Blog: November 2023

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The limits of linters

Rubocop is a "linter" for Ruby that checks for style problems and the like. I've heard people complain that it's finicky.

Tonight this happened:

Rubocop: 1 error (autocorrectable).

Me: do it.

Rubocop: 1 error.

Me: WTF?

Yeah, Rubocop corrected one problem and, in doing so, introduced another. Fun times! (Its change added a few characters to a line, which was apparently just enough to push it over a line-length check.) And that wasn't autocorrectable.

It's always something...

PA primary election

An open letter to our governor (against a 1000-character limit on the state web site):

Dear Governor Shapiro,

As you are surely aware as a fellow Jew, the spring primary is April 23, the first day of Passover, a day on which observant Jews cannot participate in the election. The PA government has been talking for months about moving the date, but nothing has happened. Is there anything you can do to help? Disenfranchising Jewish voters is hurtful, especially in the presence of antisemitic candidates. It's also bad publicity for our state. Several other states have already corrected this problem, but we have not.

You might say "vote by mail instead", but the last time I attempted to do so, Allegheny County sent me a spoiled ballot and there was no provision for correcting it. I had to go to the poll on election day anyway and then vote provisionally. That made me feel very marginalized. My vote did not count because of a printing error and county offices that did not answer repeated phone calls. If it happens on Passover, I lose my vote.

Please fix this. Thank you.


I am aware that the legislature, not the governor, controls this, but navigating the PA legislature is a challenge and the governor should be able to push, if he hears from enough people that something matters. I thought this problem had been solved a month or two ago, but it turns out that the two houses of the legislature disagree over how to fix it. :-(

Thoughts from a former community manager at Stack Overflow

I came back from Shabbat to a link to this interesting blog post by Jon Ericson. Jon and I haven't discussed this.

The original post contains links that I haven't reproduced in this excerpt:

After contemplating the situation for many years, I've come to the conclusion that Monica ran into a wall of injustice veiled in the language of progressivism. Applying Bari Weiss' framing, Monica was powerful within the community so her behavior was suspect by default. The factors I thought were to her favor by the new ideology didn't seem to matter:

  1. She has vision problems which puts her at a disadvantage in the age of screens.
  2. She's a woman in technology which means she's in the minority.
  3. She's Jewish which puts her in a minority that's been discriminated against so often there is a common word for it in English.

The analysis I should have understood was:

  1. It's possible the people deciding her fate didn't know about her vision. In any case, vision is a problem that can be corrected with technology and money.
  2. In the calculus of intersectionality transgender people are more marginalized than straight women.
  3. What I thought were strong arguments that removing a Jewish moderator on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah was a bad look, turned out to not matter. I can't prove it, but I suspect it's the result of subtle antisemitism that comes from observing that Jews tend to be successful in certain fields. Jew might be a minority, but they aren't under-represented so paradoxically that must mean they are among the powerful.

I'm not an expert on these things and so I operated under the naive assumption that progressive ideology was working toward the goal of treating people as if we were all created equal. But the standard tools of the new morality are ineffective. Instead, the logical conclusion of the new ideology appears to require mistreating people who don't conform to its evolving standards.

Bari Weiss: you are the last line of defense

I just came across a speech that Bari Weiss recently gave for the Federalist Society, specifically for their lawyers' convention. She starts by talking about how surprising a choice she was for that; she's not exactly their type.

I found this worth my time to read. Choosing concise excerpts (to stay within the bounds of fair use) is hard, but here are some bits to give the flavor. I read the transcript; there's also a video if you prefer to listen.

By the time Americans woke up on October 7, 2023, it was clear that what had unfolded while we slept was not like previous wars or battles Israel has fought in its 75-year history. This was a genocidal pogrom. It was a scene out of the many places Jews had fled—a scene from the history of the Nazi Holocaust and of the European pogroms before that and of the Farhud, the 1941 massacre of Jews in Baghdad, a city that, it’s hard to believe now, was 40 percent Jewish at the beginning of the twentieth century—all of which remind us of Israel’s necessity. [...]

These Cossacks had smartphones. [...] Others filmed the slaughter with GoPros. [...] In all of this, the terrorists are euphoric. No one who has watched the unedited footage fails to note the glee of the butchers. [...]

The difference between 9/11 and 10/7—two massacres of innocent people, symbols to their killers of Western civilization—was the reaction to the horror. The difference between 9/11 and 10/7 was that the catastrophe of 10/7 was followed, on October 8, by a different kind of catastrophe. A moral and spiritual catastrophe that was on full display throughout the West before the bodies of those men and women and children had even been identified. [...]

What could possibly explain this? The easy answer is that the human beings who were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews. [...] But that is not the whole answer. Because the proliferation of antisemitism, as always, is a symptom. When antisemitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system—a sign that the society itself is breaking down. That it is dying. [...]

[This new ideology] seeks to upend the very ideas of right and wrong. It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad). It replaced lots of things. Color blindness with race obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob. [...] This is the ideology of vandalism in the true sense of the word—the Vandals sacked Rome. It is the ideology of nihilism. It knows nothing of how to build. It knows only how to tear down and to destroy.

So what do we do? First: look. We must recover our ability to look and to discern accordingly. We must look past the sloganeering and the propaganda and take a hard look at what’s in front of our eyes. [...] I do not need “context” to know that tying children to their parents and burning them alive is pure evil, just as I do not need a history lesson on the Arab-Israeli conflict to know that the Arab Israelis who saved scores of Jewish Israelis that day are righteous.

Look at your enemies and your allies. [...] For many people, friends and enemies are likely not who they thought they were before October 7. [...] The other thing to look for is the good. Look hard for the good and don’t lose sight of it. [...]

But nothing is guaranteed. The right ideas don’t win on their own. They need a voice. They need prosecutors. [...] We have let far too much go unchallenged.