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User ID: 1399

Here's a summary by Zvi Mowshowitz of publicly-known facts regarding the firing of Sam Altman, as of Monday morning. The board has not yet made known the reasons for the firing besides the vague and broad claim that Altman "was not consistently candid in his communications with the board", and it seems that they are not making an effort to stand by their reasons.

The situation is ripe for some juicy conspiracy theories, and I would love to hear some. Why would a group of (I assume) intelligent and competent people on the board make such a drastic and dramatic firing that was sure to cause an excrement storm, and then not be able or willing to defend their actions to the public? Would disclosing their actual reasons cause the very thing they were trying to avoid? Did their actions prevent an untested AGI escaping into the wild? Inquiring minds want to know!

Looking at the Wikipedia article for Anarchism, it seems that the various strains of Anarchist philosophy are still going strong. Maybe the assassination tactic died out because it proved ineffective in achieving stated objectives.

Right after WWII, there's a pivot of focus and tactics:

By the end of World War II, the anarchist movement had been severely weakened. The 1960s witnessed a revival of anarchism, likely caused by a perceived failure of Marxism–Leninism and tensions built by the Cold War. During this time, anarchism found a presence in other movements critical towards both capitalism and the state such as the anti-nuclear, environmental, and peace movements, the counterculture of the 1960s, and the New Left. It also saw a transition from its previous revolutionary nature to provocative anti-capitalist reformism.

More recent activities:

Around the turn of the 21st century, anarchism grew in popularity and influence within anti-capitalist, anti-war and anti-globalisation movements. Anarchists became known for their involvement in protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Group of Eight and the World Economic Forum.

I would also include Anarchist substantial presence in Occupy Wall Street.

While having revolutionary aspirations, many forms of anarchism are not confrontational nowadays. Instead, they are trying to build an alternative way of social organization, based on mutual interdependence and voluntary cooperation.

That description reflects the actions of the self-professed Anarchists that I know, who are interested in developing and sustaining structures of governance (even on small scale) that don't have formalized hierarchies.

This example fits the following narrative pattern:

  1. An institution X used to have broad support, but now we* recognize it as harmful or bad, though they* still defend it.

  2. Breaking news: evidence E that X was far worse than we* knew! (But not worse than we* can imagine!) So X was altogether evil!!

  3. (Whisper among us*:)

    • "Isn't that evidence kind of weak? I mean, X still evil, but ..."

    • "Shh! X was evil, don't undermine the narrative! They* will latch on to it!"

[* For some variation of we and they.]

Once the narrative transitions from "X bad" to "X evil", any questioning of evidence E that precipitated that transition is questioning that X is evil, as opposed to merely bad (from the narrative's perspective).

In the Kamloops graves case, there is a competing impetus: physical anthropologists and archeologists (who are part of we* in this case) very much want to preserve their status as scientists, so they have a strong stake in upholding the rigor of their methods. The Wikipedia entry for Kamloops Indian Residential School reflects this process. The "Possible Unmarked Graves" section is written in a cautious neutral tone, and points to specific plans for corroboration of the evidence:

In May 2022, Casimir said that a technical task force had been formed "of various professors as well as technical archeologists" and that work on an archeological dig and possible exhumations could soon begin... [...]

As of May 2022, no remains had been excavated, leaving the initial claim unverified.

The Kamloops graves case, therefore, is a very interesting case to watch, and I thank you for putting together such a great effort post on its progress.

In "Man's Search for Meaning", Viktor Frankl argues that a person can weather adversity--even thrive--so long as one's experience is deeply meaningful. In contrast, a person can be living an objectively pleasant life, yet be miserable if meaning is absent.

Frankl's framework fits some of the more successful activists that I personally know, be their cause a strain of social justice or Christian prothelytizing. They are tired and frustrated, their schedule is hectic, but their life is full of meaning. And because of that, they attract others to their cause.

