In Epstein’s Wake: MIT Media Lab, Dirty Money, and Swartz [UPDATE]

[NB: This is definitely not by Marcy; contains some speculative content. Update at bottom. /~Rayne]

MIT Media Lab is in upheaval after the disclosure that its organization accepted financial support from now-deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Ethan Zuckerman announced Tuesday he was moving his work out of the MIT Media Lab by the end of May 2020. He’s been a highly-respected director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, a subset of the Media Lab. Zuckerman explained his decision in a post on Medium:

… My logic was simple: the work my group does focuses on social justice and on the inclusion of marginalized individuals and points of view. It’s hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship. …

His moral and ethical clarity deserves applause; Zuckerman stands out against the highly compromised tech sector, in both academia and the private sector.

While his announcement was as upbeat as it could possibly be considering the circumstances, a faint sense of betrayal leaks through. It must have been painful to learn one’s boss has undermined their work so badly they have no choice but to leave, even if one enjoys their workplace and their boss.

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, offered his apology for his having accepted funding from Epstein through organizations Epstein controlled.

The explanation in Ito’s statement and his apology sound banal and will likely be accepted by the wider technology community given how little reaction there’s been from Silicon Valley.

One glaring problem: Ito is an lawyer, a visiting professor at Harvard. There’s little defense he can offer for taking  dirty money from a convicted human trafficker. It matters not if the money was ‘laundered’ through funds if they were under Epstein’s control. The money mattered more than the appearance, more than Media Lab’s ethics.

Ito still has considerable explaining to do. It won’t be enough fast enough to stem the tide, though.

J. Nathan Mathias, visiting scholar working on the CivilServant project at the Lab, has also announced he is leaving:

As part of our work, CivilServant does research on protecting women and other vulnerable people online from abuse and harassment. I cannot with integrity do that from a place with the kind of relationship that the Media Lab has had with Epstein. It’s that simple.

Epstein’s money didn’t directly fund CivilServant yet any of his dirty money funded the Media Lab it supported the infrastructure for CivilServant.

There will be more departures. Worse, there will be people who can’t leave, trapped by circumstance. Epstein’s poisonous reach continues beyond the grave.

~ ~ ~

When I read that Zuckerman was leaving MIT Media Lab, it occurred to me there was a possible intersection between MIT, law enforcement, and another activist who lived their values defending the public’s interest.

Aaron Swartz.

The government was ridiculously ham fisted in its prosecution of Swartz for downloading material from MIT for the purpose of liberating taxpayer-funded information. The excessive prosecution is believed to have pushed Swartz to commit suicide.

What could possibly have driven the federal government to react so intensely to Swartz’s efforts? One might even say the prosecution was in diametric intensity to the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein a few years earlier.

Why was Swartz hammered by the feds for attempting to release publicly-funded material while Epstein got a slap on the hands — besides the obvious fact women and girls are not valued in this society as much as information is?

At the time I wondered whether it was research materials that might pose a threat to the existing stranglehold of fossil fuel industries. There was certainly enough money in that.

But in retrospect, seeing how Epstein made a concerted effort to inveigle himself into science and technology by way of investment, noting that researchers were among the compromised serviced by Epstein’s underage sex slaves, was it really research that Epstein tried to access?

What might be the overlap between Epstein’s outreach and the DOJ with regard to MIT and to Swartz’s activism?

Is it possible that something else besides scientific research might have interested both Epstein and the federal government, incurring the wrath of the latter?

I can’t help but wonder if Swartz’s work to liberate federal court archive Public Access to Electronic Court Records (PACER) documents might have been that something else.

In 2008, Carl Malamud of worked with Swartz, receiving what PACER documents had been downloaded from behind PACER’s pricey paywall.

Upon reading the downloaded content they found court documents rife with privacy violations, including

“names of minor children, names of informants, medical records, mental health records, financial records, tens of thousands of social security numbers.”

Malamud said they contacted

“Chief Judges of 31 District Courts … They redacted those documents and they yelled at the lawyers that filed them … The Judicial Conference changed their privacy rules. … [To] the bureaucrats who ran the Administrative Office of the United States Courts … we were thieves that took $1.6 million of their property. So they called the FBI … [The FBI] found nothing wrong …”

Was the harassment-by-excessive-prosecution intended to stop Swartz and Malamud from exposing any more confidential information exposed in federal prosecutions, shielded from the public by nothing more than a cost-prohibitive per page charge of eight cents?

Would politically-toxic sweetheart deals like the DOJ offered Epstein have been among those with privacy violations and poorly-/non-redacted confidential information?

Or given Epstein’s long relationship with senior members of MIT Media Lab, was Swartz cutting into someone’s turf by liberating data which might otherwise be salable — legally or illegally — if closely held?

~ ~ ~

Putting aside speculation, several things need to be dealt with immediately to remedy the mess post-Epstein.

First, all entities receiving public funding which also received contributions from Epstein-controlled funds must make full disclosure — ditto nonprofits which operate as 501(c)3 entities paying no taxes, like Epstein’s shady Gratitude America, Ltd. Who in each organization was approached, when, how did Epstein communicate his interest in funding their work, how were contributions made, and did any persons affiliated with the entities travel with, to/from an Epstein-controlled venue or Epstein-funded event? Everything these entities do is suspect until they are fully transparent.

It would be in the best interest of affected entities to make disclosures immediately; the court-ordered release of sealed documents from Virginia Giuffre’s defamation lawsuit against Epstein’s alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell is not yet complete. Only a portion has been published; failing to make disclosures ahead of the release has not helped Media Lab’s credibility. Nor has this:

MIT declined to comment on the money it received. “While donors, including foundations, may confirm their contributions to the Institute, MIT does not typically comment on the details of gifts or gift agreements,” MIT spokesperson Kimberly Allen told BuzzFeed News by email.

Second, in the case of MIT Media Labs in particular, a  complete narrative history and timeline of the Lab’s origin, work, and funding since it was launched is necessary. There isn’t one that I can find right now — not at the organization’s website, not even on Wikipedia. This lack of transparency is wretched hypocrisy considering the grief members of the Lab expressed upon Swartz’s death. Media Lab’s site Search feature offering content by range or years is inadequate and must be supplemented.

It’s not clear based on publicly available information what Marvin Minsky‘s exact role was and when with the Lab though he is referred to as a founder. Minsky, who died in 2016, is among those Virginia Giuffre has accused of sexual abuse. What effect including financial contributions did Epstein have on MIT Media Lab through his relationship with Minsky?

As Evgeny Morozov found when combing through papers, Epstein’s money could have been present as early as the Lab’s inception. Why can’t the public see this history readily, let alone the researchers, staff, students working in the Media Lab?

