Friday, December 02, 2016

Weekend Reading: A Really Long Edition

So, here we are at Friday again. I finally got a decent rollerblade in. It was my first one since the election, and it did indeed help. The kids were off school the first week, my usual spot was closed for a special event the second week, and it was the day after Thanksgiving the third week. Today, I had to go out for my rollerblade early, because Pumpkin's best friend invited her to come over after school, and I needed to be home to welcome her when the friend's mom dropped her off. So my routine was a bit off, but the rollerblade itself was great. It was a beautiful day here: sunny and crisp. The bay was a beautiful blue and peaceful.

Unfortunately, I can't stay in my happy place, rollerblading by the bay forever. So, here are some links to read.

Ann Friedman answers one of my less urgent questions about the Trump presidency: what is it like to be an American abroad right now? I traveled quite a bit with George W. Bush was president, and spent a lot of time explaining that I didn't vote for him before I learned that just saying I was from California instead of saying I was from America accomplished the same thing. It sounds like the dynamic is different now, but that saying you're from California is still a shorthand way of indicating you didn't vote for the guy.

Some advice on how to navigate this time:

From Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, "America loves winners, but victory does not absolve. ... Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it." If you read only one thing this week, make it this one.

From historian Timothy Snyder, steps to take to defend democracy.

Masha Gessen writes about slippery slopes and the impossibility of knowing what is the "right" thing to do.

Stephen Walt gives us 10 ways to tell if your president is a dictator.

Matt Yglesias argues (persuasively, I found) that we should fight Trump by fighting his policies.

Maybe American women can take some lessons from the role Italian women played in bringing down Berlusconi.

Jeet Heer argues we need something more than just fact-checking to deal with Trump's lies.

The coalition that won the North Carolina governor's race gives us some ideas about how to build better coalitions going forward.

I confess that sometimes I get really, really angry that we're in this situation. There are many people to be angry at, and I suspect we all apportion our anger (if we feel it) in different ways. It is surreal to watch the anguish as one group or another realizes they are being betrayed. From where I sat, it was always obvious that Trump only cared about Trump. I suspect everyone who supported him is going to be betrayed in some way, some more thoroughly than others. But I am trying not to make myself feel better by wallowing in to schadenfreude. I don't always succeed, and here is a tumblr for those times.

Here's a better way of coping: Cathrynne M. Valente wrote is a Fairyland story for these times.

Tressie McMillan Cottom writes beautifully about finding hope and why she always knew a President Trump was possible. If you only read two things, read this one after you read the one from Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.

A critical look at the "hillbilly ethnography" that is getting so much attention right now.

We should have learned from GamerGate.

David Roberts' "WTF just happened" article is a really good summary of the election. The whole thing is good, but this quote is a succinct way of expressing one of my most painful realizations about my country:

"There is no floor. Partisanship has been revealed as the strongest force in US public life — stronger than any norms, independent of any facts."

How do we fix that? Can we fix that? I don't know.

I had intended to try to write about how this election felt as a woman who spends her professional life mostly surrounded by men, but maybe I'll just point people to what Eirene Donohue wrote instead. In among all my worries about my country's future, there is a crushing reminder that a lot of people just don't want women like me to exist, or if we exist, we need to stay within limits, and not aim too high. There is probably more for me to write about this, but for now, just read the link and you'll get a good idea of how I feel on the topic. Especially this quote:

"And here was the root of my pain. This wasn’t just about the disappointment that my candidate lost. Or the fear of what Trump will do to this country. It felt like my very soul hurt and I realized that it was because of what this election said to me as a woman. It said no.

No, woman, stay in your place. No, woman, you are not good enough. No, woman, no matter what you do, you will not win, you will not be the boss of me."

And this "no" doesn't just hurt because it is mean. It hurts because it limits my life. It limits how I provide for my family. It limits the options I have in how to live my life.

Ta-Nehisi Coates had a good tweet thread on this. Read in both directions. I picked this quote to embed because it is the core of the argument.

So, we need something happy to end on. How about an interview about the social media genius at Merriam-Webster.

