Compiled by Lisa Allardice: Tiger King and a bloody mary: Hilary Mantel, Simon Armitage and other writers on lockdown life (The Guardian)
Worth it for this quote primarily:
Honestly, there is a lot to be said for tooling about all day, looking up recipes and not making them, not bothering to paint the living room and failing to write a novel. In the middle of the messy non-event called your mid-afternoon, you might get something – a thought to jot down, a good paragraph, a piece of gossip to text a pal. Boredom is a productive state so long as you don’t let it go sour on you. Try not to confuse the urge to get something done with the idea that you are useless. Try not to confuse the urge to contact someone with the thought that you are unloved. Do the thing or don’t do it. Either is fine.
Joanne Zuhl: Rural Oregon school districts shift to outreach, connecting homeless families to services (Street Roots)
When coronavirus hit, homeless students lost their safe haven: school.
There are more than 22,000 students recognized as homeless across Oregon, with rural communities like Butte Falls experiencing the highest percentages among their student bodies.
“It’s very scary to me because usually schools are the consistency in these kids’ lives,” Torres said. “That is a top priority right there, especially if you’re living in that travel RV with your three siblings and your parents in that cramp little area,” Torres said. “They can’t even go to the parks. I just couldn’t imagine in their situation.”
Townsend said the crisis families are facing is very familiar to people working on the front lines of services, for social workers and school staff. It is less obvious to people who don’t always know all the challenges people in a community face. With coronavirus, "the challenge is to go outside of ourselves and see how it’s impacting people around us,” she said.
“Everyone talks about student homelessness as being very hidden, and I can see how unless people are looking for it, it’s going to become even more hidden.”
George Packer: We Are Living in a Failed State (The Atlantic)
The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.
When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.
The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.
Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.
The long recovery over the past decade enriched corporations and investors, lulled professionals, and left the working class further behind. The lasting effect of the slump was to increase polarization and to discredit authority, especially government’s.
Trump acquired a federal government crippled by years of right-wing ideological assault, politicization by both parties, and steady defunding. He set about finishing off the job and destroying the professional civil service. He drove out some of the most talented and experienced career officials, left essential positions unfilled, and installed loyalists as commissars over the cowed survivors, with one purpose: to serve his own interests. His major legislative accomplishment, one of the largest tax cuts in history, sent hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and the rich. The beneficiaries flocked to patronize his resorts and line his reelection pockets. If lying was his means for using power, corruption was his end.
Read: It pays to be rich during a pandemic
This was the American landscape that lay open to the virus: in prosperous cities, a class of globally connected desk workers dependent on a class of precarious and invisible service workers; in the countryside, decaying communities in revolt against the modern world; on social media, mutual hatred and endless vituperation among different camps; in the economy, even with full employment, a large and growing gap between triumphant capital and beleaguered labor; in Washington, an empty government led by a con man and his intellectually bankrupt party; around the country, a mood of cynical exhaustion, with no vision of a shared identity or future.
It turns out that “nimble” companies can’t prepare for a catastrophe or distribute lifesaving goods—only a competent federal government can do that. It turns out that everything has a cost, and years of attacking government, squeezing it dry and draining its morale, inflict a heavy cost that the public has to pay in lives. All the programs defunded, stockpiles depleted, and plans scrapped meant that we had become a second-rate nation. Then came the virus and this strange defeat.
The fight to overcome the pandemic must also be a fight to recover the health of our country, and build it anew, or the hardship and grief we’re now enduring will never be redeemed. Under our current leadership, nothing will change. If 9/11 and 2008 wore out trust in the old political establishment, 2020 should kill off the idea that anti-politics is our salvation. But putting an end to this regime, so necessary and deserved, is only the beginning.
