Addendum, 8/11/17

  1. You are what you love
  2. Putting a foreign policy cork in him
  3. Should the Google C.E.O. resign?
  4. Human Guinea Pigs



Kennedy tried for a kind of de-escalating clarity, except when he went for a de-escalating vagueness. He famously called his blockade of Cuba a “quarantine,” because a blockade is a military action and a quarantine is—well, whatever you think it is. He worked hard with aides on public statements, hammering out each phrase. He sometimes used dire language—we don’t want “the fruits of victory” to become “ashes in our mouths”—but he knew who he was up against, a Soviet premier whom he’d met in summit, and whose understanding of such messages could be at least roughly gauged.

… More than half the world at this point would see Kim Jong Un as mad, and some significant number might view Mr. Trump similarly. Thus the current high anxiety, and the need from America for calm, cool logic, not emotionalism.

(Peggy Noonan)

Brainstorm: Wouldn’t the “optics” improve if Trump would signal that Kim Jong Un is beneath his (Trump’s) dignity by letting Rex Tillerson or one of his highly accomplished and sober military men be the Administration’s public face on this situation?

I for one, feel far less secure with two preening narcissists playing verbal one-upsmanship in front of God and everyone. Ruth Marcus thinks Chief of Staff Kelly can and must pull off the equivalent by putting the kabosh on Trumpian improv: basically, “STFU on foreign policy or get a new boy.”


I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed.

(Connor Friedersdorf, H/T David Brooks) That is the most infuriating thing about the Google Memo story: the mendacity (at best culpable insouciance) of the press about what Damore wrote and even the audience for which he wrote it.

He did not write his memo as an open letter or a broadside to everyone at Google, but for a smaller group of, ironically, atheist wannabes (that’s the gist as I read it) who had some sort of discussion forum going. Even this good faith effort to explore the nuances misses that nuance when it describes Damore as a liabilitity to Google’s hiring because he “alienated a chunk of his fellow workers.” No, the sneak who outed the memo did that.

David Brooks describes five actors in the drama: Damore, his critics, the media, Google’s new diversity officer, and the C.E.O.

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.

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.

… [Damore’s critics and their concerns omitted]

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.

Of course subtlety is in hibernation in modern America …

Which brings us to Pichai, the supposed grown-up in the room. 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.

Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position. We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most.

(David Brooks, Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O.)


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Fiat justitia ruat caelum

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.