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Links and Notes for May 28th, 2021

Published by marco on

Below are links to articles, highlighted passages[1], and occasional annotations[2] 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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.

[1] Emphases are added, unless otherwise noted.
[2] Annotations are only lightly edited.

Table of Contents

COVID-19

As India’s daily COVID-19 deaths reach new high, Modi opposes free vaccinations by Wasantha Rupasinghe (WSWS)

“As horrific as the official infections and death tallies are, they are widely seen by health experts as gross underestimates of the true extent of India’s COVID-19 catastrophe. Some scientists project that the real number of deaths in India’s “second wave” of the pandemic, which began in mid-February, is between five and 10 times higher than the official figure. This would mean that tens of thousands of people are currently dying from COVID-19 every single day.”
“The BJP government has also left vaccine production and a significant portion of vaccine distribution to private companies, which are raking in huge profits thanks to the exorbitant costs the government has allowed them to charge. In addition to further enriching India’s fabulously wealthy elite, the Modi government took the decision to rely on private companies so as to showcase the prowess of Indian capitalist enterprise to the world.
“Compared to the lavish sums of money spent on India’s military and the obscene levels of wealth piled up by the country’s billionaires—who, according to Forbes, saw their wealth nearly double over the past year to $596 billion—the cost of vaccinating everyone over the age of 18 is a pittance. The total cost has been calculated at $6.4 billion, or a mere 0.32 percent of India’s GDP, a small fraction of the 2020 defence budget of more than $71 billion.
“Last month WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed that as of early April low-income countries had administered just 0.2 percent of the more than 700 million vaccine doses administered globally, while the wealthiest countries had received more than 87 percent. “There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines,” he remarked. “On average in high-income countries, almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low income countries, it is one in more than 500. Let me repeat that: one in four versus one in 500.”


Global excess deaths during the pandemic range from 7 to 13 million lives lost according to new estimate by Benjamin Mateus (WSWS)

“Last week, the Economist published a special report, a modeling study looking at excess deaths attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic globally. As of May 2021, they concluded, there have been 7.1 to 12.7 million excess deaths worldwide. Their central estimate places the toll at 10.2 million people—three times the official figures—who would have otherwise been living today, had the world’s governments responded in earnest to the threat posed by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
“Solstad explained, “Unfortunately, India is not an outlier. Many country’s modeling suggests they have been hit much harder than India. For instance, Peru, which is one of the worst hit in the world, has seen deaths per person per million population about 2.5 times what we currently estimate as to the case in India.””
“Russia, by example, has an excess COVID-19 death rate of more than five times the official report.”


How COVID broke the evidence pipeline by Helen Pearson (Nature)

“[…] many researchers look with awe at the RECOVERY trial, which the United Kingdom launched rapidly in March 2020, in part because it was kept simple — a short consent procedure and one outcome measure: death within 28 days of being randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. The trial has now enrolled nearly 40,000 people at 180 sites and its results showing that the steroid dexamethasone reduced death rates changed standard practice almost overnight.
“Julian Elliott, who directs Australia’s COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, based at Cochrane Australia, Monash University in Melbourne, says it’s as if one group creates a precious artefact — its clinical-trial paper — and then tosses it into the desert, leaving the reviewers to come along like archaeologists with picks and brushes to try to unearth it in the dust. “It sounds completely insane, doesn’t it?” he says.”
“As the world moves into a recovery phase, Grimshaw, who co-leads COVID-END, argues that it will be served best by a global library of a few hundred living systematic reviews that address issues ranging from vaccine roll-out to recovery from school closures. “I think there’s a strong argument that you’ll get more bang for the buck if, in selected areas, you invest in living reviews,” he says.”
However well scientists synthesize and package evidence, there’s of course no guarantee that it will be listened to or used. The pandemic has shown how hard it can be to change the minds of ideologically driven politicians and hardened vaccine sceptics or to beat back disinformation on Twitter. “We’re definitely fighting against big forces,” says Per Olav Vandvik, who heads the MAGIC Evidence Ecosystem Foundation in Oslo, which supports the use of trustworthy evidence.”


The unseen covid-19 risk for unvaccinated people by Dan Keating and Leslie Shapiro (Washington Post)

“The rosy national figures showing declining case numbers led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to loosen mask recommendations last week and President Biden to advise people to take off their masks and smile.

