Motorcycles. Photography. Tech gadgets. Games. Food. Wine.
248 stories

Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News but the Tech Companies?

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:

The companies ask that we take them at their word: We’re trying, but this is hard — we can’t fix this overnight. OK, we get it. But if the tech giants aren’t finding the same misinformation that observers armed with nothing more sophisticated than access to a search bar are in the aftermath of these events, there’s really only one explanation for it: If they can’t see it, they aren’t truly looking.

How hard would it be, for example, to have a team in place reserved exclusively for large-scale breaking news events to do what outside observers have been doing: scan and monitor for clearly misleading conspiratorial content inside its top searches and trending modules?

It’s not a foolproof solution. But it’s something.

It’s the same reason why Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are overrun with state-backed troll accounts from Russia. Engagement leads to growth, growth is all that matters, and if the trolls and fake news are engaging, better not to look for them. The oft-quoted Upton Sinclair quote fits perfectly: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Read the whole story
1 day ago
Yes, agreed. And there is a pathological denial to use human labor to do something they think machines can or should do. Wait for the algorithm!
San Rafael, CA
Share this story

El Dorado and the Meaning of Life

1 Comment

What would happen if all the agnostics, skeptics, and atheists out there were open and vocal about their secular lives? Would would happen if the vast majority of people admitted that their sense of morality came from internal and communal reasoning rather than from a religious text?

My best guess is that we’d recognize the United States as not very different from parts of the Middle East. A religious war would break out.

We saw what people did to America’s #1 sport just because players wouldn’t kneel to a flag and song. Imagine people no longer pretending to kneel to others’ made-up god.

I think most of our politicians pretend to have religious beliefs because of this fear. It means that many of us participate in a great ruse because we are scared of a minority of heavily armed theists who have a history of promoting and celebrating violence against minorities and women. We’re scared of what they might do if we stopped giving fealty to their deities.

Imagine if we taxed their houses of worship. Or if we demanded that they follow the Constitution by getting religion out of politics (no more mention of gods by elected officials, and no more national religious holidays). Imagine if we started treating all religions as equals in this country. Again, I think we’d see massive outbreaks of violence. These are people who lose their minds over Starbucks cup designs and the harmless words “Happy Holidays.”

If it’s true that violence would erupt if we pushed Christianity to the side, then it means we are living among an ISIS-like group of crazy people who only remain calm because we go along with their fantasies. We are in thrall to this minority of hardcore true believers. We are their intellectual captors.

It’s something to think about as demographic trends point toward a more secular future. Kids aren’t as religiously affiliated as their parents, who weren’t as religiously motivated as their parents. We lag behind Europe in our secularization, but it’s still happening.

Monotheistic religions are necessarily violent. They begin with a claim that there is only one god, which leaves little room for other beliefs. Look at the first four Christian commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

These are rules from an insecure God, not rules about being kind to one another. You have to get to number 5 on this list before you touch upon morality. That’s crazy. And it’s even more crazy that this doesn’t seem crazy to everyone all at once.

While polytheistic religions have historically been more welcoming by simply adding new gods and beliefs to their pantheon, true moral progress has come from outside religion altogether. Religious beliefs tend to lag behind cultural movements, only catching up when membership numbers are threatened. Gay marriage is just one recent example. Religious leaders fight moral progress until they are too far on the wrong side of history, and then they slowly, begrudgingly relent.

When you look back at the course of human history, it is one of moral progress. Our spheres of empathy keep expanding, wrapping around larger segments of the population, and more recently to non-human members of the population. Animal rights and environmental protections were fringe concerns in my lifetime; now they are mainstream. Looking back, we can see how many white populations of immigrants were considered terrible minorities to other established whites (the Irish, for instance). Our hate keeps narrowing while our love expands, however haltingly this progress seems.

The same subset of people seem to be on the wrong side of history on many issues, all having to do with an inability to expand spheres of empathy. Often, these people point to religious texts as justification for their backwards beliefs, which makes sense; those beliefs were written a long time ago. When a child molestor was running for Senate, they pointed to Mary’s similarly young age when she was forcibly impregnated by their god. The same group use the Bible to justify persecution of homosexuals. Before the two American political parties flipped sides (due to race relations), these same people pointed to the Bible to justify slavery.

