…are we there yet? [DOT 5/2/22]

this is taking forever...


…so…I’d like to be happy that it’s the weekend

If the Republican Party has any sort of platform these days, it appears to involve stoking White grievance and opposing even modest steps to foster diversity.

That’s not a partisan argument; I’m just noting what Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and a few of his colleagues are saying about President Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. On his podcast, “Verdict With Ted Cruz,” the senator recently called Biden’s pledge “offensive.”
Cruz went on to argue that promising to nominate a Black woman was, somehow, “actually an insult to Black women.” I’d like to see what data he’s relying on to support that claim. I happen to know quite a few Black women — my wife, my sister, lots of other family members, many friends, co-workers and acquaintances — and not a single one has expressed to me the slightest sense of being insulted. I’ve heard reactions of joy and pride but not a scintilla of outrage.

Eventually, Cruz got to his real point: He claimed Biden is saying that “if you’re a White guy, tough luck. If you’re a White woman, tough luck. You don’t qualify.”

And there you have it. Republicans no longer accidentally say the quiet part out loud; they shout it from the rooftops — or at least preach it on their podcasts.


…because it’s important to have priorities, after all


Former presidential candidate Julián Castro told the Guardian: “Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans sold our state’s power grid to the highest bidder, and as a result, five million families lost power and hundreds lost their lives. Rather than working to fix the grid, they let energy lobbyists write their own laws and collected millions in political donations in return. We need new leadership that will work to modernize our grid and prioritize sustainability, not more corrupt politicians who line their pockets with money from special interests.”
But there is also still much to be done, according to Kenneth Medlock, an energy economist and fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. He called the state’s capacity to handle last year’s winter storm “a failure on all fronts”.

“[The power supply chain] actually got cut off during the winter storm last year which contributed to the downward spiral in the state. You had capacity outages experienced by virtually every form of generation,” said Medlock.

In addition to being structurally unprepared for the extremely cold weather, the lack of communication between the the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Texas railroad commission, the state agencies overseeing power and oil and gas, respectively, proved to be both inefficient and dangerous.

Hospitals, for example, never had their power cut because they were automatically deemed “critical infrastructure”, but other entities in dire need of constant power, like waste management and water treatment plants, needed to apply for the designation. The power blackouts at water treatment facilities forced nearly every major city in the state to issue a “boil water” notice before consumption.

In order to be designated as critical infrastructure, power suppliers needed to fill out a form found on Ercot’s website. However, the form was not publicized and therefore not completed, meaning those who most needed power, went without when forced outages began to roll out.

“It’s literally a two-page form. As long as you fill it out, being deemed critical means electricity can be directed to a specific consumer,” said Medlock. “The biggest failure that we saw last year was bureaucratic.”
Plans to use state funds to subsidize necessary and expensive upgrades to power plants did not advance. Instead, customers are left footing the bill.

“It’s corporate welfare, basically,” Reed said.

“We didn’t have enough [power] supply, but you could look at it the other way. The other thing you could say is that we had too much demand,” Reed said. “Either the gas didn’t get to the power plants or the wind turbines froze. We have all these old buildings and old homes, some of which are using resistance strip heating (electric heaters) … Unlike other states, we as a state haven’t put a lot of investment and goals and programs into energy efficiency and demand response.”


…the thing that’s taking the shine off it for me a little would be…aside from a general feeling of amorphous exhaustion brought on by too much time spent negotiating with recalcitrant technology this week…is the way the days keep ticking past & the news…well…it’s sometimes hard to spot where the new bit comes in?

In an interview Wednesday, Manchin said his priority is to “fix the tax code” — and he’s willing to bypass Republicans and use the filibuster-proof reconciliation process to do it.

“It’s the reason we have reconciliation. And everyone’s talking about everything but that,” he said. “Take care of the debt. $30 trillion should scare the bejesus out of your generation.”

Manchin once again said this week that the Build Back Better Act is “dead,” referring to the $2 trillion-plus bill that passed the House. A nonnegotiable red line for him is that all new programs must be permanent and fully financed.

But even as he says there are no “formal talks” going on about a sequel, he keeps dropping hints about which policies might be worthy pursuits in some hypothetical future bill, perhaps one with a different name.


China’s Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin of Russia have signed a joint statement calling on the west to “abandon the ideologised approaches of the cold war”, as the two leaders showcased their warming relationship in Beijing at the start of the Winter Olympics.

