“Friends” And Neighbors

Aug 20 2014 @ 10:34am
by Dish Staff


Olga Khazan highlights new Facebook-based research on users’ personalities:

For the studies, [computer scientist Andrew] Schwartz and his co-authors asked people to download a Facebook app called “My Personality.” The app asks users to take a personality test and indicate their age and gender, and then it tracks their Facebook updates. So far, 75,000 people have participated in the experiment. Then, through a process called differential language analysis, they isolate the words that are most strongly correlated with a certain gender, age, trait, or place. The resulting word clouds reveal which words are most distinguishing of, say, a woman. Or a neurotic person. In the six studies they’ve published so far, they’ve found that, for example, introverts make heavy use of emoticons and words related to anime, but extroverts say “party,” “baby,” and “ya.”

Above is the word cloud for extroverts. Facebook introverts may want to consider Nextdoor, a neighborhood-centric social network that promises more offline interaction. Ben Popper explains:

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Give ‘em Enough Rope

Aug 20 2014 @ 10:04am
by Freddie deBoer

There’s a movement afoot among writers whose work has appeared at Thought Catalog, the tween slambook of the grown-up internet. These writers are trying to have their work pulled from Thought Catalog not because the site is a disgrace but rather because ape-faced racist Gavin McInness wrote a piece justifying transphobia there.

Now, I have no problem with people trying to get their work removed from Thought Catalog. Lord knows, if there was anything on that website under my byline, I’d be working like to hell to get it pulled, transphobia or no. You don’t want to associate with McInness, I get that. But I think that we should all consider: this is the perfect example of why we shouldn’t censor and don’t need to. Go ahead and Google around or plop the link to his piece into Twitter. The large majority of the reactions he’s gotten have been some combination of anger or ridicule. His argument hasn’t gotten any traction. On the contrary: it’s gotten a lot of people talking about transphobia and how mainstream it can still be. His piece has been undone by the reaction to it. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. If we were to forbid him from expressing his opinions, we wouldn’t know how dopey he and they are.

Now Thought Catalog has pulled a pretty phony move, plastering a big disclaimer on front of their article. (After counting those sweet troll bait clicks, natch.) You can supposedly click through but I’m not able to load the actual piece that way, and had to consult a cached version. That strikes me as a weenie move; you published it, you got the attention, now leave it up for people to laugh at. And again, it’s unnecessary. I mean, this Tweet demolishes McIness in a way that’s far more effective and far more cutting than deleting his piece ever could:


Ferguson Isn’t A Black Issue

Aug 20 2014 @ 9:29am
by Dish Staff

Amy Zimmerman addresses the outcry over hip-hop stars not weighing in enough:

When a celebrity speaks out about an important issue, it increases visibility—this is a good thing. Nevertheless, the expectation that every African-American star or hip-hop hero must weigh in on Ferguson is a problematic one. Demanding that every beloved black celebrity respond to this issue would be like asking every white celebrity to take to social media whenever a white person, be they a criminal or a victim, makes the nightly news. The next time a mentally unstable white man opens fire on the public, you can be sure that the judgment of the world will fall firmly on that individual, not on Lena Dunham for failing to release a cogent and heartfelt press release.

Expecting every black celebrity with a hit single or an extensive Twitter following to address Ferguson implies that Michael Brown’s murder is a minority issue instead of a human rights one. Furthermore, demanding that any one person who is not directly implicated in the atrocity weigh in on it anyway distracts from the brave protestors, articulate journalists, and passionate public figures who are voluntarily taking on the responsibility of ensuring that Michael Brown’s prematurely silenced voice is heard.

