Links and Notes for January 29th, 2021
Published by marco on
Below are links to articles, highlighted passages, and occasional annotations for the week ending on the date in the title, enriching the raw data from Instapaper Likes and Twitter. They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.
“Dr. Fauci and all of the virologists and epidemiologists and doctors have studied diseases and vaccines for their entire lives, so I listen to them and I urge you to do the same. None of us are going to learn more than them by watching a few hours of videos. It’s simple: if your house in on fire, you don’t go on YouTube, you call the damn fire department. If you have a heart attack, you don’t check your Facebook group, you call an ambulance. If 9 doctors tell you you have cancer and need to treat it or you will die, and 1 doctor says the cancer will disappear, you should always side with the 9. In this case, virtually all of the real experts around the world are telling us the vaccine is safe and some people on Facebook are saying it isn’t.
“In general, I think if the circle of people you trust gets smaller and smaller and you find yourself more and more isolated, it should be a warning sign that you’re going down a rabbit hole of misinformation. Some people say it is weak to listen to experts. That’s bogus. It takes strength to admit you don’t know everything. Weakness is thinking you don’t need expert advice and only listening to sources that confirm what you want to believe.”
The Coronavirus Vaccine Fail and International Elites by Dean Baker (CEPR)
“As bad as the U.S. has done so far, we have vaccinated a larger share of our population than any country in Europe with the exception of the United Kingdom. That’s right, countries like Denmark, France, and even Germany have done worse in vaccinating their populations than the United States. And these countries ostensibly have competent leaders and all have national health care systems. Nonetheless, they have done worse far worse in the case of France and Germany, than Donald Trump’s clown show.”
“Sharing knowledge about vaccines, treatments, and best practices for prevention is costless and the whole world benefits if the pandemic can be contained as quickly as possible.”
Working together is not a zero-sum game. The more vaccinated everyone gets, the better off we all are; the more we share knowledge, the more vaccine there is available. We have done the opposite, assuming that if someone else has vaccine, then that means less for us.
“The logical path would have been to open-source all research on treatments and vaccines, both so that progress could be made as quickly as possible, and also intellectual property rights would not be an obstacle to large-scale production throughout the world.”
Again, we didn’t take this path, so we’ve got production bottlenecks as far as the eye can see.
“The big problem, of course, is that going this route of open-source research and international cooperation could call into question the merits of patent monopoly financing of prescription drug research. After all, if publicly funded open-source research proved to be the best mechanism for financing the development of drugs and vaccines in a pandemic, maybe this would be the case more generally. And, no one in a position of power in American politics wanted to take this risk of a bad example.”
Or Europe or Switzerland, to be honest. Europe and Switzerland are home to whichever large pharmaceutical corporations aren’t U.S.-based. They don’t know how to get out of the noose prepared by these giants, either.
“They could also begin to produce and stockpile large quantities of vaccines, as soon as they entered Phase 3 trials. Incredibly, it seems no country has done this.”
Yeah, I’m kind of taken aback by this giant logistical failure, as well. Phase 3 looked good back in August 2020. Approval came during December 2020 for most countries.
“[…] the advantages of having a large stockpile available that can be quickly distributed swamp the potential costs of buying large quantities of a vaccine that is not approved. […] With the [U.S.] seeing more than 4,000 deaths a day at the peak of the pandemic and the economic losses from the pandemic running into the trillions, the risk of spending $800 million on an ineffective vaccine seem rather trivial.”
The problem is policy and political will, not physical facts on the ground. We could have done it, but we didn’t.
“Just to be clear, there was no physical obstacle to producing billions of vaccines by the end of 2020. If we can build one factory to produce these vaccines, we can build ten factories. If some of the inputs are in short supply, we can build more factories to produce the inputs. There may be questions of patent rights, but that is different than a question of physical limitations.”
We do this all the time with other medication, e.g. the flu vaccine.
“In a normal flu season, close to 2 million shots are given every day, without any heroic efforts by the government. Given the urgency of getting the pandemic under control, it is hard to understand why we could not have administered shots at this pace, if not considerably faster. The fact that it wasn’t just the United States that missed this standard, but also every country in Europe, indicates an enormous failure of public health systems.”
How can we fix this? We have mechanisms for replacing incompetents with more capable people. We just don’t use them above a certain pay grade. The expression “failing upward” and the well-known Peter Principle (Wikipedia) (which was originally intended as satire until it was seen to fit the data too well) apply to the well-off and well-connected.
“The dishwasher that breaks the dishes gets fired. The custodian who doesn’t clean the toilet gets fired. Why doesn’t the person who messes up vaccine distribution pay a price?”
People notice. People get pissed. People lose trust, they lose confidence in their governments. There’s only so much confidence (see ) to lose before the government has no legitimacy anymore, despite being elected democratically. People are choosing the lesser evil, but hating and mistrusting both.
“We have seen a massive rise in right-wing populism where large numbers of less-educated workers reject the elites and all their claims about the world. When we have massive elite mess-ups, as we now see with vaccine distribution, and there are zero consequences for those responsible, this has to contribute to the resentment of the less advantaged.”
No shit. The “less[-]advantaged” aren’t super well-educated or well-informed, but they’re not dumb. They can feel smoke when you blow it up their asses. Why do they believe in so many conspiracy theories, then? Because the elites have literally conspired to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to themselves, no matter how badly they screw up. The population sees this and it knows that it’s true because it is true. It’s a conspiracy in plain sight. Why wouldn’t they then start to believe other theories that kind of look like the conspiracy that they are right to believe in? Once you base a whole world on lies and fairy tales about “free markets” and “democracies” and “meritocracies”, you’re a hypocrite to act shocked when many people start believing in lies and fairy tales that don’t also happen to be true. How are they supposed to tell the difference?
Can they turn to their media? Of course not. They’re patting themselves on the back for having kept the stock market so high and for having helped get Joe Biden elected. Joe said on his second day in office not to expect any real change on handling COVID for three months. The media let it go, accepted it.
“The economy is rigged against the left behind, and the people that control major news outlets, which include many self-described liberals or progressives, won’t even talk about it.”
The media are, after all, elites, with elite educations and elite aspirations and elite lifestyles—many of the most prominent ones are shockingly wealthy (Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow)—who have no idea how the other half lives. They self-isolate in nice apartments, have food and packages delivered, and lament what they perceive as the misdirected and misguided anger of the hoi polloi, who think that they’ve been screwed six ways from Sunday when really those people have failed to see their own privilege because the only problem in America is a lack of woke-ness.
“Oxford University was going to open source its vaccine, then the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stepped in and convinced them to sell exclusive rights to AstraZeneca.
“Now AstraZeneca is failing to deliver and poor countries are struggling to access vaccines.”
“James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that works to expand access to medical technology, said that “Gates has staked out this outsized role in the vaccine world…He has an ideological belief that the intellectual property system is a wonderful mechanism that is necessary for innovation and prosperity.””
He’s wrong and his outsized power and influence on the international stage, especially as relates to health initiatives, will cause a lot of needless suffering and death.
“Unable to secure a profit in immunizing Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans, Western multinationals have turned their back on those regions, prioritizing those who can pay the most. As a result, those in the Global South have turned to Russia and China for help. While Western media have dismissed these efforts as “vaccine diplomacy” and a “charm offensive,” while casting doubt on the Sputnik V vaccine’s efficacy, global opinion studies show the Russian offering is actually the most trusted option. Hungary has broken with EU laws and unilaterally ordered two million doses of Sputnik V for itself.”
