Links and Notes for May 14th, 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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.
Table of Contents
- Economy & Finance
- Public Policy & Politics
- Journalism & Media
- Science & Nature
- Art & Literature
- Philosophy & Sociology
“With cancer sufferers and patients with other critical ailments languishing in queues running up to months and years, suffering and death, especially among the working class and the poor, will swell the already shocking tally of the pandemic. In England alone, 4.7 million people were waiting for routine operations and procedures in February according to the National Health Service England latest figures. This is the highest number since records began.”
“According to a modelling study published in The Lancet medical journal there will be more than 3,000 additional deaths from four major cancer types (breast, colorectal, oesophageal and lung) over the next five years in England alone.”
“The vast enrichment of these private corporations and their shareholders is made possible through massive investments by governments, particularly that of the United States, which spent over $10 billion helping to develop the vaccines monetized by Pfizer and Moderna.”
“The Post obviously takes its readers for fools. The “innovations” monetized by these companies were made by public laboratories and public researchers. The only thing “private” about them is the profits and the rights to manufacture and distribute the vaccines. According to the Post, the US must maintain absolute control over the production and distribution of a medically necessary vaccine against a global pandemic, which has now killed more than 3.2 million people worldwide.”
“Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, said in an interview Monday that he “respect[s] the needs of the companies to protect their interests to keep them in business.””
All of these companies have massively increased in value in this area of free money. They’ve already made a ton of money. They never paid for the research in the first place. They’re slated to make billions more in profits. The existence of these companies is not threatened, even if they were to make no profits. That’s what we forget: a company that makes no profit is actually doing just fine. There is no need for any money to be left over at the end of a business year in order to keep going.
“The total indifference to the majority of the world’s population by the capitalist governments is a microcosm of the capitalist social order, which subordinates the needs of society to the enrichment of the financial oligarchy and the predatory interests of imperialism.”
“The countries that did well locked down early on, if and when there were too many cases to handle in any other way. Once case numbers were under control, they kept them low or at zero with a good test-trace-isolate program that included a good border fence.
“The European Union started really well, applying a Hammer to reduce cases to a manageable level. By June 30th they were so close!
“But then they opened borders and never set up proper test-trace-isolate programs. The rest was written on the wall.
“The US, meanwhile, never even tried. There, nearly 80% of COVID deaths happened after June 30th 2020, by which time they should have already known how to manage the pandemic properly.”
It’s truly terrible. I’ve read in other places people convincing themselves that contact-tracing is useless just because it was poorly implemented in their countries. Many Asian countries showed that it was the prime weapon in stopping COVID-19 in its tracks—even without a vaccine.
“The number of global COVID-19 deaths is twice as high as officially reported—6.93 million globally, 905,000 in the United States alone—according to a new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).”
“The IHME has been used as the semi-official coronavirus case and death count prediction team for more than a year, referred to multiple times by the New York Times, Washington Post, and numerous others.”
“Christian Drosten: Jeder wird immun werden. 100%. Nicht 70% oder 80% sondern 100% in der Bevölkerung werden unweigerlich—ich würde mal sagen, in einem Fenster das von jetzt noch so anderthalb Jahre läuft—immun werden. Und zwar entweder durch die Impfung oder durch eine natürliche Infektion.
“Denn dieses Virus wird endemisch werden. Das wird nicht weg gehen. Und wer sich jetzt beispielsweise aktiv dagegen entschiedet sich impfen zu lassen, der wird sich unweigerlich infizieren. Da kann man nichts dagegen tun.
“Denn, die Massnahmen werden dann irgendwann immer weiter zurückgefahren—zum Glück—und dann zirkuliert das Virus in der Bevölkerung. Es wird zirkulieren im Rachen von Leuten die geimpft sind, die gar nichts davon merken, dass sie das Virus tragen. Es wird natürlich zirkulieren im Rachen von Kinder unter zwölf die natürlich noch nicht geimpft werden können.
“Das Virus wird unerkannterweise unter eine Decke des Immunschutzes sich weiter verbreiten und dann trifft es immer auch auf Leute, die nicht immunisiert sind durch eine Impfung, die voll empfänglich sind und für die gelten die jetzigen Risikoprofile.
“Da geht’s dann auch wieder nach Alter und Grunderkrankung und wer sich dann natürlich infiziert, wird auch dann, wenn er ein hohes Risiko haben [sic], möglicherweise auf der Intensivstation landen. Wir werden also auch im nächsten Winter Leute auf der Intensivstation haben wird schwerem COVID-19 Verlauf.
“Und diese Lücke, diese 30%—wenn wir an 70% denken; diese 20%, wenn wir an 80% Impfquote denken—die übrig bleibende 20%, die werden sich infizieren. Und die Frage ist, natürlich, die werden natürlich auch nach dem Sommer und im Herbst noch immer wieder die Gelegenheit bekommen das zu überdenken und zu sagen will ich mich nicht doch lieber impfen lassen statt mich natürlich zu infizieren. Und die können diese Gelegenheit auch dann noch ergreifen.
“Aber wenn sie sich nicht impfen lassen, werden sie sich natürlich infizieren. Das hat jetzt nichts mit politischen Debatten oder Impflicht oder irgend einer Art von auch ethischer Debatte zu tun. Das ist eine freie Entscheidung, die man letztendlich auch trifft. Nur ich glaube diejenigen die aktiv gegen die Impfung entscheiden, die müssen wissen, dass sie sich damit auch aktiv für die natürlich Infektion entscheiden—ohne jede Wertung.”
This is pretty important, so I had Deepl translate to English, transcribed below.
“Christian Drosten: Everyone will become immune. 100%. Not 70% or 80% but 100% in the population will inevitably—I would say in a window that runs from now so another year and a half—become immune. And that will be either through vaccination or through natural infection.
“Because this virus will become endemic. It’s not going to go away. And who now, for example, actively decides against getting vaccinated, will inevitably get infected. There’s nothing you can do about it.
“Because, the measures will then at some point be reduced more and more—fortunately—and then the virus will circulate in the population. It will circulate in the throat of people who are vaccinated, who don’t even realize that they carry the virus. It will circulate naturally in the throats of children under twelve who, of course, cannot yet be vaccinated.
“The virus will spread unrecognized under a blanket of immune protection and then it will always hit people who are not immunized by vaccination, who are fully susceptible and for whom the current risk profiles apply.
“There it goes again by age and underlying illness and who becomes infected then naturally, also then, if he has a high risk, will possibly land in the intensive care unit. So we will have people in the ICU next winter as well who have severe COVID-19 symptoms.
“And that gap, that 30%–if we think about 70%; that 20%, if we think about 80% vaccination rate–that 20% that’s left, they’re going to get infected. And the question is, of course, they will still get the opportunity, of course, after the summer and in the fall, to reconsider that and to say don’t I want to get vaccinated instead of getting infected naturally? And they can still take that opportunity then.
“But if they don’t get vaccinated, of course they’re going to get infected. Now this has nothing to do with political debates or mandatory vaccination or any kind of even ethical debate. That is a free decision, which one also makes in the end. Only I believe those actively against the vaccination decide, which must know that they decide thereby also actively for the naturally infection—without any judgment.”
