10 Sunday Reads

Avert your eyes! My Sunday morning look at incompetency, corruption and policy failures:

These politicians denied democracy on Jan. 6. Now, they want your vote. While the violent mob swarmed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, aiming to subvert democracy and keep President Donald Trump in power, another group was already working on the same project inside. In an unsuccessful bid to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, 147 Republicans formally supported objection to counting Joe Biden’s electoral votes. (Washington Post)

The World Depends on 60-Year-Old Code No One Knows Anymore: An alarmingly large portion of the world’s business and finance systems run on COBOL, and only a small community of programmers know it. IBM thinks Watson can help, but it’s not guaranteed. (PC Magazine)

Substack Turns On Its ‘Nazis Welcome!’ Sign: The key point: your reputation as a private site is what you allow. If you allow garbage, you’re a garbage site. If you allow Nazis, you’re a Nazi site. You’re absolutely allowed to do that, but you shouldn’t pretend to be something that you’re not. You should own it, and say “these are our policies, and we realize what our reputation is.” (Tech Dirt)

Public Christian schools?  Leonard Leo’s allies advance a new cause A tight-knit group of activists tied to Leo’s nonprofit network are rallying around an Oklahoma effort to create a public Catholic school. (Politico) see also Home-schoolers dismantled state oversight. Now they fear pushback. Some states are considering new regulations amid efforts by school-choice advocates to give home-school families taxpayer funding. (Washington Post)

• Look for these 9 red flags to identify food that is ultra-processed: In Day 2 of our New Year’s Tuneup, free yourself from the grip of ultra-processed food by looking for these signs on the package label (Washington Post)

How bad are search results? Let’s compare Google, Bing, Marginalia, Kagi, Mwmbl, and ChatGPT: Every adept user of the modern web has a bag of tricks they use to get decent results from queries. From having watched quite a few users interact with computers, that doesn’t appear to be normal, even among people who are quite competent in various technical fields, e.g., mechanical engineering2. However, it could be that people who are complaining about bad search result quality are just hopping on the “everything sucks” bandwagon and making totally unsubstantiated comments about search quality. (Dan Luu)

Crime in the USA: A short primer and collection of basic descriptive facts (Patterns In Humanity)

 The Trap the Commentariat Sets for the Court: “The Constitution should be displaced by the fears of people who appear on television.” (Thinking About…) see also ‘Plain historical falsehoods’: How amicus briefs bolstered Supreme Court conservatives A POLITICO review indicates most conservative briefs in high-profile cases have links to a small cadre of activists aligned with Leonard Leo. (Politico)

Noise Could Take Years Off Your Life. Here’s How.  We used a professional sound meter to measure the din of daily life and talked to scientists about the health risks it can pose. (New York Times)

• She challenges one school book a week. She says she’ll never stop. 11 adults were responsible for 60% of all book ban requests from school libraries during the 2021-2022 school year. (Washington Post)

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Matt Levine, Opinion columnist at Bloomberg. He is the author of Money Stuff, one of the most popular daily newsletters on Wall Street. Previously, he was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and a mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Wachtell, Lipton.


More than 10,000 research papers were retracted in 2023 — a new record

Source: Nature


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I am still on book leave!  Coming back in a few weeks…


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