GameStop-Who’s Going To Be In Charge? And, Of What?

Via the WSJ via Marginal Revolution: ‘GameStop Mania Reveals Power Shift on Wall Street—and the Pros Are Reeling.’

Please, Dear Reader, think about Twitter: With your own capital investment of an average $200-400 for a mobile device, you can install Twitter’s ‘free’ (you’re the product) software onto your device. The software will access the hardware (camera, video) as well as other software, so that you can upload what you’ve recorded onto their platform. Additionally, the barrier to entry is low enough for the UI (user interface) to allow searching all kinds of topics, engaging similar users (others with the same low costs to entry).

Suddenly, many people who once needed much higher capital investment (labor costs, professional cameras, professional skills, licenses, lobbyists, lawyers etc) at least have the illusion of being in competition with many bigger players, while communicating with similar smaller ones.

Meanwhile, the programmers, developers, management, lobbyists, lawyers and politically connected people at Twitter have become new big players of a sort (while it lasts). More organized (and politically/ideologically favored) individuals and groups seem to influence more, and faster.

Analogously, in my mind, and hopefully in reality, some investor figured out that GameStop was being incorrectly valued by big players. With this knowledge, and with knowledge-sharing on a platform of smaller players, a group of people mobilized (individuals and smaller groups can’t usually compete at scale nor directly with the bigger players).

We’ve been rearranging our society and institutions around increasingly technically mediated channels, so those with more IQ capital, knowledge of hardware/software capital, and social capital are using these channels for all the other things people do: Knowledge, sex, love, friendship, power, influence, fame, pride, vanity etc.

On that note, I don’t buy into many ‘liberatory’ and leveling equality claims. We have hierarchies for lots of reasons, and we have authority for lots of reasons (hopefully legitimate authority aligned with the best among us and the best within us, constrained by the right incentives).

There’s definitely a lot of change going on right now, but how is the actual power being leveraged and authority being used?

Who’s going to be in charge? And, of what?

Personally, I would love to see alternatives to information-sharing than Twitter, possessing similar functionality, but with deeper roots to freedom of thought and expression (yeah, you’ll probably have to pay something):

Some quotations on what I’m taking to be the same old human nature:

Do you trust those following their moral lights to allow you to follow yours?

“The moral world has no particular objection to vice, but an insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name.”

William Makepeace Thackeray

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue

La Rochefoucauld

Addition:

Islamic Terrorism And A Few Thoughts On Twitter-Some Links

Because you didn’t ask, here are some links:

Orlando (Pulse Nightclub, 49 dead)

Yes, terrorism’s still a thing: 12 dead in Berlin after a truck drives through a mall

Via the AP via Reason: 13 dead and more than 50 injured as a truck plows through a crowd along Las Ramblas.

Attack In Nice Exposes Strains In Policing A Constant Threat (terrible headline). Yeah, it probably wasn’t just a ‘lone wolf.‘ Like Bataclan. Like Orlando. Like San Bernadino. Like….

Is Islam incompatibile with freedom as we define it here in the West, or is this a false choice?: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

Lawrence Wright discussed his long years reporting on Islamic terrorism (he spent some time in Egypt in his youth) at the Philadelphia Free Library. It might offer some insight.

As to Twitter, this is my semi-functional theory:

The platform selects for loud ignorance. Twitter has a significant visual component, with some textual elements, and limited characters. Around any topic, a few nodes (popular accounts) will cluster across a larger distribution. For most users, it ain’t really a place to converse, nor think too much, but rather to gain new information through the aggregation function performed by these popular nodes (especially in the political sphere).

The format rewards brevity, pith, and some wit, but also cashes in on selling the idea of influence. It’s quite a cesspool, really, and I usually feel like I’m pissing into the wind; the rewards probably not worth the costs unless one just uses Twitter as a distribution network of one’s own.

Furthermore, the most popular accounts don’t necessarily seem to be the most knowledgeable, thoughtful, nor accurate and truthful (they could be, I suppose), but rather the nodes who use the platorm most effectively, efficiently dominating information distribution; coalescing the public sentiment surrounding their topic.