We’re faced with a choice that the crisis makes inescapably clear. We can stay hunkered down in self-isolation, fearing and shunning one another, letting our common bond wear away to nothing. Or we can use this pause in our normal lives to pay attention to the hospital workers holding up cellphones so their patients can say goodbye to loved ones; the planeload of medical workers flying from Atlanta to help in New York; the aerospace workers in Massachusetts demanding that their factory be converted to ventilator production; the Floridians standing in long lines because they couldn’t get through by phone to the skeletal unemployment office; the residents of Milwaukee braving endless waits, hail, and contagion to vote in an election forced on them by partisan justices. We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal; that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work; that the alternative to solidarity is death. After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.
How We Reopen the Country: A Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience (Kottke)
Working under the direction of The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, a bipartisan group of experts in public health, economics, technology, and ethics have produced a plan for a phased reopening of public life in the United States through testing, tracing, and supported isolation.
Zeynep Tufekci: The WHO Shouldn’t Be a Plaything for Great Powers (The Atlantic)
Trump’s defunding ploy will only make the organization’s problems worse.
Fixing the WHO is crucial, because we desperately need well-functioning global health institutions. But that requires a correct diagnosis of the problem. There is an alternate timeline in which the leadership of the WHO did its job fully and properly, warning the world in time so that effective policies could be deployed across the planet. Instead, the WHO decided to stick disturbingly close to China’s official positions, including its transparent cover-ups. In place of a pandemic that is bringing global destruction, just maybe we could have had a few tragic local outbreaks that were contained.
Taiwan and Hong Kong succeeded because they ignored, contradicted, and defied the official position and the advice of the WHO on many significant issues. This is not a coincidence, but a damning indictment of the WHO’s leadership.
Imagine the WHO took notice of the information it received from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Imagine the WHO also recognized that whistleblower doctors in Wuhan were being threatened with jail time. It would have realized that something important was happening, something worth investigating. It could have immediately, but politely, demanded access to the region around Wuhan and its hospitals.
When independent access to Wuhan was denied, instead of simply relaying what China claimed as if it were factual, the WHO could have notified the world that an alarming situation was unfolding. It could have said that China was not allowing independent investigations, and that there were suggestions of human-to-human transmission that needed urgent investigation. That would have gotten the world’s attention.
Researchers estimate that acting even a week or two early might have reduced cases by 50 to 80 percent. With proper global leadership, we may have had a very different trajectory.
Unfortunately, the WHO seems to remember its principles only when they align with China’s interests. For example, the WHO correctly opposes calling SARS-CoV-2 the “Chinese virus,” as the U.S. administration has tried to do, in another of its attempts to shift the conversation away from its own failings and onto the familiar turf of culture wars. But when China goes on a brazen global misinformation spree, making outrageously false claims about SARS-CoV-2 being a CIA operation or calling it a “U.S.A. virus,” the WHO is silent.
Defunding the WHO is not just foolish. It is dangerous: A pandemic needs to be contained globally, including in the poor countries that depend on the WHO. The WHO is the only global organization whose mission, reach, and infrastructure are suitable for this. The U.S. funds about 15 percent of the WHO’s current budget, and the already stretched-thin organization may not be able to quickly make that up.
We must save the WHO, but not by reflexively pretending that nothing’s wrong with it, just because President Trump is going after the organization. We should be realistic and honest about the corruption and shortcomings that have engulfed the leadership of an organization that is deeply flawed, but that is still the jewel of the international health community. The WHO employs thousands of dedicated and selfless health-care workers in 194 countries, and even now it is leading the fight globally against polio and Ebola. It needs to be restructured, and the first order of business is to make sure that it’s led by health professionals who are given the latitude to be independent and the means to resist bullying and pressure, and who demonstrate spine and an unfailing commitment to the Hippocratic oath when they count most.
Cat Zhang: TikTok Report: BENEE’s “Supalonely” and the Inexplicable Power of Vibeyness (Pitchfork)
In our new recurring series, we look at the good, the bad, and the straight-up bizarre songs spreading across TikTok via dances and memes.
