Mid-week links

March 08, 2023

As ever, just some stuff I've been reading and thinking about.  I'll share more of my own connected thoughts at some point; but for now, I have so many links, I think I should just keep inflicting them on you seriatim.


Very interesting, Tooze on the transformation of our energy system, and how vast and wrenching it will be:

"If it is achieved through the application of net zero targets and deliberate policy, it will be one of the most spectacular collective acts of government intervention on record. If on the other hand it ultimately ends up being driven by the rapid development of electrical technology and the spectacular fall in the cost of renewables, it will be one of the most comprehensive processes of “market-driven” (admittedly, a highly problematic shorthand) economic restructuring ever seen, even larger than motorization in the age of “Fordism”, or the shock delivered to the global food system by the new world “grain invasion” of the late 19th century. Its impact will be felt everywhere across a planet whose population by 2050 is expected to be approaching 10 billion people and whose per capita energy use will be larger than ever before in history. "

This is a fairly deep dive into the history of the reform of the Ukrainian military between 2014 and 2022. From what I know from other sources, some of this is perhaps overdrawn, but I do think this tells part of an important story about how a military can learn how to improve itself.


Interesting to see historians attacking historians for trying to replace politics with a history tweetstorm. Not wrong, exactly, though despite my schadenfreude, I still value history, even if some of its practitioners ("Historian here!") are insufferable, esp. online.


James Fallows on why colleges should care for the towns that they inhabit. He's right. We need to do a whole lot better.


Illuminating on a topic I’ve wondered about for a long time—why widening highways doesn’t seem to help reduce traffic congestion as much as you’d think.  Turns out the wider highway will, over time, induce more people to drive. So what should we do? Increase and make more attractive public transport options. Interesting idea.


A nice little piece about a movie I'd like to see, about an editor and an author, both of them very strong opinions, and not unwilling to share them. This is a relationship that could be, and it on registers, almost as complicated as a marriage. Almost. 


Don't believe the "both-sides"-ism here, because he's talking about the "New Left" of the 60s, but it's still got a point: “There is a parallel structure to the New Left and the MAGA right, both massive movements surrounding a kernel of crazy.” Joe Klein reads the Jan 6 Committee report, and comes away with larger insights into this moment and the repeated patterns of political culture, shifting from right to left and back again. And there’s this:

“the one thing the armies of the American left and right may have most in common is a weakness for performance art. We are the luckiest people in human history. The overwhelming majority of us — even many of those who have suffered the scourge of bigotry — have never experienced war or privation. And so we invent our demons.”

Highly recommended.


Great interview with Elvis Costello about the album of his songs with Burt Bacharach that is just being released. With Bacharach's death in February, we lost one of the truly great music composers of the second half of the 20th and the early 21st-centuries.  


I read this as a further sign—among other signs—that people are realizing, albeit begrudgingly, that apocalypticism, while a helluva drug, is actually not good for you. 


Be well, everybody!