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Links and Notes for January 1st, 2021

Published by marco on

Below are links to articles, highlighted passages[1], and occasional annotations[2] for the week ending on the date in the title, enriching the raw data from Instapaper Likes and Twitter. They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.

[1] Emphases are added, unless otherwise noted.
[2] Annotations are only lightly edited.


Vaccines, Vaccines, Vaccines – Why Doesn’t Everyone Have One or Two? by Dean Baker (CEPR)

“By comparison, close to 200 million people get a flu shot every year, without any herculean effort by the military and health authorities. Distributing the coronavirus vaccines is more complicated, especially with the Pfizer vaccine that has be stored at a temperature of -94 degrees, but we should still be able to do better than six to eight months. So, the question is, why don’t we have four hundred million vaccines sitting in warehouses right now?
“It’s true that we didn’t know at the time which vaccines would prove successful, but so what? Suppose we wasted ten or fifteen billion dollars building factories designed to produce vaccines that were either not useful or not needed? We just spent another $900 billion on a pandemic rescue package, if we could bring the pandemic to an end two months sooner by having vaccines widely available immediately on their approval by the FDA, we would come out way ahead in monetary terms, and conceivably be saving more than one hundred thousand lives.
“I realize that many people in the United States will be reluctant to get a Chinese vaccine even if it is approved by the FDA, either due to a lack of confidence in the country’s technology or straight out racism. That shouldn’t matter, since many of us will be happy to take the racists’ place in line and let them have our slots with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, when they become available.

Thank Socialism for the Vaccine. Blame Capitalism for Its Distribution. by Leigh Phillips (Jacobin)

“When nurse May Parsons administered the first injection in the world of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to ninety-year-old British grandmother Margaret Keenan, applauded by dozens of moist-eyed medical staff at University Hospital Coventry, it was as glorious and moving a moment as any humanity has ever seen.”

China and Russia had already inoculated millions, at this point.

“Pfizer-BioNTech, along with the second-place finisher, Moderna, and the other front-runners, all depended on years of public-sector funding for their success, and, in many cases, on research actually performed by government or public university labs long before 2020. And again during this plague year, these private companies relied on state shepherding and bankrolling of the vaccine development process or, in the case of Pfizer, state-guaranteed purchase of millions of doses.
“Moving forward, these lessons show that the inefficiencies of the market must now permanently be done away with for vaccine development related to all other infectious diseases that suffer from a dearth of private R&D. For tuberculosis, for example, we have only a feeble, century-old vaccine that ameliorates the problem but is insufficient to prevent deaths from TB each year equivalent to those killed by COVID-19. In 2020, COVID killed 1.7 million worldwide; in 2019, TB killed 1.4 million.

Those 1.4 million are poor people in the global south, though. COVID-19 has taken over 1 million lives in Europe and North America alone, which is obviously a much bigger problem than TB’s scourging of the unseen.

“Even Republican governors of small states were fuming at how orders, paid in full, for essential equipment were canceled — sometimes mid-shipment — so as to make more money servicing richer jurisdictions. An almost identical crime is already in progress once again, but this time with respect to the logistics of vaccine manufacture and distribution.”
“In the future, when confronted with other outbreaks of novel viruses, so long as we have set up the mRNA production equipment ahead of time, ready to go, we can simply fire them up with the new antigen genetic sequence. As it may be a long time between outbreaks, without any opportunity for profit, such facilities will likely need to be maintained or at least funded by the state simply as a public service, like sewage systems or, more analogously, like fire brigades, paid primarily to just be there, ready for when the emergency comes.
“Food distribution worldwide already depends on a highly developed cold chain, but an ultracold chain, with the sort of temperatures the Pfizer vaccine requires, is a step beyond that. It’s common for research labs to have freezers that can keep things that cold, but not the pharmacies where, for example, you might have received a flu shot.
“The mismatch between need and supply, delivering potentially less effective vaccines not to those in less need but instead to those with less wealth, unnecessarily extends the lifetime of the pandemic that threatens us all.”
“[…] humanity shouldn’t have to depend on the goodwill of billionaires to deal with a pandemic.”
“And what if the efficacy for these more easily distributable vaccine options is lower than the mRNA vaccines? The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine results initially suggest it is between 70 and 90 percent effective (compared to 95 percent for both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s options). This is still outstanding, and far superior to the 40–60 percent efficacy rates of the annual flu shot.
“Numerically, these frauds shouldn’t amount to much. And the stricter the controls on such cheats, the greater the likelihood of increasing bureaucratic barriers to rollout. To some extent, one has to simply accept a certain level of selfish but petty villainy.

She’s referring to wealthy line-jumpers.

