BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-06-07 Mo

Things that went whizzing by that I want to remember...


Yes, Republican politicians say in private. Trump is dangerous to our democracy and unstable. But it would be limiting to our careers for us to do anything but enthusiastically support him. And he is rapidly losing his grip—very soon he will be gone, so why should we do anything other than enthusiastically support him? And, in any event, the Democrats will block him from doing anything really bad.

That is what they all think, and do. All but Liz Cheney:

Steve Schmidt: ‘Most significantly, [Liz Cheney] talks about her colleagues being intimidated by the Trump Mob. When the people’s representatives make votes on the basis of their fear of violence, democracy is in great crisis… <https://twitter. com/SteveSchmidtSES/status/1402082262632615941>

Caroline KellyCheney: Trump Inciting Jan. 6 Riot ‘The Most Dangerous Thing’ a President Has Done: ‘Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney accused former President Donald Trump of having committed the worst violation of a president’s oath of office by inciting the January 6 Capitol insurrection – and taking a jab at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy over his subsequent visit to Trump at Mar-a-Lago. “I was stunned. I could not imagine any justification for doing that,” Cheney said of McCarthy’s visit to Trump during an episode of David Axelrod’s “The Axe Files” podcast, which was taped Saturday afternoon as part of a University of Chicago alumni weekend event. “And I asked him why he had done it, and he said, well, he had just been in the neighborhood, essentially”…

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One Video:

Minute Physics: A Better Way To Picture Atoms <>

Share Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality

Very Briefly Noted:

  • C.J. Ciaramella’I see the CCP is observing its annual “not mad, actually laughing” day: Global Times: China state-affiliated media: “Tiananmen Square embodies Chinese people’s confidence in China’s politics. The Chinese public’s understanding of June 4th incident has fundamentally changed.We laugh at those posturing ”commemorative" activities orchestrated by outside forces… <>


A plea for a much smarter rejiggering of the underlying foundations of the market economy for the age of the attention economy, when many profits are made by hacking the brains of customers in various ways:

Rana FarooharPoliticians Should Set Common Rules For Digital Markets: ‘Liberal democracies everywhere are playing regulatory whack-a-mole with platform monopolies, trying to enforce new privacy, tax, and antitrust rules. All the while, the value of intangible assets such as technology, software and patents is expanding as the power of labour decreases. Covid–19 has only sped up this trend…. We need to rebalance the market system itself, so that players on both sides of any given transaction have equal access to information, a shared understanding of what is being bought and sold and a common set of rules. This is true for buyers and sellers on Amazon, drivers and riders on Uber, and advertisers and the sites they wish to reach via Google…

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And yet it remains extraordinarily easy for tech near monopolies to simply dry up and blow away over the course of a decade or so. It was not in Microsoft’s interest for either Skype or Explorer to lose its position. And their dominant market positions should have allowed them to pour orders of magnitude more resources into research and development than their competitors. And yet somehow…:

Timothy L. O’BrienHow Microsoft Let Skype Lose Out to Zoom: ‘“Let’s face it, the internet was designed for the PC. The internet is not designed for the iPhone,” Microsoft’s former chief executive officer, Steve Ballmer, told the Associated Press in 2009. Browsers that played better on the web and smart phones, such as Google Chrome, stole market share from Microsoft. Other browsers that loaded faster, were more secure, made life easier for developers or had better privacy controls also eventually shredded Explorer. A product that, in 2001, controlled about 95% of the global browser market has less than 1% today. (Edge has about 3.4%.) In 2011, when Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion, Zoom had just launched and Skype already had 100 million users…. By the time the coronavirus showed up…. Zoom was easier to use, especially for non-techies, and far less riddled with bugs and glitches. Dozens of people could appear on a Zoom screen, not so with Skype. And it was easy to invite people to chat because new Zoom users needed only an email address to join…. Now that Zoom is a leader, it will have to avoid Microsoft’s mistakes…. It’s a tech company, after all, in an industry where you’re only as good as your last update. Just ask Skype…

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I need more global south voices for my 20th century economic history book and for my fall course. Here is one. The problem is that Shaihu Umar does not seem to be available online anywhere:

