Commits (3)
......@@ -6,6 +6,7 @@ var permalinks = require('metalsmith-permalinks');
var autoprefixer = require('metalsmith-autoprefixer');
var collections = require('metalsmith-collections');
var drafts = require('metalsmith-drafts');
var browserify = require('metalsmith-browserify');
var feed = require('metalsmith-feed');
var watch = require('metalsmith-watch');
var serve = require('metalsmith-serve');
......@@ -28,17 +29,17 @@ var path = require('path');
var shouldServe = false;
process.argv.forEach(function(arg) {
if(arg === "serve") {
process.argv.forEach(function (arg) {
if (arg === "serve") {
shouldServe = true;
function metalsmithJsUglify(pattern) {
return function(files, metalsmith, done){
return function (files, metalsmith, done) {
if(multimatch([file], pattern).indexOf(file) !== -1) {
Object.keys(files).forEach(function (file) {
if (multimatch([file], pattern).indexOf(file) !== -1) {
var newContents = uglify.minify(files[file].contents.toString()).code;
files[file].contents = Buffer.from(newContents);
......@@ -47,10 +48,10 @@ function metalsmithJsUglify(pattern) {
function metalsmithCssUglify(pattern) {
return function(files, metalsmith, done) {
return function (files, metalsmith, done) {
Object.keys(files).forEach(file => {
if(multimatch([file], pattern).indexOf(file) !== -1) {
if (multimatch([file], pattern).indexOf(file) !== -1) {
var newContents = csso.minify(files[file].contents.toString()).css;
files[file].contents = Buffer.from(newContents);
......@@ -85,7 +86,7 @@ Metalsmith(__dirname) // instantiate Metalsmith in the cwd
.use(permalinks({relative: false}))
.use(permalinks({ relative: false }))
dates: [
......@@ -112,7 +113,7 @@ Metalsmith(__dirname) // instantiate Metalsmith in the cwd
engine: 'handlebars',
directory: 'layouts'
compress: true,
rootpath: path.resolve('src/'),
......@@ -123,6 +124,6 @@ Metalsmith(__dirname) // instantiate Metalsmith in the cwd
// , bufferencoding: 'utf8' // also put 'content' into .json
// }))
.build(function(err) { // this is the actual build process
.build(function (err) { // this is the actual build process
if (err) throw err; // throwing errors is required
This diff is collapsed.
title: "Seeing Double: A Tale of Two Crises"
layout: article.html
collection: articles
date: 2020-04-10
> Note: this article was [first published](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630002716/https://amherststudent.com/article/seeing-double-a-tale-of-two-crises) in The Amherst Student, Amherst College's student newspaper, on April 10, 2020.
In the five months since Chinese doctors first reported a new pneumonia-like illness — now known as COVID-19 — [nearly the entire world](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630002716/https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51737226) has taken drastic measures to slow its spread. Countries are closing their borders to foreign travel, screening travelers and limiting domestic movement. By March 24, more than [20 percent](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630002716/https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/24/nearly-20-of-global-population-under-coronavirus-lockdown) of the world’s population was under some form of lockdown, and that number has only grown since. Despite [mistakes](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630002716/https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/29/world/asia/coronavirus-china.html) and [malicious behavior](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630002716/https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/jair-bolsonaro-coronavirus-brazil-governors-appalled), we’ve identified the coronavirus’s destructive potential, discovered how to mitigate it and started to do so.
The worldwide response to the threat of COVID-19 is remarkable, inspiring, and much-needed, but it’s needed in another place, too: the climate crisis.
The similarities between the coronavirus and the climate crisis are striking. Both are poised to kill millions of people if given the chance. Both require a worldwide effort to defeat, and solutions to both involve dramatic changes to our way of life. And finally, both are aided in their missions of death by blatant resistance to science’s warnings.
The difference between the two lies in their method of causation.
