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Links and Notes for July 2nd, 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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


World Health Organization calls for vaccinated people to wear masks as global COVID-19 cases rise by Bryan Dyne (WSWS)

“Dr. Simao continued, “Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission. People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene… the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing.””
“The current uptick in cases has been caused, from an epidemiological standpoint, by the fact that the Delta variant is 2.5 times as transmissible as the original variant of the disease […] The Delta variant also causes four times as many serious cases and hospitalizations […]
New cases in the United Kingdom have increased six-fold in the past two-and-a-half months to 13,900 a day, with the Delta variant now accounting for at least 90 percent of all new cases in the country. In Russia, new cases have more than doubled since the beginning of June to more than 18,700, while new cases in Indonesia have more than tripled to 16,800 over that same period. […] Cases in South Africa have increased 15-fold in April, standing at 14,800 cases per day.
“The dangers of such policies was underscored on Friday by a Wall Street Journal report revealing that half of the adults infected in a recent outbreak of the Delta variant in Israel had been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The outbreak raises the danger of both the fact that vaccines are not infallible when community transmission is allowed to continue, and the fact that the Delta variant is capable of, at least in some cases, breaching the protections provided by the vaccines.

Bubble trouble: pupil Covid-19 school absences quadrupled in June by Anoosh Chakelian (New Statesman)

“There has been a spike in pupils sent home from school in England due to Covid-19, according to the latest official figures.

About one in 20 pupils in English state schools, 375,000 in total, were out of school because of the virus this week. This was a rise of more than 130,000 on the previous week, with absences quadrupling during June.

“The majority of these pupils (279,000) were at home because they were self-isolating due to potential contact with a positive case in school. Just 15,000 were confirmed Covid-19 cases, and 24,000 were suspected cases.

Ivermectin: Can a Drug Be “Right-Wing”? by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

““Why wouldn’t this be tried if she’s not improving?” the Chicago Tribune quoted Orel as saying. “Why does the hospital object to providing this medication?”

““He basically said, ‘What do you have left?’” Lorigo recounts. “No one would administer the ivermectin. It’s as safe as aspirin, for Christ’s sake. It’s been given out 3.7 billion times. I couldn’t understand it.”

“Stories like these aren’t proof the drug works. They don’t even really rise to the level of evidence. People recover from diseases all the time, and it doesn’t mean any particular treatment was responsible. Short of the gold standard of randomized controlled trials, there’s no proof.

“Just as the Internet allows ordinary people to DIY their way through everything from stock trading to home repair, they now have access to tools to act as their own doctors, from caches of medical papers at sites like pubmed.gov to symptom-checkers to portals giving them instant looks at their own test results — everything they need, except of course the years and years of training, experience, and practice, and therein lies the rub.”
“The pandemic struck in the middle of a society-wide collapse in trust in institutions. Fewer than one in ten Americans, for instance, have a great deal of trust in either the FDA or pharmaceutical companies, according to an Axios/Ipsos survey last year. In a Reuters/Oxford survey of 46 countries that just came out this week, the United States ranked dead last in terms of trust in news media, with just 29% of Americans saying they trust the news. This is a particular problem with ivermectin, which through no fault of its own has become a symbol of the public’s changing attitudes in both arenas.”
The drug has as a result ended up caught between two political movements — one populist, which believes officials are prone to lying and can’t be trusted, and one anti-populist, which associates theories about unapproved cures with political theories of stolen elections and other crazes. The former movement is sure the pharmaceutical companies are suppressing the drug because it’s been off-patent since 1996 and would imperil billions in revenues for vaccines and $3000-a-pop drugs like remdesivir if proven effective. The latter movement assumes ivermectin advocates are political grifters, cynically riding mistrust of the drug for votes, for headlines, and to undermine the authority of experts.”

“Should people on their deathbeds be allowed to try anything to save themselves? That seems like an easy question to answer. Should the entire world be allowed to practice self-care on a grand scale? That’s a different issue. Some would say absolutely not, while others would say the corruption of pharmaceutical companies and the medical system unfortunately make it a necessity. The world is increasingly divided along this trust/untrust axis.

“Eventually, researchers like the Oxford group will complete their studies, and the public will have an answer. But this is going to take longer than it should, because of the one thing the ivermectin story has already proved: in a world split more and more into groups that don’t agree on anything, it’s nearly impossible to get everyone to agree on something, even if their lives depend on it.