“It is precisely because the logistics are so complicated that the state needs to take over from the chaos of the market.”
“Hilariously, the argument put forward by the US trade representative as to why is that a loss of such intellectual property protections, even temporarily, would threaten incentives for vaccine innovation — as if almost every penny of the cost of research, development, and manufacture of the vaccines did not come from the public sector. COVID-19 vaccine innovation is entirely a product of the state.
“But regardless of the sheer audacity of these shameless bandits, the retention of a monopoly on COVID drugs and vaccines necessarily restricts the supply. Again, the interest of these firms inhibits rational production and allocation. The objective function of human society right now is to defeat the virus as quickly as possible. It is at odds with the objective function of market actors: maximization of profit.
“The researchers estimate that as a result of this “vaccinationalism,” most people in low-income countries will have to wait until sometime in 2024 to be vaccinated. Vaccinationalism will extend the pandemic by years.

Public Policy

The Legacy of President Donald Trump by Matt Taibbi (SubStack)

“The major in-between change was a total loss of our collective grip on reality, beginning with the fact that most of the country thinks we just went to hell and back a thousand times, instead of making just one noisy trip in a circle, arriving just where we might have four years ago, if Joe Biden had run instead of Hillary Clinton. The tiniest conceivable step, but oh so much grief and self-deception to get there!”
“[…Trump’s] greatest asset would be the consistent inability of upper-class America to take him seriously.
“Try to imagine Jeff Bezos juggling bridge loans while using his name to hustle steaks or ties or Jacquard throw blankets, and you’ll get an idea of how desperate and gauche Trump seemed to people with real money.”
“Trump was the ideal Spy target: book-dumb, shallow, and thin-skinned. Picking on him was a way for the smart set to congratulate itself on its superior refinement.
“The mockery Trump earned gave him something in common with huge portions of the rest of America, which also felt it was being laughed at by one-percenters.
“He more or less completely destroyed the old Republican Party in 2016, while the damage he did to Democrats was lasting in a different way. He forced them to abandon their pretensions to kumbaya liberalism and announce themselves as the elitist authoritarians they’d always been.
“While he isn’t really rich, Trump had enough money to significantly finance his first run for president, which underscored the ugly truth that politicians running against him were technically even smaller-time swindlers than he was, and therefore also more pathetic. After all, Clintons and Bushes (and Obamas, and Bidens) had to whore themselves for donor checks to run, and pay for political ads, while he, Trump, got the press to spread his message for free.”
“Most of these front men and women — Clintons, Bushes, whatever — were hustlers just like Trump, people who’d suck the paint off a doorknob for a dollar, or pass NAFTA for two.
“Trump’s pitch was, would you rather vote for an unrepentant pig like me, or someone who goes to Oxford to learn how to make selling you out to Johnson & Johnson or Lloyd Blankfein sound like it’s your idea? If you thought in these terms, the vulgarity gap suddenly didn’t look so pronounced.”
“If Trump couldn’t figure out a better way to monetize the presidency than shuttling G-7 leaders to eat $17 shrimp salads at his shitty golf courses, it probably meant he didn’t grasp the more terrifying conceptual possibilities for corruption in the presidential machinery.
“As an example-setter and inciter of bad behavior, Trump probably has no presidential equal, but this is America and we grade on a pretty serious scale, when it comes to Executive Branch iniquity. Where’s his secret bombing of Cambodia? Which country did he drench in disfiguring Agent Orange? How many wars did he start under false pretenses? Where’s his Teapot Dome, his Palmer Raids, or, for that matter, his $39 billion war support contract for KBR/Halliburton?”
“[…] the instant he was elected he was sold to us as the grandest of villains: leader of a coming fascist revolution, a super-spy for the Russians, the head of a white supremacist conspiracy. For four years, Trump was ludicrously portrayed as not merely a diabolical traitor, but a revolutionary planning the imminent overthrow of democracy.”
“There was always so much less than met the eye with this story, a simple tale of an arrogant ruling class that first got a deserved comeuppance in the form of maybe the least deserving challenger imaginable. It then spent four years pretending it was beaten by a demonic supervillain instead of an ad-libbing, flatulent salesman with a fourth-grade reading level.
“No one will admit it, but Trump was and is a quintessentially American type, and his rise to the presidency, one of the all-time American stories. It was The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County meets Duck Soup meets Scarface, a tall tale saga of how anyone determined enough, and full enough of resentment, greed, and unearned confidence, can make it all the way to the top in this country, armed with nothing but the pure power of bullshit.

In a Crisis, a Compromise Solution Is Worse Than No Solution at All by Ted Rall

“Even in a long-running crisis, the sustained agitation necessary to pressure the political classes into granting concessions doesn’t usually occur before people’s suffering has become acute. If the powers that be provide partial relief in the form of a half-measure that partly alleviates a problem, angry citizens can be persuaded to put down their pitchforks and go home peaceably. Yet the problem persists.”

The important thing is to assuage the symptoms of a kleptocracy without changing its fundamental workings: funneling money (and therefore, power) upward to a self-selected and self-sustaining elite.

“Especially on existential issues like climate change but also regarding the precarious state of the post-lockdown economy, compromise will sate the appetite for meaningful change without actually solving the problems. As with the ACA, voters will be deceived into thinking things are getting better when in fact they will still be getting worse, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower rate.

