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Links and Notes for December 11th, 2020

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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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.

COVID-19

Stop Saying Lockdown Is ‘Not That Hard’ by Bonnie Kristian (Reason)

It’s not that hard is true of hand washing. It’s almost always true of wearing a mask. But it is not true of lockdowns. It is not true of social distancing. It is not true of skipping Christmas or Thanksgiving or your mom’s birthday or your brother’s wedding. It’s not true of missing church and New Year’s Eve parties and eating in restaurants. It’s not true of going without regular, in-person contact with friends and loved ones.

“This actually is that hard. It sucks, and we should say so.

But like many things, this does not become easy just because we judge it worthwhile. Doing Easter service online was the right call, but it wasn’t not that hard. Staying in our house all the time with two teething, bored toddlers isn’t not that hard. Being unable to take them for a leisurely, purposeless, and, crucially, heated stroll through the mall isn’t not that hard. Our twins having literally no other playmates their own age isn’t not that hard. Wholly inadequate Zoom time with our friends isn’t not that hard. None of this is not that hard.

And we’re comparatively lucky! We have reliable, fast internet access and friends with the same. We can stay connected in a better-than-nothing facsimile of our ordinary relationship. We can at least see each other’s faces. Many other Americans with limited tech skills or internet service cannot do likewise.

“Our jobs are white-collar and allow us to work from home full-time. That’s only true of about two in 10 people in this country.

“Our income is high enough that we are the recipients of deliveries, not the deliverers. “You need to stay home” is not an order with which the truckers and postal workers and so many other people who keep us fed and clothed can comply.

“But right now, and for months to come, this is still happening. It is still lonely. It is still difficult. And I still don’t want to hear from anyone’s mouth—least of all public health officials—the pernicious, dismissive, inhuman claim that it’s not that hard.”


Caring in Viral Times by Michael McColly (Boston Review)

“Indifference kills people with HIV today as it kills people with COVID-19 and will continue to do so. Epidemics never end, viruses stay in people’s bodies, the most vulnerable pass it among others like them, and out of sight they succumb without notice.”


How 700 Epidemiologists Are Living Now, and What They Think Is Next by Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller and Quoctrung Bui (NY Times)

“How and when will life go back to normal? “For some, it has gone back to normal, and because of this, it will be two to three years before things are back to normal for the cautious, at least in the U.S.” Cathryn Bock, associate professor, Wayne State University”


Many Epidemiologists Want Social Distancing and Masks Forever—Even After the Vaccine by Robby Soave (Reason)

“One of the blessings of liberty is that everybody shouldn’t have to follow the same script. If a person has reasons to be extra cautious, or even just prefers the feeling of knowing that he is doing absolutely everything to reduce his own risk of catching the disease to as close to zero as possible, then he is free to live in accordance with that goal. Other people may decide their own circumstances don’t require the same level of zealotry, or that their extremely low chance of having a negative health outcome justifies a greater degree of flexibility. Others may say they are fine with certain precautions—masks, avoiding large events—but need to resume small in-person social gatherings for the sake of their mental and emotional well-being. Still others may take larger risks but test themselves frequently and quarantine aggressively before traveling or visiting the elderly.”

This is bullshit because it doesn’t work. It is policy divorced from reality. The countries that tried this (Switzerland included) have learned—or are still learning—that people do not behave like this. A pandemic doesn’t care about your personal liberty. It thrives on it. Libertarianism is absolutely the wrong tool for a pandemic. Solidarity is the only way to navigate these shoals. Personal liberty means the less privileged and/or most cautious are beholden to the rash and egotistical. These groups do not stay separated.

“The circumstances on the ground matter tremendously; a person’s willingness to relax his social distancing habits should track with the rate of infection in the community, which will necessarily be different in different areas of the country.”

This just as stupid as basing all economic thought on notions of the rational man. But we’ve been doing that for decades, if not centuries, as well. People are neither informed nor rational. They are in no way equipped to make decisions that make either them or anyone else safe. That is why the disease is spreading like wildfire anywhere that authoritarianism is eschewed (I mean, unfortunately, of course, but that’s the harsh reality right now). People are not behaving in a way that is adequately slowing the virus. Something has to give.

“We all have to work it out for ourselves, and everyone who wishes to recapture the old normal is within their rights to dissent from the epidemiologists’ contentment with the way things are now.”
“If a restaurant decides it really needs full capacity dining in order to stay in business, the government shouldn’t deploy the police to stop them. We all have to work it out for ourselves, and everyone who wishes to recapture the old normal is within their rights to dissent from the epidemiologists’ contentment with the way things are now.”

