CJW: Welcome welcome. I’ve been wrestling with Buttondown for about half an hour, so let’s get right to it, shall wel.
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Lidia Zuin (LZ) - Journalist, MA in semiotics, and PhD in Arts. Sci-fi writer, futurology researcher and essayist. @lidiazuin
The study’s key finding was that the net loss of Antarctic ice from coastal glacier chunks “calving” off into the ocean is nearly as great as the net amount of ice that scientists already knew was being lost due to thinning caused by the melting of ice shelves from below by warming seas.
Taken together, thinning and calving have reduced the mass of Antarctica’s ice shelves by 12 trillion tons since 1997, double the previous estimate, the analysis concluded.
It’s become a catchphrase of friend of NH, Brendan - it’s always worse than you think. It’s a handy phrase because it tends to work for geopolitics, history, climate change, the abuses of capitalism, etc.
The one thing I’d probably have to read the original study to find out is: how were they missing calving in the first place? Seems obvious and like it would have been easier to study.
DCH: The Bitter Triumph of the Inflation Reduction Act - by Kate Aronoff at The New Republic
The fact that anything called climate policy managed to get through a razor-thin 50-50 majority in the U.S. Senate is astonishing. And it’s largely climate and environmental justice groups that moved the needle: from indigenous-led resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure that put issues of extraction on sovereignty on the table, to organizers in Flint helping place a focus on environmental racism, and the Sunrise Movement—influenced by all of the above—that sat in for the Green New Deal and didn’t shut up about it.
It’s an uncomfortable paradox. Insofar as there is something that can be called a climate movement, the IRA is a product of its success. It’s also a massive betrayal.
The IRA and the climate policy it contains wouldn’t have passed the Senate on Sunday without the enormous amount of work put in by the people who feel most ambivalent about the devil’s bargain struck to get it. The environmentalists and other organizers who made this bill possible are painfully aware of the awful policies it contains, including a big new giveaway of public lands over to drilling, and a prospective overhaul of the laws that govern where and how fossil fuel infrastructure gets built.
Indigenous groups and leftists alike have very real reasons to call foul on The Inflation Reduction Act becoming law. Five decades of waiting for Congress to do something, anything and a huge payday for big oil death cults is part of the deal? Fuck that.
DCH: Britain’s notoriously wet and cold climate is changing – you won’t like what replaces it - by Wilson Chan, Nigel Arnell, and Ted Sheppard at The Conversation
So what does that new climate look like? The latest set of simulations project hotter and drier summers plus warmer and wetter winters, with larger changes in summer compared to winter rainfall.
Prolonged periods of below average river and groundwater levels are projected to become more severe. Summer droughts are likely to affect the entire country, while multi-year droughts are more likely across southern England.
There will be an increased risk of cascading hazards in future too, such as when a flood quickly follows a drought, spoiling crops and damaging infrastructure. Record rainfall in spring 2012 suddenly ended a drought which had begun in 2010, causing flash floods which affected more than 4,000 properties.
Thanks, I hate it. The UK’s latest heatwave (no. not that one. The one after it. Or the one after that, I’ve lost track) saw the country trapped under a heat dome. Drought was finally officially declared as the source of the Thames dried up. There’s even talk of water rationing and emergency plans have been leaked that call for blackouts and gas cuts in January. Up next: wildfires.
CJW: Not to mention that Britain’s water infrastructure has been privatised for decades, and for some reason those private companies have been more interested in shareholder dividends than modernising the system or even doing basic maintenance like fixing leaks that waste 2.4 billion litres a day (about 20% of the total supply). There’s also been massive dumping of waste into British waterways, but I can’t remember if that was the water companies, or other companies, but either way it’s something the state is not interested in addressing because they’ve already decided that the market knows best.
Water Privatization Makes It Impossible to Fight Climate Change - Chris Saltmarsh at Jacobin
Water 2 - Trashfuture on Patreon
Floods, other disasters worsening economic woes - Igor Kuchma Asia Times - CJW: I wonder how many stories like this it will take…
Can’t See the Wood for the Trees by Malcolm Sanger at thenewinquiry.com
CJW: We Shouldn’t Underestimate the Incredible Danger Posed by the Taiwan Crisis - Branko Marcetic interviewing Lyle Goldstein at Jacobin
My view is we’re basically in a cold war with China, and they’re acting like we are now. They’re starting to adopt strategic positioning in case they have to struggle and strike the United States. There’s a rumor that we’ll see a base in West Africa. China has legitimate interests in all these places, but would that base bother me? A little bit. I’m not thrilled to see China have a base on the Atlantic. That’s a major step.
