Sunday 9.29.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The Church of Techno-Optimism

“Techno-optimism has deep roots in American political culture, and its belief in American ingenuity and technological progress. Reckoning with that history is crucial to the discussion about how to rein in Big Tech’s seemingly limitless power.”

2. The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse

“While the material, commonly known as child pornography, predates the digital era, smartphone cameras, social media and cloud storage have allowed the images to multiply at an alarming rate. Both recirculated and new images occupy all corners of the internet, including a range of platforms as diverse as Facebook Messenger, Microsoft’s Bing search engine and the storage service Dropbox.”

3. High in the Cascades, a Lone Fire Lookout Still Keeps Watch

“Almost every day, after posting signs about restoration areas and hunting seasons or checking nearby campsites to make sure hikers are adhering to the rules, Mr. Dalton carries a 40-pound pack with jugs of water from the nearest source, Image Lake, about a mile back to the lookout. As he hikes, he snacks on huckleberries that he picks along the way without breaking stride.”

4. Clarence Thomas Is Not a ‘Sellout’

“He now believes that black politics is an exercise in futility: The combination of white racism, racial inequality and the small size of the black electorate makes it impossible for African-Americans to achieve a political foothold.”

5. The Tenacity of Chinese Communism

“The party has adapted extremely well to capitalism.”

6. I’d Love a Dining Car

“I wish small things — meals on a train, unplanned moments that can’t be logged as self-improvement or furniture that is owned — didn’t feel old-fashioned.”

7. The Long, Strange Tale of California’s Surf Nazis

“It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize the blue-eyed, blond surfer ideal for what it is: a white racial fantasy rooted, like most such tropes, in spurious claims of authentic connection to land.”

8. Highway 61 Revisited, With Jessica Lange

“Not everyone recognizes Ms. Lange, at least at first, and by the time they do, she may have already snapped the picture.”

9. The Tide Is High (Really), but Debbie Harry Is Staying Put

“Sex is what makes everything happen. Sex is why people dress nice, comb their hair, brush their teeth and take showers.”

10. Counter Service Tipping: Who Gives?

“Is leaving a tip wherever you’re asked now the norm?”

11. By the Book: Jeanette Winterson

“To me, a proper dictionary is a book of spells.”

12. Fighting Racism

“For Kendi … there are no nonracists; there are only racists — people who allow racist ideas to proliferate without opposition — and antiracists, those who expose and eradicate such ideas wherever they encounter them.”

13. Is College Merely Helping Those Who Need Help Least?

“As higher education has increased in value, that value has increasingly become captured by those at the top, so that today, whether you graduate from college is largely determined by your parents’ income. In the United States, 77 percent of children born into the top income quartile will earn a degree by age 24, but for the bottom quartile that number is a mere 9 percent. The implications are clear: The education system isn’t transforming the lives of those who need it most; it is dispensing ever more opportunity to those who need it least.”

14. Here Comes the Flood

“Encouraging such capitalists, Gaul argues, is the federal government, which has removed personal risk from that which is risky. In 1950, it paid 5 percent of post-hurricane rebuilding costs, he notes, but now pays 70 percent and in some cases 100 percent. And one out of every three federally insured properties is a beach house, an investment property or second home.”

15. We Go to Extremes

“Humans can hardly survive anywhere. It is both terrifying and comical, how vulnerable we are. We live comfortably, sort of, under exactly one condition: in the temperate patches of a very thin crust on a relatively small planet in a tiny corner of the known universe. Transport us anywhere else, and we will basically instantly die. Other planets will choke us; black holes will crush us. Even our own modest planet’s oceans will drown us, and its poles will freeze us, and its deserts will dry us into leathery husks. And yet: We still want to go everywhere.”

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