The Weekly Arc: August 11, 2017
Welcome to Arc’s newsletter, sent out once per week, highlighting the best and most interesting stories from around the web. The Weekly Arc is curated by Berny Belvedere. Past editions can be accessed here.
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An internal memo by a Google software engineer critiquing the company’s diversity efforts, first reported by the Motherboard website on Saturday and then released in full, provoked some strong reactions.
The online media called the document a “screed against diversity” and blasted it as “anti-woman.” On Twitter, posters compared the memo’s author to the man who gunned down 14 female engineering students at a Montreal college in 1989. Some fantasized about violently attacking him. Many, including feminist software engineer and congressional candidate Brianna Wu, clamored for his firing. Indeed, the author, unmasked as James Damore, was fired Monday evening for perpetuating “harmful gender stereotypes” — an ironic conclusion, considering that a central topic of his memo was ideological conformity at Google.
Considering the argument on its own terms, Damore aimed to revamp Google’s hiring and HR practices, and prompt an industry-wide, perhaps national or even global rethink of diversity in the workplace. In both execution and presentation it fails, making some fundamental errors.
The fabulously named Jonathan Anomaly investigates how we got here. Here’s the setup:
A day after an internal email by a Google employee was leaked to the press, a combination of ideological intolerance and scientific illiteracy led Google to fire James Damore for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” On the day he was fired, Quillette.com published several brief essays by academics on the science of sex differences, mostly vindicating his characterization of the relevant data. That night, hackers shut down the website, presumably to prevent readers from learning the truth: that there are average differences between men and women, that these differences are partly rooted in biology, and that these differences have predictable social consequences.
How did we get here? Why would such a carefully worded dissenting opinion earn someone so much scorn from the public, misunderstanding by the media, and a pink slip by the company he works for? How could an employee who expresses skepticism about a company’s policy, but doesn’t violate the company’s policy in any obvious way, be fired? And why would activists think it’s okay to use force to shut out dissenting voices on a website like Quillette?
For those wanting to track this story further, there are more links under “Society,” below.
Where do we stand with the threat from the North Korean nuclear program, and what are our options? We’re nowhere near a Cold War scenario like the Cuban missile crisis, or an ongoing mutual assured destruction standoff. (For one thing, the North Koreans do not have the ability, nor will they ever, to obliterate the United States).
Pyongyang has a small arsenal and no way to deliver it to North America. That reality, however, hasn’t stopped one breathless report after another in the wake of a leaked Defense Intelligence Agency report that Kim regime has now made a warhead small enough to fit onto a long-range missile. “We’re out of time,” defense analyst Harry Kazianis told Fox.
Harry is an analyst (and a friend) whose views I respect, but this is hyperbole.
After a breakdown of why Kazianis’ statement is greatly exaggerated, Nichols concludes:
The North Korean regime is dangerous. It is also, however, in a juvenile state of constant attention-seeking, as a means of demanding assistance from China, terrifying the North Korean public, and reaffirming the Kim family’s control over its bizarre kingdom. We are not yet in an acute crisis, but the alarmists are right about one important point: the United States cannot allow the creation of a functioning North Korean nuclear ICBM, and we have to have a plan for dealing with the day before that weapon is tested.
Kim might be “crazy,” but he’s not irrational. He and his generals like having a country to run, and they know initiating a war with the United States guarantees their destruction. Fortunately, the credibility of that threat comes from more than the president’s rhetoric.
North Korea has always feared a U.S. attack — that’s why it’s pushing so hard for a deterrent — and the North is no more or less afraid now. The same was true in April when the U.S. dropped a MOAB on ISIS targets in Afghanistan, and some commentators incorrectly predicted North Korea would see it as a signal to them and back down.
Besides, Kim gains stature by engaging in a war-of-words with the American president. Empty bluffs play right into his hands, allowing him to publicly defy the United States, and issue threats of his own.
Kim is almost certainly bluffing too, but that doesn’t mean this situation is without risk.
My hope is that cooler (military) heads prevail at the Trump White House and that the tough-guy rhetoric can be reigned in. Then again, this is the President who receives a daily briefing package that includes footage of him looking powerful.
Let CNN build their computer models of West Coast nuclear fallout and let them roll out Wolf Blitzer to give viewers DIY nuclear shelter advice from “The Situation Room.”
So long as the actual Situation Room is operating in a calm and collected fashion, the outside hysterics are of no consequence. Problem is, can we count on that?
McMaster in Trouble
Long-simmering tensions within the White House burst into public view this week after the firings of three National Security Council officials, resulting in National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster becoming Public Enemy No. 1 of the pro-Trump online brigades. — The Atlantic
What has Trump said, if anything, about the McMaster blowback?
President Donald Trump said Thursday he remains confident in national security adviser H.R. McMaster, despite escalating critiques of the adviser from some conservatives.
Some of the president’s supporters have called for the three-star general to be fired after he forced out several hard-liners from the National Security Council. They are also suspicious of some of McMaster’s policy ideas, including recommending the United States stand by the Iran nuclear deal and pushing to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. …
The conservative media outlet Breitbart recently published a slew of headlines maligning the national security adviser, including one that called him McMaster of Disguise. The outlet also slammed an Aug. 8 Wall Street Journal editorial that claimed Trump’s top political aide, Steve Bannon, was behind the conservative attacks on McMaster.
But Trump has recently stood by McMaster. On Aug. 4, he released a statement praising him.
“General McMaster and I are working very well together,” the statement read. “He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.”
Mike Pence 2020 Rumors
In an article I linked to last week, The New York Times reported that Nick Ayers, Mike Pence’s newly appointed chief of staff, has been telling Republican donors that the Vice President “wants to be ready” for 2020.
Ryan Lizza explores. We also get a bonus Mooch quote, which is so good it should’ve never been cut from the original interview feature.
The Return of Soccer Season
Soccer season is back!
I, too, got in on the fun, offering my projected top 8 here.
Here’s a projected ranking for the other leagues. I assure you this is universally agreed-upon:
Spain’s top three will include Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid. Germany’s winner will be Bayern Munich. The French champion will be PSG. The Italian champion will be Juventus.
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Have you experienced the transformative thrill of liking a page on Facebook, or following an account on Twitter? No? Well, then, carpe diem!
This Week In History
1929 — Babe Ruth becomes first baseball player to hit 500 home runs. He ended his career with 714.
1899 — Alfred Hitchcock, the filmmaker often referred to as the “Master of Suspense,” is born.
1947 — Pakistan gains independence from Great Britain.
1969 — The Woodstock music festival begins.
2012 — Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is granted asylum by Ecuador.
1998 — Bill Clinton admits on tape he had an “improper physical relationship” with Monica Lewinsky and confesses before the nation that he “misled people” about the relationship.
Without labor nothing prospers.