Even the work MIT Media Lab encompasses is not shared openly with the public. Mathias’ project CivilServant isn’t listed under Research — it can only be found through the Lab’s Search feature. How can the public learn what may have been shaped by Epstein’s funding if they can’t even see what the Lab is working on?

Third, Swartz’s work toward an Open Access Movement outlined in his Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto remains undone.

The effect of closed/limited access to publicly-funded information may be killing us and our planet. This can’t be stressed enough, based on one example from Malamud’s recollection:

… The last time Aaron had downloaded large numbers of journal articles was in 2008, when he downloaded 441,170 law review articles from Westlaw, a legal search service. He was trying to expose the practice of corporations such as Exxon funding a practice known as “for-litigation research,” which consisted of lucrative stipends given to law professors who in turn produced articles penned specifically so they could be cited in ongoing litigation. In the case of Exxon, they were trying to reduce their $5 billion in punitive damages from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Aaron didn’t release any of the articles he downloaded, but the research he did was published in 2010 in a seminal article in the Stanford Law Review that exposed these ethically questionable practices in the legal academy. …

If Exxon did this for the Valdez Oil Spill, have they also done this with regard to climate change-related documents since the late 1980s?

Why isn’t this kind of work protecting the public’s interest against the malign use of corruptly-controlled data one of the Lab’s research programs?

Open access, too, must apply to MIT Media Labs. It must be as transparent as Swartz would have wished it to be.

You have to wonder how different the course of technology would have been as well as history had open access been baked into publicly-funded research at MIT Media Lab from the beginning.

UPDATE — 9:00 AM EDT 23-AUG-2019 —

Keep an eye on Evgeny Morozov’s Twitter feed as he’s been sharing more material on MIT Media Lab and Jeffrey Epstein.

Like this thread in progress by Media Lab fellow Sarah Szalavitz, who had warned against taking Epstein’s money. Alan Dershowitz pops up in that thread.

Note also community member foggycoast’s comment in which they share quite a few resources to help flesh out MIT Media Lab’s early years as well as Aaron Swartz’s papers.

I’d like to hear from more women who worked at Media Lab because I’m sure they won’t be as blind to predatory behavior as men have been. But then this asks people with less social capital, including some potential victims, to do the work of exposing this hidden form of corruption.

116 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    I get flack for putting the nota bene at the top of each of my posts reminding readers this isn’t Marcy’s work. This particular post is exactly why I *must* make the distinction; Marcy has written a considerable amount directly and indirectly about Aaron Swartz and knows far more than I do about the government’s prosecution. My perspective is that of a technologist who has relied on published research from MIT Media Lab and/or its researchers during my career. We don’t have the same POV given our backgrounds; readers should not conflate this post with hers.

    ~ ~ ~

    I’d also started a timeline but there’s so damned little published about MIT Media Lab’s history I can’t fill in gaps — like when was the first contribution by Epstein? Who exactly were the original founders? Did any have relations with Epstein? When may subsequent members of the Lab meet/have had relationship with Epstein?

    1985 — MIT Media Lab founded

    2005 — research paper thanks Epstein as a sponsor of Lab

    2008 — Epstein prosecuted for a single charge of felony solicitation of prostitution.

    2008 — Swartz downloaded law review articles from Westlaw

    2010 — Swartz downloaded JSTOR-based research papers

    06-JAN-2011 — Swartz arrested and charged with 2 counts of wire fraud, 4 counts of fraud and related activity in connection with computers, 5 counts of unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and 1 count of recklessly damaging a protected computer.

    11-JAN-2013 — Swartz died

    XX-TBD-2013 — Media Lab’s Joi Ito met Epstein, invited him to the Lab and visited several of his residences.

    2014 — Zuckerman rejects Ito’s offer to meet Epstein.

    If you have a point in time which should be added, please share in comments. Thanks.

    • JP says:

      Morozov found this paper that said there was a 2002 symposia. That’s the earliest I’ve seen so far:

      Also: you seem to be implying that senior members of the Media Lab may have been worried about Swartz’s docs. The ML was entirely behind AS; it was MIT central that didn’t ask for police to drop the case. If you read the Swartz report it’s pretty clear. I think that’s the only speculation above where you’re really off.

      • Rayne says:

        No, I wasn’t implying senior members of the Lab were concerned about Swartz’s docs. They eulogized and grieved for him because they appreciated his work.

        But if the Media Lab was so supportive of Swartz’s efforts toward an open access movement, they should be living those values — like not obscuring funding sources and history.

        What is needed in my piece is a correction: I used the word ‘is’ instead of ‘isn’t’ when asking why Swartz’s work related to “for-litigation research” wasn’t a program or project at Media Lab. It’s now fixed.

    • Democritus says:

      I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this Rayne, but fuck ‘em! If someone is going to get bent out of shape about a one line disclaimer that can help prevent headaches for multiple people?

      Fuck em! God I would be so grateful to have such immense problems as having a sentence I don’t like🙄. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and expertise, and for free to boot! Though I’ll look to through a few bucks in the kitty soon now that one worry is gone.

  2. Ken Muldrew says:

    Stewart Brand wrote a book about the Media Lab in the late 80s but, as far as I can recall, it was just about the technology (and predicting the future, Brand’s particular oevre) and not concerned with funding. It might be helpful, though.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, Ken, that’s what I recall about that book, too. I’ll have to hunt down a copy though it will only cover the first three years of the Lab and I can’t recall thinking it would do so in a way that would fill a chronology.

  3. AitchD says:

    Sometimes-fatigued Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire may delve into this, he reads here and he’s a top-notch investigator. Check him out one of these days.

  4. Janice Jankowski says:

    Hi Rayne-great post, as always. This is my first comment, but I’ve been a long time lurker and a huge fan of everyone here at EmptyWheel; so thank you all for your sanity & insights throughout the years. I found a 2014 TED talk by Nicholas Negroponte, MIT Media Labs founder where he covers 30 year tech history; showing clips of all his TED talks including his 1st one in 1984. Hope this helps-

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks very much for that, I will give it a view and try to fill in some gaps. Much appreciated and welcome to emptywheel’s comments, hope you’ll join in more often.

  5. John Paul Jones says:

    The Mozorov link includes a note of thanks from the author for the St Thomas Common Sense symposium. An article, co-authored by Minsky, that came out of that meeting was published in AI Magazine in June 2004, and at the close of the article we learn that the meeting itself was held 14-16 April 2002. The “Acknowledgements” at the close of the paper reads as follows: “We would like to thank Cecile Dejongh for taking care of the local arrangements, and extend a very special thanks to Linda Stone for making this meeting happen. This meeting was made possible by the generous support of Jeffrey Epstein.” This pushes back known Epstein funding to early 2002, since symposia like that take several months, at least, to organize.

