“Do you know who I am? I’m the Lego boy”… an anecdote about restorative justice, from Andrew Leigh’s new book about randomised trials:

A house in suburban Canberra had been the target of multiple burglaries. For the sixth time, someone had broken in through a window and stolen items from the bedroom of the family’s nine-year-old son. But this time the culprit had been caught in the act. It was the nine-year-old boy from next door – nabbed with a pillowcase full of Lego.

When police officer Rudi Lammers was called to the scene, he decided not to simply follow the usual processes for dealing with young offenders. Instead, he sat down with the two nine-year-olds and asked the victim, “What do you think we should do?”

The reply surprised him.

“A science-fiction narrative imagining an alternate universe in which Donald Trump never became President: he’s just a regular guy in New York City.” These are good cartoons.

New Statesman asked novelist Mohsin Hamid, “Are we all doomed?”

Individually, yes. As a species, no. All of us, individually, are going to die. That is horrifying. But it opens up the potential for compassion. We can see that every other human being faces the same terrible fate as we do. And we can begin to treat each other accordingly. With greater sympathy. Human history is likely to be a slow, sometimes appalling, often faltering march towards a world where people treat each other better than in the past. Death can do us that one service. So have hope.

Just one person does five
Fencing, shooting, riding, running, and swimming
There are five, just for one person
But we’re guessing you don’t know much about
Modern pentathlon

Nissin, a company that famously produces cup noodles and even more famously produces bizarre advertisements for cup noodles, has created a monster mascot for Modern Pentathlon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: meet Pentaurus-kun.

If you miss Lucky Peach, the nearest available thing is Chang and Meehan’s documentary series about food culture, Ugly Delicious. I’ve only seen the pizza episode so far, but the New Yorker’s review has me looking forward to “Chang and a researcher feed[ing] Doritos to an assembled group of people who claim to have adverse reactions to the MSG in Chinese food”.

(Interestingly, in explaining Lucky Peach’s demise, Meehan blamed “friction” with Chang: “I think we just kind of collided in the last six months”; Chang refused to talk about it. I gather this was filmed before their collision.)

Facing a grilling about her staff — who are under investigation by the AFP over a hamfisted attempt to smear Bill Shorten — Michaelia Cash flipped out and made a hamfisted attempt to smear Bill Shorten’s female staff. Penny Wong heard about it, marched into the committee room, unloaded on Cash, and forced her to withdraw. (You need to see the video to fully appreciate how fearsome Wong can be.)

But what about the rumours Cash threatened to spread? The Guardian was baffled:

No one I have spoken to, or anyone in this office has spoken to, has any idea who or what she was talking about.

Over at the AFR, they had heard something:

As a minister in the former government, Mr Shorten was the subject of rumours spread by the Coalition that he had had an affair with a staffer called Shannon who became pregnant. The rumours persisted even though Shannon was male.

Samantha Maiden confirmed that the “rumour that Bill Shorten had impregnanted a man was truly one of the great Parliamentary world exclusives”. Perhaps spreading it will be the end of Cash’s career.

Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project has launched Confident Commuter, a step-by-step guide to help you deal with public transport ticket inspectors and infringement notices.

(I’m pleased to see it includes, “Ticket inspectors cannot: … Take your phone”. I ended up on radio complaining about this last year — and subsequently in the Chinese-language media as “kind-hearted Corr” / “好心的corr”, so that’s nice.)

Alto’s Odyssey is here! Beautiful design, a satisfying difficulty curve, and the one-touch gameplay is perfect for straphangers like me.

It looks like a mysterious Bulgarian user set up a dodgy playlist and a thousand Spotify accounts, and scammed them into paying huge royalties for a few months. Clever, but while the article says “technically this person needn’t have broken any laws”, it would definitely be treated as fraud if you tried to pull this scam off in Australia.

If you’ve seen The Good Place, you’ll be familiar with its premise: in the afterlife, all of your actions will be assigned a moral score (ending slavery — good; telling a woman to ‘smile’ — bad), and you will be rewarded or punished according to your tally. China wants to make this a reality, but with immediate carrots and sticks:

[T]he State Council, the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic of China, proposed the creation of a vast system of surveillance in which every citizen would be given a numerical score that indicated their trustworthiness. This system would be based on wide-reaching tracking of online and offline actions, all purchases, media engagement and social relations. All the information scraped off by this surveillance process would be centralised in a database and groomed by algorithms looking to extract patterns. These patterns would then be interpreted in a strongly normative way. Taken together, the algorithms would settle on a single number: the ‘Citizen Score’. This score will have massive impacts on people’s lives, with punishments and rewards once the system becomes operational. The State Council wants to make the Social Credit System compulsory for all citizens by 2020.