I have recently watched the ["Navalny"](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navalny_(film)) documentary. That guy is not living the good life by my definition--he's in a Russian high-security penal colony, an outcome he knew was highly likely when he chose to go back to Russia--but I don't deny that his life is deeply meaningful to him. That's a powerful draw.

Congratulations on getting the NIH grant!

You are right to point out that a significant portion of gatekeepers in US Academia are very much into the DEI/woke ideology. I would guess that in some fields, they are the majority of gatekeepers. In other fields, they may yet be a minority. Since most fields in US are liberal/left, and DEI/woke ideology evolved specifically to spread in or dominate such spaces, I would expect to encounter such gatekeepers in pretty much any academic field. I would also expect to encounter gatekeepers who retain classical liberal ideals that are at odds with discriminatory aspects of the former.

Getting a specific job, getting a specific grant, those have always been a crap shoot and involved guessing the priorities of whoever comprised the hiring / grant committee. It also is, deliberately, a status game. We would like to think that academic status is about merit, but it's still status, and thus susceptible to status-affecting politics. DEI/woke has been quite effective in that game, in the milieu of liberal/left spaces. So I would expect their representation within the academic gatekeepers to increase.

To anyone who is personally worried about this trend, I recommend considering life outside of academia.

We did.

That is: there was a general pressure from administration and other professors to have some kind of DEI statement; we (the search committee) wrote the prompt ourselves, and nobody outside of the search committee read these statements. We deliberately avoided DEI/woke jargon in our prompt, which went something like: "Describe how you have adjusted your teaching based on considerations of your students' various backgrounds. Give specific examples." We wanted applicants who have a track record of appropriately adjusting their pedagogy to fit the students that are actually in their course, and that's what we looked for.

Quite a few applicants phrased their statement with lots of DEI/woke jargon--probably because they were applying for other academic positions as well and DEI statements got pretty common then. That wasn't a drawback for those whose examples were actual useful pedagogy, like the guy who made a point to reach out to struggling students, noted that many of them were black ( but also conveyed that he reached out to all struggling students). Showing facility with currently-fashionable jargon is a definite plus at a small liberal arts college, because it means students aren't going to out-jargon you. However, we did scrutinize such statements for signs that the candidate was a possible liability (like those that supported actual discriminatory treatment based on protected categories) or poor collegiality (like those who made a point to publically "call out" various shit at their institution without even approaching people in private).

I work at a small private US liberal arts college. When I was part of a search for a tenure-track candidate, we asked the candidates to include in their application a DEI statement, because it was expected for all searches at the college.

Then we threw out any candidates who clearly drank the Cool-Aid.

Out went the candidate who said she moved all her black students to the front of the class, and all her white students to the back of the class. Out went the candidate who said he had a special study group only for his LatinX students.

In went the candidate that said she volunteered at a tutoring program for the local Title I school with majority of student black or latino. In went the candidate who said he stepped up his office hours for everyone, and personally reached out to invite each student who struggled in his class, many of whom were black.

If you are working in academia, having a reasonable amount of fluency in the current etiquette of the Professional-Managerial Class is a requirement of the job. Knowing when to not get carried away with the rhetoric is also part of the job. The candidates that we tossed out (like the ones above) actually discriminated against some students, so they were a legal liability for their employer.

You mentioned in another comment that your goal is personal career progress, and that you'll be with this employer for only a few years. Good, focus on that. Don't fall for anyone claiming that you should be able to "bring your whole self" to work. You are expected and required to only bring your professional self to work. So: if your employer requires X, you do X or quit. If your employer recommends X and you don't want to do X, quietly don't do X. If other employees ask you why you are not doing the recommended X, ask them politely to explain the benefits of doing X, and consider their explanations. Even if their explanation is a stream of religious/woke prosthelytizing, you can get some value from it by seeing what new terms or etiquette is going around. But someone may actually tell you something more useful (e.g., X is something your boss really cares about and pays attention to).

I think you're right about that this is where we disagree. If we take doing science as "making progress on our ability to predict and manipulate the physical world", well that applies to the electron microscope salesmen, academic departmental secretaries, directors of corporate research orgs, plumbers who install chilled water systems in labs, the maintainers of python and r, and any number of other people who contribute in some small way to the broad economic activity of advancing science.