The politicans also said the bonds between the two countries had “no limits”. “[T]here are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation’,” they declared.

In the joint statement released by the Kremlin, Putin and Xi called on Nato to rule out expansion in eastern Europe, denounced the formation of security blocs in the Asia Pacific region, and criticised the Aukus trilateral security pact between the US, UK and Australia.

The two leaders met for the 38th time since 2013. The two countries also pledged to step up cooperation to thwart “colour revolutions” and external interference, and vowed to further deepen “back-to-back” strategic coordination.

The statement declared that the new Sino-Russia relations were “superior to political and military alliances of the cold war era”. It shows the ambitions and anxieties China and Russia both share, and how they have increasingly found common interest in their respective disagreements with western powers, analysts say.
While there are still stumbling blocks in the relationship and a fully-fledged alliance between Moscow and Beijing is unlikely, the two sides are signalling that they want to roll back US influence in their respective regions.
The statement also devoted an entire section on the two sides’ shared understanding of “democracy” and claimed both countries “have long-standing traditions of democracy”. But they said that the advocacy of democracy and human rights “must not be used to put pressure on other countries”.
Following their talks, Russia and China also signed a series of trade and energy deals, including a new contract for Russia to supply an additional 10bn cubic metres of gas each year to China, Putin announced. Gazprom announced the 30-year contract to deliver the gas from Russia’s far east to the Chinese state energy corporation CNPC, Reuters reported.

Russia already supplies China with about 38bn cubic metres of gas each year via its Power of Siberia pipeline, and is eyeing a second pipeline that would open an additional market for Yamal peninsula gasfields as its Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany has been threatened with sanctions in case of a Russian attack on Ukraine.


We do not know exactly how Putin makes his most important political decisions. Tatyana Stanovaya, the founder of political analysts R.Politik, recently divided the Russian elite into two groups: technocrats who dominate government but “have no remit to interfere in security matters” and the siloviki who “dominate the agenda, fuel Putin’s anxieties and provoke and escalate tension”.
The head of Russia’s security council and a “hawk’s hawk”, Patrushev plays the informal role of Putin’s national security adviser. A career intelligence officer, Patrushev has known Putin since the 1970s, when the two men worked together in the Leningrad KGB. He later succeeded Putin as head of the FSB and has chaired the security council since 2008. His interviews have revealed him as a conspiracy theorist who believes that western powers are seeking to destroy Russia. The United States “would much rather that Russia did not exist at all. As a country,” he said in a 2015 interview.
The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Naryshkin is reportedly a former KGB officer and has known Putin since at least the 1990s, when the two worked at the St Petersburg mayor’s office. Naryshkin is a Putin loyalist who followed the Russian leader into the Kremlin, serving as his deputy head of economic development from 2004, then as the head of Dmitry Medvedev’s presidential administration from 2008, and then the chairman of the State Duma parliament from 2011-2016. He is an effective functionary and polished speaker who has occasionally been suggested as a potential successor to Putin.

Naryshkin is also a hardliner who engages in conspiracy theories. In an interview earlier this year, he said that the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was a western plot to support the Russian opposition by finding a “sacrificial victim”. Earlier this year, he compared the government of Ukraine to “Hitler’s occupation”. He also has an edge: asked if he had ever been betrayed, he told an interviewer that “one thing soothes me: these traitors have either already burned in the fires of hell or will certainly do so”.

He heads the Russian Historical Society, which has played an aggressive role in promoting favourable interpretations of Russia’s history, a pet project of Putin’s.
Shoigu did not serve in the KGB or the military and his role as minister of defence makes him as much a technocrat as a silovik. But his oversight of the modernised Russian military, including the aggressive GRU military intelligence agency, means that he is often involved in key security decisions or at least in their implementation. It was Shoigu’s order that ended the sudden buildup of troops in March-April that first set alarm bells in Europe ringing about the potential for a new Russian invasion of Ukraine. And he has appeared in Belarus this week to oversee war games that could serve as a cover to prepare for an attack.

Shoigu is from Tuva, a Buddhist republic in Siberia that borders Mongolia. Putin and Shoigu regularly take short hunting and fishing vacations in Siberia, which give Shoigu direct, unimpeded access to the Russian president. Evgeny Minchenko, a political analyst who puts together a power ranking of Russian officials, said earlier this year: “Right now, there’s only one member from the cabinet who is in the ‘politburo 2.0’. And that’s Shoigu.”