Here is some self-promo, which maybe I should have put at the top: I posted the cover reveal for the next Annorlunda Books release... and I'm looking for advance readers! The book is called Caresaway, and it is a near future sci fi novelette about a scientist who develops a drug that cures depression, but that comes with a terrible cost.

And of course, there are bunnies!!!!


Have a good weekend, everyone.

Monday, November 28, 2016

My Last Post about Politics for Awhile

I'm going to write one last post about the election and its aftermath, and then move on to other topics for awhile. I'm moving on mostly because I want to write about other things as part of my effort to find and embrace the light and joy in my life. But no matter what I'm posting here, know that I'm calling congresspeople every Wednesday, writing letters, donating money, and generally trying to act in accordance with my beliefs and values. If you're ever curious what I'm doing, send me an email. And the offer still stands for anyone who might have voted differently than I did and wonders why I'm so freaked out right now: send me an email, and I will explain. As I've said before: I've lost elections before. I have never been this worried about the outcome before. I would not have been this worried about the outcome with any of the other Republican candidates. Not even Ted Cruz. My worries are less about policy (although I disagree with many Republican policy goals) and more about our democratic institutions and ideals.

So anyway, to the post. I'm going to divide it into three sections: the politicians who give me hope for the future, non-partisan acts I'm taking (and think others should consider taking), and partisan acts I'm taking (and think other Democrats should consider taking).

1. Politicians to watch

There is a lot of hand-wringing on Twitter about the lack of organized response to Trump by other politicians in either party. I would love to see more organized resistance to protect our Constitution and political norms, but I think it is too early to despair. No one expected this outcome, and so there was no pre-planned resistance. But some congresspeople are speaking up, and giving signs that they take their role as a check and balance on executive power seriously. I am by no means a professional political observer, and I haven't made a thorough review, but here is what I have noticed:

Among Republicans, Senator Sasse of Nebraska published a piece on Medium emphasizing that his first duty is to the Constitution.

And a congressman from Michigan tweeted this:

That's it on the elected Republican officials, but please tell me about any others I should watch in the comments. I genuinely hope that Republicans stand up to Trump, for the country, but also for their party. (Ezra Klein's post on this is good.)

Evan McMullin continues to speak up. Here's a recent tweet thread about the similarities between Trump's lies about the popular vote count and how authoritarians behave:

I will be curious to see what he does next and whether he manages to become a useful force for good with the Republican party or not.

A lot more Democrats are speaking up, which is not surprising. My new senator Kamala Harris has been outspoken. Harry Reid has been outspoken, too. The Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are signaling they plan to fight Sessions' appointment as Attorney General.

The Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee are continuing to call on their committee to investigate Trump's conflicts of interest.

Representative Kathryn Clark (MA) has introduced a bill requiring Presidents and Vice-Presidents to put their holdings into a true blind trust or to notify the public and the Office of Government Ethics whenever they make a decision affecting their finances.

And I'm really liking Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ). Here's an example of why:

Again, let me know if there are any other Democrats whose efforts I should be watching.

2. Non-partisan actions I'm taking

I plan to call the House Oversight Committee every week until they exercise oversight of Trump's conflicts of interests or he resolves those conflicts. Here's their phone number: 202-225-5074. If I can't get through, I'll try calling the chair, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. If I can't get through to him, I'll start working my way through the other members.

I plan to call the House Foreign Affairs Committee to ask them to investigate the involvement of Russian hacking and disinformation in our election. Their phone number: 202-225-5021.

I'm gearing up to write long shot letters to various Republican congresspeople. Since they are not my representatives and are not chairs of key committees, I doubt they'll listen to what I say, so I'm not wasting my limited energy for making phone calls on them. Plus, writing a letter lets me present more of an argument. My most likely best case scenario is that I reach whatever staffer has to open the mail, but I'll take what I can get. Stamps are cheap.

I am going to donate to the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan law group that has long focused on voting rights (among other things).

I am going to donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose work in fighting intolerance and hate I've always admired (and occasionally supported with money in the past).

