Michal Leibowitz | ‘I Didn’t Feel Like Going, but I’m Glad I Did’: My Motto of the Moment – The New York Times

Ms. Leibowitz is an editorial assistant in Opinion.

“One recent snowy Saturday morning, I coaxed myself out of bed, into semiformal attire and through the door to synagogue. It was the latest in a series of attempts to force myself to, well, do stuff, the kind of stuff that takes me out of my one-bedroom apartment and into human society.

During the service, I stood when everyone else stood, sat when everyone else sat, sang when everyone else sang. I made awkward small talk with my seat neighbor and high-tailed it home before the socializing began in earnest. But once I was safely ensconced on my couch and my frozen feet were slowly turning back to pink, I found I was glad I had gone.

It’s the way I’ve felt almost every time in recent months that I’ve compelled myself to get out of the house. It’s how I felt after I dragged myself to badly soundtracked group fitness classes, several cheesy parties and one lovely weekend retreat, at which I contracted a mild case of Covid. Going out and interacting with people again feels as if it’s going to be difficult — and it often is, at least a little — but I am always glad I did it.

Early in the pandemic, I was one of the millions of Americans who adopted new services, digital platforms and habits in an effort to be safely apart: Instacart instead of in-store grocery shopping, OverDrive instead of library trips, streaming workouts instead of the local gym. These services were helpful (sometimes essential) during the worst months, connecting vulnerable sick and elderly people with necessities, hurting restaurants with hungry customers, bored patrons with e-books.”

David Brooks | America Is Falling Apart at the Seams – The New York Times – And my response

Opinion Columnist

“In June a statistic floated across my desk that startled me. In 2020, the number of miles Americans drove fell 13 percent because of the pandemic, but the number of traffic deaths rose 7 percent.

I couldn’t figure it out. Why would Americans be driving so much more recklessly during the pandemic? But then in the first half of 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle deaths were up 18.4 percent even over 2020. Contributing factors, according to the agency, included driving under the influence, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.

Why are so many Americans driving irresponsibly?

While gloomy numbers like these were rattling around in my brain, a Substack article from Matthew Yglesias hit my inbox this week. It was titled, “All Kinds of Bad Behavior Is on the Rise.” Not only is reckless driving on the rise, Yglesias pointed out, but the number of altercations on airplanes has exploded, the murder rate is surging in cities, drug overdoses are increasing, Americans are drinking more, nurses say patients are getting more abusive, and so on and so on.”

“. . . But something darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.

What the hell is going on? The short answer: I don’t know. I also don’t know what’s causing the high rates of depression, suicide and loneliness that dogged Americans even before the pandemic and that are the sad flip side of all the hostility and recklessness I’ve just described.

We can round up the usual suspects: social media, rotten politics. When President Donald Trump signaled it was OK to hate marginalized groups, a lot of people were bound to see that as permission.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you David Brooks for another thoughtful and challenging column. You do have a blind spot, or malfunction, like the EVSE I use to charge up my two electric cars, or one electric car, and a Prius Prime, which is only electric for 25 miles in the summer. To fix the EVSE, when some widget seizes up, the manufacturer said, turn off the breaker, and hit the unit with a rubber mallet really hard. And it worked. I wonder if a rubber mallet would unstick you. I’d like to add to your thoughtful short list of the usual suspects, climate change and the sixth extinction, and the world overpopulation which are the cause of both. My adult daughter says she might not have any children because of these environmental crises. My adult son son says nothing I do for mitigation matters, since we have probably already passed the tipping point, and human life on the planet is probably doomed. I write about this stuff, with weird dark thoughts intruding on my brain, when awake and asleep. One sick thought, is that the pandemic has failed, because it hasn’t killed enough people. I admit this is a dark and ugly thought, but so is driving thousands of non human species into extinction, which is real, and going on this century, and accelerating. Are we committing an unforgiveable sin against other forms of life?
David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net
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In addition,  one irony of this sin of human overpopulation and consumption, and of our poisoning the water, the air, the land, and the atmosphere, is that according to the late scientist Edward O Wilson, if we kill off over 50% of the world’s other species, which is where we are headed, the human species will probably not survive. During the 5th and last great extinction in the geological record, when the dinosaurs died off, so did probably about 95% of the world’s other species at that time.

