Uff da, The Dakotas Are Getting Hammered

Why is that? There are several clues in “Why North and South Dakota are suffering the worst Covid-19 epidemics in the US”.

“Unlike other states, South and North Dakota never fully closed down, with the Republican governors in each state resisting ever issuing a stay-at-home order. So most of each state remained open — allowing the virus to spread freely through bars, restaurants, parties, celebrations, rodeos, rallies, and other large gatherings. Among those potential spreading events was a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, in early August, which some experts now blame for a Covid-19 surge that followed in the region, particularly in the Upper Midwest.

Neither state has adopted a mask mandate, which research shows can help suppress the coronavirus. Based on some national data, both Dakotas have some of the lowest rates of mask-wearing in the US.

Bonny Specker, an epidemiologist at South Dakota State University, was blunt in her assessment of the situation in the Dakotas. “Federal and many state leaders have not implemented mandates or reinforced [public health agencies’] recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus,” she told me. ‘In South Dakota, the governor had the information needed to minimize the impact of this virus on the health of South Dakotans, but she ignored that information as well as national recommendations from the CDC.'”

It would be wrong to politicize a public health crisis of this magnitude by reiterating the “Republican Governors” point. So I won’t reiterate the “Republican Governors” point. 

How Far Do You Want To Go?

There’s a growing consensus that the only people who should be allowed to inveigh on, or teach about contemporary issues, are those with relevant, direct lived experience with them. This sentiment makes sense given powerful people’s propensity to marginalize people different than them. However, extend the idea, and a lot of questions arise.

Should Catholic priests be allowed to do marriage counseling? Should men be allowed to teach Women’s Studies courses? Should white academics be allowed to teach African American history?

Extend it a touch further as many progressives are and a logical question is whether old, wealthy, heterosexual, white dudes should be allowed to inveigh or teach about anything after centuries of dominating nearly every discussion of consequence.

In which case, I should probably cycle more and write less.

How To Get The ‘Rona

Sane people now know the vast majority of cases are the result of people congregating indoors without masks. I’ll continue to be outdoors or inside with a mask on, but if you want to get the ‘rona, some of our Canadian brothers and sisters are here to help.

At least 61 COVID-19 cases tied to ‘very large’ outbreak at Hamilton spin studio, Spinco.

A tutorial.

Step 1. Go to an indoor spin class with LOTS of other people.

Step 2. Conform to what everyone else does—after clipping into your bike, take your mask off.

Step 3. Lean on the pedals hard for an hour.

Step 4. Wait.

Sentence to ponder from the article.

“Hamilton Public Health Services isn’t calling it a ‘super spreader’ event, but Richardson described it as a large outbreak with lots of transmission.”

That’s the funniest thing I’ll read all day.

Olympia, Washington Y’all

Or if you’re solar powered, Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo or Milwaukee.

Our politicians are not thinking nearly enough about the next several decades. Fortunately, some people are as this impressive piece of journalism attests, “How Climate Migration Will Reshape America”. Amazing photography throughout.

“Once you accept that climate change is fast making large parts of the United States nearly uninhabitable, the future looks like this: With time, the bottom half of the country grows inhospitable, dangerous and hot. Something like a tenth of the people who live in the South and the Southwest — from South Carolina to Alabama to Texas to Southern California — decide to move north in search of a better economy and a more temperate environment. Those who stay behind are disproportionately poor and elderly.

In these places, heat alone will cause as many as 80 additional deaths per 100,000 people — the nation’s opioid crisis, by comparison, produces 15 additional deaths per 100,000. The most affected people, meanwhile, will pay 20 percent more for energy, and their crops will yield half as much food or in some cases virtually none at all. That collective burden will drag down regional incomes by roughly 10 percent, amounting to one of the largest transfers of wealth in American history, as people who live farther north will benefit from that change and see their fortunes rise.

The millions of people moving north will mostly head to the cities of the Northeast and Northwest, which will see their populations grow by roughly 10 percent, according to one model.”

Weekend Required Reading

1. Defund police dogs.

2. The Trump Administration Says Diversity Training Can Be Harmful. What Does the Research Say? Make it voluntary and invest sufficient time. I remember how resistant some of my Southern white colleagues were to it at the North Carolina college I taught at. The starting point was an acknowledgement that “We’re all racist”. Or for them, I should say, the non-starting point.

3. How Hatred Came To Dominate American Politics. Our hatred creates serious opportunity costs. Instead of thinking about and planning for 2025, the current administration is fixated on 2015 and Hillary Clinton’s emails. Meanwhile, other countries are investing in infrastructure, social safety nets, and trade partnerships.

