History is a Reminder that We Do Not Live in Uniquely Stupid or Chaotic Times

This comic is from 1930 and about the smallpox vaccine, but it is also 100% from this past year and about Right Now. (The second guy is labelled “Faddist,” which Snopes explains is “a largely archaic word that describes people who turn to alternative or niche health trends, especially diets, in a way that neglects or contradicts mainstream scientific advice.”  i.e., anyone taking horse dewormer or insisting on hydroxychloroquine while rejecting the vaccine.)

FUN FACT: Moderating Facebook Gives Facebook Moderators PTSD

The question for me is this: Does Facebook provide anywhere near the social value to justify what this man suffered?  Does it provide enough value to justify the suffering of the likely thousands of workers who Facebook employees to protect us from Facebook?

As you reflect on this, you probably want to check out The Facebook Files, an ongoing investigative series from the Wall Street Journal (articles are paywalled, but the related podcasts are free and worth your time and attention).

Plainly put, Facebook profits from hate and misery. Further reads:

Brass tacks question: Given what social media companies like FB can and will do, in terms of exerting editorial control when it is in their interest to do so, I’m left wondering if they really deserve Section 230 protection?  

FB, of course, is far from unique here—or, maybe, is uniquely awful only in the magnitude and clarity of their disfunction and viciousness.  For a Twitter-centric rumination on the fundamental design aspects of social media that are making it so damaging to both individual humans and larger human societies, please read Noah Smith’s rational (and, in the case of the later, research-backed) articles “The Shouting Class” and  “The Shouting Class 2: Last Refuge of Scoundrels”: 

“In other words, society has always had about the same number of shouty jerks. But with the rise of social media, we have moved our society’s political discussions from spaces in which the shouty jerks were at least somewhat marginalized and contained to spaces that preferentially amplify their voices.…In pursuit of personal glory, bad people turn neighbor against neighbor.”

Noah Smith in “The Shouting Class 2: Last Refuge of Scoundrels

BILLIONAIRES

A few weeks back I was walking the dog when it dawned on me that a billionaire could give away $1 million each week for a year, and he (yes, HE) would still be a billionaire at the end of that year[1]

And a billionaire is practically a pauper.  If Jeff Bezos did this for 1,000 years—if he gave away $1 million every week for 52 weeks each year over the course of 1,000 years—he’d still have over $50 billion left, assuming he doesn’t invest his money at all, just keeps in a big hole in the ground. If you taxed his current wealth at 99%—something that, to the best of my knowledge, no elected or appointed official has ever come remotely close to suggesting—then he’d still be a billionaire, and could still give away a million a week for a year without stopping being a billionaire.

All “conservative” freak-outs about taxes and stifling innovation and redistribution of whatever aside, there’s literally no way to take it all away from Bezos or Musk or Gates or Zuckerberg or the Waltons or the Kochs, not in practical terms, not before they’d had time to make it all back on something as benign and boring as holding government bonds.

And as I walked the dog, I just thanked my lucky stars that we fought a revolution in this country to break away from all the old potentates and riyals and dynasties, to be sure there was at least one spot on earth where a man could live free and equal with all other men, not as some peon who could be ground under the foot of a clumsy giant whose piles of lucre blocked his ability to see where he was going and what he was doing. Humanity really dodged a bullet with this whole democracy situation!😅 Anyway, gotta go cook 25-cent Ramen for my kids!

But as I walked a little further, it dawned on me that what I was really saying was: 

“If you have the luck and privilege to have your shit together enough to have some real portion of your wealth socked away in any decent retirement savings plan, then you can afford to give away at least 0.5 to 1% of your wealth every year and still be wealthy.”

And was I even doing that?

Nope, I wasn’t.

But, shit, now I’ve got a goal, don’t I? 💸

[1] For all practical purposes: Let’s assume this billionaire has his wealth invested in something as safe and stodgy as bond funds, which historically earn ~2–4% each year. If he gives away $1 million each week for a year, his nest egg will be reduced to $948,000,000, but he’ll earn $18–$37 million on that, bringing him back up to just shy of $1 billion. If he’s invested in something extremely safe, like an S&P 500 index fund, he’ll likely come out of the year ahead, having earned ~$75 million on the money he had left over after having given away $52 million.)

