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Links and Notes for June 11th 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 They are intentionally succinct, else they’d be articles and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts.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.

Table of Contents

COVID-19

“We’re Seeing the Breakdown of Collective Responsibility”: An Interview with Kenneth Pomeranz by Arjun Chaturvedi (Jacobin)

“Once again, everybody’s favorite example is Kerala. It’s a pretty poor place, but they have made the decisions to invest in the right sorts of things. Their death rate per capita is about 5 percent of the global average, despite the fact that it’s very densely populated, pretty poor, and, unlike a lot of India, actually has a fairly old population. We have the means both to head off some of the causes and to be more resilient when the new pandemics do hit, but that’s going to take very different political choices from the ones that are being made right now in most of the world.

“I have spent a substantial portion of my adult life looking at one thing after another and saying, “Well, surely now this will bring people to their senses.” Particularly, as an American, saying, “This kind of crazy disdain for the collective can’t go on forever and people will see that.” And you know — I haven’t been right yet.


“Lab leak” proponent Nicholas Wade pushed racist pseudoscience in 2014 book by Andre Damon (WSWS)

“It goes on to flay Wade’s pseudo-scientific method, declaring, “he does this sort of thing repeatedly: He constantly gathers up long shots, speculations and spurious claims, then declares they add up to substantiate his case … The result is a deeply flawed, deceptive and dangerous book.””

“What could possibly account for the reliance by all three leading US newspapers on a discredited serial fabricator and promoter of racist pseudo-science in their efforts to promote the Wuhan lab “theory”?

The reliance and uncritical citation of Wade can only be explained by the fact that this “theory” is a lie from beginning to end, and that its proponents are willing to accept any claim—no matter how filthy and discredited—to express their preconceived aims of distracting attention from the policies responsible for the massive death and suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and redirecting it into xenophobia and nationalist hatred against China.”


Thomas Frank: Why Lab-Leak Theory Is a Political Nightmare by Jacobin (YouTube)

They keep saying that Trump espoused a theory. That’s not true. He said words. Some of those words are true. Some aren’t. There is no intellectual cohesiveness to what he says. He wasn’t laying out a case.

None of them are. So far, absolutely no new information has appeared. There are still only people who say it’s plausible, with no evidence whatsoever. The only change is that it is now politically expedient from both sides to attack China.

Isn’t it likely that this lab-leak idea is just as much a conspiracy theory bullshit as anything else?


The FBI’s Strange Anthrax Investigation Sheds Light on COVID Lab-Leak Theory and Fauci’s Emails by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“The United States officially forswore biological-weapons development in 1969, and signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, along with many other nations. But Rosenberg believes that the American bioweapons program, which won’t allow itself to be monitored, may not be in strict compliance with the convention.


Scientists take a stand against “Wuhan lab” witch-hunt by Andre Damon (WSWS)

One hypothesis requires a colossal cover-up and the silent, unswerving, leak-proof compliance of a vast network of scientists, civilians, and government officials for over a year. The other requires only for biology to behave as it always has, for a family of viruses that have done this before to do it again. The zoonotic spillover hypothesis is simple and explains everything. It’s scientific malpractice to pretend that one idea is equally as meritorious as the other. The lab-leak hypothesis is a scientific deus ex machina, a narrative shortcut that points a finger at a specific set of bad actors.
“There is no factual, let alone scientific, basis for the lab allegations. The best that the entire US intelligence community has been able to produce is a claim that several employees at the Wuhan Institute of Virology came down with an illness in November 2019 with symptoms that are “consistent with … common seasonal illnesses.””
“The lie also attempts to defy the mass of evidence presented by the World Health Organization in March, which declared that a man-made origin of the virus is “extremely unlikely.” In promoting these falsehoods, those who have crafted and are now participating in this propaganda campaign are committing an arguably greater fraud than the Bush administration’s baseless claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction nearly two decades ago.


Wuhan lab conspiracy theory parallels Washington’s “yellow rain” lie of the 1980s by Bryan Dyne (WSWS)

“This is not the first time that the American government has lied about a massive public health threat to demonize a geopolitical rival and to direct mass internal social anger outward. To understand how US imperialism works to create pretexts for war and attempt to deflect away from its own criminal activity, it is instructive to remember the case of “yellow rain” in the 1980s.
“Just as the Biden administration dug its heels in when the WHO findings came out against the suggestion of an artificially made coronavirus, the Reagan administration doubled down when Meselson published his findings, releasing a statement reasserting, “Our conclusion that chemical weapons use has occurred in Southeast Asia is based on evidence collected several years prior to 1984.” Intelligence reports also acknowledged that while “evidence on the Soviet role does not constitute proof in the scientific sense, the Intelligence Community finds the case to be thoroughly convincing.” One could substitute “Soviet” for “China” and have the arguments being put forward today.
One major difference between the yellow rain and Wuhan lab propaganda campaigns, however, is the role of the US print and broadcast media. By the late 1980s, as “yellow rain” was further and further exposed to be an outright lie, the New York Times, for example, ran several articles with headlines such as “Still Caught in the Yellow Rain” and “Yellow Rain Falls,” noting that the entire affair was a “fiasco” and that, “Yellow rain is bee dung.””