If I find an organization working to bring non-partisan district drawing to more states, I'll donate to them. I've found some potential organizations (e.g., Fair Vote), but need to do more research.

3. Partisan actions I'm taking

I think the actions in section 2 might be appealing to any American worried about what the Trump presidency is going to mean. I'm also taking a couple of steps as a Democrat:

I have donated to Foster Campbell's campaign for the Louisiana Senate seat. It is a long shot, but every seat is worth fighting for.

I will donate to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, because we need to strongly contest seats in every district, and that takes money.

I will donate to the Democratic Governor's Association, because I think we need Democrats at the state level to block voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, because states can blunt the effect of national policies, and because we need to grow our "bench" of Democratic leaders.

So that's what I'm up to. Feel free to add suggestions or ask questions in the comments. Keep it civil, though! And remember, that I often can't answer comments during the day.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Looking Ahead Edition

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a Happy Thanksgiving. And I hope those of you who don't had a nice Thursday!

We had a very nice Thanksgiving here. We hosted it, and my parents, my sister, and two of our best friends came over. We decided not to talk politics. None of us voted for Trump, so that wasn't a peace-keeping decision. More of a mood-boosting decision. And it worked. We had a very nice day, with entertainment that included a gymnastics show organized by Petunia and a raucous (and long!) game of Uno organized by Pumpkin.

So that was nice. Whether prompted by my last post about what I am thankful for or just the passing of time, my own mental fog about this election had lifted a bit in time for me to focus on enjoying Thanksgiving.

I wish I had only warm and fuzzy links for you, but that is not the world we're in right now. Here's what I do have:

The Washington Post has a write up about the way Russian propaganda influenced this election. I had understood this in real time, mostly because I was reading Talking Points Memo and they were reporting on it.

Speaking of Talking Points Memo, here's a short post about the topic, which points out that the Germans are apparently now trying to figure out how to prevent the same shenanigans in their election.

As much as I enjoy Twitter (and know that many people enjoy Facebook), I think the engineers who run those companies need to do some introspection. The "move fast and break things" ethos of Silicon Valley may very well be in the process of breaking democracy, at least in the short term. There are smart people in non-engineering fields who have been warning about some of the Twitter troll and Facebook bubble problems for awhile, but they were mostly ignored. Both Facebook and Twitter are now taking steps to address their respective weaknesses, but I think they should also commit to hiring people to be on the look out for the next exploit. To do so, though, they need to change their self-conception and basically grow up as businesses. I do not know if they can do this.

So anyway, our election happened. I would support an audit, because I think all elections should be audited (that is different from a full recount), because humans and machines make errors. I doubt an audit or a recount would change the outcome, though.

And one thing we need to remember is that Trump and the Republicans won this election, but they do not represent a majority viewpoint. The majority of Americans who voted, voted for Hillary Clinton. This is not a one time thing, either. The Republican candidate has lost the popular vote in 4 of the last 5 elections. As Ezra Klein argues, Democrats are the opposition party right now, but they are not really the minority party, and perhaps they should act like that.

And if people who favor Democratic ideas for running this country want to see those ideas actually enacted, we need to change our behavior. We focus too much on the presidency and not enough on down ballot elections. We underrate our chances of winning seats in "red states." In fact, there aren't really red states and blue states. All of our states are purple.  If we believe that Republican policies are hurting the states in which they hold power (and I do: look at what happened in Kansas and Louisiana), then the right thing to do is to field strong candidates in those states to make the case to those voters.

By the way, there's a Senate race going on in Louisiana right now. Here's the Democratic candidate's web site.

As Greg Sargent argues, there are several good reasons for Democrats to focus on the upcoming governor's races.

So, if you're a Democrat fired up to try to do something, those are a couple of ideas.

I also think we need to learn how to hold true to our values and beliefs while also recognizing that people with different values and beliefs feel strongly, too. We need to do it for strategic reasons, but also because it is the right thing to do. There's a lot of talk about people "voting against their self-interest" but I find that condescending. People's self-interest does not just include economic matters. If you look on purely economic matters, I routinely vote against my own self-interest. I vote to give myself higher taxes all the time. I do that because I don't see that as actually being against my self-interest, because my self-interest includes more than just short term financial concerns.