TikTok’s trend-setting prowess has given famous people an even greater incentive to dip their toes into the mortal world. A little song and dance comes with the possibility of a handsome reward, at least for the musicians: hits that soundtrack TikTok memes clobber their way to the top of Spotify’s Viral 50 with the rapaciousness of King Kong scaling the Empire State Building. It usually works like this: some impossibly cool teenager with above-average rhythm choreographs a dance; said dance must be rudimentary enough for anyone to learn—give or take a few hours and several YouTube tutorials—but dynamic enough for you to look impressive if you put in the work. Like a fast-casual burrito, TikTok dances are customized from the same basic ingredients, but adding something new and spicy to the mix can work wonders. Particularly fresh choreo—or at least moves backed by the right influencer—can single-handedly rocket a song to the top of the viral charts.
Ben Dandridge-Lemco: How Loops Are Changing the Sound and Business of Rap Production (Pitchfork)
With rappers recording at a nonstop clip, and sampling more difficult than ever, hip-hop producers are increasingly outsourcing their melodies to a global network of loopmakers.
These loops are snippets of original music that Prasad composes at his computer, melodic ideas that might serve as the instrumental hook of a song—but without the rest of the song attached. They range in length and complexity: some incorporate one or two different sounds, while others are multi-layered miniature compositions. Every two weeks, he packages around 40 of his best loops to send to established producers he connected with on Instagram. If everything goes perfectly, a producer will use one of his loops in a beat—they might change the tempo, adjust the pitch, chop it up and rearrange it, or just drop it in as-is—and an artist will record a song over it.
In recent years, these melody loops, and the musicians who create them, have become a fundamental part of the way rap music is made. For up-and-comers like Prasad, supplying well-connected producers with packs of pre-made melodies has become the most effective method to get a foot in the industry’s door. And for producers working with prolific rappers, outsourcing the time-consuming work of writing a melody to a pool of dedicated loopmakers is the most efficient way to keep making hits.
The popularity of loops, on some level, is a reaction to the increasingly complex legal and financial barriers placed on sampling pre-existing recordings in new songs, a cornerstone of early hip-hop production. In the past three decades, from pivotal court cases around samples in De La Soul and Biz Markie records in the early ’90s to more recent copyright battles over “Uptown Funk” and “Lucid Dreams,” incorporating references to other songs in your music has become a risky and expensive proposition.
Within this collaborative spirit, there’s also an inherent power imbalance. When unknown loopmakers—often geographically removed from rap’s centers of industry in Atlanta, New York, and L.A.—send material to big-name producers with connections to artists and labels, the latter have far more leverage than the former for negotiation, a dynamic that can leave loopmakers vulnerable to exploitation.
Though loops have already become a music industry standard, there’s still a stigma attached to them, according to Jetsonmade. “People have a lack of respect for the loopmakers,” he says. “Some producers don’t want people to know they’re using loops.” For more traditional producers, there’s a prevailing sense that using loops is a sort of cheat code. The separation between clicking through a folder of loops and making a beat from scratch can seem like the difference between ordering from Seamless and cooking a meal. It also suggests a depressing reality for many of the most in-demand rap producers, who may simply lack the time or bandwidth to work from a blank slate on all of their beats.
Kadia Goba: Brooklyn's Black And Brown Communities — Home To Many Of New York City's Essential Workers — Are Coronavirus Hot Spots (Buzzfeed)
“We’re telling you that no one should be out here because it’s dangerous, but we’re sending you out there and we’re not giving out any masks.”
The bus driver, who declined to be named for fear of losing her job, is one of hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites still working essential jobs, even as the borough is hit hard by the coronavirus. Twenty-eight percent of New York City’s essential workers live in Brooklyn — the most in any borough — and the vast majority of them are people of color. In Brooklyn, the number of deaths outpaced those in Queens on Sunday. Brooklyn has more than 2,606 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 865 “probable” COVID-19 deaths, according to NYC data released April 19.
Kenya Evelyn: 'The last flag bearers of an era': how coronavirus threatens a generation of black Americans (The Guardian)
Older black people are more likely to die of the virus that their white counterparts – among those lost are prominent black pastors, performers and civil rights activists.
Coronavirus has claimed more than 45,000 lives in the US as of Tuesday – especially those of older Americans, who represent 91% of all Covid-19 deaths.
