…matters of protocol [DOT 23/2/23]

because protocols matter...

…not for nothing…but there’s not really any way I can see to make this look like a good sign

The senior police officer shot in Omagh on Wednesday evening has been named as DCI John Caldwell, as police said the primary focus of the investigation was on dissident republicans.

Caldwell is in a critical but stable condition in hospital after the attack at a sports complex in Omagh. He was shot a number of times by masked men in front of young people he had been coaching.


…but…it doesn’t sound a whole hell of a lot like there’s any sort of a cure-all protocol about to smooth those troubled waters in the name of proving brexit to have been a great idea…maybe next week?

Despite a concerted effort to get the deal done, senior government sources now believe it is unlikely to be struck until next week at the earliest, amid concerns that a loss of momentum could increase the chance of it unravelling altogether.


…at which rate doubtless this could all be resolved this side of easter

One-hundred and forty-six Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2022, the deadliest year since the United Nations began recording fatalities in 2005. This year is on track to be even more deadly, with at least 60 Palestinians killed in less than two months — as Israel’s new far-right government, which came into power in January, has intensified operations against Palestinian militants. As the raids have increased, so have Palestinian attacks on Israelis, killing at least 11 people over the same period.


…which should free up plenty of time for figuring out how to square the circle…or at least cover the spread…on…say…routes to mutually assured destruction

In 1985, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan made a breakthrough when they jointly declared, “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Now Putin says Russia “is suspending its participation” in New START, the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The treaty, which took effect in 2011, is set to expire in February 2026.
Putin made it clear that Russia wasn’t abandoning the treaty entirely — and the country clarified on Tuesday that it won’t seek to bulk up its nuclear arsenal.


…other kinds of arsenals, though…might be a different matter

Joe Biden’s administration has been urged not to sink its own climate goals by approving an unprecedented ramp-up of oil export infrastructure off the Texas coast that could result in planet-heating emissions equivalent to three years of the US’s entire emissions output.

The federal government has already quietly approved the Sea Port oil terminal project, a proposed offshore oil platform located 35 miles off the Texas coast, south of Houston, and will decide whether to allow three other nearby oil terminal proposals. Combined, the four terminals would expand US oil exports by nearly 7m barrels every day, handling the capacity of half of all current national oil exports.

Should all of these projects be allowed to proceed and then operate at full capacity for their expected 30-year lifespan, it will result in an incredible 24bn metric tonnes of greenhouse gases once the transported oil is burned, an analysis conducted for the Guardian by Global Energy Monitor has found.

…maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds

“The amount of oil going through these projects, and the resulting emissions, are pretty astounding,” said Baird Langenbrunner, an analyst at Global Energy Monitor, who added that the emissions total is likely a worst-case scenario as it is unlikely all four terminals will be built and then operate at full capacity for decades.
The oil shipped from the planned terminals would be extracted from the vast Permian basin that lies beneath Texas and New Mexico, and fed through a network of pipelines to huge tankers that would convey it from the Gulf of Mexico to buyers overseas. The emissions from the burned oil would not count towards the US’s total carbon pollution, which Biden has vowed to halve this decade, but will still escalate the disastrous climate crisis.

…but…to be honest…it…doesn’t sound great

The Sea Port oil terminal, a joint venture between Enterprise, Enbridge and Chevron, will be the US’s largest oil export terminal once built, with a capacity of 2m barrels a day. This is around a quarter of all the oil the US currently exports each day and is part of a national boom in oil extraction that will hit record levels this year and next, despite Biden’s climate pledges and Republican claims that the US president has shut down domestic drilling.
In November, the maritime administration, an arm of the US Department of Transport, approved the construction of the Sea Port oil terminal, referencing the heightened demand for new oil and gas in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The project “is in the national interest because the project will benefit employment, economic growth, and US energy infrastructure resilience and security”, the agency wrote in its decision. “The port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to US allies in the event of market disruption.”

…the numbers are all big enough to give me trouble getting my head around them…but…given that I don’t think we’ve yet reached a point where the US isn’t a net importer of this stuff…there’s a lot of it making its way from one place to another…so arguably you need to make a pretty big splash to disrupt things

Until 2015, when Congress lifted a ban on crude oil exports, the US barely exported any fossil fuels, but following a glut of shale oil and fracking activity the country is now the world’s third largest oil exporter and the leading exporter of liquified natural gas, or LNG.

At least 16 gas export terminals have been approved or are under construction along the Gulf of Mexico coast, which, along with the new oil activity, has spurred fresh concerns among environmental justice advocates for coastal communities already dealing with toxic air pollution and safety concerns. In June last year, a large LNG export plant in Freeport exploded, due to what regulators say were systemic failures in its operation.


…which…well…beware the rabbit hole





…though arguably the peaks can give you just as much trouble

The Hubbert peak theory says that for any given geographical area, from an individual oil-producing region to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. It is one of the primary theories on peak oil.




…maybe comparing it to hoarding more warheads than we’d theoretically need to wipe ourselves out several times over is…overly simplistic…but…it makes about as much sense to me, I’m afraid



…so…if they have their math right…at our currently unsustainable burn-rate we’d be 50 years down the line before we burnt out the gas we’re holding less in reserve of than oil or coal…&…we can’t keep burning any of those things at current rates for even the next ten of those without the last of our at-least-it’s-not scenarios going up in smoke…so…where exactly is the wisdom of crowds when you need the bastard?


