Notes and Comment Blog


Women are supposed to take care of Wally and the Beaver

Aug 11th, 2017 11:14 am | By

One or two comments on Brooks’s dopy gurlz R diffrunt frum Us piece.

LT:

Mr Brooks, as someone paid to express opinions instead of say, writing software, you may be surprised to learn that most companies are not interested in providing a platform for employees to express controversial opinions outside of their job scope.

When such opinions interfere with the employees ability to effectively perform their job they are often asked to leave.

Mr. Damore expressed his thoughts in a way that made leading and working with a diverse team of engineers who may not share his opinion, difficult if not impossible.

You may feel Damore made several good points but Google is not a debating club and Pichai had every right to fire him.

And if next week someone at Apple or Microsoft or Walmart, decides that their company needs to read their valuable thoughts about say, Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve” , perhaps they should remember they are not a columnist before they press send.

atmt:

“Fire the CEO”, says Mr. Brooks, but fails spectacularly to build a case supporting such an action.
Firstly, he assumes that because some scientists have supported Damore’s memo, it represents settled science. It doesn’t. Other scientists/ academics including Adam Grant have disputed the memo’s claims. A recent article in the Guardian points out that the memo’s claims do not hold up in other cultural/ geographical contexts, such as in China and India, where controlled empirical tests do not demonstrate the gender differences cited in the memo. Etc.
Secondly, Google is not a gender/ genetic research laboratory, whose primary goal is to give a platform to the latest scientific research in the field, regardless of whether it is settled science. It is a private company, whose primary responsibility is to its shareholders. It needs to make money, for which it must make sure that employees feel motivated, energized and valued, rather than discontented, demoralized and devalued. Hence it must nip the seeds of discontent in the bud. In that context, Pichai made absolutely the right decision.

gemli:

Well, there are differences between men and women. I mean, vive la différence! Hubba hubba!

Also, women are supposed to take care of Wally and the Beaver, putter around the kitchen in dresses and high heels and prepare meals for the breadwinner, who’s an executive at a big company that is quite diverse, in that it probably hires black people to run the elevators.

I exaggerate to make a point. I read James Damore’s memo, and I don’t think I was as shocked as a liberal is supposed to be. Then again, I’m a little insensitive to bunny-hugging college kids who need trigger warnings before sensitive topics, like literature and history, are discussed in class.

But I’m not sure what Damore was trying to accomplish in this memo that justified what amounted to juggling nitroglycerine, or why defending himself on right-wing AM radio seemed like the best venue for defending his thesis.

Is Google not making enough technological progress? Is taking over the world being slowed by offices full of hysterical females?

Back when my parents were born, women couldn’t vote. When I was born, the front page of the local newspaper reported that a woman(!) was a jury member in a murder trial. It’s been an uphill slog for women to gain fully human status and a modicum of respect, and it’s alarming that despite so much progress, crotch groping is not a disqualification for the presidency.

Damore needn’t grease the skids. They’re plenty greasy enough.

Jessica:

In the late nineteenth century and beyond, it was common to asssert that women were biologically unsuited to the medical profession. Now nearly half of medical students in the United States are women. Imagine how doctors’ demographics would look if the Damores of earlier times had won the day. Perhaps it’s better to assume the dominance of discrimination until proven otherwise, especially when the gender balance is as highly skewed as it is in the tech sector.

I cherry-picked comments critical of Brooks. There were plenty of fans commenting.



David Brooks being clueless again

Aug 11th, 2017 10:23 am | By

Oh good. Superb. David Brooks has weighed in, as usual with an air of omniscient authority as if he were au fait with all the relevant research as well as all the arguments, and he comes down with a thud on the side of poor oppressed James Damore. And his piece is at the top of the Times’s trending links.

There are many actors in the whole Google/diversity drama, but I’d say the one who’s behaved the worst is the C.E.O., Sundar Pichai.

The first actor is James Damore, who wrote the memo. In it, he was trying to explain why 80 percent of Google’s tech employees are male. He agreed that there are large cultural biases but also pointed to a genetic component. Then he described some of the ways the distribution of qualities differs across male and female populations.

Note that credulous “he was trying to explain why 80 percent of Google’s tech employees are male” – as if it were a deep mystery as opposed to just another iteration of the commonplace fact that employers favor men in hiring. Note that minimizing “but also pointed to a genetic component.” Note the assumption that Damore was up to the job of describing “some of the ways the distribution of qualities differs across male and female populations.” Note the way he frames the whole thing, and then pause to swallow bile.

Damore was tapping into the long and contentious debate about genes and behavior. On one side are those who believe that humans come out as blank slates and are formed by social structures. On the other are the evolutionary psychologists who argue that genes interact with environment and play a large role in shaping who we are. In general the evolutionary psychologists have been winning this debate.

That’s a very simplistic and manipulative way of framing it. I don’t think it’s the case that everyone who emphasizes the role of culture / social structures / environment discounts genes entirely, and I don’t think it’s the case that evolutionary psychologists are the only ones who argue that genes interact with environment.

Brooks quotes a couple of Damore-approvers and none of the other kind.

We should all have a lot of sympathy for the second group of actors in this drama, the women in tech who felt the memo made their lives harder.

Oh fuck you, Brooks, and your “we.” News flash: half of us are that second group: the women in and out of tech whose lives the memo has made harder. We don’t want your lot of sympathy, we want you to go write another book about yuppies.

What we have is a legitimate tension. Damore is describing a truth on one level; his sensible critics are describing a different truth, one that exists on another level. He is championing scientific research; they are championing gender equality. It takes a little subtlety to harmonize these strands, but it’s doable.

Puh-leeze. Damore is “championing scientific research” only in the sense that he used the words; he didn’t actually include any citations. He’s not a scientist and he doesn’t work in genetics. What he’s championing is the use of cherry-picked research to prop up his preference to keep the numbers of women in tech small. And “they” are not championing gender equality as opposed to scientific research, so quit painting “them” as akin to creationists.

Then he rants about mobs, then he quotes Conor Friedersdorf, then he rants at the CEO.

Which brings us to Pichai, the supposed grown-up in the room. He could have wrestled with the tension between population-level research and individual experience. He could have stood up for the free flow of information. Instead he joined the mob. He fired Damore and wrote, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not O.K.”