The coronavirus is a perfect example of direct causation. When someone shows up at the hospital with pneumonia-like symptoms that don’t respond to treatment, we can test their mucus and determine if they have COVID-19. If the patient then dies, we know precisely what caused their death: the novel coronavirus. The destruction that COVID-19 causes can be directly traced back to a contagious disease, and while epidemiology is a relatively new science, we’ve known for centuries to stay away from the sick.
On the other hand, the climate crisis is a perfect example of systemic causation. When someone dies because of human pollution, their cause of death is never “high levels of particulate matter released by diesel buses.” Instead, their death is chalked up to some respiratory problem — exacerbated by, but not directly attributable to, the climate crisis.
The same goes for victims of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, droughts or heat waves, which all existed before the climate crisis but are far worsened by it. It’s almost impossible to accurately quantify the impacts of the climate crisis in real-time, obscuring our view of the suffering it causes.
When faced with a crisis that has a clear, direct cause, like COVID-19, we know to take quick and decisive action. We’ve put social distancing measures into place that are anathema to human nature — it’s incredibly difficult to go weeks without seeing family and friends. It puts our mental, emotional and physical health at risk to do so, and it requires changing our entire lifestyle for the worse. For those in abusive households, the changes society has made to slow the coronavirus can be worse than the virus itself.
Though I wish we were doing more to help those who will fall through the cracks of social distancing and quarantine — and there’s a lot that could be done, from implementing universal basic income to canceling rent to ensuring everyone can access free, comprehensive medical care — I have no doubt that the measures we’ve taken are necessary. Right now, we’re changing our entire way of life as human beings in order to ensure the survival of a small minority of the world’s population, and that’s a good thing.
Now, compare our response to the coronavirus to our response to the climate crisis. So far, the world has treated the climate crisis as seriously as the Florida spring breaker who apathetically proclaimed, “If I get corona, I get corona.”
We know that in order to keep global temperatures from continuing to skyrocket, we need to stop using outdated fossil fuels and move to green energy. Even better, we know how to stop using them and we have the technology — green energy, electric public transit, and novel building materials, to name a few — to do so. Compared with the changes we’ve made to prevent infection, ditching fossil fuels is easy.
However, as of yet, we’ve done almost nothing towards that future. We haven’t figured out how to drive home the awful implications of systemic causation in the same way that we can easily point out direct causation. Not to mention that wealthy oil tycoons have been [spending vast sums of money](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630002716/https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/author-jane-mayer-on-how-the-koch-brothers-have-changed-america-235310/) to keep us from making progress since the 1970s.
Systemic causation is unintuitive and hard to wrap our heads around, especially when we put so much stock in quantifiable phenomena. Since we don’t have a “control earth” without global warming with which to compare our death rate from hurricanes, respiratory illness and the multitude of intermediaries that turn pollution into pain, it’s easy to overlook the effects of the climate crisis.
It’s time we treat the climate crisis like the coronavirus and take decisive action to secure our futures. Without it, we’ll be forced to watch as our friends and families die — not because of their own fevers, but because of the earth’s.
\ No newline at end of file
title: "Seeing Double: (Half of) Does Social Media Help or Hurt Activism?"
layout: article.html
collection: articles
date: 2020-05-01
> Note: this article was [first published](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://amherststudent.com/article/seeing-double-does-social-media-help-or-hurt-activism) in The Amherst Student, Amherst College's student newspaper, on April 24, 2020. In fact, this article was one half of a head-to-head piece that I wrote with my co-columnist Thomas Brodey. [Read the other half.](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://amherststudent.com/article/seeing-double-does-social-media-help-or-hurt-activism)
Social media was [invented](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://ourworldindata.org/rise-of-social-media) about 20 years ago, paving the way for a new age of information. Previously, it was only possible to talk to people you knew, either in person, through snail-mail or through newfangled internet mail — unless you happened to own a television channel, a radio show or a newspaper. As social media has democratized information, it’s been adopted by activists across the world as a key part of their movements.