Economy & Finance
“[…] where Marxists typically seek to delve beneath the realm of appearances to understand how capitalism really operates, Milanovic stays at the surface level, analyzing capitalism’s effects as they appear in the data and developing typologies accordingly. For him, moreover, clarity about capitalism’s defects does not translate into a call for its demise. In fact, Milanovic argues that no such thing will happen. He is not deluded about capitalism but rather reconciled to it. The book’s philosophy can be summed up as: It is what it is.”
That is hard to hear, of course. He might be right. But he’s probably not. There is a tremendous amount of untapped power currently being suppressed by Milanovic’s “winner”. These forces will not remain suppressed forever. Milanovic’s conclusion (as expressed by Battistoni) is myopic.
“The liberalism of Western capitalism, Milanovic argues, is found in the fact that goods are, at least in theory, distributed meritocratically and that social mobility is “liberal”—that is, aided by policies like inheritance taxes and free education so that individuals’ opportunities are not constrained by arbitrary conditions of birth. His analysis of political capitalism, by contrast, highlights the relationship between the political and economic spheres: In political capitalism, political power is used to achieve economic gains instead of the other way around.”
That is an incredibly overly generous formulation of “Western capitalism”. That is only the stated goal in nebulous terms. It’s the marketing copy for it. That is not how it is. It’s not clear whether it even makes sense to consider this version when discussing what’s actually happened. Perhaps Milanovic would argue that this is where his “political capitalism” takes over, but calling the shiny, non-existent (or only partially realized) version “Western capitalism” is definitely an attempt to associate “good” with “west”.
“Although liberal meritocratic capitalism in Milanovic’s account has retained some elements of the social democratic compact—access to public education, however attenuated, and taxes on inheritance that limit the intergenerational transfer of wealth—it is in many ways a return to the conditions of classical capitalism and the acute inequality that characterized it.”
Basically, a return to feudalism, as Jodi Dean has brilliantly argued.
“And if that weren’t enough, the rich exert influence over the political process to advance policies that further solidify their position.”
That’s literally the most vital part. Did you think the unions disappeared from lack of interest? Of course not. It took decades of concerted action, both to convince labor that the need for unions had past and, at the same time, to co-opt the existing unions, exacerbating the tendency toward corruption.
“What makes the inequality of liberal meritocratic capitalism particularly slippery, Milanovic writes, is that a number of its features appear “morally acceptable” to many. Liberal meritocracy’s beneficiaries rule through “economic power and ideological domination.””
Again, they use a violence of ideology to enforce their will. It’s more insidious than even physical violence because it so easily goes unnoticed—and is very rarely even recognized as violence. Brainwashing yields adherents whereas whips and chains eventually engender rebellion. The situation we have now not conducive to revolution—until the pressure gets higher and the desperation worsens.
“They do not need to violently suppress the lower classes; their status is legitimated by social norms, including their ability to pay for an elite education that confirms their intellectual superiority.”
Norms that they themselves established to their own benefit.
“People should be able to get rich by working, he argues, and it’s better to have hard-working wealthy people than a leisure class.”
These “hard-working rich” pay themselves a lot and then inflate the number of hours they claim they work. They glory in telling every business-magazine interviewer that will listen that they work 70, 80, 100 hours per week. That’s not what hard-working means. Are they punching a clock? Is that business lunch also “work”? And if they work hard, it’s for their own benefit, to the direct detriment of the people under their aegis.
“In the absence of democratic mechanisms, state legitimacy stems from the ability to deliver growth; if growth falters, other aspects of the system may come into question. Growth is managed by a technocratic and meritocratic bureaucracy, yet laws are arbitrarily applied, ignored, or modified in pursuit of the goal of adequate growth. Corruption is “endemic to political capitalism,” at least to a point: Taken too far, it damages the growth that legitimizes the system in the first place or increases inequality to a point that delegitimizes the bureaucracy that manages it.”
“Will this change? Will Chinese capitalists, that is, seek to take over the state as they have in Europe and the US and implement something more like liberal capitalism, under which they will no longer be subjected to arbitrary state power? And will China seek to export its mode of capitalism to the rest of the world, as the US has sought to do? Milanovic thinks it unlikely—but what is certain is that China will play an increasingly significant role in the future of capitalism and the international institutions shaping it.”
If only because China makes everything the west needs. That fuels a lot of resentment.
“On the basis of this economic analysis, Milanovic makes a political argument: As long as there are differentials in national income, labor will move in its pursuit of higher wages. But this movement, he adds, will always be contested. As living standards, wages, and welfare benefits decline in the West, the working classes of the developed world will seek to protect what remains of the premium they receive for being citizens of a wealthier country, and they will often do so not just through protectionist policies but by trying to keep others out.”
The desire to move based on wage disparity has an upper limit, though. At a certain level of comfort, the impetus of the neighbor’s grass being greener isn’t sufficient to spur migration.
Not that this should be the goal of a society, should it? Shouldn’t we make an effort to make places where people actually are hospitable and economically viable? Within reason, of course … but we could at least stop making it actively worse while we extract resources and rent and then bemoan “those people’s” inability to support themselves.
“Milanovic doesn’t seem to seriously consider the opposite approach—restricting capital while letting labor move freely. But his analysis also suffers from a weakness of much so-called realism: It advocates policies based on a set of assumptions about what the working classes prefer in terms of labor mobility and migration, while also assuming that those preferences are fixed in advance rather than shaped through politics itself.”
“This system treat[s] migrants as a source of more or less disposable labor for the companies on which they are dependent, leaving them vulnerable to employer abuse, and it effectively allocates more privileges to the better-off.”
“But while we might wish that economic life were more pleasant, Milanovic thinks we should face reality. Capitalism has channeled our private vices into public benefits, directing human acquisitiveness into forms of competition that increase our overall well-being. All we can really do is soften it around the edges. “Capitalism,” he argues, “has successfully transformed humans into calculating machines endowed with limitless needs.” We may be disturbed by the way these calculating tendencies have burrowed into our private lives and eroded our moral commitments, as many left-wing critics of commodification are, but we have chosen to participate, and now there’s no going back.”
Christ that’s bleak…and convenient. And it’s unlikely to hold up as it ignores capitalism’s inability to deal with medium- and long-term problems like climate change or pandemics. Or it’s own greed-driven and short-term-thinking-induced global crashes. It is possible that humanity has ended its evolution of society—the end-of-history argument rears its ugly head again—and that we are incapable of doing anything better, but it’s a bleak and blinkered argument to make.
More hopefully, we brainwashed people into liking capitalism; we could brainwash them into hating it. Capitalism as it is practiced already does a good job all on its own of making this argument. It requires active marketing on all levels of politics and media to keep the downtrodden subdued and looking down at their work, their minds not roaming to fantasies of better worlds.
“Here, as elsewhere, many on the left would agree with the diagnosis: Although change must begin somewhere, capitalism ultimately must be challenged globally. But Milanovic thinks it is simply an “impossible task” to convince enough people to withdraw from capitalism and the commercial delights it offers. In short, efforts to opt out of the incentive structures of global capitalism, whether at the level of an individual, a community, or a nation, are futile. Like it or not—and you are justified in the latter—capitalism is here to stay.”
“Not to worry, he soothes: As any given resource becomes scarce, its price will rise, driving technological innovations that either use it more efficiently or substitute something cheaper and more abundant in its place.”
This mechanism is doomed to reacting, as ever, too slowly to stop from depleting the Earth entirely. The analysis also completely ignores externalized effects, like pollution. This attitude accepts that there is no better outcome than that determined by an equalizing market. If that equilibrium is air-filter masks for everyone, no more glaciers, and cities underwater, then so be it.
