Podcasts to Ponder Plus

1. NPR’s Hotel Corona.

“When the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem was leased by the government to house recovering COVID-19 patients, the new guests gave it the nickname, “Hotel Corona.” The nearly 200 patients inside already had the coronavirus; and so, unlike the outside world on strict lockdown, they could give each other high fives and hugs and hang out together.

What was even more surprising than what they could do was what they were doing. Patients from all walks of life – Israelis, Palestinians, religious, secular, groups that don’t normally mix – were getting along and having fun. They were eating together, sharing jokes, even doing Zumba. And because they were documenting themselves on social media, the whole country was tuning in to watch, like a real life reality TV show.”

34 minutes of joy and hope.

2. Malcolm Gladwell, Revisionist History, A Good Walk Spoiled.

“In the middle of Los Angeles — a city with some of the most expensive real estate in the world — there are a half a dozen exclusive golf courses, massive expanses dedicated to the pleasure of a privileged few. How do private country clubs afford the property tax on 300 acres of prime Beverly Hills real estate? Revisionist History brings in tax assessors, economists, and philosophers to probe the question of the weird obsession among the wealthy with the game of golf.”

In my junior and senior year of college I was a teacher’s assistant at the Brentwood Science Magnet School for the best third grade teacher ever, Marilyn Turner. I parked across from the school on the leafy border of the Brentwood Country Club next to the chain-linked fence Gladwell describes with great disgust. This excellent story hit home.

3. What Does Opportunity Look Like Where You Live? An interactive story, made even more interesting by putting in the name of the county you live in (if a U.S. citizen). The New York Times is unrivaled when it comes to interactive, data-rich, compelling story telling.

[Some readers have informed me they can’t access the New York Times articles I link to. You have to register at the New York Times to access them. Registration is free.]

 

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Jia Tolentino on “The Pitfalls and Potential of the New Minimalism.” Strong opening paragraph.

“The new literature of minimalism is full of stressful advice. Pack up all your possessions, unpack things only as needed, give away everything that’s still packed after a month. Or wake up early, pick up every item you own, and consider whether or not it sparks joy. See if you can wear just thirty-three items of clothing for three months. Know that it’s possible to live abundantly with only a hundred possessions. Don’t organize—purge. Digitize your photos. Get rid of the things you bought to impress people. Downsize your apartment. Think constantly about what will enable you to live the best life possible. Never buy anything on sale.”

2. Goldendoodle has new purpose.

3. A not so genius move. I feel really badly for him.

“Six years ago to the day, a pre-presidential Donald Trump said on Twitter that he sold his Apple shares, complaining about the fact that the company at the time didn’t sell an iPhone with a smaller screen. Assuming Apple’s post-earnings stock gains holds through the open of the markets on Wednesday, its price will have gone up 356% from the day of Trump’s tweet in 2014.”

4. San Fransisco bans cars on Market Street.

“San Francisco’s car-free move is part of a wave of cities around the globe pedestrianizing their downtown cores and corridors, from New York City to Madrid to Birmingham. And there are signs that SF’s effort will not end at Market Street: Local officials in the city are calling to remove cars from other sections of the city.”

5. An interview with the woman who wrote the viral 1,000 word job listing for a “Household Manager/Cook/Nanny”. $35-$40/hour to river swim? I’m in.

Tucker Carlson Thinks You’re Stupid

The New York Times* reports on how. . .

“. . . a right-wing media world that typically moves in lock step with the president has struggled to reconcile Mr. Trump’s surprise escalation with his prior denunciations of open-ended conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Adding:

“Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, said that he and other supporters of the president were still hunting for an effective defense. ‘This is a very complicated issue, and the people who support President Trump, from Tucker Carlson all the way to Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, are really trying to work through this,’ Mr. Bannon said on Monday. ‘What you’re seeing now — live on television, live on radio — is people working through what this means.”

Carlson broke ranks with his fellow Fox News nutters this way:

‘It’s hard to remember now, but as recently as last week, most people didn’t consider Iran an imminent threat,’ Mr. Carlson said at the start of his Monday show, going on to mock Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, for saying intelligence agencies had identified an undefined Iranian threat. ‘Seems like about 20 minutes ago, we were denouncing these people as the ‘deep state’ and pledging never to trust them again without verification,’ Mr. Carlson told viewers, eyebrow arched. ‘Now, for some reason, we do trust them — implicitly and completely.'”