Worse*, Because Reasons by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice)

“This will come as nothing new to most of us, fully aware that people simply pick their sides and then use whatever arguments they can muster to push their agenda. Some can’t distinguish between their feelings and reason, one of the most troubling aspects of this moment in history when people argue in emotive terms and believe they are entitled to never have their feelings hurt or questioned. That, of course, makes discussion and resolution impossible.”

American Psychosis − Chris Hedges − the United States of Narcissism (YouTube)

The Case For a Pardon of Edward Snowden by President Trump by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“In ruling the NSA’s mass surveillance program illegal, the court noted the indispensable role Snowden played in enabling the protection of Americans’ rights. It was Snowden, explained the court, who “made public the existence of NSA data collection programs.” And, the court added, “Snowden’s disclosure of the metadata program prompted significant public debate over the appropriate scope of government surveillance” and ultimately led to reform: “Congress passed the USA FREEDOM Act, which effectively ended the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program” and also “prohibited further bulk collection of phone records after November 28, 2015.””
“[…] because [no evidence] exists. But that does not stop Endless War advocates like Liz Cheney from saying it anyway”

And neither Cheney nor Brennan got a warning on their Tweets. Nor were they banned.

“If there is any lesson we ought to have learned over the past two decades, it is that nobody should believe the claims of national security operatives without substantial evidence being presented. For anyone who wants to claim or believe that Snowden handed over secrets to Russia and/or China, you should demand evidence first. Where is it?”
“In other words, as Susan Rice well knows, Snowden would not be able to return to the U.S. and try to convince a jury of his peers that what he did was justified because the law under which they chose to prosecute him does not allow a defendant even to raise that as a defense. Instead, this old statute ensures a rigged process where a guilty verdict is all but inevitable.”
“But that does not mean Snowden has some moral obligation to help an unjust state keep him in a cage for life out of vindictive vengeance because he exposed their crimes.”
“A pardon of Snowden by Trump would prompt bipartisan cheering across the U.S. and would engender support globally across the ideological spectrum. The only ones angered by it would be exactly those people — John Brennan, James Clapper, Jim Comey, Susan Rice — whose ongoing ability to abuse their spying power against the U.S. population depends upon their vindictive use of the justice system to destroy the lives of those who reveal their crimes.

With Biden’s New Threats, the Russia Discourse is More Reckless and Dangerous Than Ever by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

Moscow’s alleged responsibility for the recently revealed, multi-pronged hack of U.S. Government agencies and various corporate servers is asserted — despite not a shred of evidence, literally, having yet been presented — as not merely proven fact, but as so obviously true that it is off-limits from doubt or questioning.

“The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Biden “accused President Trump [] of ‘irrational downplaying’” of the hack while “warning Russia that he would not allow the intrusion to ‘go unanswered’ after he takes office.” Biden emphasized that once the intelligence assessment is complete, “we will respond, and probably respond in kind.”
“[…] if we learned nothing else over the last several decades, we should know that accepting claims that emanate from the U.S. intelligence community about adversaries without a shred of evidence is madness of the highest order.”
“These media outlets will, if pressed, acknowledge their lack of proof that Russia did this. Despite this admitted lack of proof, media outlets are repeatedly stating Russian responsibility as proven fact.
“Even Trump’s hawkish Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, crafted his accusation against Moscow with caveats and uncertainty: “I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.””
“The ease with which the CIA can disseminate whatever messaging it wants through friendly media outlets is stunning.”
“[…] it is not an exaggeration to say that the U.S. Government engages in hacking attacks of this sort, and ones far more invasive, against virtually every country on the planet, including Russia, on a weekly basis. That does not mean that this kind of hacking is either justified or unjustified. It does mean, however, that depicting it as some particularly dastardly and incomparably immoral act that requires massive retaliation requires a degree of irrationality and gullibility that is bewildering to behold.
“[…] not only did Perlroth urge the criminal prosecution of a source on which she herself relied, an absolutely astonishing thing for any reporter to do, but so much worse, she did so by falsely accusing that source of doing something that she, Perlroth, had done herself: namely, reveal extensive U.S. hacking of China].”
“Harvard Law Professor and former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, reviewing growing demands for retaliation, wrote in an excellent article last week entitled “Self-Delusion on the Russia Hack: The U.S. regularly hacks foreign governmental computer systems on a massive scale”: The lack of self-awareness in these and similar reactions to the Russia breach is astounding. The U.S. government has no principled basis to complain about the Russia hack, much less retaliate for it with military means, since the U.S. government hacks foreign government networks on a huge scale every day. Indeed, a military response to the Russian hack would violate international law.

Not that violating international law is, in any way, a problem for the U.S.

Americans, particularly those who feed on liberal media outlets, have been drowned in so much mythology about the U.S. and Russia that they have no capacity to critically assess the claims being made, and — just as they were led to believe about “Russia’s 2016 interference in Our Sacred Elections” — are easily convinced that what Russia did is some shocking and extreme crime the likes of which are rarely seen in international relations. In reality, their own government is the undisputed world champion in perpetrating these acts, and has been for years if not decades.”
“[…] if you are someone demanding retaliation, do you believe that Russia, China, Brazil and all the other countries invaded by NSA hackers have the same right of retaliation against the U.S., or does the U.S. occupy a special place with special entitlements that all other countries lack?