Finance & Economy
“In that case, the banks have sold 11.5 million shares at $40 on Tuesday night, gotten 10 million shares from the company at $40 on Tuesday night, and bought back 1.5 million shares in the open market on Wednesday. They are net flat; they own zero shares and have made zero dollars of trading profits. This is a legal form of market manipulation. It is generally believed, in U.S. equity capital markets, that you need to have a greenshoe: The banks need to have “ammunition” to defend the IPO price; investors who buy in the IPO want that sort of guarantee that, if the stock starts dropping, there’ll be someone there to buy.”
“In that case, the banks have sold 11.5 million shares at $40 on Tuesday night, gotten 10 million shares from the company at $40 on Tuesday night, and bought back 1.5 million shares in the open market on Wednesday. They are net flat; they own zero shares and have made zero dollars of trading profits. This is a legal form of market manipulation. It is generally believed, in U.S. equity capital markets, that you need to have a greenshoe: The banks need to have “ammunition” to defend the IPO price; investors who buy in the IPO want that sort of guarantee that, if the stock starts dropping, there’ll be someone there to buy. This is called “stabilization,” and there are some rules about how it works—roughly, the banks are allowed to keep the price from falling, but they’re not supposed to push it up—but it is allowed. It’s a little weird, but allowed.”
“What you do is, on Tuesday night, you allocate 10 million shares to investors at $40, instead of 11.5 million. You get 10 million shares from the company at $40. You also get a 1.5 million-share greenshoe option, but that’s your business. The next day, the stock opens at like $80. You shrug “guess we don’t need to stabilize,” you exercise the greenshoe option, and you get 1.5 million more shares for $40. Then you sell them, for $80. You’ve made an extra $60 million. You priced the IPO too low, you got an option to buy shares at that low price, the stock went up, you exercised the option, you made a bucket of money.”
That was the one that seemed obvious to me.
“Thus, the blowouts in the Airbnb IPO and the flop in the Wish IPO are two sides of the same coin. In the former, underwriters monetize a very valuable call option. In the latter, underwriters monetize a valuable short position.”
“The point that I sometimes make is that, in U.S. securities law, there is a standard of materiality, in which a fact is material if it would be significant to “the reasonable investor”; and then there are actual things that make stocks go up and down, which are not always, you know, reasonably significant. Elon Musk’s tweet was unquestionably material to Signal Advance’s stock price, but it surely would not have been significant to a reasonable investor. It had nothing to do with Signal Advance’s long-term cash flows or whatever, and anyway within hours of the tweet it was quite clear and public that Musk wasn’t talking about Signal Advance. The stock kept going up anyway, for days, because markets are not always reasonable.”
“But if you work for the TV show? If you’re a host or reporter for the show? Then … well, I guess it will depend on your arrangement with the show, but in many cases the show will take a dim view of you buying short-dated call options on the stocks you are going to recommend the next day.”
“So my half-baked theory was that index funds do not really vote their shares, but instead effectively keep economic ownership of all the companies while selling their votes to people who care more about individual companies’ performance. That was overstating it: Obviously index funds vote some, perhaps most, of their shares, etc.; my point was just that index funds are less influential corporate voters than you’d think if you just counted up how many shares they own. I had no real empirical evidence for this, though; it was just a theory about the structure of how index funds and corporate voting and share lending work.”
“Quasi-indexers are the big long-term investors who own most of the stock market as fiduciaries for their clients. They are supposed to be good stewards of their clients’ money and good overseers of corporate behavior. If they give up their voting rights, in exchange for a tiny bit of money, then they are—arguably—not doing their jobs right. But, again, there are popular theories that if they do vote they are doing something wrong, reducing competition or whatever.”
“Perhaps the market has just solved the problem efficiently. Voting rights aren’t worth that much to quasi-indexers, so they sell them to someone who wants them. The result is that companies are mostly owned by quasi-indexers, who own the whole economy and have weird incentives when it comes to any one company, but when it comes time to vote the companies are mostly controlled by smaller and more concentrated investors, who have the time and incentive to pay attention to particular companies and vote for what’s best for them.”
“I feel like there used to be a view to the effect that traditional monetary policy (giving banks money in exchange for Treasuries) was inefficient because a lot of the money went to inflating asset bubbles, and that more direct fiscal policy (giving money to people to spend on stuff) was a better way to stimulate the economy. Now it’s like “if you give people money directly they will just spend it on SPACs and Tesla,” and professional investors are terrified.”
“That is the classic, traditional answer: “It would be a red flag for investors if a corporation bought financial assets for speculation purposes unrelated to their core business.” It is an answer grounded in financial theory about how efficient markets work. Investors, in this theory, buy a stock because they want exposure to a particular business; if they want diversification it is more efficient for them to diversify directly (by buying different stocks, or by buying Bitcoin) than for companies to do it for them (by becoming conglomerates, or by buying Bitcoin).”
“What if you start, not from the efficient markets hypothesis, but from the boredom markets hypothesis? What if you are a corporate CFO and you say: “Look, my marginal investor is not a sophisticated institution looking for a specific combination of pure exposures, but a bored 23-year-old putting her $600 stimulus check to work on Robinhood”? Surely the way to appeal to her is to put your money into as many weird fun trendy things as possible, and talk about them all the time.”
“I bet if some semi-anonymous mid-cap company announced tomorrow “we are going to raise a $500 million convertible bond and invest the proceeds in Tesla stock,” the stock would go up. This makes no sense, there’s no corporate or financial logic to it, it’s just a matter of having your name next to a buzzword. “Amalgamated Widgets something something something Tesla,” Amalgamated Widgets stock goes up, that is how finance works now, I’m sorry.”
“Burying money under garbage as a form of stimulus is apparently a permanent feature of economics. We talk a lot around here about how cryptocurrency enthusiasts are rediscovering all of financial history; here Bitcoin has rediscovered a joke Keynes made in 1936.”
“To be clear, the *short sellers* don’t vote either. If you borrow stock and sell it short, *you* don’t get to vote the stock; whoever *buys* it does. This is not about quasi-indexers (who want good things for the company) selling their votes to short sellers (who want bad things); it’s about quasi-indexers (who vaguely want good things) selling their votes to concentrated holders (who want specific good things).”
“I don’t have any easy answers to get these people to start thinking clearly, but I will point out that it is not just ignorant and/or crazed Trumpers who have trouble dealing with reality. Many of our leading intellectuals and their major media outlets have similar difficulty dealing with reality when it doesn’t fit their conceptions of the world.”
“I realize that it is very convenient for people who are doing relatively well in the current economy to believe that it is just a result of the way that technology happened to develop. In this story it just happened to turn out that the progress in areas like software, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology have made advanced skills in science and math more valuable and less-skilled physical labor less valuable. This line is repeated endlessly in media outlets and academic circles with zero reflection.”
“Structuring patents and copyrights in ways that redistribute an enormous amount of income to people with skills in math and science was a policy choice. It was not the blind path of technology. Yet, there is virtually zero recognition of this fact in policy debates.”
“[…] it is simply a lie to say that globalization lead [sic] to the downward pressure on the pay of workers without college degrees. It was how our policy elites chose to structure globalization.”
