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Graphing the hidden thresholds of everyday life


Unendurable line is a short film by Daihei Shibata which shows the movement of objects like springs, magnetically attracted objects, spinning tops, and stacked blocks accompanied by a real-time graph of the movement. A bit tough to explain…just watch it. Reminds me of Bret Victor’s live coding. (via colossal)

Tags: Bret Victor   Daihei Shibata   infoviz   video
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To The People I’ve Lost Over This Election


Back in March, John Pavlovitz wrote an open letter to friends he has lost contact with because of the 2016 election. This paragraph in particular articulates something I’ve been having trouble putting my finger on w/r/t some lost personal relationships due to “politics”:

I know you may believe this disconnection is about politics, but I want you to know that this simply isn’t true. It’s nothing that small or inconsequential, or this space between us wouldn’t be necessary. This is about fundamental differences in the ways in which we view the world and believe other people should be treated. It’s not political stuff, it’s human being stuff — which is why finding compromise and seeing a way forward is so difficult.

Fair or not, that is precisely how I feel. See also I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People:

I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.

Tags: 2016 election   John Pavlovitz   politics
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comtessedebussy: comtessedebussy: fuckyeahsources: prokopetz: ...














Am I the only one that’s a just a tiny bit pissed off that this is still an issue?

The Original Series wasn’t even in the general VICINITY of fucking around yo

How many shows these days would do this, and do it this way? These days, it would be all, “Ohh, we have to be sensitive and show the nuances of each side” and try not to make either side seem wrong. It wouldn’t be clearly spelled out, “pro-choice is right, if you’re against it you’re the bad guys.”

Jim Kirk is not here for your anti-birth-control, anti-choice, pro-death-penalty BS

James Tiberius Kirk was written and portrayed as a feminist and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

Yep.  That episode is exactly what you think it is:  pro-birth control, pro-population control, pro-choice, and pro-women’s right to choose.  And yes, Kirk, the supposed playboy of the spaceways, is in favor of all of the above.

It was written and aired in 1969.  

It probably couldn’t air today.


Also LMAO at all the sad whiny geek boys who are like “I miss the GOOD OLD DAYS of SCI-FI when it wasn’t all about SOCIAL ISSUES and instead it was just about MEN HAVING FUN IN SPACE. Like Star Trek! Star Trek wouldn’t put up with all this SOCIAL JUSTICE FEMINISM IN SCI FI bullshit!” And meanwhile I’m just over here like “…did you actually watch the show?” 


It’s also important to bear in mind that the Original Series had a predominantly female fanbase, and during its initial run, was widely mocked and dismissed by mainstream (i.e., male) science fiction fans as being fake sci-fi for girls. It’s difficult to overstate the influence women had on the franchise in its early days; most of the early Star Trek conventions were organised by and for women, and indeed, those same organisers were primarily responsible for the massive letter-writing campaign that prevented the show from being cancelled after the 1968 season. Without that campaign, the episode pictured in this post would never have been made.

The popular image of James Kirk as a sleazy womaniser is part of a conscious effort to erase that history and render the franchise’s roots palatable to the misogynistic geekboys of the modern SF/F fandom.

For a summary of those points, see “Star Trek’s Underappreciated Feminist History” by Shannon Mizzi, which draws from Patricia Vettel-Becker’s “Space and the Single Girl: Star Trek, Aesthetics, and 1960s Femininity”.

And a gentle reminder that TOS was a Desilu production, which its board of directors voted to cancel after the second pilot due to cost concerns, a vote that Chairman Lucille Ball overruled. There is no Star Trek without Lucille Ball.

Originally posted by zidlersdiamonddogs

Basically you have women to thank for Star Trek. Go suck on that, JJ Abrams.

Bringing this back because I recently saw a post from a dudebro complaining about how Star Trek has become all “PC and has an agenda” unlike in the “good old days” 

so here is a clip from the “good old days” of Star Trek not having an agenda. 

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1436 days ago
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The Lost Cause Rides Again

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HBO’s prospective series Confederate will offer an alternative history of post-Civil War America. It will ask the question, according to co-creator David Benioff,  “What would the world have looked like … if the South had won?” A swirl of virtual protests and op-eds have greeted this proposed premise. In response, HBO has expressed “great respect” for its critics but also said it hopes that they will “reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

This request sounds sensible at first pass. Should one not “reserve judgment” of a thing until after it has been seen? But HBO does not actually want the public to reserve judgment so much as it wants the public to make a positive judgment. A major entertainment company does not announce a big new show in hopes of garnering dispassionate nods of acknowledgement. HBO executives themselves judged Confederate before they’d seen it—they had to, as no television script actually exists. HBO hoped to communicate that approval to its audience through the announcement. And had that communication been successful, had Confederate been greeted with rapturous anticipation, it is hard to imagine the network asking its audience to tamp down and wait.

