Saturday, February 27, 2021

Nevada Governor Proposes Giving Tech Firms Power to Govern [He's a Democrat]

And Paul Romer, again
And Kate Klonick, again.

These platforms are now responsible for shaping and allowing participation in our new digital and democratic culture, yet they have little direct accountability to their users. Future intervention, if any, must take into account how and why these platforms regulate online speech in order to strike a balance between preserving the democratizing forces of the internet and protecting the generative power of our New Governors.

Balkin's not a wartime consigliere.  

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Tarantino's indulgence in racism, and getting away with it, goes back to Scorsese, in a cab talking about killing his wife for fucking a black man. And then the scene above. Violence and comedy. Scorsese and Tarantino are both before anything else students of film. Not the first.  
I wish I could find a video of that included the transition to the street scene. But at the same time, since I'm still doing this, if I were a curator I would do a show of the best of YTMND

Reuters: How a 10-second video clip sold for $6.6 million

“You can go in the Louvre and take a picture of the Mona Lisa and you can have it there, but it doesn’t have any value because it doesn’t have the provenance or the history of the work,”

The provenance of a tulip. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

"Information fiduciaries" again
Wolff is a professor of economics at UMass. The post is here. I was blocked from sharing it, but not the Guardian article itself. From Doug Henwood on twitter. 

The Greyzone, Blumenthal, and Reuters 

 What's the definition of a "platform"?

In that same update about group recommendations, the product manager also explained how leaders decided against making changes to a feature called In Feed Recommendations (IFR) due to potential political worries. Designed to insert posts into people’s feeds from accounts they don’t follow, IFR was intended to foster new connections or interests. For example, if a person followed the Facebook page for a football team like the Kansas City Chiefs, IFR might add a post from the NFL to their feed, even if that person didn’t follow the NFL.

One thing IFR was not supposed to do was recommend political content. But earlier that spring, Facebook users began complaining that they were seeing posts from conservative personalities including Ben Shapiro in their News Feeds even though they had never engaged with that type of content.

When the issue was flagged internally, Facebook’s content policy team warned that removing such suggestions for political content could reduce those pages’ engagement and traffic, and possibly inspire complaints from publishers. A News Feed product manager and a policy team member reiterated this argument in an August post to Facebook’s internal message board.

“A noticeable drop in distribution for these producers (via traffic insights for recommendations) is likely to result in high-profile escalations that could include accusations of shadow-banning and/or FB bias against certain political entities during the US 2020 election cycle,” they explained. Shadow-banning, or the limiting of a page’s circulation without informing its owners, is a common accusation leveled by right-wing personalities against social media platforms.

Throughout 2020, the “fear of antagonizing powerful political actors,” as the former core data scientist put it in their memo, became a key public policy team rationalization for forgoing action on potentially violative content or rolling out product changes ahead of the US presidential election. They also said they had seen “a dozen proposals to measure the objective quality of content on News Feed diluted or killed because … they have a disproportionate impact across the US political spectrum, typically harming conservative content more.”

The data scientist, who spent more than five years at the company before leaving late last year, noted that while strides had been made since 2016, the state of political content on News Feed was “still generally agreed to be bad.” According to Facebook data, they added, 1 of every 100 views on content about US politics was for some type of hoax, while the majority of views for political materials were on partisan posts. Yet the company continued to give known spreaders of false and misleading information a pass if they were deemed “‘sensitive’ or likely to retaliate,” the data scientist said.

“In the US it appears that interventions have been almost exclusively on behalf of conservative publishers,” they wrote, attributing this to political pressure or a reluctance to upset sensitive publishers and high-profile users.

As BuzzFeed News reported last summer, members of Facebook’s policy team — including Kaplan — intervened on behalf of right-wing figures and publications such as Charlie Kirk, Breitbart, and Prager University, in some cases pushing for the removal of misinformation strikes against their pages or accounts. Strikes, which are applied at the recommendation of Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers, can result in a range of penalties, from a decrease in how far their posts are distributed to the removal of the page or account.

