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Links and Notes for November 19th, 2021


<n>Below are links to articles, highlighted passages<fn>, and occasional annotations<fn> for the week ending on the date in the title, <a href="{app}/view_article.php?id=4085">enriching the raw data</a> from <a href="">Instapaper Likes</a> and <a href="">Twitter</a>. They are intentionally succinct, else they'd be <i>articles</i> and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.</n> <ft><b>Emphases</b> are added, unless otherwise noted.</ft> <ft>Annotations are only lightly edited.</ft> <h>Table of Contents</h> <ul> <a href="#covid">COVID-19</a> <a href="#economy">Economy & Finance</a> <a href="#politics">Public Policy & Politics</a> <a href="#journalism">Journalism & Media</a> <a href="#science">Science & Nature</a> <a href="#art">Art & Literature</a> <a href="#philosophy">Philosophy & Sociology</a> <a href="#programming">Programming</a> </ul> <h><span id="covid">COVID-19</span></h> <media href="" src="" source="YouTube" width="560px" author="Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim" caption="Corona-Endlosschleife | Kommen wir da jemals wieder raus?"> <bq>Schlachtplan gegen das Virus:<ol> Die Impflücke so schnell und so vollständig wie möglich schließen Geimpfte so schnell wie möglich boostern Bis dahin - Flatten The Curve, mit der ganzen Käseplatte</ol></bq> <hr> <a href="" author="Jeffrey St. Clair" source="CounterPunch">Roaming Charges: Fear is a (White) Man’s Best Friend</a> <bq>The latest data published in Nature shows that <b>a three-dose combo of Cuba’s Soberana vaccine has 92.4% efficacy in clinical trials.</b> It’s really remarkable what Cuba’s done, given the stranglehold we’ve placed them under.</bq> <hr> <a href="" author="" source="WSWS">Live updates: WHO officially designates new COVID-19 strain “variant of concern”</a> <bq>The rate at which Omicron is displacing Delta is exceptionally remarkable and horrifying. According to Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam, a complex system physicist who has been studying pandemics for nearly two decades, <b>current rough estimates indicate that it is six times more transmissible than the original variant and twice as transmissable as the Delta variant.</b> More concerning is that the <b>crude mortality estimates for Omicron are eight times higher than the original variant.</b></bq> <h><span id="economy">Economy & Finance</span></h> <a href="" source="Bloomberg" author="Matt Levine">Zillow Tried to Make Less Money</a> <bq>Or if a company issues a bond with a prospectus saying “this bond pays 5% interest,” on the cover and repeatedly throughout the prospectus, but the indenture says “this bond pays 3% interest,” and page 67 of the prospectus says “this prospectus is qualified by reference to the indenture, which actually governs the terms of the bond,” what is the interest rate on the bond? <b>I think the contract-law answer is 3%, the rate in the indenture, the actual contract that governs the bond. I think the securities-law answer is 5%, the rate prominently displayed in the marketing of the bond. “But we said in a cross-reference on page 67 to check with the indenture!” No, come on. Either you pay 5% or you get sued for securities fraud</b> and you lose and pay damages of, effectively, 5% interest.</bq> <bq>“Advise.” You can vote your governance tokens in the DAO, and then the two particular humans who run the LLC that owns the copy of the Constitution will take your votes under advisement. <b>It’s not quite the sort of trustless decentralized blah blah blah that crypto promises.</b></bq> <bq>Eventually one assumes that a world of crypto companies will have to operate like this: <b>There will be smart contracts on the blockchain, and legal entities that carry out the smart contracts’ desires in the real world</b>, and there will be well-understood interfaces between them, and statutes and case law that allow the smart contracts to govern the entities and so forth.</bq> <bq>I know, I know, the traders are saying: “No, this is stupid, your algorithms will not be 100% precise, some of your ‘lowball’ bids will in fact be too high, and those will be the ones that sellers accept. You’ll get adverse selection and end up losing money.” But that was not Zillow’s actual experience in the first quarter! <b>The actual experience is presumably that *some* people accidentally got too-high bids, realized they were good and accepted them, but *mostly* Zillow sent too-low bids to everyone, and some people, for whatever irrational reason —market ignorance or financial necessity or laziness or whatever —accepted the too-low bids.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" source="Project Syndicate" author="James K. Galbraith">The Choking of the Global Minotaur</a> <bq>The supply disruptions plaguing the US economy are not the result of "excessive demand," "central planning," or a lack of efficiency. Rather, <b>it is that a logistics ecosystem that was developed to feed the beast of American consumption was not designed for a pandemic.</b></bq> <bq>The point about “efficiency” gets closer to reality, except that the problem is not too little efficiency, but too much. To be precise, <b>the extreme efficiency of today’s global supply chains is also their fatal flaw.</b> Well-run ports are models of high throughput and low costs. They incorporate docks, railheads, truck bays, storage areas, and heavy-lifting equipment to suit the traffic they expect. <b>Building capacity beyond a small margin of safety would be a waste.</b></bq> <bq>The ships bearing the goods started showing up again. But <b>there was a new problem: to offload full containers, one must have a place to put them.</b> According to press reports, the yards and warehouses were already filled with empties. Moreover, trucks bearing fresh empties could not unload them, and thus could not take on new containers.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="Bloomberg" author="Matt Levine">JPMorgan Fights Tesla Over Warrants</a> <bq><b>I do not think I am giving away any huge secrets here when I say that, if a client gives its bank broad discretion to adjust a complex transaction to preserve value for itself, and the bank uses that discretion, the client will end up annoyed.