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Links and Notes for December 17th, 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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

So they can read you loud and clear (and tell you what to think and do): “Vaccination” may replace your natural neuronal network with an artificial one, hooked up to COVID Central by Mark Crispin Miller (News from Underground)

“We’re talking about nanotechnology that recreates the communication technology we already know. But in this case, inside the body.

“We’re talking about nano-communications.

“And this is the vaccine, ladies and gentlemen.

“The Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen vaccines. All of them are nano-technology for nano-communications. So you emit, the vaccinated ones, a MAC address in Bluetooth wireless technology. But you also receive signals as if you were a router.

“[…]

“Now there is even more info about how all these graphene oxide (Quantum Dots) nano-particles are building and replacing our own existing biological neural network.

Now I feel like the anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists are just fucking with us. They can’t possibly believe that this is thing, can they? I mean, this doesn’t even pass the smell test. It’s pure science fiction. This was totally and uncritically reposted by MCM on his own web site.

This is too fascinating to stop reading.

“If you don’t know and if you have been vaccinated, you should know that you have, inside your body, the artillery of nano-sensors, nano-technological nano-routers that, on the one hand, are going to collect all the biomedical electrophysiological markers of the person and, on the other hand, are provoking an artificial neuronal network that will replace the natural one. Hence, strange behaviors occur or, if you’re vaccinated, you might feel particularly strange. We’re talking, if you like, about technological parasitism. Of course, carried out with graphene oxide.”

Utter hogwash. The ravings of lunatics copy/pasting from Popular Science articles. Of course, none of the links to the “original PDFs” work.

The hits keep on coming, too. The next post is Chile already using the “vaccines” to “insert thoughts and feelings” into the injected by Mark Crispin Miller (News from Underground),

“Here it goes, a real scary new world where those who were led to believe getting c-vaxxines would protect them from covid are in fact now having “thoughts and feelings” inserted via the c-vaxxines injections and then have no protection from covid or variants.”

It’s like they’re not even trying to make this believable anymore. This is a good sign: it used to be difficult for most people to tell the difference between COVID information and COVID misinformation. Now it’s easier than ever! No more charts with believable-looking numbers! Now it’s just bizarre plots that look like something from Dianetics. And, because he’s so erudite and wants people to know that he’s based his site’s name on Dostoyevsky’s book Notes from Underground, he also just published Wise words from another undergrounder, which cites Fyodor himself,

“Tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend the imbeciles.”

Hell, I don’t even know if Dostoyevsky said that. That Miller says he did makes me less likely to believe it. I suppose we’re supposed to assume that the guy who’s reposting shit about nanomachines in your blood and vaccines injecting “thoughts and feelings” isn’t one of the imbeciles to which his muse refers.


Omicron Post #8 by Zvi (Less Wrong)

“Vaccines, boosters, masks, social distancing and isolating when sick are The Good Tools. Those are indeed good tools.

“Paxlovid, other treatments, rapid tests and any additional restrictions that people associate with ‘lockdowns’ and updated boosters for Omicron are the Bad Tools, which must never be mentioned. If we mentioned them, people might be less inclined to vaccinate, so Very Serious People are acting as if they represent an infohazard.

But serious people on this side of the ocean do talk about rapid tests—like, all the time; I have several in my apartment—and Paxlovid or Mjolnir (whatever…) are discussed in the press and by the BAG frequently. They want to keep people out of ICUs. The vaccine is the cheapest, most effective way. Many have elected not to use it. So they’re going to make things more expensive and drawn-out, but they’re our fellow citizens, so there’s nothing for it. If there are medications that they’re willing to take that keeps them from overwhelming the hospitals, great! They’ll be alive and immunized for a while.


Social Responsibility… To Do What? by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

“Where I get annoyed is in the suggestion that such a thing is an example of practicing greater civic responsibility. If you’re locking down but surviving doing so with meal delivery apps, online shopping, and delivery groceries, you’re not reducing risk, you’re just imposing it on other people. There’s nothing socially responsible about contributing to the mobilization of a mass underclass that risks Covid exposure every day.”
“Get vaccinated, and your chances of survival climb significantly. Once that’s done, medical science will save who it can save, and Covid will kill you or it won’t. Your desire for control is only human. But like so many human desires it’s defied by an indifferent universe. I don’t know what else you want me to tell you. Unless what you really want, what’s hiding under that “social responsibility” costume, is for me to worry more, feel worse. And to that I can heartily tell you, fuck off. Feeling bad never helped anyone, themselves, and will certainly never help the community.”


Biden Says the U.S. Is Not Going Back Into Lockdown Over Omicron by Ronald Bailey (Reason)

“Visibly angry, Biden stated, “Look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices, but those choices have been fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media.” He added: “You know, these companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters.” That, Biden declared, is “wrong, it’s immoral! I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation, stop it. Stop it now.”

It’s hard to disagree with any of that. Seems like a clear message.


Omicron cases less likely to require hospital treatment, studies show (Ars Technica)

“The reduction in severe illness was likely to stem from Omicron’s greater propensity, compared with other variants, to infect people who have been vaccinated or previously infected, experts stressed, though the UK studies also hinted at a possible drop in intrinsic severity.

“Unvaccinated groups remained the most at-risk but as the vast majority of breakthrough infections and reinfections caused by Omicron are mild, the proportion of all cases that developed severe disease is lower than with other variants.

“Cohen said the reduced burden on hospitals had allowed South Africa to handle the Omicron wave without imposing a lockdown, but she cautioned that the findings may not be applicable to western nations with older populations.”

In the Danish and South African data, they saw a skew because it was primarily younger people who are getting infected. This will almost certainly not translate directly to the European and U.S. populations—none of the previous waves have.

In all cases, the experts are warning that “there is limited evidence yet for any intrinsic reduction in severity”, which means that, for the unvaccinated, Omicron is just as deadly as Delta, but much more infectious. Combined with the tendency of hospitalizations and deaths to lag infections by 2–4 weeks, we should be very careful to declare premature victory and “let it rip”. But “let it rip” we will, because almost no government (other than China, maybe) is doing anything timely to contain the infection. We’re all just crossing our fingers 🤞and hoping that God is a benevolent God.


What’s Up With the CDC Nowcast? by Zvi (Less Wrong)

“The next time the media runs similar headlines, you’ll want to notice their conflation of projection and measurement, and also notice you are confused right away, and react accordingly. It’s important to recognize the difference between a measurement and a projection, and have heuristics for which projections have how much credibility.

This post addresses the obvious mistake that many are reporting that the U.S. now has 73% Omicron, implying a doubling rate of less than two days. The confounder is that there are not nearly enough corresponding case numbers to account for this huge jump. It turns out that the CDC data was reported with large error bars that everyone else in the media ignored.

“If positive test rates were mostly stable, and cases were mostly stable, but Omicron was three quarters of cases, then that implies a stunning decline in Delta. While Omicron was doubling every two days, Delta would have to be getting cut in half every three.

Since cases didn’t change that much in that time, then the assumption would have to be that Omicron ate into Delta’s numbers. But what’s the explanation for Delta dropping so much? This implies that some change in the population drastically affected Delta, but had zero effect on Omicron. That is hard to imagine, so it’s highly unlikely to have happened.


