Sunday, February 7, 2016

Haunted by the 1990s

In case you don't follow presidential politics (on Twitter, especially) as much as I seem to, this is what's happening lately in the Democratic race.

Some people can't stand the idea of electing Hillary, mostly because of her hawkish foreign policy history and role in the 1990s' move to mass incarceration and welfare "reform." These folks honestly feel these misgivings or dislikes. People in this camp: Michael Moore, New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander, education writer Nikhil Goyal, and poverty researcher Matt Bruenig. All people I like.

These folks like Bernie better because he's principled and not dirtied by being a mover and shaker in government for decades. Unfortunately, there are other Sanders supporters, referred to as Bernie Bros., who keep attacking Hillary in ways that are sexist instead of substantial. Not everyone who opposes Clinton is a sexist, believe me.

Some other people think Bernie is unelectable because of the socialism thing. Even though they often share his beliefs, they think the treatment he'll get from the Right (and the media) in a general election will make the swift-boating of John Kerry (a bonafide war hero!) look like a kindergarten playground. And they think Bernie won't be able to accomplish anything even if he does manage to get elected, between the Right's domination of Congress and his lack of a track record on compromising.

People in this camp: Gloria Steinem, Doug Muder at the Weekly Sift, comedy writer Frank Coniff, and Dave Roberts at Vox. Roberts went on a tweet storm yesterday on the topic, compiled here:

First, to be super-clear: welfare reform was terrible policy that has had catastrophic effects. It was bad, bad, bad. Ungood. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that the effects of welfare reform were crueler than even its critics at the time expected.

The politics at the time were complicated and fraught. Clinton faced a GOP Congress and the Gingrich Revolution. It was widely agreed (by Dems) that liberalism was on the ropes, the "era of big government" was over, and Dems had to triangulate to survive. The public had soured on welfare and was terrified by rising crime. (Back then, it was actually rising, unlike now. It was a grim time for the left.

On welfare, Bill Clinton viewed himself as trying to prevent Congres from doing *much worse*. Not sure people appreciate the siege mentality back then. And it was justified! The scale and viciousness of the attacks were insane.

Could Clinton have done better? Could he have battled off the GOP without this terrible compromise on welfare (which he now regrets)? It's legitimately hard to say. Books have been written about it. There are good-faith arguments on both sides of the question.

In *retrospect*, having seen the suffering wrought by welfare reform, I'm sure Clinton would do it differently if he had another chance. The political landscape is different now, as are the dangers and opportunities. The Clintons, like everyone else, have changed with the times.

Now, however, all that sense of history and context are being lost. To the Bernie Bros, Hillary, not Bill, is the master schemer behind reform. And she did it because she loves the taste of poor children's blood when she sacrifices them to Mammon. And it was totally voluntary. If she'd wanted to, she could have passed the No More Poor Children Act, but she hates poor children, so.

The frustrating thing for Clinton supporters is that *none* of them like the after taste of the welfare reform compromise (and others). They wrestle with ambivalence, with how to properly weigh and assess various compromises in their historical context.

Meanwhile, Sanders was tucked away in a politically unique situation where he had to make very few compromises. Where there was political threat — as on guns — Sanders *did* compromise, including some votes he now likely regrets.

Which is fine! I know Sanders would like to do more on guns, but had to accommodate political realities. Such is politics.

Unlike Sanders, Clinton has always been under political and ideological siege, right in the thick of things. She never had a safe bubble. It is entirely possible to lament Clinton's choices, even condemn them, while *still keeping a sense of historical perspective*.

She is a politician. Her record is a messy outcome of her values colliding with shifting political winds.

Bernie Bros, however, concede none of this. To them Clinton made poor kids suffer because she's Evil. She can't wait to sacrifice more. They acknowledge no extenuating, or even complicating, circumstances. They don't even acknowledge that it *was* a compromise. To BernieBros, you either condemn Hillary as a monster or you share her hatred of poor children. Context, perspective — these are all just excuses.

The same goes for the crime bill and all the other (by now numbly familiar) examples Bernie Bros pluck out of context. If you wanted, you could pluck the many, many positive things she's done (especially for women and children) similarly out of context and use them to characterize her as a saint, just dismiss all the other stuff. But that would be stupid and unfair too.

The fact is, it's complicated. Given her gender, her history, the political circumstances she faced, nobody has had to compromise more.

If that disgusts you, if you're looking around for another untainted messiah who will conjure a revolution and never compromise, fine. But waving around welfare reform, out of context, like it's an open-and-shut case, is just demagoguery.

Clinton supporters are aware of her compromises. All too aware. They're also aware of her experience, intelligence, and talents. It's a complicated, messy package. It does Bernie Bros no favors to treat it like a comic book. 
(That was 34 tweets, by the say. He got hundreds of responses. What a way to spend a Saturday.)

I find it hard to remember the '90s in the kind of detail Roberts marshals. I was in grad school and then parenting a young child. I remember the super predator panic, of course, and Hillary was part of that. But as some note, Sanders also voted for the crime bill. The Congressional Black Caucus members generally voted for it, too. I knew at the time the welfare reform bill was bad news, but there didn't seem to be much I could do about it after Gingrich made his Contract on America. (Yes, it's supposed to be Contract with America, but I always changed that preposition.)

It was a weird era: the post-Reagan/Bush years, the time when crime was still heading toward its peak in most places. It was a case of social contagion, fueled by media, I imagine. So easy to see now and impossible to see then, for most of us in white supremacy-based America.

So whom do I choose, the candidate who rolled with all of that or the one who mostly stayed out of it, but didn't prevent it, either?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Selfish Women

Just got this catalog in the mail the other day:

I don't like a thing about it, of course: not the textbook feminized pose (head cant, bent knee, off-balance stance, licensed withdrawal gaze, feminine touch) and not the alliterative title (Soft that a euphemism for a padded room?). I don't even like the merrily burning candles marching down the steps, waiting to catch the edge of the model's long, diaphanous blouse.