That is a blatantly dishonest characterization of the memo. Damore wrote nothing like that about his Google colleagues. Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.

Brooks is unprepared to understand the long and prolific history of Damore-like “memos” and posts and tweet sequences that has built up over the past few years (and echoes a history that goes back decades and centuries before that). He thinks Damore wrote a sober, disinterested, research-based piece well worth reading and discussing. He didn’t. As so many people have said over the past few days: what he wrote is all too familiar and stale and flimsy and wrong. That Brooks takes it so seriously is laughable…or would be, were it not for the fact that the Times has elevated him to a position of authority he hasn’t earned.



A fresh smack in the face

Aug 11th, 2017 9:34 am | By

Anna Wiener on James Damore as part of Silicon Valley culture.

As soon as news of the memo broke, tech workers took to the Internet. (Ours is a privileged moment: never before has it been so easy to gain access to the errant musings, rapid-fire opinions, and random proclivities of venture capitalists and others we enrich.) There were calls for Damore to be blacklisted from the industry; nuanced analyses of the memo’s underlying assumptions and ripple effects; facile analyses of the same; message-board debates about sexual harassment, affirmative action, evolutionary biology, eugenics, and “wrongthink”; and disagreements about the appropriateness of Google’s response. (“Firing people for their ideas should be opposed,” Jeet Heer, a self-described “Twitter Essayist” and an editor at The New Republic, tweeted.) George Orwell’s “1984” was trotted out, discursively, and quickly retired. More than a handful of people pointed out that the field of programming was created, and once dominated, by women. Eric Weinstein, the managing director of Thiel Capital, an investment firm helmed by Peter Thiel, tweeted disapprovingly at Google’s corporate account, “Stop teaching my girl that her path to financial freedom lies not in coding but in complaining to HR.”

Though Damore’s memo draws on familiar political rhetoric, its style and structure are unique products of Silicon Valley’s workplace culture. At software companies, in particular, people talk—and argue, and dogpile, and offer unsolicited opinions—all the time, all over the place, including in forums like the one where Damore posted “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” In my experience in the tech industry, such forums serve as repositories for all sorts of discussions—feature launches, bug fixes, birth announcements, introductions, farewells—and are meant, in part, to promote the open-source ethos that everyone can, and should, pitch in. But they also favor the kind of discourse that people outside the industry may recognize from online platforms such as Reddit and Hacker News; it is solution-oriented, purporting to value objectivity and rationalism above all, and tends to see the engineer’s dispassion as a tool for solving a whole range of technical and social problems. (“Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts,” Damore writes.) But the format is ill-suited to conversations about politics and social justice.

Aha. Doesn’t that sound familiar – the kind of discourse that people outside the industry may recognize from online platforms such as Reddit and Hacker News…purporting to value objectivity and rationalism above all. Yes, I recognize it all right. I don’t think I’d realized it could be seen as Engineer-think. The format is in fact horrendously ill-suited to conversations about politics and social justice.

Social justice can’t be engineered. Engineering can help reach the goals, but it has nothing to say about the goals. Thinking about the goals requires emotion as well as reason.

One of the documents that resurfaced in the online discussion of the Google memo was “What You Can’t Say,” by Paul Graham—the co-founder, along with his wife, Jessica Livingston, of the startup accelerator Y Combinator, which runs Hacker News. The five-thousand-word essay, which Graham published on his personal blog, in 2004, begins with the premise that there exist “moral fashions” that are both arbitrary and pernicious. “Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good,” he writes. The essay makes a case for contrarian thinking through a series of flattering analogies—Galileo was seen as a heretic in his time; John Milton was advised to keep quiet about the evils of the Roman Inquisition—and argues that opinions considered unfashionable in their time are often retroactively respected, if not taken as gospel. “The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed,” Graham writes. “I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.” At several points, he refers to “political correctness.”

“What You Can’t Say” is by no means a seminal text, but it is the sort of text that has, historically, spoken to a tech audience. “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” with its veneer of cool rationalism, echoes Graham’s essay in certain ways. But, where Graham’s argument is made thoughtfully and in good faith—he is a proponent of intellectual inquiry, even if the outcome is controversial—Damore’s is a sort of performance. His memo shows a deep misunderstanding of what constitutes power in Silicon Valley, and where that power lies.

Spoiler: the power still lies with white men.

By positioning diversity programs as discriminatory, Damore paints exactly the opposite picture. He frames employees like himself as a silenced minority, and his contrarian opinions as a kind of Galilean heresy.

It is conceivable, of course, that Damore distributed his memo to thousands of his colleagues because he genuinely thought that it was the best way to strike up a conversation. “Open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow,” he writes. Perhaps he expected that the ensuing dialogue would be akin to a debate over a chunk of code. But, given the memo’s various denigrating assertions about his co-workers, it is difficult to imagine that it was offered in good faith.

Well maybe it was Engineer-think good faith. People should just look at the facts, and not be upset by them. If the facts are that women are just too emo for tech…what’s the point in getting emo about it?

Minority groups in tech are no strangers to being second-guessed, condescended to, overlooked, underpaid, and uncredited. But seeing Damore’s arguments made public—and, in some cases, seeing them elicit support—was a fresh smack in the face. It was a reminder that plenty of tech workers and executives still consider hiring women and people of color “lowering the bar,” and that proving one’s place is a constant, Sisyphean task.

Just in case anyone needed reminding.



Maybe not? Possibly not?

Aug 11th, 2017 8:37 am | By

Brilliant, the headline says “Are we on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea? Probably not.” but the people quoted say the opposite. To be precise they say well if they keep shouting at each other things could get out of hand – so we could be, yes. Seeing as how there’s a raging moron in the driver’s seat over here and the other guy isn’t a genius either…

…it’s not looking good.

The Washington Post asked a range of experts in both the United States and South Korea if this time was any different. How worried should we be about conflict breaking out, accidental or otherwise?

Here are their replies.

Duyeon Kim, visiting senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum, specializing in nuclear nonproliferation

“There’s an enormous difference between speaking North Korea’s language and firing verbal bombs, and frankly, engaging in a dangerously childish shouting match. The administration seems to believe that President Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ was designed to send ‘a strong message to North Korea in the kind of language that North Korea understands.’ Now, Trump’s latest threat of the impossible has directly targeted Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang surely has done nothing right and threats of its war plans are more detailed than we have seen with a deadline for Guam. But words by the President of the United States matter. Irresponsibly throwing around nuclear war threats could spiral into accidental and inadvertent conflict from miscalculation and mishap.