Economy & Finance

How to Get the Unemployed Back to Work by Claudia Sahm (Bloomberg)

“Concern that something is holding back U.S. workers from taking jobs along with anecdotes from employers having trouble hiring has accelerated a trend among state governors to end federal enhancements to jobless benefits this month — three months earlier than Congress intended. The goal is to get people off government benefits and back to work. It’s doubtful this policy change alone will be enough to meet employers’ hiring needs.

Read that again and consider the casual cruelty of such a statement. This woman is writing about people’s lives in such an anodyne way. What she really means is that these lazy bastards need to get back to work before their love of living on the dole affects the economy in a way that will affect her job.

Time for some brainstorming, right? No bad idea, people. Raises hand.

“How about we send the gestapo to slap them in chains and force them to work?”

“Maybe a bit much for an opening salvo. Do they have kids? Could we hold those hostage?”

Look, I’m sure the article is full of wonderful suggestions like “it’s a shame they can’t raise wages, but what are you going to do?” but it’s almost certainly a pile of rehashed bullshit, predicated on the myth that the job market is flat in the first place, which it isn’t.


How the 1 percent’s savings buried the middle class in debt by Rebecca Stropoli

“It takes approximately $11 million to be at the bottom of the 1 percent by household net worth in the US (as of 2020), and about $538,000 per year to be at the bottom of the 1 percent by income. Credit Suisse’s 2020 wealth report finds that the US has about 20 million millionaires, 40 percent of the global total. Meanwhile, the Billionaire Census 2020 from Wealth-X, which provides information and insight on the world’s wealthiest individuals, finds the US has about 28 percent of the world’s billionaires, who hold a 36 percent share of global billionaire wealth. The world now has a record 2,755 billionaires, according to Forbes.”
“Corporate spending on labor and capital, for instance, declined by 7 percentage points of gross value added (a measure of value generated by production), while corporate profits grew dramatically from about 0 percent to 13 percent of value added. In 2014 figures, says Barkai, that was equivalent to $600 billion less going to workers and $600 billion less to plants, property, and equipment—and $1.2 trillion more to profits.
“As of 1990, there were 12 countries in Europe taxing net wealth, but now that is down to Norway, Spain, and Switzerland. When France did away with its version in 2018, the prime minister said it had caused many millionaires to flee.”

Yeah, sure it did. Kanton Zürich got rid of its lump-sum tax for the very rich several years ago. From what I recall, nothing happened. The kanton said, “you wanna go? Go.” Almost everyone stayed.


Capitalism isn’t working. Here’s an alternative by Yanis Varoufakis (The Guardian)

“The postwar class war armistice was over. If we wanted to defend the weak, we could not afford to be defensive. We needed to advocate as she did: out with the old system, in with a brand new one. Not Maggie’s dystopian one, but a brand new one nevertheless.”
“[…] to be crisis-proof, there is one market that market socialism cannot afford to feature: the labour market. Why? Because, once labour time has a rental price, the market mechanism inexorably pushes it down while commodifying every aspect of work (and, in the age of Facebook, our leisure too).”


The Coming Crash by David Rovics (CounterPunch)

“I can already see the messages I’ll be getting from disgruntled Europeans who hate it when people like me talk about how much better everything is over there. Before you write, you Europeans, do some research. You think neoliberalism sucks? Me, too. And it’s way, way more advanced over here. I hope you never find out how bad it can get, because it really, really does suck, you have no idea until you’ve seen it.
“Complicating matters immensely, a huge strata of society that I like to call the Rich Peasants — the folks who own two or three rental properties or flip one or two houses every year and make a very good living at this sort of thing, benefiting from the unregulated market that benefits the big landlord corporations far more, while not particularly being the ones who created the mess in the first place. For them, the system is working, and they will tend to be the ones promoting more construction as a solution, rather than regulation.
How can a one-story, two-bedroom house sell for a million dollars? What does that even mean, when we know how much it costs to build such a structure?”

“[…] if the unregulated market is allowed to continue to control where people can afford to buy or rent a house, this will guarantee more sprawl, more fires, more floods, longer commutes, more pollution, more misery for so many, and it will make any real solution to climate change impossible, as the ends involved are completely incompatible.

“You either control sprawl through regulation, or you destroy the climate through sprawl. You can’t have both an unregulated housing market and intelligent policies to save the Earth and prevent the untold suffering climate chaos will continue to unleash.”


