With ChatGPT turning 1, Americans wonder whether AI is coming for their jobs (Andrea Hsu, 12/01/23, NPR)

Baltimore illustrator John de Campos was irate when he discovered that some of his original work had been used to train an artificial intelligence chatbot — without his permission.

“It’s so gross,” he says.

In just the past year, AI-powered programs like Midjourney and DALL-E have made it possible for anyone to create highly sophisticated images with just a few clicks of the keyboard.

For de Campos, that’s an outrage.

“The fact that human expression and art is now at risk and on the chopping block is super duper scary to me,” he says.

At the same time, de Campos, who aspires to make a living as a board game designer, has found ChatGPT to be a very effective helper when it comes to marketing his games on social media.



New Argentine Leader’s Economic Savvy: Whether Milei will free his statist economy is still unknown. But his understanding of crucial principles gives him a head start. (David R. Henderson, 12/07/23, Hoover: defining ideas)

Argentina’s economy and Argentina generally are in bad shape. That’s the result of decades of policies that follow the playbook of Juan Perón, the president of Argentina from 1946 to 1955 and again from 1973 to his death in 1974. Those policies consisted of heavy welfare spending, government nationalization of selected industries, and making the government the monopoly purchaser of grain, to name three. Various scholars have referred to Peron’s policies as fascistic. That charge is probably overstated. As Sheldon Richman wrote in his article on fascism in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, “fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer.” Richman explained, “Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners.” Perón didn’t go nearly as far as Mussolini did. Think of Peronist economics as “fascism light.”

Javier Milei wants to move in the opposite direction, by freeing Argentina’s people from government control of their economic activities. The uncertain news is that we can’t know how successful he will be. The good news is that, not surprisingly for someone who has been an economics professor, Milei shows a deep understanding of economics that will serve him, and Argentina, well.

WE’RE #1!:

Why the Worst Weather on Earth Is in New Hampshire (Ross Pomeroy, December 7, 2023, Big Think)

Standing 6,288 feet above sea level, Mount Washington is positively short compared to the rampant “fourteeners” of the West’s Rocky Mountains. It is, however, the tallest mountain for about a thousand miles, looming large over the surrounding terrain. And its horrid weather firmly trounces that of any grander peak.

Kenneth Jones, a longtime board member for the Mount Washington Observatory, which sits atop the mountain, ardently defends the area’s claim to the worst weather on Earth. It combines rain, cold, and wind as no other place does, he says. Sure, there are places like Antarctica’s Vostok Station, which the Russians claim is the “coldest and most inhospitable place in the world,” that are chillier. But Vostok gets almost no precipitation and has winds that blow at a pitiful average of just 11 mph (18 kph). And many other locations are wetter, but they aren’t nearly as cold or windy.

Mount Washington, on the other hand, has it all. The annual average temperature there is 27°F (–2.8°C), with a winter average of 7°F (–13.9°C), and a record low of –47°F (–43.9°C). This frigid air combines with gusty winds to chill visitors’ bones. The average annual wind speed is 35 mph (56 kph), and winds are at or above hurricane force (at least 74 mph, or 119 kph) every other day on average in winter. Then there’s the copious precipitation: about 100 inches (254 cm) of rain and 281 inches (714 cm) of snow each year, with fog cover about 60 percent of the time.

For nearly 62 years, Mount Washington held the record for the fastest measured wind gust over the surface of the Earth: 231 mph (372 kph). It was dethroned in 1996 by winds from Typhoon Ophelia at Barrow Island, Australia, which clocked in at an astounding 253 mph (407 kph). Mount Washington also has the record for the lowest recorded wind chill in the US, –109°F (–78°C), set earlier this year when the ambient temperature was –47°F (–43.9°C) and the winds howled at 122 mph (196 kph). Such conditions would cause exposed skin and the underlying tissues to freeze in a couple of minutes.


