The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Are We Becoming Stupid?

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Just listening to our national discourse proves there is something to what Nicholas Carr is hinting at in “Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains”

So, yes, you should be skeptical of my skepticism. Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. Then again, the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different. The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.

If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture.

We Are Not Essential. We Are Sacrificial.

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Sujatha Gidla, a NYC M.T.A. conductor in an opinion piece for the New York Times:

The conditions created by the pandemic drive home the fact that we essential workers — workers in general — are the ones who keep the social order from sinking into chaos. Yet we are treated with the utmost disrespect, as though we’re expendable. Since March 27, at least 98 New York transit workers have died of Covid-19. My co-workers say bitterly: “We are not essential. We are sacrificial.”

That may be true individually, but not in our numbers. Hopefully this experience will make us see clearly the crucial role we play in keeping society running so that we can stand up for our interests, for our lives. Like the Pittsburgh sanitation workers walking out to demand protective equipment. Like the G.E. workers calling on the company to repurpose plants to make ventilators instead of jet engines.

I took my second test on April 30. It was negative. Tomorrow, I will go back to work.

These are the true heroes in this pandemic. Not the politicians, not the movie stars, not the journalists. It is the garbage collectors, public transportation workers, the grocery workers. And of course the first responders and medical workers.

And these are the people that we treat the worst in society. These are the people we consistently pay the least. We provide no healthcare, no medical leave. Worst of all, most people think of them as lower class citizens. The lazy. The uneducated. The people who just need to “bootstrap themselves” to success. These are the soldiers on the wall.

They are holding us together by a thinest of margins. We must correct these inequities.

Tiny Desk Concert - Suzanne Vega

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Most people know Suzanne Vega from just two songs in the 80s - “Luka” and “Toms Diner”. But she has been making great music for the past 40 years. I have been a huge fan for years. Here is Susanne performing with brilliant guitarist Gerry Leonard.

Normalizing Three Thousand Deaths

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Jay Rosen perfectly describes Trump’s plan for dealing with Covid-19.

The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible — by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.

Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign.

Herd Immunity Will Cost Millions of Lives

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Herd immunity doesn’t stop a virus in its tracks. The number of infections continues to climb after herd immunity is reached. The problem with “natural” herd immunity & Covid-19 is that millions will die.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times:

In the absence of a vaccine, developing immunity to a disease like Covid-19 requires actually being infected with the coronavirus. For this to work, prior infection has to confer immunity against future infection. While hopeful, scientists are not yet certain that this is the case, nor do they know how long this immunity might last. The virus was discovered only a few months ago.

But even assuming that immunity is long-lasting, a very large number of people must be infected to reach the herd immunity threshold required. Given that current estimates suggest roughly 0.5 percent to 1 percent of all infections are fatal, that means a lot of deaths.

Perhaps most important to understand, the virus doesn’t magically disappear when the herd immunity threshold is reached. That’s not when things stop — it’s only when they start to slow down.

Second Amendment Does Not Protect Terrorism

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In any other country taunting or threatening a public official with the use of deadly force would be met with swift and probably deadly force. What exactly do these people hope to accomplish? This is a direct effort to intimidate our elected officials into voting their way. It isn’t gong to work. These left wing nuts hiding behind the second amendment should be arrested and tried as domestic terrorists.

May the 4th Be With You

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We finally we have a holiday that isn’t crippled by coronavirus lockdowns and social distancing. Choose whether you want to deepen your engagement by making it relevant, or just use it as an escape pod off the Star Destroyer. Or both. You must do what you think is right, of course.

May the Force be with you. Always.

Dolphins Coach Don Shula Dies at 90

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Coach Shula presided over the only team to have a perfect 17-0 season. A record that no other team has matched since. Here is a great look at his amazing career.

We Need to Ask Better Questions

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During the on going quarantine it is common for conversations and zoom meetings to begin with the obligatory ‘How are you doing?’ Ashley Fetters challenges us to ask a better question.