But most of the major blame for China wanting to dip their toe in the Atlantic there — I studied a series of Chinese official articles called China’s Atlantic Strategy. One of the things they said very clearly was, “The Atlantic is absolutely critical to the United States, and the United States is coming to our backyard and poking around in the South China Sea, so we have to go to their backyard.”
An interesting discussion on US-Chinese relations and seems to me to be quite level-headed.
Related: US hypocrisy on display over ‘spheres of influence’ - Katrina vanden Heuvel at Asia Times
Addressing climate change and pandemics can’t be done without Chinese and Russian cooperation, yet the Chinese officially terminated talks on these issues in the wake of Pelosi’s visit.
Love to see nation-state dick-waving getting in the way of existential business business. Plenty of other things of interest in here too.
CJW: Russia, Turkey launch new economic ‘roadmap’ - MK Bhadrakumar at The Cradle
On recent talks between Russia and Turkiye and the economic and geo/political consequences of a deepening relationship between the 2 states. Interesting to see how the international community remakes itself in the face of an increasingly arrogant but weakening American empire.
This discussion is related as well: US Global Dominance Is Bad for Workers at Home and Abroad - Cale Brooks interviewing Aziz Rana at Jacobin
For the criticism of American empire that came out of the 1990s and the 2000s, the natural response is to say multipolarism is good — we don’t want a unipolar world marked by American primacy.
That’s certainly my position as well. I think an ideal global outcome is a multipolar world in which ordinary people are the ones making decisions about how to organize the global commons. But the version of multipolarism that’s emerging right now is not that emancipatory one.
On US global hegemony, multipolarism, etc, and ways the left could collectively respond to the current geopolitical regime.
And one last related link: How Russia thwarted US imperial plans in Ukraine and beyond - Antonio Camacho Negrón at Multipolarista
Contains a lot of background information on the lead-up to the invasion of Ukraine, much of which I hadn’t heard about before now. The invasion is fucked, of course, but reading this piece makes it look like an expected response to the creep of American imperialism into Eastern Europe. But of course it’s the people of Ukraine who are dying.
The problem is not the episodic moments of bloody crisis when the world awakens to horrific images of bombardment and death. It’s the largely invisible, relentless effects of a draconian blockade which has made an already impoverished and overpopulated area into an open air prison, starved of electricity and nutrition, subjected to episodic slaughter, its young population trapped both physically and politically within a horror they have no ability to change.
On the changes (and lack of changes) regarding Israel-Palestine in recent years. Also includes a few books to investigate if you want to “read up on Gaza beyond the crises”.
DCH: GOP ‘message laundering’ turns violent, extremist reactions into acceptable political talking points - by Karrin Vasby Anderson at The Conversation
Message laundering occurs when inflammatory language and/or unsubstantiated claims are mixed with mainstream partisan communication and presented to the public with an air of respectability. Just as money laundering enabled mobsters to disguise their ill-gotten gain as the profits of a legitimate business, message laundering presents dishonest and dangerous speech as credible, innocuous or persuasive.
As a political communication scholar, I study how rhetoric strengthens or erodes democratic institutions. The aftermath of the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search illustrates how message laundering can undermine democratic processes and gradually condition its audience to expect and accept violence.
This rhetoric isn’t just dangerous for political opponents. It’s getting Trump supporters killed too. Right-wing lunatics seem eager to take up arms against the FBI and other government organisations post the recent FBI raid on Trump.
