Monday, May 2nd, 2022


They Might Be Giants

"They don't care what you think. They want to control your mind. They want you to kiss the ring. They want to control what you do. And of course, they want to control your kids too." That's the Tucker Carlson mantra. He's inconsistent with truth, but not with tactics. The changing American demographics have created a receptive audience for his nonstop fear-mongering as we wait for the barbarians—an imaginary population of elites and minorities conspiring to take everything away from white America—to climb over our walls or sneak their ideas into our libraries. That's what Covid policies are about. That's what standing up to Putin is about. That's what is really at work when you call a racist a racist. And, undoubtedly, that's what is behind this in-depth, three part NYT series. What's sad is that Carlson feels the need use his growing platform to divide. What's sadder is that, for millions of Americans, the message works so well. Like with Trump's fixation on birtherism, these guys don't pick their messages before experimenting and honing. Once the message is perfected, it's hammered home relentlessly. NYT (Gift Article): How Tucker Carlson Stoked White Fear to Conquer Cable. In the end, what allows these "they" messages to be so effective is our complete social and cultural divide. If we actually interacted, it would be easy to counter Carlson's hogwash and say, "Actually, I know them and "they" are nothing like that." But our divide is everywhere and it creates a vacuum that people like Tucker Carlson can fill with hate.



Technology often has an upside and a downside. During the pandemic year, social technologies kept some semblance of my kids' social and academic lives relatively on-track. Those same social technologies also greased the skids for conspiracy theories and deadly health misinformation, and pushed American democracy to the brink. And so it is with artificial intelligence. On one hand, the technology is used to simplify business tasks and make vital health care decisions. On the other hand, some AI intended to help can actually hurt. Consider the AI used in Allegheney County to determine which families should be investigated for potential child neglect or abuse. "According to new research from a Carnegie Mellon University team obtained exclusively by AP, Allegheny's algorithm in its first years of operation showed a pattern of flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a 'mandatory' neglect investigation, when compared with white children. The independent researchers, who received data from the county, also found that social workers disagreed with the risk scores the algorithm produced about one-third of the time." An algorithm that screens for child neglect raises concerns. What we really need is an AI that tells us when it's appropriate to use AI.


Sticks and Stones

"When asked how Russia can claim that it is fighting to 'de-Nazify' Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky is himself Jewish, Mr Lavrov said: 'I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. [That Zelensky is Jewish] means absolutely nothing. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.'" Israel outrage at Sergei Lavrov's claim that Hitler was part Jewish. As the son of Holocaust survivors, this crap bothers me as much as anyone. But it bothers me a whole lot less than than the fact that Lavrov and his sociopathic crime boss are currently carrying out mass murder in Ukraine.

+ "The bus took them to a school in the nearby town of Nikolske, which they said had been converted into a Russian-operated registration center where Ukrainians were filling out forms with their personal information. That was their first brush with what Ukrainian and U.S. officials and human rights groups have called "filtration" centers they say are part of a system of forced expulsions of Ukrainians to Russia." Sisters Recount Perilous Escape From Mariupol as Russians Closed In.

+ The Worst Seat in the House: "All those rounds — around 40 depending on if they're carrying a full load or not — are all going to cook off, and everyone is going to be dead." Wapo (Gift Article): How the ‘jack-in-the-box' flaw dooms some Russian tanks. (Seriously, take a look at this design. Tanks, but no tanks...)

+ "He said he had hired bodyguards after friends with contacts in the Russian security services told him he should fear for his life, and quipped that while he had survived leukemia, perhaps 'the Kremlin will kill me.'" A Russian Tycoon Criticized Putin's War. Retribution Was Swift.


Esperate Measures

"Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper charges in a memoir out May 10 that former President Trump said when demonstrators were filling the streets around the White House following the death of George Floyd: 'Can't you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?'" Esper says Trump wanted to shoot protesters. "Michael Bender — then with The Wall Street Journal, now with the N.Y. Times — reported last year in his book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election, that Trump repeatedly called for law enforcement to shoot protesters during heated meetings inside the Oval Office." (In fairness to Trump, he only called for shooting peaceful protesters. When it came to the insurrectionists, he was very pro-assembly.)


Extra, Extra

A Warranty For Arrest: "Does it seem like you've been getting more calls about your car's extended warranty or fake IRS alerts? It's not just you. According to the spam-blocking company YouMail, robocalls have spiked in the last few months since hitting a low in December." Who's to Blame for All the Spam Calls? (It's sad that, at least for me, many of them are politicians calling for donations. They text, they email, they call. And with each, I move further away from swiping my credit card.)

+ Sub is Dom: "Even with all the changes so far, it still has abundant evolutionary space to explore, according to virologists who are tracking it closely. What that means in practical terms is that a virus that's already extremely contagious could become even more so." Virus mutations aren't slowing down. New omicron subvariant proves it.

+ Van, Go: "He had a neighbor's video of the van used in the crime on Marietta Drive. He found that same van. He found his family's stolen belongings inside the van. He found evidence the van itself was stolen. He found burglary tools inside it. And he found a fount of other goods that appeared stolen — suitcases, backpacks, cameras and even Lowell High report cards — in there too." SF Chronicle: S.F. dad solves stolen luggage case for police — and do-little cops still haven't made arrests.

+ 'Dex Flex: "Percentage by which more Russians than average read BBC News in the week Ukraine was invaded : 245. Date on which Russia restricted access to BBC News: 3/4/2022." The always interesting Harper's Index.

+ Chip Technology: "International chip flavors seem to have all the fun. But to get chip flavors like hot pot or fried crab in America, the snack industry would have to change the way it does everything." Why Are American Chips So Boring? (I'm not sure I'd use the word boring to describe chips. Just reading this headline pretty much guarantees I'll eat chips today.)


Bottom of the News

"If you've ever been enthralled by one slushie and disappointed by another, it's probably because you may be keying into qualities of which you're not aware: carbonation, expansion, density, flavor intensity. But Big Slushie doesn't really care whether you understand these differences, because Big Slushie doesn't care about your needs. It exists to help convenience stores, food chains, and event providers maximize profit margins for impulse purchases, while framing those purchases to you, the slurper, as nostalgic memories of childhood delight. This is a difficult truth, and you may regret your loss of innocence in its pursuit." Ian Bogost in The Atlantic: The Truth About Slushies Must Come Out. (Counterpoint: No, it mustn't. Love slushie and believe slushie loves you. There's enough pain the the world.)

+ "When golf tournaments promise big cash prizes for holes-in-one, they turn to niche insurers to protect against a stroke of luck."