Coronavirus-Update Sonderfolge: Gerüchte und Fake-News zur Impfung einordnen | NDR Podcast by NDR Ratgeber (YouTube)

At 17:30, Herr Doktor Marc Hanefeld says,

“Nehmen wir mal einfach die Zulassungsstudien zu Biontech. Da haben wir eine 95% Effektivität. Und die Effektivität ist immer im Hinblick auf symptomatische Ansteckung. Das heisst, man wird angesteckt mit dem Virus und merkt was—hat Symptome. Diese hat 95% Effektivität am Anfang. Das heisst 5%—sprich jeder zwanzigste—konnte sich trotzdem anstecken. Würde nicht schwer krank werden aber kann das Virus weiter geben.”

A lot of what he had to say was very, very good. But my ears perked up at this explanation, because it’s wrong—it drastically undersells the efficacy of the vaccines (or any vaccine).[3] The 95% protection is relative to people without the vaccine. It means that of the number of unvaccinated people who became ill with COVID (in the control group), only 5% as many vaccinated people got it.

The 5% is not applied to the entire vaccinated group, but to the percentage of unvaccinated people in the control group who became ill. If each group had 10,000 people and about 100 people in the control group became ill, that means that only 5 vaccinated people of the 1000 because ill. That means that, while you had a 1% of getting sick without the vaccine, you had a .05% chance of getting sick if vaccinated.

It was never perfect, but it was incredibly good. Hanefeld’s formulation makes it sound like you have a 5% chance of getting infected when it’s actually much better than that—even with the waning effectivity of the vaccines against new variants and over time, the protection number you hear is still calculated in the same way—as a percentage of the likelihood that you’ll be infected without it. So a 50% protection means that you still only have a 0.5% chance of catching it if an unvaccinated person has a 1% of doing so.

On another topic, I was extremely hesitant to say that Hanefeld had formulated efficacy incorrectly (or sub-optimally) because I don’t want to be the kind of person who, without any formal training but a lot of “reading” starts disagreeing with experts, thinking that I can run with the big dogs. That’s why I found the Lancet reference in the footnotes, to corroborate my gut reaction.

The problem we have today is that there are far more people who think that they’re smarter than everyone else—with the corollary being that experts are kind of dumb, blinkered by their experience, set in their ways, and/or bought off by corporate interests. They think that they are the only ideologically pure and incisively clever person on the planet, doing humanity a favor by jumping in everywhere and fixing things.

This is an attractive plot for a movie, but it’s not how reality usually works. Sure, you’re going to get so-called experts who are bought off, who are hamstrung by pet theories, but those are generally also the experts who are considered to be damaged goods by other experts. The winnowing process of science and rationality generally works pretty well, if you can control for ego and corporate interest. One way to control for those things is to make sure that the incentives are lined up to guarantee correctness rather than fame. If the incentives allow for people to get famous or rich while pushing something they know is incorrect, then you are doomed to fail.


Pan-coronavirus “super” vaccine by Katelyn Jetelina & Dr. Eric Topol (Your Local Epidemiologist)

“A faster approach is the one just published by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research using “nanoparticle vaccine technology.” The vaccine presents a protein that looks like a soccer ball with many different faces (see figure below). Each face presents instructions for a different part or version of a virus. Then our body makes antibodies for each one of these faces and ensures that our antibody factories (called B-cells) remember these different designs.


America Is Not Ready for Omicron by Ed Yong (The Atlantic)

Hospitalizations are rising in 42 states. The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which entered the pandemic as arguably the best-prepared hospital in the country, recently went from 70 COVID patients to 110 in four days, leaving its staff “grasping for resolve,” the virologist John Lowe told me. And now comes Omicron. Will the new and rapidly spreading variant overwhelm the U.S. health-care system? The question is moot because the system is already overwhelmed, in a way that is affecting all patients, COVID or otherwise. “The level of care that we’ve come to expect in our hospitals no longer exists,” Lowe said.
“Here, then, is the problem: People who are unlikely to be hospitalized by Omicron might still feel reasonably protected, but they can spread the virus to those who are more vulnerable, quickly enough to seriously batter an already collapsing health-care system that will then struggle to care for anyone—vaccinated, boosted, or otherwise. The collective threat is substantially greater than the individual one. And the U.S. is ill-poised to meet it.
Two antiviral drugs now exist that could effectively keep people out of the hospital, but neither has been authorized and both are expensive. Both must also be administered within five days of the first symptoms, which means that people need to realize they’re sick and swiftly confirm as much with a test.”
“[…] instead of distributing rapid tests en masse, the Biden administration opted to merely make them reimbursable through health insurance. “That doesn’t address the need where it is greatest,” Planey told me. Low-wage workers, who face high risk of infection, “are the least able to afford tests up front and the least likely to have insurance,” she said. And testing, rapid or otherwise, is about to get harder, as Omicron’s global spread strains both the supply of reagents and the capacity of laboratories.

God, that country sucks.

Unless the former seriously commits to vaccinating the world—not just donating doses, but allowing other countries to manufacture and disseminate their own supplies—“it’s going to be a very expensive wild-goose chase until the next variant,” Planey said.”
“Rather than trying to beat the coronavirus one booster at a time, the country needs to do what it has always needed to do—build systems and enact policies that protect the health of entire communities, especially the most vulnerable ones. Individualism couldn’t beat Delta, it won’t beat Omicron, and it won’t beat the rest of the Greek alphabet to come. Self-interest is self-defeating, and as long as its hosts ignore that lesson, the virus will keep teaching it.


Press Briefing by White House COVID-⁠19 Response Team and Public Health Officials by Jeffrey Zients (White House)

“Our vaccines work against Omicron, especially for people who get booster shots when they are eligible. If you are vaccinated, you could test positive. But if you do get COVID, your case will likely be asymptomatic or mild.

“We are intent on not letting Omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this.

For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.

“So, our message to every American is clear: There is action you can take to protect yourself and your family. Wear a mask in public indoor settings. Get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get a booster shot when you’re eligible.

“We are prepared to confront this new challenge. We have plenty of vaccines and booster shots available at convenient locations and for no cost. There is clear guidance on masking to help slow the spread. And we have emergency medical teams to respond to surges as necessary.”

Jesus, is all tact gone?

“We need to consider both sides of the balance, not just the increasingly large chance of an increasingly small harm, but also the value of seeing loved ones.”

This is fine, I suppose, and it may be the only thing we can do. Now that all other choices are gone, we’re supposed to forget about long COVID as well?