  6. gmoke says:

    Joi Ito may teach at Harvard Law but I don’t believe he is a lawyer or has a degree in law.

    The Media Lab is Nicholas Negroponte’s doing and Negroponte, John Negroponte’s brother, is a very slippery individual. I’d look for the real dirt there. Negroponte is still behind the scenes at the Media Lab, sometimes overshadowing Joi Ito.

    MIT will do what it did with the fossil fool divestment issue a few years ago: have an open public debate, issue a report, and go back to business as usual.

    I have been in and around MIT and the Media Lab for decades as an outsider. I attended Stewart Brand’s talks there when he was visiting and read his book when it was published, I’ve listened to Negroponte lecture a few times and know people who have “worked” with him (and have reported it as not a pleasant experience as he reportedly tends to steal credit and ideas), and know both Ethan Zuckerman and Joi Ito slightly.

    Xeni Jardin of boingboing has been beating the drums about John Brockman and as being other vectors to Epstein, another Stewart Brand connection. She is almost certainly correct. The corruption in big name science, both sex and money, should be exposed. Harvard, of course, is deeply implicated (but will do little or nothing about it) and so is the Santa Fe Institute as well as, probably, the Long Now Foundation and Brand’s Global Business Network.

    Norbert Weiner’s novel (!) The Tempter is still a decent introduction into how “science” actually gets done.

    • Rayne says:

      The Negroponte relationship has been pointed out across the internet for years but there has been little to nothing indicating John has had anything to do with the Media Lab. Material I’ve seen so far lacks substance or I’d have shared it. Odd that you’ve been “in and around MIT and the Media Lab for decades” but can’t offer anything more than “look, brothers!”

      Thanks for sharing insinuation, ‘Xeni says!’ and a book recommendation about a work of fiction, though.

      • gmoke says:

        Didn’t say John Negroponte had anything to do with the Media Lab just that Nicholas is his brother and slippery. I know people who feel that Nicholas stole their work but do not have their permission to go into the details. It was a tell to me that in a BBC interview when Joi Ito was announced as the new head of the Media Lab, Negroponte spoke more than Joi.

        I’m a townie without a degree so I don’t have any access to the deep dark secrets, nor do I want it. I just go to events and observe, a process that’s been going on since the 1970s.

        Weiner’s novel is informative because it describes the PR considerations and how they drive “science.” People should read it. The names and specific situations may be fiction but the process rings true.

        Besides Xeni Jardin, Evgeny Morosov is also writing about Brockman and his relationship to Jeffrey Epstein. Personally, my Spidey sense tingles when thinking about Epstein and George Nader and, most importantly, Marc Dutroux, the pedophile ringleader and murderer who helped collapse the Belgian government in the 1990s. All three were active in the 1990s and, I suspect, that there really is an international circle of powerful and wealthy sexual criminals who are in government positions all around the world.

        But then I could be wrong.

  7. Savage Librarian says:

    As an aside, I just want to refresh memories about another negative association that was reported by Radio Free Europe in January 2019. The article discusses MIT scrubbing all references to Viktor Vekselberg’s connections and large donations.

    “World-Renowned Scientific University Quietly Untangles Itself From Russian Billionaire”


    • Rayne says:

      Oh shit. You know if they did it once they’ll scrub again. Wonder what other Russian oligarchs have donated to MIT since 2010? And did any of them donate to the Media Lab?

      Thanks for sharing that.

    • Americana says:

      You’ve got to wonder how much of Russian outreach like Vekselberg’s has been triggered by Putin’s insistence that Russia get its tentacles into American and European society by means of financial endowments to strategic universities.

      There is one oligarch who’s even admitted to the Russian attempt to penetrate the West’s foreign policy inner sanctums — the think tanks — and western universities for the sake of introducing Russia’s foreign policy thinking to the West other than through direct Russian political channels.

      From the above link:

      Few figures in the Kremlin stand as close to the nexus of the trends defining modern Russia — rank kleptocracy, Western sanctions, a socially conservative agenda — as oligarch Vladimir Yakunin.

      In the past few years, Yakunin has also funded the construction of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC-RI), a Berlin-based organization that describes itself as a think tank seeking to bridge the widening gaps between global “civilizations.” With additional offices in Moscow and Vienna, the organization claims it is attempting “to help make our world a more sustainable, inclusive, and fairer place for all humankind.”

      • foggycoast says:

        my pleasure rayne. i knew aaron and know carl. hope you find something useful. there’s lots more on the site. it’s kind of a treasure hunt.

        • Democritus says:

          Stuff like this gives me hope. Thanks to people like Rayne (and other authors here) and you for your patriotism and humanity.

          I hope we are able to reign in this wave of nationalism and fascism across the world that allows for so much corruption.

  8. Quake says:

    I am not defending MIT at all, but the problem is much deeper. It’s a fact that almost every university in the US will take almost any money from almost any slimeball, using the lame excuse “money is fungible.”

    • Rayne says:

      Yes, agreed. I hope a key outcome post-Epstein is that transparency in donations is the norm, but it’s likely to be as resistant to change as is the white supremacist patriarchy.

    • Frank Probst says:


      And as a former academic researcher/professor who ran my own lab, I can tell you that if a billionaire invited me to a party and said that he wanted to help fund my research, my “due diligence” would probably have consisted of a single Google search. I would have seen the “soliciting a minor” charge, but I would have also seen that whatever he did wasn’t bad enough to get him into the sex offender database, and he’d had no run-ins with the law ever since. If I’m being brutally honest, I probably would have taken his money, gone to the cocktail parties, kissed his ass, and tried to make him think that he throughly understood my research and should definitely keep funding it. Refusing his money wouldn’t even have crossed my mind until the Julie K Brown stories came out. And I’d cite him as the funding source in any publications that resulted from my research without much concern. World class scientists and institutions were taking his money, and he was surrounded by important people who live and die by their reputations. I would have stopped taking his money immediately when the Julie K Brown stories came out, but there’d be no way for me to repay the money that had already been donated. Most of it would have gone to pay salaries, buy reagents that can only be used once, and house animals for my work. There would have been a few pieces of equipment that I could try to return for a partial refund, but I can’t get a grant from the NIH just so I can return dirty money to a donor.

      • Democritus says:

        Thanks for your honesty, we as a country need more of that. And better science funding that isn’t used to manipulate data for $$$$$ with corporate strings attached.

      • bmaz says:

        Yes. And given the expense to run research, and the cutbacks by both federal and state governments, how can you blame academics for this?

        As to Julie K. Brown, she has done wonders for advancing the impact of the Epstein story. That said, I have thought from the start that most of her material was already out there and known if you were paying attention to it. She sure repackaged and updated it in a useful fashion though.

