Ta-Nehisi Coates: Donald Trump Is Out. Are We Ready to Talk About How He Got In? (The Atlantic)
It was said that the Trump presidency was the fruit of “economic anxiety,” of trigger warnings and the push for trans rights. We were told that it was wrong to call Trump a white supremacist, because he had merely “drawn upon their themes.”
One hopes that after four years of brown children in cages; of attempts to invalidate the will of Black voters in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit; of hearing Trump tell congresswomen of color to go back where they came from; of claims that Joe Biden would turn Minnesota into “a refugee camp”; of his constant invocations of “the Chinese virus,” we can now safely conclude that Trump believes in a world where white people are—or should be—on top. It is still deeply challenging for so many people to accept the reality of what has happened—that a country has been captured by the worst of its history, while millions of Americans cheered this on.
Rafi Letzter: The Milky Way is probably full of dead civilizations (Space.com)
Most of these other civilizations that still exist in the galaxy today are likely young, due to the probability that intelligent life is fairly likely to eradicate itself over long timescales. Even if the galaxy reached its civilizational peak more than 5 billion years ago, most of the civilizations that were around then have likely self-annihilated, the researchers found.
This last bit is the most uncertain variable in the paper; how often do civilizations kill themselves? But it's also the most important in determining how widespread civilization is, the researchers found. Even an extraordinarily low chance of a given civilization wiping itself out in any given century — say, via nuclear holocaust or runaway climate change — would mean that the overwhelming majority of peak Milky Way civilizations are already gone
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A Breakdown of Everything Wrong in That “Shocking Secrets of the Food Industry” Viral Video (Snopes)
Te phrase "genetic memory of honey" is lodged in my brain permanently, and here's where it comes from.
None of the items described in the video could accurately be described as either shocking or secret.
If you're using a web font, you're bound to see a flash of unstyled text (or FOUC), between the initial render of your websafe font and the webfont that you've chosen. This usually results in a jarring shift in layout, due to sizing discrepancies between the two fonts. To minimize this discrepancy, you can try to match the fallback font and the intended webfont’s x-heights and widths . This tool helps you do exactly that.
Jeremy Gordon: Is There a Cure for Burnout? (The Nation)
Millennials have been screwed. We’re the first generation to have a worse economic outlook than our parents. We control less than 5 percent of US wealth, despite making up the largest chunk of the workforce, and plenty of millennials won’t make up that difference after their parents die.
“Most burnt-out millennials I know have arrived at that point of calling those expectations into question, but it didn’t happen right away,” she writes. “Instead, it’s taken decades: Even after watching our parents get shut out, fall from, or simply struggle anxiously to maintain the American Dream, we didn’t reject it.”
I want to stress how much I empathize, because I know a political awakening requires more than a list of facts. But as a reader, these types of generalizations are unsatisfying because they rely so heavily on trusting she has had a representative experience. Who are her friends? What’s the work they wanted to do? You don’t have to look far to find a social world of millennials who didn’t require decades to realize the American dream was flawed, internalized that lesson as teenagers and young adults, and adjusted their worldview accordingly. There are plenty of comparably broad observations dredged from specific experience. Referring to Alexandra Robbins’s The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, a 2006 book about overworked teenagers trying to get into the college of their dreams, Petersen notes, “multiple people told me they read it as a sort of instruction manual.” If I polled the teens I knew in 2006, most of them would have taken it as a warning guide against being too much of a nerd.
It’s her book, but it’s impossible to cultivate a position of objective expertise from such memoiristic subjectivity, especially given her rarefied work trajectory: academia to media, where she has built a sizable brand and audience. (She recently left her job at BuzzFeed to work full-time on her paid Substack newsletter—a choice that only a small fraction of writers could make.) An easy conclusion would be that the millennial experience is too broad to generalize in any direction, beyond pointing to the hard metrics about our average net worth (or lack thereof), consumption patterns, voting habits, and so on, but Petersen’s book, rather than decentering its writer, makes her experience a heuristic and projects her assumptions onto the world.