“But adjustments for vaccinations show the rate among susceptible, unvaccinated people is 69 percent higher than the standard figures being publicized. With that adjustment, the national death rate is roughly the same as it was two months ago and is barely inching down. The adjusted hospitalization rate is as high as it was three months ago. The case rate is still declining after the adjustment.”

““I hope this does not become a tale of two societies,” he said. “The people who are vaccinated and are protected can resume their lives, taking off their masks.

““The people who are not vaccinated are the ones who are not wearing a mask or washing their hands. Those are the very people who often times will socialize and be around similar like-minded people. You’re going to have the pandemic continue in those clusters.”


White House embraces “Wuhan Lab” conspiracy theory by Bryan Dyne (WSWS)

“As with “weapons of mass destruction,” leaks from anonymous intelligence officials are being presented as evidence in a coordinated media campaign. Within a matter of a few days, the entire US media has embraced this discredited conspiracy theory, summed up by an article by the Washington Post’s lead fact checker entitled “How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible.”

“The stage for this sudden reversal was set by an article published in the Wall Street Journal Sunday, claiming that “a previously undisclosed US intelligence report” reveals three staff at the institute became sick and sought hospital care in November 2019. The article implied that these three cases are the real origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Journal article, however, includes nothing fundamentally new beyond the contents of a fact sheet published by the Trump State Department on January 15.

“In other words, the most the CIA, NSA and their counterparts could find, funded with tens of billions of dollars to spy on the entire world, is that a few people who work at the WIV happened to get symptoms that the State Department fact sheet itself admits are “consistent with…common seasonal illnesses” the month before the virus was first detected.”


The Top 25 Mistakes of COVID Mismanagement by Tomas Pueyo (Uncharted Territories)

“You are not free to punch somebody in the face, because other people suffer the blow. You are not free to drive without a license, because you can kill somebody else. Heck, in most US states you are not even free to drive without a seat belt, walk on the street drinking alcohol, or simply be naked in public, all of which have a much lighter impact on others than spreading the coronavirus. Individual freedom is important. It’s not the only important thing, however. It needs to be balanced with other goals. In this case, life, economic activity, and freedom of society.
South Korea had already solved exactly how to get the best of both worlds: great contact tracing, isolations and quarantines, with a very limited reduction in privacy. As with everything else, the West ignored them.”
“But they never learned to dance applying (the measures that come afterwards to keep infections low) including the use of good fences (border controls), great test-trace-isolate, and things like good aeration and masking. The Hammer worked, they got addicted to it, and they saw nails everywhere. So while Westerners have followed anxiously the drama of new waves of cases and vaccine rollouts, China’s economy boomed by nearly 20%. New Zealanders and Australians have been enjoying life-as-usual all this time.
“For example, Slovakia did a country-wide, two-day campaign testing everybody, caught tens of thousands of cases, and reduced prevalence by 80%.
“Why did the CDC block their approval for so long? They were bogged down by the fact that rapid tests are less sensitive than PCR tests. Well, of course they are. That’s how they’re so cheap and results come so fast. What they do well is not figure out whether people are infected, but infectious. They can identify a person close to the peak days of infection. If you identify and isolate people on those days, you stop the epidemic.
“It makes sense: If you’re serious about controlling the epidemic, you have to bring cases down, and then identify and neutralize every single one that emerges. Otherwise, you will eventually have a new wave. Some countries just couldn’t bring the cases low enough, no matter what they did. Argentina and Peru are good examples of this. So they didn’t even have the option to test-trace-isolate. But richer countries have no excuse.”

Economy & Finance

Banks Don’t Want to Be Paid Back Yet by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“By allowing borrowers to repay their debts early, the lenders are being denied income they have long expected, they argue. The banks want the federal government to pay money beyond the outstanding loan amount so that banks and investors will not miss out on interest income that they were expecting or money that they would have made reselling the loans to other investors. It’s a little hard to sympathize with the banks on the merits here.

No shit.

“Really it is fine that the banks were expecting large profits on these no-risk loans to disadvantaged farmers; that’s how the program is supposed to work: The government relies on the banks to administer the program, and if it wasn’t profitable for them then it wouldn’t achieve its policy objectives of getting money to farmers. But it doesn’t make the banks particularly sympathetic when they complain about losing their profits.
“If you’re a progressive, you think “companies should be good stewards of the environment” and buy ESG funds; if you’re a conservative, you think “I don’t care if companies are good stewards of the environment as long as they make money” and buy, just, regular funds. There is no third position like “I think companies should be bad stewards of the environment”; the neutral, unmarked, default option is the conservative one.