If we want to take the extra step to show our loved ones that we’re really asking, though, and not just greeting them as we might have done in normal times, reaching for a question that more explicitly asks after their emotional or psychological well-being might help. “How are you coping?,” for instance, signals that you don’t expect whomever you’re talking with to be doing great, and that you are genuinely curious about how they’re handling things. “What’s been on your mind lately?” suggests openness to a deeper conversation. You might also follow up on a worry or concern they’ve mentioned before, and check in on how they’re feeling about it now.

However you choose to start your conversations during quarantine, perhaps the most important thing is to ask a genuine question that invites a genuine answer. One of the kindest gestures we can extend to others in a time like this is to make clear that they don’t have to pretend they’re fine.

When Should You Wear a Mask?

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Katie Notopoulos over at Buzz Feed’s How to Plague advice column on when you should wear your mask:

A good way to gauge the amount of distance where it’s OK to dangle your mask around your neck or off one ear is to imagine your mouth is your asshole. If you were completely alone, it would be fine to let your nude tushy hang out, but you’d want to pull on your pants as soon as you saw anyone coming, even from 100 feet away. Basically, if someone can see you, mask up.

How Dumb Is President Trump?

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Here are some things that Donal Trump has said - from nuking tornados to taking over airports in the revolutionary war. And let’s not even get started on injecting people with disinfectant. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. What is really scary is that 40% of the country thinks this guy is a genius.

Social Distance Across the World

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Filmmakers Ivan Cash and Jacob Jonas made a short crowd sourced video on how people all over the world are dealing with social distancing.

Amid what can feel like a constant deluge of depressing news, A Social Distance is a glimmer of hope and a welcome reprieve. The short documentary—co-directed by Jacob Jonas and Ivan Cash, scored by Steve Hackman, and premiering on The Atlantic today—offers a window into the ordinary quarantine experiences of people from more than 30 countries. In the self-submitted videos, people dance, play music, take us on a tour of their refrigerator, and introduce us to their pets. Edited together, these intimate moments create a synchronicity of humanity—a feeling of togetherness that’s difficult to conjure when you’re sequestered at home.


Mayor Goodman - Who's on First?

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Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says that she wants to reopen the city’s casinos, restaurants and entertainment venues for business so people can get back to work. Problem is she has no plan or authority to control those casinos, restaurants and entertainment venues regarding testing or social distancing.


When Anderson Cooper pushes her on her responsibility:

Anderson Cooper: That’s your position?
Carolyn Goodman: No, that’s not my position but it is my position.

This women is bat sh*t crazy - she’s like the mayor in Jaws. Reminds me of “Who’s on first base?” skit by Abbott AND Costello.

Here is the truth that these right wing fools need to understand - if you pit capitalism against the science, science wins every time.

A Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience

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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.

Among the report’s top recommendations is the need to deliver at least 5 million tests per day by early June to help ensure a safe social opening. This number will need to increase to 20 million tests per day by mid-summer to fully re-mobilize the economy.

Summary of the findings:

What we need to do is much bigger than most people realize. We need to massively scale-up testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine-together with providing the resources to make these possible for all individuals.

Broad and rapid access to testing is vital for disease monitoring, rapid public health response, and disease control.

We need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening. This number will need to increase over time (ideally by late July) to 20 million a day to fully remobilize the economy. We acknowledge that even this number may not be high enough to protect public health. In that considerably less likely eventuality, we will need to scale-up testing much further. By the time we know if we need to do that, we should be in a better position to know how to do it. In any situation, achieving these numbers depends on testing innovation.

Between now and August, we should phase in economic mobilization in sync with growth in our capacity to provide sustainable testing programs for mobilized sectors of the workforce.

The great value of this approach is that it will prevent cycles of opening up and shutting down. It allows us to steadily reopen the parts of the economy that have been shut down, protect our frontline workers, and contain the virus to levels where it can be effectively managed and treated until we can find a vaccine.