But the thing that gets me the most is the tag line: my time. my place. my self.

My, my, my, aren't women selfish? This isn't the first time I've noted the use of "my" in messages meant to appeal to women. Who decided we would see ourselves (our selves, in tag line parlance) in that word?

All I can do is remove "my self" from their mailing list and toss this junk in the recycling.

Friday, February 5, 2016

High Deductible Plans: Bad Policy

Yes, the Affordable Care Act is better than what we had before. No, it's not the solution the people of this country need for their health care. A few examples.

From a friend's Facebook post:

I open a letter from CareFirst telling me that our health insurance coverage went up $260 a month beginning January 1 and that we're already $520 short for the year. Our monthly health insurance bill for a family of three is now $1,367.82 with a $6,000 deductible. Which means the only entity "insured" by anything is CareFirst itself, insured against the fact that they'll ever have to pay for any of our health care for the next six or so months. It's a great fucking system we have.
This is similar to my family's insurance costs. Many others insured through their state exchange or are in the same boat, except they get a subsidy on those payments. But they're still on the hook for that crazy deductible if something happens to them, like my broken ankle.

What's the outcome of these costs? From today's Star Tribune:
An increase in Minnesotans with health insurance hasn’t decreased the uncompensated care provided by the state’s hospitals, but it has caused a shift from outright charity care to bad debt from insured patients who couldn’t afford their medical bills.
One downside, from the hospitals' point of view:
Writing off the cost of a needy patient as upfront charity is more efficient and less stressful than trying to collect from someone who’s broke and can’t pay insurance deductibles.
Oh, the poor hospitals. They're stressed out by having to collect on debts. Imagine how the people in debt feel!

Here's another story about why high-deductible plans, which are all we are allowed to buy anymore because coverage that actually covers things is considered to be a "Cadillac plan." A family I know, both parents lawyers who have their own small firm, are on an individual plan like mine with a $6,000 or higher deductible. They have two young teenage daughters active in sports. One kid twisted her ankle at a soccer game on a Friday evening and mom had to decide whether to take her to the emergency room for an X-ray to figure out if it was broken or wait until Monday to see if it got better.

These are well-off people with insurance, but they don't take their kid for an X-ray. And I understand that hesitation. This is what "skin in the game" looks like. This is what finance wonks want to have happen. Is it what you would want for your kid, though, in the richest country in the world?

As I wrote in a post from a few years ago,
How can a person who's sick judge whether a test is necessary? We don't have enough information to know the answer. But we do know if we can afford it or not, so if it's not covered by insurance, it's pretty easy to know which way the question will be answered.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

That's a Lot of Jewelry

Listening to Marketplace Tech this morning, I heard a story about a woman whose company makes smart jewelry, specifically rings. They look like regular jewelry, but they buzz to let the wearer know she got a phone call, or they let her pay with her credit card by tapping (comparable to Apple Pay).

I didn't care about any of that, really, but the thing the tech entrepreneur said that got my attention was this: women spend $1,200 a year on jewelry.

What!? The average woman spends $1,200 a year on jewelry?

I assume she's talking about a subset of women, maybe women from households making over some amount, like $100,000. I know gold jewelry can be important in some cultures, but this amount of money per year seems crazy to me.

Do any of my readers have any insight into this? I know that I probably not be the typical American woman on this topic. I think jewelry is generally pretty stupid and unless it's made from high-quality gold that can be melted down and gems that are worth resetting, it has no economic value because taste varies so much. Plus it's made from materials that are often mined in very exploitative situations: think blood diamonds, but there are lots more stories like that.

The fact that the DeBeers company used advertising to convince people diamonds represent love irks me to this day. "You should spend X amount times your monthly salary on an engagement ring": a rule that was made up by the people who want to sell you the ring.

But even that isn't important compared to the ongoing purchase of jewelry, which is the most worthless of the many worthless purchases we make in our over-consuming society. You may have too many shoes, but at least you have to wear shoes. You don't have to wear jewelry at all.

Rant off.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Good Fences Make Good Scrap, Unfortunately

I've always assumed the scrap metal drives of World War II rounded up tin cans and miscellaneous junk, but as these photos from the Retronaut make clear, it was a lot more than that: People destroyed perfectly good fences whose workmanship was impossible to replace.

This one is the fence around the Massachusetts state house.

I wonder how much of this destruction was from war fever and how much was incipient Modernism, seeing no other value in these ornate railings and gates?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Blackjacks Before Throats

As many have said, the Civil Rights movement is too often sanitized, with Martin Luther King turned into a saint instead of a man. Which makes it easy to forget that they were demonized in their day, just as current movements like Black Lives Matter are today.

Here's a reminder of how that played out back in 1963:

In which the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was compared to a blackjack, used to beat unwilling people into submission. "The bill is not a 'moderate' bill and it has not been 'watered down.' It constitutes the greatest grasp for executive power conceived in the 20th century."

The small type at the bottom reads:

The socialists' omnibus bill of 1963 now before the Senate

The American people are being set up for a blow that would destroy their right to determine for themselves how they will live.

What is being piously presented as a human effort to redress past wrongs — the "Civil Rights" bill — is, in fact, a cynical design to make even the least of us, black and white alike, subject to the whim and caprice of government bureaucrats.

Unless American workers, farmers, business and professional men, teachers, homeowners, every citizen awakens now, harsh Federal controls will reach into our homes, jobs, businesses, and schools, into our local State elections, and into our municipal and State governments.

