…besides the point [DOT 18/12/22]

AKA...missing...

…as I assume is generally pretty obvious…I tend to lack a particular plan as to how I think I’ll get from the top of these to the comments with so much as a vestigial through-line…& in large part today is no exception to that…but I did get a request to hit a particular mark along the way…so…we’ll see if that makes any discernible difference, I guess

In “The Madness of King George,” there are several scenes where very learned doctors dedicate considerable time and effort to squinting at the contents of the king’s chamber pot. Watching the movie, you think, “Well, at least we are at a stage of civilization where we don’t have to do that! We do not live in a world that hinges so completely on the condition of one or two powerful men that it is worth our while to spend hours every day examining their stools in minute detail and trying to draw conclusions from them.” But then Elon Musk buys Twitter, and — I can think of no better analogy for what has ensued.
[…]
I have complained about this before. But one of the minor, in the scheme of things, yet persistent frustrations of the Trump era was the sheer amount of brainpower that all kinds of people — good, busy, even witty — had to spend staring into the unfathomable abyss of his words and actions and trying to extract meaning from them. What was covfefe? People spent hours on that! The sheer volume of analysis and jokes and grunting, straining effort to make sense of what made Donald Trump tick — and what made his head open up and a screaming bird shoot out of it at regular intervals — was debilitating.

There are so many people to know about on this planet. Some of them are pleasant and others are wise and many of them are kind and a few of them are funny and polite to waiters. Some of them possess remarkable skills and others are tremendous listeners and still others know what to do if you spill certain kinds of things on certain types of surfaces. Lots and lots of them own cats, and when they go online, all they do is post pictures of those cats doing cute and interesting things. There are so many people who are interesting. And instead we have to follow Elon Musk and Donald Trump. We have to watch them host SNL, and read their inane tweets, and know precisely what they are going through at all times, because their whims can cost people jobs and ruin lives.
[…]
There is something desperately boring about despots and plutocrats. And one of the frustrating consequences of an unequal society is that the rest of us have to care what is going on with them. […] Not that this is a new phenomenon. The ancient historian Suetonius may not have been the most accurate source, but seeing people like Musk and Trump in action, I feel more sympathetic to his accounts of what boring people, given power answerable to their whims, wind up doing. I thought it was ridiculous when he said Nero, literally the emperor of Rome, decided that, actually, what he wanted to be was an actor — but here is Musk, one of the richest men on the planet, who has decided for no reason whatsoever that what he wants to be is a Twitter troll! And not even a funny one; just as transphobic and anti-vax and awful as the bog standard. I’m sorry I doubted you, Suetonius! 
Not another column about Elon Musk [WaPo]

…I’d probably go with “tiresome” over simply “boring”…but it’s a fair point…& suetonius wasn’t the only one to come up with something a long time ago that could have been talking about today

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

…as it happens I’d be inclined to give the old stoic a fair bit of credit…but I think he might be wrong about the ignorance bit…there may be some sufficiently half-witted idiots out there usefully ignorant on the necessary scale to qualify for the “know not what they do” hat

As the coronavirus pandemic approaches its third full winter, two studies reveal an uncomfortable truth: The toxicity of partisan politics is fueling an overall increase in mortality rates for working-age Americans.

In one study, researchers concluded that people living in more-conservative parts of the United States disproportionately bore the burden of illness and death linked to covid-19. The other, which looked at health outcomes more broadly, found that the more conservative a state’s policies, the shorter the lives of working-age people.
[…]
The study, published this month in the Lancet Regional Health-Americas, found that the more conservative the voting records of members of Congress and state legislators, the higher the age-adjusted covid mortality rates — even after taking into account the racial, education and income characteristics of each congressional district along with vaccination rates.
[…]
A Washington Post analysis of covid data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from April 2020 through this summer found the age-adjusted death rates for covid shifted. Early in the pandemic, communities of color — especially Black people — disproportionately bore the burden. But by mid-October 2021, that pattern had shifted, with the death rate for White Americans, who form the core of the Republican base, sometimes eclipsing that of other groups.
[…]
That’s because conservative politics is as much about identity as it is about issues of concern — even as health care remains critically important, [Erin] O’Brien [a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Boston] said. “But how that broad concern can be manipulated, framed, used in politics is different,” she said.
[…]
The October report found that if all states implemented liberal policies on the environment, gun safety, criminal justice, health and welfare, labor, marijuana, and economic and tobacco taxes, more than 170,000 lives would have been saved in 2019. On the flip side, if states went with conservative versions of those policies, there would have been about 217,000 more deaths that year — “the equivalent of a 600-passenger airplane crashing every day of the year,” the study said.
Can politics kill you? Research says the answer increasingly is yes. [WaPo]

…but it seems strikingly clear that they’ve been the playthings of the knowingly malignant for…well…ages…&…boring as the topic may very well be…which side of that divide is home to the biggest baby on the board remains arguably noteworthy

“The EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct,” said European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová in a post on Twitter.

“There are red lines,” she said, “and sanctions, soon.”