For example, look at Black Lives Matter. The movement started in 2013 after George Zimmerman shot and killed a 17-year-old Black teenager named Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. After a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder, a few Black activists [tweeted](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/19/blacklivesmatter-birth-civil-rights-movement) about Martin’s death with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. Those tweets started a trend, and the Black Lives Matter movement organically grew up around the hashtag. Since then, the movement has used social media to mobilize around a number of similar murders.
Black Lives Matter’s success has inspired a number of other movements, including #MeToo, the Women’s March and March for Our Lives. All of them have used the same formula: use social media to get out the word and then ask people to engage. All of them have made real change.
A trending hashtag can’t force a police force to commit to race training or popularize common-sense gun reform. However, when marshalled by the right people, a trending hashtag can spur thousands upon thousands of people to join a physical protest who otherwise wouldn’t have known about it. It can drive people to participate in real life, reminding them that their friends, neighbors and family are taking action — and that they should too.
Other examples abound, like activist Charlotte Clymer raising [over $170,000](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/26/charlotte-clymer-twitter-spillthetea/) for Elizabeth Warren in a three-day Twitter campaign. My co-columnist spins a tale of internet ‘slacktivism’ taking the place of real protest, but that isn’t the case. Instead, social media spurs physical protest and civic engagement, all while spreading knowledge about political problems ignored in traditional media.
Outside of the U. S., social media is just as potent. My co-columnist brings up the Arab Spring, a period of time in the early 2010s when activists in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the region began calling for political change, using social media to amplify their message. Social media didn’t single-handedly call the people of Tunisia and Egypt to the streets. However, it allowed the political questions first asked in Tunisia to spread across borders, spurring people in other countries to ask the same questions of their governments.
Though my co-columnist portrays the Arab Spring as one of social media’s failures, he doesn’t consider the fact that the uprisings never could have happened without social media — and ignores that the protests galvanized Tunisia’s successful transition to democracy.
Now, it’s true that social media has problems. Online misinformation is rampant and disinformation — the intentionally harmful social media campaigns that countries like Russia have perfected — is downright scary. However, these problems aren’t actually caused by social media.
Misinformation and disinformation have existed since long before social media, from Nazi [propaganda](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-propaganda) during World War II to the radio stations that [fomented](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/rwanda-shows-how-hateful-speech-leads-violence/587041/) the Rwandan genocide. Even now, hosts on cable news shows readily [repeat propaganda and conspiracy theories](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141904/https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/10/18/20898584/fox-news-trump-propaganda-jason-stanley), sometimes because they believe them and other times because giving these controversial ideas a platform upholds their notion of ‘balance.’
It’s true that governments have adapted their repressive tools to social media. And yes, those tools constitute themselves differently on social media than in newspapers. Our strategies for combatting disinformation in cable news must be different from our strategies for social media, but that doesn’t indicate that social media is any different from other mass media.
Social media, like newspapers, cable news and radio shows, is not perfect. It has problems that I haven’t been able to cover, including the fact that private companies control its content with little regulation, the threat it poses to our privacy and the way it enables dangerous information bubbles. That said, it has enabled unprecedented community activism in the U.S. and abroad. And this activism isn’t meaningless clicktivism — instead, it has resulted in real change for real people.
\ No newline at end of file
title: "Seeing Double: The New Normal"
layout: article.html
collection: articles
date: 2020-04-24
> Note: this article was [first published](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141131/https://amherststudent.com/article/seeing-double-the-new-normal) in The Amherst Student, Amherst College's student newspaper, on April 24, 2020.
My parents got divorced when I was in fourth grade. Often, people say that they remember events like these clearly, but all I have is a fuzzy memory of sitting down in the living room and being told that yes, they were getting divorced, and yes, they would split custody of me and my sister. Then, we went to get ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s — if you ever visit Minneapolis, I highly recommend their raspberry chocolate chip.