Within the coverage of this bill Federal inspectors would dictate to

As to
1. Seniority in private employment
2. Seniority in civil service
3. Preferential advance of minorities
4. Social Security

Schools and Colleges:
As to
1. Handling of people
2. Employment of faculties
3. Occupancy of dormitories
4. Use of facilities
Occupancy of dormitories, oh my! Little Susie could be forced to live share a room and a bathroom with a black woman. And what's with the reference to Social Security? Wasn't that a federal program in 1963? Not exactly a states' rights issue.

The use of the blackjack as a metaphor is interesting also, since it was way more likely that a Civil Rights demonstrator would get beaten than the other way around. These days a comparable message wouldn't use the blackjack metaphor. (I'm not sure anyone knows what a blackjack is anymore.) Instead, it would be claim activists want to cram something down "our" throats.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Twittering Start to 2016

This month started off with New Year’s, of course. Then the State of the Union, and the Bundy takeover in eastern Oregon. And of course the ever-grinding election.

There was also Obama’s press conference on closing the gun show loophole, complete with some honest tears:

When a nation argues about whether tears are real, its polarization has become epistemological, not just philosophical or political.
Anand Giridharadas

I'm done with the lies. Today's gun culture is NOT American tradition. A 1959 Gallup poll found 60% of Americans favored banning handguns. Today's gun culture is NOT American tradition. Wild West towns had incredibly restrictive gun laws. Including NO FIREARMS IN TOWN.
Victoria Dahl

Obama cried because he was thinking, "Do you understand who your president could be after me? I only have 1 year left to fix EVERYTHING."
W. Kamau Bell

Obama might as well take everyone's guns since Fox is acting like he is anyway.
Jamie Kilstein
A few days later, he gave the State of the Union:
He's not perfect by any means, but I am thankful every day that Barack Obama is our President.
Frank Conniff

I wish "fix our politics" could be about something other than civility. Campaign finance reform! Electoral college reform! Kill filibuster!
David Roberts

I dream of the day when our Congress isn't majority White men, but actually reflects the diversity of our country.
Linda Sarsour

Trite but true observation: Obama gets no credit for the near infinite number and variety of disasters that *didn’t* happen on his watch. And in the particular circumstances in which he took office, there were *all kinds* of mega-disasters possible. Like it’s easy to crap on him for a tepid recovery, but it looks a whole lot better than historic economic collapse, which was very possible.
David Roberts ‏

Obama [should be] ridiculed for saying conflicts in the Middle East “date back millennia.” (Some don’t date back a decade.)
Ishaan Tharoor

This narrative – the Mideast is full of angry peoples eternally, irrationally at war – is a lie that serves an agenda. If you want to justify subjecting a region to your endless wars, depict it as a place that has never known peace.
Saladin Ahmed

It's like saying conflicts in Western Europe "date back millennia." Yeah, no shit - humans live there. Doesn't frame our view.
Cotton Mather's MBS ‏@matt_boyd_smith
Meanwhile, the Bundy brothers and their friends took over the Malheur nature preserve in Oregon. The double standard of their treatment escaped no one:
Frothing racists with guns aren't the "American Taliban." They're not "white ISIS." They've been around for centuries and they're 100% home-grown.
Saladin Ahmed

This is because we believe dignity to be a commodity and only the well-funded deserve it automatically. Wonder what the statistics are for militia members enlisting in the actual armed forces.
jelani cobb ‏

Today I learned:
plural of armed black people is thugs
plural of armed brown people is terrorists
plural of armed white people is militia

Armed white men in Oregon are mad at the same federal government that stole land from Native Americans and gifted it to their ancestors. Ungrateful bastards!
Stacey Patton

Americans will fight harder to defend native mascots than they will to defend the lives of actual native people whose land they live on.
Frank Waln

Freedom lovers' core demand is land handouts from the federal government.
Matthew Yglesias

#OregonUnderAttack #TamirRice:

Carlos Latuff

No reason for media to use the word "militia" in referring to armed criminals. In news, you don't get to go by your fantasy designation.
Mark Harris

Mike Brown was stealing, they say. Fine. The Bundys stole from ALL OF US FOR DECADES and now this nonsense. Ammon will live, I've no doubt. We wonder who's voting Trump: People who think we've done all right by "the blacks" but are willing to fucking KILL PEOPLE to avoid taxes.
Linda Tirado

The Oregon militia were asking for supplies, right? *sends 12 copies of Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"*
Zoé S. ‏@ztsamudzi

Something like 200 families control half the money in america and we mock welfare ranchers and wonder if black protesters get food stamps.
Linda Tirado
And there were lots and lots of tweets about the election:
Hillary says it's not practical to offer free college for everyone. You can't get more practical than the Germans – and they do it! Many do!
Michael Moore

Republican candidates want the type of big government that isn't responsible for worker safety or public health but intervenes in a woman's medical decisions. They want the type of big government that isn't responsible for feeding hungry children but can regulate an individual's sex life
Bree Newsome

It’s weird to me that Republicans never pay any political price for their evident disgust & disdain for actually existing America.
David Roberts

SPOILER WARNING: The next President will be an old, white millionaire who's pretending to give a shit about the common folk.
Marko Kloos

Anti-socialist media elites have living wage, healthcare, college kids. They already live in Bernie's America. Want to build a wall around it
Matt Karp

WaPo does name-calling,says Sanders is "facile,"dangerous word for paper that said Bush's case for WMD "irrefutable"
Dean Baker

Big question: when Sanders loses the primary (still likely) will he keep working on that political revolution? Will it swing behind Clinton?
David Roberts

Rubio "Isis is an existential threat to the U.S.”:

2015 deaths by
Lightning strike: 26
White extremists: 20
Jihadi extremists:19

Stop scaring people.
John Rogers

"Radical cleric with an apocalyptic vision of the future" is like half the GOP field, not just the Ayatollah.
Linda Tirado

Trump et al. keep talking about "the vets" the way American moms used to talk about children starving in Africa: a pitiable abstraction.
Christopher Hayes

I love the "stop Muslim immigration until we figure out what’s going on" bit. So perfectly captures the Trump crowd. "Stop everything until we figure out what’s going on" could be the official motto of White America.
David Roberts

'Hawkish' is a euphemism for 'willing to kill people for corporate profits.'
Saladin Ahmed

There’s an element to this year’s presidential race of lefties not really being willing to believe how awful things are going on the right. Lefties are so used to seeing the right as Machiavellian. They can’t shake the idea that some Bigger, Evil Plan is behind this chaos. But I think the most obvious explanation is the correct one: this whole election is a spectacular, unmitigated disaster for the right.
David Roberts

Instead of an angel and a devil, Donald Trump has a drama queen on one shoulder and a raging narcissist on the other. Who will win?!
Tom Tomorrow

Nothing says totally functional democracy like multiple N.Y. billionaires running for president.
Christopher Hayes

I wonder if the discussion about Clinton would be different if the whole US politico-media scene weren’t dominated by people w/ penises.
David Roberts

GOP Debate Drinking Game: Every time a candidate says the words "small government" they have to do a shot of Flint Michigan tap water.
Matt Christman

Michael Bloomberg has hired a polling firm to stop & frisk voters to test the viability of a presidential run.
Frank Conniff

I also think Trumpism, celebrity culture & dumbification are connected to our suburban, isolating, alienated, privatized way of life ...
Richard Florida

It is not a radical idea to say if a person works 40 hours a week that person should not live in poverty.
Bernie Sanders

Trump: "But always remember this: I never start anything. I simply counterpunch." Every thin-skinned a-hole thinks this.
David Roberts

Claiming to support social progress while foreswearing taxes on anyone but the rich is a doomed enterprise. Sooner or later, Dems will have to address the right’s incredibly successful, multi-decade campaign to demonize (all) taxes. Oh and also dethrone the absurd "the gov’t budget is like a household budget" nonsense.
David Roberts

Of all the reasons not to vote for Ted Cruz, the fact that he was born in Canada is way, way, way, way down on my list.
Frank Conniff

When MSNBC and CNN treat every stupid thing Trump says as the biggest news of the day, it's as if journalism is on a date with Bill Cosby.
Frank Conniff

Theory: A billion-dollar presidential race exists to distract you from the multi-trillion-dollar world of Wall St, where the real action is.
David Sirota

In a democracy, a free press is essential to hold celebrities accountable.
Chris Steller

Ugh, are we really talking about Bill Clinton’s sex life while his wife runs for president? We are a nation of gossipy prude little weiners.
Jamie Kilstein

It's too bad Trump didn't decide to dress like a bat and fight crime.
Tom Tomorrow

This campaign is starting to feel more and more like a long, national nervous breakdown.
Christopher Hayes
As always, a passel of topics related to racism and white supremacy. First a general few:
Racism isn't 'ignorance,' it's systematic exploitation.
Saladin Ahmed

Referent of 'this' in "this is why we can't have nice things, America" in 90% cases = racism, aka "undeserving poor.” Gun control, universal health care, sick leave, maternity leave, univ daycare, good public transit…a long, sad list (USA! USA!).
Cassie Creswell

There is no such thing as "race relations." It's a non term. There's the relative presence or absence of racism.
jelani cobb

How many cases/videos/coverup attempts must one witness to understand that the entire criminal justice system has to be reformed?
Bree Newsome

Stop asking people of color why they are angry! The question is why are you not angry? Injustices are everywhere.
Linda Sarsour

We live in a world where saying #BlackLivesMatter and racism exists are considered attacks instead of facts. That's why we keep saying it.
malkia a. cyril ‏@culturejedi

How about we ponder what Martin Luther King woulda thought about you poisoning Black brains, throwing them in substandard schools, then screaming bootstraps?
Propane Jane ‏@docrocktex26

It's good to have a holiday devoted to someone who never held power. 'Just' an organizer. 'Just' an activist. 'Just' a preacher.
Bill McKibben

Do you really appreciate the level of violence that has accompanied every attempt to achieve equal rights for blacks in US? The federal government had to send national guard into the south just to keep order as a handful of black students integrated the schools.
Bree Newsome
The poisoned water in Flint:
Reminder: Flint switched its water source *back* to its old safe source in October. These new results reflect damage done to Flint's pipes.
Rachel Maddow

It's frustrating that with what's going on in Flint nobody is asking questions about fracking, which most candidates support.
LinkedIn Park
Lesser-known, there were tweets about a cancelled children’s book that made it look like George Washington’s slaves were happy to serve him, tying in with other issues:
Disappointed that PEN American saw fit to call Scholastic's editorial decision to pull the Cake book "censorship.” The statement was quite clear about why it was pulled. And if we're going to start critiquing editorial decisions as "censorship" let's talk about the effect the 89% white publishing industry has on stories of color and how many books about slavery don't even make it to publication because they discomfort the narrative of white innocence. One day I hope the Freedom of Speech crowd learns that caping for white supremacy doesn't equal defending free speech. And that valuing Black life and unraveling the ongoing dishonesty in literature is not censorship.
Daniel José Older

