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Links and Notes for April 9th, 2021


<n>Below are links to articles, highlighted passages<fn>, and occasional annotations<fn> for the week ending on the date in the title, <a href="{app}/view_article.php?id=4085">enriching the raw data</a> from <a href="">Instapaper Likes</a> and <a href="">Twitter</a>. They are intentionally succinct, else they'd be <i>articles</i> and probably end up in the gigantic backlog of unpublished drafts. YMMV.</n> <ft><b>Emphases</b> are added, unless otherwise noted.</ft> <ft>Annotations are only lightly edited.</ft> <h>COVID-19</h> <media href="" src="" caption="Coronavirus-Update #82: Die Lage ist ernst" source="YouTube" width="560px" author="NDR Ratgeber"> Drosten's pissed. I've heard <iq>irreführende</iq> about 90 times now. He thinks there are two options: let it rip and collapse the health system or go back into lockdown (<iq>der Holzhammer</iq>) ... Germany doesn't seem capable of doing anything in between. He said <iq>private Kontakte</iq> are definitely where infections are coming from now. It's no longer true that <iq>wir wissen einfach nicht wovon die Infectionen kommen...</iq> At <b>37:30</b>, he said <bq>Bei keinem diesen Viren gibt es eine "Dauerwelle". Der Begriff "der Dauerwelle" gehört in in den Friseursalon und nicht in die Infektionsepidemiologie. Wir kennen diesen Begriff dort überhaupt nicht. [...] Das Virus braucht mehrere Anläufe, um die Kontaktnetzwerke ganz zu nutzen. Es kommt einmal und infiziert diejenigen, die zu dieser Zeit miteinander in Netzwerken Kontakte haben. Dann sind die alle immun oder tot. Dann wird dadurch das Virus sich beruhigen, weil keine Infektionsopfer zur Verfügung stehen. Dann durchmischt sich aber die Gesellschaft wieder. Die Angst geht weg; man geht wieder raus; neue Leute lernen sich kennen; Jobs werden gewechselt; usw.; ... es wird gereist. Dadurch entstehen neue Kontaktnetzwerk und, nach einigen Monaten, ist dann wieder genügend [...] Futter für das Virus zur Verfügung---also, neue empfängliche Personen, die noch übrig sind als empfängliche Personen in der Gesellschaft sind dann wieder neu miteinander in Kontakt. Dann kann das Virus wieder durchlaufen. Dann sind Perkolationseffekte oder andere physikalischen Schwellenwerte wieder überschritten. Dann gibt es die nächste Welle. Mit einer Dauerwelle hat das alles nichts zu tun. Diese Argumente sind hier vor allem bei dem Pseudoexperten und Logik Fehlern sind im Moment sehr frappierend in der Öffentlichkeit.</bq> At <b>43:00</b>, he discussed how the <iq>Querdenker</iq> are never happy and they're shockingly unscientific. <bq>Die Gegenpartei sagt, naja, ihr habt vorausgesagt wir werden ein paar Monaten so viele Fälle bekommen und jetzt war eure voraussage falsch. Wo aber dann vollkommen ausgeklammert wird, dass es ja auch eine Interventionsmassnahme gegeben hat, dass ein Lockdown unterwegs. Und es gibt in vielen anderen Motiven beispielsweise diese---die Virusleugner---ah, das Virus ist ja nie isoliert worden ... dann kommt ein Journalist und präsentiert fünf oder sechs Beispiele wo das Virus tatsächlich isoliert worden ist. Das führt aber nicht dazu, dass dann anerkannt wird: naja gut da haben wir uns getäuscht; das Virus ist tatsächlich isoliert worden. [...] Wir wollen mehr, wir wollen wirklich das Isolat selber als Beweis bekommen und man fragt sich irgendwann, was wollt ihr denn jetzt noch. Soll ich euch eine Ampule mit Infektiösen Virus per Post nach Hause damit ihr daran infizieren könnt? Oder wie ist jetzt die Vorstellung des Nachweises eines Virusisolats? [...] Auch das dann reicht ja wieder nicht. Dann ist ein infizierte Hamster wieder nicht genug. Das ist eben "moving the goalposts".</bq> At <b>48:00</b>, he described how it's "damned if you do; damned if you don't" as a public scientist. <bq>Zum Beispiel, [einem] unterstellt man der hat ne PCR erfunden, die das Virus gar nicht zeigt sondern irgendwas anderes und damit verdient er auch noch Geld. Und die Tatsache, dass diese Experte darauf öffentlich nicht äussert, weil das einfach so an den Haaren herbeigezogen ist, dass man gar nicht erst mit anfangen braucht sich dagegen zu äussern, weil es so objektiv falsch ist, wird dann aber wieder so rumgedreht, dass die Tatsache, dass dieser Angegriffene sich nicht äussert ja wohl bestätigen muss, dass diese Vorwürfe stimmen.</bq> At <b>56:45</b>, he discusses ... the scientific process? Because not enough people are following it? Plan, predict, collect data, evaluate, report, come up with measures based on data. <bq>Solche Bewertungen braucht man zumindest auch im Nachhinein aber eigentlich braucht man die von Vornherein. [...] was sind eigentlich die Kriterien: ist das die Zahl der positiven Antigentests? Was wollen wir eigentlich definieren als Marker der Evaluation? Und dann, als nächste eine Evaluationsplan. Also, <i>wann</i> wollen wir eigentlich den Rückblick machen? Das muss man vorher festlegen. Wan erwarten wir ein Effekt? Man kann nicht sagen, wir gucken mal. Wenn die Situation sich so ein bisschen umkehrt, denn sagen wir ziehen ein Schlussstrich und fangen das an zu evaluieren. Das geht schief. Man muss <i>vorher</i> sagen, wann man evaluieren will. [...] Komme was wolle. Ob man das jetzt gut findet oder nicht gut findet. Ob man erwartet, dass es gut oder schlecht ausgeht, es wird ausgewertet und diese Auswertung wird nicht übersprungen und die wird nach bestimmten Kriterien gemacht und die Kriterien muss man vorher festlegen, denn im Nachhinein solche Kriterien zu definieren. Das ist nie gut. Also, man muss sagen: heute können wir eigentlich unsere damalige Auffassung evaluieren. Damals haben wir gedacht, dass folgende Parameter zum guten oder schlechtern ändern werden und jetzt schauen wir, wie sich das entwickelt hat. [...] Und wie gehen wir mit den Ergebnisse um? [...] In welcher Form können jetzt andere Städte das anwenden?</bq> Kurz gefasst: Ein Appel an Wissenschaftliche Normen. <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Benjamin Mateus">Epidemiologist warns that the fourth COVID-19 surge is under way in United States</a> <bq><b>Osterholm was blunt in dismissing the actions of state and federal governments in relaxing restrictions and reopening schools, particularly in light of the spread of new variants like B.1.1.7.</b> “We are the only country in the world right now experiencing this increasing number of cases due to this variant and at the same time, opening up, not closing down," he told host Chris Wallace, who seemed taken aback by the forthright warning. “The two basically are going to collide, and we are going to see a substantially increased number of cases.” Osterholm continued, “I understand the absolute resistance in this country even to consider that and you know—it's kind of like trying to drink barbed wire—but <b>the bottom-line message of the virus is it’s going to do what it’s going to do, and we are going to have to respond somehow.</b>” He added that this might involve pulling “back on some of the restrictions that we’ve loosened up on.”</bq> <bq><b>Osterholm, who served as a member of President Biden’s COVID-19 transition advisory board, has been phased out since his blunt warning in January</b> that the drop in coronavirus cases was “the eye of the hurricane” and not genuine progress.</bq> Osterholm and Drosten seem to be in perfect agreement here. Both are crying into the wilderness, unheeded as the governments they try to counsel go ahead and do their unscientific thing---and will afterwards pretend that no-one could have known what carnage was to follow. <bq>Throughout the month of March, Osterholm was warning that the <b>American people “are walking into the mouth of this virus monster as if somehow, we don’t know it’s here, and it is here.”