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Trump is a Racist. Stop Pretending Otherwise.

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A picture of Trump at a lectern. Text on the picture says "Not just racist. A racist."

Here in January of 2018, this is the deal: I’m gonna judge you if you can’t admit openly and without reservation that Donald Trump is a racist. Not just racist, which is to say, he has some defense in the idea that we live in a racist society so we all participate in its racism whether we like it or not, but a racist, as in, he’s actively prejudiced against non-white people and groups, as evidenced by his words and actions, both before he was president but especially since then. If you can’t admit this here in January of 2018, when the evidence of his racism is piled up grossly upon the floor in full view of everyone down to the cats, then I’m going to go ahead and judge you for it. It’s long past time, folks.

(He’s also sexist and religiously bigoted and transphobic and classist, among many other bigotries, but let’s go ahead and save those for another time.)

Mind you, people are still going out of their way to pretend that the president’s comments yesterday about “shithole” countries isn’t really racist (“Well, they are shithole countries, not that I know anything about them, which conveniently means I can elide the centuries of racist colonialism and exploitation countries including the United States have engaged in to help make them so”) or how immediately contrasting those “shithole” countries with Norway isn’t racist (“There are brown people in Norway too, just ask Anders Breivik”) or when all else fails trying to change the conversation to be about whether the word “shithole” was actually used (it was), rather than acknowledging Trump’s entire position in the conversation was racist and “shithole” was just the juicy soundbite.

But we don’t have to be those people. Trump said a racist thing and he wants to keep people from these “shithole” countries from immigrating to the United States (as opposed to people from Norway) because he’s a racist. There are other reasons he doesn’t want them here, to be sure (Trump also hates poor people, as an example, and many of the immigrants are liable to be poor when they arrive), but none of those mitigates or obviates the racism. That it’s there too doesn’t subtract or divide its vileness. It adds and multiplies it.

At this point, there’s nothing to be gained by pretending that Trump isn’t a racist. Rather, the opposite: The willingness to deny Trump’s active, obvious and unsubtle racism suggests not just passive complicity in his racism, but an active participation in it. Trump’s folks in the White House yesterday suggested that his “shithole” comment would resonate with his base, which to be clear, is an explicit acknowledgement by the White House that it considers his base to be just as racist as Trump himself. If you consider yourself part of Trump’s base, you now get the chance to indicate whether or not you are as much of a racist as Trump.

And maybe you are! We do know that while not all Trump voters consider themselves racist, nearly everyone who considers themselves a racist voted for Trump. Maybe you’re one of the people who celebrates Trump’s clear and unambiguous racism. But if you don’t in fact consider yourself a confirmed and unapologetic racist, now is a fine time to make that clear. Even if you supported Trump before, it’s not too late to get off that rapidly-derailing train and to tuck-and-roll yourself clear of the continuing association with the man and his active racism.

And here’s the first test of it: Do you believe Trump is a racist? At this point it’s really a “yes” or “no” question, with no waffling qualifications needed. If you answer anything other than “Yes,” to that, well. You should really ask yourself why. And in the meantime, expect to be judged. By me, as noted. But, I strongly suspect, by others as well.

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mxm23
6 days ago
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Yes.
San Rafael, CA
wreichard
9 days ago
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Earth
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Trump's new assistant Drug Czar: a 24-year-old campaign volunteer with no experience, in charge of billions to end the opioid epidemic

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In 2016, Taylor Weyeneth took a break from his studies as an undergrad law student at St John's University and used the skills he'd acquired organizing a single golf tournament and working in his father's chia seed factory (closed abruptly when his father went to jail for processing illegal Chinese steroids in the plant) to campaign for Donald Trump. Now Weyeneth, at 24 years old, is the deputy chief of staff for Office of National Drug Control Policy, in charge of billions of dollars in spending to curb the opioid epidemic and fight illegal drug use. (more…)

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mxm23
6 days ago
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Reverse age-ism? I find it disingenuous to opine on the lack of potential of a 24-year old. I’m not a Trump supporter — maybe this young man is the wrong choice — but don’t assume because he’s 24 that he’s useless in the role.
San Rafael, CA
sirshannon
6 days ago
I find it disingenuous to opine that your comment reflects what is in that story.
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satadru
4 days ago
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Is there no reconstruction of a war-torn country he is better qualified to supervise?
New York, NY

Review: Bright (2017)

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The introductory sequence of Bright is enchanting: signs and street art in Los Angeles that describe a world where the races of historical high fantasy stuck around into the present day to become the mocked or honored subjects of political graffiti.

