Tuesday Required Reading

1. Does Diversity Matter for Health? Experimental Evidence from Oakland. This 35-minute podcast blew me away for its clarity, specificity, and importance. It has broad implications for anyone trying to diversify the teaching profession, businesses, really any sector of life where people of color are underrepresented.

2. Fighting for racial justice in . . . Sweden.

“We have huge integration problems in Sweden.”

3A. Nevermind about my “New Car Math“. Farhad Manjoo has seen a future without cars, and it’s amazing.

3B. World’s first’ 3D-printed unibody electric bike.

4. The case for Elizabeth Warren. I will not “give it a rest”.

“Her campaign cared about targeted solutions but didn’t restrict them to the usual narrow areas. When I walk up to the voting booth, my priority is to support harm reduction for my community—through robust policy initiatives, not lip service. It isn’t just about bail reform; I want to know how candidates will be addressing the fact that Black people are less likely to own their home, or be forced to take out predatory loans, or attend segregated schools. Warren embodied these principles by offering nuanced remedies for those issues as well as environmental injustice and health disparities.”

What Day Is It Assorted Links

1. Q&A With Avi Schiffman: the MI Teen Behind Viral COVID-19 Site. His viral website is here.

2. Japan schoolgirl uses own savings to handcraft 612 masks for people in need.

“Hime used about 80,000 yen of her own money to buy materials for the masks from around late February and spent up to five hours a day making them, using the free time she had when her school was closed due to the coronavirus.

‘I’m not that good at sewing but tried hard to make them as I want to help people,’ she said.

Will > skill.

3. Two 20-somethings extend ‘invisible hands’ in virus outbreak.

“Elkind, a junior at Yale, and a friend, Simone Policano, amassed 1,300 volunteers in 72 hours to deliver groceries and medicine to older New Yorkers and other vulnerable people. They call themselves Invisible Hands, and they do something else in the process — provide human contact and comfort, at a safe distance, of course.”

Built on “tikkun olam”, Hebrew for “world repair” a beautiful concept synonymous with the notion of social action.

4. There’s no better time for cities to take space away from cars.

5. The two Demos who should be the faces of the Democratic coronavirus response. I question the premise that we need separate, party-specific responses. The virus is non-partisan.

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.

 

 

Warren Exits—Patriarchy Remains Undefeated

In 1997 I traveled to China with Guilford College colleagues compliments of the Freeman Foundation. One female sociologist in our group, a firebrand feminist, had never traveled outside of the U.S.

One night we strolled through an open air market. Separately, she and I ended up purchasing some “peasant paintings”, inexpensive, beautiful folk paintings with farming themes done by rural artists. Afterwards, she wanted to know what I had paid for mine. When I told her, she lashed out, “Sexism!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. I had cut my teeth negotiating with street vendors all over Mexico, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. I know the song and dance, how to walk away, just slow and far enough for the vendor to come and get me and say my price is okay. She knew nothing of the sort.

Being wise to the ways of patriarchy and misogyny meant she saw sexism around every corner. She’s the exact opposite of my close male friends, whose intelligence I respect, because they discount ANY talk of patriarchy and misogyny when it comes to Elizabeth Warren’s aborted candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President. Never mind that this will the 46th time in a row that we’ve just happened to select male candidates. It’s just a coincidence.

Megan Garber cleverly and cogently explains how patriarchy and misogyny doomed Warren in this piece titled “America Punished Elizabeth Warren For Her Competence”. But when it comes to my close male friends, who tend to be college educated, treat women with respect, and are (mostly) anxious to turn the page on the Trump administration, Garber has a heap of problems getting them to acknowledge that their dislike for Warren had anything to do with patriarchy and misogyny.

Because they are me in China. They think the Garber’s of the world see patriarchy and misogyny where it doesn’t exist. Being blind to it, they are highly skilled at rationalizing their choices. Of course, mens’ worst rationalization is this, “We definitely would’ve elected a woman one of the forty six times if one was as qualified as the men.” Most men’s rationalizations are more subtle and nuanced than that, but almost as pernicious.

Here are Garber’s problems more specifically:

  1. My male friends will choose not to read her piece. It’s exactly twelve paragraphs too long. They will think they know what it alleges, that she’s seeing things that don’t exist, that they’re heard it all before.
  2. Even if they were to defy the odds and read it, they won’t take the time to consider whether it applies to them. They won’t ask, “Was my negative reaction to Warren even in part a result of what Garber argues, that the U.S. still doesn’t know what to make of a woman—in politics, and beyond—who refuses to qualify her success? If so, why am I prone to that line of thinking?”
  3. They won’t ask that because that would require them to consider changes not just in their thinking, but in their behavior. How do you undue thinking of especially competent female candidates negatively anyways?