</b> This is an apt description of an historic crime, one being committed against the American people by the US ruling class and its political servants.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Robert Stevens">New studies show COVID-19 leads to significant organ damage and the death of many survivors</a> <bq>The report, “Post-covid syndrome in individuals admitted to hospital with covid-19” was published Wednesday in the BMJ (formerly, British Medical Journal). It found, <b>“Over a mean follow-up of 140 days, nearly a third of individuals who were discharged from hospital after acute covid-19 were readmitted (14,060 of 47,780) and more than 1 in 10 (5,875) died after discharge…”</b></bq> <bq>The results in the UK survey demonstrate how deadly COVID-19 is. It is already known that <b>approximately one-third will develop symptoms that typify what has been come to be known as Long COVID or “long-haulers”.</b> It is common—after their COVID-19 infection has cleared up—even among those who have not required hospitalisation, to suffer from <b>a number of symptoms like chronic fatigue or “brain fog.”</b></bq> <bq>Banerjee also contributed to the new study published in the BMJ. He told the Guardian, “This is a concern and we need to take it seriously… We show conclusively here that this is very far from a benign illness. <b>We need to monitor post-Covid patients so we can pick up organ impairment early on.”</b></bq> <bq>According to an Office of National Statistics survey published Thursday, an estimated 1.1 million people in Britain (from a population of around 66 million) were suffering with Long Covid symptoms in the four weeks from February 6. <b>The ONS found that one in five people had Long Covid symptoms five weeks after an initial infection and one in seven after 12 weeks.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Angelo Perera, Norisa Diaz, Benjamin Mateus">The antiscientific campaign to promote “living with the virus”</a> <bq>Regardless of such defeatist conceptions, the pandemic remains in its early and acute phase, with significant potential to infect a vast portion of the globe’s population that has not yet been exposed to the coronavirus. <b>A cohesive international strategy employing the public health tools that are within our grasp could bring the contagion under control before it becomes endemic, at the cost of millions of lives.</b></bq> <bq>Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme Dr. Mike Ryan reaffirmed the director-general’s warnings, stating, “The formula for this may be boring, it may not be attractive; there are no silver bullets, but we have got to get back to strong, comprehensive, strategic approaches to the control of COVID that include vaccination as one of those strategies. <b>I’m afraid we’re all trying to grasp at straws. We’re trying to find the golden solutions</b> and we just get enough vaccine, and we push enough vaccine into people and that’s going to take care of it. I’m sorry: it’s not! <b>There aren’t enough vaccines in the world, and they’re distributed terribly iniquitously.</b> In fact, we have missed a huge opportunity to bring vaccines on board as a comprehensive measure. It’s not being implemented in a systematic way. It’s a failed opportunity and, as the D-G says, is <b>not only a catastrophic moral failure, but it’s an epidemiologic failure and it’s a failure in public health practice.</b></bq> <bq>[...] the virus ravages the world population, with its <b>seven-day infection rates increasing by 400 percent from February 28 through March 5</b>, the ruling class utilizes the fatigue felt by the population through repeated shutdowns and reopenings to establish a rationale for living with the virus. This has been willful.</bq> People feel like they've done enough. But that's not how it works. We're Swimming under a burning oil slick. There's No prize for popping up halfway through, regardless of whether you think you held your breath for longer than you think anyone could have reasonably expected. There is no consolation prize. <bq><b>The science of public health and the tools for eradicating the virus have always been available</b>, but the decision to allow the virus to spread unchecked with nothing more than vaccines made available to a tiny percentage of the developed world is part of a conscious decision which, without the revolutionary intervention by the international working class, can lead to the virus becoming endemic.</bq> We can see that in countries that have managed to arrest the spread of the virus in some countries, like Cuba, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and China. <bq>What is invariably left out of these press releases is the criminal policy of the ruling class across the globe, that has ignored the warnings of epidemiologists and scientists as it interfered with their priority for profit accumulation. With remarkable foresight, in late spring of last year, as countries were prematurely reopening commerce, <b>Dr. Mike Ryan lambasted the world governments for lifting restrictions under conditions of persistent and rampant transmission of the virus, without systems in place to even detect it, let alone trace and quarantine the infected</b>, warning this would produce “a vicious cycle of public health disaster followed by economic disaster followed by public health disaster.”</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Andre Damon">Science vs propaganda: World Health Organization report exposes “Wuhan laboratory” lie</a> <bq><b>Humanity in the 21st century is making massive scientific breakthroughs, creating the possibility to rid the world of suffering, poverty, and disease.</b> But the capitalist order breeds and feeds upon bigotry, ignorance, racism, and xenophobia, squandering vast social resources not only on the wealth of the oligarchy, but on deadly wars capable of totally destroying human society.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="CounterPunch" author="Helen Yaffe">Cuba Libre to be COVID-Libre: Five Vaccines and Counting…</a> <bq>By 24 March 2021, Cuba had registered fewer than 70,000 cases and 408 deaths. The death rate was 35 per million and the fatality rate was just 0.59% (2.2% worldwide; 2.9% in Britain). <b>Within one year, 57 brigades of medical specialists from Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Contingent had treated 1.26 million Covid-19 patients in 40 countries; they joined 28,000 Cuban healthcare professionals already working in 66 countries.</b> Cuba’s accomplishments are more extraordinary given that from 2017 onwards, the Trump administration punitively unleashed 240 new sanctions, actions and measures to tighten the 60-year blockade of Cuba, including nearly 50 additional measures during the pandemic which cost the health sector alone over $200 million.</bq> <bq>There are five types of Covid-19 vaccines being developed globally:<ul>Viral vector vaccines, which inject an unrelated harmless virus modified to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genetic material (Oxford AstraZeneca, Gamaleya and SputnikV); Genetic vaccines containing a segment of SARS-CoV-2 virus genetic material (Pfizer, Moderna); Inactivated vaccines containing disactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus (Sinovac,/Butantan, SinoPharm, Bharat Biotec); Attenuated vaccines containing weakened SARS-CoV-2 virus (Codagenix); Protein vaccines containing proteins from the virus which trigger an immune response (Novavax, Sanofi/GSK).</ul></bq> <bq>‘The mortality rate in Cuba due to infectious diseases, even in times of Covid, is less than 1%. <b>Cuba today vaccinates against 13 diseases with 11 vaccines, eight of which are produced in Cuba. Six diseases have been eliminated as a result of vaccination schedules.