You’ve probably guessed where this is headed (paying your debts — good; criticising the Party — bad). Hell on Earth.

I’m quite willing to judge a book by its cover, and the logotype in the Recently Added list on Netflix was enough to convince me to give Babylon Berlin a try. After one episode I’m prepared to recommend it: trams, hats, flappers, architecture, and a noir plot that revolves around the vice squad and a theremin-playing Trotskyite. So far, so good.

A while ago, I linked to the absurdist anime Pop Team Epic with no comment, mostly because it defies explanation. This interview with its producer, Kotaro Sudo, reveals the freedom afforded to its segments’ creators, and its commitment to experimentation. For instance:

Q: Going back to episode 1, how did that French segment come about? I feel like I saw a lot of viewers at the advance screening and the TV broadcast who were left dumbfounded…

A: That was Kamikaze Douga’s idea. There’s a French person who works at Kamikaze Douga, you see.

Q: You mean the one who shows up on camera.

A: That’s him. He doesn’t speak Japanese, and communicates at work with English, so Kamikaze Douga said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we gave him the manga and let him do as he pleased?” So we ended up going with that suggestion. Since he doesn’t understand Japanese, he made the segment by looking at the art and imagining what was going on. That’s why it ignores the canon and has Popuko and Pipimi going to Paris, and makes self-deprecating French jokes. Also, he creates those as a one-man team, which is why it’s animated more like a Western cartoon. We also hired French voice actresses, so the footage is sent over there for voice-over recording. I was shocked to hear how much it actually cost to do all that… (laughs).

It’s available in Japanese or English — watch it.

Last month I mentioned the ABC’s appalling decision to invite Charles Waterstreet on to a panel discussion about sexual assault. Happily, he has withdrawn after being asked to do so by the NSW Bar Association:

“Arthur Moses SC wrote to Mr Waterstreet informing him that it was his firm view that it was neither appropriate or prudent for him to appear on the Q and A television program to discuss issues concerning the #Me Too anti-sexual harassment movement.” said a spokesman. “The reasons for that view being expressed by the President were communicated to Mr Waterstreet and it is not appropriate that those reasons be disclosed by the Bar Association.”

The Japanese figure skating team at Pyeonchang performed to a song from figure skating anime Yuri!!! on ICE. It’s hard to find a video of it because the IOC copyright cops are so aggressive, but here’s a previous performance. While you’re at it, here’s the opening to the show, and you can and should watch it on Crunchyroll.

It’s hard to choose just one quotation from Puzhong Yao’s hilarious memoir, The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective, so I’ll stick with the one used in the tweet that alerted me to it:

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

The Blues Brothers (1980):

Jake: Hey, what’s going on?!

Cop: Ah, those bums won their court case, so they’re marching today.

Jake: What bums?

Cop: The fucking Nazi party.

Elwood: Illinois Nazis.

Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis!

The Republican Party (2017):

Illinois Republicans should have paid closer attention to the state’s third district… Arthur Jones, a notorious neo-Nazi, will almost certainly win the Republican primary for the third district’s seat in the House of Representatives on March 20th because he is unopposed by any other Republican candidate. Mr Jones is a former member of the National Socialist White People’s Party and a variety of other Nazi groupings. He calls the Holocaust an “international extortion racket” and proudly displays racist and anti-Semitic bile on his website and blog.

New Socialist is running a fascinating series on Radical TV, and this anecdote about the genesis of Bill Brand is too good. On the night of the 1974 election, which resulted in a hung parliament and subsequently a minority Labour government, writer Trevor Griffiths and producer Stella Richmond were in a restaurant

… full of those reactionary showbiz people, who’d all had a bet on the Tories pulling it off. And, as the evening progressed and the results came out, it was amazing to watch these fuckers break down in tears and begin wailing.

They decided to make “something on politics”, about a left-wing MP torn between his socialism and his support for a Labour government. (You can watch Bill Brand on YouTube.)

Celeste began as an impressive game jam entry that became a flagship for PICO-8; now that it’s been fleshed out and ported to various consoles, it’s being hailed as a masterpiece.

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit:

Industrial capitalism has fostered an extremely rapid rate of scientific advance and technological innovation—one with no parallel in previous human history. Even capitalism’s greatest detractors, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, celebrated its unleashing of the “productive forces.” Marx and Engels also believed that capitalism’s continual need to revolutionize the means of industrial production would be its undoing. Marx argued that, for certain technical reasons, value—and therefore profits—can be extracted only from human labor. Competition forces factory owners to mechanize production, to reduce labor costs, but while this is to the short-term advantage of the firm, mechanization’s effect is to drive down the general rate of profit.