The same people who get their morality from a dusty book, which was a poor translation from a poor translation, also get their political ideas from an old parchment. There may be a reason that the twin loves of god and gun go hand-in-hand.  A recent study into the difference between conservatives and liberals found that there is a high correlation between conservative views and fear. If you reduce a person’s fear, their opinions become more liberal. Makes sense. Conservatives want walls, guns, prisons, the death penalty, Gitmo, and they fear Muslims and immigrants (who combined kill fewer Americans than lightning). These people are afraid. Their religion spreads through fear, starting when they are in the crib.

I contend that our religiosity is more to blame for our outlying violence among modern societies than our guns. Our guns are just a symptom of our religiosity. People need them because they are in constant fear. A small portion of people own most of our guns. They are terrified. It makes me sad to think about what’s going on in their brains. I have family members who used to send me emails about Muslims taking over the world. The thought kept them up at night. Or the idea that white people will be a minority in the United States one day. This thought fills them with anger.

These people don’t know that their guiding superstition will also be in the minority one day, that it is becoming smaller and smaller with every new birth of an open mind and every funeral for a closed one. Despite how news media coverage works, their fear isn’t spreading faster than hope. Their hate can’t win over love. They might have a book full of fear and hate, but we have millions of books and stories that inspire us with hope and love. Our ideas of how to treat each other are objectively better. And they are improving over time because we dare to have a discourse about how to treat each other, rather than looking in an old text for justification for our darkest thoughts.

I am an atheist. A proud one. I think every good action should exist for its own benefit, not out of fear of punishment, or hope for reward. I don’t fear death. I think life is full of meaning, and it’s meaning that we place there, that we build from scratch, not meaning we hope to stumble upon like some El Dorado in the jungle. Rather, the meaning of life is something that we have to build over the course of our lives. It starts on the rubble of an older meaning, just as cities are built upon each other over time. We piece it together terribly at first. Painful as it might be, we have to disassemble large swaths and start over again throughout our lives. But this meaning is more reliably assembled than discovered. It happens quicker the more we discuss our plans and copy from our neighbors. Our designs are far more accurate through discourse.

What we build will be different for each of us. Service to community, the aim to simply do no harm, the herculean task of having and raising members of humanity who are better than their parents in every way, simply paying taxes and living in a just society, voting our conscious, running for office, showing compassion for strangers, loving far-flug tribes more powerfully than our close circles of friends, inventing something of use, solving problems, providing entertainment or laughs or hope. The meaning of life is what we make of it, but it has to make sense; it has to be built where all can see and any can critique.

Most of all, the meaning of life has to be built on level ground and on solid foundations. The tall sharp spires of religion get in the way of that for many. I think one of the upcoming cultural revolutions that will make the world a better place will be a secularization of the two most violent pockets of religious thinking in the world: the United States and the Middle East. Both will gradually lose their gods as we put them in coffins and feed them to worms.

In their place will come heroic non-believers who are courageous enough to be open about their doubts, who approach the accumulation of knowledge with joy rather than see any gap in understanding as an admission of weakness. For these people, blind faith will not be something to celebrate. Nor will blind obedience, or unconditional love, or unwavering fealty to elders. Ideas will have to win people over, just as trust and love are earned.

It will be difficult to do, to admit that we don’t believe what our parents believe. It will be difficult to build meaning from scratch rather than cast about, hoping to find it already built and waiting for us in the jungle. But the reward for our honesty and hard work will be something to be proud of. And it will bring an end to the pervasive and unfounded fears that power backwards, conservative thoughts. It’s only a matter of time. The arrow of history has always pointed this way. Every day is a great day to choose which side of that arrow to be on.



The post El Dorado and the Meaning of Life appeared first on The Wayfinder - Hugh C. Howey.

Read the whole story
3 days ago
Amen, brother.
San Rafael, CA
Share this story

The Hill: ‘Newt Gingrich Says Arming Teachers Only Long-Term Solution to School Shootings’

3 Comments and 4 Shares

This is fucking insane:

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Tuesday argued that the only long-term solution to school shootings is to train teachers and administrators in the use of guns.

Gingrich offered the remarks in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”

“I think the only long-term solution, depending on the size of the school, is a minimum of six to eight teachers and administrators who are trained in the use of firearms and have conceal carry permits and are prepared to defend the kids,” said Gingrich, a Fox News contributor and former CNN “Crossfire” co-host.