AMC Brings Out the Popcorn by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“Yeah. I have no notes, that’s perfect. “If you buy AMC stock it comes with popcorn” is the greatest capital-markets innovation of the century so far. I used to work in investment banking, building equity derivatives and equity-linked securities to help companies raise money and optimize their capital structures, and in hindsight we were idiots. “What if we used the contingent payment debt instrument regulations to increase the tax deductibility of non-cash interest paid on a 30-year-non-call-5 convertible bond,” we thought, like fools, when the actual way to optimize equity capital raising is by throwing in a large popcorn.
“[…] if you run a hedge fund and invest in public stocks, you don’t get to pick the value of those stocks: The market does that. If you run a venture capital fund, you do get to decide the value of the companies you invest in; if you want the value to go up, you just have to give the companies more money at a higher valuation.
“We provide evidence that venture capitalists (VCs) strategically enhance their current funds’ interim performance around new fundraising events. Using novel investment-round-level pricing data, we document that, immediately prior to raising another fund, VCs tend to invest in follow-on financing rounds of their existing portfolio firms at abnormally high step-ups in valuation, relative to subsequent follow-on rounds at the same firms. This pattern cannot be explained by deal and investor characteristics, and strengthens when multiple VCs in the syndicate concurrently raise new funds. Investing at high round prices translates into higher quarterly portfolio IRRs reported at the fund level. Overall, our results question the veracity of portfolio valuations based on investment-round pricing, especially when the VC is under the pressure to raise a new fund.


The Booming Economy vs. Debt and Deficit Fears by Dean Baker (CounterPunch)

“There has been some evidence that wages are increasing more rapidly in the lowest paying sectors, like hotels and restaurants. This is good news for these workers and it is not especially inflationary. The average weekly earnings at the cutoff for the bottom decile is less than $500. Suppose this rises by $50. This would come to $2,500 a year. With 15 million workers in the bottom decile, that comes to less than $40 billion annually, less than 0.2 percent of GDP. That would not be the sort of thing that is likely to set off an inflationary spiral, and we are also not likely to see wages for the bottom decile rise by 10 percent in the immediate future.”


It’s Good to Win a Proxy Fight by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

“A related benefit is what any activist fund gets from a successful proxy fight: The next company they go after will be intimidated by their Exxon victory, and will try to settle by giving them board seats. You spend $30 million on one proxy fight so you don’t have to spend any money on five more. You show up at a meeting with the next company’s CEO, you put Exxon’s severed head on the table, you say “board seats, now,” and you get them without a fight.
“Like an insurance company, LJM Management and LJM Partners made money by collecting premiums (i.e., the market prices of the options) in exchange for assuming a risk – in this case, the obligation to purchase or sell futures contracts at a given strike price if the option holder exercised the option on or before the expiration date. This investment strategy is known as “short options” or “short volatility” trading, and offers the possibility of relatively stable profits from premium income, but carries the risk of significant losses during large market swings. This strategy was the equivalent of selling insurance to other investors primarily against declines in the S&P 500 futures market.

Public Policy & Politics

“Unions Are a Pain in the Ass. Yet We Have No Choice but to Build Good Unions”: An Interview with Jane McAlevey by Samuel Fleischman & Wen Zhuang (Jacobin)

“People have to learn how to organize and stop romanticizing the idea that people just rise up. Because they don’t, and they haven’t historically. There are too few spaces for people to learn how to, which I’m trying to change.”

“I worry that people confuse militancy and organizing. They’re not the same. The militant impulse is the activist impulse. But militancy for militancy’s sake is useless to me. Militancy as a reflection of calculated risk-taking, based on assessing your numbers and worker readiness, makes a lot of sense. There isn’t a reason to militancy unless it is in service of organizing and in service of winning. I have been arrested a lot, and I am very happy to engage in civil disobedience when it’s strategic and part of a comprehensive campaign.

Half the time when people go off and do militant stuff, they turn off the rest of the workers, because they’re taking a shortcut. What the Left does but the Left has not understood is what I learned very young as a worker organizer: we’re speaking to the undecideds, every action, every day. That’s what separates organizing from activism. So if you don’t have an assessment system by which you’re calibrating what percent of the people that you’re engaged in a campaign with are sitting in the undecided camp, you’re going to lose.”


Joe the Revelator by Chris Floyd (CounterPunch)

“And now Biden has laid it out for all to see. The US elite will not accept China becoming the wealthiest nation in the world. So what will the US elite do about it? For many years, my greatest fear has been that the weak, fragile, sick psyches of America’s elite will lead them to provoke a nuclear war with China, preferring the destruction of civilization rather than lose their sense of domination and superiority. I think this is a genuine risk, precisely because the US elite is so primitive, so juvenile, so damaged – and it has the actual means of destroying the world in its lashing-out to preserve its delusions.

“I’m not saying this will happen; obviously I hope not. But I will say that American leaders have always shown a willingness to do “whatever it takes” to ensure that any diminution of the US elite’s dominance “ain’t gonna happen on my watch.” […] The bipartisan US elite has always shown its determination to preserve its domination at any cost.

“If it is war with China that our elites truly want, then there can be no greater “justification” than the “new Pearl Harbor” of a Covid “sneak attack” on innocent, God-fearing Americans. It would be 9/11 on steroids, an outrage that would unify an America sadly riven by partisan strife in common cause against the enemy.


Biden-Putin Summit: Boon or Bust? by Ray McGovern (Antiwar.com)

Acknowledging the political pressures any US president faces in trying to carve out a more sensible relationship with Russia, Putin conceded that “to a certain extent, Russian-American relations have become hostage to internal political processes in the United States itself.” He added:
“I hope it ends someday. I mean the fundamental interests in the field of at least security, strategic stability and the reduction of weapons dangerous for the whole world are still more important than the current domestic political situation in the United States itself.”