</b> The vaccines produced with these technologies have been administered even to children in the first months of life.’</bq> <bq>In February 2021, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that US company <b>Pfizer has been ‘bullying’ Latin American countries into putting up sovereign assets, such as embassy buildings and military bases, as guarantees against the cost of any future legal cases in relation to their Covid-19 vaccines.</b></bq> <bq>It is likely that Cuba will apply a sliding scale to its Covid-19 vaccine exports, as it does with the export of medical professionals, so <b>what it charges reflects the countries’ ability to pay.</b></bq> <h>Economy & Finance</h> <a href="" source="LA Review of Books" author="Jodi Dean">Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism?</a> <bq><b>High tech, finance, and globalization are creating “a new social order that in some ways more closely resembles feudal structure</b> — with its often unassailable barriers to mobility — than the chaotic emergence of industrial capitalism.” In this libertarian/conservative imaginary, feudalism occupies the place of the enemy formerly held by communism. The threat of centralization and the threat to private property are the ideological elements that remain the same.</bq> <bq>Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet (the parent company name for Google) together are worth more than most every country in the world (except the United States, China, Germany, and Japan). <b>The economic scale and impact of these tech super giants, or, overlords, is greater than that of most so-called sovereign states.</b> Evgeny Morozov describes their dominance as a “hyper-modern form of feudalism.”</bq> <bq>Monopoly concentration, intensified inequality, and the subjection of the state to the market have transformed <b>accumulation</b> such that it <b>now occurs as much through rent, debt, and force as it does through commodity production.</b></bq> <bq>Police were instructed “to make arrests and issue citations in order to raise revenue.” <b>Like minions of feudal lords, they used force to expropriate value from the people.</b></bq> <bq><b>Digital platforms are the new watermills, their billionaire owners the new lords, and their thousands of workers and billions of users the new peasants.</b> Technology companies employ a relatively small percentage of the workforce, but their effects have been tremendous, remaking entire industries around the acquisition, mining, and deployment of data.</bq> <bq>Platforms are doubly extractive. Unlike the water mill peasants had no choice but to use, <b>platforms not only position themselves so that their use is basically necessary (like banks, credit cards, phones, and roads) but that their use generates data for their owners.</b> Users not only pay for the service but the platform collects the data generated by the use of the service. The cloud platform extracts rents and data, like land squared.</bq> <bq>[...] the distance between rich and poor is increasing, aided by a differentiated legal architecture that protects corporations, owners, and landlords while it immiserates and incarcerates the working and lower class.</bq> This is the premise of <a href="">The Divide</a> as well. <bq><b>No longer making things, people in the hinterlands persist through warehouses, call centers, Dollar Stores, and fast food.</b> Phil A. Neel’s recent book, Hinterland, notes patterns between China, Egypt, Ukraine, and the United States. They are all places with desolate abandoned wastelands and cities on the brink of overload.</bq> <bq>For those on the other side of the neofeudal divide, <b>anxiety and insecurity are addressed less by ideology than they are by opioids, alcohol, and food, anything to dull the pain of hopeless, mindless, endless drudgery.</b> Emily Guendelsberger describes the stress caused by constant technological surveillance on the job — the risk of being fired for being a few seconds late, for not meeting the quotas, for using the bathroom too many times.</bq> <bq><b>Thinking in terms of neofeudalism thus forces us to confront the impact of extreme economic inequality on political society and institutions.</b> It makes us reckon with the fact of billionaires hoarding trillions of dollars of assets and walling themselves into their own enclaves while millions become climate refugees and hundreds of millions encounter diminished life prospects, an intensifying struggle just to survive.</bq> <bq>Social democracy was premised on a compromise between labor and capital. Organized labor in much of the Global North delivered a cooperative working class in exchange for a piece of the good life. <b>Labor’s defeat and the subsequent dismantling of the welfare state should have demonstrated once and for all the bankruptcy of a strategy requiring compromise with capitalist exploitation.</b> Yet some socialists continue to hope for a kinder, gentler capitalism — as if capitalists would capitulate just to be nice, as if they, too, weren’t subject to market logics that make stock buybacks more attractive than investment in production. <b>The neofeudal hypothesis tells us that any labor struggle premised on the continuation of capitalism is dead in the water.</b> Capitalism has already become something worse.</bq> <bq>Tethered to platforms owned by others, consumer items and means of life are now means for the platform owners’ accumulation. <b>Most of us constitute a property-less underclass only able to survive by servicing the needs of high earners.</b></bq> <bq><b>Universal Basic Income is an untenable survivalist approach. It promises just enough to keep those in the hinterlands going and barely enough for urban renters to handover to their landlords.</b> Catastrophism becomes that hip negativity denigrating hope and effort, as if the next hundred years or so just don’t matter.</bq> <bq><b>The neofeudal hypothesis thus lets us see both the appeal and the weakness of popular left ideas.</b> They appeal because they resonate with a dominant sense. They are weak because this dominant sense is an expression of tendencies to neofeudalism.</bq> <bq>[...] <b>it no longer makes sense to posit free and equal actors meeting in the labor market even as a governing fiction.</b> It means that rent and debt feature as or more heavily in accumulation than profit, and that work increasingly exceeds the wage relation.</bq> <hr> I read the essay above after listening to this excellent interview <a href="" source="Apple Podcasts" author="TrueAnon">Episode 147: You Are a Serf with Jodi Dean</a> At <b>06:00</b>, she says <bq>For the last thirty or forty years, we've called this neoliberalism, but it seems like, particularly since 2008, thinking about the political and economic form that we have right now as neoliberalism---which was supposed to not involve massive state bailouts of the finance sector---it doesn't seem like it's as accurate. And now that we've seen the massive state bailout of non-finance corporations in the name of COVID relief, [...] neoliberalism doesn't seem that accurate. So I think we should think about the present as having neofeudal tendencies. The easiest way to think about neofeudal tendencies would be: if we've got the last 50 years of intense wage stagnation for the majority and intense wealth concentration for the 1%: where does that lead to after 50 years? It's [...] something that looks a lot like feudalism, with a few very powerful billionaires and millions and millions of people in a position that's like proletarianized serfs. Neofeudalism is the effect of what happens as capitalism consistently, over time, socializes risk and privatizes rewards. We get this unbelievable intense wealth distribution and opportunity distribution and power distribution that looks a lot like feudalism.