Miscellanea: December 2018


Climate Solutions: Is It Feasible to Remove Enough CO2 from the Air? – Elizabeth Kolbert at Yale E360

Witches Now Outnumber Presbyterians In The United States – Jonathan Turley.

The national security adviser who colluded with foreign powers — decades before Michael Flynn – Shane O’Sullivan at The Washington Post

Russia’s Secret Weapon? America’s Idiocracy – Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast. “When, exactly, does an unemployed coal miner in Lackawanna already wary of immigrants and the “mainstream media” become convinced that his interests are best served by voting for Trump over Clinton? Will a Pizza-gate ad purchased in rubles or an “Obama Created ISIS” meme cooked up in St. Petersburg be his tipping point, or just more proof that his original prejudices were correct all along? At what point does a millennial democratic socialist in Detroit decide to skip voting altogether to put the finishing touches on her long-awaited Jacobin essay about the Zionist hegemony encoded in Seinfeld? Is it before or after spending 20 minutes reading Sputnik’s slippery summary of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Goldman Sachs executives? I doubt even Nate Silver would be able to tell you.”

The Man Who Saves You from Yourself – Nathaniel Rich at Harper’s. “Nobody ever joins a cult. One joins a nonprofit group that promotes green technology, animal rights, or transcendental meditation. One joins a yoga class or an entrepreneurial workshop. One begins practicing an Eastern religion that preaches peace and forbearance. The first rule of recruitment, writes Margaret Singer, the doyenne of cult scholarship, is that a recruit must never suspect he or she is being recruited. The second rule is that the cult must monopolize the recruit’s time. Therefore, in order to have any chance of rescuing a new acolyte, it is critical to act quickly. The problem is that family and friends, much like the new cult member, are often slow to admit the severity of the situation.”

Meet the Double Agent Who Now Controls House Conservatives – Andrew Desiderio at The Daily Beast

Does political party trump ideology? – Andrea Christensen at BYU.edu

Republicans have become their own caricature of postmodernism – Ryan Cooper at The Week

How Russian Trolls Used Meme Warfare to Divide America – Nicholas Thompson and Issie Lapowsky at Wired

How Did the Republican Party Get So Corrupt? – George Packer at The Atlantic

Crossing The Aisle Didn’t Save Republicans This Year – Geoffrey Skelley and Gus Wezerek at FiveThirtyEight. Ahem.

Global Warming Is Setting Fire to American Leadership – Stephen M. Walt

A Preview of Your Chinese FutureBruno Maçães at Foreign Policy

China’s penetration of Silicon Valley creates risks for startups – Heather Somerville at Reuters

The Digital Maginot Line – Renee DiResta at Ribbonfarm. “In a warm information war, the human mind is the territory. If you aren’t a combatant, you are the territory.”

I’m Sorry But This Is Just Sheer Propaganda – Nathan J. Robinson at Current Affairs

How Much Does Climate Science Matter In A World Run By Politics? – FiveThirtyEight Team.


The Roman Triumph – Historia Civilis at YouTube

Biotechnology and Brain Computer Interfaces – Siraj Raval at YouTube

Slow Motion Suppressor Physics at 150,000 fps (Schlieren Imagery) – Smarter Every Day at YouTube

What is Federal Land? – CGP Grey at YouTube

The Artificial Intelligence That Deleted A Century – Tom Scott at YouTube


The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss (3.5/5): Many years ago, this was my introduction to the works of Tim Ferriss, like it was for many people, and I hated it. I couldn’t believe so many people fell for such obvious snake oil sold by such an obvious douchebag. It wasn’t until several recommendations for his podcast led me to give it a listen, and while I still think 4HWW is far from perfect, I’ve since come to appreciate its unconventional pragmatism.

Zero to One, by Peter Thiel (4.5/5): While I’ve expressed my disagreements with Thiel on AI before, it’s hard to deny Thiel’s genius as an entrepreneur and social critic. Zero to One emphasizes the importance—no, the necessity—of nonconformity and creativity to anyone who wants to make a difference in the world, particularly through business. Highly recommended.

How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler (5/5): Exactly what it says on the cover. While written in 1940, it is possibly even more important in the 21st century as information literacy plays a greater and greater role in the survival and prosperity of democratic societies. Clear and practical.



Katatonia – Ambitions

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Blue on Black

Mechina – Anathema



Mary Poppins Returns (3/5): The plot was rather thin (mouseover for spoilers), but the acting, spectacle, and overall spirit of the movie are exactly what you’d expect from a new Mary Poppins movie. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda are particularly outstanding as the two leads.

They Shall Not Grow Old (4.5/5): Engaging, technically impressive, and respectfully attentive to detail. My only wish was that it went deeper; with all the archive video and audio they had and the relatively short runtime of 1:39, it seems it could have done so if they wanted it to.



The Vietnam War (5/5): One must always be cautious when comparing real-world events, particularly ones causing such deep wounds as the Vietnam War, to fiction, but I couldn’t help thinking of Greek tragedy when watching Ken Burns’ impeccable documentary series. Tragic irony bleeds from the screen at every turn; the sense within each leader, soldier, and civilian that their hands have been forced and they simply have to take each brutal next step clashes with their (and our) later regret, their recognition that things could have—must have—gone differently. The Vietnam War is a masterpiece. You will almost certainly feel more somber and less sure of yourself after watching it, and that’s why you should do so.

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