Boris Johnson ends a bruising week with a vacuum at the heart of Downing Street and cabinet ministers beginning to distance themselves from his leadership.

The loss of his communications director, Jack Doyle, his chief of staff, Dan Rosenfield, his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, and his policy chief, Munira Mirza, all in one day leaves the Tory party unsure who is now running the Johnson project in No 10, what its aims are and who will carry out their pursuit.
With every day that passes, Tory MPs agree among themselves that Johnson’s premiership has an “end of days” feel to it – and yet the threshold of 54 letters signalling a loss of support in the prime minister has not been reached, leaving the party and government in a paralysed limbo.
A day trip to Ukraine was set up to make him look like an involved international leader, and there was the launch of his flagship policy on levelling up. MPs appeared temporarily boosted by the news that Sir Lynton Crosby, his elections guru, would be back giving him advice.

But on closer inspection, each of these events only served to make him look weaker, as he ran shy of the press by taking just a Sun journalist with him to Kyiv, and failed to take the lead on the white paper, sending out the cabinet minister Michael Gove instead to do a statement and media interviews. It also became increasingly clear that Crosby’s involvement would be at arm’s length only.


…in some ways a particular instance of something can provide a salutary example for the rest of us

…but, really

In an extraordinary move, the Republican party officially said Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat and the deadly attack on the US Capitol were “legitimate political discourse”.
The move by the Republican National Committee (RNC) came at its winter meetings in Salt Lake City on Friday, as part of the formal censure of Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the only Republicans on the January 6 panel.

A resolution approved unanimously said Cheney and Kinzinger were engaged in the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”.
Trump was impeached for inciting an insurrection but acquitted by Republican senators. He has repeatedly promised pardons for January 6 rioters if he is president again. He has openly stated that his goal was to “overturn” the election.


…how many of those do we need

…& while there are what I’d hope are the outliers…the repeat offenders who seem determined to provide an endless litany of reasons to condemn them as pretty much godawful people…& it sure is hard not to want to see some consequences bring them up short…the world being what it is there’s a part of that which seems in some ways to be uncomfortably close to equating justice with the person who caused something you wish wasn’t part of your world to wind up in your frame of reference being forcibly banished somewhere you never have to hear from or about them ever again

Food prices have skyrocketed globally because of disruptions in the global supply chain, adverse weather and rising energy prices, increases that are imposing a heavy burden on poorer people around the world and threatening to stoke social unrest.
Maurice Obstfeld, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who was formerly chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said that food price increases would strain incomes in poorer countries, especially in some parts of Latin America and Africa, where some people may spend up to 50 or 60 percent of their income on food.

He said that it wasn’t “much of an exaggeration” to say the world was approaching a global food crisis, and that slower growth, high unemployment and stressed budgets from governments that have spent heavily to combat the pandemic had created “a perfect storm of adverse circumstances.”

“There’s a lot of cause for worry about social unrest on a widespread scale,” he added.


…which I’d admit seems tempting to me for a pretty long list of people



…but I wonder if we might sometimes lose our sense of proportion

Gross domestic product is a useful metric of a nation’s economic success, but what you’d also like to know is who reaps the benefit when it grows — the rich, the poor, the middle class or everyone. During the pandemic, for example, we know that government benefits helped the poor, while stimulative monetary policy pushed up stock prices and benefited the rich in particular. What was the net result?

Three economists at the University of California, Berkeley — the postdoctoral researcher Thomas Blanchet and the professors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman — have created an online tool to answer that question quickly and thoroughly. The tool, which calculates how economic growth is distributed across income and wealth groups, is called Realtime Inequality. It’s valuable for two reasons: It gives fresh insight into what has happened to various strata of the U.S. population during the pandemic; and it’s effectively a prototype for a measure that could someday be officially calculated and published by the federal government.

Using the tool’s drop-down menus, you can choose the time period, the unit (household or individual adult), the strata and the definition of income or wealth that you want to graph. Here’s a graph I made using data from Realtime Inequality. I zeroed in on two extremes of the population by income: the bottom half and the top 0.01 percent (that’s one person in 10,000). I plotted inflation-adjusted disposable income, which takes out taxes and adds in cash transfers such as the child and earned-income tax credits as well as “quasi-cash transfers” such as food stamps.

