A Few Interesting Articles from the News, Pt. 4

Hey folks, it’s me again. As I noted earlier this week, it had been a solid month+ since I posted a news dump, so I’m still getting caught up on sharing clippings from some of the interesting articles I’ve recently come across. Here’s the next batch…

1.) “Women Won The Right To Vote 100 Years Ago. They Didn’t Start Voting Differently From Men Until 1980.” – by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Meredith Conroy, FiveThirtyEight, Aug. 19 2020

Women officially won the right to vote just a few months before the 1920 presidential election, and as soon as the 19th Amendment was ratified, suffragists were predicting a sea change in American politics. … And that did happen, eventually. In the century since women’s suffrage, women have transformed our politics — in particular, they’ve become a force to be reckoned with inside the Democratic Party. …

But it took a surprisingly long time for women to become the electoral force that suffragists predicted. After the passage of the amendment, women were not broadly mobilized, and in many places, women of color continued to face barriers to voting. This meant that the first women to vote were largely white, wealthy or living in states that made it easier for women to vote. It wasn’t until 1980, for instance, that equal shares of men and women cast a ballot. That was also the first election where there was an observable gender gap in the presidential vote. According to exit polls, that year less than half (47 percent) of women voted for Ronald Reagan compared to 55 percent of men. And since then, the gap has largely expanded, with women becoming an increasingly large and influential base for Democratic candidates. …

[W]omen went from being 10 percentage points less likely to vote than men in the 1940s to being about 4 points more likely to vote in 2016. …

So what happened? Simply put, prior to 1980, it hadn’t been as clear which party was more naturally aligned with most women’s views on policy issues. But in that election cycle, the Republican Party took a sharp right turn on a number of issues that mattered to women, including issues like spending on the social safety netthe environment, and the role of government. (The GOP also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment for the first time that year in its party platform.)

Check it out here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/women-won-the-right-to-vote-100-years-ago-they-didnt-start-voting-differently-from-men-until-1980/

2.) “The Worst Animal in the World” – by Joshua Sokol, The Atlantic, Aug. 20 2020

Every year, as many as 400 million people are infected with life-threatening diseases by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

I had come to Dakar, Senegal, to get close—but not too close—to Aedes aegypti, a globally invasive mosquito that is arguably the worst animal in the world. The species carries yellow fever and dengue, both of which can cause more severe disease in young adults than SARS-CoV-2; Zika virus, which can lead to birth defects; and chikungunya virus, which can leave victims with debilitating joint pain. Unlike viruses that travel person-to-person, most of these pathogens can spread only in places where mosquitoes live. Then again, aegypti’s range is immense. All told, her bites—and only females bite—cause an estimated 400 million infections each year…

Of the 3,000-plus mosquito species alive, most are fairly harmless. Only a handful are a concern for public-health officials. But Aedes aegypti is different. Whether in Rio de Janeiro, New Delhi, or Miami-Dade County, it will breed in clean water supplies, it will come indoors, it will make a beeline toward human odor, and it will bite when the sun is up, circumventing bed nets that protect at night. Masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 won’t make a difference. Neither will staying at home, unless you live in a closed, air-conditioned house. No other mosquito is so perfectly suited to live with, and on, human beings. …

The problem will get worse. Beyond the tropics and subtropics, the species has strongholds in Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona, and at least one population has managed to survive multiple winters in Washington, D.C. One recent study projected that by 2050, thanks to the climate crisis, the North American range of Aedes aegypti will extend to Chicago; in China, its range will go as far north as Shanghai. …

Some 500 years ago, after our domesticated aegypti had evolved in dry coastal cities in Senegal, Angola, and elsewhere on the African continent, European ships arrived on the Atlantic coast and began to carry away human beings. As the global tragedy of slavery unfolded, aegypti unleashed itself on the wider world. …

Yellow fever itself has been mostly brought to heel. The breakthrough came in 1928, when competing American, French, and English research teams across Africa convened in Dakar to discuss the tragic case of one Adrian Stokes. … The year before, in 1927, Stokes had contracted yellow fever while helping isolate the virus from the blood of a Ghanaian man named Asibi. … Mass vaccination campaigns began in the following decades, pushing yellow fever and its bloodsucking vector out of mind and making the tropics less scary for … would-be exploiters. Today, virtually every yellow-fever vaccine, including the one I got before visiting Dakar, bears a hint of these colonial beginnings: They still use a watered-down version of the strain taken from Asibi. …

During the past century, similar viruses emerged from forests in Africa and Asia. Reaching urban areas, they all found aegypti ready to ferry them from person to person. First came dengue, which leaked out into a bigger global problem as southeast Asia urbanized after World War II. Then in 2006, more than a million people in India may have caught chikungunya. This past decade, Zika emerged on a similar scale in the Americas. Even yellow fever—still the only aegypti-carried disease with a safe, publicly available vaccine—has staged a comeback: two African outbreaks in 2016.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/08/how-aedes-aegypti-mosquito-took-over-world/615328/

3.) “Joe’s Fearsome Weapon Against Trump: Simple Decency” – by Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, Aug. 21, 2020

Whenever I called my mom to tell her something bad had happened, she said, “I know.” As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously put it, “To be Irish is to know that, in the end, the world will break your heart.”

Joe Biden has had his heart broken again and again and again. And yet somehow — against all odds, in one of the most remarkable resurrections in political history — Biden stood with a full heart before an empty hall to accept his party’s nomination. “This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme,’’ he said, using the Seamus Heaney line alluding to the Irish finding a way beyond the Troubles to peace.

But there’s another Heaney line, the one the Nobel laureate chose for his gravestone in County Derry, that suits the moment even better: “Walk on air against your better judgment.” That is what Biden is doing. At 77, he has spent half-a-century running races; he has been dismissed and written off and gotten tangled up in his own missteps. He has been immobilized by grief, slowed by age and imprisoned by this plague. And yet the old war horse has made it to his party’s winner’s circle — and he has a real shot at the Oval. …

Never naming Donald Trump in his speech, Biden vowed to be “an ally of the light, not of the darkness,” and to help us “overcome this season of darkness in America.” The antidote to Trump’s dystopia, he said, would be the illumination of Ella Baker, a civil rights icon: “Give people light and they will find a way.” It was the perfect framing of this titanic fight. Trump does seem mythological, a Grendel wailing and “greedily loping,” leaving the villagers in a constant state of anxiety. …

In one of the most moving convention scenes ever, Brayden, a 13-year-old from New Hampshire, courageously and charmingly talked about how Joe Biden, who has had a lifelong struggle with stuttering, tried to help him with his own stutter. …

Mister Rogers, he of the neighborhood, always said that the worst type of human beings were the ones who made you feel “less than.” That is Donald Trump’s m.o. Brayden made the case for Biden being the opposite, someone who tries to make you feel “more than.” The teenager said that Biden “told me about a book of poems by Yeats he would read out loud to practice.” He concluded that he was supporting Biden because “we need the world to feel better.”

Biden loves to use the Yeats line from “Easter, 1916,” about a world “all changed, changed utterly.” So, please, change it. Utterly.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/opinion/sunday/joe-biden-convention-donald-trump.html

Note: my favorite moment from the DNC – other than the roll call – was definitely Gabby Giffords brief speech urging Americans to address gun violence by voting for Biden. Giffords, for those who may not know, is the former Rep. from Arizona who has endured an arduous recovery after being shot in the head nine years ago in an act of political terrorism.“I put one foot in front of the other,” she explains. “I found one word and then I found another. My recovery is a daily fight, but fighting makes me stronger. Words once came easily; today I struggle with speech. But I have not lost my voice.” That shit just tears me up.

4.) “Justin Townes Earle’s Perpetual Search for Forgiveness” – by Jonathan Bernstein, Rolling Stone, Aug. 26, 2020

Before the dusty down-and-out protagonist is ready to give up on life in “Yuma,” one of Justin Townes Earle’s earliest songs, he calls his mom. “There ain’t nothing I fear,” he tells her, “so much as being alone.” Released in 2007, ”Yuma” is astonishing in its emotional tenderness, a song ostensibly about a young man who decides to kill himself that is actually a meditation on what it means to accept someone else’s pain. As he calls home to beg for forgiveness for what he’s about to do, Earle is asking listeners to grant the character the same grace.

Justin Townes Earle, who died last week at 38 of a suspected drug overdose, knew something about forgiveness. He sang about it, in nearly all his greatest songs, like someone who spent much of his life asking for it himself. From “Yuma” to his final album, 2019’s The Saint of Lost Causes, Earle’s music was preoccupied with repentance and absolution. A former addict who would struggle with relapse on and off throughout his adult life, Earle wrote songs that refused to moralize his fellow miscreants. Those songs, like 2008’s “Who Am I to Say,” in which a narrator spends three minutes letting a woman off the hook for her transgressions, were like prayers — as if Earle were hoping that if he practiced enough radical forgiveness in his art, someone might eventually forgive him too. …

If Earle’s characters weren’t warning each other preemptively about what they were about to do (“Won’t Be the Last Time”), they were apologizing for their misdeeds just after the fact (“Someday I’ll Be Forgiven for This”). On 2010’s “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” Earle turned the promise of Little Richard’s riotous 1956 rocker into a sorrowful self-scold: “I shoulda learned better,” he sings, assuming the character in the midst of a relapse that he himself would suffer through the very month the song was released. …

Earle was well aware of his stubbornness, going as far as to name his final album The Saint of Lost Causes. The record was a return to form for the songwriter… But it’s the album’s penultimate song, “Ahi Esta Mi Nina” (loosely translated as “there’s my girl”), where Earle would reveal, for the last time, his most shining self. The song chronicles yet another difficult conversation between parent and child… But this time, it’s the parent pleading for forgiveness: A wayward father is speaking with his estranged daughter after years of abandonment.

“I’ll just say, ‘I’m sorry,’” he tells her toward the end of the song, “But I know it’s not as simple as that.” By that point, it’s not clear if the daughter is even physically present for the conversation, that the father hasn’t imagined this entire exchange in his head. But Earle knows that is beside the point. By apologizing, the father can keep moving, even if all he’s done is forgive himself.

Check it out here: https://au.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/justin-townes-earle-final-album-16155/

5.) “CDC: One quarter of young adults contemplated suicide during pandemic” – by Brianna Ehley, Politico, Aug. 13, 2020

One in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they’ve considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic, according to new CDC data that paints a bleak picture of the nation’s mental health during the crisis. The data also flags a surge of anxiety and substance abuse, with more than 40 percent of those surveyed saying they experienced a mental or behavioral health condition connected to the Covid-19 emergency. The CDC study analyzed 5,412 survey respondents between June 24 and 30.

Check it out here: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/08/13/cdc-mental-health-pandemic-394832

6.) “Picky eaters usually outgrow it. But parents can find ways to encourage better — and healthier — diets.” – by Marlene Cimons, The Washington Post, Aug. 15, 2020

“I look at their diet, then think about my [professional] role . . . and I cringe,” says Pesch, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician… “But I wonder what else could I have done? I felt like I did everything right. I introduced vegetables at the right time. I was very careful about the food I brought into the house. Yet, here we are.”

Pesch isn’t alone. She and many other parents frequently contend with children who stubbornly refuse to try new foods, or shy away from healthy vegetables and fruits in favor of high fat, salt and sugar laden choices — and constantly feel tense and anxious about it. While some children are picky to the extreme, it is, for many, a developmentally normal phase and one, as pediatricians often say, they eventually will outgrow. Studies indicate that picky eating ranges from 14 to 50 percent in preschool children, and from 7 to 27 percent in older children.

Pesch thinks many parents worry unnecessarily about their children’s eating behaviors and urges them to be patient. … [S]ome children might [just] have an inherent “picky eating temperament,” much as being a natural extravert or introvert, or having a sense of humor, or not. …

If parents think they must do something, there are actions they can take to encourage their children to try new foods, including healthier ones. First, be sure kids are hungry at mealtime, which means skipping midafternoon snacks. Continue to offer new foods, even if the child rejects them. Involve kids in food preparation, from shopping … to growing their own vegetables in a family garden. Let them help wash and cut them — if it’s age-appropriate and safe — and let them stir the pot when the vegetables cook… “Anything that gets them to take ‘ownership’ is great.”

