Distractions

05.09.2017

Lemme know if you can find the girls in bikinis in this video. What a rip-off.

The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI
No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem.
by Will Knight
April 11, 2017

I’d like to see Thomas Friedman and Paul Wolfowitz have a Republican marriage.

Why Paul Wolfowitz Is Optimistic About Trump
In an interview for the Global Politico, the controversial Republican hawk says the president has an ‘opportunity’ in the Middle East.

Like many other hawkish Republicans—“do me a favor,” he says, and don’t call him a “neocon,” which he believes is a charged word wielded by critics—Wolfowitz adamantly opposed candidate Trump in 2016, put off by his “America First” rhetoric, his rejection of the Iraq war as a disastrous mistake and his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and other autocratic leaders.

Indeed, Wolfowitz tells me that he did not vote for Trump because he feared he would be “Obama on steroids” given Trump’s campaign-trail reluctance to project American power and leadership in the Middle East and elsewhere—and that he decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton either because he was not sure she would pursue tougher policies and thought she had joined Obama in misjudging Putin with their failed Russia “reset” policy.

How U.S. Backing of ‘Moderate’ Rebels Is Bolstering Jihadists
A dispatch from Idlib in opposition-held Syria.
By Lindsey Snell / AlterNet May 2, 2017

I held my breath each time I heard a plane, but the family’s matriarch offered reassurance. “If you can hear that plane sound, it means they are far away.”

The Syrian and Russian militaries have bombed civilian infrastructure in opposition-held Syria, hitting hospitals, schools and markets. My host squinted and listened before declaring the plane was roughly two kilometers from us, demonstrating an uncanny ability honed during years of life under bombardment. The fading sound of the jets filled me with relief.

The chemical attack this month in the rebel-controlled town of Khan Shaykoun was followed by international outrage and a frenzy of Western media coverage calling for the American government to ramp up arms shipments and military training to the Syrian rebels. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called for the U.S. to “dramatically increase our aid to anti-Assad rebels,” describing them as “moderate.” At the same time, he urged the U.S. to weaponize ISIS, rather than combat it, in order to “bleed” the Syrian, Russian and Iranian governments.

Prosecutors Taking Tougher Stance in Fraternity Hazing Deaths

The parents of two former Penn State students, Adam and Denise Lipson, say that they warned administrators in 2014 and 2015 of fraternity hazing that included coercing first-year students to drink to excess, but that their concerns were ignored. Dismayed by that atmosphere, their sons transferred to other universities, where they found less emphasis on alcohol and less pressure to drink.

“Our sons are not prudes, they’re not anti-frat, they’re not anti-alcohol, but they couldn’t believe how far it went,” Ms. Lipson said. “There was this underlying acceptance of it.”

Dr. Barron said concerns about drinking had been taken seriously for some time.

The Marine Corps, 1966
Not Too Many Snowflakes
FRED REED • MAY 4, 2017 • 5,700 WORDS

 

Cinco de Mayo

Mexican Drug Smugglers to Trump: Thanks!

 

 

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Tests Come to YouTube

 

Going Off the Rails?
Trump risks a big backlash if he reneges on his campaign promises.
By WILLIAM S. LIND • May 4, 2017

Another theory is that the White House has determined that the so-called deep state makes any real policy change impossible. All the Trump people think they can do is try to expose the deep state in a long-term effort to delegitimize it. If this is true, there are some facts behind it. The deep state—a conglomeration of federal employees, contractors, business allies on Wall Street, and essentially anyone who benefits from the status quo—is powerful in both foreign and defense policy circles. To talk about military reform is to threaten the single largest honey pot on earth. The status quo in foreign policy—which is to say a quest for world hegemony, for Jacobin ideas of democracy and “human rights”—has tremendous ideological backing within the State Department and much of the rest of the government, the media, and academia. Even for a president who enjoys saying, “You’re fired,” these are hard nuts to crack.

 

Still Chasing the Wrong Rainbows
What historian William Appleman Williams taught us about foreign policy and the good society.
By ANDREW J. BACEVICH • May 4, 2017

Yet Trump’s first hundred days in residence there offer precious little evidence that he will deliver on that promise. Neither he nor anyone else in the Republican leadership has demonstrated the requisite competence or political savvy. Furthermore, nothing that Trump has said or done since taking office suggests that he possesses the capacity or even the inclination to articulate a unifying conception of a common good. The real, although unarticulated slogan of his presidency, is one that looks to “Deepen American Divisions,” with members of the fiercely anti-Trump Left, his ironic collaborators. On all sides, resentment grows.

