Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Less than Lethal

I keep waiting to hear on mainstream media that Linda Tirado is dying.

She was here in the Twin Cities in 2020 to cover the uprising after Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, when she was shot in the eye by a Minneapolis cop with a "less than lethal" round.... what they euphemistically call a "rubber" bullet. She wasn't the only journalist who was shot by the cops, and she was one of the ones who won compensation in a lawsuit against MPD for their tactics.

However, that was not enough, because the damage was even worse than the blindness in one eye she was left with. It caused brain damage, and the brain damage is killing her. She has entered hospice. 

The cop who did it has not been identified, when he should be charged.

At this point, I want mainstream journalists to call this out in their mainstream public places — not just on social media. A U.S. cop has caused such dire injury to a U.S. journalist that she is going to die. 

Less than lethal. Like Tirado's earlier explanation of the effects of tear gas and why it should not be used, these projectiles are too dangerous for use, and are a measure of the increasingly militarized police state we live in.


Tirado is the author of the book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Still in the Original Box

When you go to an antique store, you expect to see old packaging. When you're just out and about, you can be taken unaware. 

That happened to me today when I came across this bit of Minnesota product history:

I didn't check to see if the toaster was in the box, but given the other things in the room, I'd bet that it was. 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Someone You've Never Heard of

I have no idea how many times I've used the words "externality" or "externalities" on this blog. I believe companies should have to pay for the externalities inherent in their products and ways of doing business, especially if they believe that markets are the fairest way of running things. 

That's not how things are, of course. Instead, companies do their best to skate for free on every externality they can get away with. A major example of that is the failure of the U.S. to pass a carbon tax, or cap and trade (or anything similar, whatever you want to call it) at some point in the past 30 years.

Pioneer Press business columnist Ed Lotterman today told me about a bit of that history. I've heard/read a fair amount about the legislative aspects under and after Bill Clinton, but this was news to me.

Before Clinton, and before climate had become much of a partisan issue, there was George H.W. Bush. He had personal concern for the environment (Lotterman says), and economists and policymakers had come around to the idea of using markets as a way to address pollution and harm reduction.

Unfortunately (for all of us!) Bush was also stuck with the mantra of deficit reduction, and after he had been in office for a year, his OMB director, Dick Darman, went before Congress and concentrated on that, leaving out the idea of carbon taxes. Oops.

This accounts for why Lotterman started his column with the words, "Damn you, Dick Darman!"

I don't know if it's really that one guy's fault. Seems a bit hard to believe there wasn't more to it than that. But it has zero chance of passing now.

Lotterman ended with another fact I've never heard: "Good estimates are that [our Congressional] deadlock is costing us about as high a fraction of GDP as that raised by the personal income tax."

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Rainy Day Project

I'm doing a bunch of paper archaeology in my home office today, during a rainy afternoon and evening in Minnesota, in preparation for a succession of guests who will be staying with us.

I think this will be the second time someone has slept in the room since the covid pandemic began, and in the other instance, I made a layer of things on the floor before lowering the Murphy bed over it. 

This time I'm going through everything, including things from Daughter Number-Three-Point-One's childhood that have been tucked into a built-in cupboard for a few decades. Discarding some of that makes more room for other things I probably shouldn't be keeping.

There are still too many books, too. Where can they all go? 


Friday, June 14, 2024


I just finished Peter S. Beagle's YA fantasy book Tamsin. It came out in the late 1990s, which is well past my youth. I've never read his best-known book, The Last Unicorn, and I can't remember how I heard about Tamsin, but it was recommended by someone I admire (maybe Jo Walton?), so I put it on a list of books to find, and it turned up in the used books at Uncle Hugo's recently.

It's a present-day ghost story that takes place on a farm in Dorset, England, with a teen-aged girl protagonist who can see and talk to a 300-year-old ghost named Tamsin. Tamsin lived on the farm just before England's Glorious Revolution. 

I recommend the book, which fits into what I think of as the "mysterious England" genre, which I was a fan of when it was more age-appropriate for me.

