• Infinite Zoom

    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

  • Edward Hopper’s Worlds of Isolation & Connection

    Furthermore, his paintings also often suggest connectedness, even in the midst of isolation. The woman in Automat may have felt like she was the only woman ever to sit alone at a table in public, but she wasn’t, of course. The painting works for me because the experience is at once unique to the woman in the painting and a common occurrence. The reason I like Morning Sun and Office in a Small City so much is that, taken apart, they show individuals isolated from the rest of the world, but taken together, they show how alike we are. We are common in our loneliness.

    The thought makes me feel a little less lonely. I want to run into Morning Sun ’s frame and tell the woman on her bed not to worry. If she just waits a year, a man will sit in an office in a small city and do the very same thing she’s doing now. And since I can’t, I instead tell myself that people all over the country and the world are doing what I’m doing. That I am keeping myself apart, and in doing so am connecting myself to a larger whole.

    The twist in staring too long at Hopper in the era of Covid-19 is that you see not only the similarities between then and now, but the differences. This year, I don’t only relate to the loneliness of the figures in Nighthawks, I also envy them. Unlike us, they can safely meet strangers in diners and bars. Of all the things I used to feel looking at Hopper’s paintings, longing was never one of them.

    How Edward Hopper became an artist for the pandemic age | New Statesman

  • It seemed as if [COVID] was coming straight for JaMarcus, but he wasn’t able to isolate. Every other day, he still needed to trek to a dialysis clinic to spend hours tethered to a machine, surrounded by strangers.

    Tethered to the Machine | ProPublica

  • I’ll be forever grateful for my visit to the Pec. I’d so looked forward to returning one day. Another loss in a year of far too many unnecessary losses.

    El Chapultepec, Denver’s iconic jazz club and bar, closing permanently after 87 years | Denver Post

  • Some brilliant work, here. So much of it hard to look at.

    In 2020, AP photographers captured a world in distress | AP

  • And not just ICU beds:

    Collectively, the Allina Health, CentraCare and Mayo Clinic systems reported more than 3,000 such absences [due to COVID-19 infection or exposure quarantines] last week.

    ‘No beds anywhere’: Minnesota hospitals strained to limit by COVID-19 | Star Tribune

  • Because I could not stop for Death…

    To be able to face our fears, we must remember how to perform ritual. To remember how to perform ritual, we must slow down.

    Why surrendering to death, grief and loss is fundamental to reimagining how to live | The Correspondent

  • 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

  • Gown is Town — College, Community

    This Cornell sophomore does not mince words:

    The employees who make this university run are a part of our community just as much as any student is. I will die on that hill. Most of them will be here or have been here longer than any of us, and they will be here long after we are gone. They are definitely more a part of Cornell than certain freshmen who have busted in here like they own the place, publicly flaunting their inadvertent endangerment of the livelihoods of hundreds.

    You interact with Cornell employees daily. You recognize their faces. They work incredibly — incredibly — hard, they smile and give you words of encouragement and they feed you every day of the week. If this campus shuts down, they will not be going back to Westchester or Long Island or Miami or Manhattan. You owe it to them to do everything in your power to keep this semester alive. What is a crappy semester for you has enormous implications for the lives of our staff here, and the college town community as a whole. How dare you. How dare any of you forget about what is at stake for them this fall.

    Our county public health data suggests this perspective needs much more encouragement among our undergraduates.

    Students Will Not Bear the Greatest Cost of a Shutdown This Semester | The Cornell Daily Sun

  • America's Death Spiral

    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

  • 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 Bellwether Republicans: Authoritarian, Deadbeat, & Unaccountable

    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.

    Wisconsin’s Governor Called a Special Session on Police Reform. Republicans Stopped It After 30 Seconds | Rolling Stone

  • 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.

    Wisconsin Republicans take no action on policing bills | AP

  • Responsibility Hot Potato

    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 Business Model of Education: A Moral Bankruptcy & Looming Financial Disaster

    Calling a halt to on-campus operations and going totally online, thereby waiving on-campus fees, was the right, moral choice. And yet it was the option that this reckless system could never take, because those inflated fees were needed to pay the fixed costs of the business model. Without sufficient state funds, universities are reliant on federal grant money, which requires students to enroll. If online courses drive away even a fraction of those students, the house of cards will collapse. For the university to do the right thing would be financial suicide.

    The article’s title is misleading. The business model of education is the root problem, but it did not start with state universities. State governments — enthralled by neoliberalism, harried by zealotical anti-tax lobbyists & myopic voters — have spent forty years divesting from funding education as a public good, forcing public universities to rely on a mix of federal funding, out-of-state/international tuition, an amenities arms race, & ever-inflating service fees.

    I don’t agree with the article’s proposed solution, but something must be done in the wake of the havoc on budgets — state and university — that will follow the pandemic.

    Correctional, police, & military budgets bloat without restraint while the viability of the Post Office and public universities are jeopardized. One can only conclude American society cares more about imprisoning & killing people than we do connecting & educating them.

    The Corner That State Universities Have Backed Themselves Into | The Atlantic

  • Lately, when I find myself getting frustrated with my daughter, I’ve been reminding myself the little girl across the backyard is the only person even roughly her age that she’s seen in over five months. I’d be starving for age-appropriate interaction, too.

  • I hung this on our front storm door this morning.

    Solidarity forever.

  • This hurts to read, but I don’t think the author is too far off the mark. There are good people in America who want a society that includes and uplifts everyone, but there are too many, from top to bottom, who serve only themselves.

    The Unraveling of America | Rolling Stone

  • Visited my office on campus today for the first time in months. It will be good to Hamm have a display larger than my 13” MacBook Pro screen again. Now I can just hope I won’t need to return to campus again until next summer.

  • Billionaire CEO Judy Faulkner to Epic’s employees: “It’s not easy to be a hero.”

    Every employee interviewed requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal.

    ‘I Could Easily End Up On A Ventilator’: Epic Systems Employees Decry Company Policy Amid Pandemic | Wisconsin Public Radio

  • Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature has been on vacation for over 100 days during a devastating pandemic. Put their dereliction of duty on display.

    Gov. Evers Should Keep Calling Special Sessions Until Wisconsin Republicans Take Action | The Recombobulation Area

  • Legitimacy is Fragile

    Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state legislature has not passed a bill in over three months. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court voted to terminate the governor’s stay-at-home order via a remote session. (The margin: the previous governor’s lame duck political appointee, who had already lost a state-wide election for a proper 10-year term on the court.) Twelve days ago, the court upheld laws a lame-duck session of the Republican-controlled Legislature passed to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

    Wisconsin is on fire, and the arsonists control two branches of the state government. Gerrymandered districts make it unlikely that will change, even after the upcoming election.

    For The First Time Ever, Wisconsin Surpasses 1,000 New COVID-19 Cases In 1 Day | Wisconsin Public Radio

  • Solidarity is flavor!

    Doing our part to help our local food carts stay afloat might not be the easy on the waistline, but doing the right thing never tasted so good.

  • The outcome of a country with a myth of rugged individualism, run by career politicians instead of leaders: social duty becomes an individual responsibility felt only by those who believe in social duty.

    Hold fast.

    Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should | The Atlantic

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