</b> The client will announce a merger, it will have a party, it will be well pleased, and then its bank will show up and say “hey remember that warrant we did a few years ago? Yeah you owe us an extra $150 million on that. Due to volatility. I can show you the model but you won’t understand</bq> <bq>On the other hand it is not a great defense to be like “when our CEO makes corporate announcements nobody should listen to him.” JPMorgan might not have actually believed Elon Musk when he said he was going to take Tesla private. But it’s weird for Tesla to argue that. He’s the CEO! If he says he’s going to take Tesla private, Tesla is kind of committed to that position.</bq> <bq>From the date of the first article published by The Wall Street Journal on September 13, 2021 to The Wall Street Journal article published on October 21, 2021 that raised concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the Company’s user metrics, <b>Facebook’s stock price declined by $54.08 per share, or over 14%, representing a decline of more than $150 billion in Facebook’s total market capitalization.</b></bq> Amazing. All just fictitious value, purely based on the hopes of investors, all clapping to keep Tinkerbell alive <bq>Imagine the attorney general of Ohio trying to sue Meta on behalf of children who were negatively impacted by using Facebook and Instagram. <b>He’d have to find the children in Ohio who used Facebook and Instagram, and figure out how sad Facebook and Instagram made them.</b> It would be hard to turn that into a damages claim, especially one with a big dollar number; how much is a child’s sadness worth in dollars? He could seek an injunction — not “pay us money” but rather “change your policies to be nicer to children” — but that would require him to figure out what the right policies are, [...]</bq> <bq>I do not disagree with this but <b>it continues to be just a weird way to structure a society.</b> Here you have the top law enforcement officer of a state saying that Facebook did things that were bad for society in order to maximize profits for its shareholders. <b>“How bad were those things, for society,” you might ask the attorney general, and his only answer is to measure how much they cost the shareholders.</b></bq> <bq>If you are the CEO of a public company, I want you to consider very seriously going to an investment conference with no pants on. Your stock will go up, your shareholders will be happy and your cost of financing will go down. <b>“Why would my stock go up because I don’t wear pants,” you ask me, and I say, shh, shh, it just will, don’t ask why.</b></bq> <bq>Also, not to be like this, but there is an original copy of the Constitution on permanent display at the National Archives; <b>it is already “in the hands of the people,” in the sense that (1) it is owned by the U.S. government and (2) the U.S. government is, when you think about it, sort of a decentralized autonomous organization made up of the citizens of the U.S.?</b> The citizens can kind of tell the government what to do? By voting? When you think about it? I don’t know.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="Bloomberg" author="Matt Levine">Of Course MoviePass Is Back</a> <bq><b>The stock was down about 4% as of 11 a.m. today; it’s down about 19% since Nov. 5, the last trading day before Musk’s poll.</b> In general it is my theory that when Musk is loud, annoying and funny on Twitter, that is good for Tesla’s stock price; that attracts the attention of loyal fans who will bid up the stock. But it is not working here, I suppose for the obvious reason that the particular loud, annoying, funny thing that Musk is doing on Twitter is dumping billions of dollars of Tesla stock. <b>One lesson here is that if Musk wants to tank Tesla’s stock — by talking constantly for a week about how he’s selling it — he can do it. Why does he want to?</b></bq> 19% of the supposed value gone in two weeks. It's a hilarious lesson that very little of the supposed value of the assets on the market now can actually be retrieved into the real world. The very act of retrieving it destroys the remaining parts. When Elon cashes in his expiring options, he has to pay taxes on them, so he sells the only thing of value that he has: Tesla stock. The act of selling this stock---especially in the amount that he's selling it---makes people lose faith that it could be that valuable, regardless of <i>why</i> he's doing it (he's kind of forced to, if he wants to invest in Tesla by vesting his options). So Musk is actually buying more stock (vesting options), but he's also selling a ton of stock in order to pay for the capital gains taxes that come with vesting options that are valued at $10 for $1,100. He's making dozens of billions, but he also owes billions in taxes (it's income!). But the value is so fragile that every tranche he sells is worth less because everyone else also sells, triggering a run. It'll be the same with Bitcoin, once the run starts. People are going to pile up, heading for the exits---because they all know that they have <i>virtual value</i> that doesn't buy them anything real until they get it into the real world, in a form that other people are willing to accept as a form of payment. To be sure, there are a comparative handful of people whose wealth has reached so-called escape velocity. They have enough assets that they can borrow against them, no matter what. But most people aren't like that. They need to get their gambling, video-game money, their internet points, as it were, into some form of legal tender. Any asset that's so tremendously overvalued is bound to topple as everyone is waiting with bated breath to see who blinks first and starts to exit. No-one actually believes themselves that what they have is so valuable---they are basing their decisions on what they think everyone else thinks the value is. And the wave climbs higher and higher, never cresting, but becoming more and more unstable. Which ripple will collapse it? Living and working in such a long bull market is <i>exhausting</i> because there's nowhere left to extract value---everything is too expensive. Investing at the top of the wave requires hyper-attention and a tremendous amount of luck. I bet a lot of people are <i>hoping</i> that this damned thing collapses so that they can go back to <i>normal</i>. I mean, they like making money, but it's super-stressful to keep making money and to keep your hand in, when you know it's getting closer and closer to blowing up and wiping you out...but you can't get out because you don't want to miss out on that sweet, sweet money that you could be making because the wave hasn't quite started crashing yet, but trying to figure out when that's going to happen, to predict it close enough to be able to get out without going down with it,...that's incredibly stressful. I bet a lot of these gamblers want to cash out and go home, but they <i>can't</i>, but their very nature. So everyone stays in and the value grows and gets more unstable, but won't topple because no-one is taking the first step. Evergreen didn't topple it. Container ships piling up on everyone's coasts aren't going to do it. Possible temporary inflation isn't going to do it. Gas prices? Nope. What about strikes? Didn't move the needle. COVID didn't do it. Maybe Omicron will? (The market dropped 2.5% today on news of Omicron ... maybe people actually believe in this variant.) <hr> <a href="" source="Bits about Money" author="Patrick McKenzie">Debit cards are hidden financial infrastructure</a> <bq>Consider again the median bank user, who might have a pre-tax income of around $60,000, post-tax post-transfers cashflow of $3.5k a month, and rent of approximately $1,000. (<b>These numbers likely sound low to many readers; remember that the median American is not a professional employee in a coastal city.