…it’s hard to follow without getting dizzy…at least for me…but…I dunno…when I hear phrases like “battle for the next century”…I guess that’s where my thoughts drift…which…is apparently way off the mark

Chris Rufo, the man who orchestrated the attack on critical race theory, underscored a new focus earlier this month.

“Conservatives must move the fight from ideology to bureaucracy,” he tweeted. “We’ve won the debate against CRT; now it’s time to dismantle DEI.”

D.E.I. stands for diversity, equity and inclusion, a concept that goes far beyond just the racial prism of critical race theory, and moves into the worlds of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age and class.

What Rufo is proposing is the distorting and demonizing of legitimate practices and areas of academic inquiry. He admitted as much in a 2021 tweet, back when he was still focused primarily on critical race theory: “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory,’ ” he wrote. “We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”
This fight against D.E.I. isn’t confined to public institutions and bureaucracies. As the leader of this movement, Rufo has set his sights on corporate America as well. In July, he published what he called a survey of the “programming” of every Fortune 100 company, and found they had all adopted D.E.I. programs, including those that “promote the most virulent strands of critical race theory and gender ideology.”

When Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law limiting D.E.I. in the workplace last April, Rufo likened him to Teddy Roosevelt and praised his “muscular” strategy for combating “corporate malfeasance.” “Conservatives,” he wrote, “need to build on these efforts by developing a comprehensive agenda for pushing back against left-wing ideology in corporate America.”

In fact, Rufo sees Florida as the seeding ground for his censorship, where it can take root and spread, and Texas has already followed suit. Earlier this month, just a few days after DeSantis announced plans to block state colleges from having programs on D.E.I., the office of the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, issued a memo warning state agency and public university leaders that the use of D.E.I. in hiring was illegal.
This is the New Right’s strategic plan: a relentless push to re-establish and strengthen the straight, cis, patriarchal, white supremacist power structure. And as Crenshaw put it: “This thing will not be satisfied by one victory. This is just one skirmish, in a wider, broader battle to make racism unspeakable, and basically to contain the power of Black folks, queer folks, women, and pretty much everybody else who doesn’t agree to the agenda of reclaiming this country that the MAGA group claims.”

In fact, every perceived win will only embolden the extremists. The objective is to win the war against progress and to freeze America in a yesteryear image of itself. This is a swing-for-the-fences play. They are seeking to widen the conservative aperture in their quest to suppress and reverse, to promote a universal vision on oppression, to apply uniform pressure.

As Crenshaw put it, “I believe that this is the battle for the next century.”

America, Right-Wing Censors, and the ‘Battle for the Next Century’ [NYT]

…either way…the battlefield is a far cry from “a level playing field”

Four scholars and political analysts have produced these studies: Michael Podhorzer, a former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., in “The Congressional Class Reversal,” “Socioeconomic Polarization” and “Education Polarization”; Oscar Pocasangre and Lee Drutman, of New America, in “Understanding the Partisan Divide: How Demographics and Policy Views Shape Party Coalitions”; and Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory, in “Both White and Nonwhite Democrats Are Moving Left.
Podhorzer ranks congressional districts on five measures:

1) Districts in the lowest or second-lowest quintile (the bottom 40 percent) of both income and education, 2) districts in the lowest or second-lowest quintile of income but in the middle quintile or better for education, 3) districts that are not in the other four measures, 4) districts that are either in the fourth quintile on both dimensions or in the fourth for one and the fifth for the other and 5) districts that are in the fifth quintile for both dimensions.
In 1996, Democrats represented 30 percent of the majority-white districts in the most educated and most affluent category; by 2020, they represented 86 percent. At the other end, in 1996, Democrats represented 38 and 42 percent of the districts in the bottom two categories; by 2020, those percentages fell to 12 and 18 percent.

In examining these trends, political analysts have cited a growing educational divide, with better-educated — and thus more affluent — white voters moving in a liberal Democratic direction while white voters without college have moved toward the right.

Podhorzer does not dispute the existence of this trend but argues strenuously that limiting the analysis to education levels masks the true driving force: racial tolerance or racial resentment. “This factor, racial resentment,” he writes in the education polarization essay, “does a much, much better job of explaining our current political divisions than education polarization.”

In support of his argument, Podhorzer provides data showing that from 2000 to 2020, the Democratic margin among white people with and without college degrees who score high on racial resentment scales has fallen from minus 26 percent to minus 62 percent for racially resentful non-college white people and from minus 14 percent to minus 53 percent among racially resentful college-educated white people.

At the same time, the Democratic margin rose from plus 12 to 70 percent over those 20 years among non-college white people low in racial resentment and from 50 to 82 percent among college-educated white people low in racial resentment.

In other words, in contradiction to the education divide thesis, non-college white people who are not racially resentful have become more Democratic, while college-educated white people who are racially resentful have become more Republican.

…feels like maybe it didn’t take a whole study to figure that out…but…academics can be set in their ways

In 2020, Abramowitz observes, the ideological gulf between Democrats and Republicans was the largest “since the ANES started asking the ideological identification question.”

While the movement to the right among Republican voters has been relatively constant over this period, the Democratic shift in an increasingly liberal direction has been more recent and more rapid.