Dahlsgaard, however, points out that there is a significant difference between typical picky eaters who may be going through a phase and “extremely” picky eaters whose behavior seriously impairs their lives. Extremely picky eaters eat only a narrow range of foods and often find foods with layers and textures — lasagna, for example — “disgusting and repulsive,” she says. They have trouble eating in restaurants, traveling and going to social events, such as the season-ending sports banquet, she says. Some can suffer from malnutrition. This disorder has a name: Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID. The actual prevalence of ARFID is still under study, but some research suggests it may affect at least 5 percent of children.

Most parents of these kids try all the recommendations for typical picky eaters, “but they already have a kid on hand who is so far worse than typical,” Dahlsgaard says. “Those techniques don’t work, and they feel very guilty about it.” She has developed a promising approach which involves offering kids a “challenge” food, and giving them one or two minutes to eat it, then rewarding them — usually with screen time — if they beat the timer and eat the food. While many experts disparage rewarding picky eaters, this system primarily targets problematic children who don’t respond to conventional techniques. …

Experts suggest parents of most picky eaters can afford to relax. “Take a step back and be gentle on yourself,” Pesch says. “It’s okay to not force kids to eat something they don’t want to. Know that the needle on picky eating moves slowly. Even if they take a bite and spit it out, consider that a victory because they never took a bite before.”

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/picky-eaters-kids-eating-problems/2020/08/14/53235aa4-d1bd-11ea-8c55-61e7fa5e82ab_story.html

7.) “We Killed the Middle Class. Here’s How We Can Revive It.” – by Jim Tankersley, The Atlantic, Aug. 16, 2020

America is once again engaged in the process of rebuilding its economy from a devastating recession. The United States cannot afford another feeble and prolonged rebound, in which the gilded chambers of the economy recover faster than all the others, and it need not have one. But it may be slipping into that trap again, because our leaders have not learned the lessons of the nation’s great postwar boom, the last time America delivered lasting prosperity and security for the middle class. … [T]he United States economy enjoyed a golden era of shared prosperity in large part because, during the war effort and the civil-rights era, America made it easier for people who had been previously shut out of economic opportunity—women, minorities, immigrants—to enter the workforce and climb the economic ladder, to make better use of their talents and potential. …

I’ve also learned what isn’t working [in our current crisis]. I’ve seen the government bail out airlines and flood the financial system with money to keep it functioning, while leaving individuals to slowly scrape up the pieces of their shattered careers and dreams. I’ve watched politicians harness the politics of fear to lash out at immigrants… I’ve seen the public turn a blind eye to the centuries of systemic oppression that have kept Black women who don nursing scrubs and ring up groceries from earning and saving enough to buy their own homes. … The barriers that block some workers from advancement… are holding us all back. Those barriers don’t just hurt women and men of color. They’re shrinking the middle class, and they’re hurting our democracy.

Wide-ranging economic research shows that strong middle classes breed political and social stability. “Societies with a strong middle class experience higher levels of social trust but also better educational outcomes, lower crime incidence, better health outcomes and higher life satisfaction,” a 2019 report from the OECD concluded… “The middle class champions political stability and good governance. It prevents political polarization and promotes greater compromise within government.” …

As America climbs out of its coronavirus recession, it must reinvest in its middle class… Some of the solutions are themselves fodder for entire books, such as reducing the cost of American health care or bringing down soaring housing prices. … Many are targeted at specific groups who are being held back. William Darity… proposes a suite of programs to empower Black Americans to earn more and build wealth, including paying reparations to the descendants of enslaved people and providing a living-wage, government-guaranteed job for anyone who wants to work.

Heather Boushey… favors policies that clear the way for women to work and earn more in the economy, allowing us to tap the full potential of our most skilled workers. Boushey proposes expanding paid leave for parents and caregivers, reducing or eliminating the cost of child care for working families, and adopting a universal prekindergarten system

Libertarian economists like Matt Mitchell …, a crusader against the “crony capitalism” that favors the politically connected, support policies to end special favors from government that hold some workers back. These include eliminating state occupational-licensing requirements that prohibit people from working in certain fields, such as hair braiding, without a particular government-approved training certificate, and killing tax loopholes and direct subsidies that benefit handfuls of companies lobbying hard to maintain their edge over would-be rivals. … [Liberal economist] Dean Baker… is an often-lonely crusader for a similar change that would introduce elite white men to the same sort of labor competition that manufacturing workers face—by allowing doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who are trained abroad to more easily emigrate to the United States and ply their trades when they get here. …

If you add up all those initiatives, you might make a real dent in the problem. But you still won’t be going far enough. … The big change we need is attitudinal. We need a national commitment to helping one another succeed and get ahead. We need to stop ourselves and others from discriminating by race and gender, stop vilifying the people who don’t look like we do. Elite white Americans, in particular, need to work harder to help everyone else enjoy the same opportunities they do. They should acknowledge that they have benefited disproportionately from the technological and globalization trends of the past 40 years, which amplified the advantages that elite white men have enjoyed for centuries. If they are interested in helping lift others up, or even just in optimizing the performance of the economy so that it will keep delivering gains for people like them, they should be willing to pay higher taxes, to fund investments in human-capital accumulation for everyone else. …

By helping one another reach our full potential, we’ll help the whole country get its swagger back.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/middle-class/615238/

8.) “Ancient Egyptian Bread – Pandemic Bakers Bring the Past to Life” – by Keridwen Cornelius, The Atlantic / Sapiens, Aug. 20, 2020

Around 2000 B.C., a baker in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes captured yeast from the air and kneaded it into a triangle of dough. The baked bread was then buried in a dedication ceremony beneath the temple of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II… There the yeast slept like a microbial mummy for four millennia, until 2019, when Seamus Blackley—a physicist and game designer best known for creating the Xbox—suctioned it up with a syringe and revived it in a sourdough starter.

Blackley, an amateur Egyptologist, thinks about this ancient baker often as he attempts to re-create the bread of 2000 B.C. “I’m trying to learn from you, my friend,” he tweeted, as if speaking across time to the baker. …

This spring, as people around the world sheltered at home to avoid spreading or catching the coronavirus, many home cooks cultivated their baking hobby or learned to make sourdough. Some housebound archaeologists took the trend to the next level by replicating baking methods from Roman Pompeii or Neolithic Turkey. Blackley, for example, is collaborating with archaeologist Serena Love … to bake bread using what they believe is 4,000-year-old yeast and ancient techniques in his backyard in California. In March, he successfully baked a loaf in an earthen pit, similar to the way the Egyptians baked in the time of the pyramids. The bread was as dense as cake, with a rich, sour aroma and a comforting sweetness akin to brown sugar.

These achievements sparked a sensation, with news outlets and foodie podcasts chronicling the story of these “raiders of the lost yeast.” … Love was excited about getting ancient yeast for her homebrewing experiments. She also thought the yeast could offer clues to some mysteries about bread making and brewing, which were central to ancient Egyptian culture.

The people who built the Egyptian pyramids were themselves built by bread and beer. Workers were given a daily ration of about 10 loaves of bread and several pints’ worth of thick, soupy beer they slurped with straws. The Egyptians had 117 words for bread and around 40 words for beer. But they didn’t write down a single recipe.

“It gets you more in touch with the humanity,” Love says. “You realize that these people in the past were just people like you and I. And something as simple as baking bread that has been done for thousands and thousands of years isn’t too different from how we do it today.”

Farrell Monaco re-creates the baking techniques of ancient Romans to produce classic breads such as the panis quadratus.

Check it out here: https://www.sapiens.org/archaeology/ancient-egyptian-bread/

9.) “Time to ditch ‘toxic positivity,’ experts say: ‘It’s okay not to be okay’” – by Allyson Chiu, The Washington Post, Aug. 19, 2020

In the midst of a raging pandemic and widespread social unrest, these days it can feel as if reassuring platitudes are inescapable. “Everything will be fine.” “It could be worse.” “Look on the bright side.” But as well intentioned as those who lean on such phrases may be, experts are cautioning against going overboard with the “good vibes only” trend. Too much forced positivity is not just unhelpful, they say — it’s toxic. “While cultivating a positive mind-set is a powerful coping mechanism, toxic positivity stems from the idea that the best or only way to cope with a bad situation is to put a positive spin on it and not dwell on the negative,” said Natalie Dattilo… “It results from our tendency to undervalue negative emotional experiences and overvalue positive ones.” …

With data indicating that … mental health problems … have surged to historic levels in recent months, adding toxic positivity to the mix may only exacerbate the rising tide of negative emotions by preventing people from working through the serious issues they’re experiencing in a healthy way

The exact origins of the label “toxic positivity” are murky, but Preston said the idea is rooted in American culture, which values positivity. “It’s an attractive behavior in people that makes them seem more well adapted and more popular with their peers…” … But people who are genuinely effusive and upbeat aren’t the issue, she said. “It’s a problem when people are forced to seem or be positive in situations where it’s not natural or when there’s a problem that legitimately needs to be addressed that can’t be addressed if you don’t deal with the fact that there is distress or need…”

Take, for example, negative emotions stemming from the current state of the country. Denying, minimizing or invalidating those feelings through external pressure or your own thoughts can be “counterproductive and harmful,” Dattilo said. “ ‘Looking on the bright side’ in the face of tragedy of dire situations like illness, homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment or racial injustice is a privilege that not all of us have,” she said. “So promulgating messages of positivity denies a very real sense of despair and hopelessness, and they only serve to alienate and isolate those who are already struggling.”

Internalizing such messages can also be damaging, she said. “We judge ourselves for feeling pain, sadness, fear, which then produces feelings of things like shame and guilt,” she said. “We end up just feeling bad about feeling bad. It actually stalls out any healing or progress or problem solving.”

Research has shown that accepting negative emotions, rather than avoiding or dismissing them, may actually be more beneficial for a person’s mental health in the long run. One 2018 study tested the link between emotional acceptance and psychological health in more than 1,300 adults and found that people who habitually avoid acknowledging challenging emotions can end up feeling worse.

“People who tend to not judge their feelings, not think about their emotions as good or bad, not try to avoid or put distance between themselves and their emotions, these people tend to have better mental health across the board,” said Brett Ford… Desperately wanting to feel happy can leave people experiencing what Ford calls a “meta-emotion,” or “an emotion about an emotion.” That meta-emotion is often disappointment, she said, because you aren’t as happy as you want to be. …

There are a number of ways to address negative feelings without falling into toxic positivity, according to experts. It’s important for people to normalize and label their experiences while removing any expectations and goals that they should feel better than they do, Dattilo said. “Recognize that how you feel is valid, no matter what,” she said, later adding, “It’s okay not to be okay.”

Jaime Zuckerman, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Philadelphia, recommended mindfulness techniques that allow people to sit with their emotions. … She also encouraged people to set personal goals focused on behaviors instead of feelings. …

But Zuckerman cautioned against feeling pressure to tackle lofty tasks such as picking up a new hobby or learning a foreign language — activities that have been promoted on social media during the pandemic as people have rushed to reframe coronavirus lockdowns as a positive experience. “To expect that this time is going to be the time to make yourself better and to change yourself, that’s the toxic positivity,” she said, noting, “There’s nothing wrong with trying to make the best of it, but making the best of it is different from toxic positivity. Making the best of it is accepting the situation as it is and doing the best you can with it, whereas toxic positivity is avoidance of the fact that we’re in a really bad situation.”

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/toxic-positivity-mental-health-covid/2020/08/19/5dff8d16-e0c8-11ea-8181-606e603bb1c4_story.html

10.) “ ‘My Sixth Great-Grandfather Bought My Sixth Great-Grandmother’: Revisiting My Entangled and Complicit Family History” – by Rose Marie Berger, Sojourners, Sept. 2020

In 1707, my sixth great-grandfather bought my sixth great-grandmother at a slave auction at a French military post in what is now Mobile, Ala. She, later “christened” Thérèse, was a 10-year-old Chitimacha girl. He, Jacques Guedon, was a 17-year-old from Nantes in Brittany who had been recruited into the French colonial navy.

The Chitimacha were the most powerful nation along the Gulf Coast. … [A] young French-Canadian commander named Bienville… led his regiment in a night raid on Thérèse’s village. Likely all the adults were massacred. The dozen or so children left alive, including Thérèse, were rounded up for sale. …

[After purchasing her] Guedon took the enslaved Thérèse to the military post in Natchitoches, La. The Spanish Catholic Church, influential in the region and with laws against enslaving Indigenous people, encouraged Guedon to “Christianize” his relationship with this young woman—with whom he had three daughters—and so he “married” her at the nearest Spanish fort. She was given a “Christian name,” Marie Anne Thérèse de la Grande Terre. My maternal ancestors lived in the Natchitoches region until the 1930s.