Delta variant’s wild spread raises fears, fresh scrutiny of CDC mask guidance by Beth Mole (Ars Technica)

“But the unvaccinated aren’t the only people threatened by delta’s frenetic spread. Some experts point out that, although vaccines are still highly effective at preventing death and disease, they’re not 100 percent effective overall. There’s still a small chance that fully vaccinated people can get infected, and—although any such infections would very likely be asymptomatic or cause only mild disease—those fully vaccinated people could still help the highly contagious variant spread onward.
““We still live in a world that is only partially vaccinated, that has a lot of susceptibility, a lot of vulnerability,” Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor for the World Health Organization’s director-general, said in a press briefing last week. “So, what we’re saying is: once you’ve been fully vaccinated, continue to play it safe, because you could end up as part of a transmission chain.””

How science demolishes the right-wing fiction of a Wuhan “lab leak” as the source of coronavirus by Benjamin Mateus (WSWS)

“According to an account published in the New Yorker, Dr. Baric, who was one of the signatories calling for more investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, said, “I really believe that the genetic sequence for sars-CoV-2 really points to a natural-origin event from wildlife.” Perhaps the most renowned and leading expert on coronaviruses in the world, Dr. Baric carefully explained that the repository of viruses in nature is magnitudes higher than what would be found in the library of the Wuhan lab.
“Dr. Baric also noted that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is so different than any other known virus, to engineer it “from an ancestral strain” would have been a truly unprecedented feat of molecular biology. “And of course, you don’t know what you’re engineering, because SARS-CoV-2 would not have existed,” Baric said.”
“There were easier ways to engineer a coronavirus, and no one would have rationally chosen either the bat virus backbone or the pangolin portion of the spike protein. Therefore, SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to be man-made from pieces of other viruses —we have zero evidence that any person or lab has attempted even one part of this process.”
“In other words, no virus engineer would have proceeded in the fashion alleged by the promoters of the “lab leak” theory. The random variation of natural selection provides a far superior explanation of the actual course of development of the virus, and given that we are only 18 months into the pandemic, the “gaps” in this explanation simply reflect the actual development of scientific knowledge, not some nefarious conspiracy.
““No virologist would use that cleavage site,” he told Ling, adding that in the lab, the cleavage site has a tendency to delete itself, and to employ it would “require doing things differently than everyone does them,” and would actually slow down replication of the virus. “We’re not good enough, in virology, to make the perfect virus,” Goldstein concludes.
Prior to the outbreak in December 2019, nothing closely resembling the COVID-19 virus was reported in any lab. Since it has emerged, it has taken hundreds of millions of infections to net just a handful of serious mutations and variants.””
“It also took more than 15 years after SARS-CoV-1 was discovered for the animal origin to be identified. There is nothing unusual in this. For instance, Ebola is thought to have a zoonotic origin (derived from nature), but its natural reservoir remains unknown 40 years later. The argument that the pool for SARS-CoV-2 has yet to be uncovered and, therefore, by Wade’s troubled logic, it must have been manufactured in a Chinese lab, is a false one generated for political purposes.
This review of the science demonstrates that the hypothesis identified as most likely in March-April 2020—a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2—remains after more than a year the most plausible. No evidence has been brought forward to undermine it. The campaign in support of the “lab leak” theory has no significant scientific basis.”

Economy & Finance

From a recent episode of Redacted Tonight by Lee Camp (Portable TV) (I can’t remember which one it was), Lee described the world economy as:

“[…] marketing garbage made by borderline slaves to people who can’t afford it.”

Fidelity Manager Lacked Diamond Hands by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“[…] virtually every professional value investor like Tillinghast seems to have dumped the stock during its wild January rally, and the top holders now are mostly a mix of index funds, insiders and options market makers. If you bought stock yesterday at $219, you didn’t buy it from some deep value investor who bought it at $5 and is finally now taking her profits. You bought it from some other lunatic who paid $200 for it. (Or possibly from the company.)”

Credit Suisse report reveals vast increase in global wealth inequality amid pandemic in 2020 by Kevin Reed (WSWS)

“Thus, the Credit Suisse Research Institute reporters do not mention that the central banks have been flooding the financial markets with cash that has funneled enormous sums in one form or another into the “household wealth” of the richest people on the planet. In the US, the Federal Reserve bank has been buying assets at a rate of $120 billion per month.”