China’s Zero COVID policy proves that the elimination of COVID-19 is possible by Joseph Kishore (WSWS)

“China’s rigorous controls on international travel—made necessary by the massive spread of the virus globally—have been combined with aggressive public health measures within the country to contain outbreaks, including targeted lockdowns, the isolation of infected individuals, mass testing and contact tracing.
“The submission explains that life inside China, including its major urban centers, “has been relatively normal since the end of the first wave in the spring of 2020. Businesses, such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters have been open throughout China.” For the most part, the population of China has not lived under the constant fear of being infected or infecting others.
“Those at risk of having been infected went into isolation, with safe housing provided by the state and food delivered on a regular basis. The total number of people in quarantine peaked at 1,300 one week after the initial cluster of infections was identified.
It took 15 days to go from the first detected case until the official end of the outbreak. This 15-day period was the only time that the 20 million residents of Chongqing had significant restrictions on their lives after the initial outbreak in early 2020.”
“[…] cities with populations under five million are required to have the capacity to test the entire population in just two days, while cities with populations above five million must be able to test everyone in five days.”
“The question that needs to be answered is not why such policies, clearly effective, were implemented in China, but why, despite the staggering toll in human lives, they have been rejected in the United States and Europe.
“The dilemma that China itself confronts is that the effort to maintain a Zero COVID policy in one country is, in the long term, unsustainable. Enormous pressure is being brought to bear by the major imperialist powers for China to abandon this policy. There are two motives behind this drive. First, China’s restrictions are seen as disruptive to US and European profit interests, inasmuch as China is a major center of production for the global capitalist market.”
The ruling class is fearful that China’s ability to eliminate the virus within its borders will encourage the growth of resistance in the international working class to the homicidal course upon which the financial oligarchy has embarked. It is this that accounts for the increasingly hysterical tone of anti-Chinese propaganda in which accusations of “genocide” are being leveled against China, which has demonstrated a far greater concern for the health and lives of its citizens, including the Uighurs, than the US or European powers.”

Economy & Finance

Not Everything Is Insider Trading by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“The basic bet of a SPAC is “will this sponsor find a good deal that I want to buy,” and that is hard to value and full of uncertainty. Tying it to a stable claim on $10 makes the combined security feel less uncertain: It’s mostly $10, plus some guesswork. That’s a thing that the SEC doesn’t mind. If you take away the $10 you are left with only the guesswork, which makes the SEC nervous.


The Trump SPAC PIPE Is Free Money by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“If a popular fictional television show has your product fictionally kill a high-profile fictional character in a fictional plotline, will your stock go down in real life? Yes, of course, why not, the boundaries between reality and fiction have been more or less entirely erased in the stock market so sure whatever go nuts.
“So the fat-finger error is what it is: Ha ha ha decentralized immutable code, your ape is gone, whatever. “A bot … coded … to take advantage of these exact situations”: This is just such a standard feature of crypto that there are built-in automated processes to take your apes when you fat-finger them. Great.”
“Decentralized finance does not get rid of those sorts of conflict; it just renders them explicit and creates a market for them. Instead of a tier of high-frequency traders paying a stock exchange a monthly fee for fast connections to its matching engine, it’s as if a stock exchange auctioned priority on every trade to the highest bidder.

So the inherent tilt toward the already wealthy—buying speed—is transformed in crypto to…buying priority outright. Much better. I can see why we’re putting so much energy and effort into changing the masters without changing the inherent stupidity and wastefulness of the system. Oh, sure, that’s what crypto claims they want too, but of course that’s what they’d say. It’s kind of hard to ignore that there has been no benefit, no clear path to a benefit, but that the main thing that has happened is that a bunch of undeserving (in that they’ve created no value) and mostly regenerate gamblers have gotten very rich doing unregulated things that always look like Ponzi schemes. Cool.

“I think a general tendency in crypto, and particularly in decentralized finance, is that it replaces other forms of social organization — companies, governments, trust, etc. — with markets and incentives. Here we have an instance of crypto replacing the concept of time priority with markets. Whoever is first to a trade gets to do the trade, but there is an auction for who gets to be first.”

I cannot for the life of me discern the social utility here. It was a bidding war between bots to rip off a human selling a definitionally useless NFT. I guess it’s OK since we literally have nothing more important to spend our time on. It’s good that this type of stuff actually forms part of the weave of finance that makes the world a better place for everyone … no WTF am I talking about? Of course it doesn’t. It’s criminal to spend time on this when so many other problems wait to be solved.

These guys are running the crap game on the deck of the titanic and telling everyone to play because they’re reinventing society. Just you wait until we get to shore—it’ll all pay off.

Public Policy & Politics

The Democrats Are Trying to Lose by David Sirota (Jacobin)

“All of this culminated in the modern expression of austerity, corruption, ineptitude, and let-them-eat-cakeism that coincided with the rise of fascism in Europe less than a century ago: In this iteration, a Maserati-driving coal magnate from one of the country’s poorest states stepped off his luxury yacht and told the country that he’s rescinding his promised support for any relief, just after he proudly backed a giant defense spending authorization bill, and after he previously demanded a giant bailout for his Wall Street donors.”
Forced to choose between their sponsors’ demands and fulfilling the campaign promises necessary to win the midterms, these Democrats have chosen the former — with most of them knowing they’ll be richly rewarded with post-government payouts as the rest of the country burns.”


Student Loan Debt Relief is Self-Interest, and Self-Interest is Politics by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

“If the government is going to eat the cost, why on earth would we wait until the debtholder is dead, rather than release them from it now, out of basic compassion? A huge portion of this debt is a write-off, period, end of story. And the fact that it’s more advantageous for political bookkeeping to let it evaporate on death rather than to forgive it just shows the inherent sickness in our system.


Why the Fuck Do You Trust Harvard? by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

Harvard has decided to eliminate the SAT from its selection criteria. What will it use instead? Whatever the hell it wants.

“You can’t make college admissions fair by getting rid of the SAT because colleges admissions can’t be “fair.” College admissions exist to serve the schools. Period. End of story. They always have, they always will. College admissions departments functioned as one big anti-Semitic conspiracy for decades because that was in the best interest of the institution. Guys who the schools know will never graduate but who run a 4.5 40 jump the line because admissions serves the institution. Absolute fucking dullards whose parents can pay − and listen, guys, it’s cute that you think legacies are somehow the extent of that dynamic, like they won’t let in the idiot son of a wealthy guy who didn’t go there − get in because admissions serves the institution. Some cornfed doofus from Wyoming with a so-so application gets in over a far more qualified kid from Connecticut because the marketing department gets to say they have students from 44 states in the incoming class instead of 43 that way, because admissions serves the institution. How do you people look at this world and conclude that the problem is the SAT?”
“You think, what, they would prefer to admit kids whose parents can’t possibly donate? The whole selection process for elite schools is to skim a band of truly gifted students from the top, then admit a bunch of kids with identical resumes whose parents will collectively buy the crew team a new boathouse, and then you find a kid whose parents moved to the states from Nigeria two years before he was born and whose family owns a mining company and you call that affirmative action. And if you look at all this, and you take to Twitter to complain about the SAT instead of identifying the root corruption at the schools themselves, you’re a fucking mark, a patsy. You’ve been worked, you’ve been took. You’re doing the bidding of some of the wealthiest, most elitist, most despicable institutions on earth. You think Harvard gives a single merciful fuck about poor Black teenagers? Are you out of your goddamned minds?
“It’s all corrupt. All of it. From the top to the bottom. It is so insane that all of these people who are ostensibly so cynical about institutions, who will tell you that capitalism is inherently a rigged game, who think meritocracy is a joke, who say that they think these hierarchies are all just privilege, will then turn around and say “ah yes, the SAT is gone, now fairness and egalitarianism will reign.” The whole damn thing makes no sense − it is nonsensical to talk about equality in a process that by its most basic nature is designed to select for a tiny elite! How the fuck do you think it’s going to work, exactly, when the SAT is gone? They’re still nominating a tiny elite to enjoy the most outsized rewards human life has to offer. That’s destructive no matter who gets a golden ticket. By its very nature.
““Equality”?!? Harvard only lets in 2000 kids a year! You really think carving out space for 50 more Black kids among them, if that actually even happens, is going to result in some sort of quantum leap forward for the average Black American? Is it not obvious that the whole scheme of fixing our racial inequalities by starting at the top by selecting some tiny number of Black overachievers and hoping the good times trickle down has failed, over and over again, since the start of desegregation? You can’t make Harvard “fair!” You can’t make it “equal!” Thinking otherwise is absolutely bonkers to me. Harvard exists to make sure our society is not equal. That is Harvard’s function.
You get that they just want to make it easier to turn down the poor but brilliant children of Asian immigrants, right? You understand that what Harvard and its feckless peers would like is to admit fewer students whose Korean parents clear $40,000 a year from their convenience stores, right?”
“It was in their best interest to use the SAT before, so they used it. Now it’s in their best interest to have even more leeway to select the bumbling doofus children of the affluent, and you’re applauding them for it in the name of “equity.” Brilliant.
“[…] instead of carrying water for the most vile and existentially hierarchical institutions imaginable, which reap insane profits from the interest on their endowments alone, perhaps you could take a moment and contemplate the possibility that getting rid of the SATs is just another way for them to consolidate total and unfettered privilege to choose whoever is going to make their pockets even heavier”