I'm thinking/tweeting about #BlackLivesMatter #FlintWaterCrisis #OscarsSoWhite #SlaveryWithASmile because they are dangerously intertwined. #SlaveryWithASmile #OscarsSoWhite are about representation. You better believe how we're represented affects biases which affect our lives. #SlaveryWithASmile books/representations are really about challenging black peoples right to testify on their own behalf. And if blacks can't be trusted to tell the truth about slavery, why would any believe them when they said their water is poisoning them?
Yolanda ‏@YoliWriter
Ta-Nehisi Coates had a conversation going about reparations to African Americans, following reaction to his most recent Atlantic article on the topic. Some other tweets helped to make one of his main points:
It's the same basic idea as a nation's public debt. No American alive is "responsible" for the debt accumulated in 19th century. But that doesn't mean we don't have to pay our creditors for it. "Listen, my family wasn't here when the government spent that cash!"
Jamelle Bouie

Who benefitted? The nation. Who pays? The nation. Should justice be done because it's right, or be damned because it's hard?
stephen matlock

It's a simple matter of restorative justice. Payments from Germany to Israel never framed as "solving" Anti-Semitism.
Zach Dorfman
And then there are the rest of my favorite topics (education, new urbanism, immigration, guns, climate change and energy…) and lighter moments.
My phone's spell check recognizes "Sharknado" but not "Roosevelt" and that really tells you everything you need to know about America.
Exploding Unicorn

The only people we should deport are people who chant USA.
Jamie Kilstein

Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.
Adam Grant

Having no plan is better than having a 20-year stroad plan:

Strong Towns [A stroad is a combination of a street and a road. It serves neither purpose well.]

I'm looking at "how to choose your health plan" guides, and they're all like, "Well, how sick do you plan to be?" I think we can INFLUENCE our health, but so many things are out of our control, and we all ultimately fall apart. "Choosing" health care plans and "managing" them plays into our nationwide delusion that we can control our health.
Rainbow Rowell

Affluence makes even mediocre teaching look good and poverty can make masterful teaching appear mediocre.
Tim Fournier

The letter "s" is the only difference between deadlines and deadliness.
Pat Thompson @pattho

We should do away with 'correctional' as a term as well; a badly distorted usage officially used in the age of mass incarceration.
Kathleen Culhane

Can someone, in some kind of reasonably rigorous way, explain the difference between being politically incorrect and being an asshole?
David Roberts

So-called "rail bias" exists in inter-city travel too, right? People prefer trains to planes and cars as long as the time difference isn't too large. It's because flying sucks and trains are nice to be on. "Rail bias" should just be called "valuing your experience" bias.
William Lindeke

The larger a man is perceived to be, the more likely he is to be searched by police.
Pacific Standard

Sign of the Beasts:

Chris Steller

Whatever you think of single payer health care, you got to grapple with 30 million uninsured and millions of others on plans they can't afford to use.
Matt Bruenig

The Wounded Warrior Project is looking a little bit like a scam meant to hoover money from elderly white people. Then again, you could say the same of virtually every conservative organization.
David Roberts

"What better reason to risk your own freedom than to fight for the freedom of others?"
Nexus Youth Summit

"Being poor is bad, but being poor in a more unequal place is worse.” - Pacific Standard
Thriving Cities

I shouldn't have to be in the military or the CIA to show that I'm a "good" Muslim. I would like to just be ordinary. – Linda Sarsour
Eric Ward

A defining feature of our age is wealthy and/or powerful people who propose to save us from the wealthy and/or powerful.
Anand Giridharadas

This whole “government is the cause of all our woes” idea that Reagan preached is false. In fact, government on several occasions has been the only entity large enough to save us from economic disasters caused by unchecked capitalism.
Bree Newsome

America demonizes whomever it wants to rob. Before U.S. oil peaked in 1970, Islam was just another religion.
Free Public Transit

Tasers are torture devices and everyone should stop treating them like a source of slapstick humor.
David Roberts

What is the conservative obsession with things being rammed down throats? Amazingly common motif.
Alexandra Jaffe

One reason the safety net is more expansive in Europe is beliefs about the poor:

sean ‏@SeanMcElwee

I wonder how many Americans realize that the Star Spangled Banner is actually a question, not a statement.
Son of Baldwin

Every politician with responsibility for prisons, every judge who gives custodial sentences, should have to visit prisons regularly. Talk to prisoners, talk to staff, and talk to visitors. See and smell the places they're making decisions about.
Else Marie Knudsen

Humans have a tough time controlling their own behavior. Why would we think we can actually control other people's behavior?
John Miller

American exceptionalism is a propagandist lie from the pit of the original Wall Street Slave Market's stomach.
Bree Newsome

Ten bucks says the hack involves being born rich:

Anand Giridharadas

No one can do everything. But everyone can do something. Figure out what your something is, and do it.
Ebony Elizabeth

The reality of politics is that you invariably get less than you ask for, so ask for a great deal.
jelani cobb

Another one-letter-off word pair: hopeless and homeless.
Pat Thompson @pattho

Example of the smarmy condescension often lurking in praise: speakers who preface their answers with “Great question!” (Gee, thanks...)
Alfie Kohn

We're taught to view western imperialism as being the forward progress of humanity, deliberately ignoring lots of history in the process. But actually there were a multitude of cultures and ways of social organization that were wiped out via colonization and forced assimilation. We've simply been taught to adopt Eurocentrism as the only valid world perspective there ever was
Bree Newsome

"If your vote wasn't important they wouldn't be trying to take it from you." – Linda Sarsour
joe getty

It's apparently Penguin Awareness Day. Here's what a penguin's mouth looks like inside:

Saladin Ahmed

Weird that we call the earned income tax credit a means-tested benefit, but not every other tax deduction/credit that is subject to a phaseout (which is a bunch). Though I guess "means-tested" may just be coded as "for the poor.”
Matt Bruenig

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglass
Camika Royal

“To put it in its starkest form, capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. Democracy is not." – Lester Thurow
Nikhil Goyal