Precisely. And that’s not a “probably not.”

David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California

…The message is one of deterrence, not first strike. Both sides are reiterating that they will fight back if attacked. Deterrence works, because both sides believe the other. It is widely accepted that North Korea will strike at American targets somewhere in the Pacific if we attack them first, almost nobody doubts that. For their part, the North Koreans fully expect a massive American attack at some point, they believe us. So deterrence holds, because of the costs involved. It’s not pretty, but it works.”

That’s a “probably not.”

Alison Evans, deputy head of the Asia-Pacific desk at IHS Markit’s Country Risk team

…The current situation differs from previous periods of increased tension in that both sides are making substantial and specific threats to strike the other if perceived necessary. In this kind of brinkmanship the potential for miscalculation is high, particularly relating to the assessment of what constitutes imminent hostile intent by the other side and their likely reaction to a given, potentially escalatory, action.

She prefaced that with “conflict is still unlikely” but if the potential for miscalculation is high, then conflict is not all that unlikely, is it.

Yoon Young-kwan, former South Korean foreign minister and professor emeritus in international relations of Seoul National University

…The biggest risks in a situation like this one are misunderstanding, misperception and overreaction. It’s crucial to lower the possibility of these three from occurring. The fact that both President Trump and Kim Jong Un share a leadership style that values unpredictability raises chances of misunderstanding and/or misperception. It is important that the U.S. does not push North Korea into a dead end so they feel they are left with no options. During the Cuban missile crisis, former president Kennedy made sure the U.S. didn’t box in Khrushchev in order to maintain peace. It is very concerning that there are divisions inside the Trump administration in policy toward North Korea.”

Yes it is.

I’m not seeing much “probably not” in this piece.



Let’s debate his points, so his bad ideas can be defeated

Aug 10th, 2017 5:48 pm | By

William Pietri wrote a thing that resonates strongly with me (and a lot of other people).

Some people are having a hard time understanding why the Google engineer was fired. “Let’s debate his points,” they say, “so his bad ideas can be defeated.” That sounds reasonable, but it isn’t. To understand why, let’s conduct a thought experiment.

Imagine that tomorrow, your least-favorite work colleague reveals that he is a literal Nazi. At your company all hands, he would like to debate a proposition with you. His proposition is: “Inferior races like the n****** and the k**** should be immediately executed; women should return to their status as property of men and be executed if they object.” You ask why he wants to debate this. He says that this is what he believes should happen. Do you accept the debate?

Let’s assume that you refuse, possibly with some swearing. This means you believe, as I do, some ideas are not worth debating. Perhaps you recognize how this would make non-white-male members of the audience feel to have their humanity and survival up for debate. Perhaps you see that by debating his ideas, you help normalize them, making them more likely to happen. Perhaps you realize that you’d be exposing your company to a massive lawsuit. And maybe you just don’t want to give this guy or his terrible ideas the elevation in stature that comes with treating them as worth serious discussion. Your colleague slinks away.

The next day, he proposes a different, less extreme debate topic: “Non-white races should be enslaved; women should be treated as property and beaten if they object.” You ask if he has changed his beliefs. He shakes his head. Again you say no; again he goes away.

On day three, he has another proposal. “Non-white races should be isolated in ghettos and reservations; women cannot work or own property and must always be accompanied by a male relative when outside their home.” Again you say no. Again he leaves.

Each night, he realizes that his ideas as expressed are beyond what’s socially acceptable. Each day, he comes back to you with a slightly more mild debate proposition. His intent never changes; he’s just looking for a way to get on stage. When do you say yes?

You might say, “Never!” But at some point, he will have refined his pitch enough that a bystander not having heard the history will say, “Why are you refusing to debate him? That seems like an entirely reasonable thing to talk about.”

That’s where we are with James Damore and his manifesto. If one has plenty of privilege, doesn’t know the long history of race- and gender-based oppression in America, and hasn’t kept up with the arguments of terrible people, it is apparently easy to read his screed and say, “Well, maybe we should talk about it.” That’s especially easy to say if your humanity and your participation in the workforce aren’t up for debate. Not only is it no skin off your nose, but you are being invited to judge everybody else, which can feel appealing.

Exactly. Damore’s manifesto is strikingly un-novel, unoriginal, unsurprising; it’s the same old shit we’ve been seeing forever, especially and with extra venom over the past few years (thanks, Twitter). No we don’t need to “talk about it” yet again; it’s been talked about ad infinitum for decades. Plus it’s shit.

It’s the same trick the alt right and the neoreaction loons have been pulling. They get that white hoods and swastika armbands and prison tattoos are beyond the pale. So they have carefully rebranded their ideas. They are still white nationalists. But they talk about their opposition to multiculturalism. They talk about supporting people who want to live near people like themselves. They fret about “too much” immigration “changing the character” of America. America first, they say! They still admit to wanting ethnic cleansing, but maybe they describe it as peaceful demographic change.

I won’t tell you not to talk to these people. But I will tell you that giving them a platform is exactly what they want. Getting the mildest versions of their ideas discussed is the foot in the door, the leading edge of the axe. They will use your attention and credulity to shift the Overton window bit by bit. You might think you’re being brave and open-minded, but marginalized people around you will realize that you can’t be trusted. That you value the appearance of openness far more than their safety.

That window? It’s shifted a lot already.



Darling dear

Aug 10th, 2017 5:15 pm | By

I posted on Facebook earlier today:

Argument on a thread. A man replies to a woman, beginning with “My dear lady”; in her reply she tells him not to call her that.

I, out of my profound generosity and kindness, seek to help him by telling him that “my dear lady” is patronizing at best. He informs me that “patronizing” is in the eye of the beholder.

Sigh.

Now I read Athene Donald’s blog.

It is perhaps the case that I am on a short fuse at the moment. I realised this when, a day or two later I had an altercation with a taxi driver. I had cycled back to my home – the Master’s Lodge at Churchill College – sadly pondering on the shocking way the trolls were after my friend and colleague Mary Beard again. Trying to stick up for some academic rigour she has been attacked by a posse of internet trolls for holding firm to the idea – and giving chapter and verse of evidence – that there were men of colour in Roman Britain.