We can have bottom-up innovation and participation and top-down direction and protection at the same time; that is what our federal system is designed for.

This policy roadmap lays out how massive testing plus contact tracing plus social isolation with strong social supports, or TTSI, can rebuild trust in our personal safety and the safety of those we love. This will in turn support a renewal of mobility and mobilization of the economy. This paper is designed to educate the American public about what is emerging as a consensus national strategy.

We've Built Cities We Can't Afford

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In this sense, Kansas City, Missouri is no different than most communities in the United States and Canada. In the last 70 years, the physical size of Kansas City has quadrupled while the population has remained relatively stable. (Put another way, every resident of Kansas City is on the hook for maintaining four times as much of the city as his or her predecessors.) In Kansas City, there are 6,500 linear miles of lanes just in the city street system—so not including county, state and federal roadways. This is the equivalent of driving from New York to San Francisco and back, with a bonus trip to Portland, Maine. According to the Kansas City public works department, to maintain and replace existing roads it needs ten times more money each year than it can ask for.

It's Time to Build

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As the Coronavirus rages through US communities - one thing is devastatingly clear. We, the United States, no longer build anything of true value. All of the essential needs - masks, protective gear for healthcare workers, ventilator machines, medication, housing, transportation, infrastructure - are not built in the United States.

Marc Andreessen writes in his post - It’s Time To Build:

It’s time for full-throated, unapologetic, uncompromised political support from the right for aggressive investment in new products, in new industries, in new factories, in new science, in big leaps forward.

The left starts out with a stronger bias toward the public sector in many of these areas. To which I say, prove the superior model! Demonstrate that the public sector can build better hospitals, better schools, better transportation, better cities, better housing. Stop trying to protect the old, the entrenched, the irrelevant; commit the public sector fully to the future. Milton Friedman once said the great public sector mistake is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. Instead of taking that as an insult, take it as a challenge — build new things and show the results!

Show that new models of public sector healthcare can be inexpensive and effective — how about starting with the VA? When the next coronavirus comes along, blow us away! Even private universities like Harvard are lavished with public funding; why can’t 100,000 or 1 million students a year attend Harvard? Why shouldn’t regulators and taxpayers demand that Harvard build? Solve the climate crisis by building — energy experts say that all carbon-based electrical power generation on the planet could be replaced by a few thousand new zero-emission nuclear reactors, so let’s build those. Maybe we can start with 10 new reactors? Then 100? Then the rest?

In fact, I think building is how we reboot the American dream. The things we build in huge quantities, like computers and TVs, drop rapidly in price. The things we don’t, like housing, schools, and hospitals, skyrocket in price. What’s the American dream? The opportunity to have a home of your own, and a family you can provide for. We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education, and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.

Building isn’t easy, or we’d already be doing all this. We need to demand more of our political leaders, of our CEOs, our entrepreneurs, our investors. We need to demand more of our culture, of our society. And we need to demand more from one another. We’re all necessary, and we can all contribute, to building.

Capitialism or Cronysim

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From John Grubber at Daring Fireball:

Take the cruise line industry. They’re getting crushed by this pandemic for obvious reasons, and they very much want to be bailed out by the U.S. government. But why do they deserve it? For tax and regulatory reasons, they don’t even register their ships in the U.S. — Carnival Cruise Lines is incorporated in Panama, Norwegian in Bermuda, and Royal Caribbean in Liberia. Bermuda is not part of Norway and, last I checked, Liberia is not in the Caribbean. Not only do these companies want U.S. funded bailouts, they don’t even want to pay U.S. taxes or comply with U.S. laws during normal times.

The thing to remember is that if allowed to fail, the cruise ships won’t sink to the bottom of the ocean. The jobs won’t disappear. The companies will go into bankruptcy, existing shareholder equity will get wiped out, and new ownership will take over. A bailout won’t rescue the industry or the jobs — it will rescue the shareholders.