Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Rise of Dating-App Fatigue

“Apocalypse” seems like a bit much. I thought that last fall when Vanity Fair titled Nancy Jo Sales’s article on dating apps “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse’” and I thought it again this month when Hinge, another dating app, advertised its relaunch with a site called “,” borrowing the phrase from Sales’s article, which apparently caused the company shame and was partially responsible for their effort to become, as they put it, a “relationship app.”

Despite the difficulties of modern dating, if there is an imminent apocalypse, I believe it will be spurred by something else. I don’t believe technology has distracted us from real human connection. I don’t believe hookup culture has infected our brains and turned us into soulless sex-hungry swipe monsters. And yet. It doesn’t do to pretend that dating in the app era hasn’t changed.

The gay dating app Grindr launched in 2009. Tinder arrived in 2012, and nipping at its heels came other imitators and twists on the format, like Hinge (connects you with friends of friends), Bumble (women have to message first), and others. Older online dating sites like OKCupid now have apps as well. In 2016, dating apps are old news, just an increasingly normal way to look for love and sex. The question is not if they work, because they obviously can, but how well do they work? Are they effective and enjoyable to use? Are people able to use them to get what they want? Of course, results can vary depending on what it is people want—to hook up or have casual sex, to date casually, or to date as a way of actively looking for a relationship. (...)

Sales’s article focused heavily on the negative effects of easy, on-demand sex that hookup culture prizes and dating apps readily provide. And while no one is denying the existence of fuckboys, I hear far more complaints from people who are trying to find relationships, or looking to casually date, who just find that it’s not working, or that it’s much harder than they expected.“It only has to work once, theoretically. But it feels like you have to put in a lot of swiping to get one good date.”

“I think the whole selling point with dating apps is ‘Oh, it’s so easy to find someone,’ and now that I’ve tried it, I’ve realized that’s actually not the case at all,” says my friend Ashley Fetters, a 26-year-old straight woman who is an editor at GQ in New York City.

The easiest way to meet people turns out to be a really labor-intensive and uncertain way of getting relationships. While the possibilities seem exciting at first, the effort, attention, patience, and resilience it requires can leave people frustrated and exhausted.

“It only has to work once, theoretically,” says Elizabeth Hyde, a 26-year-old bisexual law student in Indianapolis. Hyde has been using dating apps and sites on and off for six years. “But on the other hand, Tinder just doesn’t feel efficient. I’m pretty frustrated and annoyed with it because it feels like you have to put in a lot of swiping to get like one good date.”

I have a theory that this exhaustion is making dating apps worse at performing their function. When the apps were new, people were excited, and actively using them. Swiping “yes” on someone didn’t inspire the same excited queasiness that asking someone out in person does, but there was a fraction of that feeling when a match or a message popped up. Each person felt like a real possibility, rather than an abstraction.

The first Tinder date I ever went on, in 2014, became a six-month relationship. After that, my luck went downhill. In late 2014 and early 2015, I went on a handful of decent dates, some that led to more dates, some that didn’t—which is about what I feel it’s reasonable to expect from dating services. But in the past year or so, I’ve felt the gears slowly winding down, like a toy on the dregs of its batteries. I feel less motivated to message people, I get fewer messages from others than I used to, and the exchanges I do have tend to fizzle out before they become dates. The whole endeavor seems tired.

“I’m going to project a really bleak theory on you,” Fetters says. “What if everyone who was going to find a happy relationship on a dating app already did? Maybe everyone who’s on Tinder now are like the last people at the party trying to go home with someone.”

Now that the shine of novelty has worn off these apps, they aren’t fun or exciting anymore. They’ve become a normalized part of dating. There’s a sense that if you’re single, and you don’t want to be, you need to do something to change that. If you just sit on your butt and wait to see if life delivers you love, then you have no right to complain.

“Other than trying to go to a ton of community events, or hanging out at bars—I’m not really big on bars—I don’t feel like there’s other stuff to necessarily do to meet people,” Hyde says. “So it’s almost like the only recourse other than just sort of sitting around waiting for luck to strike is dating apps.”