Liza Featherstone | Josh Hawley and the Republican Obsession With Manliness – The New York Times

Ms. Featherstone is a journalist who writes frequently about the politics of gender. She has a 15-year-old son.

“Senator Josh Hawley is worried about men. In a recent speech at the National Conservatism Conference, he blamed the left for their mental health problems, joblessness, obsession with video games and hours spent watching pornography. “The crisis of American men,” he said, “is a crisis for the American republic.”

The liberal reaction was flippant. A CNN analysis mocked the speech, contrasting the “decline of masculinity” with real issues like the pandemic and inflation. The ReidOut Blog on MSNBC’s website declared, “Josh Hawley’s crusade against video games and porn is hilariously empty.” But the contempt and mockery his speech received was, at least in part, misplaced.

Mr. Hawley is not alone in sensing that masculinity is a popular cause; around the world, male politicians are tapping into social anxieties about its apparent decline, for their own ideological ends. The Chinese government, for instance, has declared a “masculinity crisis,” and it is responding by cracking down on gaming during school days and by investing in gym teachers and school sports.

There can be a homophobic and fascistic component to such calls: China has also barred “sissy” men from appearing on TV; in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has said that masks are “for fairies”; and Mr. Hawley, in his speech, fueled anti-transgender prejudice by alluding to a bogus “war on women’s sports.” Nothing justifies this hateful nonsense. But Mr. Hawley, for all his winking bigotry, is tapping into something real — a widespread, politically potent anxiety about young men that is already helping the right.”

Claire Bond Potter | The Shadow of Ronald Reagan Is Costing Us Dearly – The New York Times

Ms. Potter is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research.

“With Build Back Better, President Biden has attempted to revive a New Deal ethic that entwines human and physical infrastructure. No one likes taxes, but building a nation where Americans know that their families are safe and cared for is popular across party lines. It shouldn’t have been a hard sell.

But here we are. The reconciliation package has shrunk to about $2 trillion. And something else is gone: a chance to change the American narrative of what good government does. The legislation was once billed as a plan for sweeping once-in-a-generation social change, but aspects of it that warranted that hyperbole, like dental and vision coverage for Medicare recipients and free community college, have disappeared. Paid family and medical leave have been sharply reduced.

Other industrialized nations provide a far more robust safety net than the one we have and even the one Mr. Biden proposed. Yet Republicans and at least one Democrat insist that such social welfare spending endangers the nation’s fiscal and moral health.

How did we get to a point that doing less for Americans is a virtue, and comprehensive social welfare a privilege?”

SIFT (The Four Moves) | Hapgood – Mike Caufield

“How can students get better at sorting truth from fiction from everything in between? At applying their attention to the things that matter? At amplifying better treatments of issues, and avoiding clickbait?

Since 2017, we’ve been teaching students with something called the Four Moves.

Our solution is to give students and others a short list of things to do when looking at a source, and hook each of those things to one or two highly effective web techniques. We call the “things to do” moves and there are four of them:

The four moves: Stop, Investigate the source, find better coverage, trace the original context.

Stop

The first move is the simplest. STOP reminds you of two things.

First, when you first hit a page or post and start to read it — STOP. Ask yourself whether you know the website or source of the information, and what the reputation of both the claim and the website is. If you don’t have that information, use the other moves to get a sense of what you’re looking at. Don’t read it or share media until you know what it is.

Second, after you begin to use the other moves it can be easy to go down a rabbit hole, going off on tangents only distantly related to your original task. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed in your fact-checking efforts, STOP and take a second to remember your purpose. If you just want to repost, read an interesting story, or get a high-level explanation of a concept, it’s probably good enough to find out whether the publication is reputable. If you are doing deep research of your own, you may want to chase down individual claims in a newspaper article and independently verify them.

