Letters To The Editor

Letters from subscribers about the editorial content of The Browser should be sent by email to editor@thebrowser.com. We will ordinarily publish a letter without the writer's name; if you would like to have your letter attributed, please say so when writing. We may edit letters for relevance and clarity — Robert

Bringing Up Baby

18th July 2021

Editors - I am enjoying the latest developments to the Sunday edition of The Browser, and note with some delight that I am able to make a slight factual emendation to the second of the week’s quiz questions: by the dialogue in Bringing Up Baby, it seems that three days have passed with Susan following the dog around her aunt’s estate before she is able to retrieve the missing ‘intercostal clavicle,’ which ended with the dog presenting Susan the bone in question as a gift. Only then does she come to the workplace to deliver the news that a) the bone has been found, and b) the million dollar gift to the museum will be made after all. Declarations of love are then exchanged, and only then does the brontosaurus skeleton collapse, leaving our leads in the scaffolding.

Hay bales

14th July 2021

Editors - I'm a regular reader and just wanted to check the provenance of the Romanian hay article. I ask because cone shaped hay bales are common across northern Europe, and it's not clear from the article what the special significance of the Romanian approach is? See for example, http://katewritesandreads.blogspot.com/2016/07/a-time-to-reap-2-how-to-make-haystack.html?m=1 or http://deborahheal.com/making-hay-1788/

- Amit Kamal

Battle of Talas

27th June 2021

Editors - Sorry to point this out but it was the Abbasids who won at Talas, their general (probably not an Arab) had helped oust the Ummayids shortly before.

Their army was largely composed of Persians and Turkic groups. They were allied with the Tibetans against Tang expansionism.

Violent crime vs. Murder

28th June 2021

Editors – The homicide/crime graph below is an example of misleading statistical presentation. In the form of an annualized line chart, the reader is led to believe that the prior year there was 10% Homicide but in 2020 there was 25% — that’s 2.5x the amount of murder and we should be terrified! In fact, the chart represents that in 2020, the annual change from the year prior was +10%. In 2021 it is +25% from the year before, but drawing a progression line between the two does not show the change in rate of homicide, but rather the 2nd derivative of homicide rates (the rate at which the rate of change is changing)… it’s useful or statistical analysis but 2nd derivatives are designed to grossly exaggerated a trend for analysis.

Futhermore, the chart is ambiguous as how the 2021 figure is determined. Is it a projection based on current rates? Is it where we already are in 2021? Or some other formulation?  We can’t actually answer these questions because the original source linked to for the chart does not cite its own methodology or link to a data set beyond broadly crediting “FBI”.

– Andrew Cafourek


2nd May 2021

Editors – In your reference to the podcast “Little Boots,” the emperor in question is not Nero, but Caligula, a name that translates as little boots.

Thanks for a most useful and informative service.

– Barry Bedrick

Nuclear Energy

30th April 2021

Editors — As a reader working in the energy industry, I always love to see related content coming through in your excellent curation. I also enjoy that you don't hesitate to recommend non-mainstream viewpoints.

The nuclear viewpoint in the article you listed is common (popularised by Freakonomics) where typically non-energy experts make the case for nuclear in a variety of ways, but start by glossing over the assumption that we need it. In this article it was done with the following sentence:

"Nuclear power is the sword that can cut it: a scalable source of dispatchable (i.e., on-demand), virtually emissions-free energy. It takes up very little land, consumes very little fuel, and produces very little waste. It‘s the technology the world needs to solve both energy poverty and climate change"

This is not really true. The short answer to why we don't have lots of new-build nuclear power is that we now have alternatives that are cheaper and do the job better.

It would be great to see that opposing viewpoint come through in a counterpoint to help inform other readers, since it's commonly misunderstood (understandably - a lot of energy content out there is written by entrenched interests and it's not easy to find good analysis from objective viewpoints). Let me know if you would like specific recommendations on articles. Otherwise, the clues to look for are "dispatchable renewables" and "why baseload generation is a myth".

– Andrew Payne

Economic Freedom In China

5th March 2021

Editors — Matt Ridley's take on innovation in China (Discourse) is astonishingly bad. The author claims that:

— China no longer copies intellectual property (no nation or company outside China would agree);
— that China leads the world in Internet use (sure, as long as you’re happy to use the domestic Internet, because the prominent non-Chinese apps and websites and services are all blocked inside China);
— that Chinese infrastructure development is the envy of the world (if so, that is a by-product of complete state control and the unfettered use of eminent domain);
— that there is general acceptance of a work ethic in which entrepreneurs flog their employees 9:9:6 (ask the workers about that);
— that a Chinese entrepreneur "faces almost none of the delays and restrictions that a Western one does. He is not required to get permits, licences and go-aheads from multiple beadles and bureaucrats of the state. He just gets on with it: hires new researchers, builds a new production line, sets up a new company".

This last claim is ludicrous. The enormous Chinese bureaucracy and the administrators of its well-developed legal system would surely disagree.

America And China

2nd February 2021

Editors — The Longer Telegram (Atlantic Council) was a fascinating article. Thank you for including it. However, it also left me thinking: "As a non-expert, I could easily be swayed by this forcefully and authoritatively stated argument. I need to find a counter argument". Daniel Larison, in American Conservative, provides a thought-provoking counterpoint.

The Limits Of Cynicism

25th January 2021

Editors — A different editorial direction seems to be needed if you have reached the point of including someone like Curtis Yarvin (Gray Mirror) as deserving of a hearing. Yarvin is a fairly standard-issue neo-fascist. His supposed "cynicism" that "allows no place for the possibility of virtue or sincerity in others" is the least of his offenses, and makes him sound merely misguided or mistaken.

The world is becoming a tinderbox in which forces gathered by Yarvin and people like him are exceptionally dangerous. With irreparable and catastrophic damage from climate change looming along with the need for collective action, there is no remaining room for error or lost time. Writing like Yarvin's should not be indulged and platformed just because it seems amusing or clever, which it isn't. It is time for writing that is serious, not for writing that merely seems novel, fresh, clever or even eloquent.

Britain And Europe

17th September 2020

Editors — Edward White (Paris Review) is incorrect to say that the British people voted in 1975 to enter the EEC. In fact they voted to stay in the EEC. Prime Minister Edward Heath had taken the UK into the EEC in January 1973. When Labour won the 1974 General Election Prime Minister Harold Wilson held a referendum to decide whether to remain in the EEC or leave. The majority of people voted to stay in the UK. Hope someone can inform Mr White of his error!

Siege Of The Third Precinct

25th June 2020

Editors — Seizing a police station (Crimethinc) isn't "protest" or civil disobedience. It's a needless act of violence that easily could cause substantial loss of life. I doubt you'd be glorifying such behavior if it spread to your neighborhood. Too bad we forgot how effective non-violence can be. MLK and Gandhi managed to lead two of the most significant revolutions in human history.

Truth And Bellingcat

7th June 2020

Editors — Despite being a lawyer of [many] years experience and having lots of other Establishment-type background, I now find myself much more aligned on the weightier issues from the same kind of perspective as Pilger, Chomsky et al. I am not a conspiracy theorist, and I try to start from basic principles on every question.

So, as to Bellingcat (Guardian) I start from their reportage itself. Much of it on Syria I found wholly unbelievable and simply flying in the face of facts. When I began to dig deeper into the likes of Media Lens, Craig Murray, Ben Norton, Mark Curtis, Ray McGovern, Consortium News, David Graeber etc etc I began to see a broader picture of state interference all over the place.

Consider, for example, the alleged chemical attack by Assad at Douma in April 2018. The Media Lens report on it is telling. Towards the end of Part 1 you can see a trail of points about Bellingcat and Elliot Higgins. Even the Bellingcat website asserts that it works in partnership with the National Endowment for Democracy, which touts itself as “a keystone of President Ronald Reagan’s legacy”.

I could refer you to more pieces, but it seems to me a matter of whether it seems convincing to you at all. If you dismiss such criticisms as part of the “loony left” or “David Icke-type” flat-earthism, then probably not much I can say will persuade you to the contrary. Have a look for yourself and see what you think. The writers I cite above are all worth checking out—they are all serious journalists, academics or ex-government. A quick Google (or DuckDuckGo) search will take you there.

For my part, I see nothing particularly wrong in directing readers to a Bellingcat site, but I think it worth pointing out to them that his views are “contested”, along the lines one sees in Wikipedia articles that are especially disputed.

(Letters concerning Dave Grossman’s “sheep and wolves” theory of policing have their own page here)

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