Everyone cares about the same thing. It’s Just some are more honest about real cost. Others will externalize everything in order to maximize personal gain. They don’t hate the environment. They just like what they’re doing so much that they refuse to believe it’s detrimental. It’s convenient, of course, to believe only that which keeps the money train going or your life undisturbed, while seeing others as evil for their beliefs and lifestyle that threaten to upset that in any way. E.g. Air travel or eating meat or anyone with a high-paying job they really don’t deserve.

“The traditional conservative position on the purpose of the corporation is that the purpose of the corporation is to make money, so the politically conservative approach to investing is to ignore politics and just pick the stocks that will go up the most.

That is ignorant. You use politics to make your investments go up. Viz. Oil companies. Pharma. Or you invest in sanctioned criminality like weapons or whatever.


S&P Forgot to Update the XIV Index by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“S&P had a fairly reasonable internal quality-control policy, and messed up the application of it a bit, but it got in trouble not so much for messing up but for not disclosing the policy. S&P is too important to have an internal quality-control policy, reasonable or not, messed up or not; its indexes are so important that everything about how they work needs to be spelled out in advance and made public and subject to rigorous checking.
S&P is not just some company that writes down lists of stocks and will show you the lists for a fee; it is practically the law; it sets the rules and the terms for how the market operates. It has to get them right.
In volatility circles, it is considered somewhat gauche to quote VIX moves in percentages. (The level of the VIX is essentially a percentage —it is, roughly, the expected future annualized standard deviation of S&P 500 moves —so it’s confusing to talk about percentage moves of a percentage.) Here, though, it does seem notable that VIX more than doubled, because that ought to lead to a 100% (or more?) loss in the XIV.”


Capitalism and the Caring Economy by Robert Kuttner (The American Prospect)

“So in most of Europe, child care and pre-K, residential and home nursing care, and above all health insurance are either run by public entities or by nonprofits. Yes, there are budget constraints, but nobody gets rich by stinting on care. This ring-fencing requires constant vigilance since capitalism is always seeking new sectors to exploit (and even better if they are financed by taxpayers). In country after country, there have been incursions into the care sector, under the false flag of competition-producing efficiencies. But for the most part, in Europe care is still mainly a social good.

Public Policy & Politics

Novelist Cory Doctorow on the Problem With Intellectual Property by Luke Savage (Jacobin)

“[…] the copy fighter/copyright skeptic/creative commons/open source/free software world has greeted the term intellectual property with great skepticism and has argued that we should just use the term monopoly if we’re ever going to talk about all of them in one breath.”
“There’s only one sector that can’t monopolize and that also can’t form a cartel, and that’s labor (or labor and patients, in this case). So you see doctors and nurses facing declining wages and worsening work conditions, and you see patients paying more to get worse care. And that’s because the unequal bargaining power that arises out of this monopoly forces monopoly until no monopoly can be forced (and then whoever can’t monopolize gets screwed).

“Earlier this month you remarked that “the single individual who did the most to get us” to a situation of global vaccine apartheid was Bill Gates. Can you expand on that? How did we get here, and what was Gates’s role in all this?

CD You have to understand where he’s coming from as a kind of ideological faith in IP. There’s this idea that you can just lie in a hammock and come up with ideas and other people will pay you rent on your ideas — and that this somehow produces the optimal outcome.”

