|<<>>|4 of 28 Show listMobile Mode

Links and Notes for April 23rd, 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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.

COVID-19

Communicating the potential benefits and harms of the Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine (University of Cambridge)

“The benefits of the vaccine are protection against COVID-19 (short-term and ‘long COVID’) − for the person being vaccinated and for those they come into contact with as it also reduces the chances of them being infected by the vaccinated person.

“These potential benefits, though, change according to:”

  • How likely a person is to be exposed to the virus (e.g. how prevalent the virus is, locally, at the time; what their occupational exposure is to it)
  • How likely they are to have a poor outcome as a result of catching the virus (this is mostly affected by their age, but also underlying health conditions)
“The potential benefits also accrue every day that the person is vaccinated (and exposed to the virus).”

The upside far outweighs the downside, even at low exposure (UK in March 2021). At high exposure (UK in December 2020 /January 2021 at the height of the second wave), it’s shocking how much time was wasted discussing it.

 Benefit vs. harm for high-exposure situations


How Is The COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Going In Your State? (NPR)

“Since COVID-19 vaccine distribution began in the United States on Dec. 14, more than 215 million doses have been administered, fully vaccinating over 87.6 million people or 26.4% of the total U.S. population.”

WTF Europe? Switzerland (2.1M)? Where you at bros?


Leigh Phillips is the Jacobin science writer. He’s from Canada. He compares Canada’s—and Europe’s—vaccination response to

What the US Got Right About Vaccine Distribution — Leigh Phillips by Jacobin: Nando Vila & Ana Kasparian (YouTube)

He gives an interesting analysis that touches on a few points: that the U.S. has a much larger population was to its benefit actually, because it has many more resources and people available. Also, contrary to the story it tells about itself, there is a lot more top-down control in the U.S. than in other, more federated countries. Operation Warp Speed was a success. Pouring money into the problem—a state-funded solution that removed the risk factor for private industry—turned out to produce a 90-95%-effective vaccine in about 20% of the previous record time.

But now that it’s available, the first world is hogging it and not really interested in producing more of it at the rate needed to actually make a dent in COVID for anyone else. Distribution has limped in Europe (and Switzerland) because of the relatively weak federal-level governments there. Ordinarily, this is a good thing, but in the case of a pandemic, an inability to negotiate and decide en masse slows things to a crawl. They need to solve “the problem of democratic accountability in Europe.”

At about 30:30, Leigh says,

“The British Medical Journal just had an article out saying that, at the current rate of vaccination, because of the under-delivery of vaccines to the developing world, the poorest countries will likely not be fully vaccinated until 2024. That’s grotesque. It’s absolutely grotesque. And just this weekend, the count now is 3M dead. 3M dead worldwide. That’s half a Holocaust. It is fucking outrageous that we live in a society, an economy, that cannot do this. It just makes me furious. I’m just livid about this.”

Economy & Finance

Maybe SPACs Are Really IPOs by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“Shareholders want forward-looking information, but shareholders’ lawyers, left to their own devices, would make it too risky for companies to disclose that information.”
“Companies with fraud convictions and penny-stock companies don’t get the safe harbor, for instance. The goal is to let regular established public companies tell their shareholders their plans for the future without too much fear of getting sued, but not to let shady companies take advantage of the rule to spin wild tales and sucker people into investing.”
“In general de-SPAC mergers are less about the pool of money raised by the SPAC before finding a deal, and more about the PIPE money raised from institutional investors at the time of the deal. If a company wants to go public by merging with a $500 million SPAC, it will often do something like a $1 billion PIPE deal at the same time. If there’s no PIPE money, the de-SPAC merger is a lot less attractive.
“Eventually the Bitcoin market will be fully domesticated, and a crowd of electronic traders will compete to arbitrage prices for pennies of profit. But, despite years of institutionalization, that hasn’t happened yet.
“As the current bull market gets more and more frothy, this newsletter spends less and less time on, like, complex derivatives, and more and more time on simple goofy nonsense that creates money out of thin air. (I am sad about this too.)”
“I try, but there is just not that much to say about any of these things; there is no interesting structure or deep analysis here. People have too much money and want to do silly things with it, and if you position yourself on the other side of their desires, the money will flow”


Big SPAC Deals Don’t Need Big SPACs by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“If the company owes someone a fixed amount of its stock, that is just “equity,” not a “liability.” And so obligations to issue fixed amounts of stock — convertible bonds, warrants, employee stock-option plans, etc. — are not generally marked to market through the income statement. This also makes sense: It would be weird for a company’s net income to go down just because its stock went up.


