Links and Books, August 2021

Posted on 31 Aug 2021 by Steve Markham

August was busy busy busy. I didn’t finish any books, and I spent most of the month on a reddit fast, which is where I normally get my links. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


  • The Ides of August via Andy. An interesting view on Afghanistan from someone familiar with it since 9/11. I think most of it is justifying the thesis, which is roughly: “Americans like to think of ourselves as having valiantly tried to bring democracy to Afghanistan. … I was there. Afghans did not reject us. They looked to us as exemplars of democracy and the rule of law. They thought that’s what we stood for. And what did we stand for? What flourished on our watch? Cronyism, rampant corruption, a Ponzi scheme disguised as a banking system, designed by U.S. finance specialists during the very years that other U.S. finance specialists were incubating the crash of 2008. A government system where billionaires get to write the rules. Is that American democracy? Well…?”
  • NPR Reader Book Suggestions h/t Morning Brew. I haven’t read the list, let alone any of the books. This is for my reference, not necessarily a recommendation.
  • Wonderful story out of Florida about school mask policies. Three years ago the school choice advocates reached a compromise with the anti-bullying advocates and made a scholarship available statewide to send a bullied child to different school (public or private). Mask mandates being a very hot topic this year, the Florida DoE clarified that attending a school where the mask policy doesn’t match a student’s and parent’s preference is likely to lead to bullying, and the scholarship applies. “Thus, it is now possible for families on all sides of the mask wars to send their kids to a school with Covid policies that match their preferences. That’s a win-win.” Amen.
  • How Should I Think about School & Child Care Now? I love this analysis, especially because it generalizes to much more than COVID. “But for individual parents, we are making choices under the set of constraints we have in the community we live in. We can advocate for universal masking in schools, but we may also have to decide whether to send our children to schools where not everyone is required to mask.” “I think part of what is making it hard to move forward is there are so many sources of uncertainty – risk of transmission, risk of other people having it, risk of serious illness. We’re moving them all around in our head together and it’s too much.”


  • The Final Empire aka Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Listening to the audiobook. It’s high fantasy so it took me a while to get into it, but I’m enjoying it.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, about halfway through it. Liked the first half, withholding judgment on the second half, which starts out weird.


  • “A desire not to butt into other people’s business is eighty percent of all human wisdom.” Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein.
  • “It’s never going to get more convenient to resist this.” Sam Harris (It’s irrelevant which particular “this” he was referring to at the time)

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