“The divide between supporters of the two parties has increased considerably since 2012, and most of this increase was due to a sharp leftward shift among Democratic voters,” Abramowitz writes. “Between 2012 and 2020, the mean score for Democratic voters went from 3.3 to 2.9 while the mean score for Republican voters went from 5.4 to 5.5.”
The growing ideological congruence among Democrats has significant consequences for the strength of the party on Election Day. Abramowitz notes that “for many years, white Democrats have lagged behind nonwhite Democrats in loyalty to Democratic presidential candidates. In 2020, however, this gap almost disappeared, with white Democratic identifiers almost as loyal as nonwhite Democratic identifiers.”
“Republican districts,” [Pocasangre and Drutman] write, [In their paper “Understanding the Partisan Divide,”]

are some of the least ethnically diverse districts. But voters within these districts have diverse policy views, particularly on economic issues. Democratic districts are some of the most ethnically diverse districts. But voters within these districts are mostly in agreement over their views of both social and economic issues.

Pocasangre and Drutman’s study reinforces the widespread finding “that Republican districts are predominantly white and, for the most part, less affluent than the national average. […]

On average, competitive districts tilt Republican, according to the authors:

very few competitive districts in 2020 were found on the progressive quadrants of social and economic issues. Instead, of the 27 competitive districts in 2020, 70 percent were more conservative than the national average on economic issues, and 59 percent were more conservative than the national average on social issues.

These battleground districts

lean toward the progressive side when it comes to gun control, but they lean toward the conservative side on all the other social issues. Their views on structural discrimination — an index that captures responses to questions of whether Black people just need to try harder to get ahead and whether discrimination keeps them back — are the most conservative, followed by views toward abortion.

In addition, a majority of competitive districts, 57 percent, are in Republican-leaning rural-suburban communities, along with an additional 13 percent in purely rural areas. Democratic districts, in contrast, are 17 percent in purely urban areas and 52 percent in urban-suburban communities, with 31 percent in rural-suburban or purely rural areas.

For now, most swing districts go for Republicans. The challenge for Democrats right now is that most of these swing districts are in suburbs which demographically and ideologically look more like rural areas where Republicans have their strongholds. So, Democrats do face an uphill battle when trying to make inroads in these districts.

Pocasangre and Drutman classified districts as Democratic, Republican or competitive based on the ratings of The Cook Political Report in the 2020 and 2022 elections: “Competitive districts are those classified as tossups for each cycle, while the partisan districts are those rated as solid, likely or lean Democratic or Republican.”

The Cook Report analysis of 2024 House races lists 20 tossup seats, 11 held by Democrats, and nine by Republicans, one of which is held by the serial fabulist George Santos, whose threatened New York seat is classified as “lean Democratic.” Eight of the 11 Democratic tossups are in three states: four in North Carolina and two each in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Four of the nine Republican tossups are in New York, along with two in Arizona.

The changing composition of both Democratic and Republican electorates and the demographics of the districts they represent is one of the reasons that governing has become so difficult. One result of the changing composition of the parties has been a shift in focus to social and cultural issues. These are issues that government is often not well equipped to address but that propel political competition and escalate partisan hostility.


…it’s certainly an awkward balancing act, however you look at things

If you’re an electorally conscious Republican looking to target something benefiting the old or the poor, which would you choose?

Last month, YouGov polled Americans on how they felt about various government programs. Interestingly, there weren’t significant differences between Democrats and Republicans or their families in use of programs like Medicaid, unemployment or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), but there were differences in support for the programs and belief that they should be cut. A fifth of Republicans said they or their families use WIC, the same as Democrats, but a fifth of Republicans said the program should be cut or eliminated. More than a quarter of Republicans said the same of food stamps. A fifth said it of Medicaid.
But politically, such cuts land in a different place than cuts to Social Security (which most Republicans think should get more money). There’s a long-standing tradition on the right of casting certain programs that aid poor people as a violation of the idea that Americans should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That these programs have often disproportionately aided Black and Hispanic Americans was itself not a coincidence, as former Republican strategist Lee Atwater might attest. To many people, these were programs that went to unworthy recipients.

Poor Americans make fewer campaign contributions and vote less frequently than wealthier ones. They also vote more heavily Democratic. So the calculus here, however couched in the verbiage of economic propriety, is uncomplicated. Cut funding for the poor and you irritate less of your base.


…what angle they might be coming from

There’s an app that allows you to take a photo of a large pile of Legos and it will show you different things you can construct. I admittedly haven’t tried it, but the concept is fascinating; the more you give it, the more you can construct. Theoretically, given a big enough pile of Legos, including pieces of hundreds of different sets, you could cobble together pretty much anything.

This is how it works with information, too. The explosion of data and facts and comments and rhetoric has allowed people to cobble together all sorts of things, from intricate explanations of the human condition to the QAnon conspiracy theory. After all, what is QAnon besides the selective interpretation of various pieces of real-world information? It’s mostly pieces of real things assembled into a deranged narrative. A big pile of facts with plenty of available guides for conspiratorial assembly.
Which, in a nutshell, is why it’s an extremely bad idea to grant Fox News’s Tucker Carlson the power to construct whatever narrative he wants out of the footage captured at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) granted Carlson access to tens of thousands of hours of footage from the Capitol, as was first reported by Axios on Monday morning. By Monday evening, Carlson was already teasing his team’s examination of the footage on his Fox News show.
Well, of course. McCarthy dumped a big pile of Legos in front of the “Conspiracy Theory Constructor” app, and it’s already churning out things that can be built.

