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Adventures in Siri failures: Reminders edition

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by Dan Moren

So, last night, as I got back from the gym, it occurred to me that I wanted to remember to pack my podcast gear for the trip I’m going on next week. I keep a “Packing” list in the Reminders app for just such a purpose, and since I was walking around the living room and my hands were full, I tried to use Siri.

Well, that was a mistake.



Now, I use Siri to add stuff to my Shopping List in Reminders all the time, and that generally works fine. But for some reason when I tried to do the same thing here, I kept getting the same error: “Sorry, I can’t add that to your library. You don’t seem to be subscribed to Apple Music.”

This is infuriating, for a few reasons. First: What the hell about this query even remotely suggests that I’m trying to do anything with music?1 Secondly, I’m not subscribed to Apple Music, so why is that lack of a subscription interfering with something I legitimately want to do? It ticks me off to no end that a feature I don’t even use is interfering with something I want to accomplish. I get annoyed enough as it is using the Music app without Apple Music: even though I’ve turned off as much of the service as I can, it still ends up poking its head up at times. (Not to mention I feel like every time I apply an iOS update, it tries to convince me to sign up once again.)

Anyway, I tried this task six or seven times with no success. I tried changing the name of my “Packing” list to “Packing List” figuring that might be the problem—no dice. I tried both my Apple Watch and my iPhone—both gave me the same error. (And that was after multiple attempts to make sure it had heard me correctly.) Eventually I gave up and just opened the Reminders app to enter it by hand, which ended up taking far less time than all the mucking about with Siri. Isn’t it great when features that are supposed to save you time just end up wasting it?2

Epilogue: Of course, this morning I tried the same query and it worked just fine. Which is even more befuddling. But this inconsistency is a reminder that you can’t really rely on Siri, since its behavior and effectiveness often seems to change from day to day.

  1. Maybe it was getting hung up on “podcast”? Still, that seems weird.  ↩

  2. No. No it isn’t.  ↩

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5 hours ago
I am still far from convinced that voice interaction with AI assistants is the future of computing.
Los Angeles, California, USA
3 hours ago
It might be the future of the under-educated when dealing with computers, but it seems far too slow and inaccurate compared to what anyone with a modest amount of experience can do.
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Some Groups Of People Who May Not 100% Deserve Our Eternal Scorn

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Or “Contra A Convergence Of Lefty and Far-Right Twitter Making Fun Of The Same People”. I’ll mostly be using Current Affairs articles as foils, not because they’re especially bad, but because they’re especially good and well-written expressions of what many other people are saying. Sorry if this is a little snarky and maybe not 100% fair.

1. Celebrities Who Speak Out Against Donald Trump

No, celebrities are not going to single-handedly change the world. Yes, celebrities are often annoying, and almost by definition out-of-touch. Yes, a Democratic campaign needs to have some substance beyond “look, celebrities!”

But from the celebrities’ own point of view, they’re doing the best they can. If Kim Kardashian wants to help the cause, what do you expect her to do? Write policy white papers? Go door-to-door canvassing? Or would you rather she just stayed silent and didn’t do anything?

Also, I think the “out-of-touch” critique sort of misses the point. Unemployed high school dropouts aren’t going to read Paul Krugman editorials, and they might or might not go to Bernie Sanders rallies. But I guarantee they know who Kim Kardashian is. Now, maybe you don’t develop your opinions by listening to weird-looking people who seem to be famous for no reason, and maybe you’re proud of that fact. But judging by the amount of money people will pay celebrities to endorse their products, a lot of people do develop their opinions this way. And these people are probably the less-educated working-class folks whom the Democrats most need to reach.

Or maybe I’m just being classist and nobody listens to celebrities. Fine. I still think that, from the celebrities’ own point of view, speaking out against Trump and hoping it works is more virtuous than not doing that. By all means criticize tone-deaf celebrities like Lena Dunham who “help” the cause by speaking up in offensive or counterproductive ways. But criticizing celebrities’ political activism in general doesn’t seem like a good political strategy.

2. People Who Compare Political Events To Harry Potter

See eg here.

