Friday, March 31, 2017

Twitter, Going Backwards

The thing that occupies my mind these days is how we are being forced to go backwards, or even racing to a new bottom. That's reflected in these tweets from March 2017.

Right at the end of the month, there was a lot of outrage about Mike Pence’s refusal to ever be alone with a woman who’s not his wife:

Can't control his own body enough to dine alone with women who aren't his wife yet wants to control the bodies of women who aren't his wife.
Dab Aggin‏

yes, nothing says "I respect my wife and also other women" like viewing all women everywhere as just objects for the sexing
Nicole Chung‏

If a man doesn't trust himself around women, he shouldn't be in any position of authority over women or frankly anyone else.
Powerful men who will meet one on one with men but not women hurt women's careers. That is not moral or normal.
If I refused to be alone with men I would have a hard time keeping a job. That men can have decades long careers without women says a lot.
Jill Filipovic‏

If Keith Ellison refused to dine one-on-one with women and used his religion to justify it, the political right would lose their minds.
Franklin Leonard

Mike Pence, an adult who is grown,
Cannot sit with women alone.
However, he can
Stand by an old man
Whose fondness for groping is known.
There was, of course, the ongoing attention to Turnip's collusion with Russia. There was a lot more about this, but I just don't bother most of the time:
I have no idea if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. But if they didn’t, what else could possibly be worth this amount of ham-handed deception?
Derek Thompson

White House would sure as shit have a comment on Manafort if he was a black guy kneeling during a football game.
Tim Murphy‏

Trump knowingly named a foreign agent to be his national security adviser. Let that sink in.
Jared Yates Sexton

Trump rose questioning millions of people's Americanness. Now, every day, he gives us new cause to doubt the Americanness of his own government. This is a remarkable case of what psychologists call projection: a president with hidden foreign links projecting foreignness onto others.
Anand Giridharadas

Last night's Rachel Maddow Show in sum: the Putin/Trump collusion is being realized in a thorough dismantling of the U.S. State Department. By refusing to appoint an independent commission to investigate this scandal, the entire GOP has become part of a massive cover-up
Langdon Winner‏

I resent that MSNBC's Brian Williams gets to analyze whether Sessions and the Trump cabinet are lying about being in bed with the Russians.
Stacey Patton‏ @DrStaceyPatton

It's hard to fathom how a Benghazi committee was necessary and one for Russia isn't, unless one or both decisions were politically motivated.
Evan McMullin
There were lots of tweets about various policies generally, including the Gorsuch (which autocorrects to Grouch!) nomination:
It makes sense that Trump wants to reinvigorate the coal industry. Mordor wasn't built in a day.
Aparna Nancherla‏

More Americans are employed in the solar industry than in coal. This bullshit is not about jobs.
Hank Green

House Republicans: We can't release Trump's taxes, we must protect his privacy
Also House Republicans: Here's everyone's browsing data
Sarah Cooper‏

Today, Trump orders an end to all federal action on climate change. Just think about that for a moment, and imagine what history will say.
Bill McKibben‏

After all the ideological see-sawing, the GOP is settling on deficit-financed tax cuts, deregulation, and aggressive use of military force.
Matthew Yglesias‏

Cooperation with the law begins with trust in it and not fear of it. Women are less safe in communities that fear deportation.
Phillip Atiba Goff

Important to note that every Democratic senator, simply by attending the hearing, is treating Gorsuch with more respect than GOP gave Garland.
Ari Berman

GOP: Women shouldn't have sex unless they are willing to bear the consequences of children
Also the GOP: Ugh why did you have a baby?
lyz lenz

Total number of DHS border device searches in the year 2015: 5,000
Total number in the month February 2017: 5,000
Phil A. Buster‏ @onekade

The idea that Paul Ryan is a policy wonk is an insult to policy wonks. He's fucking terrible at his job.
Sarah Mackey‏ @sarahjanet

I'm reminded of that job-killing regulation that got lead out of gas. Did more to reduce crime than Donald Trump could even dream.
Dean Baker‏

H-1b visas are flawed. But at least half of the complaints about H-1b read to me as "Get those scary Asian people away from my job."
Noah Smith‏

Vouchers don’t work for public housing they sure won't work for education. Voucher recipients face discrimination and there's no accountability
Judith Browne Dianis‏

Indeed, while car/gun/air pollution/coal mining probably kills 100k American lives annually, foreign-born jihadists kill < 10. Priorities?
Shadow Cabinet‏ @ShadowingTrump
Much of the budget deficit would be made up if we just properly collected taxes that are owed

Maybe the best time to lecture the poor on spendin' ain't while Trump's blowin' 3 million a weekend just to play golf?
Tea Pain‏ @TeaPainUSA

I can't keep up with the horror, you guys. every time I manage to stop worrying about one way in which the GOP is attacking my family and I, I remember another, different attack coming. I’m Arab, my kids are Black, immigrants in family, on Obamacare, living in Great Lakes watershed, etc. etc. It's too much.
Saladin Ahmed

Double down on this:

Khaled Beydoun

Your tax money is going to a vanity wall against Mexico, a fantasy "investigation" into Obama, and housing POTUS's wife in a golden tower.
Sarah Kendzior
Of course, there were many on the health care bill specifically and the losing vote:
When it came to the final healthcare push, Trump really put in the effort of a lunchtime.
Glenn Thrush

Republicans' biggest problem on healthcare isn't not knowing things, but knowing many things that are not so.
Josh Barro

Waaaah waaah healthcare is hard. Being in power's hard. Know what's hard? Surviving cancer in America. Save your tears, Trump and toadies.
Xeni Jardin

Yet I am not reveling in triumphalism. This is only stopping disaster. Not advancement, while the world heats and inequality grows.

Adam McKay

No spin to be done here. This is the chief example of something hard that Trump won [the election] by calling easy. It was a farce, and he's been exposed.
Nick Merrill‏

I've never understood how R's convinced themselves that what people really want is to shop for health care:

Jared Bernstein‏

GOP: It's up to us whether a woman continues her pregnancy. It's up to her to pay for it.
Angela Morris‏ @AMradio_

This healthcare bill, SCOTUS appointment and budget should all grind to a halt until the question of treason is settled. Let's do that.
Mikki Kendall‏

Trump margin in Pennsylvania in 2016: 44,000. Pennsylvanians who’d lose Medicaid if ACA repealed: 670,000.
David Frum‏

All health care policy is unpopular because health care is 1/6 of our economy, but nobody wants to spend 1/6 of their income on it.
Josh Barro

People hate the mandate. They want to be offered insurance they would buy voluntarily. In practice, that means pricing it below cost. You may think it's unreasonable, but it's the public sentiment—and it's public policy virtually everywhere, including the employer market.
Josh Barro

Basically, the GOP critique of the CBO report is that projections can't predict the vast savings from people who will die without access to care
Jonathan Metzl‏

Am I crazy to think simply lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 would help everyone a lot?
Christopher Hayes‏

TrumpCare: It's like Trump University, but you die.

For non-Americans, Trumpcare means people legally must buy insurance from corporations that don't legally have to cover illness. Crazy, no?

Let's not get bogged down in particulars. Clearly Chaffetz's point was that the poor should spend everything they have just to stay alive.
Dan Abromowitz (responding to Jason Chaffetz's suggestion that poor people should buy health insurance instead of the latest iPhone)

It's weird how when conservatives complain about the things poor people "waste" money on, it's always the frigging cheapest stuff. Trivial consumer electronics and cheap snack foods. This is where they think the money goes. They don't know what rent costs. They don't care.

People in poverty use upwards of 70% of their income just to pay rent but the reason they won't be able to afford healthcare iPhone?
Clint Smith

"It's either health care or iPhones. You poor people gotta stop being so greedy."