Within that vulnerable population, older black people are more likely to die of the virus than their white counterparts. And among those lost are prominent black pastors, performers, and practitioners who lived through struggles for civil and cultural rights in their communities.
Tara Parker-Pope: Help! My Mask Fogs My Glasses (NYT)
As a last resort, you can try pushing your glasses forward on your nose to allow more air to circulate and stop the fog. The downside is that it could distort your vision. “This seemed to work best of all,” Ms. Lamb said. “The only caveat is that it threw off my perception slightly. It might be less disruptive with a lesser prescription.”
Fogging also will be less of a problem as summer approaches and outdoor temperatures get closer to the temperature of your breath.
“Don’t call us heroes”: Life on a Production Line, by Angry Workers
Today’s newsletter is written by a member of Angry Workers, a collective of people who have dedicated their working lives to changing this system from the inside, observing it and embedding themselves in it, trying to change minds one by one. The member who wrote this has been working at Bakkavor for the last four years and has witnessed first hand how these places operate and are designed to wear workers down, keeping them disempowered. For their safety they have asked to be anonymous. The sacrifice involved to do something like this is beyond the imagination of most of us, even those who organise, so if you wish to support them in any way, even if its just by buying their book, then there are links at the end of this piece on how to help.
Not all food workplaces are so downtrodden – but there is something about how this kind of work is organised that lends itself to bad behaviour and repressive practices. Firstly, the whole thing about line work is that it enforces a passivity onto you – you have no control over the speed of the line and so you’re always working to someone else’s schedule. You can’t break out of it unless you want to seriously piss off everyone else down the line who’ll be affected if you fuck up or bow out. Being chained to one spot, with no autonomy, slowly robs you of something as the months and years go by. After around four months I realised that my gait had changed, my shoulders slumped forward, I felt more subservient, my fate controlled by the arbitrary commands of some idiot middle manager who thought he was better than me just because he wore a different coloured hairnet.
Some people think that ‘being unionised’ creates this ‘right situation’, but I think this is naïve. My factory, like many food factories, already has union recognition – but this has hindered, rather than aided, workers’ power. Most workers, especially the women, were still languishing at the bottom end of the wage scale, 16p above the minimum wage. Now the National Minimum Wage has superseded that, so they are on minimum wage again. Having been a member and shop steward within the mainstream unions, I can safely say that the union structures themselves are pretty rotten. Reps are often handpicked either by management or the self-serving incumbent reps. Many reps are managers themselves, undermining the trust workers have in them to be on their side in a dispute against management. Reps are bought off and given perks that make them reluctant to rock the boat. Unions partner with management to preserve their recognition agreements. When the union feels it’s losing its grip on control they suppress workers’ own initiatives. In my factory, the union actively participated in the development of a new skill grading structure that not only divided the workforce, but sold out all the women assembly line workers by regarding them as ‘unskilled’ and putting them on the lowest pay.
I came to realise that being in a union and having a real and collective strength in a workplace are two entirely different things. A real collective strength requires encouraging workers’ own actions – for them to start relying on themselves and each other rather than waiting around for ‘the union’ to sort things out for them, and then being disappointed when they don’t. To think about their own power and how to use it directly to put pressure on management, without necessarily having to put their heads above the parapet and be singled out for victimisation. To create their own independent structures. There is strength in numbers, but the workplace is divided in so many ways that this can’t be fixed overnight with a simple call for ‘unity.’
It’s worthless to be labelled as ‘heroes’ or even ‘essential’ workers when in reality this doesn’t translate into even a basic level of respect – the expression of which would be higher pay and the confidence to demand better terms and conditions, especially in these scary times.
‘Heroes’ are expected to go above and beyond, and risk their lives for the benefit of others. ‘Heroes’ don’t expect recognition or a wage set to a level that actually corresponds to the social necessity of their work. ‘Heroes’ can just be applauded for their altruistic ways and we don’t have to question a world where people who work in the City, or in advertising, are valued exponentially more – both financially and in terms of social status – than the people who actually make it go round. So let’s ditch all this ‘hero’ talk and instead let’s think about why the people who make the meals you eat, who are on the bottom rungs of the labour market, are really continuing to put their lives at risk. It’s not heroism. They just don’t have a choice.
