The Mystery Social Media Account Schooling Congress on How to Do Its Job (GABE FLEISHER, 03/08/2024, Politico)

Earlier this year, Matt Glassman — a congressional scholar at Georgetown who has spent most of his adult life studying the Hill — wanted to know the answer to an obscure procedural question. “When was the last time a ruling of the chair was overturned on appeal in the House?” he asked on X, tagging an anonymous user named @ringwiss.

Less than a minute later, the mysterious account responded with an answer — 1938 — and a decades-old edition of the Congressional Record to prove it.

That kind of speedy response time and wide-ranging legislative knowledge is what has made @ringwiss a go-to resource for staffers, lobbyists and reporters across Washington looking for answers on congressional procedures, especially in a year when lawmakers have been stretching procedures to novel ends and increasingly bucking leadership — creating a need for deeper understanding of oft-forgotten rules.

His tweets have gained renown around the Capitol for their nuanced discussions of arcane congressional rules and history, and for his comfort with correcting longtime lawmakers and Washington journalists alike. His following is only around 4,000, but it’s a well-connected bunch, including congressional chiefs of staff, committee staff directors and other leading insiders.

“He’s just a complete parliamentary obsessive and savant, really like no one I’ve ever met, even people in the parliamentarian’s office,” Glassman told POLITICO Magazine.

U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. “He’s just a complete parliamentary obsessive and savant, really like no one I’ve ever met, even people in the parliamentarian’s office,” Matt Glassman, a congressional scholar at Georgetown University, said of Kacper Surdy, aka #ringwiss. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

The catch: Nobody knows who he is. […]

“When the Senate isn’t doing anything, there’s a quiet hum that’s captured by the microphones,” Surdy told POLITICO Magazine. “And that’s very, very soothing. It’s kind of like white noise. It’s very relaxing, even when nothing’s going on.”


The Placebo Effect’s Evil Twin (Michael H. Bernstein, 3/11/24, Quillette)

The term “nocebo effect” derives from the Latin word nocere, which translates roughly as “to harm” (as in the Hippocratic injunction, primum non nocere—first, do no harm). Whereas the better-known placebo effect is typically positive (the alleviation of pain or malaise through treatments that otherwise have no inherent therapeutic value); the nocebo effect is negative, often manifesting as headache, skin irritation, or nausea.

No surprise, then, that the nocebo effect has been called “the placebo effect’s evil twin.” It can be more formally summarized as “the occurrence of a harmful event that stems from conscious or subconscious expectations.” Or, more simply: When you expect to feel sick, you are more likely to feel sick. […]

The mind’s unfortunate ability to create suffering ex nihilo can sometimes affect large groups of people though a process of social contagion (or, in the more indelicate language of the past, hysterical contagion). One such example, known as “The June Bug,” occurred in a U.S. textile mill in 1962. Many employees began to feel dizzy and nauseous. Some vomited. Rumors of a mysterious bug that was biting employees began to circulate, and eventually 62 workers became ill. Yet a subsequent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation determined that no bugs could be identified. Nor could investigators find any other physical cause of the illnesses. This type of phenomenon is now referred to as psychogenic illness—sickness caused by belief.

Over the course of history, there have been countless other examples of psychogenic illness, with symptoms ranging from hysterical laughter to seizures. Aldous Huxley, the famed author of Brave New World, described one such seventeenth-century example in his lesser-known historically-based novel, The Devils of Loudun. In the 1630s, as Huxley documents, an entire convent of Ursuline nuns in the western French community of Loudun became convinced that they’d been demonically possessed (complete with convulsions, and other symptoms recognizable to any connoisseur of the modern exorcism-themed horror-movie genre) due to the unholy machinations of a (genuinely licentious) local priest named Urbain Grandier.

Could such a mass outbreak occur today, in an era when few believe in demonic spirits? Consider that during 2016 and 2017, no fewer than 21 American diplomats serving in Cuba reported a range of bizarre neurological symptoms that later came to be collectively described as “Havana Syndrome.” News of the outbreak spread globally through American diplomatic networks, and eventually more than 200 U.S. diplomats became ill. One leading theory was that the Russian government was attacking American embassies and consulates with microwaves.


Vancouver’s new mega-development is big, ambitious and undeniably Indigenous: In B.C., Indigenous nations are reclaiming power and wealth for their own citizens—no matter what the neighbours thin (Michelle Cyca, March 11, 2024, Macleans)

Sen̓áḵw is big, ambitious and undeniably urban—and undeniably Indigenous. It’s being built on reserve land owned by the Squamish First Nation, and it’s spearheaded by the Squamish Nation itself, in partnership with the private real estate developer Westbank. Because the project is on First Nations land, not city land, it’s under Squamish authority, free of Vancouver’s zoning rules. And the Nation has chosen to build bigger, denser and taller than any development on city property would be allowed.