Kaplan’s other interventions are well documented. In 2018, the Wall Street Journal revealed that he helped kill a project to connect Americans who have political differences. The paper said Kaplan had objected “when briefed on internal Facebook research that found right-leaning users tended to be more polarized, or less exposed to different points of view, than those on the left.” Last year, the New York Times reported that policy executives declined to expand a feature called “correct the record” — which notified users when they interacted with content that was later labeled false by Facebook’s fact-checking partners — out of fear that it would “disproportionately show notifications to people who shared false news from right-wing websites.”

Monday, February 22, 2021

I have argued that the moral egalitarianism that is central to modern morality cannot be defended on any basis other than the supposition that there is an egalitarian God that invests everyone with equal moral worth. Defenders of morality argue that this aspect of morality can be defended without any theistic assumptions, even though, as I have suggested, moral egalitarianism appears to be nothing more than a legacy of Judaism and Christianity.

Counting against Nietzsche’s skepticism about the ability of morality to survive the death of God is precisely the fact that he calls repeated attention to, namely that, in the domain of moral thought “everything goes on as before” (A 38), that is, that the egalitarian moral ideals have expanded their scope rather than receding in the wake of modern atheism (cf. Leiter 2013a). Of course, the more accurate thing to say is that, for the last 150 years or so, “everything goes on as before.” Might this change in a Nietzschean direction? Of course, it could, and we cannot rule that out. But it counts against Nietzsche’s prediction that the death of God will produce the death of morality that 150 years later, it really is true that “everything [still] goes on as before.”

To be sure, to the extent Nietzsche is making a prediction—as when he says “Christianity as dogma perished of its own morality [i.e., the demand to be truthful]; in this manner Christianity as morality must now also perish—we stand at the threshold of this event” (GM III:27)—he presumably is not making a prediction about what the vast “herd” of humanity will come to believe, only about his rightful readers, that elite he imagined were predisposed for his insights--or at least those benighted atheists who have not yet thought clearly about the implications of the death of God.

And right below this, the centennial of Rawls. repeats: Rawls, Joshua Cohen and Apple University.

The absurdity of Leiter. His loyalty to the academy supersedes everything else. But I keep returning to it and the absurdity of philosophy.

A lot to unpack. Europeans are socialist in the same sense the Spanish are Catholic: ironic worship or indifferent profession in the theater of social democracy. 
Henry will never change.
I used to drink coffee with a man who sewed $100,000 furs for Dennis Basso. "Americans aren't social!" Still the best description.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

I'm lazy.

FIFTH QUESTION. In which government must there be censors? There must be censors in a republic where the principle of government is virtue. It is not only crimes that destroy virtue, but also negligence, mistakes, a certain slackness in the love of the homeland, dangerous examples, the seeds ofcorruption, that which does not run counter to the laws but eludes them, that which does not destroy them but weakens them: all these should be corrected by censors.

It is astonishing that an Areopagite was punished for killing a sparrow that had taken refuge in his breast while in flight from a hawk. It is surprising that the Areopagus sent to his death a child who had put out the eyes of a bird. Notice that the question is not that of condemning a crime but of judging mores in a republic founded on mores.

In monarchies there must be no censors; monarchies are founded on honor, and the nature of honor is to have the whole universe as a censor. Every man who commits a breach of honor is subject to the reproaches of even those without honor.

Virtue vs honor in Montesquieu. My references are sloppy.

Céline Spector, "Montesquieu: Critique of Republicanism?" Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 6:1, 38-53

The opposition between liberalism and civic humanism has been the object of fruitful scholarly debate, notably since the work of H.Baron, J.G.A. Pocock and Q. Skinner1 . The ambition of The Machiavellian Moment is clear: by putting to work these two distinct hermeneutical paradigms it seeks to transcend the hegemony of liberal historiography. The shortcomings of the liberal vocabulary of individualism which theorizes the possessive individual in its relation with other possessive individuals and which considers the question of justice under the guise of the protection of rights must be mitigated by the use of the language of civic humanism. Civic humanism or broadly conceived republicanism does not see the curtailing of power, the warrant of individual safety and of the right to rebel as its founding problems; but is concerned essentially with the corruption of virtue. In the writings of those authors belonging to what J.G.A. Pocock labelled the tradition of ‘civic humanism’, the corruption which threatens liberty appears when the citizen’s autonomy which is guaranteed by the ownership of arms and land is no longer secure. In these critical ‘Machiavellian moments’ of history civic virtue is not confident in its success against the forces that endanger its survival; be it fortuna in the Renaissance or finance, credit and commerce in the 18th century.

