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Links and Notes for July 30th, 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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

Corporate Media Joins the Anti-Vaxxers When It Comes to Chinese- and Russian-Made Vaccines by Alan Macleod (Mint Press News)

‘It’s striking how similar the techniques [are] that Fox News uses to frighten people about the U.S. vaccination campaign and those that The New York Times, Reuters and others use to scare people about Chinese vaccines,’ Jim Naureckas, editor of media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, told MintPress. “It’s not hard to take advantage of laypeople’s unfamiliarity with probability to make little dangers seem big. In both cases, though, media outlets are putting people’s lives at risk for a political purpose — in effect conducting germ warfare through psychological warfare,” he added.”

Public Policy & Politics

The FBI’s Domestic “War on Terror” Is an Authoritarian Power Grab by Branko Marcetic (Jacobin)

“At the time, I made a basic point about the whole situation: we should be careful about simply accepting the FBI’s account of the events at face value, not least because the sparse details included in its affidavit called to mind an old and controversial Bureau practice. That would be the FBI’s use of informants and undercover agents to effectively manufacture their own terrorist plots — typically by entrapping down-on-their-luck or mentally unwell Muslim men — which they then foiled and publicized, thereby justifying more money, resources, and powers for the “war on terror.”
“It should go without saying that none of this makes any of the individuals involved in the plot good guys, or any less noxious in their politics. This should be a basic point for anyone committed to basic democratic freedoms or opposed to mass incarceration: believing in due process isn’t supporting rape, murder, or other crimes; and defending the rights of the accused doesn’t necessarily mean you’d invite them over for dinner with the family. Or to use a closer analogy: sticking up for the civil liberties of accused Islamic terrorists doesn’t mean that you sympathized with their ideology or their alleged crimes.”
“Besides contradictory testimony from officials about the failure of their response, we know the FBI and others warned the Capitol police in advance about the protests. We now also know there was at least one undercover agent among the rioters, on top of the fact that the leader of the Proud Boys — one of the far-right groups who took part in the incident — was a “prolific” law enforcement informant, in the words of his own lawyer, and that at least four Proud Boy leaders in total were feeding information to the Bureau since 2019, directly contradicting the FBI director’s sworn testimony earlier this year.
“Why, given all this, did law enforcement fail so spectacularly to keep a mostly unarmed crowd of protesters out of the Capitol, particularly after the police’s militarized and heavy-handed response to anti-police brutality protests over the past six years? How were they taken by surprise when the entire event was planned in the open anyway?
“Post-January 6, far too many progressives who previously fretted about abuse of the criminal justice system suddenly turned into a mix of Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush, calling for harsh prosecution of those who had committed only property damage on January 6, or even just walked around not doing very much.


The Price of Conscience by Chris Hedges (Mint Press News)

Daniel Hale is a whistleblower who “in 2013 leaked some 17 classified documents about drone strikes to the press” and has now been “sentenced […] to 45 months in prison” for it. Those who perpetrated the lawless murder of civilians around the world have been promoted. Hedges cites Hale’s statement to the court at length in this article.

““Not a day goes by that I don’t question the justification for my actions,” he wrote. “By the rules of engagement, it may have been permissible for me to have helped to kill those men — whose language I did not speak, customs I did not understand, and crimes I could not identify — in the gruesome manner that I did. Watch them die. But how could it be considered honorable of me to continuously have laid in wait for the next opportunity to kill unsuspecting persons, who, more often than not, are posing no danger to me or any other person at the time. Never mind honorable, how could it be that any thinking person continued to believe that it was necessary for the protection of the United States of America to be in Afghanistan and killing people, not one of whom present was responsible for the September 11th attacks on our nation.”


The Collective Suicide Machine by Chris Hedges (Scheer Post)

There was little objection within the power structures to these invasions. The congressional vote was 518 to one in favor of empowering President George W. Bush to launch a war, Rep. Barbara Lee being the lone dissenter. Those of us who spoke out against the idiocy of the looming bloodlust were slandered, denied media platforms, and cast into the wilderness, where most of us remain. Those who sold us the war kept their megaphones, a reward for their service to empire and the military-industrial complex. It did not matter how cynical or foolish they were.”
An economy heavily dependent on massive government subsidies to produce primarily weapons and munitions, as well as fund military adventurism, will go into a tailspin with a heavily depreciated dollar, falling to perhaps a third of its former value. Prices will dramatically rise because of the steep increase in the cost of imports. Wages in real terms will decline. The devaluation of Treasury bonds will make paying for our massive deficits onerous, perhaps impossible. The unemployment level will climb to depression era levels. Social assistance programs, because of a contracting budget, will be sharply curtailed or eliminated. This dystopian world will fuel the rage and hyper nationalism that put Donald Trump in the White House. It will spawn an authoritarian state to keep order and, I expect, a Christianized fascism.


Elites Profit From “Nonprofit” Charter Schools: An Interview with Carol Burris by Meagan Day (Jacobin)

“Individuals can become very wealthy if they run charter schools, whether for-profit or nonprofit. Eva Moskowitz, who’s in charge of Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City and nowhere else, pulls down a salary of nearly $1 million a year. By comparison, the New York City public schools chancellor makes about $250,000 a year. A lot of this is possible simply because there’s so little oversight. I was a public-school teacher and then a high-school principal. Purchases had to go out to bid and everything was very transparent. I couldn’t contract with my Uncle Louie’s furniture company to buy desks. But you can in the charter-school world.”
“The charter-school lobby says that this model is necessary for innovation. But what is it about the ability to commit fraud and avoid transparency that helps you to be more innovative? The innovation that we’re seeing too often, sadly, is criminal manipulation.”


FBI Using the Same Fear Tactic From the First War on Terror: Orchestrating its Own Terrorism Plots by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“In sum, there was no way to avoid suspicions about the FBI’s crucial role in a plot like this absent extreme ignorance about the bureau’s behavior over the last two decades or an intentional desire to sow fear about right-wing extremists attacking Democratic Party officials one month before the 2020 presidential election. In fact, the signs of FBI involvement were there from the start for those who — unlike CNN — wanted to know the truth.”
“One of the most egregious cases I covered was the 2011 arrest of James Cromitie, an African-American convert to Islam who the FBI attempted to convince — over the course of eight months — to join a terror plot, only for him to adamantly refuse over and over. Only once they dangled a payment of $250,000 in front of his nose right after the impoverished American had lost his job did he agree to join, and then the FBI swooped in, arrested him, and touted their heroic efforts in stopping a terrorist plot.
It is this long history and mountain of evidence that compels an investigation into the role played by the FBI in the planning of the 1/6 riot at the Capitol. And it is that same evidence that made the corporate media’s derisive reaction to such demands — as voiced by Darren Beattie’s Revolver News, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and myself — so ignorant and subservient. They acted as if only some unhinged conspiracy theorist could possibly believe that the FBI would have informants and agents embedded in the groups that planned that Capitol riot rather than what it is: the only logical conclusion for anyone who knows how the FBI actually behaves.
“Indeed, the BuzzFeed reporters who investigated the FBI’s key role in the Michigan case must have been very disturbed by what they found since they used their reporting to raise that taboo topic: what role did the FBI have in 1/6? Moreover, they asked, is this yet another era where the FBI is targeting Americans not for criminality but for their political views, and then orchestrating their own plots that justify the U.S. security state’s massive budget and unlimited powers?
“As I documented in my own reporting on this question, there is ample evidence to believe that the FBI had informants embedded in at least two of three key groups it says were behind the 1/6 Capitol riot. As I noted at the time, most of the corporate press spewed contempt and scorn on these questions because 1/6 has become an event that carries virtually religious importance to them, and their reverence for the U.S. security state makes them resistant to any suggestions that the FBI may have acted deceitfully — an utterly bizarre mindset for U.S. journalists to possess. But such is the state of the liberal sector of the corporate press today.”

Journalism & Media

The Vaccine Aristocrats by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

“If you want to convince people to get a vaccine, pretty much the worst way to go about it is a massive blame campaign, delivered by sneering bluenoses who have a richly deserved credibility problem with large chunks of the population, and now insist they’re owed financially besides.”
“It’s a conceit that cut [sic] across party. You hear it from the bank CEO who thinks America should thank him for the pleasure of kissing his ass with a bailout, but just as quickly from the suburban wine Mom who can’t believe the ingratitude of the nanny who asks for a day off. Doesn’t she know who’s paying the bills? The delusion can run so deep that people like Margaret Hoover can talk themselves into the idea that Social Security — money taxpayers lend the government, not the other way around — is actually a gift from the check-writing class.”
“Rather than simply cut welfare, Clinton made a great show of making welfare moms jump through hoop after hoop just to get their miserable TANF checks, a national shaming ceremony that recalled a triangulating Third Way version of Cersei’s Walk of Atonement in Game of Thrones.”
“Furthermore, those Brookings stats became an active talking point — for Democrats, who now began to stress the affluence of their voters as an indication of their moral superiority. “I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product,” Hillary Clinton crowed, on a trip to India. “So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.””