Comparing politics to your favorite legends is as old as politics and legends. Herodotus used an extended metaphor between the Persian invasions of his own time and the Trojan War. When King Edward IV took the English throne in 1461, all anybody could talk about was how it reminded them of King Arthur. John Dryden’s famous poem Absalom and Achitophel is a bizarrely complicated analogy of 17th-century English politics to an obscure Biblical story. Throughout American history people have compared King George to Pharaoh, Benedict Arnold to Judas, Abraham Lincoln to Moses, et cetera.

Well, how many people know who Achitophel is these days? Even Achilles is kind of pushing it. So we stick to what we know – and more important, what we expect everyone else will know too. And so we get Harry Potter.

“But a children’s book?” Look, guys, fantasy is what the masses actually like. They liked it in Classical Greece, where they had stories like Bellerophon riding a flying horse and fighting the Chimera. They liked it in medieval Britain, where they would talk about the Knights of the Round Table slaying dragons as they searched for the Holy Grail. The cultural norm where only kids are allowed to read fantasy guilt-free and everybody else has to read James Joyce is a weird blip in the literary record which is already being corrected. Besides, James Joyce makes for a much less interesting source of political metaphors (“The 2016 election was a lot like Finnegan’s Wake: I have no idea what just happened”)

Harry Potter is not the national mythology I would have chosen. Probably I would have gone for Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure we as a nation deserve The Silmarillion, but a man can dream.

But Harry Potter is at least better than some things (we could have ended out with our national consciousness being shaped by Twilight!), and the point is that comparing your politics to those of a more interesting fantasy world is a natural human urge and probably not indicative of some sort of horrible decay.

3. People Who Like Hamilton

See eg here.

Look. Hamilton was a pretty good Broadway play. It wasn’t the best thing that ever happened. It didn’t single-handedly reinvent America.

On the other hand, it’s also not the source of all evil. It’s not some sort of giant glowing tribute to national elitism where everyone gathers together and eats arugula and talks about how much they prefer symbolic gestures involving identity to actual systemic change. It’s just a pretty good Broadway play.

4. Vox

See eg here.

I think the main complaint is that “explaining the news” is fundamentally condescending. Real Americans personally read all 9,800 pages of Obamacare regulations before forming an opinion on health care.

Or maybe the complaint is that they’re pretending to do it from an objective point of view instead of admitting that they have a liberal bias? I will take this complaint seriously when I meet any person anywhere in the world who is not aware that Vox has a liberal bias. The aboriginal people of the North Sentinel Islands have been completely isolated from the rest of civilization for thousands of years, yet every single child in their tribe knows that Vox has a liberal bias. SETI believes that if we contact aliens, we will have to determine their language through universally known truths like prime numbers or the digits of pi, but if for some reason the aliens have different mathematics than we do, we will still be able to communicate over a shared understanding that Vox has a liberal bias.

This is fine. All attempts to explain the news are going to end up with some bias, and I’m okay with this as long as they try to minimize it, present the truth as they understand it, and give more light than heat (though see here)

And that’s where my experience with Vox has been reassuring. I’ve occasionally argued with them, or made fun of them, or SHOUTED AT THEM THAT THEY ARE SPREADING DAMNABLE LIES. And every time, I’ve been impressed by their kindness, their openness to criticism, and their willingness to pay attention to me even though I can be very annoying.

Fredrik deBoer has a theory that everybody secretly hates Ezra Klein but publicly pretends to like him because he’s powerful. And I keep wanting to protest that I like Ezra Klein, before realizing that deBoer’s theory predicts I would say that. So I’ll just add that my interactions with Klein have consisted mostly of me yelling at him for being wrong about everything, and him politely listening to me. A few times he’s admitted he was wrong and promised to do better (and has). Other times he’s stuck to his position while continuing to give me way more of his time and energy than I would expect the head of a big media company to give a random and somewhat-confrontational blogger.

This has also been more or less my experience with Dylan Matthews, German Lopez, and Sarah Kliff, the other Vox people I’ve engaged with.