4. Dr. Dobson’s Open Letter To Christians Regarding The Election. If Dr. Dobson is a Christian, I need a different term to describe my religious worldview. He claims the Presidential candidate that is much stronger on “racial unity” also brings “more wisdom in handling the pandemic”. Can you guess which candidate that is? Then again, his audience is 800,000, the humble blog’s is a little less than that.

5. This is what I’m currently watching. Starts fast.

6. Magnus Carlsen extends his winning streak to 125 games.

How Long Will We Slight The Social-Emotional Costs Of On-Line Learning?

Thursday, First Year Writing, The Morken Building 131, the first in-person class of the academic year. Students take turns summarizing their first papers about whether one needs, as a Stoic philosopher we read argues, a coherent philosophy of life and a “grand goal of living” to avoid squandering one’s life. They’re smart, so they push back at the suggestion one can neatly plan their life. They talk about some things being outside of our control, like viruses.

If not a coherent philosophy of life, what about guiding principles I wonder. And if so, which ones? They’re not quite ready for subtly, nuance, ambiguity, complexity. That’s why college is four years long. For now at least, I keep those thoughts to myself and just listen.

One student says her mother died in February. Not expecting that, I loose track of what follows, wondering how she died and what would it be like to lose your mom at 17 or 18. She says doing well in school doesn’t matter as much as it did previously.

The students, many who say they struggle with anxiety, have never enjoyed going to class more. Not because of the doofus facilitating things, because they’re famished for friendship. Flat out famished. They linger afterwards, partly to disinfect the tables, but mostly to extend our shared sense of normalcy as long as possible.

The student whose mother died walks up to the front to talk to me. Through my mask I thank her for having the courage to share that news and gently inquire about her mother’s passing. She tells me her mother chose “Death With Dignity” after a lifetime of being severely disabled. And she wanted me to know the paper was really challenging to write, but my sense was, not in a bad way, in an important way. I think it caused her to grieve her mother in a way she hadn’t. She ended up writing her mother a letter and using parts of it to begin her paper.

For those few moments, as her classmates slowly filed out of the room in small groups, she and I shared a human connection that superseded our teacher-student identities. I saw her and heard her in a way that’s utterly impossible on-line.

I am all in on the scientific consensus regarding masks, social distancing, maximizing time outdoors, and washing hands. I am comfortable enough returning to the classroom because my university has done an excellent job preparing for as safe as possible a return to in-person classes. I will not help politicize this public health crisis.

What follows is a non-partisan question, my reference point is the social-emotional health of young people.

If we don’t begin implementing “blended” or “hybrid” teaching methods soon, with at least some in-person instruction, what are the social and emotional costs to friendless students who are not being seen or heard in any kind of meaningful way?

Sports Utility Vehicles

IHS Markit forecasts that SUVs will make up half of all U.S. car sales this year for the first time, strengthening further to 54 percent of sales by 2025.

“SUVs are a monument to a broader American failure that has seen pedestrians and cyclists forsaken for endless miles of road building, with non–car users forced to push what Miller calls “beg buttons” to pause traffic to enter roads that should be egalitarian public spaces.

SUVs . . . not only bring a stew of pollution and an element of fear to those attempting to traverse roads on foot or bike—they are also fundamentally inefficient. ‘You are taking a 200-pound package, a human, and wrapping it in a 6,000-pound shipping container,’ he said. ‘For some reason we think that is a good way to move through a city. If Amazon used that rationale it would be out of business in a week.'”

 

Is Complexity Obsolete?

I break with a lot of my fellow liberals when it comes to negative, largely anonymous, internet-based rushes to judgement of people who feel they have the right to decide what is and isn’t socially acceptable.

Often the mob is right, the offending person deserves to be censored and/or fired, and/or made to stand trial, especially if the people they lead would suffer those consequences from saying or doing the same things.

But sometimes the mob is not right. Which they realize once there’s some context. But then it’s usually too late. The offending person’s reputation, and sometimes livelihood, is ruined.

Consider the case of Al Franken as detailed in this Jane Mayer New Yorker article from 2019.

