Such large-scale social change should prompt us to ask larger questions: What kind of world do we want to live in when we emerge from these chaotic times? How much of that world will have been actively built with our input, and how much of it will have been constructed for us by engineers in ways that only in hindsight we will understand to have been foundational? What patterns of behavior and habits of mind do these solutions privilege over other ways of doing things? What are the likely unintended consequences?
Technosolutionism Isn’t the Fix | Hedgehog Review
When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place.
The American Abyss | New York Times
[A] people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.
Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.
The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
Any excuse will serve a tyrant.
Aung San Suu Kyi:
[D]espotic governments do not recognize the precious human component of the state, seeing its citizens only as a faceless, mindless - and helpless - mass to be manipulated at will. It is as though people were incidental to a nation rather than its very life-blood. Patriotism, which should be the vital love and care of a people for their land, is debased into a smokescreen of hysteria to hide the injustices of authoritarian rulers who define the interests of the state in terms of their own limited interests.
W.E.B. Du Bois:
Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.
Henry A. Wallace:
With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public.
A dissenting minority feels free only when it can impose its will on the majority: what it abominates most is the dissent of the majority.
No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.
Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.
Paradoxically, to properly recognize the diverse realities that constitute the human experience, we must lean more heavily into our oneness, not tiptoe timidly around it.
Toward a New Universalism | The Hedgehog Review
No single machine should be able to control the fate of the world’s population—and that’s what both the Doomsday Machine and Facebook are built to do.
Facebook is a Doomsday Machine | The Atlantic
2020 strikes again. I was a Correspondent subscriber from its US launch, and greatly valued the “unbreaking news” approach to important issues. I’ll miss the thoughtful, deeper dives it championed.
The Correspondent will stop publishing on 1 January 2021. | The Correspondent
Some brilliant work, here. So much of it hard to look at.
Three children’s books for Veterans Day.
46 is a welcome number. Let’s keep our hands on the plow.
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
Let’s see where the freedom highway leads. Together, forward.
Fantastic news I hope is not too late, but a turning point in regional non-profit journalism in the US. Goodness knows we badly need it.
I’m not sold on a perspective that seeks contentment by saying, essentially, “I wait, therefore I (still) am.” And yet, I cannot wait unless I am.
Life is moving faster than ever, yet we spend just as much time waiting | The Correspondent
The US is … a country without a social contract. It’s a republic that has stripped away the “public”. And it’s led by a political party that can no longer be called a party in any real sense.
Dear news media, stop covering the US as if it’s a democracy | The Correspondent
Justice Ginsburg deserves peace. May the rest of us know her strength as we shoulder her outsize share of the burden, her vision as we carry on the work of shaping a better America, and her steadfast endurance as we resist the wickedness lurking in the days ahead.
Army ants will sometimes walk in circles until they die. The workers navigate by smelling the pheromone trails of workers in front of them, while laying down pheromones for others to follow. If these trails accidentally loop back on themselves, the ants are trapped. They become a thick, swirling vortex of bodies that resembles a hurricane as viewed from space. They march endlessly until they’re felled by exhaustion or dehydration. The ants can sense no picture bigger than what’s immediately ahead. They have no coordinating force to guide them to safety. They are imprisoned by a wall of their own instincts. This phenomenon is called the death spiral. I can think of no better metaphor for the United States of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many Americans trusted intuition to help guide them through this disaster. They grabbed onto whatever solution was most prominent in the moment, and bounced from one (often false) hope to the next. They saw the actions that individual people were taking, and blamed and shamed their neighbors. They lapsed into magical thinking, and believed that the world would return to normal within months. Following these impulses was simpler than navigating a web of solutions, staring down broken systems, and accepting that the pandemic would rage for at least a year.
These conceptual errors were not egregious lies or conspiracy theories, but they were still dangerous. They manifested again and again, distorting the debate around whether to stay at home, wear masks, or open colleges. They prevented citizens from grasping the scope of the crisis and pushed leaders toward bad policies. And instead of overriding misleading intuitions with calm and considered communication, those leaders intensified them. The country is now trapped in an intuition nightmare: Like the spiraling ants, Americans are walled in by their own unhelpful instincts, which lead them round and round in self-destructive circles.
“The grand challenge now is, how can we adjust our thinking to match the problem before us?” says Lori Peek, a sociologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies disasters. Here, then, are nine errors of intuition that still hamstring the U.S. pandemic response, and a glimpse at the future if they continue unchecked. The time to break free is now. Our pandemic summer is nearly over. Now come fall, the season of preparation, and winter, the season of survival. The U.S. must reset its mindset to accomplish both. Ant death spirals break only when enough workers accidentally blunder away, creating trails that lead the spiraling workers to safety. But humans don’t have to rely on luck; unlike ants, we have a capacity for introspection.
On a recent episode of his Road Work podcast, John Roderick lamented the defiant ignorance many Americans now hold as a weaponized core virtue. If we are to break free of this pandemic, countering that ignorance is essential, but pandemic is only the most essential, deadly manifestation of a deeper problem. Figuring out how to circumvent — or at least short circuit the amplification of — the defiantly ignorant who propel us further into this national death spiral is a challenge even more formidable than the pandemic itself.
While I agree that “fewer voices” might remove distortion from our discourse, I don’t agree with Roderick’s assessment of populist culture gatekeeping as emblematic of the problem. The distortion problem lies with cynical manipulators of massive media platforms — both old media & social media — who ultimately addict their audiences by peddling simplistic responses like outrage, dehumanization, and magical thinking of the kind described in this Atlantic piece to complex problems like the pandemic. We know the chief culprits, yet we choose to give them not just mental lodgement, but to amplify them by seeming them even worthy of criticism, which means we tacitly acknowledge their lies & manipulation as legitimate.