The thing I learned from Tamsin is the history of the Monmouth Rebellion. I've come across a lot of bits of English history (both in histories and through the lens of historical fiction) but I've never heard that particular bit. As usual, an off-brand royal was trying to overthrow the one on the throne, and in this case the pretender lost. 

Of particular note, the supporters of the traitor were tried and treated with particular cruelty by a bloody-minded judge, who figures prominently in Tamsin. He sounds like a terrible person, even for the time. The trials were called the Bloody Assizes (which is such a British name!), if that gives you an idea of what they were like. 


The setting of Tamsin is close to Tolpuddle, another location in English history.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Invisible Wealth of a Nation

Back to a serious post after a day-long break.

This is mostly one BlueSky thread from film producer Michael Tae Sweeny, but with one rejoinder from a commenter:

...the per capita GDP of Canada is lower than every US state besides Mississippi. Europeans are mostly markedly poorer outside of like Switzerland and the batshit tiny microstates....

Americans have a lot of money! In some important ways: the most money! Our problems are mostly not caused by our people not having money!

America's destruction of its cities to replace them with car-mandatory suburbs have made housing and transportation a huge drag on quality of life. Suburban sprawl is ludicrously expensive to subsidize and maintain.

The response from Wrycke was:

The two most under-rated calamities of the 20th century:
- Robert Moses and the hellish blueprint he spread around the country;
- The Supreme Court decision allowing school segregation as long as the little white havens were given different city names.

Well, you can trace that second underrated calamity back more specifically to the North's failure to assert Reconstruction, which allowed the South to slowly win the Civil War. But sure, it took some particular forms in the 20th century. It's what Heather McGhee calls drained pool politics, and it affects a lot more than school segregation.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

It Wasn't Even Because of Prohibition

Too much heavy stuff lately. Today I have something completely different.

Remember last summer when I visited Driftless Books in Viroqua, Wisconsin? Not long after, I started to follow them on Facebook. (Yes, there is occasionally something good in that dank crevice of Silicon Valley.)

Today they shared this book, which they described as the "best book find today": 

When I saw the first photo, I wondered what was so special, but then there were the additional photos, especially this one:

Be sure to click to enlarge so you can read the handwritten part.

I don't know if "today" means the book came in recently, or it has been in the store for some time and was just found by the person who posted. It could be either in that store.

But whichever one, I agree. What a find!


Tuesday, June 11, 2024

First, Do Harm

Here's an incredibly disturbing story that probably won't break through into major news. (I could be surprised; I see that it is being published in the big newspapers as of tonight.)

Alexander Morris, one of the current members of the Four Tops, went to an emergency room in Warren, Michigan, for chest pain. When he told staff there that he is a member of the group (and had security concerns), they thought he was mentally ill and put him in a straight jacket. They also removed him from the oxygen he had been given for his ensuing heart attack. And, oh yeah, a security guard told him to "sit his black ass down."

In the restraint jacket, Morris allegedly told staff he was having trouble breathing, and asked for the oxygen back. He said he was ignored. Morris then asked to have the jacket removed and for his belongings to be returned so he could leave and go to another hospital. His lawsuit says he was told he couldn’t leave. His medical condition declined. Several security guards were allegedly called to ensure he couldn’t leave.

After 90 minutes and Morris's wife's arrival, a different nurse who was shown a video of him performing at the Grammy Awards convinced the other staff to release him from the straight jacket and the doctor canceled the psych evaluation he had ordered. 

In the most Michigan thing of all, "He was offered a $25 Meijer gift card as an apology, which he declined."

Not surprisingly, Morris is suing the hospital as well as staff members personally.

As others pointed out in the post where I first saw this, on top of everything else wrong with it, how can medical personnel not know that a person can be both delusional and having a heart attack? So what if a patient thinks he's someone he's not? Does that mean he can't have symptoms that can be confirmed with objective tests, and at least should be treated for his symptoms until proven otherwise?