“The Oxford vaccine, which was developed primarily at public expense (as were the other ones — Operation Lightspeed was a giant public cash infusion, and the underlying MRNs platform had been publicly supported for a decade) was initially going to open all the praxis: the documentation, the patents, the fabrication details, all of it, because people will build factories all over the world, and across the globe you have regulatory regimes that can assess the quality of those factories.”
“Gates also set up this other thing: COVAX, where rich countries and billionaires and companies could donate leftover doses to poor countries — like a UNICEF collection box at Halloween. Which, again: even by the standards of paternalistic elite philanthropy is so epidemiologically incoherent. You should really just want to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible so that the disease stops spreading.
“Even if you don’t care about the lives of brown people, you do care about whether the Coltan mines keep running, and they’re not going to keep running if the countries are in the grips of wave after wave of an ever-more-virulent pandemic! You’re eventually going to have to change out the crew on your super yacht, and if you dock in the Philippines to do that, and your new crew has got a vaccine-resistant strain, you’re just LARPing The Masque of the Red Death at that point.
“One of the first pieces of viral video ever were the VHS recordings passed hand to hand of Bill Gates’ long and grueling deposition, in which a man who had clearly become very accustomed to being a tyrant whose judgment no one questioned was forced to put up with the impertinent questions of government lawyers, and who was within a hair’s breadth of just throwing things. It is an actual tantrum that goes on and on, and he looks like an asshole in it.
“[…] today we have Google as a monopolist that engages in wage theft from creators, that engages in fraud in the ad markets, and is able to structure all kinds of markets through its stranglehold on search and ads in the same fashion that Gates exerted in relation to operating systems.)”
Corporations are really bad at structuring markets: they structure markets to the parochial benefits of superyacht owners, and those priorities do not intersect with the priorities of an orderly state. The contradiction can survive for a while, but then you get a pandemic and, suddenly, the priorities of superyacht owners cannot be accommodated alongside the priorities of people who are dying of a pathogen.”
The thing that they all ultimately share is the belief that some of us were born to rule, and some of us were born to be ruled over. The core idea of the Right is that some people have something that they’re born with that makes them better at being in charge — and that the world is well-ordered when those people get to boss around the people who weren’t born to be in charge.
In that context, Gates’s ideology makes a lot of sense, because it is a belief that some people have the great ideas and, when their ideas are protected, they’ll make more great ideas. This is not an unusual line of thinking. This is Howard Rourke from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead: Give the great people their due, and they will produce a font of wonderful ideas.”


Roaming Charges: Once Upon a Time in Palestine by Jeffrey St. Clair (CounterPunch)

“To describe what’s happening in Gaza as a “war” requires a suspension of belief in the concept of proportionality. The battle of Borodino was part of a “war.” These defenseless attacks on civilian homes and buildings are an escalation of Israel’s normal house clearing, using drones and cruise missiles instead of bulldozers.
“Thus the only real solution is one state, composed of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, where all of the citizens are entitled to the same basic rights under law, administered by a democratically-elected government, where every citizen over the age of 18 is allowed to vote, regardless of age, religion, or ethnic identity. The only real solution to an apartheid state is the demolition of the framework of apartheid.
“Laila al-Arian: “It is still shocking to me that in the midst of a once in a lifetime global pandemic, in a place that is suffering from a high number of virus cases, Israel killed the head of Gaza’s coronavirus response, Dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf. And it seems to have barely registered.””

“The general strike called by Palestinian workers is beginning to take a bite out of the Israeli economy. The Israel Builders Association reports that only 150 of the 65,000 Palestinian construction workers coming to work in Israel showed up this week, paralyzed building sites, causing losses estimated at nearly $40 million..”We cannot build without them,” the head of the IBA exclaimed.

“[…] Per capita GDP Gaza: $876; Per capita GDP Israel: $34,185.”

“There was extensive reporting on the IDF’s targeting of the building that housed the AP and Al Jazeera in Gaza, but very little on the more than 12 Arab media outlets that were destroyed two days before the airstrikes that took out the AP.”


Chelsea Manning on the End of American Empire by Bad Faith (YouTube)

At 27:30,

“The party that is to the left of the Republican party—which is now openly fascist, right?—an openly fascist party versus a crypto-fascist sort-of…look at the Biden campaign and look at how reactionary the language is, right? Like, “Build Back Better” is just a happy-go-lucky reactionary—it’s like if someone went to Google Translate, put in “Make America Great Again” and put it into a couple of different languages and then translated it back.

“It’s just teams. American political discourse has just become the NFL.”

At 36:00

“The economic situation of where we are, the inequality that we’re facing is so extreme. If I were looking at this completely neutral. If I was looking at the demographics of nation-state A, and I just copied and pasted the economic situation and the political situation in the United States, I would come to the conclusion that there was going to be a civil conflict, that there was going to be a major civil conflict in this nation. That’s where we are. It’s alarming. And I think that the government understands this.”


Biden, Reversing Trump, Permits a Key Putin Goal: a New Russian Natural Gas Pipeline to Germany by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“Any minimally rational or honest media would have taken note of these events and instantly realized that their years-long conspiracy theory about Trump being controlled by Putin was sophomoric nonsense, the opposite of the truth. That a Putin-controlled Russian asset would send lethal arms to Ukraine and do everything possible to sabotage Nord Stream 2 is so blatantly absurd that it could be ratified only by a media aggressively committed to spreading disinformation and lies.