The Times summarizes:

“Just as the political world was caught off guard by the killing of General Suleimani, so was the conservative media complex. As reports of the missile strike in Baghdad that killed the general emerged on Thursday, Mr. Hannity phoned into his Fox News show from vacation to offer vociferous praise. That same night, Mr. Carlson warned his viewers that ‘America appears to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war.'”

Credit where credit is due, it’s nice that Carlson occasionally demonstrates independent thought.

But all is not well with him. The Times again:

“After his Monday segment on General Suleimani, he introduced a five-part series, ‘American Dystopia,’ chronicling urban decay in San Francisco.”

Because I find it weirdly entertaining, I watch an occasional Fox News segment. Lo and behold, Monday night I caught the first part of “American Dystopia”. Granted there is a lot of competition for this, and I am only a sporadic viewer, but the segment may very well have been the low point in Fox News television history. At least I nominate it for that.

It was only about 7-10 minutes long. It consisted of an interview with a policewoman who was repeatedly asked what would happen if particular crimes were committed in San Fransisco. Her default answer “you’d be issued a citation” was supposed to highlight the utter failure of progressive social policies. Other viewers and I were supposed to be disgusted by the lax enforcement of criminal laws, but anyone who has paid any attention to what the most informed people working with addicts have to say knows that criminalizing drug use has proven totally ineffective.

Carlson intimated that if we just incarcerated every heroin user the problem would be solved.

The video footage was something you’d expect from a crew of middle school students reporting on urban decay. . . repeated close ups of syringes and repeated close ups of human feces. Over and over to give the impression the entire city was overrun by needles and human waste.

No context was provided for where the footage was shot, how big of an area it was, and whether it was even close to representative of the entire city. Viewers were supposed to conclude that every block in San Fransisco has an assortment of troubled drug addicts on its sidewalks, who, along with other people, randomly shit on the same sidewalks.

It’s weird how San Fransisco’s real estate is among the most expensive in the country when all of its streets are lined with syringes and shit.

Of course, in this case, Carlson is carrying the President’s water, using absolute bullshit reporting in an attempt to tarnish the Speaker of the House, who continually gets the better of the President.

I’m sure Pelosi would be the first to admit that San Fransisco isn’t perfect and that homelessness is a tough, tough challenge. That’s just demonstrating a firm grasp of reality, something Fox News, Carlson more often than not, and the President find difficult.

*sorry Domingo

The Power Of Language

If the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors have their way, the words “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” “addict” and “juvenile delinquent” will be part of the past in official San Francisco parlance under their new “person first” language guidelines.

“Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will be a ‘formerly incarcerated person,’ or a ‘justice-involved’ person or simply a ‘returning resident.’

Parolees and people on criminal probation will be referred to as a ‘person on parole,’ or ‘person under supervision.’

A juvenile ‘delinquent’ will become a ‘young person with justice system involvement,’ or a ‘young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.’

And drug addicts or substance abusers will become ‘a person with a history of substance use.'”

Cue the protestations of political correctness. The intent, however, is quite noble. Matt Haney, one of the Supervisors says, “We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done.” Imminently sensible.

Tyler Cowen has a concern worthy of serious consideration:

“. . . here is my worry.  It is we who decide how powerful language is going to be.  The more we regulate language, the more we communicate a social consensus that it has great power.  And in return the more actual power we grant to those linguistic ‘slips’ and infelicities which remain.  It is better to use norms to regulate the very worst speech terms, but not all of them.  By regulating too many parts of speech, and injecting speech with too much power, we actually grant more influence to the people and ideas we are trying to stop.”

My worry is different. I fear the proposals open the floodgate to an unprecedented wordiness. Case in point, from the San Fransisco Chronicle article:

“The language resolution makes no mention of terms for victims of crime, but using the new terminology someone whose car has been broken into could well be: ‘A person who has come in contact with a returning resident who was involved with the justice system and who is currently under supervision with a history of substance use.'”

If that level of wordiness becomes the new normal, I will not survive this world for long.