The argument is that there is no other, better way—or the market would have found it. But it’s often the case that this crude, relatively unplanned mechanism wastes a tremendous amount of energy and resources (and lives) finding a solution that often ends up being a local maximum—the best that could be achieved when resources and time ran out. In essence, it capitulates control to those already in power, those with wealth, who exercise disproportionate influence, mostly for their short-term gain. Not only are they pathologically and intellectually incapable of grasping the repercussions, they wouldn’t care if they could.
We don’t find the best outcome—or even a good one—because we don’t even try to use anything but the crudest mechanism enthusiastically recommended by those who’ve benefitted handsomely from its prior iterations. It’s what we have, but it’s simplistic and stupid and expresses nothing in the way of intelligence or ability to adapt and evolve or, most importantly, survive.
“The problem with oil is not that we do not have enough of it, as theories of “peak oil” suggest, but that we have too much: If we use all known reserves, we will destroy the conditions of life as we know it. The ecological resources that are growing scarce, meanwhile, are those that have no price and that do not appear to have technological substitutes.”
“The overnight gain took Dogecoin’s one-week advance to 118% and its value to $87 billion in Wednesday trading, according to CoinMarketCap.com data, eclipsing the largest exchange-traded gold fund and even stocks like Fedex Corp. and Snap Inc. A year ago, the asset was worth just $315 million. … “At some point, something is just real,” said Sam Bankman-Fried, the Hong Kong-based chief executive officer of the FTX crypto exchange. “If Dogecoin is stupid and valueless, it shouldn’t be worth $90 billion. How about gold or Bitcoin or euros? Our collective imagination has given them value, and now we just think about them having value.””
“Just imagine traveling 10 years back in time and trying to explain this to someone; just imagine what an idiot you’d feel like. “There’s going to be this online currency that people think is a form of digital gold, and then there’s going to be a different online currency that is a parody of the first one based on a meme about a talking Shiba Inu, and that one will have a market capitalization bigger than 80% of the companies in the S&P 500, and its value will fluctuate based on things like who is hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ and whether people tweet a hashtag about it on the pot-joke holiday, and Bloomberg will write articles and banks will write research notes about those sorts of catalysts, and it will remain a perfectly ridiculous content-free parody even as people properly take it completely seriously because there are billions of dollars at stake.””
“Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is trading at more than $421,000 per Class A share, and the market is optimistic. That’s a problem. The price has grown so high, it has nearly hit the maximum number that can be stored in one common way exchange computers handle digits. On Tuesday, Nasdaq Inc. temporarily suspended broadcasting prices for Class A shares of Berkshire over several popular data feeds. Such feeds provide real-time price updates for a number of online brokerages and finance websites. Nasdaq’s computers can only count so high because of the compact digital format they use for communicating prices. The biggest number they can handle is $429,496.7295. Nasdaq is rushing to finish an upgrade later this month that would fix the problem.”
“Oh yeah, they underwrite shoes. They’re hoping for an IPO pop, on these shoes. Think how much less stupid this all is than Dogecoin!”
“Oversimplifying, you probably want mergers-and-acquisitions advice from a smart bank and simple market-making liquidity provision from a dumb bank. If you are paying a flat fee for complicated advice, you want smart. If the primary job of the person selling the service to you is *figuring out how much to charge you* —as is true of market makers and derivatives structurers —you probably want to buy that service from someone who is bad at it.”
US First Quarter GDP: Recovery or Just Another Rebound? by Jack Rasmus (CounterPunch)
“But the Cares Act spending ($1.3T minus hoarding and debt repayment) dissipated by the end of summer 2020. And only part of the economy reopened by summer’s end 2020. Consequently the US economy faltered and stagnated in the final months of 2020. US GDP growth in the 4th quarter 2020 thus registered a mere 1.1% actual growth, which was probably zero growth due to inflation underestimation. This was followed by the 1st quarter 2021 initial GDP numbers reported last week showing a 2021 growth of only 1.6%. That too was due largely to the reopening of the US economy, and not to the emergency fiscal stimulus of another $866 billion passed at the end of December, which provided a continuation of unemployment benefits and a small $600 check to households.”
“[…] the actual spending out of the $1.8T for this year 2021 is only $1 trillion, not $1.8T! And one must assume that a good part of that $1T will be hoarded and not spent by wealthier households as they get their $1400 checks, and that they, as well as many small businesses, will undoubtedly use their stimulus to pay down debt. Neither hoarded or debt directed money will get into the actual US economy to boost GDP in the second half of the year, 2021.”
“Much more government spending will be necessary. But isn’t that coming with Biden’s ‘Infrastructure spending’ proposals (i.e. the American Jobs Act’) of reportedly another $2.2 trillion. And his recently announced additional ‘American Families Plan’ of another $1 trillion? Don’t hold your breath. Those two bills won’t be passed, if at all, until 2022. And if passed, no doubt in much lower amounts and over longer periods of time to have much effect on the US economy—and none on 2021.”
“That might mean a lot of repricing. Of the 41 special purpose acquisition companies that have completed transactions since the start of 2020, only three are even within 5 per cent of their share price peaks. Eighteen of them have more than halved, and several are down by more than 80 per cent. The average decline is 39 per cent.”
“If all the airlines are owned by the same group of index funds, those overlapping shareholders will not want any one airline to cut prices to win market share, because that market share will come at the expense of the other airlines that the shareholders also own. The theory suggests that the airlines will consider these interests of their common shareholders, and compete less vigorously.”
““The gambling impulse is very strong in people worldwide and occasionally it gets an enormous shove and conditions lead to this place where more people are entering the casino than are leaving everyday,” Buffett said. “And it creates its own reality for a while and nobody tells you when the clock’s going to strike 12 and it all turns to pumpkins and mice.””
“An ETF will work hard never to buy or sell shares itself, but only to do in-kind creations and redemptions that do not generate taxable income. The result is that if you buy a mutual fund, you pay capital-gains taxes every year even if you don’t sell your shares; with an ETF, you only pay capital gains taxes when you sell.”
“It is kind of weird that the U.S. tax code offers two essentially identical forms of mutual fund, one of which has taxes and one of which doesn’t. (Yes, fine, the ETF only defers taxes, but that is still valuable.) Effectively, the U.S. tax code makes paying taxes on your mutual funds optional. But, given that choice, lots of people choose to pay the taxes anyway. As the taxes go up, that may change.”
“How do non-fungible tokens work? […] the essentials:”
- You take a painting.
- You light it on fire.
- You create a little note on a blockchain saying “lol I lit that painting on fire.”
- You sell that note for more than you could get for the original painting.
- You give the money to some sharks.
“It would be … appropriate? … if the end result of the NFT craze is that the concept of burning art on the blockchain becomes reliably more valuable than actual art, so that all of the world’s paintings are burnt up to increase their value. And then the whole history of art will be gone, but it will be preserved forever on the blockchain, in the form of cryptographically encoded videos of all the art being burnt.”
““Why did we think this was a good idea,” future generations will ask after watching the videos, and perhaps “Mighty Ducks”-star-turned-cryptocurrency-guru Brock Pierce will have a good answer for them; I do not. I hope the sharks are happy.”