This is a fun little film…

… but just a reminder to my American readers: We already live in this reality. This country isn’t just full of guns; it’s full of ammunition. If you have access to even a single bullet, you are $10 and a trip to the hardware store from making a wonderfully lethal weapon: unserialized, untraceable, highly concealable, nearly foolproof.  You won’t be doing any civil massacres with a hardware-store slam gun, but you can mostly definitely kill the guy standing in front of you with little effort.

The reason no one will shoot you today is because no one feels like shooting you today.

This isn’t antisemitism—but, straight talk: It’s really hard to argue that Ann Arbor gives a shit about its Jews

This vexes me.

Just for the record, this isn’t antisemitism. I saw this Saturday, soon after it was painted, while driving past with my kids on the way to the river. I’m one of the chairs of the Jewish safety committee for this area, so it’s safe to say that my anti-Jew radar is exquisitely well tuned.

Fuck Israel” written on a public Rock that, for decades, has been a locus of political speech?  That isn’t hate speech.

The fact is, Israel is a goddamned country.  You can say the nastiest words in the world about Israel, and as long as you keep it about the nation-state of Israel, we’re all good. It’s just like how you can criticize China or the Democratic Republic of the Congo without being racist about it. 

Meanwhile, standing outside a synagogue and holding a sign that reads “Israel Has No Right to Exist”? That is antisemitism. And folks have been doing it just a few hundred feet up the street from the goddamned Rock for 16 years and Ann Arbor has done shit about it: 

anti-Jewish protest in Ann Arbor, MI, around 2019

[source]

Bigots: Please Use Punctuation!

I’ve got no clue if your message is the command “KIKE: FREE PALESTINE 卐!” or the wish for a “KIKE-FREE PALESTINE 卐”, and that’s driving me nuts. Please, parents: Don’t just teach your children to hate Jews; teach them to use hyphens and colons properly!

Vandalized synagogue door, spray-painted: KIKE FREE PALESTINE [swastika]
[This message brought to you by
British Vandals for a Kike-Free Palestine,
and the Letter 卐]

Straight talk, though: If you’re vandalizing a synagogue in England—regardless of what words you paint—it really doesn’t have shit to do with Palestine or Israel or whatever.  Likewise, if you are holding a protest outside a synagogue (as has been the case at the synagogue ~1 mile for my house for the last 16+ years), it has nothing to do with what’s written on the signs. 

Similarly, the extremely high likelihood that right now you’re thinking “My Gosh! That is so clearly and obviously wrong, but you have to admit that Israel blah blah blah…” —that thought, it doesn’t have shit to do with Palestine, either.

The vandalism is anti-Jewish. 

The protest outside a synagogue is anti-Jewish. 

Expecting Jews in England or Michigan or—hell, anywhere OTHER THAN ISRAEL—to bear some special responsibility for Israeli domestic policy is anti-Jewish and, frankly, crazy. It’s literally the same as protesting outside a Black church because you’re upset about the ongoing lack of accountability or reconciliation from the Liberian Civil Wars, or protesting the Xinjiang internment camps by picketing outside of a Chinese restaurant.

The fact that any of what I’m saying maybe makes you uncomfortable, that’s for you to sort out.

But if you’re afraid I’m maybe implying you harbor anti-Jewish sentiment, here’s a test you can do in the privacy of your own head, and never tell anyone the outcome.  Do you agree with the following statements: 

  1. I feel weird acknowledging the 3000+ rockets Hamas fired at Israeli civilians in the past month without also acknowledging the 20x difference in Israeli and Palestinian casualty rates.
  2. When someone mentions the 58+ Palestinian children killed in this latest paroxysm of violence, I don’t even think for one second about the terror of ~3000 rockets coming at you in a single month.

If you answered YES to both, congratulations: You’re pretty much like every other person in the world.  If you’ve ever wondered how something like the Holocaust happens, now you know.  

Sorry to be a bummer, but real talk and then we’re done: Did you feel worse about the thousand rockets, or the 58+ Palestinian kids, or the fact that some Jew in Michigan called you out about it?

You probably feel attacked right now, so I want one last thing to be crystal clear: My answers to those two questions were “Yes”es, too. If your culture has a bias, you have that bias as well—even if, in your heart of hearts, you despise the bias.  Even if that bias contributes to your own destruction.  None of us get to stand outside our culture; there are no free passes in this game.  It’s noble to want to fix Israel, or Liberia, or China—but sorta weird not to give a moment to healing yourself, too. 