The Digital Services Act will introduce a sweeping new set of rules designed to curb the power of tech companies and promote internet users’ “fundamental rights online.” Coming into force in 2024, it will make platforms and search engines more accountable for illegal and harmful content online, including hate speech, scams and disinformation.

“Platforms will notably have to ensure that their terms and conditions are clear, understandable and transparent, and respect media freedom” a spokesperson for Jourová told NBC News in an emailed statement.

“They cannot be arbitrary or discriminatory in their decisions,” the spokesperson added. Failure to comply in the case of very large online platforms and search engines would result in fines of up to 6% of the company’s global turnover, according to Jourová’s office.

“Rogue platforms refusing to comply with important obligations and thereby endangering people’s life and safety, it will be possible as a last resort to ask a court for a temporary suspension of their service, after involving all relevant parties,” the spokesperson added.
[…]
Following internal strife at the company in November, top E.U. official Thierry Breton warned Musk that to comply with the bloc’s content moderation laws “Twitter will have to implement transparent user policies, significantly reinforce content moderation and protect freedom of speech, tackle disinformation with resolve, and limit targeted advertising,” according to a transcript of a conference call released by his office.

Musk also came under fire from European regulators when the company attempted to replicate the no-notice firing practices of his “hardcore” Twitter rebrand with mass layoffs at its European headquarters in Dublin.
Are Elon Musk and Twitter heading for a clash with Europe’s ‘red lines?’ [NBC]

…the evidence on the side of his having a malign influence seems plenty obvious at this point…but…so do the things pointing pretty directly at the “he’s a fucking moron” conclusion

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about that time when Elon Musk bought a McLaren F1 for $1 million and then immediately drove it into a ditch while trying to show off to Peter Thiel. “You know, I had read all those stories about people who made money and bought sports cars and crashed them,” Musk said to Thiel, according to Max Chafkin’s The Contrarian. “But I knew it could never happen to me, so I didn’t get any insurance.”

…I mean…it’s kind of a painfully accurate metaphor…it’s got the attempt to garner approval from thiel aspect…it’s got paying way over the odds for a thing to get you from A to B…& the part where B gets replaced by D for ditch on account of the guy in the driver’s seat being nowhere near the equal of the vehicle he’s overpaid for…& last but not least…the unfounded conviction that something about him confers immunity from poor outcomes so he doesn’t prepare for them…&…sure…it’s not beyond the realm of plausibility that murdering twitter as a useful resource by choking the life out of it a little more day by day literally is the plan…but…whether he sold all those tesla shares this year to siphon as much value out of the enterprise as he could before he gets ejected…or because the tanking of its share price has rung the bell on some margin calls for the loans he has all over town leveraged against his tesla stock…or because he’s trying to buy up yet bigger volumes of the un-servicable debt he’s piled on the back of the little blue bird…it’s got a “not waving but drowning” kind of a vibe to it

Anyway, according to Semafor, Musk is trying to get more investors for Twitter at the original $54.20 per share price he bought the company at before he frightened away advertisers and banned a bunch of journalists.

About that price — remember how Musk decided actually buying Twitter at $54.20 was a bad idea and tried to back out of the deal? Anyone remember that? He accused Twitter of making “false and misleading” statements during their negotiations and tried to cancel the deal. There was a flimsy pretext of bots involved, but it eventually became clear none of that was going to fly, and Musk eventually closed on Twitter, with no concessions whatsoever, at the end of October.

No? Okay, maybe this will ring a bell: Tesla’s third quarter earnings call, remember that? The one where Musk said he and other investors were “obviously overpaying for Twitter right now?” He’s, um, looking for more investors to overpay, I guess.
https://www.theverge.com/2022/12/16/23513407/elon-musk-equity-investment-sucker-born-every-minute

…maybe it’s just me…but increasingly it seems like being willing to just straight up throw money at idiots for no good reason is sort of how some of people persuade themselves that they’re a fully-fledged member of team #fuckthatshitup…or…it’s a straight up money-laundering thing that’s just unusually lazy about trying to hide its purpose

People certainly laughed heartily on Thursday when Trump made what he had billed as a “Major Announcement.” He was now offering for sale “limited edition” digital trading cards, featuring what appeared to be risibly amateurish images of the former president playing golf, posing as an astronaut, surrounded by bars of gold and shooting lasers from his eyes.
[…]
Along with laughter, however, was the pervasive sense that this newest scheme has distilled the essence of Trump to its purest form. It was “on brand” in a way more telling and disturbing than previous efforts to cash in on a name once associated with the Oval Office.
[…]
The shorthand critique of this phenomenon is: “My kid could do that.” And, indeed, your kid could probably make images of Trump as laughably awful as the ones that Trump is now attempting to sell, if your kid has even a passing familiarity with the tropes of pop culture and basic competence with photo-editing software.

