Saturday, July 14, 2018

Old and New Media Agree on the Solution

I'm just home from seeing the new film Sorry to Bother You, and I don't want to say too much about it. But if you liked (or at least appreciated) Get Out and you worry about how we can fix our current world order, check it out.

Remember, Pete Seeger had the answer to the question of how to fix the world order, and the movie comes to the same conclusion, I'd say.

By coincidence, I saw this shirt while I was out and about today, and it fits into the pattern, too:

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tabs Today

It's been a while since I did a Too Many Tabs post. I've been getting better about not leaving sooooo many tabs open, but now it's time to close a bunch of 'em.

On immigration

All possible responses to "they should get in line and do it the right way, the way my family did" with citations (also jokes). By an immigration attorney. Just remember: there is no line!

Mulligan constantly flails about the gang MS-13, which I confess I don't know much about. This Politico story (posted as members-only content on MinnPost) is by Hannah Dreier, a reporter who's been covering MS-13 for a year: Here are the five things Trump gets most wrong. The gist is: The gang is not growing or even particularly large compared to other prominent gangs in the U.S. It's not involved in the international drug trade, or involved in illegal immigration, and its victims are 99.x percent people they know. Not that they are harmless, no one claims that, but they exist in a context that Mulligan pretends does not exist.

On income inequality, exploitation, poverty

Laziness does not exist (but unseen barriers do). By a social psychologist. This one will stick with me for a while.

Busting the myth of the American Dream: Economist William Darity talks inequality (audio). "Why are some people rich and others poor?" Answering this elusive question has been Darity's lifelong work. He studied economics at MIT and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and later pioneered the subfield of stratification economics, an interdisciplinary approach to understanding economic inequality.

The 9.9 percent is the new American aristocracy. From the Atlantic, June 2018. "The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy."

Why we should value invisible labor. A really excellent look at the idea of universal basic income from Yonatan Zunger on Medium. "Money doesn’t, in fact, buy happiness.... But poverty can buy you one hell of a lot of misery." And: "someone who has to accept a long-term loss to survive the short term is in a very weak bargaining position — and that sort of weak bargaining position is exactly what breaks the free-market hypothesis that 'trade makes everyone richer.'" So many pithy observations in one place, including the need to stop confusing "our work" with "our job."

On sustainable cities, utopia, climate change

The little-known behavioral scientist who has transformed cities all over the world. Meet Ingrid Gehl, whose husband Jan is more well-known for popularizing her ideas.

Alex Steffen's recent keynote speech to the UN Forum on Sustainable Development. Steffen is the person I've cited who uses the phrase predatory delay when discussing climate change.

Density does not have to equal more driving (and less parking). From StreetsMN.

I'm an environmental journalist but I never write about overpopulation. Here's why. By Dave Roberts at Vox.

A dazzlingly delicious taste of the future in LiƩge by Rob Hopkins, founder of Transition Town.

Traffic engineers still rely on a flawed 1970s study to reject crosswalks. From StreetsBlogUSA. You may not know this, but traffic engineers always claim that painted crosswalks don't make pedestrians safer. Turns out... they don't have much to back that up.

Utopia is all around us. A conversation with Ruth Potts of Schumacher College in STIR magazine.

And here's an 11-year-old article from the New York Times called Local groups use peer pressure — and fines — to cut carbon emissions. Back when they had reporters covering climate change, I guess.

A five-step guide to having the talk, from StreetsMN. In this case "the talk" is the one about biking and walking instead of driving everywhere.

How the Koch brothers are killing public transit projects around the country. From the New York Times, June 19, 2018. (Minnesotans are all too familiar with the relatively recent Republican attack on transit at our state legislature. What a coincidence.)

Humans didn't exist the last time there was this much carbon in the air, by Eric Holthaus for Grist. That's a grim but true way to put it. As climate scientist Michael E. Mann put it on Twitter today, "We have ZERO years left to solve climate change. Emissions have to come down steadily in the years ahead to avoid committing to catastrophic climate change impacts."

And then a few random things of interest

From This American Life: Heretics. "The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a rising star in the evangelical movement, who cast aside the idea of hell, and with it everything he'd worked for over his entire life." I confess I haven't listened to most of this yet, but the part I heard on the radio sounded worth listening to the rest.