The Neo-Harringtonian continuation of the tradition of civic humanism in England, a tradition limited up to that point to the small Italian republics of the 13th and 14th century, focuses the republican fears around the new economic expansion and its instruments. Following the financial revolution, the introduction of innovative means of power, the reign of passion and imagination disintegrate the martial spirit of independence and patriotism to which the survival of the republic is identified. The mobility of ownership which dominates the new mercantile societies is detrimental to the expression of virtue and renders the ideal of the citizen/soldier defunct. In this line of thought the tradition of English republicanism is no longer associated to the restoration of the ancient republican model where the people as a body politic exercised power. Power is now subordinated to a new vision of constitutional monarchy which might invigorate civic virtue once more, a virtue without which the unceasing struggle between competing factions and interests is set to carry the state adrift towards corruption and decadence.

1.The expression ‘civic humanism’ was most certainly fashioned by H. Baron in 1928 in German as Bürgerhumanismus. A term which Baron developed in opposition to Burkhart’s notion of ‘Renaissance’ in (Baron, 1966).

"The expression ‘civic humanism’ was most certainly fashioned by H. Baron in 1928." A 20th century pedant's definition of humanism as something puritanical and brittle.

Intellectual history is not synonymous with history  

Naturalism undermines individualism, but not republicanism. It undermines philosophers' pretensions but not lawyers' trade.

For, though the word Humanität had come, in the eighteenth century, to mean little more than politeness and civility, it had, for Kant, a much deeper significance, which the circumstances of the moment served to emphasize: man’s proud and tragic consciousness of self-approved and self-imposed principles, contrasting with his utter subjection to illness, decay and all that implied in the word ‘mortality.’

…in a hospital tent at the clearing station I came across a man with a French flag wrapped around his waist; the medics discovered it when they cut his shirt away. He was a hard-looking, blondish chap with a mouthful of gold teeth and a face adorned by a cross-shaped knife scar—the croix de vache with which procurers sometimes mark business rivals. An interesting collection of obscene tattooing showed on the parts of him that the flag did not cover. Outwardly he was not a sentimental type.
"Where are you from?" I asked him.
"Belleville," he said. Belleville is a part of Paris not distinguished for its elegance.
"What did you do in civilian life?" I inquired.
That made him grin. "I lived on my income," he said.
"Why did you choose the Corps Franc?"
"Because I understood," he said.

Most arguments against mass surveillance don't respond fully substantively to claims that you shouldn't worry if you "have nothing to hide".  Defense of personal freedom isn't enough.  What's needed is an argument in defense of the need for citizens in a democratic state to be able to be all kinds of wrong, all kinds of confused, creepy, conflicted, desirous, weepy or hate-filled, so that they may be able to learn to understand and outgrow their childishness. The choice is between a community of adults with a minority of the inveterately childish and criminal or a community of children ruled by moralists and crime lords.

Republicanism is a practice, not a theory. It succeeds when people are willing to balance their competing desires; there's no rule as to when or how. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

 Leiter and "condescension from below", again, this time against Taibbi.

"Marcuse was a Millian"

I show that Marcuse agreed with Mill that free expression is only truth-and utility-maximizing if certain background conditions obtain: thus Mill argues that the British colony in India would be better off with "benevolent despotism" than Millian liberty of expression, given that its inhabitants purportedly lacked the maturity and education requisite for expression to be utility-maximizing. Marcuse agrees with Mill that the background conditions are essential, but has an empirical disagreement with him about what those are and when they obtain: Mill finds them wanting in colonial India, Marcuse finds them wanting in capitalist America.

