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Social Media Dump Oct 1-16 2021

See also: Sept 16-31 and Oct 17-31 (View all)

Babylon 5 Reboot. Best news I’ve heard. J. Michael Straczynski is incredibly talented (even though I couldn’t get into the glitzy futurism of Sense 8). Hopefully there will be cameos from some of the (still living) actors. Babylon 5 did so many things differently than the Star Trek universe that I really learned a lot about storytelling in general.

Here’s a nice video clip from the TV version of the Martian Chronicles. I read this in 6th or 7th grade, and it had a great impact upon me (more than Farhenheit 451 certainly). The writing was simple and unembellished, but dramatically they worked great.

Kate Arnoff writes about the unjust sentencing on Stephen Donziger:

“The rules in place to protect Chevron are simply much stronger than those in place to protect the planet, in no small part thanks to the amount of fossil fuel cash sloshing around Washington. How is it, after all, that a judge in New York can invalidate a ruling made in and about Ecuador? For all of the party’s sunny rhetoric about helping the environment, directly challenging the fossil fuel industry head on remains a third rail for all but a few Democrats in Congress; starting to unravel the thicket of rules that allows them to operate with virtual impunity around the world is almost unthinkable. In that context, a multinational oil company being held accountable threatened to set an uncomfortable precedent.

Words cannot capture how angry I am about the way Chevron abused the judicial system. Chris Hedges publishes another commentary:

The persecution of Donziger fits a pattern familiar to millions of poor Americans who are coerced into accepting plea deals, many for crimes they did not commit, and sent to prison for decades. It fits the pattern of the judicial lynching and prolonged psychological torture of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. It fits the pattern of those denied habeas corpus and due process at Guantánamo Bay or in CIA black sites. It fits the pattern of those charged under terrorism laws, many held at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, who cannot see the evidence used to indict them. It fits the pattern of the widespread use of Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMs, imposed to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. It fits the pattern of the extreme sensory deprivation and prolonged isolation used on those in our black sites and prisons, a form of psychological torture, the refinement of torture as science. By the time a “terrorist” is dragged into our secretive courts the bewildered suspect no longer has the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves. If they can do this legally to the demonized they can, and one day will, do it to the rest of us. The Donziger case is an ominous warning that the American legal system is broken. 

Ralph Nader, who graduated from Harvard Law School, has long decried the capture of the courts and law schools by corporate power, calling the nation’s attorneys and judges “lucrative cogs in the corporate wheel.” He notes that law school curriculums are “built around corporate law, and corporate power, and corporate perpetration, and corporate defense.” 

Victor Klemperer, who was dismissed from his post as a professor of Romance languages at the University of Dresden in 1935 because of his Jewish ancestry, astutely noted how at first the Nazis “changed the values, the frequency of words, [and] made them into common property, words that had previously been used by individuals or tiny troupes. They confiscated words for the party, saturated words and phrases and sentence forms with their poison. They made language serve their terrible system. They conquered words and made them into their strongest advertising tools [Werebemittle], at once the most public and most secret.” And, Klemperer noted, as the redefinition of old concepts took place the public was oblivious.

Kaiser Family Foundation polled people to find out the reasons gave by people for the high COVID spread:

Democrats:

  • 89% not masks and distancing
  • 87% refusing to get vaccine
  • 75% Delta more infectious

Republicans:

  • 55% immigrants and tourists
  • 41% Delta more infectious
  • 40% vaccines not effective

(source: this graphic and the related article).

About thought-terminating cliches and Deepity. (from the Rationalwiki).

Animal psychologists try to figure out if the language buttons provide insight about whether pets really miss us when we’re gone.

Here’s a nice in-depth comparison of the economies and social structure of California and Texas.

Climate policy guru David Roberts writes a long piece about how climate policy involves lots of different fields that don’t factor in the “political economy” angle:

Unlike disciplines with some academic or professional standards of rigor, political punditry and advocacy are a veritable festival of gut instincts, guesses, bad logic, bad faith, and confirmation bias. Pundits rarely offer empirical evidence; they rarely assess the accuracy of their prior predictions; they rarely change their minds.

It drives scientists, economists, and, uh, ex-philosophy students out of their heads. It is tempting to try to claim some authority, to claim that a background in economics (or some other technical field) confers the status of referee, making the final calls on the merits of various policies.

But it doesn’t. There are no real “experts” in politics, despite many claims to the contrary. The best we can hope for is to develop a few empirically informed heuristics (including those from economics), to remain open and alive to new evidence, to find trustworthy guides to the current political economy, and to strive toward, for lack of a better word, wisdom.

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