When America's basic housing unit was a bed, not a house. A very cool extended info graphic from City Lab.

Johan Hari discusses the ideas about depression and anxiety in his book Lost Connections (audio).

What Americans think about abortion. It's a lot more nuanced than polling can show. (For instance, 39 percent don't identify as either pro-life or pro-choice.) From Vox.

Did you hear that Mulligan and his cronies are covering up the fact that U.S. military personnel on bases have been drinking contaminated groundwater for years? No? Well, it's true.

Power causes brain damage. From the Atlantic, July/August 2017. Psych professor Dacher Keltner has found over a few decades that subjects with power "acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view." But neuroscience research now finds that the brains of those with power show signs of impairment to "a specific neural process, 'mirroring,' that may be a cornerstone of empathy."

Some of what's wrong with David Brooks, from Pacific Standard. Personally, I just don't listen to or read anything that includes him. I figure he's had his chance and I will spend my time on other people who don't have his megaphone. "In the zero-sum choice between American patriotism and critical thought, Brooks is always happy to take the former."

White people abandon diverse neighborhoods for racial, not economic reasons. From Quartz. Not a surprise to anyone who's read The Color of Law, but worth checking out nonetheless. The findings hold up not just when there's an influx of black people into white neighborhoods but also for incoming Latinos and Asians. (But the tipping point is lower for black people: somewhere around 10 percent, while whites can tolerate up to 20–25 percent Latinos and Asians... they're somewhat more tolerant of Latinos and Asians, in case you were wondering.) Here's an Indiana University article where the cited research is described in more detail.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Be Ready to Interrupt

Reading this morning's Star Tribune, I was hit with a double whammy of proof that policing in my community (as an exemplar of this country) is bad, bad, bad.

First there was a story called Lawsuit says police detained innocent man at North Memorial, urged paramedics to use ketamine to sedate him. In which we learn of a 2015 case where Minneapolis cops grabbed the wrong guy outside North Memorial Hospital (um... their victim is black and the person they were looking for was described to them as white or light-skinned Hispanic). When he objected to being treated the way they were treating him, they got hospital staff to inject him with the sedative ketamine (which was then being used in a now-suspended non-consensual study in Minneapolis). The victim then had trouble breathing and had to be intubated. He spent a day in the hospital, unconscious, and nearly died. It took his wife three hours to find him after he disappeared into what seemed to be police custody. She thought he was dead.

As I said, this took place in 2015 and this is the first we're hearing about it, as far as I know. How was this either overlooked or possibly suppressed?

Then there was the story called Fear-based training for police officers challenged. You may or may not have heard of the so-called "warrior cop" training that is common these days. For instance, Geronimo Yanez, killer of Philando Castile, had been through 56 hours of this crap where the cops are told it's kill or be killed over and over. A pioneer of the training is a guy named Dave Grossman, who claims to be a former Army Ranger (not true) and a Pulitzer Prize nominee (also not true). He offers 200 of his Bulletproof Warrior trainings a year, which is basically a full-time schedule. Imagine the income he makes from that.

The biggest piece of news for me in that article was this: "Minneapolis officer Justin Schmidt, who killed Thurman Blevins in a North Side alley last month, teaches similar training." The article provided no more detail on that claim, however.

Not long after reading the paper, I was in the car and MPR was broadcasting a roundtable discussion among four people of color (called Should people of color have to prove they're Americans?), discussing all of the recent cases of white people calling the cops on or attacking black and brown people for existing in public (at pools, wearing T-shirts, being on subways). They particularly called attention to the Chicago-area cop who did nothing when a white man verbally attacked a Latina for wearing a Puerto Rico T-shirt. It's a glimpse of the Fugitive Slave Law days, or at least I'm sure that's how it feels to the people affected by it.

My advice to anyone (especially white people) reading this: practice your interrupting skills so they're ready when you need them. Interrupting cops would be the scariest of all, of course. But be ready.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Memo Pad, an Antenna

Once again digging through some old archives, I came across this memo pad and my attention was caught first by the lettering:

Then I noticed the pattern in the background, which is most visible on the back cover:

I feel as though the floral art nouveau motifs on the cover clash with the more modernist background pattern, but the whole package is a fun period piece, nonetheless.