</b>)</bq> Hahaha. I thought they sounded high. That yearly salary is higher than the average in Switzerland, to say nothing of the States. But now I know what his readership looks like. <bq>Interestingly, pricing instant payouts serves an important packaging goal for fintech applications: the actual thing that the user wants isn’t money in their bank account faster. It is to be able to meet an obligation at a known time in the immediate future. <b>Charging a convenience fee for instant payouts allows fintechs, and businesses with embedded financial infrastructure like gig economy platforms, to position their own debit cards as a free alternative with the same instantaneous funds availability.</b></bq> Cool. Access to.their money is metered and a huge business for unfathomably wealthy firms. <bq>[...] <b>debit card interchange in the U.S. is presently capped to 21 cents plus 0.05% of the transaction. This is much, much lower than credit card interchange.</b> This was passed as part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank legislation in the wake of the financial crisis. If you imagine society as being in a perpetual dialogue with the financial sector, you can conceptualize this as a demand: <b>in return for partially paying for your bailouts, commercial users require you to not charge us nearly as much for payment services.</b> Find another way to subsidize your retail bank users; it’s not our problem.</bq> <bq>Senator Dick Durbin heard arguments like this, substantially agreed with them, and proposed an amendment to Dodd-Frank <b>exempting banks with less than $10 billion in deposits from the interchange cap.</b> It passed, and <b>the fintech industry (which barely existed at the time) accidentally inherited a business model.</b></bq> It's a loophole to continue having debit cards as a high-margin business. <bq>The most visible beneficiary of this has been the neobanks, which in the U.S. at least are almost invariably <b>software companies that have a mobile app which integrates tightly with a debit card provided by a partner bank.</b></bq> The partner bank has more than $10B in deposits, but spins its debit-card business off to avoid the cap, screwing customers and small businesses. Or, in their words, providing necessary capitalization for innovation. And making ludicrous profits despite this grand sacrifice. <bq>Innovation is happening apace in this space, but as of today, <b>the main monetization engine for this sort of relationship is the Durbin-exempt interchange on debit cards.</b></bq> Told ya. <bq><b>But the money is also… better? Because it is enhanced by the software provided by the platform</b>, which can mirror a ledger of it (like any financial institution could) but use intimate knowledge of the customer’s business to make their software offering categorically better given that it is aware of transaction-level data about how money flows. <b>This lets platforms do things like e.g. automated tax reporting, bookkeeping, business analytics, etc, on top of their core services</b>, without needing to directly charge their own users for this.</bq> The user is charged for services from which they almost certainly don't benefit. The aforementioned Lyft driver who's earning a night out doesn't itemize deductions on taxes. <hr> <a href="" author="@niilexis" source="Reddit">The truth about how the American economy works</a> (posted by user <i>MicaFlanagan</i>) <bq>Nobody is trying to fix the problems we have in this country. Everyone is trying to make enough money so the problems don't apply to them anymore.</bq> Not just America. Everyone’s hustling so that they’re not Yertle. Get as far up the pile as you can so you don’t even have to know who Yertle is or that they exist or that they’re essential to your way of life. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to make it so getting ahead by stepping on others is no longer a viable option. To make it so problems are distributed equitably and every person has the same interest in solving them. That the more useful and helpful you are to others or society, the farther you go. We may tell ourselves that’s how it is now, but it’s not true by any sane definition of “true” and “useful” and “helpful”. <h><span id="politics">Public Policy & Politics</span></h> <a href="" author="Chuck Mertz" source="This is Hell!">Black and native lives in US history / Kyle T. Mays</a> <bq><b>Chuck:</b> Could the U.S. survive such a reckoning with its past? <b>Kyle:</b> No. Because people don't often want to say it---and I've had weird instances, with white folks, even leftist white people---when I mention returning land. And often the response is "cool, let's do it." or "Well, my family has lived here for a long time...where would we go?" And I don't even think that that's the right approach or question to have when we're talking about returning land. It's like a centering of the white self or whiteness, when those conversations come up. And I think that's belittling the real genocide that has happened to native peoples.</bq> This is really a difficult opinion to have. How would reparations with return of land go better than Israel? You're literally trying to return land to people whose land was stolen from them by stealing land from people now. Maybe there should be no room for land ownership? I'm just not sure how these justice movements are supposed to find an end. Do you disenfranchise people today because of who their ancestors were and what they did? Do we erase that privilege? Will there be a trial? How do you determine guilt and blame? How far back do you go? To whom does land really belong? The first people who were on it and didn't leave willingly? If they left willingly, then they de-facto gave up their claim to it. If they didn't, then is it theirs? To which tribe do you return the land (in the case of the U.S.)