Puritans and drunks. Authoritarian bureaucrats vs anti-political moralists. Leiter loses this one to Taibbi and anyone else who laughs at his first line. 

Taibbi: "The man who probably wouldn’t have touched a Harley, a blues guitar, a Budweiser, or  a baseball without a Haz-Mat suit..." Taibbi is an idiot.

Angela Davis with Marcuse, and Erich Honecker. I have to shrug.

Taibbi's old friend Yasha Levine

Matt went from helping set up what is probably the most radical and avant-garde American literary experiment of his generation to sounding like a caricature of a reactionary boomer, all this at the tender age of 50.

From Russia with Lust 

“People are afraid of what our paper will write about them, so they give us free shit,” Mr. Taibbi said.

They say they also take advantage of what they like to call the “white god factor” and make trips to the provinces. “Tens of millions of people live in dire circumstances, stranded in the center of the world’s largest continent, with little hope of going anywhere,” said Mr. Ames. “Which means–sexual opportunity for me.”

We walked to the Village Idiot. Beer, pool, darts. Two college girls were dancing together to Elvis, provocatively.

Mr. Ames said he didn’t like the trend toward lesbianism among American women. “Nothing coils my dick up faster,” he said. “When I was in school in Berkeley, there were dykes all over the place who hated my guts for being a tall male. They don’t like tall men, really.”

He spoke about his sex life in Moscow. “Russian women, especially on the first date, expect you to rape them,...” 

I switched out the link. Levine linked to Vanity Fair.

They're all fucking idiots. Satire is conservative and moralizing and Taibbi has aged into bitterness. That's all.

They were friends with Yegor Letov and Limonov, but the Americans were just voyeurs who could bail to the US whenever they wanted, just like every other decadent journalist partying in Saigon in the 60s. They began doing the apology tour in 2017, because someone remembered, or found out what was never secret. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"I love the melancholy poetry of reactionary homosexual Fordist anti-humanism"

The Research Director of the Knight First Amendment Center at Colombia 

In the NYT,  @jameeljaffer  and I argue that the new Facebook Oversight Board should push FB for a full investigation of how the platform may have contributed to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots before they take up the Trump suspension question.
"Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’ Faces Its First Major Test" 

Jaffer is the The Executive Director.  The New Yorker piece, by Kate Klonick, in context
Stoller is good.
“Fundamentally American”? No. Facebook represents a fundamentally un-American view of free speech. We have never had public policy to centralize control of communications and media like this before.

To be fair, both those were written before today's news. A lot of people are going to be ashamed of their earlier positions, including Balkin. This is going to hit. Palestine will take a little longer. 

But this really is becoming fun. 


As recently as fifteen years ago, the term “content” was heard only when people were discussing the cinema on a serious level, and it was contrasted with and measured against “form.” Then, gradually, it was used more and more by the people who took over media companies, most of whom knew nothing about the history of the art form, or even cared enough to think that they should. “Content” became a business term for all moving images: a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode. It was linked, of course, not to the theatrical experience but to home viewing, on the streaming platforms that have come to overtake the moviegoing experience, just as Amazon overtook physical stores. On the one hand, this has been good for filmmakers, myself included. On the other hand, it has created a situation in which everything is presented to the viewer on a level playing field, which sounds democratic but isn’t. If further viewing is “suggested” by algorithms based on what you’ve already seen, and the suggestions are based only on subject matter or genre, then what does that do to the art of cinema?

Curating isn’t undemocratic or “elitist,” a term that is now used so often that it’s become meaningless. It’s an act of generosity—you’re sharing what you love and what has inspired you. (The best streaming platforms, such as the Criterion Channel and MUBI and traditional outlets such as TCM, are based on curating—they’re actually curated.) Algorithms, by definition, are based on calculations that treat the viewer as a consumer and nothing else.

Form and Content again. Paul Schrader now has a tag.

There's a lot to argue in Scorsese's piece. Fellini was a touchstone for me for a few years as an ex-teenager, but that's it. It's not the point here. 