“A remarkable number of Franken’s Senate colleagues have regrets about their own roles in his fall. Seven current and former U.S. senators who demanded Franken’s resignation in 2017 told me that they’d been wrong to do so. Such admissions are unusual in an institution whose members rarely concede mistakes. Patrick Leahy, the veteran Democrat from Vermont, said that his decision to seek Franken’s resignation without first getting all the facts was ‘one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made’ in forty-five years in the Senate. Heidi Heitkamp, the former senator from North Dakota, told me, ‘If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.’ Tammy Duckworth, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, told me that the Senate Ethics Committee ‘should have been allowed to move forward.’ She said it was important to acknowledge the trauma that Franken’s accusers had gone through, but added, ‘We needed more facts. That due process didn’t happen is not good for our democracy.’ Angus King, the Independent senator from Maine, said that he’d ‘regretted it ever since’ he joined the call for Franken’s resignation. ‘There’s no excuse for sexual assault,’ he said. ‘But Al deserved more of a process. I don’t denigrate the allegations, but this was the political equivalent of capital punishment.’ Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, told me, ‘This was a rush to judgment that didn’t allow any of us to fully explore what this was about. I took the judgment of my peers rather than independently examining the circumstances. In my heart, I’ve not felt right about it.’ Bill Nelson, the former Florida senator, said, ‘I realized almost right away I’d made a mistake. I felt terrible. I should have stood up for due process to render what it’s supposed to—the truth.’ Tom Udall, the senior Democratic senator from New Mexico, said, ‘I made a mistake. I started having second thoughts shortly after he stepped down. He had the right to be heard by an independent investigative body. I’ve heard from people around my state, and around the country, saying that they think he got railroaded. It doesn’t seem fair. I’m a lawyer. I really believe in due process.'”

That’s a remarkable paragraph.

Have we completely stopped thinking about how we’d want to be treated in a similar situation? Are we not smart enough to recognize and acknowledge subtlety, nuance, and complexity?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself when thinking about the great policing debate. From my vantage point, there are only two choices. The Left’s “Option A” is to believe that police are an occupying force that does more harm than good. Consequently they need to be defunded. Which the Right consciously and continuously misrepresents. Most Black Lives Matter activists argue:

“Police forces have been receiving an increasingly disproportionate amount of a city’s budget. Instead of paying for such things as extensive officer overtime and expensive military equipment, cities should reallocate that money to a city’s social services, such as mental health, education, and housing.”

That filling in of context is still an anathema to the Right and their “Option B”. These “Blue Lives Matter” people argue the Left is exaggerating the problem of police brutality. Why rethink policing when it’s only a few bad apples?

I’m holding out hope for a third option which is neither centrist or moderate as much as it is intellectually honest because it acknowledges the complexity that’s inherent to any discussion of an institution as large and consequential as policing.

Somehow, in “Option C”, we’d muster the intelligence to do two things simultaneously. First, we’d get a whole lot better at identifying the particular police behaviors and police departments’ activities that are so far outside the common good, as to be unredeemable. The badge-wearing Derek Chauvins of the world. And we’d break the hold of police unions so that we could prosecute them for their brutality much more often than we have so far. In short, we’d get even more angry and determined to purge the police of the “too far gone”.

Equally important, we’d get a whole lot better at identifying the particular police and departments that are building positive working relationships with their communities and consistently and competently upholding the common good. This is especially important for those of us on the Left. Most simply put, we have to reject the utter mindlessness of “All Cops are Bastards”.

There either are important differences between individual police and their departments or there are not. I believe there are. I believe the most intelligent option is neither Option A or B. It’s C. For complexity.

Who Does Halsey Think She Is?

Thanks to the “invisible enemy”, today, like everyday I cycle now, I traded Olympia’s finest athletes for Khalid, DaBaby, Drake, Billie Eilish, Alice Phoebe Lou, Grimes, the Biebs, Post Malone, Roddy Rich, and Halsey. A pop, hip hop, pop, and more hip hop full meal deal.*

Where does Halsey get off repeatedly singing to me . . .

‘Cause you’re not half the man you think that you are
And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs and cars
I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you
‘Cause you can’t love nothin’ unless there’s somethin’ in it for you

A line-by-line deconstruction . . .

‘Cause you’re not half the man you think that you are—Who do you think you are being all judgy?! Humility is one of my best qualities so I’m probably twice the man I think I am.

And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs and cars—Okay, I will give you this one, but if you were a regular reader of the blog you’d know I’m down with Stoicism, so that little bit of life coaching wasn’t all that necessary.

I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you—Presume much? I don’t ever recall proposing such.

‘Cause you can’t love nothin’ unless there’s somethin’ in it for you—Aren’t ulterior motives lurking just below the surface for most mortals, most of the time?

Since this is a family friendly blog, the lawyers have asked me to ask you to not, like tens of millions other people, go watch Halsey’s racy “You Should Be So Sad” video.

*The airpods are in only when not in congested areas that require all the senses all the time. Do not try this at home.