Please keep in mind that both sorts of investigations are equally useful. Quick and shallow investigations will form most of what we do on the web. We get quicker with the simple stuff in part so we can spend more time on the stuff that matters to us. But in either case, stopping periodically and reevaluating our reaction or search strategy is key. . . . . ”

Source: SIFT (The Four Moves) | Hapgood

Opinion | Should Daylight Saving Time End? – The New York Times

Today on “The Argument,” everyone hates daylight saving time, or do they?

As you will likely learn on November 7th when your oven clock is suddenly wrong — or maybe that’s just me — clocks in most of the United States will fall back an hour, plunging us into darkness for the next four months until we change them back again. It’s a never-ending cycle, much like time itself. I’m Jane Coaston. Personally, I find the clock switches pretty annoying. It’s disorienting. And I know it can be a nightmare for my friends who are parents. But what didn’t I know? Daylight saving is a wildly contentious issue with some truly high stakes. Also, yes, it’s saving without the S. You learn something new every day. It’s getting senators Marco Rubio and Ed Markey to actually agree on something, the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill to make daylight saving time permanent, which, by the way, 19 states already have on tap. Today, our guests represent opposite sides of this debate. First off, a neuroscientist in favor of permanent standard time.

Joseph Takahashi. . . . “

Nicholas Kristof | Lessons for America From a Weird Portland – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/opinion/portland-politics.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Imagespace/Alamy Live News

 

“PORTLAND, Ore. — As an Oregonian, I’ve always been proud of this picture-postcard metropolis, so I’ve been pained to see it portrayed as a war zone or dying city, and doubly pained when a local businessman recently recounted to me his effort to recruit an executive from out of state.

The executive came for a visit — and, when she saw today’s Portland, with its homeless camps and boarded-up shops downtown, declined the job.

I think that executive erred: Whatever the scars from big protests that began last summer against racial injustice, this city has strong fundamentals and is resilient. But the travails here are real and offer lessons for the rest of the country about the uses and abuses of progressivism.

Last summer President Donald Trump inflamed the crisis in Portland by sending in unneeded federal troops to deal with mostly peaceful protests. That aggravated the upheaval, provoked months of rioting and empowered fringe groups, and perhaps it also obscured the need to stand resolutely against violence by local troublemakers on both left and right. There was too much deference to people sowing chaos under the banner of social justice, perhaps for fear of seeming unprogressive, and after the feds left, the city never tried hard enough to pivot to re-establish order.

Just this week, there was new rioting in Portland after a white police officer in Minnesota shot and killed a Black man, Daunte Wright. Portlanders have reason to protest peacefully — the police arrest African-Americans in the city at four times the rate of whites, one study found — but violence doesn’t serve any cause other than the election of Republicans.

The local slogan is “Keep Portland Weird,” but businesses boarded up to protect against rioters suggest not weirdness but melancholy. A beautiful elk statue that had presided in a park for 120 years had to be removed after its base was vandalized by protesters. Activists have defied the law and taken over a building known as the Red House, frightening neighbors.

Underscoring the concern for law and order, this year Portland is on track to reach 100 homicides, far exceeding the record of 70 set in 1987.  . . . “

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT |NYT Comment:

Thank you Nicholas Kristof. Empty headed young progressive radicals are attempting to dismantle town government right here in Hamden CT. These idealistic idiots on the left are doing damage in many parts of the country. Their behaviour is so insidious, it is hard to describe or counter. Your op-ed is a great description of the damage done by well meaning liberals, who are essentally intellectually lazy.

The Constitution of Knowledge | Jonathan Rauch – National Affairs

Jonathan Rauch

Fall 2018

“Long before Donald Trump began his political career, he explained his attitude toward truth with characteristic brazenness. In a 2004 television interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, he marveled at the Republicans’ successful attacks on the wartime heroism of Senator John Kerry, the Democrats’ presidential candidate. “[I]t’s almost coming out that [George W.] Bush is a war hero and Kerry isn’t,” Trump said, admiringly. “I think that could be the greatest spin I’ve ever seen.” Matthews then asked about Vice President Dick Cheney’s insinuations that Kerry’s election would lead to a devastating attack on the United States. “Well,” replied Trump, “it’s a terrible statement unless he gets away with it.” With that extraordinary declaration, Trump showed himself to be an attentive student of disinformation and its operative principle: Reality is what you can get away with.