Meanwhile, to judge by Trump’s one-and-done missile attack on Syria and the fatuous deployment of the “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan, our president’s approach to statecraft makes Lyndon Johnson look circumspect by comparison. Trump assured his supporters that he was going to break the hold of the foreign-policy establishment. In fact, he has embraced the establishment’s penchant for “using our power for whatever we happen at the moment to want, or against whatever at the moment we do not like.” U.S. national-security policy has become monumentally incoherent, with the man in charge apparently doing whatever his gut or his latest visitor at Mar-a-Lago tells him to do.

 

Facing Aurora
ISRAEL SHAMIR • MAY 3, 2017 • 2,700 WORDS

Paradoxically, the Western workers had been the greatest beneficiaries of the Russian Revolution. The Western owner class had been scared by the Russian communists and afterwards behaved rather nicely. It shared its profits with its workers. Your life has been good because the naval guns of the Aurora threatened your One Per cent. In 1991, the communists were defeated through the treason of their leaders. And since then, the victorious Western owners have gone into full-scale Reconquista. They took away all the achievements of the workers, and created this new world of immense wealth for a few and growing misery for the rest.

 

It’s Not Your Water to Take

sprawl

Judge rules against Atlanta in regional water wars

A federal judge on Friday ruled against Georgia in the state’s water dispute with Alabama and Florida, deciding that Atlanta-area municipalities must stop withdrawing water from a massive federal reservoir within three years unless they can get approval from Congress.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson said Lake Lanier wasn’t built for water supply and the state’s withdrawals are illegal. He acknowledged it would be impossible to immediately stop using the lake because it is metro Atlanta’s main water supply for 4 million people. But he said if the state can’t get permission from Congress within three years, the withdrawals must end.

The judge made the right call. Sprawling growth and consumption in Atlanta is completely out of hand and has been for a couple decades. This may end up in the Supreme Court one day however as this monstrous steaming clusterfuck of a metropolis has already been built and will totally implode without a huge supply of water. And realistically, is a court order someday going to close the aquaducts? Or what?  One thing is for sure, there is no fixing Atlanta at this point.

In the meantime do you suppose any new building permits can be issued in the Atlanta region? Seems not, there better not be, unless and until Congress acts in Atlanta’s favor. Another question is how a Democratic congress will approach a three-way water fight between these Republican states.

Microscopic Black Swans

Microscopic Black Swans
by Uncle Yarra

In general, Taleb refers to a Black Swan as something that is consequential (the preface describes it as ‘massive impact’), but not much about the type of or the size. Admittedly the book is about dealing with the unknown, and our tendency to categorise what we think we know to our own detriment by ignoring what we do not know. Thus it would be slightly odd for him to write about outlier events in a manner that categorises them by size and type. Nevertheless, lately I have been thinking that the Black Swans of science and technology have another common feature – apparent insignificance. What I will discuss here will attempt to show that the smaller and more insignificant something is, the greater the chance of ‘outlier possibilities’. Taleb does not specifically cite anything similar, but p89 “We favour the sensational and the extremely visible” buttresses the general point. I also accept that the risk in such a discussion is to focus on specifics as opposed to generalities – one of the factors, Taleb argues, that stops us perceiving possible Black Swan events.

growth2

To clarify, I should cite some examples to illustrate my point.

The birth of modern electronics could arguably be traced back to dirty light bulbs. Edison and others had noted that as an incandescent light bulb approached the end of its life that the glass envelope darkened, reducing its intensity (this was the filament actually being deposited on the glass surface as it evaporated over time). Edison had tried to counter this effect by placing a ‘plate’ between the filament and the envelope. He found that by placing a voltage on this plate, that a small current could be drawn, but only if the polarity was positive with respect to the filament. He called this the ‘Edison Effect’ and did nothing else with it. He had in fact invented the first diode – an electronic one-way street that could rectify (convert) alternating current into direct current. More importantly, Lee DeForest added another electrode to make the diode a triode, and amplification was born. A gossamer thin film of tungsten on a glass surface led to electronics.

Continue reading “Microscopic Black Swans”