Photo of the day

Had an amazing time visiting Catawba Falls near Asheville yesterday.  Soooo cool.  My photos cannot come close to doing it justice.  I do love using slow shutter on waterfalls, though.  So…

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Apparently, not only does Portugal provide a nice lesson in drug legalization it also provides an object lesson in what happens when you don’t have net neutrality.

2) Farhad Manjoo says it’s time for twitter to radically re-think its rules to make the service better and get rid off all the trolls, Russian bots, etc.:

It ought to consider a radical, top-to-bottom change like this: Instead of awarding blue checks to people who achieve some arbitrary level of real-world renown, the company should issue badges of status or of shame based on signals about how people actually use, or abuse, Twitter. In other words, Twitter should begin to think of itself, and its users, as a community, and it should look to the community for determining the rights of people on the platform.

Is someone making a positive contribution to the service, for example by posting well-liked content and engaging in meaningful conversations? Is an account repeatedly spreading misinformation? Is it promoting or participating in online mobs, especially mobs directed at people with fewer followers? Did it just sign up two days ago? Is it acting more like a bot than a human? Are most of its tweets anti-Semitic memes? Can the account be validated with other markers of online reputation — a Facebook account or a LinkedIn profile, for instance? And on and on.

Twitter should not just embrace such reputational guidelines, it should make them transparent and meaningful. If you’re new to Twitter, or if you’ve repeatedly flouted its community rules, your rights on the platform would be circumscribed.

3) I gotta say, these four “well-being workouts” sound pretty good to me.  Already onto the gratitude thing.  And totally used the “respond constructively” when talking with my wife today.  Really going to work on that one.

4) SACS, the organization that accredits colleges and universities in the Southeast (including my own), has shown itself to be almost as much of a joke as the NCAA, when it comes to the fake classes at UNC scandal.  I honestly waste countless hours every year due to NC State jumping through hoops for SACS (my job to jump through the hoops for the PS department).  I’m so bringing up this article next time accreditation comes up at our college meeting.

5) I really need to read this book by a Political Scientist on the origins of human civilization (or, at least, DJC needs to read it and let me know if I need to).

James Scott

I’d say two things. The first is that once we had sedentary agriculture, we then had investment in land and therefore property that could be taxed. We then had the basis for inherited property and thus the basis for passing wealth from one generation to another.

Now, all that matters because it led to these embedded inequalities that were enforced by the state protection of property. This wasn’t true for hunter and gatherer societies, which regarded all property as common property to which everyone in the tribe had equal access. So the early agricultural societies created the basis for systematic class distinctions that could be perpetuated between generations, and that’s how you get the kinds of massive hierarchies and inequalities we see today.

6) The war we have on the poor is one of the most disgusting aspects of modern America.  Now, we’re even making it harder for poor people to vote.  Ugh.

7) Pretty much every single survey of actual economists finds almost perfect consensus that the Republican tax cut plan is bad for the economy.  Not that they care.

8) Tim Wu on how the courts will need to save net neutrality.

9) Derek Thompson on the Republican war on college, “For the cost of cutting corporate income taxes, the U.S. could provide universal pre-K and make tuition free at public colleges for nonaffluent students.”

10) Really enjoyed this essay on the “politicization of junk” (though, I quite like Papa John’s pizza and it’s sweet sauce and chewy crust):

By Monday, after Keurig’s executives had seen the plastic bits of their machines strewn across social media, the company’s C.E.O. circulated a memo to employees, which was leaked to the Washington Post, in which he wrote that “the decision to publicly communicate our programming decision via our Twitter account . . . gave the appearance of ‘taking sides’ in an emotionally charged debate.” In other words, someone at Keurig had messed up by telling the world that the company felt some concern about running ads between segments in which a TV host appeared to be coming to the defense of an alleged sexual predator.

You could smell the brand fear in the statement, that special tang that a company gives off as it watches some evocative skirmish in the culture war dice up its demographic and carve off a portion of its customer base. Yet, with this statement, in which Keurig seemed to lament its temporary display of empathy and humanity, the company executed what has lately become a common corporate double blunder: enraging a very vocal handful of social-media users on one end of the political spectrum; then, mistaking that cohort for a larger subsection of its customers, rushing to placate the extremists, and, in so doing, alienating a group far larger than the one it initially offended.

Before Keurig, it was the pizza company Papa John’s that, by its own doing, managed a version of the identity-politics double screwup. The company’s founder and C.E.O., John Schnatter, attempting to justify a bad quarterly earnings report, blamed decreased Papa John’s sales on the poor ratings performance of the N.F.L., with which it advertises, specifically criticizing the league commissioner for allowing the player protests during the national anthem to continue…

Trump, meanwhile, that brazen purveyor of American crapola—of mail-order steaks and lousy wine and bullshit diplomas—has recognized this as well, managing the Presidency as an extension of the Trump brand, in which all attention is good attention, and rallying his supporters to demonstrate their affection for him by patronizing certain companies, and their disdain for his detractors by boycotting Starbucks, or boycotting Nordstrom, or boycotting the N.F.L. In his Keurig video, Snoop Bailey is selling something, too. Before he busts up his coffeemaker, he touts the qualities of the golf club he’s using, and then later instructs his viewers to buy a competing brand of coffee, one that’s owned by military veterans. What looks at first like a strange act of suburban rage is really just another commercial.

11) This article on trying to take on the problem of sexual harassment is really good.  It is hindered by the fact that the French see Anglo culture as too prudish.  They are right.  Alas, that has led them to be wrong about sexual harassment.

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