Public Policy & Politics

Biden Tells States To Use COVID-19 Relief Funds To Hire Cops by Elizabeth Nolan Brown (Reason)

“At a Wednesday press conference, Biden told state and local leaders that they could use money provided to them as part of the pandemic relief package to fund more police officers and hours.

““We’re now providing more guidance on how [state and local governments] can use the $350 billion nationally that the American Rescue Plan has available to help reduce crime and address the root causes,” said Biden. “For example, cities experiencing an increase in gun violence were able to use the American Rescue Plan dollars to hire police officers needed for community policing and to pay their overtime.”

I am gut-laughing over here. This is literally what everyone should have known would happen.

Gunboat Diplomacy will not Revive Britain’s Fading Power, Whatever Boris Johnson Thinks by Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch)

“The British government justifies sending a naval vessel so close to Crimea as an act of solidarity with Ukraine and a sign that Russia’s annexation of the peninsula is unrecognised internationally. These are reasonable motives, but Russia is not going to give up Crimea unless it loses a war against the US and Nato. This does not mean that the annexation should be recognised, but using a warship to make a diplomatic point is an unnecessary risk.

Warmongering British Actions in the Black Sea by Craig Murray (Antiwar.com)

“In international law, the twelve mile territorial sea is as much part of the state as its land. So to sail a warship into Crimean territorial seas is exactly the same act as to land a regiment of paratroops in the Crimea and declare you are doing so at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine.

“There is no dispute that Russia is in de facto control of the Crimea, irrespective of British support for the government of Ukraine’s claim to the region. It is also true that Russian annexation of the Crimea was not carried out in an accordance with international law. However, it is not, in practice, likely to be reversed and the situation needs to be resolved by treaty or by the International Court of Justice. In the interim, the UK government legal position can only be that Russia is an “occupying power”. It is impossible that the UK government legal position is that Ukraine is in “effective control” of the territory.

What Bari Weiss Won’t Tell You About Human Rights and China by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

“As corporations they follow − must follow, can only follow − the profit motive. And the profit motive doesn’t give a single shit about press freedoms or democracy or human rights. If anything those things are inconvenient to the business of making money. Why doesn’t China receive greater international censure and sanction for its impositions on human rights? Because China makes a lot of countries a lot of money, disproportionately so in those countries that have the greatest control over the endlessly corrupt institutions of international norms and law. When people ask the (humane and sensible) question, “why isn’t the international community doing something?,” the answer is because the international community exists for the facilitation of commerce, before and above anything else. The abstract principles of rights and freedom are totally powerless in the face of the cash China brings to the system, through manufacturing and increasingly through the buying power of their own consumers. Where money exists, money rules everything.

“[…] you cannot meaningfully stand for human rights if you think that among those rights is the right for corporations to participate in unfettered capitalism.

“[,,,] Under capitalism the profit motive is insatiable. If you think the norms and institutions of “the West” protect us from such corruption, I advise you to consider (for example) that prisoners are forced to labor for pennies an hour while private entities reap the benefits.

“Is that specific issue of the scale or depth of China’s infringements on rights? No. But it should demonstrate to us that the interpretation of rights is always refracted through a lens of what the moneyed and corporations want. And there are many more threats to human rights in or originating from the United States, including the endless support of cruel dictators who advance American interests.”

When the fight to treating people with respect and dignity by extending them basic freedoms is such a challenge to the world economic system, you have to acknowledge that there’s something wrong with what that system defines as valuable. So let’s have that conversation, even if it’s mostly theoretical at this stage. And while we’re having that conversation, we might recognize that any condemnation of China should prompt us to consider all the ways, big and small, the United States abridges human rights itself. Moral judgment of others always demands moral judgment of the self.