? Do we infantilize the native peoples and pretend they don't have different nations? What if there are conflicting claims? It's related to the link below. <hr> <a href="" author="Scott H. Greenfield" source="Simple Justice">No Apology For Being Thankful</a> <bq><b>There are some who passionately believe that it’s their duty to ruin Thanksgiving.</b> It used to be that they were duty-bound as allies to inform their less-woke relatives at the table of how privileged they are and wrong about everything. It now includes the duty to inform them of their complicity in genocide, ethnic cleansing, stolen land and colonization, demanding the right to acknowledge that the land upon which their table sits once belonged to others from whom it was stolen.</bq> Or this: <a href="" author="Matt Taibbi" source="TK News">Thanksgiving is Awesome</a> <bq>In the space of a generation America has gone from being a country brimming with undeserved over-confidence, to one whose <b>intellectual culture has turned into an agonizing, apparently interminable run of performative self-flagellation.</b> Whether or not to enjoy Thanksgiving is not the hard part of the American citizen’s test. Thanksgiving is awesome. Everything about it, from the mashed potatoes to the demented relatives to the pumpkin pies to the farts, is top-drawer holiday enjoyment. <b>The only logical complaint about modern Thanksgiving involves forcing the poor Detroit Lions to play a marquee role every year.</b> I think we can all agree that whole situation is a net minus, especially for them, no matter how funny the first fifteen minutes of those games usually are.</bq> <bq>How can I eat turkey and stuffing with a smile, when Columbus massacred the Arawaks? When the English forced the Wampanoags off their land and made many convert to Christianity? When Lincoln told Horace Greeley, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it”? How? <b>Maybe because you’re more than three years old, and don’t need fairy tales to be real in order to enjoy dinner with family and a football game?</b> We don’t ask Russians how they can sit around the yelochka every New Year and open presents knowing that Ivan the Terrible used to roast prisoners in giant frying pans, or how they can smoke Belomorkanal cigarettes knowing the real White Sea canal is filled with the bones of slave laborers. I think even most MSNBC anchors would agree, that would be stupid. But we do this to ourselves all the time now, and every year it gets worse.</bq> <bq><b>You have to reduce the American experience to a few ridiculously grim variables, and remove everything from movies to rock n’ roll to monster dunks, to spend today sulking.</b></bq> <h><span id="journalism">Journalism & Media</span></h> <a href="" author="Ryan Broderick" source="Garbage Day">Multiple marine biologists are telling you it's not a shark</a> <bq><b>What I think this whole episode does illustrate, however, is how, essentially, every mechanism on the internet is broken, possibly irreparably.</b> Let’s summarize: A content creator learns a fun fact about a shark. The content creator either googles the name of the shark and tweets out the first picture they see or they’re sent that photo from someone else. But it’s the wrong photo because an SEO farm run by [a] random man from Wales has inserted the “misinformation” into Google’s search results. The content creator, though, has to mute the Twitter thread they’ve created because it’s gone too viral for anyone to actually follow. It’s also still doing traffic, so the content creator, when they finally learn that the tweet is incorrect, doesn’t actually delete the tweet. Then <b>dozens of verified experts attempt to debunk the incorrect tweet, except all they’ve done is trick Twitter’s trending algorithms to further promote the tweet because of the attention being driven to the post.</b> The current landscape of the internet is essentially a series of levers and automations because <b>the largest companies responsible for how we use the web are operating at a scale that can no longer be properly moderated by human beings.</b> Which means, increasingly, that if a glitch makes its way into the system — in this instance, a photo of a monkfish incorrectly labeled as a shark — there is no chance for that glitch to be removed. And, even more confoundingly, if human beings do try and intervene, it only makes the glitch worse. idk seems bad!</bq> <hr> <a href="" author="Ryan Broderick" source="Garbage Day">Sometimes live audio apps for rich people...are worse</a> <bq>Clubhouse, the pandemic mania-driven live audio app for crypto warlords, Silicon Valley middle crisis capitalists, and <b>sentient LinkedIn spam.</b></bq> <bq>These increasingly massive venture capital-driven internet fads make me wildly nervous, though. Can live audio work? Sure, people are having audio-only sex on Twitter Spaces now in front of audiences bigger than the one that tuned in to listen to Oprah on Clubhouse. Could blockchain products be useful for the digital creator class? I’m optimistic about it. But <b>Silicon Valley investors are getting more aggressive about instituting exactly how they think the internet should work.</b> Whether we’re talking about Clubhouse or NFTs, it seems like the internet’s biggest capitalists want to make the web less open and more closely tied to a user’s irl wealth and status. After years of getting rich off user-generated content, <b>venture capitalists seem desperate to remove the populist power of viral content. They want us to listen to their boring podcasts and buy their shitty digital assets and beg for invites to their awful apps.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" author="Nick Pemberton" source="CounterPunch">The Counterrevolution of Kyle Rittenhouse</a> <bq>What was Kyle Rittenhouse doing exactly? He was defending white supremacy. But what specific dimension of it, in his words? Private property. He brought an assault rifle to murder people in order to defend private property. For the Trumpenleft the bourgeois private property of alienated whites matters more than the lives of people of color. This of course was not even what Rittenhouse was doing. His passion for capitalism was surely only a subconscious factor in his primarily white supremacist motives.