Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday Links

  • A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's? I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question – such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? – not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had. [Wiki]
  • The LGBTQs are overwhelmingly and decidedly part of the lumpenproletariat: their class consciousness starts and ends with "does the society I live in tolerate my behavior or not?" this is why all conversations with them are wrt their "acceptance" instead of material conditions. Not just that their tolerance is a guaranteed self-sabotage on any kind of revolutionary action, not only will they invariably make the discourse about themselves but they will sabotage the revolution because their existence can only be wholly accepted by a neoliberal order. [twitter]
  • New Yorkers are afraid to let even a handful of spectators into the Arthur Ashe Stadium (capacity 23,771). Someone sitting by him/her/zir/theirself could contract coronavirus. When a group of Americans is fully stocked with an Abundance of Fear, how do they characterize themselves? The banners that cover the seats and ensure none of the tournament-affiliated folks can sit there read “New York Tough”. [Why couldn’t they give free tickets to people who were previously hospitalized for COVID-19? NYC has many thousands of such folks and, so far, there is no evidence that they are catching the Only Disease That Matters (TM) for a second time.] [PhilG]
  • Note also that England has had months of open pubs, and a very quiet situation, but now cases there are doubling every six to seven days (FT). Don’t switch back to talk of deaths! The “simple” theory of herd immunity is surprised to see that new trend in cases. What I call semi-herd immunity suggests a high degree of protection for the current configuration of social relations, after some point. As those social relations change, some of that temporary herd immunity dissolves, as new infecting connections are being created and new superspreaders arise and do their thing. But that takes a while, possibly months. The herd immunity theorists downplay the possible temporariness of the equilibrium they pinpoint. They instead prefer to focus on the (correct) point that most of the mainstream approaches did not forecast the collapse in deaths and hospitalizations found in England, Sweden, New York, and now parts of the American South. In reality, you need to put both sides of the picture together, and grasp both the insights and limitations of the herd immunity theorists. [Marginal Revolution]
  • A reasonable inference to be drawn from these facts is that the Investment Company Institute successfully lobbied Chairman Clayton who directly or indirectly pressured Division of Investment Management to issue a statement that it would not have issued absent such pressure. It is inconceivable that Mr. Algren, for one, is happy about that. There are probably other staff members who take seriously their mission to protect investors from the sort of abuses that led Congress to adopt the Investment Company Act of 1940 and who are troubled about giving fund boards a license to violate Section 18(i). To repeat, Congress’ rationale for adopting the Investment Company Act of 1940 was its finding that the states had failed to protect the interests of investors. Division of Investment Management, by withdrawing the Boulder Letter, has perversely thrown investors back into the clutches of states like Maryland that have demonstrated a willingness to weaken investor protections and fiduciary duty standards to entice fund sponsors to register their funds there. What do you think Messrs. Healy and Schenker would say about allowing a fund to opt into a control share statute like Maryland’s? [Phil Goldstein]
  • We present three lines of evidence to support our contention that laboratory manipulation is part of the history of SARS-CoV-2. (i) The genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 is suspiciously similar to that of a bat coronavirus discovered by military laboratories in the Third Military Medical University (Chongqing, China) and the Research Institute for Medicine of Nanjing Command (Nanjing, China). (ii) The receptor-binding motif (RBM) within the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which determines the host specificity of the virus, resembles that of SARS-CoV from the 2003 epidemic in a suspicious manner. Genomic evidence suggests that the RBM has been genetically manipulated. (iii) SARS-CoV-2 contains a unique furin-cleavage site in its Spike protein, which is known to greatly enhance viral infectivity and cell tropism. Yet, this cleavage site is completely absent in this particular class of coronaviruses found in nature. In addition, rare codons associated with this additional sequence suggest the strong possibility that this furin-cleavage site is not the product of natural evolution and could have been inserted into the SARS-CoV-2 genome artificially by techniques other than simple serial passage or multi-strain recombination events inside co-infected tissue cultures or animals. [link]
  • Hello from the tail end of Japan Swelter Summer. The humidity broke a few days ago and everything is crisp and glorious and markedly less soggy. I am obsessed with humidity — my home is filled with hygrometers. I have a dry case for camera equipment and my one pair of fancy leather shoes. My friends send me the latest in dehumidifier news. Few people fully understand the implications of runaway humidity. What an odd thing to care about, you may think. But spend a summer in certain corners of Japan and you will suddenly care very much. A comfortable life is contingent on very narrow bands of humidity:temperature ratios. 60% humidity and 22 degrees Celsius is excellent. Crest 70% and 26 degrees and you have just bought a ticket for a mold dance. But increase airflow and the mold can be mitigated. Airflow is underrated. A stagnant room is screaming to be reclaimed by nature. Of all rooms, my bathroom has the best airflow. Its airflow is beautiful, a masterwork. Were you to toke a cigar in my tub the smoke would perform elegant acrobatics all about the volume. You would be awed by the flow. There are no mold issues in the bathroom. [Craig Mod]
  • I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself - that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can't make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of. [H.L. Mencken]
  • In the days before agriculture, governments didn’t really exist. Most of the hunter-gatherers were egalitarian anarchists: They didn’t have chiefs or bosses, and they didn’t have much use for anyone who tried to be boss. Bushmen today still laugh at wannabe “big men.” Perhaps we could learn from them. But farmers do have chiefs: It goes with the territory. Grain farmers store food, and so they have something valuable to steal, which wasn’t the case among hunter-gatherers. Elites, defined as those who live off the productive work of others, came into existence in farming societies because they could. Interestingly, some peoples seem to have curbed the growth of elites just by growing root crops such as yams that rot quickly unless left in the ground, and thus are hard to steal.16 Another point is that the strongest early states often had natural barriers that made it difficult for “citizens” to escape the tax collectors. Egypt, with a strip of very fertile land embedded in uninhabitable desert, is a prime example. Of course, once your neighbors form states, there’s pressure on your group to do the same, both for self-defense and for the benefit of those locals who will form the new elite. Today, practically everyone lives under some kind of government. [The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution]

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