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Links: July 2016


There’s nothing wrong with walled gardens. They’re safe spaces. They take care of your enjoyment and entertainment, so you don’t have to.

But there also a bit boring. I certainly don’t relish the idea of spending my days within the boundaries of someone else’s vision.

There’s a different kind of garden. It takes its name from another short story by Borges.

The Garden of Forking Paths. It is uncontrolled. It is full of possibilities. It’s a bit scary. It takes more dedication to explore. You might get lost. But is that so bad? When was the last time you were truly lost on the World Wide Web, when you clicked through link after link—no cheating by opening new tabs, now—until you ended up somewhere, blinking and asking yourself “what I was looking for?”

I would like us all to spend more time in the garden of forking paths. I would like us all to continue to grow this garden of forking paths. Add your own website to this garden of forking paths. Use it to make more links.

Donald Trump’s Social Media Ties to White Supremacists

Since the start of his campaign, Donald Trump has retweeted at least 75 users who follow at least three of the top 50 #WhiteGenocide influencers. Moreover, a majority of these retweeted accounts are themselves followed by more than 100 #WhiteGenocide influencers.

Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech

We are used to the idea of bootstrapping ourselves into a position of maximum leverage before tackling a problem.

In the real world, this has led to a pathology where the tech sector maximizes its own comfort. You don’t have to go far to see this. Hop on BART after the conference and take a look at Oakland, or take a stroll through downtown San Francisco and try to persuade yourself you’re in the heart of a boom that has lasted for forty years. You’ll see a residential theme park for tech workers, surrounded by areas of poverty and misery that have seen no benefit and ample harm from our presence. We pretend that by maximizing our convenience and productivity, we’re hastening the day when we finally make life better for all those other people.

Machine learning is like money laundering for bias. It’s a clean, mathematical apparatus that gives the status quo the aura of logical inevitability. The numbers don’t lie.

Those who benefit from the death of privacy attempt to frame our subjugation in terms of freedom, just like early factory owners talked about the sanctity of contract law. They insisted that a worker should have the right to agree to anything, from sixteen-hour days to unsafe working conditions, as if factory owners and workers were on an equal footing.

Companies that perform surveillance are attempting the same mental trick. They assert that we freely share our data in return for valuable services. But opting out of surveillance capitalism is like opting out of electricity, or cooked foods—you are free to do it in theory. In practice, it will upend your life.

When we talk about the moral economy of tech, we must confront the fact that we have created a powerful tool of social control.

We should not listen to people who promise to make Mars safe for human habitation, until we have seen them make Oakland safe for human habitation. We should be skeptical of promises to revolutionize transportation from people who can’t fix BART, or have never taken BART. And if Google offers to make us immortal, we should check first to make sure we’ll have someplace to live.


Our war on drugs casts such a wide net that even easily verifiable innocence won’t necessarily keep you out of jail.

There are no established error rates for the field tests, in part because their accuracy varies so widely depending on who is using them and how. Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab system show that 21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all. In one notable Florida episode, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies produced 15 false positives for methamphetamine in the first seven months of 2014. When we examined the department’s records, they showed that officers, faced with somewhat ambiguous directions on the pouches, had simply misunderstood which colors indicated a positive result.

Since 1980, spending on prisons has grown three times as much as spending on public education

We’re better than this. We have to be.

The Horrific, Predictable Result of a Widely Armed Citizenry

Guns allow the fringe to occupy the center.

Jon Lajoie composes an eerie neo-folk tribute to Friday The 13th: A New Beginning

This song about one scene in Friday the 13th Part V is a rare alchemy of obsessive, funny, and bittersweet. NSFW.

Who Are All These Trump Supporters?

So the couple’s assertion was true but not complexly true. It was a nice hammer with which to pop the enemy; i.e., me. Its intent: discredit Obama and the liberal mind-set. What was my intent as I Googled? Get a hammer of my own, discredit Bush and the conservative mind-set.

Meanwhile, there sat reality: huge, ambiguous, too complicated to be usefully assessed by our prevailing mutual ambition—to fight and win, via delivery of the partisan zinger.

LeftLand and RightLand are housemates who are no longer on speaking terms. And then the house is set on fire. By Donald Trump. Good people from both subnations gape at one another through the smoke.

Above all, Trump supporters are “not politically correct,” which, as far as I can tell, means that they have a particular aversion to that psychological moment when, having thought something, you decide that it is not a good thought, and might pointlessly hurt someone’s feelings, and therefore decline to say it.