“The cheap money provided by the Fed is enabling the orgy of speculation which has seen the transfer of trillions of dollars into the hands of the world’s richest individuals, while millions of people in the US and around the world confront a return to conditions not seen since the days of the 1930s Great Depression.”
“Powell chose to answer in the way he did because of fear that any comment on the issue—and even the vaguest hint that margin debt was reaching dangerous levels and might need to be reined in—would set off turbulence on Wall Street, so dependent has it become on the flow of ultra-cheap money from the central bank.”
“The complete divorce of the share market value of the company from underlying real value—a characteristic feature of the stock market boom as a whole—is indicated by the fact that Tesla’s market value of $700 billion is more than five times the combined value of Ford and General Motors. Sales of the former in the US in the first quarter alone were more than double Tesla’s global sales for a year.”
“The history of these interventions shows that whatever their effect in short-term stabilisation they prepare the conditions for the resurgence of the underlying crisis in even more virulent form.”
“There’s a reason for this, which is that Credit Suisse had to hedge its XIV exposure, and the way to hedge an inverse VIX exposure is to sell VIX futures contracts. (VIX itself is not a tradable security, just an index, so you can’t hedge inverse VIX exposure by selling VIX itself. ) By selling the XIV notes to investors, Credit Suisse effectively got long volatility: The investors were betting that volatility would go down, Credit Suisse took the other side of the bet, so Credit Suisse was betting that volatility would go up. It didn’t really want to make that bet — it just wanted to collect a fee for providing a bet to customers — so it hedged it by getting short VIX futures contracts, betting that volatility would go down.”
“I do not like this theory, because I do think that, in general, banks should be able to sell derivatives and hedge them, and sometimes the hedging will influence the price of the derivative. And this is generally reasonably clearly disclosed, and a product like this can’t really work otherwise, and investors roughly know what they’re getting into. But I concede that this theory is intuitive, particularly in this case. Credit Suisse sold a product, and then tanked it itself; the buyers lost all their money and Credit Suisse apparently did great. It does seem wrong.”
“Even assuming that the investors’ claims are true, it seems like Credit Suisse hedged in a fairly textbook way, and I can’t really imagine that there are emails at Credit Suisse saying “let’s sell more XIV notes so that, when volatility spikes, our hedging can destroy the value of the notes.” It seems unlikely that Credit Suisse wanted this result; it was clearly embarrassed that its XIV product blew up, and also embarrassed that it made money on the blowup. It strikes me as very far-fetched to think that Credit Suisse plotted to blow up XIV.”
“Tom: It’s so funny watching dumb people trying to sound smart. You know what I mean? They talk like they’re trying to make the word count on a fuckin’ paper, addin’ all of this sort of over-the-top language, and they poeticize the suffering […] there’s no nobility in suffering and, furthermore, y’all are charged with alleviating that. So, you’re talking about systemic issues—that’s on you.”
“Tom: It really is kind of like Soviet Union towards-the-collapse, bullshit-jobs-type stuff. You know what I mean? Hey! You were making $140,000 a year underground mining coal. Have you tried gardening? Where you can sell your spinach to Heritage Kitchen for a $120 a week? That’s something, right? And ya know, a rising tide lifts all boats and if you do this long enough, […] you go to the farmer’s market and you do enough rounds on the Peloton to make a smoothie and we’re in business. And Appalachia is back, motherfucker.
“It’s the piecemeal economy. Everywhere else, you call it the “gig economy”, but we don’t even have Doordash or Uber or any of that stuff. So you have to like do a series of like antiquated side-hustles. Ya gotta sell copper. Mondays and Tuesdays, you gotta do this, and on weekends, you gotta work the farmer’s market and, by God, before you know it, you’re making a living wage.
“It’s so goddamned stupid. Look, it’s good to have a farmer’s market, I’m not knocking that. But the hope we’re putting in this, that we’re trying to instill in all these people who are without work and everything, it’s bullshit. It always has been bullshit and I’m embarrassed that I bought into it as long as I did.
“Then again, if they could come here with a jobs program and create a bunch of bullshit jobs … hell, I’ll sit and be the guy who charges toll to cross the James W. Bates Memorial Pedestrian Bridge for $16/hour. I’ll retire doing that shit.
“Tanya: I was prepared to be the events coordinator at the Daniel Boone folk-art motel.
“Tom: See, you’re settin’ your sights too high there. What you need to do is you need to pick a landmark and you’re just the person that like, watches that. So you would be like the Whitaker Bank watcher. And they would just pay your $15 to just stand there and watch Whitaker Bank.
“Tanya: So that would be a security job, you’re tellin’ me?
“Tom: No. You would just watch the bank. You wouldn’t try to intervene on any potential robberies or anything. You just watch the bank.”
Public Policy & Politics
“Our government’s overuse and abuse of sanctions has increased”
“Broad economic sanctions are a form of warfare, and the U.S. is by far the most frequent economic belligerent in the world. Our government’s overuse and abuse of sanctions has increased by leaps and bounds in just the last two decades. Sanctions designations increased significantly during the Obama years, and then they exploded under Trump with 1,457 designations in the year of 2018 alone.”
“In each case, the US chose to launch these economic wars to try to compel capitulation by the targeted states as if they were rebellious subjects that needed to be brought to heel rather than the sovereign and independent countries that they are.”
“The US doesn’t need to resort to military action to cause civilian casualties in unnecessary wars. It just abuses its great economic and financial power to choke intransigent nations when their leaders refuse to bend to Washington’s will.”
“Strangling the people economically is not an unforeseen or unintended “side effect” of an economic war. It is what the siege is supposed to do. Sometimes this is done for the sake of imposing collective punishment on a nation, and sometimes it is an attempt to foment regime change from within, but it always represents an attack by our government on the people of other countries for things they cannot control or change.”
“Sanctions advocates will often portray broad sanctions as “low cost” and an “alternative to war,” but the costs they impose are “low” only to the policymakers that inflict the punishment. The people on the receiving end rightly perceive these policies as an aggressive assault on them and their country.”
“Economic warfare against ordinary people is unjust, and it treats tens of millions of people around the world as our enemies when they have done nothing and could do nothing to us. Sanctions are not an alternative to war. They inflict indiscriminate death and destruction on another country, and in some cases the economic war is just a prelude to later attack.”
“And yet we face a situation in which the world’s urgent needs are pitted against the narrow corporate interests of a few US and European pharmaceutical companies. The companies are even trying to turn their opposition to an IP waiver into a geopolitical issue, arguing that China and Russia must be prevented from gaining the knowhow to produce mRNA vaccines. This argument is immoral, indeed potentially homicidal. If opposition to IP waivers slows the production of effective vaccines in China and Russia, it would directly endanger Americans, Europeans, and everyone else.”
“The pharmaceutical industry argues that an IP waiver would deprive the industry of its rightful profits, and of financial incentives for future drug development. Such claims are greatly exaggerated, and reflect greed over reason. The IP held by Moderna, BioNTech-Pfizer, and others is not mainly the result of those companies’ innovations, but rather of academic research funded by the US Government, especially the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The private companies are claiming the exclusive right to IP that was produced largely with public funding and academic science.”
“Don’t be fooled by Joe Biden. He knows his infrastructure and education bills have as much chance at becoming law as the $15-dollar minimum wage or the $2,000 stimulus checks he promised us as a candidate. He knows his American Jobs Plan will never create “millions of good paying jobs – jobs Americans can raise their families on” any more than NAFTA, which he supported, would, as was also promised, create millions of good paying jobs. His mantra of “buy American” is worthless.”