The virus loves these ideas. It feeds on them. Our addiction to individual freedom over solidarity has caused and will continue to cause more harm than necessary.

Finance & Economy

Another Slow Recovery from Economic Disaster by Dean Baker (CounterPunch)

“The pandemic is likely to permanently reshape the structure of our cities, as many more people work remotely. This will mean fewer people commuting to work each day. This is a great development from the standpoint of reducing the resources wasted in commuting, and even more so from the standpoint of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Still, it means that many of the jobs associated with servicing this commuting population will disappear. Millions of people formerly employed in restaurants that provided lunch or dinner to people commuting, and workers in barber shops, hair salons, gyms, and dry-cleaning services located in downtown business districts, will not see their jobs return even when the pandemic is under control.”


Student Loan Horror Stories: Borrowed: $79,000. Paid: $190,000. Now Owes? $236,000 by Matt Taibbi (SubStack)

“Chris’s pay was garnished at 15% from 2004-2011, and at 25% from 2011 on. He paid, but didn’t gain ground, thanks to another painful quirk of the system, involving the order of obligation. “They apply your penalties first, then your interest, then your principal,” he says. “So really they’re guaranteeing that you’re never going to pay down your loans.””
“Career advancement didn’t particularly help his cause, as raises just meant he was able to pay more in fees and interest on an inalterably enormous core debt. Through 2020, when student loan obligations were halted due to the coronavirus, he paid $190,000 on an original debt of $79,000. His current balance? The aforementioned $236,000.”
“The tension in this game is between borrowers trying to chop their debt into finite, conquerable amounts, and lenders who are incentivized to make the balance irrelevant, turning people into vehicles for delivering the highest possible monthly bill, without the real possibility of repayment.”
“Like a lot of student loan holders, Chris no longer expects that he will ever pay off his loans, or even begin touching the principal. He’s heard the stories of people having their Social Security payments garnished and wonders if that is in his future. While he understands that the reaction of some hearing his story will be that he brought his problems on himself, he has now paid two and a half times his initial balance, and is scheduled to pay it at least five times over, if he doesn’t die first. Even accounting for his “stupidity,” he figures, “I paid my student loans.”

Politics & Public Policy

Roaming Charges: Negative Creep by Jeffrey St. Clair (CounterPunch)

“In business and politics has anyone ever profited as much from failure and incompetence as Trump? He lost the election decisively. He has lost nearly every lawsuit to challenge his loss, in decisions that might humiliate anyone else. But people are still throwing him $$, more than $200 million at the last count. The last thing he wants is to actually win one of these suits and have the election results overturned, at which point he’d be responsible again and the gushers of money would dry up. I’m reminded of Pierre Bezukhov’s return to Moscow after Napoleon’s retreat in War & Peace: “I found everything in ruins, but somehow I was now richer than ever.”
“A mere two hours into his term, new Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon ended cash bail; the death penalty; sentence enhancements; solitary confinement; trying children as adults; and the criminalization of homelessness, mental health, and addiction.”
“In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy offers the best definition of “ennui” I’ve come across: “a desire for desire.””
“Siberian fires this year burned an estimated 23 million acres, an area 6 times the size of 2020 blazes in California. Even more ominous: “Many of 2019 fires did overwinter in the duff to jumpstart an early fire season in 2020’s extremely warm conditions.””


The Smearing of Robert Fisk…Now That He Can’t Defend Himself by Jonathan Cook (CounterPunch)

“These are a motley crew of journalists and academics using their self-publicised “Arabhood” to justify the intimidation and silencing of anyone not entirely convinced that ordinary Syrians might prefer, however reluctantly, their standard-issue dictator, Bashar al-Assad, over the head-chopping, women-stoning, Saudi-financed jihadists of Islamic State and al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria; or who question whether the western powers ought to be covertly funding and backing these extremists.”
“This is the way frauds like Katerji are able to ply their own misinformation. They sound credible only because the counter-evidence that would show they are writing nonsense is entirely absent from the mainstream. Only those active on social media and open-minded enough to listen to voices not employed by a major corporate platform (with, in this case, the notable exception of Peter Hitchens of the Daily Mail) are able to find any of this counter-information. It is as if we are living in parallel universes.”

This would sound like conspiracy theory were it not a century-long pattern. Where in bad conspiracy theories, there is no evidence or the evidence presented is from shaky sources or makes no sense, these narratives come from the best sources with a ton of publicly verifiable evidence and is discussed at the highest levels e.g. the UN. The mainstream ignores it because they kowtow to power. The manufacture consent for the ruling class.

