Carl T Bergstrom/NY Times:
Twitter Was Influential in the Pandemic. Are We Better for It?
Journalists and policymakers — already heavy Twitter users — sought to track these developments and to connect with scientific experts who could help interpret messy and incomplete data on the pandemic. Members of the public sought information about what was happening and how to keep themselves and their families safe.
While imperfect, Twitter met those needs. Given my background in infectious disease epidemiology, my expertise has never been more in demand by the public, and never have I needed so much help from so many colleagues so urgently.
By early 2022, the value I found on Twitter had fallen off. It was harder to find productive scientific discussions. Posturing, virtue-signaling and name-calling increased. Some of my colleagues left or locked their accounts. Coordinated harassment quashed nuanced debate.
As we consider how social media can serve science and society going forward, we should notice how the profit models that underpin the whole endeavor stand in the way of the honest discussion of science. Most of the time that’s just annoying. In a pandemic, inhibiting the flow of accurate scientific information can be deadly.
Trump’s Terrifically Stupid Return to Twitter
Two wealthy and self-involved men are seeking the attention they crave.
On the evening of November 17, Elon Musk—the richest man in the world and Twitter’s new owner—posted a poll asking users of the site whether he should “Reinstate former President Trump,” who was banned from the platform after his instigation of the insurrection on January 6. Musk’s followers voted in favor, though there’s no guarantee that the poll wasn’t manipulated by the same bots that Musk has spent the past several months railing against. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, and Trump’s account was magicked back into existence.
This entire incident is terrifically stupid. The story revolves around the whims of two wealthy and self-involved men who enjoy nothing more than public attention. It is an enormous waste of everyone’s time, and I resent having to think about it.
Will Bunch/Philadelphia Inquirer:
Billionaires like Musk, Bankman-Fried didn’t save the world. They wrecked it. Let’s take it back
Messianic billionaires like Musk and Bankman-Fried have used their wealth to impose destructive ideals. We have the power to take back society.
It turns out you can’t be a very effective altruist if your money disappears, which started happening this spring in tandem with a worldwide cryptocurrency crash. It may take investigators months or years to untangle the mess at FTX, but by his own admission [Sam] Bankman-Fried engaged in risky and unethical practices to prop up one arm of his crypto empire — including tapping the accounts of FTX customers. Those duped investors may have lost as much as $8 billion.
Now 30, the wunderkind of effective altruism wasn’t just ineffective at saving planet Earth. He made it demonstrably worse, for his reeling investors and possibly for all of us as FTX’s losses ripple through the economy. Sure to be the subject of podcasts and biopics for the rest of our lives, the rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried is indeed a remarkable story, but it’s just the latest twist on what arguably is becoming the story of the 21st century — and the disease of late-stage capitalism.
Amy Littlefield/NY Times:
Democrats Need to Realize How Much Dobbs Mattered
The five ballot measures on abortion, all of which went for the pro-choice side, were the clearest sign not only of public support for abortion access but of the strength of organizing on the issue at the state level. Vermont, California and Michigan passed amendments to enshrine the right to abortion in their constitutions by wide majorities — 77, 67 and 57 percent, respectively. Montanans defeated a confusingly written anti-abortion measure that was aimed at convincing voters that aborted fetuses are “born alive.” In Kentucky, a state that has among the highest percentages of anti-abortion residents in the country, voters rejected an amendment declaring there is no right to abortion in the state constitution.
Combined with the landslide defeat of an anti-abortion amendment in Kansas in August, five weeks after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe, these victories show the power of ballot measures to mobilize pro-choice majorities even in red states.
In historic move, nations agree to pay to help vulnerable countries with climate disasters
The Federalist Society controls the federal judiciary, so why can’t they stop whining?
All they do is win, win, win, no matter what. So why are America’s most powerful lawyers so unhappy?
But the thing about these sorts of grievances — which frequently mirror broader conservative complaints about a so-called “cancel culture” — is that, even if you agree that such cultural complaints cry out for a solution, these are rarely the sort of problems that lawyers are capable of solving.
A conservative law student who is unpopular with their classmates cannot seek an injunction requiring their fellow students to like them. Nor should a conservative lawyer be able to successfully sue their colleagues for ostracizing them. The First Amendment places strict limits on the law’s ability to shape culture, and it simply isn’t possible for the government to force people to change their minds about anything.
There is also a very real tension between these two conferences, though the Federalist Society itself does not seem aware of it. If members of the Federalist Society feel isolated in their jobs or at their schools, they should consider that the policy victories their organization touted in its first conference drive many lawyers and law students to resent Federalist Society colleagues who celebrate those victories.
It is asking a lot, for example, for members of the society to expect to be welcomed with enthusiasm by their women colleagues — after the society’s justices just seized control of those women’s uteruses.
Jill Lawrence/NBC Think:
Nancy Pelosi made the right call
It’s past time for a leadership shift. Younger Democrats have been waiting forever to rise in the ranks.
“She has been the steady hand on the gavel during some of the most turbulent times the nation has ever confronted,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 52, chair of the Democratic Caucus and Pelosi’s likely successor.
But more than surviving and enduring, she has prevailed — sometimes when the odds seemed longest. Democrats have a reputation for fretful insecurity, also known as bed-wetting. Pelosi is the opposite. She’s typically positive, sometimes irrationally so, but her optimism and confidence send “yes we can” messages that raise morale and often pay off.
Yet as a minority in a GOP-run House, Democrats won’t be able to rack up accomplishments like they did in the last two years. Beyond that, it’s past time for a leadership shift. Younger Democrats — and by that we’re talking anyone younger than Pelosi and her two 80-something lieutenants, Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn — have been waiting forever to rise in the ranks. As Punchbowl News put it, “Generations of ambitious Democrats have come and gone from the House, stifled under a leadership that has been in place for two decades.”