Josh Patten‏ @thejoshpatten

I just want politicians to have to spend a year living like the poor people they routinely demean to justify terrible policies. One year.
Mikki Kendall

It’s long been GOP canon that minority poverty is a personal failure and white poverty is a governmental failure.
Barry Petchesky

IMO the Achilles heel in all GOP plans is the assumption that people want “choice” (i.e. paperwork managing plans) instead of free money.
Dave Weigel‏

The chutzpah of "I know the President is a lunatic but watch us screw up your health care now" is a real historical moment for the GOP.

When does the medical industrial complex realize it would do better with Medicare buy-ins than an individual health insurance market death spiral?
Helaine Olen
Being poor is not a character flaw. Further, EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN depends on the government for something. To imagine otherwise is counterfactual.
Ida Bae Wells‏ @nhannahjones
Which leads into the the Dickensian Trump budget:
This is almost absent from our debate: There is no logic or justification to adding $50 billion a year to the Pentagon budget.

Just to be clear: the U.S. can't have universal healthcare because death panels, but it's cool to chop Meals On Wheels? Ok.
meg‏ @megmantis

Taxes aren't theft. You are thinking of capitalism.
David Kaib‏

Man. Arguing against feeding kids while you golf at government expense is up there on the Marie Antoinette list of Not a Good Look.
Ted Underwood‏

Time for these Meals on Wheels freeloaders to learn a thing or two about belt-tightening:

Matthew Yglesias

I hate to say it, but if I wanted to undercut America's standing in the world, I'd start with medical research, diplomacy &\and foreign aid.
Noah Shachtman

Trump supporters on Twitter always asking WHAT ABOUT HOMELESS VETS?
Trump is cutting the council working on ending veteran homelessness.
Alexis Goldstein

Americans who complain about taxation being theft but then living their whole life on stolen land...

When people have everything and no idea how they got it, they vote against their best interests. The same can be said for people who have enough and assume they did it themselves. You are not as in control as you need to believe you are. The time comes for everyone when they need help, and I hope when that times comes for some of you, you remember who you have denied help.

Dear Donald, are you remotely aware that "safety" includes safer cars/guns/air/coal mining? Loss of life means loss of income, right?
Shadow Cabinet‏ @ShadowingTrump (replying to a Trump tweet that said his budget put safety first)

If you think a society that doesn't care for children or the elderly can survive I assume you're completely ignorant of everything. I mean you can sign up for that feral violent short-lived community if you like, but do it way over there. Away from everyone else.
Mikki Kendall‏

It is a vicious, ignorant, angry old man's view of the world: "America" must be great at all costs, but actual Americans are on their own.
Mark Harris‏

Basic Trump budget: let's defend at any cost a country we won't spend a dime to make a better place.
Bill McKibben‏

When he said Mexico was gonna pay for the wall, what he *meant* was homebound senior citizens are gonna pay for the wall.
Christopher Hayes

Shorter Trump: the rich aren't rich enough, the military hardware budget isn't bloated enough, poor people don't suffer enough.
David Kaib‏

Cost of average NIH grant = $500K.
Cost of a Trump Mar-a-Lago weekend = $3M
= 6 NIH grants.
Bill Gardner‏

Annual federal budget...
for the entire NEA: $148 million
for the entire NEH: $148 million
for military marching bands: $437 million
Mark Harris

I keep trying to tell y'all, if you want to know what's coming in the Trump admin, just look to Alabama. It's the Alabamization of America.
Josh Moon

Fancy names like "Opportunity Grants" and "State Flexibility Funds" are just euphemisms for cutting aid to the poor.
Ben Spielberg‏
And of course, many about Trump and his administration generally:
Great New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt. This is sure to piss off Trump:

Benjamin Ramm‏

Maybe when these guys call themselves "alpha" they mean they're not even ready for beta testing.
Josh Barro

imagine believing this is what's actually happening as Trump hires his sixth Goldman Sachs guy for his administration:


If you're a Trump supporter and call yourself Christian, you either don't understand Trump, don't understand the New Testament, or are lying.
Tim Minchin‏

The Mercers gave us Breitbart. Somehow that it is a cabal of batshit billionaires behind the mess we are in feels like a relief.
Natalie Hopkinson‏ @Nattyrankins

At what point is it fair to see supreme self-assurance as evidence someone has no grasp of the challenge ahead?

The most inappropriate analogy in history—government would work better if it were run like a business.
Bruce Bartlett‏

Here's what fascinates me about Cheeto and his family...he's literally setting his kids up to be prosecuted. Is this arrogance or stupidity?
Mikki Kendall

Side note is it just me or does Eric look like he'd be the weakling unnamed minion for a powerful but evil vampire queen:

Alisha Rai‏

I sincerely think that Trump and his team believed being president was like being king.
Jamelle Bouie

Man, if only Republicans had had the slightest clue that Trump might be a grifter whose leadership skills were hugely overblown. If only they'd had some inkling that he was a con man with a history of failed businesses known primarily for hosting a scripted tv show. If only there had been some way to foresee the problems that might arise from his aggressive ignorance and autocratic style.
Tom Tomorrow

Regular reminder that Donald Trump’s core competency is not dealmaking with powerful counter-parties. It is duping gullible victims.
David Frum‏

Literally the only way for anyone to have realized Trump was a fraud would have been to read anything about any of his undertakings ever.
Matthew Yglesias

Trump has few modes, main two: (1) used car salesman who tells you how cool you look in the Corvette, or (2) student who didn't do homework.
Tom Tomorrow

Donald Trump will always be one of the most embarrassing things the United States has ever done.
Jon Favreau

Trump voter James Walker, 31, from Nashville, says: "This is the first step: showing up and being honest."


Trump converted "values" voters into "nostalgia" voters. They re-imagined a 1950's America.

The Trump Administration is about reversing the gains of progressivism and multiculturalism, furthering a culture of corporate dominance. All these immigration policies are about reversing demographic trends and pushing a continued white majority. It's the last vestiges of a dying system that's fighting to survive but is helpless. It's a veiled promise to a group that's desperate. It's a wink and a nod to working-class white voters while dealing with CEOs and corporatists behind closed doors. Sessions with private prisons, billionaires in the cabinet, health care overhauls that're actually tax cuts. This is the truth of Trumpism. Trumpism is corporate-driven interests smoke-screened by so-called populist and intolerant rhetoric. It's reverse-engineering. For years Republicans had the subtext of racism with the text of populism, but now they've brought the racism into the text in order to hide their true motives. When subtext becomes text, you know there's a new subtext, a new thing behind hidden. The GOP swallowed racism/xenophobia and regurgitated it. Now we have a system that's dying, struggling to sustain itself and lying and cheating to do anything to maintain its grasp. This is about demographics and profit. Period. There's no strategy beyond that, no focus beyond that. Every decision comes down to it.
Jared Yates Sexton

It's like the president's administration is a demented von Trapp family, only untalented and sympathetic to fascists.
Jared Yates Sexton

Trump built an archipelago of gated clubs for the rich and now America is literally paying him to help his rich members get richer.
Jason Fagone

We've gone from being a sophisticated global actor to a lurching self-lobotomized puppet overnight. The consequences haven't even begun.

A President Hillary would already be being impeached over some "scandal" that amounted to a tenth of one of the hundred Trump whoppers.