Starving For Help

Aug 20 2014 @ 9:05am
by Dish Staff


Ty McCormick warns of an impending famine in South Sudan, where over 1 million people are already in dire need of food aid:

The origins of the food-security crisis are layered. War disrupted the planting season, not just where there was active fighting, but across the northern half of the country as farmers fled their fields in anticipation of violence. But systematic underinvestment by the South Sudanese government, which has battled numerous corruption scandals since it became independent in 2011, is also part of the equation: Roughly 90 percent of South Sudanese territory is suitable for agriculture, but only about four percent of it was being cultivated, even before the current crisis. This combination of greed, violence, and lack of capacity has proven deadly. …

Experts have yet to formally declare a famine — a step that requires rigorous analysis of food supply, malnutrition, and mortality rates and can take months to complete — but the United Nations has classified South Sudan a “level-3 emergency,” a designation it shares with only three other countries: Syria, Iraq, and the Central African Republic. But aid agencies, like UNICEF, caution against relying too heavily on formal declarations or quantitative analysis. Waiting for a famine declaration before taking action, they warn, could be catastrophic. “By the time the famine was declared in Somalia in 2011,” said Veitch, “Half of the people that would die in the famine were already dead.”

Unfortunately, Rick Noack indicates, the fact that we can see it coming doesn’t necessarily mean that donor countries will step up to prevent it:

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by Freddie deBoer

Lots of reader objections on this one:

On Snowden’s motives and capabilities:

“I do know that he’s in Russia because he’s been trapped there by our government, and that if he’s a spy, he’s gotta be the world’s worst.”

Well, you’re half right. Snowden is in Russia because that’s where he chose to go, one day after his passport was revoked. I respect the whistle-blower argument, but Snowden did much more than leak evidence of crimes and overreach by the NSA. He took those documents and fled. Unlike Chelsea Manning, who seems to have far more personal integrity than Snowden, he did not remain here to face the consequences of his actions. If he truly believed he was doing a service for the country, or the world, and was not in flagrant violation of oaths he took, he should have stood his ground here in the US, or at the very least on neutral soil, NOT left to be succored by avowed international enemies of the US.

And his actions have shown that at the very least, he is extremely naive about international relations.

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Email O’Clock

Aug 20 2014 @ 8:02am
by Dish Staff


Derek Thompson stayed up late to write an article about working late:

“It really is a global economy,” says David Mars, a New York venture capitalist. But if the pressures of globalization and a flimsy economy have endangered the set-hour workweek, mobile technology has obliterated it. In an unpublished Harvard Business School survey that I reviewed last year, American managers and workers reported that they were “on”—either working or “monitoring” work while being accessible—almost 90 hours a week. With this new denominator, email isn’t 28 percent of a 45-hour workweek. It’s 14 percent of a workweek that begins when our heads lift off the pillow and ends when we fall, face-first and exhausted, back into it. Wake-up-to-power-down is the new 9-to-5.

Getting Out The Vote In Ferguson

Aug 20 2014 @ 7:35am
by Dish Staff

Ferguson’s government is much whiter than it’s population. But Yglesias doubts that will be true for long:

Nobody who lives in the area could possibly think that local government doesn’t matter any more, and a community capable of organizing nightly protest marches should have relatively little trouble getting people to come out and vote. And if Ferguson’s African-American residents do vote, they should have relatively little trouble installing a government that hears their concerns and leans against the systemic inequities in the American criminal justice system.

In other words, the town at the center of this drama may well see a real improvement in political representation. The deeper problem is going to lie elsewhere — in the many towns large and small where people of color are a minority of eligible voters and the basis of white political power is firmer.

Friedersdorf wants recall elections:

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Digital Breaks, or “Breaks”

Aug 19 2014 @ 8:30pm
by Freddie deBoer


Exactly a year ago, David Roberts of Grist announced that he was taking an internet break, and would return on Labor Day of 2014. Roberts wrote at the time

I am burnt the fuck out.

I spend each day responding to an incoming torrent of tweets and emails. I file, I bookmark, I link, I forward, I snark and snark and snark. All day long. Then, at night, after my family’s gone to bed and the torrent has finally slowed to a trickle and I can think for more than 30 seconds at a stretch, I try to write longer, more considered pieces.

I enjoy every part of this: I enjoy sharing zingers with Twitter all day; I enjoy writing long, wonky posts at night. But the lifestyle has its drawbacks. I don’t get enough sleep, ever. I don’t have any hobbies. I’m always at work. Other than hanging out with my family, it’s pretty much all I do — stand at a computer, immersing myself in the news cycle, taking the occasional hour out to read long PDFs. I’m never disconnected.