WHY REVISIT THISentangled and complicit family history? Veteran David Peters says, “If PTSD results from being the prey—reexperiencing the feeling that something is hunting you, hurting you, trying to kill you—then moral injury results from being the predator—where you have done things to hurt people.” We know trauma is passed down in families. Is moral injury also transferred from one generation to the next?

The story of Jacques and Thérèse illustrates how the two sides of the trauma coin live in a family. The predator “marries” the prey amid larger economic forces (and their political and military enforcers) and they bear children. …

The intertwining of moral injury and trauma are destiny only if we let them be. Weaponized whiteness, while both hereditary and communicable, is not an idiopathic disease. For “white” folks, reentering the stories of our past can bring us to sources of unacknowledged injury to others and unhealed trauma in ourselves, which manifest now as white supremacy and systemic racism. Not, let me emphasize, for the purpose of “performative allyship” through a recitation of white woundedness. But instead for the purposes of being “born again,” both in flesh and in spirit (John 3:6).

Check it out here: https://sojo.net/magazine/septemberoctober-2020/my-sixth-great-grandfather-bought-my-sixth-great-grandmother

11.) “7 Police Officers Suspended as a Black Man’s Suffocation Roils Rochester” – by Sarah Maslin Nir, Michael Wilson, Troy Closson and Jesse McKinley, The New York Times, Sept. 3, 2020

Seven Rochester police officers were suspended on Thursday in the suffocation of a Black man as he was being detained in March, although the mayor and senior state officials faced escalating questions about why more than five months passed before action was taken.

The man, Daniel Prude, who was having a psychotic episode, was handcuffed by officers after he ran into the street naked in the middle of the cold night… Mr. Prude began spitting, and the officers responded by pulling a mesh hood over his head When he tried to rise, the officers forced Mr. Prude face down on the ground, one of them pushing his head to the pavement… Mr. Prude was held down by the police for two minutes, and had to be resuscitated. He died a week later at the hospital. …

The hours leading up to the encounter with the police were troubled ones for Mr. Prude, who was struggling with some combination of suicidal fantasy and drug use that an hourslong admittance to a hospital did nothing to treat. The day before, Mr. Prude had arrived in Rochester. His brother, Joe Prude, had picked him up from a shelter in nearby Buffalo… But soon after, Mr. Prude began behaving erratically, accusing his brother of wanting to kill him and even seemingly trying to take his own life. …

Joe Prude called the police, giving a description of what his brother had been wearing … and saying he seemed to be under the influence of PCP. He told an officer that he feared Daniel may have run toward the sound of an approaching train, to possibly try again to hurt himself. …

With the release of the camera footage, Joe Prude’s assessment of that night in March was filled with outrage. “I placed a phone call to get my brother help,” he told reporters on Wednesday, “not to have my brother lynched.”

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/03/nyregion/daniel-prude-police-rochester.html

12.) “Defund Your Inner Police” – by Sarah Condon, Mockingbird, Sept. 1, 2020

Last Friday our church put up the weekly newsletter. It was a good one. Having survived Laura here in Houston we were called on to reach out and serve those people battered by the storm. … The photograph used in the newsletter was one from our Harvey relief work. It was a room full of people packing food. …

The post was up for mere minutes when someone commented with loads of explanation points and a very colorful statement that began, “What are you people thinking!?” and chastised the church (actually my husband by name) for having a bunch of people in a room without masks on. She even tagged our ecclesiastical authority. So fun! Never mind that the photograph was old. Never mind that we would be absolutely crazy to put a bunch of people in a room right now without masks on. Never mind any grace or curiosity. … We were wrong and we by God needed to know.

I had a lot of thoughts. … But mostly, I thought about how some other person’s rage had prompted mine. How I wanted to set the record straight. I longed to correct the corrector. …

Everyone is a complete and total mess right now. Anyone who tells you they are not is a liar. We are all desperately clinging to control in a world of trauma. But the handles have broken off the ride and we are being slung right and left, up and down, until we are absolutely nauseated with anxiety. Correction is the only control we have left. Even if my hopelessness is off the charts and my heart is cracked in two, I can use my last breath to call out what you have done wrong. … [N]o matter how tired we are, we always have room for personal fury.

And so I think we all must consider defunding our inner police.

If you have a family member you do not politically agree with and every time they put up something about politics you see this as your time to shine, put down the polishing cloth. Save it for Thanksgiving.

Check it out here: https://mbird.com/2020/09/defund-your-inner-police/

13.) “Affluence Killed New York, Not the Pandemic” – by Kevin Baker, The Atlantic, Aug. 27, 2020

The first thing you noticed, if you had lived in the city for any length of time, was how silent it went. New York has a constant background sound, like the galaxy has constant background radiation, and New Yorkers use it to situate themselves, much as astronomers use radiation to fix our place in the universe. Most of the time you’re not aware of it, maybe noticing only when it grows weakest, in the small hours of the morning when you can distinctly hear from all the way across the city the clanging of train cars as they move underground, or the lonely wail of truck brakes out on the street.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the background noise of the city became weaker than any living person can remember. … The constant sound of the city—made up of countless cars, trucks, trains, construction sites, sirens, whistles, phones, aimless Con Ed drilling, assorted ruckuses, conversations, laughter, shouts, curses, televisions, music played too loud, and dogs barking too long—has returned now, but what does it portend? What will New York be like after the pandemic? …

[New York Times] reporter Dana Rubinstein made an almost despairing plea for leadership in the face of “waves of death and joblessness, hunger and economic depression—all at a scale rarely rivaled in New York City history.” … Rubinstein warned: “If wealthy New Yorkers cut bait and flee, or if corporate titans with global reach drastically diminish their footprints in the financial and cultural capital of the United States, New York City’s tax base could erode, potentially undermining the city’s ability to fund the schools, food pantries and public housing on which so many New Yorkers rely.” …

Such calamity howling can’t be dismissed out of hand. Each closed store means dozens, even hundreds of jobs gone, at least in the near term. The recent surge in crime and disorder is a real problem—the city has experienced a 79 percent increase in shootings and a 29 percent spike in murders this year. Some 90 percent of the victims are people of color, most of them poor and working-class. …

Yet the ways in which pundits and politicians are talking about restoring New York is precisely what made it so susceptible to this crisis in the first place: Their big idea, implicit in Rubinstein’s cri de coeur, is to keep the richest, most powerful people happy. … The city is indeed at a moment of reckoning—not simply because of the pandemic, but because of what it had already become.

After the fiscal crisis of 1975, New York and its economy were restructured around tourism, high finance, luxury retail, and real estate. On the glittering surface, things had never looked better. By 2019, New York was richer than it had ever been before, its population at an all-time high and its forests of glass towers rising ever higher. …

Beneath that glittering surface was a lot of emptiness. Even before the coronavirus, almost a third of the apartments from East 49th Street to East 70th, Fifth Avenue to Park, were occupied for only two months a year or less. Similar economic dead zones were scattered throughout the city—what Tim Wu … has labeled “high-rent blight,” wealthy neighborhoods where whole blocks of businesses closed their doors because they couldn’t come up with the runaway rents.

Nor did affluence help the city shed its social dysfunction. In 2015, the poverty rate was still at nearly 20 percent—one-third higher than it had been in 1975—and nearly half of the city lived in near-poverty, defined as a household income of $47,634 a year or less for a family of four. Homelessness was already at a record level before the pandemic, as rents on new apartments reached an average of $5,000 a month. Public amenities, such as the subway system, had noticeably deteriorated. …

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani asserted … that “many of my friends [are] leaving. And they are basically upper-middle-class and wealthy people. They are the tax base of the city … I always ask [liberals]: ‘Why do you attack rich people so much? Don’t you realize you need them to pay for the poor people?’”

This is a tautology that has become a vicious circle. The more New York has allowed working people and small businesses to be driven out of the city, the more it has come to depend on the very wealthiest—people and firms with the wherewithal to move if they don’t get the subsidy or tax break they demand. New York never got over its beggar’s mentality from the ’70s; even at peak affluence, it was still tossing huge, needless subsidies to corporations and developers in exchange for fanciful promises of job creation.

As bad as the pandemic is, the city has seen more terrible days: in the Great Depression, in the draft riots of the Civil War—even in the Revolution, when a third of the city burned… New York recovered from all those other crises, and it will recover from this one. … But the tumult raises the question of just who the city is for, and how it should serve its people. In the past, New York has repeatedly made bold gambles to renew itself, to adjust the city’s power relationships and find new ways to draw goods, capital, and above all, creative and hardworking people to itself.

During the Great Depression, for instance, New York received an enormous percentage of the aid that the New Deal pumped into American cities. That was because the city had overthrown the corrupt Tammany machine and elected Fiorello La Guardia mayor, and La Guardia and his fellow reformers would oversee badly needed, shovel-ready city-improvement projects… The jobs and the revenues this work generated were then pumped into public amenities that made New York a great working- and middle-class city…

This is the challenge that New York will have to face after the pandemic, to get back to that city for working people. …[I]f New York is a safe, vibrant, affordable place to live, people will come here and find a way to make a living. … It will mean once again changing the city’s power relationships: reining in the landlords, ending the giveaways to developers and companies that are dying to come here already, and pouring money back into the city’s tattered public services, to help working people survive and prosper.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/who-new-york/615715/

14.) “Kehinde Wiley on Protests’ Results: ‘I’m Not Impressed Yet’” – by Dionne Searcey, The New York Times, Aug. 28, 2020

When Covid-19 started spreading across the globe in late winter and some nations began sealing their borders, the American artist Kehinde Wiley was abroad and quickly had to decide where he wanted to ride out the coming viral storm. He chose Dakar, Senegal, site of his spacious, magnificently windswept Black Rock studio complex on the sea. …

What does this moment in America mean to you, in particular with the protests following George Floyd’s death?

It’s a wake-up call to the white population in America. It’s what so many Black Americans have known and been trying to communicate for centuries. It comes as no shock or surprise to us that Black bodies are under assault on a daily basis. What comes as a shock is that so few have listened. By virtue of technology we’re able to have visualized in real time the destruction of Black bodies in public spaces. It’s loud and it’s in your face and it’s undeniable. America at large has had this ability to justify these killings. Now people are wondering whether this will actually bring change. We’ll see. I’m not impressed yet. I’m seeing a lot of self-aggrandizing and self-congratulations on the part of our white allies. I want to see that translate into change with prison reform and education reform, and not this abstract thing.

How do you respond to people who say your “Rumors of War” piece seems prescient in light of the movement to tear down Confederate monuments?

… the fact I wanted to engage that conversation seems rather obvious to me. The timing of it and the way things all came together with the calls for removal of monuments — that is something special.

Does the sculpture take on new meaning now?

Art has always been about taking up space. That’s one reason equestrian sculpture has been a thing — it’s about dominance. We as a society stand behind the glorification of this human being on a pedestal for any number of reasons. That we now are allowed that volume of space, that massive amount of space to be allocated to a Black person in a hoodie might seem trivial. But this is a revolutionary act of embracing a Black presence in the public square — and it’s actually quite shocking that these moments are still revolutionary in the 21st century. …

What should we do with all the Confederate statues that came down?

We need a hall of horrors. You don’t have to melt it all down but create a space where we see our terrible past. It’s less about should it be in existence but should it be deified. Take it off the stage and put it back where it belongs.

Your portrait of former President Obama is hanging in the National Gallery. How would you paint Trump if you had to do his portrait?

(Laughter.) Yeah, that’s just never going to happen. Just the idea causes a physical reaction in me. You definitely weirded me out with that question. Oooh, I wonder who is going to be stuck with that job. That’s going to be an interesting moment.