Then there's this:

It's a box antenna, something I never heard of. While it was the "gee whiz!" look of the design that caught my attention, once I realized what it was inside it, it became even more interesting. And it also reminded me how great the Zenith logo was.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Pedestrian Bill of Rights

David Levinson, the transportist, has compiled a pedestrian bill of rights, primarily from suggestions he solicited on Twitter. Here it is in its entirety.

Imagine what a world based on these premises would be like.

  1. Pedestrians have the right to safely and conveniently walk along and cross any public right-of-way without regards to who they are, with whom they are associating, when or why they are traveling, or where they are coming from or going to. #NoPoliceStops
  2. In the event of a conflict with vehicles, pedestrians automatically have the right-of-way. Where no dedicated footpaths are available, any pedestrians have the right-of-way over any other traffic and speeds shall be limited to that traveled by those pedestrians. Pedestrians shall never be required to give way to self-driving vehicles. #Right-of-Way #Footpaths #SharedSpace #StopForNoBot
  3. Any pedestrian may cross roads at any point at any time where they will endanger neither themselves nor others by doing so. #JaywalkingIsNotACrime.
  4. In the event of a collision with a pedestrian, the controller of the vehicle is always liable. #TheCarIsAlwaysWrong
  5. The space on a right-of-way allocated per pedestrian shall be no less than space allocated per traveler by vehicle. #SpatialEquity
  6. Any place accessible by vehicle must remain accessible to pedestrians on a route no less direct. In the event of blockage due to weather or other causes, pedestrian paths shall be cleared before vehicle paths. #SnowPriority #AccessEquity #Connectivity #MinimizeCircuity
  7. Speed limits on streets shall be established both to minimize total pedestrian collisions and to minimize total injury and loss of life in the event of a collision. #SlowTraffic
  8. Every intersection of two, or more, rights-of-way contains crosswalks. There is a crosswalk on every side of every intersection. Such crosswalks must remain unimpeded when pedestrians have right-of-way. #EveryIntersectionIsACrosswalk
  9. All at-grade road crossings shall be at the elevation of the pedestrian way. #BowToNoCar
  10. Every traffic signal shall have automatic pedestrian phases that allot at least as much green (“walk”) time for pedestrians as is allotted to vehicles, and is long enough to ensure pedestrians safe passage. At least one such phase per cycle shall ensure pedestrians may cross diagonally unimpeded by vehicles. #EndSignalInequity
  11. All pedestrian routes shall be designed such that wheelchairs may pass at all times. No temporary or permanent signs or utility posts or parked vehicles or other temporary or permanent street furniture shall obstruct this minimum passage width. #FreePassage #Inclusion
  12. Previous or current rate of use must not be used to determine future use, or proposed infrastructure. #HistoryIsNotDeterminative
  13. Should traffic levels, the built environment, and topology warrant, paths for pedestrians may be grade separated when that is safer and more convenient for pedestrians. #KeepThemSeparated
  14. The air quality for pedestrians along roads shall be no more dangerous to health than the level experienced in the absence of vehicles, and the noise level experienced by pedestrians along roads shall be no louder than the level that would be experienced in the absence of vehicles. #NoNoise #NoEmissions #EVs.
  15. Pedestrian paths shall be buffered from high-speed vehicles. Footpaths and the adjacent environment shall be designed to bring joy rather than dread to the act of walking. #WalkingIsAGood #Verges
Definition: A pedestrian is a person traveling by foot and is inclusive of those using assistive devices.

Definition: A vehicle includes any road-worthy vehicle including car, truck, bus, and bicycle capable of traveling at speeds faster than a pedestrian could sustain, and includes electric or motorized vehicles, excluding assistive devices traveling at pedestrian speeds.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Seen on the Street

Two photos of things I saw along the street recently:

You never know what's going to turn up.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

What I'm Thinking About Today

I saw this a few days ago on Twitter and have been thinking about it since. When I decided I wanted to post it, I couldn't find it at first (because Twitter isn't searched by Google), but now I have, so here goes.

These are tweets by Pete Saunders, a Chicago-based, Detroit-raised urban planner who is editor and publisher of The Corner Side Yard (a blog I will now have to check out!).

