Link Roundup, 5/14,2017

From the MIT Technology Review: No one really knows how AI engines arrive at their decisions.

From BusinessWeek: What an immigrant murder in Kansas says about America.

From The New Yorker: A writer describes her grandmother’s fatal, self-induced abortion.

From New Republic: Russia has weaponized fake news.

From Esquire: How to travel like Tony Bourdain.


  1. Planet of cops by Fredrik DeBoer

    > The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7. You search and search for someone Bad doing Bad Things, finding ways to indict writers and artists and ordinary people for something, anything. That movie that got popular? Give me a few hours and 800 words. I’ll get you your indictments. That’s what liberalism is, now — the search for baddies doing bad things, like little offense archaeologists, digging deeper and deeper to find out who’s Good and who’s Bad. I wonder why people run away from establishment progressivism in droves.

    1. EJ

      It is the right of the old to complain that the young are doing activism wrong, that it was better in their day.

      It is the right of the young to ask why, if the activist tactics of yore were so much better, there are still so many battles left to fight.

      Thus it has ever been.

  2. So, a day later, and we have another bomb. This one might actually stick to the puppet tyrant.

    And yet, if the democrats get their way, the result will be even more terrifying. Left in power will be a competent political operator, who happens to be a theocrat. Oh, and the fascists will still have their SCOTUS pick, (plus potentially 2 more in the next 3 plus years). They will still continue to gut the EPA, health care, and wipe out more regulations controlling Wall Street (what could go wrong there?).

    Food for thought: If one in 140 Pennsylvania voters, one in 500 Michigan voters, and one in 250 Wisconsin voters flipped their votes because of russian fake news, then the russians successfully rigged the election.

  3. Here’s the truth, the GOP (Ryan and McConnell) are desperate to cut taxes for the wealthy. That is their number one goal. They know that they stand a very good chance of losing their majorities in 2018 and impeachment will takes months and be the sole focus of Congress and the Senate, meaning there will be very little time left to get their plans completed before the elections. This has been a life long dream of Ryan’s. He’s not going to give it up. Also, with Trump (as much as they hate him) they are in easy street because he’s so damn stupid they can place anything in front of him and if they say “This will be well received, the people will love you” he’ll do it. Trump either will have to be forced to resign, die or democrats take control in 2018 and impeach him.

    1. EJ

      Serious question: is it likely that Trump will get impeached?

      Congressional Democrats don’t have the numbers to impeach him, so as long as the congressional Republicans stay loyal he’s safe. The Republican base, in turn, like Trump more than they like their own congresspeople. The only incentive to impeach is nonpartisan statesmanship, which feels like an optimistic thing to hope for.

      Assuming that Trump doesn’t get caught in bed with an underage boy or do something similar to turn the populace against him, is it likely that Congress will be willing to impeach?

      1. It’s a possibility. I don’t think a lot of republican politicians actually dislike him and I’m positive that a lot of them think he’s crazier than a shit house rat. They may have been willing to overlook these things at first but I think they will desert, like rats, if it looks like he’s really guilty of treason. A possibility but I don’t like to count my chickens too early.

      2. “Serious question: is it likely that Trump will get impeached?”

        ‘In 2016, we were all like “Anything is possible!” Now, we’re like, “Anything is possible… ANYTHING… is possible…”‘ ~~ Hasan Minhaj

        Impeachment is still within technical political possibility, yes. The tide has to shift in two areas.

        Right now quote-unquote ‘Trump voters’, according to various media outlets, are shrugging and saying, “I don’t care about Russia, I just want to see him create jobs.” So, if the GOP gets their tax cuts, ACA repeal, and trade deal hackery, then no, 45 will never be impeached. But if those don’t happen, sentiments will sour FAST.

        The other thing that could break for impeachment is if in 2018 Democrats win a massive, inarguably massive landslide. Then Congressional Republicans will realize that their job is on the line no matter what their constituents are saying.

