Thursday, May 25, 2017

This Week’s Links

I haven’t done a link-fest in quite a while. But I’ve found a few things this week that are worthy of it.

One. James Lileks deconstructs a knee-jerk reaction.

In the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing, I’m sure we’re going to see lots of letters like the one he discusses (it’s after the short Dish Network rant). Biggest takeaway:

[From the letter] Rid your household, your neighborhood, your workplace and your place of worship of the poisonous and corrupt forces of racism and sexism and discrimination and persecution of the poor.

[From Lileks] My household, neighborhood, workplace, or place of worship may be utterly corrupted by racism and sexism, but here’s the thing: no one from any of these places has blown themselves up at a musical event popular with young girls. If you’re saying that the jihadi who killed the children was lashing out at the injustices he had observed or experienced in British culture - that is obscene. That is poisonous.

Two. Political candidate allegedly body-slams reporter, breaks glasses, gets cited for misdemeanor battery. 

A reporter from The Guardian asks a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives a question about Republican efforts to reform healthcare. A scuffle ensues. The second-biggest takeaway:

Citizens have the power to bear witness, to document, to question—and to elect—our nation’s top legislators. It’s unclear how last night’s altercation, or the recording of it, will affect the Montana election, if at all. Many voters already submitted ballots in early voting, before the alleged assault occurred. Still, the outcome of the race will offer a glimpse of how Americans perceive the status of their own rights in democratic society. The rest of us will be watching.

The biggest takeaway, taken from a scene from 1988’s criminally underrated film “Switching Channels” (no YouTube clip of this exists, except in Russian; go figure the irony on that one):

Scene setup: Roy Ridnitz, candidate for Governor of Illinois and current state’s attorney, is literally seconds away from ordering state troopers to kill two television reporters suspected of harboring a fugitive (as they stand in front of a copier* where, indeed, they have stuffed said fugitive), while scads of the reporters’ cohorts are watching, cameras rolling and penny pencils poised.

Ridnitz: One . . .

Campaign Aide: Boss, it won’t look good if you waste two news guys on television.
Ridnitz: Half of this nation will stand up and cheer. [Continues countdown] Two . . .

Aide: [Frantic whisper] NO!

I’m not condoning the alleged assault.  I wouldn’t vote for the guy in any case. What I am saying is that despite the alleged assault, I think this guy’s chances of getting elected are pretty good, given the current political climate.

Also, Switching Channels is definitely worth watching. It’s pretty hostile to politicians of every stripe and the news media. And it’s got a killer jazz tune over the ending credits.

*If you don’t believe a copier is large enough to conceal a human being in its innards, consider the following: 1. This is 1988 we’re talking about, and 2) The human is Henry Gibson.

Three.  A scientist uses science to prove ESP is real. We have to assume either 1. ESP is real, or 2. Accepted methodology and data analysis in science is pretty broken.

Daryl Bem, a researcher at Cornell University, spent ten years conducting experiments into ESP, and recently published that research. The biggest takeaway:

But for most observers, at least the mainstream ones, the paper posed a very difficult dilemma. It was both methodologically sound and logically insane. Daryl Bem had seemed to prove that time can flow in two directions—that ESP is real. If you bought into those results, you’d be admitting that much of what you understood about the universe was wrong. If you rejected them, you’d be admitting something almost as momentous: that the standard methods of psychology cannot be trusted, and that much of what gets published in the field—and thus, much of what we think we understand about the mind—could be total bunk.

They do have a video of Bem performing one of his experiments:

We need Dean Yeager to step in.

Four. Stories that consist almost entirely of tweets? No. Please no.

I know this is an entertainment piece. I don’t know how I’d report this myself. But in an industry that brought us short stories to avoid the jumps and corrections published above the tide schedules on Page 43, this jumping from page to page to read the story and then see the tweets should Stop. Right. Now. The only reason – the only reason – I can think of that a news organization would condone this kind of jumpiness would be to get around having to ask people to use their tweets. “We didn’t use your tweet, we just linked to it!” kind of thing.

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