</bq> At <b>01:16:00</b> to <b>1:19:00</b>, they all talk about how we're reinventing <iq>automated Luxury socialism</iq>, how it's <iq>part of the erasure of work, erasure of the working class</iq>, how people are looking for a <iq>one-weird -trick technocracy</iq>, or solving everything with a <iq>one-trick pony</iq> (although I think the Dean got the idiom wrong there, but we understand she means that these people have a hammer and now see only nails.) At <b>1:26:00</b>, <bq><b>Liz:</b> I don't even think we're in the 1890s yet, baby. <b>Brace:</b> No! No, we're in fuckin' 1320 motherfucker. You are a serf. Bitch, you live in Alsace. You are a peasant. You need to give you fuckin' lord grain. Your fuckin' children? You've had 15 children. You've never taken a bath. You've literally never washed your penis. You're never used toilet paper. Motherfucker, you have worms. You are dying. You've had forty children. Three of them are alive. Two of them are child soldiers in the Duke's army. The greatest thing you could hope for is to die at the ripe age, excuse me, the <i>old</i> age of 36. You fuckin' can't read. You don't know what TV is. If you were literally transported into today, you would be the worst gamer of all time. You don't know shit. You literally probably don't know what the direction "left" is. [...] You live in the oubliette. You need to climb the ladder out.</bq> It continues. It's quite inventive. Kudos. <hr> The podcast <a href="" source="Apple Podcasts" author="This is Hell!">1315: Growth, carbon, death / Ben Ehrenreich</a> (the episode will be available soon at <a href="" source="This is Hell!">1315: Growth, carbon, death / Ben Ehrenreich</a>) was a very interesting interview in which he outlines that the Green New Deal is actually about "Green Growth", which is untenable. At <b>42:00</b>, Ben notes that <bq>none of the technologies will actually work [...] they rely on technology that has not been deployed, has not been tested at scale and, for the most part, does not even exist.</bq> <bq>These are people that are trying hard. The scheme that people have come up is more willing to rely on technology that does not now exist and on a transition that may not be possible, than they are even to entertain the idea of meaningful social and economic change. That is the one thing that no-one is willing to talk about. That we actually have to change our economy in really fundamental ways.</bq> Near the beginning of his interview, Ben called the current scheme a religion because of their belief that a planet with finite resources can be pillaged by an ever-increasing population at an ever-increasing rate forever. Living like that is nothing other than faith in an irrational universe. At <b>49:00</b>, <bq>In the U.S. GDP growth has been quite steady, with a couple of tiny blips, since the early 1970s. That curve goes straight up. At the same time, real wages have gone straight down. And poverty has gone up. And life-expectancy has gone down. Child mortality has gone up. Growth does not track with every other factor which we associate with lives worth living. We work more for less money, in more polluted environments, under more forms of stress, even as GDP growth has been going up and up and up for decades. Now, of course, quality of life has increased drastically for <i>some</i> people. And what we've seen over that period of sustained GDP growth is the increasing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands. And those few people who've profited enormously from the economic changes of the last decades are intent on preserving their wealth, even if means the death of billions, at this point. I think that's very clear.</bq> At the end of the interview, <bq>If we consider that societies can change---and do change---and that mass movements over the last two centuries pushed societies in completely different directions than the ones they were set on, then something else takes shape. And it's the possibility of what would have to be really radical social change. But radical social change that would not only reverse the extraordinary inequities and injustices of the current system, but would take us off of this race toward suicide, that the <i>species</i> is not engaged in, but that that 1% of the species is dragging us all along into.</bq> I prefer to think of the 1% using the more 20th-century designation: the ruling class. I think I got that from Jodi Dean. It more clearly indicates what they are. Jeff Dorchen, from his closing essay: <bq>The ability to profit from our emotions, both petty and grand, and the ability to turn catastrophe and human misery into investment opportunities seem to be the two aspects of capitalism really coming to the fore, converging as we rapidly approach the end of civilization. [...] There's your end of history, Francis Fukuyama: like a stone in the urethra of human progres, nothing more can issue forth.</bq> <h>Public Policy & Politics</h> <a href="" source="Ray McGovern" author="">Stephanopoulos, Blinken Score Win for MICIMATT</a> <bq>I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey’s input at the first cabinet meeting at the White House in February 1981, according to Barbara Honegger, who was there:<bq><b>We’ll know when our disinformation program is complete, when everything the American public believes is false.</b></bq></bq> <bq>In September 2002, for example, when Bush and Cheney, <b>with the indispensable help of a senator named Biden and his main staffer Blinken were pushing Congress to authorize war</b>, Stephanopoulos did his best to put Rep. Jim McDermott on the spot and hold him up to ridicule. McDermott and other Democratic congressmen were visiting Baghdad and insisting that UN inspectors should be permitted to determine whether there really were weapons of mass destruction there before Congress approved military action.</bq> Blinken's been around since at least 2002---and was Biden's right-hand man for imperialist war already at that time. <bq><b>A combination of inexperience, entitlement, hubris, and racism can get a lot of people killed.</b> Some of us are old enough to have seen it happen. Really? An unnecessary and completely avoidable war with nuclear-armed China? Cui bono, the MICIMATT? I remember being reluctant to believe that Bush and Cheney would start a war of choice with an Iraq they knew was WMD-less (as Jim McDermott had suggested). And they did. Fool me once. … <b>Biden has brought in the clowns; he needs to bring in some adults before it is too late.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" source="" author="Michael Klare">A Game of Chicken in Asia With the World at Stake</a> <bq>China is now using its increasingly powerful navy and coast guard on a regular basis to intimidate other claimants to islands it insists are its own in the East and South China Seas – Japan in the case of the Senkakus; and Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines in the case of the Spratlys and Paracels. <b>In most instances, this means directing its naval and coast guard vessels to drive off the fishing boats of such countries from waters surrounding Chinese-claimed islands. In the case of Taiwan, China has used its ships and planes in a menacing fashion to suggest that any move toward declaring independence from the mainland will be met with a harsh military response.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Ben McGrath">A US ambassador visits Taiwan for first time since 1979</a> <bq><b>Hennessey-Niland’s presence is a deliberate breach of long-standing diplomatic protocols, limiting contact between the US and Taiwan, and is aimed at further stoking tensions with Beijing.