      • Rayne says:

        You’re describing privilege — the ability to obtain and make use of capital without any consideration for appearances or who is affected by doing so.

        Zuckerman realized he was exercising choice because he had privilege to do so:

        … I’m aware of the privilege that it’s been to work at a place filled with as much creativity and brilliance as the Media Lab. But I’m also aware that privilege can be blinding, and can cause people to ignore situations that should be simple matters of right and wrong. …

        In spite of his awareness, he was still blind to the damage he could do; he referred to another Media Lab member using gender-specific pronouns instead of the neutral ‘they/them’. A lifetime of privilege as a white cis-hetero male does that.

        But privilege is enabling and corrupting. How nice for the white cis-hetero males who can fly to islands populated with underage female sex slaves to obtain the advantages of capital while anyone not white cis-hetero male is excluded or compromised or at risk to attempt to do the same — if the opportunity was even available to them.

        Thanks for letting us know, though, you can be bought and with money of questionable origin.

        • Democritus says:

          It is. We really need to have an honest discussion about that in this country and I’m not sure the best way to do it, but it’s going to take people being honest when they reflect. Of course easier to say than do, there is a reason my reply was short.

          But we have a shit ton of work to do in this country.

          On a different topic, I used to posit something like a truth and reconciliation type deal for some me too cases, to actually give some victims a way to have closure and then allow for setting a new set of social mores that have collective backing.

          We need to fix the fascism spreading first I fear, though maybe connected? I also had some strong medicinals, so god I hope this isn’t just facepalm worthy and I’ll wake up in a few hours going why did I post!

        • Frank Probst says:

          I was referring to his parties in New York. If I knew that he had an island full of underage sex slaves, I would have declined his invitations and his money. I’m not a white cis-hetero male, so I don’t think I’d ever be on the invitation list. But he was obviously selective about who he took there. My point is that he was a fairly well-known philanthropist. If you did some digging, you’d find out just how horrible of a human being he was. But you don’t dig very much when other people around you are taking his money, too. You’re usually just thankful that you and all the people who work for get to keep their jobs.

          • Democritus says:

            Check out Winner take all the elite charade of changing the world. The author was all over Mann last year.

            It talks about how the system is so broken we are left to beg for crumbs from the billionaire class. I think we also like to imagine that some Superman billionaire recluse will solve all our problems with some *insert bs fantasy here* so no one has to take a look at reality, or admit maybe some stuff needs fixing and course needs to be adjusted.

            I really hope Warren wins myself. She is a capitalist, but she wants to fix the system and remove some sectors like prison or pharma/health from that overarching profit motivation that corrupts the social contract.

          • Rayne says:

            The lack of skepticism astounds me. You’ve been in this community for nearly 500 comments and you aren’t skeptical when rich people fling around money? Especially when there are noisy whispers about his proclivities and his island?


            • Frank Probst says:

              Based on everything that I’ve seen so far, he was flinging money at academic scientists just for the opportunity to rub elbows with them and to feed his ego by letting himself believe that he was as smart as they were. It also increased his social status. What should someone who was taking his money have been skeptical about? He supposedly made his money as a hedge fund manager, which no one appeared to be questioning until Julie K Brown’s articles came out. And billionaires who fling money at academics and academic institutions aren’t uncommon. That’s why many college and non-profit medical buildings have names slapped on them. That’s why many people have “endowed chairs”. He was throwing money at Harvard. He was throwing money at a bunch of other academics. If he offered to throw money at my genetics research, I almost certainly would have accepted it, and he would have been cited as a funding source in any publications that resulted. When Brown’s articles came out, I would have issued a statement saying that I would never have accepted his money if I had known everything that was in there, and I would be returning any funds that I still had. I’d probably also be trying to get a statement added as an addendum to anything I had published using his money. Your post is focussed on a single institute that he gave money to and may have tried to influence. In my 20+ years in academia, I don’t think I’ve ever even HEARD of a case of an individual donor trying to unethically influence someone’s research. (Pharmaceutical companies, yes, but Epstein doesn’t appear to have been associated with any of those.) If he had a reputation for doing so, I would not have taken his money, but I’m not aware any cases of Epstein doing this that were known prior to Epstein’s most recent arrest.

              • Rayne says:

                LOL so naive. Incredibly naive. Like nonprofits don’t get approached on the regular by entities who will donate IF the nonprofit does X for them. Some nonprofits are formed for that exact purpose. Some nonprofits do research.

                And I am really disgusted by people who have zero compunction about taking money from a human trafficker.

      • Frank Probst says:

        UPDATE: Please see post below regarding suggested revisions to the timeline in the main post. Based on that additional information, I can tell you that there’s no way in hell that I would have accepted this man’s money after his sweetheart plea deal was made public.

  9. Maureen A Donnelly says:

    thanks for this linkage. the schwartz suicide broke my heart. research only works when it’s free to everyone. as a scientist everything should be open access, but i also believe in universal healthcare. health isn’t part of any political spectrum i know of. neither is education and we know education works.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    David Koch dead at 79. Sadly, not much is likely to change, only the hand that rocks the cradle.

    • Democritus says:

      I heard the other brother is the “worse” one, but not sure how much it matters.

      I thought some of the other Biden skeptics here might enjoy 😉 a line I just saw on Reddit .

      His = Biden.

      Quote- VikingBlade posted:
      His 2020 campaign is the Jeb Bush equivalent of “please clap.”

  11. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    Like gmoke (Hi, George!), I’ve been in and around the Media Lab for years and know Ethan Zuckerman and Nate Matias well.

    There’s little actual mystery about the Media Lab. It’s a corporate supported advanced R&D lab for late capitalism. It operates with a certain freewheeling arrogance. It tells its corporate supporters that the Media Lab is happy to take their money but don’t they dare tell the Lab what to do with it. Lab supporters have been “fired” for being too pushy. Donors (aka “members”) get to visit twice a year during “Members’ Week” to get talk with researchers about what they’re working on and get a non-exclusive, royalty free license to anything the Media Lab patents while they are members. Much of what we consider “surveillance capitalism” has its roots in the Lab.

    But it’s a complicated place. When a student group was working with a local anti-eviction action group on a class project, they wrote “SMASH CAPITALISM” in huge letters on whiteboard and it stayed there for months.

    With respect to Aaron Swartz, his father worked (and may still work) at the lab. Joi Ito’s background includes Creative Commons, one of Aaron’s interests. Ethan Zuckerman was a personal friend. It was Ito and Zuckerman who held a memorial service for Aaron (who had no formal MIT connection) when MIT otherwise didn’t care.

    My “association” with the Media Lab came from being on the community side of a couple of projects run out of Ethan’s Center for Civic Media, recognizing that Civic Media was the place I was looking for and didn’t exist when I was an MIT student decades ago, and just started showing up. That’s a rather open posture.