But then, if you get tired of the apps, or have a bad experience on them, it creates this ambivalence—should you stop doing this thing that makes you unhappy or keep trying in the hopes it might yield something someday? This tension may lead to people walking a middle path—lingering on the apps while not actively using them much. I can feel myself half-assing it sometimes, for just this reason. (...)

Whenever using a technology makes people unhappy, the question is always: Is it the technology’s fault, or is it ours? Is Twitter terrible, or is it just a platform terrible people have taken advantage of? Are dating apps exhausting because of some fundamental problem with the apps, or just because dating is always frustrating and disappointing? (...)

For this story I’ve spoken with people who’ve used all manner of dating apps and sites, with varied designs. And the majority of them expressed some level of frustration with the experience, regardless of which particular products they used.

I don’t think whatever the problem is can be solved by design. Let’s move on.

It's possible dating app users are suffering from the oft-discussed paradox of choice. This is the idea that having more choices, while it may seem good… is actually bad. In the face of too many options, people freeze up. They can’t decide which of the 30 burgers on the menu they want to eat, and they can’t decide which slab of meat on Tinder they want to date. And when they do decide, they tend to be less satisfied with their choices, just thinking about all the sandwiches and girlfriends they could have had instead.

The paralysis is real: According to a 2016 study of an unnamed dating app, 49 percent of people who message a match never receive a response. That’s in cases where someone messages at all. Sometimes, Hyde says, “You match with like 20 people and nobody ever says anything.”

“There’s an illusion of plentifulness,” as Fetters put it. “It makes it look like the world is full of more single, eager people than it probably is.”

Just knowing that the apps exist, even if you don’t use them, creates the sense that there’s an ocean of easily-accessible singles that you can dip a ladle into whenever you want.

“It does raise this question of: ‘What was the app delivering all along?’” Weigel says. “And I think there's a good argument to be made that the most important thing it delivers is not a relationship, but a certain sensation that there is possibility. And that's almost more important.”

Whether someone has had luck with dating apps or not, there’s always the chance that they could. Perhaps the apps’ actual function is less important than what they signify as a totem: A pocket full of maybe that you can carry around to ward off despair.

by Julie Beck, The Atlantic |  Read more:
Image: Chelsea Beck

The Meatball or the Worm?

There's an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled “The Royale”, first aired in 1989, in which the U.S.S. Enterprise encounters a mysterious field of wreckage orbiting a distant planet. The starship's crew beams a chunk of the debris aboard, and determines that it's a fragment of the Charybdis, a vessel launched from Earth in 2037 and lost thereafter. it's easy enough to identify, because the fragment they take aboard displays two visible symbols: An American flag bearing 52 stars (putting it, they say, in the mid-21st century) and a logotype of four curvy letters reading N-A-S-A.

“The Royale” has been looping around the planet in reruns since it premiered. Richard D. James, the show's production designer, surely never imagined that his team was inadvertently setting up a big fat continuity error. But in 1992, just three years after the episode aired, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration dumped that sinuous logo and systematically began to strip it from buildings, documents, uniforms, and spacecraft, replacing it with an older insignia — nicknamed the Meatball — that the agency had retired nearly two decades before. It was a quixotically vigorous effort for something so symbolic, and the strange path that led there encounters the existential question graphic designers face: How important is what we do? And another question: How did the Meatball defeat the Worm?

by Christopher Bonanos, Standards Manual |  Read more:
Image: NASA

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Scent of Green Papaya (1993) dir. by Trần Anh Hùng


The Breeders

Panama: The Hidden Trillions

In a seminar room in Oxford, one of the reporters who worked on the Panama Papers is describing the main conclusion he drew from his months of delving into millions of leaked documents about tax evasion. “Basically, we’re the dupes in this story,” he says. “Previously, we thought that the offshore world was a shadowy, but minor, part of our economic system. What we learned from the Panama Papers is that it is the economic system.”

Luke Harding, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, was in Oxford to talk about his work as one of four hundred–odd journalists around the world who had access to the 2.6 terabytes of information about tax havens—the so-called Panama Papers—that were revealed to the world in simultaneous publication in eighty countries this spring. “The economic system is, basically, that the rich and the powerful exited long ago from the messy business of paying tax,” Harding told an audience of academics and research students. “They don’t pay tax anymore, and they haven’t paid tax for quite a long time. We pay tax, but they don’t pay tax. The burden of taxation has moved inexorably away from multinational companies and rich people to ordinary people.”