Excellent point! My follow-up question is therefore: what actual utility is there in distinguishing some of the jobs (professions? tasks?) that progress our ability to predict and manipulate the physical world as "scientist"?

I do think that this utility exists and is important. It reminds me of Feynman's description of cargo cult science:

In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head to headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas--he's the controller--and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.

In an organization whose purpose is to progress in our ability to predict and manipulate the physical world--and which has a solid track record of effectively making this progress--who are the people that are essential to the enterprise, and who are in necessary supporting roles?

If the latter: do they require transferable set of skills that are not particular to this specific enterprise? The plumber who installs the chilled water system is such; so is the CPA in HR; so is the janitor. The lab manager (like, in a chem lab) would need to have specialized knowledge to do her job, but it's still transferable set of skills (solid Bachelor's level knowledge of chemistry plus great organizational skills). These people do useful work that enable the enterprise, but they are not essential.

It's useful to reserve the term "scientist" for the former--those who are essential to the enterprise--to keep the telos of their profession foremost in mind. It's useful, because the scientist's telos is frequently in direct contradiction with goals people have (e.g., getting that publication after you put in so much effort into that experiment, if only those couple of observation points weren't undermining your hypothesis). Let me quote Feynman once more:

But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. [...] It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.

Try: "I find your phasing... problematic." (Followed by a dignified silence.)

Seriously, though, if your purpose is to improve your own communication skills--and that's a laudable purpose to have--I recommend seriously adapting Socratic method. Ask questions, and genuinely listen to their responses. If they talk about broad ideas, come up with realistic concrete scenarios, preferably based on your own life or someone you know. If the terminology gets in the way of communication, suggest "tabooing" a particular word and see if it improves communication of ideas.

By the way, I recommend reading Plato's dialogues. The character of Socrates is great at walking the narrow path between a devil's advocate and a troll, and it falls to other characters to voice "common-sense" ideas.

I agree with your assessment of what makes one a programmer. Programming is a specific technical skill, and what makes one a programmer is being good at--and doing--that technical skill.

A software engineer, on the other hand--or better yet, a software architect--need not necessarily do any programming. They can offload the tasks that require that specific technical skill to programmers.

I suspect that this is at the root of the contention between your perspective and mine. Do you regard doing science as a set of technical skills? Or do you regard doing science as making progress on our ability to predict and manipulate the physical world?

And once I phrase it like that, I find that the specific issue of our contention--under what conditions you/we call the people who progress our ability to predict and manipulate the physical world "scientists"--stops mattering so much.

The current system (in US) where one can progress our ability to predict and manipulate the physical world on a fundamental level is done mostly in university-based labs. These labs rely on funding to continue to make their progress. Funding depends on maintaining a solid and clearly-legible track record of previous progress (which in our system involves high-quality publications in peer-reviewed journals that are well-regarded in the field). Funding also depends on seeking out and getting those grants, and then making sure to satisfy their conditions so the lab can get more of such grants in the future.

So if I run a bio-chem lab (the Hooser Lab at Stanbridge) and my goal is to progress what we know about what causes aging and what may halt the process in mammals, then my main job is to make sure that my lab can actually make useful progress in my goal. I need to break down what my lab needs to do, what resources it needs to do that, and how I can get those resources. Then I get those resources, and oversee the process. And as much as I enjoyed writing scripts to analyze data when I was a postdoc at Whatihear Lab at Oxbridge, maybe my time would be better spent on reviewing drafts for publications (because I have the breadth of knowledge to connect that esoteric result to broader field, or to suggest in the discussion multiple probable interesting consequences), and speaking with grant-giving foundations (because I have built my reputation as a serious scientist and they will take me seriously), while a postdoc in my lab oversees the data analysis.