My mom moved to a duplex nine blocks down the way on the other side of our elementary school, and my sister and I began to move from house to house every Thursday. One week with mom, one with dad, one with mom — and on it went. My fuzzy memory of the early days stops there, at least with regards to the divorce. I remember just one more thing: a phrase my dad started to say to me and my sister.
“This is our new normal.”
At first, I heard “new normal” as an oxymoronic, funny phrase. What’s “normal” is usually fixed and static. Custom is normal. Tradition is normal. A new normal felt like it went against the very meaning of the word “normal.” At the time, there was nothing I wanted more than to go back to normal.
My dad didn’t hear “normal” that way. My dad’s “normal” was something that we could decide, change and adapt to, a state more about what we wanted to do than any sort of custom.
He was right, of course. In time, switching from house to house became normal. Though the transition must’ve been difficult — as I said, I don’t remember much — my sister and I settled into a new pattern of life. Our parents also founded a new normal, both in their relation to each other and in their approach to us.
The new normal was recognizable — school, soccer, my friends and other parts of my life persisted — but also unrecognizable, as my life reconstituted in different ways. In time, the new normal became just normal, dropping the word “new” like an old scab.
Right now, our worldwide moment reminds me of my parents’ divorce. The coronavirus has brought our normal into question. We’re in the midst of the first truly global crisis, brought into being by modern globalization and an extremely contagious pathogen. While history is always in the making, it’s rare that we feel it so tangibly around us.
Already, people are calling for a return to normal. The vast majority of society — those who aren’t protesting in front of [governors’ mansions](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630141131/https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/04/17/protrump-protesters-urge-gov-walz-to-liberate-minnesota) — is fatigued by social distancing, quarantine and the public health measures responsible for keeping us safe. Whether in a month, two months or much longer, our instant of suspended society will eventually end.
At that point, we need to ask ourselves what we want. Do we really want to go back to normal?
Poverty, starvation and homelessness are normal. Polluted waterways, eroding coastlines and deadly natural disasters are normal. Endless war, terrorism and animosity are normal. I could spend a lifetime listing the various and specific scourges of normalcy.
By calling for a return to normal, we ignore the unique opportunity we have to reconsider what we want out of life. When faced with the same question, my parents made the right choice. Instead of trying to hold on to a failing normal, they seized the moment and built a new future for me and my sister. Out of the ashes of the old normal came a new one, rife with its own problems but ultimately better.
If we have any qualms about the issues listed above, and the countless more that fill our “normal” with suffering and pain for billions of people, then we should take this moment to craft a new normal — a better normal. One where we protect life instead of greed, value humanity instead of nations and recognize that we live on this earth together.
The massive job losses we’re seeing should be mitigated by a strong universal basic income — money directly corresponds to basic needs, and no one should be unable to obtain the fundamental provisions of life.
It’s also clear that employer health insurance has got to go. The most vulnerable among us are losing health insurance right when they need it most. Instead, we need a single-payer system. No one should be unable to obtain medical care.
In cities, we must decentralize our lives, moving our patronage from big doctor’s offices, big box stores and chains to local businesses. We’ll save transportation costs by walking down the street instead of driving to Target, and we’ll keep more money in local communities at the same time. Where those local businesses don’t exist, we need to subsidize their creation. Moving our commerce and consumption to local communities also minimizes infection risk, since big, warehouse-style stores attract many more people from a wider geographic area.
These changes are only the tip of the iceberg. In general, we need shifts that serve two functions. First, we need to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus and prevent transmission, improving our prospects in the current moment. Second, we need to be deliberate about our new normal. We need to create a recognizable normal radically better than the old.
Our new normal should be oriented around people instead of products, and it should organize itself in ever-growing circles of community rather than reifying the division and rancor of our current politics.