America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral | The Atlantic
Fundamentally changing what the news is about, how it’s paid for, and how it’s made doesn’t happen overnight.
Nonetheless, The Correspondent exceeded my expectations this year. Please consider subscribing.
Creating a pipeline between the surveillance necessary for contact tracing and the court of social media also risks people being judged by different standards according to biases that are amplified online.
Shame and Surveillance on Social Media | The Correspondent
Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature cannot be budged. Not by the governor. Not by the people. Not by vigilantes in the streets. Not by the Milwaukee Bucks. Wisconsin’s brutally gerrymandered state legislative maps — by almost every standard, the nation’s most biased — guarantee that they can’t even be budged at the ballot box. And so they remain an immovable and unaccountable force.
This is the very real damage to representative democracy done by gerrymandering. It’s hardly the first example here in Wisconsin, where citizens have so little control over their own representatives you can scarcely call it a democracy at all.
Ordinarily, elected representatives might think twice before stiff-arming legislation backed by 80 percent of the state, or fear the wrath of the people for forcing voters to cast ballots, in person, and risk catching Covid-19 simply by exercising their right to vote. Wisconsin’s legislature, however, has insulated themselves from any consequences — indeed, insulated themselves from the people and the ballot box — by the district lines they drew themselves during the 2011 decennial redistricting.
Republican operatives and savvy mapmakers barricaded themselves into a Madison law office, dubbed it the “map room,” claimed attorney-client privilege for their furtive work, required legislators to sign a non-disclosure agreement before even being shown their own new district, and designed fancy regression models that ensured Democrats would hold a minority of seats even they won up to 57 percent of the statewide vote.
The maps have exceeded their designers high expectations all decade long. In 2018, for example, Wisconsin voters re-elected a Democratic U.S. senator, backed Evers for governor over two-term Republican incumbent Scott Walker, placed Democrats in every elected statewide office, and preferred Democratic assembly candidates by a margin of 190,000 votes. Republicans held the chamber, 64-35. They won 64 percent of the seats, with 46 percent of the votes.
How rigged are Wisconsin’s maps? So rigged that the Harvard’s Electoral Integrity Project, which quantifies the health of electoral systems in America and worldwide, rated the state’s electoral boundaries as a three on a scale of one to 100. This is not only the worst rating in the nation, it’s lower than any nation graded by the EIP has ever scored on this measure. This is not a rating received by a functioning democracy. It is the rating of an authoritarian state.
Absent some seismic shift in public option in these gerrymandered districts, we can’t even vote these deadbeat politicians out of power, even while they force citizens risk their health to vote. Our only hope might be that their complete dereliction of duty during the pandemic triggers an electoral earthquake off the scale.
Wisconsin’s decade-long subjugation to illegitimate, minority Republican control has been the pilot for the rest of the country at every level of government.
Dereliction of duty:
Republicans started the session and recessed in both the Senate and Assembly in less than 30 seconds.
WisGOP sits on its hands while bleating about the Governor’s emergency COVID-19 orders, too.
President Donald Trump said National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe made the decision because the administration “got tired” of intelligence about election security leaking from Congress.
Prior to becoming Director of National Intelligence, then-Rep. Ratcliffe represented the resident of the White House during impeachment proceedings. Three weeks after impeachment failed to remove his client from office, Ratcliffe accepted his client’s nomination as Director of National Intelligence. He is the first DNI confirmed by a partisan vote for a reason:
Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and a member of the Senate intelligence panel, said he has concerns that Ratciffe has limited experience in the intelligence community yet extensive experience in politics. “A dangerous combination,” he said.
“Now more than ever it is vital that the DNI respect the critical firewall that must exist between intelligence and political calculations — especially if the truth isn’t what the boss wants to hear,” King said.
Before being elected to Congress in 2014, Ratcliffe was mayor of Heath, Texas, and a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Texas. When he was first nominated, senators questioned whether he had enough intelligence experience and whether he was picked because of his willingness to defend Trump.
But given a second chance, Ratcliffe worked to separate himself from the president at his confirmation hearing, including by saying he believed Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a conclusion Trump has resisted. He said he would communicate to Trump the intelligence community’s findings even if he knew Trump disagreed with them and might fire him.
If your client only reacts to alarming reports about foreign interference in federal elections when they reach the press, the logical way to help him keep his job — and keep you in yours — is to stop delivering alarming intelligence reports to those who directly represent voters.
But who is being irresponsible here?
Everyone. In the United States, those in charge of our local, state, & federal institutions have collectively decided to push responsibility for public health as low as they can, in an attempt to insulate themselves from hyper-polarized public furor over any reasonable measure they might take. Those left holding the bag are regular folks, particularly already-besieged caregivers for children, vulnerable adults, & the elderly, or pseudo-adults who have already demonstrated a collective lack risk-aversion sufficient to avoid engaging in risky behaviors like binge drinking, unsafe sex, reckless driving, or (yes) enlisting in the military.
Our institutional leaders’ dereliction of duty does not absolve anyone of their responsibility to do their part. When we fail individually, we fail collectively. That this lesson is unfortunate or untimely does not exempt anyone from examination, even as it surely feels like an imposition anyone who didn’t live through the Great Depression.
Our leaders have failed us. They have elected to punish the members of our society who are responsible to & for others.
Let us not forget that, should we ever make it to the other side.
Blame Pollyanna Presidents When Covid-19 Plans Fail | The Chronicle of Higher Education
The issue of reconstituting, rebuilding the social fabric is something that takes a long time and a lot of work.
We needn’t live to see the cathedral we must build.
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