“Like a handful of others – John Pilger, Seymour Hersh, Chris Hedges among them – Fisk made his name in the corporate media at a time when it reluctantly indulged the odd maverick foreign correspondent because they had a habit of exposing war crimes everyone else missed, exclusives that then garnered their publications prestigious journalism awards.”
Ownership of the media was then far less concentrated, so there was a greater commercial incentive for risk-taking and breaking stories. And these journalists emerged in a period when power was briefly more contested, with the labour movement trying to assert its muscle in the post-war decades, and before western societies were forced by the corporate elite to submit to neoliberal orthodoxy on all matters.”
“Journalists now attacking Fisk include ones, like the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot, who have been at the forefront of advancing the evidence-free antisemitism smears against Corbyn. Or, like the Guardian’s Hannah Jane Parkinson, have engaged in another favourite corporate journalist pastime, ridiculing the plight of Julian Assange, a fellow journalist who puts their craven stenography to shame and who is facing a lifetime in a US super-max jail for revealing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“[…] once they got a footing on the corporate career ladder, they slowly learnt that they would need to adopt a more “nuanced” approach to journalism – certainly if they hoped to progress up that ladder, earning the right to their blue tick, and gaining a big enough salary to cover the mortgage in London or New York.”
Fisk was the constant reminder of just how much they had sold out. His very existence shamed them for what they were too cowardly to do themselves. And now in death, when he cannot answer back, they are feasting on his corpse like the vultures that they are, until there is nothing left to remind us that, unlike them, Robert Fisk told uncomfortable truths to the very end.”


Cornel West: “Bernie Was Crushed by Neoliberalism” by Daniel Denvir (Jacobin)

“What I mean by that is that all the talk about identity, racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation identity, is crucial, it is indispensable, but in the end, it must be connected to a moral integrity and deep political solidarity that hones in on a financialized form of predatory capitalism. A capitalism that is killing the planet, poor people, working people here and abroad.
“Now, not every person who voted for Trump is a racist. We have to understand that. He’s got a significant following among the racists. But everyone who voted for him isn’t motivated solely by racism. They’re people looking for an alternative to a rotten neoliberal status quo. That’s why Bernie Sanders was crushed by the neoliberals. Bernie presented an alternative to a rotten neoliberal status quo, and these voters are looking for somewhere else to place their vote. There’s a tremendous contempt for neoliberal elites, because they have been so hypocritical, and self-righteous, and arrogant.
“When Trump was critical of the neoliberals, he was demonstrating that he understands people’s concerns about neoliberal arrogance, and neoliberal condescension, and neoliberal haughtiness that hides and conceals its own structures of domination, its own operations of power. And that’s where the Left hasn’t intervened in the name of truth and justice.”
“And there’s deep homophobia and transphobia in each one of our communities. It’s in our churches, it’s in our mosques, it’s in our synagogues, it’s in these public spaces. But in the end, if we’re not talking about predatory capitalism, brother, we are very much missing out on what sits at the center of it.
“[…] even if black people were able to get the kind of reparations that the movement is calling for, predatory capitalism’s still in place. So it’s still an unjust system. It’s still deeply unfair, and the asymmetric relations of power at the workplace would still be in place.”
“Now I tell you, the grim questions, the skeletons that sit in our closet, are, do we as a species even have the capacity to avoid self-destruction? Given the levels of greed, especially at the top. And the contempt for working people and people of color. Does America, as an empire, even have the wherewithal, culturally, politically, to undergo fundamental transformation before it self-destructs? And then, of course, given the history of white supremacy, do we really have a majority of fellow white citizens who have the capacity, the cultivated capacity, to really affirm the dignity and decency of black people? Those are all three questions that sit in the closet. And if we don’t have an affirmative answer to those, that’s it, man.”
“[…] where do we look for hope? Because I’m particularly thinking about my younger comrades out there. A whole generation of young people were radicalized by Bernie. And they got very hopeful, very fast, about making big changes that theretofore seemed totally impossible, but they are now confronted with this deeply bleak picture. Do we assemble hope by pointing to things like Arizona turning left, young people in general turning left? Or is hope something more ephemeral, that we have to cultivate for the long haul? A sort of faith, secular or otherwise.”
“[…] what should have been this false choice — between getting the pandemic under control and boosting the economy — turned into, for many people, a zero-sum choice between lockdown and reopening? Or is it the deep racial and class disparities, and how the pandemic’s health and economic crises have been experienced?”

It’s not just the States. Switzerland is falling on this sword, this false dichotomy, as well.

