Wednesday 4 October, 2023

Getting to the point…

Brandon Point, Kerry.

A St Bridget’s Cross marks the spot.

Quote of the Day

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

  • Max Planck

In other words, science advances “one funeral at a time”.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Lou Monte | Lazy Mary | 1958


Thanks to Dave Winer for the suggestion.

Long Read of the Day

 Amazon Is the Apex Predator of Our Platform Era

Characteristically sharp OpEd by Cory Doctorow (Whom God Preserve) on the FTC’s antitrust case against Amazon. He starts by putting the case into its historical context, the democratic need to rein the industrial trusts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those ‘robber barons’, he writes,

couldn’t lay a railroad or erect a steel mill without time-consuming capital and logistical hurdles. Today’s tech barons at huge platforms like Amazon, Google and Meta can deploy anticompetitive, deceptive and unfair tactics with the agility and speed of a digital system. As in any shell game, the quickness of the hand deceives the eye.

And Amazon is the apex predator of our platform era. Having first subsidized end-users and then offered favorable terms to business customers, Amazon was able to exploit its digital flexibility to lock both in and raid them for an ever-increasing share of the value they created. This program of redistribution from platform users to shareholders continued until Amazon became a vestigial place, a retail colossus barely hindered by either competition or regulation, where prices go up as quality goes down and the undifferentiated slurry of products from obscure brands is wreathed in inauthentic reviews…

In my Observer column on Sunday, I wrote that the current antitrust section against Google iS the landmark case du jour. I suspect that Cory disagrees with that and believes that the Amazon case is the big one. He may be right. But the important thing is that the sleeping giant of the US Department of Justice has finally woken up.

Books, etc.

In what some marketing genius thought would be a major coup, Michael Lewis’s book on Sam Bankman-Fried, the maestro of the FTX fiasco, came out on the day that the lad’s trial opened in New York. And it rapidly became clear that Lewis’s winning formula for producing bestselling long-form journalism may have come unstuck. As the New York Times review, put it, “Even Michael Lewis Can’t Make a Hero Out of Sam Bankman-Fried”. With this particular protagonist, the Lewis recipe of upbeat narrative plus unsung genius didn’t fit.

Bankman-Fried was supposed to be another hero in this vein — or at least that’s what Lewis suggests in the opening pages of “Going Infinite,” recalling how a friend who was about to close a deal with Bankman-Fried had asked Lewis to look into him. After his first meeting with Bankman-Fried at the end of 2021, Lewis says, he “was totally sold.” He called up his friend: “Go for it! Swap shares with Sam Bankman-Fried! Do whatever he wants to do! What could possibly go wrong?”

The profusion of exclamation points is a tipoff that Lewis is at least somewhat aware how dumb such optimism looks in retrospect…

It sure does.

The Guardian had an excellent Long Read about Lewis and his modus operandi. And Molly White (Whom God Preserve) has a wonderful preview of the trial.

My commonplace booklet

The Tory strategy

Perceptive blast from Jonty Bloom

The battle lines are being drawn up by the Tory party for the next election. They are going for the votes of older people, drivers, Brexit ultras, climate change deniers, and racists.

Unfortunately, for them, a Venn diagram of those groups is pretty circular, it looks like they are trying to win the votes of the same people again and again. But they are not stupid and they must have done some polling that suggests there is a chance to get a bandwagon rolling.

But to do that they are willing to ruin the planet, reverse decades of political consensus, kill pedestrians, and now threaten to break international law and withdraw from some of the most respected and universally supported international agreements.

And the funny thing is that people used to think that Sunak was a more reasonable guy than Truss and Johnson.


Something I noticed, while drinking from the Internet firehose.

NASA is plotting how to build houses on the moon by 2040


Yeah, and who gave them Planning Permission?

This Blog is also available as an email three days a week. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays delivered to your inbox at 6am UK time. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!