“Just as it is hard to figure out how to get Donald Trump’s followers to accept the reality about his election defeat by Joe Biden, it is very difficult to get policy types to acknowledge the reality that it was public policy, not the blind forces of technology and globalization, that led to the surge in inequality over the last four decades. In principle, this should be an easier task since policy types like to think that they can be swayed by evidence and logic. In reality, it’s not clear they live up to their self-understanding.”
“At the most basic level, anyone in a policy position is almost by definition on the winning side of the inequality gap. Most of these people are highly educated and earn far more than the average worker. Given their status as winners, it is convenient for them to think that their success is due to their ability and/or hard work rather than the fact the deck was rigged. This is true event [sic] for liberals, who in their generosity support progressive taxes to redistribute from the winners to the losers. It is nicer to think of oneself as a charitable person, rather than a beneficiary of theft who is willing to give back some of the haul.”
“The idea that the government and the market are thoroughly intertwined, so that the notion of unfettered market makes zero sense, complicates the thinking of liberals. Therefore, they choose to ignore reality.”
“The lesson of the housing bubble is that there is little reason for those who spout mainstream positions in policy debates to ever consider alternatives. They suffer no professional consequences even when shown to have been wrong in a very big way.”
“Libor and SOFR are different; they measure different things; Libor is unsecured and SOFR is secured; SOFR is overnight and Libor comes in longer tenors. If your loan pays interest of six-month Libor plus 150 basis points, will it now pay the six-month SOFR futures rate plus 175 basis points, or six months of daily SOFR compounded in arrears plus 168 basis points, or what?”
“Morningstar looked at securities filings by bond mutual funds to see how they valued the bonds in their portfolios. Lots of bonds don’t trade that often, so it is not always clear what they are worth, but mutual funds have to mark their assets to market every day.”
“As such, one element of an asset manager’s job is to act as a referee for investors coming in and out. That means assuring every investor that even if a fund isn’t buying and selling securities in its portfolio every time investors buy or sell fund shares, the prices at which they do so are fair. This is the dreaded “liquidity mismatch” of bond mutual funds: You can put money into the fund or take it out every day, but the underlying bonds might trade much less frequently. Funds will use several competing pricing services, or perhaps call brokers for quotes, to determine the prices of bonds that don’t trade very much.”
“Even in normal market conditions, there will be highly rated corporate bonds that one mutual fund marks at 95 and another marks at 102. If you buy the first mutual fund, you are getting more of that bond for your dollar than if you buy the second. Kinda weird.”
“Or you could put the causality the other way: In turbulent stressful times like March 2020, nobody knows what bonds are worth, because the world is uncertain and lots of companies might default horribly or recover quickly, so there are genuine differences of opinion as to fundamental value.”
“Here is I think the very least Bitcoin-y possible way to get Bitcoin exposure: Buy a BlackRock Global Allocation Fund that may in the future put a small portion of its money in cash-settled Bitcoin futures.”
“In another important sense Libor is just Libor, and cannot exactly be wrong: Contracts that use Libor don’t say “the interest rate will be banks’ cost of unsecured short-term borrowing, which we will calculate by looking at Libor”; they say “the interest rate will be Libor.” The contracts *worked*; they produced *values*; the parties to the contract didn’t have to sue each other because Libor was wrong. They could sue the banks who lied about Libor, maybe, but that’s a separate issue.”
“It is weird to have most of the companies in the world run by a small group of people. When you put it that way, it sounds like an obvious antitrust problem, and there is a popular argument that in fact antitrust law does or should restrict big index funds from owning all the stocks in an industry. But its weirdness goes beyond the antitrust issue, the issue of whether companies will raise prices because they all have the same owners.”
“At some level it seems like a political problem, and we have talked a few times about efforts by the actual political system (Congress, regulators) to rein in the power of the unelected heads of the giant asset managers, particularly when it comes to questions—about the environment, about guns—that are more traditionally handled by the political system.”
“The point here is just that if a corporation ends up accidentally having some level of systemic power like this, where its policy decisions have huge effects not just on its shareholders and customers but on the world as a whole, then perhaps it should take pains to make those decisions transparently and with public engagement. If your company somehow becomes a quasi-government, perhaps it should act quasi-governmentally.”
“The product [SPAC] is new, or new to most of the customers anyway—newly popular, at least. It is at that magical early stage of financial innovation, when (1) there’s a thing people want, (2) banks have it, (3) fees haven’t been competed down yet, and (4) it hasn’t yet led to any horrible disasters. Everyone wins! So far.”
“This is all, arguably, terrible stuff. It is good at some level that smart people devote a lot of energy and harness a lot of technology in the pursuit of making market prices more accurate. It is less obviously good that they devote all that energy to, you know, reading a press release faster than one another. They are not digging up difficult-to-acquire information to make markets more informed. The information comes from the company. It’s public. Just, you know, at different speeds.”
How Capitalism’s Dogged Defenders and Propagandists Defend It From Criticism by Richard D. Wolff (CounterPunch)
“Many do not question or oppose the employer-employee organization of the workplace that defines capitalism. Neither do many “communists” who want the state to own and operate enterprises internally organized around the employer-employee division. If an economy’s enterprises, public and private, retain the basic capitalist organization of production—the employer-employee split described above—then that economy is a kind of capitalism even if and when its advocates call it “socialism” or “communism.””
“It is as if nature or technology or history mandates no other possible modern workplace organization than the employer-employee division and relationship. Their socialisms and communisms are then less nouns differentiated from capitalism and more adjectives distinguishing different kinds of capitalism. Such is the ideological power of the long tradition of defending capitalism with adjectives. Ironically, that tradition also captured many of capitalism’s critics.”
“We need to drop the taboo on debating how we ought to organize the workplaces where most adults spend most of their lives.”
“[…] debates over monarchy contrasted those with parliamentary advisers and those without them, harsh versus popular kings and queens. Monarchs tried to hold on by offering alternative kinds of monarchy. But eventually, people decided that what was needed was not this or that kind of monarchy but rather monarchy’s abolition. Capitalism now faces that same historic resolution.”
“Consider: through what organizational logic would 99.9% of a democratic society be delivered $1,400 checks while 0.01% received $1 trillion? And while the proximate issue is these wildly disproportionate outcomes, the underlying problem is the system of distribution.”
“How did the richest 0.01% ‘earn’ a trillion dollars in a few months of a devastating pandemic? It didn’t. $4 trillion in pandemic aid was distributed, leading to an increase in the wealth of the oligarch class of $1 trillion.”
“By giving the alleged opposition party veto power over his legislative proposals, Mr. Biden appears to be killing his own proposal. This leaves him to posture as a proponent of social spending, and then create the circumstances that assure that the social spending won’t be enacted. He gets political credit for ‘fighting for’ it without putting his benefactors at risk of paying higher taxes.”
“[…] In ordinary circumstances, indebtedness leads to political docility because people are too busy paying their bills to concern themselves with politics.”
“While bank profits were quickly restored during the crisis, government support to stabilize Wall Street never ended. Through maintaining a crisis-level Real Rate, the powers-that-be are implying that the crisis never ended.”