It’s doing things to my brain.

So he elected to take a break from internet life. He’s not the first. Disconnecting from the internet has become a little genre onto its own. The most well-known of these disconnections, and the most emblematic, is that of The Verge‘s Paul Miller. And it’s emblematic precisely because of what Miller says didn’t happen– he didn’t get wiser, he didn’t get healthier. He writes,

One year ago I left the internet. I thought it was making me unproductive. I thought it lacked meaning. I thought it was “corrupting my soul.”

It’s a been a year now since I “surfed the web” or “checked my email” or “liked” anything with a figurative rather than literal thumbs up. I’ve managed to stay disconnected, just like I planned. I’m internet free.

And now I’m supposed to tell you how it solved all my problems. I’m supposed to be enlightened. I’m supposed to be more “real,” now. More perfect.

But instead it’s 8PM and I just woke up. I slept all day, woke with eight voicemails on my phone from friends and coworkers. I went to my coffee shop to consume dinner, the Knicks game, my two newspapers, and a copy of The New Yorker. And now I’m watching Toy Story while I glance occasionally at the blinking cursor in this text document, willing it to write itself, willing it to generate the epiphanies my life has failed to produce.

I didn’t want to meet this Paul at the tail end of my yearlong journey.

This, in my experience, is typical of people who have disconnected: they come back to report that in fact their online selves are more real and more fulfilling, and that really it was their doubts and dissatisfaction with the internet that had been misguided. Some go so far as to say that disconnecting is not actually possible. Miller cites Nathan Jurgensen, who has built a theory of pathology for those who advocate disconnecting. The message is clear: you can take your break, but there is no escape.

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A Better Set Of Lies

Aug 19 2014 @ 8:07pm
by Jonah Shepp

Rosie Gray flags Russia Today’s new ad campaign:

“The campaign will be comprised of several different posters, and we kicked it off with wild postings in the New York City,” RT spokespersongrid-cell-30824-1408370582-5 Anna Belkina said in an email. “Soon it will be extended to Washington, DC, and London.” … The ads feature a picture of Colin Powell with the tagline: “This is what happens when there is no second opinion. Iraq War: No WMDs, 141,802 civilian deaths. Go to RT.com for the second opinion.” Another poster says, “In case they shut us down on TV, go to RT.com for the second opinion.”

Asked whether RT believes it is in danger of being shut down on American television, Belkina provided a statement from RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan: “Alternative voices, however rare, are often met with fear, hostility and bureaucratic obstructionism in the attempt to stifle them — because they are inconvenient to the establishment. We want the viewers to know that no matter what, RT will remain THE place to go to for that second opinion.”

That’s a well-crafted message, and it illustrates one of the many ways in which the massive missteps of the Bush era are coming back to bite us.

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by Dish Staff

Josh Voorhees has suggestions. The feds could step in:

If Holder concludes that there has been a pattern of misconduct by the police—either in the lead-up to Brown’s death or in its aftermath—the president has the ability to force widespread reforms within the department with the help of a law passed in the wake of the Rodney King beating. The provision in question, part of what was officially known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, is “one of the most significant” pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the latter part of 20th century, and also one of the most “overlooked,” according to Joe Domanick, the associate director of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Center on Media, Crime, and Justice. The law gives the federal government two options: It can either formally pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Ferguson Police Department by alleging a “pattern and practice” of misconduct or the administration and city officials can enter into what is known as a “consent decree” that would mandate a specific set of reforms that would then be overseen by an independent court-appointed monitor. Faced with the possibility of a costly court battle, most cities have historically taken the path of least resistance and signed on the decree’s dotted lines. Ferguson officials probably wouldn’t buck that trend.

According to Samuel Walker, the emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, such an outcome is “the best hope we have” for turning around the troubled department. The reforms that normally accompany a consent decree “really get at the critical issue here, which is the culture of the department,” Walker says. “Day in and day out, what do officers know they have to do and what do they know that they can get away with?”

He notes that this worked for the LAPD after the Rodney King beating. Cincinnati also successfully changed:

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