“But we have to be very honest and candid about the degree to which the neoliberals, at the top, are still very much part of a ruling class that’s crushing poor people, that’s crushing working people with its greed, its indifference, its callousness toward social misery. It is denial to think that somehow those chickens won’t come home to roost. To think that somehow you’re not going to reap what you sow, given that kind of greed, and indifference, and contempt, really, for so many poor and working people.
“[…] anytime you see the journalist — the mainstream journalists calling for pragmatism — they just telling them, “Let’s be opportunistic.” And usually, this allows them to pursue their careers and remain well adjusted to a status quo that they refuse to submit to serious critique. But it’s true that the nihilism at the deeper level simply says that, in the end, might really does make right. That, in the end, any talk about integrity, honesty, decency, morality, or spiritual vision that authorize an alternative to the present are childish.”
“You know, as if the slave on the plantation, who has a dream of overthrowing slavery, somehow needs to grow up. No, no, no, no, he’s got a very serious dream that’s rooted in his material condition. He just doesn’t have the collective wherewithal right now to act on it. And that’s how human history proceeds, forward and backward.”
“It’s still very grim, even if [Biden] does win, because of the same structures of domination — the same blindness, the same refusals to engage poverty, to take seriously what the working class in all of its various expressions and colorations is going through.”
“Yeah, I mean, there’s an inconsistency, there’s an inconstancy. You know? There’s a hypocrisy that you get among too many liberal intellectuals. That they get deeply concerned when their close friends are being treated unfairly, or their voices are being suffocated. And they’re right, their friend ought not to be treated unfairly. I think nobody ought to be treated unfairly. But when folk outside of their stable are treated unfairly, they don’t say a mumbling word.
“You got to be clear, constant, about what you are saying, why you are doing it, and the stances that you take. You still can be misunderstood, but you have to be clear and consistent in that sense. And liberal intellectuals are not known for their moral consistency or their moral courage.
“So you get this paradox, you get the most progressive candidate [Sanders] running for president of a major party in the history of the empire, and the most progressive voting bloc refuses to vote for him. And if they had, he could very well be president. See, now that’s a serious, serious issue.”
“And all these folks say, “Look, we’re tired of the neoliberal Democratic Party plantation, we want to go to the neofascist plantation that could lead toward internment camps.” You see? So you say, dang, what a choice between a rock and a hard place.
“Henry Highland Garnet, right there in our dearly beloved city of Philadelphia, gave a speech in 1841. He said, “Black people, never confuse your situation for that of the Israelites of the Old Testament, for us, Pharaoh is on both sides of the bloody red seas.” And for so long, black people have had the pharaoh of the Republicans, the pharaoh of the Democrats. The Democrat pharaoh is better, small p. The pharaoh of the Republicans, a little bigger p. Then here comes Trump, the fascist p. Ronald Reagan was reactionary, but he wasn’t a fascist the way Trump is.”
“Because in the end, it’s going to be as Noam Chomsky says, “On the global level, it’s internationalism or extinction.” If we don’t have solidarity around the world, then the elites at the top, with their greed, will blow up the whole planet, given the ecological catastrophe. And nationally, it’s going to be solidarity or self-destruction.”
“And if we can’t seize this moment to provide a strong credible option and alternative to our fellow citizens — let alone the world — there will be extinction at the international level, self-destruction at the domestic level, and we’ll all go under. And that’s what it is to live at this particular historical moment. It’s an unprecedented moment. It’s a moment of unbelievable suffering, and misery, and despair, and disappointment. But it can also be a moment of tremendous breakthrough, and joy, and resilience, and resistance. And in the end, a moment demanding the kind of fundamental change required in order for all of us here and abroad to live lives of decency and dignity.”
“Ordinary people raise their voices, brother. They’re not going to choose poverty. They’re not going to choose getting mistreated at the workplace by the bosses. The women aren’t going to choose being manipulated by men. The gay brothers and lesbian sisters, they’re not going to choose being dishonored by the straights.”


It’s Joe Biden’s Swamp Now by Branko Marcetic (Jacobin)

““Trump’s critics have said that the picks represent a departure from his anti-Wall Street rhetoric during the campaign, and that they are out of touch with the working-class Americans whom he vowed to champion during the campaign,” wrote the Boston Globe, in a sentence that could be, word for word, repurposed for the incoming Biden administration, except for the fact that no such critics exist in respectable circles this time around.
“While the New York Times, as one notable exception, has continued scrutinizing the backgrounds of Biden’s appointees, mainstream media coverage of Biden’s transition has almost entirely jettisoned the oppositional approach it took under Trump during this same period, and has overwhelmingly been obsessed instead with the demographic diversity of Biden’s team.
“With Biden’s team defined by similar kinds of conflicts of interest, corporate influence, and concerning histories to the ones that defined Trump’s, the whole spectacle undermines the Trump-as-historical-aberration narrative the press has run with for the last four years, as well as Biden’s “return to normal” campaign message that much of the media has adopted as its own.”