Were they to truly grapple with how to not penalize women candidates for their competence and ambition, the patriarchy would begin to falter. As Warren’s candidacy illustrated, there’s no risk of that. Yet. Patriarchy remains undefeated.

On Impeachment—It’s a Pretty Simple Calculation

Moderate Republicans (not sure I should have used the plural) are using an “inappropriate, but not impeachable” line of defense to sleep at night. But what about the True Believers? Here’s how they think:

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The ends always justify the means.

Teams > Individuals

Who will win the 2020 Democratic Primary? Who will win the 2020 General Election? In the (dis)United States we seemingly think one person can make all the difference. That there’s one person with the exact right proposals for improving health care, establishing an environmental ethic, strengthening frayed ties with allies, reducing gun violence, and revitalizing our infrastructure.

Due to our intense individualism and the incontrovertible fact that uniquely talented individuals sometimes make disproportionate impacts on institutions and organizations, when it comes to getting things done, we almost always underestimate the importance of teams.

The Trump Administration’s list of accomplishments is short not because of mean “Do Nothing Dems”, but because Trump has settled for a constantly revolving door of increasingly acquiescent men and women of questionable qualifications. We’ve travelled a fair distance from Lincoln’s Team of Rivals.

If we were more savvy, we’d expect the Democratic Candidates for President to have already named their Vice-Presidents so that we would have longer to evaluate the relative quality of their teaming. We’d even go further and require them to name possible other members of their respective cabinets. Our questions would not be limited to what the Presidential Candidate hopes to accomplish, but how likely are their VP and them to team well together? How well do they complement one another? Instead of expecting them to come up with policy panaceas, we should expect them to convince us that they’ll team better with Congressional leaders to pass meaningful legislation than their opponents.

One might protest that Vice-Presidents sometimes come from the consolation bracket of the Presidential Primary. A much earlier expectation would simply require some with Presidential ambitions to decide whether to hitch their wagon to another more likely winner of the Primary.

Many of us resisting Trumpism are hopeful that the person who wins the 2020 Democratic Primary will right the ship, but she won’t. By herself. She’ll need a similarly skilled Vice-President and Cabinet. The sooner we can get a feel for that small group, the better our decision-making, and the greater the likelihood that we turn the chapter on this dystopian novel.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. The Quick Therapy That Actually Works. Referred to as “microtherapy”.

“Effective solutions are crucial because Americans—stressed out, lonely, and ghosted by Tinder dates—are in desperate need of someone to talk to. The data suggest that most of the Americans who have a mental illness aren’t receiving treatment. About 30 percent of psychotherapists don’t take insurance. Quick interventions offer ‘something, when the alternative is nothing.'”

Research findings are hopeful, but skepticism is understandable.

“Lynn Bufka, a psychologist with the American Psychological Association, says that these types of brief interventions could be just a first step toward the treatment of various mental-health woes. They might be enough for some people, while others go on to get more intensive therapy. But. . . for more severe issues, such as bipolar disorder and major depression, a quick dose of therapy is unlikely to be enough. ‘These kinds of interventions are probably more likely to be beneficial before full-blown symptoms or disorders have developed.'”

2. An Echo Dot in Every Dorm Room.

“If students can’t or don’t want to spend money on their own smart speaker, Saint Louis University’s Echo Dots offer a way to bring voice assistants into the dorm without any added cost to the student, since the project went through the capital funding process and wasn’t funded by tuition increases.”

I’m calling bullshit on this. There is an opportunity cost. Money that is being directed to Echo Dots is money not being spent on something else like physical plant maintenance and that money for physical plant maintenance will come from students. I’m also very wary of the wholesale adoption of any technology. Maybe my thinking will change, but right now, if I were an SLU student, I would not want an Echo Dot.

3. The worrying future of Greece’s most Instagrammable island.

A Greek-American who has lived in Santorini for 12 years laments:

“‘People treat churches like selfie studios. There’s one in front of my house and people used to ring the bell every three minutes or climb up on the roof for their fake wedding shoots. I’d get woken up at 6am by people traipsing across my terrace.” His frustration at the crowds has led him to start hanging ‘respect’ signs around Oia that state ‘it’s your holiday… but it’s our home’.”