I’ve been through this process before, in a much smaller community: my immediate family. When my parents got divorced, it split my life into two parts. I still organize my recollections of my childhood around the split: everything is timed in years before and after divorce. The coronavirus is one of these moments of rebirth. When we emerge from this crisis, we won’t be the same. It’s impossible to return to normal. What’s left to decide is what the shape of our new normal will be.
\ No newline at end of file
title: "Seeing Double: Tipping, est. 1865"
layout: article.html
collection: articles
date: 2020-03-26
> Note: this article was [first published](https://web.archive.org/web/20200630002441/https://amherststudent.com/article/seeing-double-tipping-est-1865) in The Amherst Student, Amherst College's student newspaper, on March 26, 2020.
Believe it or not, tipping is an imported culture: it didn’t exist in the United States until after the Civil War when wealthy Americans brought the practice home after visiting England. By the turn of the 20th century, tipping was a normal practice nationwide — but that didn’t stop people from grumbling about it. When William R. Scott wrote “The Itching Palm: A Study of the Habit of Tipping in America” in 1916, he compared tipping to slavery, calling it an “aristocratic” and “un-American” practice. His comparison may be wildly out of proportion, but his conclusion — that we should end tipping — is spot on.
Despite the anti-tipping sentiment present at the beginning of the 20th century, federal law and most state law has since been updated to include a special “tip credit minimum wage” for tipped workers. These laws, the most important of which is the Fair Labor Standards Act, allow employers to pay tipped workers a fraction of the normal minimum wage as long as their tips cover the difference. In 1996, Congress froze the tipped minimum wage at $2.13. Even though the federal minimum wage has increased by three dollars since then, tipped workers haven’t seen a raise in over 20 years.
Since the tipped minimum wage is so low, and only 10 U.S. states and territories ban lower tipped wages, most tipped workers in America are paid far less by their employers than their counterparts making minimum wage in other professions. And since taxes usually take the amount tipped workers get from employers, most tipped workers end up living entirely on tips.
Often, proponents of tipping justify the practice by asserting that tips more than make up for the lower minimum wage. For example, big restaurant groups love to point out servers in high-end establishments who take home huge sums to extoll the benefits of tipping. However, a 2014 report from Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) found that the median wage for tipped workers in the U.S. is about $9 per hour. And tipped workers suffer greatly for the ‘special privilege’ of earning a bit more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 — and $9 is still far below the median wage for Americans making minimum wage, which is $11.80 per hour.
When workers are forced to live on tips, their income fluctuates day to day, week to week and month to month for arbitrary and uncontrollable reasons. Weather, customer mood and chance all influence the amount of money a tipped worker brings home, making it impossible to budget effectively. If a tipped worker serves a slew of bad tippers, pure bad luck might make it impossible to pay the rent. Nobody should be forced to live with so much income insecurity.
One classic defense of tipping is that good service will lead to good pay, incentivizing workers to work harder and provide a better customer experience. But are customers, who have only a short window of time to examine a worker’s service, actually able to evaluate the employees who serve them?
Restaurant patrons have no way of knowing the details behind their dining experience. They don’t know why the food is late, yet it’s always the server’s pay that suffers. And if a server is having a bad day and can’t fake cheer as well as they normally can, should their pay be docked? If tipping is supposed to reward good employees, it fails to take into account all but the very tip of the iceberg that is an employee’s actual work.
Worse, tipping allows customer prejudice to determine which workers make more money. A 2014 study from Wayne State University and Cornell University researchers found that Black servers made less in tips than white servers — after controlling for service quality and a host of other confounding factors. A similar 2005 study out of Yale Law School found the same result in New York City taxicab tips. Tipping, by turning customers into workers’ primary source of income, perpetuates racial wage gaps and allows pervasive discrimination to go unnoticed and unremedied.
