URLs du Jour


  • Man, That's Zucked Up. Many people noting Facebook's latest auto-concern. Here's one tweet among many:

    I'm in awe about that "exposed to harmful extremist content" language. Classifying viewing provocative pixel arrangements on your screen in the same ballpark as exposure to radioactivity, dangerous viruses, carcinogens….

    Recommended reading for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook employees, and (perhaps) you: Greg Lukianoff on John Stuart Mill's Trident. (Recently updated with video, for those who prefer their pixels that way.)

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Why Would She Abandon a Working Formula? Matt Welch notes that Robin DiAngelo Is Very Disappointed in the White People Making Her Rich. She's got a new book out, Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm. Amazon link at your right, recommendation not implied. (I note that on Robin's website, Amazon is not offered as one of the options where you can buy the book.)

    But Nice Racism is an unrelentingly sour book, depicting the fight against systemic oppression as a joyless, never-ending slog through minefields of potential missteps, while relying to a comical degree on DiAngelo's exasperated encounters with people who have the temerity to disagree with her approach.

    That latter description may sound uncharitable, but it's not. In a chapter titled "We Aren't Actually All That Nice," DiAngelo belatedly berates a (white male) London cab driver for telling her that he was sick of being called a racist and that he feared a group of black men who hung around his neighborhood. "Also worthy of note was his typical white lack of racial curiosity or humility about the limits of his knowledge," she snipped. "He had the author of a New York Times best-selling book who was in town to do interviews for the BBC in his cab, and he did not ask a single question about my thoughts on the matter." The nerve!

    If you are a white person who has challenged DiAngelo in one of her seminars the past couple of years, you are probably in this book. There's "Sue and Bob," who reacted to her eight-point talk on "What's Problematic About Individualism?" by telling her that, no, they prefer treating people as individual human beings. "How could Sue and Bob have missed that forty-five minute presentation?" she huffed. "I was left wondering, yet again, what happens cognitively for so many white people in anti-racism education efforts that prevents them from actually hearing what is being presented."

    So there's that. But also…

  • Hello, I Must Be Going. In related news, Matt Taibbi recounts Our Endless Dinner With Robin DiAngelo.

    Nice Racism, the booklike product released this week by the “Vanilla Ice of Antiracism,” Robin DiAngelo, begins with an anecdote from the author’s past. She’s in college, gone out to a dinner party with her partner, where she discovers the other couple is, gasp, black. “I was excited and felt an immediate need to let them know I was not racist,” she explains, adding: “I proceeded to spend the evening telling them how racist my family was. I shared every racist joke, story, and comment I could remember my family ever making…”

    Predictably, her behavior makes the couple uncomfortable, but, “I obliviously plowed ahead, ignoring their signals. I was having a great time regaling them with these anecdotes—the proverbial life of the party!” She goes on:

    My progressive credentials were impeccable: I was a minority myself—a woman in a committed relationship with another woman…I knew how to talk about patriarchy and heterosexism. I was a cool white progressive, not an ignorant racist. Of course, what I was actually demonstrating was how completely oblivious I was.

    No shit, the reader thinks. Instead of trying to amp down her racial anxiety out of basic decency, this author fed hers steroids and protein shakes, growing it to brontosaurus size before dressing it in neon diapers and parading it across America for years in a juggernaut of cringe that’s already secured a place as one of the great carnival grifts of all time. Nice Racism, the rare book that’s unreadable and morally disgusting but somehow also important, is the latest stop on the tour.

    I'm pretty sure the reviews are more fun to read than the book is.

  • Buh Bye. Here in the Granite State, the Governor Sununu's Advisory Council on Diversity & Inclusion just got less diverse and inclusive. As told by Michael Graham: ACLU-NH Leads Diversity Council Walkout Over Anti-Discrimination Law.

    On Tuesday, 10 of the 17 members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity & Inclusion submitted their resignation in protest over anti-discrimination language in the state budget signed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

    “You signed into law a provision that aims to censor conversations essential to advancing equity and inclusion in our state, specifically for those within our public education systems, and all state employees,” the letter reads in part. “Given your willingness to sign this damaging provision and make it law, we are no longer able to serve as your advisors.”

    With respect to the charge that the law "aims to censor conversations", Michael quotes the text, that “nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit discussing, as part of a larger course of academic instruction, the historical existence of ideas and subjects identified in this section.”

    I dunno. I can't wait to see how this plays out. Probably there will be court fights, unintended consequences, spittle-flecked editorials, … All because we wanted to get rid of "divisive concepts".

    It's a good thing we didn't try to ban irony.

    (Fair credit: "Buh Bye" stolen from Granite Grok.)

  • Amtrak Delenda Est. George F. Will notes that there's something on time: Right on time, it’s all-aboard for more Amtrak billions.

    Of history’s three most famous love affairs — Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet, Joe Biden and Amtrak — only the third teaches a civics lesson. If President Biden has his way, taxpayers will give Amtrak yet another $80 billion; it received more than $100 billion in subsidies in its first 50 years. Nevertheless, it is remarkably efficient. Not as a railroad, but as an illustration of how many permutations of waste the government can generate when it goes into business.

    Amtrak was born in 1971, when its supporters convinced Congress — wishful thinking thrives there — that a national passenger railroad would be a for-profit enterprise after receiving start-up billions from private sector railroads eager to unload their money-losing passenger trains. So, Amtrak, which almost certainly never will operate without government subsidies, began as a government subsidy for freight railroads. Since quickly using up those railroads’ money, Amtrak has received annual federal subsidies of $1.5 billion to $2 billion (in 2021 dollars).

    Mr. Will provides another interesting factoid:

    In the early 1970s, Amtrak’s share of U.S. passenger travel was approximately 0.16 percent. In 2019, it was 0.10 percent. Yet it stands to receive 26 percent of the transportation dollars in Biden’s infrastructure bill.

    Not for the first time, nor I fear the last, I quote Robert Frost ("Pod of the Milkweed"):

    But waste was of the essence of the scheme.

  • Some Parts Don't Smell So Good Either. Alan Jacobs quotes Jonathan Zittrain on The Rotting Internet.

    Some colleagues and I joined those investigating the extent of link rot in 2014 and again this past spring.

    The first study, with Kendra Albert and Larry Lessig, focused on documents meant to endure indefinitely: links within scholarly papers, as found in the Harvard Law Review; and judicial opinions of the Supreme Court. We found that 50 percent of the links embedded in Court opinions since 1996, when the first hyperlink was used, no longer worked. And 75 percent of the links in the Harvard Law Review no longer worked.

    People tend to overlook the decay of the modern web, when in fact these numbers are extraordinary — they represent a comprehensive breakdown in the chain of custody for facts. Libraries exist, and they still have books in them, but they aren’t stewarding a huge percentage of the information that people are linking to, including within formal, legal documents. No one is. The flexibility of the web — the very feature that makes it work, that had it eclipse CompuServe and other centrally organized networks — diffuses responsibility for this core societal function. 

    I'm somewhat dismayed when I go back to old Pun Salad articles (and some not so old), find myself intrigued by my description of some link, click, and … rats, I'm in Atlanta.

    Time to re-plug Reason's 404 page. It's worth typing in a bogus URL just to see it:


Last Modified 2021-07-03 5:17 AM EST