Sunday 6.26.2016 New York Times Digest


1. Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem

“Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many ‘intelligent’ systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.”

2. Britain Rattles Postwar Order and Its Place as Pillar of Stability

“Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling, too?”

3. When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers

“Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms, the ‘corporate raiders’ of an earlier era, have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life.”

4. Jack Daniel’s Embraces a Hidden Ingredient: Help From a Slave

“Slavery and whiskey, far from being two separate strands of Southern history, were inextricably entwined. Enslaved men not only made up the bulk of the distilling labor force, but they often played crucial skilled roles in the whiskey-making process. In the same way that white cookbook authors often appropriated recipes from their black cooks, white distillery owners took credit for the whiskey.”

5. Bill Cunningham, Legendary Times Fashion Photographer, Dies at 87

“He didn’t go to the movies. He didn’t own a television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese could be had, until very recently, for under $3. He lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall amid rows and rows of file cabinets, where he kept all of his negatives. He slept on a single-size cot, showered in a shared bathroom and, when he was asked why he spent years ripping up checks from magazines like Details (which he helped Annie Flanders launch in 1982), he said: ‘Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.’”

6. A Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, Dinosaurs Included

“And Mr. Ham said, let us build a gargantuan Noah’s ark only 45 minutes away to draw millions more visitors. And let it be constructed by Amish woodworkers, and financed with donations, junk bonds and tax rebates from the state of Kentucky. And let it hold an animatronic Noah and lifelike models of some of the creatures that came on board two-by-two, such as bears, short-necked giraffes — and juvenile Tyrannosaurus rexes. And it was so.”

7. In Search of the Felon-Friendly Workplace

“When released prisoners can’t find work, it contributes to a costly, negative social and economic cycle of recidivism, crime, and ultimately perhaps a return to imprisonment, all at the expense of taxpayers and communities.”

8. A Family-Friendly Policy That’s Friendliest to Male Professors

“Men who took parental leave used the extra year to publish their research, amassing impressive publication records. But there was no parallel rise in the output of female economists.”

9. Don’t Ban Photos of Skinny Models

“To judge a body healthy or unhealthy is still to judge it.”

10. Who Blames the Victim?

“The more strongly you privilege loyalty, obedience and purity — as opposed to values such as care and fairness — the more likely you are to blame the victim.”

11. The Bad Faith of the White Working Class

“Church attendance has fallen substantially among the members of the white working class in recent years, just when they need it most.”

12. Can You Get Over an Addiction?

“Addiction is indeed a brain problem, but it’s not a degenerative pathology like Alzheimer’s disease or cancer, nor is it evidence of a criminal mind. Instead, it’s a learning disorder.”

13. Same Character, Different Film: Recurring Roles in Non-Sequels

“When Mr. Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh discovered that they were almost simultaneously shooting adaptations of two Elmore Leonard novels that featured Ray, the same cocky-but-slightly-dim federal agent, in a supporting role, it seemed only natural to cast Mr. Keaton to play him in both films.”

14. Two Astonishing Views of O.J. Simpson and His Trial

“The two series embody two ways of seeing history, personal versus social, micro versus macro. In one version, these events happened because these people with these characteristics made these choices. In the other, greater forces spanning millions of people and hundreds of years lead to a particular moment.”

15. As Airbnb Grows, So Do Claims of Discrimination

“I think this needed to happen to get them out of their tech mind-set.”

16. When Republicans Draw District Boundaries, They Can’t Lose. Literally.

“Democrats and likely Democrats have been systematically packed together to ensure landslide victories in a handful of districts, sometimes with the help of underrepresented Democratic minorities looking to secure a seat in Congress — a shortsighted strategy of tragic proportions. Republican voters and those leaning conservative, in turn, have been spread out to maximize their voting power across as much territory as possible.”

17. Why Conservative Intellectuals Hate Trump

“Levin believes that both parties, in their different ways, are caught up in the fundamental mistake of wanting to restore such features of post-World War II America as steadily rising incomes and low economic inequality, hegemony in the global economy, growing government, broad membership in the mainstream religions and a white-bread mass culture. Such goals, which are especially appealing to politicians of the baby boom generation who were young back then, are, Levin insists, nostalgic and unachievable. We need to accept that the country is now unalterably far more decentralized, and to devise political solutions around that reality.”

18. A Look at America’s Long and Troubled History of White Poverty

“British colonizers saw their North American empire as a place to dump their human waste: the idle, indigent and criminal. Richard Hakluyt the younger, one of the many colorful characters who fill these pages, saw the continent as ‘one giant workhouse,’ in Isenberg’s phrase, where the feckless poor could be turned into industrious drudges.”

19. Finance Is the Master Technology — and It’s Funded the World

“It is now generally agreed, for example, that in the West both numeracy and literacy were invented not in the context of scientific or artistic pursuits, but in the service of finance and commerce … Goetzmann also argues convincingly that finance is responsible for our modern conception of time.”

20. What Do This Season’s Political Books Tell Us About the Election?

“Our diagnosticians themselves often sound like patients.”

21. Why Are Whites So Angry?

“Over the last eight years something very important has emerged in the way race gets discussed in America: the foregrounding of whiteness.”

22. Why the War on Terror May Never End

“It is easier for this form of war to continue indefinitely because it has been brought within law governing the conduct of hostilities to a remarkable extent.”

23. Is the Idea of ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ a Sign of Social Privilege?

“The insistence on creating art for art’s sake may appear to be aimed at rich connoisseurs. But it originally expressed the frustration of artists with nouveau-riche consumers.”

24. How an Archive of the Internet Could Change History

“Social media might one day offer a dazzling, and even overwhelming, array of source material for historians. Such an abundance presents a logistical challenge (the total number of tweets ever written is nearing half a trillion) as well as an ethical one (will people get to opt out of having ephemeral thoughts entered into the historical record?). But this plethora of new media and materials may function as a totally new type of archive: a multidimensional ledger of events that academics, scholars, researchers and the general public can parse to generate a more prismatic recollection of history.”

25. Cynthia Ozick’s Long Crusade

“These are not fashionable opinions; and indeed, it may testify to the soundness of Ozick’s bleak assessment that she herself, one of the last great exemplars of the values whose eclipse she laments, is now so underrecognized.”


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