Ads All Tell Us To Kill Our Future. Worth Discussing? by Lee Camp (CounterPunch)

“I’m not on the mainstream media, but I have a TV show and a touring comedy career (on non-pandemic years) and therefore at various points in the past I’ve sold books and mugs and CDs. I still sell my books. And when you’re a part of this system, you have to make a choice: Do I behave like a bit of a hypocrite and critique a system that absolutely needs critiquing? Should I be the fish critiquing the water he himself swims through? Or do I never criticize this consumerist system because I’m a part of it?”
“Our modern culture, due in no small part to the market economy, values and favors and supports and highlights materialism and competition and domination and selfishness. For the most part, it does not highlight helping others. While almost every mainstream commercial is based on wants or fears (and I suppose even fear is a want of security), we don’t see ads telling people to go sit at the train station and help old people down the stairs.”
“Saying, “No bag, no straws, no napkins” to him is somehow worse than telling him his recently-deceased mother had a tryst with a mangy donkey. I don’t know why. I don’t know what goes on in the heads of cashiers that make them so eager to give you enough plastic to replace an entire sex shop’s dildo collection.)”
“We have forgotten that nature feeds and sustains us. And every time someone buys a car “because the Christmas commercials said it was a good idea. I already have one, but they said I should be good to myself and reward myself with a backup SUV just in case the first one doesn’t match my outfit that day” — every time we buy shit we don’t need, throw out food we don’t want, trash clothes we shouldn’t have bought, buy people five gifts when one would suffice — every time we do it, we die a little.
“Each of these consumptive, wasteful actions makes us feel good for a moment, for a brief fleeting instant, and then that feeling quickly fades as the emptiness rushes back in like tidal water filling a hole on the beach.”
“Those small steps are the reminders that you and I live in the Matrix™, in a false reality — an inverted moral universe — that rewards consumerism, selfishness, greed, and war while scoffing at minimalism, altruism, and peace.

Joe Biden Is Turning Out to Be Exactly Who He Told Us He Was by Osita Nwanevu (Jacobin)

“[…] the project of transforming the Democratic Party as a whole through conscious effort… I don’t really see much reason to believe that’s all that possible. I mean, I don’t think that there’s much separating you at that point from so-called moderate Republicans who say that with the right time and effort the Republican party can be brought to reason.
“The fact is, people have not been given very much reason to think that the government can do the kinds of things that we all believe that it can, directly in their own experience, over the past twenty, thirty, forty years of American politics. Over that period there has been obviously a constant attack on the government’s capacity to do anything. So I don’t think it’s a surprise that you have a lot of people who are disengaged from politics or who might have doubts or reservations and not turn out even when a progressive agenda is put in front of them.

China Used Stolen Data to Expose CIA Operatives in Africa and Europe by Zach Dorfman (Foreign Policy)

““Just through its cyberattacks alone, the PRC has vacuumed up the personal data of much of the American population, including data on our health, finances, travel and other sensitive information.””

I wonder just how hacking they have to do to get this information, with the general laxity and sharing attitude toward data among companies. Or do they just get it from the NSA and Facebook, like everyone else?

“The CIA declined to comment for this story. The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to multiple requests for comment.”

Hahahahaha! I mean, … obviously.

“During the Cold War it had been hard to guarantee the rise of the CIA’s Soviet agents; the very factors that made them vulnerable to recruitment—greed, ideology, blackmailable habits, and ego—often impeded their career prospects. And there was only so much that money could buy in the Soviet Union, especially with no sign of where it had come from.”

This is ironic. In trying to topple the incorrigible enemy, they found that being incorrigible was a detriment to promotion in the evil empire. Are We the Baddies?

“In late 2012, party head Xi Jinping announced a new anti-corruption campaign that would lead to the prosecution of hundreds of thousands of Chinese officials. Thousands were subject to extreme coercive pressure, bordering on kidnapping, to return from living abroad. “The anti-corruption drive was about consolidating power—but also about how Americans could take advantage of [the corruption]. And that had to do with the bribe and promotion process,” said the former senior counterintelligence official.”
“During the OPM breach, Chinese hackers stole detailed, often highly sensitive personnel data from 21.5 million current and former U.S. officials, their spouses, and job applicants, including health, residency, employment, fingerprint, and financial data. In some cases, details from background investigations tied to the granting of security clearances—investigations that can delve deeply into individuals’ mental health records, their sexual histories and proclivities, and whether a person’s relatives abroad may be subject to government blackmail—were stolen as well.”
“The Chinese now had unprecedented insight into the workings of the U.S. system. The United States, meanwhile, was flying with one eye closed when dealing with China. With the CIA’s carefully built network of Chinese agents utterly destroyed, the debate over how to handle China would become increasingly contentious—even as China’s ambitions grew.”