Carlson assured his audience that his team was reviewing the footage “as honestly as we can,” which is probably true — but not in the way Carlson means it. Carlson has an extensive record of making dishonest, unchecked claims on his program, with Fox attorneys even admitting he should not be considered an objective source of information. His false claims include a litany of debunked or unfounded assertions about the Jan. 6 riot.

It’s not just that Carlson cannot be relied upon to actually consider the video in an objective way, though he certainly can’t be. It’s also that there is no reason to think that he will present the video in context, to include information that moderates what’s being shown on the screen. He’d certainly accuse the Jan. 6 committee of a similar fault, with some justification. But we’ve seen recent examples of right-wing actors cherry-picking details from large pools of data to make a rhetorical point in a way that seems instructive.

Late last year, after Elon Musk assumed control of Twitter, he reached out to a number of writers with demonstrated sympathy for the idea that the discourse was being polluted by some sort of elitist groupthink. Musk offered them the opportunity to peruse internal documents from the pre-Musk Twitter. Lo and behold, those writers began to use snippets of information to make public allegations that Twitter had been part of the pollution of the discourse by elitist groupthink.

Detailed analyses of those claims showed precisely where they fell short, from internal inconsistencies to excluded context. But Elon Musk had a big pile of Legos and he opened up the ol’ “Woke Mind Virus Constructor” app.
We should have no confidence that Tucker Carlson will do anything but use the video to which he’s been given access for anything other than promoting his own narrative. And while McCarthy may think this is a short-term public-relations win for his side, he should understand that Carlson’s narrative is nearly as destructive to the Republican establishment as to the Democratic one.


…or think they might be going

…I guess one man’s disaster is another’s rapture-us reception…or something

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, I logged onto Twitter and discovered, as did lots of other users, that the bulk of my feed was now composed of tweets by Musk. The news website Platformer later offered an account of why this might be so. Musk, according to Platformer’s reporting, was irritated that his tweet about the Super Bowl had received less engagement than President Biden’s tweet about the Super Bowl. Twitter’s engineers allegedly were ordered to manipulate the site’s algorithm, boosting their boss’s posts by a factor of 1,000 percent.

Let’s pause for a moment. If you had the power to seize the attention of millions in an instant, what would you use that power to do?

Okay, now, what would a 12-year-old boy do?

I’ll tell you which Musk tweet showed up uninvited on my feed on Tuesday morning: a drawing of a circle labeled “Earth,” overlaid with a cartoon sketch of a man. At one end, the man’s head was an Easter Island statue; at the other end his toes were Stonehenge. In the middle, lewdly protruding from the man’s pelvis, the Washington Monument.
“There are no coincidences,” Musk added by way of commentary.
The theory I’ve come around to is the simplest one: Musk is a boy’s idea of a rich man. That idea is an Aqua Teen Hunger Force-themed Trapper Keeper’s worth of giddy, hormonal, four-soda fantasies: Fast cars, spaceships, pretty women, phallic jokes, dog memes, superhero costumes, adoring fans, rich and/or famous friends, “hardcore” underlings.


…no coincidences, you say?

Accounts pushing Kremlin propaganda are using Twitter’s new paid verification system to appear more prominently on the global platform, another sign that Elon Musk’s takeover is accelerating the spread of politically charged misinformation, a nonprofit research group has found.

The accounts claim to be based outside of Russia, so they can pay for verification without running afoul of U.S. sanctions. But they pass along articles from state-run media, statements by Russian officials, and lies about Ukraine from Kremlin allies, according to the research group Reset, which shared its findings with The Washington Post.

One of the accounts describes itself in English as “No woke. No BLM. No gender pronouns … Just Anti-Imperialism.” Purporting to be based in San Francisco, its profile picture shows a blond woman wearing a fur hat with a hammer and sickle badge. Another account’s biographical blurb says it is “Doing my part to stop Western support for the Ukrainian war machine, one taxpayer at a time.” It regularly tweets videos it says show Russians killing Ukrainian soldiers.

Most of the dozen such accounts identified by Reset were created last year during the first phase of the war in Ukraine. Archived webpages show the accounts lacked blue check marks until recently, after new owner Elon Musk introduced a pay-to-play model and said he would phase out the legacy verifications that have identified politicians, journalists and other notable figures and weeded out impostors.

Musk has said that in the future, tweets and replies from such paid subscribers will be featured even more prominently in Twitter’s news feed and search. But some of the accounts have already been getting more views in recent weeks.

Musk has boosted one of the accounts by replying to its tweets, including one spreading a lie that thousands of NATO troops had died in Ukraine.

Reset said the surge showed a major problem with a system that allows anonymous accounts to buy verification, giving them better placement in searches, mentions and replies. The accounts it turned up are “openly sharing content from Russian state media, Kremlin-aligned disinformation about the conflict in Ukraine and outright war propaganda,” the group wrote. Twitter labels the main three-million follower RT account “Russia state-affiliated media,” and it carries a legacy blue check for being notable and not an impostor. The newly verified accounts carry no such label.