    I think it’s fair to say that both Zuckerman and Ito were trying to pivot the Lab to something more open and to begin to address the impact it’s had on the world. That’s the basis of Ito’s collaboration with Harvard Law School. That’s why discovering that Ito was an Epstein enabler, even after being warned at least twice, feels to some like a profound betrayal above and beyond the normal anger at Epstein collaborators.

    • Saul Tannenbaum says:

      One other quick point. In response to 1968 student demonstrations, MIT moved all its defense work off campus ant out to its suburban Lincoln Laboratories, conveniently located at Hanscom Air Force Base. It also spun off Draper Labs, where missile guidance work was being done. MIT’s campus networks are open in large part because all the sensitive stuff is somewhere else.

        • Saul Tannenbaum says:

          Oh, I’m always here lurking. But when I have some contextualizing first hand knowledge, I can’t stay a lurker. It’s a little surreal to watch this stuff unfold with people I know. This is one of my ways of working through that.

      • orionATL says:

        saul tannenbaum –

        this is extremely valuable background which few others could offer. it sets a context and provides a conflict.

        thank you.

  12. Tom says:

    A little OT but Epstein’s apparent suicide after having made one unsuccessful attempt to kill himself followed by an assessment that he was no longer at risk of harming himself would seem to undercut gun advocates’ argument that mass shootings can best be prevented by more mental health services rather than, say, a ban on assault weapons. Not to disparage mental health counselors but there are limits to what they can do.

  13. Democritus says:

    Since I started following Tom the dementia guys twitters ive had the same thing as this.

    “I’m now noticing the weird jerks and twitches when he screws up words thanks to reading

    Watch these clips and watch how his hands jerk about or spread out when his brain flubs a word. Apparently *IF* he does have frontal lobe dementia that would be caused by a lack of dopamine and his brain just can’t function.

    One worry I have us that people will assume he is far gone (he does appear to wea4 diapers recently at times) that the GOP won’t just prop his withered husk up and keep running him anyway.

    We need to treat Trump as the threat to the country he is, and continue to speak up and use our first amendment rights until he is impeached, voted out, or 25thed. I really wish Mattis was still there, as well as Coats.

    • Rayne says:

      Dyskinesia — the involuntary motions. I still suspect Parkinsonism if not Parkinson’s. The skin on his face resembles my now-deceased MIL’s after she’d been taking levodopa for a while — thicker, irregularly dark, shiny. His balance has been unpredictable for a while; recall Theresa May taking his hand to take some steps at one point. And his dilated pupils could best be explained by drug therapy, but for what? Parkinsonism?

      He’s really declining and fast. I don’t think we’re adequately prepared for what may happen given the absolutely wretched cabinet we have who are too corrupt to act on behalf of the nation, combined with a utterly supine and corrupt GOP.

      And I wonder how many people like me nearing retirement have had their retirement portfolios trashed by this insane mangled apricot hellbeast’s abuses via Twitter and the media.

      • Democritus says:

        Levodopa! That’s one of the drugs Tom, that twitter I posted a bit ago with a caution since no blue check mark, mentions in his threads. Yeah, you may want to check out some of the threads under this guys act.

        Here’s the last thread, my neck/arm locking up or I’d scroll for a couple earlier ones. He think frontal temporal(?) dementia

        “Class time- His slurring is likely caused by a deficit in the neurotransmitter dopamine which transmits signals from the brain to the muscles to produce movement. The tongue is like a muscle group he can’t control caused by the dopamine deficit or misuse of drugs like levodopa.

        Aug 21
        3 He’s a train wreck- His brain’s ability to process reading, create language & form speech is worsening. His word finding for free unscripted speech also malfunctions as does his teleprompter speech reading. Then there is that muscular control loss…& that protruding tongue

        Aug 21
        4 “Degenerative” “Progressive” “It gets worse” “He’s not to the same.” However it’s said, the stand out factor is- He’s Getting Worse. Full public awareness will come as trump continues to worsen. Wearing a suit & having a title doesn’t slow FTD dementia’s progression downward”

        Full thread n more

      • P J Evans says:

        And people like me who depend on SS and Medicare, and investments from 401(k)s/IRAs/parents who did mutual funds.

  14. Vern says:

    @Rayne: Tertiary Syphilis (;-)

    “Rick Wilson

    I’m not saying Trump is suffering from tertiary syphilis, but it could be tertiary syphilis.
    10:50 AM – 23 Aug 2019”

  15. carla breeze says:

    Tangential but pertinent Morozov has fascinating article in The Nation today, the 22nd of August 2019

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    RBG has had recent treatment for pancreatic tumor. Expected to be on the Court for the start of its October term.

  17. orionATL says:

    rayne has written an important post which expose details of a particular case of a standard controlling technique corporations use to exercise subtle influence over what the media publishes about them. and what works for corps works for the midases too.

    have you ever read, say, the flyer that comes with your electric bill? notice the feel-good stories about that big energy corp’s generosity to, say, environmental organizations (e.g., the audubon society), climate control, local charities, energy conservation and solar energy promotion (yes, it’s true), or children’s education. all of this is a calculated effort to make those organizations think twice before criticizing big kilowatt publicly, or working with the legislature, public service (utilities) commission, or local county board to regulate it.

    why, one might ask, would jeffrey Epstein want to offer some of his money to the mit media lab? what possible interest could he have in that entity?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If Epstein actually actively invested, instead of, say, buying index futures and playing with clients and teenagers, there would be lots of reasons to become active with the MIT Media Lab.

      For starters, it brought together longterm investors and projects, it involved networking with billionaires and other funders, it would have allowed the little schooled Epstein to network and party with the best and the brightest, and it would have added to his aura a patina of legitimacy, which is what much robber baron funding of such things is about.

      • Lulymay says:

        Great analogy, Earl. Reminds me of that old Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven”, written by Robert Plant, which apparently was about a woman who accumulated lots of money only to find out the hard way that her life had no meaning and she won’t get into heaven!

    • Saul Tannenbaum says:

      The Media Lab is a wide ranging place. It has, for example, a “Future of Opera” lab, led by Tod Machover, who writes really, really good operas. Maybe Epstein was an opera fan.

      But seriously. Since you can’t really direct the money you donate to the Media Lab, I don’t think any particular research interested him and he didn’t give enough money to have have any impact. (He gave $30 million to Harvard, $800k to MIT, only some of which went to the Media Lab, which has an $80 million/year budget.)

      I think this was simply prestige networking for Epstein. Ito is an incredibly well connected guy and a Media Lab connection is an gateway into that network. (Ito, btw is Timothy Leary’s godson.) It’s also true that Epstein’s connections to folks like Marvin Minsky, a founding member of the lab, go back to 2002. Minsky’s dead. Perhaps Ito was the replacement.