As the chart shows, the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent saw its disposable income fall in early 2020 because business profits, its main source of income, briefly collapsed. But don’t feel bad for those people. If you look at a bigger group of rich people — the top 0.1 percent — and if you measure wealth rather than income, their share of the nation’s wealth rose by 1.3 percentage points, to 19.1 percent, from the end of 2019 to the end of 2021, the Berkeley economists calculate. “Wealth concentration at the end of 2021,” they write, “was at its highest level in the post-World War II era.”

The reason the government doesn’t publish these numbers is that they’re tricky to calculate. In principle, every dollar of G.D.P. represents income to someone. But there are measurement gaps. The Current Population Survey run by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics captures less than half of national income, leaving out such things as fringe benefits and business profits.
Economics is the least socioeconomically diverse of the major doctorate-granting fields of study by key measures, according to research by Robert Schultz of the University of Michigan and Anna Stansbury of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among U.S.-born recipients of Ph.D.s between 2010 and 2018, just 14 percent had no parent with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 65 percent had at least one parent with a graduate degree.

By both measures, economics was less diverse than any other major field, including engineering and mathematics. The top-ranked programs are even less diverse, they found. The researchers limited their study to U.S.-born Ph.D.s (who are about 30 percent of the total in economics) because parental education has different implications for socioeconomic status in other countries.


…wherever you stand on “cancel culture”

The great promise of our legal system as understood by many modern theorists — that law can create a framework to reconcile plural interests in a diverse society — has manifestly failed. Instead the law has become ever more politically contested and bitterly divisive; the tolerance celebrated by the proponents of liberalism appears to be more science fiction than fact. Something has gone badly wrong: It is unclear, in America in 2022, what the point of the law is, what higher ends it should strive to attain. We have forgotten what law is for.

Today’s reigning theories of law are exhausted. On one side, legal progressivism shamelessly instrumentalizes the law in the service of a particular vision of social justice centered on identity politics and libertine social and sexual mores. This relentless crusade undermines the family, traditional morality and the well-being of the citizenry — especially those who lack the resources to buffer themselves against societal disintegration.

On the other side, originalism, which pretends to separate law from justice, rests on an invented tradition that has projected itself back into the past. As the historian Jonathan Gienapp puts it, originalists’ understanding of the Constitution is “anachronistic, a species of modern constitutional thinking that they unwittingly and uncritically impose on the eighteenth century.” Supposedly originalist judges constantly appeal, explicitly or implicitly, to a contemporary view of justice to fix the meaning of general or abstract texts (like “due process of law” or “freedom of speech”) or otherwise to resolve hard cases.
What’s missing from our law today is an emphasis on the common good, a concept that from the founding era onward was central to the American legal tradition, embodied in the references to the “general welfare” in both the preamble to the Constitution and its text. The classical legal tradition, the mainstream of the Western legal tradition until the 20th century, holds that laws should be interpreted in light of the legitimate aim of government, which is the flourishing of the community as a community. Classical constitutionalism holds that our political community can succeed only as a whole, rather than as a collection of warring interests, competing ideologies and isolated individuals — the underlying logic of modern jurisprudence. The aim of constitutional government and legal interpretation should be to promote the classical ideals of peace, justice and abundance.

The common good is no abstract idea; its absence is keenly felt today. In the past few decades, Americans have discovered that individuals and families cannot flourish if the whole community is fundamentally unhealthy, torn apart by conflict, lawlessness, poverty, pollution, sickness, and despair. Gated residences, private schools and Uber have not sufficed to immunize even the affluent against the consequences of living in a decaying, fractured and embittered polity. No family or civic association is an island, and the health of civic society and culture are themselves dependent upon the health of the constitutional order.


…down to what you think the words mean or what the use of them says about someone

In essence, Mr. Zuckerberg is asking employees, users and investors to have faith in him and his metaverse vision.

6 Reasons Meta Is in Trouble [NYT]

Called “wash trading,” the practice has long been speculated as key to the NFT market’s steep rise to an estimated $44 billion in sales last year, though it is difficult to definitively prove. But some examples are hiding in plain sight, according to a report by Chainalysis, a company that monitors blockchain technology, the digital ledgers that act as the backbone for cryptocurrencies and smart-contract assets such as NFTs.
In its report, Chainalysis identified and tracked NFTs that were sold back and forth at least 25 times by the same handful of cryptocurrency wallets — what the company’s analysts say are overt examples of wash trading. In the 110 profitable cases, sales from those NFTs made nearly $8.9 million.