“Biden is the epitome of the empty, amoral creature produced by our system of legalized bribery. His long political career in Congress was defined by representing the interests of big business, especially the credit card companies based in Delaware. He was nicknamed Senator Credit Card. He has always glibly told the public what it wants to hear and then sold them out.”
“Sadism now defines nearly every cultural, social and political experience in the United States. It is expressed in the greed of an oligarchic elite that has seen its wealth increase during the pandemic by $1.1 trillion while the country has suffered the sharpest rise in its poverty rate in more than 50 years.”
“No longer bound to a common purpose, a ruptured society retreats into the cult of the self. It celebrates, as do corporations on Wall Street or mass culture through reality television shows, the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Get what you can, as fast as you can, before someone else gets it. This is the state of nature, the “war of all against all,” Thomas Hobbes saw as the consequence of social collapse, a world in which life becomes “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.””
“Sadistic societies condemn segments of the population – in America these are poor Blacks, Muslims, the undocumented, the LGBTQ community, radical anti-capitalists, intellectuals – as human refuse. They are viewed as social contaminants. Laws, institutions and bureaucratic structures are built in sadistic societies that function, in the words of Max Weber, as an “inanimate machine.” The machine forces most people into the mass, but it allows some willing to do its dirty work to rise above the multitude. Those that carry out the sadism on behalf of the power elite fear being pushed back into the mass. For this reason, they energetically carry out the degradation, cruelty and sadism the machine demands. The more they insult, persecute, torture, humiliate and kill, the more they seem to magically widen the divide between themselves and their victims.”
“Corporate capitalism, which has perverted the values of American society to commodify its every aspect, including human beings and the natural world, and teaching us that the dictates of the market should govern every aspect of our existence, is infused with sadism.”
“There is no good will in the Biden White House, the Congress, the courts, the media – which has become an echo chamber of the privileged classes – or corporate boardrooms. They are the enemy.”
“It is not until people are reintegrated into the society, not until corporate and oligarchic control over our educational, political and media systems are removed, not until we recover the ethic of the common good, that we have any hope of rebuilding the positive social bonds that foster a healthy society.”
“It is a game of fear. And until we make them afraid, until a terrified Joe Biden and the oligarchs he serves look out on a sea of pitchforks, we will not blunt the culture of sadism they have engineered.”
It heartens me to read to that Hedges has caught up with me and now very plainly sees that there is no peaceful revolution possible. At the very least, the threat must be real that a revolution will burn everything to the ground. If the alternative is endless suffering, if the desperation grows too great, then people with much less control will make the obvious decision.
Ten years since WikiLeaks and Assange published the Guantánamo Files by Oscar Grenfell (WSWS)
“Detainees were arrested, in many cases sold to the US for cash, and then held indefinitely in a bid to turn them into American informants. To justify the continuing mass imprisonment, the US jailers cultivated a handful of sources at Guantánamo, who provided “evidence” against hundreds of other inmates.”
The Police Dog Who Cried Drugs at Every Traffic Stop by Daryl James (Reason)
“Despite the frequent errors, courts typically treat certified narcotics dogs as infallible, allowing law enforcement agencies to use them like blank permission slips to enter vehicles, open suitcases, and rummage through purses.
“The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, shows a financial motive for the snooping in its 2020 report, Policing for Profit. [l]ocal, state, and federal agencies have raked in more than $68.8 billion in proceeds since 2000 through a process called civil forfeiture.”
“Now, a handful of remarkable days and more than 70 lost lives later, the questions are very different: have we entered an altogether new era of violence, more akin to past conflicts in Yugoslavia or Rwanda, than to any of Israel’s? And never[ ]mind who started it, who can make it stop?”
“The rockets, sent off after an ultimatum to Israel to withdraw its forces from the Mount went unanswered, were more of a shot across the bow of the Israeli ship of state than a forceful intervention: they fell short of Jerusalem itself and caused no casualties or damage.”
The textbook definition of “looking for any excuse”.
It’s amazing to think that we sanction some countries for crimes we’ve invented (e.g. Iran) and we pat ourselves on the back for discussing whether we should maybe put some humanitarian conditions on the $4B we send to Israel every year. No talk of not sending the money; no talk of sanctions; just some talk of conditionality, which won’t happen. It never has before. It’s inconceivable that it will happen with the current administration. It was inconceivable with the prior one—and the one before that, as well.
“Even with the emergence of a strong “America First” faction within the Republican Party and the vaunted Squad within the Democratic Party, the same bipartisan lockstep consensus on Israel that has reigned in Washington for decades continues, whereby billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds every year are sent to Israelis, whose health care and education benefits are better than those of millions of Americans. Meanwhile, U.S. officials reflexively defend Israel’s use of violence. Indeed, support for this foreign nation is such a high priority in U.S. politics that GOP governors have championed laws to prohibit American citizens from supporting a boycott of Israel if they want to keep their jobs […]”
“[…] leaders of the establishment wings of both parties have shoveled enormous sums of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Israelis even as Israel refuses to stop the conduct U.S. military officials warn is undermining U.S. national security. From Chuck Schumer to Joe Biden to Kamala Harris to Nancy Pelosi, that includes the most powerful figures within the Democratic Party, which now controls the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress. As The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill recently documented, Biden has been so fanatically pro-Israel for so long that it even made Israeli leaders uncomfortable.”
“How can you be in the U.S. Congress and decide that the person you are going to attack for bad foreign policy views is a New York City Mayoral candidate instead of the dozens of people by whom you’re surrounded every day, who bear actual responsibility for those policies in the halls of power you occupy? The answer lies in AOC’s actual function in Washington.”
“The soft left has a major problem: after being promised a “political revolution” by self-proclaimed democratic socialists such as Bernie Sanders and AOC, they instead found themselves being herded into campaigning to put in the White House one of the most right-wing Democrats over the last several decades — a key architect of the Mass Incarceration State, a fanatical Warrior on Drugs, a servant of credit card companies and banks, and an advocate for virtually every U.S. war — along with his running mate, a life-long cop and prosecutor notorious for aggressive prosecutions of non-violent offenders.”
Nine dead, twenty-one injured in Russian school shooting by Clara Weiss (WSWS)
Two things jump out:
“Galyaviev surrendered to the police and National Guard after the 20-minute long massacre. He has been charged with multiple counts of murder.”
In Russia, the shooter is taken into custody instead of going down in an hail of bullets, I guess. We should totally be able to take them in a ground war; they sound like pussies.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed overly lax gun laws, and the Russian government is now working on a bill limiting the purchase of firearms. The speaker of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, also declared that the parliament would discuss a bill that would make it illegal for internet users to remain anonymous, in order to fight “propaganda of violence” and “extremism” after the Kazan shooting. The Russian government has already heavily censored the internet and banned the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), which hide the IPs of individual users.”
And, even though Galyaviev actually seems to be mentally ill—note that I didn’t have to write “seems to have been” because Galyaviev is still alive—the immediate focus is not on using that as an excuse, but in wondering how he got his hands on high-powered weapon(s) in the first place. Again, Russians sound like pussies that should be a piece of cake for a country with proper respect for their second-amendment rights. Wipe the floor with these namby-pamby, shooter-coddling, gun-snatching communists.