Israel is Making the Same Errors as Britain did Over Northern Ireland 50 Years Ago by Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch)

The Palestinian National Authority based in Ramallah hasn’t held an election for 15 years, with the latest attempt being postponed indefinitely last month — and is now deeply compromised as a representative of its people.”
The best strategy for the Palestinians should be to use their great numbers in a peaceful mass campaign demanding civil right and an end to discriminatory restrictions.”

Daring Israel to butcher them, as they already have done in 2018 with the Gaza’s Great March of Return.


As Seeming Consensus Hardens for Cold – or Even Hot – War Against China by Doug Bandow (Antiwar.com)

“However, the PRC does not seek war with America. It remains a poor country. Despite its large GDP, China’s per capita wealth is but a quarter of America’s, depending on the measurement used. Beijing and Shanghai showcase wealth and modernity, but the vast rural hinterland is far behind.”
“[…] the more information the Chinese people have, the more they can seek greater liberty. By the same token, Washington should avoid gratuitous attacks on the PRC and Chinese Communist Party that are more likely to inflame nationalist feelings than encourage liberal sentiments.”


Kanzlerkandidaten-“Triell“: Baerbock, Laschet und Scholz drohen Russland und werben für Krieg und Militarismus by Johannes Stern (WSWS)

“Zu Beginn der Diskussion erklärten Laschet, Scholz und Baerbock auf die Nachfrage der Moderatorin und WDR-Chefredakteurin Ellen Ehni übereinstimmend, dass für sie die USA der wichtigste außenpolitische Partner seien.
Am aggressivsten trat Baerbock auf. Ihre rhetorische Distanzierung vom Zwei-Prozent-Ziel kommt von rechts. Sie deutete an, dass eine abstrakte Fixierung auf die zwei Prozent nicht ausreiche, um die notwendige Aufrüstung sicherzustellen.”
“Deutschland hat vor genau 80 Jahren die Sowjetunion überfallen und in einem fürchterlichen Vernichtungskrieg sechs Millionen Juden ermordet und 27 Millionen Sowjetbürger umgebracht. Aber das hielt auch Baerbock nicht davon ab, Russland militärisch zu drohen.”
“Mit der Aussage „Israel hat das Recht sich selbst zu verteidigen“ stellten sich Laschet, Baerbock und Scholz hinter Israels Krieg gegen Gaza, der bis zum gestrigen Waffenstillstand mindestens 232 Palästinensern, darunter 65 Kindern, das Leben gekostet hat. Damit machten sie unmissverständlich klar, dass sie bereit sind, die wirtschaftliche und geostrategischen Interessen des deutschen Imperialismus mit brutalster Gewalt zu verteidigen.”


US planned nuclear attack on Chinese cities in 1958 Taiwan crisis by Andre Damon (WSWS)

“Daniel Ellsberg, the US nuclear strategist who leaked the Pentagon papers, has published classified documents making clear that US generals were aggressively pushing for a nuclear attack on Chinese cities in 1958.

“During the Second Taiwan Straits crisis of 1958, Pentagon war planners believed that the islets of Quemoy and Matsu, kilometres from China’s coast, were indefensible with conventional weapons. “The entire military establishment assumed more and more that nuclear weapons would be used in the event of hostilities,” noted the documents released by Ellsberg.

““Atomic weapons would be employed by the United States and probably by the enemy,” Pentagon planners noted,” and “authority to attack targets on the Chinese mainland would be granted.”

There would be “atomic weapons strikes by both sides” based on the premise that the “use of atomic weapons was inevitable.”

“The US high command pushed aggressively for the immediate use of nuclear weapons against a Chinese offensive against the islands, while asserting that the US war aims would include the “destruction of Chinese Communist war-making capability.”

“The United States “would have no alternative but to conduct nuclear strikes deep into China as far north as Shanghai,” military planners declared. This would “almost certainly involve nuclear retaliation against Taiwan and possibly against Okinawa,” in Japan, as well as potentially the US mainland.

The 1958 fighting between Taiwan and China was a continuation of the Chinese Civil War that brought the Chinese Communist Party to power in 1949 and forced the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, to flee to Taiwan.