Why Are We Pouring Money Into a Black Box? Why Are We Subjecting Our Young People to a Process with Such Little Transparency? Why Are We Risking Our Economy On It All? by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

“[…] the idea that you must pursue academic excellence first and foremost in your admissions decisions − which, for the record, is a core foundational idea on which this whole exquisitely expensive house of cards is built, as transparently bogus as it is − has long been a thorn in the side of these institutions, which want to secure wealthy future donors and to leave the door wide open for celebrity applicants. (I assure you, if Timothee Chalamet had a 1.8 GPA and an arrest record as long as your arm, Harvard would find a pretext to let him in. I promise.)”
Princeton is an institution that sits on a $37.7 billion dollar endowment, for which it has enjoyed an annual 12.7% return over the past decade. This is an astronomical sum of money, but then, when you’re exempt from the large majority of taxes that apply to most human institutions, it’s a little bit easier.”
“Imagine, cruising through life as a tax-free entity with an endowment the size of the GDP of Uganda, and being expected to open your books to the taxpayers. The very thought.”
“[…] social justice warriors acting as useful idiots for some of the whitest, most elitist, least accountable institutions I can imagine. I will never, ever understand it. But hey. Maybe a slightly different flavor of rich kid will get into Princeton now. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.”


“We have no way further to retreat,” says Putin, as NATO escalates military build-up on Russia’s borders by Clara Weiss (WSWS)

“In an extraordinary speech on Tuesday before Russia’s officer corps, the entire Defense Ministry as well as cadets of military schools, President Vladimir Putin made clear that the Russian government is preparing for a potential war with NATO.

“For much of the speech, Putin highlighted case after case in the past three decades in which the US has bombed countries, in complete disregard of international law and previous agreements. He pointed to Iraq, Libya and Syria and, in particular, the bombing of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.”

“[…] the Biden administration met to discuss new sanctions in the case of a war between Russia and Ukraine, which hat would hit the Russian economy on a hitherto unprecedented scale. The sanctions now being discussed include the banning of any exports of Apple products, as well as technology that is critical to the aircraft and automobile industry of Russia, two of its largest industrial sectors. ”
“While Putin, not without foundation, is warning of the repetition of the Yugoslavian catastrophe on a much bigger scale in the former Soviet Union, the truth is that the Russian oligarchy has no progressive response whatsoever to the ever-growing danger of war.
“Now, that the imperialist powers are openly preparing for war against Russia, the only response from the Putin regime is a combination of endless begging for what Putin himself recognizes are worthless assurances, on the one hand, and the promotion of nationalism and a military build-up, on the other. ”

This is a good analysis. Russia is hopelessly outmatched, but will go down fighting. It is not Russia who is promoting war here; it is very clearly NATO and the U.S. The only reason the U.S. hasn’t run roughshod over Russia so far is because it has nuclear weapons. Russia does not have a “no first use” policy, instead reserving the right to use them “in case of aggression against Russia with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened.” (Wikipedia)

The truth is that the U.S. is already waging war on Russia. The U.S. applied economic sanctions in 2014, then upped the ante in 2017 with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Wikipedia).[4] These are already acts of war that significantly affect the population of Russia—and likely make it even more difficult for average Russians to get by, to say nothing of trying to get their own oligarchs off their backs. Economic sanctions are war by other means. People suffer and people die, but the attacking country has the benefit of painting itself as a stern and restrained paternal figure. Instead of out-and-out attacking—which everyone agrees would be horrible and illegal—they cripple the economy instead, which is, arguably, even more horrible, because the rest of the world just doesn’t care.


Loudoun County, Virginia: A Culture War in Four Acts by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

“In the shrinking opportunity zone that is the modern United States, where debt and privation spread like cancer and even wealthy parents fear their children can’t afford to waste their time having childhoods, the competition to put kids in pipelines to top feeder schools like TJ as early as possible is ferocious.”
Thomas Jefferson High’s population in 2018 was 70% Asian, a staggering number considering that in both Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, Asians are only 20% of the residents. According to the most recent Census data, the rest of the population in Loudoun is 67% white, 8% African-American, and 14% Hispanic.”
““We are the richest county in the country, I am sure we can find ways to fund the TJ program,” said Tejas Mehta.”

This is really rich-people problems. Their $20,00o per student pipeline to the Ivies is threatened.

“Speakers from this community rarely evinced concern over budget questions and seemed to have a similarly conspicuous disinterest in the county’s long-term goal of building its own version of “TJ,” a tendency that grated on some non-Asian local pols.”

They had figured out the system and were benefitting from it massively, so don’t touch a thing.

“In the end, the county followed the example of everyone from the University of California to the New York City School system under Bill de Blasio, replacing race-blind admissions and standardized testing with a new, “holistic,” “equity-based” system that would be described in media in a hundred different ways, but never as what it actually is: a mercy rule to stop Asian kids from demolishing the field.
“The argument over “gifted and talented” programs, be they in Loudoun or New York, requires asking if these programs really and truly provide higher-quality educations for students who need them. Research on the question is mixed. After all, what if they don’t work? What if these programs are just a big, inefficient drain on resources from the larger student gen-pop, benefiting a handful of kids with the economic or familial resources to succeed anyway? What if “gifted and talented” programs are really just an expensive (and ultimately ineffective) ploy at keeping the most affluent kids in every district from accelerating a long-ago-begun flight to private schools?”
“But there would also seem to be plenty of logic in rewarding immigrant families whose kids consistently bust their asses in class while showing a faith in the public school system native-born Americans often don’t, […]”


A Culture War in Four Acts: Loudoun County, Virginia. Part Two: “The Incident.” by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

“Within a few months, the Loudoun schools were transformed into a Boschian hellscape of penthouse-priced equity consultants, who “saw race everywhere” to degrees so far beyond even the most demented Fox News fantasies that the corpse of Roger Ailes almost sat up in surprise.”
“[…] documents we obtained via a Freedom of Information request indicate that the first major scope-of-work agreement — which ultimately paid Almanzan’s firm roughly $500,000 for the assessment and other work at a rate of $5000 per person, per day […]”

Holy shit! $650.- per hour. What a fucking scam. I’d be incensed at the shocking waste of tax dollars, too.