Some things are the same, though.
“While the poor have suffered enormous hardship and mass death, there are more Russian billionaires now than before the pandemic. According to Forbes, the number of Russians in this category has grown from 99 to 117 during the pandemic. They are now worth a collective $584 billion, up from $385 billion the year prior. The ten richest Russians all became wealthier and are now worth a combined $223 billion, up from $152 billion.”
““So far there is no evidence based on, from our intelligence people, that Russia is involved, though there is evidence that the actors, ransomware, is in Russia. They have some responsibility to deal with this,” he said.”
NATO begins massive Defender 2021 military exercises aimed at Russia by Robert Sutherland (WSWS)
“While no support can be given to the capitalist oligarchy in Moscow that emerged from the Stalinist regime’s restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union in 1991, calling Russia the aggressor in this geostrategic rivalry inverts reality.
“The NATO imperialist powers are the driving force behind the rising tide of war, as Washington’s attempt to defend its faltering world hegemony sets the stage for a conflict unparalleled in history. A world war based on modern military technology would threaten the survival of humanity.”
Ransomware Is Getting Ugly by Bruce Schneier
“Solving this is not easy. Ransomware in big business, made possible by insecure networks that allow criminals to gain access to networks in the first place, and cryptocurrencies that allow for payments that governments cannot interdict. Ransomware has become the most profitable cybercrime business model, and until we solve those two problems, that’s not going to change.”
Jesus, Bruce. You wanna maybe put some sugar on that? Or are you OK with looking like you work for the CIA/Biden Administration directly? I suppose he means to state that this is the reality, but it is also exactly what someone who wants to look into everyone’s affairs would say, too. I don’t think that’s what Schneier wants, but what he writes sounds the same as what every ex-CIA hack says too.
Since we know no-one’s going to improve their security, I guess there’s nothing for it but to let America into everyone’s finances and dealings. With us or against us, etc.
The latest Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp is quite well-written. It’s about abolishing prisons/bringing proportional prison population in the U.S. in line with other countries. It’s quite well-researched and well-presented.
United States Withdraws From Afghanistan? Not Really by Vijay Prashad & Noam Chomsky (CounterPunch)
“After 20 years of the incredible destruction caused by this war, and after inflaming animosity between “all the Afghan groups,” the United States has returned to the exact policy prescription of Abdul Haq: political dialogue.”
I just saw an ordinarily clear-headed news broadcast in Germany that pounded the same line of “capitulation” and “hasty exit” to its German viewers when, in reality, the U.S.—and its NATO allies—have done nothing but flatten the country, instill terror, and provide no real alternative to the Taliban government that the people there had for themselves in the first place. It’s positively criminal to deem “leaving a country 20 years after declaring a war on it without evidence or reason” as “a hasty exit”.
Do I think it’s great that the large part of peaceful people in Afghanistan are caught between a moralizing and backward Taliban government that provides some services, but demands adherence to a Sharia law—and an assemblage of warlords who’ve been a plague on that society for the last four decades? Of course not. But we aren’t helping. We never do. Our own self-interest not only gets in the way, but is plain as day to anyone we’re claiming to “save”. That’s why occupations fail.
And we’re not really leaving anyway (maybe the Germans are, but we’re not).
““It’s time for American troops to come home,” announced U.S. President Joe Biden on April 14, 2021. On the same day, the U.S. Department of Defense clarified that 2,500 troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11. In a March 14 article, meanwhile, the New York Times had noted that the U.S. has 3,500 troops in Afghanistan even though “[p]ublicly, 2,500 U.S. troops are said to be in the country.” The undercount by the Pentagon is obscurantism. A report by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, furthermore, noted that the United States has about 16,000 contractors on the ground in Afghanistan. They provide a variety of services, which most likely include military support. None of these contractors—or the additional undisclosed 1,000 U.S. troops—are slated for withdrawal, nor will aerial bombardment—including drone strikes—end, and there will be no end to special forces missions either.”
“No lessons have been learned from this history. The U.S. will “withdraw,” but will also leave behind its assets to checkmate China and Russia. These geopolitical considerations eclipse any concern for the Afghan people.”
“I think large news outlets and news anchors have the obligation to report on everything important. But I don’t think specific journalists or writers can think that way, because then you end up just spouting off on things where you haven’t done the work that is necessary to make what you’re saying reliable, informed and unique, where you just have superficial knowledge.
“That I don’t write about something doesn’t mean I think it’s unimportant: it might mean that, but more often it probably means I don’t think I have things worth saying that justify staking claim to my readers’ time. And I’m sure there will be topics that readers think are more important than the one I’ve chosen to write about on a given day (though, as this discussion reflects, readers will usually disagree amongst themselves as to which is The Most Important Issue). But what I try to do above all is ensure that whatever I’ve written has been worthwhile in helping people think about the world, question their assumptions and understand things. I think that focus on in-depth quality is more important than trying to cover every news event that is important.
Journalism & Media
At 3:30, discussing Carlin’s seven dirty words—shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits—and how they’re actually a bit “archaic” now. They used to be the official 7 words that you couldn’t say on television or radio, according to the American FCC. Now, “cunt” is probably the only one that remains wholly taboo.
“McWhorter: Have you ever called anybody a cocksucker? I am 55 years old and I don’t think I’ve ever used that word.
“Gillespie: Well, you’ve got that to look forward to. That’s what the golden years are for.”
“McWhorter: That word [cunt] is so poisonous that for the audio book of ‘9 nasty words’, I had to adjust a bit. Especially because I’m black, I can say “Nigger” a certain amount, so I figured … there you go. I could not say C-U-N-T over and over again. I thought, ‘if I were a woman listening to a male voice saying that over and over again, it would just be … noxious’ and so I pulled back on it as much as I could.”
“The reason if a person that says something that isn’t sufficiently anti-racist, they have to be chased out of the room or their job, is because it’s about heresy. The idea that we can’t even stand to have Andrew Sullivan in our midst in a Zoom call. […] They thought of him as a heretic […] so you have a clergy, you have writers who are looked to to say things over and over again, many of which are hard to square with reality.
“But, frankly, people like Ta Nehesi Coates and Robin DiAngelo and now Ibram X. Kendi, they are priests of this religion. They don’t think of themselves this way—they’re certainly not saying it—but the way their writings are received is not as informational tracts, but as scriptural counsel. So it’s a rather alarming movement because you can’t reason with people who are working from religion rather than logic.
“And that’s not to say that religion is idiocy in itself, but a part of religion is that you sequester a part of your brain away from logic that goes from A to B to C. You have to suspend your disbelief. And the new wokeness that’s “mean”, “elective” as I’m calling it, is religious in that way and the people in question can’t be reached. And that’s scary, given how much power they’re beginning to amass.”
“The truth is we have to understand that you cannot reason with people like this. And it’s very rare that you teach somebody out of their religion. And this is a religion. And, so, to try to talk these people down, … it doesn’t work. All they know is that you’re a racist and that’s all you’re gonna get. So the idea is not to have a dialogue on these sorts of issues. You just have to shut down. But I think we just have to start telling people like this “no.”
“And the question is not how do you stop them from calling you a racist on social media. You don’t. That’s what they’re going to do. And it’s time to start letting them do it, and going on about our business, and having our fellows and friends around us, and make these people realize that screaming that you’re a racist isn’t going to get them what they want. They’ve learned that that strategy works, and they’re going to continue using it, and they’re not going to consider that it might not be the most humane—or even the most constructive—way of doing things.