The United States never reconciled itself to the “loss” of China, as a result of the Chinese Revolution, which was seen as a devastating blow to US global domination.”


Freaking out about Trump, Letting Bush off the Hook by Ted Rall

“Democrats are still completely wound up over the fact that Donald Trump falsely claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election, and the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot. Yet Democrats quickly forgot about something far worse than lying about losing and a failed coup: the 2000 presidential election actually was stolen, in part due to a violent coup, and as a result more than 1 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan died. Democrats forgot so thoroughly that they now treat Bush like an elder statesman to be respected rather than thrown into prison for the rest of his life as he deserves.”


Roaming Charges: Back to the Future in Gaza by Jeffrey St. Clair (CounterPunch)

“Something’s gotta give: The median sales price of a home in the U.S. has hit an all-time high of $341,600. Home prices across the country are up 19.1% from a year ago, another record.

Journalism & Media

The Age of Kayfabe by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

But they’re either empowered and enriched by this state of affairs, and don’t want the party to end, or they’re holding on for dear life trying not to get their lives ruined for speaking out of turn. Look past self-interest and self-preservation and you’ll find that everybody knows that the way left spaces work now is horribly broken and dysfunctional. The problem is that thinking people who would ordinarily object don’t because they’ve been convinced that this is some sort of special moment pregnant with progressive potential, and that is more important than rights, compassion, or fairness. So we maintain a shared pretense that things are cool the way you go through the motions on an awful date where you’re both aware you’ll never see each other again.”
“Living under kayfabe makes you yearn for plainspoken communication, for letting the mask fall. The professed inability of progressives to understand why woke-skeptical publications like this one keep succeeding financially is itself a slice of kayfabe. They know people are paying for Substacks and podcasts and subscribing to YouTubes and Patreons because it’s exhausting to constantly spend all of your time pretending things that don’t make sense make sense, pretending that you believe things you don’t to avoid the social consequences of telling the truth.
“Look, progress is possible and in many arenas slowly happening. I do believe in the possibility of revolutionary political change, and I agree with those who say that justice can’t wait. But you can say that all you please. The world doesn’t have to care. And pretending change is happening when it’s not just makes our job harder.

Science & Nature

In Defense of Ethnoscience by Justin E.H. Smith (Hinternet)

“In an already classic 1990 work, The Cognitive Foundations of Natural History, building on research by Brent Berlin and many others Scott Atran showed that Linnean taxonomy operates according to the same basic cognitive constraints as are present in Indigenous Central American ethnobotanical knowledge systems, or for that matter in Aristotle, or in ancient Ayurvedic taxonomy, or pretty much anywhere you look. We simply do not have unlimited freedom in the way we carve the world up, since much of the carving is done for us already in the evolution of our brains.
“We know that Indigenous knowledge systems often include in their practical expression a power to transform and to sculpt the environment, notably in the Amazon and in the Pacific Northwest. This power is transmitted across the generations through intangible but very real knowledge traditions. One does not have to be a “romantic” or an “irrationalist” to become convinced that it would be a good thing for scientists to understand how, concretely, such knowledge systems function. They are part of the human experience after all, and, more urgently, they potentially offer a model of ecological stewardship that will prove crucial for getting us through the looming bottleneck of our species’ planetary history.”
“[…] just as one presumably does not renounce anti-racism when one realizes the fraudulence, e.g., of Robin DiAngelo’s “anti-racism”, so too does it make no sense to banish and suppress “ethnoscience” when we learn how that term is being abused and misrepresented by the San Francisco School Board.”
“In this respect, geometry really does not differ from Tuvaluan sand-drawing or Polynesian navigation. Geometry as we have inherited it is a branch of ethnomathematics, and it is a fundamental lie about human cognition, and its uniformity across cultures, to pretend otherwise. Again, I’m not a primary-school education specialist, and I am extremely wary of all the current crop of people who are, but I still think it would be good if students were to be made aware of this as early as possible.