I still think all the corruption doesn't hurt Trump that much in good times but will compound negative reaction to him when things go south.
Josh Barro‏

When you call Trump "crazy," you're actually participating in a very long tradition of White racial innocence.
Ebony Elizabeth‏

Idea for the networks: chyrons under pundits that list how many times they've been fooled into thinking Donald Trump has changed.
Jared Yates Sexton‏

It took decades for Americans to believe that breathing air from a fire stick causes health problems. With that in mind, Trump makes sense.
Hari Kondabolu

Donald Trump is a stupid man's idea of a smart man, a poor man's idea of a rich man, and a weak man's idea of a strong man.
James F. Haning II‏

A 70-year old man who watches 6 hours of TV a day, plays lots of golf, and always seems to be in Florida is a retiree, not a President.
Jason Kander

The only thing that keeps Trump afloat is modern society's weakness of attention span and nonexistent memory.
Jared Yates Sexton‏

Who would have guessed that being President would be harder than doing real estate swindles with NY/NJ mobsters? 
Langdon Winner‏
These days all of my other usual topics can overlap with Trump tweets, but oh well. Here are the ones on climate change, transit, and sustainable cities:
90% of solar capacity in Minnesota was installed in the last 12 months.
MN Farmers Union‏

Do you ever cry at night because Trump said they're gonna dismantle the EPA because me too.
nasty gabby‏ @gabsthehuman

cutting through the jargon on how transportation planning works in most regions:

Streetsblog USA‏

How do you make change in a city that cares more for those who came before us than those that will come after us?
Father Sonn‏ @mikesonn

It is impossible to prioritize automobile access without a systematic approach which makes life unpleasant for anyone using other modes.
Rik Adamski‏

The world is run by people who think cars came with the Garden of Eden.
Free Public Transit‏

Parking vs. housing: underground parking is akin to digging a hole and throwing money in.

From 1910-40, Chicago spent $340M on street-widening to accommodate cars — the estimated cost (at 1923 prices) of a comprehensive subway system.
Taras Grescoe‏

Every moment local leaders spend trying to get $$ for new highways is time they could spend addressing real issues.
Strong Towns‏

The arrogance of space of car-centric planning in cities:

21st Century City‏ @urbanthoughts11

Key finding: Cyclists break laws to stay safe. Driver's break them (at an equal or higher rate) to save time.
MPLS Bike Love‏

I can acknowledge that people disagree with me. Seems NIMBYs think everyone agrees with them.
Father Sonn‏ @mikesonn
Local businesses won't close because their patrons have to walk an extra 100 feet. Drivers already walk further at big boxes. I'm glad we get to rehash this discussion for *every* business node since they're all so very different. All unique. No two the same.
Father Sonn‏ @mikesonn

It's climate "crash," not climate "change," folks. It affects most of our cherished "economy.”
Langdon Winner‏

Transit and density are not only fiscally conservative, they are socially conservative. They build community and strengthen bonds.
KJ‏ @kyjlue

Most energy expended by YIMBYs/urbanists should be laser-focused on data that supports multi-family housing and its positive effects on single-family home values.
Justin Merkovich‏

We've spent trillions to save seconds of time on driving. How exactly does this make us a more prosperous country?
Strong Towns‏

We ban bars near churches, despite totally different peak hours. Then churches tear down neighborhoods so cars can park one morning a week.
Rik Adamski‏

This is absolutely ludicrous. It’s 2017 and this is settled science. It’s on par with the Surgeon General not believing in germ theory.
Tom Laskawy‏ (responding to EPA chief Scott Pruitt saying CO2 is not the primary cause of global warming)

How do we know that CO2 is the dominant cause of the recent warming? First, CO2 absorbs infrared radiation, so there is a good physical reason it should warm climate. This was the basis of Arrhenius’ work in the late 19th century. Second, CO2 is going up, due to human activities. Just based on that, one should predict that the climate SHOULD be warming. Indeed, the climate is warming, about as much as our theories indicate. So that makes a pretty strong case that CO2 is the cause, but there’s more: there’re no other explanations for the warming that explain anywhere near as much as CO2. If you did manage to come up with an alternate explanation, then you’d still have to explain why CO2 is NOT the cause. After all, we have good physical reasons why CO2 should be causing the warming. But whatever mechanism you invoke to cancel out warming from CO2 also has to NOT cancel out the alternate explanation. At some point, everyone who’s looked carefully at the physics concludes that the only logical explanation is CO2.
Andrew Dessler‏

Seniors living in single family homes should care deeply about walkability and slowing down our streets. Their life may depend on it.
Christina Morrison‏ @StinaMo

The two polar vortex winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15 were aberrations in a long term warming trend. Last 12 months were record warm in Northeast.
Eric Holthaus

Every day, twice a day, my kids and I dodge SUVs and exhaust fumes on our walk to school. If we can ban the peanut, we can fix this madness.
Chris Bruntlett‏ @modacitylife

I wonder how many annual car trips a new urban grocery store eliminates. The Target [in the Minneapolis neighborhood called Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota] has to be thousands.
Nick Magrino‏

hey: residential development in cities barely generates car traffic. a 1 story Walgreen's generates more car trips than 50 stories of condos
Nick Magrino‏

charm is the opposite of parking
Christina Morrison‏ @StinaMo

Designing our road network for the brief spike [of morning rush hour] is expensive as all hell. Employers don't do enough to help spread out the driver tidal wave.
Anondson‏ @xeoth

NYC spent ~$50m last year arresting people for fare evasion. Would be cheaper to give all those arrested free year-round Metrocards.
Colin Kinniburgh‏

It is profoundly unfair to force people to buy a car to be economically viable.
Steve Mouzon‏
There were many, many, many on racism, racist policing, white supremacy:
How can the phrase "Black Lives Matter" be inherently anti-police unless we also agree that policing institutions are inherently anti-black?
Bree Newsome

I'm disgusted by the exploitation of trans people's experiences so that white folks can disavow their whiteness (but not white privilege). Whites remain the ones in power to suss out "true race," which racial categories are possible (or not). Whites dictate race, still. If this "trans-racial" thing catches on, it will be because white folks demand it — not people of color.
EricAnthonyGrollman (responding to the Rachel Dolezal story and claims by some that her situation is comparable to that of trans people)

One of these men murdered 10M Europeans the other murdered 15M Africans. We were only taught about one. Why?

Crystal Johnson‏

That's for 14 years of back payment to NATO. Can't wait till somebody hands Trump the bill for 400 years of segregation and slavery.
Will Saletan (in response to the news Trump handed Angela Merkel a bill for £300bn to pay for past NATO defense)

I find it very odd when the U.S. is compared to other nations and portrayed as a society that "values diversity.” The reality is that the majority population in the U.S. has proven to be highly resistant to racial and ethnic equality for *centuries*. At most, you could say the U.S. superficially values diversity—as long as it doesn't challenge political and socio-economic white supremacy. Black and brown individuals are not existentially threatening to most whites—as long as they remain in a subordinate *group* position. History shows that even virulent racists can tolerate a few non-white individuals in "high positions" if they accommodate white supremacy.

If only people cared as much about addressing racist, oppressive behavior as they do about their fear of being labeled a racist.
Gabrielle Union‏

People of color have faced existential and economic crises for all of American history and have managed to not become Nazis.
Vann R. Newkirk @fivefifths

Fannie Lou Hamer: "Black people know what white people mean when they say 'law and order.'"
Melina Abdullah‏ @DocMellyMel

I don't hate white people as such. I hate Whiteness: the idea that there's a racial hierarchy placing whites on top and blacks at bottom.
Son of Baldwin‏

Really struck by the fact that Kaepernick's ongoing silent, peaceful protest was deeply, rage-inducingly unacceptable to white America.
Actually,‏ @eaton

if only the world cared for black women as much as black women care for the world.
Brittany Packnett‏

"Africans sold their own people into slavery." So did Europeans, back in the day, only it wasn't called that. (Please read about feudalism.)
Ebony Elizabeth

The complicated truth is that even those who are advocates for racial justice can harbor profound racial prejudice in their hearts. It is fully possible that someone can fight to end mass incarceration, but also not want your child to attend the same school as theirs. Racism is complicated and nefarious. People can do good work to fight against it and still participate in it every day.
Clint Smith

Listening to the grievances of racists means there may be some middle ground to work with. Listening to racist anger asks me to participate in my own destruction. And fuck you very much with all that
Keep It Surly‏ @surlyurbanist

One thing I have learned over the last year — and that I should have known — is not everyone sees racism as dangerous. Oh, they think racism is impolite and ignorant and indicative of bad morals. But that's the extent of it. Racism as a character flaw. They don't see racism—from casual racism to endorsement of racist ideas—as a *threat*. Something dangerous to one's life and livelihood. Nor can they see how racism has little to do with ignorance. How it is an ideology that seeks to justify itself, not a cognitive error. Anyway, that's how we get this world where folks make excuses for people who defend and enable racism. They just don't see it as that bad.
Jamelle Bouie‏

"Racism is used to divide us" (which is true but not the whole truth) should be directed at racist white people and that's it.
David Kaib‏

I'm not really going to rehash who elected Trump or how. But racists being angry that people think they're racist is racists' brand. And it takes some serious hubris to tell black voters they should care about racists' anger and not the racism.