In the broadest sense, the Trump supporter might be best understood as a guy who wakes up one day in a lively, crowded house full of people, from a dream in which he was the only one living there, and then mistakes the dream for the past: a better time, manageable and orderly, during which privilege and respect came to him naturally, and he had the whole place to himself.

In the face of specificity, my interviewees began trying, really trying, to think of what would be fairest and most humane for this real person we had imaginatively conjured up. It wasn’t that we suddenly agreed, but the tone changed. We popped briefly out of zinger mode and began to have some faith in one another, a shared confidence that if we talked long enough, respectfully enough, a solution could be found that might satisfy our respective best notions of who we were.

So, yes, there are bigots in the Trump movement, and wackos, and dummies, and sometimes I had to remind myself that the important constituency is the persuadable middle segment of his supporters, who are not finding in Trump a suitable vessel for their hate but are misunderstanding him or overestimating him, and moving in his direction out of a misplaced form of hope.

In college, I was a budding Republican, an Ayn Rand acolyte. I voted for Reagan. I’d been a bad student in high school and now, in engineering school, felt (and was) academically outgunned, way behind the curve. In that state, I constructed a world view in which I was not behind the curve but ahead of it. I conjured up a set of hazy villains, who were, I can see now, externalized manifestations, imaginary versions of those who were leaving me behind; i.e., my better-prepared, more sophisticated fellow-students. They were, yes, smarter and sharper than I was (as indicated by the tests on which they were always creaming me), but I was . . . what was I? Uh, tougher, more resilient, more able to get down and dirty as needed. I distinctly remember the feeling of casting about for some world view in which my shortfall somehow constituted a hidden noble advantage.

The tragedy of the Trump movement is that one set of struggling people has been pitted against other groups of struggling people by someone who has known little struggle, at least in the material sense, and hence seems to have little empathy for anyone struggling, and even to consider struggling a symptom of weakness.

Mailer described what he called democracy’s “terrifying premise” this way: “Let the passions and cupidities and dreams and kinks and ideals and greed and hopes and foul corruptions of all men and women have their day and the world will still be better off, for there is more good than bad in the sum of us and our workings.”

The Return of Lesser Evilism

The collapse of the Republican Party and its takeover by the nativist Trump wing poses all sorts of problems, not the least of which being the high likelihood that the Democrats will now get even lazier when it comes to responding to their voters’ interests. The crazier the Republicans get, the more reflexive will be the arguments that we can’t afford any criticism of Democrats anymore, lest we invite in the Fourth Reich.

“Guns don’t kill people; people do.” OK. From 1980–2008, men committed 89.5% of US homicides. Can we talk about men?

Who Needs Convertible Slippers?

The true reinvention of slippers—or of anything—must involve the humility of acknowledging that most things precede us.

When lifestyle products have adopted the design sensibilities of technology, innovation and simplicity are supposed to blend, offering access to both efficiency and meaning all at once. But the result shares more in common with associative marketing—connecting products to lifestyle aspirations—than it does with functionalist design.

Trans Day of Revenge by G.L.O.S.S.

Heavy rotation all summer.

How Samantha Bee Crashed the Late-Night Boys’ Club

with her own show, she could create a new paradigm, one where humor doesn’t soften the blow but channels it.

Bee took the same approach to hiring writers, creating a blind application process that didn’t favor people who’d already had success. (It spelled out, for example, how scripts should look when submitted, leveling the playing field for the uninitiated.) Lo and behold, she ended up with a writers’ room that looked kind of like America: 50 percent female; 30 percent nonwhite. One of her hires had been working at the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles. “We don’t feel like we solved the diversity problem. We didn’t fix racism, quite,” Bee jokes. “I mean, we almost did. We’ll see how things pan out. I’m feeling really good about it.” Anyway, the strategy worked. “I have literally filled my office with people who have been underestimated their entire careers. To a person, we almost all fit into that category. It is so joyful to collect a group of people who nobody has ever thought could grasp the reins of something and fucking go for it.”

Gun Deaths in America

Excellent, approachable, interactive deep dive into the available data on gun deaths. As a dataset aimed at finding solutions, though, the absence of perp stats is conspicuous, and kinda victim-blamey.

Spider-Man Music 1967-69 (ALL Background Music)

Today’s soundtrack.