Why Are Billionaires Always Presumed Innocent? by David Sirota (Jacobin)

Billionaires may give a lot of cash to politicians, but they are hardly ever reported on as if they are explicitly corrupt. They may leverage their philanthropic empires to boost their business interests, but they are almost never depicted as crooked. They may pay a lower tax rate than everyone else, but they are rarely depicted by the media as outright scofflaws. Instead, we get a lot of talk about this being “just the way things work.””
“It is a presumption of innocence never afforded to poor people accused of petty theft — a presumption that very rich people couldn’t possibly be as uncouth as to knowingly break the law in service of self-enrichment. And what’s striking is how this presumption runs up against ample evidence that America’s tax laws — even as weak as they are — are actually being systematically flouted by the wealthy.
In a nation where white-collar crime is almost never prosecuted, crime is seen by the government as something that only poor people do. Through this lens, aristocrats’ larceny is presumed to be just shrewd accounting rather than lawbreaking.”
“The superrich, in short, provide the financial manna on which the political and media class relies for survival. And so between their style-section puff pieces and their glossy magazine profiles, billionaires may occasionally be portrayed as a bit too powerful and greedy — but they are rarely depicted in ways that might allow an audience to consider the possibility that they are robber barons, oligarchs, or straight-up criminals, even when they are driving getaway cars full of moolah. They’re only villains in movies.”

Switzerland adopts draconian police law by Marianne Arens (WSWS)

“The “Federal Law on Police Measures to Combat Terrorism” (PMT) blatantly disregards the principles of the so-called “democratic rule of law.” For example, it flouts the civil-democratic separation of powers because it allows the federal police to intervene against so-called “dangerous persons” even without sufficient evidence for criminal proceedings and without an order from a judge.
“The law also disregards the principle of personal data protection, allowing police officers to retrieve and exchange “particularly sensitive personal data” amongst themselves. This explicitly includes, among other things, “data on religious and ideological views or activities.””
“[…] could also apply to socialist politicians and labour leaders whose stated goal is to abolish capitalism, since even the statements of these groups could “spread fear and terror” among shareholders, business representatives and state officials.
“The Social Democratic Party (SP) issued a “No” slogan. However, it has entirely failed to conduct any public campaign against the law to warn and mobilize the working population. After all, this party holds seats in the government, including the seven-member Federal Council. In this all-party coalition, the SP also works unanimously with the far-right SVP.

What the fuck is that supposed to mean? The most obvious interpretation is patently untrue. Calling the “Federal Council” an “all-party coalition” is disingenuous, at best.

The Bundesrat is a political structure that serves as the executive branch in Switzerland. Their decisions are “unanimous” because the Bundesrat speaks as one voice, despite being composed of members from various parties. I understand that this is a concept utterly foreign to Americans who consider that anything political is a jihad against all one’s perceived enemies with no room for working together despite differences.

The SVP is a right-wing party, but it also happened to have helped make sound political decisions in the first half of the pandemic (Ueli Maurer capitulated quickly and with gusto to opening the public purse). Eventually, it started focusing on “opening businesses”, but it didn’t get its way until Switzerland’s numbers dropped considerably.

At any rate, this depiction of Switzerland’s executive branch is an unfair characterization depicted through a lens of the author’s own prejudices. The author clearly thinks for anyone to work with the enemy is an unconscionable capitulation rather than a political reality when shit just needs to get done, short of a revolution that one knows one would lose.

This is not to say that the SP is without fault. The other parties listed in this article—Pirate, JUSO, Green, etc.—are all more likely to generate policies with justice than the SP at this point. However, the SP has a much larger following for now. The Greens are perhaps the closest in third place (threatening but not yet having overtaken the SP) and offer the most hope for sane policy. Since they represent, at best, about 20%, though, they have to work within the confines of democracy (again, short of a revolution).

“During the pandemic, Switzerland, like Sweden, refused to close businesses and schools.”

This is also utter bollocks. Everything but pharmacies and grocery stores (essentials) was closed for two months in 2020 and then again for a few months from December to February. The lockdown didn’t go as far as neighbors, true, but Switzerland is also in a much better place right now than neighboring countries, which did close businesses and schools for much longer.

Switzerland did close its schools—went to full remote learning—from March until the end of the school year in spring of 2020. In September, they went back to non-remote, except for quarantines. Schools had plexiglass installed, ventilation improved, mask requirements, etc. Students and classes were required to quarantine if regular tests showed any infections.

Again, the author is projecting her annoyance with U.S. policy to paint every other country as having done the same. This, without examining the details of a country’s actual policies. On the surface, it seems foolhardy to have left schools open so long, but the plan seems to have worked with few infections, and kids got to be in school. Higher-education is still required to be remote, except for very strict measures and requirements that most schools can’t satisfy (e.g. the school where I teach stayed 100% remote because they don’t have enough large rooms to accommodate them).

Journalism & Media

Our Endless Dinner With Robin DiAngelo by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

“DiAngelo is monetizing white guilt on a grand scale, and there’s an extraordinary irony in the fact that she’s got a home-field advantage in this game over someone like, say, Ibram Kendi, because she’s more accessible to people like herself, the same phenomenon she decries. Normally I’d salute the capitalist ingenuity. Unfortunately, like Donald Trump, DiAngelo is both too dim-witted and too terrific an entrepreneur to stop herself from upselling a truly psychotic movement into existence.

Both her books are filled with scenes of people recoiling from her teaching, which despite voluminous passages decrying the lack of “humility” of people who think they have the “answers” on race, she never takes as a hint. Instead, she demands to know, “WHY CAN’T SUE AND BOB HEAR ME?” Dude: they do hear you, they just don’t want to. Because they think you’re insane, and repellent. Have you considered this?

“No: DiAngelo’s brand of bourgeois Spencerism is ascendant, tipsy with itself and encouraged now by a Republican backlash. At this point there’s nothing we can do but hang on and wait for the dinner to be over, and God knows how long that will take.

This is a fantastic and wide-ranging interview with Norman Finkelstein. There was so much goodness, I would have ended up transcribing everything, so instead I’ve transcribed nothing.

“For even your most deep-seated belief, you have to leave at least some corner of your mind open to the possibility that you’re wrong.”

The interview started in the public video, at around 54:30:

Norm Finkelstein on Cancel Culture by Useful Idiots (YouTube)

It finished up in this unlisted video.

Nobody Has a Monopoly on Truth: Norm Finkelstein Extended Interview by Useful Idiots (YouTube)

Questions About the FBI’s Role in 1/6 Are Mocked Because the FBI Shapes Liberal Corporate Media by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“The original report, published by Revolver News and then amplified by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, documented ample evidence of FBI infiltration of the three key groups at the center of the 1/6 investigation — the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters — and noted how many alleged riot leaders from these groups have not yet been indicted. While low-level protesters have been aggressively charged with major felonies and held without bail, many of the alleged plot leaders have thus far been shielded from charges.”
“Over the last decade, I reported on countless cases for The Guardian and The Intercept where the FBI targeted some young American Muslims they viewed as easily manipulated — due to financial distress, emotional problems, or both — and then deployed informants and undercover agents to dupe them into agreeing to join terrorist plots that had been created, designed and funded by the FBI itself, only to then congratulate themselves for breaking up the plot which they themselves initiated.
“A widely praised TEDTalk by Aaronson, which, in the words of organizers, “reveals a disturbing FBI practice that breeds terrorist plots by exploiting Muslim-Americans with mental health problems,” featured this central claim: “There’s an organization responsible for more terrorism plots in the United States than al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and ISIS combined: The FBI.””
“[…] far from being some warped conspiracy theory, that the FBI purposely targets vulnerable people and infiltrates groups in order to create attacks and direct targets to engage in them is indisputably true, well established, and a commonly reported fact in mainstream liberal media. Exactly that has been happening for decades.”
How is it remotely credible that the FBI did not have informants in these three groups that they have been identifying as major threats for years, especially given the reporting that the leader of the Proud Boys — conveniently arrested the day before January 6 — was an FBI informant in the past, along with the confirmed reporting that the FBI had multiple informants in the Michigan Three Percenters case?”
“Nobody is claiming to know the answers to those questions, including Revolver News, Carlson, or anyone else. Instead, they are doing the work of actual journalists — pointing out the gaping holes in the public record about what we do and do not know about an event that is being exploited to launch a new domestic War on Terror, prompt massive new police and security state spending, and empower and justify new domestic surveillance and censorship authorities. Anyone not asking these questions or, worse, trying to delegitmize them, is a propagandist and has no business calling themselves a journalist.
“But all the mockery in the world does not make these questions disappear. Of course the FBI was infiltrating the groups they claim were behind these attacks. There may be good reasons why that did not enable the FBI to stop this riot or why they have not yet indicted these ringleaders. But those answers are not yet known. And gullible conspiracists are not the ones who want answers to these questions but, instead, are the ones doing everything possible to protect the FBI from having to provide them.