The extraordinary material in the documents drew the curtain back on a world of secretive tax planning, just as WikiLeaks had revealed the backroom chatter of diplomats and Edward Snowden had shown how intelligence agencies could routinely scoop up vast server farms of data on entire populations. The Panama Papers—a name chosen for its echoes of Daniel Ellsberg’s 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers—unveiled how a great many rich individuals used one Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca (“Mossfon” for short), to shield their money from prying eyes, whether it was tax authorities, law enforcement agencies, or vengeful former spouses.

Tax havens are supposed to be secret. Mossfon itself, for instance, only knew the true identity of the beneficial owner—a person who enjoys the benefits of ownership even though title to the company is in another name—of 204 Seychelles companies out of 14,000 it operated at any one time. The Panama leak blew open that omertà in a quite spectacular fashion. The anonymous source somehow had access to the Mossfon financial records and leaked virtually every one over the firm’s forty years of existence—handing to reporters some 11.5 million documents. By comparison the Pentagon Papers—the top-secret Vietnam War dossier leaked to The New York Times by Ellsberg—was around seven thousand pages. Harding estimates that it would take one person twenty-seven years to read through the entire Panama Papers.

Why did the source leak the papers? In a two-thousand-word manifesto published after the publication of the main material, he or she claimed to be motivated by exposing income inequality—and the way in which the “wealth management” industry had financed crime, war, drug dealing, and fraud on a grand scale.

“I decided to expose Mossack Fonseca because I thought its founders, employees and clients should have to answer for their roles in these crimes, only some of which have come to light thus far,” he or she wrote. “It will take years, possibly decades, for the full extent of the firm’s sordid acts to become known. In the meantime, a new global debate has started, which is encouraging.” (...)

By the end of 1959 about $200 million was on deposit abroad. By 1961 the total had hit $3 billion, by which time offshore financial engineering “was spreading to Zurich, the Caribbean, and beyond” as jurisdiction after jurisdiction got in on the game. Today, the economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that there is $7.6 trillion of household wealth in tax havens globally—around 8 percent of the world’s wealth.

Ronen Palan, professor of international politics at City University London, describes the birth of tax havens in a similar way in his The Offshore World (2003), a process that took about ten years. “These satellites of the City were simply booking offices: semifictional way stations on secretive pathways through the accountants’ workbooks,” writes Shaxson. “But these fast-growing, freewheeling hide-holes helped the world’s wealthiest individuals and corporations, especially the banks, to grow faster than their more heavily regulated onshore counterparts.”

Thus began a race to the deregulatory bottom. Each time one haven changes its laws to attract more funds, the rival havens have to respond. “This race has an unforgiving internal logic,” writes Shaxson.
You deregulate—then when someone else catches up with you, you must deregulate some more, to stop the money from running away.
He describes how the US eventually found it impossible to resist the lure of hot money, with a gradual blurring of the onshore and offshore escape routes from financial regulation. The end result is as described by Harding: the offshore world becomes inextricably embedded in the global political economy.

by Alan Rusbridger, NYRB | Read more:
Image: via:

Dazzle Speaks with the Dead

So much to be scared about and so little time to understand—isn’t that what life’s really about... ? And then, just when we start to understand a tiny bit of it? We’re suddenly dragged off to some other meaningless form of nonexistence altogether.”

Dazzle was neither a mystical nor a metaphysical sort of dog. He didn’t believe in karma, redemption, the transcendental ego, or the immanence of Platonic forms. For Dazzle, the world was a meaningless and immutable mess—and the byproduct of entirely material insufficiencies. Not enough bones to go around, say. Or people with too many weapons living next door to people without any. So it came as something of a surprise when Dazzle developed, late in life, a gift for speaking with the dead. He had never sought out such a gift, but once it came his way, he lived with it the best that he could.