Taking a more conventional tack regarding current US policy, Putin lamented: US leaders

want to hold back our development and they talk about this openly. Everything else is a derivative [including] an attempt to influence the internal political processes in our country, relying on the forces that they consider to be their own in Russia.”


Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law by Chris Hedges (Scheer Post)

“Tyrannies invert the rule of law. They turn the law into an instrument of injustice. They cloak their crimes in a faux legality. They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality. Those, such as Julian, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence.
“But what we are demanding on the political spectrum is in fact conservative, it is the restoration of the rule of law. It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary. But living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance. This truth terrifies those in power.
“Julian exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths they came after Julian, as they have come after all who dared rip back the veil on power. “Red Rosa now has vanished too. …” Bertolt Brecht wrote after the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg was murdered. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.”
Those in power must feel our wrath, and this means constant acts of mass civil disobedience, it means constant acts of social and political disruption, for this organized power from below is the only power that will save us and the only power that will free Julian. Politics is a game of fear. It is our moral and civic duty to make those in power very, very afraid.”


America’s War on Terror is the True Cause of Europe’s Refugee Crisis by Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch)

“There is an instinctive assumption in the west that it is perfectly natural for people to flee their own failed states (the failure supposedly brought on by self-inflicted violence and corruption) to seek refuge in the better-run, safer and more prosperous countries.”
Even leaders as dim-witted as David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton should have foreseen the politically disastrous consequences of these wars. They generated an inevitable refugee and immigrant wave that energised the xenophobic far right across Europe and was a deciding factor in the Brexit referendum of 2016.”


The 1793 Project Unmasked by Robby Soave (Reason)

“But many progressive activists on social media didn’t care whether the impulse was liberal, or even whether it reflected reality. They denounced Shor as a racist for daring to scrutinize the protesters, even if his aim was to make them more effective.
“As I wrote in my book Panic Attack, “It’s not impossible to imagine the same kind of thing happening in the workplace: picture a boss who is afraid to reprimand negligent young employees out of concern that they will say their PTSD is triggered.””

This is what happened to Shahid Buttar during his campaign against Nancy Pelosi.


Joe Biden’s Promises Were Meant to Be Broken by Luke Savage (Jacobin)

“The most conservative politician, at least among the field’s viable candidates, had won the race and, in doing so, had directly repudiated an effort to realign the party and compel it to embrace a transformative policy agenda. For reasons that remain difficult to discern, many liberal pundits and commentators seemed to react otherwise: effusively speculating that Joe Biden, having spent more than four decades triangulating to the right, might actually be the progressive tribune America’s liberals had been waiting for.


Windmill-bashing Squared by Jeroen Bouterse (3 Quarks Daily)

“Some of my colleagues”, he said,

““have become legitimately disturbed by a few truly silly and extreme statements from the ‘relativist’ camp, largely made by poseurs rather than genuine scholars, and have mistaken these infrequent sound bites of pure nonsense for the center of a serious and useful critique. Then, falsely believing that the entire field of ‘science studies’ has launched a crazed attack upon science and the concept of truth itself, they fight back by searching out the rare inane statements of a few irresponsible relativists […] and then presenting a polemic defense of science, ultimately helpful to no one””

“These protestations of progressive ideals are typical of the genre: we rationalists are so, so eager to join the fight for social justice; how tragic, then, that we are being kept from it by people who spell that term with capital letters. We want to be on your side, but you are making it too difficult with all the woke insanity.

I find it interesting that this argument works so well. It’s basically negging.


Washington Post Journalist Radley Balko on Civil Rights, Militarized Policing, and the Power of Video by Nick Gillespie (Reason)

“Yes, it’s probably a small percentage of cops who kill people or shoot people or are blatantly racist. But there is an entire culture of covering up, of the idea that cops should always look out for each other—the best interests of cops are prioritized over everything, over justice, over the people they’re supposed to be serving.
“In all these towns, the police don’t actually solve crimes. The county police do that. Their sole purpose is to extract revenue from their residents in order to pay their own salaries.


[Letter from Paris] A Play with No End by Christopher Ketcham (Harper's Magazine)

The Gilets could have claimed victory on these issues and gone home. As of this writing, they have not. They have refused to be mollified by what they perceive as crumbs tossed from the throne of power. Their war against the rich, in the age of climate change, is one driven by an understanding unique among protest movements in France: that the privilege to lord and the privilege to pollute are one and the same, and that confronting the climate crisis means a confrontation with unregulated capitalism. It is a call to arms that should resound across the world.”


