4 stars

Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State | New Yorker

Otarbai learned that the police had found WhatsApp, a messaging client that is blocked in China, on his phone. Otarbai protested that the app was common in Kazakhstan, where he now lived. The officers asked if he knew what he had saved in his WhatsApp account. Otarbai immediately understood what they meant. In Koktokay, he’d told the police that he didn’t pray regularly. Now he remembered that there were a few videos of imams preaching and inspirational images related to the practice of praying five times a day. “I know there is some religious instruction,” he told them. “I know it is there.”

Otarbai’s interrogation ended soon after he acknowledged his phone’s contents, and the police took him to a nearby hospital for a medical checkup. Although he was the only patient there in shackles and handcuffs, he still hoped that he would be freed. Instead, the police took him to Tacheng’s pretrial detention center. He spent the next three months there, sharing crowded jail cells with as many as twenty-two other prisoners. By his own account, Otarbai was a badly behaved detainee. He shouted at guards, demanding his release, which led to beatings. During one encounter, a guard told Otarbai that he would rot in jail, then struck his head with a metal baton, causing him to bleed. “Nobody interrogated me,” he said. “Nobody told me what was happening.” He assumed his detention was a mistake that would soon be corrected. On November 22nd, three months after Otarbai entered the detention center, police officers read aloud a list of prisoners who would be transferred to a “political learning center.” More than two dozen detainees were handcuffed, shackled, hooded, and loaded into police minivans. Otarbai was among them.


3 stars

A Modest Proposal For Republicans: Use The Word "Class" | Astral Codex Ten

Dear Republican Party: […]

I hate you and you hate me. But maybe I would hate you less if you didn't suck. Also, the more confused you are, the more you flail around sabotaging everything. All else being equal, I'd rather you have a coherent interesting message, and make Democrats shape up to compete with you.

So here's my recommendation: use the word "class". Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism.

Yeah, yeah, "class" sounds Marxist, class warfare and all that, you're supposed to be against that kind of thing, right? Wrong. Economic class warfare is Marxist, but here in the US class isn't a purely economic concept. Class is also about culture. You're already doing class warfare, you're just doing it blindly and confusedly. Instead, do it openly, while using the words "class" and “classism”. […]

Trump outmanuevered the Republican establishment by finding a front where he could go on the offensive. He de-emphasized the unfavorable terrain of race/sex/etc, and focused on class. He didn't use the word "class". But he captured the idea. He implicitly understood that there was some kind of difference between the average working-class voter and the sorts of people who set trends in the media, academia, government, et cetera. Whenever an upper-class institution tried to make him admit that they were the experts and he should bow to them, he spat in their faces instead. This was terrible; he spat in the faces of epidemiologists trying to tell him about an epidemic! But it sent his message loud and clear.


2 stars

Is the Western way of raising kids weird? | BBC

From sleeping in separate beds to their children to transporting them in prams, Western parents have some unusual ideas about how to raise them.


The Framers and the Framed: Notes On the Slate Star Codex Controversy | The Scholar’s Stage

Let's talk about the grand Slate Star Codex brouhaha. A lot of people have already written about this. […]

What sticks out to me when reading all of these pieces, aside from the biographical digressions, is that the participants are not actually debating the same thing. There are a half dozen separate questions being fought over. Some folks have a pressing interest in conflating them with each other. I do not think this is helpful.

At a minimum, these questions include:

1) Was it ok to “out” Scott Alexander’s true identity as Scott Siskind?

2) Did this specific New York Times article (“Silicon Valley’s Safe Space”) misrepresent the content of Slate Star Codex, the contours of the broader rationalist community, or the nature of their connection with Silicon Valley?

3) Assuming things were misrepresented, why did that happen? Was it a premeditated “hit job” or revenge piece? Or is there a better explanation for what happened than that?

4) Do journalists have the right to uproot the lives of their subjects lives with negative coverage? Do communities so targeted have the right to impose costs on journalists (say, by harassing them on twitter or flooding their inboxes) that are “just doing their job?” (A simpler way of phrasing this question: who is “punching up” here?)

5) Is this a controversy specific to the New York Times, or does the incident point to broader problems in the way American journalism works as a whole?

6) Do powerful figures in the consumer tech sector really expect journalists to play the role of a glorified PR agent? (Or to flip the question around: are journalists unfairly biased against tech?)

7) Does the entire Slate Star Codex affair prove the Silicon Valley decentralist argument right? Has the time come to overthrow old “East Coast” hierarchies and replace them with new “West Coast” institutions?


How Google's Grand Plan to Make Its Own Games Fell Apart | Wired

The tech giant hired 150 game developers for Stadia Games and Entertainment, only to lay them all off. Sources say it never gave the studios a chance.


The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls | New York Times

Mara Wilson:

Britney Spears and I learned the same lesson growing up: When you’re young and famous, there is no such thing as control.


White narcissism, not white supremacy, is plaguing America | UnHerd

It’s a curiosity of human psychology that as air travel has become much safer we’ve become more scared of it.

The same is true with racism, at least in the western context. In the US, while openly racist attitudes have hugely decreased, and as any opinion even adjacent to racism has become taboo, so there has been far more focus on the menace of white supremacy.

A genuinely white supremacist society would probably not tolerate and encourage various minorities to become wealthier than the average; they would certainly not have quotas and subsidises for the sake of affirmative action, nor would the most prestigious publications in a white supremacist society have a succession of dreary comment pieces denouncing “white people”; nor would there be a conveyor belt of academics exposed for pretending to be black, Hispanic or Asian.

Of course, there is racial prejudice and racism; there is disease and obesity in Japan, but no one would call Japan an unhealthy society, because we measure most societies against others in time and place, not against an abstract perfect society.


1 star

Great News, America: Cheese Isn’t Bad for You | Wired

Don’t feel sheepish reaching for that manchego. Cheese doesn’t deserve its unhealthy reputation.


Octopuses Have a Secret Sense to Keep Their 8 Arms Out of Trouble | New York Times

Even when an octopus can’t see light with its eyes, its arms seem to know it is there.


Frequency of letters in English words and where they occur in the word | Reddit


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