Tuesday Assorted Links

1. Unbundle the police?

“It’s an unacknowledged peculiarity that police are in charge of road safety. Why should the arm of the state that investigates murder, rape and robbery also give out traffic tickets? Traffic stops are the most common reason for contact with the police. . . . Many of the police homicides, such as the killing of Philando Castile happened at ordinary traffic stops. But why do we need armed men (mostly) to issue a traffic citation? Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer.”

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes as well as he played basketball, and I contend, he may have been the best ever. #UCLA.

“I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”

3. When it comes to Presidential leadership, Mexico just can’t win.

“The numbers were startling: In March, Mexico’s government said, the country’s emergency call centers were flooded with more than 26,000 reports of violence against women, the highest since the hotline was created.

But Mexico’s president brushed aside his own cabinet’s announcement, suggesting, without evidence, that the vast majority of the calls for help were little more than pranks.

‘Ninety percent of those calls that you’re referring to are fake,’ said the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, when asked about the surge in calls at a recent news conference. ‘The same thing happens with the calls the metro gets about sabotage or bombs.'”

For shit’s sake. This from a leftist populist, who won the presidency more than a year ago by promising to transform Mexico into a more equal society. Fool me how many times?

Grading the Demos

Biden. “C-“. Came across as desperate. Clearly “his people” told him it’s now or never. Kept saying, “I’m the only guy who. . . ” Once referred to the Obama Administration as “My administration”. The repeated references to the past, coupled with his age, makes one wonder why we should put our future in his hands. Peeved at the moderators for slighting him. Reminded me of a once great athlete unable to walk away from the game.

Bloomberg. “D”. What a waste of $419m, the amount he’s spent on on t.v. ads so far. Of course, to him, that’s parking ticket money. I would love to see him debate Trump because he’s so good at trolling him and he’s clearly not afraid of him, but after he was eviscerated by Warren, the odds of him winning the nomination are about the same as me. His not crying or disappearing during one of the commercial breaks saved him from an “F”.

Buttigieg. “C”. Seemed resigned to not winning the nomination, but continued trying to position himself as the sensible alternative. Did a good job of repeating the $29,000 line, the amount at which people who support Sanders “Medicare For All” will see their taxes increase. Smiled a fair amount. His line about “living in his one house” in Indiana was excellent. Obviously thinks his geography is a distinct advantage, but has not acknowledged how it might limit his appeal to people of color. Tried to be mean to Klobuchar on her Mexico faux pax, but he’s not a natural cabrón. Should’ve shaved beforehand. Reminded me of a young athlete who may be great some day.

Klobuchar. “C”. Seemed resigned to not winning the nomination, but continued trying to position herself as the only person who can beat Trump because of her winning record. Came across like a car in a Minnesota blizzard with its back wheels spinning, spinning, spinning. Displayed an impressive array of “Oh shit, you did NOT just say that” facial expressions when attacked by Buttigieg and Warren. Gets credit for a sense of humor (“Post-it notes were invented in my State”) and poise when under attack. Sadly, she is the one candidate who is consistently cut off by moderators.

Sanders. “B”. Didn’t do anything obvious to slow his momentum. Sticked to his now predictable talking points. Handled the Culinary Workers Union controversy adequately. Avoided front-runner attacks thanks to Bloomberg’s presence. Someone from his team should send Bloomberg a $25 Starbucks gift certificate. How many people, like me, googled his age mid-way through? He’ll be 79 on election day. His campaign is an interesting political science experiment. Can people handle the truth about our country’s decline? About how social mobility has grinded to a halt? About how the quality of life is better in some other countries? That we’re lagging behind Denmark? Sadly, I don’t think so.

Warren. “A”. Yeah, I’m biased since I’ve thought she would make the best President all along. I loved the FIREY comeback. Her evisceration of Bloomberg had to make Trump nervous. She was the most prepared, most intelligent, most detailed, most focused of the candidates. But she wasn’t just flame throwing. Her defense of Klobuchar for not knowing Mexico’s president’s name (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) was one of her strongest moments. Girl power and all that. Reminded me of a great athlete in her prime.

 

The Divide in Yakima is the Divide in America

Yakima’s 15 minutes of fame compliments of the New York Times. The sunny place just on the other side of the mountains where I’ve spent some summers teaching.

Except for this sentence, it’s a hopeful story.

“Planes now land almost weekly at the Yakima airport, loading Central American migrants wearing leg shackles and handcuffs to and from buses bound for a federal immigration facility on the other side of the state.”

Dulce Gutiérrez is a great human being whom everyone in the United States should celebrate.

The Maximum Marriage

Man did I hit a wall a third of the way through David Brooks’s Second Mountain. Despite it weighing two pounds, I could not pick it up. Instead I watched The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, Billions, and went full New Yorker.

But since I keep thinking I may use a chapter of it in my writing seminar this fall, I have begun reading it again, Part III in particular, titled Marriage. The first of the five marriage chapters is “The Maximum Marriage”. At the risk of creating cliche-i-cide, this is the idea that you should never settle in marriage, instead you should go ALL IN with a soul mate who completes you.

I have several problems with Brook’s marriage advice. The first is that he failed at his. Of course this doesn’t disqualify him, assuming a greater degree of reflection and vulnerability than he shows. He alludes to being the problem and explains that his ex-wife and him have an agreement not to talk about the dissolution of their marriage, perfectly understandable, but then it’s probably best not to present oneself as an authority.