Aaron BadyShaihu Umar: ’1934 novella by Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, a truly interesting counterpoint to Achebe. This book is about 70 pages long, and it’s framed as Shaihu Umar’s story of who he is and where he came from. 40 pages in, and he’s still only four years old. Correction: he’s four years old until two years pass on p35. This novel is like a picaresque in which the protagonist, for the first half, is too young to have agency or awareness; he gets orphaned and lost and enslaved and fostered and sold and adopted, so it can do a tour of “family” forms, but he’s more like an object than a subject. Eventually he reads the Koran and grows up and becomes a teacher, in the course of about two pages. But the novel is absolutely HAUNTED by slavery, and how to reconcile it with Islam. It’s a measure of my inadequacy as reader of this novel that I was expecting the climactic turn to be some kind of abolitionist resolution, but it never really was. The picture the novel draws of Hausaland is horrifying, essentially consonant with British colonial propaganda on the Islamic slave trade. But the novel seems incredibly fatalistic about it. At on point, the protagonist muses that people really will do terrible things for money. Otherwise, the moral seems to be “yes the world is a Hobbesian war of all against all, but if you read the Koran really well then you’ll probably prosper, maybe”. Our author was 22 when he wrote it. The real climax: Umar has been living in Egypt and has a dream about his mom, so he goes to Tripoli (en route to Hausaland), where his Mom has just arrived, having been misled by the guys who were supposed to take her to Egypt and took her to Tripoli instead. She promptly dies, however, so it’s not QUITE the heartwarming mother’s day story it might seem. But not before she’s like “and this just goes to show, always trust God”. There is an interesting bit where the protagonist overhears three slave traders arguing about a slave they’re all claiming; they resolve the argument by cutting him into three pieces. It feels like a grotesque inversion of the Solomon’s baby story? (Indicating un-wisdom)…

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THIS SEEMS 100% RIGHT! And it is very frightening. It’s the full Josef Stalin. In the words of his former secretary, he was very insistent that: “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how”:

Jeet HeerThe Coup Next Time: ‘Trump is a sinister buffoon and his attempts at subverting democracy are farcical but also threateningly persistent. His failure to pull off a coup was due to no lack of trying. Rather, he was foiled by the reluctance of the permanent bureaucracy… to carry out absurd and sometimes illegal demands, along with the a similar crucial reluctance among state level Republican elected officials…. But… Republicans who stood up to him are being marginalized…. This continued Trumpification of the GOP opens the way for the most likely path for a repeat of 2020 that ends with a successful coup…. the Democrats win an electoral college victory and the popular vote but the Republicans have control of the House, the Senate, and state legislatures in crucial swing states… [and] override of the vote…

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Those who say that the lab-weak hypothesis is probable or likely or even a substantial probability are bad actors seeking to herd you like cattle—the kind of people who said that Iraq had a rapidly progressing and active nuclear weapons program back in 2002. Regard them with grave suspicion. They are not your friends:

Michael HiltzikWhy the COVID Lab-Leak Hypothesis Is Quackery: ‘the virological community believes that it’s vastly more likely that COVID–19 spilled over from an animal host to humans…. “We cannot prove that SARS-CoV–2 [the COVID–19 virus] has a natural origin and we cannot prove that its emergence was not the result of a lab leak,” the lead author of the Naturepaper, Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, told me by email…. "Both scenarios are possible, they are not equally likely,” Andersen said. “Precedence, data, and other evidence strongly favor natural emergence as a highly likely scientific theory for the emergence of SARS-CoV–2, while the lab leak remains a speculative incomplete hypothesis with no credible evidence.”… What remains of the lab-leak theory is half-truths, misrepresentations, and tendentious conjecture…. A May 23 article in the Wall Street Journal reporting that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology… became sick enough in the fall of 2019 to seek hospital treatment…. No evidence linking the patients’ illness to COVID–19 research at the Wuhan lab… “symptoms consistent with both COVID–19 and common seasonal illness.” Well, yes…. Virologists point out, moreover, that it would be unlikely for COVID to affect only three people seriously enough to warrant hospital care without infecting hundreds of others in the lab or their households. The other victims might have had milder symptoms, but an outbreak of that magnitude would have been difficult to keep under wraps…. As for the letter in Science, some of its 18 signatories have taken pains to emphasize that they are not endorsing the lab-leak theory; some are highly skeptical of the hypothesis…. Ralph S. Baric of the University of North Carolina, told the New Yorker, “The genetic sequence for SARS-CoV–2 really points to a natural-origin event from wildlife.” Their goal in signing the letter, they said, was not to point fingers at the Wuhan lab, but to urge WHO to devote more effort to determining the origin, whatever it might be, before expressing a categorical opinion…

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