culture

A letter to Jerry Brown

Dear Governor Brown, By now you are aware of Nicholas Kirstof’s piece^[Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/17/opinion/sunday/kevin-cooper-california-death-row.html] in The New York Times in which he presents abundant evidence that investigators and prosecutors framed Kevin Cooper for the murder of four people in Chino. Advanced DNA testing could produce potentially exculpatory evidence. Or not. But the truth must be pursued. You have rejected calls to exercise the authority of your office to order such testing.

Stalin, Trump, and the cult of personality

Великий Сталин — знамя дружбы народов СССР! Great Stalin - banner of friendship of the peoples of the Soviet Union! After reading about U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Number 1 fan”, Gene Huber, I was struck by the similarities between the adoration of Trump and that of Soviet leader, Josef Stalin. Throughout his tenure as General Secretary of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union, a cult of personality developed around Stalin.

Not always what it seems

Спасибо любимому Сталину - за счастливое детство! “Спасибо любимому Сталину - за счастливое детство!" (Thank you dear Stalin for a happy childhood.)

They're just paid protesters

In an effort to strip protesters of their legitimacy, Trump and Fox News claim that protesters are simply there because they’re paid by powerful oppositional interests. Never mind that Trump has no evidence for his claim; he has no evidence for practically anything that emerges from his loud mouth. What is more interesting to me is that if money delegitimizes authenticity then presumably we can use this effect to come to additional conclusions.

My month without news

“The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates This year I decided to take a different approach to making New Year’s resolutions. Although many people make resolutions, less than 10% regard themselves as successful at achieving them. I decided to overhaul the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Rather than committing to an entire year of change, I set up a schedule of 12 mini-resolutions in the form of experiments.

Helping the helpers

Since the election in the U.S., my wife and I have supported the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. So should you.

Well that has a familiar ring to it

The U.S. has become well-rehearsed in its response to mass shootings. An event. The pondering over terrorism vs. generalized craziness. The outpouring of prayers and support. Then the internet outrage. And more internet outrage. More meme pictures about guns and love. More color-your-profile picture trends. Empty scripted responses from pious politicians. A week or two, then back to our regularly scheduled programming. News flash: this isn’t getting better.

Stop Facebook tracking

Although I understand Facebook’s business model and I (basically) understand how money is made on the internet, I have no compunction about blocking ads, trackers, beacons and all manner of scripts. The current system creates layers upon layers of networks that exist to track one’s activities on the internet and market products and services more specifically. The problem is that unless I take specific action, I don’t get to choose what I reveal to companies that want to track me.

The anti-polarizing effect of keeping one's identity small.

Keeping your identity small Several years ago, Paul Graham, of Y Combinator fame wrote an essay entitled “Keep your Identity Small." The premise is that discussions of religion and politics almost never result in anything resembling the give-and-take around other subjects. Two people can have an intelligent conversation about the pros and cons of certain brands of rice cookers^[We happen to use a Zojirushi and like it a lot; but I’d never introduce myself as a Zojirushian.

Properly understanding ISIS

Islamic weapons An interesting piece from The Atlantic on understanding ISIS on their own clearly-stated terms. “We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it…Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime.