Worthy Reads: Corpo Hack Edition
Worthy Reads for October 2022
Welcome to Worthy Reads, where I share some articles (and other things) that I think are worth your time. It’s always one of De Civ’s most popular features. It’s also the only one with any kind of paywall: everyone gets half the items, but only paid subscribers get them all. Retweets are not endorsements.
Now here’s the kicker. The pension consultant team can prove to you that this is reward without risk. They can prove this because they can show you the past thirty years of betting performance... Sure, there was a little spike in 2013 with the so-called “taper tantrum”, but nothing you couldn’t handle. They will speak to you about “VAR” and “99% confidence levels”, and you will believe them because the math is correct and who are you to argue with math?
And then the math broke.
This is a layperson’s explainer of what just happened in (don’t close the tab!) British pension funds, and why it matters.
For those of you not old enough to remember watching news about the Great Recession before we knew it as the Great Recession, this is what it felt like for regular people. Stock markets were shaky, but they kept getting back up and fighting on. After several good years of strong markets, with the Federal Reserve seemingly having figured out how to govern world markets, we figured, hey, maybe there’s going to be a mild recession, but, then again, maybe not!
Bear Stearns failed, but, for normal people, that was just a headline. So a business closes, so what? Happens all the time. It wasn’t the top headline, or even the second headline; within twelve hours, it was off the front page. We were much more interested in Obama, the Iraq War, and Eliot Spitzer’s call-girl scandal. This was the early days of the Jeremiah Wright Scandal, after all, coming at the height of the most exciting presidential primary in decades!
Yes, up in the highest circles of finance, The Big Short and Margin Call and Too Big To Fail were all starting Act III, but we didn’t know that, and we couldn’t have spoken their language if they’d tried to explain it. Six months later, the world was on fire.
That’s how it always is with finance: first it’s inscrutable, then it’s a natural disaster, then there’s inscrutable legislation, then six years later Steve Carell comes along and explains to everyone how it wasn’t natural at all and the legislation passed was a band-aid at best.
Do yourself a favor and make it scrutable before it’s a disaster.
Note: it might not end up a disaster! Financial crises can be averted, and sometimes are. Some people still believe that smarter choices in 2008 would have prevented the market correction from turning into a crash. That said, the market is very much in need of correction, as I’ve suggested here before, because our current economic order is based on giving free money to the richest people in our society in order to make our debts affordable.
“Letter to the Child I Never Met,” by Brandon McGinley:
It’s marvelous and mysterious to think that your siblings once looked like you. Now they have toes and cheeks and feelings and personalities. You would have had those. It’s that thought that really makes me sad.
Your mother saw you with them, though. She had a dream about a little boy who looked like your toddler brother, with blond hair and blue eyes and a bold spirit, but she knew it wasn’t him. It was you. And she knew that you were gone. And it was peaceful.
Truth be told, we didn’t know what to do with you. We knew that you had once been alive and growing, and that now you were not. You were a person who had died, but there’s no social ritual for dignifying a person who can fit in a ring box.
That’s what we found for you: a ring box. It was a red enameled heart inlaid with a gold angel. It came into our home years ago, and it feels like it was destined for you.
There’s probably some political comment to be made about this piece, but please don’t. It is too beautiful and too sad.
“Let You Down” by Dawid Podsiadło:
I think the people who made this video intended it to be your first exposure to Cyberpunk 2077. The idea is that, if you watch this first, it’ll make you want to watch Cyberpunk Edgerunners (the hot new show on Netflix), and then you would want to go play Cyberpunk 2077, the video game classic-to-be.1 I encountered them in the opposite order.
First, I played the game. Since I pretty much always wait a year before playing any major releases (and never board hype trains), I played a fully patched, bug-free version of the game, and it was everything I hoped. I’ve lost patience with open-world games in general, but I’ll forgive Night City that sin and return to her any time.
When Edgerunners came out, I was going to ignore it, not being an anime buff… but I had nothing else to watch one night, had heard all the hype, got curious, and was hooked. I haven’t binge-watched a show like that in ages. The haunting end credits music stuck in my craw, and I eventually looked up the music video to play in the background at work.
It wasn’t until the fifth or sixth listen that I realized that the music video was actually a self-contained story in itself, beautifully animated, and that it functioned as an effective prequel to Edgerunners. That’s what I’m sharing here. Only watch Edgerunners and play the game if it strikes your fancy, but I think everyone should be able to get something out of a beautiful 5-minute cyberpunk short film.
Here’s my attempt to sell cyberpunk to Tolkien fans in one paragraph: Tolkien knew that the world is hopeless, that the evil in the world will only encroach further, that the good are fighting a “long defeat,” sacrificing everything for tiny patches of light. While all this will ultimately redeemed by God, God is hidden in Tolkien, His ways mysterious, and his victory achingly distant, often impossible to imagine. This creates a poignancy in Tolkien—indeed, in all the best fantasy—that makes it sing. This was a conscious effort by Tolkien: Saruman and Sauron both studied at the knee of Aulë, the god of craft. Radagast the Brown was a disciple of Yavanna, goddess of trees and green things. But Gandalf alone was (at least in his early life) a follower of Nienna, goddess of tears.
The heart of cyberpunk, as a genre, is the spirit of Nienna. The world appears utterly, visibly doomed, in every possible way. No one in the cyberpunk world can maintain any illusions about that any longer. Yet the good guys—who are themselves deeply corrupted by the world they were born into—nevertheless fight on, the best ways they know how, for their families, for their friends… sometimes just because they’re too stubborn to do anything else. And then they lose. That’s the genre. The rest is just set decoration.
Cyberpunk 2077 and Edgerunners are both wonderfully written (but very different) adventures set in a near-future world where it’s only gonna get worse.
(Oh, and, unlike Tolkien, they are both rated M for Mature Audiences… and they earned it.)
“The Right to Transact is Fundamental,” by @punk6529:
Over the last 20 years, the institutional environment has shifted to a posture that non-custodial money is default suspicious:
Central banks who want the "death of cash"
Patriot Act and derivatives thereof
Geopolitical pressure points via the banking system
"But 6529 the goal is preventing money laundering, stopping terrorism and reducing tax evasion"
I agree that these are a) the stated goals and b) an actual subset of the actual goals.
I am also against: money laundering, terrorism and tax evasion
The problem however is that there is both short-term and long-term goal creep.
In the United States (and EU) banks and payment processors have been pressured to cut off accounts to gun shops, adult businesses, crypto businesses and other perfectly legal businesses.
I consider this to be undemocratic. If a country would like to make pornography or guns or cryptocurrency illegal, it has every right to pass laws to do so.
And then the citizens can re-elect or de-elect the politicians who voted for it and/or challenge it in court.
What happens instead is hidden "deep bureaucracy" type bulls**t where the banks point to their regulators and say "well, they told us to close high risk accounts" and the regulators point to the banks and say "we never said that, just, you know, be careful"
Mr. punk goes on to observe how deeply this violates the spirit, perhaps even the letter, of due process rights.
The occasion for Mr. punk’s thread was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling down of financial pillars of fire on the Canadian trucker protest. The reason for posting it again today, however, is PayPal’s brazen attempt to fine people for disagreeing with PayPal. These incidents are going to keep happening. We should at least pass legislation, and possibly a constitutional amendment, establishing the freedom to transact.
Many social conservatives were delighted to read that most major credit-card processors have voluntarily chosen to stop doing business with MindGeek, the parent company of several of the most destructive hardcore pornography websites online, clear accomplice and surely one of the most sexually harmful businesses in the history of the world. We shouldn’t be happy about this. That same weapon of “voluntary account termination” will be turned fully against us, in time. Yes, we should use every weapon in our arsenal to destroy pornography, especially child pornography, but some weapons—like cruel and unusual punishment, indefinite detention, and privatized weaponization of the financial system—should not exist in the first place.
Indeed, the single really alarming thing I detect in David French’s philosophy of liberty is that he thinks private financial companies making these sorts of almighty decisions is actually a good thing.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the financial weapons used against porn companies will be used against churches, and that the financial weapons used against Canadian truckers will be used against peaceful anti-racism protestors—unless we take the weapons off the table.
This is where the paywall hits. Sorry, free subscribers, you are all beautiful people, but De Civitate’s paying subscribers deserve some reward, at least occasionally. If you’d like to sign up to support my work and, incidentally, read the rest of this edition of Worthy Links, you can do so here.
In the remainder of this edition of Worthy Links: a useful way to hear about stories that aren’t piercing your partisan bubble; the irrelevance of Vatican II; a two-for-one on the Kansas abortion vote.
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