Anna Pedersen and Tom Henderson: Fields of fear: Oregon farmworkers lack safety net as pandemic threatens jobs, health (Street Roots)
Farmworkers are considered essential workers, but they don’t necessarily receive essential services such as health care and unemployment benefits.
“When we talk about farm-to-table food, we know that an immigrant likely had a hand somewhere in that process,” Hernandez told Street Roots. “And yet, farmworkers don’t have the same rights, and they are under tougher working conditions. During this pandemic, we’re seeing the same thing.”
“We ask our state government to set up an emergency fund for nonprofit organizations of the state who serve immigrants, refugees, day laborers, farmworkers and people of color — all of whom will be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”
Specifically, Miranda advocated:
• Unemployment benefits for people regardless of immigration status.
• Statewide rent and mortgage forgiveness.
• Free food and other essential resources to low-income families.
• Universal child care for those who continue working.
• Small-business assistance grants to child-care facility owners.
Some means for field workers to wash their hands would also be nice, Lopez said.
“It’s the most basic thing,” she said. “We’re over here asking for hand-washing stations and soap while everybody else is in this totally different conversation about stimulus money and getting $1,200 per household. That’s just not even our reality. We’re fighting for the basics.”
Oregon’s U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, announced April 7 that they would introduce legislation to ensure immigrant workers have access to health care.
The legislation, the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, promises immigrant workers access to COVID-19 testing and treatment and other services provided in federal coronavirus relief legislation.
It would provide dedicated funding for CDC to conduct public outreach in multiple languages. The act would also temporarily modify immigration policies that deter immigrants from receiving medical care.
If federal policymakers would like additional advice on reaching farmworkers, Adrien suggested they contact her clinic and other migrant community health centers.
Emily Green: Why is Multnomah County sheltering houseless people en masse during COVID-19? (Street Roots)
Despite coronavirus outbreaks at shelters in other cities, Multnomah County isn’t changing its practices, citing measures in place to separate people.
But barriers have not been added between beds at the Oregon Convention Center shelter or between beds at other shelters in the county’s system that did not already have them. Originally, placing barriers between beds was among the county’s COVID-19 guidelines for shelters, but that recommendation has since been removed.
Toevs has said the guidelines were written when it was expected that sick and well people would be housed together.
However, because the virus often presents as asymptomatic and testing hasn’t been conducted at shelters, it’s unknown whether Multnomah County has effectively separated those with COVID-19 from those who are well.
Daniel Dylan Wray: The legend of Serbian factory worker Abul Mogard, and other cult origin stories (Loud and Quiet)
A look into the hoaxes and dubious genesis tales of cult musicians.
However, would the music of Jungle really, truly have taken off in the way it did if it was presented honestly by the creators from the off? Would two white guys from a failed indie band who went to a £20,000 a year private school, knocking out generic laptop music, have been the buzz band of the year?
The underlying question around all of this remains, of course: why? Pretending to be a retired Serbian factory worker is of course not the same as racial or cultural appropriation but they are linked and the answer is somewhat axiomatic in the fact that articles like this are being written. More pieces have been written about this kind of music because of both its backstory and its likely fakery than ever would have been written if some Scottish band started knocking out some retro 1970s German music. The real answer to this approach arguably comes when McFadyen is asked about the ongoing success of his project, as volumes continue to sell. “It’s been very satisfying to see the music spread naturally through word of mouth. Thankfully, as the advertising budget has been, and remains, zero.”
Tom Henderson: Up against polarization and COVID-19, McMinnville homeless-service providers find a way (Street Roots)
In an Oregon town where residents are often contentious with the homeless population, resources for unhoused residents are scarce during the pandemic.
