In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a hard-right school board filled with Moms for Liberty members was swept out of office in November. But at the last minute they decided in their final board meeting to show their appreciation for the school superintendent who had backed their agenda: A Pennsylvania school board that banned books, Pride flags ...continue reading "MAGA school board leaves the boss a thoughtful gift on its way out"
Kevin Drum 🕸
Do you care about the Dutch elections? No? Fine. I'll keep this short. All the news is about Geert Wilders, the anti-Muslim right-wing nationalist who gained 20 seats in this week's elections. This is a big deal, no question. It was driven partly by immigration fears and partly by the fact that the current centrist ...continue reading "Dutch election analysis: Maybe nothing will happen at all"
I don't have a picture of a turkey, so how about some bare aspens in Colorado instead? I took this picture just a few miles north of Durango.
Why did the board of OpenAI—apparently out of the blue—fire CEO Sam Altman last week? No one has yet provided a definitive account of what happened, but the leading guess is that it was related to the possible development of super-intelligent AI. The board felt that Altman was barreling ahead toward this goal without giving ...continue reading "Did Sam Altman keep the OpenAI board in the dark about progress on super AI?"
National Review points me today to a new study that examines birth rates before and after the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision. The study uses a "pre-registered synthetic difference-in-differences design applied to newly released provisional natality data for the first half of 2023." Here's the result: The authors note that up through 2022 states which now ...continue reading "Do abortion bans result in more births? The answer may shock you!"
I went up to Palomar Mountain last night to do a bit of astrophotography testing, but when I got there I encountered gale force winds even though the weather report—as I was standing there watching the trees bend—told me the wind was blowing at 7 mph. Stupid weather forecasters. Plus the moon was up, which ...continue reading "Lunchtime Photo"
Tom Edsall interviews a bunch of mental health folks today about Donald Trump's recent behavior. Here's one of them: “Trump is an aging malignant narcissist,” Aaron L. Pincus, a professor of psychology at Penn State, wrote in an email. “As he ages, he appears to be losing impulse control and is slipping cognitively. So we ...continue reading "Donald Trump is “slipping cognitively”"
I just read yet another review of Ridley Scott's Napoleon, and it made me wonder yet again about biopics. They are always "based on," which is a nice way of saying that they routinely lie about whoever's life they're selling. I gather that Napoleon is especially egregious on this front. But why? Popular biographies in ...continue reading "Why do biopics lie?"
Why does so much OpenAI drama happen late at night? We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience ...continue reading "Sam is back"
Last week Media Matters published a piece showing advertisements on Twitter being served up next to antisemitic posts. Elon Musk said the claim was wrong and filed a lawsuit. As far as I'm concerned, this is what SLAPP laws are for, and they don't get used nearly enough. Musk's suit is nothing more than an ...continue reading "Free speech and the state of Texas"
The more time that goes by, the more sorry I am about the failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit. It was the last chance for even a minimal chance at Middle Eastern peace and a Palestinian state. Instead we got another intifada on one side and a reinvigorated dismantling of the West Bank on ...continue reading "I am still mourning the failure of the Camp David Summit"
How is Joe Biden doing these days? Courtesy of CNN, here are his approval ratings from a variety of national polls over the past few months: From August through October Biden's approval dropped about 1.5% per month. Since the Israel-Gaza war broke out a month ago, his approval has improved by about half a percent. ...continue reading "Raw data: Joe Biden’s approval level before and after the Israel-Gaza war"
Some slender swans swimming serenely south on the silken Seine.
Just remember: they're all crooks. All of them: Changpeng Zhao, founder of the world’s largest crypto exchange, agreed to plead guilty to federal money laundering charges and step down as chief executive of Binance, which will pay a $4.3 billion fine, according to court documents. ....Court papers filed by the government say that Binance chose ...continue reading "Yet another crypto exchange goes down"
After a brief rebound in February, sales of existing homes just keep going lower and lower: In January 2021, existing homes sold at an annualized rate of 6.6 million. They've fallen 42% since then, due largely to higher interest rates. Unless you can pay cash, selling your home and moving to a new one means ...continue reading "Existing home sales continue to drop"
Total factor productivity is, roughly, productivity gains due to technological advances. We didn't get much of it in 2022: The entertainment industry apparently adopted new technology with tremendous enthusiasm. The mining industry didn't.
The New York Times has an intensely frustrating piece about driverless cars today. Most of the focus is on San Francisco, and the story includes three safety statistics: In San Francisco, more than 600 self-driving vehicle incidents were documented from June 2022 to June 2023.... Last year, the number of 911 calls from San Francisco ...continue reading "The New York Times fails a safety test"
Republicans have recently backburnered the notion of cutting Social Security benefits, so Politico reports that some Democrats are telling Joe Biden to broaden the fight: Progressives have pitched Biden officials and Democratic leaders in recent months on endorsing a plan to expand Americans’ Social Security benefits, according to several people involved in the informal discussions. ...continue reading "Should we increase Social Security benefits?"
In the LA Times, Brian Merchant writes that OpenAI itself isn't the only thing that self-destructed this weekend: All the while, something else went up in flames: the fiction that anything other than the profit motive is going to govern how AI gets developed and deployed. Concerns about “AI safety” are going to be steamrolled ...continue reading "Yeah, AI is going to be (very, very) big business"
Drive-thru beer. This is what the world needs more of.