It wasn’t a clearly effective strategy, however. The “most prolifiic NFT wash trader” that the study identified made 830 trades between their accounts but profited only $8,383.

Because smart NFT traders who wanted to hide their activity would likely use different Ethereum wallets for each transaction, the Chainalysis findings are likely only a small fraction of how many NFTs are wash traded, said Kimberly Grauer, director of research at Chainalysis.

“What this data set looks at is, of the individuals who were selling NFTs at scale, how many of them are actually just funding their own wallets?” she said.
While wash trading may seem like an easy way to drive up an NFT’s value, it’s not a foolproof plan, Grauer said. Every Ethereum transaction takes a small commission, called a gas fee, and a person repeatedly selling to themselves will have to keep paying that fee and hope they can eventually sell their NFT for enough to make up those costs.

Chainalysis found 152 clearly washed NFTs that were sold for a collective loss of more than $400,000, she said.

“The underlying sentiment is that all NFT activity is wash trading, but especially when it comes to times to pay gas fees, it’s not something that makes a whole lot of sense to do,” she said.


…& whether you think that sounds like the foundation of a brave new financial world…or pretty close to a popular process of varying degrees of legality that involves money & a laundry-based metaphor…I think it’s hard to deny that there’s a mechanism that doesn’t move the needle on that “engagement” ranking chart…but in terms of what you think it means to engage with something


…particularly something abstract like a principle…these days pretty much guarantees a heaping of misery for the object of its attention…which isn’t generally much fun for the objects in the object lesson

On Nov. 21, a 9-year-old student of color at Palm Elementary School in Lorain, Ohio, didn’t want to eat the packaged waffles that had been put on her lunch tray. When she threw them away, a White cafeteria monitor forced the girl to retrieve them from the trash and sit at a table until she ate them. Within weeks, the monitor and the school principal were both fired. But the story did not end there. In January, the district released video of the event, and it is being used as evidence in a civil rights lawsuit against the district.

Whatever the outcome of the case, this incident has exposed cracks around race and class as they play out in the country’s long-standing commitment to feeding the more than 30 million public school students who rely on the National School Lunch Program every day. From our perspective as anthropologists who specialize in the studies of waste and food, it also spotlights the lamentable, fixable problem of how institutions manage crucial food resources.

Food waste has always been wrapped up in moral politics. But that doesn’t adequately address what happened here: What alternative does a school give kids for the foods they neither choose to put on their trays nor wish to eat?

Look closely at the three key decisions that were made in this situation: The child decided to discard the waffles; the cafeteria monitor, judging that to be wasteful, decided to teach the child a lesson; and the district administration, recognizing the shaming, decided to fire the monitor and the principal. With each decision in the chain, the original act of wasting food was complicated: On one end were individual decisions about consuming (or not) and teaching others to make good choices; on the other were people judging one another’s choices and wanting them to either eat or educate differently.
In this case, if the officials at Palm Elementary were honestly concerned about waste and interested in recuperating surplus food, they could have placed alternate bins near the trash cans and worked with local food banks and homeless shelters to reroute edible discards to people who might need them. Instead, the situation was left in the hands of a 9-year-old and an adult who happened to oversee the room.
If we continue to align food waste with moral rights and wrongs, scenarios like the waffle scene will likely continue. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that U.S. public schools waste about 39.2 pounds of food and 28.7 cartons of milk per student per year. We need to reimagine the value of discarded but viable food in a way that makes it okay to eat what you like, okay to set aside what you do not and morally good to redistribute that surplus to places where it could be appreciated.


…& quite often, like with that one, it seems like two of the common denominators are that if we cared as much about actually addressing the stuff we cite to justify feeling in the right about something specific while more likely being in the wrong in a broader context even by our own standards…the part where someone decided to make something “a teachable moment” & wound up learning a lesson probably wouldn’t have come up in the first place…& that if there’s something harmful people do to one another…the internet seems inevitably to either facilitate it or exacerbate it to the point that it can be effectively weaponized online

Voters in far northern California have solidified the ouster of a Republican county official, giving control of the Shasta county board of supervisors to a group supported by local militia members.
The recall is a win for the county’s ultra-conservative movement in their efforts to gain a foothold in local government in this rural part of northern California and fight back against moderate Republicans they felt didn’t do enough to resist state health rules during the pandemic.