A year or so ago, the media got really interested in neoreaction and published a bunch of thinkpieces, all of which parroted an error-ridden Breitbart article without checking any of its claims. Dylan Matthews wanted to write one for Vox, and he actually took the trouble to contact me, an Internationally Known Expert On Neoreaction. I corrected a few of the worst Breitbart errors and gave him the email address of a couple of neoreactionaries; Matthews actually interviewed them and included their comments in his article instead of relying on third-hand speculation about who they might be. I have heard legends that ancient times there was an arcane art called Juru-Na-Lism which allowed its practitioners to gather information from the furthest reaches of the world, and although I understand it is mostly forgotten this gives me some glimmers of what it could have been like (and for an even clearer example of the same pattern, compare this and this).

Also, Stuart Ritchie is a scientist at the University of Edinburgh who studies intelligence and who makes fun of terrible articles about intelligence in the media. Vox actually worked with Dr. Ritchie to write a series of articles, and ended up with some of the only popular explanations online that someone with a psychology background can read without laughing hysterically.

I disagree with Vox about a lot of things, but they’ve generally impressed me in ways that some other news sources haven’t. Also, let’s be honest. Their competitors are places like Salon and Vice. My standards here are dirt-low, and Vox frequently meets them.

5. Matt Yglesias

Related; see eg here:

The worst of Yglesias’ mischievous endorsements of horrendous moral stances was his column on factory safety. Immediately after the 2013 collapse of the Bangladesh garment factory that killed over 1,000 people, Yglesias took to Slate to explain why workplace safety regulations actually inhibited the operation of free markets. Yglesias explained that high-risk jobs have high compensation, and just like people might choose to be lumberjacks, they might choose to work in highly dangerous garment factories for a premium. Thus “it’s good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum.” The article was accompanied by a photograph of Bangladeshis loading dead bodies onto a truck.

The column was classic Yglesias, in managing to be both ignorant and appalling. Appalling since Yglesias published it the same day as the factory collapse, as the rubble was still being cleared. Ignorant because Yglesias adopted the most delusional Heritage Foundation economic myth, that somehow people in Bangladesh work in dangerous garment factories because working in dangerous garment factories is what they most want to do. As Mark Brendle summarized:

Yglesias champions one of the most horrifying and widespread implements of oppression and misery yet conceived—factories taking advantage of cheap labor, lack of environmental regulations, and a disregard for human life by those who profit most from having those factories in their countries—then pretends that it exists in a vacuum, where people in “those countries” are happy for these jobs, instead of acknowledging the closed system of the global economy, where those conditions are not only systemic, but inevitable and structural, in order for the wealth and prosperity of the “first world” to exist at all.

When confronted with this outrage, Yglesias simply wrote another explanation of why his original work was justified, admitting that his reaction to the criticism “as a writer and a human being” was annoyance. (It should go without saying that if one’s first reaction “as a human being” to being asked to show a little compassion for dead Bangladeshis is “annoyance,” then one is not a human being at all.) Here is Vox-ism in a nutshell: it is impossible to stop explaining and think, impossible to understand that there are more questions in heaven and earth than “What do the data say?” (Like perhaps, “Am I a good person?”)

One day soon, there’s going to be an Islamic terror attack in the United States, maybe committed by a refugee. The news is going to show pictures of mangled innocents, sobbing relatives, mothers who have lost their children. And maybe Current Affairs, as a good leftist publication, is going to want to say that this is terrible but doesn’t mean that we should ban all refugees or hate all Muslims.

And they won’t be able to, because they’ve already declared that if something tragic happens, then anyone who tries to put it in context, or say that some policies can have occasional awful results while still being beneficial on net, is a moral monster.

And if they try to protest that no, approximately 0% of refugees are terrorists, immigrant crime rates are lower than native crime rates, all of the fear-mongering you’ve heard is a lie, et cetera et cetera – then ah, that’s just worrying about “what the data say” – and how can you worry about something as bloodless as data when there are families literally sobbing over the deaths of their children right there?

Trump should be ultimate proof that the other side is better at the “my righteous indignation is more important than your puny data” game than you are. Don’t even try.

6. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump

See eg Michael Tracey in How Pundits Get Everything Wrong And Still Keep Their Jobs:

As the 2016 presidential campaign should have conclusively demonstrated, this pretense of expertise is a fabrication. Far from being especially prescient about matters of public affairs, members of the Pundit-Commentariat Industrial Complex are actually incredibly ill-suited to the task of accurately gauging the political sentiments of their own nation. By virtue of the various self-destructive pathologies that perpetually dull and distort their analytical acuity, it turns out that “pundits” are among the least qualified to accurately predict how far-off events will unfold. Surveying a random selection of Twitter trolls would probably yield one better information than scanning the output of the most revered professional prognosticators […]

For normal people, even the tiniest mistakes often result in drastic consequences. They don’t just get to ignore those failures and barrel forward as if nothing happened. And yet that’s how we permit the pundit class to operate. In the case of Bouie and Beutler, it wasn’t merely that they made erroneous predictions; anyone can mistakenly guess that something might pan out, when it does not. Rather, their entire analytical framework was drastically, catastrophically faulty. If any other American worker had performed his or her job so poorly, they could expect to receive severe sanction—docked pay, unfavorable scheduling, or termination. But in the world of punditry, there is no price to pay for failure. Instead, the American pundit class simply carries on as before, rattling off self-assured predictions about future events.

It would be really fun if I could dramatically reveal that (shock! horror!) Michael Tracey has himself been wrong about things. Alas, he admits it, saying in an earlier article, We Must Demand Pundit Accountability, that he’s made some predictive mistakes himself. For example, he wrote about Why Ted Cruz Could Win In 2016, how Chris Christie Isn’t Dead Yet and Why Jim Webb Poses The Biggest Threat To A Hillary Clinton Presidency. He asks to be judged not on these isolated mistakes, but based on his record as a whole. He provides a (self-curated) list of accurate predictions, which indeed seems very impressive.

Likewise, Current Affairs, which published Tracey’s article, has admitted that its article saying “good riddance” to Trump since he “will not be president” was a bit premature. But once again, they plead that instead of dismissing them the same way they recommend we dismiss other failed predictors like Paul Krugman and Matt Yglesias, we take into account that they also made a bunch of much better predictions, like this one in February predicting that Trump would win unless the Democrats nominated Sanders. I think it’s a good piece and proves that good punditry is indeed important; if people had listened to that maybe we’d be in a better place right now.

But there’s still a tension between their treatment of other pundits’ mistakes (proof that they’re incompetent and that the whole system must be burned to the ground) and that of their own mistakes (worth viewing in the context of a long-term record of good predictions). Might Paul Krugman and Matt Yglesias also believe they have a long-term record of good predictions? Don’t they deserve to be judged on this record instead of on a single event where they missed the mark by barely 1% of voters?

I don’t know much about Yglesias’ record, but I can speak up for Krugman. A team from Hamilton College analyzed the predictions of various pundits over sixteen months to evaluate relative performance; Krugman was judged most accurate of all twenty-six pundits studied.

The moral of the story is stop trying to draw sweeping conclusions from one data point. This also solves the problem where, having discredited everyone who predicted a Hillary victory, we determine the only trustworthy sources of political commentary to be, the Dilbert guy, and all 372,672 subscribers of r/the_donald.

If you’re really interested in well-founded judgments of your own accuracy relative to other people, there’s an established way to make that happen. Make specific predictions, which are clearly flagged as predictions and can’t be disavowed later. When possible, try to predict the same events as other pundits, so that you can compare accuracy. Assign a probabilistic confidence level to each. Keep track of whether each did or didn’t come true. Use some kind of scoring rule to evaluate your calibration. Then report on long-term aggregated statistics of how well you did.

I’ve been doing this for the past three years (2014, 2015, 2016). Last January, I predicted an 80% chance that Trump would lose. He didn’t. Does that mean I’m incompetent person who deserves to lose his job but won’t because he has “pundit tenure”? I don’t think so. Over the past three years I made 37 predictions that something would happen with 80% chance, and of those, thirty (81%) did happen. In other words, over the long run, the things I say have a 80% chance of happening, happen 81% of the time. I have pretty close to the exact right level of certainty in everything I say.