“I want to tell her that I’m sorry I didn’t clean the bowl more often, or show her enough attention, especially when I was working,” Mr. Lapidus confessed to Dazzle in the sandalwood-scented Comfort-Room of Madame Velma’s Spiritual Contact Center, the longest-functioning spiritual arts shop on the central coast. “I meant to clean it more often, but I never did. And I wish I’d been more affectionate. I don’t know how affectionate I could’ve been with a goldfish, but I should’ve at least made more of an effort. I’m just not the sort of person who develops healthy emotional connections with other creatures, probably because I didn’t know my father when I was little. Other little boys had fathers to play with but I never did.”

Dazzle was accustomed to the weeping, the frantic hand-wringing, and the physical convulsions that manifested human remorse. But if he lived to be a thousand, he would never grow accustomed to the preposterous get-up that Madame Velma insisted he wear each morning while “serving” customers: the multicolored scarves layering his forehead like the turban of some furry Sikh, or the silver-painted bracelets chiming loosely from his neck and ankles, making him feel like a cheap whore at a carnival.

Sitting on a rickety wooden stool behind an even ricketier card table, Dazzle took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and placed his callused paws against the sides of his gloaming, Taiwanese-manufactured crystal ball.

Shhhh,” Dazzle breathed softly. “Somebody’s trying to speak.”

Mr. Lapidus, wringing his large pale sweaty hands, hunched closer.

“Yes, I’m listening,” Dazzle whispered. “Speak louder, please. Your name’s Fishface and you’re lonely. Your name’s Fishface and you’re trying to find a path into the next world.”

Mr. Lapidus blew his nose into a moppy clump of Kleenex, his eyes round and wide.

“Have you found my beloved Fishface?” he asked. “How did you know her name? What’s she trying to say?”

Dazzle cautioned Mr. Lapidus with his half-lidded eyes.

“Life was hard,” Dazzle confirmed. The spectral presence appeared in Dazzle’s ambient perception like a blip on a sonar screen, a spiny blur of incoherency and loss. “It was cold and round and came up hard from every direction. It yielded nothing but the minimal reflections of yourself.”

Mr. Lapidus stopped crying and sat up straight. He could feel the presence too. Or maybe he could just feel Dazzle feeling it.

“And now all you’re looking for is peace,” Dazzle continued, trying not to look directly at Mr. Lapidus. “You aren’t interested in what this lonely man wants from you. You just want to get as far away from his big, emotionally obsessed moon-face as you can get.”

Since appointing Dazzle her Apprentice-Medium-in-Training, Madame Velma had departed to Club Med with a Dominican leaf-blower named Hymie Sanchez. But not before signing over the DBAs to her financial manager, and opening an online account at the downtown Albertsons, where Dazzle could purchase home-delivered dog food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and an occasional mixed-case of Côtes du Rhône or Beaujolais nouveau—which proved especially useful in helping Dazzle unwind after a long day communing with the cosmos.

“They don’t care one whit about their recently departed,” Madame Velma assured him during their weekly phone conference, her voice suffused with the immanent echoey rush of waves on what Dazzle envisioned as a white, shell-less beach framed by blue sky and bluer water. “They just can’t stand being disobeyed. People develop an unnatural attachment to pets, mainly on account of pets got no say in the matter. Go there, sit here, eat this, sleep on the floor, get in the cage, stop growling—people get what they want from the human-beast dynamic, and that’s extremely satisfying to the sorts of fragile egos that need pets. But when a pet dies, it issues the only independent statement it ever makes, as in: ‘Good riddance, pal! Take your catnip toys and doggy treats and shove ’em straight up your you-know-what!’ It’s like primal disobedience at the cellular level. For pet-lovers, it sends their self-images into a state of shock. Suddenly, their pets have become as indifferent to their happiness as everybody else.”

Since developing an evening regimen of lapping moderately priced wine from a plastic dog bowl, Dazzle had grown about as mellow as he was likely to get.