Here's my big thought of the day (so far). Americans get caught up in the political/economic divides we see. But it might be more instructive to take a more anthropological look at things socially/culturally. Red/Blue, working class/elite, etc. - doesn't get it. If we continue to look at things that way we'll never resolve them. Here's how I see things.

There's Restorationist America. Part middle class/working class, part white evangelical, part Old Manufacturing. Not all rural, or poor, or even Republican. Inward orientation. The phrase #MAGA appeals to them even if today's politics don't. 

There's Globalist America. Highly educated. Managerial/professional. Largely but not exclusively located on coasts. But not all coastal, or urban, or even Democrats. Outward orientation. Still believe in our nation's potential, and their own.

Then there's New America. Majority minority. Latinos, blacks, Asians, Muslims of all backgrounds. All across the economic spectrum. Indeed all across America. Socially/culturally *between* Restorationists and Globalists.

We know/believe the Restorationists are motivated by changes to the nation proposed by some combination of Globalists/New Americans. That's what #MAGA is all about, right?

Here's the problem. That split is entirely unsustainable. Globalists assume New Americans are in their back pocket; not so. Forward-thinking conservatives have no home with today's Restorationists. And in a nation whose political structure was built on majority rule but minority protection, a nation split three or more ways is always in a state of tension.

A new political majority must be crafted along the socio/cultural lines of this nation. I don't think Restorationists are about building a working majority, just defending their interests. This has to be about Globalists and New Americans working out a new political majority built on a message of our nation's potential: one of optimism and progress. That's still a work in, you know, progress.

Case in point: New Americans haven't completely gotten behind Bernie Sanders' message, and there's frustration among many progressive types (a subset of Globalists, IMO) as to why. My guess is that it's due to a lack of direct inclusion and engagement by progressives. "We devised these policies to *help* them; why aren't they behind it?"

80 years ago FDR went the other way and crafted a political majority composed of Globalists and Restorationist-oriented Southerners to kick off the New Deal. There were few New Americans then (blacks, mostly). He had to go that way. FDR negotiated with Solid South politicians for tangible outcomes to maintain his majority. Yeah it was a deal with the devil but it allowed much of his New Deal agenda to move forward.

My fear is that if today's Globalists and New Americans can't come together, the Globalists and Restorationists *will*, as in FDR's day. But it will have potentially worse results. You hear some of this from some politicians who say "we have to listen to the working class" or "we have to reach out to rural America" or some such. There is a fear among Democrats (IMO) for being known as the party of minorities.

Gotta wrap this up. Today's Restorationists have the upper hand because they *feel* this in a way the Globalists don't. New Americans *feel* this too (passion over border family separation issue?) but Globalists are still thinking in political/economic terms.

If a new political majority can't be created out of the Globalists/New American groups, I fear a Restorationist rule by a minority of the nation will last far longer than we even think possible. 
I am not comfortable with the term "New America" including African Americans (let alone Native Americans who are about as far from "new" as you can get)... But I get that Saunders means "new" as in the wave of the demographic future, rather than newly arrived (though many people within New America are somewhat newly arrived). Outsider America may be a more inclusive term, but not as good from a marketing perspective.

There's just a bit of conversation following, where another person replied,
It seems like Obama embodies the globalist/new American alliance you propose. However, the alliance didn’t filter through Congress in a way to allow most policies to be fully implemented. Quite the opposite actually.
And Saunders (who is African-American, by the way) responded
This captures my concern about blacks within a Globalist/New America coalition. In many respects blacks are "Old America" but as you say could never align with Restorationists. And I wonder if a black agenda aligns well with other New Americans.
I don't see a lot of other people responding to his thoughts or discussing this, yet. It's not perfect but it's a good beginning for thinking about coalition-building and keeping the big picture in mind.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

A View from and of Silicon Valley

From the Twitter account of Anton Troynikov (@atroyn), a robotics researcher:

Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union:

- waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it's of poor workmanship and quality

- promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out

- living five adults to a two room apartment

- being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you

- 'totally not illegal taxi' taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet

- everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex

- mandatory workplace political education

- productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites

- deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences

- networked computers exist but they're really bad

- Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason

- elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges

- failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs

- otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it's the only way to get ahead

- the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work

- the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

- the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

- the economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users

I appreciate the thinking!