Monday, June 10, 2024

A Bit Irksome, But Also Validating

I don't write often enough about sexism, which has shaped my life. Today I saw a thread, thanks to trans people talking on BlueSky, so it gives me words for something I've always known.

having the lived experience of both a man and a woman, it really is baffling to see the stark difference in how WEIRD men are to women compared to other men. i’m still not used to it.

There were many responses, but one was from a person who asked for elaboration on it. Another person responded with this:

1.) Many men make a decision upon meeting a woman (whether or not they'd fuck her) and if the answer is "no" they don't feel like even basic respect is necessary
2.) Immediate assumption that we know absolutely nothing about anything and if we show otherwise they try to quiz her to see if she's lying
3.) Constantly assume that anything we're doing is for their attention
4.) Speak over women all the fuckin time because they don't give a single fuck what we're saying
5.) Sexualizing absolutely goddamn everything, but if we make a sexual joke we're asking to be hit on flagrantly
I'm non-binary but still very largely treated "like a woman." I love many men! Some of you guys are great! But I've literally never met a man who didn't have at least some fuckin wild ideas about women that needed to be quashed

Gillian Branstetter, whom I quote frequently in my BlueSky round-ups, replied with this:

Easily the first thing I noticed was the vanishing of my personal space.

I learned from the thread that there are several books written by people who have transitioned and become recognized as men (or in one case, by a woman who passed as a man intentionally) who describe the differences in how they are treated.

And I imagine the inverse is true. I have heard that from trans women I know who, like Gillian, have to deal with the loss of personal space and the new experience of being talked over or not taken seriously, as dirtsquirrel describes.

In some ways it's irksome to need to have the things you've known said by [formerly] privileged people, but I mostly find it validating.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Superlative Tabs

There's a category on this blog called Too Many Tabs, which I haven't used in a while. It doesn't mean I don't have a lot of tabs sitting open: I do. Many, many tabs. I just don't have time to do a post to write them up.

I have a new bad habit, on top of my bad tab habit: opening new windows in my phone's browser, because I want to write a post about them. These are also essentially tabs. So instead of waiting for the never-never day when I write those articles, I'm going to do a Too Many Tabs post about that handful of recent windows.

These are [insert your favorite superlative] articles, which is why I wanted to write an individual post about each one of them, but time is going by and I'm afraid I will forget about them. So here goes.

Darrell Owens, How Urban Renewal Ruined Everything. I'll be thinking about this for a long time. Racist urban renewal devastated our cities — we all know that. But what is unacknowledged is that we have to get past that to loosen the process of building things in this country. Keeping with the status quo inherently promotes climate change and green house gas use. That has to change. 

Peter L. Laurence, Jane Jacobs, Cyclist. Just a wonderful article about Jane Jacobs and the role the bike played in her life and the life of her family, as well as her thoughts from her work on bikes. I had no idea she biked for much of her transportation. The article includes multiple photos of her biking, while wearing a dress, without a helmet or anything associated with "cycling." Here's one quote from her near the end: "a city good for cycling is also a city good for walking, strolling, running, playing, window-shopping, and listening for bullfrogs if listening for bullfrogs is your thing."

Hamilton Nolan, Everyone into the Grinder: It is good to require powerful people to participate in public systems and not buy their way out everything. Nolan expresses the radical notion that rich people should not have more choices than everyone else (in schools, health care, what have you): that if rich people have to face the same systems as everyone else, we all would benefit together.  (I thought I had posted at some point about the Finnish school system, which doesn't allow private and religious schools, but I can't find such a post.) We have become a nation of line-cutters, based on the idea of wealth makes right. It does not. "Choice" in this case is a false god.