…to say it invites critique would be something of an understatement

Call it inverse philistinism: the use of intentionally bad imagery, perhaps with a wink, to create an “us-them” dynamic. Other artists who align themselves with Trump have done this, as well. Jon McNaughton, who calls himself “America’s foremost conservative artist,” has created treacly depictions of Trump as a saintly figure nurturing a suffering America to rekindle its idealism and find its true soul. But he has also created a cartoonish image of Trump and his wife, Melania, riding in a giant, flag-emblazoned pickup truck, titled “Keep on Trumpin’,” a reference to a 1968 countercultural cartoon, “Keep on truckin’,” by artist Robert Crumb.
[…]
Strategically, of course, the best thing for the Trump brand, the best hope of sustaining his popularity, is to get people who are inclined to laugh at Trump to keep laughing at Trump. This fires the fury of his followers, who feel it is they who are being laughed at, and that in turn inspires the purely tribal sense of identification with the former president.

The joke, in the end, will unfortunately be at the expense of people who pay $99 for his NFTs, which, despite what appears to be an initial surge of interest, are likely to be extremely risky as a long-term investment. But that, too, is very on brand for Trump, a perfect distillation of his unique take on marketing. NFTS are a reductio ad absurdum of art: You aren’t paying for an object or a thing, just an idea or a feeling. Trump does the same for politics: When you invest in him (with your votes, your financial support or simply your affection), you get next to nothing tangible in terms of policy or accomplishments. But you do get to belong to his community, with all its intangible but non-fungible benefits.
Trump NFTs are not art. Unless you consider grifting an art form. [WaPo]

…arguably even when pontificating about it in the pages of a major newspaper…all that erudite-sounding stuff about invoking duchamp’s “fountain” & what seems to get weirdly close to claiming a genuine parallel between “a basic set of thought exercises and mental calisthenics that are essential to the appreciation of contemporary art” & the way that “a taste for the tawdry is established as a fundamental shibboleth of loyalty and belonging” to team #frightfullyorange…seems like it’s missing the point

Funny, yes. But it is far, far worse than you think. And to understand why, we have to begin tracing the web of corporations involved in producing these worthless digital cards. They lead to some sleazy places.

Before we start down the rabbit hole of partnerships, corporations and other entities that lead to criminals and fraudsters, I need to address one question up front: What exactly are buyers of the Trump Trading Cards purchasing? Yes, they are NFTs, but unlike others of these digital art pieces, the people foolish enough to purchase a Trump Trading Card don’t actually own the things they paid for, at least not in the traditional sense. If any buyer decides to sell their Trump card in a secondary market, they don’t get all the proceeds. The fine print reveals that 10% of every secondary market sales goes right back to Trump and his fellow grifters. For more details, buyers are told to click the link to terms and conditions. Buyers have to confirm they read the terms and conditions but…the terms and conditions are nowhere to be found. […]

Trump himself is not producing the cards, any more than he has developed any real estate projects since 2010. Instead, he has reached a licensing agreement with a company called NFT International LLC. All his licensing agreements, dating back decades (Real estate, Trump Steaks, Trump University etc.) have all had the same terms: The licensor pays Trump a bunch of cash up front, then he gets a share of the revenue produced by whatever the grifty product is.[…]

So, let’s begin delving into the shady world of NFT International. Start with the simple part: NFT International is licensing Trump’s name and likeness from a company called CIC Digital LLC, a limited liability corporation formed just nine months ago and registered in Delaware. Many corporate entities and partnerships form in Delaware because the state offers unique legal protections that are not as well established in other states: Primarily, privacy is protected. Any business entity filed in Delaware does not have to disclose its officers and directors to the public or the state, which allows for complete anonymity. Even better for Trump, the state allows for a slimmed down corporate structure, where just one person to hold the role of officer, director, and shareholder. Trump has hundreds of LLC’s that were revealed in his financial disclosure when he ran for president, almost all of them created in Delaware and with him as the sole officer, director, and shareholder. If he has created CIC using his standard practice, that means Trump is completely in control of the partnership. This also creates a legal protection for Trump and his companies, because as a partnership, no one filing suit can “pierce the corporate veil” as the term goes, and reach Trump’s pockets or that of his company, the Trump Corporation.
[…]
But the fun really starts with unraveling NFT International. It is spread out all over the place. Anyone who purchases one of the Trump Trading Cards (and perhaps feels like they have been scammed – which they have) would obviously reach out to NFT International through its contact listing on the Collecttrumpcards.com website. The address they will receive is 6300 Sagewood Drive, Suite 427, Park City, UT. But that’s not where NFT International really is. In fact, there are no offices there. Rather, the address provided to purchasers as the contact site for NFT International is a mailbox at a UPS Store in a strip mall. A nice strip mall, but a strip mall, nonetheless.

So where is NFT International? Not even close to Park City. Instead, according to its partnership registered (in Delaware of course), it is registered 480 miles away in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the address 1712 Pioneer Avenue.

When I saw the Pioneer Avenue address, my mouth dropped. I know that address. I have seen it before. It is connected to some of the sleaziest entities to be found in this country, including international criminals.

NFT International was set up by Wyoming Corporate Services, a company that registers shell companies. Wyoming Corporate says it acts legally but has no idea who is running the secret entities that it registers. “We recognize that business entities (whether aged, shell or traditional) may be used for both good and ill,” the owner of Wyoming Corporate Services, Gerald Pitts wrote in an email to Reuters in 2011.