The Problem With Hashtag Activism by Amber A'Lee Frost (Jacobin)

“The free and easy voluntarism of posting and content creation obscures an essential fact: the internet is deceptively vulnerable to corporate manipulation.
“Tufekci does not regard social media as a poison tree capable of bearing only poison fruit, per se, but she is not naive about the digital means of production. In talks and in print, she has illustrated that governments and capital have far more power than the masses over social media, which they often use to spy, censor, and misinform with impunity.
“[…] is difficult to imagine online activity as a revolutionary home base. The omnipotent rulers of these companies yield no transparency, accountability, or democratic control to users, the majority of whom do not display the dedicated platform loyalty of the activists in #HashtagActivism.”
“A 2019 Pew Research Center study found that only about 22 percent of American adults use Twitter, and they tend to be younger and more progressive than the average American. Moreover, about 80 percent of tweets are produced by 20 percent of accounts, meaning the majority of activity on Twitter comes from a very small (and ever shrinking) number of highly active users.”
“Tufekci argues that the rapidity of the growth and spread of online-borne movements may be a potentially intractable obstacle, rather than an advantage, as the speed of horizontalism only seems to foster a specific kind of social formation: the undifferentiated mass.
“The introduction of the internet as the main substitute for “community” for the young un/underemployed is not merely a matter of trading rug hooking for video games; this is a technology so powerful that its architects do not allow their children to use it. Online has become an opiate of the lumpen. Similar to weed or alcohol, it is a harmless social pastime for the thriving and robust. For the miserable and economically insecure, however, the internet becomes a pathological social blight, a symptom of initial misery that swells to compound and exacerbate the cycle of antisocial disaffection . . . We are more connected than we have ever been, and we are more isolated than we have ever been.”
“Not unlike the American Protestant concept of Christian mercy, with its noblesse oblige toward the “meek” and “wretched,” marginalism relies on a moralist, rather than political approach to injustice.”
“[…] there is a resistance to any consideration of its weaknesses, and a failure to even to address its potential detriments. Much of this stems from a fetish for novelty that has flourished since the cultural turn pronounced the death of dusty old class politics. Social media’s newness is taken as evidence of its potential, even when its own partisans write a book explicitly chronicling its 100 percent failure rate. At the heart of this denial is an ideology of will; this has to work, because it’s all that we have left — all the while, its greatest advocates sing its praises amid an unbroken record of defeat.
“When the revolution never happens, aimlessness is rationalized by insisting that maybe the real revolution was the friends we made along the way.”
“[…] organizers can no longer take for granted that activists have a definition of winning and losing that is recognizable to anyone outside of a left subculture, or even consistent within it.”


With Tanden Choice, Democrats Stick it to Sanders Voters by Matt Taibbi (SubStack)

“Biden is making this person Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sanders is the ranking member (and, perhaps, future chair) of the Senate Budget Committee. Every time Bernie even thinks about doing Committee business, he’ll be looking up at Neera Tanden. For a party whose normal idea of humor is ten thousand consecutive jokes about Trump being gay with Putin, that’s quite a creative “fuck you.”
“The Democrats still have to reckon with Trumpism in both the short and long term, but the Sanders movement on their other flank has at least temporarily been routed as a serious oppositional force. The Democrats know this, which is part of the joke of the Tanden appointment. While the party’s labors to oppose Trump have been incoherent at best, the campaign to kneecap Sanders has been, let’s admit it, brilliant.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Clintonite hacks in cushy Washington sinecures who would have retained their spots in the event of a loss to Trump. A Sanders win would have put them all out of the politics business for a while. It was unsurprising to see the party mainstream marshaling all of what passes for its brainpower to devise a long game to crate-train Sanders, who in less than a year went from oppositional favorite to seize the Democratic nomination to obedient afterthought.
“Clinton and her husband in fifteen years had racked up an incredible $153 million in speaking fees, at an average of $210,795 per speech, including $600,000 from Goldman.”
“Meanwhile, the rumpled Vermont socialist Sanders was cast — by Clintons — as the icon of white liberal racism! It would all be laughable, if it didn’t also work.”
“The crucial question, supposedly: was the road to solving America’s problems a matter of erasing class inequities? Or did a “class only” analysis insufficiently highlight the special disadvantages faced by communities of color and other disadvantaged groups? A third possibility — that mainstream Democrats as a rule ignored both questions and primarily whored for corporate donors — was ignored. Democratic politics was presented as a binary proposition, where the two choices were an enlightened approach stressing racial justice, or a “class determinism” that was really just a fetish of rich white kids dabbling in leftist politics because they felt guilty about their inheritances.”
“Of course, relatively speaking, Sanders had a terrific record on racial justice — he had marched with King when Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater girl and Joe Biden was chain-fighting Corn Pop, and had advocated for the working poor his whole life — but he agonized over the criticism in ways more shame-immune opponents did not.”
“The difference between conventional Democrats and the Sanders movement is that Democrats never allowed themselves to view Sanders and his followers as anything but threats that needed squashing. They were never tempted, even for a moment, to take the idea of a Sanders presidency seriously. Sanders was loyal in the end to the party that made a mission of destroying him, and now gets Neera Tanden up the keister as the first installment in what is sure to be a long program of repayment for the sin of running without permission. Welcome to the eternal law of American politics, where no crime is punished more harshly than being a good loser.”


