Saturday, July 22, 2017

McCain gets honest, so will die soon

Apparently John McCain came out of surgery with a diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer and almost immediately put the blast on Trump.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Russia hawk and occasional Donald Trump critic, blasted a report on the administration's new Syria posture just hours after revealing he had a cancerous brain tumor.

McCain's statement faulted the administration for reportedly ending a covert program begun during the Obama administration to provide arms to Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

'If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin,' the Armed Services Committee chairman said in a statement...

Making any concession to Russia, absent a broader strategy for Syria, is irresponsible and short-sighted,' he said.

This is how we can conclude that McCain is not long for this world. Republicans have a decades-long tradition of getting honest, ripping off the ideological veneer, often apologizing for their entire political careers, after they are out of power and no longer have any effect on the institutions.

So based on this, it is clear that McCain knows he'll never run for re-election again. It's likely that he'll be dead by the end of the year -- and within the realm of possibility that he'll never cast another vote in the U.S. Senate. If he starts issuing political apologies, then we'll know that the end is days away.

Daily Mail

Friday, July 21, 2017

Religious people primed to support Trump

The truth is that Donald Trump is simply out of his mind crazy. Infantile, stupid, narcissistic, illiterate, sociopathic. Likely some kind of brain degeneration. Rarely acts like he has object permanence.

But there is still a fairly large cohort of people who "Try to decipher what he means", thinking he's some kind of Machiavellian master manipulator, pulling strings and sending coded "3D chess" messages. Of course that's nonsense. He can't even string an English sentence together, can't put together the discipline to stop sending nonsensical rants out on Twitter at midnight.

His supporters are largely religious people. And the thing is, these people have been indoctrinated  all their lives specifically to look for secret coded meanings from random happenings in the world. "God works in mysterious ways." I've heard these people explicitly argue that the most trivial of happenings, like any given leaf falling off a tree, has some critical effect in God's ultimate plan for the universe.

This indoctrination of many of our fellow citizens that the chaos in the world secretly communicates ineffable truths is what will feed into this destructive cycle on an ongoing basis. Religious training is what has predisposed people to be firmly anti-fact, anti-evidence in the first place. The more bullshit that Trump spins out, the more aggressively our religious peoples will adhere to secret plans and meanings in the chaos.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

White House releases personal information of voters worried about their personal information

The White House on Thursday made public a trove of emails it received from voters offering comment on its Election Integrity Commission. The commission drew widespread criticism when it emerged into public view by asking for personal information, including addresses, partial social security numbers and party affiliation, on every voter in the country...

Unfortunately for these voters and others who wrote in, the Trump administration did not redact any of their personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public. In some cases, the emails contain not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment of people worried about such information being made available to the public.

Washington Post

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Proof by Google searches that America is full of racists

As a barometer of our national consciousness, Google is as accurate (and predictive) as it gets. In 2016, when the Republican primaries were just beginning, most pundits and pollsters did not believe Trump could win. After all, he had insulted veterans, women, minorities, and countless other constituencies.

But Stephens-Davidowitz saw clues in his Google research that suggested Trump was far more serious than many supposed. Searches containing racist epithets and jokes were spiking across the country during Trump’s primary run, and not merely in the South but in upstate New York, Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, rural Illinois, West Virginia, and industrial Michigan.

Stephens-Davidowitz saw in the Google Trends data a racially polarized electorate, and one primed to respond to the ethno-nationalist rhetoric of Trump. 

There were earlier signs, too. On Obama’s 2008 election night, Stephens-Davidowitz found that “one in every hundred Google searches that included the word ‘Obama’ also included ‘KKK’” or the n-word. Searches for racist websites like Stormfront also spiked. 

“There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from traditional sources,” Stephens-Davidowitz says. “Those searches are hard to reconcile with a society in which racism is a small factor.”


Monday, July 17, 2017

Facebook built an AI system that learned to lie to get what it wants

From the human conversations (gathered via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and testing its skills against itself, the AI system didn’t only learn how to state its demands, but negotiation tactics as well—specifically, lying. Instead of outright saying what it wanted, sometimes the AI would feign interest in a worthless object, only to later concede it for something that it really wanted. Facebook isn’t sure whether it learned from the human hagglers or whether it stumbled upon the trick accidentally, but either way when the tactic worked, it was rewarded.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Singapore court rules parents deserve kids with their genes

After screwing up an in vitro fertilization procedure, a medical center in Singapore has been ordered by a court to pay 30% child support, in perpetuity, because the child does not have proper "genetic affinity" with the parents. Note that this is different from a penalty for screwing up the procedure itself, or lack of consent from the parents. This opens the door to multiple sticky problems in the future:
It remains to be seen whether other jurisdictions will recognize the value of genetic affinity. But the judgment occurs at an interesting juncture in human history. We are gaining unprecedented ability to tinker with our genetic code, and this raises interesting ethical issues.

Do women with mitochondrial disorders have a right to engage in “three-parent IVF” to ensure genetic affinity with a healthy child, for instance?

If we use CRISPR-cas9 gene-editing technology to alter the genes of embryos, does it constitute a loss of genetic affinity with parents? And is it possible to use such editing to shift genetic affinity, by making a child’s traits more in line with one parent rather than the other?

These questions will only become more pressing as science advances, and the concept of genetic affinity may provide a coherent lens through which to consider them.
Asia Times

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The information is real and we're losing it

UW professor Kate Starbird:
“After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity,” Starbird says. “It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it.

“That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it.”

Starbird is in the field of “crisis informatics,” or how information flows after a disaster. She got into it to see how social media might be used for the public good, such as to aid emergency responders.
Instead she’s gone down a dark rabbit hole, one that wends through the back warrens of the web and all the way up to the White House.

Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these “strange clusters” of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach.

Seattle Times

Friday, July 14, 2017

Trolling will get worse online

Experts predict that trolling will only get worse online in the future:

"Harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust" will stay the norm on the internet over the next decade, experts told the Pew Research Center in a new report...

The Pew Research Center and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University surveyed about 1,500 technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners and government leaders in July and August 2016 for the study, and the results are pretty demoralizing.

Forty-two percent of respondents thought the internet would stay the same sometimes less-than-pleasant place over the next 10 years, while another 39 percent said they thought the internet would become a more negative environment. Just under 20 percent of experts thought the internet had any chance of getting better over the next decade when it comes to harassment and trolling.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Trump at work to destroy the press

A handful of Republican operatives close to the White House are scrambling to Trump Jr.’s defense and have begun what could be an extensive campaign to try to discredit some of the journalists who have been reporting on the matter.

Their plan, as one member of the team described it, is to research the reporters’ previous work, in some cases going back years, and to exploit any mistakes or perceived biases. They intend to demand corrections, trumpet errors on social media and feed them to conservative outlets, such as Fox News.

Washington Post

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bernie Sanders working to sabotage more Democrats

"Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to introduce a single-payer bill soon that will be similar to the one he ran on during his 2016 presidential campaign, and Republicans have already challenged vulnerable Democrats to say whether they’ll stand with him."
Washington Post

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Most Republicans are now negative on colleges

Virtually every day Fox News, Breitbart and other conservative outlets run critical articles about free speech disputes on college campuses, typically with coverage focused on the perceived liberal orthodoxy and political correctness in higher education.... the share of Republicans under 50 who have a positive view of higher education has fallen by a whopping 21 percentage points since 2015... Based on income levels, Republicans are less positive about higher education the more money they make...