Oh, but it gets worse. So much worse. The final address of NFT International – along with scores of other companies – is 2710 Thomes Avenue, Cheyenne, Wyoming. […]

Another man of sparkling character connected to the address of NFT International is former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who was once ranked the eighth-most corrupt official in the world by watchdog group Transparency International. In 2004, he was sentenced to eight years in prison in California for money-laundering and extortion, a scam that used shell companies and offshore bank accounts to hide stolen Ukrainian government funds.
[…]
Now, none of this means that NFT International is crooked. But think about it – Trump is the former President of the United States. He has already pocketed a bunch of cash from an entity that somehow chose to do business with an entity connected to international fraud and scams. You would think that Trump, supposed billionaire and onetime leader of the free world, would have enough ability to conduct a little due diligence on the companies he does business with, or at least would make sure he avoided dealing with one that travels through so many scummy trails.
https://threats.substack.com/p/trumps-trading-card-grift-is-worse

…or…feature not a bug & all…the people who talked him into the idea hooked him up with their preferred sketchy corporate paperwork mill…which tracks with the trump/musk variant of “due diligence”…the “art” part…debatable or otherwise…is purely incidental…a convenient distraction, you might say…or…to put it another way

https://time.news/russian-oligarch-dies-mysteriously-after-falling-down-stairs/

…after a while the people tire of the same old punchline…& don’t give much thought to the pattern that turned it into a cliché

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russian_businessmen_mystery_deaths

…&…yes…that does remind me of the endless stream of elon-is-a-fucking-idiot news more than a little…& that may very well be because of my impression of the relationship between thiel, twitter & what went down with kinja…I’d acknowledge some bias on my part…but…it’s starting to look like the death-by-obfuscation approach to murdering unfavorable press is becoming a recognizable playbook

Thousands of stories reported by the Hook — a defunct local paper whose online archives nevertheless had continued to inform historians, residents and public officials — disappeared. Anyone trying to read old stories about the university town’s sagas, scandals and sundry crimes was greeted by the same error message: “Sorry!”

In many ways, the erasure of the alternative weekly, whose print and online journalism included matters such as nightlife listings as well as deep investigative work, isn’t unusual. Historians have long warned about the decay of digital news archives, which are increasingly falling victim to mishandling, indifference, bankruptcies and technical failures.

But some of the Hook’s founding journalists suspect the archive didn’t simply expire from natural causes. They think someone paid to kill it.
[…]
Then there’s the flurry of copyright complaints apparently filed by the new owner in the days and weeks after the sale. These complaints, seeking removal of links to the archive, have targeted news sites, discussion forums and small-time blogs, most of which cited one particular story among the thousands the Hook wrote about in its heyday: a rape accusation involving students at the University of Virginia nearly 19 years ago.
[…]
Another former Hook reporter, Courteney Stuart, recalled […] “In 12 years, we did a lot of reporting that made a lot of people not very happy,” […]

One of those people was Curtis N. Ofori, now a D.C.-based investment banker and accountant. Ofori was a 21-year-old junior at U-Va. in 2004, when another student accused him of raping her in her room. After an investigation, an associate dean wrote that Ofori “used very bad judgment,” but said the university “was not able to conclude at the clear and convincing level” that he committed sexual assault, so it found him “not guilty,” according to a copy of a letter detailing its findings. Police investigated, but city prosecutors declined to file charges, Ofori’s lawyer would later state in a letter to the Hook.
[…]
In late 2011, the Hook published a cover story by Stuart about the Russell family’s efforts, including a detailed description of the alleged rape, under a stark headline: “Unsilenced: How this mother fought to protect her daughter … and yours.” The story named Ofori as the alleged perpetrator, even though he had not been convicted or held responsible for any crime.

Ofori tried several times to have the accusations expunged from the public record. In 2012, his lawyer sent the Hook a letter demanding the newspaper pay $250,000 and remove the article from its website, according to documents Spencer shared with The Post. The newspaper refused. Ofori then sued the Hook for libel in U.S. District Court in Washington that year, seeking $2 million in damages for “false and defamatory” accusations in the article. Ofori later withdrew the lawsuit.

He also attempted to use other means to clear his name. A public database shows that, in 2011, he filed a request asking Google to stop linking to a Center for Public Integrity page containing a document prepared as part of the Russell family’s aborted legal effort; Ofori wrote in his request that it was “false” and defamatory because it was never filed in court. (That page has since gone offline.) Ofori sent Google a similar takedown request in 2020, this time targeting a copy of the Russell document published by the Hook.
[…]
The Hook’s alumni said they believe that C-Ville sold the archive sometime around the end of 2021 or early 2022, when a public registry was amended to show a new, unidentified owner for the Hook’s website. Spencer said one of C-Ville’s owners told him that the sale’s proceeds “meaningfully contributed” to the company’s operations during the pandemic.
[…]
“Someone paid a significant amount of money for something that had little monetary value but was very valuable to them,” Stuart said.

