Woke books are a flop with readers (Nick Tyrone, Dec. 4th, 2023, Spiked)

An article in the Daily Mail confirms something many of us have seen coming for a long time. It reveals that scores of woke books published by major houses have been flopping. As it turns out, publishers have been throwing money at books that no one actually wants to buy. It shows that the mantra of ‘go woke, go broke’ applies even in the publishing industry.

The shining example of this is Pageboy, the memoir by Elliot (formerly Ellen) Page, an actor famous for ‘coming out’ as transgender. According to the Mail, Pageboy has sold 68,000 hard copies. That might seem like a lot of books, but context is important here. Selling 68,000 copies would have a small indie publisher popping open the champagne. But for a huge house like Macmillan, which published Pageboy earlier this year, these kinds of numbers are embarrassing.

Crucially, Page was given a $3million advance for Pageboy. As a rough estimate, Macmillan would have needed to sell about 500,000 copies to break even. I’m being generous here, and probably vastly underestimating the promotional budget for the book – another huge additional cost. An advance of that amount tells you the publisher thought the book was going to sell millions. Yet all available sources point heavily to the fact it has not.

Publishing is now littered with these kinds of stories.

MAGA is going to need help untwisting their panties.


After 3 years of pain, America has finally achieved economic nirvana (Neil Dutta, Dec 3, 2023, Business Insider)

The signs of a well-balanced economy are everywhere. The most obvious example is the slowdown in inflation. The core consumer price index, the widely cited measure of inflation that strips out volatile categories such as food and energy costs, has risen since June at an annualized rate of 2.8%, roughly half the pace heading into the year. And there are clear signs of continued disinflation on the horizon: Wholesale auction prices for vehicles imply used-car prices could start to come down, private measures of rent prices suggest that housing inflation will continue to cool off, and an improvement in supply chains suggests prices for core goods outside cars, including washing machines and clothes, will ease.

Another positive signal is coming from productivity data, which measures a worker’s output within an hour. Productivity growth strengthened notably in the third quarter, hitting its highest nonrecession level since 2003, and appears to be growing in line with its pre-pandemic trend. The growth in the number of hours people are working has slowed, but output has been steady, meaning people are accomplishing more in less time. This boom in productivity means that as workers get more efficient, businesses can give employees pay raises without having to turn around and pass on those increased labor costs to consumers in the form of price hikes.

While things are slowing in the labor market, it’s not enough to cause a panic about unemployment. The October jobs report — with the economy adding just 150,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticking up to 3.9% — was a disappointment. Of particular notice, the unemployment rate has increased by half a percentage point over the past six months. The uptick in joblessness is close to triggering the Sahm rule, which states that the economy is in recession when the average rate of unemployment over the prior three months is half a percentage point above its prior 12-month low. The current three-month average is 3.8%, a meaningful uptick from the low point of 3.5% in April but not quite high enough to hit the 4% average needed to trigger the rule.

But the job market isn’t all bad news. Over the past three months, average hourly earnings for all employees have jumped 3.2% — a strong number for American workers that’s broadly consistent with the Fed’s long-term inflation objectives. It’s also highly likely that the last employment report understated the growth in nonfarm payrolls since tens of thousands of workers were on strike. (You need to be on the job to be counted as employed.)


The Medical-Robotics Revolution (Jonathan Shaw, Apr. 6th, 2022, Harvard Magazine)

What if a cardiac surgeon could operate on a beating heart without opening the patient’s chest? Or a flexible robot could navigate the delicate branching of blood vessels, or bronchi in the lungs, and then stiffen to perform surgery at its tip? Or a magnetic field could be engineered to drive a plaque-clearing robot inside a person’s arteries?

These kinds of innovations are already in the vanguard of the field of medical robotics, says professor of surgery Pierre Dupont, a leading designer of robotic systems for use in healthcare. “I thought of going into medicine instead of engineering,” he admits, “so when I had the chance to combine the two, it was a fantastic opportunity.” The field encompasses precision instruments that can be deployed by doctors inside the human body for visualization, diagnosis, and treatment, but also patient-focused inventions, from handheld devices that let diabetics control their blood sugar to wearable robots that help stroke patients walk again.

Not all these achievements will make it from the lab. But gradual trends are emerging: toward increasing autonomy for the robots themselves, and greater personalization for users, whether as patients or providers of healthcare.

Above average is over.