Public Defender Tales: Innocent, But Fined by Matt Taibbi (SubStack)

“The most penniless residents of the St. Louis exurb were written up for everything from actual crimes to municipal code violations like “High Grass and Weeds,” “Barking Dog,” and “Dog Running at Large.” Between 2010 and 2014, the city wrote up 90,000 summonses and citations, and the number in the last year of that period was double what it was in the first year.”
“For a lot of Americans, this was the first time they were introduced to the idea that cash-strapped municipalities were using the justice system as a means of generating revenue. The grotesque angle was that cities were so desperate that they were reduced to systematically ticketing people who couldn’t pay.
“It was a classic Catch-22. If Mathes had been found guilty, she’d have a right to appeal not only the disposition of the case, but also an ability to pay penalties. However, as a higher court eventually ruled, there was no right to appeal anything after a case like hers had been dismissed.
“In the years since Ferguson, the public has become at least somewhat aware of the phenomenon of the state charging people for the pleasure of having to travel through the criminal justice system. In New York, for instance, people have to pay for the tests the state does to enter their DNA in a database.”
“People who are released from long prison terms often find themselves under an immediate obligation to repay years of costs racked up behind bars, with a failure to repay in some states leading to re-incarceration.”
“In some states, defendants are assessed hefty fees for pre-trial detention. Kornya says an Iowa 16-year-old, tried as an adult, racked up over $50,000 in pre-trial costs in just one case.

Which they owe even if found not guilty or the charges are dropped.

“Unlike plea agreements, which require the completion of a series of verbal or written formalities, there is no concrete mechanism with a dismissal. The attorney for a defendant like Mathes may agree to a deal, and the prosecutor simply has to represent to the court that a series of conditions, including fees, have been agreed upon.”
“[…] there were masses of people applying for leases or jobs who were being held back by the appearance of a criminal record, thanks to unpaid fees assessed in dismissed cases.”
“A non-indigent person who didn’t pay off his or her privately-hired lawyer could be sued, or might face an adverse credit report, but the state couldn’t prevent their record from being expunged.”


Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Misguided Defense of John Brennan and The Logan Act: a Dangerous and Unconstitutional Law by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“The right to dissent from, and to work against, the official foreign policy of the U.S. Government is vital: foundational to Constitutional liberties. There is very little such dissent in the U.S. Congress, where many of the core tenets of the Foreign Policy Community (from CIA drone warfare and clandestine coups to steadfast support for Gulf State and Middle East tyrannies as well as Israel) enjoy overwhelming, at times virtually unanimous, bipartisan support.
“[…] bad faith accusations of bigotry or treason are often designed to demonize attempts to question pieties and ostracize those who do it.”
“It is precisely because [The Logan Act] has never been used to prosecute anyone that there is no judicial clarity about what it means, and that’s how the U.S. Government wants it (for the same exact reason, the DOJ has never made good on its threats to prosecute any journalist who publishes classified information under the Espionage Act of 1917: they prefer to weaponize the fear of uncertainty regarding the law’s scope and application rather than prosecute journalists under it and thus risk a judicial ruling declaring it unconstitutional or inapplicable to journalists).”
“When you’re reduced to sitting on Twitter trying to distinguish your own global assassination program from the one you’re condemning, that is rather potent evidence that you are among the absolute last persons on earth with the moral credibility to denounce anything.”
“But that’s the Trump era in a nutshell: the most bloodthirsty monsters and murderers successfully whitewash their own history of atrocities by deceiving people into believing that none of this was done prior to Trump, and that their flamboyant opposition to Trump — based far more in stylistic distaste for him and loss of their own access than substantive policy objections — absolves them of their own prior, often-worse monstrosities.”
“The message of both Flynn and Brennan was virtually identical: don’t over-react or excessively retaliate: a new administration will soon take power and wants to work with you, so don’t do anything rash now that could prevent that from happening. But the difference is that while Brennan was predictably celebrated for his message to the Iranians, with viral likes and re-tweets, Flynn was criminally investigated by Jim Comey’s FBI for his.”
“[…] why would anyone on the left, let alone someone who themselves is a vocal dissenter from U.S. foreign policy, do anything regarding the Logan Act but denounce it and demand its repeal?”
“Convincing themselves that Trump is a Hitler-like figure who poses an existential threat to democracy and U.S. “norms” — which are amazingly presumed to be inherently good things in need of protection rather than destruction — they have decided that it is not only justified but necessary to resort to their own authoritarian measures and norm-violations in the name of stopping him.
“The list goes on and on — from cheering the CIA and FBI in virtually everything it did to subvert Trump to lying to the FISA court in order to illegally spy on a former Trump campaign official to resuscitating crusty Cold War scripts from McCarthy and Hoover about Russian infiltration and disloyalty, culminating with a claim this week from NBC News’ legal analyst that a court should refuse to honor Trump’s pardon of Flynn notwithstanding clear pardon power assigned by the U.S. Constitution:”

Philosophy & Literature

Samuel R. Delany, The Art of Fiction No. 210 by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah in Summer 2011 (The Paris Review)

“To answer that in any detail, we would have to reanimate the whole discussion over the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the notion that the lack of the word in the language means it’s all but impossible to entertain the concept, while a detailed vocabulary, such as the Inuits’ fifty-plus words for fifty-plus different types of snow—powdered, crusty, hard, soft, blown-into-ridges, et ­cetera—enables you to perform intellectual feats of winter negotiations unthinkable to temperate-climate folks like you and me.

What’s wrong with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is that it fails to take into account the whole economy of discourse, which is a linguistic level that accomplishes lots of the soft-edge conceptual contouring around ideas, whether we have available a one- or two-word name for it or only a set of informal many-word descriptions that are not completely fixed.”

“My students reach the climax of Heart of Darkness, when the pilgrims stand at the steamer’s rail, firing their rifles at the natives on the shore, fifteen or twenty feet away, “for some sport,” while an appalled Marlow blows the boat’s horn to frighten the Africans off. Some of the natives throw themselves on the ground, but among them stands Kurtz’s black mistress, her arms raised toward the boat that carries Kurtz away. From his bed in the wheelhouse, sickly Kurtz watches through the window—which Conrad has made clear has been left open. At the boat rail, the white men go on firing, and with a line of white space, the scene ends …

Year after year, more than half my students fail to realize that the white men have just killed the black woman Kurtz has been sleeping with for several years. Or that Kurtz, too weak to intervene, has had to lie there and watch them do it.

“When you ask, later, the significance of Kurtz’s final words, as he looks out through this same window, “The horror! The horror!,” it never occurs to them that it might refer to the fact that he has watched his fellow Europeans murder in cold blood the woman he has lived with. Suggestion for them is not an option. Earlier generations of readers, however, did not have these interpretive problems.

““If he raped her, why didn’t the writer say so?” “If they shot her, why didn’t Conrad show her fall dead?” my graduate students ask. It makes me wonder what other techniques for conveying the unspoken and the ­unspeakable we have forgotten how to read over four or five thousand years of “literacy.””

“Whatever you say about the story’s all but infinite higher meanings, just at the level of plot, The Metamorphosis is an allegorical tale about a family, one of whose members, presumably the one who’s responsible for bringing in most of the money, is suddenly stricken by a catastrophe, a debilitating disease that—overnight-renders him homebound and largely unrecognizable as the person he once was and tells what the experience might be from the point of view of the person to whom it happens.”
“This was a fairly common experience for families before World War II, and it still is. Kafka himself was such a person. His tuberculosis rendered him such a person in his own family, and it struck me as a chillingly accurate picture of the whole process of the transformation that occurred when my own mother was felled with a major stroke that, in an instant, rendered her wheelchair-bound, paralyzed on one side, and without language for the last eight years of her life.”
“The way the remaining family both recognizes and does not recognize the new and wholly dependent creature as the person he or she once was, and the way the invalid has to be treated—physically and emotionally—as a kind of insect … well, it’s a hugely cruel story, even as it details how love for the person metamorphoses, under pressure of the transformative situation, into annoyance and a feeling of entrapment.”
“One of my favorite quotes is from Goethe—”As soon as a man does something admirable, the entire universe conspires to see that he never does it again.“ This is frighteningly true. You write a decent book, and you’re hired as a creative-writing teacher. The next thing you know you’re director of the program, which basically means you get less time in class and more administration, which nobody likes, so that you can hardly write anything anymore.”