C-Ville Weekly’s principal owner, Blair Kelly, […]and Bill Chapman, a part owner of C-Ville Holdings, confirmed they sold the archive. They said they never learned the buyer’s identity, because a lawyer had acted as a go-between, but they wouldn’t provide any more details about the sale to The Post. C-Ville’s publisher, Anna Harrison, did not respond to requests for comment.

[a longtime reader] noticed that, beginning in January — shortly after Spencer thinks the Hook’s archive was sold — an entity calling itself Experiential Solutions began sending takedown requests to Google, complaining that various news sites, blogs and discussion forums were infringing on the Hook’s copyrights. As catalogued on a Harvard University-hosted database called Lumen, the requests continued through late August and targeted 18 different webpages that reference alleged violent incidents at U-Va. The vast majority of the pages have one common denominator: the Ofori case.

An analysis by The Post found that 14 of the 18 targeted pages referenced Ofori, his accuser or her mother, or linked to Hook articles that did. Three of the pages cited the Hook’s 2011 article detailing the rape accusations. One of Experiential’s complaints targeted the same Russell document that Ofori tried to get delisted from Google in 2020. Google acted on at least 10 of Experiential’s complaints, removing those pages from search results.
[…]
The slew of takedown requests appears to be unique in the Hook’s history. A search of the Lumen database turned up no prior complaints related to the Hook, besides Ofori’s 2020 complaint and another takedown request from an unidentified complainant in 2016 that targeted the Hook’s Ofori story.
[…]
The Post could not locate any corporate documents for Experiential Solutions. A Google spokesman offered no comment beyond pointing to the company’s takedown request instructions, which require complainants to simply fill out a web form and swear that they own the copyrighted material or represent someone who does.
A newspaper vanished from the internet. Did someone pay to kill it? [WaPo]

…& while the wages/inflation stuff might hit closer to most people’s homes…sometimes the distance between the reporting of a thing

For the first time, researchers have created a fusion reaction that resulted in a net energy gain. The results, from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, mark a significant step on the very long road toward generating clean energy from nuclear fusion.
[…]
Nuclear fusion happens when atoms crash into each other, “fusing” to create a heavier atom and releasing energy in the process. In the sun and other stars, hydrogen nuclei fuse together, creating helium and generating enormous amounts of energy. To achieve nuclear fusion on Earth, humans have to heat atoms to tremendous temperatures — millions of degrees Celsius, which is why it’s been so daunting to reach a net energy gain.
[…]
The experiment produced 3.15 megajoules of energy, about 50 percent more than the 2.05 megajoules the lasers used to trigger the reaction. By doing so, reaching a scientific energy breakeven, the researchers achieved what’s called “fusion ignition.”

…& what you might call the thing itself

It’s a key milestone, but there are still some important caveats to note. One key point is that the DOE is basing this victory on just the output of the lasers, which are pretty inefficient. It takes 300 megajoules of energy from the grid just to get those two megajoules of laser energy. So today’s announcement hinges on a limited definition of “net energy gain.”
[…]
For starters, scientists need to be able to reach ignition again. “This is one igniting capsule, one time. To realize commercial fusion energy, you have to do many things; you have to be able to produce many, many fusion ignition events per minute,” [Kim] Budil [Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory director] said. “There are very significant hurdles, not just in the science but in technology.”
https://www.theverge.com/2022/12/13/23506086/nuclear-fusion-power-research-milestone-net-energy-gain

…can be…let’s go with misleading

This week’s headlines have been full of reports about a “major breakthrough” in nuclear fusion technology that, many of those reports misleadingly suggested, augurs a future of abundant clean energy produced by fusion nuclear power plants. To be sure, many of those reports lightly hedged their enthusiasm by noting that (as The Guardian put it) “major hurdles” to a fusion-powered world remain.
[…]
The fusion achievement that the US Energy Department announced this week is scientifically significant, but the significance does not relate primarily to electricity generation.

[…] This historic, first-of-its kind achievement will provide unprecedented capability to support [the National Nuclear Security Administration’s] Stockpile Stewardship Program […]

Because of how the Energy Department presented the breakthrough in a news conference headlined by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, news coverage has largely glossed over its implications for monitoring the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, even many serious news outlets focused on the possibility of carbon-free, fusion-powered electricity generation—even though the NIF achievement has, at best, a distant and tangential connection to power production.

…don’t take my word for it…”Bob Rosner, a physicist at the University of Chicago and a former director of the Argonne National Laboratory who has been a longtime member of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board” had this to say

I was for example on public TV in Chicago. And basically, the bottom line is that the DoE [Department of Energy] publicity machine really wanted to steer away from the weapons part of the story and focus on, you know, the energy future. And if you probe just a micron beneath the skin of that story, you discovered that it’s not quite what’s going on … But I was faced by a TV reporter who thought this is an energy story, and I had to basically tell him, “No, it isn’t.” It’s an extremely interesting story, for people interested in weapons and nonproliferation, and for science in general. That’s what it’s about. It happens that you do have some tangential relationship to energy, but the people working on energy (and who pay for the ongoing research) had nothing to do with this project. The folks who succeeded so splendidly in attaining ignition and self-sustained fusion on December 5 were not part of DoE’s fusion energy program (which sits in the DoE Office of Science Office of Fusion Energy Sciences); they’re working instead for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which manages our nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