REVIEW: of Play All Night! by Bob Beatty (Charles Caramello, December 3, 2023, Washington Independent Review of Books)

Play All Night! instead weaves a complex story about Allman as a visionary “musician and band leader,” ABB as the vehicle and incarnation of his vision, and ABB’s performances at Fillmore East in March 1971 and the resulting live album At Fillmore East “the truest fulfillment” of it.

Beatty first tracks Duane through his apprenticeship with cover bands on the Southern circuit; his journeyman work with his band Hour Glass; his return to the South after a rough year in California; and his creation of the Allman Brothers Band. Beatty then tracks ABB through two years of fruitful touring and two studio albums (critical successes but commercial failures), to the seminal gig at Fillmore East and Duane’s death, on its heels, in a motorcycle accident. An epilogue traces ABB from its peak in the early 1970s through a low point in the 1980s and revival in 1989, to a second peak, with a fine new line-up, from 2001 to 2014.

In Duane’s vision, as Beatty portrays it, ABB would focus on “musical virtuosity” and on “individual expression through live improvisational music,” not on “chasing pop hits.” It would play countless (often free) concerts, using the stage, rather than the studio, as rehearsal space, and making “audiences an important part of the music.” And it would be egalitarian, each member having license in playing style and access to playing time, with Duane as “leader” but not frontman — “allies working together,” as Duane put it, “sharing a mutual love.”

As time has proven, ABB realized Duane’s vision of profoundly organic and communal music; “six musicians in deep, constant musical conversation in front of an appreciative audience,” in Beatty’s words. As Gregg Allman put it:

“We played for each other, we played to each other, and we played off each other.”

Such demanding, rigorous, and bold improvising, with each musician “staying in the moment while simultaneously anticipating where the music is headed,” when done right, resulted in “hittin’ the note,” the band’s term for the elusive moment, musical and spiritual, when all elements perfectly align.


“Terminalism” — discrimination against the dying — is the unseen prejudice of our times: In hospice care and hospitals, we prioritize those with more life to live over those who are terminally ill. What is that, if not prejudice? (Jonny Thomson, 11/11/23, Big Think)

Reed believes that a lot of people will find it somewhat ridiculous to call these instances a kind of discrimination. When presented with limited resources, surely it’s better to focus on those who have longer to live? In other words, isn’t it okay to value longevity over the moribund?

Reed calls this a structural “terminalist prejudice,” with little philosophical justification for it. He argues that “many of us tend to think, explicitly or implicitly, that a worthwhile life involves both the kind of life that has a future and also enables a person to ‘contribute meaningfully’ to society.”

We don’t want to see ourselves as cruel or prejudiced. We don’t want to accept that we are privately and socially devaluing human life based on our terminalist biases. Dying people are human beings as well. They have brothers and sisters; sons and daughters; or wives and husbands. They read books, watch TV, talk, laugh, and reminisce. If all humans have rights, the dying have rights, too. They are valuable in themselves, not for some abstract, unknown “contribution” they might make. As Reed puts it, “The reason that terminalism matters is that dying persons matter.”

“Life unworthy of life” as the Nazis called it.


‘The Curse’ Is a Vicious, Delicious Parody of Lefty Do-Gooderism (Claire McNear,
Nov. 13th, 2023, The Ringer)

I’d argue that the real tension, however, is in watching the Siegels’ elaborate value system—one that a certain cable news network might be inclined to describe as “woke”—crumple piece by piece. The Siegels represent a richly painted satire of conscientious do-gooderism: Whitney, for example, is the sort of person to sharply correct her husband when he says “homeless” instead of “unhoused” or to use clumsy Spanish to praise the food at a local restaurant.

It’s well meaning—or at least the Siegels think that it is. Much of the joy of The Curse is watching as the pair try and fail to square their bleeding-heart sympathies with the reality that those hearts might not be completely in the right place.

Accepting that you’ve won can be nearly as difficult as accepting loss.


Understanding Sigmund Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego (Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Nov 9, 2023, Discover)

Exploring the Id
The first part, the id, was both innate and unconscious. Freud saw it as the driving force behind a person’s impulse to satiate their desires. The id wasn’t conceptualized as something that regulated or judged a person’s needs or wants. Rather, the id was the animalistic compulsion to seek pleasure and satisfy impulses.

The Development of the Ego
The ego began to develop within the first few years of a child’s life, Freud argued. The ego was the person’s sense of self, and it had to negotiate between the id’s impulses and the superego’s cautious urgings to not act in ways that would be socially unacceptable.