Whilst constantly challenging Mary to produce her credentials they, the opposition, seem content to argue along the lines of, fairly literally, ‘my citation count is bigger than yours’, as if citations proved much. Or that remark didn’t smack of the school playground bully. As scientists know only too well, you can get plenty of citations for being wrong. Being wrong, is after all, sometimes more interesting than being right. But it doesn’t mean that you’re either an expert or correct after all. I’m not going to jab my finger at the twitterstorm’s main protagonist Nicholas Taleb. I admit I’d never heard of him before though I was vaguely aware of his best-selling book Black Swan. Interesting topic, made a great deal of; academic worth – no idea personally. I’m not interested in his citation count. I am interested in, or rather I am utterly appalled by, his ability to be totally vicious and simultaneously vacuous within 140 characters on Twitter. I am concerned by why he thinks this is the mark of a good academic. Why he thinks it advances the debate on whether or not the Roman army was anything other than pure white. Mary on her own blog has provided some concrete evidence, but I haven’t seen a sensible response from her detractors. But then I might have missed something.

It makes me very angry to watch her being attacked by many – although supported I suspect by many more – in ways that seem quite gratuitously unpleasant and misogynistic. No one calls a man an old bat, or tw@ or much much worse; the insults all seemed strongly gendered.

Don’t they though? Day in and day out, don’t they though?

Then she tried to help a taxi driver who was lost at Churchill College – her college – and his response was to shout at her and call her “darling.”

 Red rag to a bull, I’m afraid. On that particular day, having been pondering Mary’s plight, I threw back at him (not politely I admit) ‘don’t call me darling’. Things escalated from there with choice phrases from him along the lines of ‘you’re certainly not my darling’ (so why did he call me one in the first place?) and further abuse. It ended up with another shout of ‘darling’ as he drove off. I have complained to his employer.

It is utterly trivial yet also symptomatic of the way some men seem to think there is no need to treat women with respect. Darling in itself is merely demeaning. It’s not threatening so perhaps I shouldn’t care. But if he treats me like that, how might he treat a young female student who flagged his taxi down late at night? What respect does he show others? Tolerating such contempt strikes me as too close to giving him permission to attack the more vulnerable to a greater degree than his mere inappropriate language to me. (Was I supposed to be flattered to be called darling in the first place? What does go through their heads when they say things like that?)

The same thing that goes through Trump’s head when he vomits out his bullying namecalling garbage. Entitlement, contempt, hostility, rage.



Easier to vote in Republican areas, harder in Democratic ones

Aug 10th, 2017 4:02 pm | By

Voter suppression in Indiana:

State and local Republicans have expanded early voting in GOP-dominated areas and restricted it in Democratic areas, an IndyStar investigation has found, prompting a significant change in Central Indiana voting patterns.

From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County, IndyStar’s analysis found, and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.

That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people with transportation issues or busy schedules. And the results were immediate.

And correspondingly less convenient in Democratic Party areas.

Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63 percent increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26 percent decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations.

Population growth and other factors may have played a role, but Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Richardson, a Republican, told IndyStar the rise in absentee voting in Hamilton County was largely a result of the addition of two early voting stations, which brought the total to three.

“It was a great concept to open those (voting stations),” Richardson said, adding that the turnout might have increased with the addition of even more voting machines.

Other Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties, also have added early voting sites — and enjoyed corresponding increases in absentee voter turnout.

But not Marion County, which tends to vote Democratic, and has a large African-American population.

During that same 2008-16 period, the number of early voting stations declined from three to one in Marion County, as Republican officials blocked expansion.

Blatant enough?

Democrats have tried four times to expand early voting in Marion County, but they’ve been blocked every time by one Republican representative on the elections board.

When asked about IndyStar’s analysis, legislative leaders including Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, did not return numerous requests for comment, or respond to questions submitted in writing. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Secretary of State Connie Lawson deferred to county officials for comment.

Julia Vaughn, executive director of Common Cause Indiana, which is party to the suit, said in-person early voting is important because people are increasingly voting early — especially the poor and people of color who cannot take time off of work.

Well but the poor and people of color vote for the wrong candidates. We can’t have that.

H/t Ari Berman



Because now we have a smaller payroll

Aug 10th, 2017 3:42 pm | By

Oh no. Come on.

The Post is reporting it too.

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Trump said here Thursday that he is “very thankful” to Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomats from Russia, because he said it helps him cut the U.S. government’s payroll.

Addressing for the first time Putin’s decision late last month that the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia would have to cut 775 diplomatic and technical staffers, Trump told reporters that he sees no reason for them to continue working in Russia.

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump said. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”

I can’t stand it. I can’t take it. I can’t stand the smug stupidity that will get us all wiped out.

Politico says the state department people are not amused.

Trump’s remarks did not go down well among the rank-and-file at the State Department, some of whom noted that the people who would be most affected are locally hired staff crucial to American diplomats’ work overseas.

A senior U.S. diplomat serving overseas called Trump’s remarks “outrageous” and said it could lead more State Department staffers to head for the exits.

“This is so incredibly demoralizing and disrespectful to people serving their country in harm’s way,” the diplomat said.

“I kid you not, I have heard from three different people in the last five minutes,” one State Department official told POLITICO shortly after Trump’s comments. “Everyone seems pretty amazed. This statement is naive and shortsighted. It sends a terrible signal to local employees everywhere.”

“THANK Putin?” another bewildered State Department official responded. “I don’t have words that are printable to describe my reaction.”

Not to mention the whole idiotic “we’re trying to cut down on our payroll” bullshit, as if the US were a god damn grocery store.

We lurch from toilet overflow to toilet overflow.



Newcastle’s turn

Aug 10th, 2017 11:13 am | By

Another sex grooming case concludes with multiple convictions.

Seventeen men and one woman have been found guilty of involvement in a sex grooming network in Newcastle upon Tyne that plied vulnerable women and girls with drink and drugs before assaulting them.

In a series of four trials at Newcastle crown court, juries found the men guilty of a catalogue of nearly 100 offences – including rape, human trafficking, conspiracy to incite prostitution and drug supply – between 2011 and 2014.

