Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Orwell Test - “An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”

A woman has been charged over the alleged domestic violence murder of a man stabbed to death at Matraville in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Yelling and screaming’
 Woman charged after man stabbed to death in eastern suburbs

Admissions,” is unlike any economist’s memoir I have ever read. Most don’t mention picking up streetwalkers. Or smoking crack in a faculty office at Harvard’s Kennedy School — or in an airplane at 30,000 feet. Or stealing a car. Or having sex on a beach in Israel with a mistress and attracting the attention of the Israel Defense Forces. Or later being arrested and charged with assaulting her. Or cuckolding a best friend….“Late Admissions” passes the Orwell Test. “An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”


Of course, even given all this, Loury has had a successful career as an economist and as a public intellectual.

Here’s a less salacious Conversations with Tyler and here is EconTalk both with Loury.

 ProPublica: How 3M Executives Convinced a Scientist the Forever Chemicals She Found in Human Blood Were Safe – “Kris Hansen had worked as a chemist at the 3M Corporation for about a year when her boss, an affable senior scientist named Jim Johnson, gave her a strange assignment. 3M had invented Scotch Tape and Post-­it notes; it sold everything from sandpaper to kitchen sponges. But on this day, in 1997, Johnson wanted Hansen to test human blood for chemical contamination. Several of 3M’s most successful products contained man-made compounds called fluorochemicals. In a spray called Scotchgard, fluorochemicals protected leather and fabric from stains. 

In a coating known as Scotchban, they prevented food packaging from getting soggy. In a soapy foam used by firefighters, they helped extinguish jet-fuel fires. Johnson explained to Hansen that one of the company’s fluorochemicals, PFOS — short for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid — often found its way into the bodies of 3M factory workers. Although he said that they were unharmed, he had recently hired an outside lab to measure the levels in their blood. The lab had just reported something odd, however. For the sake of comparison, it had tested blood samples from the American Red Cross, which came from the general population and should have been free of fluorochemicals. Instead, it kept finding a contaminant in the blood. Johnson asked Hansen to figure out whether the lab had made a mistake. 

Detecting trace levels of chemicals was her specialty: She had recently written a doctoral dissertation about tiny particles in the atmosphere. Hansen’s team of lab technicians and junior scientists fetched a blood sample from a lab-­supply company and prepped it for analysis. Then Hansen switched on an oven-­size box known as a mass spectrometer, which weighs molecules so that scientists can identify them. As the lab equipment hummed around her, Hansen loaded a sample into the machine. A graph appeared on the mass spectrometer’s display; it suggested that there was a compound in the blood that could be PFOS.

 That’s weird, Hansen thought. Why would a chemical produced by 3M show up in people who had never worked for the company? Hansen didn’t want to share her results until she was certain that they were correct, so she and her team spent several weeks analyzing more blood, often in time-consuming overnight tests. All the samples appeared to be contaminated. When Hansen used a more precise method, liquid chromatography, the results left little doubt that the chemical in the Red Cross blood was PFOS. Hansen now felt obligated to update her boss. Johnson was a towering, bearded man, and she liked him: 

He seemed to trust her expertise, and he found something to laugh about in most conversations. But, when she shared her findings, his response was cryptic. “This changes everything,” he said. Before she could ask him what he meant, he went into his office and closed the door…”

DISPATCHES FROM THE HERMIT KINGDOM: Photographer’s Rare Images Reveal Everyday Life in North Korea.

THE MASTERPIECE OF OUR TIME: On The Gulag Archipelago at fifty.

Western intellectuals usually supposed that Russian dissidents might suffer the sort of punishment that in their own countries is reserved for dangerous criminals. At worst, Westerners pictured conditions like those in tsarist Russia, long considered the model of an oppressive state. That is why Solzhenitsyn devotes so many passages to contrasting what passed for tyranny in nineteenth-century Russia with ordinary Soviet conditions.