Prayer for a Just War by Greg Jackson (Harper's Magazine)

“To those who still harbor doubts about the justness of this war, who continue to question the scientific consensus on global warming and the ravages it promises, I ask only that you entertain, if there is a chance you are right, that there is also a chance you are wrong. Let us even say, for argument’s sake, that the virtual certainty of scientists were reduced to 50 percent confidence and the forecasted effects of climate violence were reduced in severity by 50 percent as well. That would still justify the most massive mobilization of human energy and resources the world has ever seen, because the likely outcome would still be far worse than any threat we have faced in the past.
“We are alienated from the earth, from our hands, and from one another. We appear to be part of an efficient system that has brought ever more and cheaper goods to market, but our skills have become specialized to the point of practical uselessness. Our ability to create and cultivate the goods that we rely on and enjoy has shriveled to almost nothing. There is a maddening abstraction to our reality, a virtuality to all life.
“Neither the speaker nor Gray, as he wrestled with what our monstrous age had to do with the “attempt to live godlessly,” meant God in the usual religious sense. For Gray, God is the intimation, in the simple words of a soldier in Vietnam who chose to report his unit’s war crimes, that we have “to answer to something, to someone—maybe just to ourselves.” Godlessness is having no one, nothing, to answer to. It is the fundamental abstraction of ourselves from the impact and meaning of our actions.
“Today, we see such godless abstraction everywhere: in military adventures championed by those who dodged service themselves; in efforts to coax people into debts they have no hope of repaying; in the cynical sale and false marketing of addictive opioids; in the countless disembodied acts companies ask their employees to undertake whose downstream consequences portend the suffering of others.
“[…] the image from Junger’s book of American soldiers firing Javelin rockets at anticoalition forces in Afghanistan captures it as well as anything. One Javelin round costs $80,000, and Junger marvels at “the idea that it’s fired by a guy who doesn’t make that in a year at a guy who doesn’t make that in a lifetime.” Rocket after rocket goes off, eighty grand a pop. Meanwhile, the fighters on both sides have mostly taken to the battlefield for lack of economic opportunities elsewhere.”
“[…] we have filled the air with as much greenhouse gases in the thirty years since we have known the threat they posed as in all the years of human history before then.”
“In three years, beginning effectively from a standing start, the industrial capacity of the nation would overtake that of the Axis powers and go on to produce two thirds of all the military equipment used by the Allies. The war created more than half a million new American businesses, Herman writes, while simultaneously jolting thousands of existing businesses out of the doldrums of the Depression.”
“The more climate change turns the earth into a desert island, the more we will learn that wealth can be lost, permanently. It does not conserve itself like energy or momentum, and it cannot always be turned into the things we want if the things we want are too hard to come by. Humans are ingenious and adaptable, but they aren’t magicians: They can’t reap, mine, or harvest what doesn’t exist. If our foundation corrodes—if it falls away into the sea—we will simply lose all the wealth it props up, hoarding gold coins and paper bills until that is all we have left to build with, write on, eat, and drink.


Why Did You Throw Stones? by Rachel Kushner (n+1)

“Yehuda Shaul of BtS told us he had escorted Barbara Hogan, an ANC member and former South African political prisoner, around the occupied territories. Hogan had declared after her tour that apartheid was in fact not an appropriate comparison, because what Hogan saw of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank was so much more extreme than what she knew of apartheid South Africa. Whatever the correct descriptor might be, the military occupation of the West Bank is hard to understand until you see it. You might be surprised at your own intolerance of the idea of a democracy maintaining an open-air prison for 2.7 million people. Before going there myself, I had heard this phrase, open-air prison, and figured it was not literally a prison. (As someone who spends a fair amount of time in prisons, I’m sensitive to its use as a metaphor.) But everywhere I went I saw guard towers and concrete barriers and razor wire—truly an open-air prison—except where there were settlements, which featured posh, Beverly Hills–style landscaping: little blooming flowers, fragile and bright, the guard towers in the far distance.”
“The Israeli bureaucracy had just invalidated thousands of work permits by some computer glitch, or so Barag had been told. Each day by 4 AM thousands of men are already lined up to get through Qalandia, to their construction jobs in Jerusalem by the start time of 7 AM.
“The men stand for hours, waiting to get through. They are body to body, lined up in narrow lanes that resemble cattle chutes but worse. There is wire mesh overhead, with low enough clearance that a tall person, at certain points, must stoop. If a man gets to the front and after presenting his required magnetic card, his West Bank green ID, his work permit, and his fingerprint, is declined for any reason, as many were the morning I was there, that man must turn around and squeeze past hundreds of others in his caged shoulder-width lane, person by person, all the way to the entrance, where he can go back to wherever he came from, now probably unemployed, because if you don’t show up for work one morning chances are you will be fired.
The jobs these men are desperate to get to pay, on average, 60 shekels per day, or about $16 USD. If you are argumentative at the checkpoint, the authorities take your name permanently off the computerized list of permit-holders. If you are caught illegally passing through, everyone in your family loses their own work permits.
“Next, an elegantly dressed woman passed through. She turned to me and spoke in unaccented English. She was a Palestinian engineer with a PhD who lives in the West Bank and must pass through the checkpoint every morning to get to her firm in Jerusalem.”
“[…] we enter Ofer military court, which smells of the broad open canal of human shit surrounding the buildings, which are actually just trailers. The stench seeps into every court proceeding. I watch a trial concerning a Bedouin farmer who drove his tractor accidentally on a road that had been temporarily banned to Palestinians. The IDF arrested him and dismantled his tractor into a pile of parts. He is asking to get it back, but instead he will be fined for the infraction of driving on a closed road. The proceedings are entirely in Hebrew and he is provided no translator.
““Did they offer you money for their use of the hotel?” I ask. Ayyad says, “You agree to rent to them, it’s like this: They say, we will give you a ring as payment. But in order to give it to you, we need to cut off your hand. Then, we will put your hand in a freezer for 100 years. If you ask, where is my ring, they say: We are still preparing the ring.””
“[…] being yelled at by settlers in four-by-four off-road vehicles with big knobby tires and huge Israeli flags flying from the tailgate was uniquely unpleasant, as was being followed and harassed by little gangs of settler boys who seemed not to know any better than to exhibit the aggression and hostility they’d learned from their parents. One of the settler kids, threatening to punch Yahuda Shaul, was reprimanded by an Israeli soldier. The kid said to the soldier, “What are you gonna do, detain me like I’m an Arab?” The soldier let him go.


