SubStack Navel-Gazing; & BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-10

In which I turn my gaze inward, & then survey things that whizzed by...

First, why the weblogging Renaissance under the guise of SubStacking?:

What Does SubStack Say That Its Mission Is?:

Hamish McKenzieWelcome, Facebook and Twitter. Seriously: [When] we started Substack… we were concerned about… the attention economy…. Our addiction to social media is having negative effects on both individual and collective thought… doomscrolling… rage-monsters… conspiracy theory-addled mob[s]… poisoned information supply…. We have set out to show that platforms that put writers and readers in charge are just better. Substack… a calm space that encourages reflection… free of advertising or any other distraction… no addiction-maximizing feeds, autoplaying videos, or retweetable quote-retweets to suck you into a psychological space you never asked to be in…. Information… put into your brain based on… writers [who] reward your trust, not… a dopamine hit… performative posturing…. Calmness… is the real killer feature…

LINK: <https://blog.substack.com/p/welcome-facebook-and-twitter-seriously>

SubStack is… classical weblogging—but. What is the “but”? The “but” is:

  1. A very aggressive push of the post to the email inbox of the recipient, rather than waiting for the recipient to come surfing by, with perhaps an rss-flag tickler to remind readers to come by. A subscription email with a website attached, rather than a website with a push RSS feed attached.

  2. A very, very aggressive focus on what used to be called the tip jar, which hath now fed upon that meat upon which Cæsar doth feed and grown great, and morphed into a paywall.

  3. A focus on longer-form—a newsletter rather than a log of readings and reactions. (That, however, may not turn out to be the stable form of whatever medium it turns into: Adrian Hon’s <http://mssv.net> used to have three columns—links with a phrase or a sentence, paragraphs, and essays.)

SubStack is—like Medium <http://medium.com> before it—at one level an explicit reaction to the consumption and destruction of what appeared to be a growing weblog-based public sphere by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and company—each of which consumed part of the space, and each of which succeeded in generating superior dopamine-hit random-reinforcement engagement, which turned what I at least regarded as a functional and improving intellectual ecosystem into: the Net of a Million Lies.

I guess the game is to return Facebook to its role of posting updates for family and friends; to turn Twitter into SubStack’s comment section, and to, as Hamish writes up top, provide “a calm space that encourages reflection… free of advertising or any other distraction… no addiction-maximizing feeds, autoplaying videos, or retweetable quote-retweets to suck you into a psychological space you never asked to be in…”

Will it work? Probably not. Can it be worse than Zuckerberg’s or Dorsey’s firehoses of fear-generating misinformation? Almost surely not. Thus it is, I think, worth trying. As Noah Smith said on the inaugural edition of our Hexapodia podcast <https://braddelong.substack.com/p/hexapodia-is-the-key-insight-i-relief> <https://api.substack.com/feed/podcast/47874.rss>, we have already tried everything else, with less persistent success than Sisyphus.

& more on what we hope to do with our Hexapodia podcast in the future…


Very Briefly Noted:


Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

The intellectual and technological capability of Classical Greek civilization, as shown in the (reconstructed) design of the Antikythera Mechanism:

M. Wright & M. VicentiniVirtual Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism


Seven Paragraphs:

Erik LoomisThe Bankruptcy of Right Populism: ‘Daniel Luban has a good piece in Dissent about the total bankruptcy of so-called “right populism”…. ’To no great surprise… instead of an infrastructure bill, there was a massive corporate tax cut; instead of a family leave plan, there was a failed attempt to strip healthcare from tens of millions of people…. a familiar cast of industry shills set to work dismantling labor rights and environmental protections. Trump’s most durable accomplishment was the rubber-stamping of scores of Federalist Society judges, each one a devoted steward of the interests of capital… LINK: <https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/the-bankruptcy-of-right-populism>


Dani RodrikPoor Countries’ Technology Dilemma: ‘Africa’s manufacturing renaissance… [but] few good jobs have been created in the more modern, formal, and productive manufacturing branches…. The bulk of the increase in manufacturing employment coming from small, informal enterprises. This experience stands in stark contrast with that of the rapid industrializers of East Asia…. Large firms in the manufacturing sectors of Tanzania and Ethiopia to be significantly more capital-intensive than these countries’ income levels or factor endowments would suggest… as capital-intensive as firms in the Czech Republic…. African economies [are] in a bind. Their manufacturing firms can either become more productive and competitive, or they can generate more jobs. Doing both at the same time seems very difficult, if not impossible…. This is yet another reason for a public debate on the direction of technological change and the tools that governments have to reorient it… LINK: <https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/poor-countries-technology-dilemma-by-dani-rodrik-2021-02>