Good and Exciting Times for Banks by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“The one piece of bad news in JPMorgan’s results was the weak demand for loans. Things are too good for loans! Why take out a loan when you can get money from a stimulus check or a SPAC or by selling an NFT? The enormous amounts of money sloshing around are in many ways good for banks, but they do reduce demand for banks’ core business of lending money.
“Elsewhere, Charles Schwab Corp. sent a woman $1.2 million by accident, and she kept it, and now she’s in jail. If someone sends you money by mistake and you decide to keep it, it helps a lot to be a big hedge fund instead of a regular person.

Duh.


You Have to Get the Right Ticker by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“Sometime in the next few months (it hopes), AvePoint is going to go public; it will raise about $230 million for itself by, effectively, selling stock to SPAC shareholders, and will raise another $262 million to partially cash out its existing private shareholders. In effect, it will sell about 49 million shares to the SPAC shareholders and new PIPE (private investment in public equity) investors, at $10 per share, like an IPO but at a fixed, known price. But now it thinks that deal is just a touch too dilutive, so it’s going to buy back about 2 million shares. And since the IPO — I mean, the SPAC merger — hasn’t happened yet, and won’t for a few months, it’s going to buy back the shares first. First buy back the stock you don’t need to issue, then issue it. Sure.
“The investor might do a little due diligence, or a lot, but either way it won’t place too many due diligence demands on the company: It will read the company’s public filings, maybe ask a few follow-up questions, perhaps meet with investor relations or the chief executive officer, but it will not expect the company’s management team to stop work for a week just to answer the investor’s questions, and if it does the management team will say no. In rare cases the investor (generally an activist hedge fund) will ask for a board seat, but most investors won’t, and if they do the company will usually be skeptical about giving it to them. The company has professional managers and is already executing on its business; it would find it annoying and strange if an investor came along and tried to mentor it.
“First of all, yes, nice, this is the right basic idea; it combines the idea of giving people money with the idea of forcing them to spend it on self-care and getting away from the office. Giving people $10,000 runs the risk that they’ll pay down their student loans and keep working until 3 a.m. every night until they explode; giving them a free vacation increases the chances that they’ll take a vacation.
“There is a picture of the hoodie, which … I guess looks like it cost $26,000, in that it is garishly ugly and has a swear word printed on it. The pitch email I got says that “the value is held in the NFT, not the garment,” and “observers can scan the garment to display the NFT, see how much the hoodie cost, and view the ownership chain of the garment.” I suppose you could just sell a non-NFT hoodie for $26,000 and leave the price tag on, but this way you get to show off how much you spent on your sweatshirt using the immutable code of the blockchain.
“To be fair most people who create non-fungible tokens and sell them for piles of money are also making fun of them. Like, NFTs are mostly a joke, and the joke is always “I can’t believe anyone is buying this thing,” and the people who buy the thing are generally in on the joke. “Ahahaha, look how much money I have, this is ridiculous,” is their side of the joke.

Public Policy & Politics

Amid mounting tensions, US imposes sanctions on Russia by Clara Weiss (WSWS)

“The alliance, which has aggressively expanded to Russia’s borders over the past three decades, and has backed multiple coups in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, hypocritically called on Russia “to cease immediately its destabilising behavior.”
“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in the light of the sanctions a summit between Biden and Putin, which Biden had proposed on Tuesday, would not happen anytime soon, but did not rule it out entirely either.”
“On Thursday, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, threatened that if Ukraine is not soon admitted to NATO, Ukraine would be forced to “rearm on our own.” Speaking to Deutschlandfunk, he said that the Ukrainian government was “considering” the acquisition of nuclear weapons.


The Fine Print on Biden’s Afghanistan Announcement by Norman Solomon (ScheerPost)

“Matthew Hoh, a Marine combat veteran who in 2009 became the highest-ranking U.S. official to resign from the State Department in protest of the Afghanistan war, told my colleagues at the Institute for Public Accuracy on Wednesday: “Regardless of whether the 3,500 acknowledged U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the U.S. military will still be present in the form of thousands of special operations and CIA personnel in and around Afghanistan, through dozens of squadrons of manned attack aircraft and drones stationed on land bases and on aircraft carriers in the region, and by hundreds of cruise missiles on ships and submarines.””