Friday, July 6, 2018

To Serve Mankind

Scott Pruitt is gone, yay, but the fact that he wasn't fired after the first scandal is indicative of the deep well of crap that is this administration. And that's not even getting into the policies Pruitt implemented (with Mulligan's approval), all designed to undermine the reason for the EPA's very existence. His planned successor will continue those policies with (I assume) no overt scandal, so in a way we will be worse off with him gone.

But none of that is why I am posting about Pruitt today. I'm posting because of his resignation letter, highlighted here by media critic Jay Rosen:

This level of ass-kissery would be more fitting (though still embarrassing) in a monarchy, and the religious language is revolting in a supposed non-theocracy.

Scott Pruitt clearly wanted to service Mulligan in some way (ahem), but when it comes to his fellow citizens, he may as well say he wanted to serve mankind in the Damon Knight tradition.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Big a Problem Is Wage Theft?

If you read this blog, you already know I'm angry about wage theft. But I don't know if I had a grasp of how large a problem it is. What's the scale?

This graphic answers that question:

We hear all the time about theft and burglary (for instance, "my car's glove compartment was rifled!" seems to be all my neighborhood discussion groups can talk about lately), but the scale of wage theft through minimum wage violations alone overwhelms all of those.

The source of data for this image is described here. It was based on a study of 4,000+ workers in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago with those findings extrapolated to the U.S. economy. Numbers for the oother types of theft are from the FBI's statistics.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Meet Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Whether you know of him and his work or not, pleae take a few minutes to read this story about Khalil Gibran Muhammad from Harvard magazine.

It knits together stories from his life, his academic writing (including his 2011 book The Condemnation of Blackness, which I wrote about here), and his public work.

He's one of our most important public intellectuals, shedding light on how we got to now.

 Photo from Harvard magazine by Stu Rosner.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Future from the Past

I recently came across a copy of the December 26, 1969 issue of Life magazine. It was a retrospective on the decade and so you can imagine the content (war and protest and sports and fashion and assassinations and moon landings), but the thing that caught my attention the most was the advertising, and especially this two-page spread:

Here's what it says:

If Africa, Asia and South America go communist, don't blame him [Karl Marx].

Karl Marx is not responsible for famines in Asia or epidemics in Africa. It's not his fault that the average South American earns 75¢ a day.

All he did was predict the consequences.

That a population living in misery will turn to communism as a way out. Unless something is done to alleviate these conditions.

But the countries themselves don't have the economic or technical resources to make these changes. The U.N. doesn't. Even the United States doesn't.

They need the help of world industry. Particularly U.S. industry.

Industry is in an ideal position to do this. It can deal directly with the people of a country. It can change their lives in a way no government can.

A small case in point: in 1958, Olinkraft, a subsidiary of Olin, bought a paper mill in Igaras, a small town in the remote interior of Brazil.

Igaras was the kind of town on which communism thrives—a declining mill, shoeless children, men working an 84-hour week, etc.

It wasn't hard to increase the production of the mill eightfold, to lower hours and raise wages, to reforest the woodlands—but that wasn't enough.

We hired a doctor, nurses, teachers, expanded the school; built a dispensary, a clubhouse, provided free medical and dental care (and medicines at cost to non-employees); financed housing loans and helped set up a cooperative store.

And then the people joined in. They rebuilt their own homes, paid for their own teachers, built and operated their own store and, in effect, revitalized the whole town.

But the people weren't the only ones to benefit. Olinkrat did well enough from the mill to start an extensive expansion program.

Igaras, of course, is only one town.

But Olin is only one company.

Imagine this kind of success multiplied by tens of thousands of companies and towns all over Africa, Asia and South America.

The deeds of industry may well be as important as the gospel of democracy.
Is there a company anywhere in the U.S. that would run such an ad today? Imagine companies that feel responsible for not just their employees but even the non-employees, unlike Walmart and fast food companies, whose business models are built on their employees getting publicly funded benefits. This ad is like a page out of the Endicott Johnson handbook.

Corporate owners and the 1 percent were really scared at the end of the 1960s, but then they regrouped along the lines of the Powell memo and now, here we are.