Incidentally, my source for the image above includes some interesting history (which I’ve touched on before) specific to the town where this happened:

(here’s an easy-to-read “unrolled” version of his eight-part tweet, which is worthwhile)

Don’t wanna get into why I’m reading up on Little “Saint” Hugh of Lincoln Today…

… but for those looking for insights into why the Defeated PotUS is obsessed with an absolutely anti-factual narrative of a rigged election, this is worthy reading, especially the “Royal Intervention” sub-section:

The difficulty remains as to why King Henry and his servant John of Lexington would have believed the accusations in the first place. … While the decision to act belonged to the King, Langmuir believes that he was weak and easily manipulated by Lexington. Langmuir says Henry III has been described as; “a suspicious person who flung charges of treason recklessly, [who] was credulous and poor in judgment, and often appeared like a petulant child. When to these qualities we add his addiction to touring the shrines of England, it becomes easier to understand why he acted as he did…” Langmuir therefore concludes that Lexington “incited the weakly credulous Henry III to give the ritual murder fantasy the blessing of royal authority”. Jacobs on the other hand sees the financial benefits that Henry received as a major factor, conscious or unconscious, in his decision to mass arrest and execute Jews. As noted above, he had mortgaged his income from the Jews to Richard of Cornwall, but was still entitled to the property of any Jew executed, adding that Henry, “like most weak princes, was cruel to the Jews”.

Anti-Jewish woodcut depicting  blood libel child murder
[Popular Anti-Jewish woodcut depicting the blood libel child murder of either Simon of Trent or William of Norwich (which are basically the same story, in either case). Note the dude at the far left who appears to be wearing George Jetson’s house on his head; that’s a “Jew Hat.”]

Note the profit motive, the crushing debt, the love of touring from big public event to big public event, the absolute credulity to believe what is convenient, the tendency to flit and flip-flop from outrage to outrage, and a reflex to accuse sinister cabals composed of largely powerless minorities of master-minding vast schemes against a blameless populace.

If all of this seems long ago and far away, then please note that QAnon, Pizzagate, and a goodly portion of current Trumpery-driven White Violence is just this same story repeated over and over and over again.

Nice prayer at the bottom of that link, though.

Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln

Anyway, Happy Nittlenacht everyone!!!

Go Watch *Monsters*

I had no idea they even had free feature-length movies on YouTube. Anyway, go watch Monsters. It’s just as good as I remember it being in the theaters; back then it felt like it was mostly about U.S. foreign/immigration policy with a smattering of Chernobyl anxiety (this was back in 2010). Now, in the midst of a plague year, it feels like it’s sort of about a lot more.

Also, are you finding that, when watching old movies now, you’re often distracted by how close people stand to each other, how blithely they enter each other’s homes or push into crowds, maskless? How we used to live was crazy, right? 😷

This is Not a Peaceful Transfer of Power; It’s a Frog Boil 🇺🇸🔥🐸

This whole article is sorta astounding. I mean, nothing is really surprising, but it’s sorta shocking to have all of your assumptions confirmed:

20 days of fantasy and failure: Inside Trump’s quest to overturn the election

I can’t help but imagine all of what’s happened over the past month from the PotUS’s perspective: 

art by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/
(art by DonkeyHotey)

He’s never had a real job—not one that he could actually lose. And now a bunch of losers—people with no wealth, no audience, no “pull,” folks with meager incomes and dumb names, with little (if any) power, many of them women and people of color—they took away his toy.

And they didn’t do it by force: They didn’t pull a gun on him, they didn’t have to “see him in court!!!” They didn’t have to look at him or talk to him or even acknowledge him. They just ticked a box and mailed a stupid scrap of paper.

And all of those “they”s in the previous graff: those are “you” and “me”; we did this. We, who are weak-ass little pussies and cry babies and retarded faggot snowflakes, we hurt him, deeply. And we did it while hiding in our little shithole houses in shithole towns and bullshit states.

I imagine that, in his heart of hearts, he simply never believed such a thing was possible, so insulated from reality was his 70+ years on this earth. 

The most petulant 46 minutes in American history

It is all so astoundingly pathetic. If he hadn’t done so much to hurt so many, you’d weep for his loss of innocence.

Just to be clear: Although no shots have been fired (yet), this is not a “peaceful transfer of power.” At best, it’s a tremendous waste of the most precious resource in a time of crisis (like this one): Attention

At worst, it’s an incitement to violence. 

His blood is boiling, and we are the frogs.