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‘The Bigs Are Starting to Accept the Unimaginable’

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Josh Marshall, writing at TPM:

Sometimes it’s specific, some kind of corrupt alliance; other times it’s amorphous, some kind of inexplicable hold Putin has over Trump by force of personality. But the kind of people who never said this kind of thing are saying it now. Somehow the President is compromised. Putin has something on him; or he has tempted his avarice with something. But there’s simply no innocent explanation for what we’re seeing.

That’s the shift. The Monday press conference made cautious, prominent people start to come to grips with the reality that Donald Trump, as crazy as it sounds and as difficult as it may be to believe, is under some kind of influence or control by a foreign adversary power, whether by fear or avarice or some other factor.

As yet, there’s little difference of behavior from elected Republicans. And I don’t expect any. What veteran foreign policy or diplomatic hands say on CNN is not the most important thing. But I think they are indicators of a change, a change of perception I expect is occurring among many who can’t yet speak.

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jkevmoses
29 days ago
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Isn't Gruber also the guy who doesn't like conspiracy theories. This is twilight zone rhetoric. Ridiculous. Notice these types of articles never point to any actual policy. Just vague "feelings". I think Trump's personality has a lot of issues but to be an agent of a foreign power. ooohhh!!! Spooky.
McKinney, Texas
bronzehedwick
28 days ago
Policy is far from the only measure of impact. Repeatedly siding with a hostile dictator over his own intelligence community? That’s a big deal. There could be another reason why he did it other than collusion/coercion/etc, but it gets harder and harder to think what they might be.
codesujal
28 days ago
Policy is being impacted. More obviously, PROCESS is being impacted. Process is how policy gets made, and Trump is making agreements without letting his government and staff know what he's agreeing to. If you think that's just a conspiracy theory, you're not reading the news. This isn't normal, nor is it a sign of a healthy policy environment.
jkevmoses
28 days ago
Again. No concrete data. You "think" policy "may" be impacted. Is it? I don't see any policy being impacted. Just because you "imagine" policy "could" be impacted doesn't make it show. I'll give you one policy that wasn't impacted as an example. Trump authorized the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine. That is in spite of what Putin would want. I'll post the link next from the WaPo which is NOT a Trump supporting news source. There I have 100% more data than you.
jkevmoses
28 days ago
https://www.google.com/search?q=trump+sale+of+deadly+weapons+to+ukraine&rlz=1C1GGRV_enUS751US752&oq=trump+sale+of+deadly+weapons+to+ukraine&aqs=chrome..69i57.6679j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
jkevmoses
28 days ago
Sorry previous link was search results: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/12/20/trump-administration-approves-lethal-arms-sales-to-ukraine/
jkevmoses
28 days ago
Same story from Chicago Tribune. Notice the headline: Angers Russia. Is this a double blind trick by Russia? http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-trump-weapons-ukraine-20171222-story.html#
jkevmoses
28 days ago
Please don't misunderstand me. I am NOT saying Trump is great or anything like that. I am simply saying the idea that he is an agent of a foreign power is an ignorant idea not based in fact but "feelings".
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The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #5: Are Questions More Important than Answers?

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I continue to work my way through a series entitled “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity.”  It’s an examination of 10 core tenets of progressive (or liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, but really based on the book by Philip Gulley.

Now we come to the fifth commandment and it is a genuine classic: “Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.”

There is perhaps no commandment in the series that better captures the ethos of modern liberalism.  Position yourself as humble and inquisitive, merely on a journey of discovery. And position the other side as less-than-humble dispensers of dogma.  Brilliant.

Indeed, this is Gulley’s complaint about the church.  He argues the church has been “committed to propaganda” and “towing the party line” instead of the “vigorous exploration of the truth” (93).

Ok, so what shall we make of this fifth “commandment”? A few thoughts.

A Caricature of Christianity

We begin by noting (as we have in other installments), that there is an element of truth here. No doubt there are some, even many, who come from a more fundamentalist background where a quick (and rather unsatisfying) answer to questions was always in ready supply, but any serious intellectual engagement with those questions was frowned upon.

In such contexts, questions were not encouraged.  You were merely to accept the answer you were given.  No discussion allowed.

If the commandment above is designed merely to correct this particular version of Christianity, then point taken.  Such a correction is needed.

But, it would be a caricature to portray Christians (or Christianity) as a whole as anti-intellectual propaganda-dispensers.  Indeed, most Christians have pressed very hard on the Bible and asked it the toughest of questions–intellectual, historical, and personal.

And they have found that it has provided solid and compelling answers.  Why should this be the cause for ridicule?

Which Position is Intellectually Irresponsible?