HBO’s motives aside, the plea to wait supposes that a problem of conception can be fixed in execution. We do not need to wait to observe that this supposition is, at best, dicey. For over a century, Hollywood has churned out well-executed, slickly produced epics which advanced the Lost Cause myth of the Civil War. These are true “alternative histories,” built on “alternative facts,” assembled to depict the Confederacy as a wonderland of virtuous damsels and gallant knights, instead of the sprawling kleptocratic police state it actually was. From last century’s The Birth of a Nation to this century’s Gods and Generals, Hollywood has likely done more than any other American institution to obstruct a truthful apprehension of the Civil War, and thus modern America’s very origins. So one need not wait to observe that any foray by HBO into the Civil War must be met with a spirit of pointed inquiry and a withholding of all benefit of the doubt.

Skepticism must be the order of the day. So that when Benioff asks “what would the world have looked like … if the South had won,” we should not hesitate to ask what Benioff means by “the South.” He obviously does not mean the minority of  white Southern unionists, who did win. And he does not mean those four million enslaved blacks, whom the Civil War ultimately emancipated, yet whose victory was tainted. Comprising 40 percent of the Confederacy’s population, this was the South’s indispensable laboring class, its chief resource, its chief source of wealth, and the sole reason why a Confederacy existed in the first place. But they are not the subject of Benioff’s inquiry, because he is not so much asking about “the South” winning, so much as he is asking about “the white South” winning.

The distinction matters. For while the Confederacy, as a political entity, was certainly defeated, and chattel slavery outlawed, the racist hierarchy which Lee and Davis sought to erect, lives on. It had to. The terms of the white South’s defeat were gentle. Having inaugurated a war which killed more Americans than all other American wars combined, the Confederacy’s leaders were back in the country’s political leadership within a decade. Within two, they had effectively retaken control of the South.

Knowing this, we do not have to wait to point out that comparisons between Confederate and The Man in the High Castle are fatuous. Nazi Germany was also defeated. But while its surviving leadership was put on trial before the world, not one author of the Confederacy was convicted of treason. Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg. Confederate General John B. Gordon became a senator. Germany has spent the decades since World War II in national penance for Nazi crimes. America spent the decades after the Civil War transforming Confederate crimes into virtues. It is illegal to fly the Nazi flag in Germany. The Confederate flag is enmeshed in the state flag of Mississippi.

The symbols point to something Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand—the war is over for them, not for us. At this very hour, black people all across the South are still fighting the battle which they joined during Reconstruction—securing equal access to the ballot—and resisting a president whose resemblance to Andrew Johnson is uncanny. Confederate is the kind of provocative thought experiment that can be engaged in when someone else’s lived reality really is fantasy to you, when your grandmother is not in danger of losing her vote, when the terrorist attack on Charleston evokes honest sympathy, but inspires no direct fear. And so we need not wait to note that Confederate’s interest in Civil War history is biased, that it is premised on a simplistic view of white Southern defeat, instead of the more complicated morass we have all around us.

And one need not wait to ask if Benioff and D.B. Weiss are, at any rate, the candidates to help lead us out of that morass or deepen it. A body of work exists in the form of their hit show Game of Thrones. We do not have to wait to note the persistent criticism of that show is its depiction of rape. Rape—generational rape, mass rape—is central to the story of enslavement. For 250 years the bodies of enslaved black women were regarded as property, to be put to whatever use—carnal and otherwise—that their enslavers saw fit. Why HBO believes that this duo, given their past work, is the best team to revisit that experience is a question one should not wait to ask.

And all this must be added to a basic artistic critique—Confederate is a shockingly unoriginal idea, especially for the allegedly avant garde HBO. “What if the white South had won?” may well be the most trod-upon terrain in the field of American alternative history. There are novels about it, comic books about it, games about it, and a mockumentary about it. It’s been barely a year since Ben Winters published Underground Airlines.

