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Resilient Constructs

The Positivity Deception

Do you ever get tired of people telling you to “think positive”? I know I do. There are a lot of little platitudes like this that get foisted on us: * "Be grateful." * "Think good thoughts." * "Life's not fair." * "The world doesn't owe you a thing." These tend to be repeated without much thought, rather than be examined for what they suggest. Well, I’m the kind of person who prefers to examine, so let’s have at it.

Flirts, Compliments, and Catcalls

Every so often I’ll come across some guy lamenting that women just can’t take a compliment anymore, as if what was once a sea of happily receptive women has been hardened into a glacier of frigid ice queens. Nothing I say here will be news to women, who live with the reality every day. My audience here is the hypothetical heterosexual man who is perturbed that he’s not allowed to tell women what he thinks of their appearance.

Trump: From Sideshow to Main Event

Given the outcome of the Nevada caucus, it’s looking more and more like Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for President. A year ago, I would’ve considered it impossible. Six months ago, I would’ve said he was a longshot for the nomination, much less the Oval Office. Now? What should have been obvious all along is finally becoming clear. Donald Trump may or may not be able to win the White House–that remains to be seen–but that a one-man reality show could hijack the Presidential campaign season so quickly and easily, absurd as it may have seemed a year ago, now seems like it must have been inevitable.

Stealing the 2016 Election

Remember, it’s only wrong if you get caught. We’re into another Presidential election year in the US, as if the other three years aren’t just as much about Presidential campaigning. But this means it’s a good time to talk about the nuts and bolts. Commonly discussed during election years are turnout statistics, get-out-the-vote efforts, and other features that fascinate wonks but perhaps don’t make that big a difference. Often neglected until after the election is over are the various factors that influence who even gets to vote, and how those votes are counted.

Feminism vs. Capitalism

Singer/songwriter Kesha made headlines recently as she attempted, unsuccessfully, to have her music contract with Sony nullified. She sought this on the basis of rape allegations she’d made against her producer, Dr. Luke. If you’re unfamiliar with the case, there’s a good breakdown here. As I often do, I’d like to use this particular case as a springboard to talk about broader issues. Many think pieces were written in response to Kesha being forced to uphold her contract.

No News is Good News?

You’re about to be subjected to stream-of-consciousness metacommentary. I’ve been thinking lately about what I want to accomplish with this blog and if I am actually doing that. To circle back to the start of all this, I am not new to writing persuasively online. I have blogged off and on since “blog” was even a word. I was making Internet commentary by 1998 or so. My blog updates were infrequent, to be sure, but I’ve spent almost that entire intervening time posting on various forms, and my favorite form of discussion on those has consisted of debates on contentious topics.

Link Roundup: February 20, 2016

You never asked for this, but you’re getting links anyway. Politics * [Republicans show signs of division on Supreme Court tactics](http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-02-16/republicans-show-signs-of-division-on-supreme-court-tactics) -- Some want to unilaterally block nominations to replace Scalia, others want to just drag out the process, etc. Constitutional crisis, here we come? * [The weirdest, best photos I found in an old Bernie Sanders archive](http://fusion.net/story/267134/bernie-sanders-burlington-old-photos/) -- Bernie Sanders photos from the '80s! It's just how you remember: awkward smiles, bad hair, and McGruff the Crime Dog.

The Platform Economy

It’s becoming more and more common for workers to be self-employed using apps like Lyft, Uber, Instacart, Postmates, and others. This transition has been called the “sharing economy,” the “gig economy,” and other optimistic-sounding terms. But what we’re really looking at is a “platform economy”: an economy where the primary beneficiaries are those who own platforms. It must be said that the basic idea of a platform economy is not new.

The FBI vs. Apple

By now, you may have heard that the FBI is asking Apple to help get into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. WIRED has a good summary of the situation. Some thoughts after spending a few days thinking, reading, and arguing the issues involved: * The government forcing Apple to write special software so that they can brute force the phone's security would be an unusual, possibly unprecedented, power grab.

Machine Learning that's Killer

Finding terrorists who haven’t yet struck is like looking for a needle in a haystack. In fact, it may be looking for needles where there aren’t any. Ars Technica put up an interesting but deeply concerning piece yesterday regarding the use of the NSA’s SKYNET program to automatically identify terrorists based on metadata. Patrick Ball—a data scientist and the executive director at the [Human Rights Data Analysis Group](https://hrdag.org/)—who has previously given expert testimony before war crimes tribunals, described the NSA's methods as "