I assume the rural voters who vote for people whose economic policies do not actually help them have concerns beyond the financial ones, too. We can respect those concerns and look for areas in which we can address them. I do not mean we should give up on our commitment to our ideals. I mean we should look for instances where we can honor our ideals and also find common ground with people who see the world differently than we do.

Anyway, for all the focus on the white working class, there is a case to be made it was actually college-educated white people who decided this election. So maybe it is all about financial policy. We're the ones getting that tax cut, after all. But I suspect a lot of these people voted for reasons that weren't purely financial.

Finally, if you read only one link today, make it this one from Rebecca Traister, which gets at how insulting all of this talk about Democrats focusing too much on "identity politics" is. It is telling that this argument is coming almost exclusively from people who have the option to forget about "identity" if they want. I rarely get to forget about the ways in which being a woman influence how my life is lived. And I am aware I get off easy in this regard. It is insulting to tell Black people that the reason we lost this election is that they cared too much about their friends and family being shot by police officers. It is insulting to tell Muslims that they need to care less about the harassment they face.

I have not patience for those arguments. We should not stop pushing for more equal treatment for everyone, because that is a core ideal.

But we also need to think strategically. And if you're wanting to think about what we can realistically hope to achieve right now, this piece from Josh Barro is short and to the point.

And here's an interesting, well-informed look at Trump's conflict of interest problems, and what remedies are available.

That was a lot of politics. Apologies to my readers whose interests lie elsewhere. I do plan to write about other things more in the coming weeks. But I will also be writing about politics, because I care deeply about what is about to happen in my country. I will try to avoid fear-mongering and demonizing people who voted differently than me, because that doing so is not consistent with my beliefs. And I am always open to respectful discussion with people with opposing views. If you don't want to do it in my comments section, feel free to email me.

And now, I'm going to log off and go get ready to enjoy a beautiful San Diego day with my family.

But first, have a couple of bunnes:

Monday, November 21, 2016


Thanksgiving has long been my favorite of our holidays. I know that the actual history of it is not the whitewashed one we learn in school. My love for it has nothing to do with its role in our national origin myths. I love it because it is a holiday that is about friends, family, and being grateful for the good things in our lives. It is a celebration of love without any involvement of money (in the form of gifts). Don't get me wrong: I enjoy Christmas, too, and particularly enjoy the part of Christmas that involves spreading love and joy. But Thanksgiving is my favorite.

This year, I've been struggling to find the Thanksgiving spirit. Obviously, this is related to the election, but regardless of why it has gone missing, I want to find my Thanksgiving spirit. My daughters, who share my love of Thanksgiving, have drawn Thanksgiving pictures on my whiteboard and put up decorations in our living room. Pumpkin created a system for us to write what we're thankful for on cards and have it displayed for all to see.

At the same time, thinking about what would prompt us to move to New Zealand has made me more aware of what I love about our life here. We're not seriously considering moving yet, but one of the promises I made to myself was that if Trump won, I'd force myself to think about when we should leave, and that I'd insist that my husband and I discuss this. So we've started doing that, and the things on my "would make me leave" list seem so surreal, but then so do a lot of things right now. And the things that pop into my head as counterpoint, the things I'd lose if we left, seem so real. But of course, this is why I insisted we do this exercise.

So anyway, in the interests of both honoring the counterpoints screaming in my head and searching for my Thanksgiving spirit, I am going to write an incomplete list of things I'm thankful for.

My kids. Obviously. They are the best. They bring me so much joy. Petunia's hugs are a tonic for my soul. Pumpkin's complicated play schemes delight me. I have such good kids.

Let's skip the other obvious ones, not because I'm not thankful for my husband, my family, my friends, and my health, but because I don't want to bore you or nauseate you. But I don't take any of those things for granted.

And where things get interesting is in the smaller details.