Meet the Censored: Bret Weinstein by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

“In the years since Weinstein left Evergreen, the American cultural and political establishment has undergone a change in thinking, tracking with the warning Weinstein delivered to congress. The Trump election inspired a loss of faith in democracy, Charlottesville defamed speech rights, and Russiagate was an ongoing argument against due process, with many of the same people who opposed Dick Cheney’s spy state suddenly seeing themselves as aligned with the FBI, the NSA, and the CIA in the war on Trump.
“Thus instead of argument and debate, many now believe we should use force and influence to achieve objectives. This is just what Weinstein described at Evergreen: eschewing argument, accumulating power for its own sake instead. It’s in light of this cultural shift that we’ve seen a movement in favor of censorship, with erstwhile opponents of corporations posturing as libertarians, filling social media with arguments about how private companies should be free to do what they want.
“[…] anyone who follows his show recognizes that his is nearly the opposite of an Alex Jones act. He and Heying’s shows are neither frivolous nor abusive, and they clearly make an effort to be evidence-based, interviewing credentialed authorities, typically about subjects ignored by the corporate press.
“This is a significant moment in the history of American media. If a show with the audience that Weinstein and Heying have can be put out of business this easily, it means that independent media going forward will either have to operate outside the major Internet platforms, or give up its traditional role as a challenger of mainstream narratives.
Weinstein: No one is trained in even a majority of the disciplines relevant to the COVID Pandemic. Virologists aren’t clinicians, aren’t epidemiologists, aren’t evolutionary biologists, aren’t pharmacologists, aren’t data scientists. We state repeatedly that we are not medical doctors and are not making recommendations, but we are sharing our view of scientific material that we are qualified to analyze.
Weinstein: We have been way ahead of official guidance throughout the pandemic, and we have been very sharp in our criticism of those who have treated SARS-CoV2 casually. We have clearly sobered many up about the issue. Our refrain has been that although the case fatality rate from COVID is moderate, the damage to the body from a case of COVID—even if mild—is often substantial and likely implies reduced longevity. And we have given prescient advice on prevention.”

Science & Nature

Mathematicians Prove 2D Version of Quantum Gravity Really Works by Charlie Wood (Quanta Magazine)

“Vargas and his collaborators now have a unicorn on their hands, a strongly interacting QFT perfectly described in a nonperturbative way by a brief mathematical formula that also makes numerical predictions.
“Now the literal million-dollar question is: How far can these probabilistic methods go? Can they generate tidy formulas for all QFTs? Vargas is quick to dash such hopes, insisting that their tools are specific to the two-dimensional environment of Liouville theory. In higher dimensions, even free fields are too irregular, so he doubts the group’s methods will ever be able to handle the quantum behavior of gravitational fields in our universe.

Art, Cinema, & Literature

For Soviet Filmmakers, There Was No Glory in War by Greg Afinogenov (Jacobin)

Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1962 film Ivan’s Childhood is the most haunting of these depictions. It follows a young boy who loses his family during the Nazi invasion and joins first the partisans fighting against the occupation in the woods, then the regular Soviet army. Molded in the crucible of war, Ivan speaks and thinks like a seasoned combat veteran, but he remains a child.”

Christoph Waltz’s Georgetown: One small, murderous liar in a sea of much bigger, murderous liars by David Walsh (WSWS)

“To score a big-name dinner guest or a favor from a V.I.P. in Washington, there was no point messing around with official channels or wasting time with midlevel functionaries. Underlings fear for their careers and are more likely to examine new acquaintances for potential peril. But there’s an unexpected naïveté among the truly powerful; they assume that anyone who has arrived at their desk has survived the scrutiny of handlers.””
Albrecht Gero Muth was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury for his brutal crime in January 2014. A “D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced him to 50 years in prison,” reported the Washington Post, “stopping short of prosecutors’ request for life without parole.” Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice and the others walk around scot-free.

Philosophy & Sociology

I don’t really know where to place this rambling 90-minute lecture, but I thought there was a lot of goodness in it. I started listening after finding a previous “CushVLog” quite good (FutureSuck II | CushVlog 06.15.21 | Chapo Trap House by Matt Christman (YouTube)).

Put Ricking Morty in Charge of the Climate | CushVlog 06.21.21 | Chapo Trap House by Matt Christman (YouTube)

“The echolocating hysteria of the urban middle-class, reacting to their proletarianization. It is the professionally employed—in media and in culture product—people, of all races, who are seeing their conditions deteriorate.”