“Firms like the Equity Collaborative are professional sin-hunters and good at what they do, smart enough to make sure clients don’t stray from the point by focusing on fixable problems.


The Execution of Julian Assange by Chris Hedges (Mint Press News)

“The ten years he has been detained, seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and nearly three in the high security Belmarsh prison, were accompanied with a lack of sunlight and exercise and unrelenting threats, pressure, anxiety and stress. “His eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry,” his fiancé Stella Morris said of the stroke.
“[…] executioners have not yet completed their grim work. Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the Haitian independence movement, the only successful slave revolt in human history, was physically destroyed in the same manner, locked by the French in an unheated and cramped prison cell and left to die of exhaustion, malnutrition,”
“The executioners have not yet completed their grim work. Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the Haitian independence movement, the only successful slave revolt in human history, was physically destroyed in the same manner, locked by the French in an unheated and cramped prison cell and left to die of exhaustion, malnutrition, apoplexy, pneumonia and probably tuberculosis.
“Empires always kill those who inflict deep and serious wounds. Rome’s long persecution of the Carthaginian general Hannibal, forcing him in the end to commit suicide, and the razing of Carthage repeats itself in epic after epic. Crazy Horse. Patrice Lumumba. Malcolm X. Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Sukarno. Ngo Dinh Diem. Fred Hampton. Salvador Allende. If you cannot be bought off, if you will not be intimidated into silence, you will be killed.
““There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the judges wrote. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.””

I’m impressed the judge was able to enunciate that well with Uncle Sam so firmly lodged in his mouth.

““A Lot of Mistakes”: The Guardian and Julian Assange The High Court ruling ironically came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced at the virtual Summit for Democracy that the Biden administration will provide new funding to protect reporters targeted because of their work and support independent international journalism.”

Just shameless. Anthony Blinken is, in the very most generous interpretation, tone-deaf. In a less-generous one, he’s a monster.

“Blinken’s “assurances” that the Biden administration will defend a free press, at the very moment the administration was demanding Assange’s extradition, is a glaring example of the rank hypocrisy and mendacity that makes the Democrats, as Glen Ford used to say, “not the lesser evil, but the more effective evil.”
Assange, at tremendous personal cost, warned us. He gave us the truth. The ruling class is crucifying him for this truth. With his crucifixion, the dim lights of our democracy go dark.”


Tucker’s Crucial Fight Against Republican Russia Hawks by David Stockman (Antiwar.com)

Tucker’s rant against what he properly described as the ignorant blathering of “children” is worth quoting a length:

“Just this afternoon,” said Carlson, “Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi – not a genius, famously, but still, a sitting Republican senator – went on Fox News to say we may need to send American troops to Ukraine, and possibly – because this isn’t insane or anything – think about the use of nuclear weapons. Got that in our back pocket. Nuclear weapons. Roger Wicker, sitting U.S. Senator. No one in Washington laughed at Roger Wicker. This is so crazy, that no one seems aware of how crazy it is.”

“Here’s a sad piece of tape,” he said, referring to a recent appearance of Ernst on Fox News. “This is Joni Ernst, who’s totally affable, nice Republican, sort of reasonable on most things from the Midwest suddenly sounding like a bloodthirsty warmonger, sounding a lot like, actually, [Rep.] Adam Schiff [D-CA] when she talks about that dastardly Vladimir Putin.

“What you just saw there is a child who has no idea what she’s talking about, but keeps talking anyway,” he said. “‘We will defend Ukraine,’ says Joni Ernst. This is a senator from Iowa? So what happens if we don’t defend Ukraine, Joni Ernst? Will kids in Des Moines grow up to speak Russian? No one asked her that question. She’s never thought about it for a moment.”

He concluded, “It turns out that foreign lobbying campaigns work pretty well. And that’s why the Ukrainians paid for one in Washington.”

That’s actually pretty good. That’s a mic drop. Sometimes he finds a truffle. Can’t deny that. He’s tearing into vapid Republican senators—on the most popular show on FOX News. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m sure I’ll regret it. But those things above were said on FOX News and not in the NY Times.

“In a word, Empire First easily consumes one-half trillion dollars more in annual budgetary resources than would America First. And that giant barrel of weapons contracts, consulting and support jobs, lobbying booty and Congressional pork explains everything you need to know about why the Swamp is so deep and intractable; and also why the purported “anti-Big Government” Republicans are Leviathan’s best friend on the Pentagon side of the Potomac.”
“[…] sixty-five years after the unnecessary war in Korea ended, there is only one reason why the Kim family is still in power in Pyongyang and why they have noisily brandished their incipient nuclear weapons and missiles. To wit, it’s because the Empire still occupies the Korean peninsula and surrounds its waters with more lethal firepower than was brought to bear against the industrial might of Nazi Germany during the whole of WWII.
“Indeed, the whole post-1991 NATO expansion is so preposterous as a matter of national security that its true function as a fig-leaf for Empire First fairly screams out loud. Not one of these pint-sized nations would matter for US security if they decided to have a cozier relationship with Russia – voluntarily or not so voluntarily.”
“In a word, 83% of eligible Crimeans turned out to vote and 97% of those approved canceling the aforementioned 1954 edict of the Soviet Presidium and rejoining mother Russia during the March 2014 referendum. There is absolutely no evidence that the 80% of Crimeans who thus voted to sever their historically short-lived affiliation with Ukraine were threatened or coerced by Moscow.


Enteignet Facebook by Jan Böhmermann (ZDFMagazin Royale)

This was a pretty good episode that covered the degree to which Facebook has inveigled itself into the world’s culture. The episode and very interesting Interview with Max Schrems are in German, but there’s a follow-up interview with Frances Haugen that’s in English and also well-worth watching.

In it, she explains why we should care about Facebook’s power and why she keeps talking about Facebook’s obligation to increase its oversight. It turns out that, in many countries, the Internet is equivalent to Facebook. In that case, you can either try to pry it away from them (preferable), but in the meantime, we should expect Facebook to protect those countries’ democracies in the way that they would had they control of their own infrastructure.

Journalism & Media

It’s all kicking off on train TikTok by Ryan Broderick (Garbage Day)

“TikTok is the most engrossing social platform that’s ever been created, but also offers the smallest window into the lives of its users. It creates a situation where you believe you know everything there is to know about the person behind an account like @francis.bourgeois. I mean, you spend so much time watching his videos, how could you NOT, right? And then when you’re confronted with any new information about a TikTok user it’s incredibly jarring and destabilizing.

But this isn’t anything new, is it? They’re acting like TikTok is covering new ground, but this territory has already been heavily treaded by reality TV over the last decades. It’s always been like this: people are engaged and interested, but God help you if you try to convince them it’s not real. You can’t let it slip that everything is scripted or that the people are not who they seem. If it turns out that they’re actors or, God forbid, profiting from their fame, then they automatically lose their status.

People don’t want the illusion to be shattered. In the case of TikTok users, that illusion is often “this person is like me”. They identify with that person. But what happens when they learn something that shatters that illusion? They get mad and want to retaliate for having been fooled. They are angry that they’ve wasted their time on something that’s very clearly not been worth it.

They fooled themselves into thinking it was worth it, but now they’ve learned that it wasn’t. They fell for what they now consider to be a scam and they realize that, despite all of the time and energy and devotion and love they’ve invested into it, they’ve nothing to show for it. That’s why these things inevitably collapse. People are fickle fools.