Mom with Breast Cancer Dreams Up ‘Glam Chemo’ Photo Project

This project is amazing, and she followed it up by becoming a 2016 @usairguitar national finalist. BEAST.

Fictive Kin

A great new design with lots of delightfully novel touches.

How to Make a Police Shooting Disappear: The Tamir Rice Story

The stomach-turning story of how the Cleveland cops that killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice avoided indictment.

Video was projected of Tamir playing with the pellet gun earlier in the day, juxtaposed with video of kids playing basketball inside the rec center. For Loehmann and Garmback, only what they knew in a single blink of time was relevant. But for the dead kid, his entire day was fair game, as was what other people were doing inside a nearby building.

Samaria Rice was the last witness to appear before the grand jury. She waited in the hallway of the courthouse while her daughter answered questions. Samaria didn’t want to tell me what her daughter was asked or how she answered, only that she was shaking when she came out. Her daughter had been there that day. Look at the video: Garmback and Loehmann watching a boy bleed to death, and she enters from the left. There’s no sound, but she’s screaming. “They killed my baby brother,” she shrieks. Garmback grabs her, takes her to the ground, handcuffs her, puts her in the back of the cruiser that’s next to her dying brother.

And sometimes, because enough time has passed and memories have gotten foggy and all the stories begin to blur together, people stop and stare and try to remember. “Oh,” they’ll say, certain but not really, “you’re Trayvon Martin’s mom.”

Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All

Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

These Oligarchs Want to Buy Your Vote. Here’s How.

A great breakdown of how the super rich funnel insane amounts of money into politics, enabled by Citizens United.

First Lady Michelle Obama Carpool Karaoke


Marvel’s Luke Cage - SDCC - Teaser

This Luke Cage trailer is such an unapologetically puerile male power fantasy, I am embarrassed on its behalf.

The End Of A Republican Party

“We have before us the task of trying to create a society of lifelong learners because people’s jobs are going to expire every three years forevermore at a pace that’s going to continue to accelerate. And so what’s the Republican’s Party solution to that? What’s the Democratic Party’s solution to that?”

The prospect that the GOP leaders wouldn’t even be able to agree on why Trump — arguably the worst crisis the modern party has experienced — was even a crisis to begin with, seemed to say it all.

I’m With The Banned — Welcome to the Scream Room

I have come to believe, in the course of our bizarro unfriendship, that Milo believes in almost nothing concrete—not even in free speech. The same is reportedly true of Trump, of people like Ann Coulter, of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage: They are pure antagonists unencumbered by any conviction apart from their personal entitlement to raw power and stacks of cash.

America is a nation eaten by its own myth. The entire idea of America is about believing impossible things. Nobody said those things had to be benign.

The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America

A 2011 audit found that landlords and leasing agents here discriminated against black and Latino renters 64 percent of the time, citing them higher rents or deposits and adding on additional fees. In area schools, African American students are suspended and expelled at a rate four to five times higher than that of their white peers.

A Renegade Muscles In on Mister Softee’s Turf

“Let me tell you about this business. Every truck has a bat inside.”

Texas Rape Victim Was Jailed for Fear She Would Not Testify, Lawsuit Says

In a year full of horrifying stories, this takes the cake. An innocent rape victim jailed to ensure her testimony.

The Nib Takes Philly

I’m really enjoying @thenib’s DNC coverage. Wish I could make it down to Philly to check out their pop-up space.

Every Dischord Record Is On Bandcamp Now

Practical SVG

Web designers: Want to know more about all the cool stuff SVG can do? Chris Coyier and A Book Apart have you covered.

MAD Remembers Jack Davis, Artist

Jack Davis is high on the list of Mad Magazine contributors who made me want to make art and make people laugh. RIP.

House Democrats are Screwed. Here’s Why.

A fantastic explainer comic from Andy Warner on how gerrymandering is keeping the GOP in control of the House.

Confessor. Feminist. Adult. What the Hell Happened to Howard Stern?

“Being a judge on ‘America’s Got Talent’ said to him, ‘You are deserving, you are legitimate.’”

This is one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever heard.

I’m glad to hear Stern is evolving, but whether it’s him or Maron or whomever, the appeal of self-loathing loudmouths probing celebs evades me.

Ready to Monday: The Band Of The Bold (part 2)

Enjoy the weekend, everyone. Here, I’ll help you get started.