Senator,

My confusion began with a statement so divorced from reality that I reread it multiple times just to confirm I wasn’t missing something:

“From the start, public-health experts were unanimous in their prescription for combatting the spread of COVID-19: ‘Stay Home.'”

Claiming such a thing is synonymous with Donald Trump’s rightly criticized reality-is-what-I-say-it-is persona. If the experts really were so uniform, correct, and prescient, the continued rise of trust in “outsiders” wouldn’t be possible. I most certainly want our experts and institutions to be esteemed, and that’s why I’m concerned about an ongoing denial that anything is amiss. If problems and errors (like the obfuscation around masks) can’t be honestly addressed, people lose faith and turn to less scrupulous sources.

My other point of confusion registered as you rightly pointed out that companies utilize benefits to attract talent. You called paid leave “good economics,” which of course it is when it’s offered – the employer has determined that the employee’s output matches or exceeds the additional compensation cost. This conclusion assumes that employers make economically rational choices. And under that reasonable assumption, it’s also “good economics” when paid leave is not offered – the employer has determined that the employee’s output falls short of the additional compensation cost. In both scenarios, the employer is profit-maximizing by filling necessary roles without incurring unnecessary costs.

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Action, Not Warm Thoughts

In a well-intentioned effort to increase tranquility, happiness, and fulfillment, the modern world is littered with exhortations to feel gratitude. Just think about how lucky you are. Just think about how much you have to be thankful for. Just think about the billions, literally billions, suffering through incredibly stressful existences.

As evidenced by a society seemingly no better than previous iterations at reaching an enlightened state, the exhortations aren’t doing much good. To be sure, if one is able to remember that things can always be worse, that moment takes on a different, possibly superior tenor, but that experience is stubbornly impermanent.

I posit that this conundrum is solved through determined action, since it is terribly unlikely to replace negative thoughts through thought alone. Thoughts lead to action and action defines character and on and on – I’m not saying anything original. Yet, I kept thinking about these concepts while watching you in xxxxxxxxx, thinking how people were going to take away the wrong lesson.

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While listening to your enjoyable and informative conversation with xxxxxxxxx, I couldn’t help but think of the “cool kids” in high school. Those kids happen to like a band few have heard of and then, suddenly, that band becomes mainstream. Do the cool kids still gain “cultural capital” by listening to the now popular band? Of course not. So, they move on to the next unknown band all while making fun of the late adopters who are fans of a band that “sold out.”
I suspect this same dynamic would occur if your efforts to extend “cultural capital” to different groups succeeded. If, say, everyone got to experience exceptional art, experiencing exceptional art would no longer be “cool.” After all, if everyone has “cultural capital,” nobody has it, and that’s something competitive humans don’t generally tolerate.

I too share your (and Sports Illustrated’s) interest in noticing and understanding gender inequity. Perhaps just as fascinating, though, are instances where no such inequity exists, or the inequity is entirely reasonable, and yet a story of girls having an unfair time compared to boys is told.

Now, I had never heard of Olivia Moultrie before reading the enjoyable xxxxxxxxx So, I freely concede that you may know how Olivia and her parents face backlash in ways male childhood prodigies don’t. But judging by merely the journalism itself, I saw no such inequity and I’m curious if you reached an alternate conclusion.

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Seek First to Understand

Mr. xxxxxxxxx,

Not since Marilyn Manson have I heard one of life’s keys so beautifully explained as you did in your recent conversation with xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx.

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Medicare for All

subject: You are a smart, deep thinker about healthcare,

which is what made your interview with Pramila Jayapal so disappointing. 

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I learned a lot in your piece today. So, thanks for that.

What most stood out to me was that the errors and inconsistencies you correctly identified regarding men and sex are errors that essentially apply to all humans on all topics.

Rationalization to maintain a positive self-image? Yea, we humans do that when we cheat, lie, steal or perpetuate anything else that we “know is wrong,” but that we, for reasons both conscious and unconscious, do anyway. (Most perversely, we tend to give ourselves the ultimate benefit of the doubt and never extend that same generosity to other people who commit identical acts: “They are bad people. I’m just a good person who one time did this one thing that made sense in the moment and is no way indicative of the ‘real me.'”)

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