</b> As part of establishing diplomatic ties with China in 1979, the US recognized the One China policy: that Beijing was the legitimate government of all China, including Taiwan.</bq> <bq>China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denounced Hennessey-Niland’s visit, saying on Monday, “The one-China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations. China is firmly opposed to any form of official exchanges between the US and the island of Taiwan. This position is consistent and clear... <b>We urge the US not to try to breach China's bottom line, to avoid serious damage to China—US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.</b></bq> <bq>The hypocrisy is evident. <b>Washington has already sent warships through the Taiwan Strait—thousands of kilometres from the American mainland—on three separate occasions since Biden took office, claiming the voyages were “in accordance with international law.”</b> Beijing, however, is accused of being aggressive and menacing, when passing through airspace close to the Chinese mainland, and moreover of territory recognized by Washington as being part of China.</bq> <bq><b>The US ultimately bears responsibility for the destabilization of the region.</b> After World War II, the Republic of China, the formal name of Taiwan today, regained control of the island, which had been a Japanese colony since 1895. After the 1949 Chinese revolution, the defeated Kuomintang fled to Taiwan where it was protected by the US Navy. It was then allowed to posture as the legitimate government of all of China, including sitting as a permanent member with veto powers on the UN Security Council.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Ben McGrath">Japan lines up with US against China over Taiwan</a> <bq>On Sunday, Suga pledged to work closely with Washington in ratcheting up its pressure on Beijing. “It is important for Japan and the United States to work together and <b>maintain deterrence to create an environment in which Taiwan and China can find a peaceful solution</b>,” he stated. The talk of “a peaceful solution” seeks to mask the fact that <b>Tokyo is trying to justify “deterrence”—that is, a military build-up by Japan and the US targeting China.</b> Moreover, it is Washington, not Beijing that is deliberately undermining the “One China” framework, which has maintained a shaky peace in the Taiwan Strait since 1979.</bq> <bq><b>Washington has fraudulently painted the confrontation with Beijing as concerning “human rights” and the need to maintain a “free and open” Indo-Pacific.</b> While again seizing on Hong Kong and Xinjiang to distract from the real issues, on March 25 Biden bluntly stated the motivating fear in Washington, that China would eclipse the US economically and strategically. “<b>China has an overall goal, and I don’t criticize them for the goal, but they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world.</b> That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States are (sic) going to continue to grow and expand,” Biden declared.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Genevieve Leigh">Ocasio-Cortez says left-wing opponents of Biden’s immigration policy are doing “a profound disservice to the cause of justice”</a> <bq>First, <b>what is happening to immigrants under the Biden administration, as happened under the Trump administration and Obama before him, is a crime against humanity.</b> Ocasio-Cortez’s politically motivated insinuation that the same level of horrific trauma suffered by immigrant children under Trump is not taking place under Biden, is contemptuous.</bq> <bq>As for the approximately 16,000 children being held in detention facilities, they are imprisoned in the same overrun and unregulated facilities that the Trump administration oversaw, and the Obama administration before him. In fact, <b>Biden has even moved to reopen Trump-era detention facilities to accommodate the influx of children</b>, including the Carrizo Springs Child Migration Detention Facility in Texas.</bq> <hr> <media src="" href="" source="YouTube" width="560px" author="Lee Camp" caption="MOC #67 - The Truth About DSA & AOC (w/ Eric London)"> Something happened with this video. It's still on YouTube, but Lee Camp has <i>redacted</i> it from his own web site. I'd originally watched it at <a href="" source="LeeCamp.Com">MOC #67 - The Truth About DSA & AOC (w/ Eric London)</a>, but that link is dead now. Episode #67 is conspicuously absent from the listings on that site. I'm a bit taken aback that Camp took the video down without explanation. Eric London is much better in this interview than in print, but he cannot help but purity-test everyone. He mentions Jacobin offhandedly in the same breath as the DSA and the Democratic Party. He had a horrifically bad-faith takedown of Jimmy Dore a few months back (which is when I first read him). My God, how can you diss Ariella Thornhill? And Nando? Fuck, dude, find allies where you can. The rest of the interview is spot-on. But man, just back off on excoriating potential allies. I read Jacobin. They are in no way party-line Democrats. And Jimmy Dore is not a fascist, ya dimwit. Sanders also comes under the wheels, of course. The dude is quoting Max something-or-other, a politician from 1918, but Bernie is a criminal on the same level as Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell. AOC is more of a betrayal than Bernie, but not much. Bernie actually makes legislation, but he always votes wrong. I can't remember the last time he did a protest vote. AMLO and Corbyn are also traitors. I get the notion of lesser-evilism, but this is taking it so far that you will never win because you can never get started. It's possible that it draws too much energy away to support inadequate people. I agree with that. I don't understand why he thinks Jimmy Dore is a white supremacist. Or the Boogaloos are racists. That just showed that London is willing to believe whatever the mainstream media says about them, accepting their declarations without question, while ignoring what the groups say about themselves. With <a href="" source="WSWS">Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “bad faith actors”</a>, he slashes and burns his way through Birahna Joy Gray, who gave a very fair review of his article and its nearly deliberate misinterpretation of AOC. To back that up, he deliberately misinterprets the content of the podcast, which was nothing like what he writes about. I listened to it. It seemed fair and balanced. London's heart seems to be in the right place, but he paints with a very broad brush and cannot be trusted as a journalist. He has a very black/white view of the world. If you attack the Democratic party, as he does, then you're good, <i>no matter what you say</i>. If you take issue with what can only be interpreted as deliberate lies (or London's listening faculties are so broken by his filters that he really shouldn't be writing anything ... at least not with an editor, which seems to be the case right now), then you're the enemy. This is exactly the attitude that the Democrats took toward Trump and I'm sad to see him take it toward the Democrats. You can't accuse a neighbor who smokes under your window of being a pedophile. <hr> <a href="" source="TK News" author="Matt Taibbi">Is Traditional Liberalism Vanishing?</a> <bq>Skokie was a Tower-of-Babel moment for American law. If you grant the village of Skokie the right to ban hate speech, or require insurance bonds, or prevent anyone in a military uniform from marching, the constitutional edifice comes down and every town in the country will soon be making its own rules. Next thing you know, Forsyth County, Georgia, might be banning Hosea Williams from marching on Martin Luther King Day. <b>“Do you want every little town to decide which speech is permitted?” Glasser asked.