China’s Demographic Crisis by Dean Baker (CounterPunch)

“In short, even modest rates of productivity growth will easily offset the impact of a declining ratio of workers to retirees that China is expecting over the next quarter century. If the country can sustain productivity growth rates anywhere near what it has been seeing, the impact of the drop in the ratio of workers to retirees will be trivial in comparison.
As the country gets richer and the workforce is better educated and healthier, a larger share of the population over age 60 is likely to continue working. This is both because jobs will be less physically demanding on average and also because better educated people are more likely to have jobs they find inherently rewarding.”
“The long and short is that China does not face a demographic crisis, contrary to what you read in the paper, and encouraging people to have more children is not a good solution.


“Dying for an iPhone” by Chris Hedges (MintPressNews)

“Not a word about the millions of workers in China who are treated little better than serfs. They live separated from their families, including their children, and housed in overcrowded company dormitories, which sees rent deducted from their paychecks, next to factories that have round-the-clock production, often making products for U.S. corporations. Workers are abused, underpaid and sickened from exposure to chemicals and toxins such as aluminum dust. The suffering of the working class, within and outside the United States, is as ignored by our corporatized media as the suffering of the Palestinians. And yet, I would argue, it is one of the most important human rights issues of our era, since once workers are empowered, they can fend off other human rights violations.
“As long as China can pay slave wages it will be impossible to raise wages anywhere else. Any trade agreement has to include the right of workers to organize, otherwise all the promises by Joe Biden to rebuild the American middle class is a lie. Between 2001-2011, 2.7 million jobs were lost to China with 2.1 million in manufacturing. None are coming back if workers in China and other countries that allow corporations to exploit labor and skirt basic environmental and labor regulations are locked in corporate servitude.”
“And while we can chastise China for its labor policies, the United States has crushed its own union movement, allowed its corporations to move manufacturing overseas to profit from the Chinese manufacturing models, suppressed wages, passed anti-labor right-to-work laws, and demolished regulations that once protected workers. The war on workers is not a Chinese phenomenon. It is a global one. And U.S. corporations are complicit. Apple has 46 percent of its suppliers in China. Walmart has 80 percent of its suppliers in China. Amazon has 63 percent of its suppliers in China.
“Apple’s profits more than doubled to $23.6 billion in the most recent quarter. Its revenues rose by 54 percent to $89.6 billion, which meant Apple sold more than $1 billion on average each day. Until these corporations are held accountable, which the Biden administration will not do, nothing will change for workers here or in China. Economic justice is global or it does not exist.”
The United States cast its workers aside in the 1990s with de-industrialization. China did the same by dismantling socialism in favor of state-controlled capitalism. State and collective sector jobs in China fell from 76 percent in 1995 to 27 percent in 2005. Tens of millions of laid off workers were left to compete for jobs run by corporations such as Foxconn.”
“These workers, part of the gig economy familiar in the United States, have even less job stability and security than full time employees. As many as 150,000 high-school age vocational students are employed in Foxconn plants. They are paid the minimum wage, but are not entitled to the 400-yuan-per-month skills subsidy, even if they pass the probationary period. Foxconn is also not required to enroll them in social security.
“We will not save ourselves through the perverted individualism, sold to us by our corporate masters and a compliant mass media, which encourages our advancement at the expense of others. We will save ourselves by working in solidarity with workers inside and outside the United States. This collective power is our only hope.
“Amazon workers from the Hulu Garment factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Global Garments factory in Chittagong, Bangladesh, recently led a global day of action to make Amazon pay all its workers, no matter where they live, fair wages. This has to be our model. Otherwise, workers in one country will be pitted against workers in another country. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels got it right. Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.