As if that’s not enough.

“The constant building and flood of tourists create tons of rubbish, which is all dumped illegally. Santorini still has no proper waste-management facilities, so all the empty water bottles, coffee cups and restaurant leftovers go into a huge dump which doesn’t meet EUregulations. Leakage is free to infect the surrounding earth, water and air.”

Alexa, find me someplace free of deranged photographers.

4. The Mistrust of Opposite-Sex Friendships.

The headline is misleading since the focus is on opposite-sex best friends.

This makes sense to me:

“Alexandra Solomon, an assistant psychology professor at Northwestern University and the instructor of the university’s Marriage 101 course. . . wonders whether the correlation between negative attitudes toward opposite-sex friendships and negative or violent expressions of jealousy could be due to participants’ personal beliefs about gender roles.

It speaks to a bit of a rigid, dichotomous way of thinking—I suspect there’s a layer in there about how much [the subjects] endorse traditional gender roles. . . . A woman with more traditional ideas about gender might feel threatened by her boyfriend’s female best friend because. . . ‘she may have this idea that I ought to be your one and only, and I ought to be able to meet all your needsIf you love me, then you’ll only turn to me.‘ A man with similarly rigid or traditional ideas about gender roles, she added, might feel territorial or possessive, as though his female partner belongs to him and only him.”

The more important, relevant question is about the potential for opposite-sex friendship more generally. I’ve long been intrigued by the tendency of friends to congregate in same sex circles at social gatherings. Even opposite-sex friendships of multiple decades seem relatively superficial. Opposite-sex friends seem to bump up against an invisible wall as if friendship is a zero-sum game. It’s that wall that intrigues me the most. More specifically, why the wall?

5. Waze Hijacked L.A. in the Name of Convenience. Can Anyone Put the Genie Back in the Bottle?

This was a hard read. Seemingly, my favorite app has no regard for the common good.

6. Elizabeth Warren Is Attracting More Supporters and More Media Attention.

An easy read. :)

Demo Debate 2

More middle school classroom. The talking over one another was distracting and disappointing. Props to Harris for reigning the class back in. The consensus is correct, Harris dominated at Biden’s expense. Other thoughts:

  • The party is listing too far left for the surviving candidate to win the general election. Of course there’s still a lot of time to correct for that.
  • The pundits said Biden should’ve apologized for his anti-busing stance. It would’ve been even more authentic for him to have said that busing was, and is, a subject upon which reasonable people disagree. He could’ve summarized his long standing commitment to civil rights, why he opposed forced busing, and what we can/should do to better integrate schools today. Or he could’ve gone egghead professor like I would’ve and asked how are we supposed to have integrated schools given intense residential racial segregation?
  • Improving schools is sometimes mentioned in passing, but no has talked in any detail at all about what that means. That is a huge opening for someone especially since Trump (fortunately) never says anything about schools, unless you count his arm teachers bullshit after school shootings. No candidate should be allowed to say schools are obsolete without explaining how they specifically intend to update them. Where is the national leadership on education reform?
  • Buttigieg’s owning of the police problems in South Bend was an unexpectedly refreshing break from the status quo of politician’s never admitting faults. “I couldn’t get it done,” he admitted when asked about diversifying the police force. When was the last time you heard a politician be as honest? The moderators should’ve asked everyone to share something they’ve failed to get done despite good intentions and hard work. If the President was asked that he’d deflect by blaming the media or Democrats or the media and Democrats.
  • Also, in contrast to Gabbard, a real life Danny Chung (VEEP), props to Buttigieg for not bringing up his military service unless asked directly about it. Impressive guy, but his last name is too damn hard to spell and there should be a step or two between South Bend and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (sorry Dano).
  • Sanders is hella grating. The guy you make sure to avoid at the party. Half of it is his nonstop haranguing. He’s channeling this guy.