Technology

Google promises “spectacular” city GPS improvement with 3D building data by Ron Amadeo (Ars Technica)

“A quick refresher on how GPS works: your position is triangulated by satellites in space. Your phone receives a signal from a GPS satellite, consisting of the position of the satellite and a very precise timestamp. The GPS time stamp tells the phone how long the signal took to reach you from space, and then you just multiply that by the speed of light to get your distance from the satellite. If you get a signal like this from multiple satellites, you can narrow down your position on Earth to a few feet.

“All of these fancy space calculations work great, provided you have an open view of the sky. GPS triangulation assumes your signals are taking a straight shot from the satellite to your phone, but that’s not always the case. In a city, giant glass-and-metal skyscrapers can reflect the GPS signal on its way down from space. If your GPS signal includes a ricochet, your “time × speed-of-light” equation suddenly doesn’t equal your distance from the satellite, a leg of your triangulation triangle is longer than it should be, and your GPS coordinates aren’t accurate anymore. This can mean your location is suddenly on the wrong side of the street—or the wrong block.”


Why Is Apple’s M1 Chip So Fast? by Erik Engheim (Medium)

“It is the superior Out-of-Order execution which is making the Firestorm cores on the M1 kick ass and take names. It is in fact much stronger than anything from Intel or AMD. Likely stronger than from anybody else in the mainstream market.”
“[…] the ability to run fast depends on how quickly you can fill up the ROB with micro-ops and with how many. The more quickly you fill it up and the larger it is the more opportunities you are given to pick instructions you can execute in parallel and thus improve performance.”
“The biggest baddest Intel and AMD microprocessor cores have 4 decoders, which means they can decode 4 instructions in parallel spitting out micro-ops. But Apple has a crazy 8 decoders. Not only that but the ROB is something like 3x larger. You can basically hold 3x as many instructions. No other mainstream chip maker has that many decoders in their CPUs.”

“[…] for x86 an instruction can be anywhere from 1–15 bytes long. On a RISC chip instructions are fixed size. Why is that relevant in this case?

“Because splitting up a stream of bytes into instructions to feed into 8 different decoders in parallel becomes trivial if every instruction has the same length.

“However on an x86 CPU the decoders have no clue where the next instruction starts. It has to actually analyze each instruction in order to see how long it is.

“The brute force way Intel and AMD deal with this is by simply attempting to decode instructions at every possible starting points. That means we have to deal with lots of wrong guesses and mistakes which has to be discarded. This creates such a convoluted and complicated decoder stage, that it is really hard to add more decoders. But for Apple it is trivial in comparison to keep adding more.”

“One could argue as a counterpoint that CISC instructions turn into more micro-ops, that they are denser so that e.g. decoding one x86 instruction is more similar to decoding say two ARM instructions.

“Except this is not the case in the real world. Highly optimized x86 code rarely use the complex CISC instructions. In some regards it has a RISC flavor.

“But that doesn’t help Intel or AMD, because even if those 15 byte long instructions are rare, the decoders have to be made to handle them. This incurs complexity which blocks AMD and Intel from adding more decoders.”

“The Zen3 is just barely squeezing past Firestorm despite having almost 60% higher clock frequency.

“So why doesn’t Apple increase the clock frequency too? Because higher clock frequency makes the chips hotter. That is one of Apple’s key selling points. Their computers unlike Intel and AMD offerings barely need cooling.

“In essence one could say Firestorm cores really are superior to Zen3 cores. Zen3 only manages to stay in the game by drawing a lot more current and getting a lot hotter. Something Apple simply chooses not to do.

“If Apple wants higher performance they are simply going to add more cores. That lets them keep watt usage down while offering more performance.”

“It seems AMD and Intel have painted themselves into a corner on two fronts:”
  • They don’t have a business model which makes it easy to pursue heterogenous computing and SoC designs.
  • Their legacy x86 CISC instruction-set is coming back to haunt them, making it hard to improve OoO performance.
“The problem with throwing in more cores is that for typical desktop workloads you reach diminishing returns with too many cores.”