I work at a small selective liberal arts college where both students and faculty are almost all split among the classical-liberal / left-progressive / left-radical. The ideological fights tend to happen between classical liberals and the progressives / radicals. Aside from me, no professor identifies as Republican; students who are willing to say they vote republican are <1% (students who actually are politically conservative are more like 10%, but a lot of those are international students), and staff tends to keep mum about their personal politics.

So when our Dean of Faculty asked for volunteers to develop a "bias-incident response procedure", I volunteered. And I made sure that the system would recognize incidents that marginalize people because of their political affiliations (didn't have to do much, the HR wanted to include it to cover all the bases), and that the method of reporting a "bias incident" made that possibility explicit.

Then I told everyone about it, and how I will now be on the lookout for casual remarks putting down Republicans as a group. Cause, you know, microaggressions.

It's a small campus, and word gets around. The classical liberals on campus (faculty, staff, or students) don't like the woke attempting to take over, so they think it's a grand idea to turn the tables and usurp the woke language for the benefit of Republicans. The progressives and radicals (that still speak to me) are actually cool with it once I point out the advantages to having someone around willing to argue for conservative ideas. And the ones who don't speak to me... who cares.

One of the tenets of Critical Race Theory is called "interest convergence": that the majority (e.g., "white" in US) will only support the rights of the minority (e.g., "black" in US) if there's something in it for them. Sounds reasonable to me. So I figure out how to convince the majority-on-campus classical liberal / progressive-but-not-completely-woke that it's to their benefit to protect the rights of the minority-on-campus Republicans / conservatives.

E.g.: classes are a heck of a lot more fun if you got some contrarians taking the unpopular conservative positions and letting the liberal / left / left-radical students practice their arguments for real. If you ain't got no conservatives in your class, then the liberal/progressive professor needs to take on the conservative position yourself defend it devil's-advocate style (and probably straw-man botch it), or worse: have a boring class. So clearly, ensuring that our campus is explicitly welcoming to the minority Republicans / conservatives, and that they are definitely welcome to speak up and represent their views, is to the benefit of liberals, leftists, and left-radicals.

I am fascinated by your idea of what actions make a scientist. If an experiment I am conducting needs some beakers washed, does it make me less of a scientist if I have a freshman undergrad wash them--so long as I check that it's done properly? If the experiment that I designed needs some chemicals mixed in particular proportions and sequence, does it make me less of a scientist if a senior undergrad does it--so long as I check that it's done properly? If I design three experiments to test a theory, does it make me less of a scientist three first-year graduate students carries each experiment out--so long as I check that they are done properly? If there are multiple competing theories in my field and I have good ideas about how I can test them but to design the experiments in detail I would need to have a thorough and detailed knowledge of several disparate sub-fields and possibly fields in adjacent disciplines, and also I would need to raise substantial funds to finance such experiments, does it make me less of a scientist if I recruit a team of grad students and post-docs, each specializing in some particular sub-field and tasked with designing and carrying out experiments there, while I use my broader expertise and established credentials to convince whoever I can to finance these projects?

Are you less of a programmer because you don't program in Assembly? Or because you import modules? Are you less of a software engineer if you spend your time with the client determining their needs, then oversee the development of architectural design, APIs for relevant modules with appropriate testing system, and then hand off the actual code writing to a team of programmers?

At the college where I work, I have successfully used the rhetoric of microaggressions and bias incidents on the casual put-downs of republican-coded ideas. The college instituted a "bias incident" reporting system ("non-punitive" and "restorative-justice"), and the legalese-sounding description of what a "bias incident" is includes "political party affiliation".

UCLA Williams Institute released a report examining the number of trans-identified people over the past five years. It buried the lede in its June 2022 report: in the same five-year period while trans-ID increased 100% among youth, trans-ID among adults 25 and over dropped 21%.

This might reflect a change of what transgenderism means, in Blue Tribe circles at least.

I work in a small liberal arts college with almost all students in the 18-24 age range. Twenty years ago, if we had any transgender students or employees, they either were closeted or completely passed. In 2008-2015, we got a few students who were openly trans and really worked on presenting themselves as their chosen gender. I don't know if they had surgeries, but at least testosterone / estrogen intake was involved.