Most white people aren't taught to hate Minorities. But I do think they're subtly trained by media and family to think they're better than us.
Hari Kondabolu

A black man born to apartheid USA creates an art form and lives to 90. Yes, he won.
@tressiemcphd (commenting on the death of Chuck Berry)

Whiteness is considered the *absence* of race in the American context (a state of neutral, "normal" racelessness).
wikipedia brown‏ @eveewing

The class wars inside Black communities are complicated, but we know we can backslide in a generation. White people seem unprepared. So many back a system where illness can bankrupt them, vote for politicians that promise to gut safety nets because they think they're safe. And sure, white America often thinks it is a nation of temporarily embarrassed millionaires. But the rest of America has been here.
Mikki Kendall

A key way racism works is that black people must always be excluded from "taxpayer." I pay more taxes than probably most people ever.

All it takes is a Democratic governor in some of these states and you can push back felon disenfranchisement and change the electorate. End felon disenfranchisement in Florida and the state literally gains hundreds of thousands of eligible black voters.
Jamelle Bouie
This would be huge. Florida disenfranchises 1 in 10, more than any state, including 1 in 5 black adults. ~88% have fully served their sentences
Stephen Wolf‏ (in response to news that the Florida Supreme Court was considering an end to permanent felon disenfranchisement)

I can't get enough of these stories about middle and upper class white guys who are bitter they're only well-off and not incredibly wealthy. Meanwhile, that bitterness festers into an all-out war on the poor and minorities as they try and chase that wealth.
Jared Yates Sexton

"If I fall, I will fall five-feet four-inches forward in the fight for freedom." Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer died on this day in 1977.
Philip Lewis‏

You can't sit back and claim this is "about mass immigration and cultural dilution and not race" when jazz is considered "outside.”

here's what it means to be adopted and nonwhite in this country: you become a symbol of white America's generosity. your life and your experience is leveraged to represent whatever they want. because you're the "good," hand-picked-by-white-people person of color.
Nicole Chung‏

Why should people of color listen to scientific racism? Why should we be civil in the face of arguments that negate our right to exist?
Ebony Elizabeth @Ebonyteach

The sad truth is that a book like Hillbilly Elegy appeals to people who might empathize with poor people but really want to keep their money. Why support the social safety net if you're only going to reinforce a "culture of helplessness”? It's a portrait of a guy's escape from poverty, a good story, but it's extrapolated into a one-size-fits-all narrative that indicts the poor.
Jared Yates Sexton‏

White people don't like being called "white people." It's like they're upset that their whiteness isn't an invisible power.
Hari Kondabolu

“For every 100 Black women not in jail, there are only 83 Black men.” This gap, driven mostly by incarceration and early death, barely exists for whites.

And I've met the 83. They mostly all have PTSD because of what happened to the other 17.

It was a waste of time chasing Reagan Democrats and NASCAR Dads. It's always a waste of time chasing white resentment. Fight voter suppression.
Doc McStabby‏ @eclecticbrotha

In a city where black people represent 5% of population but 39% of people booked into jail, a jury of their peers is myth.
Joel D. Anderson

Given these statistics, it should be a requirement that trials involving a black defendant have at least one black juror.
Samuel Sinyangwe

Going through the archives and kind of amazed/horrified by how often politicians refer to "plantation politics" when talking about black people.
Leah Wright Rigueur

Black feminism is not a reactionary project. It is not here merely for checking white women. Black feminism is about building the world we want.
Brittney Cooper‏ @ProfessorCrunk

The myth of a majority white world makes some of you think diversity looks like tokenism. Nope. White people aren't the majority.
Mikki Kendall‏

*whispers* just about every "market based solution" to societal ills is coded re-segregation
Vann R. Newkirk II@fivefifths

[White people voted] for Bull Connor and claimed they aren't racist but he just makes them feel safer by maintaining segregation. What people oftentimes forget about hate is that it doesn't come in the form of "whites only" signs anymore, but rather in rhetoric about nationalism and tradition, which is basically code for, "Hey remember when white men didn't have to compete with everyone else to advance in society?" And the funny thing is that they're so transparent too, this society constantly tells black and brown kids to work hard, go to school and pull themselves up by their bootstraps despite the fact that this government and white folks robbed our grandparents of the same ability to create and pass down wealth as our white brothers and sisters have. Yet, despite their lecturing black and brown folks on the virtues of responsibility and self-reliance, Trump's whole campaign was about giving a leg up to working class white folks who couldn't bother to get an education and want to hang onto fucking 20th-century jobs that are being automated and becoming outdated.
Black Aziz Ansari
And that's not even including the tweets that specifically responded Steve King’s racist statements about “other people’s babies” (and there were already a bunch of others in an earlier post):
How many who reject Steve King 's racist articulation still embrace the idea that Western Civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement?
Greg Carr‏ @AfricanaCarr

Why is it Congressman King spews hate but Republicans don't censure him, Sen. Warren reads a letter by Coretta Scott King about racism and Republicans silence her?
Robert Reich‏

Stop inviting White Supremacists to debate their ideology like genocide is just another legitimate position in the "marketplace of ideas.”
Arash Daneshzadeh‏

In the ugly future when the history of the rebirth of American eugenics is written, it will be titled Someone Else’s Babies.
jelani cobb

These ideas will kill us all. No one is pure enough; all must turn on others to preserve their place in the deadly hierarchy.
MGH @InnerBabysitter

Not to mention the fact that diversity *within* our species is what preserves us from extinction.
Ebony Elizabeth‏

Came home from watching [the movie] "Get Out" to Steve King’s tweet re: "somebody else's babies." We built this nation by enslaving somebody else's babies.
Joan Walsh‏
Then there was education:
If you want creativity, you have to tolerate some mess.
John Miller‏ @agileschools

lots of people who were born rich and inherited successful businesses regard themselves as particularly intelligent rather than lucky. an underappreciated aspect of public school is it can teach a privileged kid how many smart people there are who just weren't lucky

The dirty truth is that what's known as "achievement" is a synthetic metric that centralizes colonial power and fortifies hierarchy.
Arash Daneshzadeh‏
My own politics is that everything an upper middle class child takes for granted should be free, for everyone, at whatever cost to the rich.
David Klion‏

Most inmates are high school dropouts. In California we spend more than $50k/year on inmates for whom we would not spend $10k/year to ensure they had decent schools.
LindaDarling-Hammond‏ @LDH_ed
Way back in 1948, social psychology pioneer Morton Deutsch (1920-2017) found higher levels of achievement when people cooperate than when they compete. Among other reasons, Deutsch discovered that when we compete, our communication tends to be "unreliable and impoverished.”
Alfie Kohn‏
And this month, there were even enough tweets about women to warrant a section:
Again. It seems all ideologies are merely a vehicle for thwarted toxic masculinity.
Nesrine Malik (responding to news that the Westminster attacker was a domestic abuser)

yeah, we don't need feminism, but men would rather starve than be treated like women.
lyz lenz‏

Policies that let women fully participate in the workforce could grow GDP by $600 billion.
Dan Crawford‏ @dpcrawf

32 million voting-age women in the U.S. don't have proof-of-citizenship documents with current legal name. Voter ID is huge burden.