      I’m prepared to wrong about this. The Media Lab gave Epstein some sort of award for being a valued donor, and I find it hard to believe you get that for a six figure donation. I won’t be surprised if there’s more money found and that it had a clearer agenda. But, right now, I think it’s just another example of Epstein buying the aura of respectability.

      • orionATL says:

        saul tannenbaum –

        again, i appreciate your closeness to the subject and the information you provide.

        the corporate influence peddling i describe is not usually designed to achieve a specific outcome. it is designed to temper or eliminate group sources of opposition that can coalesce into a social mass of substantial political power, one that could result in reduction of corporate income (rate cuts for an electric utility) or regulation by a public utility commission or legislature. a corporation does not necessarily act out of inherent generosity or a social conscience; it can act out of self-interest :).

        “… The Media Lab gave Epstein some sort of award for being a valued donor, and I find it hard to believe you get that for a six figure donation. I won’t be surprised if there’s more money found and that it had a clearer agenda…”

        – the “valued donor” part of this statement gets at what i am discussing, an entity, individual or corporate, of whom those at the top (say the hiking and trail club, the clean watershed group or the mit media lab) might say “this person or corporation is a friend of ours” and then take a more benign or tolerant stance than otherwise.

        – of the second part of the quote “if it had a clearer agenda”, i want to make clear that demand for a specific task is not what i am talking about. the donor’s intended effect is simply generalized reluctance to criticize or organize against a “friend” on the part of the receiving organization, e.g., the trail club or the mit media lab.

        whether the mit media lab is proof against this very human behavior i can’t say; many other organizations are not. they get bought off to varying degrees.

  18. Eureka says:

    Holy shit, Rayne. I’ve been checking my watch periodically, waiting for a particular scientist to show up in the Epstein saga. It was a gut instinct, because his work doesn’t *directly* (or rather ostensibly) relate to Epstein’s ADD-access-dilletanting, but is ‘theoretically harmonious” with his objectification pursuits, while not invoking pedophilia. He is also one of my “stories.”

    I’ve been reading links upon links upon links by lots of women attys/writers/scientists via what you’ve recommended here (and thank you for doing so: I’ve been away “cleaning,” not reading the news). No sooner had my mind drifted to check that watch when the next thread had the name.

    He has taken Epstein’s money and defended him. I don’t know what else is out there. I’m still reading; he has had a lot of churn in his academic affiliations, which had been attributed to his prominence and quirkiness.

    Briefly put, just over two decades ago he very aggressively tried to get me to go to his hotel room under some stated reason that I believed to be a ruse for something else. I declined the ruse and he went on overdrive; his aggressiveness and not taking NO for an answer proved I was right about the ruse. He took the NO so *personally.*

    It was also an important lesson in the truth– now more widely recognized, then not so much but for in critical circles– that scientists and their pursuits have subjective commons, and while so-called objectivity may be a goal that some strive for, those who claim its mantle are in my experience the most personally invested in the “truths” they seek to promulgate, especially on “human nature” (insert the scientific misogynists and racists here– which reminds me there is a second name I have wondered about, and will check my watch accordingly).

    I had wanted to remark on that here as a general reaction to your post, before finding the name. Now I am back in the fold of a nesting doll of irony…

    This is a particularly meaty post, Rayne, with possibly the most complex array of entailments I can think of since your Rattled and related series on Bloomberg and the chips.

    • Eureka says:

      Also, I there an article link to the Malamud quotes on Swartz? Maybe I missed it.

      And add to original comment: this is why women, POC, and other targets are always right about people like this … presuming they haven’t sacrificed their own hinky-meters.

      • Democritus says:

        I’m sorry you had to deal with that shit. I’ve had my own incidents I’ve had to deal with, one most notably when I trusted someone else’s gut over mine own. I hadn’t yet learned to always trust your gut enough to be careful, that whole the gift of fear a la Gavin de Becker.

        There is so much bs that happened for so long on gotten, still is in many ways, swept under the rug. Those young ladies who fought back against Epstein are so very brave. I’ve had to stop reading most of those stories though, too much god damn corruption and evil in this world. Though luckily also lots of people fighting to make it better also, but so many openly known injustices are so commonly ignored. Deleted list, too depressing.

        • Eureka says:

          Thanks for not leaving me hanging, Democritus, with an acknowledgement– and back atcha on the rest.

          Exactly: de Becker, more ephemerally known of late for nailing Bezos’s phone content troubles at the Saudis’ feet, is best known for “don’t let them take you to a second location” etcetera. While he was speaking of stranger danger, the adage applies to the Weinsteins of the world as well.

    • orionATL says:

      eureka –

      i don’t know if you are directly connected to scientific work or not (i am not), if so this may not be news to you. sexual harassment in science labs and sexual harrassment of female graduate students is finally being exposed and documented and, most importantly, written up in both science and general media. it seems to be endemic among big-name scientists and science labs. here are some cites that describe the problem. it is not just a individual matter; it is also a matter of intellectually competent women – disgusted, fearful, or discouraged – dropping out of training when our society badly needs their talent.

      one thing that can be said with absolute confidence is that many academic administrators+university lawyers have proved unwilling or incompetent to deal with this situation. “ignore it or sweep it under the rug” has been their mantra.

      • Eureka says:

        Dear sweet orion, if you only knew. Yes, it is part of my lived, shared, social experience. Your comment cued me to recall many things; since women don’t and couldn’t practically keep lists of such things– unlike the contents of a grocery list, these events are embedded in life’s fabric– memories pop through over the hours or days. I’ll add that the scope is not limited to what would be called ‘sexual harassment’ proper, and that ‘even’ witnessing and fighting these things amongst one’s social group may be worse for some: that is how we learn, after all, about culture and our places therein.

        One funny story, which did impact me directly in ways but far less so than it did the several others for whom this was their subspecialty (Narrator: it really wasn’t funny, instead costing several women years of their time, energies, plans; uprooting and moving expenses… However we all laughed, recurrently, because the guy who benefitted was such a dumb fuck. Recalled as “OMG, fucking XXX!”):

        A paleontologist with exclusively female graduate students (as with most situations like these, this only became salient as a significant fact to the students in hindsight of new events) wasn’t doing much field work, and then only brief excursions sans students. (The students need the fieldwork to complete their dissertations, compete for jobs, pay their loans or their ways in life, plan their families, etc.) A new student, XXX shows up. Nice enough guy, but wait– he is asking us for help on basic matters he should already understand, all the time. And hold on– is he trying to cheat off others’ work (beyond what had by then become constant, needy leeching: I learned to flick him off before he attached)? It goes on.