“To be clear, the money wasn’t paid directly by the Federal government to the rich. The Federal government and the Federal Reserve dedicated large-scale funding to reviving financial asset prices, the rich own nearly all financial assets, therefore the effort to raise financial asset prices disproportionately benefited the already rich. The point: the structural forces that are now in place assure that this skewed distribution will continue.”
“The online pranksters behind the great GameStop bubble of 2021 are probably going to lose a lot of money. But they’ve done the world a service by reminding us of the utter uselessness of the stock market, an institution that serves no purpose besides making a small number of undeserving people rich.”
“I don’t think this was Robinhood’s choice.
“Robinhood doesn’t actually execute any trades. They sell user’s trade orders to Citadel, a trade executor. Citadel then buys the shares on the market, and sells them to Robinhood for a slight markup. It’s how Robinhood offers trades for $0 fees. You pay pennies more per share, but don’t have to spend $5 per trade.
“Citadel, and other trade executors, are refusing to buy shares for retail traders. Coincidentally, Citadel also bailed out Melvin fund for their short position in GME. So, Citadel has an interest in not letting the price go up any further. And citadel controls trade execution for dozens of firms.
“This is definitely illegal. But Citadel is betting that the resulting SEC fines from this illegal manipulation will be less than the loss they would get if they didn’t suppress the price.”
Basically, Robinhood is limiting orders because the institutions from which they’re purchasing are limiting their orders. Robinhood can’t sell what it doesn’t have. AOC’s reading of this is hasty and poorly thought out. Sure, they could be illegally restricting shrimp investors, but they could also be running into the hard reality that, somehow, GME is 119% long. That there is no more stock available after it’s all been sold plus 19% is not really a sign of criminality. More the opposite, I’d say.
“The great irony of all this and what most of Reddit doesn’t get that is that the big winners here are the biggest players on Wall Street. Blackrock alone made $2.4 Billion from GME today. The institutional ownership (including synthetic longs) is now at 119% of the float. The largest shareholders of Gamestop are the megacap managed funds like Blackrock, Vanguard, Fidelity. These are multi-trillion dollar players, Vanguard alone has $5.7 trillion AUM. Citroen Research and Melvin who lost with their short positions are low/mid-tier niche funds with a few billion in management.
“In fact while Redditors may have started off the pump, it was largely big movers making this play out. For those who have access to Level II ARCA order flow data on NYSE, you can see that it was large orders (way above what an average Redditor would be able to afford), that drove the short squeeze. For all the talk of DeepFuckingValue and his $50K early bet turning into millions and a few other redditors making six figure gains, this is a drop in the bucket. The billions in market cap that will be liquidated soon will be captured not by Redditors, but by Blackrock and Vanguard selling these shares to Redditors.
“Its the Vanguards and Blackrocks that created the synthetic longs that were leveraged for short contracts and that drove the >100% short ratio, they are the ones who loaned the stock to these smaller hedge funds to short, it was them who picked up huge margin fees and it will be them who will now receive massively inflated GME stock back (for all of them the average acquisition price was in the single or teen digits) and they will now sell it at $300 to the clueless retail shrimp reading about this on Reddit/Twitter and jumping onto their Robinhood app to go on a crusade to stick it to Wall Street by buying GME. All these people buying into AMC, NOK, GME are going to get burned hard.”
“While everybody in on Reddit is lulzing, these funds are doing what they do every single day, which is managing to a specific risk profile and rebalancing their portfolios back to a specific model.
“If you really think the vast amount of institutional shareholders—outside of a few boutique hedge funds—are purchasing $185 GME for some sort of momentum play, you have a very poor understanding of how the equity markets actually work. Outside of a minority of funds that might have been caught up in a short squeeze, those institutions who held these positions long have been liquidating it and giving it to the retail shrimp all the way up.”
“I just don’t think that the media/politicians would be so up in arms […]”
The story as told is juicy and simple enough without being weighed down by being correct. That stopped mattering a long time ago.
The media/politicians are essentially clueless about a lot of the things that come out of their mouths. Many, if not all, are combinations of shockingly uninformed, actively misinformed, deliberately ignorant, and, more rarely, criminally interested in propagating a false narrative for personal or political gain. Remember Hanlon’s razor, though.
Even if the media are actually aware of what’s really going on, they will drive the false narrative because it makes them more money in their own scam: selling outrage for ad-clicks.
The few politicians that know better have long since had any patience eroded away by an addiction to social media and an inability to wait and learn until they know enough to express an opinion.
Instead, they propose legislation via Twitter and a hastily arranged CNBC interview minutes after they speed-read the title of a Vox article on GME written by an unpaid intern who just learned about short-selling that morning and transcribed a word salad from a funny Reddit post into the company style.
“The seminal GameStop trade that started all this was Redditor u/DeepFuckingValue buying GameStop calls — the right to sell (rather than buy — that would be a put) GameStop shares at a specific strike price. As of yesterday this $53,000 trade had grown to about $48 million with $14 million of that in cash. That’s some Deep Fucking Value.”
“A way to make even more money from this trade is by using options rather than actual shares, in this case buying what are called PUT options. When you buy a put option, you’re hoping that the price of the underlying stock falls. You make money with puts when the price of the option rises [and you sell the option], or when you exercise the option to buy the stock at a price that’s below the strike price and then sell the stock in the open market, pocketing the difference.”
Some of the Lords are not amused. Others are just making a ton of money, like they do every day. It’s a nice story, but 99% of those peasants are going to be royally screwed. They can’t all win at a Ponzi scheme.
I kept waiting for the market to reset/drop when it realized that the real economy became too obvious to ignore. It’s funny that the only thing that can stall the irrational rise in the markets is an equally irrational pumping of a stock that really isn’t worth much at all. Perfect.
If that was one or two institutional investors pushing the price up like that, the SEC would step in and prosecute for “pump and dump”, which is illegal. However, since it’s millions of retail investors (shrimps), there’s no one to prosecute and you just have to accept that … stupid is gonna stupid, no matter how many rules you make.
I just love how people have now convinced themselves to buy obviously deficient and worthless stocks with real money in order to (supposedly) stick it to the man. Jesus H. Christ. How stupid can you get? Just because they’re talking about you on the news now? Really?
Get-rich-quick scams are still scams no matter how cool the backstory. If it finally sounds like there’s really no downside this time, then it means that they’ve finally figured out how to target your niche.
if anyone thinks that the political situation is black-and-white in the States, just look at who is being quoted here:
““It took less than a day for big tech, big government and the corporate media to spring into action and begin colluding to protect their hedge fund buddies on Wall Street,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote Thursday on Twitter. “This is what a rigged system looks like, folks!”
“Robinhood’s actions were also prominently criticized by Democrats. “We now need to know more about @RobinhoodApp’s decision to block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit,” wrote congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter.
“Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks were embraced by both Donald Trump Jr and Senator Ted Cruz, who replied, “fully agree.””
I am delighted to think of how many heads are exploding as we watch AOC and DTJ and Cruz agree.
“However, no one should accept the claim that the GameStop short squeeze is driven simply by a band of independent traders asserting themselves against the powers that be. Major hedge funds, including BlackRock, have made billions from the run-up in GameStop’s share prices.
“Economists have warned that GameStop shares, meanwhile, are behaving like a classic pump-and-dump scheme, in which sophisticated investors goad novices to drive up the price of a stock, then sell it, leaving small investors holding the losses.