“Marx’s Old Mole is Right Beneath the Surface” by Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian (Boston Review)

“First of all, it was explicitly an attempt at a coup. They were trying to overthrow the elected government: that’s a coup. As for those who participated, one striking feature—look at the photographs—is that few young people were involved. That’s quite unusual; political events and demonstrations are mostly young people. Here it was middle-aged and older people, and they were all enthusiastic Trump supporters. He was egging them on.”

Ok Chomsky. I feel like he’s really rabbit-holed on Trump, ascribing tremendous power to him. It was a terribly executed coup—or, in Chomsky’s words, an “attempt at a coup”. He’s taking their declaration of it being a coup at face value.

It had no chance. It was poorly planned; there was really no plan, not for “after” they’d won, was there? They did nothing. They embarrassed the nation that something like that could happen in the heart of it, but they all shuffled right back out a few hours later. No standoff, no shots fired, very little damage done. They were not resisted and got nowhere. It was childish.

Their aim had no anchor in reality, as far from a coup as a child’s drawing of a car is from the real thing. The drawing is barely recognizable as a car, but the child is convinced it can get in it and go somewhere. That doesn’t make it a car.

“There were elements there from the more violent militias, such as the Proud Boys. It was a pretty violent affair. Five people were killed; it could have been much worse.”

Four died of heart attacks. One shot fired, by police, which killed a protestor. Yes, it could have been much worse, but not a single one of the protestors fired a shot from any of their firearms. They walked in, they walked back out. As coups go, pretty unrecognizable.

“[Trump’s] major policy programs were to destroy the environment as quickly as possible, maximize the use of fossil fuels, and eliminate the regulatory apparatus that somewhat controls them, with the goal of increasing short-term profit for sectors of industry, fossil fuels, and others. This is the most malicious program in human history. It’s barely discussed; that’s not what Trump is criticized for. But whatever else he did pales into total insignificance compared with this. Another four years of it, and we might have been pretty near the finish line.

And now? Will we do anything useful with those four years?

Trump continued Obama’s expansion, no? I wasn’t aware that he’d increased it so drastically as to be another order of magnitude. Biden won’t slow that train. The pandemic did, though. It weakened Exxon to the point that it was delisted from the S&P 500.

“What would be a fair and just immigration policy? NC: The first goal of policy should be to eliminate the conditions from which people are fleeing. These people don’t want to be in the United States; they want to be at home. But home is unlivable—they’re forced to flee. We have a large share of responsibility for the fact that it’s unlivable.”
“The problem wasn’t the caravans. It was why it was happening. While the rest of the hemisphere condemned the coup, Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton refused to formally designate it a military coup—because if they did, they would have had to stop military aid to the junta. When you impose a horror chamber, people flee.”
“[…] a kid is caught breaking a window to steal drugs, you don’t send him to jail for thirty years. What you do is find out what his problem is and deal with it.
“The 1619 Project in the New York Times was another very interesting step forward. Of course, it’s being lambasted by professional historians: you got this detail wrong, you forgot to say that, and so on. It doesn’t matter. It was a very powerful recognition of what 400 years of vicious treatment has meant for African Americans and what legacy it leaves. That’s a real breakthrough. Couple of years before that, nothing like it. All of these are steps forward.”

I disagree strongly here. As I would have expected an earlier Chomsky to do as well. That Chomsky wrote about it being exactly the little details that led to a completely different and largely fictitious “manufactured consent” arising from journalism. He argued then that the what it looked like on the surface differed wildly from what people ended up interpreting from it, mostly based on framing.

I’m shocked that Chomsky is OK with this mendacious propaganda campaign. He used to care about details and point out how they were essential to twisting a story. Now Benjamin Franklin is and always has been a racist and that’s OK, despite a complete lack of actual evidence, because the end justifies the means.

I recently took some notes on a very lengthy examination of one of the foundational works of the 1619 project (Gerald Horne’s counter-revolution against 1776 by Fred Schleger (WSWS)) that spent time on the “details” that Chomsky is waving away (counter to earlier Chomsky) and found them to be sobering and quite convincing.

You can’t lie about details if you want to be the honest party. You can’t just make shit up to support what you think is the truth. How does that work? How am I to understand the difference between an actual lie and “steps forward” toward a proper goal, but supported by manipulation and untruth? If it takes untruth and fake facts to get there, then how can it be the truth? Do we just a priori assume that we already know the conclusion and then just cherry-pick evidence and fabricate information to support it? Is that considered OK when the cause is right?