The “tipping rewards good behavior” defense falls apart even further when we consider its impacts on the women who make up the majority of tipped restaurant workers. According to the 2014 report from ROC United, women restaurant workers in states that have a sub-minimum wage for tipped work “are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment as women in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers” and are three times more likely to be asked by managers to wear “sexier” clothing on the job. In fact, all restaurant workers, even those who aren’t tipped, report higher rates of sexual harassment in states with a lower tipped minimum wage. Tipping culture targets tipped women especially, but its result — increased sexual harassment — permeates the whole restaurant industry.
Tipping puts the livelihoods of workers at the mercy of customers, turning the old, erroneous adage “the customer is always right” into a dismal reality for the millions of waiters, cab/gig drivers and other tipped workers across the country. Not only does tipping force workers to live without knowing how much money they’ll make each day, but it also lets racial discrimination and sexual harassment flourish.
Tipping isn’t good for customers, either. Whenever you look at a menu, the prices you see are not the prices you pay (assuming you’re tipping as you should). Instead, you have to do fairly complicated mental math during the meal to correctly anticipate the cost — mental math almost nobody does until the very end. Businesses in industries where tips are expected are able to advertise their prices much lower than they actually are because so much of the cost is pushed into the tip.
The good thing is that we can end tipping. Changing the federal and state laws that designate a sub-minimum wage for tipped workers would do a lot to change tipping culture. No longer would tipped workers be forced to rely on tips for their entire income, empowering them against discrimination and harassment and providing more income stability.
If we want to do even better, restaurants should refuse tips altogether. Instead, they should pay workers more and update the menu to reflect the real price of their meals. Most restaurants would be nothing without the waiters who actually interact with customers — it’s time the food industry treats servers as real employees rather than paying them a measly $2.13 an hour.
Eliminating tips at the restaurant level would help other restaurant workers as well. It would ensure that everyone who helps make the food, clean the dining room, wash dishes and assign tables gets a fair share of the day’s earnings.
Finally, customers should start to demand the elimination of tipping. Be very careful: this does not mean you should stop tipping. As long as tipping is the norm, not tipping is incredibly harmful to tipped workers, and especially so during the current pandemic. If we want to help our fellow workers stay afloat during COVID-19, we should tip more.
However, if we want to help our fellow workers in the long run, we should call on restaurants to move away from tipping. If a company asks you to tip their workers, get angry! They should pay their workers a living wage.
Compared with changing a culture, changing the laws pertaining to this issue is easy. And changing the law is rarely easy. Uprooting tipping will be difficult, take a long time, and probably never be finished. However, the only way to do justice to tipped workers is to eliminate the practice altogether. It’s time to go retro: let’s end tipping like it’s 1916.
\ No newline at end of file
......@@ -166,3 +166,7 @@ object {
width: 100%;
height: 25em;
canvas {
width: 100%;
"use strict";
if ('serviceWorker' in navigator) {
navigator.serviceWorker.register('/sw.js', {scope: '/'})
.then(function(reg) {
// registration worked
console.log('Registration succeeded. Scope is ' + reg.scope);
}).catch(function(error) {
// registration failed
console.log('Registration failed with ' + error);
navigator.serviceWorker.register('/sw.js', { scope: '/' })
.then(function (reg) {
// registration worked
console.log('Registration succeeded. Scope is ' + reg.scope);
}).catch(function (error) {
// registration failed
console.log('Registration failed with ' + error);
window.onload = function() {
window.onload = function () {
var x = document.getElementsByTagName("a");
var i;
if('serviceWorker' in navigator) {
if ('serviceWorker' in navigator) {
for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) {
var href = x[i].getAttribute("href");
if(href.substr(0,1) == '/' && href !== window.location.pathname) {
x[i].addEventListener("mouseenter", (function() {
if (href.substr(0, 1) == '/' && href !== window.location.pathname) {
x[i].addEventListener("mouseenter", (function () {
if (!navigator.serviceWorker.controller) {
console.log("no controller");
......@@ -31,6 +31,6 @@ window.onload = function() {
{ 'once': true, 'passive': true, }