        Pause: let’s call XXX, “Peter,” and we’ll call the paleo by “Pence.”

        Spring comes and Pence is planning a big summer fieldwork event. New guy Peter will be joining him. But what about his senior female grad students, working years for this opportunity? These discussions go on…

        Eventually, Pence shares that he does not want to take female students into the field: he doesn’t want to risk being accused of any impropriety. (No one, I mean NO ONE, expected this explanation, especially as it was the 20th century and all. However, one of his students had taken to occasional mild feministing; we figured this was the cause of Pence’s preemptive-transposed witch hunt.)

        So his senior smart students could not do their fieldwork. However, a couple could– and one often did— *babysit* for Pence and one of his colleagues. Onward to new horizons for some folks…

        Also, it’s disorienting when you learn that someone who otherwise seems to be an upstanding human so freely discriminates against women. And often– to repeat– certain things only become clear in retrospect, after a change over time.

        Maybe sometime I’ll tell the story (years-long saga) of the supervisor who was (initially secretly) a racialist race scientist who married a woman of (leaving this vague, just like the ‘hierarchy’) Asian descent to produce intelligent, obedient children. He was angry and controlling in private contexts; later, others discovered some of these things after the canary escaped that coal mine. Very briefly, this wasted a lot of my time; I would not publish anything (of my own, having nothing to do with his specific work) because I did not want my name associated with his in print (because that is how authorship works in some contexts), *because I knew better*.

        He was also petty and jealous; I found out the day submissions were due that I had been nominated for a teaching award and that he was responsible for submitting some packet of materials and that he had failed to do so and wasn’t bothering. (I was nominated again the next year, with a different responsible supervisor, and won. Because of what it stood for, this was inexpressibly meaningful to me. I had never planned on teaching, just doing what I loved: turned out I also loved living science through the social dynamics of teaching. And I must mention that due to powerful female mentors, I got paid to teach at the professor rate (as opposed to the paltry-by-comparison adjunct or per-class rate that schools pay). I know this because one of them mentioned the prof-rate thing to me, which women everywhere know is code that another woman in power, who knows these things, has made that deserved equity happen.)

        Or maybe someday I’ll tell the story of the peer who reached into another peer’s hijab and touched her hair (to a Muslim woman, this is like reaching into a woman’s shirt and touching her breast; the offender knew this). He was also teaching at the time, and, with a friend, attending undergraduate parties and having sexual hook-ups with them, including students. He continued this after I and some men in the dept. took him aside and confronted him upon early rumors. This story should include how the department chair was initially abhorred by, then silent to, repeated reports.

        More important, this story should include how everyone came to me with all of this shit he was doing, asking for my help, as I was perceived as having the social power to do something about it– certainly the ovaries to confront it all. This detail is key towards emphasizing that shady, derailing shit happens to strong, competent, personally-powerful women– beyond the trope, however true in many contexts (including here!), of predators seeking out relational subordinates– while adding to our collective plates, and vampiring-off our social capital (which ethical people freely use to advocate for the vulnerable and the moral right).

        As they coalesced, these last two featured men created an impossibly hostile climate along the lines of what ‘climate change’ means today.

        Or maybe I should tell the stories of … … … …

        Anyway, my last advisor was/is a great guy, so much so that I was a little shocked to remember what that was like. I also had great female mentors as an undergrad.

        Out of the loop on any shit-shows du jour as I am working at home, transitioning from one elder-caregiving responsibility to another. I am supposed to be grant writing, among other things, but with these obligations, ambiguous now in scope, I am a little hedgy. The current political climate makes me worry for people with whom I have worked/plan to resume work (who have genetic and neurological disease). And I sure the fuck wish some of my earlier PRIME TIME hadn’t been wasted dealing with this shit.

        • P J Evans says:

          I always wonder about my [married] niece who was working on a PhD in evolutionary biology of some kind, and got derailed by motherhood – I don’t know if she’s still working on it, or not. (She was at a school which for part of that time was run by a guy who thinks that women aren’t capable of doing math and science.)
          add: She defended her dissertation two years ago, so I assume she’s now a doctor.

          • Eureka says:

            Even given the breadth of topics and approaches that fall under an evol bio description (and especially if your other comment denotes the same school I am thinking of), she would likely (certainly) be familiar with the work– at least– of many of the scientists brought to Epstein’s orbit by John Brockman. Including the one in my first comment.

            This is sort of circling back to some of the other broad issues in the post and comments here (and yet, they are all inter-related), but some real story will come when we know more about Brockman.

            Aside here but central to the big picture that I’ve not seen mentioned: Someone could write a whole history- and- sociology- of- science piece on Brockman’s fast-food Wall Street approach to the popularization-marketing of (snippets of) science, by whom and how and all that.

            Here, Morozov includes a Brockman pitch of Epstein to him that includes all sorts of unprofessional talk of the girls and ? women:

            Jeffrey Epstein’s Intellectual Enabler | The New Republic

            From 1999, very telling anecdotes, and rough personality traits not dissimilar to how Epstein is described (explicit note: not saying in any way that Brockman shared Epstein’s pedophilia):

            Agent Provocateur | WIRED

            • P J Evans says:

              It’s in Cambridge, but it’s not the three-letter one.
              I think her field is taxonomy – they were doing DNA work with beetles to check their evolution against the traditional tree.

              • Eureka says:

                Then I had the right one in mind.

                Depending on particulars of her project, she could have some of these folks in her lit cited– though more likely in her general educational background– as regards some of the quantitative or population genetics aspects (some of these names would be known to any evolutionary biologist, regardless of specific focus).

                  • Eureka says:

                    I’m not sure I understand what you mean, so I’m sort of guessing: I was saying that anyone (in evol bio/ of certain specialties) would have learned in grad school about these people (general educ. background/ coursework). That would be heightened at a school with ties to said scientists, but as some of these are big names, it would apply regardless of what school they went to. For example, I know / was taught about Martin Nowak’s work, though I have no affiliation with him or his specialties. It is just part of the general breadth of knowledge I am/was required to have.

                    (Also people usually aren’t “allowed” to go to the same place undergrad and grad in recent decades, so that assumption was built-in.)

      • Frank Probst says:

        What Eureka said. Most grad students in the sciences know by their second year (if it even takes that long) which labs have issues and exactly how bad the issues are. I know at least one woman who joined a lab knowing full well that she was going to have to endure almost constant verbal harassment until she finished her thesis. I know of another lab that had a reputation for the boss ALWAYS being involved in at least one sexual relationship with one of the women in the lab, and that woman got preferential treatment for almost everything until the next victim came along. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone called out for it. Usually, if there’s a complaint, the offender just takes a job at another institution.