This is exactly the technique used against Trump that only strengthens him, in the end. Anyone and everyone thinks it’s OK to just sling mud at him as long as it sounds “truthy”. This undermines the effort to report on things that he’s actually done. Hell, Chomsky even complained about it earlier: that Trump’s policies against the environment were

“[…] the most malicious program in human history. It’s barely discussed; that’s not what Trump is criticized for. ”

Yeah, it’s barely discussed because people are “discussing” untruths and non-issues that are wrong “in the details” but feel right. The jihad against Trump looked, on the surface, like it was a step in the right direction, but it was, in reality, ignoring the actual evil of his policies—because those were approved by all sides. The 1619 project is the same: it is based on dishonesty, but because it flies the right banner, it’s supported even by the likes of Chomsky. In reality, it neatly skirts changing anything in the present day that would help anyone it purports to represent.

There is no difference if the truth is manufactured. Maybe Chomsky is just getting tired—hell, I would be—or maybe he’s getting “woke” from living and working in—and never leaving—Cambridge, Massachusetts. Or maybe he just got one wrong. Or maybe I’m missing something.

“Having a job is not something you look forward to. It’s something you may be forced into, but it’s an attack on your dignity as a human being, your rights as a free human being. Having a job means being forced to live under the orders of a master for most of your waking life. Nothing wonderful about that. Skilled workers in the late nineteenth century had a very lively working-class press. They expressed their hope that over time people wouldn’t succumb to this attack on their rights—that they wouldn’t accept as normal the idea that they have to be subject to a master.


Behind the News, 4/15/21 by Doug Henwood (Apple Podcasts)

The first half is an interview with Meagan Day and Micah Uetricht about Sanders’s legacy (which was OK), but the interview with Jane McAlevey about “why the union lost to Amazon in Bessemer” was absolutely top-notch.

She discusses in no uncertain terms how obvious it was that they were going to lose:

  • They didn’t have the votes; they either knew it or they were even more incompetent than they already appeared
  • They had only 34% before the campaign started. “Membership doesn’t go up after that; it always goes down”
  • They didn’t know how to run a campaign
  • They didn’t prepare their potential members for the game plan that Amazon inevitably ran
  • They pulled in endorsements from Hollywood, rather than local clergy, which had the opposite effect
  • Instead of telling potential members, “Why do you think Amazon is suddenly so interested in how you spend your money?”, they played up that Alabama is a “right to work” state and that members wouldn’t even necessarily have to pay dues.

That last one was ridiculous. They deliberately torpedoed their own dues using the arguments of their enemy.

McAlevey summed up by saying that she “knew it was going to fail since the initial vote count was too long in December”. Nothing that ensued—their missteps on focusing on digital, their focus on union staff and celebrities rather than workers and community—convinced her that the organizers were going miraculously turn it around.

From her article summing up the election, Blowout in Bessemer: A Postmortem on the Amazon Campaign by Jane McAlevey (The Nation),

“Three factors weigh heavily in any unionization election: the outrageously vicious behavior of employers—some of it illegal, most fully legal—including harassing and intimidating workers, and telling bold lies (which, outside of countries with openly repressive governments, is unique to the United States); the strategies and tactics used in the campaign by the organizers; and the broader social-political context in which the union election is being held.”
“The organizers can then help the worker understand that paying dues is essential to build the power required to take on monstrous employers like Amazon.”
“The last thing nervous workers want is to be seen near the place they work, talking with union supporters. Successful campaigns require house calls—unannounced physical visits to workers’ homes so the conversation can be had away from the company’s watchful eye.”
“A majority public structure test is when a majority of workers who are eligible to vote in an upcoming union election, or who are voting to strike, sign a petition or take photos and produce a public poster, flyer, or website that displays their signature or faces, with a message stating their intent to vote yes. When asked why that wasn’t done in Bessemer, the union’s communications director told me it had to “protect the workforce” from being fired, so it didn’t want to do anything in public. Game over.”
“When fear is running hard inside a facility—which it certainly was in the Amazon election—the only way to overcome it is by asking each pro-union worker to step out and declare themselves pro-union publicly. What “protects the workers” is when a majority of them take this action together, all at once. You are teaching collective power in the conversations and actions.”
“When there are more outside supporters and staff being quoted and featured in a campaign than there are workers from the facility, that’s a clear sign that defeat is looming.”
“The media, especially the genre of media called the labor media, should have never overhyped this campaign—or the Volkswagen campaign, or the Nissan campaign. In all three cases, the impending defeat was evident everywhere. When media folks prioritize clicks and followers over reality, it doesn’t help workers, and probably hurts them.


