Wednesday: Hili dialogue

May 11, 2022 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Hump Day (or Latha Hump as they say in Scottish Gaelic), May 11, 2022.  It’s National “Eat What You Want” Day, but I’m not sure what the scare quotes mean. Are there some things we’re not SUPPOSED to want, or is the whole thing a joke?

I am weak but getting back to normal, so posting should pick up pretty soon. Meanwhile, we’re waiting for the appearance of ducklings, but so far none have shown.  It was a cold spring, and ducklings may be delayed.

In the meantime, here’s Hili with a wry remark. As Malgorzata said, “Many bad things came to Poland from the East. So why not aphids?”

A: There are no aphids on this bush.
Hili: They will probably fly in from the east.
In Polish:
Ja: Na tym krzaku nie ma jeszcze mszyc.
Hili: Pewnie przylecą ze wschodu.
And here is little Karolina grabbing up little Kulka (photo by Paulina):

According to the NYT, Hungary is spoiling the EU’s bid for unity in boycotting Russian oil:

A day after Congress forged ahead with a mammoth U.S. financial commitment to Ukraine, the European Union’s continued determination to confront President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was being tested on Wednesday as E.U. ambassadors again failed to reach an agreement to ban Russian oil.

Talks in Brussels broke off for the day as Hungary, which has resisted adopting an embargo on Russian oil, emerged as the most consequential spoiler to Europe’s continued efforts to present a united front against Moscow as the fighting in Ukraine drags on. Even as the European Union has never been more unified or determined than now, the Hungary dispute is a window into how fractures could happen that help Mr. Putin.

Although E.U. leaders have already approved five sanctions packages against Russia, their struggles to finalize this latest, toughest measure — one that would heavily punish Russia but also inflict pain on the bloc’s own economies — underscored what U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Mr. Putin is counting on: a weakening of Western resolve as he girds Russia for a protracted conflict.

Perhaps Hungary is the spoiler, but I don’t find its stand as consequential if the rest of the EU countries go along.

*As I expected, many readers objected to Elon Musk’s stated aim of implementing first-Amendment principles on Twitter, though many did not. I must say that I was disappointed by the “free speech but. . . ” stand evinced by some, which seemed to boil down to several features:

a. It’s social media; we cannot allow free speech because it has bad consequences (I recommend you watch the Hitchens video that I embedded in the comments).
b. It’s Trump; he cannot be allowed to have free speech because it has bad consequences.
c. (Less credible yet): It’s Elon Musk, for crying out loud!

Several readers pointed out to me, as if I didn’t know, that Twitter does not have to abide by the government’s First-Amendment principle, even though I’ve stated that ad infinitum. Here’s an attempted but not posted comment by “Laurien Weisser”: “There is no 1st Amendment issue here. This really is the dumbest thing I have read from you.” Back at you, Laurien!

d. And comment, from “Dale,” which also did not appear: “Give it a rest Dr. Coyne. Stick to biology. Seriously.”

From Doc Bill:

From Laurie Ann (I haven’t checked to see if the quote is genuine):

From John. Get it?

Speaking of free speech, this is from Titania:

From Ken, who adds “Separation of church and state? What separation of church and state? (This woman is the Lt. Gov. of Idaho and is currently a candidate for the Republican nomination to be governor.)”

From Simon: crazy paper title of the month:

From reader Barry, who notes that “not every cat is smart”:

Tweets from Matthew.  Of this first two he says, “And you thought the Kentucky Derby win was amazing. . . “:

Comedian Robin Ince reviews a Chicago bookstore.  He bought too many books!

This orchid bears the mixed Latin name Dracula simia, also called the “monkey orchid” or “monkey-like Dracula”. It’s the best doppelgänger flower yet!

A palindromic poem, which is okay but it has one rhyme in it:

21 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. It may be just on my side, but there are no images loading past the Duck picture on the stairs.

  2. I’m for free speech on Twitter, but I don’t think Musk will change anything. The reason is that I don’t think he will ever own Twitter. Tesla still trades at an extremely generous multiple. The NASDAQ being down a third forms its high in November has to make him very cautious. I’ve thought since he first announced his offer that it was hideously risky.

  3. Hey Jerry, some of the pics and tweets towards the end of the article aren’t showing up.

    The issue with Musk – and I didn’t see anyone mentioning in yesterday’s comments – is that following free speech principles in social media has in the past always resulted in a terrible user experience and loss of users for the platform.

    There’s a fairly consistent pattern with platforms starting out with minimal content moderation, a small minority of users making the user experience intolerable, users leaving the platform, the platform introducing stricter content moderation, then dissatisfied users going to start a new platform (like Parlor or Truth) with no moderation, and the cycle repeats itself.

    So I think there’s a higher-level question: can a social media platform run sustainably on free speech principles? The jury’s still out on that one.

    1. following free speech principles in social media has in the past always resulted in a terrible user experience and loss of users for the platform.

      And venture capitalists lose money …
      Sorry, the problem is?
      Ah, the professional venture capitalists are cottoning on, and the amateurs (Musk, for example) are putting their own cash on the barrel.
      Where did I put that … ah, here it is : Worlds-tiniest-violin.GIF

    2. Loss of users is only of indirect importance. Loss of customers is the real bottom line.

      If they allow Tr*mp back, they may lose a some users and they may also lose some customers because it’s Tr*mp. However, Tr*mp used to drive Twitter views and hence its value to advertisers so I think allowing him back will be a net financial gain.

      However, the general idea of more free speech will increase toxicity and that will drive away advertisers who do not want to be associated with such toxicity. It will also probably drive a lot of users away, thus decreasing its value as an advertising platform. This would be a problem for Musk because he is probably quite stretched to finance the buyout and a failing Twitter will not help that situation.