Of course, life would be even better if I could be 100% sure about everything and be right 100% of the time. And the great thing about this methodology is that if there’s someone else like that, they can prove that they’re better than I am. In fact, we’re trying this – over on Arbital, about a hundred people have entered predictions on the same set of sixty-one events that I did. At the end of the year we’ll check results. If other people do better than I do based on something like a Brier score, and if they can keep doing better than I do consistently, I’ll admit they’re a better “pundit” than I am and defer to their expertise.

If Robinson and Tracey want to demonstrate to the world that they are trustworthy pundits in a way that Yglesias and Krugman aren’t, I would invite all four of them to formally keep track of their predictions and see how they do relative to one another. I’m happy to help with this if they’re interested, and I bet Arbital would be too.

6.1. Pundits Who Failed To Predict Trump, Because They Are Out Of Touch With Real Americans

I think the argument is supposed to be that if they had ever left their comfortable Beltway offices and gone to talk to real people in the Midwest, they would have recognized the deep vein of anger in the American people and known that Trump was going to win.

Whoever you are, my “talking to real people in the Midwest” credentials are better than yours. I am a psychiatrist. I work in Michigan. My job is pretty much talking to former industrial workers about all the ways their lives have gone wrong, eight hours a day, every day. I am aware that these people are very angry.

But is it the level of anger where 46% of them will vote Trump? Or the level of anger where 48% of them will vote Trump? Because Hillary got about 47% of the vote in Michigan, so that one point is the difference between Trump winning the state and becoming President, versus losing the state and fading into ignominy. I do not think there is any level of deep connection to the collective consciousness of Michigan that allows you to distinguish between a 48%-Trump level of anger versus a 46%-Trump level of anger. Which means that even if you psychoanalyze Michiganders eight hours a day you still have to read the polls like everyone else. And the polls said that it was more like a 46% level of anger. And they were wrong.

But shouldn’t people who left their Beltway offices have at least realized that there was a significant amount of anger in the American people, and so Trump had a fighting chance? Yes. But all the polls also showed that there were a lot of Trump voters and that he had a fighting chance. If you were so confused that you didn’t realize that lots of people were angry and Trump had a fighting chance, I’m not sure that leaving your Beltway office would have helped much. In fact, I’m glad you didn’t. You probably would have wandered dazed into the street and gotten hit by a truck or something.

(or, if you made it to the Midwest, grain entrapment)

I guess there’s a version of this argument I endorse, which is that people who left their Beltway offices and talked to Real Americans might have realized that Trump voters were human beings with legitimate concerns and not just all alt-right Nazi KKK members. But again, if it takes a round-trip ticket to Peoria to convince our elites that people who disagree with them are not inscrutable hate-filled monsters, we have failed in a way more profound than not giving them that round-trip ticket.

7: People Who Are Worried That The Russians Hacked The Democrats To Influence The Elections

“Can you believe that the Democrats are trying to spin a narrative about foreign bogeymen out to get us?”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“Yeah, but remember when the Republicans were the party of McCarthyism? And now this is totally the same thing!”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“And just think, the CIA getting all upset about foreign powers interfering in an election! Pretty hypocritical, huh?”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“And Hillary Clinton was such a terrible candidate, I bet it feels pretty good to be able to just blame everything on the Russians instead of admitting that you goofed by nominating her.”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“There was that one guy on Twitter who posted a really cringeworthy rant about ‘game theory’. Can you believe that weirdo?”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“Did I mention how funny it was that now the DEMOCRATS are the party of McCarthyism! Oooh, bogeyman Putin out to get you!”

Okay, but did you look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking? And don’t you agree it’s pretty strong?

“Look, lay off, I’m not saying it’s false, I’m just saying we have more important things to talk about.”

And yet I checked your Twitter feed, and every tweet for the past two weeks has been you making fun of that game theory guy.

“I’m just saying that we’re focusing on Russia to the exclusion of everything else. Could there possibly be anything more pointlessly distracting from the real work that we’ve got to do?”

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22 hours ago
I don't agree with 100% of this, but it's nice to see someone not screaming and looking for throats to slit.
Los Angeles, California, USA
21 hours ago
Yeah. I agree as well. People need to stop hunting for purity and start assembling a ragtag alliance of people who don't agree on everything. Both completely pure people live in Iowa and there are not enough of them to win an election or succeed in a protest.
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The #Resistance, Trump and Islands in the Stream

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We live in an unusual time.