“I’m cool on the whole over-the-top emotional crisis deal,” he said, kicking back on Madame Velma’s corrugated blue sofa amongst the burbling lava lamps and steadily glimmering Hummels. “I’m even cool with the neediness, the endless litany of personal regret, and the desperate post-midnight pleading for emotional guidance when, jeez, you know me, Velma. I don’t care what happens to human beings—I really don’t. But the part that drives me most crazy is that here I sit, day after day, listening to one homo-sap after another begging me to contact their departed loved ones, and then, when I do make contact? They’re not interested in what their loved ones are trying to say. They just carry on whining about what they’re feeling, and their pain, as if the entire spiritual universe is all about them.”

Unlike Dazzle, who tended to worry too hard about things, Madame Velma was more the carpe-diem type personality. Which was probably why her voice faded away into the distant rush of waves whenever Dazzle’s voice grew most distraught.

Te amo, mamacita,” a swarthy-sounding Latin voice whispered in the staticky background, as rhythmic and self-sustaining as the tides of St. Tropez. “Te amo all the time.”

But if Dazzle waited long enough, Velma either hung up the phone, or reemerged from what sounded like a long kiss.

“You’ve got a gift, Daz,” Madame Velma would conclude, “whether you like it or not. Me, I was a total charlatan, with all those spooky hidden tape machines and wobbly floorboards hooked to remote controls and so forth. But I know a good soul when I meet one, and one of those good souls happens to be yours. So do what your gift tells you, honey, and always remember the most important part of spiritual-arts services: we take cash, money orders, and American Express, but never Visa. Those Visa pricks keep hitting us with surcharges, and if there’s one thing that pisses off Madame Velma, it’s lining pockets that aren’t hers.”

by Scott Bradfield, The Baffler |  Read more:
Image: Michael Olivo 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Taj Mahal

Los Angeles, Ca 2014

Fernwood 2 Night

[ed. I've been trying to find this old series on dvd for years and just stumbled across it this morning on YouTube. Martin Mull and Fred Willard, what a great pairing. Here's a short history of the show and a couple of classics: Nude Dude Ranch and UFO Alien Abduction.]

Why Iceland is the Best Place in the World to be a Woman

[ed. See also (this is exciting!): Iceland election could propel radical Pirate party into power.]

Rebekka is so tiny that, even on her tiptoes, arms aloft, she cannot reach. So her teacher lifts her up to the unvarnished wooden monkey bar. “One, two, three,” her classmates count. She hangs on, determinedly. When she reaches 10, she jumps to the ground. “I am strong,” she shouts proudly.

It’s an ordinary morning for this single-sex class of three-year-olds at Laufásborg nursery school in Reykjavik. No dolls or cup-cake decorating on the lesson plan here. Instead, as Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir, the school’s founder, tells me: “We are training [our girls] to use their voice. We are training them in physical strength. We are training them in courage.”

It’s a fascinating approach to education. And a popular one. In a country of only 330,000 people, there are 19 such primary and nursery schools, empowering girls from an early age.

For the past six years, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index and looks likely to do so again this week. The Economist recently named Iceland the world’s best place for working women – in comparison, the UK came in at No. 24. Ólafsdóttir’s philosophy seems to sit well with the nation’s progressive accomplishments, but her network of schools has been going for less than 20 years. So, if preschoolers trained in feminism aren’t the reason for this gender success story, what is?

History may provide us with clues. For centuries, this seafaring nation’s women stayed at home as their husbands traversed the oceans. Without men at home, women played the roles of farmer, hunter, architect, builder. They managed household finances and were crucial to the country’s ability to prosper.

By 1975, Icelandic women were fed up. It wasn’t just that they weren’t being properly paid for their labour, they also were sick of their lack of political representation: only nine women had ever won seats in parliament. So, against the backdrop of the global feminist movement, Iceland’s women decided to take things into their own hands.

An outpouring of women on to the streets was, by then, a well-trodden form of activism. In 1970, tens of thousands of women had protested on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In the UK, that same year, 20,000 women marched in Leeds against discriminatory wages. But what made Iceland’s day of protest on 24 October 1975 so effective was the number of women who participated. It was not just the impact of 25,000 women – which, at the time, was a fifth of the female population – that gathered on the streets of Reykjavik, but the 90% of Iceland’s female population who went on all-out professional and domestic strike. Teachers, nurses, office workers, housewives put down tools and didn’t go to work, provide childcare or even cook in their kitchens. All to prove how indispensable they were.

