Tuesday 20 July, 2021

My holiday reading

Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter

I know you can’t judge a book by its cover but I do like the way David Hockney did the covers for this quartet.

They’re all going into my book bag for the Summer. And I’ll start with Spring.

Quote of the Day

”The man who is asked by an author what he thinks of its worth is put to the torture and is not obliged to speak the truth.”

  • Samuel Johnson

Also applies to those who are asked to provide endorsements for forthcoming books.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Telemann | Trumpet Concerto in D, IV. Allegro | Maurice André |


Long Read of the Day

The Left Needs Free Speech

Splendid essay by Katha Pollitt in Dissent Magazine.

When you ban a book or shut down a speaker, what you’re really saying is that you need to protect people from ideas you disagree with. You don’t trust people to contextualize, to historicize, to weigh evidence, or even just, like me, satisfy a curiosity, without falling down the rabbit hole of error. And if they do fall down, you don’t trust yourself to haul them out. They will stay there forever, nibbling reactionary carrots. You can argue forever that there is no such thing as “cancel culture,” but people know when their intelligence is being disrespected.

This is a salutary read for the ‘woke’ crowd. If you’re a minority in a society — and all radicals and dissenters are — then establishing a principle that folks you disagree with should be deplatformed (or whatever) can be a double-edged sword. Because if your authoritarian or reactionary enemies do attain power, then they will have no hesitation in silencing you.

So who’s the sucker now!

Nice blast from Jonty Bloom

It’s an old poker saying that if after five minutes of play you can’t tell who the sucker is, it is you. This saying was brought to mind by the PM’s pathetic and hugely damaging attempt to avoid self isolating yesterday. Not only did he put out a press release saying he wouldn’t be following the rules like the rest of us, he sent a junior minister to do the media rounds defending his decision.

Two hours and 38 minutes later he did a complete U-Turn and then put out a video statement that while he had briefly considered not isolating he had decided it was in the country’s best interests if he did.

Actually, it would be in the best interests of the country if he self-isolated in the Antarctic— for a decade or so.

The Anti-virus racket

From Bloomberg ‘Fully Charged” newsletter. Although the company also has a ‘Fully Charged’ website, it never seems to include links for the newsletter content, so I’ll just have to summarise what the newsletter says.

Hey y’all, it’s Austin, with some urgent news: My computer, and presumably yours, is in perilous danger. As McAfee Corp. has repeatedly warned me lately in radioactive-red pop-ups, “Emerging cyber-attack techniques threaten devices worldwide and may let hackers: steal your passwords; infiltrate private photos, emails, documents; [and] exploit hardware flaws in your devices.”

According to the McAfee promotion, which is built into my Windows desktop, I have only two options: click the “accept risk” button or renew my $120-per-year subscription for their antivirus software. For PC users, these types of five-alarm cybersecurity ads will be familiar, a scare tactic ubiquitous since the dawn of the internet. The crazy thing is that they still seem to work, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They do. Working from Home has sparked has sparked renewed panicked usage of cybersecurity programs.

McAfee, for one, saw net subscriptions jump 885,000 last quarter while revenue increased 25% compared with the same period last year. And NortonLifeLock has attracted nearly 1 million new subscribers since March 2020, after losing 1.2 million the previous eight quarters.

But while the enterprise cybersecurity market is booming, the consumer alternatives, says Bloomberg, seem to be stuck in the past —

still marketing the same frightening digital hazards and swearing that their software will envelope your computer in a cocoon of safety. NortonLifeLock’s Chief Executive Officer Vincent Pilette was only recently on TV talking up how the “bad guys” were coming after people by artificially replicating your voice in order to trick others into divulging information about you. Never mind that Norton’s antivirus software wouldn’t exactly protect against this sort of advanced threat; their pitch is apparently that you should pay for their security blanket so you mitigate the risk of getting into this situation in the first place. NortonLifeLock didn’t respond to a request for comment.

I’m not surprised they didn’t want to comment.

Delta Variant: Everything You Need to Know

By Thomas Pueyo, who thinks that people haven’t been paying enough attention to the Delta variant.

The original Coronavirus variant has an R0 of 2.71. Alpha—the “English variant” that caused a spike around the world around Christmas—is about 60% more infectious. Now it appears that Delta is about 60% more transmissible yet again. Depending on which figure you use, it would put Delta’s R0 between 4 and 9, which could make it more contagious than smallpox.

Key takeaways:

If you’re vaccinated, you’re mostly safe, especially with mRNA vaccines. Keep your guard up for now, avoid events that might become super-spreaders, but you don’t need to worry much more than that.

If you’re not vaccinated though, this is a much more dangerous time than March 2020. The transmission rate is higher than it used to be, and if you catch Delta, you’re much more likely to die—or get Long COVID. You should be extra careful, only hang out with other vaccinated people, and avoid dangerous events.

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