"When people talk about throwing things away, I always make sure to ask them, 'Where is away? Please explain.'" – WinonaLaduke
Justin Klassen

"I like gingerbread, but it's definitely the dessert of a culture that hasn't discovered chocolate." – @izzygrinspan
Andy Selsberg

“Beware of Artists” — an actual poster issued by Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950s:

Nina Malone

Did anyone ever say "I'd like to do a podcast, but I have terrible elocution, droning delivery and a whiny voice"? No, I didn't think so.
Doug Saunders

Periodic bursts of passion and enthusiasm are how children learn — not slow, steady, school-imposed schedules.
Bruce L. Smith

Insanity is when you can lease 1 ton of coal from public land for about $1, which later costs the public over $70 in carbon pollution.
Sen. Maria Cantwell

Liberty…except for decisions about when to have children, who to love, or when to die. Other than that, liberty.
David Roberts

So important to remember as we mourn David Bowie and Alan Rickman: both were products of government-funded arts programs.

If I had one wish, it would be to banish the phrase "keep us safe." Pull your f’ing pants up, Americans. You are not children.
David Roberts

Probably the best public educational institution we have is the public library. Can't get anymore democratic and noncoercive.
Nikhil Goyal

Vesting schedules for retirement benefits continue to boggle the mind. Why isn't this outlawed? We want to encourage you to save for retirement, so we make it such that a chunk of your savings can evaporate at the whims of your employer
Matt Bruenig

Retired NYPD cop on disability pension for injured knee runs half-marathons, works as sheriff's deputy in Florida. Oh, and he blames the president for the culture of people trying to get "free shit" from the government.
Josh Barro

Safe Routes to School is a nice program, but Schools on Safe Routes would shift a paradigm at no cost.
Charles Marohn

It would take over 20 bowls of Oversensitive Social Justice Warrior Flakes to equal the whiny crybaby bullshit in just one bowl of Right Wing Twitter Crunch.
Saladin Ahmed

The lobby in a typical high school: evidence that its students defeated those from other schools and lists of which students here are better than others.
Alfie Kohn

Public employees in states that have banned fair-share fees earn 9% less than their private-sector counterparts.
Economic Policy Inst

White men with acoustic guitars will always have power over me and that is something I have to live with every damn day
Aparna Nancherla

It's weird when someone calls someone else a "creature.”
Chris Steller

Okay, so here's the thing I'm starting to think: people are as oppressed as those in power can get away with.
Linda Tirado

Susan Sontag, born 83 years ago today, on storytelling and her advice to writers:

Maria Popova

Imagine strangers pooping on your lawn and swearing at you, then acting surprised that you won't debate them. That's twitter for minorities.
Saladin Ahmed

1 in 4 poor families with kids receive TANF [formerly AFDC], compared to more than 8 in 10 in 1996.

Everything would make more sense, especially in the social sciences, if "cause" were replaced by "raise the probability of."
David Roberts

Parents and teachers are often considered "good" based on their ability to control their children.

Stand Your Ground laws makes murder legal. Period.
Dee ‏@DAbitty

Public education advocates need to be more nuanced on charters. Yes, some are terrible, but many are amazing schools that need to be expanded.
Nikhil Goyal

[After listening to the musical Hamilton.] Basically I don't trust any work which leaves intact the hero narrative of the American Revolution, even if it 'complicates' it. "I have criticisms regarding this work" does not mean "I think you're an idiot for liking this." Don't react as if it does. (Fun fact: the American Revolution was a war between two genocidal regimes that used poor people as cannon fodder and Africans as slaves.)
Saladin Ahmed

As the value of a college degree went up and prisons failed to clearly reduce crime, somehow we chose prison.
Bruce Western

Why isn't underwriting the opposite of overwriting?
Chris Steller

At its height, California’s huge methane leak equaled the daily climate impact of 7 million cars. Won't be fixed for months.
Bill McKibben

Twitter: What do our users want?
Users: An edit button and relief from spam/abuse.
Twitter: Novella-length Tweets it is!
Derrick Snyder

"Today, cars are people’s second-largest household expenditure, and they sit unused 23 hours a day."
Tom Vanderbilt

Those who want to stop low-earning women from having children are typically OK with adult poverty but very troubled by child poverty. Since you can't make an adult poor without making their kids poor, you must either stop all poverty or sterilize poor adults. They go for latter.
Matt Bruenig

I'm socially liberal but economically conservative. I think gay people should be able to marry, but they shouldn't be able to retire.

One thing modernity has revealed is that there’s a large class of people who are not well-suited to peace and prosperity. Doesn’t suit them.
David Roberts

Winter cycling:

jennifer keesmaat

73% of whites get angry once per day vs. 66% Hispanics & 56% blacks.

It would be nice to be a renewable energy nation that didn't have to listen to Saudi Arabia about much of anything.
Bill McKibben

Folk only feel the need to have a gun when they know deep down they'd be laughed at without one.
Tim Minchin

Education reporters are generally so incredibly uneducated about schools, how children learn, and the history of public education.
Nikhil Goyal

In my 20+ years of being a professor, I saw many more students wanting to be challenged than coddled.
Jon Foley

If you remove just 1% of the commuters off the road during rush hour traffic, congestion is reduced by 18%.
jennifer keesmaat

Saying religion is very important:
Ethiopia 98%
India 80
US 53

Canada 27
Australia 18
France 14
Japan 11
China 3

Conrad Hackett

When you really understand how race, gender, and class work in our society, you can't go about your life in the same way again.
Nikhil Goyal
And finally, a cluster of tweets on a topic I don’t usually note:
Is there a single movie in existence in which two men do NOT talk to each other about something other than a woman?
Sarah Mackey

Oh fun, a show about rich white dudes. I hope there's a scene where scantily clad women gyra-ZzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Julieanne Smolinski