We are about a month into the Presidency of Donald Trump and it seems that we have a White House that is dysfunctional.  He rolls out a travel ban that wasn’t vetted by government agencies like Homeland Security or State and creates chaos in airports around the country, causing immigrants and refugees to feel unwelcome here and flee to Canada.  He has a press conference that is…well, there aren’t any words to describe how vastly different a Trump presser is from Barack Obama or George W. Bush.  And you have a man who has only been President a month who is already campaigning for the next presidential election in less than three years.

I haven’t talked about the disturbing connections between Trump and Russia that led to the first head of the National Security Council to be sent packing or his tweets about the press being the enemy of the people or his moral equivalence between the United States and Russia.

There is more, but let’s just say that Trump is not the normal holder of the office of President.  While I don’t fear that we are living in Weimar America awaiting our Reichstag Fire, I do think that there is much to be concerned about with Trump and what he might be doing to our democratic experiment.

This is a time when people should come together to present a defense of who we are as Americans and also to be an effective check against Trump’s power.  It is a time when ideology should be at times minimized for the sake of the greater good, that is preserving American democracy.

But that’s not happening.  Part of the reason I think it isn’t happening is because of the nature of the American left and the #resistance movement.

The #Resistance is basically the response that progressives have had to the surprising election win of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.  The best way to describe it is as a movement whose goal is basically to oppose everything that Trump is doing.  In some ways this is understandable.  Trump is, in my view, someone who could damage American government as well as the world system that has granted relative peace for 70 years.  He does seem to have an anti-Muslim bias that could have consequences for millions of Americans whose only crime is that they share their faith with a number of vile extremists.

Progressives have the right to oppose anything and everything that Trump proposes.  But if their goal is to reduce the damage Trump may do by limiting him to one term, you have to reach out beyond the base.  Trump was able to get a number of people who voted for Obama twice because they didn’t think the Democrats were offering anything new.  These “Trump-curious” voters are the people that progressives should be persuading in order for their objective to become a reality.

But they aren’t reaching out to them.  Instead they are viewing any and all voters who dared to vote for Trump with contempt.  Progressives have a hard time understanding why anyone would vote for someone like Trump who seems to be anti-Muslim, bigoted and sexist.  Of course there are valid reasons why someone would vote for Trump, but for progressives, voting for someone whose sins are beyond the pale is hard to swallow.  But giving them the cold shoulder might actually make Trump stronger instead of weaker.  The New York Times recently broached the subject in an article called “Are Liberals Helping Trump?”  Here’s one Trump curious voter explaining his vote.

Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump. As a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican. But some things are making him feel uncomfortable — parts of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, for example, and the recurring theme of his apparent affinity for Russia.

Mr. Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Mr. Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way. Every time Mr. Medford dips into the political debate — either with strangers on Facebook or friends in New York and Los Angeles — he comes away feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority.

“We’re backed into a corner,” said Mr. Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’ ”

The response to this by liberals is…well, let’s just say they are running low in the sympathy department. Here is one sample:

I won’t speak for other libs, but I am not out to persuade Trump voters. Leaving aside how condescending the notion is that Trump voters need to be persuaded, they are not persuadable, period. Secondly, it is not my aim to work with these people; it is my aim to work around them.

The belief that Trump voters aren’t persuadable harkens back an article by Ordinary Times-alum Jamele Bouie in the fall. The article was titled “There’s No Such Thing As Good Trump Voter.” In that piece, Bouie said that in light of the recent outbreaks of hate-based violence against persons of color, Muslims and others it is the former people that deserve sympathy not those who knowingly voted for a racist.

…more than 300 incidents of harassment or intimidation have been reported in the aftermath of Trump’s election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. NBC News confirmed several, including incidents where vandals spray-painted slurs (“Heil Trump”) and swastikas on churches serving Hispanic or LGBT communities. At San Diego State University, a hijab-wearing Muslim student says she was confronted and robbed by two men who made comments about Trump, and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a Muslim student says a man approached her and threatened to set her on fire unless she removed her hijab. At the University of Pennsylvania, black members of the freshman class were added to a racist social media group, where students were threatened with lynchings.

