The coronavirus isn’t going to be washed away for us.

The Scourge of Hygiene Theater – The Atlantic:

Scientists still don’t have a perfect grip on COVID-19—they don’t know where exactly it came from, how exactly to treat it, or how long immunity lasts.

But in the past few months, scientists have converged on a theory of how this disease travels: via air. The disease typically spreads among people through large droplets expelled in sneezes and coughs, or through smaller aerosolized droplets, as from conversations, during which saliva spray can linger in the air.

Surface transmission—from touching doorknobs, mail, food-delivery packages, and subways poles—seems quite rare. (Quite rare isn’t the same as impossible: The scientists I spoke with repeated the phrase “people should still wash their hands” about every five minutes.) The difference may be a simple matter of time. In the hours that can elapse between, say, Person 1 coughing on her hand and using it to push open a door and Person 2 touching the same door and rubbing his eye, the virus particles from the initial cough may have sufficiently deteriorated.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Stay physically distant and don’t gather in large groups. Avoid being in enclosed spaces with people unless you have explicitly discussed mutual precautions and social circles.

With a few exceptions, most of this hosing down and scrubbing of surfaces with antimicrobials is a distraction and a waste.

Nobody wants to admit that we have to change our behavior—we want keep going about our lives like always, and have the problem to be fixed for us. It’s like assuming we don’t need to worry about the garbage we generate BECAUSE RECYCLING!

The Constant Risk of a Consolidated Internet – The Atlantic:

So the centralization began. Blogs, which once required installing software on your own server, became household services such as Blogger, Typepad, WordPress, and Tumblr. Social-media services—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and the rest—vied for user acquisition, mostly to build advertising-sales businesses to target their massive audiences. The services began designing for compulsion, because more attention makes advertising more valuable. Connections, such as friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, colleagues on LinkedIn, all became attached to those platforms rather than owned by individuals, and earlier efforts to decentralize those relationships effectively vanished. Even email, once local to ISPs or employers, became centralized in services such as Hotmail and Gmail.

In the process, people and the materials they create became the pawns of technology giants. Some of the blog platforms were acquired by larger tech companies (Blogger by Google, Tumblr by Yahoo), and with those roll-ups came more of the gatekeeping (especially for sexually explicit material) that decentralization had supposedly erased. One of the most urgent questions in today’s information wars surrounds how—not whether—Facebook should act as a gatekeeper of content across its massive, centralized global network. “Content,” in fact, might be the most instructive fossil of this age, a term that now describes anything people make online, including the how-to videos of amateur crafters, the articles that journalists write, and policy pronouncements by world leaders. Whereas one might have once been a writer or a photographer or even a pornographer, now publishing is a process of filling the empty, preformed vessels provided by giant corporations. A thousand flowers still bloom on this global network, but all of them rely on, and return spoils to, a handful of nodes, just as communications systems did before the ARPAnet.

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We need to change the structure of civic engagement.

End the Public Meeting as We Know It – ELGL:

Perhaps most importantly, we have the technology to improve upon traditional public meetings. Although we’ve had access to reliable, widely adopted virtual town hall and video conferencing tools for a decade, too often local governments remain stuck in the old ways.

We must invest in digital engagement beyond social media. While social media is a critical vehicle for reaching residents and furthering the conversation, major platforms do not naturally foster collaboration and in fact thrive on confrontation. Effective digital engagement means bolstering a social media strategy with additional tools to collect and analyze public input, as well as empowering staff to help translate feedback into policy.

We cannot view digital engagement as a panacea for all public engagement, the way many leaders viewed social media early on.

This kind of stuff is really hard to change, because it tends to be written into city charters and laws, and backed by decades (or more) of organizational and civic inertia.

Nonetheless, it needs to change.

Local government is where we can have the most direct, most important impact on issues that affect our communities, but without major changes to how local government and citizens can engage, it is going to continue to be the same voices—i.e., the people who are able to show up to town meetings and write My Turn columns for the op-ed page—who have a say.

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Cancel culture is a fake problem.

Help, Help, I Can’t Be Published! | Whatever:

I was a reader of Christopher Hitchens; he wasn’t entirely editorially inflexible, and he didn’t exactly lack a willingness to go where the money was. I pretty strongly suspect that in the year 2020, Hitchens would have found a way to cast his thoughts in a manner that would be appealing to the market now. Either Brooks doesn’t understand that about Hitchens, or he thinks his readers don’t understand it, so he’s either a fool or a cynic (or both! It could be both!). Either way, he’s probably wrong.

Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of Hitchens’ stuff, but I agree with Scalzi here.

“Cancel culture,” like political correctness before it, is a made-up problem created by entitled assholes who are mad they can no longer say whatever dumb, offensive shit is in their heads without consequences.

If you are worried about cancel culture, you really need to spend some time re-examining your priorities.

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I’m kind of shocked I was actually able to get a copy of this so quickly from the library. Exciting!

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Storm’s a-brewin’.

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Purdue Pharma actively and deliberately created the opioid epidemic in the United States. The company should be liquidated, and all of the Sackler family's money should be taken away from them and used to fund real recovery programs for their victims.
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Private schools have too much money.

Ahead of a few meetings later this morning about what in the hell our school district is going to do about the fall, I am greeted by a headline on the front page of the paper about how the exclusive local private school is beginning construction on its ten million dollar new campus.


Ten million dollars is about half of the annual budget for our town’s entire public school system.

This new building will be almost 24,000 square feet and sits on a 30-acre piece of land.

From the article:

“Space is tight right now,” Spencer explained. “I don’t anticipate enrolling a lot more students, though — maybe enough to fill one or two homerooms. We just want to give our students more space. We’ve got the potential with the new property to add on someday, if we want. That would be done incrementally.”

The schools currently has 137 students.

My blood is BOILING. I’m sure they do want to give their students a bit more space. You know what I want? I want our school district to not have to be begging for PPE donations. I want them to be able to afford decent online learning platforms and content. I want the schools to have enough teachers and instructional assistants and adjustment counselors and librarians. I want teachers and kids to not have to be sitting in cars in parking lots because that’s the only way they can get wifi. I want teachers not to have to run a constant online hustle to raise money for basic classroom supplies.

But hey—enjoy that spiffy new campus, I guess.

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“We blew it.”:

The question being asked right now is “When can we do X?”

The question that we should be asking and solving for is: “What are the conditions needed to do X, and what do we need to do now to make those conditions happen?”

If we want kids in school, if we want students on campus, if we want live sports, then we need to clamp down on community spread. That means massive increases in testing. That means massive expansion of PPE distribution. That means aggressive and prompt contact tracing. That means making isolation a non-ruinous proposition for working families. That means a ton of hard work. But the choice is either doing the hard work to get what we want, or not doing the hard work, seeing massive suffering and not getting what we want.

And if you think kids (and teachers) need to stay home this fall, then you should still be thinking about what needs to happen in order for that to be practical.

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A typical afternoon around the house with the kids. How does this even happen?

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