CIA pivots from ‘war on terror’ to countering China: Report - at The Cradle
Top Biden official: US would overthrow Colombia’s new left-wing president 40 years ago - Benjamin Norton at Multipolarista
The Center is the Enemy of the Good - 3 Quarks Daily
DCH: “Mars is irrelevant to us now. We should of course concentrate on maintaining the habitability of the Earth” - by Klaus Mogensen at farsight.cifs.dk
Geoengineering is a vague term that has been demonised, so it is perhaps not useful to keep using it. Each action proposed has different costs, potential benefits, and potential dangers, so they need to be discussed individually and not as a class. Humans already do things at a scale that changes Earth’s biosphere, mostly in dangerously bad ways – CO2 in the atmosphere, ocean acidification, pollution of water and land, and so on – these are all geoengineering by accident. If we decide to do some things on purpose to try to save the situation, that is not a bad idea. We can’t claw back from certain processes by any geoengineering at all, so it’s not the central issue for discussion. What we can do, or might do, we should discuss.
You brought up the example of pumping meltwater out from under glaciers in the Antarctic to slow them back down to historic speeds. That would be good if it worked, and there are no dangers at all in trying it. It would cost billions, but if it worked it would save quadrillions. More importantly, civilisation would not break down – so using dollar numbers to rate these efforts is a little ridiculous; they could be existential, and thus shoot out of economic calculations into a different realm.
So all geoengineering ideas should be on the table for discussion, and we may need to try some before we are done. Decarbonising the atmosphere; ensuring women’s rights everywhere; these are both geoengineering methods, so the word is nearly useless as a category.
KSR on climate adaptation, justice, etc. I adore how snarky he gets with the interviewer at the end.
How Mars rovers have evolved in 25 years of exploring the Red Planet | Science News - Alexandra Witze at Cosmos Magazine
Producing electricity from your sweat might be key to next wearable technology - Imma Perfetto at Cosmos Magazine
Cultural Bias Distorts the Search for Alien Life - Scientific American
Smooshing wet cement with old tyres can create better concrete - Jacinta Bowler at Cosmos - CJW: If we’re going to keep making trash and needing concrete, it’s good to see these sorts of innovations.
CJW: The shock and awe of state-sponsored women’s fashion - Matt Webb
Some really interesting speculation here on hacking fashion, complex systems (that might contain machine learning) and user interaction acting collectively as a GAN, and more, using Shein as a launching point.
DCH: This Is the Data Facebook Gave Police to Prosecute a Teenager for Abortion - by Jason Koebler and Anna Merlin at VICE
A 17-year-old girl and her mother have been charged with a series of felonies and misdemeanors after an apparent medication abortion at home in Nebraska. The state’s case relies on evidence from the teenager’s private Facebook messages, obtained directly from Facebook by court order, which show the mother and daughter allegedly bought medication to induce abortion online, and then disposed of the body of the fetus. While the court documents, obtained by Motherboard, allege that the abortion took place before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June, they show in shocking detail how abortion could and will be prosecuted in the United States, and how tech companies will be enlisted by law enforcement to help prosecute their cases.
Drones Bearing Parcels Deliver Big Carbon Savings - Nature.com
CJW: Fuck Puritanism - P.E. Moskowitz at Mental Hellth
While the disparity between words and actions in [the Mardoll Lockheed Martin] case was particularly shocking, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Rather, it was simply a sign of this larger phenomenon: people have figured out how to absolve themselves of all responsibility for their lives, while simultaneously presenting themselves as authorities over other people’s. This has been called many things (cancel culture, identity politics, tenderqueerness). I like to call it Secular Puritanism, a quasi-religion in which your adherence to rules and norms endows you with moral authority over others, a religion in which any misstep from these rules and norms is viciously punished.
And, unfortunately, it has become endemic, infecting every space of discourse, and ensuring that actual progress, actual mutual understanding between people and cultures, never happens. We have sacrificed a focus on material betterment for moral purity.
Uses a recent Twitter drama (which was utterly stupid from the very first tweet) as a starting point, but covers broader and related territory. Honestly, it’s Secular Puritanism that’s a big part of why I’ve been pulling back from Twitter for months now - the way the language of inclusivity is used as a cudgel, while somehow it’s people in minorities who bear the brunt of the damage being dealt. Almost like these calls for purity are some sort of fascist impulse…
Anyway, this piece is well worth your time.
MJW: People are such fucking cops sometimes.
“Tina was literally the only Black woman on the scene then,” says Ledgerwood. “The suits and ties couldn’t see our relevance, but the crowds usually ate us up, especially her. Tommy was leader of the band until we got on stage. Then it was ‘the Bell.’ Without question, she set the pace. If the crowd was slightly less than enthusiastic, she would get fiercer. We followed suit. She was so dynamic, so unpredictable, and so energetic. I’ve never seen a more explosive performer.”