Former employees and disinformation researchers have previously faulted the company for firing many regional experts assessing influence operations, disbanding a safety advisory board, and bringing back accounts that had been banned for hate speech and spreading lies.
The verified pro-Russian accounts identified by Reset take a variety of approaches. Some style themselves as independent media outlets. Another, called @LogKa11, created in February 2022, shares mainly pro-Russian war content in English to its more than 30,000 followers, including stories from war correspondents embedded with Russian troops and videos of successful attacks. It has repeatedly linked Ukrainians to Nazis, writing in December that “Modern Ukraine has had a strange obsession with Nazism.” That echoes one of President Vladimir Putin’s primary justifications for the invasion.

One, called @PutinDirect, posts videos of comments from the Russian leader with English captions and links to full speeches.

Among the most popular is @Runews, which was around for over a decade before getting a blue check. Describing itself as a “citizen journalist,” it reaches 260,000 followers with sometimes heavy-handed propaganda, such as its repeated recent suggestions that Ohio “should really declare itself part of Ukraine in hopes of receiving aid from Biden administration.” (The statement omitted the word “the,” which is a common mistake by native Russian speakers.)

…but [checks notes] …automating the posting of publicly-available information about the whereabouts of elon’s personal plane is no bueno because that’s basically “assassination coordinates”?

The account “is regularly engaging with content coming from Russian state media such as RT International @RT_com or editor in chief Margarita Simonyan @m_simonyan. It is also sharing videos from Russian media or other pro-Russian channels with content deriding the E.U., NATO, Ukraine, the West as a whole and clearly supporting Russia’s actions in the war,” Reset wrote. “It also produces content geared toward the U.S. Republican Twitterverse.”

Runews got a blue check in mid-January. On Feb. 6, Musk boosted the account’s profile by responding to its claim that 157,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 2,458 NATO soldiers have died in the war with the comment: “A tragic loss of life.”

Another Musk reply to the same account made it appear in the “For You” display of a Post test account that did not follow Runews. NATO has not deployed soldiers to Ukraine, though Russia has characterized Ukraine as a puppet of the U.S.-European alliance.
Troll accounts are still being suspended, according to a researcher who supports imprisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny and tweets as @Antibot4Navalny. But it takes time, while new accounts are constantly coming online.

The researcher, who lives in Russia and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to protect his safety, told The Post that through September he’d never counted more than 500 Russian-allied accounts simultaneously active on Twitter, but that lately he has been seeing more than 800. Most have few followers, but they can overwhelm tweet discussions with replies favoring Putin’s positions.

He worries about what lies ahead, with an eviscerated trust and safety team, reduced access for researchers, and blue check marks for sale to government allies who might put more energy into concealing their purpose.
[Marc Owen] Jones [a professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar] found that a key group of influencers promoted a conspiracy theory that the United States caused the Turkish earthquake as punishment for the country’s opposition to expanding NATO, and that their tweets were amplified by thousands of accounts, including hundreds of accounts that were created simultaneously over a few days in October and last April.

Nearly 1,000 of those amplifiers have also tweeted that Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky is a war criminal, Jones told The Post.

“This subset was predominantly MAGA accounts,” he said, referring to those with that acronym or other keywords favored by strong Trump supporters in their biographies. “What made this group interesting is that they were created in a short space of time, which looks anomalous, i.e. potentially propaganda accounts.”


…I suppose boys will be boys…& they will keep playing with those toys of theirs…but whether or not they’re “the big boys”…it used to at least be easy to tell which ones were real boys…either way…it sure does feel like there’s some boyish enthusiasm about when it comes to going hell for leather towards the brave new world of their dreams

Even the scientists, engineers and coders at the frontiers of A.I. research appear to be improvising. Early this month, Brad Smith, the vice chair and president of Microsoft, wrote a blog post describing the surprise of company leaders and responsible A.I. experts last summer when they got their hands on a version of what the world now knows as ChatGPT. They realized that “A.I. developments we had expected around 2033 would arrive in 2023 instead,” he wrote.

There are two potential reactions. One is to slam on the brakes before artificial intelligence subverts national security using deep fakes, persuades us to abandon our spouses, or sucks up all the resources of the universe to make, say, paper clips (a scenario some people actually worry about). The opposite reaction is to encourage the developers to forge ahead, dealing with problems as they arise.

Adam Thierer, an innovation and technology policy analyst at the free-market R Street Institute, labels the cautious approach as “anticipatory ethics” and the less cautious one as “evasive entrepreneurism.” He leans toward the latter camp, which sometimes goes by the slogan, “Better to seek forgiveness than permission.”
So far, regulators and lawmakers have mostly steered a middle course. The European Commission’s draft Artificial Intelligence Act leans away from a strict use of the precautionary principle by seeking to regulate specific uses of A.I. rather than the technology itself. Government-run social scoring, in which a government gives demerits to citizens for bad behavior, would be banned. Using A.I. rather than human beings to score job-seekers’ résumés would be regulated. The Europeans are still debating whether to ban or regulate emotion recognition, in which a computer reads a person’s nonverbal signals for commercial or other purposes, according to a report on the Euractiv website.

