What I Read This Week: 2021-09
As the Insurrection Narrative Crumbles, Democrats Cling to it More Desperately Than Ever
The long read of the week.
The key point to emphasize here is that threats and dangers are not binary: they either exist or they are fully illusory. They reside on a spectrum. To insist that they be discussed rationally, soberly and truthfully is not to deny the existence of the threat itself. One can demand a rational and fact-based understanding of the magnitude of the threat revealed by the January 6 riot without denying that there is any danger at all.
Those who denounced the excesses of McCarthyism were not insisting that there were no Communists in government; those denouncing the excesses of the Clinton administration’s attempts to seize more surveillance power after the Oklahoma City courting bombing were not denying that some anti-government militias may do violence again; those who objected to the protracted and unhinged assault on civil liberties by the Bush/Cheney and Obama administrations after 9/11 were not arguing that there were no Muslim extremists intent on committing violence.
The argument then, and the argument now, is that the threat was being deliberately inflated and exaggerated, and fears stoked and exploited, both for political gain and to justify the placement of more and more powers in the hands of the state in the name of stopping these threats. That is the core formula of authoritarianism — to place the population in a state of such acute fear that it acquiesces to any assertion of power which security state agencies and politicians demand and which they insist are necessary to keep everyone safe.
The darkly soothing compulsion of ‘doomscrolling’
The gist of it is the best put by ersii on the Hacker News submission:
Remember to take breaks from the news cycles (whatever flavor of news and outlet you prefer) and try to not get emotionally engaged in what is really quite distant from your actual life.
The news, wherever they come from and regardless of what they are about are mostly just a distraction from what actually matters, your own life, family and mission.
How I cut GTA Online loading times by 70%
A great short story about the accidental run-time complexity of using
sscanf()while parsing JSON.
Capitol Hill Babysitting Co-op
The Capitol Hill Babysitting Cooperative (CHBC) is a cooperative located in Washington, D.C., whose purpose is to fairly distribute the responsibility of babysitting between its members. The co-op is often used as an allegory for a demand-oriented model of an economy. The allegory illustrates several economic concepts, including the paradox of thrift and the importance of the money supply to an economy’s well-being. The allegory has received continuing attention, particularly in the wake of the late-2000s recession.
At first, new members of the co-op felt, on average, that they should save more scrip before they began spending. So they babysat whenever the opportunity arose, but did not spend the scrip they acquired. Since babysitting opportunities only arise when other couples want to go out, there was a shortage of demand for babysitting. As a result, the co-op fell into a “recession”. This illustrates the phenomenon known as the paradox of thrift.
Within a few years a new problem arose. There was too much scrip and a shortage of babysitting. As new members joined, more scrip was added to the system until couples had too much, but new members were not able to spend it because no one else wanted to babysit. In general, the cooperative experienced regular problems because the administration took in more than it spent, and at times the system added too much scrip into the system via the amount issued to new members.
What an interesting gem! Mentioned by shalmanese on a Hacker News thread regarding private torrent trackers.
Honda’s Now Selling the World’s First Production Car with Level 3 Self-Driving Tech
My family has a Toyoto Corolla Hybrid 2020 with Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) and Active Cruise Control (ACC) together which feels like magic! “Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.”
Open source projects: consider running office hours
Back in December I decided to try something new for my Datasette open source project: Datasette Office Hours. The idea is simple: anyone can book a 25 minute conversation with me on a Friday to talk about the project.