The Illusion of Division:Monica Harris talks with Ben Klutsey about her decision to move from California to Montana, ‘the System,’ the misleading nature of labels and more (BEN KLUTSEY, DEC 8, 2023, Public Discourse)

I quit my job; we uprooted ourselves. We were living in Santa Barbara at the time, and we moved to this tiny, tiny town in northwestern Montana that, at the time (pre-pandemic, of course), 3,500 people. We bought this cute little—little by Montana’s terms—20 acres at the foot of the Rockies, and I basically retreated from the world into the woods, literally. I didn’t practice law; bought some chickens and goats, built a greenhouse, and we settled into a life where we just did less and wanted less.

I have to say I’m amazed by what happened when I fell into this life of simplicity. My head cleared. I started to focus, and that was probably the beginnings of me seeing my world in an entirely different way.

I think I mentioned this in the book: There was this aha moment I had. It was the year after we moved there, in the summer of 2011. I was watching CNN. The U.S. had just lost its AAA credit rating. Back then it was like we were falling from the gold standard, and all the financial experts were buzzing about, “Oh my God, is there going to be a collapse? What does this mean for the markets? How bad is it for the country?” I had no idea how it was going to play out; I’m just a lawyer. But I’m like, “This doesn’t look good.”

I went outside to do my chores, and I saw this young white guy who was a carpenter we hired to fix our chicken coop after a bear had mauled it. I ask him, “Man, I just was watching CNN. Have you heard about what’s going on?” He’s looking at me, and he says, “Nope.” I was blown away. I’m like, “You haven’t heard about the AAA rating?” And he’s, “No.” “How can you not be concerned about what’s happening in the world and how it might affect you?” He said, “I got no control over it. Do you?”

I’m thinking, “OK, you’re probably right.” At the end of the day, however the credit drama is resolved, people like us didn’t have any power to fix it. That was the thing. No matter what we do, how hard we work, who we vote for, it seems our lives just keep going in the same direction. I’m an educated gay Black woman, and he’s a working-class white guy who never went to college, but our lives were basically heading in the same direction. We were working harder to maintain our lifestyle in a world that was growing increasingly precarious.

I said, “I get what you’re saying. I guess I moved here to lose myself in the woods because I wanted to leave the real world behind, just like you.” Then he looked at me and said something I’ll never forget. He’s like, “You call what’s going on out there the real world? Nothing’s real about any of that.” It was funny because, in a single sentence, he encapsulated what had driven me to quit my job, drop out and just disappear into the woods. That’s because the world has stopped making sense because it no longer felt real. […]

HARRIS: It’s been enlightening to meet so many people. Most of the people, I’ll say the vast majority of people that we’ve met, are so accepting and welcoming. Now, they’re also very churchgoing—there’s a church on every corner of Montana. Weirdly enough, we didn’t even realize a lot of our friends sometimes would be going to church four and five times a week until we’d invite them someplace and they’re like, “Oh my God, sorry—I’d love to come. I’m going to be in church.” I’m like, “Oh, wow. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude on that.”

They weren’t hitting us on the head with their religion. It was very clear we were in an interracial gay relationship, my partner and I, and it wasn’t like they didn’t want to have anything to do with us so they wouldn’t invite us over their house, or they wouldn’t babysit our kid if we had an engagement. They were willing to be part of our lives. They wanted to be part of our lives. They would help us if we had emergencies or we had windstorms on our property. And they voted Republican. Most of these people voted Republican, and a lot of them were hardcore Trump supporters.

It became so obvious to me that these political labels really just didn’t apply. The folks that I was taught to fear or that I had taught myself to fear—they really were a lot like me, but I wouldn’t have known it unless and until I exposed myself, until I made them my neighbors, which was a risk.


When the Culture Wars Came for Monty Python’s Life of Brian: “A film so funny they banned it in Norway!” (Kliph Nesteroff, December 8, 2023, LitHub)

As soon as it was released, Life of Brian was besieged by religious fundamentalists. Orthodox rabbis were the first to protest, objecting to a prayer shawl worn by John Cleese at the start of the film.

“It was the first scene to raise any protests,” said Terry Jones. “We always thought we were going to get protests from Christians, but in fact the first lot of protests we got [were] from the … Rabbinical Association of New York.”

Politicians connected to the evangelical movement suggested that the members of Monty Python be tried for blasphemy.

Idle said, “The rabbis went away as quickly as they had appeared and were replaced by angry Christians, who picketed the Burbank Studios in LA, claiming that Warner Bros. were the agents of the devil.”