Begin with numbers. Solzhenitsyn instructs: from 1876 to 1904—a period of mass strikes, peasant revolts, and terrorism claiming the lives of Tsar Alexander II and other top officials—“486 people were executed; in other words, about seventeen people per year for the whole country,” a figure that includes “ordinary, nonpolitical criminals!” During the 1905 revolution and its suppression, “executions rocketed upward, astounding Russian imaginations, calling forth tears from Tolstoy and indignation from [the writer Vladimir] Korolenko, and many, many others: from 1905 through 1908 2,200 persons were executed,” a number contemporaries described as an “epidemic ofexecutions.”

By contrast, Soviet judicial killings—whether by shooting, forced starvation, or hard labor at forty degrees below zero—numbered in the tens of millions. Crucially, condemnation did not require individual guilt. As early as 1918, Solzhenitsyn points out, the Cheka (secret police) leader M. I. Latsis instructed revolutionary tribunals dispensing summary justice to disregard personal guilt or innocence and just ascertain the prisoner’s class origin: this “must determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning of the Red Terror.”

On this basis, over five million peasants (classed as “kulaks,” supposedly better off than their neighbors) were forcibly exiled to completely unsettled wastelands with no food or tools, where they were left to die. The same punishment later befell whole nationalities deemed potentially disloyal (such as ethnic Germans, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars) or dangerous because of the possibility of receiving subversive support from a foreign power (as in the case of Koreans and Poles). “The liquidation of the kulaks as a class” was followed by the deliberate starvation of millions of peasants. All food for a large area of what is now Ukraine was requisitioned, and even fishing in the rivers was prohibited, so that over the next few months inhabitants starved to death. Idealistic young Bolsheviks from the capital enforced the famine. In total, Stalin’s war on the countryside claimed more than ten million lives. As Solzhenitsyn makes clear, this crime is not nearly as well known among intellectuals as the Great Purges, which claimed fewer victims, because many purge victims were themselves intellectuals.

Arrests also took place by quotas assigned to local secret-police offices, which, if they knew what was good for them, petitioned to arrest still more. After World War II, captured Russian soldiers in German slave-labor camps were promptly transferred to Russian ones, as was anyone who had seen something of the Western world. Even soldiers who had fought their way out of German encirclement were arrested as traitors, simply because they had been behind German lines. Still more shocking, the Allies—who could not imagine why people would not want to return to their homeland—forcibly repatriated, often at bayonet point, over a million fugitives, some of whom committed suicide rather than face what they knew awaited them.

In his introduction Gary Saul Morson writes:

When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation appeared in 1973, its impact, the author recalled, was immediate: “Like matter enveloped by antimatter, it exploded instantaneously!” The first translations into Western languages in 1974—just fifty years ago—proved almost as sensational. No longer was it so easy to cherish a sentimental attachment to communism and the USSR. In France, where Marxism had remained fashionable, the book changed the course of intellectual life, and in America it helped counter the New Left celebration of Mao, Castro, and other disciples of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.

Which is why the American left hated Solzhenitsyn so, Tom Wolfe wrote in his 1976 article, “The Intelligent Co-Ed’s Guide to America:”

Solzhenitsyn’s tour of the United States in 1975 was like an enormous funeral procession that no one wanted to see. The White House wanted no part of him. The New York Times sought to bury his two major’ speeches, and only the moral pressure of a lone Times writer, Hilton Kramer, brought them any appreciable coverage at all. The major tele­vision networks declined to run the Solzhenitsyn interview that created such a stir in England earlier this year (it ran on some of the educa­tional channels).

And the literary world in general ignored him completely. In the huge unseen coffin that Solzhenitsyn towed behind him were not only the souls of the zeks who died in the Archipelago. No, the heartless bastard had also chucked in one of the last great visions: the intellec­tual as the Stainless Steel Socialist glistening against the bone heap of capitalism in its final, brutal, fascist phase. There was a bone heap, all right, and it was grisly beyond belief, but socialism, had created it.

Earlier: Why Isn’t Lenin As Condemned As Hitler?

Yes the Fed is subject to political pressure.

 “Ironically, the best hopes for a vibrant open source AI ecosystem might rest on the presence of a “rogue” technology giant, who might choose openness and engagement with smaller firms as a strategic weapon wielded against other incumbents.”  Link here.

Eel vs. octopus (NYT).