Links of the Month: August 2023

Midjourney AI’s take on “pointing the finger of blame”

You are not responsible. Not for your actions, or your inaction, or anything that has happened or will happen or failed to happen. Not for the world’s fuckedupedness.

I’m not saying that to make you feel better. You had no free will or choice in, or control over, what you did or did not do. Everything you have done or will do is the result of your conditioning. Individual action isn’t how social or other change comes about anyway. Human behaviour is an emergent phenomenon, highly dependent on the immediate and ever-changing local situation and the needs of the moment. No one is to blame for what does or does not happen. No one is responsible for the mess. What has happened is the only thing that could have happened. The deus ex machina only occurs in simplistic revisionist history, fairy tales, and Hollywood movies.

This is how the world works. Not predictably, not according to grand design or predestination or consensual collective intention or mass uprising. Often not prettily. (But pretty wondrously nevertheless.) This is what collapse, which is always inevitable, looks like.

The last words and epitaph of our civilization will be: If everyone had only…


famous line from The Princess Bride, which perhaps also applies to the word ‘collapse’

Science ‘journalists’ clueless on collapse: Most of the mainstream media misreported a journal article predicting the 50% chance of the AMOC North Atlantic circulatory system changing course between 2025-2095 as “collapse of the Gulf Stream as soon as 2025“. And we wonder why the general public is clueless! Meanwhile, seawater temperatures off Florida’s coast hit a world record (38ºC, 101ºF), the standard hot tub temperature, resulting in a health warning to residents. In our preoccupation with ‘average’ global temperatures, we’re missing the fact that ocean, arctic and antarctic temperature changes have already soared far past the point of no return.

Badmouthing climate realists: Meanwhile the magical thinking humanist salvationists like Rebecca Solnit are dissing scientists and citizens who say it’s time to get real and who want us to shift to preparing for inevitable collapse, as if those who care about the issue weren’t already divided and discouraged enough. Fortunately there are saner voices like Umair Haque to call them on it.

We’re already geoengineering: Hank Green explores whether instead of throwing more waste products, metals and artificial crap into the air to see if anything helps, we might see if putting perfectly natural stuff up there (like water vapour) might help at least a little. I’m not sure about this, but he makes a coherent argument.

Democracy is a great idea that doesn’t work in practice: Indrajit Samarajiva goes a step further than those who say capitalism is hopelessly flawed idealism, and asserts that the same is true of our naïve idealism about democracy. And that naïveté is preventing us from getting real about the impossibility of making real changes to our political and economic systems, and hence about the inevitability of collapse.


from the memebrary

The fracturing of the petit bourgeoisie: Rhyd Wildermuth reviews Dan Evans’ book A Nation of Shopkeepers, arguing that economic events have caused the (increasingly struggling) western middle class to split into two factions, only one of which relates to the “social justice identitarianism politics” now espoused by the western Tweedledee parties like Democrats, Liberals, Labour and Greens. Thus enabling a shift towards the reactionary populist Tweedledum parties (Republicans, Conservatives), the only other game in town. Worth thinking about.

The appeal of cult thinking: Richard Heinberg strays from his usual collapsnik essays to describe his brush with cults, their allure, and the dangers they pose to all of us. Thanks to Bart Anderson for the link.

Why soy milk is better for you than both dairy and other ‘alt milks’: Michael Gregor looks at the nutrition data. Includes a transcript for those allergic to videos.


record high temperature in Death Valley — photo op!

Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism: Short takes (the first two articles in particular are essential reading; thanks to John Whiting for many of these links):

Propaganda, Censorship, Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:

CoVid-19 Refuses to be Cancelled: Short takes:


from the memebrary — photoshopped panel from an old Calvin and Hobbes strip; if you don’t get the reference, ask a Canadian

Ólafur Arnalds from Iceland’s volcanic wilderness: A recording of an outdoor concert in one of the most desolate and breathtaking places on the planet. Includes some of his finest compositions, and a travelogue of Iceland seen from the air.

Great contemporary women artists: A profile of 17 outstanding  modern women artists with examples of their work and links to more.

What is money?: A great Economics 101 primer on money, banking and the modern economy with no-bullshit economist Yanis Varoufakis.

The nonsense of Meyers-Briggs: The great physicist Sabine Hossenfelder continues to wander far outside her areas of expertise, but this time credibly deconstructs our obsession with meaningless ‘personality tests’. And in another article, she describes what’s wrong with modern-day theoretical physics, where she’s on solid ground. (Hint: It’s about money.)

South Africans fight Alberta forest fires: And they greet their hosts with heart-warming rousing music, to the astonishment of onlookers. Thanks to Peter Webb for the link.

The state of the media: If you want to see how low the mainstream media will sink to get readers, take a look (carefully: multiple trigger warnings, even just the headline) at this nauseating piece of ‘reporting’ by the Toronto Sun, owned by PostMedia, Canada’s largest newspaper publisher. Even the News of the World and the National Inquirer were better than this.