Millions of Americans are justifiably afraid of what they’ll face under a Trump administration. If any group demands our support and sympathy, it’s these people, not the Americans who backed Trump and his threat of state-sanctioned violence against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim Americans. All the solicitude, outrage, and moral telepathy being deployed in defense of Trump supporters—who voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes—is perverse, bordering on abhorrent.

Listen, as someone who also didn’t vote for Trump (I voted for Gary Johnson), as someone who is African American and Latino, I get why people might be bothered by Trump voters. I don’t know about Bouie, but I actually have friends who voted for Trump. These include a woman from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that I’ve known since college and I was an usher in her wedding. Another one is the mother of two sons on the autism spectrum that I can talk about autism issues with since I’m on the spectrum as well. None of these people are hateful bigots. Bouie also ignores the fact that millions of people who voted for Obama twice voted for Trump. Did they magically become racists overnight?

The answer of course is no.  Yes, there are racists that did vote for Trump, but the over 60 million that did vote for him are not all Klansmen.

But calling Trump voters racists makes it easy for liberals. They don’t have to examine their own beliefs. They can feel energized coming together and marching without having to dilute their purity. Just like conservatives, they can stay in a political bubble that is safe and reinforces their beliefs without having their views challenged.

To understand Trump voters you have to look at three states that moved over to the Republican column, costing Clinton the election: Michigan (my home state), Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  These were solidly blue states that changed.  Macomb County, a suburban working class county outside of Detroit, went for Obama in 2012 and then switched to Trump in 2016.  How do you go from voting for the nation’s first black President to voting for Trump?

What binds these three states together is that they have faced deindustrialization over the decades.  These were states that produced steel and made cars. They employed millions.  When those industries changed, it meant the loss of jobs and diminished futures.  I know this from experience since my hometown is Flint, Michigan, the city now known for contaminated water –  but before that, it was known as a city that has borne the brunt of deindustrialization in America.  The Democrats were the party that best reached out to people in these states, but in 2016, they went for Trump.  In one of her last stories before leaving NPR, reporter Asma Khalid talked about how long time Democrats were supporting Trump instead of Clinton:

David Betras realized Hillary Clinton’s odds of winning the presidency were in peril — back in March of last year.

Betras, the chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, lives in an area of Ohio that traditionally votes for Democrats. But during the Ohio primary, Betras saw 18 people on his own precinct committee defect and cross party lines to vote Republican.

“Why did they vote for Donald Trump?” Betras asked rhetorically, and in the next breath answered his own question, “’cause Donald Trump — I don’t get it, but, amazingly, a man that s**** in gold-plated toilets — was talking more to working people than the party’s standard-bearer.”

Betras and others think the party has become more coastal and less concerned about the needs of people in middle America:

“The people here thought — wrongly — the national Democratic Party cared more about where someone went to the bathroom than whether or not these people had a job,” Betras said. “And so, we’re off-message.”

Betras insists for most voters, the economy is the primary concern. And he is worried the Democratic National Committee doesn’t understand that — that it has become too coastal, too elite and too disconnected from middle America. His prime example of the elitism he sees in his own party is the criticism he heard from some Democrats when Trump misrepresented the number of jobs in the Carrier deal.

“I don’t care if it was a bad deal,” Betras argued, “he was fighting for someone’s job. That’s what we used to do, right?”

To put it in a visual sense, the New York Times made two maps to show the areas where Trump won vs. the areas where Clinton won. This is the map of Trump’s America:


Now here’s the map of Clinton’s America:

Now most of the Clinton “Islands” are heavily populated and allowed her to win the popular vote.  But since we determine the winner by states, you can clearly see you can’t win with just the islands.

Now look at this electoral map of 1992, when another Clinton won the White House:

Finally, here is the 2016 electoral map:

The most basic reason that Democrats and progressives have to reach out to Trump voters is because they were Democratic voters. They were the reason the party won some of its most recent successes in the White House.