For 150 years, economists have debated whether all this is true. But if it is true, then the decision by industrialists not to pour research funds into the invention of the robot factories that everyone was anticipating in the sixties, and instead to relocate their factories to labor-intensive, low-tech facilities in China or the Global South makes a great deal of sense.

I would have missed David Graeber’s excellent 2012 essay if it hadn’t been discussed on General Intellect Unit, “Podcast of the Cybernetic Marxists”.

George Calombaris says he lost $750,000 in “ambassadorship” payments after punching a critic of his business practices. That is a fraction of the millions he made by ripping off his staff, many of whom are still waiting to be paid. It’s enough to make you sick

Uh oh.

It begins at a second-hand shop in Canberra, where ex-government furniture is sold off cheaply.

The deals can be even cheaper when the items in question are two heavy filing cabinets to which no-one can find the keys.

They were purchased for small change and sat unopened for some months until the locks were attacked with a drill.

Inside was the trove of documents now known as The Cabinet Files.

‘People are starting to understand’: huge Invasion Day protest stuns Melbourne:

Before 2015, the Invasion Day rally was seen as just a group of hardcore activists; they didn’t register in the minds of the flag-waving crowd that turned out to watch the official proceedings.

That was then. On Friday, when the Invasion Day march reached the barricades that had been pushed aside after the parade moved on, it significantly outnumbered the Australia Day event.

Crowd estimates were between 40,000 and 60,000 people. It stretched the length of four city blocks…

A police officer, one of the dozens flanking the marchers, gave a speculative look down the street when asked to guess the size of the crowd, which had disappeared around a bend.

“More than was expected, that’s for sure,” he says.

Calla Wahluist’s write-up gives a good summary of the day. In a nutshell:

It’s sweaty and friendly and polite. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are here to talk. Non-Indigenous people are here to listen.

We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.

That’s what I want — to hear you erupting. You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you — I want to hear you. I want to listen to you talking to each other and to us all: whether you’re writing an article or a poem or a letter or teaching a class or talking with friends or reading a novel or making a speech or proposing a law or giving a judgment or singing the baby to sleep or discussing the fate of nations, I want to hear you. Speak with a woman’s tongue.

Ursula K Le Guin, 1929-2018

School goes back next week. I’m going to blow up this quotation and display it in my classroom.

This Melbourne teenager is awesome, partly for her impressive polar skiing feat, but mostly because of how she handles misogynist trolls:

Jade [Hameister]’s facebook photo from the South Pole shows her holding a ham sandwich. That’s a delayed response to commenters on her Ted Talk from 2016, where she discussed her then-incomplete quest; unfortunately, her video saw several trolls posting the message “shut up and make me a sandwich”.

Jade drily notes in the caption to her photo: “I made you a sandwich (ham & cheese), now ski 37 days and 600km to the South Pole and you can eat it.”

The ABC’s Q&A has long been an embarrassment, but the decision to invite Charles Waterstreet to participate in a panel discussion of sexual harrassment — presumably to provide “balance” — is an absolute disgrace. Since New Matilda began publishing a series of allegations against Waterstreet, the police have commenced an investigation, the star of Rake has distanced him from the show, the University of Sydney has banned him from advertising clerkships to its students, and his response has been… well, whatever this is.

Nina Funnell, one of the journalists who has been investigating Waterstreet’s behaviour, has been invited to sit in the audience. She should be on the panel, and he should be punted.

(As Richard Ackland noted in 2015, when a story making similar claims about an unnamed barrister was published, Waterstreet left an unusual comment. The story has since disappeared, but can be accessed with a little help from the Wayback Machine.)

Why does the NBN suck? Well…

The government’s objective for the national broadband network was not to give Australians a world-class internet with speeds and prices equivalent or better than the rest of the world, which in turn would provide the country with infrastructure that would set us up for the next 100 years.

As the NBN’s own corporate plan puts it, “nbn’s key objective is to ensure all Australians have access to fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices, and at least cost”.

But what is fast? Well, [Communications Minister] Fifield made it clear that it was 25Mps, as that was the speed recommended to download Netflix. … When your objective is only to provide everyone with an internet that allows them to download Netflix, then that is what you deliver. …

If your objective is an internet that is good enough to download Netflix in 2018, you can ignore what the requirements will be in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time…

Since bitcoins are not useful as a medium of exchange, or desirable in themselves, their true value is zero.

John Quiggin explains why.