Journalists, Learning They Spread a CIA Fraud About Russia, Instantly Embrace a New One by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“Do you see what Hayes just did there? It is vital not to lose sight of how irresponsible and destructive this behavior is just because it is now so common. He saw a Press Release from a U.S. Government agency, read an assertion that it contained in one sentence, had no evidence that this assertion was true, but nonetheless “reported” it as if it were proven fact to millions of people in a predictably viral tweet.
“[…] the oozing historical ignorance of pretending that there would be something astonishing about Russians paying for the killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan when the CIA just last week explicitly boasted of having done the same to Russian soldiers in Afghanistan”

The link above shows what the CIA was bragging about:

 Stinger Missile Launcher

“The Stinger missiles supplied by the United States gave Afghan guerrillas, generally known as the Mujahideen, the ability to destroy the dreaded Mi-24D helicopter gunships deployed by the Soviets to enforce their control over Afghanistan.”

Breathtaking, really. The CIA is bragging on Twitter about having sold weapons to insurgents with which they killed Russians. It’s far enough in the past—and the U.S. considers itself so indomitable—that they probably don’t even consider what this looks like to Russians. Or don’t care. Or maybe that was the point.


The Movie Follows the Script by James Howard Kunstler (ClusterFuck Nation)

“The trouble is what’s not in the indelible picture: Mr. Floyd’s prodigious ingestion of the world’s hardest narcotic, fentanyl, at a level likely to cause death, plus methedrine, plus THC, on top of a 90-percent blockage of a coronary artery, and other cardiopathies, and Covid-19, all according to the official medical examiner.”

I’d already read this a few times and heard the medical-examiner’s report dismissed as not relevant as well as considered to very relevant. So I dug it up here: HENNEPIN COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER’S OFFICE AUTOPSY REPORT for George Floyd. The case title is “CARDIOPULMONARY ARREST COMPLICATING LAW ENFORCEMENT SUBDUAL, RESTRAINT, AND NECK COMPRESSION”.

Parts that leap out to me (not a doctor) are, “Arteriosclerotic heart disease, multifocal, severe” but also “No life-threatening injuries identified”, which I take to mean that the injuries he’d suffered were internal, not external.

Floyd was “positive for 2019-nCoV RNA by PCR” and had “Fentanyl 11 ng/mL” in his system, as well as a metabolite of Fentanyl, “Norfentanyl 5.6 ng/mL” (indicating that part of his dose had been processed). I, of course, had to quickly look up Norfentanyl to discover that it was a metabolite (“an intermediate or end product of metabolism”, according to Wikipedia).

On top of that, there were also “Methamphetamine 19 ng/mL” as well as “11-Hydroxy Delta-9 THC 1.2 ng/mL”, which is, according to 11-Hydroxytetrahydrocannabinol, a metabolite of cannabis. “Cotinine” (metabolite of nicotine) and “Caffeine” were also present. No ethanol, though.

As far as I know (not a doctor), though, these are just trace amounts. 11ng/mL doesn’t sound like very much, to be honest. Not when you’re still allowed to drive in many countries with .5% (or .005) BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). Compared to that, .000011 (or .0011%) seems vanishingly small. Fentanyl is considered to be anywhere from 50-100x stronger than morphine and morphine is much stronger than ethanol. There’s a decent chance that .0011% is a pretty high dose.

I looked up “Fentanyl 11 ng/mL” and found the report Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on June 23rd, 2016 (CDC), which describes other victims,

“The Connecticut Medical Examiner’s Office performed postmortem toxicology screens on specimens obtained from two patients who died en
route to the hospital (patients E and I). Serum samples from the hospitalized patients analyzed at UCSF demonstrated fentanyl levels of 0.5–9.5 ng/mL
(Table 2) (therapeutic range for analgesia = 0.6–3.0 ng/mL) (4); postmortem levels in the first two patients who died were 11 ng/mL (patient E) and 13 ng/mL (patient I). Norfentanyl, a major metabolite of fentanyl, was detected in the serum of nine patients; norfentanyl was not detected in postmortem testing of patients E and I, presumably because death occurred before metabolism of fentanyl to norfentanyl.”

With this research, it seems that the levels of Fentanyl found in George Floyd’s bloodstream led to overdoses in other patients. At the very least, he seems to have had taken 3.6x-18.6x (11 / .6 − 11 / 3.0) what is considered an analgesic dose. That’s not even considering that he also had half again as much of the metabolite, suggesting (to me, not a doctor) that his body had already processed part of whatever he’d taken.

