Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tabs on My Mind

The tabs haven't built up as much as usual by this posting, but there are enough, so here goes.

The coddling of the capitalist, white-supremacist, patriarchal American mind, by one of my favorite public intellectuals, Robert Jensen. It includes some of his thoughts about the denigration of microaggressions. (I've had my own thoughts on that topic, here and here.)

A few weeks ago, the Weekly Sift included a post about why the lack of a Supreme Court appointment really matters. It's not about the particular cases coming up or even trying to get back to some kind of balance on the court. It's part of the breakdown of judicial appointments at many levels, as the GOP tries to gum up the works of government generally and the courts in particular.

As the federal court system continues to deteriorate, any right those courts enforce deteriorates as well. Little by little, we wind up living in a country where “Yeah it’s illegal, but what are you going to do about it?” is a viable strategy.

That, in turn, creates a temptation to flip the situation around: to get even with your own illegal act, and let the other side beg for justice from the broken courts. And so the back-and-forth of political hardball begets a similar back-and-forth of hardball in everyday life.
Overloaded judges and civil cases that drag on for half a decade are the clearest result. The big picture is the failure of the rule of law and civil society.

Not long after I posted about Trump's followers and the authoritarian mind, Dave Roberts at Vox posted another Trump think piece that was worth sharing, but I felt like I was talking about Trump too much, so I didn't post it. But here it is: White working-class nostalgia, explained by John Wayne. It's a much more sympathetic look at what motivates Trump-backers. As he writes, "This kind of rose-tinted sentimentalism may strike many people — especially minorities and other subaltern groups who were excluded from that American idyll — as silly, even dangerous. But putting the grim historical realities aside, the nostalgia also reflects primal urges that are worth understanding, and honoring."

From the Washington Post, Five myths about public housing.  To cut to the chase, the five myths are:
  • Public housing residents want to escape it.
  • Public housing is crumbling.
  • Public housing assists the wrong people. 
  • High-rise public housing is unlivable. 
  • Public housing is a top-down imposition by government bureaucrats.
But you'll have to read the article to see why they should be considered myths.

From Ensia, As nations pledge greenhouse gas reductions, so should we. Some of the low-hanging fruit: reducing meat and especially beef consumption, limiting food waste, and flying a lot less. (Remember, "one round trip flight between Europe and the U.S. emits the equivalent of a year’s worth of daily commuting by car").

I'm seeing these two stories as related: What would happen if we just gave everyone money? (about the idea of Universal Basic Income from FiveThirtyEight) and Why lots of love (or motivation) isn't enough by education writer Alfie Kohn. Both get at core questions about human motivation. Why do we do what we do, and is there a better way to organize society (and education, as part of society) to maximize human happiness and fulfillment of potential for the most people?

So, I guess somebody published a paper saying there's a sweet spot in the amount of genetic diversity within a geographic region. Too much diversity and people don't get along and it leads to lower prosperity; too little diversity and it leads to stagnation and lower prosperity. They used East Africa (where humans came from, and therefore is the place with the greatest genetic diversity) as the exemplar of the former and Bolivia as the latter. With Europe and the U.S., of course, as the Goldilocks of economic prosperity. Well, I missed the original coverage of this, but when I heard about it I just thought, Well, that sounds like a bunch of post-hoc logic at work. Now some other researchers have come up with a better critique than that.

Thoughts on the nature of property as necessarily rooted in coercion and violence (one of Matt Bruenig's favorite points, though this piece is not by him). "In the modern world we’ve largely outsourced the execution of that violence, the monopoly on violence, to government."

A little-known moment in the Civil Rights movement is used to highlight the under-researched mental health effects of oppression and violence. Did you know that, in 1963, a dozen 12- to 15-year-old black girls from Georgia were locked inside a concrete shack for weeks without charges, or even telling their parents where they were? It's not the main focus of the story, but it reminded me of how little I've heard about that particular moment in our nation's history. That was probably one of the years when some of my fellow citizens think America was "great," and to which they would like to return.

David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative reporter formerly with the New York Times, explains why You Agree with Bernie Sanders (But You Might Not Know It).

Ari Berman, writing for the Nation, has been essential to coverage of voter suppression this election cycle. Here's just one of his stories: A black man brought 3 forms of ID to the polls in Wisconsin. He still couldn't vote. So, so wrong.

From the Washington Post's WonkBlog: America has locked up so many black people it has warped our sense of reality. "The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades, combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession, have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965."

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