        The rest is chaos theory. He’ll keep doing stupid shit and it’ll keep pissing people off, and in the meantime everything he’s doing is setting off lawsuits, people with a karmic itch to scratch, fired staffers with information to leak, pissed off intelligence operatives with access to privileged information, fear, hatred, stress, exhaustion, paranoia, and down right animus. People are going to break whether they think they can weather the storm or not.

        We’re only how many days in, a hundred and some change? There’s no way this amount of stress is sustainable, anywhere across the nation.

        Even as a despot, dudebro is an unqualified and incapable one.

    2. Ryan in particular is desperate to get that big tax cut for the wealthy passed. He is ideologically committed to it and as you stated it is a lifelong dream. As far as McConnell goes, he would be happy to see it, but it is not that big a priority. He is more interested in maintaining power. I’m inclined to believe he is almost as self centered as Trump. As long as he can keep the billionaire gravy train flowing, he is happy. Of course, the big tax cut would certainly help keep those funds flowing. Also given that his wife is in the cabinet and that she is as driven and ambitious as he, McConnelll not supporting Trump is as far as I am concerned fantasy.

      As far as getting Trump out of office by impeachment, I doubt the likelihood of that since conviction (removal from office) by the Senate would take a 2/3 supermajority. For the Democrats to get that large a majority in 2018 is not possible. Even if the D’s took all 8 Republican Senate seats up for election in 2018 and retained their own 23 seats plus the two independents, they would still only have a 60 seat majority. Of course, if Trump continues to antagonize the R’s, enough of them might turn against him to make conviction possible. But given the polarization in the U.S. and that both Ryan and McConnell have their own agendas as opposed to actual governance for the benefit of the people, having enough R’s turn seems improbable.

      Sadly either Trump’s resignation or death appear to be the most probable paths for him not to complete his term of office.

      1. I’m hoping they can at least force him to resign for sanity reasons. I do think he’s mentally ill or suffering from some kind of dementia so maybe he’ll step down for “health reasons”. A plus is that a lot of the GOP politicos are admitting that Twitler needs to get control of the chaotic WH situation.

  4. And now this, from the US Attorney General, (an office that seems curiously to attract some of the most vapid and dismally stupid people in government of the likes of John Ashcroft and Janet Reno), a truly impressive arabesque of stupidity in precisely the wrong direction: I try to hold back. I really do, but what an utter dipshit Sessions is. My god.

  5. The next 12-24 hours will prove finally how far Congress will go to protect the puppet tyrant on this intel issue. If the WashPo article is accurate, and Congress circles the wagons on this mess, that is it for controlling this regime.

    trump will truly be untouchable, even though what he did is not illegal in this case. His handlers will be able to do anything they want without any checks and balances, if Congress caves on this.

    1. I had not seen the story when I saw your post so after a WTF moment, I spent the next hour thinking hell no he didn’t! Just imagine if the source of the Intel is Turkey! That guy is bat guano crazy and that meeting could seriously shrivel Trump’s junk.

    2. This was always going to be one helluva ride, but don’t give into despair. We have the power to end this so long as we stick together and stay focused. If we can elect a Democratic House in ’18, we can turn the tides in our favor and impeach Dear Leader.

      1. Ryan, we are roughly 14 weeks into this regime’s rule. If the Democrats manage to flip the House in 18 (which I strongly doubt due to the of lack of intelligence in the American electorate , partisanship, and gerrymandering) we are still faced with some 18 plus months of this rule, assuming they can get him out Day 1.

        The damage that will be done in that time frame is unfathomable, no matter how effective the resistance is. Just think what will happen when things get REALLY bad and bannon sits this guy down to watch Wag the Dog, and the puppet thinks it is a tutorial.

      2. Please understand that I do not mean to infer or imply this to be in any way personal. It’s not, but I feel I have to say it regardless…

        None. Of. That. Shit. Matters.