Predictably, not everyone has been happy about it. Critics have included local planners, politicians and, especially, residents of Kitsilano Point, a rarified beachfront neighbourhood bordering the reserve. And there’s been an extra edge to their critiques that’s gone beyond standard-issue NIMBYism about too-tall buildings and preserving neighbourhood character. There’s also been a persistent sense of disbelief that Indigenous people could be responsible for this futuristic version of urban living. In 2022, Gordon Price, a prominent Vancouver urban planner and a former city councillor, told Gitksan reporter Angela Sterritt, “When you’re building 30, 40-storey high rises out of concrete, there’s a big gap between that and an Indigenous way of building.

The subtext is as unmissable as a skyscraper: Indigenous culture and urban life—let alone urban development—don’t mix. That response isn’t confined to Sen̓áḵw, either. On Vancouver’s west side, the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations—through a joint partnership called MST Development Corp.—are planning a 12-tower development called the Heather Lands. In 2022, city councillor Colleen Hardwick said of that project, “How do you reconcile Indigenous ways of being with 18-storey high-rises?” (Hardwick, it goes without saying, is not Indigenous.) MST is also planning an even bigger development, called Iy̓álmexw in the Squamish language and ʔəy̓alməxʷ in Halkomelem. Better known as Jericho Lands, it will include 13,000 new homes on a 90-acre site. At a city council meeting this January, a stream of non-Indigenous residents turned up to oppose it. One woman speculated that the late Tsleil-Waututh Chief Dan George would be outraged at the “monstrous development on sacred land.”

To Indigenous people themselves, though, these developments mark a decisive moment in the evolution of our sovereignty in this country. The fact is, Canadians aren’t used to seeing Indigenous people occupy places that are socially, economically or geographically valuable, like Sen̓áḵw. After decades of marginalization, our absence seems natural, our presence somehow unnatural. Something like Sen̓áḵw is remarkable not just in terms of its scale and economic value (expected to generate billions in revenue for the Squamish Nation). It’s remarkable because it’s a restoration of our authority and presence in the heart of a Canadian city. […]

What chafes critics, even those who might consider themselves progressive, is that they expect reconciliation to instead look like a kind of reversal, rewinding the tape of history to some museum-diorama past.

Hilarious that the Left expected the End of History to pass them by.


The most important immigration story of all: The West doesn’t share the same fate as Rome (Peter Heather, MARCH 12, 2024, UnHerd)

The process only accelerated under the newly independent governments of ex-imperial territories in the years after 1945. Many devoted considerable resources to basic education, attempting to create homegrown industrial bases to fend off expensive imports from their former masters. And this sucked people in massive numbers from continental interiors to congregate in coastal cities such as Shenzhen, São Paolo, Lagos, and Mumbai. Once there, better healthcare and a plentiful food supply added exponential population growth into the mix.

In economic terms, these import replacement strategies enjoyed only limited success, and largely failed after the oil price shocks of the Seventies. But what this astonishing flow of humanity did achieve was to put in place a ready-made labour force across different parts of the developing world for the Eighties, when Western countries lifted their long-standing capital controls. As the West deindustrialised, investment began flowing outwards to the developing world, where labour was so much cheaper, with the aim of returning Western corporations — and hence the West as a whole — to post-war levels of growth.

This worked, for a time. But over subsequent decades, Western investment has combined with the emergence of new classes of indigenous entrepreneurs to generate a global shift in the geographical location of manufactured wealth production. Since 1947, for instance, the population of Bangalore has increased from 700,000 to about 14 million, the vast majority supported by manufacturing jobs, while India’s national literacy rate has risen from about 20% to 75%. Over the same period, by contrast, London’s population has stayed more or less the same and it has ceased to be a major manufacturing centre. This second Völkerwanderung had created such a cost-effective labour force that it proved overwhelmingly logical, as globalisation gathered momentum, to relocate a huge percentage of global industrial production away from the West’s old manufacturing centres to the teeming new coastal metropoles of the developing world.

The process is irreversible, and far from complete. Public attention focuses on China and the other Bric countries, but seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are now African. Kenya, for example, is still mostly famous for its tea and game reserves. But it currently enjoys an annual growth rate of over 7% and Nairobi has become a digital finance hub. And it is in examining the peripheries of the Western world’s old empires, that the comparison with Late Antiquity achieves a new resonance. Imperial systems first come into existence with the purpose of enriching the population at the imperial centre. But over the longer term, they unintentionally kickstart revolutionary processes of economic and hence socio-political change around their fringes, and eventually the emergence of new entities capable of challenging the Empire’s continued dominance.