  • The other half is his answer to the problems of growing inequality. “Guts”. Guts to challenge Wall Street, the insurance industry, the military industrial complex, the pharmaceutical industry, etc. And he’s the only one with sufficient guts. Fool me once. Obama promised to bridge the partisan divide. But it only deepened. One person’s guts, even the Presidents, is irrelevant compared to winning the Senate. Sanders hasn’t come close to convincing me he’s the best person to win the Presidency and help retake the Senate. Then again, I’ve started to tune him out.
  • Swalwell is the most opportunist politician going. Instead of empathizing with Buttigieg and the people of South Bend, he attacked him for not firing the Chief of Police as if that would solve everything. He does tons of media. I get the sense he’d run over his mom to raise his profile. Doubt he has any friends in Congress.
  • Does Biden think his resume is sufficient to get the nod? It is impressive, but he’s the Golden State Warriors whose window is fast closing. Last night, he tore his achilles. As Hillary proved, the Presidency is not a lifetime achievement award.
  • I want to see Warren, Castro, Harris, Buttigieg sitting at a round table with time to lay out their ideas and interact with one another. Debates are flawed in that it’s difficult to assess interpersonal skills. Of course that won’t happen. The much needed winnowing is still many moons away.
  • The Demos are absolutely right that the economy is not working for many people. Harris’s point about the limited number of people who own stocks was important. The walking wounded are always evident in our downtown. Yesterday, while running around Capital Lake, I was more aware than normal of people sleeping and living out of their cars. What’s left of the middle class is struggling with rising health care, higher education, and housing costs. The Republican base is deluded to think that their leadership cares about these issues. Just yesterday, their President proposed another tax cut for the wealthy, by indexing capital gains to inflation.
  • The Demos are wrong to paint all business with the same broad brush. People are smarter than that, knowing that businesses vary widely. Why not highlight positive examples of profitable businesses that are committed to living wages, the right to organize, and sustainability. I’d be perfectly happy in Scandinavia or Western Europe, but individualism is so deeply rooted in the US that most people have deep-seated, negative associations with socialism. The Demos need to talk more about a new capitalism, one more aligned with Adam Smith’s thinking about regulated markets, than socialism.

Gendered Bullshit

I knew what I was going to think about Jennifer Palmieri’s essay, “The Hidden Sexism Behind the Amy Klobuchar Reports” before I started it.

Yes, reports of Klobuchar’s egregious mistreatment of her staff are drawing more fire because she’s female, one person referred to it as “gendered bullshit”, but the remedy is to respond more quickly and effectively whenever men in power abuse their staffs. We should be gender-neutral when it comes to abuse of power.

Ah heck, may as well read it anyways.

I can’t recall doing a mental 180 in a shorter period of time. There’s no such thing as gender neutrality. Palmieri’s argument is this:

“. . . the problem is not that political journalists fail to report altogether on demanding and difficult men in politics. It’s that the reporting on such behavior is presented in a dramatically different fashion than it is in stories about female bosses in politics—as a badge of honor, not a mark of shame.”

I let that phrase, “badge of honor, not a mark of shame” sink in.

Palmieri’s just warming up y’all:

“It is not hard to think of tough male bosses in Washington. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has a reputation for being demanding; you will find such stories chronicled in the press. The same holds for men in politics with whom I have worked. A Google search of “Bill Clinton” and “purple rage” yields a number of anecdotes about the private temper tantrums we in the Clinton press office would endure when preparing the president for White House news conferences. Profiles of my friend and former colleague Rahm Emanuel are littered with stories of his profanity in the office and warnings by his staff that anyone working for him needs to “develop a thick skin,” write off going to weddings or family vacations, and expect to be available “25/8.”

While the anecdotes about these men are not entirely flattering, they are presented as colorful asides meant to give dimension to the hard-charging zeal with which these individuals do their jobs. Stories about intimidating male bosses are typically not presented as disqualifying, but as evidence of these men as formidable leaders. These are men who should not be underestimated. These are men who should be respected.” (emphasis mine)

Hook firmly entrenched in mouth, Palmieri reels me in:

“Imagine if it was reported that a female politician was prone to bouts of “purple rage” or that she expected staff to skip weddings and family vacations, and be available to her “25/8.” She would not be admired for the hard-charging zeal she brought to the job. She would be seen as unhinged. She would not be considered a formidable leader.”

Damn. She’s right. And not in a subtle, nuanced way, but in a “Wow, I’m not nearly as enlightened as I like to think” kinda way. I’m guilty of the thought process she details, and when it comes to gender relations, I’m much less a Neanderthal than normal. Hence, the systemic nature of the double standard.

To resolve myself of my gendered bullshit, I once again am firmly in the Kobuchar 2020 camp. Or EWarren. Two formidable leaders, either of whom would represent a bit of an upgrade.

Postscript: Also worth reading.