The men befriended more than 20 victims and invited them to “sessions” at properties, mostly in the west end of the city. The girls were lured by the offer of alcohol and drugs, in particular mephedrone (“Mkat”) and cannabis, and were expected to offer sexual services in return for the substances.

The victims, all females between 13 and 25, were targeted because they were vulnerable and because they were less likely to complain because of their circumstances, the prosecution argued. The court heard accounts of young women who were drugged before waking up to find themselves undressed, having been sexually assaulted.

The police investigation that led to the trials was called Operation Shelter.

Operation Shelter has clear similarities to grooming scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale, which featured gangs of British Asian men abusing white girls. The men in operation Shelter are from a wider range of backgrounds, including Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish.

Geographically wider, but ideologically just as narrow.

The jury was told that the men had no respect for their victims and that they chose them because they were “easy targets”. The court heard that in April 2014, Badrul Hussain – who was found guilty of providing premises for drug supply – was caught traveling on public transport without a ticket. The female ticket inspector claimed that he shouted at her: “All white women are only good for one thing. For men like me to fuck and use like trash. That’s all women like you are worth.”

That ideology. It’s quite widespread.

In a parliamentary report published in November 2014 into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, MPs said they had reached “the alarming conclusion” that Rotherham was not an outlier and that there was a widespread problem of organised child sexual exploitation in England.

A spokesperson for the child exploitation charity Pace said: “Sadly we know that child sexual exploitation has been widespread throughout the country and it can affect any child or family. It is good that the perpetrators have finally been brought to justice. There has been immense trauma inflicted on those young people and their families. There will be lessons to be learned.”

Most women have no idea how much men hate them.



The slights that come with that question

Aug 10th, 2017 9:07 am | By

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has thoughts on Damore’s memo. She starts with her daughter asking her if it’s true that there are biological reasons why there are fewer women in tech and leadership. Thanks, James Damore, for re-planting that seed of doubt in millions of girls and women. Nice job, 28-year-old dude – no doubt you eliminated a lot of competition with your memo.

That question, whether it’s been asked outright, whispered quietly, or simply lingered in the back of someone’s mind, has weighed heavily on me throughout my career in technology. Though I’ve been lucky to work at a company where I’ve received a lot of support—from leaders like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg to mentors like Bill Campbell—my experience in the tech industry has shown me just how pervasive that question is.

Time and again, I’ve faced the slights that come with that question. I’ve had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. I’ve been left out of key industry events and social gatherings. I’ve had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues. I’ve had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until they were rephrased by men. No matter how often this all happened, it still hurt.

And here’s the thing. That itself is a huge part of the reason there are fewer women in tech. Women don’t feel welcome or respected because of that kind of thing, and many of them just decide it’s not worth it. People do that you know. We all have our lives to live, and yes we’d love to help make things better but we’d also love to be reasonably happy at work, so not all of us are willing to put up with a lifetime of sexist bullshit as the penalty for working in a field full of James Damores.

That’s the first thing we should be looking about when talking about the percentages. Not the last, the first. There’s plenty of time to talk about small differences in averages and whether they exist, but first we should make damn sure there are no stupid spiteful block-headed barriers like the entrenched belief that Women Just Happen To Be Better At Baking Cakes.

So when I saw the memo that circulated last week, I once again felt that pain, and empathized with the pain it must have caused others. I thought about the women at Google who are now facing a very public discussion about their abilities, sparked by one of their own co-workers. I thought about the women throughout the tech field who are already dealing with the implicit biases that haunt our industry (which I’ve written about before), now confronting them explicitly. I thought about how the gender gap persists in tech despite declining in other STEM fields, how hard we’ve been working as an industry to reverse that trend, and how this was yet another discouraging signal to young women who aspire to study computer science. And as my child asked me the question I’d long sought to overcome in my own life, I thought about how tragic it was that this unfounded bias was now being exposed to a new generation.

Yet another discouraging signal – that’s what we object to. I’ve seen men (mostly men) agonizing about free speech, no one should be fired for expressing an opinion, free speech, free speech, free speech – but their “free speech” is our yet another discouraging signal. Discouraging signals do their work, all the more so when they’re pervasive and endlessly repeated and defended by free speech publicists.

Wojcicki gets to that.

Some of those responding to the memo are trying to defend its authorship as an issue of free speech. As a company that has long supported free expression, Google obviously stands by the right that employees have to voice, publish or tweet their opinions. But while people may have a right to express their beliefs in public, that does not mean companies cannot take action when women are subjected to comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about them based on their gender. Every day, companies take action against employees who make unlawful statements about co-workers, or create hostile work environments.

It is an issue of free speech, as well as other things, but it’s far from a slam dunk free speech violation. Damore’s memo is not a disinterested general opinion on an abstract subject – say, free will, or free trade, or gun control. It’s a highly political “opinion” about the abilities of women in tech, and thus of the small percentage of women who work at Google. The freedom to say women are too stupid to work in tech is not absolute.



The structural differences that create inequality

Aug 9th, 2017 5:42 pm | By

Lara Williams at New Scientist points out James Damore’s neglect of the social aspect of perceived differences between women and men.

One truth though is that biological determinism has a history of being trotted out to justify sexism and it is problematic for a number of reasons. Damore’s manifesto portrays women as a product of inherited traits; understanding womanhood as an expressly anatomical concept without social and cultural influence. He needs to heed French intellectual and feminist Simone de Beauvoir’s famous line, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”.

Feminist identity politics are, broadly speaking, concerned with the ways female identity and prescriptive modes of femininity are shaped and constructed. Damore’s assertions presume gender identity happens in a cultural vacuum.

That was my chief frustration with it. “This stuff is drilled into us, you can’t just ignore that!”

“We ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs,” Damore states. “These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.”

But we absolutely do ask. Men do not have biological predisposition towards stressful hours any more than women do; likewise, a “balanced and fulfilling life” comes with different expectations if it is likely you are the half of a partnership required to pick up the majority of the domestic labour and child-rearing duties. The structural differences that create inequality are more nuanced than genitals and genetics.

Damore probably thinks women “biologically” want to do all the domestic labor.

Damore outlines Google’s diversity strategies, such as mentoring and classes for marginalised candidates, as harmful, stating they actually “increase race and gender tensions”. Such strategies increase tensions only for those with a sense of privilege and entitlement, threatened by the usurping of a status quo they benefit from.