Setting aside the fact that teachers are wildly underpaid, only a workaholic could envision better work as the solution to bad work, despite her calls that a profound restructuring of the economy is crucial for anyone, not just millennials, to have a future. It’s true that a psychic reorganization could ameliorate the cumulative effects of burnout, as “The hell with this—I won’t play by your rules” remains a satisfying way of reclaiming one’s agency within a broken system. But all jobs, not just cool ones, are subject to the ongoing degradations levied by venal politicians and corporations. None of the problems she describes happened by chance; they were all products of specific decisions made over the decades, meant to maximize profits at the expense of people.
But does looking at Instagram really lead to burnout? Is not wanting to take a vacation always a sign of burnout? Or not mowing the lawn? Couldn’t that be just an aversion to yardwork or simply—gasp—laziness? The last decade has seen no shortage of catchy concepts popularized in millennial circles as a shorthand for one’s personality, such as imposter syndrome, the Myers-Briggs test, and adulting. Burnout is positioned here to become another one, and by default, this book makes Petersen a burnout expert, a nice job for someone to have.
It’s not that burnout isn’t real, though its classification as a medical diagnosis should give anyone pause before blithely declaring it’s what ails them. But its credibility dissipates with every enthusiastic invocation and the ingrained belief that many of our problems are either explained by it or lead to it. The insistence on grafting burnout onto every discussed topic transforms a technically informative, unfortunately bland book into an advertisement for the author’s grand theory of life, a theory that, given the evidence, is highly up for critique. Toward the end, Petersen insists she wants to avoid prescribing any solutions, before showing her hand: “Actual substantive change has to come from the public sector—and we must vote en masse to elect politicians who will agitate for it tirelessly.” This isn’t entirely untrue, but coming at the tail end of so many dire anecdotes and data points, it’s as satisfying as a Democratic National Committee talking head reminding us to vote every time Donald Trump opens his mouth.
In some ways, this book’s timing dramatically underscores that lack of political imagination and casts it as one of those self-help books she sought to avoid. Current events can dramatically expose the need for societal reforms: Witness the sudden shift in support for universal health care during the Covid-19 pandemic and for police reform after George Floyd’s killing. Greater investment in local politics or mutual aid or the normalizing of mass protests against unabashed wrongdoing have all emerged as necessary shifts in our collective political thinking, which is why it’s disappointing her book stops short of imagining specific action beyond a broad citation of platitudes and that benign call to vote. Like Petersen, I want things to change, and I also know that change requires broad support across all demographics. I’m just not sure if we should take direction from someone who took this long to put the pieces together, because it means there’s plenty more the person won’t see coming.
Stop asking sane people to lovingly accept those who cheered on a man who has done grave and permanent damage to this world. It’s outrageous that half the country should be asked to exhibit mercy while the other half is permitted to wallow in its criminality and ignorance.
Americans have a sliver of a chance to demonstrate that there is some conscience left among us by requiring those who did harm to apologize, and if they do not, to be denied any further role in public life. And obviously, it’s incredible that this needs to be said, but those who are guilty of crimes must be prosecuted (just for a change!) The absence of accountability means condoning wrongdoing, as a glance at cable TV news, with its parade of war criminal guests, can show you.
Demanding accountability is what being ‘reasonable’ requires of us. Being ‘empathetic’ means empathy for those who’ve been harmed, before we begin even to think of empathizing with those who’ve done harm. It’s an insult to every family broken by ICE, an insult to George Floyd, to ask that Trump voters be forgiven in the absence of a total and credible apology from them, and a repudiation of all the wrong they’ve done.
The Public Art Program promotes transit use and community pride by integrating permanent and temporary art works into the public transit system — celebrating the contributions of public transportation and recognizing the cultural richness in our region.
Jamelle Bouie: Don’t Fool Yourself. Trump Is Not an Aberration. (NYT)
Many of the worst things the president has said and done were said and done by his predecessors.
For as much as it seems that Donald Trump has changed something about the character of this country, the truth is he hasn’t. What is terrible about Trump is also terrible about the United States. Everything we’ve seen in the last four years — the nativism, the racism, the corruption, the wanton exploitation of the weak and unconcealed contempt for the vulnerable — is as much a part of the American story as our highest ideals and aspirations. The line to Trump runs through the whole of American history, from the white man’s democracy of Andrew Jackson to the populist racism of George Wallace, from native expropriation to Chinese exclusion.