For Women, a World of Better Sex Is Possible by Marianela D'Aprile (Jacobin)

“[…] it’s precisely this type of organic, unexpected erotic encounter, Angel argues, that mainstream feminism and its byproducts, what she calls “confidence culture” and “consent culture,” make nearly impossible. She addresses arguments in favor of a purely consent-driven approach to sex, whose proponents ask us to set rules and stick to them, to reject even the slightest discomfort in the name of complete safety, to make decisions about what we might want before we’re even presented with options.”
“How free are we, how much pleasure are we free to have, if sexual encounters are reduced to a fulfillment of a predetermined checklist, as opposed to a collective creation of some as-yet-unknown third thing, in which the erotically unexpected — and unexpectedly erotic — enjoys enough of the oxygen created by mutual trust to flourish on its own?
“[…] desire is created out of interaction born of a willingness to be surprised, uncomfortable, and delighted.”
We have, Angel argues, sacrificed opportunities for great pleasure in favor of the illusion of safety, which might reduce the opportunities for unpleasantness in a sexual encounter, but simultaneously curtails our opportunities for such pleasure.”
“[…] mainstream feminism’s creation of a limited and often one-sided consent culture is supposedly intended to protect and empower women, but ironically ends up placing the burden of responsibility for a good sexual interaction on women by requiring us to be crystal clear about our desires, to the point of turning them into nonnegotiable demands.”
“And this kind of abandon is risky for women, given that many men do abuse the vulnerability that sex involves; given also the cultural readiness to read women’s abandon to sex as an abandon of autonomy or safety.”


You Aren’t Actually Mad at the SATs by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

“The predictive validity of the SAT is typically understated because the comparison we’re making has an inherent range restriction problem. If you ask “how well do the SATs predict college performance?,” you are necessarily restricting your independent variable to those who took the SAT and then went to college. But many take the SAT and do not go to college. By leaving out their data, you’re cropping the potential strength of correlation and underselling the predictive power of the SAT. When we correct statistically for this range restriction, which is not difficult, the predictive validity of the SAT and similar tests becomes remarkably strong. Range restriction is a known issue, it’s not remotely hard to understand, and your average New York Times digital subscription holder has every ability to learn about it and use that knowledge to adjust their understanding of the tests. The fact that they don’t points to the reality that liberals long ago decided that any information that does not confirm their priors can be safely discarded.
“Why did so many publications simply accept the Allensworth and Clark paper as given? Well, 1) most education reporters lack even basic statistical literacy and 2) the paper found the outcome that confirms the worldview of media liberals.”
“Allensworth and Clark allowed the media to circulate a false claim using their statistical machinations as justification. That’s an ethical problem on its own. They will, of course, pay no professional penalty for this, as (again) the field of Education wants this result to be true.
I believe in redistribution as a way to ameliorate the consequences of poor academic performance. There is no reason to think that redistribution will ameliorate poor academic performance itself.”
“The rush to rid the world of the SAT is based on this dynamic. Because Black and white students are not equal in academic preparedness, and because we have failed to close the gap in a half-century of concerted policy effort to do so, we must eliminate the tools that reveal it, such as the SAT. Similarly, the movement to shutter gifted and talented programs, due to the racial inequalities therein, demonstrates an attempt to shut down those structures that make educational inequality visible. It should go without saying that this will not doing anything to close the gap in actual ability.
If this trend continues, not just eliminating SAT requirements or increasingly refusing to hierarchize students with grades but in rejecting the entire sorting function of the university, academia will collapse.
“Employers value college because it provides at least some meaningful information about who will succeed as a worker; remove that function and the financial justification for a hideously expensive system dies.

It’s kinda already dead, since even janitors at Google need a bachelor’s degree (joking).

“Here is the essence of it: hierarchies of relative academic performance are remarkably stable throughout life, due to differences in inherent or intrinsic academic ability of whatever origin, and the SATs and similar mechanisms reveal those differences in a way that liberal America is increasingly unable to accept.
“Trying to fight educational inequality by getting rid of the SAT is like trying to fight climate change by getting rid of thermometers.”


by request: The Cult of Smart by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

“But surely someone who was born without natural aptitude for the kinds of skills that are financially rewarded in our society would argue that they could not possibly have had an equal opportunity. And if people believe that the system can’t actually create a fair shake for everyone even under idealized conditions, their willingness to participate in that system will inevitably be degraded.”

“You’ve said that only economic solutions can help those left behind by education. But what if we insisted on an educational solution? What can be done to make students from the bottom quartile of the educational distribution perform like students in the third quartile?

“Nothing.

“I see! So the only way to help those suffering from a lack of talent they neither chose nor can control is to build a more redistributive social state that ameliorates the negative life consequences of failing in the great meritocratic arms race?

“So it would seem. So it would seem.”