Interview with Dennis Kucinich on his new book, “The Division of Light and Power” by Matt Taibbi (TK News)

This is the system. People move into the system, and suddenly instead of changing the system, the system changes them. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. You wonder why things don’t change. Well, the system changes people. The perks that are available for people in public office and the recognition and the honor is often such that once you get there, who wants to give that up?”
“It’s a rigged game. But, you have to have the confidence that you can beat a rigged game. I was able to beat the rigged game by not giving in. I could have thrown up my hands and said, “Okay, you want that light system, take it, just let me stay in office. Give me the $50 million,”
“[…] it would be easy to do a sequel that would point out the thousands and thousands of instances of privatization of public assets that are happening all over the world and often without any resistance at all, because people don’t know how to fight back.
“NBC interviewed this reputed mob hitman who was ready to take the job to take me out, he basically testified, “Well, we couldn’t buy Kucinich.” There was nothing I wanted, except to try to make government work for my constituents. That’s all I ever wanted.
“There are so many things, and every city has billions, tens of billions of dollars, even more, of assets. And there’s always some interest group that’s looking at those assets to try to get them cheap and capitalize on them, and cause people to pay dearly by increasing the costs of water or electricity or waste collection and in some cases even public safety. So, privatization is really a move away from democratic governance.”
“You have to look at Wall Street. We have a finance economy now. Look at the arms manufacturers. Our monetary system changed over 100 years ago. The monetary system was privatized. That’s another subject for another day. But the fact of the matter is that you’ve got Wall Street, you’ve got big money, you’ve got the banks, you’ve got multinational corporations. The whole idea of nationhood is up for redefinition.

Journalism & Media

Yet Another Media Tale – Trump Tear-Gassed Protesters For a Church Photo Op – Collapses by Glenn Greenwald (SubStack)

“Over and over we see the central truth: the corporate outlets that most loudly and shrilly denounce “disinformation” — to the point of demanding online censorship and de-platforming in the name of combating it — are, in fact, the ones who spread disinformation most frequently and destructively. It is hard to count how many times they have spread major fake stories in the Trump years. For that reason, they have nobody but themselves to blame for the utter collapse in trust and faith on the part of the public, which has rightfully concluded they cannot and should not be believed.”

Science & Nature

What does “Native speaker” mean, anyway? by Devin Grammon and Anna Babel. (Language Log)

“[…] all languages are social constructs; their boundaries and membership are not established on the basis of lexical and structural features, but by the ways in which people are recognized as speakers – or not. This means that providing a categorical definition of the native speaker according to structural criteria tied to a specific language is at best circular and at worst hopelessly flawed.
“Cases of “near-native speakers” and “exceptional second language learners” further complicate the idea that the competence of native speakers is clearly distinguishable from that of non-native, second-language speakers. The common observation that adult language learners almost always retain an identifiable foreign accent has long been used as evidence of a critical period in second language acquisition. However, a growing body of research casts doubt on the existence of a strict neurobiological window that closes around late adolescence and impedes native-like phonological development.
“For example, people may find themselves cut off from their speech communities of origin due to emigration and no longer speak their mother tongue on a regular basis. In these cases, their dominance in a language learned later in life may affect the phonetic realization of words in their first language and lead others to perceive them as non-native speakers with a foreign accent.
“Ultimately, a closer examination reveals that the concept of the “native” speaker is tightly connected to discriminatory logics. Linguists and members of the public alike share a common-sense feeling for the concept of the “native speaker.” However, it is clear that this concept is historically situated in nationalist discourses and colonial regimes of languages, nations, and peoples, and is often used to exclude or to police the boundaries of speakerhood and, ultimately, personhood. The concept of the “native speaker” draws on deep-rooted assumptions regarding who is worthy of being a speaker and which languages are worthy of being recognized as such.


The Problem with “Animal Intelligence” by Justin E.H. Smith (Hinternet)

“What is true is that there has often been considerable pressure on the scientific elite over the past few centuries to adhere to a dogma about the mechanical reducibility of all animal behaviour. But this elite dogma cannot conceal the fact that the great majority of people in all times and places, including many members of the modern scientific elite who kept quiet on the subject for the sake of their jobs, have presupposed a fundamental kinship of human beings to other species, in the contours of our inner lives, in the way we care for our young, fear the blade, disdain the cold, love to eat.
“[…] this is plainly also just a consequence of environmental circumstances and bodily morphology, rather than a mark of inferior intelligence in the whale. It is not just that comparing whale communication and macaque tool-use amounts to apples and oranges, but something more like trying to decide whether to give an award to a plumber or instead to a ballerina. In neither case is there any clear idea of a more general faculty of which the respective actions are instances.”
“Seen in this light, it is not at all clear that the human ability to solve calculus problems, or to choose one brand of toothpaste over another, is more intelligent than a bush’s ability to survive having 95% of its corporeal mass devoured by mountain goats. This sounds facetious, but I mean it seriously. Consider again the parallel case of AI. There are many people who believe that a capacity for real internal deliberation, for thinking about things, is not necessary in order to call a machine “intelligent”. But if we admit machine intelligence of this sort, then why should we withhold the appelation from organisms, including plants, that are generally agreed to not be conscious but that are capable of realizing courses of action, or manifesting forms of organization, that are in at least certain respects vastly more complex than anything a machine has yet been made to do?”
“The prospect of androids or artificial systems that use natural-sounding language or that execute human-like work tasks is enough for many people to suppose that these systems are literally intelligent too. On the other hand whatever a plant is doing to survive getting mostly eaten by goats is so different from whatever it is that we do, from whatever can enter into our own strategies for living and surviving, that we can find no meaningful reason to extend the honorific label “intelligent” to it.