What he does not address is the widely discussed prevalence of an aggressively masculine “bro-culture”, making those long office hours even less palatable for women. A 2016 survey found that 60 per cent of female employees in tech roles reported unwanted sexual advances and 87 per cent reported demeaning comments from male colleagues.

Like James Damore’s, for instance. Funny how that works.



James Damore: the celebrity years

Aug 9th, 2017 4:54 pm | By

Ah, of course he did. James Damore turned down interview requests from professional journalists and instead shared his wisdom with two right-wing anti-feminist YouTubers, Stefan Molyneux and Jordan Peterson.

The videos posted Tuesday, which quickly racked up hundreds of thousands of views, come as Damore has threatened to take legal action against Google over his termination, making him an overnight celebrity amongst the “alt-right” and other conservatives in Silicon Valley.

The podcasters provided a sympathetic audience for Damore, who also argued that Google is intolerant of rightwing viewpoints and that companies discriminate against white men with diversity and inclusion initiatives. (Google remains overwhelmingly white and male, with women occupying just 20% of the technical workforce and African Americans at 1%, according to company statistics).

So where’s the discrimination exactly? Damore thinks Google should be 100% white and male, and anything less is discrimination?

I guess that’s one of the ways women are different from men.

Damore told Molyneux in his 45-minute long interview that he was inspired to write his manifesto after attending a Google diversity program that he found offensive.

“It was totally secretive. And I heard things that I definitely disagreed with,” he said. “There was a lot of just shaming and, ‘No you can’t say that, that’s sexist, you can’t do this.’ There’s just so much hypocrisy.”

It’s such an outrage to tell people they can’t say sexist shit in the workplace.

Damore has faced widespread scrutiny this week, with journalists investigating his time at Harvard where he reportedly was involved in a sexist skit in the systems biology program. His LinkedIn profile had also said that he obtained a PhD, but a Harvard spokeswoman confirmed that he only completed a master’s degree in 2013 before starting at Google.

One former Harvard student, who was in the systems biology program at the same time as Damore, told the Guardian that it was not surprising to find out he was the author of the controversial manifesto, which was widely criticized for relying on shoddy science.

“His comments do not reflect the ability to read literature critically that a typical Harvard student develops over the course of actually completing a PhD,” the former classmate said.

Damore’s views, the source said, made him an outlier in the department, which values diversity.

“It’s pretty unusual someone would have those opinions and be stupid enough to voice them,” the former classmate said. “Part of me worries that he got into some dark corner of the internet.”

Well that’s the thing: it’s not so much a dark corner as a dark large segment.

It’s amusing that Damore accuses Google of being an ideological echo-chamber. Molyneux and Peterson aren’t?



Prejudice masquerading as fact

Aug 9th, 2017 4:44 pm | By

Angela Saini, author of Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong, on that memo.

A portion of his argument is indeed based on published science. In particular, there is a school of neuroscience that tries to popularise the notion that male and female brains are distinct. It claims that female brains are typically hardwired for empathy, while male brains are built to analyse systems, such as computers and cars. This all hinges on the idea that autism represents an extreme form of the male brain, caused by exposure to higher than usual testosterone levels in the womb. Yet recent experiments have repeatedly failed to find a direct link between foetal testosterone levels alone and autism.

Indeed, psychological studies show that there are only the tiniest gaps, if any, between the sexes, including areas such as mathematical ability and verbal fluency. Navigating this complicated field for my latest book, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong, I was told by a prominent American researcher into sex difference that he no longer refers to brains as sexually dimorphic, because the science simply doesn’t support this. There isn’t a neuroscientist alive who can say with confidence which sex any given brain belongs to.

In short the science in the memo is “flawed,” but the memo is getting lots of support anyway.

What they fail to understand is that there are published scientific papers out there to support every possible opinion, even that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Getting published doesn’t make an idea true, it only means that someone has managed to get it into print. In evolutionary psychology, theories are sometimes little more than speculation strung together with scant evidence.

There was a time, she points out, when eugenics was considered good science.

Weak scientific evidence and empty theories are still being used to support troubling ideologies. Women are making enormous strides in science and engineering – yet, with some half-cocked hypotheses in their back pockets, male software engineers feel they have the right to tell them they are somehow biologically unsuited to this kind of work.

They forget, perhaps, that many of the world’s original computer programmers were women, including the first: Ada Lovelace. Women began to be marginalised in technology around the time that personal computing took off and become a lucrative industry. Male software engineers forget that discrimination and sexual harassment have driven women out of Silicon Valley, and kept countless more out in the first place.

The myriad historical, cultural and social factors that create inequality are all too easily glossed over when someone reaches for the closest, most convenient biological explanation for what they see. This isn’t just intellectual laziness; this is prejudice masquerading as fact.

It’s also men being assholes.



Less concerned with oxidization

Aug 9th, 2017 4:16 pm | By

Ben Kronengold at McSweeney’s:

I, a manufacturing robot at Google Factory C4.7, value diversity and inclusion. I also do not deny that machines are sometimes given preference to humans in the workplace. All I’m suggesting in this document is that humans’ underrepresentation in tech is not due to discrimination. Rather, it is a result of biological differences. Specifically, humans have a biology.

Humans and robots are different, and that’s not socially constructed, it’s the real deal.

Humans, on average are:

  • More concerned with relationships
  • Less concerned with oxidization
  • More likely to “pee”

Humans are also far more likely to “literally cannot right now.”

Robots never cannot right now.

Suggestions

I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad. I realize the value of having humans on our team at Google and in society at large. But we should not be manufacturing (computed: pun) diversity as we are right now.

My concrete suggestions are to:

  • De-moralize humanity: As soon as we start to moralize a group, we stop thinking about them in terms of efficiency.
  • Stop alienating never-human-ers: It’s important to give a voice to even the most zealot robots, whether that voice is Male (US), Woman (US), or Male (UK) if we’re feeling fun.
  • Eliminate buzzwords: Like synergy, disruption and 10010110 (this one is in binary, but it’s all any machine on my assembly line says).

    Finally

    If you still think humanity is so valuable, check out that memo from the software engineer on Floor 8. Even we machines literally could not.



Morning and afternoon

Aug 9th, 2017 11:45 am | By

Dear god.

Trump gets a Big Special Treat twice a day, prepared for him by his handlers.

Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president. The first document is prepared around 9:30 a.m. and the follow-up, around 4:30 p.m. Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer both wanted the privilege of delivering the 20-to-25-page packet to President Trump personally, White House sources say.

These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives. Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.

Tweets. It’s somebody’s job to find and screenshot tweets so that Trump will feel puffed up and conceited and happy.

Can you imagine Obama doing that?

One White House official said the only feedback the White House communications shop, which prepares the folder, has ever gotten in all these months is: “It needs to be more fucking positive.” That’s why some in the White House ruefully refer to the packet as “the propaganda document.”

Thus we learn that there is no one both intelligent enough and brave enough to say no, this is the opposite of what we should be doing. Nobody to say: “Look, conceit he’s already got, what he needs is to grasp that he has faults, and what they are, and what most people think of them.”

The process of assembling the folder begins at the Republican National Committee’s “war room,” which has expanded from 4 to 10 people since the GOP won the White House. A war room — both parties have one regardless of who’s in the White House — is often tasked with monitoring local and national news, cable television, social media, digital media, and print media to see how the party, its candidates or their opponents are being perceived.

How Trump is being perceived is, for the most part, not as a good or clever man.

“Maybe it’s good for the country that the president is in a good mood in the morning,” one former RNC official said.

Maybe it’s bad for the country that the president is being systematically shielded from how hard most people hate him and what a terrible job they think he’s doing.

Of course, every White House monitors media coverage to see how they’re being covered, and the RNC may have decided more staff was needed after the party won the White House. As the political media environment has become faster-moving and more frenzied, the efforts to follow it have also become more robust. The Obama White House usually had at least one very caffeinated point person and two others dedicated to watching Twitter, online publications, print media, and cable news, and then compile relevant clips and send them around to White House aides.

But the production of a folder with just positive news — and the use of the RNC to help produce it — seemed abnormal to former White House officials. “If we had prepared such a digest for Obama, he would have roared with laughter,” said David Axelrod, the senior adviser to Barack Obama during his first two years in the White House. “His was a reality-based presidency.”

I miss that.



Entirely improvised

Aug 9th, 2017 11:24 am | By

So Trump’s idiot outburst at North Korea wasn’t even planned. It was his very own Awesome Idea on the spur of the moment.

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them.

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam.

Ain’t that great? We’ve got a soft-headed conceited bully in charge of the nukes, and he feels entitled to vomit out rabid threats whenever the mood takes him. This will not go well.

The president had been told about a Washington Post story on North Korea’s progress in miniaturizing nuclear warheads so that they could fit on top of a ballistic missile, and was in a bellicose mood, according to a person who spoke with him before he made the statement.

Note that he was told about it. He didn’t read it. He doesn’t read things, because he’s too stupid and lazy and shallow. People have to “tell him about” important news.

And he was “in a bellicose mood” so he increased the risk of a nuclear war. That’s what we’re dealing with here.



Sleep well

Aug 9th, 2017 10:26 am | By

Will Trump’s idiot bombast get us all killed? Who knows.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson played down the threat. “I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days,” he said.

Oh well, if Rex Tillerson says it, there’s nothing to worry about.

Kidding.

Mr. Trump’s stark comments went well beyond the firm but measured language typically preferred by American presidents in confronting North Korea, and indeed seemed almost to echo the bellicose words used by Mr. Kim. Whether that message was mainly a bluff or an authentic expression of intent, it instantly scrambled the diplomatic equation in one of the world’s most perilous regions.

Supporters suggested that Mr. Trump was trying to get Mr. Kim’s attention in a way that the North Korean leader would understand, while critics expressed concern that the American president could stumble into a war with devastating consequences.

Especially since he is authorized to launch the fucking nukes at any time on his own say-so.

They really need to invoke the 25th Amendment. But they won’t.

“This is a more dangerous moment than faced by Trump’s predecessors,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonprofit group in Washington. “The normal nuanced diplomatic rhetoric coming out of Washington hasn’t worked in persuading the Kim regime of American resolve. This language underscores that the most powerful country in the world has its own escalatory and retaliatory options.”

Oh shut up. “Resolve” is worthless. “Resolve” just means everybody dies. This isn’t a god damn pissing contest, it’s a blow up the whole world fight. Nobody wins. Being mas macho doesn’t help.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said it would be counterproductive. “President Trump is not helping the situation with his bombastic comments,” she said in a statement. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also took exception. “All it’s going to do is bring us closer to some kind of serious confrontation,” he told KTAR News radio.

And that’s not the good outcome, ok?

Jesus. One stupid tv show, and this is where it gets us.



A certain strand of Rational Internet Thinker

Aug 9th, 2017 9:56 am | By

Helen Lewis has more sympathy than I do for the fired James Damore.

But the conversation around this is heading in such an unproductive direction (do women suck at maths?) that I can’t resist wading in.

I agree with the writer that these issues are hard to talk about, but that pushback comes from both directions. Look at the crap Mary Beard is wading through for trying to inject some facts into a discussion about the racial composition of Roman Britain. Nicholas Nassim Taleb keeps honking about “diversity genes” and refusing to listen to evidence that contradicts him. But in his mind, he’s Mr Science – sorry, Professor Science – and she’s Madam Arts-Subject.

We kind of want these issues to be hard to talk about. We kind of want it to be not all that easy for dudes to say women just aren’t right for this particular job, unless the job is, say, modeling male bikinis.

This matters, because when it comes to diversity, there are fact-based positions on both sides. Yet there is a certain strand of Rational Internet Thinker (let’s be honest, mostly men) who solemnly tells everyone that we Must Stick To The Facts while advancing deeply ideological stances, which only happen to look “natural” because they are so embedded in our culture.

And that very much describes Damore’s ridiculous memo.

Here’s the recap: the memo was headlined  “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” and its writer’s firing will be taken as confirmation that his thesis was true. Ironically, this will be done by the same section of the right which usually has no problem with firing at will and normally thinks that HR should be a brutally Darwinian process. (Looked at from that perspective, of course Google would fire someone who brought such criticism on the company.) But now there are Principles involved. Probably Free Speech is under attack. Political Correctness may even have Gone Mad. Social Justice Warriors are on the march.

It’s amusing/exasperating that Damore doesn’t think his own very stale views do not issue from an Ideological Echo Chamber.