Thordis Loa Thorhallsdottir, CEO of a tourism company, was on the streets that day: “I was 10 at the time, and I remember it very clearly, standing there with my mother, fighting. I can still feel the crowd and the power that was there. The big message was that if women don’t work, the whole community is paralysed – the whole society.”

Grassroots activism at such a scale unsurprisingly had a significant material impact. Within five years, the country had the world’s first democratically elected female president – Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Now in her 80s, this steely-eyed powerhouse tells me of the impact that day of protest had on her own career trajectory.

“I would never have been elected in 1980 if it hadn’t been for the women’s day of action … because when my predecessor announced that he was not going to stand again, the voices were immediately heard: now we have to have a woman among the candidates.”

Other landmarks soon followed. An all-female political party – the Women’s Alliance – was established. More women were elected to parliament; by 1999, more than a third of MPs were women.

And then, in 2000, parental leave legislation came into effect: which every person I spoke to highlighted this moment as key to Iceland’s march to the top of the gender-equality table. Today, every parent receives three months’ paid leave that is non-transferable. Parents then have an additional three months to share as they like.

Because the pay is significant – 80% of salary up to a ceiling of £2,300 a month – and because it’s on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, 90% of Icelandic fathers take up their paternal leave. This piece of social engineering has had a profound impact on men as well as women. Not only do women return to work after giving birth faster than before, they return to their pre-childbirth working hours faster, too. Research shows that, after taking the three months’ leave, fathers continue to be significantly more involved in childcare and do more housework. Sharing the parental responsibilities and chores from the beginning, it seems, makes a difference.

“It’s a good place to be a woman,” says Thorhallsdottir. And it is. Almost 80% of Icelandic women work. Thanks to mandatory quotas, almost half of board members of listed companies are now women, while 65% of Iceland’s university students and 41% of MPs are female.

by Noreena Hertz, The Guardian | Read more:
Image:Nicholas Rhodes/Corbis via Getty Images

Monday, October 24, 2016

How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

It was January 1975, and the Watergate Babies had arrived in Washington looking for blood. The Watergate Babies—as the recently elected Democratic congressmen were known—were young, idealistic liberals who had been swept into office on a promise to clean up government, end the war in Vietnam, and rid the nation’s capital of the kind of corruption and dirty politics the Nixon White House had wrought. Richard Nixon himself had resigned just a few months earlier in August. But the Watergate Babies didn’t just campaign against Nixon; they took on the Democratic establishment, too. Newly elected Representative George Miller of California, then just 29 years old, announced, “We came here to take the Bastille.”

One of their first targets was an old man from Texarkana: a former cotton tenant farmer named Wright Patman who had served in Congress since 1929. He was also the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Banking and Currency and had been for more than a decade. Antiwar liberal reformers realized that the key to power in Congress was through the committee system; being the chairman of a powerful committee meant having control over the flow of legislation. The problem was: Chairmen were selected based on their length of service. So liberal reformers already in office, buttressed by the Watergate Babies’ votes, demanded that the committee chairmen be picked by a full Democratic-caucus vote instead.

Ironically, as chairman of the Banking Committee, Patman had been the first Democrat to investigate the Watergate scandal. But he was vulnerable to the new crowd he had helped usher in. He was old; they were young. He had supported segregation in the past and the war in Vietnam; they were vehemently against both. Patman had never gone to college and had been a crusading economic populist during the Great Depression; the Watergate Babies were weaned on campus politics, television, and affluence.

What’s more, the new members were antiwar, not necessarily anti-bank. “Our generation did not know the Depression,” then-Representative Paul Tsongas said. “The populism of the 1930s doesn’t really apply to the 1970s,” argued Pete Stark, a new California member who launched his political career by affixing a giant peace sign onto the roof of the bank he owned.

In reality, while the Watergate Babies provided the numbers needed to eject him, it was actually Patman’s Banking Committee colleagues who orchestrated his ouster. For more than a decade, Patman had represented a Democratic political tradition stretching back to Thomas Jefferson, an alliance of the agrarian South and the West against Northeastern capital. For decades, Patman had sought to hold financial power in check, investigating corporate monopolies, high interest rates, the Federal Reserve, and big banks. And the banking allies on the committee had had enough of Patman’s hostility to Wall Street.

