BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-01-30 Sa

Things I want to remember I have read...

First of All:

Matt YglesiasVaccines Are Better than You Think: ‘None of the people in the Pfizer/Moderna treatment groups died or even fell seriously ill and had to be hospitalized…. These days they vaccinate kids against chickenpox, so kids mostly don’t get chicken pox. But even more remarkable, when they do get chickenpox these days it’s a “sick for a few days” kind of thing not “miss weeks of school while suffering in agony.” This is a really big deal with regard to the lower efficacy we are expecting from the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. A vaccine that’s only 70 percent effective at blocking infection would be expected to generate a larger than that reduction in hospitalizations and an even larger reduction in deaths… LINK: https://www.slowboring.com/p/good-vaccines

Very Briefly Noted:


Two Notes:

U.S. Investment

One of my favorite graphs: investment in America, showing the business cycle pattern, the late-cycle weakness in the high-wage 1960s and the Reagan-deficit 1980s, the anemic Obama recovery, and the large one-time jump in the real investment share in the Clinton years—one-third due to Clinton budget policy, one-third due to the falling price of high-tech investment goods, one-third due to the dot-com boom

I would note the remarkable success of the Clinton administration program of 1993 in generating a high-investment recovery: boosting the real/real share of investment in America from 13% to 17%. I would note the failure of both the Bush-First-Hastert and the Trump-McConnell-Ryan tax cuts to do anything analogous—even though they were sold as bigger deals. We Democratic economists are professional economists: we know stuff. They Republican economists are professional… Republicans. Rely on them for anything about the world and you will, more likely than not, wind up naked on the Moon.

MacBookAirs, i-5s, & M1s

Looks like a picked the wrong season (i.e., last spring, 2020) to update my MacBookAir

In fact, if there was a worse moment that I could have decided to update my machine from the perspective of the technological gradient missed  by upgrading then as opposed to waiting six months, I do not know what it could have been.

All I can plead is that, at the time, it was (a) clear that to run zoom and its ilk effectively and efficiently at the pace it then looked as though I would need to for at least the late spring and summer of 2020, I needed a processor with more horsepower than the… Intel core 14 nm-process i5-5350U Broadwell… I then had; (b) Intel did not seem likely to be willing to offer Apple much more and better soon in mobile processors, for the performance gap between the 10 nm-process i5-1030NG7 I got and the top-line i7-1060NG7 seemed quite small; and (c) the i5-1030NG7 Ice Lake was itself a very substantial bump up from the Broadwell. I had no idea back then that the M1 would turn out to be the absolute beast it has turned out to be.

So I went from a Geekbench multicore of 1355 to 2873—not too shabby for 2.5 years, even by a old-days Moore’s law standard. And do not get me wrong: it is a machine that does not choke and die under the load of doing zoom and two other things. But, still, my CPU is always at more than 60% use with the fan always running at high and, I bet, its power throttled back. And zoom, the window server, the video-content sandboxer, and bird are reliably soaking up three of the four Ice Lake cores all be themselves.

And I look to my left, and I see that if I had waited six months for the M1, I could have gone not from 1355 to 2873 but from 1355 to 7341…


Seven Short Chunks to Read:

Will WilkinsonUndefined Cancel Game: ‘Tendentious question-begging is the point. Slogans like “cancel culture” and “political correctness” are used again and again to short-circuit debate, avoid the underlying substantive controversy, and shift the entire burden of justification onto advocates of the rival position…. [She] isn’t given a fair chance to make her case for this position. Instead, she’s forced to earn the right to make the case by acquitting herself of the implicit charge that she is a petty tyrant policing mind-crimes in the name of stultifying ideological conformity. Good-faith discussion of the gravity of racist jokes never gets off the ground. That’s why “cancel culture” tends to strike me as more of an evasive maneuver than a coherent idea….

L.D. Burnett…. "There is no such thing as ’cancel culture’—there is only culture. There are social mores…. One of the sources of pressure that shape these… are public denunciations for shameful behavior. What else should we call the loud yelps about ’cancel culture’—coming from Harper’s Magazine, coming from Fox News, coming from Congressman Jim Jordan as he bellows against a second impeachment of President Trump, coming from Senator Josh Hawley as he whinges about his book contract—except attempts to shame others for their views?… LINK: https://modelcitizen.substack.com/p/undefined-cancel-game

Aleksandr SolzhenitsynOn Ideology: ‘Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble—and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too. The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology…. Ideology—that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination…. Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions. This cannot be denied, nor passed over, not suppressed. How, then, do we dare insist that evildoers to not exist? And who was it that destroyed these millions? Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago"… LINK: https://www.solzhenitsyncenter.org/notable-quotations

Richard North PattersonThe GOP’s ‘Pre-Fascist’ DNA: ‘The term “fascist”… can be helpful in explaining the direction of the Republican party…. White antagonism toward the civil rights revolution metastasized into a seething certainty that a liberal elite had stripped ordinary Americans of their racial, cultural, and economic primacy—fusing racial anxiety with resentment of feminism, gay rights, secularism, immigration, and the genuine ravages of globalism, wage stagnation, and declining opportunity…. Making America great again meant reasserting their dominance in a country degraded by diversity.