Schöne Bescherung, dieses Brexit-Abkommen by Charles Liebherr (SRF)

“Das neue Partnerschaftsabkommen ist ein kurzfristiger politischer Gewinn für die amtierende britische Regierung und ein grosser ideologischer Verlust für die Europäische Union. Die EU machte daraus nie ein Geheimnis.”
“Bestimmt, in einigen Jahren können die britischen Fischerboote selber bestimmen, wie viel sie in ihren Gewässern fischen wollen. Aber sie müssen die Regeln der EU einhalten, um diesen Fisch in der EU verkaufen zu können.

Joe Biden’s Love of Austerity Cut the Stimulus Bill in Half by David Sirota (Jacobin)

“Read that again, just so it sinks in: Biden endorsing an initiative to slash the stimulus bill in half “gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands” for a much more robust rescue package at a time when America faces rising food insecurity and poverty.”
“Notably, Biden’s austerity ideology was not aimed at the $671 billion military spending package that was tacked onto the COVID rescue bill, which also included billions for Trump’s Space Force and new weapons systems. Instead, austerity was targeted at the part of the omnibus legislation that was supposed to help people whose lives have been destroyed by the pandemic.
“But now we see what Biden austerity means in practice. It means meager $600 survival checks instead of $1,200 checks in the same package that pours money into the Pentagon, gives rich people big new tax breaks and doubles funding for Congress’s own private health care system. It means inadequate unemployment benefits in a bill that devotes $6 billion to making business executives’ meals tax deductible and $3 billion to a tax break for landlords.”

Humanity and Wild Nature Will Likely Both Be Flourishing in 2100 by Ronald Bailey (Reason)

According to a July analysis in The Lancet, [the birth] rate will fall to 1.5 by the end of this century. Other global trends—such as steeply falling child mortality rates, increased urbanization, rising incomes, expanding education of women, and the spread of political and economic freedom—all strongly correlate with the choice to have fewer children.”
“Humanity is becoming an urban species, and that’s good for the environment, since city dwellers generally use less electricity, emit less globe-warming carbon dioxide, and have smaller land footprints than people living in the countryside. Today, about 55 percent of the world’s 7.7 billion people live in cities. That means about 3.5 billion still live on the landscape, many as subsistence farmers. By 2100, demographers project that 85 percent of people will be city dwellers, which would leave only 1.2 billion still living in the countryside.”

The technocrat libertarian naturally writes this as if the trend is an unadulterated good. In reality, 99% of the people in these cities today live in abject poverty, in squalid conditions, in desperation, or lives utterly devoid of any non-commercial meaning.

“Considering that agriculture is the most expansive and intensive way in which people transform natural landscapes, that is really good news for other species. The trend will reinforce ongoing depopulation of rural areas, freeing up ever greater swaths of land.”

Is he kidding? I honestly can’t tell if being ironic.

“Aquaculture is already supplying about half of the fish that humanity consumes.”

This is an astonishingly positive spin on “we have killed the oceans”.

“At the same time, awarding secure property rights to fishers would incentivize them to safeguard stocks, making the fisheries sustainable. As a result of such privatization in Iceland and New Zealand, their fish stocks, which had been declining, are now on the rise.”

From an example of two very remote islands with nearly no people and no neighbors as competition, we extrapolate to the world, ever hopeful that we don’t have to acknowledge the obvious failure of our ideology.

“Increasing global wealth, agricultural efficiency, and urbanization are also providing countries ever greater scope for taking active measures to protect and preserve natural land and seascapes.”

Jesus it’s like he’s deliberately ignoring the drawbacks. Less agriculture in Europe means more transport, more globalization. Pandemics force a return to more local production for essentials. But feel free to ignore the pandemic in your analysis, as it hasn’t affected you or your friends or funders. The same way everyone predicts the economy as if climate change doesn’t exist.

An “Uninformed” Defense by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice)

“After a defendant is sentenced to death, everybody hops on the train to prevent the execution. This isn’t to be critical of them for doing so. But it raises the question, where are all these fine advocates before she’s sentenced to die when the fight needed to be made and the very best chance to prevent an execution was still available?”

13 Things Trump Got Right by David Frum (The Atlantic)

“The Trump tax cut promised to accelerate long-term growth by stimulating business investment. That promise was broken; business investment did not rise. The Trump tax cut imposed indefinite trillion-dollar deficits upon the United States even before the pandemic crisis, while conferring little, if any, benefit on economic output.”
“First the United Arab Emirates, then Bahrain and Sudan, and most recently Morocco have opened diplomatic relations with Israel. It’s now possible to fly direct from Tel Aviv to Dubai, overflying Saudi Arabia.”

A definite win for the world, but I expected nothing less of Frum.

This is utter horseshit. It’s an opinion you can hold if you care only about market stability for corporations and nothing for most of the people. Yemen? Saudi arms? Palestinians? Bibi? Egyptian military dictatorship? Rampant slavery in Dubai?