I suspect that part of the issue in play is that progressives think it is intellectually irresponsible to make the kind of truth claims that Christians have historically made.  It sounds arrogant.  Even cocksure.  How could anyone know such a thing?

The better course of action, they argue, is to say, “I don’t know.”

While this approach gives off an air of humility, there are problems with it.  For one, “I don’t know” is only the right answer if in fact that there is no epistemological basis by which a person could know something.

But, what if a person does, in fact, have a basis for knowing?  If he does, then saying “I don’t know” would actually be the irresponsible thing to do.

In other words, “I don’t know” is not always the right answer.  Sometimes its the wrong answer.

Let’s imagine you just took a class on the Civil War.  If at a later point your friend asks, “Did Abraham Lincoln sign the Emancipation Proclamation?,” and you answer, “yes,” you could hardly be chided as an arrogant know-it-all.

Indeed, if you were asked that question and you said, “I don’t know” (out of some mistaken notion of intellectual humility) then you ought to be chided for rejecting a clear historical truth.

Of course, progressives will argue this is a false comparison because we know Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but we don’t know that, say, Jesus was raised from the dead.

But, that is the very thing in dispute!  If the Bible is, in fact, the inspired Word of God, then arguably we can be more certain about the resurrection than about Abraham Lincoln.

The only way the progressive argument works is if he already knows the Bible is not the Word of God and therefore can declare all its truth claims to be dubious.  But, how does the progressive know this?  I thought it was off limits to claim absolute knowledge about such things?

To put it another way, the progressive has to know that you can’t know about the resurrection.  But that would require a high level of intellectual certainty, something that the progressive has just claimed that one cannot have.

Smuggling Certainty Through the Back Door

This leads to real problem with the progressive position, namely that its inconsistent.

On the one hand, Gulley laments the dogmatism and certainty of biblical Christianity.  All would be much better, he argues, if everyone would just admit their uncertainty.

But then, on the other hand, Gulley is quite certain about his views.  In fact, so certainty that he is quick to condemn other positions.  On one occasion he describes another person’s view of conversion as a “childish point of view” and that he was clearly “stuck” in a bad theological position.

In other words, he just smuggles his certainty through the back door.

And it is not just Gulley who does this.  Progressives are quick to condemn all sorts of behavior they see in the world around them, while insisting Bible-believing Christians are wrong when they do so.

So in the debate over same-sex marriage, for example, notice that we hear very few progressives say things like, “Well, we just don’t know the answer here. We can’t be certain about what to think about it.”

No, instead we get absolutism. We get certainty.  We get dogmatism.

Thus, one gets the impression that the real issue is not really certainty at all.  It is what one is certain about.  Progressives have simply swapped one set of certain beliefs for another.

In the end, we all have things we are certain about.  Things we believe are true and real.  The real question is the basis for our certainty.  Christians base their certainty on God’s Word.

While that will be mocked by the world, that is the place Jesus himself stood.  He declared, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

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jkevmoses
38 days ago
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McKinney, Texas
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Apple Machine Learning Journal on How ‘Hey Siri’ Works

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Deep dive into how “Hey Siri” actually works. I’m really enjoying these layman’s explanations of how these things work. The Machine Learning Journal is the new “open” Apple at its best.

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jkevmoses
302 days ago
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Yeah! The layman's explanation that includes layman gems like:

"The “Hey Siri” detector uses a Deep Neural Network (DNN) to convert the acoustic pattern of your voice at each instant into a probability distribution over speech sounds."

Very layman-like layman-ness.
McKinney, Texas
internetionals
301 days ago
Explaining something in laymens terms doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't call something by its proper name. But I agree that it's not really laymen's terms. If you know a few basics than its a very approachable article.
jkevmoses
301 days ago
Agreed. I just thought Gruber's comment was somewhat amusing at first glance and my snarkiness got the best of me :)
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Things More Heavily Regulated Than Buying a Gun in the United States

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I can’t even today.

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jkevmoses
318 days ago
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That list is not true. Just more muddying of the waters such that real change will never happen as both sides try to score points against the other rather than talking using real facts. Sigh.
McKinney, Texas
Cacotopos
317 days ago
Fair comment, but McSweeny's is a comedy site, so don't take it too seriously.
jkevmoses
317 days ago
Agreed. It's just dis-heartening to see all the people talking past each other. Unfortunately I am guilty of that at times too.
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Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Target ‘Jew Haters’

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ProPublica:

Last week, acting on a tip, we logged into Facebook’s automated ad system to see if “Jew hater” was really an ad category. We found it, but discovered that the category — with only 2,274 people in it — was too small for Facebook to allow us to buy an ad pegged only to Jew haters.

Facebook’s automated system suggested “Second Amendment” as an additional category that would boost our audience size to 119,000 people, presumably because its system had correlated gun enthusiasts with anti-Semites.