Former US President Barack Obama unveils his portrait alongside the portrait’s artist, Kehinde Wiley, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/arts/design/kehinde-wiley-monument.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

15.) “‘Freedom’ Means Something Different to Liberals and Conservatives. Here’s How the Definition Split—And Why That Still Matters” – by Annelien de Dijn, Time Magazine, Aug. 25, 2020

We tend to think of freedom as an emancipatory ideal—and with good reason. Throughout history, the desire to be free inspired countless marginalized groups to challenge the rule of political and economic elites. Liberty was the watchword of the Atlantic revolutionaries who, at the end of the 18th century, toppled autocratic kings, arrogant elites and (in Haiti) slaveholders, thus putting an end to the Old Regime. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Black civil rights activists and feminists fought for the expansion of democracy in the name of freedom, while populists and progressives struggled to put an end to the economic domination of workers.

While these groups had different objectives and ambitions, sometimes putting them at odds with one another, they all agreed that their main goal—freedom—required enhancing the people’s voice in government.

But there is another side to the story of freedom as well. Over the past 250 years, the cry for liberty has also been used by conservatives to defend elite interests. In their view, true freedom is not about collective control over government; it consists in the private enjoyment of one’s life and goods. From this perspective, preserving freedom has little to do with making government accountable to the people. Democratically elected majorities, conservatives point out, pose just as much, or even more of a threat to personal security and individual right—especially the right to property—as rapacious kings or greedy elites. This means that freedom can best be preserved by institutions that curb the power of those majorities, or simply by shrinking the sphere of government as much as possible.

This particular way of thinking about freedom was pioneered in the late 18th century by the defenders of the Old Regime. … Yet such views were slower to gain traction in the United States than in Europe. …

But by the end of the 19th century, conservative attempts to reclaim the concept of freedom did catch on. The abolition of slavery, rapid industrialization and mass migration from Europe expanded the agricultural and industrial working classes exponentially, as well as giving them greater political agency. This fueled increasing anxiety about popular government among American elites, who now began to claim that “mass democracy” posed a major threat to liberty, notably the right to property. Francis Parkman, scion of a powerful Boston family, was just one of a growing number of statesmen who raised doubts about the wisdom of universal suffrage, as “the masses of the nation … want equality more than they want liberty.”

Being alert to this history can help us to understand why, today, people can use the same word—“freedom”—to mean two very different things. When conservative politicians like Rand Paul and advocacy groups FreedomWorks or the Federalist Society talk about their love of liberty, they usually mean something very different from civil rights activists like John Lewis… Hundreds of years later, those two competing views of freedom remain largely unreconcilable.

Check it out here: https://time.com/5882978/freedom-definition-history/

16.) “The Metastasizing Cancer Of Trump” – by Andrew Sullivan, The Weekly Dish, Sept. 4, 2020

The Uighur women in exile in Istanbul are the fortunate ones. They managed to escape the control of the Chinese Communist regime, thanks to relatives who found ways to get them out of the country. But one woman refugee also has a confession: “She speaks of participating in at least 500 to 600 operations on Uighur women including forced contraception, forced abortion, forced sterilisation and forced removal of wombs. She told me that on at least one occasion a baby was still moving when it was discarded into the rubbish.” She believed, she says, that this was just part of the Chinese government’s overall birth control policy. Now she knows that was a lie. While birthrates have fallen by 4 percent over the whole country, in Uighur areas, they have declined by 60 percent. The only word for this is genocide — something we have now known for some time.

Meanwhile, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has denied that he had anything to do with the sudden sickness of Alexander Navalny, the most prominent Russian opposition leader. A Russian hospital where Navalny was initially treated claimed there was no evidence of poisoning. But as soon as he was transferred to Berlin for medical attention, incontrovertible evidence emerged that Navalny had been poisoned by the now-familiar nerve agent, Novichok, a substance manufactured by the Russian government. It is the same poison used against a former Russian spy in exile in Salisbury, England, a little over two years ago. 

China’s dictator, president-for-life Xi Jinping, has made some efforts to hide his new complex of concentration camps, but he does not appear to be worried. Vladimir Putin, despite the pro forma denials, is also not particularly concerned that he be discovered as a state assassin. In fact, the blatant use of a nerve agent long tied to the Kremlin is a sign that he wants these attempted murders to be attributed to him.

And both dictators know very well that in president Trump, they have an American leader who is actually impressed — rather than repelled — by this kind of state thuggery. Trump has excused Putin’s murderousness in the past by claiming that the US is no different. And Trump, unlike Chancellor Merkel and prime minister Johnson of the UK, has declined to personally condemn Putin’s assassination attempt, although his spokesperson has. Xi knows too that he can get away with anything. Why? Because, according to John Bolton, Trump privately encouraged Xi to continue with the Uighur genocide.

[T]he most powerful enabler of this left extremism has been Trump himself. He has delegitimized capitalism by his cronyism, corruption, and indifference to dangerously high levels of inequality. He has tainted conservatism indelibly as riddled with racism, xenophobia, paranoia, misogyny, and derangement. Every hoary stereotype leveled against the right for decades has been given credence by the GOP’s support for this monster of a human being. If moderates have any chance of defanging the snake of wokeness, and its attempt to deconstruct our Enlightenment inheritance, we must begin with removing the cancer of Trump from the body politic.

Check it out here: https://andrewsullivan.substack.com/p/the-metastasizing-cancer-of-trump?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoxMjY2OTE3MywicG9zdF9pZCI6MTIyMzU0NywiXyI6ImJvQ09DIiwiaWF0IjoxNTk5MjQ5ODM2LCJleHAiOjE1OTkyNTM0MzYsImlzcyI6InB1Yi02MTM3MSIsInN1YiI6InBvc3QtcmVhY3Rpb24ifQ.-0ofH-NYqtEsgpbGXVVIjthIZdQSjx0PndIwhhE-p5U

17.) “All That Performative Environmentalism Adds Up” – by Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic, Aug. 31, 2020

With climate change making extreme weather events more intense and more common, and Congress continuing to ignore this existential threat, I have tried to do my part. After moving to California, I went on a no-buy streak. I began refusing short plane trips, using public transit or walking whenever possible, and turning the air-conditioning down. I even started carrying around a water bottle or a mason jar.

Could it be that my decision to go green is pointless, or even harmful? “Performative environmentalism” is more about personal virtue than saving the planet, says the writer s.e. smith in a searing essay, and puts the focus on the micro and futile rather than the macro and important. Polluters have convinced us that it is consumers’ fault, argues the activist George Monbiot, who also argues that we cannot buy our way out of a crisis caused by untrammeled consumption. Neoliberalism has wrested the responsibility for environmental action from the C-suite and the statehouse to the individual home, says the journalist Martin Lukacs. No less an authority than Michael Mann, the renowned climatologist, has made a version of this same argument

Companies are where the fault lies, the argument goes: Just 20 of them are responsible for 35 percent of global emissions since 1965… “The corporations blame the consumers,” Heede told me in an interview. “They say, ‘We’re just the producers. We’re satisfying public demand.’” But those companies confuse the public, sow distrust of climate science, and impede policy changes… Governments are where true salvation lies, the argument continues: There is no real hope for keeping global warming below those all-important targets without raising the price of carbon, lowering the price of green energy, and pushing subsidies and other policies to get the world to adapt and decarbonize as fast as possible. Political action in the United States is what matters…

The critics are right that focusing on individuals is a grave error if it obscures corporate culpability and systemic solutions. But I’m not about to get rid of my canvas bags and mason jars, buy a second car, or start taking short flights again. Talking with economists, climate scientists, and psychologists convinced me that depersonalizing climate change, such that the only answers are systemic, is a mistake of its own. It misses how social change is built on a foundation of individual practice.

On one point, the experts agree: In terms of the pencil-to-paper carbon math, no matter how much of an emitter you are… your contribution to climate change is minuscule and any consumption changes you might make even more so. Recycling, cutting back on driving, and changing out old light bulbs for energy-efficient ones might save half a ton of carbon a year. A household going car-free, flight-free, and vegan—changes impractical, if not outright impossible, for many families to make—might reduce emissions by four tons a year. The world needs to slash emissions by tens of billions of tons annually, which categorically requires government investment and government regulations.

But the case for doing something, anything, everything for the future of the planet at a household level is not about long division. “It is a false debate within the climate-activist community,” Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist at NASA, told me… “The canard is this either/or, collective or individual, and [that] individual [change] is a distraction. If the only effect is in keeping an individual’s carbon-dioxide molecules out of the atmosphere, that’s correct. But that’s less than 1 percent of the reason to take action.”

Each individual may not matter. But individuals collectively matter, and consumer culture matters. Shifting mores and norms would help curb emissions, and would make drastic political action more likely.

The behavioral-science literature makes clear that human beings are more like middle schoolers at a semiformal than Aristotelian judges in chambers. We do not act according to pure reason. We are highly sensitive to what the people around us are doing or thinking or talking about, and behave accordingly, whether it comes to having a kid, having more kids, getting a tattoo, taking paternity leave, binge drinking in college, paying a fair share of taxes, finding a person hot, committing a violent assault, donating to charity, being happy, being depressed, developing an eating disorder, laughing, or smoking cigarettes. Among humans, just about everything goes viral.

Social scientists do not just think that the same is true when it comes to helping the environment and stemming climate change. They know that it is true. Take the example of the sport utility vehicle. Annual sales of these boxy gas guzzlers have soared in recent decades; just 8 percent of American consumers chose SUVs as of 1992, and more than 40 percent choose them today. As the Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank notes … that shift was not due to some intrinsic need on the part of American consumers. The population grew in dense urban areas and shrank in sparse rural ones over that time, and labor growth happened in the white-collar and service sectors. Families got smaller at the same time too. SUVs got popular because they were perceived as cool and rich people started buying them, and nobody cared a whit about the carbon impact. …

If viral buying can hurt the environment, it can help it, too. Putting solar panels on your house is infectious: A study from California showed that a single house installing rooftop solar panels increased the probability of another house in the same zip code doing so by .78 percentage points. The propensity to conserve water and recycle is social too. … “Seeing what your friends and neighbors are doing can make a big difference in people’s behavior.”… Last year, the “flight shame” movement swelled in Europe, bolstered by the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. A UBS study of 6,000 people in the United States, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom found that one in five said they had reduced the number of air trips they took based on climate concerns. …

Researchers believe that these kinds of household-led trends can help avert climate catastrophe, even if government and corporate actions are far more important. Community practices really do count. “If 5 percent of Americans bought carbon offsets or changed other [carbon-intensive] behaviors, that would add up to a reduction of 600 million tons of carbon dioxide a year,” Brett Jenks… told me. “That would put it on a short list of the top changes in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions in human history” …

Pressuring the political system is another crucial behavior. At a local level, demanding dense, walkable neighborhoods and abundant, low-cost public transit is a good start. But the Senate and the Supreme Court—heavily politicized, antidemocratic, and counter-majoritarian bodies—are the most potent obstacles to drastic, immediate climate action. Calling your swing-state senator to press for the abolition of the filibuster, getting out the vote in purple states, donating to pro-climate candidates: These might be among the most important things that individuals can do.

Get terrified, and act like it. That’s what our species needs to do to survive, and to help save the trillions of other creatures mortally endangered on this planet. But go ahead and enjoy your coffee in a reusable container while doing it.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/your-tote-bag-can-make-difference/615817/

18.) “Think You’re Making Good Climate Choices? Take This Mini-Quiz” – by Veronica Penney, The New York Times, Aug. 30, 2020

Go vegetarian or cut down on packaging?

[Q:] You decide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by becoming a vegetarian for one year. Your friend doesn’t want to change her diet, but decides to cut down by purchasing only bulk foods (nothing with any form of packaging). How many years would it take your friend to save the same amount of greenhouse gases as you? …

[A:] You’d have to avoid food packaging for approximately 11 years to have the same impact as one year without meat, according to a 2013 study. …

Where are the electricity hogs in your home?

[Q:] Your house generates a lot of greenhouse gasses, but not all the appliances and gadgets are equal. How many hours could you leave a lamp with an LED light bulb switched on and produce the same amount of greenhouse gases as a single load in a clothes dryer? …

[A:] You could leave an LED light on for roughly 300 hours, or 13 days straight, and have the same carbon footprint as one load in the dryer. In the original survey group, the median guess was 60 hours. Maybe switch to a clothes line? …

Going on vacation?

[Q:] Say you’re taking a one-way, economy flight from New York to London. You might want to make up for those emissions by giving up quarter-pound hamburgers. How many burgers would you need to skip to offset that flight? …

[A:] You’d need to skip approximately 278 burgers. That’s equivalent to all the beef consumed by the average American in 15 months. So, if you don’t plan to stay in London and you don’t want to take a sailboat home, you’d have to give up beef for more than two years in order to offset the emissions from your round trip.

How much better is hybrid?

[Q:] You have a midsize car and you’re environmentally conscious, so you set yourself a strict limit of 100 miles per week. If you switched to a hybrid car, how many miles could you drive while still producing the same amount of greenhouse gases? …

[A:] On average, you could drive about 151 miles, but it depends on the cars. For example, if you switch from a Toyota Camry to a Toyota Prius, you could drive 190 miles — almost twice as far!

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/30/climate/climate-footprint-quiz.html

19.) “Unwitting Progressives for Trump” – by Bret Stephens, The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2020

On Thursday, as Donald Trump was about to accept the Republican nomination from the South Lawn of the White House with warnings that “No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” National Public Radio was doing its small part to make sure the president would be re-elected.

NPR’s assistance in this matter was surely unwitting. But that doesn’t make it any less effective. The assist came in the form of a lengthy interview by NPR’s Natalie Escobar with Vicky Osterweil, author of “In Defense of Looting.” The book makes the case for looting because it “attacks some of the core beliefs and structures of cisheteropatriarchal racial capitalist society”; “rejects the legitimacy of ownership rights and property”; and “reveals all these for what they are: not natural facts, but social constructs benefiting a few at the expense of the many, upheld by ideology, economy and state violence.”

To judge by the NPR interview, “In Defense of Looting” is not an interesting book. It speaks for almost nobody beyond the fringe left — and certainly not for looters who hadn’t thought about “cisheteropatriarchalism.” … Nonetheless, the book is symbolically important. I became aware of it when several friends separately forwarded to me the NPR interview. Many of these friends, I suspect, will reluctantly vote for Trump — not out of sympathy for him, but out of disgust with defenses of looting and other things they see too often on the left. …

The list could be longer, but the question it leaves in the minds of wavering voters is exactly the question Trump most wants asked: Can the left be trusted with power? Let me ask that question more specifically. … Does [the left] get that “law and order” is a precondition to civil liberty, not an impediment to it? Is it willing to say that the American founders who bequeathed us the institutions of liberal democracy should be honored, not despised?

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/31/opinion/trump-biden-protests.html

20.) “Willpower Is Not Going to Be Enough” – by Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, The Atlantic, Sept. 2, 2020

College students are being invited back onto campus after a summer of isolation and confinement, with strict instructions to stay apart. … Meanwhile, elementary-school students are resuming the school year on Zoom, and districts are laying down new rules: Keep laptop cameras on; dress properly, as if attending school in person; stay seated for the lesson…

While the demands vary by age—don’t space out on camera; don’t congregate on the quad—many share a faulty premise: If young people would just be careful and pay attention, everybody could face the school year as though the disruption were cosmetic rather than structural.

Willpower is not going to be enough. The life of the American student, from kindergarten through college, is fundamentally embedded in a collective enterprise, one whose success depends on where teaching takes place, who is present, and how everyone involved is used to behaving.

The analogy between remote and in-person learning is more fragile than it looks. The districts expecting second graders to lock into their laptops for six hours a day, like the universities expecting college students to lock into their dorm rooms week after week, are not reckoning with the psychological burdens that remote learning imposes. And for a society accustomed to the norms and rhythms of a system designed for humans in rooms together, the tax on students can be hard to fathom.

For American students at all levels, the school day offers a social and physical setting to reinforce academic progress. … This semester, many students will take part in online school from a single chair, where they must try to focus on a screen… This stasis is good for public health but hard on students. Moving from classroom to recess or dorm to dining hall is not merely an incidental aspect of the educational experience. Learning is more effective, cognitive research shows, when embedded in the material world. Indeed, just changing physical locations during studying increases subsequent recall of the material in question. …

Perhaps more important is the social context of learning. That context is extraordinarily hard to replicate online for reasons that are not always obvious. Humans are powerfully attuned to social feedback, whether they are aware of it or not. Social rewards, the little affective fillips you get from human interaction, flow from social connection. People get validation, measurable in neuroimaging studies, from eye contact. Children watching funny videos smile and laugh more when other people are around. Even casual social bonding releases the love hormone oxytocin. Normally, these boosts push the day along, easing difficult tasks and smoothing out moments of boredom or discomfort. …

To teach or learn under these circumstances requires mental exertion. … A line of psychological research on a subject known as “ego depletion” has tried to document the costs of exercising self-control under adverse circumstances. The study protocols ask subjects to engage in an annoying cognitive-override task and then to turn to something else that is otherwise difficult. … Ego-depletion research suggests that immediately frustrating cognitive tasks…will make people give up sooner on subsequent hard tasks and give in more readily to temptation.

Without physical school—already a reflection of America’s deeply inequitable society—the most vulnerable children have less access not just to the tools of learning but to basic necessities, including food, shelter, and reliable supervision. Indeed, the gravest threats to education this fall are driven by long-standing, unconscionable disparities. Yet a lack of attention to the psychological hurdles to online learning will only amplify those inequities.

For decades, scholars of behavioral economics have been exhorting those in power: If you want people to make choices that are costly to them in the short term but beneficial in the long term, you have to structure the environment to make those choices easier, more palatable, and more habitual. That same principle applies even during a pandemic. When young students cannot pay attention to a videoconference, they are not misbehaving; they are responding to the limitations of an electronic medium. … The plan cannot just be to keep telling them to stay in their dorm room or their seat.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/09/willpower-not-going-be-enough/615820/

21.) “The pandemic is ruining our sleep. Experts say ‘coronasomnia’ could imperil public health.” – by Karin Brulliard and William Wan, The Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2020

Sara Tibebu tried bubble baths. She curated playlists of low-fi beats, followed guided meditation videos and paid for virtual therapy… But every night, she still found herself staring at the ceiling — wide-awake. For five months, all Tibebu has wanted is a decent night of shut-eye. …

As if the novel coronavirus has not already wrought devastation aplenty on the world, physicians and researchers are seeing signs it is doing deep damage to people’s sleep. “Coronasomnia,” as some experts now call it, could prove to have profound public-health ramifications — creating a massive new population of chronic insomniacs grappling with declines in productivityshorter fuses and increased risks of hypertensiondepression and other health problems.

It’s easy to see why people can’t sleep, experts say. The pandemic has heightened stress and upset routines. Bank accounts are strained and children are home. Days lack rhythm and social interaction. The bedroom, which sleep experts say should be an electronics-free sanctuary, also now serves for many as a makeshift office. The news is gripping, bad and breaking around the clock in blue light that discourages shut-eye. The future is uncertain, the end of the crisis indiscernible. …

Even before the virus, lack of sleep was a simmering public-health crisis associated with a suite of maladies. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of people worldwide were suffering from chronic insomnia… Crises such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks are known to trigger short-term sleeplessness. But experts say the pandemic’s unprecedented global impact and protracted nature threaten to expand the rate of chronic insomnia, which is much harder to treat. …

“The impact of insomnia on quality of life is enormous,” said Charles M. Morin… “We hear a great deal about the importance of exercising and good diet, but sleep is the third pillar of sustainable health.” …

At the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, the number of patients complaining of insomnia has risen 20 to 30 percent… Web-based studies in ChinaFrance and Italy found insomnia or poor sleep in about 20 percent of respondents, particularly during pandemic-related shutdowns — which, Italian researchers wrote, seemed to cause people to lose track of days, weeks and time itself. …

The word Buxton uses to describe the unprecedented confluence of stressors is dread. Dread about the future is often imagined, he said, but not now. “This is dread that’s real,” he said. It is also the word Cheryl Ann Schmidt uses for the heavy, knotlike feeling that hits her solar plexus every time she lies down at night, and even when she tries to nap. “I get this sense of dread, like I’m not going to wake up, like something is seriously wrong in the world,” said Schmidt

Even without professional help, people can take steps to improve their sleep, experts say. Abstaining from electronics for at least an hour before bed, getting light exposure by about 8 a.m. and making time at night for sleep are critical. Many experts advise prioritizing exercise and family time, and going on a media diet or fast. Simpson’s top recommendation: Rethink your consumption of news. “When we are engaging with news that may be stressful or worrying in the last hour or two before bed, that can really have a negative impact on sleep,” Simpson said.

Tibebu, the technical writer in Maryland, said online therapy for anxiety helped somewhat. So did focusing on self-care — eating well, buying herself flowers. But in the end, what gave her the most relief during a particularly maddening stretch of insomnia last month was grabbing her one-person tent and fleeing to a state park. There, below glinting stars, surrounded by the buzz of cicadas and a crackling fire, she got her first full night of sleep in months.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/09/03/coronavirus-sleep-insomnia/

22.) “From the Seabed, Figures of an Ancient Cult” – by Joshua Rapp Learn, The New York Times, Sept. 1, 2020

In 1972, in one of the early finds of marine archaeology, researchers discovered a trove of clay figurines on the seabed off the coast of Israel. The figurines — hundreds of them, accompanied by ceramic jars — were assumed to be the remains of a Phoenician shipwreck that had rested under the Mediterranean for 2,500 years.

The artifacts were never fully analyzed in a scientific study, and were filed away and mostly forgotten for decades. But a new analysis by Meir Edrey… and his colleagues indicates that the items were not deposited all at once in a wreck. Rather, they accumulated over roughly 400 years, between the 7th and 3rd centuries B.C., in a series of votive offerings, as part of a cult devoted to seafaring and fertility. “These figurines, the majority of them, display attributes related to fertility, to childbearing and to pregnancy,” Dr. Edrey said.

The ancient Phoenicians were a seafaring merchant culture that stretched across the Mediterranean. Their first city states arose nearly 5,000 years ago, and the culture reached its height during the millennium before Carthage was defeated by Rome in 146 B.C. …

Dr. Edrey and his team also looked at more than 300 figurines, which fit within several themes. Many of the figurines carried symbols associated with Tanit, a goddess of the Phoenician pantheon… “Tanit was the mother goddess for the pantheon,” said Aaron Brody… “She quite literally was the mom of the family of deities.”

Dr. Edrey speculated that practitioners of a fertility cult came to this area periodically to cast offerings into the water. The figurines might represent common people, and casting them into the sea could represent a type of sacrifice that substituted for the real thing … “Every day sailors are leaving a record over time, not because they were told to by the king. It’s sort of just romantic and beautiful in that way — a touchstone from everyday people in the past.”

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/01/science/archaeology-phoenician-israel-shavei-zion.html

23.) “‘The United States is in crisis’: Report tracks thousands of summer protests, most nonviolent” – by Tim Craig, The Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2020

About 93 percent of the racial-justice protests that swept the United States this summer remained peaceful and nondestructive, according to a report released Thursday, with the violence and property damage that has dominated political discourse constituting only a minute portion of the thousands of demonstrations that followed the killing of George Floyd in May.

The report… also concluded that an escalation in the government response to protests and a sharp uptick in extremist activity means the United States faces a growing risk of “political violence and instability” ahead of the 2020 election.

ACLED, which monitors war zones and political upheaval around the world, launched the US Crisis Monitor report with Princeton University… Using media accounts and other public information, the report identified 7,750 protests from May 26 through Aug. 22 that were linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests took place in 2,400 locations across all 50 states and the District.

The group identified about 220 locations where the protests became “violent,” which authors of the report defined as demonstrators clashing with police or counterprotesters or causing property damage. Even in those cases, however, the upheaval was “largely confined to specific blocks, rather than dispersed throughout the city,” the report states.

Still, the researchers warned of “violent political polarization” in the United States that they fear could spill over into the November election. “In this hyper-polarized environment, state forces are taking a more heavy-handed approach to dissent, non-state actors are becoming more active and assertive, and counter-demonstrators are looking to resolve their political disputes in the street,” the authors wrote. “Without significant mitigation efforts, these risks will continue to intensify in the lead-up to the vote, threatening to boil over in November if election results are delayed, inconclusive, or rejected as fraudulent.”

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-united-states-is-in-crisis-report-tracks-thousands-of-summer-protests-most-nonviolent/2020/09/03/b43c359a-edec-11ea-99a1-71343d03bc29_story.html

24.) “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’” – by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, Sept. 3, 2020

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true. Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. …

Trump’s understanding of concepts such as patriotism, service, and sacrifice has interested me since he expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump remained fixated on McCain, one of the few prominent Republicans to continue criticizing him after he won the nomination. When McCain died, in August 2018, Trump told his senior staff, according to three sources with direct knowledge of this event, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” and he became furious, according to witnesses, when he saw flags lowered to half-staff. “What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” the president told aides.

Trump’s understanding of heroism has not evolved since he became president. According to sources with knowledge of the president’s views, he seems to genuinely not understand why Americans treat former prisoners of war with respect. Nor does he understand why pilots who are shot down in combat are honored by the military. On at least two occasions since becoming president, according to three sources with direct knowledge of his views, Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a “loser” for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II. (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers.) …

On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly … initially believed … that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.” …

The president believes that nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.” …

Trump has been, for the duration of his presidency, fixated on staging military parades, but only of a certain sort. In a 2018 White House planning meeting for such an event, Trump asked his staff not to include wounded veterans, on grounds that spectators would feel uncomfortable in the presence of amputees. “Nobody wants to see that,” he said.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/

25.) “What W.H. Auden taught me about Easter, God and surviving a season of Covid-19” – by Jay Parini, CNN, Apr. 9, 2020

About 50 years ago, I was in a bleak mood. A graduate student at the time, I was doing some research at Oxford, and had gone up to London to a library for the day. Walking back to the train station in late afternoon, on a crowded street, I felt overwhelmed. My hands grew sweaty, and I couldn’t breathe. … I sat in a doorway for an hour, quite certain I would die.

I slowly made my way back to Oxford by train. Heading into the college gate, I ran into the old poet W. H. Auden, whom I had known a little. He was living at Christ Church in a cottage… Auden saw I looked glum and said, “Whatever is the matter, dear boy?”

I told him I felt gravely ill, and he said, “What you need is a stiff drink.” He led me to his ramshackle cottage and sat me down on a sofa that smelled of rotten sandwiches and damp newspapers, bringing me what looked like a cereal bowl full of vodka. “Drink this, and you’ll soon feel better.” I drank it perhaps too quickly, and soon felt strangely better.

Auden had a cracked and wrinkled face, like a baked mudflat, and he told me that he would soon be dead. (Indeed, he died a couple of years later.) “I’ve learned a little in my life,” he said. “Not much. But I will share with you what I do know. I hope it will help.”

He lit a cigarette, looked at the ceiling, then said, “I know only two things. The first is this: There is no such thing as time.” He explained that time was an illusion: past, present, future. Eternity was “without a beginning or an end,” and we must come to terms with what underlies time, or exists around its edges. He quoted the Gospel of John, where Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am.” …

I listened, a bit puzzled, then asked: “So what’s the second thing?”

“Ah, that,” he said. “The second thing is simply advice. Rest in God, dear boy. Rest in God.”

Check it out here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/09/opinions/easter-coronavirus-wh-auden-parini/index.html

26.) “The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven” – by Patricia Morrisroe, The New York Times, Sept. 4, 2020

Six months after Beethoven contemplated suicide, confessing his despair over his increasing deafness in the 1802 document known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, he was carousing in taverns with a charismatic new comrade, George Polgreen Bridgetower. This biracial violinist had recently arrived in Vienna, and inspired one of Beethoven’s most famous and passionate pieces, the “Kreutzer” Sonata. Beethoven even dedicated the sonata to Bridgetower. But the irritable composer — who would later remove the dedication to Napoleon from his Third Symphony — eventually took it back.

While Napoleon didn’t need Beethoven to secure his place in history, this snub reduced Bridgetower to near obscurity. … Like so many Black artists prominent in their lifetimes, he has been largely forgotten by a history that belongs to those who control the narrative.

Bridgetower was born on Aug. 13, 1778… His father, Joanis Fredericus de Augustus, was of African descent; his mother, Maria Schmid, was German-Polish, making Bridgetower what was then known as a mulatto, a person of mixed race. (The poet Rita Dove’s 2008 book “Sonata Mulattica,” an imagined chronicle of Bridgetower’s life…) …

Bridgetower’s public debut was long thought to have taken place in Paris in 1789. But Mr. Hart discovered an advertisement in a Frankfurt newspaper promoting a concert by “Hieronymus August Bridgetown,” the “son of a Moor,” in April 1786, when the boy would have been just seven. It noted that he had already played for Emperor Joseph II. …

After several more concerts in Paris, including one attended by Thomas Jefferson, the Bridgetowers… left for England, where the family created a sensation. … [George’s father] Frederick gambled away his son’s money and treated him so brutally that George sought refuge with the Prince of Wales at Carlton House. Frederick was committed to an asylum before being sent back to Germany by the prince, who took 12-year old George under his protection. The prince gave him the opportunity to learn from the finest musicians in London. …

Over the next decade, Bridgetower would play in nearly 50 public concerts with leading orchestras and musicians, including Haydn… He was the first violinist of the Prince of Wales’s band…

After visiting his ailing mother in Dresden, Bridgetower arrived in Vienna in early April 1803. … Beethoven and Bridgetower formed an instant bond. The composer, then 32, may have recognized himself in the 24-year-old violinist. Beethoven had been nicknamed the Spaniard for his swarthy complexion, and engravings of the two men show a marked resemblance. They also had in common abusive fathers with vested interests in their careers, as well as the ability to thrill audiences with their astonishing talents.

After hearing Bridgetower play, Beethoven not only agreed to participate in a concert for him at the Augarten, but also decided to write something for them to perform together. He had already started sketching out the first two movements of a violin sonata… He now began to compose with Bridgetower in mind, as the two men stayed up nights drinking and acting like teenagers. Though Bridgetower was described as melancholic, he could also be high-spirited and ribald. He brought out Beethoven’s freewheeling, bawdy side.

The concert had been planned for May 22, 1803, but since the sonata wasn’t ready, it was postponed until the 24th. At 4:30 that morning, Beethoven instructed his pupil, Ferdinand Ries, to copy out the first two movements for the violinist. Ries managed only the first, and the piano part was still in sketch form. Beethoven and Bridgetower took the stage for the morning concert, having never rehearsed the piece. Bridgetower was sight-reading.

After the performance, Beethoven presented Bridgetower his tuning fork and wrote a dedication on the score: “Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer, gran pazzo e compositore mulattico” (“Mulatto sonata composed for the mulatto Bridgetower, great lunatic and mulatto composer”). …

[Unfortunately,] after Bridgetower made a rude comment about a woman Beethoven admired, the two men quarreled and Beethoven took back the dedication. …

It’s unknown if Bridgetower ever played the “Kreutzer” Sonata again, or if he was in contact with Beethoven after their rift. All we know is that on May 24, 1803, two brilliant performers dazzled a crowd with their high-wire virtuosity. One of them entered history.

Bridgetower and Beethoven

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/04/arts/music/george-bridgetower-violin.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage&contentCollection=AtHome&package_index=1

27.) “Gross Domestic Misery Is Rising” – by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2020

Are you better off now than you were in July? On the face of it, that shouldn’t even be a question. After all, stocks are up; the economy added more than a million jobs in … [August]; preliminary estimates suggest that G.D.P. is growing rapidly in the third quarter, which ends this month.

But the stock market isn’t the economy: more than half of all stocks are owned by only 1 percent of Americans, while the bottom half of the population owns only 0.7 percent of the market.

Jobs and G.D.P., by contrast, sort of are the economy. But they aren’t the economy’s point. What some economists and many politicians often forget is that economics isn’t fundamentally about data, it’s about people. I like data as much as, or probably more than, the next guy. But an economy’s success should be judged not by impersonal statistics, but by whether people’s lives are getting better. And the simple fact is that over the past few weeks the lives of many Americans have gotten much worse.

Obviously this is true for the roughly 30,000 Americans who died of Covid-19 in August — for comparison, only 4,000 people died in the European Union, which has a larger population — plus the unknown but large number of our citizens who suffered long-term health damage. And don’t look now, but the number of new coronavirus cases, which had been declining, seems to have plateaued; between Labor Day and school re-openings, there’s a pretty good chance that the virus situation is about to take another turn for the worse.

But things have already gotten worse for millions of families that lost most of their normal income as a result of the pandemic and still haven’t gotten it back. For the first few months of the pandemic depression many of these Americans were getting by thanks to emergency federal aid. But much of that aid was cut off at the end of July, and despite job gains we’re in the midst of a huge increase in national misery. …

[Also,] that August report wasn’t great considering the context. In normal times a gain of 1.4 million jobs would be impressive, even if some of those jobs were a temporary blip associated with the census. But we’re still more than 11 million jobs down from where we were in February.

And the situation remains dire for the hardest-hit workers. The pandemic slump disproportionately hit workers in the leisure and hospitality sector — think restaurants — and employment in that sector is still down around 25 percent, while the unemployment rate for workers in the industry is still over 20 percent, more than four times what it was a year ago. …

The fact is that this economy just isn’t working for many Americans, who are facing hard times that — thanks to political decisions by Trump and his allies — are just getting harder.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/opinion/trump-economy-jobs.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

28.) “What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger” – by Esau McCaulley, The Washington Post, June 14, 2020

When these videos stack one upon another and are added to our personal slights, a deep unsettling anger rises in the soul of a disinherited and beleaguered people. James Baldwin said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” …

The Bible is not silent about the rage of the oppressed. One of the most startlingly violent passages in the Bible comes from the lips of the disinherited. In Psalm 137 the psalmist says, “Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

How can wishing such an atrocity be in any sense a religious text? Psalm 137 is a psalm of the traumatized. It depicts the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, the sack of the city, sexual assault and brutalization of the innocent. What kind of song do you write if you are forced to watch the murder of your wife, your child, your neighbor?

Psalm 137 is trauma literature, the rage of those who lived. The question isn’t why the Psalmist wrote this. The question is what kind of song would the families of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Eric Garner be tempted to write after watching the video of their deaths? It would be raw and unfiltered. But more than an expression of rage, this psalm … is a call to remember. …

The miracle of the Bible is not that it records the rage of the oppressed. The miracle is that it has more to say. … For Christians, rage (Psalm 137) must eventually give way to hope (Isaiah 49). And we find the spiritual resources to make this transition at the cross. Jesus could have called down the psalms of rage upon his enemies and shouted a final word of defiance before he breathed his last. Instead he called for forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” he says in Luke 23.

It was not a false reconciliation: Jesus experienced the reality of state-sponsored terror. That is why the black Christian has always felt a particular kinship with this crucified king from an oppressed ethnic group. The cross helps us make sense of the lynching tree.

And Jesus’ resurrection three days after his crucifixion shows that neither the lynching tree nor the cross have the final say about those whom God values. The state thought that violence could stop God’s purposes. For the Christian, the resurrection makes clear the futility of the attempt. Further, Jesus’ profound act of forgiving his opponents provides me with the theological resources to hope. Dare we speak of hope when chants of “I can’t breathe” echo in the streets? Do we risk the criticism commonly levied at Christians that we move too quickly to hope because faith pacifies? Resurrection hope doesn’t remove the Christian from the struggle for justice. It empties the state’s greatest weapon — the fear of death — of its power.

Hope is possible if we recognize that it does not rule out justice. It is what separates justice from vengeance.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/14/opinion/george-floyd-psalms-bible.html

29.) “‘Dwarf Pride’ Was Hard Won. Will a Growth Drug Undermine It?” – by Serena Solomon, The New York Times, Sept. 5, 2020

It’s a question many parents of children with dwarfism have contemplated: If a medication could make them taller, would they give it to them?

Now, that possibility is becoming less hypothetical. A study published this weekend in the journal The Lancet found that an experimental drug called vosoritide increased growth in children with the most common form of dwarfism to nearly the same rate as in children without the condition. The study has raised hope that the drug, if taken over the course of years, can make life easier for those with the condition, known as achondroplasia, including the distant prospect of alleviating major quality-of-life issues such as back pain and breathing difficulties.

But the drug has also ignited a contentious debate in a community that sees “dwarf pride” as a hard-won tenet — where being a little person is a unique trait to be celebrated, not a problem in need of a cure. …

Dr. Savarirayan offered a moving example of what longer limbs could deliver. “We’ve got 12- and 13-year-old girls who now for the first time can do their own feminine hygiene and don’t need to be helped by someone because their arms are longer,” he said. …

[However,] Megan Schimmel attributes much of her strength, compassion and empathy to living with achondroplasia. She said that she wouldn’t want to change herself, and that she isn’t going to change her 2-year-old daughter, Lily, who also has the condition. “I can do everything that someone a foot taller can do, with minor accommodations,” Ms. Schimmel wrote in an email, adding that vosoritide sent a message that those with achondroplasia “are broken.”

The debate over the drug resembles a decades-long discussion among deaf people over cochlear implants, with some taking exception to the suggestion that they should be “fixed” with the device. …

Dr. Watkins, the pediatric trainee in Auckland, said that she and her husband were leaning toward treating their son with vosoritide. It isn’t so much about the height, she said, but the potential quality-of-life benefits. Still, Dr. Watkins wonders about the effects on Lachlan’s relationships with his peers who have dwarfism if he grows taller than they do. She also worries about the potential for negative side effects that did not show up in the trials. For now, she will wait…

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/05/world/dwarfism-vosoritide.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

30.) “‘Having it All’ is a myth. That’s why we need universal family care.” – by Josephine Kalipeni, The Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2020

I cannot do it all. I’m done pretending that I can — and you should be done pretending, too. Before covid-19 hit, I was already my parents’ grocery shopper and medication filler and IT support person. I financed their retirement. And since my dad passed away in April, I have been balancing my career as a policy director with cooking, doing laundry and organizing bills for my mom.

I am not alone. Millions of middle-aged adults are caring for an older parent while also raising a child. In a pandemic, this invisible labor force is stretched even thinner. It’s time to ditch the failed, go-it-alone approach when it comes to care.

People over 65 are on track to outnumber children by 2035 for the first time in U.S. history. The caregiving need is about to explode, but the country’s patchwork of policies and programs won’t necessarily help us. Medicare and Medicaid cover some home care, but not in most cases. With Medicaid, families must spend down to poverty to access services, and nearly 1 million Americans are on wait lists for care to transition from nursing facilities back into their homes. Families that don’t qualify for these programs end up drawing on life insurance policies, retirement savings or additional loans to care for those they love. …

For the 6 in 10 U.S. households making less than $75,000 a year, care is unaffordable. A home health aide costs on average $52,620 annually, while a full-time childcare program costs on average nearly $16,000. The financial strain is even greater for Black Americans, who spend on average twice as much of their incomes on caring for others as White Americans. …

Like Keys, most caregivers have to cobble together informal systems of care. … Keys and I need economic policies that allow everyone to age and have care with dignity, and we’re far from alone in thinking so. More than 70 percent of Americans want the federal government to become more involved in providing support in this area. A robust care foundation should support care across the life span and include universal childcare, paid family leave, and long-term support services for the elderly and people with disabilities. Congress must pass bills that provide vulnerable family caregivers and essential workers the health protections, technical training and financial support they need…

A conversation on this growing need is finally entering our national discourse. … [F]or the first time in modern history, we saw a party’s presidential nominee [Biden] announce a $775 billion plan to rebuild our nation’s caregiving economy by bailing out childcare centers and constructing new ones, funding in-state universal pre-K, and expanding alternatives to nursing facilities. …

The pandemic has shown the toll of isolation and the cost of underinvesting in childcare and health. Informal family caregivers already knew this. As the rest of America wakes up to it, we need to finally treat this informal care network as the labor force it is.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/24/having-it-all-is-myth-thats-why-we-need-universal-family-care/?arc404=true

31.) “How to Reverse Course on Trump’s Environmental Damage” – by The Editorial Board, The New York Times, Aug. 22, 2020

That the Interior Department has now blessed oil and gas drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge comes as no surprise. … The administration’s contempt for public lands is equaled only by President Trump’s fealty to the country’s fossil fuel interests and by his determination to obliterate anything President Barack Obama did to preserve open space, ensure cleaner air and water and reduce global warming gases. …

Mr. Trump has left the country’s environmental policies in wreckage. … The biggest casualties were the three programs that formed the basis of Mr. Obama’s promise at the 2015 Paris climate meeting to substantially reduce America’s greenhouse gases: rules reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, those reducing emissions of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations; and those mandating dramatic improvements in automobile fuel efficiency. …

It’s hard to find encouragement in all this, though here is one positive sign often overlooked in what has been a relentless, attention-grabbing onslaught: The administration has not always received buy-in from the very industries Mr. Trump purports to help. …

As for the Arctic refuge, the oil companies are hardly tripping over one another to bid for leases. Why should they? Demand is low, prices are low and an industry that has already begun writing down some assets as possibly unrecoverable in a climate-conscious world would undoubtedly prefer to drill in the friendlier climates of, say, West Texas. Then there’s the matter of money. Increasingly conscious of climate risk, major investment banks — including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo — have promised not to finance drilling in the refuge, and, in some cases, the entire Arctic.

So far, the federal courts have not been friendly to the administration. They rejected Mr. Trump’s attempt to overturn Mr. Obama’s executive action protecting Arctic waters … from drilling … and derailed, at least for now, his plan to revive the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. And the courts could still overturn Mr. Trump’s effort to repeal Mr. Obama’s monument designations.

The biggest roadblock to Mr. Trump’s vaulting anti-environment and anti-regulatory ambitions would, of course, be Joe Biden, should he win the November election and the Democrats capture the Senate. As president, Mr. Biden … [could] overturn initiatives that Mr. Trump was unable to complete in time… And he would almost certainly seek to replace Mr. Trump’s executive orders and rules with his own…

[H]e can [also] move forward with his own agenda. The centerpiece, as of now, would be his sprawling $2 trillion plan to tackle climate change with ambitious deadlines, a more measured approach to drilling on public lands (he’d leave the Arctic alone) and big investments in energy efficient buildings, clean fuels and clean cars.

Look closely, and there’s something else important in that massive document and in Mr. Biden’s speeches: evidence of a wholly different mind-set toward the relationship between humans and the natural world. Mr. Biden would, for instance, oppose the Alaskan gold mine, set aside nearly one-third of America’s land and water for protection, establish new monuments and national parks, move aggressively to restore the Everglades and clean up the Great Lakes. In sum: a new and welcome environmental ethic in the Oval Office.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/22/opinion/sunday/trump-biden-environment-climate-change.html

32.) “The Platform the GOP Is Too Scared to Publish” – by David Frum, The Atlantic, Aug. 25, 2020

Republicans have decided not to publish a party platform for 2020. This omission has led some to conclude that the GOP lacks ideas, that it stands for nothing… This conclusion is wrong. The Republican Party of 2020 has lots of ideas. I’m about to list 13 ideas that command almost universal assent within the Trump administration, within the Republican caucuses of the U.S. House and Senate, among governors and state legislators, on Fox News, and among rank-and-file Republicans.

1) The most important mechanism of economic policy—not the only tool, but the most important—is adjusting the burden of taxation on society’s richest citizens. Lower this level, as Republicans did in 2017, and prosperity will follow. …

2) The coronavirus is a much-overhyped problem. It’s not that dangerous and will soon burn itself out. States should reopen their economies as rapidly as possible, and accept the ensuing casualties as a cost worth paying… Masking is useless and theatrical…

3) Climate change is a much-overhyped problem. It’s probably not happening. If it is happening, it’s not worth worrying about. If it’s worth worrying about, it’s certainly not worth paying trillions of dollars to amend. To the extent it is real, it will be dealt with in the fullness of time by the technologies of tomorrow. …

4) China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United States. Military spending should be invested with an eye to defeating China on the seas, in space, and in the cyberrealm. …

5) The trade and alliance structures built after World War II are outdated. America still needs partners, of course, especially Israel and maybe Russia. But the days of NATO and the World Trade Organization are over. The European Union should be treated as a rival…

6) Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make their own best deals in the insurance market with minimal government supervision. Those who pay more should get more. …

7) Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate that privilege in such a way as to minimize voting fraud, which is rife among Black Americans and new immigrant communities. …

8) Anti-Black racism has ceased to be an important problem in American life. At this point, the people most likely to be targets of adverse discrimination are whites, Christians, and Asian university applicants. …

9) The courts should move gradually and carefully toward eliminating the mistake made in 1965, when women’s sexual privacy was elevated into a constitutional right.

10) The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. Overly strict conflict-of-interest rules will only bar wealthy and successful businesspeople from public service. …

11) Trump’s border wall is the right policy to slow illegal immigration… Some deal on illegal immigration must be found. The most important Republican priority in any such deal is to delay as long as possible full citizenship, voting rights, and health-care benefits for people who entered the country illegally.

12) The country is gripped by a surge of crime and lawlessness as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and its criticism of police. … [T]he priority now should be to stop crime by empowering police.

13) Civility and respect are cherished ideals. But in the face of the overwhelming and unfair onslaught against President Donald Trump by the media and the “deep state,” his occasional excesses … should be understood as pardonable reactions…

So there’s the platform. Why not publish it? … [T]he platform I’ve just described, like so much of the Trump-Republican program, commands support among only a minority of the American people. The platform works … by exciting enthusiastic support among Trump supporters; but when stated too explicitly, it invites a backlash among the American majority.

Check it out here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/new-gop-platform-authoritarianism/615640/

33.) “What if Facebook Is the Real ‘Silent Majority’?” – by Kevin Roose, The Washington Post, Aug. 27, 2020

Listen, liberals. If you don’t think Donald Trump can get re-elected in November, you need to spend more time on Facebook. Since the 2016 election, I’ve been obsessively tracking how partisan political content is performing on Facebook, the world’s largest and arguably most influential media platform. Every morning, one of the first browser tabs I open is CrowdTangle — a handy Facebook-owned data tool that offers a bird’s-eye view of what’s popular on the platform. I check which politicians and pundits are going viral. … I browse the previous day’s stories to see which got the most reactions, shares and comments.

Most days, the leader board looks roughly the same: conservative post after conservative post, with the occasional liberal interloper. … It’s no secret that, despite Mr. Trump’s claims of Silicon Valley censorship, Facebook has been a boon to him and his allies… But what sticks out, when you dig in to the data, is just how dominant the Facebook right truly is. Pro-Trump political influencers have spent years building a well-oiled media machine that swarms around every major news story, creating a torrent of viral commentary that reliably drowns out both the mainstream media and the liberal opposition.

The result is a kind of parallel media universe that left-of-center Facebook users may never encounter, but that has been stunningly effective in shaping its own version of reality. Inside the right-wing Facebook bubble, President Trump’s response to Covid-19 has been strong and effective, Joe Biden is barely capable of forming sentences, and Black Lives Matter is a dangerous group of violent looters.

Mr. Trump and his supporters are betting that, despite being behind Mr. Biden in the polls, a “silent majority” will carry him to re-election. … “We live in two different countries right now,” said Eric Wilson… Facebook’s media ecosystem… is “a huge blind spot for people who are up to speed on what’s on the front page of The New York Times and what’s leading the hour on CNN.” …

But the right’s dominance on Facebook, specifically, is something to behold. Here are just a few data points I pulled from CrowdTangle this week: The conservative commentator Ben Shapiro has gotten 56 million total interactions on his Facebook page in the last 30 days. That’s more than the main pages of ABC News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and NPR combined.The most-shared Facebook post containing the term “Black Lives Matter” over the past six months is a June video by the right-wing commentators The Hodgetwins, which calls the racial justice movement a “damn lie.” The second most-shared Black Lives Matter post? A different viral video from The Hodgetwins, this one calling the movement a “leftist lie.” (The Hodgetwins also have the 4th, 6th, and 12th most shared posts.) …

Facebook’s older, more conservative user base may not reflect what’s happening on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, which draw a younger crowd. Still, the platform’s sheer scale makes it vital to understand. As of 2019, 70 percent of American adults used Facebook, and 43 percent of Americans got news on the platform, according to the Pew Research Center.

The reason right-wing content performs so well on Facebook is no mystery. The platform is designed to amplify emotionally resonant posts, and conservative commentators are skilled at turning passionate grievances into powerful algorithm fodder. …

Over the past few years, I’ve come to view my daily Facebook data-dive as a kind of early-warning system — a rough gauge of what’s grabbing America’s attention on any given day, and which stories and perspectives will likely break through in the days to come. And looking at Facebook’s lopsided political media ecosystem might be a useful reality check for Democrats who think Mr. Biden will coast to victory in November.

Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/27/technology/what-if-facebook-is-the-real-silent-majority.html

34.) “GOP Policies Are Shortening American Lives” – by Michael Hobbes, The Huffington Post, Aug. 26, 2020

In one of the most alarming trends in recent history, the American lifespan is getting shorter. For decades, the United States tracked the progress of other developed countries, as advances in nutrition, medicine and health care added years to the average life expectancy. But starting about 10 years ago, that progress stalled in the U.S. People in other wealthy countries kept living longer and longer, but Americans plateaued. In 2014, American life expectancy fell backward for the first time in 21 years. U.S. lifespans slid lower for another three years straight before barely ticking upward in 2018.

This backward slide has set off one of the most important debates in epidemiology: What’s happening? Explanations range from America’s semi-privatized medical system to its higher rates of sedentary lifestyles to “deaths of despair” among poor rural whites. 

This month, a team of epidemiologists, physicians and political scientists published a study that found an even simpler explanation: Republicans. 

Conservative policies, the researchers found, are the driving force behind America’s declining lifespans. “Across a huge range of issues, the more liberal version of state policies predicts longer life expectancy and the conservative version predicts shorter life expectancy,” said Jennifer Karas Montez… Passing tougher regulations on tobacco and guns while enhancing labor rights and pay could extend U.S. life expectancy by as much as 2.8 years for women and 2.1 years for men.

While the Republican Party has declined to release a national policy platform for the next four years, the GOP currently holds 29 state legislatures and 26 governorships and has spent decades enacting its preferred policies in conservative states. Over the last decade, a growing body of research has found that these policies are negatively affecting the health of constituents. …

Over the last 30 years, federal authorities have handed a huge range of powers down to the states. From welfare payments to environmental protection to gun control, state legislatures have taken on an increasingly influential role in setting public policy. And they have, to say the least, used these powers for different purposes. Blue states have established steep tobacco taxes, strict automobile emissions standards and (relatively) generous unemployment benefits. Red states have restricted welfare, lifted regulations on businesses and preempted cities from raising wages or requiring sick leave for workers.

Over time, these policy changes have produced strikingly different outcomes. Every year, Massachusetts spends more than $14,000 on welfare per low-income resident. Florida spends a paltry $3,904. Seattle has a minimum wage of $15.75 per hour, whereas Atlanta is prohibited by state law from exceeding $7.25 per hour. A pack of cigarettes costs $5.25 in Missouri and $12.85 in New York.

“Every policy is a public health policy,” said Steven Woolf… “It’s easier to notice that when the policies are more directly related to public health… But what we’re finding out is that a huge range of other social and economic policies have similar effects.”

Montez’s study examined 121 laws that differed between states. Tobacco regulations, civil rights legislation, environmental safeguards and labor protections were all significantly correlated with higher life expectancy. … In nearly every category, the liberal version of the policy was associated with a longer lifespan. 

The only area where liberal policies were linked to shorter lifespans was marijuana: Residents of states that restrict cannabis tend to live longer than those where it’s legal.

Check it out here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/us-life-expectancy-republican-policies_n_5f45845ac5b6cf66b2afc90c

35.) “No, Eric Metaxas, Jesus wasn’t White” – by Michael Gerson, The Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2020

Evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas is one of those figures on the right who has been miniaturized by his association with President Trump. The author of a flawed but serious biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is more recently the co-author of the children’s book “Donald Builds the Wall!” From Dietrich to Donald is a fall of biblical proportions.

Now Metaxas has stirred controversy with a tweet contending (or assuming) that Jesus was White. His claim was made in reaction to news that the United Methodist Church is partnering with Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility,” to produce a video series on “Deconstructing White Privilege.” Metaxas’s response read in full: “Jesus was white. Did he have ‘white privilege’ even though he was entirely without sin? Is the United Methodist Church covering that? I think it could be important.”

Metaxas has subsequently attempted to place his claim about Jesus’ ethnicity into context. But there is no context in which this statement makes historical or theological sense. …

There are admittedly no physical descriptions of Jesus in the Gospels. Traditions about his appearance, including the beard, arose more than a century after his death. But there is no doubt that he was a Jew from what we now know as the Middle East. The white, European Jesus of Western imagination is a fiction produced by those who could not imagine human perfection in any other form. “Whites simply couldn’t conceive of owing their salvation to a representative of what they considered an inferior race,” Robert P. Jones … emailed me. “And a nonwhite Jesus would render impossible the intimate relationalism necessary for the evangelical paradigm to function: no proper white Christian would … submit themselves to be a disciple of a swarthy Semite.”

The embrace of a Scandinavian Jesus is not just foolish but part of a broader historical amnesia. Jesus not only looked like a Middle Eastern Jew; this identity also made him part of an oppressed, dispossessed group. A sense of Jewish powerlessness was the social context for his ministry, and his teaching reflected it. Jesus offered little advice to the privileged, except to humble themselves and give their wealth away. He had much to say about the inherent value of the poor, the meek and the mourning. This message was one reason he suffered a brutal, unjust, suffocating death at the hands of public authorities. …

The Christian message has always been more easily and fully understood by those who lack social privilege — by those who see the face of a nonwhite Jesus. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass provides an example. After his own conversion to Christianity, he quickly encountered the deep hypocrisy of Christians who justified white supremacy. … “The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus,” Douglass wrote. …

Even though Douglass often found “the Christianity of this land” depressing, he maintained great respect for “the Christianity of Christ,” which he regarded as a revolutionary doctrine of freedom and equality. The same Christ, he said, who “poured out his blood on Calvary, cared for my rights — cared for me equally with any white master.”

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-white-european-jesus-of-western-imagination-is-fiction/2020/08/03/e495f5de-d5cb-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html

36.) “How to cope in an anxious age: Try Hitchcock, Munch and Poe” – by Lawrence Klepp, The Washington Post, Aug. 28, 2020

The French film director François Truffaut, who conducted a famous series of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock in 1962, said afterward that he had found Hitchcock to be a “fearful” and “deeply vulnerable” man, but that this was precisely what made him an “artist of anxiety.” Hitchcock’s biographer Peter Ackroyd concisely summed up the theme of most of his films: “Ordinary people, living in a familiar setting, are suddenly plunged into a ‘chaos world’ where no one is safe.” This can hardly be improved upon as a description of our own world since March. …

Yet the feeling of being immersed in one of Hitchcock’s movies can also induce a desire to watch them, or to consume anything comparably tense and dark and riveting. Friends of mine… have written to say that during the long coronavirus siege they have been devoting themselves to film noirs and classic Hitchcock and Clouzot thrillers, or to Poe and Kafka and Raymond Chandler stories.

In a small New England town, I’ve been doing the same. A tenet of homeopathic medicine is that “like cures like.” I’m not sure that’s true, but perhaps it can at least alleviate it (as, admittedly, can pure, carefree escapism, like the screwball comedies…). The art of anxiety may deflect real-life anxiety and simultaneously put it into better focus. Anxiety involves a sharpening of the senses, a heightened awareness. In any kind of treacherous landscape, it helps us keep our balance and see what is hidden.

But art’s advantage … is that it is never “just life” — never really a mirror of life. It always gives us a potent intensification or distillation of some aspect of it: tragic, comic, elegiac, erotic or, in the case of the art of anxiety, a sense of disorientation and shadowy, intangible menace. These aren’t pleasant feelings, but any strong and pure distillation, even of fear, can intoxicate us. It can even enchant us. Around the age of 12, I was mesmerized by Edgar Allan Poe stories … Children like scary stories. Hitchcock movies, film noirs and other thrillers, or the perennially popular horror genre … bring us back to a half-forgotten but unconsciously persistent childhood perspective, which is one of being always a little lost, having to find our way in a sometimes perilous world full of unknown things and places and people, most of them much larger than ourselves, and featuring a regularly encroaching, scary nighttime darkness and solitude.

Suspense is both a form of anxiety and a form of enchantment, and it has always been essential to the storytelling arts. But it exists as well in music, which often relies on ominous chords and passages — the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for example — and even in a great painting or photograph, in the sense that there is more there than meets the eye, an archetypal or subliminal something that accounts for a work’s uncanny, hypnotic hold over us.

The power of suspense is a legacy of the long evolutionary and prehistorical periods of humanity, when everyone had to spend a lot of their time anticipating threats, sensing and dodging dangers, and generally being scared to death. Our remote ancestors were terrified of thunder, darkness, predatory animals, snakes, ghosts, sicknesses, strangers and nearby hostile tribes, along with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the rest of the catalogue of routine but unpredictable natural disasters. …

“I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature,” Edvard Munch said of his inspiration for “The Scream,” the 1893 painting that became the iconic image of what W.H. Auden would later call “The Age of Anxiety.” It’s the age when, it might be said, we have begun to fear ourselves — a recklessly expansive, hubristic version of ourselves. In movies like “Shadow of a Doubt,” “Strangers on a Train” and “The Wrong Man,” Hitchcock gives us an innocent character who discovers that she or he has a sinister double who has to be confronted and subdued. Anxiety is, in a sense, the discovery that what we fear is here, among us, after we have bolted the door.

Anxiety, when clinical, can be paralyzing and is something to be treated and diminished whenever possible. But sometimes we need to draw on the fundamental, existential anxiety that comes with the precipitous human condition. Anxiety is, as Kierkegaard said, “the dizziness of freedom.” It attends every major choice, every crossroads and new experience. It is inseparable from adventure, and from savoring and surviving it. The imaginative adventures provided by the great artists of anxiety may allow us not only to momentarily escape the anxiety being generated by the pandemic and by deep social and political divisions, but to find our way through it.

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/alfred-hitchcock-anxiety-artists-coronavirus/2020/08/28/8a592a48-e7d5-11ea-bc79-834454439a44_story.html

37.) “Baseball is honoring the Negro Leagues. It needs to explain why they existed.” – by Kevin B. Blackistone, The Washington Post, Aug. 16, 2020

Baseball had a chance.

It was 1869. The Pythian Base Ball Club of Philadelphia played the Philadelphia Olympics. Not a well-pitched game: Olympics 44, Pythian 23. It was noteworthy, however, because Pythian players were Black and the Olympics players were White. Against one another, they played baseball’s first recorded interracial game.

“Two decades later, the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ of 1887 between white professional baseball teams excluded all black players from participation, leading to the eventual creation of the Negro Leagues,” Stephen Segal wrote… “Rather than continuing racial progress after 1869, blacks went backwards in terms of equality in organized baseball. The story of the Pythian Club exemplifies yet another example of how African-American dreams of equality were shattered and unfulfilled during the period of Reconstruction and afterwards in both the South and North.”

But you won’t hear that explained Sunday as baseball marks the centennial of the Negro Leagues. Instead, Major League Baseball will cover it up with a 100th-anniversary logo patch on players’ uniforms in Sunday’s games. Pat itself on the back for joining the players’ union in making a $1 million contribution to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. …

Few entities have done better than baseball at whitewashing an ignominious history. Just look at how the game commodified Jackie Robinson into a national celebration in the 1990s while wrongfully alluding to him as its first Black player — Fleetwood Walker predated Robinson as the majors’ first Black player by six decades — and ignoring its policy that dashed countless Black men’s dreams of playing big league baseball over three generations simply because of their heritage.

In this summer of America’s racial reckoning in the wake of George Floyd’s killing under the knee of a White policeman, what baseball is doing Sunday in remembering the Negro Leagues doesn’t correct the record. …

What baseball should do Sunday is acknowledge its role in creating the segregated baseball leagues it is commemorating. … [T]his act [of segregating the majors in the 1880s] didn’t just impact baseball. Every other sport followed baseball’s lead as America’s pastime and refused to let the progeny of enslaved Africans participate in its games. Baseball, like sports as a whole, was never a leader in social justice. It was a facilitator in social injustice, and never before has the time so clearly screamed for it to admit as much and edit its narrative.

The Ringer even reported Friday that MLB was exploring including individual Negro Leagues records in its official books. Still, that’s more appeasement than reconciliation. How about just starting at the beginning? Answer the question: “Why did Black ballplayers need the Negro Leagues in the first place?”

Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/08/16/baseball-is-honoring-negro-leagues-it-needs-explain-why-they-existed/

P.s., new Dune trailer looks fun:

2 thoughts on “A Few Interesting Articles from the News, Pt. 4

  1. Pingback: A Few Interesting Articles from the News, Pt. 5 – Grasping at Awes

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