McMinnville initially stood to receive $1.5 million this year from the Oregon Legislature through House Bill 4001. The money would have been specifically earmarked to create a local navigation center where people experiencing homelessness could secure shelter and receive an array of other social services.
Funding would also have been provided for similar centers in Salem, Eugene, Medford and Bend. However, this year’s short session ended abruptly when partisan gridlock broke out over limitations on carbon emissions. Lawmakers left Salem without taking action on House Bill 4001 and a slew of other bills.
Column: The PPP is letting our small restaurants and businesses die
The [Paycheck Protection Program] was supposed to save our small restaurants and businesses. But where's the money?
The vast majority of the nation’s 30.2 million small businesses have been left flapping in the wind. Meanwhile, the rich get richer.
Banks, naturally, will profit. Collecting fees ranging from 1% for loans over $2 million to 5% for loans under $350,000, they stand to make billions from the PPP.
Andy Ricker, the owner and chef of Thai restaurant chain Pok Pok, wrote that his loan application was on hold and that he and other small business owners had been “snookered by publicly traded companies who received millions and left independent small business in the gutter as the well ran dry.”
Glanville, like James, ticked off all of the boxes. He had an existing relationship with a major bank; he applied the morning the applications went live. If it’s this difficult for those experienced with the banking system, what about business owners without banking relationships or those who face language or cultural barriers?
Restaurants, more than any other kind of small business in this country, are symbols of promise. They’re frequently opened by immigrants and first-time business owners, non-English speakers, and others simply wishing to feed others and provide for their own families. For many, restaurants and small businesses are the quintessential entrée into the dream of creating a life in America and standing on one’s own two feet.
That dream is quickly dying, and our government has been particularly pitiless during this crisis. If we can bail out our bloated airlines, we can bail out our small restaurants. They need money, with few or no strings, and they need it fast. Otherwise, these beloved institutions that give our cities character and drive our economy will go away, and they won’t come back.
Rachel Handler: Allow Fiona Apple to Reintroduce Herself (Vulture)
With her first album in eight years, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, singer-songwriter Fiona Apple is breaking free of the chains that have bound her for decades.
Q: If there is a cohesive statement you’re trying to make with this album, what is it?
A: “Fetch the bolt cutters” is probably the theme of it. I know in The New Yorker piece it says something like, “It’s about not being afraid to speak,” but it’s more than that. It’s about breaking out of whatever prison you’ve allowed yourself to live in, whether you built that prison for yourself or whether it was built around you and you just accepted it. For me, it could be many things — including breaking out of this image that the world told me I was and that I actually believed. That’s the sad part.
Juliette Kayyem: After Social Distancing, a Strange Purgatory Awaits (The Atlantic)
Life right now feels very odd. And it will feel odd for months—and even years—to come.
The simplistic idea of “opening up” fails to acknowledge that individual Americans’ risk-and-reward calculus may have shifted dramatically in the past few weeks. Yes, I’d like to go meet some girlfriends for drinks. But I am also a mother with responsibilities to three kids, so is a Moscow mule worth it? The answer will depend on so many factors between my home and sitting at the bar, and none of them will be weighed casually.
Our reentry will be slow. There could be another wave. Adaptive recovery is going to last a very long time—and it will not feel normal at all.
Brian Zayatz: Coronavirus Class War on Cape Cod (Popula)
The pandemic makes people grip tighter onto the things we’d already feared—rightly or not—that we might be losing. Ordinary people call friends and families more now. The rich and powerful have secured trillions in bailouts in a top-down economy that’s been in ‘crisis’ for most of my life. The Democratic establishment put people in danger of contracting a deadly illness at the polls in order to avoid a progressive upset. I assumed that rich northeasterners would likewise tighten their stranglehold on the Cape’s playground economy, and wondered whether, this time, my friends and family would see the complete disregard for our lives in the summer folks’ visit this time.
But Cape Cod’s class war continues to come rolled up in a flaky crust and served on a wooden skewer with a cellophane crumple on top at an open house. My friends, family, and former neighbors are doing what they’ve always done: extending mutual aid as far as a political analysis that would never willingly put those two words together will take them.
