Thursday, March 24, 2016

Last Call For Killer Nazi Robots From Hell

Good-natured Microsoft engineers put "Tay", their adaptive chatbot experiment, out in the wild to see what it could learn from being online and interacting with people on Twitter. In under 24 hours, the chatbot learned the cold truth about people on the internet: they're mostly abusive, racist assholes.

The aim was to "experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding," with Tay able to learn from "her" conversations and get progressively "smarter." 
But Tay proved a smash hit with racists, trolls, and online troublemakers, who persuaded Tay to blithely use racial slurs, defend white-supremacist propaganda, and even outright call for genocide. 
Microsoft has now taken Tay offline for "upgrades," and it is deleting some of the worst tweets — though many still remain. It's important to note that Tay's racism is not a product of Microsoft or of Tay itself. Tay is simply a piece of software that is trying to learn how humans talk in a conversation. Tay doesn't even know it exists, or what racism is. The reason it spouted garbage is because racist humans on Twitter quickly spotted a vulnerability — that Tay didn't understand what it was talking about — and exploited it. 
Nonetheless, it is hugely embarrassing for the company. 
In one highly publicised tweet, which has since been deleted, Tay said: "bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. donald trump is the only hope we've got." In another, responding to a question, she said, "ricky gervais learned totalitarianism from adolf hitler, the inventor of atheism."

If you ask me, Tay was a near-perfect success of emulating the thought patterns of your average twenty-something Twitter troll spouting racist garbage. Tay performed beautifully, frankly. And of course she likes Trump.

Let me know when the "more liberal than thou" version is out so I can use it to anticipate the outrage of the purity caucus.

House of Cards, Con't

On Monday I showed Cook Political Report case that the US House is in play for Democrats in 2016 if Trump/Cruz wreck the Republican brand enough.  Today I present David Dayen's counterargument, because if there's anyone who has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, it's Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC.

Even experts who give Democrats a chance to flip the House recognize that everything would have to go perfectly. Wasserman notes in his report that, despite the recent alterations, he rates only 31 Republican seats at risk of a loss. (Daily Kos Elections puts it a bit higher, with 36 Republican seats potentially threatened.) This means Democrats would have to win virtually every seat in play, and lose none of their own, just to regain a bare majority.

But it takes years to recruit and train candidates who can raise enough money to win a congressional election; you can’t throw it together in a few months. You can see how unprepared Democrats are for this scenario by looking at how many districts won’t have a Democratic candidate at all. Nineteen states have already closed their filing process for House elections, representing 163 Congressional districts. And as Stephen Wolf points out, in 27 of those 163 seats—about one in six—no Democrat will appear on the ballot.
Most of those seats are hopelessly Republican, but not all of them. Six of the districts have a Cook Partisan Voting Index score (a measure of how much more partisan a district is than the median) of “Republican+10” or less. Democrats held two of them, the 3rd and 10th districts in Pennsylvania, as recently as 2010. Illinois’s 16th district, held by Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger, is only R+4, but no Democrat emerged to challenge him. Given their thin margin for error, Democrats need surprises in seats like Kinzinger’s to win the majority. But they cannot get his. 
If this pattern continues, dozens more Republicans (in the states where candidates can still file) will see no general-election opposition from Democrats. To give one glaring example, Virginia’s 2nd district, which Mitt Romney won only narrowly in 2012, has an open seat; incumbent Scott Rigell is retiring. But while two Republicans have announced they’re running, no Democrat has declared yet, and filing closes March 31. There’s also no Democrat currently running in Colorado’s 3rd district, an R+5 seat where incumbent Scott Tipton only won 53 percent of the vote in 2012.

Even if most of the Democrat-free districts are deep red, the lack of candidates on the ballot robs the party of capitalizing on a backlash against Trump, or a scandal involving a GOP incumbent. The lack of competition also allows the Republicans to focus more heavily on seats where they’re strongly challenged, preventing the party from being stretched thin financially.

So there's a very good chance that the massive failure of Schultz and the DNC has already assured that the Republicans keep the House no matter how awful Trump and company destroy the GOP, simply because Democrats have already been decimated at the state level.  In other words, barely taking the House back in November is about as good as Dems could possibly do, as getting crushed in state and local races for six years and losing districts to gerrymandering means the Republicans have a near-permanent advantage until 2022 at the earliest.

Yes, Trump might cost the GOP the House in 2016, but the path to get there is about as narrow for Dems as Trump has of winning the White House.

Trump Cards, Con't

The Republican party of Donald Trump is the party of leftover white resentment, period.  Greg Sargent:

Donald Trump continued stomping towards the GOP nomination with a big win in Arizona last night, which will stir more anxiety among GOP elites who worry that his strategy of courting white backlash could drive away minority voters, helping unleash an electoral bloodbath up and down the ticket. Paul Ryan is set to give a speech today decrying the “tone” in our politics that will likely hint at criticism of Trump along these lines. 
But what if Trump’s efforts to court white backlash constitute one of the essential ingredients of his success among Republican voters? 
A new analysis of Washington Post/ABC News polling strongly suggests this may be the case. A Post/ABC national poll this month asked: “Which of these do you think is a bigger problem in this country — blacks and Hispanics losing out because of preferences for whites, or whites losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics?” 
A large plurality of Republican respondents nationally say that the bigger problem is whites losing out, by 45-19. I asked crack Post polling guru Scott Clement to break these numbers down among supporters of Trump and the other candidates, and it turns out that Trump supporters believe this in far larger percentages:

A majority of Trump supporters — 54 percent — believe the bigger problem is whites are losing out. Meanwhile, 37 percent of Trump’s supporters believe this strongly, again higher than among any other candidate’s supporters
To be clear, correlation does not necessarily mean causation, and this is only one of many potential factors explaining Trump’s support. As Clement and Max Ehrenfreund write for Wonkblog, the poll also found that Trump supporters are more likely to say they are struggling economically. But as they explain, when you take these economic findings along with the above views on the racial question, it suggests that Trump supporters tend to believe their “losses are being caused by other group’s gains.”

In other words, Republicans have done such a good job of getting working-class white Americans to vote against their own self interest that the gap between whites and non-whites has narrowed to the point of it being perceived as an unfair advantage to non-white Americans.

"But at least I'm doing better than those people" isn't quite as true as it has been across America's entire history, and Trump's supporters want to put an end to that real damn fast.

Yes, it's always been about race, and yes, it will get a lot uglier going forward.


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