Can you imagine what a does of Fentanyl that big feels like? I must have gotten something wrong in my analysis because…how was George Floyd even still walking? Either he’d built up a resistance (can you do that?) or he was absolutely not a danger to anyone, other than to maybe falling on top of them. I can’t believe he’d be a threat as he was probably barely in control of his limbs.

Although some are proposing that this heroic dose of Fentanyl was the reason he died, it seems more likely that this undermines Chauvin’s claim that Floyd was dangerous.

Minnesota law defines third-degree murder (Wikipedia) as:

“[] without intent to effect the death of any person, caus[ing] the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life”

…which sounds pretty much like what Chauvin did.


1325: Mass shooter society / Seamus McGraw by This is Hell! (Apple Podcasts)

At 26:30,

“We have the luxury, as a generally affluent people, to obsess on our petty grievances. We are isolated in our communities, to the point that we don’t know the guy next door, but we are so hyper-connected that we know the intimate details of the lives of strangers a continent away. We gather into these little floating islands of rage. This exists in an atmosphere that has always—always, through our history—been drawn to violence, prizes the individual über alles, and also has been shot through with a pervasive idea of bigotry and racism. These are things can only be responded to generationally. It’s going to take generations for us to confront those aspect. But there are things we can do in the shorter run.”

At 41:30,

“I believe, sincerely, that the intractability, the refusal to compromise, on the part of a bunch of old white guys like me is, in the long run, going to pose a greater threat to what we now think of as the rights guaranteed by the second amendment than anything the most progressive gun-control advocate could ever propose. I honestly believe that Lauren Bobert and Marjorie Taylor Green and Louie Gomert are a greater threat to the second amendment than Joe Biden ever could be.

“[] Their refusal to acknowledge the crisis that we are facing in terms of gun violence in this country. Their refusal to entertain even the most modest approach, to not even eliminate but reduce the casualties on this, is ultimately going to, I think, in the public mind, eventually, make the image of anybody with a gun a pariah. The refusal, the flat-out, often nonsensical refusal, intractablity, all or nothing. You know what? Metaphorically speaking, I’m not saying this in terms of violence, you know what I honestly do believe, is that Americans have, by and large, already turned away, turned against, that kind of thinking.”


S2 Episode 1 / “The Jupiter Menace” by Blowback (Apple Podcasts)

This is a great show about the history of Cuba, with an emphasis on America’s influence.

At 14:50, a Ken Adelman asked Nelson Mandela a question at a press conference. He was so arrogant and self-assured in his chiding of Mandela for failing to understand that what he thought were friends were actually unquestionably bad dudes.

“Welcome to America, Mr. Mandela. I’m Ken Adelman. Those of us who share your struggle for human rights and against apartheid have been somewhat disappointed by the models of human rights that you have held up since being released from jail. You’ve met over the last 6 months 3 times with Yasser Arafat, who[m] you have praised. You’ve told Qaddafi that you share the view and applaud him on his record of human rights and his drive for freedom and peace around the world. And you have praised Fidel Castro as a leader of human rights and have said that Cuba was one of the countries that’s head and shoulders above all others in human rights, despite the fast that documents at the United Nations and elsewhere show that Cuba’s one of the worst. I was just wondering, are these your models of leaders of human rights and, if so, would you want a Qaddafi or an Arafat or Castro to be a future president of South Africa?”

At 16:30, Mandela answered masterfully,

One of the mistakes which some political analysts make is to think that their enemies should be our enemies. [loud cheers and applause] That we can’t and we will never do. We have our own struggle which we are conducting.

“We are grateful to the world for supporting our struggle. But nevertheless we are an independent organization with its own policy. And the attitude of every country towards, our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of that country to our struggle. [applause]

“Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi, Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt. [applause] There is no reason whatsoever why we should have any hesitation about hailing their commitment to human rights as they are being demanded in South Africa.

“Our attitude is based solely on the fact that they fully support the anti-apartheid struggle. [applause] They do not support it only in rhetoric, they are placing resources at our disposal for us. To win the struggle. That is the position.”

At 17:10, Jesse Ventura is also cited, when asked “how were you able to convince the Bush administration to let Minnesota trade with Cuba?”

“I don’t know. I, today, I think I’m the only [American] elected official who can say that, while elected, I met with Fidel Castro, over the objections of the Bush administration. They didn’t want me to. And my response was, well, am I supposed to just believe you guys? I want to go to Cuba and see the place. If I get to meet with Fidel Castro, I get to meet him face to face and draw my own opinion of the man. Not what my media or you tell me. That was exciting. I now have a huge picture of me and Fidel Castro on my wall at home. How many people can say they have that?”