If a movie CAN have a scene in a strip club, it will have AT LEAST THREE.
Rainbow Rowell

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shakespeare Is Actually Kind of Good When You're Not Living in Chimpanzee World

This quote from Scott Aaronson, an MIT professor who skipped a lot of grades in middle school and high school (and never officially finished high school at all), crystallizes a lot of what's wrong with American high schools:

Usually, a hierarchy will be based on something external: how good people are at doing something or whatever it is. The exceptions are places like prisons, Manhattan society life, and an American high school. There's nothing external, so the hierarchy is based on sheer chimpanzee politics. A nerd, in [Graham's] definition, is someone who is in that environment but who cares about something that matters in the external world. If you're not figuring out how to climb this social hierarchy, you're going to end up on the bottom of it.
Aaronson is summarizing his recollection of an essay called Why Nerds Are Unpopular by venture capitalist Paul Graham.

I also liked Aaronson's criticism of the horrible five-paragraph essay. Gosh, I'm so glad I went through school before they came up with that standard:
I'm a huge believer in that you should be well-rounded. You should take writing, history, philosophy, but I think, in middle school and high school, people get forced to learn things that they aren't ready for. It's the same thing as people being forced to do math when they aren't at a point in their life where they are interested in it. That's actually counterproductive and gets the opposite of the desired outcome. A person learns to hate the thing even more.

When I was in high school we did Shakespeare. We'd have to write five-paragraph essays where you get points for following the format and repeating what the teacher wants to hear. I wrote an essay about Othello and evolutionary psychology because I was reading about that at the time. I got an F because it didn't follow the five-paragraph structure. I got an opportunity to re-take the exam, and I wrote a parody of what my teacher was looking for: an introduction paragraph, "I am now going to introduce topic number two," etc. I got an A+ on that version. The teacher did not realize it was a parody. It was only like 10 years after that where I was able to go back and look at Shakespeare again. And you know what? Shakespeare is actually kind of good.
From Pacific Standard magazine (one of my favorites).

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Tweet Storms

Two Saturday tweet storms for today.

From Propane Jane, who describes herself as "Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Doctor. Christian. Longhorn. Liberal. Democrat. Activist. Scorpio. Recycler. Politics Junkie. Proverbial Firestarter":

This anti-socialist propaganda [against Bernie Sanders] is effective precisely because it's tailored towards people whose bigotry prevents them from sharing and caring. Y'all are pretending the issue is that no one ever effectively sold socialism to America, when really bigots just prefer racist capitalism.
Do us all a favor and read up on Social Security and how it almost never was because folk didn't want Blacks to have it. Understand that every social program in America, be it schools, water regulation, or health care, has been hampered by racist selfishness. For the umpteenth time, systemic racism is the number-one reason why we don't have socialism in America. It ain't the banks or the 1 percenters.

How we, as liberals, expect to counter that level of animosity by shying away from explicitly discussing and denouncing racism is beyond me. If you aren't starting from the basic premise that deep-seated American distrust of government is rooted in racism, you're doing it wrong.

I come from a place where White people make it no secret that they've hated the Feds ever since Lincoln freed the slaves. Why not believe them? In other words, they hate/distrust the government precisely because it took drastic action to improve the lives of Black people relative to Whites.
From Toronto-based futurist/urban thinker Richard Florida:
It's ironic that there's so much declinism and stagnationism about the United States. The U.S. is relatively more economically powerful today than at virtually any time save for immediate period after WWII. In the early 20th century, the U.S. faced a formidable UK, Germany, Japan etc. all industrial powers. In the '50s & '60s, one could argue the USSR was a significant super-power. In the '80s, Japan and Germany were industrial behemoths as the U.S. deindustrialized.

What is the U.S.'s economic competition today, the BRICs — all in difficult shape? Western Europe? The U.S. is far and away the world's leader in technological innovation and venture-capital-financed startups, accounting for roughly half. What other nation boasts any place that can compete with Silicon Valley, never mind NYC tech, L.A., Austin, Boston-Cambridge, Seattle. The U.S. thoroughly dominates innovative and tech industries much more thoroughly than it previously did in autos, electronics, chemicals, or steel. The U.S. attracts the best and the brightest, the most entrepreneurial, innovative and creative from Europe, the BRICs, etc.

The problem is not U.S. innovativeness or relative economic power, but the growing divide between knowledge workers and the rest falling behind. And the particularly precarious situation of working class men. The conservative Right offers us back-to-the-'50s, the glory days of the old, the vanished order. The Left is incapable of articulating a progressive agenda for inclusion and shared prosperity in the new knowledge economy.

Which single presidential candidate is even willing to talk about the two central issues for rebuilding the U.S. middle class:
1. The need to upgrade 70 million low-wage jobs into higher paying family-supporting jobs, like we did before with factory jobs.
2.  the development of an urban policy that spurs greater density, invests in transit, and creates affordable urban housing.

When all is said and done, the U.S. has improved its economic position vis a vis the rest of the world. The problem is, a huge chunk of its own population feels as if it is (and in many ways, it is) falling behind and becoming increasingly anxious and angry. And it wants to lash out as those it sees as privileged or taking something from them.

Simply, the issue is less one of innovation or productivity and much more about building new institutions for more inclusive distribution.
I've just been watching the PBS American Experience show called Mine Wars, about the literal battles between West Virginia miners and mine-owners in the 1910s and '20s. Richard Florida's insistence that current employers could pay service workers a lot more and create family-supporting jobs is no more pie-in-the-sky than the idea that the mine owners could pay miners decently back in the day. The mine owners didn't start paying better because mining creates a physical product or because they had money lying around to share; they started paying better because the workers organized.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Meet Some Iowa Caucus-Goers

My NPR/MPR listening has decreased a lot since I stopped driving to work last year, and maybe even more so since my waking routine has mostly eliminated time for Morning Edition. But I still catch an occasional story, like this one from today, Iowa voters in Correctionville think U.S. needs correcting. (No transcript posted yet, but the seven-minute audio is worth listening to.)