Algorithms for news and entertainment are both threats to democracy. The personalization of everything is the privatization of everything. It's the end of public life and "public reason". Everything becomes utilitarian with the market as the only prior, the utopia of corporate geeks. Technocratic liberals don't get the point. They don't know what they're defending.

Perfect timing: Facebook blocks news in Australia over government's payment rules.
The announcement immediately becomes the most significant and severe split between Facebook and a foreign government over growing calls for big tech to pay publishers.
The piece as written is wrong. The ban applies everywhere. It's not limited to Australian users of FB. 
It'll be interesting to find out what Klonick and Hasen and other opponents of free, and "cheap" speech have to say.

Monday, February 15, 2021


She was 17 at the time, and had just finished her senior year at Phillips Academy Andover, a boarding school sometimes rated America’s best. She’s the kind of teenager who is excited to talk to a New York Times correspondent about public health, and perhaps to put the adventure on a résumé. She had even done the optional reading Mr. McNeil suggested, Jared Diamond’s 1997 book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” a Pulitzer-winning history that argues that environmental and geographic factors produced the global domination of European civilization. The book has drawn criticism for a deterministic view that seems to absolve colonial powers of responsibility for their choices.

Ms. Shepherd said she noticed that Mr. McNeil was walking alone as they left their hostel on the first morning of the trip, so she caught up with him. She asked him, she recalled, about the criticism of the book.

“He got very defensive very quickly about it,” she recalled. “It’s just a book, it’s just making this point, it’s very simple, it’s not racist.”

She said she backed down, apologized and “felt terribly guilty — like I must have come off as a crazy liberal.”

At lunch that day, she said she sat down the table from Mr. McNeil at a cafe overlooking the town’s narrow streets, where he was talking to another student when he uttered the N-word, and used the word in the context of a discussion of racism. Some of the teenagers responded almost reflexively, she said, to object to his use of the word in any context....

But Ms. Shepherd hadn’t really connected with the others on the trip either, so she kept seeking him out. A few nights later, after a hike up Machu Picchu, she sat with Mr. McNeil at dinner at El Albergue, one of several rather nice restaurants in the town of Ollantaytambo in the Andes.

On the walk over, she said, she talked about her favorite class at Andover, a history of American education that covered racial discrimination. He responded, she recalled, that “it’s frustrating, because Black Americans keep blaming the system, but racism is over, there’s nothing against them anymore — they can get out of the ghetto if they want to.”

Ms. Shepherd said she tried to argue, but he talked over her whenever she interjected, their voices getting louder and attracting the attention of other students, two of whom confirmed her account of the conversation....

His impolitic views were also hardly a secret. When he published a book on the Zika virus in 2016, a puzzled reviewer in The Quarterly Review of Biology noted passages about feminists and gay sex, and wrote that “it is McNeil’s seniority and journalistic experience that makes the occasional misstep, or indelicate deviation from the science, all the more surprising.”

The Quarterly Review of Biology

It is McNeil’s seniority and journalistic experience that makes the occasional misstep, or indelicate deviation from the science, all the more surprising: comparing microcephalic babies to Cabbage Patch Kids or Trollz dolls; arguing that “reproductive rights groups . . . exaggerated women’s helplessness” (p. 143) and suggested “all men were monsters” (p. 140), and verifying his view by consulting a panel of all-male scientists; commenting on his attraction to women he met during a Zika class in Puerto Rico; or maybe most of all, the strangely off-hand remark, “I don’t know why health agencies were reluctant to admit that gay sex could transmit the [Zika] virus” (p. 98), a comment that seems naïve to the history of HIV in the United States, a topic McNeil touches on more than once in the book. 

She's young, rich, naive, and curious; he's racist, sexist, and an asshole.  
He wasn’t respectful during some of the traditional ceremonies we attended with indigenous healers/shamans,” yet another wrote. 

There's no reason not to believe that.