Though Shasta county was among the least restrictive in California amid Covid, residents unhappy about state rules and mask requirements have showed up to meetings in large numbers since 2020. Moty and others were subjected to what law enforcement has deemed “credible threats” and personal attacks in meetings – one person told him that bullets are expensive, but “ropes are reusable”.

Experts have warned the pandemic and eroding trust in US institutions has fueled extremism in local politics and hostility against officials. In Shasta county, the successful recall campaign will likely set up more conflict between the local government and the state government, said Lisa Pruitt, a rural law expert at the University of California, Davis.

Carlos Zapata, a local militia member who helped organize the recall efforts, in 2020 told the board there could be blood in the streets if the supervisors didn’t reject state health rules such as mask requirements.

“This is a warning for what’s coming. It’s not going to be peaceful much longer. It’s going to be real … I’ve been in combat and I never wanted to go back again, but I’m telling you what – I will to stay in this country. If it has to be against our own citizens, it will happen. And there’s a million people like me, and you won’t stop us,” he said.


…sometimes “in a good cause”

The wealthy San Francisco Bay area suburb has said it cannot approve the development of new duplexes or fourplexes to ease the statewide housing shortage because it encompasses the habitat of the elusive wildcats.

Residents in Woodside had long bristled at SB 9 – a new California measure that makes it easier to build multi-unit housing in neighborhoods previously reserved for single-family homes. But a clause in the measure exempts areas that are considered habitat for protected species. “Given that Woodside – in its entirety” is habitat for mountain lions that environmental groups are petitioning to list as threatened or endangered under the state’s Endangered Species Act, “no parcel within Woodside is currently eligible for an SB 9 project”, the town’s planning director wrote in a memo on 27 January.

Critics of the town council, including many housing advocates, have accused the town of cynically using environmental concerns to avoid compliance with state law. “This is nimbyism disguised as environmentalism,” said Scott Wiener, a California senator who co-authored SB 9. “The notion that building duplexes hurts mountain lions – it’s just ridiculous.”
The biggest challenge that mountain lions are facing is “ex-urban development pushing into the wild areas that they need, and major roadways cutting through those habitats,” said Josh Rosenau, a conservation advocate with the Mountain Lion Foundation, one of the organizations seeking to have the mountain lions in the south and central coast listed as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.

In most cases, “increasing [housing] density where possible, is going to be better for mountain lions ultimately”, he said, than expanding construction further into wildland areas.


…but all too often in bad faith predicated by an agenda that itself might better merit the consequences it’s so keen to see visited upon the objects of its histrionic condemnations

At this late date, it seems almost unnecessary to point out that if you publicly accuse someone of racism, sexism or other similar wrongs, you are effectively calling for that person to be fired, or at the very least, to suffer some kind of workplace discipline. Yet apparently someone needs to restate the obvious.

Last week, Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern called the Internet’s attention to an offensively worded tweet from incoming Georgetown Law administrator Ilya Shapiro. President Biden had announced that he would keep a campaign promise and appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court; Shapiro lamented that this meant Sri Srinivasan, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, whom Shapiro considers best qualified for the job, would be passed over in favor of a “lesser black woman.” Stern denounced Shapiro’s tweet, calling him a “troll” whose “overt and nauseating racism” made Stern “ashamed of my alma mater” (Georgetown Law, which was tagged in Stern’s tweet).

Almost immediately, Shapiro apologized for what he termed his “inartful” wording and deleted the tweet. Nonetheless, it was obvious to everyone that Shapiro’s job was on the line. Except, apparently, to Stern, who insists that he never intended to get Shapiro fired.

I raise this because it’s part of an odd pattern that has become alarmingly frequent in recent years: Someone gets called out, the Internet piles on, the offender’s employer comes under pressure — and then, as defenestration looms, key participants say, oh no, they weren’t calling for anyone to be fired. Occasionally, that’s even how the shamestorm is launched: I don’t want to get anyone fired, but …
A cynic might note that the great innovation of our crowdsourced cultural revolution is the near-perfect deniability it offers: Anyone who knows what buttons to push can convene a peer-to-peer prosecution that will inevitably call for the career death penalty, while never having to suggest it themselves. Because everyone is a little bit responsible, no one has to take responsibility. And ultimately, this explains both the firings that no one really wants and the ones that are quite intentional — as well as the gruesome effect that both kinds have on our political debates.