</bq> JFC. This is not a sane argument. This is the ranting of a lunatic pushed around the bend by his own fanaticism. He says he's been reading a lot of Paul Street. It shows. I don't even know where to begin in picking it apart. I feel its frothing madness speaks for itself. I hope Pemberton calms down soon. It's getting harder to read him lately. I hope he's happy, at any rate. He seems like a good guy. <hr> <a href="" source="SubStack" author="Glenn Greenwald">Kyle Rittenhouse, Project Veritas, and the Inability to Think in Terms of Principles</a> <bq>So why are so many of them now willing to endorse this same exact theory when it comes to O'Keefe and Project Veritas, or even to justify the prosecution of Julian Assange? The answer is obvious. <b>They are unwilling and/or incapable of thinking in terms of principles, ones that apply universally to everyone regardless of their ideology.</b> Their thought process never even arrives at that destination.</bq> <bq>It is the exclusive and determinative factor: do I like James O'Keefe and his politics? Do I like Julian Assange and his politics? <b>This primitive, principle-free, personality-driven prism is the only way they are capable of understanding the world.</b> Because they dislike O'Keefe and/or Assange, they instantly side with whoever is targeting them — the FBI, the DOJ, the security state services — and believe that anyone who defends them is defending a right-wing extremist rather than defending the non-ideological, universally applicable principle of press freedoms. <b>They think only in terms of personalities, not principles.</b></bq> <bq>On some level, this is pure projection: those who are incapable of assessing political or legal conflicts through a prism of principles rather than personalities assume that everyone is plagued by the same deficiency. <b>Since they decide whether to support or oppose the FBI's actions toward O'Keefe based on their personal view of O'Keefe rather than through reference to any principles, they assume that this is how everyone is determining their views of that situation.</b></bq> <bq>Similarly, since they base their views on whether Rittenhouse should be convicted or acquitted based on how they personally feel about Rittenhouse and his perceived politics rather than the evidence presented at the trial (which most of them have not watched), <b>they assume that anyone advocating for an acquittal can be doing so only because they like Rittenhouse's politics and believe that his actions were heroic.</b></bq> <bq>It is this same stunted mindset that saddles our discourse with so much illogic and so many twisted presumptions, such as <b>the inability to distinguish between defending someone's right to express a particular opinion and agreement with that opinion.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" source="The Weekly Dish" author="Andrew Sullivan">When All The Media Narratives Collapse</a> <bq>If you look back at the last few years, the record of errors, small and large, about major stories, is hard to deny. <b>It’s as if the more Donald Trump accused the MSM of being “fake news” the more assiduously they tried to prove him right.</b></bq> <bq>The impression many got from much of the media was that a far-right vigilante, in the middle of race riots, had gone looking for trouble far from home and injured one man, and killed two, in a shooting spree.</bq> <bq>[...] effectively excluded the possibility that <b>Rittenhouse was a naive, dangerous fool in the midst of indefensible mayhem, who, in the end, shot assailants in self-defense.</b></bq> <bq>This doesn’t mean that Trump wasn’t eager for Russian help. But Trump was right, in the end, about the dodgy dossier; he was right about the duped FBI’s original overreach; and the mass media — Rachel Maddow chief among them — were wrong. And yet <b>the dossier dominated the headlines for three years, and the “corrections” have a fraction of the audience of the errors.</b> Maddow gets promoted. And the man who first published it, Ben Smith, was made the media columnist for the NYT.</bq> <bq>We were told that vaccines would end the Covid pandemic. But they merely altered Covid to a manageable disease that you could still contract while vaccinated.</bq> Well, that's not fair. It could have ended it, if we'd vaccinated more comprehensively. Waning efficacy was hypothesized but only time would tell. This is not the same category as the others. Even the lab-leak example shows Sullivan's bias to toward things he already believes to be true. The media changed its opinion on that one because it is, once again, supporting a drive to war, this time with China. They weren't wrong before. They're wrong now. What about WMD, Andrew? Why don't you mention the one that you swallowed hook, line, and sinker---and that you rode to your initial fame and wealth? <bq>I still rely on the MSM for so much. I still read the NYT first thing in the morning. I don’t want to feel as if everything I read is basically tilted through wish-fulfillment, narrative-proving, and ideology. But with this kind of record, how can I not?</bq> I am continually fascinated to hear how many seemingly intelligent people still do this. I use mainstream media as a secondary or tertiary source. <h><span id="science">Science & Nature</span></h> <a href="" author="Scott Siskind" source="Astral Codex Ten">Highlights From The Comments On Ivermectin</a> <bq>I think of it as like the Large Hadron Collider. If the people who run the LHC ever become biased, we’re doomed, because there’s no way ordinary citizens can pool all of our small hadron colliders and get equally robust results. <b>It’s just an unfair advantage that you get if you can afford a seventeen-mile long tunnel under Switzerland full of giant magnets.</b></bq> <bq>I kind of sympathize with this (and am considering refusing the booster to protest them not sending spare doses to the Third World), but <b>refusing to get vaccines seems like the most counterproductive way to protest lockdowns.</b> Not only will it ensure the lockdowns last longer (because there are more cases), but it’ll just provide pro-lockdown people with an easy opportunity to tar all their opponents as science deniers. <b>I guess it depends whether you trust people that vaccines will at least slightly reduce cases, and that reductions in cases will lead to fewer lockdowns. </b>I think it’s easy to get discouraged about this given the many “okay, in just a few weeks this will all be over and we can reopen for real” bait-and-switches, but in the long run I do think we’ve gotten less locked down as case numbers have declined. I don’t know how much of that has been epidemiologists agreeing the crisis is less severe vs. anti-lockdown activists forcing governments’ hands.