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Links and Notes for December 3rd, 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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

Diseasonality by Scott Alexander (Astral Codex Ten)

“It’s the same story with people being cramped indoors. Common-sensically, this has to be some of the story. But if it were the most important contributor, you would expect to see the opposite pattern in very hot areas, where nobody will go out during the summer but it’s pleasant and balmy in the winter. Yet I have never heard anyone claim that any winter diseases happen in summer in Arizona or Saudi Arabia or terrible places like that.


Omicron: We’re getting (some) answers by Katelyn Jetelina (Your Local Epidemiologist)

“There’s a good chance Omicron will outcompete Delta in the United States. This coupled this with the high unvaccinated rate and lab data showing partial vaccine immunity will result in a substantial Winter wave. The rate of breakthrough cases will be higher, but I’m hopeful that boosters will largely keep people out of the hospital.

We’re all exhausted. The scientists. The healthcare workers. The parents. The pharmacists. The teachers. Everyone. But the virus isn’t. And it won’t be until we all take it seriously. Wear a good mask. Ventilate spaces. Test, test, test. And, for the love of all things, go get your vaccine and/or booster.


Coronavirus-Update #105: Risiko für Ungeimpfte steigt by Christian Drosten (YouTube)

At 1:04:00,

Christian Drosten: Wir haben es ja auch X Mal gesagt und es ist leider in den Medien und in der Politik wieder mal unvollständig übertragen worden, diese Botschaft. Wir haben ja immer gesagt: die erste Priorität ist das Schliessen der Impflücken und die zweite Priorität ist das Boostern.

“In der Politik ist jetzt immer gesagt worden: hätte man uns doch vorher gesagt man muss Boostern—so wie in Israel. Also, erstens, natürlich haben wir es gesagt—und alle Wissenschaftler haben das gesagt—natürlich haben wir auch seit dem Frühjahr schon begonnen zu sagen, der Immunschutz schwindet. Da muss man das auffrischen irgendwann.

“Aber was wir auch gesagt haben—und was in der öffentlichen Debatte vollkommen wieder mal verloren gegangen ist—ist, dass wir in aller erste Linie die Impflücken schliessen müssen, wenn wir in die endemische Phase reinwollen. Wir brauchen einen gesamt grundimmunisierter Bevölkerung, um uns den Eintritt in die endemische Phase leisten zu können von den Todeszahlen her.

“Wenn wir das geschafft haben können wir in die endemische Phase rein. Das Boostern hilft uns nicht zum Eintritt in die endemische Phase, denn der Unterschied zwischen ungeimpft und dreifach geimpft ist immer noch der gleiche. Ist immer noch schwarz gegen weiss. Und das Virus darf nicht in diese Lücken rein bei seiner jetzigen Pathogenität.

“Die Booster-Immunität ist einen Notfallmassnahme, die in Israel ergriffen wurde und die wir jetzt auch ergreifen, um eine Bevölkerungsimmunität nochmals zu retten. Wir haben schon wegen Delta eigentlich die Hoffnung auf die Bevölkerungsimmunität aufgeben müssen. Und haben eben gesagt, wie in Israel auch, kann man aber durch das Boostern für eine Zeit—für ein paar Monaten wo die Leute wieder IDA-Antikörper kriegen nach dem Boostern—diese Verbreitungsimmunität, diese Bevölkerungsimmunität, wieder retten, wieder zum Leben erwecken, durch die Booster-Immunisierung.

Aber immer noch besteht dieselbe Impflücke und in diese Impflücke wird es viele Todesfälle geben, wenn man dann das Virus laufen lassen würde, wenn man die Handbremse losmachen würde. Und darum können wir das weiterhin nicht machen. Wir müssen die Handbremse sogar zu einem diffizileren [?] Instrument machen, nämlich zu einer 2G-Regelung, die gezielt dort ansetzt wo die ungeimpften immer noch mal sind und diese Ungeimpften schützt, ob die das jetzt nur verstehen oder nicht, das sei mal da hingestellt.

“Aber es führt um keinen Weg dran vorbei. Mit Omikron ist es nochmal verschärft, die Situation. Die Hoffnung auf eine Bevölkerungsimmunität schwindet mit Omikron noch mehr. Wir müssen voll auf dem Individualschutz setzen und wir müssen alle Impflücken schliessen.

Corina: Das heisst was auch immer wir tun, es führen uns alle Fragen immer wieder zur gleichen Antwort, das Impfen wird die Lösung sein. Unter anderem, eben auch weil das Virus zur Endemie bereit wäre, unsere Gesellschaft aber die Voraussetzungen gar nicht geschaffen hat.”

We have a solution to this virus. There is no need to keep looking for something else. Just use the solution we have. We do not have the luxury of looking for others.


Omicron-variant border bans ignore the evidence, say scientists by Smriti Mallapaty (Nature)

“Earlier this week, in response to the border restrictions, the WHO published guidance that recommended against travel bans to control viral spread. The advice includes specific recommendations for measures that would be useful, including quarantining new arrivals, and testing travellers for SARS-CoV-2 before and after they make their journeys. The WHO guidance represents a clear shift in researchers’ understanding of the effectiveness of travel restrictions over the course of the pandemic.”

Economy & Finance

Biden’s Troubles Aren’t Bernie’s Fault, or a Media Mirage by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

You know when people have negative perceptions of the economy? Usually, when they don’t have enough money. Maybe the jobless claim figures don’t matter as much because the jobs gained aren’t good ones. Or maybe people read the aforementioned Larry Summers saying “a jolt is what is required” to restore “credibility” at the Fed, which would confirm every suspicion ordinary people will have gained from experience in recent decades, i.e. that whenever the economy is allowed to run hot for a while, belt-tightening is eventually called for by “responsible people” to pay for the gains above. It could be they’re guessing what’s coming, and not without reason.”


Really stupid “smart contract” bug let hackers steal $31 million in digital coin by Dan Goodin (Ars Technica)

“The company uses a decentralized finance protocol known as MonoX that lets users trade digital currency tokens without some of the requirements of traditional exchanges. “Project owners can list their tokens without the burden of capital requirements and focus on using funds for building the project instead of providing liquidity,” MonoX company representatives say here. “It works by grouping deposited tokens into a virtual pair with vCASH, to offer a single token pool design.””

HAHAHAHAHA. Hey! We’re unregulated! You can build value without backing value! Just give us your value and we’ll take care of everything! What a scam. They stole Ethereum and Polygon. They would have stolen Bitcoin, but the transaction took too long. 🥁

““These kinds of attacks are common in smart contracts because many developers do not put in the legwork to define security properties for their code,” Dan Guido, an expert in the securing of smart contracts like the one hacked here. “They had audits, but if the audits only state that a smart person looked at the code for a given period of time, then the results are of limited value. Smart contracts need testable evidence that they do what you intend, and only what you intend. That means defined security properties and techniques employed to evaluate them.””

Hey, yeah, that’s a really nice way of describing “shitty code”. Greatly euphemistic. OMG do we need regression testing? That’s boring BOOMER shit. How would they be able to steal your money if the system were airtight?


The truth behind Finland’s “catgirl” prime minster by Ryan Broderick (Garbage Day)

“As of August, the only mainstream social platform that wasn’t offering some kind of tip jar or paid subscription services for users was Pinterest. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and even LinkedIn all currently provide some way for users to turn their posting into some kind of business. Meanwhile, you have Web3 proponents, who claim to support decentralized economic models, but actually just want people to use their economic models. Instead of using Stripe or Paypal integrations, they want users to buy and sell their content via their own speculative cryptocurrencies or tokens.”
“Everywhere you look, users are hashing out what exactly the line is between poster and worker and it’s all extremely messy. Does giving users the ability to make their own money level the cultural playing field and allow creators that would have never been popular become to become bonafide stars? Or does it turn all of us into Uber drivers? Slowly, but surely, this fight will arrive at your personal corner of the internet.”


Goldman Executives Want to Get Paid by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“Part of the appeal of investing in the PIPE is that doing the PIPE will validate TMTG as a real company and so push up the public stock price. The sophisticated hedge-fund PIPE investors will validate the retail investors, which will push the stock up, which will make the hedge funds richer. The retail investors are betting on the PIPE investors who are betting on the retail investors. Nobody needs a business plan; they’ve got each other.
“Everything I write about these days has this essential profile: Meme stocks and crypto and NFTs are all bets on attention rather than on underlying cash flows. But if you have to be in the business of betting on attention, betting on Donald Trump does seem relatively safe.”
“What if I bought a painting, sold NFTs representing whatever-an-NFT-represents of the painting, and then also hung the painting on my wall? Who could object? The people buying the NFTs would still have the NFTs, which are digital tokens representing … nothing; they would own just as much nothing whether or not I actually burn up the painting. This way, I get the money from selling the NFTs, plus I get to keep the painting.
“Art-world insiders are on the lookout for ways to sell paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them. Well, of course they are, aren’t they? If you could sell a painting and also keep it, you would have both the money and the painting. That seems strictly better than having only the money or only the painting.
“Sure, right, yes, if someone thinks that you’re selling them something valuable, they will give you money for it. And if you aren’t in fact selling them something valuable then … well the point is to get them to give you the money.
“I love this so, so much; I cannot stress enough how much I love it. Some rich guy will buy a multimillion-dollar painting and then you can just buy shares of The Fact That A Rich Guy Has A Painting. Do you have the painting? No, he does. But you have the NFT. Come on.


52 things I learned in 2021 by Tom Whitwell (Medium)

The world’s second most popular electric car (after the Tesla Model 3) is the Wuling HongGuang Mini, which costs $5,000 and outsells vehicles from Renault, Hyundai, VW and Nissan.”

Public Policy & Politics

Roaming Charges: Tribute Must be Paid by Jeffrey St. Clair (CounterPunch)

For most poor Americans, the constitutional right to an abortion was effectively abolished in 1977 with the passage of the Hyde Amendment. By the late 80s, many states in the Midwest and South had fewer than five clinics statewide and they were so far away and the services so costly that the incidences of self-managed abortions began to rise, often with fatal results.”
“There’s only one abortion clinic left in Mississippi and the working conditions inside it, as described by Dr. Cheryl Hamlin, seem like something of out of Kafka: “I am required by the state of Mississippi to tell you that having an abortion will increase your risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t. Nobody thinks it does. The American College of OB-GYNs doesn’t think it does.””

I’ve been thinking about the mainstream press’s hostility toward Biden, which seems a little obsessive even by their own neurotic standards. After all, Biden checks off all of their normal neoliberal boxes. He’s even giving the wealthy more tax breaks. It’s early days yet, but could it be that Biden’s just not killing enough people overseas?

Iraq and Syria

Airstrikes

Obama (Jan. 2013-Jan. 2017): 17,841 strikes [~370/month]
Trump (Jan. 2017-Jan. 2021): 16,058 strikes [~335/month]
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 39 strikes [~4/month]

Civilian Deaths

Obama (Jan. 2013-Jan. 2017): 5,665 [~118/month]
Trump (Jan. 2017-Jan. 2021): 13,381 [~278/month]
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 10 [~1/month]

Somalia

Airstrikes

Obama (Jan. 2009–Jan. 2013): 16
Obama (Jan. 2013-Jan. 2017): 44
Trump (Jan. 2017-Jan. 2021): 276
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 9

Civilian Deaths

Obama (Jan. 2009–Jan. 2013): 25
Obama (Jan. 2013–Jan. 2017): 17
Trump (Jan. 2017–Jan. 2021): 134
Biden (Jan. 2021–Nov. 2021): 0

Yemen

Airstrikes (not including CIA)

Trump 327
Biden: 4

Civilian/Militant Deaths

Trump: 742
Biden: 8

Afghanistan

Civilian deaths

Obama (2009–2012): 946
Obama (2013–2016): 453 [~14.5/month]
Trump: (2017–2020): 1182 [~25/month]
Biden: (2021): 23 [~2/month]

(The Air Force stopped reporting airstrike numbers in Afghanistan in Feb. 2020.)

(Source: Airwars.)

I added summaries of strikes/deaths per month above so that the comparison is much clearer. Biden’s use of air power in Syria and Iraq is drastically lower than Obama or Trump (according to the data from the Airwars web site, which was been reliable to date). In Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, the numbers are similar. That’s tremendous progress.


US and NATO ramp up anti-Russia war drive by Andrea Peters (WSWS)

“Western officials have also repeated unsubstantiated charges that the Kremlin, in the words of Blinken, is working “to destabilize Ukraine from within.” There are continual references from both quarters about Russia’s supposed “prior invasion of Ukraine in 2014”—a conscious distortion of events that followed the installation of a far-right, anti-Russian government in Kiev in a coup that was funded by Washington and Brussels.
“In response, NATO head Stoltenberg, speaking in Latvia early this week, said, “It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO. Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control their neighbors.””

So provocative and dangerous. And wrong.

“The reckless provocations by US imperialism are in no small part driven by a profound domestic crisis. American capitalism, whose current survival is based on an overinflated stock market kept alive by the massive printing of money and forcing people to work in the face of a deadly virus so that surplus value can be pumped out of them, must rely on military violence to secure its world domination. It sees the Russian ruling class’ control over more than 6.6 million square miles of the world’s resources and markets to be an intolerable limit on its appetites.


A tale of two thefts by Judd Legum (Popular Information)

“At the same time corporations have “increasingly embraced subcontracting, franchising, and supply chain models.” These trends both put workers more at risk of wage theft and make it more difficult to lodge a complaint. Fewer employees are represented by a union and it is common for workers to have little or no interaction with the people responsible for paying fair wages.
“[…] the “employer-imposed collective and class-action waiver” prohibits them from joining forces to take on employers who cheat. Instead, disputes are pushed into private arbitration, a forum that is notoriously friendly for corporations.”


The Jeffrey Epstein Cover Up: Pedophilia, Lies, and Ghislaine Maxwell by Nick Bryant (Scheer Post)

“But unlike a standard trial, a grand jury proceeding is cloaked in secrecy: grand juries aren’t open to the public, and the identity of the witnesses who testify and the content of their testimony are never disclosed.

Yeah, but, shouldn’t it be? Before it’s been decided whether there’s a case there—to say nothing of actual conviction—shouldn’t the accused be shielded from conviction in the media? Because otherwise we get closer and closer to the accusation being just as weighty as a conviction without the messy procedure. People love their own opinions more than the law.

“Though the PBPD had the statements of five Epstein victims and was aware of many others, Krischer recalls calling only one of Epstein’s numerous victims to testify before the grand jury.”

The intimation being that the special prosecutor was a crooked fuck who loved Epstein and wanted to help.him avoid punishment for fucking teenagers. But maybe it was because the accusers weren’t reliable or that they balked.

“One the conflicting accounts was extremely disingenuous: the prosecutors asserted that one of the victims said that Epstein had deployed a purple vibrator when he abused her, but other victims had said that Epstein deployed a white vibrator during their abuse. Perhaps it never crossed the minds of Krischer and Belohlavek that Epstein used different vibrators when he molested his underage victims?

This is just embarrassingly bad analysis. You’ve obviously cracked the case, Nick.

“Although Maxwell was arrested, her indictments were a travesty of justice and an insult to her victims.”

It feels like this author has no trouble casually making such devastating judgments of a whole team’s performance without providing any evidence. It’s kind of insulting to just assume everyone involved is criminal or incompetent or both. It’s kind of easy. This article is more than long enough for it to have made a substantive case but, instead, it goes long on implication and short on substance.

“But victims’ accounts report that Maxwell was a child trafficker, and she should have been indicted on multiple counts of child trafficking, each count carrying a 15-year to life sentence.”

That is not how the law works FFS. Maybe the prosecution made the best that it could of all the “victims’ accounts”.

“[…] it does not seem to be particularly interested in investigating Giuffre’s latter round of accusations or ensuring that the procurers and perps in the Epstein case are brought to justice.”

That could also be because the accusations are evidence-free, but I can’t tell why Giuffre’s accusations should be considered because Bryant doesn’t bother explaining this. I’m supposed to just believe that an accusation against an allegedly bad person is sufficient for conviction. This is who we are now.

“Despite their purported 2007 rupture, one of Wexner’s charitable foundations received a $56 million infusion from a trust linked to Epstein in 2011.”

I bet they hide this damning FACT from the court proceedings, too. Right?

“Blackmail marks, especially politicians and power brokers, have zero incentive to turn to the authorities if the blackmailer has pictures of their illicit, highly aberrant, or extramarital sexual conduct. Those pictures, released to the public, would doom their careers, probably destroy their families, and reduce their lives to public ignominy.”

More hot air. Also, aberrant is not illegal. Neither is extramarital, although it’s nice to see how purportedly liberal journalists can be ultra-puritan when they need to be.

“Although Wexner claims that Epstein embezzled “vast sums” of money from him, he never notified authorities about Epstein’s grift. If loneliness drove Wexner to befriend Epstein, then common sense almost certainly dictates that Wexner would request law enforcement intervention to retrieve the “vast sums” purloined by Epstein. But if their relationship was rooted in the claims of Giuffre and Rodriguez, then Wexner’s actions, or lack thereof, would be understandable.”

This is madness. The article mentioned Maxwell at the beginning. Now it’s spent half the time on likely mob connections for a friend of Epstein, instead.

“As a society, we must bring the Epstein procurers and perpetrators to justice. We cannot let children be molested with impunity. If the Justice Department is indifferent to victims in a proven trafficking case, then there is little hope for the vast majority of victims.”

If. Or maybe all of these allegations can’t be proven. That is, maybe it’s damning enough to get someone to look into it, but doesn’t provide enough evidence to prosecute. Even though everyone knows they’re guilty. Now what? Maybe it’ll end up like Bill Cosby—he was convicted on bad evidence and had to win on appeal, being freed a year after his conviction. So far, the courts still convict on evidence (at least for the rich). The answer should not be that we put the rich behind bars without evidence, but that we stop doing so for the poor.

Journalism & Media

Babies are expensive by Ryan Broderick (Garbage Day)

“Influencers within this movement blend together cottagecore-style content with subtle white nationalism and emphasize some kind of “return” to a more “traditional” concept of a Western European lifestyle. Users within these networks fetishize Greco-Roman art and, increasingly, are obsessed with cryptocurrency. I did a podcast episode recently about an Instagram bodybuilder named @SolBrah who was using “trad values” to crowdfund a private crypto island.

“@margaritaevna95’s 36,000-follower Twitter account is a quintessential “trad wife” account. Her tweets alternate between random photos of European architecture, criticisms about feminism, COVID denialism, cottagecore memes, and plugs for her OpenSea NFT gallery. She has a Substack called Classical Ideals, which doubles down on all of this content even more. At first I suspect @margaritaevna95’s account was a sock puppet, but her avatars all seem to match a real person named Megha who was based in Canada as recently as 2020, taking online courses for learning Russian (obviously).”

What is happening? Seriously, how are all of these people surviving? Are they just independently wealthy? Or living off of people who are? Are we just hearing about the upper-middle class’s travails?

Twitter is functionally unusable. Real users are indistinguishable from fake users, everything is radicalized propaganda, and everyone is so burnt out from being angry all the time that they can’t even muster up the energy to be angry about anything anymore. I’m beginning to get a good idea of why Jack Dorsey left.”

Well, duh.

“I believe it was my friend Katie Notopoulos who once called Twitter “the CMS of Instagram.” Basically, if you wanted to post words on Instagram, the easiest way to do that was to tweet them first, screenshot them, and then post them as photos to Instagram.

It truly is like watching monkeys bash typewriters. And these folks are the ones making fun of boomers for sending Word documents with screenshots in them via email.


My Roblox landlord wears Gucci by Ryan Broderick (Garbage Day)

“All of this makes me think there are two possibilities here. The first, and funniest, is that we are possibly seconds away from a crypto-fueled global economic crash. This is all just bull shit driven by cocaine and DAO Discords. (Do crypto guys do cocaine? Thinking about it, that entire scene seems like they’d be way more into doctor-shopped adderall.) Maybe, six months from now, the idea that Gucci was designing metaverse avatars for Roblox will just be a funny thing you hear as you huddle for warmth next to a burning trash can in the Walmart parking lot you’re living in.
“[…] it could simply end up like Twitter, a place where journalists, furries, and deeply unwell teenagers eavesdrop on rich people and popular artists.”
“[…] platforms like Decentraland are all missing two key things: they’re not popular and they’re a pain in the ass to use. But they have a lot of money and it’s not insane to think that if you give enough Bored Apes enough money they’re bound to produce the next Facebook.
“It’s the direct result of TikTok’s algorithm, which links together trending audio and challenges and promotes random users to massive audiences without their consent. The whole thing is extremely sad and grim and seems to only be getting worse.”
“Talk to any internet user outside of America and they’ll be more than happy to tell you about the annoyances of having “internet culture” be dictated by the whims of US trending topics. But America’s place as the leader of online culture, in my opinion, began to seriously waver, first, with the arrival of K-Pop group BTS and, then, when ByteDance launched TikTok. So this is definitely a fun example of a meme traveling around the world, but it’s also a really fascinating example of how confusing (and cool) pop culture could continue to get as the US’s influence on the global cultural stage lessens.


How Liberals Censor Leftists by Ted Rall

“Anti-progressive censorship is so thorough that we had might as well be living in the Soviet Union. In the 2016 presidential primaries, only two major newspapers endorsed Sanders. None did in 2020. Sanders was blacklisted by cable news; MSNBC’s strict no-Bernie-coverage rule even led to the firing of a host, the late Ed Schultz. No major daily newspaper in the United States employs a progressive or other leftist on staff as an opinion columnist or editorial cartoonist—while hundreds of mainstream liberals and conservatives ply their trade.”
“Caitlin Johnstone asserts that “[t]he most significant political moment in the U.S. since 9/11 and its aftermath was when liberal institutions decided that Trump’s 2016 election wasn’t a failure of status quo politics but a failure of information control.””


What’s Left? How Greenwald, Covid and Rittenhouse Exposed a Plague Among Progressives by Riva Enteen (Mint Press News)

“In a widely praised TED Talk, Trevor Aaronson states: “There’s an organization responsible for more terrorism plots in the United States than al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and ISIS combined: The FBI.” So why are Street, the World Socialist Website, Counterpunch, and many others well-versed in COINTELPRO tactics, now swallowing FBI words whole and calling people Trump fascists for raising the issue of possible FBI involvement in the January 6 riot?”

My thoughts exactly. WSWS and St. Clair should know better.

“Street condemning him for “failing to mention the horrific, anti-science, COVID-fueling and pandemo-fascist anti-masking and anti-vax practices, policies, and politics of the Amerikaner Party of Trump (the Republicans).””

This citation by the author is an excellent example of why I can’t read Paul Street anymore. You can practically hear the spittle flying as he makes sure to cram the same painfully long and nigh-unreadable chain of invective adjectives before each mention of his targets. It’s exhausting and, slowly but surely, information-free.

“[…] officials at the World Health Organization now say that the SARS-COV-2 virus is mutating like influenza and is likely to become prevalent in every county, no matter how high the vaccination rate. Yet, in spite of such growing perspective, Greenwald’s piece supporting the NBA’s Isaac is subtitled, “It is virtually a religious belief in the dominant liberal culture that people who do not want the COVID vaccine are stupid, ignorant, immoral and dangerous.””

But Greenwald’s article was too “open-minded”. We don’t have to consider people who have no sense of solidarity immoral, I guess. They’re not stupid; they’re misinformed, sometimes deliberately so. They’re not directly dangerous, but the sum total of their behavior leads to countries without functioning health-care systems. That’s the reality we have right now in Switzerland.

Even if the vaccine can’t guarantee prevention of COVID, it is incredibly good at preventing severe illness and hospitalization. The vaccine is safe. It reduces harm and would be an excellent way of controlling hospital admissions. Everyone seems to be more concerned with what the people who communicate at a sixth-grade level have to say. This is silly and sad.

People take all sorts of shit as preventative “medicine”, yet the vaccine is beyond the pale. This is what I don’t understand. I don’t understand why we’re suddenly in the situation of entertaining the opinions of everyone who suddenly has one, regardless of qualifications.

We have to figure out how to convince them, but we don’t have to entertain their arguments as if they made any sense. We’ve considered their line of reasoning. It makes no sense. It is based mostly on ego and a spectacular level of misinformation.

“Many ask, as one article puts it, “Why Does Glenn Greenwald Keep Appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Show?” The question I keep asking, but get no answer to, is why Greenwald, Tulsi Gabbard, Aaron Maté, Matt Taibbi, Max Blumenthal, and Jimmy Dore can appear only on Fox. Why are they not invited onto “liberal” MSNBC or CNN, let alone Democracy Now? The apparent answer is that the dominant, ubiquitous paradigm, which cannot be challenged, is “don’t go after the Democrats.”
“If your opinion about a legal case would be different if the political ideologies of those involved were reversed and all other facts and evidence remained the same, then it’s probably best not to pretend your position on the case has anything to do with facts or evidence.
Glenn Greenwald

Science & Nature

If ocean levels are rising, why can't we see it? by potholer54 (YouTube)

This video is well put together and is absolutely worth the 30-minute investment. It does a measured and logical job of helping you learn how to question sources, and to question how information is being presented to you.


Could One Shot Kill the Flu? by Matthew Hutson (New Yorker)

We’ve controlled a vast number of diseases with vaccination—chicken pox, diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rabies, rubella, smallpox, tetanus, typhoid, whooping cough, yellow fever—and, to some degree, we’ve added COVID-19 to the list. But the pathogens behind those diseases tend to be relatively static compared with the flu, which returns each year in a vexingly different form.”
“It also means that herd immunity is nearly impossible to achieve. “Viruses like smallpox or measles or polio that are specifically adapted to humans . . . if you vaccinate enough people to generate herd immunity, you can actually eliminate the virus,” Taubenberger said. “But flu can never be eliminated, because it’s in hundreds of species of animals, and it’s constantly moving around. So, we need a better strategy.””
“In 2019, after administering its vaccine to the pigs, Glanville’s team tested the resulting antibodies against influenza strains from 2009 to 2015. The antibodies neutralized all six seasons of the flu, even though the vaccine had been designed using HA proteins that were only as recent as 2007: its immunity was predictive. Two independent labs, funded by the Gates Foundation, have since replicated their results in pigs and ferrets.”


Why the [expletive] can’t we travel back in time? by Paul Sutter (Ars Technica)

“That’s because the language of gravity as interpreted in GR is a story of the bending and warping of spacetime. GR is a theory of motion in our Universe and how that motion is tied to the underlying four-dimensional fabric of spacetime.
“When we let systems evolve (bedrooms, car engines, the Universe), entropy always goes up. As all the little parts of a system start interacting, they have so many more options in a high-entropy configuration than a low-entropy one. This is also known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in case you were wondering.”
“All the molecular interactions happening in your room—all those countless little collisions—couldn’t care less about time. Each interaction is symmetric in time, and yet the sum total collective behavior of a system always moves from low entropy to high entropy. We have here a case of an asymmetric arrow emerging in macroscopic systems from all the symmetric interactions happening at the microscopic scale.


It’s time to fear the fungi by Rose Eveleth (Ars Technica)

“Being warm-blooded has its costs. Keeping your body at such a high temperature takes a lot of energy, which requires a lot of food. In fact, some warm-blooded animals have to eat more in a single day than a cold-blooded reptile of the same size would in a whole month.

So fungi are at fault for our pillaging of the planet because they drove warm-blooded animals to evolve.

“This is what Casadevall thinks is happening, at least in part, with the recent surge in Candida auris cases all over the globe. In one study, scientists showed that the fungus is capable of growing and reproducing at higher temperatures than its close relatives. And it might not be the last fungal infection to emerge in our age of climate change—Casadevall estimates that for every 1 degree increase in global temperature, the thermal gradient barrier between our guts and fungi could decrease by 5 percent.
“[…] doctors don’t currently have great tools to fight fungal infections, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, since life-threatening fungal infections have historically been relatively rare in humans, the field is tragically underfunded. In Africa, for example, cryptococcosis kills more people than tuberculosis, but research into cryptococcosis received just 1 percent of the funding allocated to tuberculosis.”
“People with certain kinds of infections can develop “fungal balls” inside their lungs. “I have taken care of many patients who’ve gotten wound infections and horrible, incurable musculoskeletal infections, where the fungus will eventually burrow out and drain,” says Spec. And he often has no way of treating these patients. “I can only refer them to hospice because there absolutely is nothing that works against them.””
““Humanity should be investing more in learning about what is the largest kingdom on the planet,” he says.”

Art & Literature

Hayao Miyazaki Prepares to Cast One Last Spell by Ligaya Mishan (NY Times)

“Miyazaki looked to works like the French animator Paul Grimault’s “The King and the Mockingbird” (released in different forms in 1952 and 1980), in which a chimney sweep and a shepherdess flee from a vain and despised tyrant king through a cavernous 296-story castle while a coterie of animals mounts a revolution, […]”
“In “Spirited Away,” an oozing, fetid spirit comes to the bathhouse to be cleansed, and the intrepid heroine seizes what she thinks is a thorn in his side but turns out to be a bicycle. This unleashes a torrent of trash from his sludgy form: a refrigerator, a toilet, a traffic light. He is in fact an ancient river spirit, poisoned by pollution. Haku, the young apprentice, is a river spirit, too, but has forgotten his origins since his river was filled in and paved over to make way for apartments.

Philosophy & Sociology

The Porn Script by Justin Lee (Arc Digital)

“Popular culture—big-budget Hollywood films, sounds-the-same Top 40 tripe, etc.—is so flat, so aggressively homogenized, because the point is never to create genuine commodities to be desired for their intrinsic merits, but to create endless opportunities for the desirous self to engage in desiring. This both maximizes profit and ensures the machine’s survival. Continually reinforced is the idea that one is only a “self,” an autonomous individual, when one is desiring. Call this the “ur-script” of late-capitalism, if you like.


Beyond a Neoconservative Communism by Slavoj Žižek (The Philosophical Salon)

“When, due to the crucial role of the “general intellect” (social knowledge and cooperation) in the creation of wealth, forms of wealth are more and more out of all proportion to the direct labor time spent on their production, the result is not, as Marx expected, the self-dissolution of capitalism, but the gradual transformation of the profit generated by the exploitation of labor into rent appropriated by the privatization of the “general intellect” and other commons.
In the virtual and augmented future Facebook has planned for us, it’s not that Zuckerberg’s simulations will rise to the level of reality, it’s that our behaviors and interactions will become so standardized and mechanical that it won’t even matter. Instead of making human facial expressions, our avatars can make iconic thumbs-up gestures. Instead of sharing air and space together, we can collaborate on a digital document. We learn to downgrade our experience of being together with another human being to seeing their projection overlaid into the room like an augmented reality Pokemon figure.””
“[…] the moment we fully accept the fact that we live on a Spaceship Earth, the task that urgently imposes itself is that of imposing universal solidarity and cooperation among all human communities. There is no higher historical necessity that pushes us in this direction, history is not on our side, it tends towards our collective suicide. As Walter Benjamin wrote, our task today is not to push forward the train of historical progress but to pull the emergency break [sic] before we all end in post-capitalist barbarism.
“More generally, the ongoing campaign in China seems to me all too close to the standard conservative attempts to enjoy the benefits of the capitalist dynamism but to control its destructive aspects through a strong Nation State pushing forward patriotic values.”
“This is why Kant’s formula of Enlightenment is not “Don’t obey, think freely!” is not “Don’t obey, think and rebel!” but: “Think freely, state your thoughts publicly, and obey!” The same holds for vaccine doubters: debate, publish your doubts, but obey regulations once the public authority imposes them. Without such practical consensus we will slowly drift into a society composed of tribal factions, as it is happening in many Western countries.
The supreme irony of history is thus that it was Mao himself who created the ideological conditions for the rapid capitalist development by tearing apart the fabric of traditional society. What was his call to the people, especially the young ones, in the Cultural Revolution? Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do, you have the right to rebel! So think and act for yourselves, destroy cultural relics, denounce and attack not only your elders, but also government and party officials!”
“What if China has to be added to Naomi Klein’s list of states in which a natural, military or social catastrophe cleared the slate for a new capitalist explosion?”
“This, then, is the true alternative today: neither capitalism or socialism nor liberal democracy or Rightist populism but what kind of post-capitalism, corporate neo-feudalism or socialism. Will capitalism ultimately be just a passage from lower to higher stage of feudalism or will it be a passage from feudalism to socialism.


’A Surfeit of Black Bile’ by Justin E.H. Smith (The Hinternet)

I did not belong, not on any conception of my life as I understood it, within the organs of a borderline-punitive provincial system existing mostly for the management of social and economic pathologies that, thanks to the ideology perpetuated by the surrounding culture, indeed perpetuated by Jerry Springer on the screen mounted above us as we waited, we were compelled in America to think of as our own personal defects.”
“We only need to go as far as Erving Goffman, and to acknowledge that our encounters in everyday life are not just a matter of showing up, of hauling our body out of domestic storage; these encounters are also a “presentation of the self”, which requires at a minimum that a person make choices about how the self is presented, in what light, which angles to showcase, to what ends. It may be that one partially adequate gloss on what it is to be mentally healthy is that this is a state in which the performative quality of quotidian self-presentations retreats into the background, and a person feels as if the self who is coming across to others is naturally and spontaneously the real one (more or less). I can only guess at what that might be like.”
In the end it may be that eudaimonia and kakodaimonia, good and bad “vibes”, are really the only two conditions with any ontological robustness to them. And even these two elementary states shade into one another in ways that make it extremely hard for a lucid observer of his own condition to put feelings into language.”
This is the same divide that tells us, in the name of being a morally upstanding person, both to give away our money, and to save it. Bourgeois liberal philosophy will gaslight you into thinking you must simply not be smart enough if you fail to understand how this incommensurability can be smoothed out. But every now and then the voice of a Kierkegaard breaks through, strong enough to make itself heard through the bullshit, to tell us in no uncertain terms that it is impossible to live in this world, that whatever form of life you choose, you will be wrong.
In the end, if we cannot help but blame others for things that are beyond their control, this may be because wretchedness is our basic condition, as inevitable as it is blameworthy, and only an ideology —such as the one that has reigned throughout modernity— that stresses our earthly perfectibility will place the wretched in the earthly purgatories of rehab clinics and “correctional institutions” and psychiatric outpatient clinics, where in each case the purported goal is to purge the wretchedness right out of a person.”
“Today we find it easy to mock humoral medicine, such as Robert Burton’s explanation in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) of the condition in question as literally a “surfeit of black bile”. But in truth our facile resort today to the idea that depression is nothing more than “a problem with our brain chemistry” is just as worthy of mockery. It marks nothing more than a shift in the bodily system held responsible for the psychological state, without any clearer understanding of the social and spiritual dimensions of the state.”
“The most striking thing about this new life is that the whole world looks to me somewhat the way our elementary schools look to us when we revisit them as adults: a place we don’t belong anymore, a place that seems so much smaller and so much more modest than we had once taken it to be, so disenchanted that one is left perplexed as to how it could ever have been the source of such wild flights of the hopeful imagination.”
“It is, as Schwitzgebel claims, jerkitude that gives rise to the appearance of foolishness, and not foolishness that justifies jerkitude. But depression is a strange disease, and we will never be able to adequately deal with it if we pretend it’s just like diabetes or whatever. Depression makes you a jerk. One should not be a jerk. Ergo, if depression is a disease, it is a disease that it is morally wrong to have.
Do I believe that psychoanalysis works? Of course not. Not in the sense that it will “cure” the symptoms by discovering their causes. As Adolf Grünbaum decisively showed, psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience. But it works, at least, by sustaining the impression, through all the ritual and expense of it, that one is actively “doing something”, and this does help one to “go on”.”

Going through the motions is distracting.

“With most of my writing, once it’s done I never want to see it again; with ESTAR(SER), I keep going back and fondling the pages, admiring every line, confounded by the thought that I, alone or with others, am the one who came up with it.

Technology

100 years of whatever this will be (apenwarr)

I really, really liked this post. I stuck it in technology because it kind of talks about technology? But also economics? And how to structure society? And then comes back to technology? I really liked it.

“Your phone can run mapreduce jobs 10x-100x faster than your timeshared cloud instance that costs more. Plus it has a GPU.”
“One SSD in a Macbook is ~1000x faster than the default disk in an EC2 instance.”
“Software stacks, governments, and financial systems: they all keep getting more and more bloated and complex while somehow delivering less per dollar, gigahertz, gigabyte, or watt.”
“Computers are so hard to run now, that we are supposed to give up and pay a subscription to someone − well, actually to every software microvendor − to do it for us.”
“Software intercompatibility is trending toward zero. Text chat apps are literally the easiest thing in the world to imagine making compatible − they just send very short strings, very rarely, to very small networks of people! But I use at least 7 separate ones because every vendor wants their own stupid castle and won’t share. Don’t even get me started about books or video.”

Trillian. We used to have this. It was unencrypted, but still.

“Writing all this down, you know what? I’m kind of mad about it too. Not so mad that I’ll go chasing obviously-ill-fated scurrilous rainbow financial instruments. But there’s something here that needs solving. If I’m not solving it, or part of it, or at least trying, then I’m… wasting my time. Who cares about money? This is a systemic train wreck, well underway.
“People like to use the term free market to describe the optimal market system, but that’s pretty lousy terminology. The truth is, functioning markets are not “free” at all. They are regulated. Unregulated markets rapidly devolve into monopolies, oligopolies, monopsonies, and, if things get really bad, libertarianism. Once you arrive there, every thread ends up with people posting about “a monopoly on the use of force” and “paying taxes at gunpoint” and “I’ll run my own fire department” and things that “end at the tip of the other person’s nose,” and all useful discourse terminates forevermore.”
“Here’s what everyone peddling the new trendy systems is so desperately trying to forget, that makes all of them absurdly expensive and destined to fail, even if the things we want from them are beautiful and desirable and well worth working on. Here is the very bad news: Regulation is a centralized function. The job of regulation is to stop distributed systems from going awry. Because distributed systems always go awry. If you design a distributed control system to stop a distributed system from going awry, it might even work.”
“I find myself linking to this article way too much lately, but here it is again: The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Jo Freeman. You should read it. The summary is that in any system, if you don’t have an explicit hierarchy, then you have an implicit one.
“We are chasing rainbows. We don’t need deregulation. We need better designed regulation. The major rework we need isn’t some math theory, some kind of Paxos for Capitalism, or Paxos for Government. The sad, boring fact is that no fundamental advances in math or computer science are needed to solve these problems. All we need is to build distributed systems that work. That means decentralized bulk activity, hierarchical regulation. As a society, we are so much richer, so much luckier, than we have ever been. It’s all so much easier, and harder, than they’ve been telling you. Let’s build what we already know is right.

Programming

Compiler error message metaprogramming: Helping to find the conflicting macro definition by Raymond Chen (Microsoft Blogs)

I thought that this was a clever, pragmatic way of getting the real error message from an otherwise recalcitrant compiler. When he got the following error message from the Microsoft compiler:

fatal error C1189: #error:  This header file requires version 314 (got CONTOSO_VERSION instead)

The problem, as he says, is that,

“None of them substitute the macro in the error message, so you don’t see what version you actually got.”

This is tough, because the chain of includes might be very deeply nested and it’s going to be very difficult to discover what the problem actually is.

Raymond says,

Here’s the trick: Just redefine the symbol.

#include <contoso.h>
static_assert(CONTOSO_VERSION == 314,
             "This header file requires version 314.");
#define CONTOSO_VERSION 314

The error message for a redefined symbol does include the full path to the location of the original definition. For example, the Microsoft compiler will now show,

error C2338: This header file requires version 314.
warning C4005: 'CONTOSO_VERSION': macro redefinition
C:\contoso\v271\contoso.h(5): note: see  previous definition of 'CONTOSO_VERSION'

This is a really nice trick for “tickling” information out of the compiler. You can even leave the definition as a “guard” against future, unexpected redefinitions. If the redefinition is the same, then it doesn’t complain.


 XKCD 2347 Dependency”Open Source” is Broken by Christine Dodrill (Xe)

“I’ve had this kind of conversation with people before and I’ve gotten a surprising amount of resistance to the prospect of actually making sure that the random smattering of volunteers that LITERALLY MAKE THEIR COMPANY RUN are able to make rent. There is this culture of taking from open source without giving anything back. It is like the problems of the people who make the dependencies are irrelevant.”


You Can’t Buy Integration by Brandon Byars (Martin Fowler)

“The job of the architect then comes down to understanding in what contexts that promise is likely to hold true, and to avoid the understandable temptation to convert the “buy” decision into a mandate to use the tool outside of those contexts in order to justify its ROI.
“While true, academic discussions of computability fail to account for software engineering, which a group of Googlers defined as “programming over time.” If programming requires working with abstractions, then programming over time means evolving those abstractions in a complex ecosystem as the environment changes, and requires active consideration of team agreements, quality practices, and delivery mechanics.”
“[…] emphasizing clean interfaces over those capabilities. Simplifying interfaces are one of the critical elements in creating a successful product and to scaling inside a complex ecosystem. I have very little understanding of the mechanical-electrical implementation underlying the keyboard I’m typing on, for example, or the input system drivers or operating system interrupts that magically make the key I’m typing show up on my screen. Somebody had to figure that all out — many somebodies, more likely, since the keyboard and system driver and operating system and monitor and application are all separate “products” — but all I have to worry about is pressing the right key at the right time to integrate the thoughts in my brain to words on the screen.”
“That, of course, has an interesting corollary: the key (no pun intended) to simplifying the interface is to accept a more complex implementation.”
“Intuitively, we understand that the two-dimensional boxes on our architecture diagrams may hide considerable complexity, but expect the one-dimensional lines to be somehow different. (They are different in one regard. You can buy the boxes but you can’t buy the lines, because you can’t buy integration.) While we have historically drawn up our project plans and costs around the boxes — the digital products we are introducing — the lines are the hidden and often primary driver of organizational tech debt. They are the reason that things just take longer now than they used to.
“Your users don’t stand still, and quite often good APIs add value through reuse. It’s easy to over-index on reuse as a primary goal of APIs (I believe taming complexity is a more important goal) but it’s still a useful aspiration. Keeping up with your users’ evolving needs means breaking previous assumptions, a classic programming-over-time concern.
“Integration interfaces that fail to adapt to users over time, or that change too easily with the underlying systems for implementation convenience, are point-in-time integrations, which are really just point-to-point integrations with multiple layers. They may wear API clothing, but show their true stripes every time a new system is wired into the estate and the API is duplicated or abused to solve an implementation problem. Point-in-time integrations add to inter-system tech debt.
“The only way I’m aware of to pay that tech debt down is to hold the line on creating a clean interface for your users and create the needed transformations, caching, and orchestration to the downstream systems. If you don’t do that, you are forcing all users of the API to tackle that complexity, and they will have much less context than you.


Scaling the Practice of Architecture, Conversationally by Andrew Harmel-Law (Martin Fowler)

“The Advice Process is the core element of this anarchist, decentralised approach to architecture. It’s greatest quality is it’s remarkably simplicity. It comprises one rule, and one qualifier: The Rule: anyone can make an architectural decision. The Qualifier: before making the decision, the decision-taker must consult two groups: The first is everyone who will be meaningfully affected by the decision. The second is people with expertise in the area the decision is being taken. That’s it. That’s the Advice Process in its entirety.
“InfoSec impacted? Talk to the CISO. Getting close to PII? Engage Mary in the data team and Vanessa in legal. A potential change to the user onboarding flow? Talk to your UX lead. About to adopt a new cloud service? Chat to Kris the cloud architect. Thinking about a change to your API? Speak to all the leads of the teams who are your consumers.

This is a bit easier said than done. They will not necessarily be well-advised about the impacts on their usages—and they may end up being more pessimistic than necessary.

“[…] always encourage those following it to specifically seek out those who will disagree with them. Freed from the need to agree with what they hear, they inevitably engage far more seriously. Consequently the depth and breadth of advice received is greater. Decisions don’t tend to suffer as a consequence either. Neither does their learning.”

This requires a well-knit team with diplomatic, non-political and ego-driven disagreement. Not always easy or available. A friendly sparring partner is very valuable.

“The fact that a team’s need for a decision to be taken can be met by themselves also leads to appropriate levels of bias-to-action, with accountability acting as a brake when it’s required.
“By working in this way we remove both the need for a fixed and permanent hierarchy and an abiding master decision-taker. It is for these two reasons that the Advice Process is the most fundamental element of this approach to architecture, because decentralised decision-making is the core element of anything which aspires to call itself “anarchistic”.”

This goes against the recently learned adage that, “if you don’t have an explicit hierarchy, then you have an implicit one.”

“Alberto Brandolini, inventor of Event Storming famously quipped “it is the developer’s assumptions which get shipped to production” and he’s right; it’s primarily what a developer understands about a target architecture that matters, not what is in the head or diagrams of a lead architect.
“[In order for an architecture to be successful] it is very much about ensuring that conversations that are needed to be happening are happening − not always initiating them, nor always helping to focus or navigate them, but ensuring they do happen […] and guiding when needed”

Video Games

Forza Horizon 5 Is Gaming’s Gateway Drug to Dystopia by Ryan Zickgraf (Jacobin)

“Arguably, everything here is a commercial in one way or another. The beating heart of Forza 5 is a hyper-capitalistic car-based economy that demands both your attention and money. There is a wisp of a story but no true endgame except bragging rights and accumulation. The number of things to collect is endless: various currencies like credits, kudos, and Forzathon points, more than five hundred models of true-to-life vehicles, and dozens of houses. The point of a virtual real estate empire, of course, is to hold your car collection. And if you’re in a hurry to acquire stuff, you can buy your way to success with real dollars that can purchase bundles of new autos, which can be flipped on Forza’s live auction block.”
“If a video game version of Cancún sounds concerning, consider the possibility of a metaverse upgrade. Microsoft could potentially tweak the economy by joining it to the connective tissue of the blockchain so that players could sell each other souped-up Ferraris, custom paint jobs, and beachside estates using cryptocurrency, with Bill Gates’s bros taking a cut via transaction fees.”

This paragraph facially makes no sense. How does crypto change anything? The whole scene is already monetized. This dude just wanted to write “blockchain”.