But once characters start talking, this geeky cool evaporates into a mediocre buddy-cop movie. The swirling fantasy tropes are a trash gyre on the seas of racial allegory.

Bright's contemporary LA is also anchored in the past, all sterotypical gang violence, decrepit public services and despotic crime lords. At the top of society are elves, whose fortified enclaves echo South African apartheid more than Jim Crow. At the bottom are orcs, an underclass repressed due to their former allegiance to a long-defeated Dark Lord.

In the middle is humankind, whose own internal racial consciousness and strata are supposedly absent or muted in the world of Bright—but whose humans constantly exhibit our world's racial conscioussness and strata.

When star Will Smith's character kills a verminous bat-like fairy, for example, he declares that "Fairy lives don't matter today." The "today" warps a quip into darker territory: it suggests that fairies are sentient enough for there to be a slogan opposing the moral insignificance of their lives and that he is sick of hearing about it. Smith apparently ad-libbed the line, and offers a similar one later, telling an Orc to get his "Shrek ass" out of the way.

Imagine the cultural signifiance of Shrek in the world of Bright! No-one involved in making Bright did.

That said, it's surely a mercy that this fantasy world's history is only lightly exposed, a good policy at the best of times. The incipient fandom's first demand is for more dry, encyclopedic lore.

What can be said about the story, though? It suffers throughout from being a toybox of generic fantasy elements tossed into a cop flick, which means there's never any solid sense of what can't happen. Joel Edgerton, as the affable and tolerant rookie Orc cop Jakoby, is the best thing about it. When Will Smith isn't phoning it in as unwilling partner Ward, the two have a few good moments ("You're not in a prophecy, you're in a stolen Toyota.") Noomi Rapace is perfectly-cast as a viciously athletic elf villain, but her character has all the depth of a Magic: The Gathering card. Édgar Ramírez and Happy Anderson are given more to work with as FBI pardners, a dandy elf and shlubby human, hot on the heels of Noomi's apocalyptic cult. Bright refers to people (few elves and rare humans) who have the magical potential to command the movie's mcguffin, Noomi's stolen wand. You get the picture.

Bright's storytelling problem is that it knows all the tropes but not what tropes are for. Its racial consciousness is a cartoon sketch of Alien Nation, Shadowrun and Colors, dating it with peculiar accuracy to 1988. It's so incoherent that it could hardly be offensive, but it does echo two tragic lies: that racism's personal dimensions can be overcome through enlightenent, and that racism's structural invincibility grows from biological distinction.

Netflix's $90m stab at a straight-to-internet blockbuster, Bright was mauled by critics. But it's liked by a motley set: I've seen vigorous defenses from suburban Hot Topic kids, meme-slinging Trumpkins, Sorkin Democrats, even a young activist who pointed out that it is at least better than Crash. What unites all these people? Maybe they just want fantasy stuff mashed into everything. Perhaps they feel that no part of American society should be held responsible for its collective failures. We've always preferred to imagine ourselves framed by a natural order beyond our consent, after all. But only Bright's has ninja elves.

★★☆☆☆

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mxm23
17 days ago
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I liked it. It's not going to change the world but it was an enjoyable film if you can willfully suspend your disbelief in a few places. I think they did a good, not great, job of world building. I'm interested in seeing more stories set in this alternate present. Maybe the quality will mature with more films?
San Rafael, CA
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tingham
17 days ago
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It was fun; not to be taken seriously. I kept thinking throughout that it would work so much better as a series.
Cary, NC

Google Has Been Collecting Android Users’ Locations Even When Location Services Are Disabled

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Keith Collins, Quartz:

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.