You get what you pay for, I suppose.

The biases of Twitter creators and curators lean towards loud activist ignorance: In my experience as a user, I don’t know how firmly activist beliefs are held amongst actual designers and programmers at the top, but ideological capture is likely significant, especially in the administrative and bureaucratic functions.

Thus, some top-end design and aggregation, across all those different topics, pools of sentiment and individual users, is done by people who probably share a particular blend of Left-leaning moral, political and ideological views (creating special rules for special users like trans).

My biases are in view, of course: Twitter’s more about about geekier white kids wanting to hang out with cool black kids.

Welcome to the new wealthy and woke:

As previously and often posted on Silicon Valley ignorance:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

Yoram Hozany-A Religiously Conservative Point Of View And More On The Mystery Of The Moth-Eaten Marxist Coat

Where is that coat?

Podcast here.

Yoram Hozany takes two institutional data points, the NY Times and Princeton University, to argue that whatever you want to call it (‘Marxism’, ‘Neo-Marxism,’ Postmodern ‘Wokism’); these institutions increasingly have a new moral, ideological orthodoxy in place.

James Bennet resigns as the New York Times opinion editor (pushed-out, really).

Bari Weiss resigns from the New York Times opinion pages.  Her letter here.

-Even ol’ Andrew Sullivan left the NY Mag (The ‘People’s’ vox media helping to push him out)

-Over 300 Princeton faculty propose a new ‘anti-racism agenda.’

From Hazony’s reasoning then, it follows that this new moral, ideological orthodoxy is driven by committed and competing factions of radicals and true-believers, ideologically purifying towards revolutionary praxis.

It also follows that on the American political scene many moderate, opposing groups will have to deal with this new reality:  Religious believers, social conservatives, traditionalists, constitutionalists, economic conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals, moderate and reasonable liberals, and even the populist, union Left, will be in some kind of tension with this group of radicals and true-believers.

Is there some kind of New, new Left forming?:  Towards A New Center? Ted Cruz & Eric Weinstein Have A Talk-Also, Alas, The Atlantic & Let Poetry Die

Ah well, it could have been about free speech and free thought, a morally decent center, but Twitter’s more about about geekier white kids wanting to hang out with cool black kids.

Welcome to the new wealthy and woke:

Jay Z promoting his then new album alongside Marina Abramovic at MOMA, many years ago.

Cringe:

A lot of people I know resist such arguments, often because they’re caught up in the pro-Trump, anti-Trump battles of the day.  Or they’re older and can’t process the levels of institutional capture, rot and over-build we’ve got.

Or they haven’t seen the glazed eyes and closed minds up close.

If you’ve been keeping tabs on this stuff, from a perspective like mine (small ‘c’ conservative), it’s been a long, depressing ride.

Did I leave it at the Oscars?

Is the exotic Oxiris Barbot, former people’s Health Czar of New York, wearing my jacket?

Meanwhile, as for policing in Seattle, something’s always gotta change (moral progress don’t ya know), and this means always reacting against what’s here, what works, and what’s basic common sense.

Repost-Watching The Shadows Go By-A Few Links & Thoughts On Romantic Primitivism, ‘Culture’ And Political Idealism

As posted:

Just pointing out that predictions of the NY Times ending up like The Guardian are proving true.

The Guardian: Left and Far Left. Funded by deep and shallow-pocket[ed] activists (revolutionary and avant-garde thought-leaders liberating ‘The People’ from false consciousness and oppression, towards ideological and liberatory purity).

So.Much.Guardian

The NY Times: Quickly becoming like the Guardian

The Guardian (exhibit #1): Melanie Phillips was generally on the Left and was Israel-supporting. Colleagues at the Guardian saw such support as heretical, pro-colonial, pro-‘fascist’ and pro-oppressor.

Not a friendly environment:

The NY Times (exhibit #1): Bari Weis (center-Left, freer speech and thought, pro-Israel) resigns because she’s not welcome at the Ol’ Gray Lady any more. Similar pressures apply.

From her resignation letter:

‘The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people.’

The Guardian says ‘Hey:’

As for the NY Times, I think this ‘The Hunt’ piece from the Real Estate section sums up my expectations nicely.