…short version…now that the generation that first produced nukes is somewhat literally going underground…& they aren’t ok to test by just blowing a few up…underground or otherwise…it turns out there’s a need for people potentially younger than the design of the weapons to be able to test that they’d work as advertised if the button gets pushed

Now, it turns out that’s only one of the uses of NIF. You might ask, “Why did they pick ignition?” First, because the science is so cool, and you can demonstrate that you know what you’re doing. Second, because when you get to ignition, you get a huge blast of radiation, just enormous, as well as extremes in temperature and pressure. And that you can use to test for example, the properties of various materials critical to weapons. You can answer questions like, “Suppose I had different kinds of material in the bomb? How would they respond to this blast of radiation? To these temperatures and pressures?” Thus, as far as temperature, radiation environment, and pressures are concerned, you could do that experiment right there at NIF. So this second use relates to the fact that you can replicate the physical conditions during a nuclear blast.

And there’s a third reason, by the way. We’re going to have nuclear weapons for a long time, no matter how much we want to get rid of them. They’re going to be hanging around until we have a different regime of trust between countries. What that tells you is that going into the distant future—in the next 50, 60, whatever, 100 years—if you want to you have these weapons, you have to deal with them. That means you need a cadre, I think almost like high priests, high priests of weapons, that you actually trust that they know what the hell they’re doing. The generation of folks that built the original bombs, they’re basically retired or gone altogether. Now we have a whole slew of new folks, youngsters. They’re supposed to know how to do this. Some of them were in place already during the ‘70s and ‘80s, when we were still designing and building weapons. But even those people are getting long in the tooth; they’re going to be gone from the labs in the next 20 years or so. And so now you’re looking at, you know, kids from my perspective, in their 30s. And you want to train them how to do this.

But now you can’t build entirely new weapons anymore. So what do you do? What you do is you see whether or not you can train them to work on physics problems that are just about as hard as building a weapon, designing a weapon, but still related to the physics of weapons. In fact, it turns out that the physics problem that they set themselves to solve—getting ignition and sustained fusion at NIF—is actually harder than designing and building a functional nuclear weapon. You may be surprised to learn that doing things on NIF turns out to be harder; it is harder. The reason why? In ‘52, the weapons folks were able to get away with blowing up an H-bomb up using very low-tech technology – basically, they didn’t have supercomputers then—they had slide rules, mechanical computers, electronic computers that were far less capable than what you now have on your desktop. Whereas nowadays, you need a, you know, a petascale machine to figure out what’s going on within NIF. So this is actually a harder problem. And thus, this facility can be used to train the next generation of weapons designers; you can regard it as a teaching facility for the next generation.
[…]
[Q:] The news coverage and how it was put out, though—it was all about, you know, electricity generation from fusion.

[A:] It’s basically—it’s BS, right? That’s how we started our chat… By the way, during the [Energy Department] news conference, yeah, the whole affair was split into two bits. There was a news conference where you had (Energy Secretary Jennifer) Granholm and the leadership gang talking, and then afterwards you had a panel of Livermore scientists who actually worked on this experiment. And that panel was straight on. If you listen to the panel, you would know immediately that this was not about electricity generation.

One person who really was clear about all this during the preceding news conference was (National Nuclear Security Administration Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs) Marv Adams. I don’t know whether you saw the whole thing. But Marv didn’t talk about energy. Marv talked about the science, and why we’re doing this. And he said something else, which I should have added just a moment ago, which is: If you succeed in doing this—attaining ignition and sustained burn—you’re sending a signal to adversaries that you have the capacity to actually do the things you say you can do. And that’s a big deal
https://thebulletin.org/2022/12/the-energy-departments-fusion-breakthrough-its-not-really-about-generating-electricity/

…I’m not an atomic scientist…but…I can see how that might be a big deal…& how the coverage in the bulk of the press doesn’t really have the time for it that it does for the thing that’s absolutely not going to be along fast enough to bail us out of some difficult problems where getting more out than we put in mostly only goes for the consequences we want to avoid

Long before the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine brought our energy system to its knees, Insulate Britain was making the point that home insulation was something the government could quickly act on. This could not be more urgent; Britain has some of the least energy-efficient homes in Europe and around a quarter of people in the UK say they cannot afford to heat their homes at all this winter. The National Grid has warned of blackouts. Keir Starmer has called for a “national mission to insulate homes”.

Last month, the autumn budget set aside £6bn to fund home insulation; this was followed with plans for grants of up to £15,000 to middle-income households to make homes more energy efficient. Insulate Britain welcomed the news, even though the plans will not kick in until next year. “If the government had started doing it last year, a lot of people would not be in fuel poverty,” Lancaster says. “A lot of people will die this winter who wouldn’t have if their homes had been insulated.”
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/17/insulate-britain-on-what-happened-next-energy-crisis

…so…how does any of that get me any closer to the mark I was asked to hit at some point in this?