FACT: Females aged 15 to 44 are more likely to be maimed or killed by men than by malaria, cancer, war or traffic accidents combined.
Peter Daou‏
 And finally, the best of the rest:
"What I see is a society on the verge of collapse," said one of my international colleagues recently. They're not wrong. Either power will be shared, or this nation won't survive. We really are at a "change or die" moment. The crisis is here.
Ebony Elizabeth

I have been trying to talk about everything but politics lately. Not because I'm not paying attention, but some shit shows are unwatchable.
Mikki Kendall‏
Landmass is red
People are blue
But the electoral college
Gives it all a red hue:

Jed Kolko‏

On especially monstrous news days, please remember: your primate brain thinks your constant rapt attention will help, but it is lying.
Erin Kissane‏

Staggering to see the number of people fixated on American "greatness" who see no connection with giving every baby a healthy start.
jelani cobb‏

I would love to see people write more about the ups and downs of relationships that are still working. People seem kinda starved for it.
Ashley C. Ford

*whispers* rich people will always find a way to feel comparatively poor and over-taxed. it's ok to not feel bad for them
Chelsea Fagan‏

Unfriendly reminder that you can love a thing and still point out problematic issues in it. Criticism =/= hating a thing by default

Billionaires do nutty things because they equate wealth with intelligence, and think their ideas are inherently superior.
Joe Nocera‏

The false "liberal scientist" narrative was invented by corporate lobbyists scheming to undermine data by alienating the messengers. Conning people into fearing and blaming others is easier and cheaper than debating facts. That's why the oil lobby strategy works.
Christine Arena‏

How we phrase a question has a huge effect on the results — my favourite example, from Gerald Ashley:

richard shotton‏

Key to politics: As long as people remain numbers and not people, destroying their lives can be fun and fulfilling.
5'7 Black Male‏ @absurdistwords

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart.
Kurt Vonnegut‏

Saladin Ahmed

That feeling when airlines delay dozens of coach passengers from boarding so first class can get its preflight drinks service
David M. Levinson‏ @trnsprtst

I thought the point of learning history was to prevent us from repeating mistakes. However, since we're a nation of C students...HERE WE ARE.
Hari Kondabolu‏

The greatest threat to America is not foreign terrorists, but domestic imbeciles.
John Fugelsang

Los Angeles County (red) has a larger population than each of the 43 individual states shown in blue:

Mark Abraham‏ @urbandata

I always thought authoritarianism needed leaders who knew what it was. I'm starting to see it's just basic human frailty amplified by power.
Anand Giridharadas

“Any time you have a hierarchical relationship, I suspect that one person is taking from the other.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

If social justice movements were convenient, everybody would be out in these streets. It takes sacrifices and struggle. Always has.
Linda Sarsour

We can't have a Chicago dependent on private donors to run schools. we can't have a Flint that relies on donated bottled water. It's wrong.
wikipedia brown‏ @eveewing

I don't envy small business owners. It is cut-throat world, I get it. But maybe don't be an asshole to your customers.
Father Sonn‏ @mikesonn

Here’s the reality about illegal immigration in the United States:

Eric Lipton

The main issue with the missionary paradigm is that it never has anything to learn and only has something to teach.
Broderick L Greer

Considering that most of my Biblical knowledge comes from Jeopardy clues, my last tweet about Jesus and Pontius Pilate is quite impressive.
Hari Kondabolu‏

So we get local control of fireworks, but not things to make lives better like sick leave, wages, or even lower speed limits. Thanks, Minnesota Legislature.

::sigh:: Might write a story about hospitals as singularities of life energy, sucking it in whether you're sick or not, returning only some.
N. K. Jemisin

How to text:
1 Staring at the keypad, type the name of a Welsh mining village
2 Delete that and retype your message as separate English words
Chris Steller‏

The at least 2,000-year-old olive tree of Vouves still bears olives. This Crete tree was here when Rome burned in 64 ad Pompeii was buried in 79:

Ticia Verveer‏

Hate is not a "point of view."
Hari Kondabolu‏

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Brexit Puppet

Check out this amazing puppet from Britain:

It's the only good thing about the way things are going with Brexit.

We're in a brave new world as they begin the process of taking apart the structure that has led to peace and prosperity in Europe.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Schools Are Not Breakfast Cereals

It’s almost time for my March Twitter roundup, but before that day arrives, I wanted to highlight a series of tweets I saw today.

Education is an issue I’ve been following for several decades, but mostly in the past 10 or 15 years. I hate to admit it, but I was naive enough back in 2002 to think No Child Left Behind might be a good idea. I don't remember exactly when that changed, but it was a few years later, and my dislike has only strengthened as I've come to know the work of Diane Ravitch and others challenging education "deform" and seen its effect on students and schools.

In all of the calamitous awfulness that fills our political life these days, education gets ignored or at least reduced to a set of sound bites. This was true under Obama just as much as it was under Bush. Do you remember any questions about education during the 2016 presidential debates? I was almost glad, because I knew that the answers would be bad on both sides.

These thoughts from Will Stancil‏ break through some of that, and I wanted to put them somewhere I could find them in the future. Thank you for writing them, Will. Stancil is with the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota. His Twitter bio says, “I’m a lawyer. I like the Fair Housing Act and school integration.”

Just one man's opinion. But keep it in mind when reformers act like all parents want to shop for education like it's breakfast cereal.

And that's what choice is really about: the path of least resistance past historical inequality in education, particularly segregation.

But it does a decent job of placating engaged parents, who might otherwise pressure the city and state to provide a more uniform education.

Does it provide quality education for all? Absolutely not. Does it provide ACCESS to quality education for all? Not really. Your kid is funneled to one school, but if you're savvy enough, you can go somewhere else. Wealthier areas get better options more easily.

The real appeal of choice to many is as a fail safe, a wink to highly engaged subset of parents: YOU can't get caught in an unfair system. Plenty of parents make TERRIBLE choices about their kids' education. I can name dozens of bad charter schools bursting at the seams.

The theory, of course, is that choice creates pressure for schools to get better. But the evidence is slim-to-nonexistent that it does.

And then there are places with tons of choices — and they're all bad. Desolate public schools, predatory charter schools.

But you don't see parents in rich towns with one good school moaning about the lack of options. They're happy with their one option.

People care about school QUALITY. Some parents like the idea of choice because they think it lets them get their kid out of a bad school.

School choice doesn't matter. Barely anyone cares about school choice.
Yes to all of that. "Choice" is treated as an essential good, when in reality, it has no value in getting a quality school system. As Stancil says in a later tweet, "In health care, liberals laugh at this argument, while in education, they treat it as credible." 

Later on he tweeted this as a kicker:
The whole movement is just Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee sitting on 20 different foundation boards with fake mustaches on.
This is my contribution to the cause:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Four Screens

I was just looking through my recent photos (okay, 300 photos from the past several months) and realized I have a few screen snapshots from MSNBC, mostly from All In With Chris Hayes.

The first one is from February 9, 2017:

The second one is from February 20:

This one is from March 23:

As I always say, the Republicans promise jobs jobs jobs, and that's what people say they want. But somehow, jobs just never manage to become their actual priority once they're in office. Strange how that is.

And finally, I'm not sure when this one is from, but it's timeless, unfortunately:

Another example of misplaced priorities and manipulation of the vulnerable human brain by opportunists.

Monday, March 27, 2017

In and Near Heart of the Beast

Thirty years in the Twin Cities, attendance at something like 15 May Day parades and festivals, and I had never been to In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, proper, until yesterday. I went to see two of their Puppetlab premieres, "Mythomania" by Allison Osberg and "Bipolar Lite" by Patty Gille.