One: Facebook is a morally corrupt company. They’re just bad people.

Two: as David Simon noted, “I kind of love that ‘Jew hater’ aligns cleanly with the Second Amendment demographic. The algorithms don’t lie, do they.”

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jkevmoses
336 days ago
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It's stuff like this why I hate it when Gruber goes off on politics. He's a political no-nothing. The 2nd Amendment crowd is most likely the ones who show a lot of support for Israel. Hence many 2nd Amendment fans love of the IWI Tavor.
McKinney, Texas
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jhamill
336 days ago
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No, Gruber, no. Just no. Don't equate the actions of a company to all of it's emplyoees.
California

[Eugene Volokh] The ‘bourgeois culture’ controversy

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Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander wrote an op-ed condemning the decline of “bourgeois culture” and suggesting that this decline helps explain many of the problems afflicting America today. In the process, they wrote:

[Bourgeois culture of the late 1940s to the mid-1960s] laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime….

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

This predictably drew not just criticism but mischaracterization and calls for suppression; Heather Mac Donald has details on that in the National Review, which I won’t repeat here (but which I urge you to read about).

My thinking: My parents brought me from a place — Soviet Russia — that had not just an oppressive political system and a failed economic system, but also (largely as a result but perhaps partly a cause of) a destructive culture, a culture characterized (much more than American culture) by cheating, shirking and distrust. They brought me to a country that thrived because of its superior cultural assets (which is not to deny that it had cultural weaknesses as well).

It seems to me indubitably clear that certain cultural traits, including the ones that Wax and Alexander note, are more conducive to societal success and long-term individual happiness and others are not. (The norm of raising children in stable, married two-parent families is one well-documented example.) Indeed, my sense is that most on the left actually believe that some cultural traits and some cultures are superior, just as most on the right do: It’s just that they often praise different kinds of cultural traits, and different kinds of cultures and subcultures. Indeed, openness to other cultures is itself a cultural trait, one that different cultures possess to different extents and in different ways; so are, for instance, aversion to race discrimination, support for sexual equality and embrace of sexual freedom.

And of course there is nothing racially exclusive about positive cultural traits. All racial groups can benefit from adopting them (or from the good fortune of having been born into them), just as they can benefit from adopting successful political and economic systems (most reliably, by moving to places that have such beneficial political and economic systems and cultures, and raising their children to adopt those cultures). Indeed, many people of all racial groups, in the United States and elsewhere, eagerly seek to acculturate their children to the bourgeois traits that Wax and Alexander pointed to. Some nonwhites are actually likelier than whites to adopt — or not to abandon — the bourgeois values that Wax and Alexander note: For instance, the birth rate to unmarried mothers in the United States among Asians (16 percent) is about half that for non-Hispanic whites (29 percent).

Likewise, all racial groups can be harmed by adopting or being born into cultures with worse traits, just as they can be harmed from adopting failed political and economic systems. Indeed, the history of the second half of the 20th century well illustrates how both predominantly white and nonwhite societies have both thrived and suffered depending on which political, economic and cultural systems they have adopted or preserved (or had thrust upon them).

There is no doubt that there is a natural human tendency to overvalue one’s own culture and to confuse the familiar with the superior. (There is also a tendency among some to do the opposite, but I think on balance that tendency is generally the weaker one.) Even Rudyard Kipling, who surely cannot be accused of “prais[ing], with enthusiastic tone, All centuries but this, and every country but his own,” recognized this (which indeed was a great part of his literary quality and success):

Father, Mother, and Me
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We,
And every one else is They.
And They live over the sea,
While We live over the way,
But — would you believe it? — They look upon We
As only a sort of They!

People who fall prey to this tendency can lose, and lose big. Let your prejudices against a foreign culture keep you from recognizing them as formidable competitors, and you’ll find yourself lagging behind. Open your doors to productive immigrants, who can enrich your culture while assimilating to its key aspects, and you can profit immeasurably. How might the arms race in World War II have turned out if (a deeply counterfactual question, of course) the Nazis and their allies hadn’t chased away many great European scientists but instead drew them in?

But it is equally unsound to reject the possibility that your own culture has great strengths that need to be preserved, renewed and returned to — or to reject talk of the superiority of various cultural traits altogether, or assume that such talk (which goes on, implicitly or explicitly, in many households of all races) is somehow just cover for claims of racial superiority.

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jkevmoses
353 days ago
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It is always interesting that the points in an article like the one referenced are never debated. The article is just attacked with no reference to the points the author was trying to make. I guess that's why we can't have civil discourse on some issues. Heather MacDonald's piece was very interesting too.
McKinney, Texas
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