“The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing person database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases.”
https://www.uihi.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Missing-and-Murdered-Indigenous-Women-and-Girls-Report.pdf

…well…you might argue it’s a little thin…but…”the coverage in the bulk of the press doesn’t really have the time for it that it does for the thing that’s absolutely not going to be along fast enough to bail [them] out of some difficult problems where getting more out than we put in mostly only goes for the consequences we want to avoid”

…if the cap fits?

There are numerous reasons, but at the forefront lie issues stemming from the Indian Relocation Act and federal policies. Many Native Americans do not live on the tribal lands or reservations (only 22%) where when someone goes missing, the community, and tribal law enforcement band together in search efforts. 78% of America’s Native population lives off of the reservation with 60% of those residing in an urban area. Cities offer few ties to Native cultures, communities, and tribal law enforcement.

Many Urban Indians, people living in cities, fall into the “pipeline of vulnerability”: people of color, people coming out of the foster care system, people of poverty. According to Janeen Comenote, executive director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition, “poverty remains one of the most challenging aspects to contemporary urban Indian life. While I do recognize that a sizable chunk of our population[s] is solidly middle class, every Native person I know has either experienced poverty or has a family member who is. Housing and homelessness remain at the top-of-the-list of challenges.”
[…]
Native Americans today face some extraordinary challenges. These statistics from the Urban Indian Health Institute were compiled from a survey of 71 U.S. cities in 2016. The numbers speak for themselves: Native American women make up a significant portion of the missing and murdered cases. Not only is the murder rate ten times higher than the national average for women living on reservations but murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women.

This is startling as Native people only make up 2% of the US overall population. Urban Indian Health Institute reports the youngest MMIW victim was a baby less than one year old and the oldest victim was an 83-year-old.
https://www.nativehope.org/missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-mmiw

…so…that’s what I was asked to mention…& if you feel like trying to do something about it

MMIW: How to Help, How to Get Help [NBC]

https://abc.com/shows/alasks-daily/news/updates/missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-resources

…meanwhile…I’ll go on & give it a rest…once I’ve figured out what kind of tunes I can segue into, anyhow?

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22 Comments

    • …it’s like the anti-calvin maneuver…”verbing” was supposed to be taking a noun & using it as a verb…but it’s a verb…that I’m reliably informed the youth of today consider to be a noun?

    • I would give “cringe” a pass because it can be short for “cringeworthy,” like “fab” is shorthand for “fabulous.” I still cringe when I hear people say  “What is the ask?” but I don’t really know why, because it means “What is the request?” and request is both a noun and a verb.

      • …is it maybe on account of how it’s often not a good sign when things get shuffled into the passive voice…”what is the ask?” seems like a way of saying “what are you asking (for)?” without connecting the request to the person doing the requesting…&…I dunno…”shots were fired during arrest”, “the suspect sustained injuries” & “the suspect died as a result of injuries sustained during the arrest” is another way of saying “police shot someone who may or may not have been dead before they got the cuffs on & called it an arrest”…so…I’ve been known to be at least a little wary of passive voice showing up where it maybe didn’t need to?

        • Passive voice is a well-known technique for shifting responsibility in business settings. You’ll hear “mistakes were made” far more often than “I screwed up.” Some people believe that managing others make them automatically infallible. That’s never true, but you’ll still see the attitude a LOT.

  1. So called self described Alpha males like Trump and Elmo are sofa king tiresome.

    Nothing pisses me off more than hearing a selfish asshole allegedly higher up in the social hierarchy asking questions like “Am I doing the right thing?” “Am I a good man?”

    I get no one has all the answers and has moments of weakness, but it burns me that someone who makes no allowances for others to have/feel moments of doubt or feel any sort of fragility demands others address their moments of doubt and fragility. The hypocrisy just pisses me off.

    If I am feeling cruel or have another job lined up I have replied with “If you have to ask then the answer is no.” And it is closer to the truth than they want.

  2. Yes, about that initiative from the EU to regulate the Internet and shield the citizenry from “disinformation”: I wonder if the coverage of the 2022 FIFA Qatarstrophe would have been as robust if the European Parliament had gotten their way this year or last:

    https://www.lemonde.fr/en/international/article/2022/12/15/qatargate-what-we-know-about-suspected-corruption-at-the-european-parliament_6007916_4.html

    I also wonder what it is with these shady Arab autocracies and their briefcases and bags bursting with hundreds of thousands of euros (or British pounds, in the case of King Charles III.) I mean, half the British Commonwealth countries are well-known to be engaged in money-laundering, chiefly the ones in the Caribbean. Why not just send and receive encrypted wire transfers of these “fees” and “donations” and deposit them with your friendly bankers in London or Luxembourg? Am I missing something?

    • …but…you’d put the entire “bag-man” industry out of work…& in some places…often oil rich & not-so-far east…that might leave a lot of unemployed cousins & nephews moping about where their mothers might give their fathers an unwelcome amount of grief about it

      …much easier to send them on the occasional trip to the evil fleshpots of the west with a luggable quantity of cash every once in a while…& it gives the whole transaction a more…personable aspect?