The Mapping of Massacres:

[Historian Lyndall] Ryan is based at the Centre for the History of Violence at Newcastle University, up the coast from Sydney. A few years ago, she applied for a research grant to embark on a hugely ambitious undertaking: to map the site of every Australian colonial frontier massacre on an interactive Web site. Ryan defines a massacre, in this context, as the indiscriminate killing of six or more undefended people. Since Aboriginal communities tended to live together in camps of about twenty people, losing six or more people in one killing—a “fractal” massacre—usually led to the whole community collapsing.

Four years of painstaking research later, with the grant depleted, Ryan’s map is nowhere near finished. So far, it includes more than a hundred and seventy massacres of Indigenous people in eastern Australia, as well as six recorded massacres of settlers, from the period of 1788 to 1872. She estimates that there were more than five hundred massacres of Indigenous people over all, and that massacres of settlers numbered fewer than ten. (Ryan has not yet researched any massacres of Torres Strait Islander people, who are culturally distinct from mainland Aboriginal groups but share their history of colonization.) In July, Ryan and her tiny team decided it was time to release the partially completed map online.

It’s time to change the date, establish an Indigenous voice to parliament, and negotiate treaties — which has already begun in Victoria.

The Attack on Titan Humble Bundle gives you 22 volumes for just over $1 each. The current volume is number 23, so this is a great way to catch up without breaking the bank — I hope it becomes a standard model for other long-running series.

In a world marked by pain and damage, it’s difficult to put down our shields. Most of us have them; I have several. Usually we are born with some, but sometimes we make them. … All the structural biases embedded in our social existence are shields. … Most of us have shields that protect us against some aspect of systemic harm. Some of us, the most vulnerable to the winds of outrageous fortune, have no shields at all. And yet even the well-intentioned often erase the suffering of others. We put up our shields.

Behind those shields, we are safe from understanding the dimensions of the daily struggle against different forms of unfairness. We are protected, too, from recognising our own pain, and we don’t have to think about how it is linked to the pain of others. If we did begin to comprehend, we would be forced to recognise that the only ethical response is to put our own shields down. And yes, that is hard. But it’s necessary.

Alison Croggon on power, in Overland.

“Four stars in the night sky have been formally recognised by their Australian Aboriginal names”: This fascinating article shows you which ones they are, and outlines the Indigenous stories about them. Fittingly, one of the stars in the Southern Cross is now officially called Ginan, which has long been the Wardaman name for it.

I really enjoyed Neko Atsume, the cat collecting game. Not enough to go and see the movie, but enough to be excited about the developer’s follow-up, Tabi Kaeru. (“Tabi” means travel/journey, and “kaeru” means frog, but it has homophones that mean “to keep a pet” and “to return”. The game is about a pet frog who travels and returns to you.)

The concept of the original game has been turned inside out: instead of laying out items to attract as many cats to visit as possible, you equip your sole frog friend and send it off on an adventure, looking forward to postcards and souvenirs revealing the places it has visited. It seems there is a bit of complexity in that the things you equip the frog with influence its destination, so here’s a good roundup of reviews and how-to guides.

The January sumo tournament starts this weekend, and the NHK World preview show is on their sumo site now. You can watch a daily 20-minute highlight package for the 15 days of the tournament there, too, but I recommend watching it via the NHK’s Apple TV app. The competition starts on Sunday, and the highlights show is released the next morning.

One of the many baffling things about American democracy is the lack of consensus in favour of an independent electoral boundaries commission. So, inevitably, we see cases like this:

A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage.

The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections.

Judge James A. Wynn Jr., in a biting 191-page opinion, said that Republicans in North Carolina’s Legislature had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent” as they carried out their obligation in 2016 to divide the state into 13 congressional districts, 10 of which are held by Republicans. The result, Judge Wynn wrote, violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

Of course, it is far from certain the US Supreme Court will agree that partisan boundaries are unacceptable. For more on the upcoming legal fight over partisan gerrymandering, see Amicus, More Perfect, and especially FiveThirtyEight’s The Gerrymandering Project series background, and SCOTUSblog for detailed coverage of the pending decision in Gill v Whitford.

Shitpost is the American Dialect Society’s digital word of the year.

Yikes. The Pokémon Company spent six years in a legal dispute with Redbubble over copyright infringement. It sought $44,555.84 in lost royalties — but the Court found “[t]here was no evidence to establish that many of the sales were of the kind of items which were available for sale and commercialisation within the Pokémon universe.” (The infringing items included Pikachu/Sailor Moon mashups, and shirts that read “I might <Pikachu> in the shower”.) The Court awarded the Pokémon Company just $1 in damages and 70% of its costs.

Now let’s see how the Hells Angels fare…