“But Trump’s campaign to build 5G networks on Western rather than Chinese technology was powered by abundant reason: to secure communications in democratic countries from Chinese surveillance, and even Chinese sabotage.”

First of all, it’s jingoistic. And second of all, it lends a false sense of security. China will have no trouble infiltrating the U.S. Anyway.

“The Senate was stingy with cash relief to the economy. Monetary policy had to do most of the lifting—and Powell was equal to the lift.”

Typical. Trillions to big business is not all contrary to free-market capitalism and libertarianism.

“The Creates Act will allow generic drug makers to sue drug developers that withhold information needed to manufacture generics in a timely way once patent protection expires.”
“The tax law swept away that need for record-keeping by lower-wage workers. And it nearly doubled the standard deduction: For income earned in 2020, single people pay no income tax on their first $12,400, heads of household on their first $18,650, and married couples on their first $24,800. While most of the benefits of the 2017 bill were collected by the richest, this measure did a real service not only to the working poor, but to many middle-income families, who can deduct more while reporting less.
“The Trump Education Department has rescinded the 2011 guidance and reaffirmed that sexual-misconduct accusations on campus must be dealt with using the same due-process rules that apply everywhere else in American society.”
“If the supposedly “tough on crime” Trump administration can endorse lighter sentences and free tampons, so can conservative state politicians.”
“A president who sought to subvert U.S. democracy instead inspired unprecedented numbers of Americans to participate in that democracy, in order to save it from him. This was an achievement Donald Trump did not intend and surely did not want. But it was his achievement, even so.”

Biden and the systems managers of empire are returning to power by Chris Hedges (Mint Press News)

“But the real lesson we should learn from the rise of a demagogue such as Trump, who received 74 million votes, and a pandemic that our for-profit health care industry proved unable to contain, is that we are losing control as a nation and as a species.
“[…] will allow MSNBC and The New York Times, which spent two years slogging empty Russiagate conspiracies, to disseminate a daily stream of emotionally charged rumors and shady accusations about Russia.
Biden, after his defeat in the Democratic Party Caucus in Nevada by Bernie Sanders, where Sanders got more than twice his vote, immediately played the Russian card, telling CBS News that the “Russians don’t want me to be the nominee, they like Bernie.”
“If we want to avert zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, swine flu, avian flu, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow disease), Ebola, and SARS we must stop consuming animals and their bodily secretions. We must abolish factory farming and adopt a vegan diet. And we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.
“Razing the rainforest for cattle grazing and vast tracts of farmland devoted to growing monocrops to feed animals destined for human consumption are responsible for up to 91 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction since 1970.
“The continued destruction of natural habitat, coupled with the vast factory farms which use 80 percent of the antibiotics in the U.S. and incubate drug-resistant pathogens that spread to human populations, presage new forms of the Black Death.”
This is not defeatism. It is realism. We appear to have bought four years with Biden’s election, but if we do not use it wisely – and there is nothing in the Biden nominations that offer any encouragement – we are merely reconstructing a shabby Potemkin village that will soon be flattened by the gale-force political and environmental hurricanes that are gathering around us.”
“This hostility to democracy by one of the two ruling parties, supported by millions of Americans, many of whom were betrayed by Biden and the leaders of the Democratic Party, will not dissipate but grow, especially as the hammer of economic dislocation, including the looming evictions of millions of Americans, pummels the country.

Hostility to democracy in both parties. It evinces differently in Democrats but just as powerfully.

“The country is consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate masters lavishly provide, at the expense of truth. It is this delusional hope that will doom us.”

States Are Finally Revoking Cops’ License To Steal by Jacom Sullum (Reason)

““How do you explain to your kids when they come home and everything is gone?” Shattuck asked. She added that her 9-year-old daughter was now afraid of the police and “cried for weeks” because the cops threatened to shoot the family dog during the raid. Although “my husband and I have not been convicted of any crime,” Shattuck said, they could not get their property back, and their bank accounts remained frozen.
“They also required law enforcement agencies to report “all seizure and forfeiture activities” every year and indicate whether the property owners had been charged with crimes, which is not necessary for the government to take your stuff.”
“The story varies from one state to another, but it generally involves a combination of outrageous injustices, corruption scandals, and rising disgust at the unseemly greed that leads cops to steal TV sets and snatch money from children’s birthday cards.

How is this a thing in the land of liberty? How? How do you justify stealing from the poor, from constituents you’re charged with protecting, enriching yourself and your place of employment, arrogating power to yourself, simultaneously believing that you’re taking it from them because they can’t be trusted, all without a charge, or a receipt, to say nothing of a conviction. But you do it and you most likely keep the moral high ground. We are a truly advanced species.

