Weekend Assorted Links

1. The Trump Presidency Is Over. Peter Werner, a former Republican, weaves and bobs through the first half of this essay, and then, midway through, unleashes a flurry of devastating hooks. If it it was an actual fight the refs would’ve stopped it well before the end. Technical knock out for all but the most irrational.

2. Mad About Elizabeth Warren. A friend implores me to “Just get over it.” But how can I with piercing analysis like this?

“Warren the Presidential candidate was that girl with perfect grades in the front row of the classroom, always sitting up straight and raising her hand. “She was too smart, too rigorous, and always right,” as my friend Katherine put it. “‘I have a plan for that’ became a kind of joke at her expense,” another friend added. ‘She was so knowledgeable and so prepared that her life as a brilliant student stood out.”

Even in our famously anti-intellectual country, it is possible for a wonk to win the White House. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were intellectual superstars, and got elected anyway—indeed, Obama’s brain power was one of his major selling points. But, apparently, for a woman, being “brilliant,” “knowledgeable,” and “prepared” are suspicious qualities, suggestive of élitism and snootiness. On the other hand, if Warren had been obtuse, ignorant, and unready, that wouldn’t have worked, either. Being obviously unqualified to lead the free world only works for men.”

3. Merkel Gives Germans a Hard Truth About the Coronavirus.  Who knew she’s a trained physicist? Merkel and Warren are two peas in a pod, which begs the question, why are more German men okay with brainy women?

4. I have never really considered what Agnes Callard proposes, that The End is Coming.

“. . . so many of our practices—seeking a cure for cancer, building a new building, writing a poem or a philosophy paper, fighting for a political cause, giving our children moral lessons we hope will be handed down again and again—depend, in one way or another, on positing a world that will go on without us. The meaning of our lives, in the here and now, depends on future generations; without them we become narrowly self-interested, prone to cruelty, indifferent to suffering, apathetic.”

Only to add:

“Because here is something we know for sure: there will not always be future generations. This is a fact. If the virus doesn’t do us in, if we do not do one another in, if we manage to make everything as sustainable as possible, nevertheless, that big global warmer in the sky is coming for us. We can tell ourselves soothing stories, such as the one about escaping to another planet, but we are embodied creatures, which is to say, we are the sorts of things that, on a geological time scale, simply do not last. Death looms for the species just as surely as it looms for each and every one of us. How long have we got? At a recent public talk, the economist Tyler Cowen spitballed the number of remaining years at 700. But who knows? The important thing is that the answer is not: infinity years. Forever is a very long time, and humanity is not going to make it.”

Just because that’s a deeply depressing conclusion, it’s not wrong.

5. All The Ways I Failed to Spend My Massive Wealth. Of course, “he” could’ve just gone all in on the stock market a week ago.

 

 

Democracy Is Cool When You Vote Like Me

I’m not Bernie Sanders’ target audience. I’ve benefitted way too much from capitalism; I’m okay with my health insurance; and our recent weather aside, I’m not nearly angry enough. AND LISTENING TO HIM IS LIKE READING MILLENNIALS!!!

But I’m even less fond of the James Carville’s* of the world and other liberals who are constantly ripping Sanders youthful supporters. Instead of whining about them, try these alternatives.

Stop castigating them for their idealism; instead, affirm their engagement in the political process. For every committed “Bernie bro” there are ten apolitical apathetic people their same age. And hell, if they don’t start out idealistic, what chance do they have?

Set your Boomer pragmatism aside long enough to consider their perspective by substituting questions for the incessant, negative diatribes. Write these on an index card and put it in your shirt pocket. Why Medicare For All? Why a wealth tax? What’s it like having so much student debt? Why such an intense concern with climate change? Why dismantle capitalism? Then move on to their stories. If you’re not careful, you might learn WHY they vote differently than you.

The more respect they receive from mainstream Demos, the more likely they will be to eventually support another candidate in the case another candidate wins the nomination. Right now, given the knee-jerk invective they’re constantly subject to, I wouldn’t blame them if they simple say “A pox on both of your houses.” Which, of course, is the worst possible outcome.

*Pains me to write that, because during his Bill Clinton administration heyday, I really liked Carville. I found his smart, funny, direct, Southern, Creole riffs on all things political super engaging.

How to Do Nothing—Resisting the Attention Economy

By Jenny Odell. Even though I just finished it, I suspect Odell’s “How to Do Nothing” will be the most influential book I read in 2020 because it’s the most thought provoking book I’ve read since America the Anxious and Palaces of the People, books that also emphasize the importance of community, public places, and the common good. It is so unique, insightful, and challenging, I processed two-thirds of it at most; meaning, I need to reread it, which is a bit problematic since it’s due back at the library. I should probably make Eldest’s day, a true bibliophiliac, and just purchase it. Especially since it will take me a long time to even partially apply her numerous insights.