The left can can go and talk about the #resistance all they want.  But they need to work on reaching out to Trump voters and even at times working with conservatives who are wary of Trump and get over the anger of people voting for someone like Trump.

So the left needs to start working on building a strong anti-Trump coalition and get over themselves, because at the end of the day what counts is how much damage Trump will do to American democracy, and how those opposed can best stop or reverse the injury.

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1 day ago
Los Angeles, California, USA
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Department of Uh-Oh, a continuing series, the drone wars have begun

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Late last month, a pair of Islamic State fighters in desert camouflage climbed to the top of a river bluff in northern Iraq to demonstrate an important new weapon: a small drone, about six feet wide with swept wings and a small bomb tucked in its fuselage.

The two men launched the slender machine and took videos from a second, smaller drone that shadowed its movements. The aircraft glided over the besieged city of Mosul, swooped close to an Iraqi army outpost and dropped its bomb, scattering Iraqi troops with a small blast that left one figure sprawled on the ground, apparently dead or wounded.

The incident was among dozens in recent weeks in a rapidly accelerating campaign of armed drone strikes by the Islamic State in northern Iraq.

The terrorist group last month formally announced the establishment of a new “Unmanned Aircraft of the Mujahideen” unit, a fleet of ­modified drones equipped with bombs, and claimed that its drones had killed or wounded 39 Iraqi soldiers in a single week.

Here is the full story by Joby Warrick.

The post Department of Uh-Oh, a continuing series, the drone wars have begun appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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2 days ago
I wonder how many years it's going to take before we start seeing a significant number of these in the US & Europe.
Los Angeles, California, USA
1 day ago
It is scary to imagine the ease with which people can now use consumer-grade drone/RC parts to build extremely effective weapons. As the owner of a drone, it's scary for me to think about what could be done with it in the wrong hands.
1 day ago
Issue is going to be mostly attribution of attacks. If this can be done without traceability, then there's a problem.
1 day ago
Yep & yep.
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San Francisco Tech Driven Real Estate Insanity: Current median home price at $1.3 million or $400,000 higher than the last housing bubble peak.

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San Francisco tends to put Southern California to shame when it comes to real estate mania.  The tech driven frenzy in the Bay Area is something to behold.  What is so interesting is that San Francisco, being the hippie and alt-culture hub back in the baby boomers heyday, is now fully gentrified by tech and […]
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2 days ago
"Those 5,600 shares today are now worth $1,533,896. Even after tax gains, you are way ahead making the risky bet on Tesla."

Picking a risky bet from the past that you know to be a massive current success isn't exactly a great illustration of good investment practices. Not all investments are Tesla. Most of them aren't.
Los Angeles, California, USA
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Longyearbyen in Longyearbyen, Norway

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Original cemetery, now abandoned

On the Svalbard Islands of northern Norway there lies the town of Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world with a significant population size (there are a few research bases further north). The former coal mining town is now the cultural and commercial center of the Svalbard Islands, featuring the northernmost ATM, church, museum, post office, radio station, airport, and university in the world.

Due to the town’s precarious latitude—at 78 degrees North—there are a few strange practices that all people living in Longyearbyen must abide by. The most bizarre may be that it is illegal to be buried here.

The permafrost and sub-zero temperatures in Longyearbyen make it so that any dead bodies lying six feet under are perfectly preserved, as if mummified. Therefore, the government of Svalbard requires that any dead bodies must be flown by plane or shipped by boat to mainland Norway for burial. This law has been in effect since 1950.

The freezing temperature also requires that all houses must be built on stilts, so that when the island’s layer of permafrost melts in the summer houses don't sink and slide away. Cats are banned from the city, in order to protect endangered Arctic birds, and due to the impending threat of polar bear attacks in the frigid Arctic Circle, all residents are required to carry a high-powered rifle at all times.

Every year, on March 8 at 12:15 p.m., the people of Longyearbyen celebrate “Solfestuka,” a holiday honoring the town’s first glimpse of the sun in over four months. With a complete absence of the sun for a third of every year, it’s always certain to be a long year in Longyearbyen.

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2 days ago
Don't know why they'd care if the bodies are preserved. Do a solid for the future archeologists, ya know?
Los Angeles, California, USA
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