Oh yes, it’s real:

‘As conservationists, they decorated almost exclusively with secondhand furniture. The large closets — “the biggest I’ve had in my life,” Ms. Sinclair said — have enough storage space for the craft materials she uses for her feminist tableware line, Oddtitties.us.’

Still funny in my opinion: Who reads the newspapers?

But, still to me, even funnier: Yes, that’s a Chinese brothel.

A Bill DeBlasio sighting out West? Is he still running for President?

Plot(s) of the 1st and 2nd ‘Poltergeist’ movies: A naive surburban family buys a house from greedy speculators who’ve built atop an ancient Indian burial ground. Horror unfolds as they discover the truth about their home, the past and the supernatural as they act to protect their innocent daughter.

Later, it turns out the spirits were just wayward souls moving Westward across America, having blindly followed their religious leader into a cave for eternity. Slowly they rolled a boulder over the only entrance in preparation for the coming End times.

No more sunlight.

Let’s do a quick re-write: The shabby, itinerant preacher wandering the countryside is actually just a Marxist. Released from a local university due to recent budget cuts (evil oppressors), his trust fund is nearly gone. Moving from town to town on the fringes, he seeks new acolytes to enroll in his ‘media studies’ course. Why can’t the People see the material world as it really is?

Critical theory is actually a very valuable tool, [he says].

He knows a lot about art and the avant-garde, (S)cientific progress is coming and in fact his ideas are (S)cientific, too.

‘They’ don’t want you to succeed, he says. Your identity is sacred. Liberation is next.

The Environmental End Times are nigh!

Eliminating traffic deaths to Vision Zero and creating more pedestrian safety is the current, stated goal.

DeBlasio’s managed to get money set aside for universal Pre-K as well. (the People’s future will secured through taxpayer funded health-care and education, also with real-estate money it seems).

NY times piece here on the Sandinista connection. De Blasio’s inner circle.

***Perhaps, according to a certain point of view, many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will be co-opted by the government (the De Blasio coalitions no doubt see many things this way). Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.

Walter Russell Mead had an interesting analysis a while back, on some of what’s going on in New York City, and I think the conflict between police unions and their interests on one hand, and De Blasio and his interests on the other (activist, race-based protest movements and quite far Left coalitions of ‘the People’) can help to clarify some of what’s been going on lately.

‘The good government upper middle class, the entrenched groups with a solid stake in the status quo and the marginalized working or non-working poor with no prospects for advancement apart from the patronage of the state: this is the mass base of the blue electoral coalition — and the groups in the coalition don’t seem to like each other very much.

Ties That Bind

What all three groups share is a burning desire for more: a hunger and demand for ever larger amounts of government revenue and power. Money and power for the government enable the upper middle class good government types to dream up new schemes to help us all live better lives and give government the resources for the various social, ecological and cultural transformations on the ever-expandable goo-goo to-do list that range from a global carbon tax to fair trade coffee cooperatives and the war on saturated fat. All these programs (some useful in the Via Meadia view, others much less so) require a transfer of funds and authority from society at large to well-socialized, well-credentialed and well-intentioned upper middle class types who get six figure salaries to make sure the rest of us behave in accordance with their rapidly evolving notions of correct behavior.

The Times reporters represented the goo-goos at the Bronx courthouse. Sixty years ago the reporters would have had more in common with the cops, but the professionalization of journalism has made these jobs the preserve of the college educated and the upwardly mobile in status if not so much in money.

The angry and determined unionized cops represent what used to be the heart of the blue coalition: the stable urban middle middle class. In the old days, this group included a much bigger private sector component than it does now. The disappearance of manufacturing and the decline of skilled labor in most of New York means that the middle middle class, so far as it survives, depends largely on revenue from the state. The cops, the teachers, the firefighters, the sanitation and transit workers: these are most of what remains of the backbone of what used to be the organized working class.

 

Theodore Dalrymple, Twitter Ignorance & The Latest In Titan II Living-Some Links

Rigid Diversity‘ by Theodore Dalrymple:

‘The present totalitarian threat comes not from government, as it once did, but from the universities and the intellectuals, or semi-intellectuals, that they turn out.’