</b></bq> <bq>In books, movies, music, and TV, <b>the acquisitive rich were recast as the edgy hedonists who got what America was all about and earned all the rewards worth seeking</b> — as Madonna put it in Material Girl, “the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right” — while liberals were losers.</bq> <bq>Few today remember how completely the political tenor of pop culture changed from the seventies to the eighties. As friend David Sirota points out in his terrific and funny book Back To Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now, two of the three top-grossing movies in 1975 were the anti-puritanical romp, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, an anti-authoritarian drama written by beat novelist Ken Kesey. Meanwhile, <b>three of the top seven TV shows in 1975 were liberal dramas like All in the Family</b>, which cast Archie Bunker as the recalcitrant bigot-with-a-heart who had to be gently introduced to positive social changes by comic irritants Sally Struthers and Rob “Meathead” Reiner.</bq> And now everything is cheap police procedurals that glorify the FBI and CIA and police, in general. <bq>The thread that ran through that movie, and through hits like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and even shows like The A-Team, was that democracy doesn’t work, and the insistence on due process and rights just inhibits justice and enables bad guys. Therefore, <b>the only way to guarantee society’s safety is to empower the right people to take matters into their own hands, a blunt right-wing message that would later be tweaked for blue-leaning audiences.</b></bq> <bq>Forget factories, coal mines, and courthouses. This was the West Wing era, which depicted politics as a gang of sanctimonious upper-class pseudo-intellectuals rescuing humanity by huffing their own farts and coming up with genius ideas like slashing Social Security to “protect FDR’s legacy.” <b>The fact that a generation of Obama and Biden officials had their worldviews shaped by that asswipe atrocity of a soap opera</b> (as did media figures like Lawrence O’Donnell and longstanding Vox buddy movie Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias) should tell you everything you need to know about what happened to liberalism during those years. It was replaced by a marketing campaign that before long saw almost complete reversals on everything from war to deficits to surveillance to financial bailouts — <b>leaving America in such a weird place politically that Donald Trump, famous until then solely as a rich pig who fired people for fun, could successfully paint his Democratic challenger as a tool of the wealthy.</b></bq> I never saw <i>The West Wing</i>. Not a single episode. It's not a point of pride. I've watched a lot of good and bad stuff in my time. You can learn from the bad stuff, as well. It's just when it's really bad, it's really hard to sit through. Sometimes you learn the lesson in the first show or two and don't have to sit through all seven seasons of it. <bq><b>The old-school liberalism Glasser represents believed in that model of constant engagement and constant dialogue</b>, which is probably what RFK was talking about when he said the ACLU defended the “root ideas” of the country. That optimism is vanishing, though, and just like Ebbets Field, a generation may grow up now never knowing it was there.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="TK News" author="Matt Taibbi">Has American Liberalism Abandoned Free Speech? Interview With Thomas Frank</a> <bq>This explanation was alluring to a lot of Democrats at the time, among other things because it absolved the party of blame for losing influence. After all, <b>if people in Kansas were superstitious racists, what’s a K Street Democratic consultant to do? You can’t pander to Klansmen and idiots.</b></bq> <bq>It wasn’t that Frank liked Trump, he just didn’t find saying the obvious interesting. “I mean, kicking Donald Trump?” he says. “Yeah, the guy’s stupid, but making fun of stupid people, that’s not a challenge.” For the same reason, Frank notes, he never wrote about censorship before, because <b>being for free speech for a liberal was such a “no-brainer” that it never even occurred to him.</b></bq> <bq>The right-wing noise machine, they have Fox News. They're brainwashing people, and there was this desire, this sense among liberals, that we are right, and we know we're right. <b>The answer is just to make the other side shut up. We finally have the tools to do that in the form of social media.</b></bq> <bq>But I'm confident that I'm right about this, about free speech, that free speech is worth defending, and this is who we are. It is the core of what liberalism is. It's primary. It's not just some detail. Looking at the response to what I wrote, <b>I was astonished at how many good people think that it's time to do this. It's time to use the heavy hand of the state to shut people up, to shut the other side up. I can't believe it, but it's true.</b></bq> <hr> <a href="" source="WSWS" author="Jean Shaoul">The Suez Canal blockage and the globalization of production</a> <bq>As sea trade has grown, the size of container ships has also grown, driven by the need to lower shipping costs and achieve economies of scale. <b>The average size of container ships is now five times larger than just 20 years ago</b>, paving the way for both fewer ships and enormous cost reductions, to the extent <b>vessels capable of carrying 20,000 20-foot equivalent containers are operated with a crew of just 20.</b></bq> <bq><b>Capitalism has demonstrated over and over again that it is impervious to science and reason</b>, criminally irrational and utterly opposed to addressing any social problems even as it demands ever fatter profits. Coming amid the pandemic, which has already killed 2.7 million people worldwide, it only confirms the necessity of abolishing the capitalist system and replacing it with an internationally coordinated, rationally and scientifically directed system of economic planning, based on equality and the satisfaction of human need: socialism.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="Washington Post" author="Tom Jackman">After crime plummeted in 2020, Baltimore will stop drug, sex prosecutions</a> <bq>So on Friday, Mosby made her temporary steps permanent. She announced <b>Baltimore City will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases</b>, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers and people in psychiatric crisis to <b>direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car.</b></bq> <bq>In California, prosecutors in Los Angeles and Contra Costa counties have recently stopped taking people to court for drug possession and low-level misdemeanors. “The data suggests,” newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in an email, “that the bulk of misdemeanor caseloads — which represent <b>the vast majority of filings in the United States — involve the prosecution of cases with minimal, and often negative, long-term impacts on public safety.</b> It’s this reality that led to my policy prohibiting the filing of many first time low-level misdemeanors.”</bq> <bq>Officers who made drug arrests saw prosecutors dismissing the charges at the jail, and so the arrests mainly stopped. <b>Mosby said there were 80 percent fewer arrests for drug possession in Baltimore in the past year.