“These are human beings and all of us have that element. There’s a Lord of the Flies element in these people—although they would never recognize it in themselves. So we need to start telling them “no.””
“If you took a George Wallace or one of these Dixiecrats from back in the day, and you reanimated them now and had them watch a laptop for a couple of days, drive around…that kind of person would have to pull over retch on the side of the highway, seeing how deeply black people and blackness have permeated all levels of this society.
“Strom Thurmond would be nauseated at the America that we have achieved today. Even since his death, how much blacker the United States has gotten. And that matters. That very much matters. And no-one could possibly deny it. Anybody who say that all of the civil-rights victories were basically negated because of what happened to George Floyd (1) are not thinking about that the same thing happens to white people and we just don’t hear about it and also that the country has come a very long way.
“[…] There are people who are too young to understand what it used to be like—and I wasn’t alive when it was really like what it was like—but, I remember the 80s! I remember how openly racism could be expressed by some people as late as the 80s. I remember not getting jobs openly in the summer because I was black and that was that. And yet, the 80s, compared to the 60s, was like the second reel of the Wizard of Oz. Even then, they’d already made immense progress.
“The way it is now? The “browning” of the culture? The idea that everybody in the country is listening to young black men bragging as their favorite music and loving the music as poetry and loving it the way people used to love Walt Whitman and St. Vincent Millay.[…] These are unprecedented things.
“And yet you have a certain kind of person who wants to tell you that nothing significant have changed since 1950 except manners and that what shows that is George Floyd. No. That’s highly childish reasoning. And, unfortunately, the Elect have such beautiful, big words to express these things that it often sounds like they’re saying something more sophisticated than they are.”
“The idea that America is all about despising black people and murdering our black bodies? That’s fantasy. That’s something from a comic book. And yet there are a great many brilliant people who are determined to make us think that we’re supposed to base our whole lives on this cartoon vision designed for self-indulgence—for both white and black people—instead of actually creating change on the ground the way that people who made a life like mine possible do. I think we’re dishonoring our ancestors at this point.”
“In this particular case, it is not difficult to understand the cause of the ACLU’s silence. They obviously cannot defend Facebook’s censorship — affirmatively defending the stifling of political speech is, at least for now, still a bridge too far for the group — but they are petrified of saying anything that might seem even remotely critical of, let alone adversarial to, BLM activists and organizations. That is because BLM is one of the most cherished left-liberal causes, and the ACLU now relies almost entirely on donations and grants from those who have standard left-liberal politics and want and expect the ACLU to advance that ideological and partisan agenda above its nonpartisan civil liberties principles.”
“[…] the prevailing mentality in left-liberal politics is that even grave life-destroying accusations are to be treated as true without the need for any evidence.”
“The flamboyant insistence of these leftist groups that their causes (such as saving the climate) are global emergencies is a fraud, since — based on the vaguest, most dubious and most trivial allegations — they were willing to re-empower one of the worst corporatist obstacles to their supposedly urgent progressive goals.”
“But none of this mattered to the same leading left-wing groups and politicians who instantly abandoned Alex Morse as soon as those allegations emerged. That is because in left-wing political culture, evidence is not needed for accusations to be deemed true and to be used to destroy a person’s reputation built over decades. Just like free speech, they do not believe in due process when it comes to vilifying someone publicly — at all — nor do they recognize the importance of not assuming someone guilty without evidence. They are tyrannical cowards who, sheep-like, jump into line the minute they hear an allegation of this type and repudiate the person accused without the slightest regard for whether he actually did anything wrong. They are too afraid of the recriminations from suggesting that evidence should be required.”
“Do you see what is glaringly absent from these tribunals? There is no recognition of even the remotest possibility that the person may be wrongfully accused, innocent of what they are alleged to have done. In their orgy of self-righteous recriminations and ritualistic denunciations, that thought never enters their mind, nor does any requirement of evidence.”
It’s almost too easy for opponents of change.
“It should go without saying that none of this means that Stringer is innocent. Just as the accusers should not be presumed to be truthful, the same is true of the accused. Sometimes accusers lie and sometimes wrongdoers falsely deny wrongdoing. The point — which is only controversial in contemporary left-liberal circles — is that some convincing evidence is required before it is fair and just to destroy someone’s reputation and treat them as guilty.”
“Needless to say, when the stakes are high enough, progressives kick this framework of presumed-guilt and Believe-Women to the curb. When Joe Biden was the presumptive nominee against Donald Trump, they quickly vilified his accuser Tara Reade as a mentally unwell liar — just as they did in the 1990s to the group of women who accused Bill Clinton of various levels of sexual impropriety, including rape. When something like the presidency is at stake, female accusers of key Democratic male leaders are to be mocked and destroyed, not believed.”
“It is only about power. Why was the highly educated Christine Blasey Ford to be believed with no evidence in her accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, and why is Stringer’s accuser, political consultant Jean Kim, to be believed, but Reade was not, even though she had more evidence of contemporaneous complaints to support her allegations?”
“But the far more important point is that any culture that is willing to destroy reputations and lives based on totally unproven accusations is one that is inherently corrupt and unjust. The ability to destroy someone’s life with nothing more than an uncorroborated claim voiced more than eighteen years after the alleged incident is a power with which nobody should be trusted.”
On the Hypocrites at Apple Who Fired Antonio Garcia-Martinez by Matt Taibbi (TK News)
“The people who launch campaigns like this don’t believe in concepts like redemption or growth. An apology is just another thing they’d like to get, like the removal of competition for advancement. These people aren’t idealists. They’re just ordinary greedy Americans trying to get ahead, using the tactics available to them, and it’s time to stop thinking of stories like this through any other lens.”
Science & Nature
CRISPR Madness: Welcome to the Age of Genetic Chaos by Stuart A. Newman (CounterPunch)
“Body cell, or “somatic,” modification is in line with traditional medical practice, where a sick person undergoes a procedure or takes a drug that may be the best means for saving their life or sparing them a life of misery. It might or might not be successful but is a risk a patient or those responsible for them can reasonably assume. In embryo modification, in contrast, the tissues of the body are pervasively altered as it is taking form in ways that are poorly understood.”
“When we take a flight, why aren’t the airlines held responsible for the emissions? Are they not also “high emitters” and part of the “polluter elite”? They are the ones profiting off this transaction and choosing what to do or not do in order to reduce pollution from air travel. The consumer buying a flight is only trying to get somewhere. Rich air travelers may fly more often than an average working-class air traveler, but even the rich consumer isn’t 100 percent responsible for their flight’s emissions.”
“In what Marx called the “hidden abode of production,” there is no choice, and politics is off-limits. Not only is production organized despotically, like a private dictatorship — it is single-mindedly directed toward one goal: profit, or “accumulation for accumulation’s sake.” Our consumption choices have much different goals in mind — fulfilling human needs (however inflated).”
“If we really want to understand a rich person’s contribution to climate change, we shouldn’t just look at their consumption — we should ask how they became rich in the first place.”
“Put simply, what rich people do at home or in their car or on their private jet pales in comparison to the exploitation of labor and the wrecking of the earth that generates the money they enjoy.”