The reporter, David Greene, does an excellent job of asking questions of the small group of Republicans he met, finding out what they really think, rather than putting them off by being critical of their opinions. And what they have to say is frightening. They're split between Trump and Cruz, though some wish they could vote for Santorum, Huckabee, or Carson. Those guys don't have a chance, they say sadly.

One woman cited Rush Limbaugh as a credible source. Another derisively referred to Clinton's inability to manage her email. Clearly, their entire world view has been created from right wing media talking points, church, and the limits of what they can see from their farms and small town (population 821). They think Trump and/or Cruz will make them "feel safe." It was painful to hear.

When the topic turned to guns, it became clear they think Obama (and Clinton) have plans to confiscate firearms. ("Can you imagine our country if Hillary gets elected? She's finish everything Obama started — we won't have any more guns, we won't have any rights...") And they need guns for protection, of course, out in the middle of nowhere, Iowa, because the police are too far away. All of them are armed. One man gave this example: At 11:00 p.m., four men armed with long guns came into his yard. He greeted them at the door with a cocked .45, and they asked if they could hunt raccoons on his property. He said no. They went away.

To them, that story is a slamdunk example of why everyone should have a gun in their home. What if those guys had been a home-invasion crew instead of coon hunters, right?

But no thought is given to the fact that having guns around raises the suicide rate, lets toddlers shoot each other, and increases the deadliness of domestic violence. All of that with a lot more likelihood than you using your gun to prevent harm to yourself or your family. Nope, that one time when some doofus thought it was a good idea to go coon-hunting after dark (when raccoons are generally out and about) on someone else's property proves that everyone should be armed. The illusion of control, the illusion of feeling safe is what matters.

If an equally good reporter from Fox News came to my house and interviewed me about what I think, would I sound as clueless as these people (only in the other direction)? Is this all really about world view and confirmation bias, or are they wrong?

I think they're wrong, but then, I have to think that, right?


By the way, a great comment thread follows the NPR audio.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What the Stats Say

A recent Star Tribune survey found that black and white Minnesotans don't have much common ground when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, the police, or police use of force.

94 percent of black people have a favorable view of BLM. 0 percent (that's zero percent) have an unfavorable view. For white people, those numbers are reversed: just 6 percent favorable and 69 percent unfavorable, with 25 percent not sure.

Combine that with 62 percent of white Minnesotans who think cops are just as likely to shoot whites as blacks (vs. only 17 percent of black people who think that). And get this: 97 percent of white people have a favorable opinion of law enforcement, while only 26 percent of black people do.

Clearly, most white people in Minnesota don't know any black people.

I can't help pairing this data with stats from the Washington Post on Donald Trump's supporters. As the establishment Republicans are finding, these predominately white folks aren't the usual party supporters. They're the inverse of the "socially liberal, economically conservative" model (which I dare say describes the cosmopolitan Koch brother, for instance), yet they also diverge from the Ted Cruz-style economic and social conservative.

Trump's supporters are relatively economically liberal — they love Social Security, the minimum wage, and unions — but they're socially very conservative. They score particularly high on racial resentment, resentment of immigrants, and white ethnocentrism. As the story summarizes the data, "the Trump coalition unites resentment of minority groups with support for economically progressive policies."

What a topsy-turvy country this is. I don't know why I'm surprised; these are the same voters who supported George Wallace in '68 and Richard Nixon in '72, who made the Southern Strategy work for Reagan and the Bushes. They're just finally getting tired of being manipulated by big-business Republican leadership. It doesn't make them allies for social justice.

And from the Star Tribune's polling, there are probably more of them in Minnesota than I would have thought.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Charlie Quimby

Blogger Charlie Quimby doesn't write online very often anymore, but when he does. Wow.

Quimby lives part of the year in Minnesota, where he volunteers in a child care center for homeless children, and part of the year in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he volunteers at a day center for homeless adults. His blog, The Great Divide, includes detailed stories of what it means to be homeless. Today, there's this Shelter Report from Grand Junction:

JC told me he went to bed hungry last night. Sometimes it's that way, he said.

Now that it's toward the end of the month, he is out of SSI money. Because he sleeps on the street, he doesn't get the breakfast and dinner served at the shelter. He's on his own for food and other expenses, such as buying the diapers he needs for his incontinence.

Early each month, his benefits account is credited electronically and he withdraws money in the predawn, calls a cab and takes it out to the Love's truck stop on the interstate. He typically orders biscuits and gravy for $7 plus coffee and a tip. Then he pays $11 to use the trucker's showers.

The showers are deluxe compared to what we have at the Day Center. They have a second head about waist high which can be directed at the feet. Since he's paying, there's no one banging on the door that his ten minutes are up.

He takes a cab back to his camp. The fare is $20 each way.

All in all, he spends nearly $70 within the first few hours of receiving his payment.

It may seem foolish, given his empty belly last night and the prospect of more if he can't raise a few dollars panhandling. But by spreading his dollars out, he might have to give up this one luxury, the only time all month when a few people do as he asks. When he can sit at a table and not be asked to move. When he can feel the hot water soothe his aches, the way we can do anytime we've had a bad day.
Quimby is a writer I wish everyone had to read before they offer an opinion about the undeserving poor. When he's not volunteering, he spends the rest of his time writing fiction; his first novel, Monument Road, synthesizes the empathy he clearly feels into excellent prose. I hear he's at work on another one. Can't wait.