This subject line is the optimal length by Ryan Fredericks (Garbage Day)

“Though, perhaps the most interesting takeaway from this — beyond American social media users’ insatiable need to laugh at and ridicule and dissect viral clips of unwell people having some kind of crisis on an airplane, even if those clips turn out to be scripted — is how jarring Facebook-optimized content is to the wider internet. After a decade of algorithmic tweaking, content that does well on Facebook is now so completely insane looking that it continually causes moral panics and knee-jerk outrage when it’s viewed by users not accustomed to it.

Science & Nature

The Phrase “No Evidence” Is A Red Flag For Bad Science Communication by Scott Siskind (Astral Codex Ten)

“Science communicators are using the same term − “no evidence” − to mean: This thing is super plausible, and honestly very likely true, but we haven’t checked yet, so we can’t be sure. We have hard-and-fast evidence that this is false, stop repeating this easily debunked lie. This is utterly corrosive to anybody trusting science journalism.
“I’m not saying this process is easy or even that I’m very good at it. I’m just saying that once you understand the process, it no longer makes sense to say “no evidence” as a synonym for “false”.
“But I think the most virtuous way to write this is to actually investigate. If it’s worth writing a story about why there’s no evidence for something, probably it’s because some people believe there is evidence. What evidence do they believe in? Why is it wrong? How do you know?
“Why do people believe masks could slow spread? Well, because it seems intuitively obvious that if something is spread by droplets shooting out of your mouth, preventing droplets from shooting out of your mouth would slow the spread. Does that seem like basically sound logic?
“It’s worrisome if experiments that cannot be reproduced are used to launch clinical trials or drug development efforts, Kimmelman says. If it turns out that the science on which a drug is based is not reliable, “it means that patients are needlessly exposed to drugs that are unsafe and that really don’t even have a shot at making an impact on cancer,” he says.”

Yeah, also, you can’t tell the difference from hokum. I was going to write “actual” hokum, but science says that everything is hokum until proven otherwise. A medicine based on false, unreliable, or nonexistent evidence is not better than a “medicine” that doesn’t even try to sell itself as “real”. It’s just more likely to be prescribed and covered by insurance—it’s a more convincing scam (until proven otherwise).


Comment on “Diseasonality” by demost_ (Astral Codex Ten)

“So the infection spreads, but not for long. As soon as 0.5 percent of the population have caught the disease, × goes down to its original value. Then R=1, and the system is back to equilibrium. This basically happens every day.

“But what happens if we have seasons? This is a relatively sudden event that increases R_0. Let’s say R_0 suddenly goes up by 10%, so by a factor of 1.1.”


A massive 8-year effort finds that much cancer research can’t be replicated by Tara Haelle (Science News)

“The overarching lessons of the project suggest that substantial inefficiency in preclinical research may be hampering the drug development pipeline later on, says Tim Errington, who led the project.”

Speak of the devil (see previous article). That statement sounds like euphemistic bullshit. I think “cheating to get grants ant to get into the development pipeline” is a better fit. The shitty incentives are obvious. They’ve been around long enough to attract the unscrupulous and crowd out earnest players (people who genuinely would rather do cancer research than write scammy grant applications).

“As many as 14 out of 15 cancer drugs that enter clinical trials never receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sometimes that’s because the drugs lack commercial potential, but more often it is because they do not show the level of safety and effectiveness needed for licensure.

And some fools at Reason Magazine cannot stop writing about how badly they want to get rid of regulation. Without regulation, all of these drugs would be on the market, at least for a little while.

Either they would kill people so quickly that they would be pulled off the market before too many people are harmed—or maybe they would be able to song-and-dance it long enough to capture enough public mindshare to fund a misinformation campaign, make obscene profits, and have more than enough money over to pay the paltry judgments in 15 years, when the lawsuits finally wend their way through the courts.

It’s a good business plan. It’s one we’ve seen happen many times in unregulated markets. People think that we would never just fall back into the wicked old days of scammers selling snake oil. That’s not true. We are worse than ever at detecting scams.

“That attitude is a product of a research culture that values innovation over replication, and that prizes the academic publish-or-perish system over cooperation and data sharing, Nosek says.”
““Publication is the currency of advancement, a key reward that turns into chances for funding, chances for a job and chances for keeping that job,” Nosek says. “Replication doesn’t fit neatly into that rewards system.””


The Problems with the Pro-Nuclear Left by Joshua Frank (CounterPunch)

“[…] ~currently operated uranium mines would be exhausted between 2043 and 2055. If we assume this scenario to occur, it would not be possible to supply a nuclear power plant built now with uranium until the end of its lifetime.”
““The world does not need to exploit its entire renewable resource—just one percent is enough to replace all fossil fuel usage,” says report co-author Harry Benham. “Each year we are fueling the climate crisis by burning three million years of fossilized sunshine in coal, oil, and gas while we use just 0.01% of daily sunshine.”


To see proteins change in a quadrillionth of a second, use AI by Karmela Padavic-Callaghan (Ars Technica)

“The AI extracted the details of the process without the blurriness of the X-ray flashes, and it uncovered what the blur had been obscuring. Remarkably, these images showed how electrons inside the protein move within frames that are only femtoseconds apart. These movies—which the team later slowed down enough to allow the human eye to track the change—show electrons moving from one part of the protein to another. Their motion inside the molecule indicates how the whole thing is changing its structure.”

Art & Literature

Rothko at the Inauguration by Richard Warnica (Hazlitt)

“For Freedman, Rosales had been like a creature out of a fine art fairy tale. “She was effectively a stranger who had never really sold art through that gallery or any other gallery before,” Miller said. “And she suddenly had this treasure trove of unheard-of masterpieces by the great artists of the 20th century.””

When you put it like that, it doesn’t seem suspicious at all.

“In 2002, Levy, the Goldman Sachs executive, submitted the Pollock he purchased from Knoedler—a small greenish canvas painted with oil and enamel—to the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) for review. The IFAR report, when it came back, was scathing. The experts who viewed the painting found it “limp” and “formulaic.” The story Knoedler told about the painting’s history was “inconceivable,” “improbable,” and “difficult to believe.”

Umpteen paintings for thousands (50,000), sold to a gallery for millions (30,000,000), then sold to individuals at up to a 6x markup. And the money is all just fictitious and, for everyone but the artist, pocket money. No criminal investigation for obvious scams and fraud. No value created of any use. No wonder crypto is looking to the art world for upping their scamming game.

“Martin examined the canvas. He tested the paints. He found the work contained at least two pigments that weren’t developed until well after Pollock’s death, in 1956. He concluded, as he later would with the Rothko, that the painting was fake.”

Who cares whether it’s a real Pollack or not? What’s the actual, metaphysical, ontological difference? Because it’s not real value, as in it does something for you. The ridiculous valuations are because too many people with way too much disposable income are vying for status. While too many people starve and suffer, while they struggle with medical bills, these few elites are playing with millions. So many fakes. Like counterfeit or knockoff fashions. Like NFTs. It’s not new. It’s all part of the same, crude pattern of exploitation, an utterly tedious and wholly predictable ramification of the system that funnels money upward to the largely ignorant and undeserving.

““It’s rare for something like the De Soles trial to happen,” he said. “People just don’t have the energy. They just want their money back or they want to move on to the next thing they can make a profit [from].”

Because they have so much money it doesn’t matter. Must be nice.

