kremlinology is the study and analysis of the politics and policies of Russia, while the term Sovietology means the study of politics and policies of the Soviet Union and former communist states more generally. These two terms were synonymous until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

but obviously what we all love is this part:

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to "read between the lines" and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as "First Secretary", the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper Pravda and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.

I bet there is a lot of scholarship by literature people on how it changes a narrative when the outcome is known. Like, several times I've tried to read Megan's recommended book and the mere fact that I know kinda what's coming has made it too stressful to proceed. Why am I going on about this. My point is that 2018 paranoia and conspiracy theories are not cutesy to me at all, and yet the Kremlinologists of yore are adorable, and I presume it's only because I know how the latter situation turned out.


 

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Aging and flakiness

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.20.18

This is a trite analogy, but I'm finding aging to be a lot like Memento - a lot of time spent deriving what a person (who happens to be me) would most likely have done in past situations (and some delight when it turns out that I'm predictable).

Also, there is a certain kind of flakiness that drives me crazy in other people, because I have it myself and so I set up a lot of systems to compensate. If you're constantly walking out the door without your five essential items, set up a checklist, you dummy. (Actually I don't care if you're flaky until it impacts me in some way, or continually annoys someone else.) If you're the type of person who forgets that you're boiling water, don't go outside to play baseball with your kid after putting water on to boil. Stay in the kitchen.


 

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Kobach trial

Posted by Ben
on 03.19.18

This is bananas. Kobach's lawyers seem not to know how to lawyer?

Also, ballsy lawyering:

The ACLU continued to attack the methods and credibility of Kobach's witness, saying 200 political scientists had signed an open letter critical of his work. (Richman responds to the open letter here.)

They pressed him on how he coded a survey of people whose voter applications had been blocked, which in part included labeling names as foreign if Richman and an assistant didn't think they sounded like English-speaking people.

Richman replied that wasn't the only criterion for marking certain names.

An ACLU lawyer asked him whether he would label "Carlos Murguia" foreign, and when Richman replied he probably would, revealed Murguia is a federal judge in that very courthouse.


 

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Guest Post - Jordan Peterson

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.19.18

Minivet writes: What's up with this shit?

Taken on his own terms. (Note, though it is longish, over a quarter of the word count is transcribed YouTube logorrhea the reader is encouraged to skim or skip.)
As gateway to MRA, neo-Nazism, etc. (long Twitter thread)

Heebie's take: oh god, I saw that first link the other day and attempted to read it. The article is fine, but this Peterson fellow - who I've never heard of before this - is such a bag of gas that I can't quite stomach the patience of the author of the article to wade through the muck and describe it. So patiently. So much blowing of hot air.

Here's my guess: the readers who adore Peterson enjoy the sensation of smartstuff washing over them, probably because they like the veneer of smartology that they themselves can then don. But I also suspect that the readers genuinely don't realize that when actual smart people write things, the words are a vehicle for actual ideas, and readers are expected to make sense of concepts and ideas conveyed by the author.


 

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Weekend Longread

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.18.18

LW writes: The new VQR has a great essay from Lili Loofbourow

Glib summary: Male work gets overestimated and overanalyzed, female work underestimated and underanalyzed.

It's pleasant to feel perceptive, and there's no easier subject to condescend to than a woman who wants to seem more perfect than she is. We whoop with joy when we spot the performance and conclude--because it deigns to perform and because the performance is visible--that the consciousness behind it is petty, superficial, and cognitively incapable of witnessing the pathos of its own condition. This is almost a type of scopophilia. Our pleasure in watching a Real Housewife shares something with minstrelsy: The pleasure comes as much from our fantasy that she's blind to her own humiliation as it does from the grotesque performance of abject femininity. There she is, the creature we love best to hate, the Stupid Reality TV Woman.
The irony, of course, is that you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone more aware of what they're caricaturing than a minstrel or a reality star.

I like the parallel with minstrelsy a lot. She cites a bunch of examples mostly from television. Maybe others have said similar things previously, but her description of how people effectively pay attention with systematic biases while any particular choice seems arbitrary made a lot of sense to me.

Heebie's take: She coins the term male glance to contrast with male gaze. It's distressing to me that I know I've internalized a visceral male glance for other people's work. I am aware of it and consciously intentionally compensate - except when I must still fail to, because surely it must operate in situations that haven't even occurred to me.

I also like this, which immediately preceeds the quote above:

This is female chivalry. It consists in allowing us to think we're spontaneously noticing that which has been explicitly put there for us to notice. Like all chivalry, it has pernicious consequences when it goes unappreciated or unobserved.

...

If traditional male chivalry involves loud displays of care like ostentatious door-opening, the entire point of female chivalry is that it's functionally invisible. We don't actually realize we've been aesthetically tended to and philosophically cosseted into considering ourselves better readers of surface and depth than we really are. As with any creature spoiled into thinking too well of itself, this breeds a meanness of spirit.

 

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