</bq> <hr> <a href="" author="Scott Siskind" source="Astral Codex Ten">Pascalian Medicine</a> <bq>Is anything ever truly safe? There’s a species of parasitic worm called Loa loa. Usually it hides from the immune system. But if you take ivermectin for some unrelated reason, the loa loa dies en masse, the immune system notices the corpses, it freaks out and massively overreacts, and sometimes your brain gets fried in the crossfire. <b>If you get this, kudos - it’s one of the most esoteric ways to die, and any medical professionals in the vicinity will be impressed.</b> But my point is, “this drug has no side effects” is a fraught statement. <b>In principle ivermectin is perfectly safe; in practice, the world is full of weird stuff that can make harmless drugs kill you unexpectedly.</b></bq> <bq>So if you’re an onion farmer, and you have a bunch of extra onions you can’t sell one year, all you have to do is ask some scientist friends to study whether onions cure cancer. There will be a bunch of studies, lots of them will be sloppy and say yes, people like me will see a bunch of positive studies and say “Can I really be more than 99% sure this is false? <b>and if there’s even a 1% chance onions cure cancer, then - given how safe they are - isn’t it worth trying?</b>” And then <b>doctors will make every cancer patient take concentrated onion extract every day. Then eggplant farmers will want in on the money-printing-license, and then pumpkin farmers, and soon we’re up to 100 pills a day instead of just twenty.</b> And then we’ll wish we’d stopped Pascal’s Wager-ing drug decisions at some earlier point. And maybe the right point to stop is now.</bq> This is Cheney's logical fallacy called the 1% doctrine, but applied to medical treatments instead of preemptive warfar. <hr> <a href="" author="Andre Damon" source="WSWS">A disgraced liar accuses scientists: Matt Ridley’s <i>Viral</i></a> <bq>If the prosecutor says that either the crime occurred one way or it occurred another way, then I would jump up and respond that this means that the prosecutor doesn’t actually have enough evidence to prove either alternative beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, <b>the prosecutor can’t actually prove that a crime was committed at all.</b> You see exactly this type of argument made all the time by unscrupulous prosecutors, who attempt to strengthen a weak case by piling on the charges, in hopes that the jury will think that with all these official-sounding accusations the defendant must be guilty of something. <b>One accusation that can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt added to another accusation that can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is just two accusations that can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Zero plus zero is still zero.</b></bq> <bq>Ridley begins by claiming that he does not know if the disease was genetically engineered or not. Then he implies that he believes SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered from RaTG13, a virus that is 96 percent similar to it. Then, new viruses are discovered in Laos, and he accuses scientists of doing research in Laos and taking the viruses to Wuhan, implying that they used those viruses as a basis for genetically engineering SARS-CoV-2. <b>Each one of these storylines is so tendentious that even Ridley refuses to commit to one or the other. So, he just adds them up, one on top of the other. But, as Carter puts it, “Zero plus zero is still zero.” And Ridley and Chan know it.</b></bq> <hr> Just a couple of great videos about Homeopathy (in German). <media href="" src="" source="YouTube" width="560px" author="Mai Thi" caption="Homöopathie-Gesetz: Deutschlands schlechtestes Gesetz"> <bq>Was ihr noch nicht über Homöopathie wusstet...Folgendes habt ihr vielleicht mitbekommen: Eine deutsche Homöopathie-Firma verteilt Abmahnungen gegen Wissenschaftler, die in der Öffentlichkeit sagen, dass es keine wissenschaftlich haltbaren Wirkungsnachweise für Homöopathie gibt. Aber warum darf man überhaupt Abmahnungen gegen wissenschaftlich korrekte Aussagen verteilen? <b>Tja - irrsinniger Weise ist "wissenschaftlich unwirksam" vor dem deutschen Gesetz "rechtlich wirksam". Der Knackpunkt heißt "Binnenkonsens" und ist - leider -Teil des deutschen Arzneimittelgesetzes.</b> Wir zeigen, wie es dazu und was sich dringend ändern muss.</bq> <hr> <media href="" src="" source="YouTube" width="560px" author="ZDF Magazin Royale / Jan Böhmermann" caption="Homöopathie wirkt nicht über den Placebo-Effekt hinaus"> <bq>Zu Risiken und Nebenwirkungen dieses Beitrags lesen Sie die Kommentare und fragen Sie Ihren Homöopathen oder Wunderheiler.</bq> At <b>19:10</b>, <bq>Oma und Opa werden ins Zwölfbettzimmer in der Geriatrie geflecht von der Krankenkasse Firma. Bei der Brille muss man fast blind sein damit was zugezahlt wird aber der gebildete Oberstudienrat und seine Frau pfeifen sich schaufelweise wirkungslose Globuli rein, weil sie ganz fest dran glauben, bezahlt von der Krankenkasse und damit irgendwie auch von uns allen. Und das ist irgendwie---ich meine, wie nennt man das mal---ach so! Asozial. Also: liebe Krankenkassen, entweder allen Patienten jeden Quatsch bezahlen: also Homöopathie, Voodoo, Brustvergrösserung durch Handauflegen oder---besser---weil wirtschaftlicher und vernünftiger einfach nur das bezahlen, was erwiesenermassen wirklich wirkt: Brillen, vernünftige Pflege, funktionierenden Rollatoren meinetwegen und <i>keine homöopathische Mittel mehr</i>. Leider wissen die meisten Patienten nicht, dass <b>die nachweisbare Wirkung von Homöopathie nicht über den Placebo-Effekt hinausgeht.</b></bq> <bq></bq> <h><span id="art">Art & Literature</span></h> <a href="" source="Adjacent Possible" author="Steven Johnson">A Secret History Of Monopoly</a> <bq>Magie’s version actually had two variations of game play, one in which players competed to capture as much real estate and cash as possible, as in the official Monopoly, and <b>one in which the point of the game was to share the wealth as equitably as possible.</b> (The latter rule set died out over time—perhaps confirming the old cliché that it is simply less fun to be a socialist.) <b>Either way you played it, however, the agenda was the same: teaching children how modern capitalism worked, warts and all.</b> “Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system,” she argued, “and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied.”