After that, we got more and more students who would say they are trans, but I am sure that no pills or surgeries were involved. In fact, if they didn't tell me they are trans I would not have known it, because most of them don't do anything outside of the (liberal arts college) norm of their obvious biological gender. (Guy with long hair wearing a skirt? Whatevs. Gal with short hair wearing... wait, is there even something a gal can't wear and still read female?)

By now, being trans just means that you say you are trans, both socially and in Williams Institute report:

The BRFSS module asks, “Do you consider yourself to be transgender?” with response options,

“Yes; No; Don’t know/not sure” or respondents could refuse to answer. If a respondent expresses

confusion, then interviewers provide definitions of transgender and/or gender nonconforming. If

respondents affirmatively answer the question, they are then asked if they consider themselves to

be male-to-female; female-to-male; or gender nonconforming. The YRBS module asks, “Some people describe themselves as transgender when their sex at birth does not match the way they think or feel about their gender. Are you transgender?” with response options, “No; Yes, I am transgender; Not sure if I am transgender, Don’t know what the question is asking.”

Which means that for most people who self-identified as "trans" in the past, "de-transitioning" just means "not saying you are trans anymore".

So here's my theory to explain the drop in trans-identifying adults: in 2016 when college-attending or very-online normies caught wind of this new and exciting idea--that saying you are transgender marks you edgy and cool but you don't need to do anything more expensive than claim it--there was a spike of 25-35-year-olds self-identifying as "trans"-something. Now, when the idea is old and "trans" has lost its coolness-signaling edge, that spike isn't there, and some of the people who added to the spike in 2016 no longer say they're trans.

If it's there, though, they'll still know it's there, even when they're not looking at it. Thus they will suffer some psychological harm they otherwise wouldn't have suffered, if it just wasn't published in the first place.

The same idea applies to using people's likeness in memes. Like for the woman in the "first world problems" meme--I am sure that being the literal poster-child of getting-upset-over-silly-things isn't what she wanted out of life.

If those memes are distributed for free--and they are--does the woman have the right to ask websites to take them down?

I'm not sure why you're bothering to make yourself one degree removed by making this be about your 18 year old daughter.

I am old, married, and no longer give a fuck. But I would care if it were my daughter.

I appreciate you taking the time to vividly describe the hypothetical experience. I know that your intent was to make me feel disturbed or disgusted, but that's rather the point of this discussion: it's about exploring our intuitions on the subject.

And training the AI on the actual person's breasts isn't required for the result to be highly similar to what they actually look like topless, at least for some women, considering at least some people's breasts are visually similar to other people's breasts. Thus a person who has not already consented to having topless photos of themselves present anywhere on the internet can have topless images of them created to what is indeed a very high degree of verisimilitude to their actual naked form, using i.e. pornstar's breasts as training data.

Porn stars not only self-select based on their agility in smoothly changing positions in front of cameras--incidentally, a skill shared with politicians--but also for how good they look naked. If an AI image generator is trained on naked bodies of porn starts, its AI-completed naked version of me will look amazingly better than I actually do.

Women's breasts, in particular, come in a variety of shapes, and they are frequently not symmetric. Older women's breasts tend to be flat--think more like those pictures in the old National Geographic depicting women in some far-away hunter-gatherer tribe. The nipples and areolae come in various shapes and sizes, and change with temperature. Some have inverted nipples. Practically all of this variability is hidden by the kinds of clothes women wear, especially if they are into padded bras.

The distribution of body fat also varies significantly for overweight women, and this is also mostly hidden or distorted by clothes.

Perhaps in reality the ultimate causes of this dissonance are that modern-day sexual mores are completely stupid, so deeply incoherent that acceptance of any one of them will necessarily lead to cognitive dissonance when contrasted against some other

That observation is a very useful starting place. When I find myself in a similar confusion, I try to switch my perspective to a more traditional view by imagining it involving my kin. Like: "What would I want to do to the guy who did this to my 18-year-old daughter?"