“Glafira Rosales eventually gave up the fraud and cooperated with an FBI investigation. She spent three months in jail awaiting trial, pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $81 million in restitution. “Last I heard Glafira Rosales was a waitress at a diner in Queens,” Miller said.”
“[…] he also sees it as a reflection of a lot of what’s wrong in America today. “It’s easy to pin a lot of things on the art world, but it is a symptom, I think, in the way that student loan debt is a symptom,” he said. “It’s just a distillation of the free market and every horrible thing that it’s capable of doing.”
““As an anarchist, he disapproved of the wealthy and questioned their taste,” Fisher wrote in 1970, after Rothko’s suicide. But in the last decade of his life, only the very wealthy could afford his work. It was a conundrum that dogged him until his death. “When his work became a commodity he could no longer evaluate it,” his friend James Brooks told the journalist Lee Seldes. “He did not know whether people were buying his paintings because they were good or because they were Rothkos.”
“The paper where I worked, always conservative, had become both harder and less interesting under new management. I no longer covered the far right; at times I felt like I was participating in it by continuing to work there.

That feeling that you’re out there, trying to get rich, while a good part of society is actually trying to be useful.

“There are parallels, Miller believes, between the Knoedler case, the Rothko story, and the great, long scam of the Trump years. They all exposed things as they already were. “You very rarely in a luxury market like the art world, or high-end real estate—which is the world of the Trumps—see any kind of transparency,” he said. None of this was new, in other words. It wasn’t novel. It was just out there, briefly, for everyone to see.

Philosophy & Sociology

The Tyranny of Stuctureless by Jo Freeman in 1970

“This means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an “objective” news story, “value-free” social science, or a “free” economy. A “laissez faire” group is about as realistic as a “laissez faire” society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others.
“This hegemony can be so easily established because the idea of “structurelessness” does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly “laissez faire” philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so.
““Structurelessness” is organizationally impossible. We cannot decide whether to have a structured or structureless group, only whether or not to have a formally structured one.
“[…] an elite refers to a small group of people who have power over a larger group of which they are part, usually without direct responsibility to that larger group, and often without their knowledge or consent. A person becomes an elitist by being part of, or advocating the rule by, such a small group, whether or not that individual is well known or not known at all.”
Although this dissection of the process of elite formation within small groups has been critical in perspective, it is not made in the belief that these informal structures are inevitably bad – merely inevitable. All groups create informal structures as a result of interaction patterns among the members of the group. Such informal structures can do very useful things But only Unstructured groups are totally governed by them. When informal elites are combined with a myth of “structurelessness,” there can be no attempt to put limits on the use of power. It becomes capricious.”
“[…] informal structures have no obligation to be responsible to the group at large. Their power was not given to them; it cannot be taken away. Their influence is not based on what they do for the group; therefore they cannot be directly influenced by the group.”
“The press will continue to look to “stars” as spokeswomen as long as it has no official alternatives to go to for authoritative statements from the movement. The movement has no control in the selection of its representatives to the public as long as it believes that it should have no representatives at all.
As long as the only way women can participate in the movement is through membership in a small group, the nongregarious are at a distinct disadvantage. As long as friendship groups are the main means of organizational activity, elitism becomes institutionalized.”
“Letting people assume jobs or tasks only by default means they are not dependably done. If people are selected to do a task, preferably after expressing an interest or willingness to do it, they have made a commitment which cannot so easily be ignored.
Requiring all those to whom authority has been delegated to be responsible to those who selected them. This is how the group has control over people in positions of authority. Individuals may exercise power, but it is the group that has ultimate say over how the power is exercised.”

This seems be anarchy, as defined by Chomsky.

“Rotation of tasks among individuals. Responsibilities which are held too long by one person, formally or informally, come to be seen as that person’s “property” and are not easily relinquished or controlled by the group. Conversely, if tasks are rotated too frequently the individual does not have time to learn her job well and acquire the sense of satisfaction of doing a good job.”
“Allocation of tasks along rational criteria. Selecting someone for a position because they are liked by the group or giving them hard work because they are disliked serves neither the group nor the person in the long run. Ability, interest, and responsibility have got to be the major concerns in such selection. People should be given an opportunity to learn skills they do not have, but this is best done through some sort of “apprenticeship” program rather than the “sink or swim” method. Having a responsibility one can’t handle well is demoralizing. Conversely, being blacklisted from doing what one can do well does not encourage one to develop one’s skills.”


”It may be Alright in Theory but it doesn’t Work in Practice” by Martin Butler (3 Quarks Daily)

“There is also the broader point of what we actually mean when we say something works. Societies can work well for some and badly for others, so the very idea of ‘not working in practice’ is a vague criterion. For the Russian oligarchs the imposition of the free market system in the 1990s worked very well indeed.

Technology

Internet Literacy Atrophy by Elizabeth (Less Wrong)

“Meanwhile, I’m aging out of being the cool young demographic marketers crave. New apps appeal to me less and less often. Sometimes something does look fun, like video editing, but the learning curve is so steep and I don’t need to make an Eye of The Tiger style training montage of my friends’ baby learning to buckle his car seat that badly, so I pass it by and focus on the millions of things I want to do that don’t require learning a new technical skill.
“I have a hypothesis that I’m staring down the path my boomer relatives took. New technology kept not being worth it to them, so they never put in the work to learn it, and every time they fell a little further behind in the language of the internet – UI conventions, but also things like the interpersonal grammar of social media – which made the next new thing that much harder to learn. Eventually, learning new tech felt insurmountable to them no matter how big the potential payoff.


10 years of… whatever this has been by Apen Warr

“Congratulations, we’ve now seen the bitcoin movement get big enough to matter! There’s a corresponding increase in regulation, from SEC investigations, to outright banning in some countries, to the IRS wanting to tax you on it, to anti-terrorist financing and KYC rules. Each new regulation removes yet another supposed advantage of using something other than cash.
“For heaven’s sake, people, it’s software. You built a system, or series of systems, that will fail in completely predictable ways, forever, if you didn’t get the software perfectly right the first time. What did you think would happen.”

Which you totally didn’t, crypto-folk. You didn’t build it perfectly because no-one ever does. Especially not when the point is to fleece marks rather than to go to the moon or something (no pun intended).

Blockchains became the center of gravity of almost all scams on the Internet. I don’t know what kind of achievement that is, exactly, but it’s sure something.”
“More and more blockchains. There are so many of them now (see “scams”, above), claiming to do all sorts of things. None of them do. But somehow even bitcoin is still alive, even though a whole ecosystem of derivative junk has sprouted trying to compete with it.
“[…] the failures of this new financial system are just like the historical failures of old financial systems, albeit with faster iterations. Some people are excited about how much faster we can make more expensive mistakes now. I’m not so sure.”
“I wrote the whole article expecting bitcoin to fail at being a currency, but that charade ended almost immediately. What exists now is an expensive, power-hungry, distributed, online gambling system.
“Similarly, movements don’t die just because they are, in every conceivable way, stupid. Projects live or die because of the energy people do or do not continue to put into them.
“A lot of stuff will get redesigned in the name of blockchains. Like XML, the blockchains will always make it worse, but if carefully managed, maybe not too much worse. Something good will eventually come out of it, by pure random chance, because of all those massive rewrites. Blockchains will take credit for it, like XML took credit for it. And then we’ll finally move on to the next thing.