“our community is outraged and in pain.” Children using the language of adults, and adults using the language of children. 
The Times will have to navigate its identity in tandem with the next generation of its audience — people like Ms. Shepherd, who said that she was most surprised by the gap between Mr. McNeil’s views and what she’d read in her favorite news outlet.

“That’s not what I would have expected from The Times,” she said. “You have the 1619 Project. You guys do all this amazing reporting on this, and you can say something like that?”

The 1619 project was crap and it's been rewritten; the Palestinians are the new "negro problem"; the rich white kids are better than the old school bigot; the union did its job. 

And when a furious Dean Baquet, the executive editor, read the complaints about the Peru trip in 2019, he said he initially wanted to fire Mr. McNeil. But the union played its traditional role, fighting aggressively to protect him. The union, a person involved in the conversations said, was ready to take The Times to arbitration if the company attempted to terminate Mr. McNeil for his conduct on the trip. Mr. McNeil received a formal reprimand instead. 

Buppies, Determinism, Drift, Feminism and Post-Feminism, Israel/Palestine, Make it Idiot-Proof, Naturalism, Politics, Race, Sexuality, The Press

Sunday, February 14, 2021

NYT: Slate Star Codex was a window into the psyche of many tech leaders building our collective future. 
Kate Klonick in the New Yorker, "Inside the Making of Facebook’s Supreme Court"

They're the same story.

Klonick previously, and Alexander.  Arendt's discussion of philosophers' love of death.
Futurism is always fascism.

Things I hadn't read. Two from 2013. No surprises 
TechCrunch: Geeks for Monarchy.
Salon: Silicon Valley Dreams of Succession.

Aaron Swartz, Fascism, Futurism and Data Culture, Law, Liberals Make Nihilism Attractive, Make it Idiot-Proof, Philosophy, Politics, Transhumanism and Transgender, Utopia and Intentional Communities

Alexander/Siskind's racism. And scroll here. Searching for a quote, this was always there for people to find.
Even though I like both basic income guarantees and eugenics, I don’t think these are two things that go well together – making the income conditional upon sterilization is a little too close to coercion for my purposes. Still, probably better than what we have right now.

Like Tyler Cowen's fantasies, hidden in plain sight, or just acceptable until now. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx, Kenji Misumi, 1972
Cinematographer, Chikashi Makiura. I've seen three of the series. 
The great Japanese films connect to the Japanese history of printmaking, which was always storytelling,  and so do these, but cheaper, and faster. It's not copying manga or comic books; it's the parallel.  I've never seen anything like it, but it made me think of Daido Moriyama and Willaim Klein.  

Leone is pretentious, the grandeur of Italian opera, puffed up bourgeoise melodrama. Kurosawa became arty. These feel closer to their origins on newsprint so more honest, like film noir, if cheap Hollywood producers allowed screenplays with characters spouting epigrams from Euripides, about necessity, or even from the Bible. The equipment is cheaper, the eye is better, the emotions sometimes surprisingly subtle. And they're still simply fun.  Leone's imagination is second-hand by comparison. They're all on Criterion, and YouTube. And there are other ways.

It's been years since I've seen Night of the Hunter. Something classical but not put on

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Ozu, Late Spring, 1949. The transitions are famous and talked about enough, but watching them, it's still striking.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Found another one

He won the game, and a trip to Russia.
The loser was the "Paleo-libertarian" representative of the Dutch Ministry of Finance in the U.S.

I had some exchanges with Duss on Twitter years ago. He's an earnest Zionist. Malley's not good enough. But progress is progress

Everything good about this country is good about every other democracy. Everything great is tied to what others hate and fear. Taibbi writes about Americans for Americans.  So does Konczal. Farrell says "This could be seen as a reflection of the American parochialism that Konczal mentions in passing, but it is, I think, a deliberate political move."  Cooper says Taibbi "used to be really good", linking to Delong. But Taibbi is still covering YouTube's censorship. Still the closest word for it. [They reversed course]

Everything good that's been happening recently in American politics is the drift of mediocrity towards something more humane. I said the same thing 20 years ago. But I still can't have a good conversation with an American.