Jamelle Bouie: Trump and His Allies Are Worried About More Than November (NYT)
The temporary imposition of popular relief programs in response to the coronavirus makes Republicans nervous.
In one short month, the United States has made a significant leap toward a kind of emergency social democracy, in recognition of the fact that no individual or community could possibly be prepared for the devastation wrought by the pandemic. Should the health and economic crisis extend through the year, there’s a strong chance that Americans will move even further down that road, as businesses shutter, unemployment continues to mount and the federal government is the only entity that can keep the entire economy afloat.
But this logic — that ordinary people need security in the face of social and economic volatility — is as true in normal times as it is under crisis. If something like a social democratic state is feasible under these conditions, then it is absolutely possible when growth is high and unemployment is low. And in the wake of two political campaigns — Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s — that pushed progressive ideas into the mainstream of American politics, voters might begin to see this essential truth.
If the electoral danger for the Republican Party is that voters will blame the president for high unemployment and mass death — a reasonable fear, given how Trump loudly denied the threat in the face of warnings from inside and outside his administration — then the ideological danger is that it undermines the ideological project that captured the state with President Ronald Reagan and is on the path to victory under Donald Trump.
After years of single-minded devotion, the conservative movement is achingly close to dismantling the New Deal political order and turning the clock back to when capital could act without limits or restraints.
Jennifer Wilson: The Morbid Comforts of Pandemic Playlists (Pitchfork)
Why we are turning to darkly funny music during the coronavirus.
Throughout history, music has been an integral part of how people cope with epidemics. Sometimes, we put them in familiar musical contexts to make them less scary (less “novel,” you could say). While the rest of the world called the 1918 outbreak “the Spanish Flu,” at home in Spain it was often described as “the Naples Soldier” after a song from a popular opera; one of the librettists claimed it was because the tune was just “as catchy” as the disease.
The themes underpinning many of their songs—passion, intensity, body heat—reminds me that art gets much of its meaning from confronting the ephemerality of existence. We want things deeply and quickly because life is, indeed, short. And musicians know that; they usually only get a few minutes per song. Who better to guide us in how to squeeze as much out of life as possible?
Quarantunes is for...
- sustaining the creation of (live) music throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
- providing a platform for artists + fans to connect, despite the cancellation of tours and shows in venues.
- creating opportunities for artists to recoup lost earnings from cancelled dates through donations from fans via livestream.
- encouraging new experiments in sound and music, using digital technologies and social media interfaces.
Critical Resistance 2020 Virtual Prison Mail Correspondence Sign Up
Due to the need for social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19 Critical Resistance PDX is transitioning our prison correspondence program online. This requires new tools and techniques for both those participating in and those maintaining the program, so thank you in advance for your patience and collaboration in creating systems that work for our needs.
We receive anywhere from 20-40 letters a month and we offer political education, resource information, and books and articles Folks can help out by writing letters to people in OR/WA prisons, typing notes or archiving correspondence, as well as other things that help our chapter running.
Naomi Kritzer: Didn’t I Write This Story Already? When Your Fictional Pandemic Becomes Reality (Tor)
Sometimes, you’re haunted by your own stories. I wrote “So Much Cooking” in 2015: in it, a food blogger describes cooking in quarantine during a pandemic, feeding an ever-increasing number of children she’s sheltering at her house with an ever-decreasing supply of food.
Researching the story in 2015 was when I first encountered the phrase “social distancing.” Obviously, you’d close the schools, and public gathering spaces like movie theaters; you’d have everyone telecommute who possibly could. How would you get food? Would grocery delivery services be instantly overloaded? Would restaurants continue to serve take-out? What are the ethics of ordering delivery if you’re just outsourcing your own risk to someone more financially desperate?
I’ve been struggling to end this essay—I think because we’re still in the midst of the crisis. But I think part of what appeals to people about the story is that it ends with the crisis unresolved. There’s hope; the protagonist absolutely believes that she’ll see her household through to the other side; but it’s not over, any more than it’s over for us.