Wednesday 14 October, 2020

Ludwig’s shadow

Ascension Churchyard, Cambridge.

Quote of the Day

”With the money I spent I could have elected my chauffeur.”

  • Joseph Kennedy, on his financial contributions to his son Jack’s Presidential campaign.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Musical Flash Mob: Ode an die Freude ( Ode to Joy ) Beethoven Symphony No.9 classical


This is truly wonderful IMHO. Made my morning.

An Open Letter to Judge Amy Coney Barrett from her Notre Dame colleagues

Interesting text:

Dear Judge Barrett, We write to you as fellow faculty members at the University of Notre Dame. We congratulate you on your nomination to the United States Supreme Court. An appointment to the Court is the crowning achievement of a legal career and speaks to the commitments you have made throughout your life. And while we are not pundits, from what we read your confirmation is all but assured. That is why it is vital that you issue a public statement calling for a halt to your nomination process until after the November presidential election. We ask that you take this unprecedented step for three reasons.

First, voting for the next president is already underway. According to the United States Election Project (, more than seven million people have already cast their ballots, and millions more are likely to vote before election day. The rushed nature of your nomination process, which you certainly recognize as an exercise in raw power politics, may effectively deprive the American people of a voice in selecting the next Supreme Court justice. You are not, of course, responsible for the anti-democratic machinations driving your nomination. Nor are you complicit in the Republican hypocrisy of fast-tracking your nomination weeks before a presidential election when many of the same senators refused to grant Merrick Garland so much as a hearing a full year before the last election. However, you can refuse to be party to such maneuvers. We ask that you honor the democratic process and insist the hearings be put on hold until after the voters have made their choice. Following the election, your nomination would proceed, or not, in accordance with the wishes of the winning candidate.

Next, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish was that her seat on the court remain open until a new president was installed. At your nomination ceremony at the White House, you praised Justice Ginsburg as “a woman of enormous talent and consequence, whose life of public service serves as an example to us all.” Your nomination just days after Ginsburg’s death was unseemly and a repudiation of her legacy. Given your admiration for Justice Ginsburg, we ask that you repair the injury to her memory by calling for a pause in the nomination until the next president is seated.

Finally, your nomination comes at a treacherous moment in the United States. Our politics are consumed by polarization, mistrust, and fevered conspiracy theories. Our country is shaken by pandemic and economic suffering. There is violence in the streets of American cities. The politics of your nomination, as you surely understand, will further inflame our civic wounds, undermine confidence in the court, and deepen the divide among ordinary citizens, especially if you are seated by a Republican Senate weeks before the election of a Democratic president and congress. You have the opportunity to offer an alternative to all that by demanding that your nomination be suspended until after the election. We implore you to take that step.

We’re asking a lot, we know. Should Vice-President Biden be elected, your seat on the court will almost certainly be lost. That would be painful, surely. Yet there is much to be gained in risking your seat. You would earn the respect of fair-minded people everywhere. You would provide a model of civic selflessness. And you might well inspire Americans of different beliefs toward a renewed commitment to the common good.

We wish you well and trust you will make the right decision for our nation.

Yours in Notre Dame,…

(94 signatures)

Retail’s tick-box approach to supply chains is untenable

Excellent Financial Times report by Sarah O’Connor

The Covid-19 pandemic has given us a rare insight into the power dynamics in supply chains under stress. When demand plunged for new clothes, for instance, many retailers (with notable exceptions, such as H&M and Inditex) acted swiftly to push as much pain as possible downwards.

UK retailer New Look told suppliers it was suspending outstanding payments owed to them indefinitely. In Bangladesh, a study found that half of garment suppliers had the bulk of their in-process, or already completed, orders cancelled. Of those, 72 per cent of buyers refused to pay for raw materials, such as fabric, that the supplier had already bought, and 91 per cent would not pay for the production cost. More than 1m garment workers in Bangladesh were fired or furloughed as a result of order cancellations and buyers’ failure to pay for them.

Retailers shape outcomes for workers in normal times, too. While they tell suppliers to comply with audits and labour laws, many simultaneously insist on short lead-times, low prices and unpredictable order flows that push suppliers in the opposite direction, according to a study by the International Labour Organization. There is often a power struggle within companies. “Ethical managers approve factories . . . but if you have a very strong buying director, they’ll just overrule it,” the chief executive of one retailer told me.

To Mend a Broken Internet, Create Online Parks

Terrific longish read by Eli Pariser, whose 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You, provided a prescient warning of the way our networked world would evolve. In it he argued that “the rise of pervasive, embedded filtering is changing the way we experience the Internet and ultimately the world”. We would, he warned, wind up living in “filter bubbles” — personalised information ecosystems or digital echo-chambers — that insulate us from views of the world that do not accord with ours.

Pariser’s new essay was prompted by reflecting on the public park in Brooklyn, where he lives — Fort Greene Park, a 30-acre square of elm trees, winding paths, playgrounds, and monuments. The park serves, he writes, “as an early-morning romper room, midday meeting point, festival ground, and farm stand. There are house-music dance parties, soccer games during which you can hear cursing in at least five languages, and, of course, the world-famous Great Pupkin Halloween Dog Costume Contest”. Most importantly, though, it allows very different people to gather and coexist in the same space. “When it’s all working”, he says, “Fort Greene Park can feel like an ode to pluralistic democracy itself”.

The nicest thing about his essay is its historic sensibility. In 1846, Walt Whitman envisioned Fort Greene Park to serve that democratic purpose. New York City had no public parks at the time — only walled commercial pleasure gardens for the wealthy. Whitman, then editor of ‘The Brooklyn Eagle’, campaigned for a space that would accommodate everyone, especially the working-class immigrants crowded into shanty towns along nearby Myrtle Avenue. And he succeeded.

Pariser thinks that the Internet needs the equivalent because social-media are fake public spaces controlled by their owners, and he discusses the obstacles that would have to be overcome if we were to create the online equivalent of what Walt Whitman successfully campaigned for in 1846.

Nice, thoughtful essay. Worth reading in full.

A Quarter Century of Hype – 25 Years of the Gartner Hype Cycle

If, like me, you’ve found the Gartner Hype Cycle a useful tool for explaining tech obsessions, then you’ll love this video: A Quarter Century of Hype – 25 Years of the Gartner Hype Cycle on Vimeo

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