      …I dunno…sadly I don’t travel in the sort of circles where a carry-on full of cash is all the luggage a jet-setter needs…so the whole thing is a mystery to me

      • You’re reminding that way back in the big 80s a friend of mine scored a job (through a relative) at a big international law firm as an international courier. This entailed flying from one far-flung branch to another, mostly NY -> London and back again. He was carrying sensitive documents that he couldn’t have cared less about and couldn’t have accessed even if he wanted to, because they were in a locked briefcase that was never to leave his sight. This all sounds very glam (short for glamorous, see above) but it wasn’t; he often didn’t get get to overnight in London and had to turn right back around once he was met by his handler at Heathrow.

        Anyway, he said he soon learned that there was a whole cadre of these couriers and you really didn’t want to get to know them because most of them did not work for international law firms…

        • I’ve actually met people who like being on planes. A previous boss of mine had a husband who would just book them plane flights to anywhere — using travel miles, of course. So they would fly from Orlando to Hong Kong on Saturday and simply get back on a return flight and come back. That was literally one of the trips they made. I was dumbfounded. I’m like, you didn’t stay overnight or sightsee for an hour or anything? Nope, flew there, flew back.

          She was a bank VP and he made even more money, so I assume this was all first-class travel, so it’s not like being scrunched into the middle seat in coach. But even so, I can’t imagine just spending your whole weekend on a plane. But that’s what they did. Frequently.

          “What did you do this weekend?” “Went to Hong Kong.” It was so weird.

          At one of my marketing jobs for a software company, we’d occasionally have international conferences. Once we forgot to ship something to Mexico City, and the cheapest way to get it there was to buy a plane ticket, ask for a volunteer with a current passport, and have them fly there, hand the equipment to staff at the airport, and turn around and fly back. We actually had a ton of volunteers.

  3. I like Petri a lot, but I wish she had developed a little more the comparison of the modern pundits to the King’s doctors.

    the sheer amount of brainpower that all kinds of people — good, busy, even witty — had to spend staring into the unfathomable abyss of his words and actions and trying to extract meaning from them

    As you commented above, watch out for the passive voice. “had to” is odd as hell — why did they have to? To what degree were bosses telling them? To what degree was it a case like the old joke about the dummy who dropped his keys in the dark but looked for them under a streetlight because the light was better there?

    What’s happened since 2015 for the NY Times is pretty clear. They were stuck trying to diagnose Trump’s turds because they refused to treat him like Putin or Hugo Chavez. And they did so partly because of institutional ideology and partly because of the direct demands of the Sulzbergers and top editors like James Bennet and Carolyn Ryan.

    I think there’s a notable uptick in reporters who don’t accept the “had to” part anymore, although they’re still in the minority. But at the exec level it’s still a trainwreck.

    • In a strange way, it’s like high-level QAnon. Or some mumbling hermit from the Middle Ages sitting in the desert, high as balls.

      “This makes no sense.”

      “Dammit, figure out the hidden meaning and print it. We can’t admit our figurehead is completely senile.”

    • …I get that part…but I rather assumed that would only have been part of it…could be I had the wrong end of the stick but I took “all kinds of people” to be a group of which pundits would form a relatively small slice

      …the catch-22 with the antics of these people was that in a world in which…to take the extreme example – there was a non-zero chance the dilettante-in-chief would declare a potentially-nuclear shooting war with a tweet…just ignoring him wasn’t entirely a reasonable option for a lot of people for some unfortunately valid reasons

      …& even if you were trying…seriously & diligently…to parse the bullshit…it came at such a rate & in such a volume that you couldn’t really keep up

      …even allowing for bots & bad actors…the amount of time ordinary people spent going back & forth about it all…not unlike they are now with the NFT thing or elon’s no-good-very-bad-day-after-day tenure at twitter…for free…& to scant benefit…seems like a lot…arguably a lot more than it deserves even to people with their livelihoods potentially on the line

      …I guess I figured that “had to” was pulling double duty as a literal one for that latter group…& a sort of sarcastic/ironic one meaning “felt compelled to” for a variety of reasons that might almost sound plausible individually but ring hollow when they add up to so much noise about so little signal?

      • Stream of BS is a good illustration. Basically, the press was looking at it and never stopping to say there was a bull involved, not a human being.

        They looked at all of the undigested chaff filling the chamberpot and all they could ask was what kind of protein and vitamin C does this man get from eating so much hay?

        And the ridiculous thing is the press has teams of people who cover BS as BS. On other beats they have people who cover leaders of drug cartels, cults, and authoritarian regimes. They have experience putting together new models to explain what’s happening without endlessly stretching to turn the Sinaloa Cartel into a widows and orphans charity.

  4. welp…my surprise baking fyce hit a snag….phone up and died on me and now wont charge…no prizes for guessing where the pics are

    it will turn up once ive gotten the stupid phone fixed

  5. …I don’t have a twitter account…but I have never been this tempted

    …he’s only gone & set up a “should I step down from CEO of twitter?” poll

    …as of about an hour ago it had getting on for 6,000,000 votes & “yes” was ahead by about a million of those

    …it’s open for another 9-10hrs or so…but if you have a twitter account that “yes” button can always use the extra clicks?

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