Science & Nature

Race and Mass Shootings by Eugene Volokh (Reason)

“That, though, is the point: Even seemingly credible sources, such as a serious scholar in a serious academic journal, make errors. If you’re writing on the subject and relying on the source, don’t let their errors become your errors: Read, quote, and check the original source, going as far back in the chain of citations as is feasible.”


Biden climate summit offers empty spectacle by Patrick Martin (WSWS)

“Biden went from there to emphasizing the critical importance of slowing global warming, declaring that the current decade is “the decisive decade” according to scientists. “This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis. We must try to keep the Earth’s temperature to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius.””

That was actually the last decade, but since we did nothing useful then, this is really, really the decade that we have to do something. With each passing decade, what we have to do to avoid total disaster and possible wiping out of life as we know it (almost certainly not extinction) becomes more and more impossible—as procrastinators the world over know well.

Biden was not at his best. Martin cites the following paragraph from the White House web site itself.

““Those dollars—those dollars being invested are often the hard-earned savings of our workers—pensions. We can’t take steps to protect our workers if we don’t step up. We have to be able to move forward from the downside deal, then into the upside, and strengthen the resilience of our financial system. I have directed my team to develop an approach to do exactly that.”

One does not envy the French, Russian or Chinese translators seeking to tackle this.

“Suffice it to say, that any plan that bases itself on the voluntary cooperation of the giant oil and chemical companies and the Wall Street banks is doomed from the start.”
There is little chance of passage of even fragments of Biden’s proposals through the 50-50 Senate, and action in the House is also in question.”

Recent moves by the State Department—ratcheting up belligerence toward China and Russia as well as doing nothing to restore the JCPA with Iran—have torpedoed any chances of working together. The effort is so muddled as to be ridiculous. But the consequences—a complete and total capitulation to the worst effects of climate change—are deadly serious.

“The US is the largest producer of fossil fuels, with Russia second, Iran third and China fourth.

“Comparing that list with the directives of American foreign policy makes clear the absurdity of pretending that the global summit can have a significant effect. Biden was seeking the collaboration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he recently labeled a killer, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose government has been officially accused of genocide by the US State Department.

Art & Literature

Review: Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts by Freddie DeBoer (SubStack)

“That mangled grammar is, I suspect, a tactical choice: if you write in an artificially high register, as Oyler does in her essayistic writing, and you throw enough arch and elliptical sentences out there, chances are a lot of people who secretly don’t trust their own reading comprehension will get to something they don’t understand, chuckle, and say “ah yes, quite.”
“Iris Murdoch said that coherence was not always the goal. I agree. But there’s a deliberate and careful application of non-coherence and there’s the kind of artless incoherence that stems from a combination of trying to write above your weight and having editors who are too impressed with your burgeoning literary celebrity to tell you no.
“There too Howley is deliberately blurring the line between the narrator and the author, and in each case I have to assume (having met neither Oyler nor Howley) that the actual human being is not remotely as insufferable as the character they are meant to resemble. I get it, but I don’t like it. I get that making yourself unattractive in your writing provokes a certain kind of respect but I feel it would be sensible to give us a better sense of why we should endure it. I have a high tolerance for unlikable characters but I need to feel that I’m made to dislike them for a reason other than cheap seriousness. I hate to gender things again but I think the intentionally-obnoxious-writer-stand-in-protagonist trope is the sort of thing women writers might do self-defensively out of the entirely justified fear that their characters will be dismissed as shallow or unserious otherwise.”
“I have no idea if this is true but my guess is that Oyler did not have a burning desire to tell this story but instead got a book deal she didn’t expect, likely through both sincere appreciation for her many virtues and market calculations about the potential profits of another Millennial writer who talks the way the kids talk on Twitter.”
“There’s also a chance that the success of Fake Accounts compels her to spend the rest of her career in a defensive crouch of irony and disdain, producing book after book about the sad, aging, congenitally unserious demographic that she belongs to.
“Fake Accounts is one of those tantalizing and immensely frustrating books that keeps suggesting a substantially better book that we almost got.