        Our ancestors fought a Civil War that nearly cleaved this country in two. Our grandparents fought in the single bloodiest conflict that the world has ever seen, World War II. We can and we will see our way through this, because as it was in past conflicts, we don’t have any other choice. There is no middle road to be found, only the path of resistance or submission.

        Fortunately enough for us, we have a clear path that we can follow. We must retake the House majority in ’18, regardless of the obstacles that stand in our way.

    3. Regarding the Russia Probe and Trump in general, there was a good article on May 14 in the HuffPost. The link is:

      In this article Fineman calls the Republican Party as “weak, divided and corroded … which was (and is) in thrall to billionaire donors, cosseted by gerrymandering …”

      Fineman also discusses McConnell as being “more known for caution than courage” and that KY voters overwhelmingly voted for Trump, which doubles his innate caution. I might mention the McConnell’s wife is also Secretary of Transportation. Basically, I personnally believe that McConnell cares more for maintaining his Majority Leader position, power, and continuing on the gravy train from the billionaire donors than governance or the Constitution. He will not stand up to Trump.

      As far as Ryan goes, he is very weak and has the Freedom Caucus with which to contend. Ryan is more interested in passing his Ayn Randian program of facilitating the continued accumulation of wealth by the wealthy. i.e. afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable than actually governing. Many of the Freedom Caucus depend on Trump voters for election. Ryan more or less openly opposed Trump during the election and Trump has not forgotten. The net effect of this is that Ryan has been totally neutralized by Trump.

      The rest of the Republican Party is extremely corrupt and is on a huge power trip as I quoted above.

      Now Trump tweets – “so what if I gave sensitive intelligence to the Russians, I can do whatever I please” in so many words.

      Given all this, I have very little hope that the Congress will actually act as a check on Trump. They may drag their feet and make a lot of noise but that is all. I am dubious that the present Congress will actually move on impeachment. It will take an unprecedented ‘political tsunami’ for things to change. However, that could be on the way.

  6. The MIT Tech Review piece is a great illumination of the inherent unpredictability of AI we’ve been discussing here. But I think there is another issue to be considered.

    It’s all well and good that certain areas in which Deep Learning algorithms are deployed are subject to some explanatory standard. But who’s to say those will be the only areas they might be used? This is going to be hobby-level stuff in a few years. Remember that there is no particular architecture or physical configuration associated with say, an AI medical diagnosis system. The only difference is the input data. I don’t think there is any reason to believe the vast stores of data we all have available to us is going to get any smaller. It’s going to expand it a very nonlinear fashion. Anyone is going to be able to present an AI system with as little or as much data, from the fields of his/her choosing, and see what happens. Imagine a system that is given all the accumulated data from the world’s stack exchanges. (Getting that is pretty trivial.) Now imagine Deep Learning system tasked with finding previously unrecognized patters, and making buy/sell decisions based on them. Success in this would not just make the discoverer fabulously wealthy, it would completely destroy the world’s markets. Markets work because they are assumed to be incompletely knowable, and therefore no one has any particular advantage over anyone else. Prove this principle false, and the entire thing unravels.

    I’m sure we can all think of many other examples.

  7. EJ

    I notice that American sources don’t refer to the Olathe attack as an act of lone-wolf terrorism.

    Is this because that word has a particular meaning in America which precludes it from being used in such circumstances?

  8. A colleague in the resistance told me the other day during an Indivisible meeting that our senators have instructed their staffers to pay close attention to how many people are calling for Russian investigation, impeachment, and related issues. The explanation the staffer gave is that they’re waiting until they have the political capital of their constituents to push for these things.

    … and that currently they’re not getting enough to justify making such a politically risky move.

    If this doesn’t get through to you any other way please let it get through to you this way: tell EVERY. PERSON. YOU. KNOW. who wants this guy out of office to call their Members of Congress this week. Republican or Democrat or Independent. And they have to call every week from now until impeachment.

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