CAFRA imposed notification rules, required the government to prove a criminal nexus by a preponderance of the evidence (instead of forcing the owner to prove that his property was not subject to forfeiture), allowed owners to challenge the proportionality of forfeitures, and required the government to pay the legal costs of owners who managed to prevail in forfeiture cases.
“It did not address the fundamental problem of punishing people by taking their assets without charging them, let alone proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“Initially, he viewed civil forfeiture as a useful tool to confiscate the assets of big-time drug traffickers and make crime less profitable. But as the crimes that could be used to justify federal forfeitures expanded from half a dozen to hundreds; as one state after another emulated Uncle Sam; and as examples of innocent victims accumulated, Cates had a change of heart.”
“By seeking federal “adoption” of seizures, Nebraska law enforcement agencies could avoid the double jeopardy problem by outsourcing forfeiture litigation to federal prosecutors. They could also keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds, which was even better than the 50 percent share they got from forfeitures under state law.”

They just legalize banditry.

“Changing the timing is a simple reform that has superficial appeal. But legislators don’t ask how many seizures won’t be challenged because of the complexity and the cost, which exceeds the dollar value of most seizures.“”
“Such budgetary supplementation also tends to pervert law enforcement, since it encourages police and prosecutors to prioritize financial reward over public safety. Yet many legislators welcome this found money because it relieves them of the need to appropriate additional taxpayer dollars.

What the fuck? These people are innocent, by definition. You are imposing an alternate, ad-hoc, regressive, and wholly unsupervised tax system answerable to no-one and redistributed as unelected criminals posing as police see fit (drugs and prostitutes and guns).

“As far as Brad Cates is concerned, that rationale for preserving civil forfeiture is completely wrongheaded. “Need the money, need the money, need the money,” he says. “That’s just not a proper motive for the government to be bounty hunters. If we need more, then you appropriate more.””
“Police and prosecutors initially said civil forfeiture was an important crime-fighting tool that nevertheless was not used very often and had not led to serious abuse in the state. But when “I.J. and others convincingly showed that it is a problem,” Miller says, the argument became: “We need the money. Don’t take this away from us. This is going to impact police budgets.””

So they lie about their criminal enterprise that is technically legal if ethically bankrupt. No surprise there. It is really hard to be hopeful about people and society sometimes.

“He draws some hope from the fact that ordinary people tend to oppose civil forfeiture once they understand how it works. “I explained the issue to my parents not long ago, and my parents are conservative,” he says. “They were horrified that such a thing could even be legal.”

Ordinary people don’t know about it because it only affects the poor. So they don’t care.

Beyond the Great Awokening by Adolph Reed Jr. (The New Republic)

“I’ve discussed a number of the political and intellectual casualties of what we might call this Great Awokening, among them a tendency to view the past anachronistically, through the lens of the assumptions, norms, and patterns of social relations of the present.
“This kind of provocation pivots on the tacit rhetorical claim that the offense it targets is atavistic—but in order for it to gain any significant traction, it requires that we understand that things have changed to the extent that such offenses should no longer be condoned, accepted, or taken in stride.
“Drake and Cayton also provide a suggestive (if inadvertent) explanation of a core paradox of the Awokening age: that, as actual class inequality intensifies among black Americans, the fervor of anti-racist politics escalates to ever more irrational lengths to deny this state of affairs, or to subordinate it to a race-reductionist set of priorities.
Ventriloquizing the interests of a fictive, undifferentiated racial population has become an important source of political capital for advancing identitarian agendas skewed to benefit the upper strata and aspirants—a key development that in turn suggests the Great Awokening represents a form of cognitive dissonance within that class. That is to say, the more obviously the premises of race-reductionist politics are at odds with the daily realities of black Americans’ lives and expressed concerns, the more insistently the Woke must double down on the fantasy of monolithic, unchanged race-driven oppression.”


How Discord Implemented App-Wide Keyboard Navigation by Jon Egeland (Discord Blog)

There’s a current discussion about adding a currentBackgroundColor value to CSS. This would ideally be queryable as well and would skip all of the manual ancestor traversal that is currently required. And another suggested feature in the CSS Color Level 5 draft is the color-contrast function, which would let authors specify a list of colors and have the browser automatically pick the most visible color.”

Apple M1 foreshadows Rise of RISC-V by Erik Engheim (Medium)

RISC-V Was Tail[or-]made to Control Accelerators … This is exactly what RISC-V got designed for. It has a bare minimum instruction-set of about 40–50 instructions which lets it do all the typical CPU stuff. It may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that an x86 CPU has over 1500 instructions.”
“General purpose ARM processors will be at the center with an army of RISC-V powered coprocessors accelerating every possible task from graphics, encryption, video encoding, machine learning, signal processing to processing network packages.”

Back to the ‘70s with Serverless by Cees de Groot (evrl.com)

“We sat behind a terminal, typed in the code, surrounded it with the required IBM Job Control Language that the teaching assistant helpfully added to the assignment, and hit “Enter” (not “Return”, actually “Enter” − Enter The Job). A couple of minutes later, the printer started and spit out a couple of pages. Between gibberish in all caps, there it was: a compiler error. Back to square one − Turbo Pascal and IBM Mainframe Pascal clearly had some differences.

This is really the case with the cloud. Even Docker instances run differently, with different capabilities and different default settings. Launching an Ubuntu container on a local Windows desktop works while launching it on a Windows server does not. Run anywhere just doesn’t work without intensive testing and adjustment to remove those pesky assumptions that prevent you from running anywhere.

