Archive for February 2016

Aux Armes, Citoyenes!

February 23, 2016

It’s just being reported that the GOP caucus in the US Senate has decided that Presidenting while Democrat and/or Black is not to be allowed to happen.

That is — the majority party in The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body™ has decided that it will not entertain any piece of President Obama’s nomination for the still dead Scalia’s Supreme Court seat.  Zip, zero, nada, nothing:  no hearing, no vote, no respect for whatever jurist Obama chooses; for Obama himself, obviously; for the office of the President, clearly; and ultimately for the Constitution so many of those prating thugs assert they hold above all else.

To which my response is:

Thanks

Thank you.

You couldn’t have done a greater service to the Democratic Party’s hopes in November, and thus to the country.

It’s hard usually, as readers of this blog know, to cut through the noise of political blather and the insistent demands of daily life.  But this is one of those moments when stakes and character become clear — enough, I deeply hope, to move the dial in November. Most simply, if there were any enthusiasm gap between the parties, it’s going, going, gone now.

We have two jobs:  for one, elect the Democrat, whoever that may be, to the Presidency.  I’m more a Hillary person than a Bernie one, but I’ll pound the hills of New Hampshire for either one this coming fall, every damn chance I get.

The other:  these embarrassments as Senators must go:  Kirk, Johnson, Toomey, Portman, Ayotte.  The Florida open seat, and as distant hopes, McCain and Burr too.  I’ll be up in New Hampshire (as I may have mentioned a sentence or two ago), pounding the hills for Governor Hassan, every damn chance I get.  If you can get to a race that’s in the balance, do so.  If you can’t, do whatever else you can.

One last thought: I didn’t think that anything the GOP could do — especially an act as predictable as this — would do more than deepen my weary sense of “they are who we thought they were.” But this feels like a last straw. I’m just done with allowing any framing of this as “just politics” or what have you. I and a majority of my fellow citizens voted President Obama into office twice. The disrespect to him is something he can handle (better than I ever would). But it’s the delegitimizing of my vote, my choice, my place in American democracy that has just gotta stop. The current Republican Party has to be destroyed, root and branch. They are blight on policy, and a boil on the body politic. Time for them to go.

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Because Why Not On Such A Beautiful Saturday: Nevada Caucuses Thread

February 20, 2016

It’s freaking beautiful where I sit (Greater Boston — in the 50s, sunny, a delight).  I and the swarm will be heading out for a walk around a fair chunk of the Emerald Necklace in a little while. (We won’t be going to the Arnold Arboretum today, but it has a special place in my heart, as the site where my dad proposed to my mum).

All of that tedious personal detail is another way of saying that I’ll be doing my best to ignore the minute-by-minute breathlessness of the GOS types on the Nevada results.  But that doesn’t mean the blog should!

William_Hogarth_031

The NYT’s results page is here.  Nothing yet, but early exits are apparently starting to come in.

Have at it, have fun, and be nice to each other. (Or at least nicer than SC Republicans — which, I admit, is a low bar.*)

*That should probably read “nicer than Ted Cruz” — which is a bar low enough I’m not sure an ant could limbo beneath it.

Image: William Hogarth, Humours of an Election: scene 3, The Polling, 1754-1755

A Big Effing Einstein Deal

February 11, 2016

Just a quick note here as I’m on deadline for a piece on this stuff, but today we got the official announcement of the worst kept recent secret in physics.  Here, via the Guardian, is the TL:DR version of what was said:

On 14 September 2015 at 9:50 GMT, the two detectors of the newly upgraded Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected a signal.

It was unambiguously a gravitational wave signal because it matched the predictions from Einstein’s general theory of relativity almost precisely.

J.M.W._Turner,_R.A._(1775-1851),_Storm_at_Sea.Christie's

This is huge news, as it is, among other things, the latest and most elusive (so far) direct confirmation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, a theory of gravity that describes what we feel as a force holding our feet to the floor is in fact the local warping of spacetime by matterenergy. (In the case of our feet and our floor — that warping is the dent in spacetime created by the mass of the earth.)

It is as well a triumph of virtuosity in observation and measurement.  The detection of a gravity wave is a simply wondrous an act of human hands and mind.  It is a joy to witness, at least for me.

More after I get the paying work done….

Image:  J. W. M. Turner Storm at Sea 1851 or before.

Submissives In Your GPS — Or As Long As We’re Talking About Hilary’s Campaign

February 8, 2016

Reading Ann Laurie’s post  over at Balloon Juice reminded me of the obvious: being aware of the experience of others takes constant effort.  And, (as I wrote about one example here), the failure to do so amidst white male self-assumed universality leads to harm in just about any domain — more for those dismissed, but non-zero for the presumed pre-MOTUs as well.

With that as pre-amble, check out this from CNN Money:

All virtual assistants have to deal with inappropriate comments and questions. From seasoned vets like Siri and Google Now, to the rash of new specialists with names like Amy, Molly, Mia and Robin.

When Microsoft launched Cortana in 2014, a good chunk of early queries were about her sex life, according to Microsoft’s Deborah Harrison.

It turns out people feel very comfortable talking freely with text and voice assistants. Humanizing the bots with names, faked emotions, personalities and genders (mostly female) helps build trust with users.

Microsoft has its corporate head in the right place, at least on this one:

Cortana is clearly identified as a woman. She has a female avatar and is voiced by human woman Jen Taylor. But the writers are conscious about avoiding female-assistant stereotypes. Cortana isn’t self-deprecating and avoids saying sorry.

“We wanted to be very careful that she didn’t feel subservient in any way … or that we would set up a dynamic we didn’t want to perpetuate socially,” said Harrison.

But the ‘bros and any MRA/PUA trogs need not worry.  The market will make sure that their all too familiar sex/power fantasies will find their representation in our brave new era.

Not all assistants will take the same firm approach. Robin Labs, which makes a voice-assistant for drivers, thinks there might be a market customizing personalities. CEO Ilya Eckstein says there is a high demand for an assistant personality that’s “more intimate-slash-submissive with sexual undertones.”

Full title: The Arnolfini Portrait Artist: Jan van Eyck Date made: 1434 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

All of which to say is that it’s easy to call out, say, Chris Christie, when he talks of beating Hilary Clinton’s rear end.  As all here know, it’s far harder to combat the influence of the jabs and gestures that pervade daily life, well below the level of explicit speech, up to and including the robot in your GPS.

How this post may be read in the context of Hilary Clinton’s candidacy and (some of) its discontents?  You make the call.

Image: Jan Van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding1434.