Philosophy & Sociology

Sweet Nothings by Justin E.H. Smith (Hinternet)

“[…] the saint day marks the return of a sort of eternal entity, and the celebration of a class of people who are socially slotted under the heading of that entity: little Joe under Saint Joseph, little George under Saint George, and so on. The little guys are, at least within this system of names and days, not so much individuals as they are instantiations.
“In order to find this meaning, I don’t have to err at all far, to the Arctic or the Amazon. I only have to go back in time a bit, before the rise of the modern administrative state in the nineteenth century. Yet the idea that names have souls is so far from the present range of concerns of philosophy that, like reincarnation, it seems silly even to bring it up.
“But in the record of human beliefs, the idea that words are alive, informed, ensouled, or however you wish to put it seems at least as well attested as the idea that bodies are. I am not defending this view here, but am only testifying to its impressive record.”
“In our age we tend to bracket, devalue, and otherwise dismiss what are lightly called “nicknames” (in French, interestingly, the word is surnom, cognate to “surname”, but also having the same meaning as the “ekename”, from which “nickname” derives). The low status of the nickname may in fact be seen as a side-effect of the legal fiction of “real” names.
“But if we inhabit a world in which it is names that are the bearers of souls rather than physical persons, which in turn makes it possible for a single physical person to bear several different souls in different relations, then it could be something more than metaphor: to retire a pet name is to kill, or to attempt to kill, the “name-person” associated with it, even if the physical person endures.

Technology

Hyper-accurate positioning is rolling out worldwide by Ling Xin (MIT Technology Review)

“Now a series of deployments and upgrades are boosting the accuracy of the world’s most powerful global satellite positioning systems from several meters to a few centimeters.
“Once the signals are processed by a receiver, GPS is generally accurate to within five to 10 meters. Now the system is in the middle of a years-long upgrade to GPS III, which should improve its accuracy to one to three meters (see chart). By November 2020, four of the 10 GPS III satellites had launched, with the rest expected to be put into orbit by 2023. Though consumers won’t notice it right away, the accuracy of their navigation systems and smartphone tracking apps should improve as a result.
“[…] in June 2020, China finished deploying its BeiDou satellite constellation as a GPS alternative. Expanded over two decades’ time from a regional to a global network, BeiDou now has 44 satellites operating in three distinct orbits. It provides positioning services to anyone in the world with an average accuracy of 1.5 to two meters.”
“As positioning technology advances to the millimeter level and beyond, the limits of its use will be defined more by our creativity and the legal or ethical bounds we set than by the performance of the technology itself.”


Taiwan, semiconductor manufacture and the US conflict with China by Peter Symonds (WSWS)

“[…] it is the US that is upsetting the fragile balance in the Taiwan Strait established in 1979 when Washington ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favour of relations with Beijing, which it recognised under the “One China” policy as the legitimate government of all China, including Taiwan. The US is building ties with Taiwan that fly in the face of the “One China” policy—previous restrictions on contact between US and Taiwanese officials have been junked and moves are being made for closer military collaboration.”
“One giant corporation—the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)— accounts for about 55 percent of international chip production, but its dominance rises to 90 percent when it comes to the most advanced chips. US companies such as Apple and Qualcomm and their counterparts in Japan, Europe and other countries continue to design chips but have outsourced their production to TSMC fabrication facilities or “foundries.””
“TSMC’s stranglehold is considered virtually unassailable. A Financial Times (FT) article entitled “Geopolitical supremacy will increasingly depend on computer chips” published in February commented: “Most other semiconductor companies have dropped out of the race to manufacture 3nm chips due to the stratospheric costs. It will now be hard for any rival to catch up with TSMC because of its vast capital spending, its technological expertise, its network of suppliers and its support from the Taiwanese government. Only Samsung of South Korea is visible in its rear-view mirror.””
“Ironically, the ban on Huawei played a significant role in the current acute global shortage of chips because Huawei spent billions stockpiling before it came into effect.

Programming

Consider including identity in URLs by Mark Seemann (Ploeh)

“I’m not usually a proponent of speculative generality, but I also think that it’s prudent to consider overall return of investment. The cost of adding the resource identity to the URL is low, while having to change URL schemes later may carry a higher cost (even if you force clients to follow links).

“This fits one view on software architecture: Make it as easy to make reactive changes to the system, but identify the areas where change will be hard; make good ex-ante decisions about those.

“Finally, I think that there’s something fundamentally correct and consistent in putting user or tenant IDs in the URLs. After all, you put all other resource IDs (such as product IDs or customer IDs) in URLs.

“Notice, in the above schedule example, how the restaurant ID isn’t the only ID. The URL also carries information about year, month, and date. These further identify the schedule resource.

“Putting user or tenant IDs in the URL effectively separates concerns. It enables you to discern the tenant or user from the client making the request.”