And to the extent that Americans feel a sense of loss about the Trump era, they should be grateful, because it means they’ve given up their illusions about what this country is, and what it is (and has been) capable of.
There is very little about Donald Trump or his policies that doesn’t have a direct antecedent in the American past. Despite what Joe Biden might say about its supposedly singular nature (“The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening”), the president’s racism harkens right back to the first decades of the 20th century, when white supremacy was ascendant and the nation’s political elites, including presidents like Woodrow Wilson, were preoccupied with segregation and exclusion for the sake of preserving an “Anglo-Saxon” nation.
Jasmin Mujanović: 'Borat 2' misses the mark because it perpetuates cruel stereotypes and is a vehicle for mockery (Insider)
In an attempt to expose American prejudices about the "savage East" and the country's perceived drift toward illiberalism, Baron Cohen has actually helped repopularize an Orientalist view of what some still generically refer to as "the former communist states." His work, therefore, fails as the critical cinema it purports to be.
While the film is doubtlessly a satire of US politics, it is just as much a vehicle for the mockery of Kazakhstan and its people. Because the country that is (not actually) depicted in the film is almost entirely alien to most Americans, Baron Cohen becomes the architect of its popular image in the West. And that image is cast in brownface.
By trafficking in centuries-old anti-Romani tropes and imagery in his films, while also liberally borrowing from various anti-Muslim themes, Baron Cohen gives his audience license to indulge in these sentiments too — whether they fully understand who or what they are laughing at or not. Those who see these depictions as satire may feel they are in on the joke, but, doubtlessly, a far larger portion of the audience is laughing at Baron Cohen's portrayals of "Kazakhstan."
Accordingly, the issue with "Borat 2" is not that it's "offensive" — comedy almost always is to someone, somewhere. Nor should the intent be to "cancel" Baron Cohen. The matter is altogether more straightforward: Baron Cohen is clearly of the belief that comedy is a tool to be used to afflict the comfortable. That is an enviable objective, but only if one does not further stigmatize those who are already afflicted.
Tom Breihan: Linkin Park's Debut Album 'Hybrid Theory' Turns 20
In the early days of Linkin Park’s dominance, a lot of us made fun of the band for being whiny suburban kids in love with their own anguish. Today, it’s tragically clear that Chester Bennington had always had real demons — a history of sexual abuse and substance dependency that he’d discuss at length whenever anyone asked. Hybrid Theory was a product, a laser-calibrated angst-engine sold to America’s teenagers in the closing days of the CD era. But every album is a product. Listening to Hybrid Theory today, I’m struck by the thought of how many kids found real solace and relief in an album like that, and how Linkin Park had a plan to get it to them.
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Jamelle Bouie: Why Coronavirus Is Killing African-Americans More Than Others (NYT)
To give just a few, relevant examples, black Americans are more likely to work in service sector jobs, least likely to own a car and least likely to own their homes. They are therefore more likely to be in close contact with other people, from the ways they travel to the kinds of work they do to the conditions in which they live.
Today’s disparities of health flow directly from yesterday’s disparities of wealth and opportunity. That African-Americans are overrepresented in service-sector jobs reflects a history of racially segmented labor markets that kept them at the bottom of the economic ladder; that they are less likely to own their own homes reflects a history of stark housing discrimination, government-sanctioned and government-sponsored. If black Americans are more likely to suffer the comorbidities that make coronavirus more deadly, it’s because those ailments are tied to the segregation and concentrated poverty that still mark their communities.
American capitalism did not emerge ex nihilo into the world. It grew out of existing social, political and economic arrangements, toppling some and incorporating others as it took shape in the second half of the 19th century.
White supremacy was one of those arrangements. The Civil War may have destroyed slave society, but the racial hierarchy that was central to that society survived the carnage and disruption of the conflict to shape the aftermath, especially in the absence of a sustained program to radically restructure the social and economic life of the South.