“Slow feedback loops kill performance, and if you don’t believe me, find an online version of The Beer Distribution Game and play it. You’ll be surprised. The pinnacle of interactivity was, and still is, Smalltalk. I worked in that language for a couple of years and having your system compile and run most of your tests in less than a second is addictive. It is incredible how much your performance increases on a fully interactive programming system but it takes first-hand experience to fully appreciate it.
“[…] telling the computer how to run it took pretty much the same amount of typing, this time not in a programming language but in a structured markup language. That language lacked all the facilities that apply to writing good code, so principles like “Don’t Repeat Yourself” went overboard and copy/paste programming ensued.
“Service Oriented Architecture, and later microservices, was born. Split your codebase, split your teams, create a lot of opportunities for mediocre coders to grow into mediocre engineering managers, everybody was happy. Including your hardware vendor, because suddenly you needed much more hardware to run the same workloads.
“XML, however, was universally rejected in favour of things like JSON, Yaml, HCL, Toml − all free of structure, with zero indication whether a computer would find your prose gibberish or the next Shakespeare play until you actually pushed your code to some test cluster. It suddenly felt a lot like being back at that university interacting with a mainframe, but at least you still owned the hardware and could introspect all the way down, especially if you were doing “DevOps” meaning mostly that you had administrative access to your hardware.”
“The feedback cycle is truly broken − testing a microservice is merely testing a cog in a machine and no guarantee that the cog will fit the machine − but we just throw more bodies at the problem because Gartner tells us this is the future.
“[…] we have arrived at “Serverless”. You deploy individual stateless functions. But not inside a Java monolith, that is old, but on top of a distributed system. You would have been laughed out of the door if you had proposed that in 2000, and you should be laughed out of the door right now, but such is the power of marketing.”
“[…] instead of combining them all on your desktop, you send them off to someone else’s mega-mainframe. You deploy, get an error message, and login to CloudWatch to see what actually happened − it’s all batch-driven, just like the bad old days, so progress is slow. At least we’re not having to walk to the printer on every try, but that pretty much sums up the progress of the last half century.”
“Oh, and a “Function” will be able to handle a single request concurrently, so here’s your AWS hosting bill, we needed a lot of instances, I hope you won’t have a heart attack. Yes, we run workloads that your nephew can run on his Raspberry Pi 4, but this is the future of enterprise.”
“[…] a platform like OTP handles pretty much everything that a platform like AWS Lambda handles, but it does it in a single programming language. Tools of the trade are available: you can refactor Erlang code, you can write Elixir macros, all to keep the system clean, malleable, and free of accidental complexity.
“This level of complexity is not sustainable, and my fear is that it will be solved the way our industry likes to solve the problems they have created themselves: by adding more complexity on top if it.

Commits are snapshots, not diffs by Derrick Stolee (GitHub Blog)

“A commit is a snapshot in time. Each commit contains a pointer to its root tree, representing the state of the working directory at that time. The commit has a list of parent commits corresponding to the previous snapshots. A commit with no parents is a root commit and a commit with multiple parents is a merge commit.”
“The reason for that is that the same objects are reachable from multiple root trees! Since these trees reference those objects by their OID (their content) these snapshots do not need multiple copies of the same data. In this way, Git’s object model forms a Merkle tree.”
“[…] the cost of computing a diff is relative to the number of paths with different content.”
“The biggest problem with using patches is that it is hard to apply a patch when your working directory does not match the sender’s previous commit. Losing the commit history makes it difficult to resolve conflicts.”
“It is important to recognize that we didn’t “move” the commit to be on top of our current HEAD, we created a new commit whose diff matches the old commit.”

I find this somewhat poorly phrased. The rebase takes the changes of the commit versus the current parent and applies those changes to the HEAD. This may cause conflicts, which must be resolved. It may merge smoothly but with behavioral differences not in the original. Author stays the same. It’s a new commit that may make the same changes, but often is different in minor ways, as it’s diff is adjusted to fit the new parent.


Fuck the Bread. The Bread Is Over. by Sabrina Orah Mark’ (The Paris Review)

“In fairy tales, form is your function and function is your form. If you don’t spin the straw into gold or inherit the kingdom or devour all the oxen or find the flour or get the professorship, you drop out of the fairy tale, and fall over its edge into an endless, blank forest where there is no other function for you, no alternative career. The future for the sons who don’t inherit the kingdom is vanishment. What happens when your skills are no longer needed for the sake of the fairy tale? A great gust comes and carries you away.”
“I will tell them if they perform each one of these tasks perfectly, they will be rewarded with more tasks. And if they perform each of those tasks perfectly, they will be rewarded with more. Until, at last, they will not be able to tell the difference between their hands and another boy’s hands.”
“Over the years I have applied for hundreds of professorships, and even received some interviews. I’ve wanted a job like this for so long, I barely even know why I want it anymore. I look at my hands. I can’t tell if they’re mine.”