Trump’s command of the basic concept of disinformation offers some insight into how he approaches the truth as president. The fact is that President Trump lies not only prolifically and shamelessly, but in a different way than previous presidents and national politicians. They may spin the truth, bend it, or break it, but they pay homage to it and regard it as a boundary. Trump’s approach is entirely different. It was no coincidence that one of his first actions after taking the oath of office was to force his press secretary to tell a preposterous lie about the size of the inaugural crowd. The intention was not to deceive anyone on the particular question of crowd size. The president sought to put the press and public on notice that he intended to bully his staff, bully the media, and bully the truth.

In case anyone missed the point, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, made it clear a few weeks later when he announced favorable employment statistics. In the Obama years, Trump had been fond of describing monthly jobs reports as “phony” and “totally fiction.” But now? “I talked to the president prior to this and he said to quote him very clearly,” Spicer said. “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.” The president was not saying that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had improved its methodology. He was asserting that truth and falsehood were subject to his will.

Since then, such lies have only multiplied. Fact checkers say that, if anything, the rate has increased. For the president and his enablers, the lying reflects a strategy, not merely a character flaw or pathology.

America has faced many challenges to its political culture, but this is the first time we have seen a national-level epistemic attack: a systematic attack, emanating from the very highest reaches of power, on our collective ability to distinguish truth from falsehood. “These are truly uncharted waters for the country,” wrote Michael Hayden, former CIA director, in the Washington Post in April. “We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself.” To make the point another way: Trump and his troll armies seek to undermine the constitution of knowledge.”    . . . .

Source: The Constitution of Knowledge | National Affairs

Opinion | The Welfare State Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It. – The New York Times

David Brooks

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

A ferry crossing the Mersey River at Liverpool, England.CreditCreditAndrea Bruce for The New York Times

“Ella is a British woman who grew up in a broken home and was abused by her stepdad. Her eldest son got thrown out of school and ended up sitting around the house drinking. By the time her daughter was 16, she was pregnant and had an eating disorder. Ella, though in her mid-30s, had never had a real job. Life was a series of endless crises — temper tantrums, broken washing machines, her son banging his head against the walls.

Every time the family came into contact with the authorities, another caseworker was brought in to provide a sliver of help. An astonishing 73 professionals spread across 20 different agencies and departments got involved with this family. Nobody had ever sat down with them to devise a comprehensive way forward.

In her mind-shifting book, “Radical Help,” the British social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam tracks how one of the social workers in Ella’s case spent his days. Roughly 74 percent of his time was spent on administrative matters — recording data, making referrals to other agencies and meeting with other agencies. Only 14 percent of the social worker’s time was actually spent with the family he was meant to be serving. And that face-to-face time was mostly with a clipboard, checking off boxes on the forms that went back to central administration.

The administrative system around Ella and her family costs roughly 250,000 pounds per year.

Cottam asked the government workers involved in Ella’s case if they could recall a time when they’d transformed a family so it no longer needed government help. They couldn’t think of one.”

Opinion | A Nation of Weavers – by David Brooks – the New York Times

The top commenters shred this piece as off the wall, but they are poor listeners. David Brooks speaks deeply about underlying problems and solutions.

“On Dec. 7, 1941, countless Americans saw that their nation was in peril and walked into recruiting stations. We don’t have anything as dramatic as Pearl Harbor, but when 47,000 Americans kill themselves every year and 72,000 more die from drug addiction, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? When the basic norms of decency, civility and truthfulness are under threat, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? Aren’t we all called at moments like these to do something extra?

My something extra was starting something nine months ago at the Aspen Institute called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. The first core idea was that social isolation is the problem underlying a lot of our other problems. The second idea was that this problem is being solved by people around the country, at the local level, who are building community and weaving the social fabric. How can we learn from their example and nationalize their effect?”