Art & Literature
“Does this actually describe any real people? There must be some. The question is whether there are enough of them, or if they are pernicious enough, to warrant what has been a mini-genre for over a decade now. To be clear:”
- Most people don’t read.
- Most people who read don’t read fiction.
- Most people who read fiction don’t read experimental fiction.
- Most people who read experimental fiction don’t read 1,000 page doorstops.
That’s actually a good analysis. It’s a good point that that the trope of “guys who read DFW” can’t possibly be as widespread as it’s made out to be in certain circles online because there just aren’t that many of them. There just can’t be. Although I would say that most people do read fiction, but not the kind of fiction that DeBoer considers to be real fiction. They read stuff like this.
The one where writing books is not really a good idea by Elle Griffin (The Novelleist)
“If 20 million people are willing to read a book for free and a couple million more are willing to pay for it, but the author still only nets $12,000 or $13,000 in a year—what hope is there for the novelist as a profession? Even when creator technologies are used, there just aren’t enough people willing to pay for fiction for fiction authors to make a living doing it.”
There does seem to be a limited market for people who read book-length works. A lot of the nonfiction works I read could be condensed; they tend toward repetitive, even when they’re extremely well-written. I’ve been reading 25-40 books per year for decades now. But I also read a lot of essays—many easily as long as short stories or novellas, or even short books—which allows me to browse more widely. I am not in any what what I imagine to be an average consumer of content, though.
We see the world moving toward Twitter “threads”, with multi-tweet “articles” pushing the boundaries of appropriate length. Instead of writing an essay, people create podcasts and let listeners wade through 90 minutes of banter for one or two insights. Ditto with video content, where an accompanying text is nearly always 10x more efficient for absorbing the point.
Philosophy & Sociology
“To suggest anything in a more Didionic spirit, as that we might take our individuality into our own hands, and be as we are without expectation of accommodation, is to risk appearing oblivious to the opposite dialectical pole of community.”
“It simply cannot be the case that we have infinite responsibility towards every other individual human being, and zero responsibility towards the billions of fellow mammals that are slaughtered every year. I can find no meaningful conception of the idea of community that does not extend beyond the boundaries of our species, and I consider attempts to construct such a community both morally abject and deeply unecological. I consider factory farming the most abhorrent institution of the contemporary world, not only for what it does to the environment, but for what it does to each individual animal it commoditizes and kills.”
“Effectively managing the downscaling of the planet’s massive cattle and pig populations will be a tremendous effort. The predicament we haveve created is not one we can just walk away from, any more than we can walk away from our nuclear power plants. Adapting ourselves would be considerably easier than we generally imagine. It is sometimes said of religious faith that no matter what your religion is, there are billions of non-coreligionists out there who take you for a de-facto atheist. Similarly it might be said that every non-vegetarian is nonetheless a non-meat-eater for the vast majority of meats, and is thus practically a vegetarian already.”
“You, by contrast, are a product of a long civilizing process, which among other things has involved successive subtractions of points of contact with the natural world. This means in part a successive reduction of the number of animal species with which you will have any relation at all, including the relation of “being eaten by”, so that now the only animals suitable for such a relation are the ones that are industrially bred and maintained for this purpose alone. This is not carnivorism in any sense that is continuous with the vast stretch of human history, let alone with the carnivorism observed in other species; it is an historical aberration, a blip not only in planetary history but in human recorded history as well, unsustainable, and unprojectable into any plausible near-future.”
“The fools and narcissists are many who, attracted to a movement such as animal rights, believe that the way their cause is to be pursued is precisely by putting it in their bios and making it their brand, by aggressively showing you how committed to animals they are, how resistant they are to deviationist tendencies from the vegan party line. This social spectacle of purity is repulsive — it literally repels anyone whose own narcissism has not already landed them in the same line of work.”
“Let’s admit that. I don’t like you, either. I don’t want to like you or be liked by you. That’s not why I got into this shit. I have many problems but the desperate social insecurity that seems to power the entire internet is not one of them. I remain baffled at how many adults seem to think that the point of life is to enjoy the meaningless mild approval of armies of strangers rather than to build a tight little network of friends and family who are passionately invested in you.”
Annoying Connoisseurs Make Things Better for the Rest of Us by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)
“And so now when you ask what’s good in certain places you get the bartender in a $300 apron he bought off of Etsy grunting while he gestures to a chalkboard covered with enough numbers to bewilder NASA.”
“Starbucks is easy to hate, and I find their actual coffee inedibly bitter, but if your town has a Starbucks then you have access to both variety and knowledge that were totally inaccessible to the average consumer twenty years ago. There’s more choices, and better choices,”
“I recently stayed at a B&B owned by a nice elderly couple. Very, very nice. The moment I stepped in the door, they asked how my flight was, where I was from, what I did, how I’d enjoyed my three minutes of visiting their city so far, what kind of food I liked, what my favorite color was, et cetera. I played along − no point in offending people − but I warned that my friend, who would be arriving a little later, was much more introverted, and would appreciate being efficiently directed to her room without the welcome committee.
“A little later, my friend arrived. From my room, I could hear them start welcoming her, ask her how her flight had been, start trying to get to know her − until I ran out and rescued her, for which she reports gratitude. For the rest of our stay, they continued to talk both of our ears off, with my friend growing increasingly annoyed and uncomfortable.
“We spent the trip back dissecting what had gone wrong. Neither of us believed the proprietors didn’t care about her feelings: they were so very, very nice. They couldn’t have forgotten my warning; my friend arrived less than an hour after I did. We concluded that they were just inexplicably bad at some sort of mental gear-shifting.”
This is an entire article about personal preferences that’s entirely deaf to any preferences other than one’s own. It seems to take the tack that one’s one needs are the only thing of salience in any interaction. If one’s needs can’t be met, then the interaction should end. Perhaps that would be best, but what if that’s not possible? You’re staying at a bed & breakfast, where you’re pretty much living in someone else’s home—but you don’t want interaction? You want the breakfast nook but with the anonymous keycard experience of a chain hotel and it has to be inexpensive … and you’re complaining about how unreasonable and unable to accommodate other people are?
Hey, my grandma gave me a ton more food too when I said “just a little more”. That doesn’t make her a monster, you numbskull. It means it made her happy to do it. I would rather not have had more food. She won, I lost. That’s how it breaks sometimes, you narcissistic whiner.
And your friend in this story sounds like a fucking nightmare, inflicting her introverted self on a B&B run by a couple probably doing it more for human interaction than for the money and not even seeing the impending trainwreck your friend was bringing with her. They probably can’t imagine people who don’t like a little chitchat. But your friend doesn’t. So it’s the proprietors who have to change, of course. They’re the ones getting paid by your friend, so they should shut the fuck up because she doesn’t like the sound of their nattering. They are, after all, the servants in this relationship.
This kind of worked in the days when people actually paid for things. But now even the well-off seek out bargain basement prices offered by people financially coerced into opening their house as a motel and then complain that the service wasn’t good enough. One out of five stars. Didn’t obey commands.
“An outside audit of Colonial Pipeline in 2018 found “atrocious” information management practices and “a patchwork of poorly connected and secured systems,” The Associated Press reported, citing an author of the report. Meanwhile, Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said that Colonial Pipeline had no plans to pay the ransom.”
And they of course get to keep running the pipeline, right? No heads will roll? Will they have to let someone more competent run things? Or does the U.S. just rely on them?