Both were very creative and thought-provoking. Osberg's show combined ruminations on lying with thoughts on gardening and narration by a human sweet potato. Her interpretations of what constitutes a puppet were especially fun. Gille's show was a musical cabaret about being a bipolar artist, and included one of the best portrayals of depression I've ever seen.

No photos of any of that, of course (though I was sorely tempted!), but here are a few from the lobby:

The two large masks above the ticket counter give you an idea of the HoBT aesthetic, if you're not familiar with it.

This sign is behind the concessions stand. Note the small sign at bottom left that says "Thank you, water." HoBT has been talking about public drinking water for more than a decade.

This drawing was part of the assemblage of ideas for the May Day parade that filled one wall of the lobby. The guy in the middle (who looks a bit like Neil DeGrasse Tyson) is the franchisee, riding the back of a fast-food worker. He in turn is ridden by corporate.

Just up the street from the HoBT building, these signs overlooked the Midtown Greenway bike path.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

New York 2140

I highly recommend Kim Stanley Robinson’s new book New York 2140, despite some significant flaws. He is one of the few writers, whether of speculative fiction or any other kind of fiction, who pursues the idea of utopia. After all, how often do you read a novel that refers to both the classic children’s novel The Pushcart War and the ground-breaking study Why Civil Resistance Works?

The general premise is a bit like that of David Brin’s 1990 novel Earth: Robinson picks a future point in time and builds an America that could still manage to be in existence, despite all the problems that will have occurred in the meantime. There have been two major glacial-melting events that he calls Pulses, one around 2060 and the other around 2100, which have resulted in a 50-foot sea level rise. And though the economy has been decarbonized for more than 70 years, that hasn’t stopped climate change.

I have arguments with the book. It takes place more than 120 years in the future, but culture and technology (other than some nifty building materials based on graphene) aren’t very different than they are now. Go back to 1897 and tell me that makes any sense. Even if you argue that technological advances stalled because of economic upheaval from climate change, that doesn’t account for the lack of culture change. But Robinson is just not that into culture, so his characters live in something like our present day, almost unchanged.

Also, Robinson’s ability to deal with the reality of poverty and cultural difference has never been his strong suit, so the book is shallow on those important topics. The characters are fun and relatively diverse given that he’s a white, male writer, but for a city of millions, many struggling to survive, there are very few glimpses of their reality.

But as an economic polemic it excels… if you can get past the depressing assumption that his economic analysis will still apply in 2140, since it’s really written to describe today:
[The sea-level rise of] the Second Pulse…. had been bad for people—most of them. But at this point the four hundred richest people on the planet owned half the planet’s wealth, and the top one percent owned fully eighty percent of the world’s wealth. For them it wasn’t so bad.

This remarkable wealth distribution was just a result of the logical progression of the ordinary workings of capitalism, following its overarching operating principle of capital accumulation at the highest rate of return….

…in that process—call it globalization, neoliberal capitalism, the Anthropocene, the water boarding, what have you—the Second Pulse became an unusually clear signal that it was time for capital to move on. Rate of return on all coastlines having been definitively hosed, capital, having considerably more liquidity than water, slid down the path of least resistance…

…capital has lots of better rates of return to flow to, indeed lots anywhere that was not on the drowned coastlines would do. Places competed in abasing themselves to get some of what could be called refugee capital, though really it was just the imperial move to the summer palace, as always.
I also found it a bit depressing that one of the viewpoint characters is a hedge fund trader, and we’re subjected to that twisted way of seeing the world for pages and pages. But in the end the character comes around, so that’s a bit of utopia all by itself. The character puts his realization this way in one of the later chapters:
I know how to trade…. But so what? What is all that really? A game. Games. Gambling games. I’m a professional gambler. Like on of those mythical characters in the fictional Old West saloons, or the real Las Vegas casinos. Some people like those guys. Or they like stories about those guys. They like the idea of liking those guys, makes them feel outlawish and transgressy.
The vision of New York as a new Venice, fighting gentrification, is pretty complete. Building superintendents spend their time waterproofing the basements and lower floors, “vapos” (water buses, just like in Venice) and boats carry the people when they’re not walking on connecting skyway bridges, and the piers are important once again. As in Robinson’s short story, Venice Drowned, there’s a lot of time spent diving. The area south of Central Park is called the intertidal, because it’s affected by the tides and generally has no streets. Buildings grounded in stone survive and thrive, but those built on landfill have a bad habit of suddenly tilting and falling.

I learned that an area like the intertidal would not legally belong to anyone because it falls under the law of the sea, which goes back to the Justinian Code:
The things which are naturally everybody’s are: air, flowing water, the sea, and the sea-shore. So nobody can be stopped from going onto the sea-shore. The sea-shore extends as far as the highest winter tide. The law of all peoples gives the public a right to use the sea-shore, and the sea itself. Anyone is free to put up a hut there to shelter himself. The right view is that ownership of these shores is vested in no one at all. Their legal position is the same as that of the sea and the land or sand under the sea.
But when the sea shore is the valuable real estate of Manhattan, things get interesting. People squat in buildings that are condemned, while developers want to tear them down to build new, but no one owns them:
…how do you build anything in the intertidal, how do you salvage, restore renew—how do you invest in a mangled ambiguous zone still suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous tide flow? If people claim to own wrecked buildings that they or their legal predecessors used to own, but they don’t own the land the buildings are on, what are those buildings worth?
The good news is, the people of New York are much more self-sufficient than they are now, both for energy generation and food. The story focuses on the two thousand people who live in the MetLife tower, which has a farm floor and a floor devoted to animal husbandry. Food is grown on roofs all over Manhattan, sharing space with water cisterns and photovoltaics. Madison Square is an aquafarm.

The whole place is lousy with co-ops, communes, gift economies, townships on floating islands. It's a “hotbed of theory and practice.”

So, all of that gives you an idea of the setting. Then mix in a hurricane that makes 2012’s Superstorm Sandy look like an afternoon shower, and you end up with a result that, while not utopia, sets back capital in its relentless pursuit of incidental destruction for another few decades.

Worth the 600+ pages, in my opinion.


A few favorite quotes from the text:
“…wherever there is a commons, there is enclosure.”

“It was as if nothing had been learned in the long years of struggle to make lower Manhattan a livable space, a city-state with a different plan. Every ideal and value seemed to melt under a drenching of money, the universal solvent. Money money money. The fake fungibility of money, the pretense that you could buy meaning, buy life.”

“I finally get what revolution means. It’s maximum volatility with no hedging.”

“Prices are systematically low, the result of collusion between buyers and sellers, who agree to fuck the future generations so that they can get what they want, which is cheap stuff and profits both.”

Oh, and finally, the chapters begin with multiple quotes from a crazy quilt of sources. Here are a few favorites:
“Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.” —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

“I am for an art that tells you the time of day, or where such and such a street is. I am for an art that helps old ladies across the street.” —Claes Oldenburg

New Yorkese is the common speech of early nineteenth-century Cork, transplanted during the mass migration of the south Irish two hundred years ago.

“Art is not truth. Art is a lie that enables us to realize the truth.” —Pablo Picasso

My mixed feelings but generally positive read are echoed in this review from NPR. The book is also reviewed in the Guardian and on Boing Boing.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Above It All or Each Other

Just a day apart, I saw these two sets of juxtapositions. The first is two adjacent tweets about our Dear Leader:

But enough about him.

The second was from the Star Tribune as I was shaking apart the sections to discard the sports pages:

I laughed out loud.