Just a reminder: People who want to control how you think and feel are letting you know now how they will behave in the future.  You can’t necessarily count on institutions, politicians and authorities to maintain your freedoms, should you suddenly find intolerant people with bad ideas wielding influence over you.

The previous two cents and two cents more gets you close to a nickel: Twitter as a platform is what it is (especially good at brief bursts of condensed information, data gathering, and disasters). All you need is a device, free software to download, and voila, you’ve become a node on a vast network. This has advantages.

Communication, however, is obviously a pathetic prosthetic for human contact and real conversation.  I suspect the people curating Twitter of playing a dumb, dumb game by favoring their favored biases (like all of us, to some extent) instead of just letting speech flourish.

This creates echo-chambers.

Via David Thompson, I don’t think I’d want to live in a Titan II Missile Complex, but it’s only $495K. Get in on the ground floor, and go down from there.

As posted, Land Art is often about removing the monetary value, commodification and fungibility of a piece of art and making something big enough, weird enough, useless enough; maybe making a beautiful/ugly enough imitation of Nature or man’s design within Nature.

Here’s Wikipedia, keeping it simpler:

‘Land art, earthworks (coined by Robert Smithson), or Earth art is an art movement in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked.’

Oh, There Will Be Rules-Did You Just Disrupt Someone’s Experience?

My two cents: High-end algorithmic design and development takes a fair amount of brains.  In terms of access, we’ve gone from usenet backwaters to very popular global wave pools, disrupting many old forms of communication aggregation and technology.

Rule-making and enforcement is hard, and some of the problems found therein can bedevil anyone (political/ideological disputes, violent actors, child predators etc).  Twas ever thus.  You want the people, you get the problems.  And there are some serious f**kin’ problems.

Each one of us gets what we pay for, I suppose.  So, in choosing to use these companies’ products, each of chooses to play some part, however small.

My vague predictions: Companies tend to get co-opted by the organizational structures that have grown up within them (often run by 2nd and 3rd-raters, loud voices, and/or bureaucrats).  The best talent goes elsewhere or moves on to other problems.  Or maybe the company’s overtaken by new rivals.  Or it stagnates against new technologies. Or maybe they are made to answer other centers of power, authority, and influence.  Or….things fall apart.

Some people on the Left, feeling the pull of authoritarian undercurrents or dashed against the sharp, totalitarian edges of many others on the Left, have been the ones suggesting modeling these platforms’ speech policies on 1st amendment protections or ideas found in J.S. Mill’s thinking.

Those designs have worked much better, for much longer.

As for me, I’m not holding my breath.  I’m pretty sure I don’t trust the lifeguards at the global wave pools.

‘….disrupts people’s experience…’

Repost-It Ain’t What You Know, It’s What You Know That Ain’t So?-Eric Weinstein At the Rubin Report: The Four Kinds Of Fake News

The Two Clashing Meanings Of Free Speech-Whence Liberalism?

Repost: Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

As for truth, at least with the Weekly World News, you got the best of fakery:

batboy.gif

Bat Boy!

 

A Few Thoughts On Twitter Enforcement-Is It Politically Biased?

We all have individual biases and institutions are filled with people self-selecting towards certain biases and away from others.

A few clear rules of the road and a mission statement from the folks running Twitter enforcement would be nice.  I’m already pretty sure I don’t share many political views with the curators, but that’s fine as long as the rules are clear.

I see Twitter as a very effective, constantly updating communication channel with design elements that will likely outlive the platform. This has attracted users like me to filter information about the world (weather, humor, politics) and stolen the lunch of many older communication channels.

Twitter also highlights very difficult challenges in designing any sort of rule structure on a relatively open platform, and the costs of instant gratification through narrow communication channels.

The loudest people are often the ones who get the most attention, and they can easily traffic in very bad ideas and very bad behavior (what, you’re surprised?).

Which loud voices are being encouraged?