The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. They were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.

As Michael Rockwell pointed out, Google only stopped when contacted by Quartz; how long would this practice have continued if Quartz had not discovered this? And why were they doing this in the first place if they weren’t storing or using the location information? And why will it take until the end of the month to stop collecting this information?

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mxm23
33 days ago
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Going through my backlog of RSS. Turns out Oracle put Quartz on to the Google / Android location thing. And Quartz didn't disclose that in their story. Hmm.
San Rafael, CA
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Google’s AI beats the world’s top chess engine w/ only 4 hours of practice

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With just four hours of practice playing against itself and no study of outside material, AlphaZero (an upgraded version of Alpha Go, the AI program that Google built for playing Go) beat the silicon pants off of the world’s strongest chess program yesterday. This is massively and scarily impressive.

AlphaZero won the closed-door, 100-game match with 28 wins, 72 draws, and zero losses.

Oh, and it took AlphaZero only four hours to “learn” chess. Sorry humans, you had a good run.

That’s right — the programmers of AlphaZero, housed within the DeepMind division of Google, had it use a type of “machine learning,” specifically reinforcement learning. Put more plainly, AlphaZero was not “taught” the game in the traditional sense. That means no opening book, no endgame tables, and apparently no complicated algorithms dissecting minute differences between center pawns and side pawns.

This would be akin to a robot being given access to thousands of metal bits and parts, but no knowledge of a combustion engine, then it experiments numerous times with every combination possible until it builds a Ferrari. That’s all in less time that it takes to watch the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The program had four hours to play itself many, many times, thereby becoming its own teacher.

Grandmaster Peter Heine Nelson likened the experience of watching AlphaZero play to aliens:

After reading the paper but especially seeing the games I thought, well, I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on earth and showed us how they play chess. I feel now I know.

As I said about AlphaGo last year, our machines becoming unpredictable is unnerving:

Unpredictable machines. Machines that act more like the weather than Newtonian gravity. That’s going to take some getting used to.

Albert Silver has a good overview of AlphaZero’s history and what Google has accomplished. To many chess experts, it seemed as though AlphaZero was playing more like a human than a machine:

If Karpov had been a chess engine, he might have been called AlphaZero. There is a relentless positional boa constrictor approach that is simply unheard of. Modern chess engines are focused on activity, and have special safeguards to avoid blocked positions as they have no understanding of them and often find themselves in a dead end before they realize it. AlphaZero has no such prejudices or issues, and seems to thrive on snuffing out the opponent’s play. It is singularly impressive, and what is astonishing is how it is able to also find tactics that the engines seem blind to.

So, where does Google take AlphaZero from here? In a post which includes the phrase “Skynet Goes Live”, Tyler Cowen ventures a guess:

I’ve long said that Google’s final fate will be to evolve into a hedge fund.

Why goof around with search & display advertising when directly gaming the world’s financial market could be so much more lucrative?

Tags: AlphaGo   artificial intelligence   chess   games   Go   Google
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mxm23
34 days ago
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Read the last sentence. Scary? I hope our Gooverlords are benevolent.
San Rafael, CA
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mareino
17 days ago
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The first team to harness this power for language acquisition will annihilate the Turing Test.
Washington, District of Columbia
satadru
20 days ago
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Time to read some Iain M Banks again?
New York, NY

FCC Unveils Plan to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules

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Brian Fung, reporting for The Washington Post:

The Federal Communications Commission took aim at a signature Obama-era regulation Tuesday, unveiling a plan that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers see and use.

Under the agency’s proposal, providers of high-speed Internet services, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, would be able to block websites they do not like and charge Web companies for speedier delivery of their content.

This is literally bad for everyone but these mega-ISPs. Horrendously bad — and unpopular — policy.

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mxm23
60 days ago
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Time to buy shares in AT&T, Verizon, Comcast etc.
San Rafael, CA
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