“The main point that needs refuting is the view, often expressed by users on wallstreetbets, that by speculating on a worthless stock, and potentially forcing Wall Street firms to take losses, they are somehow making a progressive protest against the capitalist system.”
“But the idea that by joining forces with the likes of Elon Musk, Donald Trump Jr, and Ted Cruz to hop on the bandwagon of a speculative mania will lead to some sort of progressive social outcome is absurd.”
“The World Socialist Web Site does not offer financial advice to our readers. But we do offer political advice: put your energy into fighting for the social interests of the working class. There is a raging pandemic, over 400,000 people are dead, and 10 million people are out of work in America alone. These are problems that will not be solved through individual action, much less buying hot-ticket stocks, but through collective struggle by the working class for socialism.”
“While insider trading is illegal, being party to important information that others do not have is perhaps the only sure fire way to make money on the stock market. As a result, for decades, politicians’ portfolios have far outperformed those of even the most storied speculators. Using the financial disclosures of politicians from between 1985 and 2001, Professor Alan Ziobrowski of Georgia State University found that members of the House earn “abnormal returns” on their stocks, outperforming the market by six percentage points. Senators, in higher office than House members, performed even better, “showing some of the highest excess returns ever recorded over a long period of time, significantly outperforming even hedge fund managers,” in Ziobrowski’s study’s words. “It’s not rational to assume that they are just plain dumb-lucky,” he concluded. Between 1993 and 1998, senators’ stock portfolios beat the market by an average of 12% a year.”
“Yellen appears to have the full backing of the White House. “Separate from the GameStop issue, the secretary of Treasury is one of the world renowned experts on markets, on the economy. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone she was paid to give her perspective and advice before she came into office,” said new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
“Others remained unconvinced. “Literally the world’s dumbest fucking people — the absolute dumbest, can’t get dumber — are those who don’t just claim but really believe Wall Street firms pay powerful politicians gigantic sums for banal 45 minute speeches because they want their wisdom rather than their servitude,” replied journalist Glenn Greenwald.”
“What’s being ignored in all the current hoopla is that the largest federally-insured banks in this country, that now double as trading casinos and Dark Pools thanks to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, have every incentive to suck in the small investor at the top of a market bubble in order to create an escape route for themselves. It’s called “distribution” and it occurs, by hook or crook, at the top of every market bubble.”
“Before you buy into the David versus Goliath saga of GameStop, it would be wise to step back and do some homework on what’s really going on.”
“Regardless of the motivation, by executing trades in GameStop, these retail investors created what is known as a “short squeeze,” where the fast-rising price of the stock caused the holders of short positions to buy the stock in order to limit their losses––pushing the stock price even higher, creating a type of feedback loop. This left a number of hedge funds high and dry, possibly causing billions in losses.
“Because a lot of the trading was in options, there was also a “gamma squeeze,” which created another feedback loop. Market makers who sell call options (bets that the stock price will rise) often buy some underlying stock to hedge their exposure, pushing the price up even further.”
The GameStop Game and Financial Transactions Taxes by Dean Baker (CEPR)
“Anyhow, long and short, the Robinhood/Reddit gang basically got into the game of stock manipulation. This is not especially to be applauded. They did catch a big hedge fund with its pants down, but many of the people involved are likely to end up losers – the people who bought GameStop at a grossly inflated price.”
“It would be good if we could crack down on efforts to manipulate stock prices, whether they come from big actors like hedge funds, corporate CEOs timing their options, or the collective action of small investors. This will always be a difficult task, but unfortunately it is easiest when it is on open display, as appears to have been the case with the Robinhood/Reddit deal.
“To be clear, if a group of people debate a company’s value and decide that a stock is grossly under-valued, there is no issue. But, if a group of people collectively say “hey, let’s try to drive up the price of GameStop,” you have a clear case of manipulation.
“I’m not advocating a massive crackdown on the Robinhood/Reddit crew, but there should be consequences for this action. And, it would be reasonable to make the companies involved, Robinhood and Reddit, pay the costs. They should not allow their platforms to be used for stock manipulation.”
“In short, this episode should help us to see the stock market with open eyes. Much of what takes place there is clearly gambling. We let people gamble in other contexts, but we tax it. There is no reason we shouldn’t tax it on Wall Street.”
“As far as the claim that they were giving the hedge fund boys time to close out their positions, that is possible, but the stock price fell precipitously during this period. If the hedgies were getting out, this would have meant they were buying to cover their shorts. That should have driven the stock price up, not down. My guess is that most of the hedge funds had closed out their positions when the stock was at $40 or $50, I doubt they still had big bucks in their shorts at the point where it hit $400.”
“But more importantly, what exactly is the Robinhood/GameStop crew complaining about? During the period of the buying moratorium they still had the opportunity to buy the stock through another platform, if they were really dying to do it. But more importantly, the stock price fell by more than $100 a share during this period. If this was due to Robinhood’s moratorium, then the company allowed its clients to buy shares at a huge discount compared to the pre-moratorium price. What is the problem here?”
Public Policy & Politics
“The obsession with Trump above everything else seemingly rationalised any means – fair or foul – to be rid of him. Few thought about how this would look to his supporters or to those not already safely ensconced in one or other tribe.
“Had they wished to understand, they needed only look to the storming of the Capitol last week. How they felt watching the building being ransacked – a Deplorable putting his feet up contemptuously on Pelosi’s desk – was how Trump’s tribe felt watching their president being denounced as a Russian agent and dragged through impeachment proceedings.”
“Political paralysis may not harm the establishment. But it is profoundly damaging to us, the 99 per cent, when our communities are being ravaged by a pandemic, when our economies are in meltdown, when the planet is on the brink of ecological collapse.”
“Trump is not the enemy. That target is far too small and limited. The class he belongs to is our enemy, as is the system of privilege he has spent the past four years upholding and his successor will defend just as assiduously.
“Whether Trump is ultimately convicted or not in the Senate, the system that produced him will be acquitted – by Congress, by the new president, by Wall Street, by the corporate media.
“It is we who will pay the price.”
First, there’s just this picture of these bastards looking like the criminals they, all masked-up and ready to rob another bank.
It’s of course heartwarming to see Bush’s reputation all rehabilitated instead of being impeached, because obviously Trump’s crime of kinda, sorta—if you squint—inciting an incursion on the Capital building (even though that’s totally not something you could prosecute someone for in a criminal court that has to acknowledge the first amendment, but in a civil court, like the one used for an impeachment, it’s fine, because the evidentiary rules are different, which is to say, kind of nonexistent) is worse that having started an explicitly racist war on fictitious grounds that ended up killing a million Iraqis and making about 4-5 million of them homeless. See the link for an excellent discussion.
“Biden’s Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken testified at his Senate confirmation hearing that he agrees with Mike Pompeo’s labeling China’s treatment of Uighurs as genocide (which has diplomatic ramifications) and that China misled the world about COVID.”
Also, Blinken believes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the U.S. Embassy should stay there.
Holy shit. 1000 airstrikes is still too much, but it’s a helluva lot less than 13,000. Let’s see what Biden does.
Liberals aren’t the only ones who are brain-dead and unable to see irony when it slaps them in the face. Pompeo tweeted:
“Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction—authoritarianism, cloaked in a moral righteousness.”
I can’t tell whether he’s talking about himself.