In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has issued a dry but thorough Risk Management Framework for A.I. that many companies, including Google and Amazon Web Services, have signed on to. It says A.I. should be valid, reliable, safe, secure, resilient, accountable, transparent, explainable, interpretable, privacy-enhanced and fair, with harmful bias removed.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy came out last year with a more pointed blueprint for an A.I. Bill of Rights that, while nonbinding, contains some intriguing concepts, such as, “You should be able to opt out from automated systems in favor of a human alternative, where appropriate.”
That’s all to the good, but regulators and lawmakers will always be on the outside looking in. It’s best if the creators of artificial intelligence take responsibility for doing things right in the first place. I give the makers of ChatGPT at OpenAI credit for acknowledging that ChatGPT can “generate outputs that are untruthful, toxic or reflect harmful sentiments” — and what’s more, trying to do something about it. OpenAI’s newer InstructGPT “uses human preferences as a reward signal to fine-tune our models,” the company says. InstructGPT models “also make up facts less often, and show small decreases in toxic output generation,” it says.

One risk is that the race to cash in on artificial intelligence will lead profit-minded practitioners to drop their scruples like excess baggage. Another, of course, is that quite apart from business, bad actors will weaponize A.I. Actually, that’s already happening. Smith, the Microsoft president, wrote in his blog last month that the three leading A.I. research groups are OpenAI/Microsoft, Google’s DeepMind and the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence. Which means that regulating A.I. for the public good has to be an international project.


…how many semi-conductors does it take to produce a super-conductor? …probably depends on the substrate or something…if in doubt…I guess we consult the oracle not-yet-at-dell-fi

Why are we so fascinated by stories about sentient robots, rapacious A.I. and the rise of thinking machines? Faced with that question, I did what any writer on deadline would do and asked ChatGPT.

The answers I got — a helpfully numbered list with five chatty entries — were not surprising. They were, to be honest, what I might have come up with myself after a few seconds of thought, or what I might expect to encounter in a B- term paper from a distracted undergraduate. Long on generalizations and short on sources, the bot’s essay was a sturdy summary of conventional wisdom. For example: “Sentient robots raise important moral and ethical questions about the treatment of intelligent beings, the nature of consciousness and the responsibilities of creators.”

Quite so. From the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea to the medieval Jewish legend of the golem through Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and beyond, we have grappled with those important questions, and also frightened and titillated ourselves with tales of our inventions coming to life. Our ingenuity as a species, channeled through individual and collective hubris, compels us to concoct artificial beings that menace and seduce us. They escape our control. They take control. They fall in love.

In “The Imagination of Disaster,” Susan Sontag’s classic 1965 essay on science-fiction movies, she observed that “we live under continual threat of two equally fearful, but seemingly opposed, destinies: unremitting banality and inconceivable terror.” As Turing-tested A.I. applications have joined the pantheon of sci-fi shibboleths, they have dutifully embodied both specters.
Maybe when we have fantasized about conscious A.I. we’ve been imagining the wrong disaster. These outbursts represent a real departure, not only from the anodyne mediocrity of other bots, but also perhaps more significantly from the dystopia we have grown accustomed to dreading.

We’re more or less reconciled to the reality that machines are, in some ways, smarter than we are. We also enjoy the fantasy that they might turn out to be more sensitive. We’re therefore not prepared for the possibility that they might be chaotic, unstable and resentful — as messy as we are, or maybe more so.

[…] At the movies, the machines absorb and emulate the noblest of human attributes: intelligence, compassion, loyalty, ardor. Sydney offers a blunt rebuttal, reminding us of our limitless capacity for aggression, deceit, irrationality and plain old meanness.

What did we expect? Sydney and her kin derive their understanding of humanness — the information that feeds their models and algorithms — from the internet, itself a utopian invention that has evolved into an archive of human awfulness. How did these bots get so creepy, so nasty, so untrustworthy? The answer is banal. Also terrifying. It’s in the mirror.


…mind you…even evasive entrepreneurism sounds better than the coercive sort…something, something…action…something, something…opposite reaction

At stake is whether China agrees to forgive a portion of loan repayments from the developing world — as most other leading government creditors, including the United States and India, are ready to do. The correct action — both morally and financially — is clear. If China refuses to participate in debt reduction, it shows plainly that Beijing is not willing to accept the economic and moral responsibilities that go with being a global economic leader.

…there was an “equal” in there somewhere…but…I don’t know how you’d gauge that part when all other things seem pretty far from equal right about now

All eyes will be on China as world financial leaders gather Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 finance meeting in India to discuss debt forgiveness at a moment of fiscal peril for many of the world’s poorest nations. Sixty percent of low-income countries are at or near distress, according to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. The crisis has already arrived in some. Sri Lanka defaulted for the first time in its history last year, and its economy is melting down. Protesters ousted the president in July. Zambia defaulted in 2020 and has yet to recover. Last week, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema called the debt “suicidal” and a “black mamba kiss of death,” a reference to a deadly snakebite.

Here’s some history. In the mid-1990s and early 2000s, the United States and many European nations agreed to lower the valuation of loans they had provided to the poorest nations — something that is known in finance as “taking a haircut.” Since then, many G-7 nations have been reluctant to provide large loans again, so African and southeast Asian countries have increasingly turned to China and private lenders for funding. China is now the world’s largest government creditor to developing nations, accounting for nearly 50 percent of these loans, up from 18 percent in 2010, according to the World Bank. These Chinese loans were often at high interest rates. It would have been a stretch for poor nations to repay them even in good times, and now it’s impossible after a global pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine have decimated low-income economies where people are struggling to afford food.

