Tuesday 27 July, 2021

Royal visit

Possibly annoyed by the fuss I made in the first lockdown over the little blue tits who were nesting just outside our kitchen window, my friend David Vincent was looking for a way of demonstrating that we were just low-class birders. Hence this photograph of the kind of avian visitor who visits his bird-feeding set-up.

En passant My favourite New Yorker cartoon shows a male peacock with fully-extended regalia confronting a distinctly unimpressed female. “What do you mean ’no’?”, he is exclaiming.

You may have noticed the comedy of errors with yesterday’s edition. First of all, almost all of the links had been scrambled in one way or another. So thank you for the tolerant way in which many of you reported them. I then went through the entire thing fixing the links and hit ‘publish’ to get a corrected copy to anyone who might want it. In doing this I failed to notice that the ‘corrected’ version was for the 26th of January. Upon discovering this I rapidly lost the will to live.

However, I was revived by a sweet email from Patrick O’Beirne which reminded me that errors in corrections are a staple of journalistic lore. The example he cited was the celebrated one: “We apologise for referring to Mr Smith as a defective member of the police force; he is of course a detective member of the police farce.”

My problem, of course, is that I am an aspiring multi-tasker who was born with a bug-ridden time-sharing algorithm. When I mentioned this once to my friend Quentin, he said, reassuringly, “Don’t worry; we can always have you re-flashed.”

Quote of the Day

”If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.”

  • John von Neumann

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Haydn | Symphony No.59 in A major, ‘Fire’ | IV Allegro Assai


Just in case you were feeling sleepy this morning.

Long Read of the Day

Why Neoliberalism Needs Neofascists

A vigorous and insightful essay by Prabhat Patnaik.

The narrative that neoliberalism would benefit everyone retained a certain currency until the early 2000s, for at least two reasons. First, neoliberal globalization was said to have contributed to the astonishing reduction of poverty in China—the economist Pranab Bardhan has forcefully questioned this conventional story in these pages—and a significant segment of the global middle class did do well: its opportunities expanded thanks to the outsourcing of a range of activities from advanced countries and to a rise in the share of economic surplus, caused by languishing wages but increased productivity of the working class. Second, even those hurt by the neoliberal regime often nurtured the hope that persistent high growth would sooner or later “trickle down” to them—a hope fed incessantly by a media establishment dominated by the middle and upper classes.

This hope more decisively receded, however, as the high-growth phase of neoliberal capitalism ended in 2008 with the collapse of the U.S. housing bubble, giving way to protracted crisis and stagnation in the world economy. As the old prop of trickle-down economics lost its credibility, a new prop was needed to sustain the neoliberal regime politically. The solution came in the form of an alliance between globally integrated corporate capital and local neofascist elements.

He uses what’s happened to India under Modi as a compelling case study.

Chart of the Day

An extinction-level threat timeline

What would happen if astronomers detected an extinction-scale asteroid on a collision course with earth.

Lovely Twitter thread. (Hint: arXiv is involved. Also Elon Musk.)

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