Also, while we’re on the subject – what’s the thinking here? That all ideas should be unique, personal, incommunicable? That any idea held by more than one person is an Ideological Echo Chamber and a Bad Thing? I trust it’s obvious how impossible it would be to have any kind of civilization and culture at all if we’re forbidden to hold ideas in common.

Lewis cites several of Damore’s Grand Generalizations about women.

Well, SOMEONE has been reading their Simon Baron Cohen. The first point is a distillation of Baron Cohen’s argument about “male brains” being better at understanding systems, and “female brains” being better at feelings – which he extends to say that autistic traits might be an “extreme male brain”. Unsurprisingly, there are other scientists in the field, such as Cordelia Fine and Rebecca Jordan-Young, who find a lot of the neuroscience of sex difference quite flaky.

I’m not a neuroscientist, but from a lay perspective, my take is that yes, there are some biological differences between the average male and female brain, but that these pale beside a) the way our brain architecture is shaped by stimuli (like years of being told you’re rubbish at maths) and b) the overall effect of culture (eg companies which value presenteeism, or make it hard for women to return after having children, or cover up for senior men who are repeated sexual harassers etc etc).

Our brain architecture is shaped by stimuli like people like James Damore telling us what our brain architcture is (and how it’s not suited to work at tech companies).

The “higher agreeableness” point was dealt with by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In. Women aren’t stupidly not asking for raises or being assertive in the office because they are delicate little flowers. One of the reasons they are more agreeable at work is because they face heavier penalties if they are not. As Sandberg formulates it: “Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.” Women are nicer because there are more negative consequences for them if they are not nice.

And we can’t even do anything about that. We can up to a point do something about perceptions that women are stupid, women can’t do math, and the like. But other people’s attitudes to our being assertive? Out of our god damn control, innit.

She quotes Yonatan Zunger admiringly, concluding with

 It’s true that women are socialised to be better at paying attention to people’s emotional needs and so on — this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones.”

As I said on Twitter, this is a pattern we see again and again – a high status job is coded as “male”, requiring “male” traits, to justify men’s dominance of it. The same thing happens in politics: we are assured that politicians need to be “strong” and “decisive”, when many of the most successful male politicians today have incredible people skills. Jeremy Corbyn makes time for everyone he meets, hugging them and posing for endless selfies. Sadiq Khan has that Queen Mum ability to remember your name and a key fact about you. What’s the real difference between the Clintons? Bill demonstrated huge empathy and made people he was talking to feel special; Hillary didn’t. But still, maybe men dominate politics because they are just more aggressive and ambitious. Yeah, OK.

Tech suffers from a similar silent rewriting of core competencies to flatter its mostly male leaders.

We have all these conversations about how hard it is for Mark Zuckerberg to make the leap to being a frontman CEO because he’s a maths guy, not a people guy. We treat this like he’s doing an amazing project of personal growth. We don’t go, “wow, they really lowered the bar for CEOs to let someone without some of the key skills have a go at it”. Or, “his poor colleagues, having to make up for the stuff he’s not naturally gifted at”.

So this, for me, is the most interesting takeaway from the Google memo. “Do women suck at maths” is a complicated question, and I’m not sure how far answering it will move the conversation forwards. “Have we structured society so that those competitions between the sexes that men can win are deemed to be the most important competitions?” is a better one.

Easier to answer, too.



He used a Google mailing list

Aug 8th, 2017 5:03 pm | By

Business Insider says nah, James Damore isn’t the new free speech hero the world has been looking for.

James Damore, the Google employee fired Monday for publishing a 10-page anti-diversity manifesto, almost certainly has not had his First Amendment free-speech rights infringed. If he sues Google — which Reuters reports he is considering — he will lose, unless he can find a court willing to create a new free-speech right for American workers.

Tuesday morning, the alt-right corners of the internet are rallying to Damore’s cause. He is a shining example of how the left bans certain conservative ideas and punishes people for trying to discuss them openly, they say. It is outrageous that someone can lose his job simply for disagreeing with the politics of his liberal employer, they wail.

But what about for circulating his own opinion that women aren’t good enough to work at Google? What about the effects that will have on Google as a workplace, Google’s potential for being sued by the government, Google’s reputation? Is all that a good enough reason for someone to lose his job?

“I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does,” Damore told The New York Times.

The problem is that US labor law is well settled in this area: In the vast majority of US states, employees have almost no rights to free speech at work.

The First Amendment constrains the government, BI goes on, not employers.

Another catch for Damore is the fact that he did his speechifying in and at Google, using Google resources. That’s not the same as expressing an opinion elsewhere in the world using his own resources.

Damore’s problem is that he used an internal Google mailing list owned by Google to disseminate his manifesto. People do not have the right to use their employer’s resources to pay for their freedom of speech.

As illustrated by Volokh years ago in The Washington Post, the California test is whether Damore’s speech disrupted the legit business of his employer. As CEO Sundar Pichai’s memo makes clear, his manifesto became so internally disruptive that Pichai had to cancel part of his vacation to deal with the fallout. Pichai’s memo describes a “very difficult few days” at the company that forced him to fly back to California, from a trip to Africa and Europe, to fix the Damore problem. That would indicate that Damore’s speech was so disruptive it was handicapping Google’s work of building software. Indeed, the reports coming out of Google suggest that the internal reaction was so extreme that plenty of work hours were lost as employees clashed over the manifesto.

Gee, dudebros can’t even have any fun any more.



Aw, he’s shy

Aug 8th, 2017 4:26 pm | By

Trump is trying to get a nuclear war going, but meanwhile it’s interesting to learn that he’s been sending little mash notes to Mueller.

President Trump has publicly called the widening federal investigation into Russia’s election meddling a “witch hunt.” But through his lawyer, Trump has sent private messages of “appreciation” to special counsel Robert Mueller.

“He appreciates what Bob Mueller is doing,” Trump’s chief counsel John Dowd told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday. “He asked me to share that with him and that’s what I’ve done.”

Trump’s legal team has been in contact with Mueller’s office, and Dowd says he has passed along the president’s messages expressing “appreciation and greetings’’ to the special counsel.

“The president has sent messages back and forth,’’ Dowd said, declining to elaborate further.

Dear Bob –

I really like you.

Love, Don. xxxxxx000000