If a guy uploaded to pornhub a realistic sleazy deep-fake porn with my daughter's image and distributed the link within my community, I'd be contemplating the percussion sound of a baseball bat striking his kneecap.

Now that I have an anchor to my reaction, I can explore its possible reasons.

The modern US culture is (broadly) a culture of dignity, where "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is an aspirational ideal. If I aspire to this ideal for myself and my hypothetical 18-year-old daughter, then the sleazy deep-fake porn is "words" that I and my daughter ought not allow to hurt us. We would then treat the incident as we would one where someone created a fake Linked-In account for my daughter, or a controversial blog post written in my daughter's name, or if someone hacked my daughter's Twitter account and posted some unsavory tweets in her name.

In a culture of dignity, I would assume that my daughter's dignity cannot truly be compromised by something she didn't do (in this case: make a sleazy porn video). I would understand the need to correct the record--have pornhub take down the video, issue a clarification within our community --and I would regard that task as an annoyance.

However, underneath that culture-of-dignity veneer lurk centuries of cultures of honor. It doesn't take much for me to get into that mindset. By creating the deepfake porn and distributing it among my community, the guy compromised my daughter's honor--altered for the worse her reputation among my community--and by extension he compromised my honor. Swift baseball-to-the-kneecap plus spreading the word about the retribution is pure restorative justice.

(But what if the guy didn't distribute the deepfake? Like, what if I found it by browsing his laptop? The threat of distribution is there. So my gut response is to get immediately angry and see that he erases the video and promises never to do that again. Presumably, if I am browsing the guy's laptop, the guy is part of my community and I will have social levers to ensure compliance.)

The question is then: what culture does my community have?

If it's Blue Tribe PMC: my daughter's reputation will rise by spreading word about (a) her stoic response to someone's attempt at reducing her dignity, (b) our levelheaded pursuit of legal means of redress, and even (c) our high-brow discussions on why our culture regards sex as shameful in the first place.

If it's Red Tribe Appalachia: out comes the baseball bat.

Ivan Sixpack

Culturally accurate would be Ivan Third-liter. The traditional way to spend your evening drinking was to get two buddies to share--and defray the cost of--a liter of vodka. Thus the phrase "на троих" (literally, "for three").

Kanye has no ideological allies, because he is taking a culture war stance from two centuries ago, of which one side has already emerged victorious.

Kanye's pronouncements on Jews are derived from the currently-prevalent American-Black mythologies, such as those of the Nation of Islam. Kanye does have ideological allies, but they have very little pull among the current PMC.

Also on Stanford's list: "abusive relationship" should be replaced by "relationship with an abusive person", because:

The relationship doesn't commit abuse. A person does, so it is important to make that fact clear.

Firstly, they are breaking their own guide of "Person-First", which is the section just prior to that entry. According to the heading,

"The use of person-first language helps everyone to resist defining others by a single characteristic or experience if that person doesn't wish to be defined that way.

So, shouldn't that be something like "relationship with a person who occasionally makes an action that is perceived as abusive"?

And secondly, in my experience, it really is the relationship that's abusive, where the spiral of negative reinforcements for obsessively pushing each other's buttons cannot be laid at the feet of a single partner.

Graduate students in the University of California (UC) system have been on an official strike for the past five weeks. They are unionized by United Auto Workers (UAW). The union representatives have reached a tentative agreement with the UC representatives.

The tentative agreement would give graduate student workers in two United Auto Workers bargaining units an increase in minimum pay from about $23,250 to about $34,000 for nine months of part-time work.

"Part-time work" here means 20 hours per week. That's the official cap for UC graduate students receiving stipends. Translating into hourly pay: the graduate students will go from earning $30/hour to a bit more than $43/hour.

So, culture war angle:

On the one hand, I don't trust government representatives negotiating with representatives of government-employed union members to fully represent taxpayer interests. In particular, I fully expect that everyone negotiating on behalf of UC was fully sympathetic with the striker's cause, and not strongly motivated to maintain low costs.