Implicit in this is that the shockingly unequal kleptocracy be accepted as an unchallenged meritocracy.

“This is the same political story that’s dominated America since Trump arrived. Why did Americans vote for such a truth-challenged candidate? Because they trusted the political aristocracy less. How did the aristocrats respond to that damning message sent at the ballot box? They doubled the lies and doubled the scolding, increasing the mistrust. Is anyone going to bother trying to break this cycle?”


To Slightly Reduce How Much the Internet Sucks, Use Positive Reinforcement by Freddie DeBoer

“Part of Joe Rogan’s tremendous success as a figure of dogged admiration, despite the antipathy of so many influential people, stems from his inaccessibility, I am convinced. He looks like a Buddha compared to his many critics because he isn’t on social media complaining about them, which only reinforces his authority among his legion of fans.

Science & Nature

The Idea That Trees Talk to Cooperate Is Misleading by Kathryn Finn (Scientific American)

“How would this work? Like other ecological interactions, cooperation must evolve by natural selection, in which traits increase in frequency because individuals who have them produce more offspring and pass on the traits.

It is so important to remember that this is how it works.

Altruism can arise if a recipient is likely to reciprocate, ultimately benefiting the donor. Reciprocity among trees is possible, but many interactions are likely asymmetric, such as between mature trees and tiny seedlings. Altruistic behavior can also evolve if it benefits relatives, who pass on the donor’s genes. Emerging evidence shows nutrient redistribution via mycorrhizal networks benefits kin more than unrelated plants.”
Unfortunately, the explanation most favored by popularizers, that trees send out resources to strengthen the community, is least likely. This would require natural selection to be countered by group selection—where groups that cooperate win out over groups that do not. When these forces conflict, natural selection almost always wins, because individuals are so much more numerous than groups and turn over much more rapidly.”
Anthropomorphism is taboo in science because it deceives us more often than it helps. Trees are not people and forests are not human families or even republics. Suggesting that they are can only lead us to imaginary conclusions.”
We are moral creatures in an amoral world. Nature does not share our values, and mercifully, we may choose not to emulate all of nature’s ways.”

Are we though? On average? I mean, some of us are; but most of us seem to follow nature’s merciless rules when the chips are down. Our vaunted intelligence and morality rarely stand in the way of self-preservation.

Art & Literature

Revisiting Raymond Chandler’s most iconic lines. by Dan Sheehan (Literary Hub)

“I’m all done with hating you. It’s all washed out of me. I hate people hard, but I don’t hate them very long.”
The Lady in the Lake
“She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.”
The Little Sister
“The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little.”
The Long Goodbye

Programming

Feature Parity by Ian Cartwright, Rob Horn, & James Lewis (MartinFowler.com)

“Most legacy systems have ‘bloated’ over time, with many features unused by users (50% according to a 2014 Standish Group report) as new features have been added without the old ones being removed. Workarounds for past bugs and limitations have become ‘must have’ requirements for current business processes, with the way users work defined as much by the limitations of legacy as anything else. Rebuilding these features is not only waste it also represents a missed opportunity to build what is actually needed today. These systems were often defined 10 or 20 years ago within the constraints of previous generations of technology, it very rarely makes sense to replicate them ‘as is’.
“Archeology is often needed to fully understand what a system does. It is through an “archaeological process” that you learn that changing the data field Y on screen A results in value Z appearing on report C after batch job N runs. Performing this archeology can be a significant investment in time, and brain power of those people with the most experience of your legacy systems.
“A key assumption here is that the Item or Action can deliver Value for end users on it’s own. Unfortunately this is often not the case, we might deliver 80% of individual process steps but still be unable to complete the whole business process within the new system. This is an unfortunately common situation, with high levels of completeness being reported and yet an inability to test or release usable software.”
“If feature parity is the aim, then there is significant work involved in determining what is required in terms of features, and more work associated with ensuring that the feature parity goal has been met through testing.
“User research can help highlight that existing business processes are no longer fit for purpose. In one case by just having a few days of shadowing of existing staff it became clear feature parity was unsuitable as current processes were very broken, it’s always a good thing to talk to the end users.”