“Wichita Lineman” deconstructed: Composer Jimmy Webb and Rick Beato talk about how the song evolved, break it down compositionally, and credit its influences. A wonderful interview with a brilliant writer of words and music.

More pop music mashups: DJ Earworm has been cleverly mixing audio and video from each year’s US top 25 pop hits for more than a decade, and the resulting ‘mashups’ are usually better than any of their components. Some of the best are his mashups from 2022, 2021, and 2016.


New Yorker cartoon by Benjamin Schwartz

From Julian Assange, on the function of Wikileaks, in 2010 (thanks to Caitlin Johnstone for the link, and the one that follows):

We can all write about our political issues, we can all push for particular things we believe in, we can all have particular brands of politics, but I say actually it’s all bankrupt. And the reason it’s all bankrupt, and all current political theories are bankrupt and particular lines of political thought, is because actually we don’t know what the hell is going on. And until we know the basic structures of our institutions — how they operate in practice, these titanic organizations, how they behave inside, not just through stories but through vast amounts of internal documentations — until we know that, how can we possibly make a diagnosis? How can we set the direction to go until we know where we are? We don’t even have a map of where we are. So our first task is to build up a sort of intellectual heritage that describes where we are. And once we know where we are, then we have a hope of setting course for a different direction.

From Noam Chomsky, on the limits of acceptable opinion:

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

From Indrajit Samarajiva, on Biden’s decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine:

Cluster bombs are the spray-and-pray of artillery, and prayer is not a winning military strategy… Cluster bombs salt the earth with high explosives, which make them a crazy thing for Ukraine on soil it claims to care about. They fail at a much higher rate than 1%, 14% according to the NYTimes. I’m citing from imperial propaganda rags because even they can’t hide the depravity. These are widely illegal weapons for a reason. They are also not nearly as effective as A) just having a steady supply of regular shells and B) more accurate guided and drone munitions. It’s really a unique combination of evil and incompetent. Forget wunderwaffen like F16s and HIMARS, how do you win an artillery war with no bullets?… The great White Empire is running out of bullets. They’re becoming the butt of a joke. And the punchline is the severed legs of children.

From Indi again, citing municipal engineer Charles Marohn, on the unsustainability of urban development:

Every road is actually a long-term liability, and cities don’t raise nearly enough money from taxes to pay for them. Instead they take money from new projects to pay for maintenance on the old, just kicking the can down the literal road. And we’re rapidly nearing the end of the road. If you thought the housing collapse was fun, wait for the roads collapse. In this case actual tunnels and bridges will fall down.

[Charles writes:] “We began to collect hard numbers from actual projects and compare those costs to the revenue generated by the underlying development pattern. This work continues, but in every instance we have studied so far, there is a tremendous gap in the long-term finances once the full life-cycle cost of the public obligations are factored in. Without a dramatic shift of household and business resources from things like food, energy, transportation, health care, education, etc… and into infrastructure maintenance, we do not have even a fraction of the money necessary to maintain our basic infrastructure systems.”

The very reasons [he cites] for the car-city’s collapse (“it’s too expensive!”) are the reasons the car-city can never change (“it’s too expensive!”) It’s the sunk-cost fallacy writ large. Americans have simply invested too much publicly in roads and too much privately in cars to ever turn around. The system will just keep going until the bridges fall down and the oil runs out. Chuck puts the problem simply when he says:

“The great American experiment in suburban development entices communities to take on long-term liabilities in exchange for near-term cash advantages. But as those liabilities cost the community more than the development creates in overall wealth, the approach ultimately results in insolvency. To forestall the day of reckoning, more growth is induced, setting up a Ponzi scheme scenario where revenue from new development is used to pay liabilities associated with old development  This is unsustainable, but that has not kept us from trying desperately to keep it all going.”

What I think he misses is what Aboriginal thinker Tyson Yunkaporta observes when he says, “it really is not possible to maintain massive nations and cities in any sustainable form.”

From Carl Jung, on “the task of social adaptation” (thanks to Paul Heft and The Negative Psychologist Nick Williams for the link):

This task [social adaptation] is so exacting, and its fulfilment so advantageous, that one forgets oneself in the process, losing sight of one’s instinctual nature and putting one’s own conception of oneself in place of one’s real being.

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1 Response to Links of the Month: August 2023

  1. Vera says:

    Aurelien said: “In an earlier essay, I talked about the infantilisation of much western political culture today, even in the case of serious subjects such as Ukraine. I think this is largely the fault of the PMC, a caste for which nothing is ever completely real, much of life is a game or a mathematical model, or a series of numbers in a report, and where you can always abandon things when they go wrong, and start again. As a caste, they are fundamentally frivolous, no matter how seriously they take themselves, and, like children, they never want to take responsibility or blame for anything.”

    Dave says: You are not responsible. Not for your actions, or your inaction…

    Vera asks: Cool idea, obviously. Have you considered its consequences in the real world, if applied?

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