Noah SmithLarry Summers’ Misplaced Stimulus Anxiety: ‘Moderates are worried for instinctive reasons—the debt just sorta seems Really Big…. Cutting Biden’s relief package in half wouldn’t… change that…. Republicans… are “worried” for political reasons… quick enough to support deficits when the President is a Republican. Then, like clockwork, they flip…. Cutting Biden’s relief package in half wouldn’t alter this…. Put lots more investment in the relief bill. There’s no reason we can’t do this—in fact, we already did it in the December COVID bill! Yes, pandemic relief comes first, but we can start scheduling investment projects for a year or two years from now…. It… seems unlikely that we can increase the chances of getting a big investment package passed later by slashing the size of COVID relief today. Instead, this seems like just another example of the kind of self-defeating preemptive concession-making that hobbled Obama’s first term.… LINK: https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/larry-summers-misplaced-stimulus


Patrick WymanMesopotamia and the Dawn of History: ‘Cities, writing, and states… didn’t actually appear in the Fertile Crescent proper, where the cultivated grasses grew under the steady and predictable rainfall and domesticated animals had plenty of forage. Instead, they showed up some way to the south of that pleasant zone… at the edges of the great marshes… the richest spot in the landscape… full of fish, waterfowl, and edible plants… reeds… for boats, houses, and a variety of other purposes…. Eridu… was soon joined by others. Uruk… had tens of thousands of inhabitants, trade routes that stretched as far as the Eurasian steppe, and enormous collections of temples and palaces. That was where writing and maybe the state were born… LINK: <https://patrickwyman.substack.com/p/mesopotamia-and-the-dawn-of-history>


Paul KrugmanFighting Covid Is Like Fighting a Wars: ‘The pandemic slump isn’t a conventional recession… more like a natural disaster… the appropriate policy… is… disaster relief…. Winning… means… a huge vaccination program… limiting the economic misery of families whose breadwinners can’t work… avoiding gratuitous cuts in public services…. And that’s what the American Rescue Plan mostly involves…. Medical spending, school aid, aid to the unemployed, and help for state and local governments dominate the plan. And there’s a good case for those checks, too; more about that later….

Emergency spending may not be intended as stimulus, but it nonetheless has a stimulative effect. And wartime surges in spending have often been accompanied by bursts of inflation.… So is that something that might happen this time? Yes, it might. But we don’t know for sure that it will. And to the extent that inflation is a risk, that’s an argument for seeking ways to limit that risk, not for skimping on Covid relief.

How big is the inflation risk?… There are… three reasons not to get too worked up about the package-gap comparison…. Nobody knows how big the output gap really is…. The Biden plan is… less stimulative than the topline number…. The Federal Reserve can tighten monetary policy…. There is a faint but disturbing echo here of the debate over austerity a decade ago, when advocates of fiscal tightening despite high unemployment kept inventing new theories on the fly to justify their position…

LINK: <https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/07/opinion/covid-biden-economy-stimulus.html>


Alvaro Calderon, Vasiliki Fouka, & Marco TabelliniRacial Diversity, Electoral Preferences, & the Supply of Policy: ‘The 1940–1970 Great Migration of African Americans…. How resulting changes in the racial composition of local constituencies affected voters’ preferences and politicians’ behaviour…. Democrats and union members supported blacks’ struggle for racial equality, but that backlash against civil rights erupted among Republicans and among whites who more exposed to racial mixing…. Politicians largely responded to demands of their constituencies…. Under certain conditions, cross-race coalitions…. Changes in the composition of the electorate can polarise both voters and politicians… LINK: https://voxeu.org/article/racial-diversity-electoral-preferences-and-supply-policy


Peloton InfoSec Analyst (Incident Response)’The claim that the president’s words could not be reasonably seen as a call to violence is kind of refuted by the fact that, you know, it was. there was violence. he said the thing, and then they did the thing. It’s literally what happened… LINK: 


Hoisted from the Archives:

We Know Little About the Origins of High Patriarchy and the Extinction of Most Y-Chromosome Lineages ca. 5000 Years Ago, But…: ‘I do not see textiles as the problem. Yes, in the Odyssey Penelope, Kalypso, the 50 maidservants of Alkinous, Kirke, and the nymphs who are called Naiads are all spoken of as at their looms. Yes, the mother of Nausikaa, the 50 maidservants of Alkinous (again), Penelope (again), and the maidservants of Odysseus are all spoken of as at their spindles. Yes, in the Iliad Khryseis, Helen, Andromakhe, “a woman” are all spoken of as at their looms. yes, Andromakhe (again), “the fair spinster”, and Kryseis are all spoken of as at their spindles. Textile work is (or does not have to be) not drudgery—it is (or can be) a very social activity, for to an experienced seamstress or spinner of weaver the cognitive load of the task is not large enough to discourage conversation.

Instead, I blame the Yamnaya: the Aryans, the Indo-Europeans, the Masters of the sword, the wheel, and the bow, who spread fire and sword and the chariot and the steed from Gibraltar and Cape Finisterre to the Deccan and even to the upper reaches of the Yellow River…

LINK: https://www.bradford-delong.com/2018/07/we-know-little-about-the-origins-of-high-patriarchy-and-the-extinction-of-most-y-chromosome-lineages-ca-5000-years-ago-but.html