The front jacket lead, which I’ve amended, is a decent overview:

“A galvanizing critique of the forces vying for our attention—and our personal information—that redefines what we think of productivity, reconnects us with the environment, and reveals all that we’ve been (what we are) too distracted to see about ourselves and our world.”

If you are wary of individualism and seek more community, read Odell.

If you long for a more meaningful, less commercial existence, read Odell.

If you suspect your life might be enriched by less social media activity, read Odell.

If you want to think and care more deeply about your local ecology, climate change,  economic privilege, and alternative ways of thinking about progress, read Odell.

If you want to see Odell explain her book while reflecting on the challenges posed by its unexpected success, watch this November 2019 talk.

“How to Do Nothing” is especially important for anyone thinking, “No way am I spending 23 minutes I don’t have to watch the video.”

Worser and Worser Gridlock

The Future of Transportation by Henry Grabar of Slate.

“Even here (the U.S.), in a nation of unprecedented personal wealth and plentiful land, the car-centric system has pushed up against the limitations of space, proving expensive to maintain and impossible to scale. In the fast-growing cities of the developing world, the situation is more extreme, as commutes consume a greater and greater portion of the world’s energy, time, and cash.”

Graber’s answer? Busses, bikes, and elevators. A bus, quite possibly if “. . . given its own lane, its own route, its own authority over signals.” A bike, hell yes. Elevators?

On bicycles:

“. . . no technology holds as much promise as the humble bicycle—especially when we include its newfangled, electrified cousins—to solve the geometry problem that is getting people short distances around a big city. Even in the United States, where everything is fairly far apart by global standards, 48 percent of automobile trips in the biggest U.S. cities travel less than 3 miles—a distance that, with the right infrastructure, could be easily covered by a smaller vehicle.”

One problem. Most Americans are too soft to cycle even 5 miles to/from the grocery store, work, dentist office. “It’s not safe, poor weather makes it impractical especially in my work clothes, and I don’t have the time!” Never mind that bicycles are often as fast as cars in dense urban environments.

The more pressing hurdle writers like Grabar never seem to address is the intense individualism that curses through the U.S. Individual car ownership does not make financial sense, but it is so deeply ingrained in American life because cars provide unrivaled privacy and freedom. We aren’t rational, so we each buy our own cars that quickly depreciate. And the costs to insure, maintain, register, and keep them gassed up require us to work longer hours than we’d otherwise have to. And nearly every car owner chooses their car over busses 100 times out of 100. Even if driving fewer than 3 miles 48% of the time.

Note to the transpo engineers, city planners, and pragmatic social scientists thinking most deeply about the future of transporation. It’s not primarily an infrastructure problem, it’s a psychological one deeply rooted in U.S. history. How do we get self-regarding U.S. car drivers to even consider more other-regarding approaches to travel? To care even a little bit about the common good, including our health and the state of our natural environment?

I don’t know, but this I do know, slight our history and irrational individualism and watch gridlock grow worser and worser.

Sierra Killer Climbs 5-2012 148

Internal dialogue, “Maybe I shoulda taken the car. Yeah, I def shoulda taken the car.”

The Trump Administration’s Push For Dirtier, Less Efficient Vehicles

Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Honda, and Mercedes Benz want to make cleaner cars. Which is pissing off the President. One can’t help but wonder, given his gutting of the EPA, the proposed undoing of the Endangered Species Act, and this attempted rollback of higher standards for fuel efficiency, whether little Donald had a really bad experience in nature. A series of horrendous experiences? For shits sake, is the endgame indoor golf?

From the Verge:

Trump is. . . saying that he is giving “politically correct Automobile Companies” the option of lowering the average price of a car by “more than $3000, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer” (though the EPA and the NHTSA’s proposal has nothing to do with making new cars safer) in exchange for “[v]ery little impact on the environment.” He called automotive executives “foolish”. . . .

Many experts disagree with the Trump administration’s calculations. Some argue any potential savings on the sticker price of new cars would likely be offset by the increased fuel cost over the life of those vehicles, even if gas prices stay low. With less fuel-efficient cars, the rollback could also introduce hundreds of millions of metric tons of CO2 into the air, and increase oil consumption by more than 1 billion barrels, according to the EPA’s own estimates.

‘The clean car standards are the most effective policy we have on the books to fight climate change, and the transportation sector is the country’s largest source of the carbon pollution that causes climate change,’ nonprofit advocacy group Sierra Club said in a statement Wednesday. ‘The Trump administration’s push for dirtier, less efficient vehicles would pump more carbon pollution into our air.’

What do “experts” and the Sierra Club know? And shame on the Obama administration for thinking so positively about entrepreneurial innovation and cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles. The genius in Trump’s thinking is that the more we lower the bar the more likely we are to exceed it.

The New Language of Climate Change

Leading climate scientists and meteorologists are banking on a new strategy for talking about climate change: Take the politics out of it.

“. . . recognition is just Step One . . . once doubters see climate change as the dire threat it is, it will be easier for them to get on board with the only solutions believed to be able to rein it in: phasing out fossil fuels and scaling back our carbon footprint.”