Racial and political violence increased; firearms proliferated; disorder at Black Lives Matter protests aroused a bigoted vigilantism which Trump’s rhetoric encouraged. The toxins of racial and cultural animus suffused the would-be lynch mob which seized the seat of government in a demented effort to restore Trump—and themselves—to their rightful place. So did a related phenomenon—a misbegotten fundamentalism which moved some attackers to conflate Trump with Jesus Christ…. It is far too little to say that the GOP has lost its way. Quite deliberately, it has become American democracy’s most dangerous enemy… LINK: https://thebulwark.com/the-gops-pre-fascist-dna/

Dan TompkinsMax Weber vs. Josef Schumpeter: ‘Cafe Landtmann, Vienna, 1918: The conversation turned to the Russian revolution, and Schumpeter expressed his satisfaction that socialism is no longer a paper discussion but had to demonstrate its viability.  Weber grew rather excited and declared that Communism at Russia’s stage of development was quite simply a crime… the road would pass through untold human suffering and end in a terrible catastrophe. “That may be so”, Schumpeter said, “but it will be a nice little experiment for us.” “A laboratory with heaps of human corpses,” Weber specified. “All anatomy is like that,” Schumpeter came back…. Weber flared up and spoke more loudly. Schumpeter more softly and sarcastically, while all around them the coffee-house customers interrupted their card game and listened to them with curiosity, until Weber jumped up and hurried out to the Ringstrasse with the words, “That’s more than anyone can take”… LINK: https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/04/weber-vs-schumpeter-todays-economic-history.html

Andy MatuschakApplying what you read; timeful texts; generalizing Quantum Country; writing good spaced repetition prompts; reflections on being an independent researcher: ’Some people send weekly newsletters. This, I suppose, has become an annual newsletter! It’s an anthology edition…. I spent much of the last year building Orbit, a more flexible platform for building experiments adjacent to the mnemonic medium.mOne aspirational description: When you read a text that’s written with Orbit, you don’t just read it once and then set it aside, perhaps forever. The review sessions keep you in contact with the ideas, returning you to the material again and again over weeks and months. The ongoing practice changes your relationship to what you read. It gives you a way to bring ideas into your orbit. …

When something seems interesting, you can tie a string to it and throw it up in a lazy arc. It’ll swing back around at some point, but you’re not terribly concerned with when. You’ll give its string more or less slack over time. Floating above your head, then, is an ever-shifting constellation of inklings, facts, questions, prompts, obsessions. Every day you stare up at the slice of sky above you and respond to what’s there…

Jay RosenTwo paths forward for the American press: ‘Powerful forces favor a restoration.... All the old cliches will be within easy reach. Divided government. Partisan warfare. Gridlock in Washington. The extremes on both sides. Democrats in disarray. Republicans being mean again. Why can’t they compromise? Plus a new one: Dueling realities.... Party on the left, party on the right. Each with an “extreme” and a “moderate” wing that can come into confict. Savvy journalists sit in the middle, sizing up the state of play, posing tough questions and checking fudged facts with equal aggression toward both sides.... You can hear it in these thoughts from Dean Baquet, top editor of the New York Times, who was quoted in a recent Vanity Fair article.... "I’m going to sit down... and say, ‘This was great. Let’s be just as aggressive on a Democratic administration.’

Frankly, a Democratic administration doesn’t warrant as much fact-checking as Donald Trump did. No politician has warranted as much fact-checking as Donald Trump did. But let’s talk about other ways to use this important journalistic tool.” Several things going on here. Baquet recognizes Trump as an outlier..... But you can also hear the wish: for the opportunity to be just as aggressive toward a Democratic administration, even though the facts, as it were, do not warrant it.... In reality, the Congresswoman from QAnon, Marjorie Taylor Greene, didn’t “meet” Black Lives Matter any more than she “met” mainstream liberalism or movement conservatives, but setting it up this way feels right to Times people, just as the criticism they got for “false equivalence” probably feels overblown.

The “study in contrasts” I recommended to them was different: reality-based office holders vs. the other kind, of which Marjorie Taylor Greene is a fine example. But that way of picturing the political world—reality-based vs. the denialists—isn’t the regular order to which editors like Baquet wish to return…  LINK: <https://pressthink.org/2020/11/two-paths-forward-for-the-american-press/>

This was written in 1917. Weber was right. From today’s perspective of 1990 there is little to add. One slogan of the late 1800s American labor movements was “one big union.” The slogan of twentieth-century really existing socialism might as well have been “one big bureaucracy”:

Max WeberWho Are the Tankies, and Why Do They Fight for Dystopia?: ‘History shows that wherever bureaucracy gained the upper hand, as in China, Egypt, it did not disappear. A progressive elimination of private capitalism is theoretically conceivable. What would be the practical result? The destruction of the [dehumanizing] steel frame of modern industrial work? No! Simply that also the top management of the socialized enterprises would become bureaucratic. There is even less freedom, since every power struggle with a state bureaucracy is hopeless… State bureaucracy would rule alone if private capitalism were eliminated. The private and public bureaucracies, which now check one another to a degree, would be merged into a single hierarchy. This would be similar to the situation in ancient Egypt, but it would occur in a much more rational[ized]—and hence unbreakable-form….

Bureaucracy together with the machine is busy fabricating the shell of bondage which men will perhaps be forced to inhabit as powerless as the fellahs of ancient Egypt. Who would want to deny that such a potentiality lies in the womb of the future?…   … LINK: https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/08/who-are-the-tankies-and-why-do-they-fight-for-dystopia.html