“Prior to about 2020, she was just invisible,” T.J. says of his mother. “She was invisible as a frontperson, and she was invisible even in death. The carelessness with which she was treated by the outside world is devastating. She lived an inherently unique life in an inherently unique set of circumstances. And as a result, she was a pioneer in her own regard. Even though [my parents] were young, there was a tremendous amount of thought and hard work put into their music. If you had the privilege of experiencing her on stage, you’re not getting someone putting on an act. You’re getting Tina Bell, presenting herself, in probably one of the truer forms of who she was, embodying the fierceness, embodying the fun, but also finding some solace on stage. There was a real authenticity to what was coming out of her, both in writing and performing.”
DCH: The Secret History of Family Separation - by Caitlin Dickerson at The Atlantic
At their next session, the boy squirmed in his chair as Quintana dialed the detention center, getting his father on the line. At first the dad was quiet, she told me. “Finally we said, ‘Your child is here. He can hear you. You can speak now.’ And you could just tell that his voice was breaking—he couldn’t.”
The boy cried out for his father. Suddenly, both of them were screaming and sobbing so loudly that several of Quintana’s colleagues ran to her office.
Eventually, the man calmed down enough to address Quintana directly. “I’m so sorry, who are you? Where is my child? They came in the middle of the night and took him,” he said. “What do I tell his mother?”
A massive 7 chapter investigation by Caitlin Dickerson into the monstrous practice and origins of the large-scale child kidnapping and detention program in America. If you’re anyway at all like me you’ll be ping-ponging back and forth between rage and tears reading it.
Entangled Intelligence - Doug Bierend at Real Life Mag - CJW: About non-human intelligence and interconnectedness. Touches on a bunch of things we’ve talked about here. (DCH: related read here as well by the always brilliant James Bridle: Another Path to Intelligence - Nautilus)
The Beginning of History - Foreign Affairs
To Live and Die for the Network State - Tablet Magazine
DCH: The Monkeypox Vaccine Monopoly - by Emily Peck at Slate
It’s hard not to feel a sense of dread about Monkeypox. The U.S. has declared a public health emergency to deal with outbreaks. The World Health Organization had already said it was a global emergency. But reality check. This is not March 2020. Monkeypox is generally not as deadly as COVID, though the pain can be debilitating. And this is not a new disease. There is a vaccine. It was originally developed for smallpox, but it works. The bad news, it’s hard to get in many big U.S. cities, finding the two coveted doses is a struggle.
Why a struggle you might ask? On the one hand because America let a stockpile simply rot while Monkeypox spread in other parts of the world. And on the other hand, because only one pharma company makes the vaccine. And it’s small and has limited production capabilities as a result.
The staggering scope of U.S. gun deaths goes far beyond mass shootings - The Washington Post
London Children Offered Polio Vaccine Booster as More Virus Is Found in Sewage - The New York Times
The Pandemic’s Soft Closing - The Atlantic
58% of human infectious diseases can be worsened by climate change - The Conversation
CJW: In Panama, Workers Blocked the Roads to Force Price Cuts — and It Worked - Octavio García Soto at Jacobin
Look to Panama now because this could be the sort of movement we need everywhere if we want to stop capital from choking us as things become more precarious and volatile one coming years.
Even under massive pressure from its people, the government aligns itself with corporations and the interests of capital. Whether you voted them in or not, never pretend that the government cares about you unless and until you force them to.
DCH: Gulp! The secret economics of food delivery - by Jonathan Nunn at The Economist
Uncertainty is inevitable when running a business, but to Elmas this seemed worse. In his short story, “The Lottery in Babylon”, Jorge Luis Borges describes how the titular lottery, unpopular at first, takes off only when punishments are added to the roster of prizes. The element of risk makes the lottery more attractive. As the stakes grow, the lottery’s scope expands to control the fates of citizens, until no one is certain which events it determines and which it does not. Food-delivery apps have been a lifeline to many restaurants throughout the pandemic, though some restaurateurs describe them as an addiction. They know the habit will harm them in the long term; nonetheless, it provides a short-term fix. But the relationship may be more accurately compared to the Babylonian lottery: though the apps chip away at their finances, restaurants feel compelled to buy yet more tickets.