“Over four years, Trump executed nine vetoes. Five of the vetoes were pro-war: One bill against war with Iran, one bill to end American support for the war in Yemen, two bills blocking arms sales to the Saudis, and another blocking arms sales to the UAE.”
I read this on Reddit:
“The headline story in the horrendous National Review yesterday was a piece called “Against Unity”.
“These people don’t want unity. They don’t want a united states. They want an authoritarian state. They are beyond reason and beyond compromise. They need to be ignored, shamed, and steamrolled (politically speaking).”
And I had literally no idea which group it was talking about.
“Hillary Clinton: ‘I’d love to see if Trump was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol.’”
Hillary is completely off the rails. She said this in an interview with Nancy Pelosi, who agreed with nearly everything that the Queen of Chaos had to say—so that’s reassuring.
““I don’t know what Putin has on him politically, financially or personally, but what happened last week was a gift to Putin because Putin wants to undermine democracy in our country and throughout the world,” the Speaker said on the podcast.”
Nancy and Hillary are infantile, with only an infantile grasp of the world and how people actually work. Of course, they are loaded with political power in America—but it’s a nation of infantile thinking, so that’s not unexpected. It doesn’t change the fact that they are puerile fools who contribute nothing to the sum-total of human knowledge. They are active harm personified.
“When Trump was elected, I refused to hate him as much as my compatriots did, and lost a few friends as a result. It wasn’t because I liked him. I did not. I found him personally repugnant then, and far more so today. But I refused to allow my personal disgust toward the man dictate my views about any particular issue, as so many others couldn’t resist doing. For them, if it had anything to do with Trump, it was, by definition, hated. This, I would not do.”
“[This site] remained my place to express the same lefty liberal thoughts as before, which were no longer particularly lefty. As the progressive left found new cliffs to leap off, my adherence to liberal principles became more reasonable, more rational.
“In the old blog days, we used to link back and forth regularly, spreading each other’s words across a then-vibrant blawgosphere. That’s largely gone now. Blog posts took more words and effort to write and read than a twit, and required something that few really wanted to endure: thought. But I stuck it out, perhaps missing the memo that SJ should fade away.”
“This has been an ongoing theme of coverage in the Trump years: hyping a threat for a news cycle or two, then moving to the next panic as the basis for the first one dissipates. How many headlines were aimed at our outrage centers in the last four years that were quietly memory-holed, once they’d outlived their political utility? We read dozens of stories before the election warning that Russia was already interfering in the 2020 election.”
“Then Biden won the election, the story disappeared, and the near-immediate conclusion of the same New York Times was that the election had been “free of fraud.” They quoted the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as saying the 2020 vote was “the most secure in American history,” and as for all of those pre-election scare stories?”
“Blue-state audiences didn’t ask for accounting for those official warnings for the same reason Trump voters never asked what happened to those three million undocumented votes Hillary Clinton supposedly won in 2016: audiences don’t demand explanations for puffed-up claims about other groups.”
“People like Sullivan would have you believe that “balance” is a mandate to give voice to clearly illegitimate points of view, but it’s really about not falling so completely in love with your “values” that you stop caring to avoid mistakes about those who don’t share them, or even just mistakes generally.”
“CNN meanwhile ran a story that incoming Biden officials had to “build everything from scratch” with regard to Covid-19 policy because the Trump administration had no plan for vaccine distribution at all — not a bad or even a terrible plan, but literally a “nonexistent” plan, despite the fact that 36 million vaccines had already been delivered.”
That’s wrong in a way that’s obvious to anyone who’s not a true believer.
“The American political establishment as a whole, even as it is enmeshed in the profound economic, political and social crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, is determined to prevent, by all available means, China from challenging US global hegemony.”
“The statements by Pompeo and other anti-China propagandists, recycled endlessly and uncritically in the US and international media, are based on the dubious research of right-wing, anti-communist academics and unsubstantiated claims of prominent, and often wealthy, Uyghur exiles who run the American Uyghur Association and World Uyghur Congress, both of which receive funding from the CIA front body, the National Endowment for Democracy.”
“Blinken and Biden, following on from Trump and Pompeo, have not the slightest concern for the democratic rights of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and certainly not for Chinese workers, whose exploitation is a source of huge profits for American corporations. Rather this US “human rights” campaign, like the many others, is aimed at furthering the economic and strategic interests of US imperialism.”
“The accusation of “genocide” is particularly grotesque. Whatever the abuses being carried out by the CCP in Xinjiang, it is not engaged in mass murder or the destruction of the Uyghur population. To describe the alleged human rights violations as genocide is to trivialise the term and belittle the monstrous crimes of the 20th century, such as the Nazi holocaust, to which it can be applied. The charge of “genocide” is tantamount to a declaration of war. Indeed, in 1999, the US and its NATO allies used false accusations of Serbian “genocide” of Kosovars as the pretext for launching a months-long bombing that rained death and destruction on Serbia and its people.”
“The deployment of 60 percent of the US naval and air assets to the Indo-Pacific, first mooted under Obama, has been completed.”
Joe Biden must put an end to business as usual. Here’s where to start by Bernie Sanders (The Guardian)
“In the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years, more than 90 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured and can’t afford to go to a doctor when they get sick. The isolation and anxiety caused by the pandemic has resulted in a huge increase in mental illness.”
“If the Republicans could use the reconciliation process to protect the wealthy and the powerful, we can use it to protect working families, the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor.”
“For an answer to this question, I hold up moral philosopher Cornel West’s description of education as “paideia” as the Greeks called it, a process of continually questioning what one currently takes as indisputable fact – one’s dogma. And not for the purpose of saying “You lied to me!” “It’s all a fake!” but for opening one to a higher, more unitive and inclusive truth.
“And who, among “educated” Americans, practices this anymore? Even the academicians who are responsible for maintaining the humanities tradition fail to defend its intrinsic, non-negotiable and humanity-defending worth from the priorities of predatory capitalism. It’s nobody’s fault, everyone must have a job.
“But pretty soon STEM classes are on a par with the liberal arts, and then you’re more than halfway to voting the lesser of two evils, and perilously close to being open to arguments against mask wearing because nothing matters more than another (except the sanctified wheel of progress)!”
“People were not ready to hear, back then, that in a society lacking the authority archetypally embodied in fathers, social relations are left ineluctably horizontal, rife with ceaseless bickering, estrangement, triangulation and mutual suspicion that incapacitate people to work together on behalf of the common good.”
“[…] leaving us not with liberty, equality and fraternity, but the world in which the best lack conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
“Though we celebrate the Enlightenment’s having deposed God from His throne and the liberal and feminist toppling of patriarchy, in only partially understanding what our anti-authoritarian fervor has brought down, we’ve given birth to something worse and more beast-like.”
Biden’s Presidency Has Already Failed by Ted Rall
“About 7 million Americans have been unemployed so long that they have given up looking for work since 2009. They’re not in the official unemployment rate, but they’re jobless in all the ways that matter. They’re broke, they’re not paying taxes and they’re a burden on the welfare and healthcare systems.”
“The painfully slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, exploding infection rates and soaring unemployment point to a brutal winter followed by a long hot summer, 1968-style. Biden isn’t asking for enough, Congress won’t approve the little bit he’s asking for and the failure of American democracy to address our crises will soon be evident to everyone.”