Over the years, Patman had upset these members by blocking bank mergers and going after financial power. As famed muckraking columnist Drew Pearson put it: Patman “committed one cardinal sin as chairman. ... He wants to investigate the big bankers.” And so, it was the older bank allies who truly ensured that Patman would go down. In 1975, these bank-friendly Democrats spread the rumor that Patman was an autocratic chairman biased against junior congressmen. To new members eager to participate in policymaking, this was a searing indictment.

The campaign to oust Patman was brief and savage. Michigan’s Bob Carr, a member of the 1975 class, told me the main charge against Patman was that he was an incompetent chairman (a charge with which the nonprofit Common Cause agreed). One of the revolt’s leaders, Edward Pattison, actually felt warmly toward Patman and his legendary populist career. But, “there was just a feeling that he had lost control of his committee.”

Not all on the left were swayed. Barbara Jordan, the renowned representative from Texas, spoke eloquently in Patman’s defense. Ralph Nader raged at the betrayal of a warrior against corporate power. And California’s Henry Waxman, one of the few populist Watergate Babies, broke with his class, puzzled by all the liberals who opposed Patman’s chairmanship. Still, Patman was crushed. Of the three chairmen who fell, Patman lost by the biggest margin. A week later, the bank-friendly members of the committee completed their takeover. Leonor Sullivan—a Missouri populist, the only woman on the Banking Committee, and the author of the Fair Credit Reporting Act—was removed from her position as the subcommittee chair in revenge for her support of Patman. “A revolution has occurred,” noted The Washington Post. The Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public.

Indeed, a revolution had occurred. But the contours of that revolution would not be clear for decades. In 1974, young liberals did not perceive financial power as a threat, having grown up in a world where banks and big business were largely kept under control. It was the government—through Vietnam, Nixon, and executive power—that organized the political spectrum. By 1975, liberalism meant, as Carr put it, “where you were on issues like civil rights and the war in Vietnam.” With the exception of a few new members, like Miller and Waxman, suspicion of finance as a part of liberalism had vanished.

Over the next 40 years, this Democratic generation fundamentally altered American politics. They restructured “campaign finance, party nominations, government transparency, and congressional organization.” They took on domestic violence, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, and sexual harassment. They jettisoned many racially and culturally authoritarian traditions. They produced Bill Clinton’s presidency directly, and in many ways, they shaped President Barack Obama’s.

The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump. (...)

For most Americans, the institutions that touch their lives are unreachable. Americans get broadband through Comcast, their internet through Google, their seeds and chemicals through Monsanto. They sell their grain through Cargill and buy everything from books to lawnmowers through Amazon. Open markets are gone, replaced by a handful of corporate giants. Political groups associated with Koch Industries have a larger budget than either political party, and there is no faith in what was once the most democratically responsive part of government: Congress. Steeped in centralized power and mistrust, Americans must now confront Donald Trump, the loudest and most grotesque symbol of authoritarianism in politics today.

“This,” wrote Robert Kagan in The Washington Post, “is how fascism comes to America.” The nation is awash in commentary and fear over the current cultural moment. “America is a breeding ground for tyranny,” wrote Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine. Yet, Trump’s emergence would not be a surprise to someone like Patman, or to most New Dealers. They would note that the real-estate mogul’s authoritarianism is not new in American culture; it is ubiquitous. It is consistent with how the commercial sphere has developed since the 1970s. Americans feel a lack of control: They are at the mercy of distant forces, their livelihoods dependent on the arbitrary whims of power. Patman once attacked chain stores as un-American, saying, “We, the American people, want no part of monopolistic dictatorship in … American business.” Having yielded to monopolies in business, the nation must now face the un-American threat to democracy Patman warned they would sow.

by Matt Stoller, The Atlantic |  Read more:
Image: Pete Ryan

What is Patreon?

[ed. I'd never heard about Patreon until today. According to their website: "Patreon is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating (webcomics, videos, songs, whatevs). Fans pay a few bucks per month OR per post you release, and then you get paid every month, or every time you release something new."