Enthusiasts for these mass shamings talk about holding people accountable for the intangible harms their words cause. Yet they fail to take responsibility for the very tangible harms they inflict when they launch the first fiery salvo, or furiously click “retweet.” Sometimes they are obviously intentionally hiding behind the mob, but just as often, I suspect, the mob’s responsibility-diffusing machine makes the moral satisfaction of a righteous condemnation feel completely separate from the moral harm of an undeserved firing — even though in aggregate they are clearly causally linked.

Nor do they feel responsible for what this has done to the discourse. Mob action doesn’t just shut down debate by putting people in fear for their jobs; it substitutes for it, because it feels so much safer and easier to join a mob of retweeters than to voice an independent opinion.
So perhaps before we weigh in on the day’s two-minute hate, we should be asking ourselves whether the offense is really grave enough to be worth the likely consequences — to the target, and to civic deliberation. Otherwise, we become collectively responsible for the inevitably miserable results: the problems we never get anywhere closer to solving, and the employers who keep voting for the easy way out.


…& yet…if I’m honest I still think that in a world where it’s nigh impossible for musicians to earn a living from content that makes spotify profitable enough to pay joe rogan a vast amount of money to enthusiastically foreground dumbassery while neither shoulder the responsibility of the harm they cause not only their audience but the rest of us that have to live with them…I’d be ok with him getting fired?

…I guess I’m a moral failure at the end of the day…which in this case at least means one where there’s a chance of a lie-in come the morning…so I can probably roll with it…besides, the brain drain will probably provide me with something to distract me from my moral failings in a little while…so hooray for the weekend



  1. The food waste in schools/institutions article was interesting, the chain of response aspect. A friend of mine works in this field and reports that under the Obama administration, spearheaded by Michelle Obama, there was a push to get more fresh fruit, among other things, into school lunches. This was all well and good. The government was buying up huge stockpiles of American agricultural products and getting them into the mouths of growing children.

    In theory. In practice, the fruit was set out as the kids moved down the line and many of the kids weren’t taking any. So, depending on the school, there was like some kind of route you took and someone would put the piece of fruit on your tray. (Schools that provided universal free lunches were a big part of this program, and I don’t know if you had to show a card for some reason at some point, because there wouldn’t be cashiers…my memory is hazy.) So the kids would cart the fruit on their trays to the seating areas, not eat it, and dump it in the trash. Then came the Trump administration, and if he and Betsy de Vos had their way each child would be force-fed a Trump™-branded faux-chocolate bar and a Chick tract, so the fruit…I don’t know what happened after 2017.

    Closer to home, our vegan Mayor, Eric “Swagger” Adams, has instituted (with little or no notice given) a program where every Friday only vegan lunches would be served to public schoolkids. Yesterday was the first day. I’d be interested to know how that went. I can just imagine.

      • The shitty thing too is that you can make delicious vegan food. It’s not hard.

        This ain’t it.

        Also I wonder if those tortillas had lard in them.

        Did that chucklefuck also give schools 1 day notice that they had to change their menu? That’s a fucking dick move and ignores basic logistics for food prep.

    • That piece had some interesting ideas, but this one thing that endlessly drives me crazy:

      they could have placed alternate bins near the trash cans and worked with local food banks and homeless shelters to reroute edible discards to people who might need them.

      No. Do not do this.

      I see endless speculation online about dumpster diving, half eaten sandwiches, semi rotten fruit that always ends with the brainstorm “why don’t we give it to the homeless?”

      Food banks are not dumping grounds for scraps. Homeless people should not be treated like stray animals.

      There is very much a role for diverting food from places like supermarkets and restaurants to food banks, but it needs to be thought about in terms of scale and safety.

      Extra crates of well stored tomatoes are great. Two old sandwiches with no clear idea of safe food handling are not.

      The key to stopping food waste is careful planning, and the way to help food banks is with donations appropriate to places needing to feed many people at the same safety standards as professional kitchens.

      I really wish people could get this through their heads.

      • …as a specific measure I’d tend to agree that the first thing I thought was it sounded like a recipe for having to throw it all out anyway due to cross contamination…& that’s getting into similar territory as an example I think michael moore or somebody used a while back about how a soft drink company ran a big promotion asking people to “recycle” single use plastic bottles that actually resulted in shipping container loads of the used ones to be dumped in a landfill in india…more or less next door to a new massive factory that was putting all kinds of not good stuff into the water table…in order to produce a fresh supply with which to send container loads of fresh single use plastic drinks bottles back in the other direction

        …but I do think the underlying point is pretty valid even if the implementation they describe is poor?