Here’s the most charitable information I can offer with my current lack of knowledge:

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.”  Arthur Schopenhauer

People with high IQs trained to solve problems rationally can just as easily overlook their biases as the rest of us.  People who design, engineer and maintain network systems can spend less time examining their own thinking about personal, social and political beliefs.  Each of us doesn’t know what we don’t know, but smart people, especially, can mistake specific domain knowledge for all the other knowledge contained on their platform.

I suspect there’s some capture going on with certain users and the curators of the platform, which is unsurprising.  Shallow conversations often have deeper contexts, but I find Twitter is not a great place to have deep conversations, especially about politics.

Yet, the people running the platform now have a lot of power and influence over political conversations.

Here’s what I think would be a good standard. As previously and often posted (from a reader):

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

Kasparov, Kerry, Putin & Obama?-Some Links On Ukraine

Well, not to look like too much of a dupe (me), but chess great Garry Kasparov, who has spoken-out at great personal risk for his birthplace of Azerbaijan as well as for the freedoms of all against autocracy and tyranny, has been very vocal on Twitter as to just what we’re likely dealing with in Putin:

Addition: Kasparov is a human-rights advocate having a tough time finding support against the actual force used by Putin against those supporting an independent Ukraine.  Some human-rights advocates are as close to foreign policy decisions as they’ve been in a while in the current U.S. administration.

Is there any merit in applying rational motives to Putin’s behavior?

Perhaps, if you’re in Kasparov’s shoes, no, there isn’t.  Putin’s actions should be clear enough.

Hopefully, I’m aware that many Western media outlets occupy a kind of secular-bubble within which everyone’s a potential convert to a shared set of assumptions about liberal democracy.  The spread of human-rights through international institutions is often presumed to be the natural course of events.  Apparently even Putin, China, the mullahs in Iran, and Islamic terrorists might be welcome to join as long as they agree to some basic conditions.

It’s ain’t what you know…

Moving along, here’s liberal strategist and thinker Zbigniew Brzezinski at WaPo, born in Poland, who served under Jimmy Carter (yes, Obama’s further out there than Carter, in many respects).

Putin’s actions can’t go unpunished:

‘This does not mean that the West, or the United States, should threaten war. But in the first instance, Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch’

WaPo’s editorial board wakes up to Obama’s foreign policy assumptions, at least before potentially nodding-off again.

I think it’s reasonable to expect more redlines and deadlines from the President. Economic sanctions and scrambling behind the 8-ball are par-for-the-course these days. Check out Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic’s interview with Obama.  It’s quite insightful.

My take:  This administration is deeply invested in a kind of everyone-come-to-the-table peace activism and idealism, as well as Obama’s ability to read the intentions of others using this roadmap.  I suspect he’ll likely redouble efforts for an Israel/Palestine peace process and a tentative peace-deal with the leadership in Iran, evidence to the contrary, history, strategy, peace through strength notwithstanding.  The liberal internationalists are grounding him in realpolitik to some extent, bolstering this worldview which I suspect Obama sees as quite pragmatic and middle-of-the-road.

Yes, he’ll use drones, take out Bin-Laden, and keep our security in mind, but his default position is towards an ideal of peace, not necessarily peace through strength.  His political and ideological interests are similarly aligned.

Addition: Is Putin acting to undermine his own interests quickly, more slowly?

Important to note:  American withdrawal supply lines out of Afghanistan run through Russian territory, and any possible negotiations with the Iranian leadership depends upon some Russian cooperation.

Also, what many Americans may have missed during the last election:

We need a grander strategy, from the Middle-East through Asia, though how this strategy would look, exactly, is up for debate.

————————-

Charles Hill suggests that if America doesn’t lead with a new set of challenges that face the West, then Europe surely isn’t capable of leading either.  If we don’t strike out on our own as Truman did with bold leadership after World War II, we will end a generations long experiment in American exceptionalism.  If we don’t lead, someone who doesn’t share our values, probably will.

The world can easily destabilize and get quite violent, quite quickly.

This seems to be where we are.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome

(*As for liberal democracy, my understanding is that there are many strains within it that are highly illiberal, and threaten it from within, obviously, while claiming high ideals and insisting upon utopian and big solutions to persistent problems).