On Compassion by Justin E.H. Smith (Hinternet)

“The Hinternet is not a “philosophy blog”; it is not in any way auxiliary to my own career as an academic philosopher, but rather is my attempt to revive, indulge, legitimate, give voice to the whole range of interests and preoccupations that adorn my interior castle, independently of, and often in spite of, my professional identity. These, in a career properly and responsibly managed, would ordinarily be kept private.”
“One thing the description of this irresponsible man’s work leaves out, however, beyond the fact that it is six-feet tall and square, is whether it is any good, whether it justifies the defiance and self-indulgence that he has permitted himself and imposed on others. From the description, we just can’t say. It’s at least possible that his art does more than block doors, but also succeeds in doing what all art aspires to do: rendering abstract and scarcely detected truths in sensual form.”
“I am extremely skeptical of the helpfulness of side-taking in the great majority of divisive political issues. I mostly just want whatever arrangement will result in the greatest amount of thriving for human and non-human beings, and in most matters I am ignorant as to what this arrangement is. I am certain, at least, that top-down management of our social identities by HR apparatchiks is not it, which is why sometimes I express myself in a tone that resonates with the freshest batch of Angry Young Men.”
“Invariably, for every snide thing I say, some people will write to tell me how incisive and righteous it was, while others will write to tell me it was inappropriate, uncalled for, ad hominem, and beneath me. I usually suspect such bifurcated critical responses speak to an objective indeterminacy as to the moral quality of the remark, and it is this same indeterminacy, repeated again and again, that leads me also to suspect that the overall value of polemical engagement can only ever level out to zero, and that there must yet be another register beyond polemics to which the cultural critic, even the “contrarian” cultural critic, ought to aspire. At this register, one basic truth never retreats too far from the mind: that our taking up of opposite positions in any given conflict is really just more fodder for la comédie humaine.”
This is not to say that no one is ever right about anything —I believe I’m right, for example, about the relatively greater importance of environmental protection over economic growth— but only that when we are pulled down into the world of mortals, forced into the virtual cockfighting ring of the internet, and expected to plead our respective cases in such degraded and degrading conditions, to pretend that this travesty of a public sphere can be the genuine site of rational deliberative democracy: when this is where we find ourselves, I say, the only sane reaction is to declare that we are all brothers and sisters, and whatever I had to say wasn’t so important anyway. You do this, or you allow yourself to become a minor character in a new installment of Balzac’s unfinished and unfinishable mega-novel.”
“Here the dynamics are different than on social media, but both cases are similar in that the only decent thing to do when you find yourself on the verge of conflict is to stand down, to remind yourself of the reality of the transpolitical, and to reconfirm your bonds of kinship, real or imagined. To descend to the level of politics, at the wedding or on the internet, is generally no more useful than shouting insults back and forth in front of the 7-11 with someone who is currently in the throes of florid hallucination.”
“In the case of language, what the HR-compliant speakers believe they are hearing in their neologisms is something unladen with historical weight, and therefore something neutral and purely descriptive. What I am hearing is the violence of bullshit neutrality.
“This is then my main concern regarding what was for a long time called “political correctness”, and I see it as emerging from a broadly left-anarchist opposition to domination by external forces, coupled with the conviction that there is no more effective means for asserting domination than to impose a uniform way of speaking and insisting that it is the singular medium for the expression of a neutrally descriptive picture of reality.”
“[…] this is simply an innate power of language, and we run the risk of far greater hurt if we subjugate ourselves to powers that are pretending to provide us with an intrinsically non-hurtful way of speaking.
“[…] strikes me that one of the dimensions of bias that remains underdiscussed, as far as I know, is the one whereby we assume that people who have other beliefs and commitments than we do must be insincere about them, must be “grifting”. As far as I can tell, when I am being honest, among the people who take up different substantive commitments than I do, some are seeking social advantages through grifting and virtue-signaling, some are true believers; among the true believers, some believe for good reasons that flow from real virtues in their moral character, and some believe for what I take to be bad reasons, revealing what I take to be flaws in their moral character.
“I continue to share, with Adolph Reed, Jr., the concern that our current redistributive efforts are focused on a very small sliver of society: the one that in many European countries would be described by the term “functionaries”. Limited in this way, the new ideology proves easily assimilable to the reigning capitalist order, and Goldman Sachs is easily able to adjust the composition of its board to reflect microcosmically the demographic make-up of the United States. And things go on as before.
“[…] history, when done most rigorously and imaginatively, gives breath back to the dead, and honors them in their humanity, not least by acknowledging and respecting the things they cared about, rather than imposing our own fleeting cares on them. Eventually, moreover, a thorough and comprehensive survey of the many expressions of otherness of which human cultures are capable in turn enables us, to speak with Seamus Heaney in his elegant translation of Beowulf, to “assay the hoard”: that is, to take stock of the full range of the human, and to begin to discern the commonalities behind the differences.”
“It is significant that the particular expression of human diversity Lomax chooses for his own project of assaying is music. This expression gives us a far more useful measure of the unity within human diversity than the arbitrary and contingent categories constructed ad-hoc for administrative purposes, sometimes reified into full-fledged “races”, sometimes stalled in the runner-up category of “ethnicities” — both pure fictions, principally useful for the external direction and management of our bodies. Music, as I’ve already suggested, is better and truer than politics. For one thing, it induces people, any two people at all, as long as they both have souls, to endure the same passion together.


