Monday, October 17th, 2022


Kingdoms Come

There are two very disturbing geopolitical trends currently taking place. First, authoritarianism is on the rise in many countries. Second, the leaders of those authoritarian movements are working together and forming alliances against America, the West, and democracy in general. Putin is suffering military humiliations on the battlefield but Putinism seems to be advancing. Marc Fisher with a solid overview in WaPo (Gift Article): Leaders of democracies increasingly echo Putin in authoritarian tilt. "Recent years have brought a sharp reaction in many parts of the world, as globalization, political polarization, the rise of social media and a collapse of trust in major institutions have left many people feeling betrayed by their governments, torn apart from their careers and alone in their communities, according to historians, political scientists and sociologists who have studied these shifts in the world's economies and governments. The result has been a similar quest for nationalist solutions in country after country, and a growing bond among the far-right autocrats in those places."

+ Ian Bremmer shares some maps. "Democracy is a better system. It's more just. It's more humane. But it's not winning."

+ Today's most obvious example of authoritarian regimes working together: Russia has hit Ukraine with a wave of attacks, dive-bombing the capital, Kyiv, with what appear to be Iranian-made 'kamikaze' drones."

+ For a slightly different view of the problematic trend, Francis Fukuyama argues that the failures of authoritarian states are the big story. The Atlantic: More Proof That This Really Is the End of History. The place he's still concerned about: America. "Celebrations of the rise of strong states and the decline of liberal democracy are thus very premature. Liberal democracy, precisely because it distributes power and relies on consent of the governed, is in much better shape globally than many people think. Despite recent gains by populist parties in Sweden and Italy, most countries in Europe still enjoy a strong degree of social consensus. The big question mark remains, unfortunately, the United States."

+ WaPo: Racist GOP appeals heat up in final weeks before midterms. "As the campaign heats up in the final weeks before November's midterm elections, so have overt appeals to racial animus and resentment. And the toxic remarks appear to be receiving less pushback from Republicans than in past years, suggesting that some candidates in the first post-Trump election cycle have been influenced by the ex-president's norm-breaking example." (Racism is hardly norm-breaking. And here's the important part. Politicians wouldn't be selling hate, fear, and racism if there weren't a whole lot of receptive buyers.)


They Didn’t Want to be Your Guinea Pigs

"The great pet adoption boom peaked in April and May 2020 with nearly one in five US households, or 23 million, giving animals new homes during the pandemic, according to the ASPCA. But as our return to a sense of normalcy has coincided with historic inflation rates, pet owners are forced to re-evaluate their priorities." It's not just inflation. Pandemic pet owners were having buyer's remorse before prices rose. For some reason, the remorse was particularly strong when it comes to guinea pigs. US shelters see increase in surrenders – and one animal ‘returned in droves.'

+ "Photos and videos were forbidden. So were cellphones. The rescuers were banned from talking with Envigo's employees. When the meeting with the marshals ended, Ramer said, the rescuers drove to the breeding facility in Cumberland, about 50 miles west of Richmond. As lawyers in suits looked on, workers rolled out scores of beagles in carts — or carried them from their cages individually — to a Humane Society representative, who plopped them into the rescue workers' arms." WaPo (Gift Article): Profit, pain and puppies: Inside the rescue of nearly 4,000 beagles. (I have two beagles. My neighbors only think I have 4,000.)


Fabricating Money

"This type of money is a huge part of the incentive structure that shapes so much of our societal woes, and is often overlooked to the key role it plays." Zeynep Tufekci on the Alex Jones Verdict: The Very, Very Lucrative World of Lying.


M.I.C. (See You Real Soon) K.E.Y. (Why? Because You’re Addicted!)

"In the U.S. this century, gambling has become more wholly legitimized, released from the confines of Atlantic City and Las Vegas and into the broader culture. Gambling advertisements litter the country, and more than 20 states now allow casinos, compared to just nine in 2001. Roughly the same number have legalized online sports betting and more people are pushing for legal online casinos as well." The combination of legalized sports betting and the ubiquity of the casino in your pocket is not going to end well. The Rise of Mobile Gambling Is Leaving People Ruined and Unable to Quit. How mainstream is gambling these days, particularly sports betting? Just ask Disney.


Extra, Extra

Postive Charging News: "We're going to need to mine a huge amount of metals like cobalt and lithium to electrify the world's automobiles. But things would be easier if car batteries didn't have to be so big." Scientists May Have Just Cracked the Code on Fast Electric Car Charging.

+ Ven Diagram: "With increasing numbers of Venezuelans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border as the Nov. 8 election nears, Biden has turned to an unlikely source for a solution: his predecessor's playbook." Biden turning to Trump-era rule to expel Venezuelan migrants. (If possible, try not to escape poverty or need political asylum during election cycles.)

+ Sepsis Boom Bah: "One reason for all this carnage is that if sepsis is not detected in time, it's essentially a death sentence. Consequently, much research has focused on catching sepsis early, but the condition's complexity has plagued existing clinical support systems." The Atlantic: Can computers crack the code of sepsis? (We worry a lot about AI, but it's going to do wonders in medicine.)

+ Cold War: Europe is getting ready for a long energy-tight winter with adjustments from swimming in wetsuits to finding your own firewood.

+ Hunter Gathered: "His patterns were consistent with some of the patterns that we had seen ... around parks, around dark places, stopping, looking around, moving again. He was on a mission to kill. He was out hunting." A serial killer suspected in six slayings was arrested this weekend.

+ Link Different: "BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are worrisome because they both appear to be more transmissible, and could possibly be more immune evasive than earlier variants." Ugh. SF Chronicle: These two new COVID variants could drive the next surge.

+ Crab Season Doesn't Have Legs: "An estimated one billion crabs have mysteriously disappeared in two years." Alaska snow crab season canceled.

+ Diving Platform: Kanye West is buying Parler. "The artist known as Ye was recently locked out of his Twitter and Instagram accounts for making antisemitic comments. Parler says the acquisition will help create an 'uncancelable ecosystem.'" Hopefully, his check is cancelable. He would have been better off buying Friendster.


Bottom of the News

The band's label "says that BTS plans to come back together as a group 'around 2025,' after all seven members complete their service." BTS announces upcoming Korean military service. Groupies around the world will be begging to be invaded.

+ 2 California bakers create a life-sized Han Solo out of bread. Now they just need to make a dose of metformin the size of Jabba the Hutt.

+ Tennessee beat Alabama 52-49 on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, the school was looking for new goalposts. Any Volunteers?