Philosophy & Sociology

The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is by Justin E.H. Smith (Hinternet)

“To some extent, telecommunication just is amplification: simply to speak to a person in a normal voice is already to telecommunicate, even if at naturally audible distances we have learned to be unimpressed by this most of the time.
“The story of Jules Allix reminds us that a rigorous historian of science may learn just as much from the fakes and frauds as from the real things: even when someone is lying, they are nonetheless doing the important work of imagining future possibilities.
“We ordinarily imagine that our own webs of wires are enhancements, and not intrinsic to what it is to perceive as a human, to what it is to be a human, since they did not emerge together with the human species, but are only a much more recent addition to the repertoire of the species. The web of a spider is a species-specific and species-defining feature of the spider, while the internet, we usually suppose, is a superaddition to the human.
“And if we agree with the commonplace that a domestic pig or goat is an “artificial” being, to the extent that it is nature transformed in the pursuit of human ends, why should we not also agree that the algae farmed by fungus or, of greater interest for our present purposes, the fungus enlisted by the tree to pass chemical messages and nutrient packets along its roots: why should we not agree, that this technique is technology too? Or, to put it the other way around, and perhaps somewhat more palatably for those who do not wish to rush to collapse the divide between the natural and the artificial: why should we not see our own technology as natural technique?
“Stephen Jay Gould, insisted that rape is by definition a morally charged category of action and so also by definition a category that pertains only to the human sphere; that it is thus an unjustified anthropomorphization of ducks to attribute the capacity for such an action to them, and that moreover it is dangerous to do so, since to say that ducks rape is to naturalize rape, and to open up the possibility of seeing human rape as morally neutral.
“So let us continue then, neither in a dogmatically literalist vein nor in an equally dogmatic opposite vein, and declare, in a critical spirit, what we in any case cannot help but notice: that, like a network of roots laced with fungal filaments, like a field of grass, the internet, too, is a growth, an outgrowth, an excrescence of the species-specific activity of Homo sapiens.

Technology

Conversation about .NET interop by Richard Lander (Microsoft Blogs)

“Different languages/platforms have different ABIs, type systems, calling conventions, and APIs because they all have their own opinions on what’s the right way to do something or sometimes because they have their own additional functionality that requires additional metadata to exist or be passed around.
“Different languages/platforms have different ABIs, type systems, calling conventions, and APIs because they all have their own opinions on what’s the right way to do something or sometimes because they have their own additional functionality that requires additional metadata to exist or be passed around. So if in C++ virtual dispatch is implemented by a virtual method table (an array of function pointers) but in .NET its via virtual stubs, then you need something to rationalize this difference for .NET to talk to C++.
“In many cases, a developer can design their .NET value type to exactly match the layout of a given C or C++ value type (in this case we call the .NET type “blittable”), which can enable the .NET interop system to avoid having to generate a thunk to convert or move the data as part of emitting a call. In some of these cases, passing one of these value types by ref or out or in a single-dimensional array by value, .NET can even avoid making any copies and just pass down a pointer to the location where the .NET value type lives, significantly increasing performance over a JNI-style solution that requires extensive copying and custom conversion functions even for simple types.”
“Generally our direction for Windows is to continue to move our interop solutions into more of a build-time/pay-for-what-you-use model.
“Generally our direction for Windows is to continue to move our interop solutions into more of a build-time/pay-for-what-you-use model. The built-in COM interop support is very opinionated and hard to change, which is one of the reasons that we built the ComWrappers solution for CsWinRT. We’re looking at other mechanisms for making interop more pay-for-play with source generation and the various primitives we’ve been introducing.
“Tool-based implementations (that generate source) mean that interop implementations are largely C#, and compiled, debugged, optimized, trimmed as C#/IL. That’s really powerful. That means that interop is simpler, easier to maintain, and can take advantage of the rich capabilities available to managed code, including performance enhancements. .NET interop today is an exciting area of runtime development, in large part because much less of it is in the runtime.

Programming

The new responsive: Web design in a component-driven world by Una Kravets (web.dev)

“So it works out that, yet again, the ecosystem is ready for some pretty big changes to happen to CSS. The engineers at Chrome and across the web platform are prototyping, speccing, and starting the implementation for the next era of responsive design.

These updates include user-preference based media features, container queries, and media queries for new screen types, such as foldable screens.

This is a really, really good article with a lot of examples, videos, and real-world use cases. She focuses very heavily on container queries—which offers the advantage of unified components for all sizes/situations—but also on scoped styles, which folds yet another feature (namespacing) of CSS generators and packers directly into CSS.


zells/core by Nikolas Martens (GitHub)

“In a world increasingly controlled by software, understanding how the systems that we interact with every day work, can eliminate a lot of frustration and superstition. Just as knowing why apples fall down and aeroplanes fly up, the citizens of the 21st century need to know that computers are not magical boxes but composed of dynamic models.