      So my prediction is that Musk will pay lip service to free speech by reinstating Tr*mp, but will not change anything else. Or he’ll try to change things and then have to change them back as discretely as possible when he sees how it affects Twitter’s revenues.

  4. And now that the pics are loading and I see Robin Ince, I must highly highly recommend the radio show / podcast The Infinite Monkey Cage. It’s a comedy and science panel show that he co-hosts with Brian Cox.

    And I’d point out that it’s right wingers, not social justice warriors, who are talking about banning and burning books that recognize that gay people exist these days, but okay.

    1. I was wondering, only yesterday, what had happened to Monkey Cage. Apparently they are recoding a new season starting this month and into June. Back with a live audience after a pandemic break.

  5. Re: comments above; the images show up for me.

    Several readers pointed out to me, as if I didn’t know, that Twitter does not have to abide by the government’s First-Amendment principle, even though I’ve stated that ad infinitum.

    I still say this is one of the more significant liberal challenges of our time: how to support free speech on-line where it “naturally” occurs (i.e. mostly in private, for-profit domains), while guarding corporate rights to control their space and dealing with the differences between online and face to face speech (anonymity and the lowering of social barriers that comes with it, the ability of anyone to interact one-to-many, etc.)

    I absolutely agree with Jerry that the 1st is an important guard rail against censorship that, ideally, should be followed in spirit by liberal western organizations even if they aren’t required to follow it legally. But I also recognize that twitter is not a public street corner, it’s more like a cafe, and the cafe owners get a say on the behavior that occurs in it. And I also recognize that “meat space” free speech rules have implicitly relied upon a speech-to-social-consquences connection that makes the worst sort of speech rare, and that that support structure is largely absent on the internet. So if we want free speech on the internet to be like free speech is when we are face to face with each other, then we’ll need some sort of explicit rules to take the place of the social conventions that naturally emerge, unplanned, when we are interacting face to face with people.

    1. I think that poilitical neutrality is more important than pure “first amendment” adherence. Thus, I’d be fine with rules against incivility so long as they were neutrally applied (which, at the moment, they very definitely are not).

      Another way forward is AI-based filters to allow people to curate their Twitter feed. One can already mute words (so, for example, one never sees a Tweet containing the character string “terf”), but it should be possible to extend this to threats and insults generally. This would be along the lines of email spam filters, which are pretty good.

      Extending the range of options a user have would allow a pleasant experience but without system-wide censorship.

      For example, a “superblock”, where blocking a user also blocks Tweets from anyone following that user, would go a long way to reducing much of the harassment someone might experience on Twitter.

      1. The limited AI use I’ve seen completely fails, having both large numbers of false positive and negatives. But possibly more importantly, I don’t foresee it keeping up with the human ability to get around any filter made, quite quickly. Dis 1s n0t s#pr##g g1V1n oui c*n say prctclly @nyth1ng ewesing n0nstndrd txt.

        So I expect it’ll be handjamming moderation for quite a while. And folks like Musk will have to choose between the unenviable options of cesspit or higher cost to operate to pay for that human moderation.

        1. Though false positives and false negatives are not so important on Twitter. And a filter on non-standard text would be easy (no need to try to interpret it). Again, the idea is to give the user lots of such options, so they can at least heavily curate their feed, even if the result is imperfect.

  6. “Scottish Gaelic”

    My wife informs me that this is be a repetitive redundancy, that other similar languages are not called “Gaelic”. For example, in Ireland the traditional language is called “Irish” and the Manx have “Manx”.

    Then again, Wikipedia is clear that she is wrong.

    Naturally, I have to follow her rule when talking about how the Irish and Scots traditionally spoke to one another. 😉

  7. The duck picture reminded me of a genuine dad joke. When we would pass a certain make of car, my dad would say, “That car doesn’t need a horn.” When asked why, he would reply, “Because it says ‘Dodge’ on the front. “

  8. Here’s a thought I had on the subject of free speech and it’s really directed at those who think it should be restricted because the fascist right use it as a tool to gain power and those who think spelling “free speech” as “freeze peach” is a clever and witty thing.

    When a country gets taken over by a dictator (fascist or left wing), the new ruler immediately enacts laws to protect the right of free speech of the citizens: true or false?

    1. True. But they then create the offence of “hooliganism” or “anti-Soviet activities” so you aren’t actually charged with a speech crime.

      That’s why rights like habeas corpus and due process are so important to back up freedom of speech. If the King’s men can just throw you in a cell for any reason without telling you what that reason was, they can silence dissenters while plausibly denying without having to admit that they were making speech a crime. Ditto the abuses of psychiatry that took place in the old Soviet Union. Dissidents were certified by state-corrupted psychiatrists as mentally ill and locked in insane asylums.

      All without traceable censorship at all.

  9. I don’t know about unrestricted speech in Twitter. It’s been shown many times that unmoderated internet forums of any kind (even for hobbies and other simple topics) devolve into screaming matches and extremism. I think that online forums offer a new challenge that older forms of speech did not: immediacy, almost complete anonimity, and depending on the forum, unprecedent amplification potential. Twitter is horrible the way it is already, who knows how low it can get (4chan? Reddit?).

  10. Loved the little girl winning after losing her shoe. Clearly a star in speed and grit.
    But the guy who tweeted it: why would he say that, were it his daughter, Security would have to be called to handle his celebration? Was he wanting to be a role model for his sons?
    Maybe the Ebonics loses something in the translation.

  11. I liked the palindrome…usually long ones like that don’t make a lot of sense, but this one did.
    And what’s special about this sentence?

    A great garage cat eats rats

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