Friday, March 24, 2017

You Are Not Alone

I have not been reading mentions of the adult man who got a light (or no) sentence for raping a 12-year-old girl (and I'm not linking to any stories about this here). But that prompted a friend on Facebook to post this. She is an adjunct professor of sociology and women's studies in the Boston area:

All these discussions about an adult man getting a pass for raping a 12-year-old girl inspired me to ask two of my classes today at what age did the women in the class first get sexually recognized by an adult man, whether it was comments, touching, cat calls, or so on.

Even I was chilled to find that collectively the average age was TEN! And everyone of them had a story about a creepy friend's or boyfriend's dad. Wake up, world, and stop fetishizing little girls!
These were predominately white, upper-class girls. The discussion today made clear that they had never even talked about it with each other before. Collectively, all the girls felt like they must've done something and were shocked to find out they all have the same stories of dads at friend's houses or a little boyfriend's daddy and they all felt they must've been leading on these grown men going as far back to age 10. Our culture is so fucking broken.
The fact of their experience is sickening, but the silence that surrounds it is almost as troubling. You don't even know that it makes sense to talk about it because no one talks about it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Moment of Rationality

Only a few days ago, I noticed that all three of the op-eds in the Star Tribune that day were from a conservative point of view, and I wondered what was happening with our supposedly "liberal" paper, the one that gets called the Red Star by our farthest Right community members.

Today, I would classify the three op-eds as one progressive and two that are hard to categorize, but the seven letters to the editor were all progressive, which may be a record.

They covered three topics: the National Endowment for the Arts, a proposed fee on electric vehicles, and public transit.

The NEA letter took the form of a cartoon, and was in response to an earlier cartoon that belittled the NEA:

The electric vehicle letters made excellent points about how the many real costs of gas-powered vehicles are not covered through taxes or any other fees, that EV owners already pay more through registration fees than do owners of gas-powered cars in gas taxes, and that it's stupid to tax the thing you want (cleaner-energy vehicles) instead of the thing you don't want (dirty energy).

The public transit letters pointed out that people from outside the metro area benefit from public transit when they visit (helping them avoid traffic, parking fees, and unfamiliar roads), that light rail works really well for a wide range of people (with strollers, bikes, wheelchairs, not to mention legs), and that raising the gas tax 5 or 10 cents would barely be noticed in the usual fluctuation of gas prices.

I suppose the letters will swing back tomorrow, but it was nice to have a moment of rationality with my morning tea.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Poor Old Pumpkin

It has been one of those days where my best idea for a blog post is to go into my photos and pick one more or less at random.

So here it is, my October pumpkin some time in November:

Yes, we have squirrels. Why do you ask?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Wrong Turn If We Want Happiness

The World Happiness report has just hit the streets, and the U.S. has fallen to 14th place. The top five spots are overwhelmingly dominated by Scandinavian countries, with Norway number one.

The Washington Post reports some of the background of how the ratings are done. While they start from a type of self-report, the results are analyzed using six variables:

  • income
  • healthy life expectancy
  • having someone to count on in times of trouble
  • generosity
  • freedom
  • trust, which is measured by the absence of corruption in business and government
What's up with that declining rank for those of us in the U.S.? Well,
Americans...have been reporting declining happiness over the past decade, according to the report. While the United States has improved in two of the six variables used to calculate happiness — income per capita and healthy life expectancy — it has suffered when it comes to the four social variables. American citizens are reporting less social support, less sense of personal freedom, lower donations, and more perceived corruption of government and business.
Note that our declining happiness dates back to the to the Bush years, before the crash in 2008. It didn't improve during the Obama years. It has been so notable that the report includes a special chapter called Restoring American Happiness, written by Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs.
“This American social crisis is widely noted, but it has not translated into public policy,” Sachs wrote. “Almost all of the policy discourse in Washington DC centers on naive attempts to raise the economic growth rate, as if a higher growth rate would somehow heal the deepening divisions and angst in American society. This kind of growth-only agenda is doubly wrong-headed.”

Sachs told Reuters that President Trump's policies will only make things worse. In his preliminary budget, released last week, Trump has indicated plans to gut several federal agencies and slash spending on foreign aid, including to the United Nations.

“They are all aimed at increasing inequality,” Sachs told Reuters. “Tax cuts at the top, throwing people off the health-care rolls, cutting Meals on Wheels in order to raise military spending. I think everything that has been proposed goes in the wrong direction.”

The United States, he concluded in the report, is looking for happiness “in all the wrong places.”

“The country is mired in a roiling social crisis that is getting worse,” Sachs wrote. “Yet the dominant political discourse is all about raising the rate of economic growth. And the prescriptions for faster growth—mainly deregulation and tax cuts — are likely to exacerbate, not reduce social tensions. Almost surely, further tax cuts will increase inequality, social tensions, and the social and economic divide between those with a college degree and those without.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Missing a Smile

I cut all kinds of slack to people who have to be photographed in public all the time. Imagine if every which way you looked all day long might be frozen fall time and thrown up onto the interweb? I don't psychoanalyze Melania or Michelle for what they do or don't do with their faces moment by moment. I can't imagine being under that much pressure.

But there's one less-important-than-all-the-other-things thing about President Turnip I will never get used to, and it's his inability to smile naturally:

This is about as close as he gets to a smile, and... really. What is that face? He looks like a proud five-year-old.

Whereas Barack Obama...

That man knows how to smile and make it look natural, whether it is or not. Sometimes it's bigger, sometimes it's smaller, sometimes no teeth show, but it always looks like a smile. A human thing.

One more thing to miss these days.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Random Tab: Bullying

I have something approaching 100 tabs open. No time to go through them. So for today, here's one picked at random: How being bullied affects your adulthood, from Slate.

The article is from June 2016, so that gives you an idea how behind I am.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Motto for the Age and All Ages

You're sitting in a meeting and suddenly you realize the mug in another person's hand says this:

And you stop the meeting to take a picture of it.

That was me yesterday.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Driven Out, Not Sent Packing

The story is bad enough: an African American couple and their three foster children moved into a house in the Twin Cities exurb of Delano only a few months ago, and over the weekend found their home burglarized and vandalized with unprintably racist graffiti and spray-painted messages like "get out."

This post is not about what happened to the family, which you can learn from reading the story linked above. My question is: What headline would you put on that news story, if you were the Star Tribune?

I'm not sure exactly what I would have done in their place, but I know it wouldn't have been worded the way the Star Tribune folks did it here:

The threats "sent them packing," the headline tells us. Sent them packing.

Have you ever used that phrase? I don't think I have, and the only appropriate headline usages that come to mind are sports-related. ("The Yankees sent the Twins packing, 12 - 2.") It's not meant to be used for something serious.

The original phrase, of course, comes from Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1, when Falstaff says to Henry about a visitor waiting to see him, "Faith, and I'll send him packing."

Some definitions I've seen: to send away ignominiously; to dismiss someone, possibly rudely. I'd even go so far as to argue that it implies a lack of preparation by the one who is sent packing. They were no match for the victor, the words imply.  

It's a phrase that speaks from the point of view of the winner, which in the case of this news story means the racists who damaged and defaced a family's home. It's inappropriate to use in this headline.

The story does refer to the fact that the family members are packing their belongings to move out of the house (to an unnamed suburb that is more racially diverse than Delano, home of our post-Michele Bachmann Congressional Rep. Tom Emmer). But I sincerely hope the headline writer wasn't trying to use word play in the headline for such a serious story.

As if to acknowledge that the main headline wasn't quite right, the jump headline read like this:

Switching the verb to "drive from" is much more of a factual rendering.

The headline on the Star Tribune website reads like this:

Nobody's been sent packing in these other two headlines, and I hope that in the future only baseball teams are sent packing in the Star Tribune.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Have a Seat

The agony of the Turnip budget is too much to deal with. So instead for today I have some chairs and a table:

They seem like a normal set of four chairs and a table (maybe if the photographer was standing on a step ladder), until you realize the scale:

I am a sucker for miniatures.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hello and Goodbye to Winter

We had a little snow storm on Sunday night. About four inches. Just enough to make driving bad and improve the looks of the place. It won’t last, though, because it’s sunny and the temperature is going up every day. It’ll be 50 by Friday.

