Sunday, September 8, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Hurricane Dorian, which last weekend was still wreaking unimaginable damage in the Bahamas while trudging slowly toward the Florida coast (or, for one poor soul with a rigidly linear flat-Earth imagination, Alabama), and a week later still exists, albeit downgraded to to post-tropical cyclone status, as it threads the strait between Newfoundland and Labrador, expected some time Monday to pass off the south coast of Greenland. The eye never crossed land on the east coast of the US, but came close enough to produce hurricane-force winds, storm surges, and scattered tornadoes from Florida to North Carolina. When it finally made landfall in Nova Scotia, it was still producing Category 2 winds, and Category 1 as far north as Newfoundland. It is officially tied with a 1935 "Labor Day" hurricane as the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Since Dorian formed in the tropical Atlantic on August 23, three more named storms have come and gone: Erin, which formed over the Bahamas ahead of Dorian, proceeded northeast to Florida then out into the Atlantic, eventually producing heavy rains in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; Fernand, which formed in the Gulf of Mexico and landed in Mexico; and Gabrielle, which formed in the mid-Atlantic and is now headed toward Ireland and Scotland. The Atlantic hurricane season continues to November 30, with Humberto the next name.

The Atlantic put a paywall on their website this week, limiting readers to 5 "free" articles per month, so I probably won't bother with them any more. They've moved to the right over the past year (although not especially toward Trump -- David Frum and Conor Friedersdorf are regulars), which cuts down on their utility. My wife subscribes to a bunch of things, and I take advantage of that, but haven't added to her list myself. Back when we bought a lot of magazines, I recall liking Harper's more than Atlantic (at least when Lewis Lapham was editor), but I haven't read them in ages. Looks like they offer a better subscription deal than Atlantic.

My own website remains free in every sense of the word (including free of advertising and pitches for money), so I feel entitled to my high horse. Of course, I realize the need publications have to raise money to continue operations, and I understand that it's generally good for writers to get paid, especially for serious work. But I also recognize that few people have the wherewithal (much less the interest) to read everything of likely interest. In this world, paywalls help balkanize public discourse, helping to herd us into isolated, self-selected hives. This isn't a good system. Nor is advertising a good answer. Nor do we have the political will to support a development system that would make public goods (like, but not limited to, news) universally accessible. But that's the sort of solution we should be thinking about.

Some scattered links this week:

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