</bq> <bq><b>Both the game itself—and the story of its origins—had entirely inverted the original progressive agenda of Lizzie Magie’s landlord game.</b> A lesson in the abuses of capitalist ambition had been transformed into a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit, its collectively authored rules reimagined as the work of a rags-to-riches lone genius.</bq> <hr> Apropos of nothing: Wait, wait, first let me tell you how everything is related to everything else. It’s called holism, an idea that originated not in one culture, but in several, chronologically independent ways, seemingly originating from some commonality in human consciousness that is transferred in some quasi-epigenetic fashion, though the transfer mechanism is unknown, it’s thought to relate to the building blocks of language, which are transferred similarly….hey, where’d everybody go? <h><span id="philosophy">Philosophy & Sociology</span></h> <a href="" author="Scott H.. Greenfield" source="Simple Justice">Thanksgiving Advice For Inclusive Lawyers</a> <bq>The second piece of advice is for the unduly passionate who believe it their duty to fulfill their role as ally by informing their family that they’re white privileged fascists enabling systemic racism by eating a dinner to celebrate genocide and colonialism: <b>Be thankful to have a family who is so very tolerant as to have you at their Thanksgiving dinner despite how unpleasant you’ve become.</b> And don’t waste your money buying extra copies of a book no one wants to read.</bq> <hr> <a href="" author="Dave Barnhart" source="Facebook" date="June 25, 2018">Post</a><fn> <bq><b>"The unborn" are a convenient group of people to advocate for.</b> They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don't resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don't ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don't need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don't bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It's almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. <b>They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.</b> Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.</bq> 👏 I’d never read that one. Very well-put. My sentiments exactly. Applies to much of the progressive left as well, with their concern for historically oppressed people that focuses purely on identity rather than actual people. Like they don’t care about poor whites even though they need just as much help as anyone else. Wrong identity. <hr> <a href="" source="Nonsite" author="Adolph Reed Jr.">The Whole Country is the <i>Reichstag</i></a> <bq>Political economist Gordon Lafer documents in The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time (ILR Press, 2017) how right-wing corporate lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business—all funded by the Koch brothers and other rich reactionaries—have <b>organized at the state level to produce and pass anti-worker, anti-democratic legislation and to secure and fortify Republican control of state governments.</b></bq> <bq>I have no idea how extensive the consciously putschist tendency has been among the right. The best that one might say for Mitch McConnell, for example, is that his aspiration perhaps didn’t extend much beyond immobilizing government, precluding any progressive legislation or appointments. <b>Nor do I imagine that the likes of Lindsey Graham or Kevin McCarthy had been impelled by radical ideological commitments more elaborate than advancing the immediate interests of the class they represent</b> and suppressing those who might want to do anything else.</bq> <bq>And that’s why belief in the Stolen Election is so impervious to rational argument; Biden stole the election because real Americans’ votes were not permitted to prevail. <b>Votes cast for him were fraudulent by definition because people who voted for him could not be legitimate Americans.</b></bq> <bq>This is the fruit of the half-century of relentless, right-wing attack—again, abetted by neoliberal Democrats—on the very idea of the public, which was already evident in proliferation of the belief that my “right” to carry an assault rifle into any public space overrides concern for the public safety and now that my “right” to refuse to wear a mask even in establishments that require them or vaccination in the throes of a pandemic supersedes regulations intended to safeguard public health. <b>That narrative reinforces castigation of any public intervention as government overreach or even tyranny.</b></bq> <bq>they are under no pressure to reflect on whether their actions could yield hundreds of thousands more deaths from COVID-19, or the longer-term impacts of their resistance to climate science or opposition to infrastructure spending because <b>the time horizon impelling them is no longer than one to three years.</b></bq> <bq><b>My objective is to indicate dangerous, opportunistic tendencies and dynamics at work in this political moment</b> which I think liberals and whatever counts as a left in the United States have been underestimating or, worse, dismissing entirely.</bq> <bq>Ithink though that you have to be careful about this argument. It leads to considering any criticism of counterproductive Democratic policy to be seen as helping Republicans when <b>it[']s actually intended as advice to stop undermining themselves with transparent hypocrisy and amorality.</b></bq> <bq>The “pessimistic nostalgia” that Trumpists and other authoritarians propagate and mobilize around is most consequentially the result of decades of bipartisan failure to provide concrete remedies that address the steadily intensifying economic inequality and insecurity that have driven so much of the working class to the wall. We need to provide an alternative vision that proceeds unabashedly from the question: <b>What would be the thrust and content of public policy if the country were governed by and for the working-class majority?</b></bq> <bq>On the one hand, the magnitude of the immediate dangers we face is so great that we don’t have time to concentrate only on the sort of slow organizing that building such a movement necessitates, and this moment’s urgency is at least as great as any other any of us has faced in our lifetimes. <b>On the other hand, arguably one of the reasons we’re in the current predicament is that a left as Dudzic and I describe has been absent for decades.