And of course the business models, and their increasingly larger cuts, aren’t constrained just to restaurants. They hit gig workers too. The Borges reference is spot-on.
Workers embrace the bare minimum in ‘quiet quitting’ trend - The Telegraph
Why the US Dollar Is Booming and Creating a Possible Doom Loop - 3 Quarks Daily
UK inflation jumps to new 40-year high - Al Jazeera
Ethereum network sets a target date for the big proof-of-stake switch - The Verge (DCH: this is a good move on the climate front. Without any climate concerns, however, crypto remains a ponzi scheme.)
LZ: Tierra Fresca de su Tumba, by Giovanna Rivero
After finishing the Spanish translation of Anheadir by Michel Houllebercq, I started this other book also in Spanish, but originally written in this language. It’s a collection of gothic horror short stories written by this Bolivian author. Very much a good read to update your views on gothic novels and in a Latin American context.
Her writing is very poetical and uncanny, to the point that it might be a bit hard for those who aren’t really proficient in Spanish as she plays with the language to deliver the uncanny sense of her stories. Curiously, Giovanna also addresses a lot of the influence of Japanese culture in Bolivia. I didn’t know much about this except from a gastronomic perspective, but it’s always great to learn more about the influence of other similarly unrelated cultures to a people.
Unfortunately her work is only translated to Portuguese and Italian, but I hope that by spreading the word about it, more translations come up.
Yeah I know.. Everybody is talking about it, but it’s really justified. The series is great. I didn’t read the comics, but I heard Gaiman did a great job updating the plot to current days but without losing the same 80s ethos that is particular to the work. It is really refreshing to see something like this on mainstream media, in a sense of dream-like scenarios and more artistic approaches to CG rather than all that Marvel BS. The series took me back to the beginning of the 2000s when science fiction and fantasy movies might not have the best CGI, but they were really beautiful and imaginative – and in this sense I always remember The Cell. In a way, it’s like watching Doctor Who but make the CGI better and the plot gothic.
DCH: The original series came out while I was on a long break from comics. I read a few collections here and there but never the whole series. “The Sound of Her Wings” and Hob Gandling always stood out for me as quite excellent. The episode that adapts both of those stories really delivered. Give it a watch.
Oh and Netflix just dropped a bonus ep!
MJW: Trainwreck: Woodstock ‘99
I’m a 90’s kid, what can I say? I went to numerous Big Day Outs and rocked out to all kinds of mid-to-late nineties fare. So, were I in the States, I’d have put on my best hip hugger cargos, belly t and barrettes and headed to Woodstock 99. Lucky for me, I’m not, so I missed out on one of the most misguided attempts to relive a lost past that ever occurred on the festival circuit.
Watch to see white people actually slip and slide around in human shit, the hellish conditions corporate greed and organsational mismanagement can inflict on 250,000 trapped on an air force base for three days, and to remind ourselves why we’re all a little gay for Gavin Rossdale.
DCH: Summer Island by Steve Coulson ![summer-island.jpg]
My former colleague Steve Coulson has written his debut 40 page comic. Midsommar meets Wicker Man vibes. Art by the MidJourney AI.
CJW: Double-Exposure Photos by Christoffer Relander Superimpose Everyday Scenes onto Human Silhouettes - Grace Ebert at Colossal
LZ: Super Futures exhibition at Selfridges London
I got the chance to visit London these days and Selfridges is hosting an interesting exhibition called Super Futures. Some of the works can be seen from the shop window, others are distributed along the massive store. Highlight to Sevdaliza’s robot from the clip for Oh My God being displayed on the window. But there’s also some 3D-printed generative stuff to be seen if you have the energy to hunt for them.
Here’s my two cents on the movie. You already got a taste of what’s here in the previous newsletter as I described some personal stories, but here I elaborate a little bit more how Cronenberg is sticking his finger in the hornet’s nest of body art and biohacking politics.
Speaking of Latin American horror, I have joined this crowdsourced project of a collection of short stories based on Latin American urban legends. My task was to create a story based on the Argentinian urban legend of Subte A, which is about a subway station that was closed after workmen died in the construction. The anthology is in Portuguese, so there’s this caveat in case you are interested in taking a look. :(