</b></bq> <hr> The podcast <a href="" source="Apple Podcasts" author="This is Hell!">1313: Biden and the imperial past / Andrew Bacevich</a> (the episode will be available soon at <a href="" source="This is Hell!">1313: Biden and the imperial past / Andrew Bacevich</a>) was a very interesting interview. At <b>17:00</b>, <bq>We have a very convenient and selective memory of World War II. And, indoctrinate is a powerful word, but I think it's probably appropriate. [...] We're getting to things like the belief that WWII was won by an Anglo-American partnership forged by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, that was all about observing freedom and democracy. That statement ought to come with a whole bunch of asterisks. One of the asterisks needs to reference the Soviet Union, which, of course, did not represent freedom and democracy by any stretch of the imagination, but which did one heckuva lot more to bring about the defeat of Nazi Germany than did the military forces of Great Britain and the Unites States. And I'm not suggesting our side---the West---didn't make a substantial contribution: it did. But that contribution paled in comparison to the fighting and dying that the Soviets did.</bq> At <b>54:00</b>, <bq><b>Chuck:</b> How sustainable is democracy without a social contract? <b>Andrew:</b> I fear it may not be sustainable. I think, as a people, as a nation, we have not yet come to terms with the Trump presidency. And the meaning goes deeper than Trump himself. Deeper than Trump's lies, Trump's incompetence. Trump <i>came to be</i> because the fabric of American democracy was already badly damaged. And simply moving Trump off-stage and giving us an old war horse like Biden doesn't repair things. So there's a lot more thinking about the Trump era that needs to be done. [...] We shouldn't lay all of this on Trump. Trump was the beneficiary of contradictions that had preceded him by a couple of decades. He was a shrewd enough guy to understand the buttons to push to exploit the potential of the new populism. So it's not about him; it's about the conditions that produced him.</bq> <hr> The podcast <a href="" source="Apple Podcasts" author="This is Hell!">1314: Water and democracy in Detroit / Curt Guyette</a> (the episode will be available soon at <a href="" source="This is Hell!">1314: Water and democracy in Detroit / Curt Guyette</a>) was a very interesting interview. Detroit has 2M residents at its peak. There are now just about 670K residents. Of those, 40% live in poverty. The city is 137 sq. mi. These remaining people are being coerced into paying the the upkeep of the entire water system with bills of $300-400 per month for water. At <b>34:00</b>, Guyette summarizes with: <iq>The residents of Detroit are getting screwed, horribly.</iq> <hr> The podcast <a href="" source="Apple Podcasts" author="This is Hell!">508: Questions for Boys feat. Katherine Krueger</a> was an interesting discussion. In the first <b>20 minutes</b> or so, Felix and Will have some entertaining riffs, with Felix seemingly spinning them up ad-hoc. At <b>55:00</b>, there's a good discussion of the decline in sex, the deracination of violence and sex in entertainment (Matt Christman) and the underlying causes, like the terrible economy. at <b>59:20</b>, Felix says, <bq>We live in an imperial nation that has repeatedly shown just complete disregard for human life. As long as they're something other than you. In whatever way it's constructed. That you can kill literally millions of them, and it's basically fine, if you intention was to make the world better.</bq> The ensuing discussion (until the end of the show) about sex and life and being human was very good. <hr> The podcast <a href="" source="Apple Podcasts" author="This is Hell!">510: Stuck in the Middle with You</a> was an interesting discussion. At <b>16:30</b>, they had a good discussion of Biden's performance so far, with the following at <b>17:05</b>, <bq><b>Will:</b> I would not be surprised if, in the next couple of months, the next thing that can get you kicked off of social media is talking about Joe Biden's mental capacity. <b>Matt:</b> It's ableist. <b>Will:</b> Or implying that it's not up to snuff to be the president of the United States. <b>Matt:</b> That's ableism, to say that the President should know what time of day it is. <b>Felix:</b> That is the scarier thing, right? It's sort of like two levels of fright. If you're on one level, then you're like a rational person who's not too deep into this shit, that's ... disconcerting, that he just gives up in the middle [of his sentence], but the real thing that scares people that no-one will talk about is that, oh, that shows that kind of doesn't really matter, specifically, who's president. That it's just on auto-pilot and that it's run by other people. And that opens up a frightening question as to what the American presidency is, if it's just on auto-pilot... how little our input matters? <b>Matt: </b> That's something that no-one really wants to confront, so we're all just going to agree that grandpa's doing fine.</bq> <hr> <a href="" source="Clusterfuck Nation" author="James Howard Kunstler">Peak Woke</a> <bq>The Woke moral panic that proceeded from this effectively suppressed two truths about police relations with Black America: 1) that Blacks committed crimes against life and property at a disproportionately high rate to their percentage in the US population, and 2) that the number of unarmed black people killed by police was statistically minuscule, and in most cases involved people resisting arrest or fighting with police. As the 2016 election approached, the Democratic Party realized it was in its interest to cultivate the Woke moral panic so as to marshal the Black voting bloc so crucial to victory at the polls.</bq> I would call this "peak bullshit" and think that's its beneath Kunstler. He used to be better than this. He used to at least try to find some line that wasn't just the standard bilge you can absorb from a superficial reading of a cherry-picked set of data. This is a shockingly dishonest take---and not for the first time---of the situation. There is a polarity to the issue that makes both "sides" look bad, when the truth that would actually help that people that suffer from this situation lies somewhere in the middle. Kunstler is largely unaffected by this "situation". It's shockingly stupid for someone who's otherwise shown a keen analytical mind to simply cite arrest statistics (for <iq>crimes against life and property</iq>), ignoring what the possible reasons for that might be. I'm not going to go into them, but they are legion. There is more than information supporting myriad theses that have nothing to do with "blacks commit more crime", which is Kunstler ends up, seemingly effortlessly, not even noticing or seemingly caring where that puts him in the intellectual pantheon. He mixes nearly deliberately slanderous formulations with other bits that at least have the glimmerings of sanity. This next paragraph is excessively supportive of Trump, but actually relatively fair to the Democratic Party. <bq>They kept it up for four years, using every device in the bureaucracy to drive Mr. Trump from office while deliberately gaslighting, hoaxing, misdirecting, and bamboozling the public. In the process, the Democratic Party became hostage to the worst elements among its supporters and foot-soldiers: the race hustlers, the gender-deranged, the criminal sociopaths, the limousine Marxists, the Wall Street swindlers, the Silicon Valley megalomaniacs, and even America’s foreign adversaries — as evidenced by the Biden Family’s lucrative dealings with the party that runs China.</bq> Though he'll continue with this admixture of sanity with unsubstantiated and brainwashed propaganda, like, <bq>In 2020, China gave the Democrats their greatest gift, Covid-19, a means to wreck the US economy and an excuse to pare away Americans’ constitutional rights to various freedoms of speech, published expression, movement, association, self-defense, and economic liberty. Finally, in managing to elect the inert and incompetent Joe Biden via ballot fraud the party went a scam too far.