“The U.S. Justice Department has reversed an earlier assertion in court by prosecutors that protestors who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 had plans to “capture and assassinate elected officials.” Instead, the head of the DOJ investigation into the Capitol siege admitted that federal prosecutors filed a misleading statement before a federal judge in Arizona that was intended to prevent Jacob Chansley, aka Jake Angeli, from being released on bail.”
“Having saturated the public with days of lurid tales of intentions to hang Vice President Mike Pence and abduct House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it will be hard to shake such beliefs without reporting the DOJ’s reversal with the same intensity.”
“Before Chansley sat in it, the video shows one of the protest leaders, dressed in military gear, demanding that the others not occupy the vice president’s chair. He says: “It’s not our chair. I love you brothers, but we cannot be disrespectful. … It’s a PR war, okay? You have to understand it’s an IO war. We can’t lose the IO war. We’re better than that. It’s an Information Operation.””
“What happened at the Capitol cannot be condoned. But unless Congress defies its oligarchic backers and serves the interests of average Americans, who also fund them, a real insurrection may be inevitable. Instead of the reforms to defuse that and bring more economic justice, we are witnessing a crackdown that will only further inflame the country.”
Chomsky: Coup Attempt Hit Closer to Centers of Power Than Hitler’s 1923 Putsch by C.J. Polychroniou (Truthout)
I read this article because the click-bait-y title made it sound like Chomsky had completely jumped the shark, but I suspected that that wasn’t the case. The title of the article is only about one part of a paragraph of an otherwise interesting interview that has nothing to do with the title. The rest of Chomsky’s views are more in line with what I expected rather spurious and inappropriate Hitler comparisons. The author or editor homed in on the quote, providing it without the context that make Chomsky sound less deranged.
Instead, Chomsky notes what other commentators have noted: though the behavior of some of the crown at the Capitol was repugnant, their pain is real and they are victims of massive injustice themselves, having been failed in nearly every way for decades.
“In no small part, it is a consequence of the neoliberal assault since Reagan, amplified by his successors, that has devastated the rural areas that are the homes of many who stormed the Capitol. Those who hold the levers of the private power that dominates the society and political system never liked Trump’s behavior, which harmed the image they project as humanists dedicated to the common good. But they were willing to tolerate the vulgar performance as long as Trump and his accomplices delivered the goods, lining their pockets by robbing the public.”
“[…] the captains of finance and industry who fund their elections and dangle before them many other privileges to keep them in line. (How many members of Congress leave office to become truck drivers or secretaries?)”
“America….I think we’re much further along in this radicalization process, and facing a much deeper problem as a country, than most Americans realize.””
Taking your foot off their necks is obviously not an option.
“Media and political elites have placed as many Americans as they can — and it is a lot — into full-blown fear and panic mode, and when that happens, people are willing to acquiesce to anything claimed necessary to stop that threat, as the first War on Terror, still going strong twenty years later, decisively proved.”
“But that does not make these principles of how to understand “incitement to violence” irrelevant when applied to other contexts. Indeed, the central reasoning of these cases is vital to preserve everywhere: that if speech is classified as “incitement to violence” despite not explicitly advocating violence, it will sweep up any political speech which those wielding this term wish it to encompass. No political speech will be safe from this term when interpreted and applied so broadly and carelessly.”
“There are times when powers of repression and censorship are aimed more at the left and times when they are aimed more at the right, but it is neither inherently a left-wing nor a right-wing tactic. It is a ruling class tactic, and it will be deployed against anyone perceived to be a dissident to ruling class interests and orthodoxies no matter where on the ideological spectrum they reside.”
“Unlike so many ordinary citizens addicted to trivial partisan warfare, these ruling class elites know who their real enemies are: anyone who steps outside the limits and rules of the game they have crafted and who seeks to disrupt the system that preserves their prerogatives and status.”
“Neoliberalism and imperialism do not care about the pseudo-fights between the two parties or the cable TV bickering of the day. They do not like the far left or the far right. They do not like extremism of any kind. They do not support Communism and they do not support neo-Nazism or some fascist revolution. They care only about one thing: disempowering and crushing anyone who dissents from and threatens their hegemony. They care about stopping dissidents. All the weapons they build and institutions they assemble — the FBI, the DOJ, the CIA, the NSA, oligarchical power — exist for that sole and exclusive purpose, to fortify their power by rewarding those who accede to their pieties and crushing those who do not.”
“The Authorization to Use Military Force — responsible for twenty-years-and-counting of war — was approved by the House three days after the 9/11 attack with just one dissenting vote. The Patriot Act — which radically expanded government surveillance powers — was enacted a mere six weeks after that attack, based on the promise that it would be temporary and “sunset” in four years. Like the wars spawned by 9/11, it is still in full force, virtually never debated any longer and predictably expanded far beyond how it was originally depicted.”
“According to Fischer, the Twitter announcement didn’t exactly make sense, because the protesters in Ohio were more of a libertarian ilk, and, as Farina and Chariton discovered in the Virginia crowd, not so clearly aligned with Trump as Twitter and other media outlets may have imagined. Fischer has frequently covered events involving the gun-toting Boogaloos, whom he describes as anti-authoritarian and less likely to be Trumpists than to profess a pox-on-both-houses attitude to Trump and Joe Biden both (“You might hear something like, ‘Unless you put Ron Paul on the ballot, I’m not voting,’” he says).”
“As with Farina, Fischer’s Capitol protest footage was picked up by numerous major outlets, including CNN, NBC, CBS, BBC, and others, but the system seems to incentivize independent shooters to distribute footage through corporate outlets only, rather than conveying directly to their own audiences.”
Science & Nature
A curious observer’s guide to quantum mechanics, pt. 2: The particle melting pot by Miguel F. Morales (Ars Technica)
“It turns out that all the experiments we performed before give exactly the same answer. Nature does not care if one particle is interacting with itself or if two particles are interacting with each other—a wave is a wave, and particle waves act just like any other wave.”
“The optical frequency comb is one of the great inventions of our century, and it is hard to overstate the importance it is having on measurements; its development was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics. To work properly, an optical frequency comb requires timing the pulses with an atomic clock and exquisite control of the shape of each pulse, but you can now just buy one of them. They aren’t cheap, at least not yet, but several companies will sell you one complete with a warranty and a service plan.”
“Because the color of the reflected light was doppler shifted, we observe temporal beats when it is combined with the original laser beam. Measuring the speed of the beats measures the doppler shift of the reflected beam, and thus the speed of the object that the beam is bouncing off. Coherent lidars use the temporal beats of different colored light beams to measure speed.”
“Atomic clocks oscillate a few billion times a second. In an atomic clock, what is being counted are the oscillations of microwave light absorbed by an atom (cesium and rubidium are favorite targets). Fundamentally, we are still just counting swings like in a grandfather clock. But because we get billions of oscillations per second, an atomic clock can be vastly more accurate.”
“We cannot count a 100 trillion oscillations a second. But if we know the light from a laser in the comb has a frequency of a 100 trillion oscillations a second and we see 12 beats a second when we combine it with the light from the Ytterbium atom, then we know the Ytterbium light is oscillating 100 trillion + 12 times a second. We can use the combination of measured beats and a known reference to count very fast.”