Bill Pruitt, The Donald Trump I Saw on The Apprentice. Do you remember hearing there was tape in a vault at NBC showing that Trump used the N-word during The Apprentice? Well, this article gives the context of when he said it. It's written by one of the show's producers, who was under a 20-year nondisclosure agreement, which just ended. Not only did Trump say the word, he said it while ruling that Season 1's Black finalist would not be allowed to win (even though everyone else in the room thought he deserved to win) because "would America buy a ** winning?" Which to me is worse than his use of the word itself. On top of that, the article documents multiple instances of Trump sexually harassing women, as well as his mental incapacity to do the job, which is covered up by the show's producers — the same way news producers to this day cover up his incoherencies each time he does an interview or has a rally. Read the whole thing, and tell me: Did you hear about the existence of this story anywhere? This should have been major news, but it was not. 

Rick Perlstein, My Political Depression Problem — and Ours. I am less interested in Perlstein's reason for writing the article (about his political depression with the Left) than I am in the first third of the article, which contains his crystalline analysis of the Right and conservatives. He describes the "authoritarian ratchet," which is based on promising the impossible return to a prelapsarian state (one that never existed), but which is imperative because without the return, civilization itself will collapse. He gives examples of various imperatives conservatives have demanded over the past 150 years (against women voting, against Social Security, against Medicare, and now against "open borders"). Once society continues to exist despite the Right's failure to deliver, they move on to the next dire threat (bathrooms! gas stoves! lab-grown meat!). And even when they win (as with abortion), it's no better — they devolve further. They require, he says, "even more radical panaceas." 

Anger at the designated Others who must have made it happen—for conservatism itself can never be the problem. Conservatism, as I once wrote, never fails. It is only failed.

This is why I now describe the history of conservatism as a ratchet. It must always move in an invariably more authoritarian direction, with no possible end point but an apocalyptic one.

Which leads us to Trump's talks of retribution and his Project 2025. In addition to the multi-millions of people they plan to round up and deport (and who knows what "rules" they will use for that), I'm honestly afraid for my own liberty if he is reelected, and I definitely fear for immediate family members. 

I was not afraid before. I had solidarity for many other people in 2016 and I felt some personal fear depending on the outcome in 2020, but now I can visualize them rounding up people who oppose them, including me. 

I don't want to be a person who shuts up to remain safe. I don't want to live in a country where that's something you have to do to stay out of prison. 

This is what we have come to because of the authoritarian ratchet Perlstein describes, and the Republican Party's failure to stop it.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Failure to Assimilate

The other day I heard a white woman say that white people driving alone in their cars was segregation, and I realized I had never thought about it that way. 

I've thought about cars as a land-use problem because they are space-inefficient. I've thought about how they make us lonely and separate. I've thought about how the suburbs were built on white-flight, of course. I know that many white people disdain buses, and to a lesser extent all public transit, because it's for "other people" — which is coded language for Black people.

But I hadn't specifically thought of the act of driving itself as segregation until she said it. I think it's true: it's a structure of segregation.

A few days later this cartoon by Jen Sorensen showed up in my inbox:

It's a perfect fit.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Four Photos from Minneapolis

It seems as though I hardly ever go to Minneapolis any more: too busy running from one thing to another in my Saint Paul-centric life these days. 

Earlier this week I had lunch with someone in the other city on both Monday and Tuesday, and took a few random photos.

First, The Adelaide, an early 20th century example of gentle housing density small-time developers used to build that has been illegal to create in 90% of both cities for the past 50 years or so:

Terrifying, I know! 

Next, some creative chicken seating in front of the restaurant Butter on Nicollet Avenue:

When I got Minneapolis, it's almost always to go to Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, so I stopped there on the way home. I didn't buy this book but I took a photo to add to my collection of Richard Cuffari illustrations:

On the way back to Saint Paul, just as I was about to reach the Mississippi River, I saw a sign I don't think I've ever seen before:

Sure enough, a crew was power-washing the Lake Street/ Marshall Avenue bridge. The cars that appear to be backed up here (allowing me to take this photo, since I was at a standstill) were not in that state because of the cleaning but because there was a crash just ahead blocking both of the right lanes a block or two before the bridge. From the looks of the crash it wasn't a fender-bender caused by stop and go, because there was too much damage. Someone was going too fast, and possibly there had been a side impact.