On the other hand, graduate student workers tend to provide specialized services. So a reasonable question (that I don't have an answer to yet) would be: how much would a professional grader of introductory writing courses charge? What about one for differential calculus? What about one for organic chemistry? From that perspective, $43/hour sounds like not such a bad deal.

For extra culture war angle, the LA Times quotes some tweets from graduate students unhappy with the deal. I will include one that does raise an interesting point:

“It gives us a raise that’s enough to disqualify us for govt assistance programs and bump us to the next tax bracket, but not enough to cover those new costs,” according to the tweet.

the worst offender being a piece that was literally just a square canvas planted black. That's it.

Yes, but which square canvas painted black was it?

It may be one of Robert Motherwell's Iberia series, painted during the Spanish civil war. Though the most famous variants have a dash of non-black paint somewhere, some don't. Motherwell's Iberia canvasses have thick black paint and look almost like a map relief.

It may be one of Ad Reinhardt's paintings. He did a lot of them. Reinhardt's canvasses tend to have very subtle patterns and shades, though the whole point of some of the canvasses is to not have any patterns whatsoever. That would be consistent with the philosophy of art-as-art he was exploring:

There is nothing there. What you see is not what you see. What you see is nothing. Nothing but shapes, lines, colors. What you see is whats in your mind. What you see is something somebody told you to look for. Look out for anything you see! Watch it! Watch out! Take care! Don’t leap before you look out.

But if you are really lucky, it was the original Black Square by Kazimir Malevich. The Black Square is one of the most influential works of modern art, ground zero for exploration of what modern artists and modern art audience mean by art. [Intentionally so](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Square_(painting)): "It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins."

If it was the Black Square, then there is an additional [bonus](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Square_(painting)) for the Culture War angle:

In 2015, while viewing the Black Square with a microscope, art historians at the Tretyakov Gallery discovered a message underneath its black paint. It was believed to read as "Battle of negroes in a dark cave." The reference was linked to an 1897 comic by French writer Alphonse Allais with the caption: "Combat de Nègres dans une cave pendant la nuit" or "Negroes Fighting in a Cellar at Night." The researchers at the State Tretyakov Gallery speculated that Malevich was responding to the joke within Allais' popular work.

Thanks! Fixed it.

The "Twitter Censorship Files" (WSJ, archived link) promise to shed some light on the Hunter Biden's Laptop Saga:

The Twitter documents published by Mr. Taibbi include part of what appears to be a memo from James Baker, the Twitter deputy general counsel. “I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked. At this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted,” Mr. Baker wrote.

He continued that “there are some facts that indicate that the materials may have been hacked, while there are others indicating that the computer was either abandoned and/or the owner consented to allow the repair shop to access it for at least some purposes. We simply need more information.”

With an election so close, any delay helped the Biden campaign, which was trying to squelch the Hunter Biden story that raised questions about what Joe Biden knew about Hunter’s foreign business dealings. Twitter went ahead and suppressed the story across its platform, going so far as to suspend the New York Post’s Twitter account.

Apparently, no light can be shed without heat. Matt Taibbi agreed to certain conditions in obtaining the files:

Very shortly, I’m going to begin posting a long thread of information on Twitter, at my account, @mtaibbi. [...] There’s a long story I hope to be able to tell soon, but can’t, not quite yet anyway. What I can say is that in exchange for the opportunity to cover a unique and explosive story, I had to agree to certain conditions.

The conversation is therefore veering towards journalistic ethics rather than the content. That WSJ op-ed I linked to above leads with the following:

Elon Musk’s release of internal emails relating to Twitter’s 2020 censorship is news by any definition, even if the mainstream media dismiss it. There will be many threads to unspool as more is released, but a couple of points are already worth making.

The first is that Mr. Musk would do the country a favor by releasing the documents all at once for everyone to inspect. So far he’s dribbled them out piecemeal through journalist Matt Taibbi’s Twitter feed, which makes it easier for the media to claim they can’t report on documents because they can’t independently confirm them.