</b></bq> <bq>I don’t want to quibble over who or what tendencies deserve the fascist label. I use the term here to refer to a strain of organized, ultra-reactionary, “god, the flag, and property” organicist Catholicism that’s prominent among <b>the reactionary upper classes in Latin America, southern and Eastern Europe, and among upper-class Catholics in the U.S.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" source="Hinternet" author="Justing e.H. Smith">The Dawn of Everything</a> <bq>[...] the pre-contact Amazonian groups we generally take to conform most closely to the definition of “tribe” or “band” were likely aware of the Andean empires to their west, and may also have had, at an earlier time, <b>relatively complex state structures that they consciously abandoned because they were lucid enough to come to see these as inimical to human thriving.</b> The groups Europeans first encountered in the rainforest, in other words, may also have been splinters that broke away from tyrannies, <b>just like the Sakha fleeing the Mongols, and to some extent also like the Mountain Time Zone libertarians grumbling about the tax agents from the mythical city of Washington.</b></bq> <bq>Even if they have not observed Inca ceremonies through the forest thicket from across a mountain ravine, they already know enough about tyranny simply from the expression of innate personality tendencies of individual members of their group —boastfulness, bullying, pride—, and <b>have developed rational mechanisms to ensure that these traits are countered by ridicule, dismissiveness, and other mechanisms that keep any would-be tyrant in his place.</b></bq> <bq>This is the sense of Pierre Clastres’s “society against the state”: <b>societies that lack state structures are not in the “pre-” stage of anything, but are in fact actively working to keep such structures from rising up and taking permanent hold.</b></bq> <bq>In order to have a big wedding blowout, poor people might have to take out loans against which any rational financial advisor would sternly counsel them. Yet they just keep doing it, going into debt, wearing ruffled blue tuxedoes, and loving one another as much as any human being has ever loved another. <b>That’s culture against credit, so to speak. In the course of a mortal life, a good wedding matters more than good credit; poor people have generally been able to keep this in mind whereas upstanding accountants have forgotten it.</b></bq> <bq>When reports consistently echo similar themes across several different European languages and multiple generations of trans-Atlantic encounter, <b>it is reasonable to presume the Europeans were identifying something real, even where that real thing is filtered through ungrounded contempt.</b></bq> <bq><b>In this respect, anthropology is fundamentally an anarchist project, as it zeroes in on levels of social reality where the state, even when it exists, is not the most salient factor in accounting for why human beings do what they do.</b> When this anarchist spirit is embraced, significant new conceptual insights may be had about the place of the state in human history. <b>We have long attempted to bracket all “pre-state” societies into a chronological period known as “prehistory”, so that it comes out as trivially true that for as long as there has been history, there has been the state.</b> But Graeber and Wengrow have made the most significant case yet that there is no good reason to do this.</bq> <bq>The Dawn of Everything is clearly packaged and published as a conscious intervention in a discussion that has been dominated over recent years by Pinker, Diamond, and Harari. Sometimes it is annoying in the same way their works are, for reasons that, one suspects, were imposed in the editorial process and that have nothing to do with the authors’ natural styles. <b>It is a welcome intervention, and a strong reason for hope that anarchist anthropology may have its place, alongside —what shall we call it?— plutocratic psychology and related endeavors, in helping us to understand what humanity is and how we got to be this way.</b></bq> <h><span id="programming">Programming</span></h> <a href="" source="" author="Drew DeVault">I will pay you cash to delete your npm module</a> <bq>Most Node developers have no idea what’s in their dependency tree. Most of them are thousands of entries long, and have never been audited. <b>This behavior is totally reckless and needs to stop.</b></bq> <bq><b>You can’t have a free lunch</b>, I’m afraid. Adding a dependency is a serious decision which requires consensus within the team, an audit of the new dependency, an understanding of its health and long-term prospects, and <b>an ongoing commitment to re-audit them and be prepared to change course as necessary.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" author="Drew DeVault" source="">My philosophy for productive instant messaging</a> <bq><b>The most important trait to consider when using IM software is that it is ephemeral, and must be treated as such.</b> You should not “catch up” on discussions that you missed, and should not expect others to do so, either. <b>Any important information from a chat room discussion must be moved to a more permanent medium</b>, such as an email to a mailing list,2 a ticket filed in a bug tracker, or a page updated on a wiki. One very productive use of IRC for me is holding a discussion to hash out the details of an issue, then writing up a summary up for a mailing list thread where the matter is discussed in more depth.</bq> <bq>[...] another trait of instant messaging: it is asynchronous. Not everyone is online at the same time, and we should adjust our usage of it in consideration of this. For example, when I send someone a private message, rather than expecting them to engage in a real-time dialogue with me right away, <b>I dump everything I know about the issue for them to review and respond to in their own time. This could be hours later, when I’m not available myself!</b></bq> <bq><b>This also presents us a solution to the interruptions problem: just don’t answer right away, and don’t expect others to.</b> I don’t have desktop or mobile notifications for IRC. I only use it when I’m sitting down at my computer, and I “pull” notifications from it instead of having it “push” them to me — that is, I glance at the client every now and then. If I’m in the middle of something, I don’t read it.</bq> <hr> <ft>Hat-tip to <a href="" author="J. Ruth Kelly">The Unborn</a> for providing (A) a text version and (B) a link to the original FaceBook post instead of the pixellated screenshot---or, even worse, a screenshot of an opportunistic re-post---that everyone else is passing around.</ft>