Which is to say that, as it developed in the United States, industrial capitalism retained a caste system with whites as the dominant social group. This wasn’t just a matter of prejudice. As it did under slavery, race under industrial capitalism structured one’s relationship to both production and personhood. Whiteness, the philosopher Charles W. Mills notes, underwrote “the division of labor and the allocation of resources, with correspondingly enhanced socioeconomic life chances for one’s white self and one’s white children.”
But if you look at the full picture of American society, it is clear that the structural position of black Americans isn’t so different from what it was at the advent of the industrial age. Race still shapes personhood; it still marks the boundaries of who belongs and who doesn’t; of which groups face the brunt of capitalist inequality (in all its forms) and which get some respite. Race, in other words, still answers the question of “who.” Who will live in crowded, segregated neighborhoods? Who will be exposed to lead-poisoned pipes and toxic waste? Who will live with polluted air and suffer disproportionately from maladies like asthma and heart disease? And when disease comes, who will be the first to succumb in large numbers?
If there was anything you could predict about this pandemic — anything you could be certain about once it reached America’s shores — it was that some communities would weather the storm while others would sink under the waves, and that the distribution of this suffering would have everything to do with patterns inscribed by the past.
As long as those patterns remain, there is no path to a better society. We have to break them, before they break us.
New data show that Americans are suffering from record levels of mental distress.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, roughly one in 12 American adults reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder at this time last year; now it’s more than one in three. Last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a tracking poll showing that for the first time, a majority of American adults — 53 percent — believes that the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health.
This number climbs to 68 percent if you look solely at African-Americans. The disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on Black lives and livelihoods — made possible by centuries of structural disparities, compounded by the corrosive psychological effect of everyday racism — is appearing, starkly, in our mental health data.
Caroline Crampton: The Problem with the Inconsequential Quest
With a very few exceptions — mostly the “Belt Buckle” episode of Mystery Show — I’ve come to realise that I have a fundamental problem with this subgenre that goes far beyond one Reply All episode. It’s this: who gets to go on an inconsequential quest? Podcasting is already a far from level playing field, and even within that this prestigious little niche of it is closed off to almost everybody. It frustrates me that so many of these shows come from the perspective of well-off white American men, but I understand why that is.
The resources required to make a really high quality show of this kind make independent production very difficult. You might have to work for six months on an idea only to find that there isn’t really a satisfying answer, so it’s risky. Most networks or funders are unlikely to take a financial risk on a quest creator unless they have a demonstrable track record, are a celebrity, or are celebrity adjacent in some way. Then unless you can afford to do almost all of the work beforehand — typically unpaid, or expending crucial resources — the pitch for an inconsequential quest series is always going to be “I don’t know the answer yet but just trust me!” And we all know where companies are more likely to bestow that trust: executives tend to be disproportionately white, straight and male, and that’s the kind of talent that too often gets to take risks with big budgets.
Celebrity access, by the way, has proved to be somewhat important to the inconsequential quest genre. I think part of why people responded to “The Case of the Missing Hit” like they did was the sheer audacity of PJ Vogt calling up the former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page and just… asking him if he knew what the mystery song was. See also: Moby’s involvement in the Gregor episode, and Starlee Kine getting Jake Gyllenhaal to confirm his real height. The contrast between all that mundane legwork and the glamour of a real famous person is exciting in a semi-salacious way.
When I listen to “The Case of the Missing Hit”, then, or many of the other examples I’ve cited here, I’m constantly reminded of who isn’t getting to make this stuff. Who doesn’t have the chance to throw time and money at a weird little problem and see what sticks. Which is arguably a reaction that could apply to pretty much any audio genre, but because these quests are personal and idiosyncratic and usually rely heavily on the creator’s existing personal relationships, I think I notice it more readily.
For me, the best inconsequential quests turn out not to be inconsequential at all. What starts out as an attempt to give a belt buckle back or find some lost CDs turns out to be a process that can teach us something about our flaws, our blind spots and our inner assumptions. But to find those stories, you have to spend a long time looking. And not everybody has that luxury.