On Monday, I took the Green Line train to downtown St. Paul for the Metro Transit meeting, and saw this on the platform:

Out here in Minnesota, we’re saying what I think may be a last goodbye to winter, while the East Coast (including my hometown) got 30+ inches of snow, and there’s going to be an insane heat wave in the West.

It's so good to know that climate change and climate disruption are all a figment of my imagination.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Metro Transit's Structural Deficit

At first, it might seem reasonable: our local public transit system, Metro Transit, is projected to have a $74 million deficit in 2018. Right now the general bus and light rail fare is $2.25 during rush hour and $1.75 during off-peak hours, and it last was increased (by $.25) in 2008. That’s 10 years between fare increases, so fares haven’t kept up with inflation. Why not raise fares to make the numbers work?

But it’s not reasonable. Metro Transit has made big improvements in service since 2008 and ridership has increased substantially, too. More money is coming in than ever before from riders. The idea that fares should pay for most of public transit's cost is retrograde thinking in a world where we need to use way less carbon and get people out of cars. And cars are subsidized in all sorts of ways that are not acknowledged.

Unfortunately, our transit system is funded largely by fees paid when people buy cars in Minnesota, and the number of people buying cars is going down, which is causing the deficit. You see the problem there? We (and the biome) want people to stop driving cars, but Minnesota is funding the thing that replaces cars with a fee on cars. It makes no sense. It can't work in the long or even short term.

The column at right shows the current projected deficit. MVST is the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax.

Several scenarios

I learned all of this at a meeting of the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Committee yesterday where they were considering fare increases. The committee and then the full council will likely vote on several scenarios for increased fares:

  • $.25 added to all fares
  • $.25 added to regular bus and train service, $.50 added to express and Metro Mobility
  • $.25 added to regular bus and train service, $1.00 added to express and $.75 to Metro Mobility
Ridership losses for each of those changes were given at the meeting and ranged from 5 to 8 percent depending on the type of service. But revenue increases with the fares, of course, so it nets out to a higher dollar amount.

An alternative (or additional) funding mechanism, which would make these changes unnecessary, would allow counties to add a half-cent sales tax. That would generate close to $300 million dollars and close the funding gap, and also make transit less reliant on car sales for its funding. But our state legislature has so far been opposed to allowing counties to tax themselves, in keeping with their general preemption mindset of telling local governments what to do.

I support the sales tax approach. Transit should be funded through the broadest base possible, and in my opinion should be free to end-users, as it is in places like Talinn, Estonia. A significant portion of the cost of operation goes into collecting fares in the first place (think of the IT costs of running a stored value card system, for instance). But if we can’t get rid of fares altogether, they should be kept as low as possible and low-income folks should receive discounted fares.

A little good news

On that point of discounting fares, there were two pieces of good news in the proposal:
  • One option proposed would make Metro Transit’s recent TAP experiment (Transit Assistance Program) permanent. I’m not sure of its extent in this permanent scenario, but the pilot program gave $1.00-per-ride passes to low-income people, and obviously that would help offset fare increases.
  • Another option proposed would eliminate the peak surcharge on non-express routes for seniors, youth, and people with disabilities: they would pay their reduced fare (currently $.75) at all times.
When ridership decreases, where do the riders go?

A 5 percent decrease in bus and light rail riders equals 2.5 million people a year, or almost 7,000 a day (365 days a year) or more than 9,600 a day (using only business days, when most transit use occurs).

Where do those people go (or not go)? How many of them instead drive a car or take a cab or Uber and add to pollution, carbon dioxide, and congestion? How many are kept from doing necessary daily activities and lose jobs or other social connections they need?

As several members of the public said in testimony before the committee, public transit is our mobility. One woman with epilepsy said she can’t drive even if she wanted to. What is she supposed to do?

If the fares go up, Metro Mobility (Metro Transit's service for people who can't use regular bus service because of disability) rides are estimated to decrease by 142,000 riders in 2018 and 213,000 in 2019. That saves a lot of money because Metro Mobility’s subsidy is very large, and the number of people using it is going up as our population ages. The amount of revenue netted from the fare increase on Metro Mobility is only about a third of the amount saved by cutting out riders. So there’s a big incentive to increase Metro Mobility fares and push away riders. A negative, contradictory incentive.

Met Council staff reported they have already carried out a Title VI analysis of the proposed increases. They say the proposals won’t have a disparate impact on low-income people and communities of color, but that sounds like self-serving math to me. It just means the number of people with more income who don’t ride transit is within some predetermined "acceptable" range when compared to the number of people with less income — but the impacts are not the same. The more-well-off people will drive a car instead or take a taxi or Uber (or maybe pay more money for the bus and not really notice it), but the poor people will have their mobility impaired or have more money taken from them, which they needed to use on something else. Taking $.25 five days a week from a person who makes $20,000 a year is not the same as taking $.25 from someone making $75,000 a year, obviously. How is that not a disparate impact?

The sign I brought along.

Service cuts

All of these fare increases net out to just $15 million in new revenue—which obviously isn’t a large percent of the projected $74 million deficit, so what kind of service cuts are they thinking about to make up the rest of the money hole? That was not covered in the meeting.

I am actually more afraid of service cuts than I am of a $.25 fare increase, and you already know how much I hate the idea of the fare increase. Both are bad and together they create a death spiral for a transit system, but service cuts are a bigger contributor to the death spiral than fare increases.

In testimony, local activist Mel Reeves called on the Met Council to rally the public to pressure the legislature in support of transit funding through the sales tax. A committee member responded that we (the public) need to tell the legislators our stories of the effects fare increases and service cuts have on us.

One committee member asked how much ridership would have to increase to make up for the deficit, and staff promised to have that information for the committee's next meeting. I don’t think that’s realistic to expect, though, especially if service cuts are part of the picture.

Convincing a Republican-majority legislature to fund transit outright, when they have gotten it into their heads that transit is a special interest, is a no-win proposition. Our best bet is to persuade just enough members, through personal contact with people from their districts, to allow the special sales tax.

That's not in any way an easy thing to do, though. (These are the same people who won't give a hearing to a bill introduced by their own Republican colleague to stop health insurers from overruling doctors in ways that harm patients... he now uses a wheelchair because of these practices and knows whereof he speaks.)

I am not hopeful, but I'll be there to fight for transportation for all.

These stickers were passed out to transit supporters.


Interesting facts:
  • Only 10 percent of other transit systems around the U.S. have a peak/off-peak fare differential. Metro Transit is very interested in simplifying its fare structure so it's more understandable, and I think that’s a good idea.
  • I learned what Transit Link is: a service available in the suburbs (in places where there is no regular bus service). Riders call by phone to arrange service. A trip less than 10 miles is $2.25 each way; between 10 and 20 miles is $4.50 each way, and more than 20 miles is $6.75 each way. ADA-certified riders pay a maximum of $4.50 per direction. It has limited hours compared to regular buses: 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday only. The cost and subsidization per mile is very high (almost $20 per passenger).
  • Light rail has the lowest subsidization ($1.84 per passenger). Second lowest is on urban local buses ($3.16) and third lowest on express buses ($3.86). Suburban local buses are subsidized $5.22 per rider, but even that sounds low compared to Northstar Commuter Rail ($18.31), Transit Link ($19.92), and Metro Mobility ($23.94). The idea of subsidy sounds value-free, but is actually value-laden. It doesn’t take into account that transit riders (at least on the high-density services like buses and light rail) are taking a significant number of vehicles off the streets and highways, which means less traffic and a faster trip for everyone else.

The full presentation by Met Council staff can be seen here.