• From Bill Gates’ end-of-year Gates Notes newsletter:
“My favorite innovation story, though, starts with one of my favorite statistics: Since 2000, the world has cut in half the number of children who die before the age of five.
How did we do it? One key reason was innovation. Scientists came up with new ways to make vaccines that were faster and cheaper but just as safe. They developed new delivery mechanisms that worked in the world’s most remote places, which made it possible to reach more kids. And they created new vaccines that protect children from deadly diseases like rotavirus.”
Elon Musk continues his descent into less-than-complete sanity, though I had hoped he’d learned a lesson from his most recent ill-advised antisemitic tweet. Alas, wrong again. He’s reached new lows by reinstating Alex Jones’ X account despite Jones previously being permanently banned for his horribly egregious Sandy Hook actions. Musk this time hiding behind his “the people have spoken” poll results (which apparently confirm what a cesspool X has become). I don’t know if Musk is mentally ill, or simply completely amoral and grasping for any new users to prop up what’s left of Twitter. Either way, it’s sickening. See the December 11 Joy of Tech…
• Look upon it and despair at our inability to offer a direct solution like banning assault weapons – or even magazine sizes. Instead, we offer “prayer” platitudes or claim it’s “a mental health problem” (which of course we also don’t deal with adequately).
Thank you, Washington Post, for offering this still-sanitized lesson in the reality of the destroyed human lives caused by mass shootings using assault weapons. See: A rare look at the devastation caused by AR-15 shootings
“Exposure to fine particulate air pollutants from coal-fired power plants (coal PM2.5) is associated with a risk of mortality more than double that of exposure to PM2.5 from other sources…Examining Medicare and emissions data in the U.S. from 1999 to 2020, the researchers also found that 460,000 deaths were attributable to coal PM2.5 during the study period — most of them occurring between 1999 and 2007, when coal PM2.5 levels were highest.”
• I’m with Brian Klaas on this one – he talks about how we have so normalized DJT’s unhinged ravings (and fear amplifying them) that little media attention is given to how much of a threat he is to democracy, the rule of law, and social order. Read his essay The Case for Amplifying Trump’s Insanity. An excerpt:
“Bombarded by a constant stream of deranged authoritarian extremism from a man who might soon return to the presidency, we’ve lost all sense of scale and perspective. But neither the American press nor the public can afford to be lulled. The man who, as president, incited a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to overturn an election is again openly fomenting political violence while explicitly endorsing authoritarian strategies should he return to power. That is the story of the 2024 election. Everything else is just window dressing.”
• I just can’t help recommending Matt Levine’s November 20 Bloomberg Opinion piece on who controls OpenAI (and, also excellent, on the not-quite-right “negative emissions” profile of plans to cut trees to burn wood to fuel carbon capture). Great stuff, Matt (and he quotes from a Ted Chiang essay, another plus!).
• David Wallace-Wells does a pretty good takedown of some of the theses presented in Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera’s“The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects and Who It Leaves Behind” – especially the ones in the clickbait-titled, New York Magazine excerpted “Covid Lockdowns Were a Giant Experiment. It Was a Failure.” Wallace-Wells often disagrees, and has data to back up his arguments.
• Timothy Lee tries to reduce your AI-induced anxiety in his substack post Why I’m not afraid of superintelligent AI taking over the world. Basically, he posits that preexisting knowledge, not tokens/training data volume, is a limiting factor, both because of its finite, non fungible nature. It’s definitely worth reading, though I found it only mildly reassuring. Someone will eventually allow AI to test hypotheses in the real world ad lib, and then it will likely generate its own new knowledge based on empirical results.
When someone tells you who they are, over and over, in words and actions, BELIEVE THEM! DJT is an abomination who openly talks about how he will dismantle our democracy, violate the Constitution, and take vengeance on his perceived enemies using the apparatus of a government filled with cronies he installs. See:
Jamelle Bouie in the NYT : “And Donald Trump is telling us, loud and clear, that he wants to end American democracy as we know it.”
Eric Foner in the NYT: “President Trump announced that he plans to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship, the principle that everyone born in the United States, with a handful of exceptions, is automatically a citizen of the United States.“It was always told to me,” the president declared, “that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t.””
Catherine Rampell, WashPo, quoting DJT: “If I happen to be president, and I see somebody who’s doing well and beating me very badly, I say, ‘Go down and indict them,’” he said. “They’d be out of business. They’d be out of the election.”
Heather Cox Richardson in her Letters From an American, also quoting the weirdly bronzed one: “In honor of our great Veterans on Veteran’s Day [sic] we pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, Racists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our Country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American Dream”
David Graham, writing in the Atlantic: “In fact, much of what Trump is discussing is un-American, not merely in the sense of being antithetical to some imagined national set of mores, but in that his ideas contravene basic principles of the Constitution or other bedrock bases of American government. They are the sorts of ideas that would have been shocking to hear from any mainstream politician just a decade ago.”