        …there are a number of points in the process between food being grown/made & the point where it becomes rubbish where perfectly edible stuff gets ditched to rot…& there are people who don’t have enough to eat even though we collectively produce enough to food to feed everyone theoretically…so diverting some of the unnecessary waste at a point where it could be redirected to someone who’d be happy to eat it seems like it’d be no bad thing

        …if I understood it correctly the waffles were still in a sealed package when they were thrown away & then retrieved so however unlikely it might be that kids would avoid throwing the wrong stuff in the wrong bin I can see how simply collecting unopened stuff at the last stop in the process before declaring it garbage isn’t an inherently bad idea in principle…or indeed the same thing as I’d mean if I talked about feeding people from scraps…so I don’t disagree that the homeless shouldn’t be treated like strays…but I also didn’t only think of the homeless as potential recipients of the kind of reclaimed/unspoiled discards I assumed the intention was to harvest

        …there are certainly places where a lot of the people who’ve been using food banks in the last couple of years very much include people with homes…& indeed jobs

        …either way I definitely agree that the key to it actually being workable is in looking at all the places along that chain where something is getting thrown away at points when the only thing making it waste is that it’s going to be treated like it already is…whether it means it winds up in a food bank or there’s somewhere else it can go where it’ll be consumed & not thrown away

        …even some of the stuff I think of as scraps is, I think, sometimes of use for things like animal feed or composting or various kinds of bio-mass generators

        …it sounds sort of hopelessly naïve to even think it…but sometimes it seems like if we could just manage to address things kind of in-the-round instead of by having to plead for all the constituent elements of the thing to acknowledge that they form part of a whole before going about changing things in seemingly the least efficient manner we could possibly devise…I dunno…there might be some surprising stuff we could file in the things-we-could-actually-do column?

      • YES THIS RIGHT HERE. Half eaten stuff that’s had hands all over it not suitable for food pantry distribution.

        I also want to know why kids aren’t eating fruit or veg. Is it because the apples are mealy? Is it overcooked mush? Is it time? We had 20 minutes for lunch, and that included putting my tray up and helping clean tables. If it took me 5-10 minutes to get through the lunch line and find a seat, I’m not gonna grab an orange because I am not going to take the time to peel it.

    • …scotland vs england would be about to get started if I’ve got this right?

      …which tends to go one way rather more often than the other…but all the same it’d be nice if scotland won

          • Did you watch?  That was nuts.  Scotland was awarded a penalty try at about 64 minutes, then had a man advantage for about ten minutes and scored on a penalty kick.  It went 85 minutes while they kept re-starting an England scrum, and all Scotland had to do was gain possession and put it in touch, which they finally did.

            • …this might sound nuts but I was talking to a relative in edinburgh shortly before the game started…& at that point I meant to

              …but when I figured out I’d missed the start I was talking to someone else who reminded me that generally when I have watched what is referred to by some as the calcutta cup scotland have, I think, never won

              …back in my school days at an establishment that took rugby perhaps a bit too seriously & was very english I took a certain relish in cheering for scotland even in the face of pretty much certain defeat just to leaven the atmosphere if not actually level the playing field…but that included one year when scotland, who often seemed to manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, led almost from the start to the very dying moments of the game…only to be defeated by the margin of a successful kick at the last second

              …I’m not generally superstitious…but they suggested maybe I not watch today’s match in case I was a jinx…& by the sounds of it their case may have proven stronger than I expected?

  2. The reporting on Zuckerberg’s flailing has a cheesy aspect to it because nothing in that NY Times article is really news. But nobody dared make it a narrative until after the crash, much like the obvious signs of the housing and dot com bubbles.

    And what’s weird is that they still don’t want to cast a cold eye on the Metaverse idea. I am sure there will be growth, but none of these bozos in the press want to ask the simplest questions about scale.

    The odds are terible of this being as big of deal as cell phones. The odds are very bad that this will be as important as GPS. Maybe it takes a piece of video conferencing and gaming? That’s not zero, but no big deal in the scale of things.

    That NY Times article shows how badly the reporter understands the issue. He complains about FB spending $10 billion on Meta this year, but at FB’s scale that’s chump change. The issue is that investors see no big growth in scale for that investment. They don’t want an eventual payout of 5% per year on that investment, they want 100%.

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