Notes on streaming large API responses by Simon Willison

“Each of these queries is fast to respond (since it’s against an ordered index) and uses a predictable, fixed amount of memory. Using keyset pagination we can loop through an abitrarily large table of data, streaming each page out one at a time, without exhausting any resources. And since each query is small and fast, we don’t need to worry about huge queries tying up database resources.”
“If your deployment process involves restarting your servers (and it’s hard to imagine one that doesn’t) you need to take long-running connections into account when you do that. If there’s a user half way through a 500MB stream you can either truncate their connection or wait for them to finish.
“The HTTP range mechanism can be used to provide resumable downloads against large files, but it only works if you generate the entire file in advance.
“It seems the most robust way to implement this kind of API is the least technically exciting: spin off a background task that generates the large response and pushes it to cloud storage (S3 or GCS), then redirect the user to a signed URL to download the resulting file.

What I’ve learned about data recently by Laurie Voss (Seldo.com)

“Rails provided an opinion about the Right Way To Do It. It wasn’t necessarily always really the best way to do it, but the surprising lesson of Rails is everybody doing it the same way is, in aggregate, more valuable than everybody trying to pick the very best way.
“At its most basic, dbt allows you to write SQL queries which automatically become queryable views. Those views can be referenced in other views, and those further referenced, allowing you to build an elegant tree of data provenance from its original raw form to collated, aggregated, filtered collections that answer your questions. If you make a change to an upstream view, the downstream views are automatically refreshed.”
“[…] all of this configuration and declaration can live in Git, so your team can have version control, code reviews, staging builds and everything else a modern engineering team expects when collaborating.”

What Every Programmer Should Know About SSDs by Viktor Leis (Database Architects)

“Our understanding is missing one important fact: NAND flash pages cannot be overwritten. Page writes can only be performed sequentially within blocks that have been erased beforehand. These erase blocks have a size of multiple MB and therefore consist of hundreds of pages. On a new SSD, all blocks are erased, and one can directly start appending new data. Updating pages, however, is not so easy. It would be too expensive to erase the entire block just to overwrite a single page in-place. Therefore, SSDs perform page updates by writing the new version of the page to a new location. This means that the logical and physical pages addresses are decoupled. A mapping table, which is stored on the SSD, translates logical (software) addresses to physical (flash) locations. This component is also called Flash Translation Layer (FTL).
“To garbage collect block 0, we had to physically move page P0, even though logically nothing happened with that page. In other words, with flash SSDs the number of physical (flash) writes is generally higher than the number of logical (software) writes. The ratio between the two is called write amplification. In our example, to make space for 3 new pages in block 0, we had to move 1 page. Thus we have 4 physical writes for 3 logical writes, i.e., a write amplification of 1.33.”
“Let’s assume our SSD is filled to 50% and we perform random writes. In steady state, wherever we erase a block, about half the pages of that block are still in use and have to be copied on average. Thus, write amplification for a fill factor of 50% is 2.
“Because write amplification becomes unreasonably high for fill factors close to 1, most SSDs have hidden spare capacity. This overprovisioning is typically 10-20% of the total capacity. Of course, it is also easy to add more overprovisioning by creating an empty partition and never write to it.”