Brooks is newly married to his former research assistant, a much younger woman for what it’s worth. When reading him wax poetic about maximum marriage, I can’t help but wonder what went wrong, why, and what about the references to the “art of recommitment”?

I also have questions if not concerns about the concept of “maximum marriage”. Recently, an acquaintance gave up her will to live a few weeks after her lifelong husband unexpectedly died. That’s an extreme example, but surviving partners of long-term maximum relationships or marriages often struggle with how to live without their “soulmates”. Brooks makes passing references to “autonomy” when that concept, in my opinion, deserves more attention.

Brooks also breaks down the “stages of intimacy” in the manner of someone who gives too much credence to every social science article he reads. He slights the mystery of intimacy and the organic nature of how two people create intimacy and sometimes decide to team up for life. In addition to describing intimacy in too linear a fashion, he doesn’t offer young people any practical advice on how best to answer the innumerable questions he suggests people considering marriage ask themselves.

Sometimes I suggest, based upon my experience backpacking in Southern Mexico in 1986 with who would become the Good Wife on 7/11/87*, that the newly in love backpack together in a developing country. I promise you’ll learn more about one another in a month than you probably would in a year. How do they make decisions? How do they spend money? How do they deal with sketchy hostels? How respectful are they of others? Are they quick to laugh or humor impaired? And most importantly, are they kind and are you a better person as a result of their friendship?

It’s funny isn’t it, the Humble Blogger giving the New York Times writer a hard time about his book. But why quit now. Brooks quotes other people way too much. Half the time the quotes do not have the intended effect, I’m often left thinking “huh” even after a second reading, and the incessant quoting compromises his voice. Of course I’ve already argued he’s not the most credible person on the topic, but his consistent leaning on others doesn’t solve that dilemma, for me, it only adds to it.

Also, despite Brook’s fealty to all things social scientific, a glaring oddity is that he never mentions the role money often plays in failed marriages. I can only speculate that’s because his ex-wife and him never lacked for it and most of his friends and acquaintances are similarly well-to-do. How does he spend fifty pages giving marriage advice without even touching upon financial compatibility?

So why, given my criticisms, is Second Mountain a best seller? In fairness, there’s good mixed in, but I suspect a large part of it is professional reputation. Given his previous writing, and his very high profile, he gets the benefit of the doubt from most readers. Oh, Brooks is often insightful, so this must be too.

Not necessarily.

*don’t feel bad if your “Happy Anniversary” card arrives late

The Year in Movies

More accurately, my year in movies, so far.

January

February

March

Vice was my favorite because my daughter took me for my birthday and paid for my ticket. No check that, Kala Shah Kala was my favorite because it was a hoot and the Good Wife and I were the only non Indians in the Victoria, British Columbia theater. No wait, Roma because of the cinematography and “monitor NBA boxscores at the same time” pace. No no, Shoplifters, yeah Shoplifters because at the end of it my date sat glued in her seat and said it was the best movie she’d ever seen.  No, Bohemian Rhapsody because I’m a young hard man shouting in the street and I’m gonna take on the world someday. And I’ve got blood on my face and I’m a big disgrace, wavin’ my banner all over the place.

What I’ve Been Reading

Would Jesus Support the Death Penalty? Many Christians strangely believe that Jesus wouldn’t support the death penalty even though they do.”

The Tale of Two Schools. Fieldston and University Heights are in the same New York City borough but worlds apart. How much understanding between their students can a well-told story bring? A lot it turns out.

The Hunt for El Chapo. The story of how the world’s most notorious drug lord was captured. Sure to be a movie.

Louis C.K. Against the Common Core. When a comedian points out the way in which the current priorities don’t add up, it earns even the attention of those who haven’t thought much about school since they graduated. But the brutal math of the New York City school system is no laughing matter.”

We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Entering students at my uni will read this novel and discuss it during orientation in early September. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that steadily gets more and more interesting up to the very end. After 50-75 pages, I may have set it aside if it hadn’t been “assigned”. The story of a family of five. The dad is a psychology professor at Indiana University. Recommended. It will resonant strongly with those most sympathetic to the animal rights movement.

Bill Simmon’s Big Score. How a failed newspaper writer built a new kind of media empire at ESPN. I’ve completely tired of Simmon’s act, but still found this an interesting “new journalism” case study. A few factoids. The four major sports are worth a combined $91.2b. ESPN’s worth $50.8b making it the most valuable media brand in the world. Bill Simmons has 2.6 million twitter followers, I’m up to 46. 

On deck—American Crucifixion by Alex Beam. The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church.

In the hole—Family Life by Akil Sharma.

 

If You Think Education Reform is Difficult in the United States

Get a load of Mexico. Paragraph to ponder:

Supporters of the education overhaul say it is the only way for the Mexican state to recover control of the education system, which they say has been virtually taken over by the teachers unions. The unions hand out teaching positions, often disregarding competence, and these positions are then often inherited or even sold to the highest bidder. The unions have defended the practice of transferring positions as legal.

Here’s better news from The Atlantic. Mexico is Getting Better, and Fewer Mexicans Want to Leave.

And today’s Mexican culture update. Two Pop Stars Try to Revive Mexico’s Good Old Days, in Song at Least.

And a great vid from Julieta Venegas, Me Voy. No comprende, pero me gusto.