I don't know. This might be totally ok. Maybe there is a large untapped market of people just chomping at the bit to become 'patrons of the arts.' I don't know, and don't really care. I am ambivalent though about the apparent proliferation of 'crowdfunding' businesses the last few years. Businesses who's principle business model seems to rely mainly on the empathy of strangers. GoFundMe is a particular head-scratcher. Here's a story from a recent Washington Post article. There's even a site dedicated to compiling stories like this called GoFraudMe. It's like an acceptable form of begging. Maybe I'll have something more lucid to say at another time, but right now I just have this kind of icky feeling. Sort of like, anything that plays on the good intentions or emotions of people is immediately suspect. But sometimes maybe not.]

As Artificial Intelligence Evolves, So Does Its Criminal Potential

Imagine receiving a phone call from your aging mother seeking your help because she has forgotten her banking password.

Except it’s not your mother. The voice on the other end of the phone call just sounds deceptively like her.

It is actually a computer-synthesized voice, a tour-de-force of artificial intelligence technology that has been crafted to make it possible for someone to masquerade via the telephone.

Such a situation is still science fiction — but just barely. It is also the future of crime.

The software components necessary to make such masking technology widely accessible are advancing rapidly. Recently, for example, DeepMind, the Alphabet subsidiary known for a program that has bested some of the top human players in the board game Go, announced that it had designed a program that “mimics any human voice and which sounds more natural than the best existing text-to-speech systems, reducing the gap with human performance by over 50 percent.”

The irony, of course, is that this year the computer security industry, with $75 billion in annual revenue, has started to talk about how machine learning and pattern recognition techniques will improve the woeful state of computer security.

But there is a downside.

“The thing people don’t get is that cybercrime is becoming automated and it is scaling exponentially,” said Marc Goodman, a law enforcement agency adviser and the author of “Future Crimes.” He added, “This is not about Matthew Broderick hacking from his basement,” a reference to the 1983 movie “War Games.”

The alarm about malevolent use of advanced artificial intelligence technologies was sounded earlier this year by James R. Clapper, the director of National Intelligence. In his annual review of security, Mr. Clapper underscored the point that while A.I. systems would make some things easier, they would also expand the vulnerabilities of the online world.

The growing sophistication of computer criminals can be seen in the evolution of attack tools like the widely used malicious program known as Blackshades, according to Mr. Goodman. The author of the program, a Swedish national, was convicted last year in the United States.

The system, which was sold widely in the computer underground, functioned as a “criminal franchise in a box,” Mr. Goodman said. It allowed users without technical skills to deploy computer ransomware or perform video or audio eavesdropping with a mouse click.

The next generation of these tools will add machine learning capabilities that have been pioneered by artificial intelligence researchers to improve the quality of machine vision, speech understanding, speech synthesis and natural language understanding. Some computer security researchers believe that digital criminals have been experimenting with the use of A.I. technologies for more than half a decade.

by John Markoff, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: via:

The Last 5 Minutes of Seahawks-Cardinals Were So Stupid, and So Fun

[ed. Gets my vote for Worst NFL Game Ever just on the number of penalties. Still, it almost seemed like a real game might break out of this slow motion car wreck at the end. Alas, it was not to be. If you were lucky enough to miss it, here's a short recap:]

Seahawks-Cardinals was the most absurd game of the 2016 NFL season. Looking at the 6-6 final score, you might assume it was really boring. And for the most part, it was! The game went to overtime, and watching it live it was hard not to assume that it was going to end in a tie given how the preceding 60 minutes had gone. Defense ruled. The Seahawks gained just 130 yards of offense in regulation. The Cardinals gained 326, but also had a punt and field goal blocked to allow the Seahawks to hang around.

Then something incredible happened late night, the type of delirious nuttiness that can only occur after you’ve been watching 13 straight hours of football and had just finally started nodding off. Both offenses sprung to life. Players made plays, coaches made weird coaching decisions, and two professional kickers missed kicks they should make more than 90 percent of the time.

Let’s pick up the action with 5:15 left to play.

by Louis Bien , SB Nation | Read more:
Image:Norm Hall/Getty Images