Blasphemy charges were seldom successful in the modern age. Organized evangelical groups figured they’d have better success if they attacked the film on grounds of obscenity. A half-second glimpse of Graham Chapman’s penis led to a court order which suppressed Life of Brian in the state of Georgia due to “lewd exhibition of genitals.”

The movie was banned in Shreveport, Alabama, outlawed in Alexandria, Louisiana, and harassed in South Carolina.

“The film held up to deliberate ridicule my faith in Jesus Christ and made fun of His suffering,” said Presbyterian minister William Solomon. “It was cruel and sarcastic, but it was not art.” Solomon contacted South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond for help. Thurmond insisted the film distributor withdraw the film, telling them, “My folks take their religion very seriously.” The distributor replied, “We take our freedoms very seriously, too.”

It’s not as if they could top the moment on the Cross where God asks why God has forsaken Him for hillarity.


VIDEO: The LeeVees: Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen, 12/07/23, NPR: Tiny Desk Concert)

The LeeVees’ first advice for this Tiny Hanukkah party is to loosen up, as the band asks the age-old question I’ve been wondering my entire life: “How Do You Spell Channukkahh?” We also hear about one of the great debates I grew up with in Brooklyn Jewish culture, in the song “Applesauce vs. Sour Cream.” There’s much talk about those delicious, oily potato pancakes we feast on this time of year: latkes. As bass player Shawn Fogel says, “This may be the most food ever eaten at a Tiny Desk concert.” I made bagels for the crew, our video producer Maia Stern made yummy kugel and the latkes came from a local deli. There certainly is a more serious side to the festival of lights known as Hanukkah, but celebrating the lighter side felt much needed. Happy “Channukkahh” everyone.


Humans may be the most powerful evolutionary force on Earth (Matthew Wills, 12/07/23, Big Think)

“Anthropogenic” is a key word of our time. It means caused by, and/or originating with, humans. It’s generally used to refer to climate change. But anthropogenic warming isn’t the only thing we’re collectively causing here on earth. Humans have become a major evolutionary force. In fact, we may be the most powerful evolutionary force going. We are driving rapid evolution—contemporary evolutionary change—in other species at rates that seem to be faster than anything else in history, barring the five great mass extinctions of earth history.

we flatter ourselves.


The Jewish Experience in the American Revolution (Andrew Porwancher, October 14, 2023, Real Clear Politics)

The fractious debate about Jewish rights playing out in numerous states formed the backdrop of the Constitutional Convention. Notably, the only American who appealed to the Convention to protect religious liberty was a Jew – Jonas Phillips – who had served in the Revolution. He lamented to the delegates that Jewish-Americans “have bravely fought and bled for liberty which they cannot enjoy.” What Phillips did not yet know was that the delegates had already taken an extraordinary step that most states would not: they included a constitutional clause banning religious tests for federal office. A Jew may not have been free to serve in the Pennsylvania state assembly, but that self-same Jew could be president of the United States. It was an extraordinary triumph punctuating the tragic history of the Jewish people.

The question of Jewish belonging in America has periodically resurfaced throughout the nation’s history. In each of those moments, voices have arisen to erroneously claim that Jews are newcomers who somehow threaten the original character of the country. Those today who would doubt that Jews have a rightful stake in this republic would do well to remember that the trees rooted in the Revolution’s battlefields draw their nutrients from soil tinged with Jewish blood.


Debate Performances Fuel Haley’s Rise in GOP Nomination Race (Molly Ball, Dec. 7, 2023, WSJ)

Deft yet serious, quick-witted yet substantive, Nikki Haley’s debate performances are feats of political athleticism that few can match. Surrounded by men trying to shout and tear her down, she skewers foes, exhibiting a specifically female form of calm yet gleeful aggression. She floats like a fighter jet and stings like a missile. […]

If viewers didn’t already know Haley has become the one to beat, her rivals’ barrage of attacks on her made that abundantly clear. Ramaswamy called her unscrupulous and a “fascist.” DeSantis called her ineffective. Christie called her inconsistent.

“I love all the attention, fellas,” Haley said with a tight smile. “Thank you for that.”