Storytellers have the right to answer any question they choose. But we do not need to wait to examine all the questions that are not being chosen: What if John Brown had succeeded? What if the Haitian Revolution had spread to the rest of the Americas? What if black soldiers had been enlisted at the onset of the Civil War? What if Native Americans had halted the advance of whites at the Mississippi? And we need not wait to note that more interesting than asking what the world would be like if the white South had won is asking why so many white people are enthralled with a world where the dreams of Harriet Tubman were destroyed by the ambitions of Robert E. Lee.

The problem of Confederate can’t be redeemed by production values, crisp writing, or even complicated characters. That is not because its conceivers are personally racist, or seek to create a show that endorses slavery. Far from it, I suspect. Indeed, the creators have said that their hope is to use science fiction to “show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could.” And that really is the problem. African Americans do not need science-fiction, or really any fiction, to tell them that that “history is still with us.” It’s right outside our door. It’s in our politics. It’s on our networks. And Confederate is not immune. The show’s very operating premise, the fact that it roots itself in a long white tradition of imagining away emancipation, leaves one wondering how “lost” the Lost Cause really was.

It’s good that the show-runners have brought on two noted and talented black writers—Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman. But one wonders: If black writers, in general, were to have HBO’s resources and support to create an alternative world, would they choose the world dreamed up by the progenitors of the Ku Klux Klan? Or would they address themselves to other less trod areas of Civil War history in the desire to say something new, in the desire to not, yet again, produce a richly imagined and visually beguiling lie?

We have been living with the lie for so long. And we cannot fix the lie by asking “What if the white South won?” and waiting for an answer, because the lie is not in the answer, but in the question itself.

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1452 days ago
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2 public comments
1452 days ago
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national treasure. Also that Andrew Johnson = Trump link is pure gold.
Somerville, MA
1453 days ago
Coates brings up a point that I have never seen quite so well articulated before. The South did win the Civil War. When the War began, 40% of the South was enslaved. When the war ended 0% of the South was enslaved. That's a win by any decent ethical standards.
Washington, District of Columbia
1391 days ago
Do those same “decent ethical standards” include counting kidnapped-and-imported chattel slaves (and their offspring) as “part of” the South’s population?

Officer Claimed He Shot Philando Castile Because of Secondhand Smoke

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As you probably know, the officer who killed Philando Castile was acquitted of manslaughter and two other charges last week. (This was the incident where Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook.) The squad car’s dashcam video was made public yesterday for the first time, and watching that makes it even less possible (if that’s possible) to understand the jury’s decision. But even more astounding is the transcript also released yesterday showing that the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, told investigators last year that he smelled marijuana as he approached the car, and that just before he opened fire, the thought going through his mind was that Castile was a dangerous man because he had been exposing others to secondhand smoke:

That is actually something an adult human said: I was afraid this person would be willing to murder a police officer for no reason because it smelled like he had been doing something that might slightly increase the risk of disease to others if he kept it up for another decade or so. (At least according to some experts.) If this man is willing to subject others to secondhand smoke, certainly he would not hesitate to murder me.

This deep concern that Yanez had about the health of Castile’s five-year-old daughter, supposedly, is part of what led him to fire seven bullets at Castile, the driver, while the girl was sitting in the back seat in the line of fire:

Or maybe he was pulling out a pack of smokes? We shouldn’t second-guess officers when it comes to using deadly force to protect citizens from potential long-term health risks.

In fact, Castile had just volunteered the fact that he had a gun in the car (a gun he was licensed to carry), which doesn’t seem like something you’d do if you were just about to reach for it and try to shoot someone. It actually seems like something you’d do if you didn’t want anybody to get hurt, especially yourself. But according to Yanez, it was secondhand smoke, not this, that went through his mind just before opening fire.

Of course, I don’t know what other evidence was presented to the jury. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office has put the transcript, videos, and some other key evidence on its website, so you can see that if you want and decide for yourself. But I assume the jury saw the transcript of this interview, and frankly I don’t know how you hear somebody give that ridiculous explanation and not vote to convict him of something. (The jury was apparently split 10-2 in favor of acquittal, but eventually the two holdouts gave in.)

I guess if you wanted to, you could argue that now we know the risks of secondhand smoke really are substantial, because among other things it might frighten a cop into putting five bullets in your chest. You might as well give it a shot, because the risks of making stupid arguments appear to be virtually nonexistent these days.