        • Eureka says:

          To make explicit some inside baseball:

          To escape a predatory environment (to the extent that is possible)– be it a lab or situation where fieldwork is required– women have to entirely change their topics/work to match a new advisor’s/lab’s expertise. Departments don’t have, say, three people studying the same thing so you can just go over and work in the reasonable person’s lab. They are staffed with people with different expertises/ foci. If you are going to work on the same topic with someone else, you have to transfer to another school. Or if staying in the same place, develop another line of research about which you are also passionate and/ or which can lead you back towards your original goal, maybe, at some point in life. Of course your future employment opportunities are constrained by the topic of your work and to some extent the school and mentors with whom you are associated.

          Plus the woman likely has fellowship or other funding tied to the specific school (or lab).

          That might partially explain why some choose to endure.

          Also, outside of labs where there is an observable and gossipy social milieu about how the director works, this process of “discovery” can take longer (e.g. ‘string-along “Pence” above).

          • Eureka says:

            PLUS if a woman wanted to transfer, she would need recommendation letters, including from the problematic supervisor. She’d have to factor that all in to her story as to how and why she’d say she’s leaving…

  19. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    @Rayne, one small correction. All that’s listed under “Research” are the research programs that make up the Media Lab. CivilServant is listed under “Civic Media”, which is Ethan Zuckerman’s program.

  20. Savage Librarian says:

    I have to wonder whether Epstein’s interest in Media Lab might correlate to his interest in Transhumanism. Here are some excerpts from an insightful article that alerts us to the challenges of the near future. As usual, the MSM has had very poor coverage about this.

    “Jeffrey Epstein, Elon Musk, and Transhumanism: Behind the movement to merge humans with AI — and why it matters” – Medium, 8/13/19,
    Jake Mercier (filmmaker, writer, and the founding Editor-in-Chief of CitizenSource)
    “Transhumanism,” as they state, is a scientific phenomenon centered on the prospect of “improving” the human race through AI and genetic editing — and it seems to have lured in the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, Silicon Valley techies, Wall Street executives, and more.”

    “This idea isn’t as much of science fiction as you would imagine. It’s science future — and the near future at that.”
    “Musk held a Neuralink press conference in mid-July, stating that, with their technology, a monkey has been able to “control a computer with its brain.”

    “While much of this is billed as a way to cure disease and help humans who are immobile, the plan clearly goes beyond the medical realm.”

    “At the press conference, Musk was frank when he said that his ultimate goal would be “to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” creating a technology that would allow “merging with AI.”
    “Andrew Yang, a candidate for president, who is running almost solely on the idea that AI and automation are going to wipe out vast swaths of the U.S. workforce (from manufacturing jobs, to retail jobs, even jobs in medical and law), has essentially said that there is no way to curb the future of tech.”

    A few posts back, I provided a link to the video press release for Elon Musk’s launch event for his company, Neuralink. Here it is again. (This video is 1 hr and 45 min. long, very technical, but very informative.) I actually believe Musk’s interest in this may be directly connected to survival on Mars and the existential challenges of space travel.

    • Eureka says:

      As others have noted, “transhumanism” is at least in part a fancy new word for eugenics.

      I would ask anyone to think about what the word “transhumanism” means as far as *dehumanization,* *objectification,* and *decontextualization* of human social relationships.

      There are ways in which that concept is a glory hole of solipsistic control. Makes sense that that would be appealing to Epstein and powerful others.

      Also, science (some subfields more than others) is rife with what we recognize elsewhere as techbro glibertarian types, meaning that altruism is a handy facade for or accidental byproduct of the ‘programme’ (cf. anything Zuck has to say about FB privacy and benefits to users).

      The idea of colonizing Mars has plenty worth plumbing, too, from manifest destiny to laying waste to our adaptive niches and moving on. As does Musk shitting littering his car into our universal space: what does that *mean?*

  21. Democritus says:

    So I saw a guy on MSNBC with a great line, the fire in The Amazon is like Notre Dame burning everyday. And given all the life contained within the rainforest, from indigenous humans to birds to frogs to leopards are being wiped out, a incontrovertible treasure of the earth.

  22. Frank Probst says:


    I’m going off of Wikipedia here, so the information might be incorrect, but it appears that Epstein was INDICTED on a single charge of felony solicitation of prostitution in 2006 (to which he pled not guilty), but he PLED GUILTY to two state charges: felony solicitation of prostitution and felony procuring for prostitution a girl below age 18, and he was required to register as a sex offender.

    I have a crappy memory (or I didn’t know in the first place), so I didn’t recall the second felony. I also didn’t recall that he was required to register as a sex offender. For some reason, I thought that NOT having to register was part of his plea deal.

    This information changes some of my statements above.

    • Frank Probst says:

      Just checked. He’s registered as a sex offender in multiple states, and the Florida entry says that he did indeed plead guilty to procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution.

    • Frank Probst says:

      That was…something. He keeps referring back to two things: Satyriasis and “the Isle of Babes”. The first one is just a poor justification of Epstein’s behavior. I find the second one more interesting. He obviously knew there’s an island, and he obviously had a pretty good idea of what was going on there, but he swears he never went there himself. If you believe him on that last point (and I do, because I don’t think he could have maintained a lie throughout that entire bonkers interview), then you start to think about what everyone else knew and when they knew it.

    • Frank Probst says:

      I don’t have the energy left to look at a new batch of craziness tonight, but that seems like something you would keep to yourself until you’d finalized your book deal.

      • Democritus says:

        It’s the plot of sharknado apparently? Lmao.

        Well except this isn’t funny if it stays, CBC journo refuses entry for 1 week assignment

        Down the thread points out.

        Alexander Panetta @Alex_Panetta

        “Yikes. If everyone began interpreting the rules that way it would mean no foreign agencies could, ever, send reporters for a major breaking event. Like, say, an election or shock event like a 9/11. Would be a game-changer for global coverage of US stories, if this were new policy”

        • P J Evans says:

          There sure are a lot of comments from trolls on that thread. (Also, it’s a serious subject for people planning vacations in the future – they don’t want to get stopped when they’re coming into the US for a convention. They’re seriously comparing the US to the PRC.)

          • Democritus says:

            They are also sending conservative groups after US press, we will have to remember people grow and change.

          • Frank Probst says:

            It’s becoming an increasing problem in academic conferences, too. The paperwork is so cumbersome that some people won’t bother with it. I’m assuming the Canadian conference centers are thrilled with it.

            • P J Evans says:

              There are people literally trying to decide which is safer to go to, a proposed convention in Chengdu or one in Memphis, TN. (Both are being proposed for 2023; the third option is Nice, France.)

              • Democritus says:

                Um Nice? I mean… come on! French riveria, close enough for a quick train ride to Italy for some noms.

Comments are closed.