…compared to invading ukraine I guess you’d still call it soft power…but it still seems like from one side of that equation it’s in the running for the role of either rock or hard place

The ideal scenario would be for all government and private-sector creditors to agree to significant debt reduction. Then international organizations such as the IMF and World Bank could step in to provide desperately needed low-cost loans and assistance. But nothing will happen without China, given how large a player it has become. For example, nearly a third of Zambian and Pakistani external debt and about 12 percent of Sri Lanka’s external debt is owed to China, according to an analysis of World Bank data by the Center for Global Development.

China is demanding that the IMF and World Bank also take losses, which would be highly unusual. Normally those institutions are “lenders of last resort” that tend to give very low interest rates — essentially taking a haircut at the front end. The IMF and World Bank did take losses in the so-called heavily indebted poor countries initiative 25 years ago, but the United States and other G-7 nations provided funding to make those institutions whole again. If a similar scenario played out now, many Western nations would be helping subsidize repayments to China.

The reality is that China made some predatory loans and now, in a surprise to almost no one, many of the 150 nations China lent to can’t repay at the current terms. So far, China has mostly offered to suspend payments for a few years. That’s woefully inadequate. Nor is China in need of the money, given that it is sitting on more than $3 trillion in reserves.


…apparently one name for it is “debt trap diplomacy”…& it’s pretty unforgiving when it comes to the poor…while…being rich might not be a walk in the park

“If you don’t know Bao Fan,” goes a saying in the industry, “you haven’t made it.”
China’s tech world is watching closely what will happen to Mr. Bao, who knows or has worked with nearly every mover and shaker in the industry. He is not as well known outside the business world but is just as symbolic of the industry’s rising presence in China as Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, who has largely vanished from public view after falling out with the government in 2020.

Mr. Bao’s disappearance has undercut Beijing’s new priority to restore business confidence after ending its “zero Covid” policy and crackdowns on the private sector. It threatens to upend the government’s promise that it supports private enterprise and would provide legal protections for the business class.

The episode, even if Mr. Bao resurfaces soon, also illustrates how China’s tech industry, once the country’s most globalized and independent sector, has become entangled with the government.
“This matter shouldn’t be seen as just an individual issue for Bao Fan,” [said an executive who has known Mr. Bao for more than a decade], speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, like other businesspeople I spoke with. “It’s an event that affects the entire industry. It’s related to the survival of investors and entrepreneurs.”


…pour encourager les autres, perhaps…but…what about the rest of us? …because…I’m not feeling all that encouraged, to be honest



  1. Every nation China loaned to has its economy going to shit. First Sri Lanka, next Pakistan… now Central Africa…

    China really doesn’t grasp the nature of soft power. Only the nature of a loan shark.

    • …I guess it maybe depends a bit how you look at it?

      …I mean…yeah, it does pretty convincingly resemble extortion…but the thin end of that wedge involves something akin to a charm offensive combined with throwing large amounts of cash at people you keep calling “friends”

      …which is sort of soft power wielded by the heavy-handed…like the “love-bombing” that intersperses the gaslighting in similarly abusive relationships that are mostly about control

      …but only compared to military=hard power…not that moral relativism has been easy to keep up with of late?

      • Right, or he’ going to make him an offer he can’t refuse. Technically there’s another way to look at things — hey, it’s just an offer, not a command — but only a dope fails see it as anything else that what it is.

    • Even more than RDS’s contention, it’s what Jonathan Weisman of the NY Times was promoting.

      It’s an echo of the George Santos debacle, where they blew a story about their hometown because they decided to look at it purely from a warped national politics point of view. Not that their editors are anywhere close to smart enough to see any of this.

      • …feels like the things de santis says might reach more ears than weisman’s protestations…but…sometimes it’s easier to overlook things than it should be even when they’re altogether too close for comfort?

        …guess it’s just another thing douglas adams seems to have been right about

        An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot. […] is much simpler and more effective, and what’s more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people’s natural disposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.


        • …if I’d seen this before that thread about mexico I could have stayed a bit closer to the NYT’s home turf

          …I don’t know as the definition of journalist that would include the person talking in the tik tok clip is necessarily the same one the NYT is working with…but judging by the implied leeway available in the working definition of “the public interest”…if I’m honest it wasn’t the first concern that brought to mind?

  2. Podhorzer does not dispute the existence of this trend but argues strenuously that limiting the analysis to education levels masks the true driving force: racial tolerance or racial resentment. “This factor, racial resentment,” he writes in the education polarization essay, “does a much, much better job of explaining our current political divisions than education polarization.”

    The urge of mainstream journalists and academics to see the political landscape in terms of neutral or abstract things like education or polarization is a sign of huge bias toward the right which they simply won’t admit.

    Podhorzer is an outlier who isn’t falling for the affect adopted by second class thinkers  — that if you look hard enough for complicating factors and hypotheticals reinforcing the status quo, you’re smarter than if you swallow the simpler, uglier truth.

    • …there’s a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t flip-side there, though…pattern recognition is deeply hard-coded into how we process things & what matters &/or might be have causative properties

      …correlation=|=causation…but it’s historically not been a bad place to start looking…& it’s also kind of a go-to when it comes to trying to convey something outside a frame of reference to the people who prefer to live within a particular one…whether we call it a comfort zone or an echo chamber…after all, it’s not as though education isn’t fundamental to a whole plethora of stuff from partisan sabotage & fucked up shit passing for politics & parental rights through the basic disciplines involved in parsing information to make reasonable “rational actor” kind of personal judgements all the way to holding up the “informed voter” end of a social contract

      …& I don’t think we’d exactly be having an objective debate about a lot of things that seem like pertinent concerns if polarization gets excluded from the relevant topics pile

      …& it sure seems like there might be some common elements to various strands of the stuff that brings to mind…even if it’s harder to tell the cart from the horse than it feels like it ought to be…at some point maybe it just comes down to diet & willingness to do the heavy lifting?