It’s funny when an Onion story on five-blade razor cartridges becomes a real product just a few years later. It’s fucking insane when an Onion story on arming schoolteachers becomes a Republican talking point just a few years later.

Read the whole story
3 days ago

I have some questions.

Where does the money come from to buy firearms for these teachers?
Where does the money come from to buy ammunition for these teachers?
Where does the money come from to train these teachers?
How much training is required?
Who is doing the training?
How are the trainers compensated for their time doing the training?
Given most taxpayers won’t give money to cover basic school supplies[1], what makes you think they’ll be willing to give money for firearms?
How much ammunition does a teacher get rationed?
Can they bring in their own firearms? Their own ammunition?
How do we regulate their own firearms, ensuring safety, adequacy, etc?
Where do the guns get stored? How do we prevent children from getting them?
If they’re in a safe, doesn’t that defeat the point? Couldn’t that be a life-or-death delay to access them?
If they’re holstered, what if a teacher’s clothing doesn’t permit wearing a concealed holster?
If they’re holstered, what if a teacher doesn’t want to open carry?
If they’re holstered and open carried, how does a teacher ensure that an angry student doesn’t take their firearm?
Actually, that’s true no matter where the gun is.
If the gun is in a safe, who has the key?
If it’s a combination, what happens if the teacher forgets the combination?
If there is a master key, like there is for classrooms, who holds the master key?
What if the master key is compromised?
What if one or more teachers doesn’t have a particular affinity for the idea of shooting a student?
Are teachers allowed to shoot first? Or only after they hear gunfire?
As the husband of a teacher, I can assure you that teaching is one of the most stressful, thankless, and unfairly compensated jobs in the world. How do we prevent a teacher from losing their cool one day and using their firearm, unprovoked?
What if a teacher is the one doing the shooting, since, you know, they have a gun at their side at all times? How can other teachers know if the first teacher is firing in self-defense or in an act of aggression?
Regardless, how do teachers know who the good guy is, and who the bad guy is? How do we ensure there’s no friendly fire?
What if the bad guy is surrounded by hostages? Are they expected to engage anyway?
What happens if a student is in a hallway between two teachers’ rooms? Who shoots? How do they avoid friendly crossfire?
If Chris Kyle, a highly trained marksman, and good guy with a gun, was gunned down in a shooting range, surrounded by other good guys with guns… what makes you think an (at best) amateur marksman will fare better?
What if it’s… stay with me here… maybe not a good idea to put more guns into society?
What if having hundreds of guns in a single building is… bear with me now… not a great fucking idea? What if that building was filled with our children? Doesn’t that make it… an even worse fucking idea?
What if we’re… I dunno… not terribly comfortable with training our teachers how to quickly and effectively kill our children? (This one was stolen from Twitter)
Additional questions from and inspired by Andrew Leahey, via Twitter:

What if the perpetrator is only threatening to use a gun? What’s the rules of engagement?
What about a fight between students? Can the teacher escalate? What if one of the students has a knife?
Do janitors, administrators, guidance counselors, all get firearms?
From and inspired by Michael Smith:

Who pays for lawyers after an incident occurs? What if the gun is a personal one and not a school-issued one? Is the teacher responsible for their own defense, or does their city/county/state have to pay to defend them?
Once you guys have answers to all of these, let me know.

Thanks in advance.
San Rafael, CA
Share this story
2 public comments
4 days ago
newt gingrich doesnt understand the difference between facts and feelings.
New York
4 days ago
I don’t understand how Gingrich has any gravitas with anyway.
Princeton, NJ

Trump is a Racist. Stop Pretending Otherwise.

1 Comment and 6 Shares

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.

Read the whole story
40 days ago
San Rafael, CA
43 days ago
Share this story

Trump's new assistant Drug Czar: a 24-year-old campaign volunteer with no experience, in charge of billions to end the opioid epidemic

2 Comments and 4 Shares

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…)

Read the whole story
40 days ago
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
40 days ago
I find it disingenuous to opine that your comment reflects what is in that story.
Share this story
1 public comment
38 days ago
Is there no reconstruction of a war-torn country he is better qualified to supervise?
New York, NY

Review: Bright (2017)


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.


Read the whole story
51 days ago
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
Share this story
1 public comment
51 days ago
It was fun; not to be taken seriously. I kept thinking throughout that it would work so much better as a series.
Cary, NC
Next Page of Stories