Thursday 20 August, 2020

Clean break?

Quote of the Day

“Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-wracking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, unlike adultery or gluttony, be practised at rare moments; it is a whole-time job.”

  • Somerset Maugham, Cakes and Ale, chapter 1.

Now why does this remind me of Boris Johnson?

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Andres Segovia Plays Minuet and Trio by Joseph Haydn


Apple is now a $2 trillion company

Which only goes to show the disconnect between the stock market and the real world. More evidence is provided by the Tesla market cap.

Text and video of Barack Obama’s speech to the 2020 Democratic Convention

Text can be found here

Link to video

Truth decay: when uncertainty is weaponized

Terrific review in Nature by Felicity Lawrence of David Michaels’s new book, The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception. Sample:

These are indeed upside-down times, as epidemiologist and former safety regulator David Michaels demonstrates in his excoriating account of the corporate denial industry, The Triumph of Doubt. Unwelcome news is automatically rebranded fake news. Inconvenient evidence from independent sources — say, about climate breakdown and fossil fuels, or air pollution and diesel emissions — is labelled junk science and countered with rigged studies claiming to be sound.

But it would be wrong to see truth decay solely as the preserve of today’s populist politicians. Normalizing the production of alternative facts is a project long in the making. Consultancy firms that specialize in defending products from tobacco to industrial chemicals that harm the public and the environment have made a profession of undermining truth for decades. They hire mercenary scientists to fulfil a crucial role as accessories to their misrepresentations.

Michaels was among the first scientists to identify this denial machine, in his 2008 book Doubt is Their Product. His latest work combines an authoritative synthesis of research on the denial machine published since then with his own new insights gleaned from battles to control the toxic effects of a range of substances. He takes on per- and polyfluoroalkyls, widely used in non-stick coatings, textiles and firefighting foams; the harmful effects of alcohol and sugar; the disputed role of the ubiquitous glyphosate-based pesticides in cancer; and the deadly epidemic of addiction to prescribed opioid painkillers. In each case, Michaels records how the relevant industry has used a toolbox of methods to downplay the risks of its products, spreading disinformation here, hiding evidence of harm there, undermining authorities — all tactics from the tobacco industry’s playbook…

How to fix a lethal aircraft

Step 1: Get advice from the President

Step 2: Implement it

Boeing Press Release issued today:

WARSAW, Poland, Aug. 19, 2020 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] and Enter Air today announced the Polish airline is expanding its commitment to the 737 family with a new order for two 737-8 airplanes plus options for two more jets.

No mention of the 737 MAX. Yet that’s what Enter Air is actually buying.

HT to Cory Doctorow for spotting it.

Remind me never to fly Enter Air.

Summer books #9

The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson, Norton, 2018.

A truly extraordinary and beautiful book: Homer’s epic translated in vigorous, pellucid prose. It has exactly the same number of lines as the original. And the pages are rough-cut to encourage the suspension of disbelief. Here’s how it begins:

Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered on the sea, and how he worked
to save his life and bring his men back home.
He failed, and for their own mistakes, they died.
They ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.


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