      • The problem with the claim that it’s pattern recognition is that it’s more like pattern creation.

        Over and over again with these studies about polarization is they start with assumption that two sides are moving apart and then do the NY Times Pitchbot bit of “whether it’s Republicans suddenly attacking the scientific consensus that vaccines work, or Democrats continuing to back them, both sides are making polarization worse.”

        It’s like looking at Daddy getting into the car to go buy a pack of cigarettes and never coming back, and deciding Daddy stayed where he was and we left him.

        From a pure Theory of  Relativity standpoint you could even write equations to make the moving object the stationary point of reference and the rest of the world the moving one,and get all of the gravity and time dilation and the rest work out.

        But in anything approaching the practical world, that’s just a solipsistic approach. Treating Daddy running off with Charlene to live in Vegas and not pay child support as a both sides thing is what the standard thinking is about, and it’s not pattern recognition, it’s just projection that Daddy couldn’t have done that, he just couldn’t.

        • …all things are relative…including ockham’s famous razor, I guess…because to me putting that down to the elision of flexibly-defined terms & leaning into false equivalence is a “less complicated” solve for what’s up with that

          …the pattern (in terms of increased polarization) is there…so it’s not the one being created…& if only by dint of the conflicting nature of what plays to what possibly-in-play potential electorate there’s going to be some things that are variously found to be electoral assets in one race but become liabilities to a different candidate on the same side of the aisle…so there’s some substance to the claim that urban voters are often inclined to think rural voters are the problem & vice versa, for example…& in that somewhat narrow sense both parties manage to get in their own ways in ways that exacerbate the polarization thing

          …so…I guess it might have more to do with it seeming like if enough daddies drive off on an eternal quest for cigarettes then eventually it seems like everyone’s daddy drives off in search of cigarettes…so maybe looking for cigarettes instead of looking after your family is just what daddies do…in fact…that, right there must be fatherhood distilled to its essence…look at that correlation co-efficient that nobody I’m on speaking terms with can gain-say…besides everybody knows I’m my own best role model…so I don’t need one of those…this is the one true path to the land of the self-made man…& so on right up to whatever apagogical apogee their flight of fancy takes them to

          …& it would almost certainly be a mistake to think that the way to mitigate the consequences of all that compounding of errors would be to ban cigarettes so the excuse wouldn’t play anymore

          …but…that wouldn’t mean all concerned wouldn’t probably be better off if nobody smoked?

    • Based on how well Russian troops and weapons have done in the Ukraine and the idiots who command them, that might not be as big a threat as Vlad the Incompetent might think it is.

      • Yeah, I’m sure they will irradiate their own people, but unfortunately The Vlad Squad will go untouched. The stink of disaster does not stick to the guys at the top.

      • …not that there’s much of anything about the situation in ukraine that’s a comfort…but even the extent to which it doesn’t seem to be going russia’s way doesn’t seem altogether like a clear win

        …putin’s apparent willingness to demographically cripple a generation or two by throwing bodies at the situation does tend to play into the suggestion that it’s a self-limiting problem…& given who find it convenient to attack the unified front & associated spending & sanctions combo deal that’s the other pan on the scales…if he can get the monkeys to keep turning the meatgrinder long enough for the likes of orban & the GOP to pull the rug out from under ukraine’s side of the equation…& that happens before the whole fiscal warfare thing pays out…which isn’t seeming as impossible as I’d like it to…there are a lot of ways this could go that check off items in the win column for the team I’m not rooting for

        …which brings me back to agreeing with @luigi-vuoto, really

        …so I think I might self-medicate with an episode of the infinite monkey cage or something?

          • …I went on about how I know more BBC radio shows than podcasts the other day (when there was a non-standard DUAN I think?) but that’s definitely up there with some of the best radio 4 has to offer

            the curious cases of rutherford & fry is another…& tomorrow they should put up the last of 5 15min segments of a thing about the evolution of the term “woke”

            woke: the journey of a word

            …which is presented by a guy who does a series that’s a pun on his name called sideways…or…there’s stuff like sliced bread…or just one thing

            …or…given some days it’s hard not feel that way…maybe antisocial…although…personally I think that last one loses points for things like failing to move past comparing the issues people have with tom jones’ “delilah” with things like “hey, joe” or “under my thumb” into the question of how it’s different when you flip that script into something like pj harvey’s contribution to nick cave’s american murder ballads with henry lee?

    • This one I’m okay with. Yep, if a fetus is a person with rights, you can’t detain it. Let the Republicans figure out how to separate the two from each other … oh, wait.

      But you’re probably right — they’ll declare the fetus an accessory.

      • …if they’re originalists then presumably they think the wisdom of solomon dictates that the half of the fetus with the DNA that matches the guilty party goes down for the sins of its…well, not father in this case…& if they have to set the other half free…they’d probably entertain a compromise where the kid owes 50% bail & has a lifelong open warrant on the books…that seems to be about their level?

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