“The precision of current optical clocks is astounding. You may have heard that time goes more slowly when gravity is strong due to general relativity. Optical clocks are so sensitive they can measure the different flows of time 2cm apart in height. If I lay a book on the table, the bottom of the book is slightly closer to the center of the Earth than the top, so experiences slightly stronger gravity. This difference is measurable with an optical clock. Optical clocks are so sensitive we can no longer average the time of multiple clocks together—the ground you or a clock are sitting on typically rises and falls by ~5cm a day due to land tides. The seismic motion of the ground currently limits our ability to measure time.”
“In the New York Times’ worldview, they start with the right to dox me, and I had to earn the right to remain anonymous by proving I’m the perfect sympathetic victim who satisfies all their criteria of victimhood. But in my worldview, I start with the right to anonymity, and they need to make an affirmative case for doxxing me.”
“So sure, deleting my blog wasn’t the most, shall we say, rational response to the situation. But iterated games sometimes require a strategy that deviates from apparent first-level rationality, where you let yourself consider lose-lose options in order to influence an opponent’s behavior. Or, in layman’s terms, sometimes you have to be a crazy bastard so people won’t walk all over you.”
“Apparently if you have a blog about your field, that can make it harder to get or keep a job in academia. I’m not sure what we think we’re gaining by ensuring the smartest and best educated people around aren’t able to talk openly about the fields they’re experts in, but I hope it’s worth it.”
“Who am I? I’m nobody, I’m a science blogger with some bad opinions. But these people − the trans people, the union organizers, the police whistleblowers, the sexy cyborgs − the New York Times isn’t worthy to wipe the dirt off their feet. How dare they assert the right to ruin these people’s lives for a couple of extra bucks.”
“If some reporter wants to investigate and confirm, I have some suggestions for how they could use their time better − isn’t there still a war in Yemen? − but I’m not going to complain too loudly. But I don’t think whatever claim the public has on me includes a right to know my name if I don’t want them to.”
“Ironically, it seems, the contemporary conservationist remains in certain fundamentals an obvious descendant of Aristotle’s urban exceptionalism. Both presume —though neither quite says this explicitly, and anyone who were to say it explicitly today would be permanently ostracized from polite society— that the Homo sacer is not quite a Homo politicus. Both presume that those who spend their lives outside of recognizable political structures are suitable for sacrifice. Refugees, and indigenous people standing in the way of development plans, are seen, literally, as pests.”
“It is rather that our era’s conservation efforts have prevented us from seeing and acknowledging certain objective conflicts of priorities, and this occlusion is made easier by the fact that most who care about conservation in the distinctly modern sense, and certainly nearly all who care about “animal rights” in an equally modern sense, live in circumstances in which one need have no fear of predatory animals.”
“Both biases, taken together, suggest that we are generally poor at apprehending the nature of threats to our safety and well-being.”
“Whales, as my friend D. Graham Burnett has vividly chronicled, were transformed over the period from 1870 to 1970 from malevolent leviathans of the deep into peace-loving mascots of the hippie movement. I can remember a time in California when bees in the attic were treated by pest-control professionals no differently than termites; then the bees began to disappear from the fields, and the state laws changed, and now the pest-controller doubles as a solicitous bee-relocater, speaking quietly and respectfully of this newfound friend.”
“We know empirically that conservation efforts are much more successful when they are managed by people who share such an understanding of wildlife as this, rather than by aloof and urban NGOs for which lions and tigers are mostly abstract symbols.”
“Even if you do not believe that animals are of any particular moral significance, treating them as bearers of political significance may help you better to understand why at least some human beings —who have been universally presumed over the past few centuries to be at least in theory bearers of moral significance— nonetheless remain in practice so politically marginalized and disenfranchised.”
How Much Did “The Culture of Narcissism” Get Right? by Matt Taibbi (SubStack)
“This, apparently, is what Christopher Lasch saw when he looked at Americans grooving to Saturday Night Fever. These were not groups of people letting loose and having fun. They were profoundly lonely people grinding away the anxiety of life in a market-based society stripped of all its ameliorative restraints, where “pleasure becomes life’s only business” in a dystopian “war of all against all.” In such a society, a narcissistic orientation isn’t deviance or illness, but a crucial adaptive strategy, with the unfortunate side-effect mentioned above: a growing inability to see the words fuck and fuck over as having different meanings.”
“Reading The Culture of Narcissism now, it’s clear it’s very much worth reading, but anyone who does so in search of a narrow explanation for Trump is crazy and sure to be disappointed. This is a seething, complicated book that hurls razor blades in all directions, and seems almost to have been written with the specific intent of avoiding appropriation by political opportunists. In what feels like an amusingly familiar phenomenon, Lasch is often bitterly condemned by ideologues on both the right and the left, who seem determined to put him in more comprehensible boxes, even if he doesn’t really fit in any.”
“At most, Lasch seemed to be saying it was better to have a few “shreds” of private spiritual ambition than to be completely consumed by image, appearance, and competition.”
“[…] a Lasch book from 1994, The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy. That book — which was significantly about the ex-concerned who became self-indulgent, stateless elitists in the End of History age — ripped the Clinton-era professional class as having “retained many of the vices of aristocracy without its virtues.” By previewing the disgusted reaction to such people, it predicted a lot of the themes of Trumpian “drain the swamp” rhetoric.”
“Lasch looked at the evaporation of noblesse oblige far more in the spirit of a book like Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges, than through the lens of someone like Trump. He was concerned with the growing economic distance between the wealthiest citizens and everyone else, and argued that globalization made the managerial class increasingly like tourists in their own countries.”
“Trump’s route to power was through the Republican Party, whose last presidential candidate had been Mitt Romney. Everything about Romney was fake. When he wore jeans to try to tone down his Wall Street vibe, they looked as natural as chaps or a hoop dress. His pitch was that Barack Obama was a statist who didn’t understand free enterprise and that he, Romney, would bring “jobs” back, especially for the little guy, the only problem being that Romney in fact was a private equity vampire whose expertise was in liquidating jobs, not creating them.”
“I devoured this book, but can see why so many critics couldn’t stand it. The Culture of Narcissism isn’t a friend to anyone’s movement. It’s just a description of where we are and where we’re going, and the news isn’t particularly great, though it’s expressed in a fascinating way. This might be why he’s out of style, to some. Food for thought isn’t worth much, in the performative state.”
Again on 0-based vs. 1-based indexing by Hisham
“I’m very worried about what a Biden-Harris administration is going to do when it comes to leakers and whistleblowers and sources, except for the ones who are leaking to their approved journalists for reasons that are designed to advance their interests.”
“BCPL, back in 1967, made a shortcut and made it so that p[i] (an index) was equal to p + i an offset. C inherited that. […]
Choosing a ServiceLifetime by Jimmy Bogard
“The safe default for stateless services is
Transient. If my service has state then I should look at other scopes, and make the service lifetime decision based on the scope which my state should shared.”
I honestly haven’t stuck to this pattern at all in Quino, where almost all services are singletons, not transients.
I like to do this because while SimpleInjector doesn’t care if you inject singletons into a transient, it throws an error if you inject a transient into a singleton. If most services are transients by default, then I’ll never be alerted when state sneaks in via an injection.
I admit that I’m abusing a few mechanisms in order to enforce
pure semantics in a language that doesn’t have them (C#), but the benefit has been real in several instances.