</bq> You see how 80% of the paragraph is perhaps hyperbolic, but reasonably sound, but that he has to get in the part about China having caused the virus on purpose? Which is wild speculation wholly contraindicated by reams of documentation and voices from around the world? Conspiracy's gonna conspiracy. I'm not even going to bother analyzing the rest of the article, which devolves into a twisted and fact-free evaluation of the Chauvin trial. <h>Art & Literature</h> <a href="" source="Roger" author="Matt Zoller Seitz">Godzilla vs. Kong</a> <bq>[...] what is Kong the king of, really? A jungle full of creatures that look nothing like him. Are there any other primates? Poor Kong was always the only one on Skull Island. We saw the bones of others. Were they killed by beasts? Did they die of natural causes before Kong was born? At least Kong knows now that he's a king by birthright and innate nobility— or that one of his ancestors was. Kong saw that ruined castle. <b>He walked into the grand hall and sat on the throne and held an axe in his fist like Conan. Maybe he imagined dominion over long-gone realms in Hollow Earth.</b></bq> <h>Philosophy & Sociology</h> <a href="" source="Hinternet" author="Justin E.H. Smith">The Grammar of the World</a> <bq>Thomas Nagel’s classic aporetic argument in his interrogatively titled 1974 article, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Nagel had supposed that the echolocative sensory apparatus of Chiroptera is simply too different from our own for us ever to be able to arrive at an accurate idea of the character of a bat’s qualitative experience.</bq> <bq>We can skip the details, but <b>the important thing to note here is that these are different kinds of hydrogen, which do not ordinarily get included on the periodic table of elements as being among the basic building blocks of the world.</b> By contrast, higher-numbered synthetic elements, which often only exist for a few hundred microseconds under highly artificial laboratory conditions, nevertheless do make it onto the list of ingredients of the universe.</bq> <bq>[...] it is not clear that Dmitri Mendeleev’s table itself, or the picture of reality we derive from it, is any more stable a part of reality, any less a product of the modern drive to schematize, than, say, Linnean taxonomy. Even the classificatory systems we point to as the most secure, I mean, <b>the ones that supposedly enumerate the natural kinds and tell you where they stand in relation to one another, begin to crumble when we look closer into the circumstances of their construction.</b></bq> <bq>Nothing about the six-celled Latin grid is natural or exhaustive, even if we tend to think about the different possibilities presented by other languages as variations on the standard model, as so to speak isotopes of the paradigmatic elements. <b>In short, if you want to know how many different ways one may speak of love (for example), in how many different combinations, the world itself is not going to tell you.</b></bq> <bq>[...] <b>the periodic features of the fretboard are not imagined, in contrast, say, with the ram or the archer in the heavens; and second of all, that this order yields up all music.</b> It is an order that, once understood and mastered, shows itself to be both rational and optimal. But is it natural? Surely not, most people will say, since it results from the contingent decisions that people made in history;</bq> <bq>[...] <b>we make these differing suppositions —that the periodic table reflects the order of reality while the guitar fretboard reflects a series of choices and pure contingencies— because we are, and have been since the era of Mendeleev, mostly materialist naturalists</b>, who believe that the best and most obvious candidates for inclusion on the universe’s list of ingredients are the different kinds of atom with their different atomic structures. We are not, to say the least, some strange sect of neo-Pythagoreans who believe that the order of reality is underlain at its most fundamental level by harmonies, and —why not?— that the modern era’s guitar is the most perfect embodiment of this cosmic harmonic order. <b>We are not, but we could have been.</b></bq> <bq>While nature may indeed be giving us some basic parameters within which to work, the human beings who undertook to classify the objects of their study within these parameters were free to tinker and adjust until they arrived at something elegant and pleasing. And <b>this is substantially the same situation in which the nameless tuners of countless ancestors to the modern guitar found themselves as well, and of every human being who sets out to structure some sliver of the world for the sake of better knowing it.</b></bq> <bq>If your ontology has it that language is the most real thing in the universe, rather than, say, material atoms, then this channeling can easily give rise to the impression that you are in the presence here of some fundamental truth about the structure of reality.</bq> <bq>[...] what we take to be an accurate “table” of the order of reality depends fundamentally on what sort of basic ingredients we take reality to be made up from. And once we fully appreciate this, and we understand the ultimate contingency of our starting points, <b>it is much easier to see a schema as supposedly objective as the periodic table of the elements as the product of the human will to structure reality, and not as a straightforward mirror of a pre-given reality.</b></bq> <bq><b>To learn that Mendeleev’s particular structuring exercise may have emerged in part out of casual conversations with a contemporary grammarian</b>, for his part immersed in the works of an ancient grammarian who conceptualized his discipline as a fundamental inquiry into the nature of reality, adds an exciting twist indeed to the history of chemistry.</bq> <bq>You might think you know which is the right one to be, but as for me I’m an outside observer of all of these communities, and I confess I think <b>they are all, in their own way, crazy. For they all take the structures of their own minds for the nature of reality itself.</b> Like any good skeptic —and postmodernism was always at bottom a variety of skepticism— I insist I have no idea what reality itself is like.</bq> <bq>Most of the species that have proliferated will of course quickly go extinct, and a 2011 hapax legomenon mentioning “frostgender”, for example, will be known to have existed only thanks to the Wayback Machine’s archiving of some Tumblr fossil, <b>in just the same way we know of so many early Cambrian Baupläne thanks only to the Burgess Shale.</b></bq> <bq>For <b>it is not a matter of simple “contrarianism” —to use another favored term of our era’s conformist enforcers— to refuse to take whatever new world-ordering satisfies current social and political exigencies as if it were reality itself.</b> It is rather a matter of resistance to the rising dogmatic tyranny of our age, which like any tyranny does not rest content with the achievement of mutual toleration and respect among members of society, but also insists on getting inside your head and fixing your thoughts as well.</bq> <bq>In any case it’s clear where I stand: to a great degree we make our own world, and <b>we should remain wary of any movement, of any political allegiance, that claims to be taking its dictates directly from what science reveals about reality.</b> It’s always a lot more complicated than that. This was one of the most valuable, and timeless, lessons of postmodernism.</bq>