IPv4, IPv6, and a sudden change in attitude by Apen Warr

“Internets are fundamentally sloppy. No matter how many committees you might form, ultimately connections are made by individuals plugging things together. Those things might follow the specs, or not. They might follow those specs well, or badly. They might violate the specs because everybody else is also violating the specs and that’s the only way to make anything work. The connections themselves might be fast or slow, or flakey, or only functional for a few minutes each day, or subject to amateur radio regulations, or worse.”
“Postel’s Law says simply this: be conservative in what you send, and liberal in what you accept. Try your best to correctly handle the bugs produced by the other end. The most successful network node is one that plans for every “impossible” corruption there might be in the input and does something sensible when it happens. (Sometimes, yes, “something sensible” is to throw an error.)”
“The way I like to say it is, “It takes two to miscommunicate.” A great listener, or a skilled speaker, can resolve a lot of conflicts.]”
“Well, here we are 25 years later, and not much has changed. If we were feeling snarky, we could perhaps describe IPv6 as “the String Theory of networking”: a decades-long boondoggle that attracts True Believers, gets you flamed intensely if you question the doctrine, and which is notable mainly for how much progress it has held back.”
“IP mobility is what we do, in a small way, with Tailscale’s WireGuard connections. We try all your Internet links, IPv4 and IPv6, UDP and TCP, relayed and peer-to-peer. We made mobile IP a real thing, if only on your private network for now. And what do you know, the math works. Tailscale’s use of WireGuard with two networks is more reliable than with one network. Now, can it work for the whole Internet?

Programming

A deep dive into an NSO zero-click iMessage exploit: Remote Code Execution by Ian Beer & Samuel Groß (Google Project Zero)

“JBIG2 doesn’t have scripting capabilities, but when combined with a vulnerability, it does have the ability to emulate circuits of arbitrary logic gates operating on arbitrary memory. So why not just use that to build your own computer architecture and script that!? That’s exactly what this exploit does. Using over 70,000 segment commands defining logical bit operations, they define a small computer architecture with features such as registers and a full 64-bit adder and comparator which they use to search memory and perform arithmetic operations. It’s not as fast as Javascript, but it’s fundamentally computationally equivalent.

“The bootstrapping operations for the sandbox escape exploit are written to run on this logic circuit and the whole thing runs in this weird, emulated environment created out of a single decompression pass through a JBIG2 stream. It’s pretty incredible, and at the same time, pretty terrifying.”


RCE in Visual Studio Code’s Remote WSL for Fun and Negative Profit by Parsia (Hackerman's Hacking Tutorials)

The Local WebSocket Server

Every time you see a local WebSocket server, you should check WHO can connect to it.

“WebSocket connections are not bound by the Same-Origin Policy and JavaScript in the browser can connect to local servers.”

— TL;DR WebSockets

WebSockets start with a handshake. It is always a “simple” (in the context of Cross-Origin Resource Sharing or CORS) GET request so the browser sends it without a preflight request.

These bugs can be chained:
  1. The local WebSocket server is listening on all interfaces. If allowed through the Windows firewall, outside applications may connect to this server.
  2. The local WebSocket server does not check the Origin header in the WebSocket handshakes or have any mode of authentication. The JavaScript in the browser can connect to this server. This is true even if the server is listening on localhost.
  3. We can spawn a Node inspector instance on a specific port. It’s also listening on all interfaces. External applications can connect to it.
  4. If an outside app or a local website can connect to either of these servers, they can run arbitrary code on the target machine.


Understanding Rendering in the Jamstack by Brian Rinaldi (Bejamas)

“ISR is primarily a solution for very large sites that allows them to dramatically reduce their build times by prerendering the critical at build time and the less critical (perhaps less trafficked) pages when they are first requested. In some cases, ISR can also be used to serve dynamic or user-generated content, effectively serving as a heavily-cached SSR route.”

This is literally pre-caching. This is not groundbreaking. How inexperienced are these developers? I was unaware that statically rendered sites had gotten so popular that the technology has a name: “Jamstack”.


Embrace the Platform by Bramus (CSS-Tricks)

“What Berners-Lee wrote almost 25 years ago stands the test of time. It’s up to us, developers, to honor that message. By embracing what the web platform gives us — instead of trying to fight against it — we can build better websites. Keep it simple. Apply the Rule of Least Power. Build with progressive enhancement in mind. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript — in that order.


WebAssembly and Back Again: Fine-Grained Sandboxing in Firefox 95 by Bobby Holley (Moz://a Hacks)

We accomplished this with wasm2c, which performs a straightforward translation of WebAssembly into equivalent C code, which we can then feed back into Clang along with the rest of the Firefox source code. This approach is very simple, and automatically enables a number of important features that we support for regular Firefox code: profile-guided optimization, inlining across sandbox boundaries, crash reporting, debugger support, source-code indexing, and likely other things that we have yet to appreciate.”

Video Games

Axie Infinite Jest by Ryan Borderick (Garbage Day)

“If you aren’t familiar with the term “Web3,” or, more likely, have heard it and are terrified as to what it could mean, it’s a movement led by cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts who want to create a new version of the internet built on the blockchain, a semi-automated somewhat-decentralized digital ledger that records online transactions.”

We couldn’t even get ipv6, which would have actually been useful. Still, being useless has never stopped crypto before.

“It’s called Axie Infinity and, according to a Rest Of World deep dive into it from August, the NFT-based video game is helping players in countries like the Philippines make thousands of dollars a month.

This already has the stink of Roblox about it.

“[…] the general consensus is that you need about $1000 to really start playing Axie Infinity, which has given rise to guilds and scholarships, which are either a great system for onboarding new users or a terrifying hybrid of a predatory lender and debt slavery built on a collectible cartoon monster game. Whether or not this all sounds deranged and terrifying depends on how much time you wasted on World Of Warcraft back in the day, I suppose.”

$1,000 to start. Sounds about right for a scam. I imagine that it sounds like a lot less, at the start.

“As I said, it seems like everybody in “Axie Nation” knows the music stops if the inflows of cash from new players fails to pay all the existing players who have made this into a job. There’s a page in the official whitepaper that talks about it, and a cofounder even said in an interview, “Am I surprised we’ve gotten this far without Axie upgrading [an idea to make it less ponzinomic] and things like that? To be honest, yes I am.””
“The way Axie plans on doing this is to try and grow the percentage of players who are there to spend money because they want to have fun, and aren’t there to take money out of the game economy in order to pay their bills.”
“In reality, Axie is not a nation. It does not have a functioning economy. It’s more like a well-intentioned small-town employer that is struggling to pay its workers, because the primary thing the workers do—play Axie—does not create sufficient economic value.
“The day the boss stops handing out paychecks is the day workers stop showing up.”


[3]

The article What does 95% COVID-19 vaccine efficacy really mean? by Piero Olliar (The Lancet) agrees,

“[…] a 95% vaccine efficacy means that instead of 1000 COVID-19 cases in a population of 100 000 without vaccine (from the placebo arm of the abovementioned trials, approximately 1% would be ill with COVID-19 and 99% would not) we would expect 50 cases (99.95% of the population is disease-free, at least for 3 months).”
[4] I feel like I’ve been hearing about sanctions on Russia for much longer than the last six years, but I couldn’t find any strong evidence of it in a quick search.