Understanding the Superego
Around the age of six, Freud theorized that a person’s superego began to form. Freud saw the superego as a guardian that pressured the ego to resist the id’s impulses in order to fit social norms.

Perhaps best thought of this way: The id is pure desire; the ego is the personal limitation on acting out those desires; and, the supego is the societal limitations. The rest is bunk.


Argentina’s Disordered Liberty (marcos falcone, 12/03/23, Law & Liberty)

To explain the evolution of Argentine law, it is useful to examine constitutional changes, and particularly those that were made to the 1853 Constitution, which is still active today. Juan B. Alberdi, who had the most influence at the time of writing, purposefully followed the model set by the American Founding Fathers so as to establish the kind of rule of law that a classically liberal society would need. Argentina declared, in the 19th century, that everyone in the world who wished to do business in the country could do so; that internal, bureaucratic barriers to free trade were to disappear; that no privileges would be extended by the government to anyone; and that private property was an inviolable right. As Isaiah Berlin might say, the document considered liberty in a negative way. The state’s role was simply to set rules for individuals to act and flourish.

Ever since its inception, though, the Argentine Constitution has suffered from several changes that have modified its spirit. In many instances throughout the 20th century, new articles incorporated into the Argentine Constitution have recognized social and collective ‘rights,’ the enforcement of which depends on increased government intervention. The 1949 reform, for example, instituted a ‘social use’ of property that directly paved the way for the state to violate property rights. That change, though later overturned, would serve as the basis for Article 14 bis of the Constitution, which was added in 1957 and is still active. This section, among other things, guarantees the existence of a minimum wage, mandates ‘fair’ salaries for workers, demands that they get a share of whatever capital gains exist, and effectively bans the state from dismissing public employees. 

Further reforms solidified the increasingly interventionist spirit of the Constitution. The 1994 Convention, for example, added the concept of ‘environmental rights’ in a way that implies proactive government intervention. This and other third and fourth-generation ‘rights,’ particularly those that demand affirmative action for various groups to ensure the ‘true’ enforcement of other constitutional rights, show that the concept of liberty embedded in the document is no longer negative, but has become positive: The state is to actively intervene in order to bring about specific results.

Unsurprisingly, Argentine law has become more and more interventionist. Congress has, at various times in the past, nationalized private businesses and pension funds, and it has established and increased dozens of different taxes with the result that effective total tax rates are over 100%. But bureaucracy has also increased so dramatically that complying with legislation costs small and medium businesses 500% more time than their counterparts in neighboring countries such as Brazil. And even though the evolution of bureaucratic stringency is difficult to measure over time, available evidence for the past decades suggests the situation has gotten worse: According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Ranking, Argentina ranked 36th in 1970 but ranks 151st out of 165 countries today in terms of regulation, which means it has become more and more bureaucratic. It is no wonder, then, that informal employment now accounts for as much as 45% of the total workforce. The ‘tendency towards illegality’ that Nino identified in the Argentine society seems to be caused by the state itself.

We too much take republican liberty for granted.


Why MBS wants peace with Israel: Saudi Arabia would quietly welcome the demise of Hamas (DAVID RUNDELL, 12/03/23, unHerd)

[P]eace with Israel would be a massive boost to Saudi Arabia’s national security. It would improve Saudi Arabia’s relations with its most important security partner, the United States — and reduce opposition to those relations among the Saudi public. What’s more, peace would strengthen Saudi Arabia’s hand against Iran, which since the 1979 Iranian Revolution has challenged Saudi leadership in the Muslim World and sought to extend its influence in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Despite the recent Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, Saudi and Israeli leaders still share many reasons to resist Iran’s pursuit of regional hegemony and nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have another goal in common: suppressing radical Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda, Isis, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Like the Shi’a revolutionary government in Tehran, many radical Sunni Islamist groups seek to destroy both Israel and the Arab monarchies. Having suffered from numerous al-Qaeda attacks themselves, the Saudis understand the threat of jihadist militants. They have a long-strained relationship with Iranian-backed Hamas, as well as its junior partner, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Saudi authorities have arrested or deported Hamas supporters in Saudi Arabia and would quietly welcome the organisation’s demise. This gives Saudi Arabia and Israel further grounds for cooperation.

This last approaches the real point: it’s about maintaining regimes that deny Muslims self-determination.