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1498 days ago
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1485 days ago
This hasn't gotten less shocking in the past several weeks.
New York, NY
1498 days ago
He can't remember how many rounds he fired into a car, in the direction of a baby, that killed a man but, he can remember he was scared that the guy was crazed because of second hand smoke? And we're supposed to take that seriously?
1499 days ago
I hadn't seen this detail before…
Washington, DC
1499 days ago

Thoughts on a Strange Day—and a Very Strange Presidential Tweet

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It was a very strange day. 

The only thing lower on my list of expectations than a presidential tweet when I got into an Uber this morning was what I got: an approving presidential tweet.

Yet there it was—a tweet that was, in and of itself, utterly insignificant yet at the same time, the more I thought about it over the course of the day, reinforcing of a wide array of concerns this site has been covering about the way Donald Trump is mismanaging the Office of the President:

If you are finding Lawfare useful in these times, please consider making a contribution to support what we do.

The reference was to my short article from last night about the 9th Circuit's denial of a stay of the district court's freezing of Trump's noxious executive order on visas and refugees. No, I had not said or implied that the decision was disgraceful (with or without an exclamation point). And while I had indeed noted the omission in the ruling that Trump was trumpeting and criticized some of the virtue signaling in the opinion, I had noted some other things as well. For example, I had written that "The Ninth Circuit is correct to leave the TRO in place, in my view." I had argued that the key question in the case was whether "the repeated and overt invocations of the most invidious motivations on the part of the President himself, his campaign, his adviser, and his Twitter feed will render an otherwise valid exercise of this power invalid." And I had concluded the post by describing "the incompetent malevolence with which this order was promulgated."

You read that correctly: The President of the United States was tweeting approvingly an article describing his motivations as "invidious" and describing his actions using the phrase "incompetent malevolence."

Had he even read the article, I wondered? Almost surely not, as it turned out. The explanation for how a quotation from Lawfare and from me—a person whose enthusiasm for the Trump administration is, shall we say, under control—ended up in Trump's Twitter feed emerged quickly enough. Within a few minutes, the redoubtable Cody Poplin had tweeted that the Morning Joe show on MSNBC had featured the exact same quotation shortly before Trump's tweet:

I've been thinking about this sequence of events all day—and it's a disturbing one, albeit in an amusing and harmless context:

  • The President saw a single line of an article on a television show.
  • He tweeted that single line with apparently no idea who the author was or what the publication was, and indeed without reading the rest of the article.
  • Nobody in the White House vetted the tweet to discover the readily apparent fact that the article in question sharply criticized the President and supported the decision about which he was angrily complaining.
  • Nobody warned the President that the article was written by an author who had written numerous other articles ungraced by pleasant words about him—indeed, an author who has been calling him a threat to national security for nearly a year.
  • Nobody warned the President that the site he was about to praise has had a great deal of such writing by other writers as well.

It is a portrait in inconsequential and comical miniature of the incompetence and dysfunction we've been seeing since day one of the Trump Administration. It's the incompetence I wrote about the day after the executive order itself emerged with virtually no vetting. It's also the ineptitude or irrelevance of the White House Counsel that Jack Goldsmith has pointed out:

One person who must bear responsibility for the awful rollout of the EO is White House Counsel Donald McGahn.  The White House Counsel is charged with (among other things) ensuring proper inter-agency coordination on important legal policies and with protecting the President from legal fallout.  McGahn should have anticipated and corrected in advance the many foreseeable problems with the manner in which the EO was rolled out.  And he should have advised the President after his first anti-Robart tweet, and after the other more aggressive ones, that the tweets were hurting the President’s legal cause. 

If McGahn did not do these things, he is incompetent, and perhaps we can attribute impulsive incompetence to the President.  But if McGahn did do these things—if he tried to put the brakes on the EO, and if he warned his client about the adverse impact of his tweets—then he has shockingly little influence with the President and within the White House (i.e. he is ineffectual).

This is not how the White House is supposed to work. Whole aparatuses are supposed to be there to protect the President from sending out unvetted executive orders, tweeting attacks on federal judges that hurt the government's chances of prevailing in court, and yes, even from tweeting articles he hasn't read and that don't say what he thinks they say. 

Think about it this way: If the Trump White House is so incompetent that it is citing my work by accident, how on earth can we trust it to handle North Korea?


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1629 days ago
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
1630 days ago
“If the Trump White House is so incompetent that it is citing my work by accident, how on earth can we trust it to handle North Korea?”
Washington, DC
1629 days ago
1628 days ago
That's the whole thing in a nutshell.
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