I'm grateful for the hammock my family got me for my birthday this year. Just climbing into it relaxes me. And hammock naps are the best naps.

I discovered I love my backyard avocado tree. I was not a big avocado fan when we moved in, and I'm still not. But I have come to love guacamole, particularly when homemade with avocados picked from our tree. And I just love the tree. It is a big, old tree. A neighbor told us that the original owner of the house planted it from a pit in the year they moved in, which would make it more than 50 years old.

I'm grateful for our house. Now that we've done the addition, it feels like it is just the right size. There are still things I'd like to fix, but it is a good house, and I'm glad we bought it.

I'm grateful for the view from the corner of my street. I see this view whenever I walk to my kids' school. It is a view out to Mission Bay and then the ocean. It is particularly lovely in the fall, at sunset.

My Friday afternoon rollerblade by the bay is one of the best parts of my week. I am so thankful that my current work arrangement allows me the flexibility to do this. (For what it is worth, my husband does something similar with bike rides, and he has a full time job, so while being my own boss makes this easier, it is not the only way to get this flexibility. We should remember that, and work to make this flexibility available to everyone. We could do that.)

I am thankful I've been able to travel and see so much of the world. Every place I've gone has added something to my life.

I am grateful for art, and music, and books, which all bring joy and richness to my life.

I am glad I took up crocheting this year. All those people who go on and on about how nice it is to make something physical with your own hands... yeah, I see their point.

My kids have so many great friends. They have friends from day care and friends from school and friends from their extracurricular activities. They are all wonderful. It makes me happy to see my kids enjoying their friends so much.

My kids love their school. They love what they're learning, and they feel welcome and happy at school.

My kids have also found activities they really love. Petunia likes art class, Pumpkin likes playing the piano. They both love gymnastics.

I am grateful for this blog and for Twitter. Through them, I have found friends, learned from people from different backgrounds and with different areas of expertise, and found opportunities I never imagined. People like to talk about social media as a meaningless time sink, but that hasn't been my experience at all.

I could probably go on if I tried. But it is time for me to go make dinner for those awesome kids of mine. So I'll stop here. Tell me what little things you're thankful for in my comments, if you want.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Weekend Reading: Looking for Light in Dark Times Edition

I'm still oscillating between hope and despair, and I imagine I will be for quite awhile. I'm working on how to be OK in this new way of things. And, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm working through some personal emotions of what this election was like to experience as an ambitious woman.

I'm sifting through what news I need to care about and follow and what I can filter out in the interest of my own sanity. I've decided I will not read any analysis or punditry about "what went wrong." I will not read any article arguing about what strategy Democrats in Congress should take now. I don't care which groups Trump did well with or why. He did not hide what he planned to do, and as we're seeing with his first picks for his administration, he's following through on what he said his administration would be like. I'll leave it to other people to analyze why people signed up for this. I don't care.

I will stay informed about how the Trump administration is taking shape, mostly so I can know which elected officials I should be contacting to remind of their Constitutional duty, and why. I may call or fax the House Oversight committee weekly until either they provide some oversight on Trump's conflicts of interest or Trump himself acts to resolve those conflicts. As I wrote yesterday, the situation Trump has created is unprecedented and his current plan seems to be to just ignore the problems this creates. Here's another summary of the issue, if you need one. This is the one little bit of strategy in which I am indulging. I suspect that if something takes Trump down, it will be this, similar to how it was tax evasion that brought down Al Capone. Also, I fear that if we allow this situation to continue, we will corrupt our republic in a way that it will take generations to repair.

I will keep speaking out about the rise in hate speech and crimes and the appointments of unacceptably and openly bigoted people to the Trump administration. I think that people of color are going to suffer profoundly under this administration, and that is a moral blot on all of us. Hard won protections are going to be stripped away and we already know that preventing this is not a priority for the majority of white people, because Trump's campaign was not subtle on this point and they voted for him anyway. This breaks my heart more than anything else in this post-election mess.  All I know is that I cannot be a silent witness to this, so I will keep speaking out.

Beyond that, I don't know. I'm working to build my own source of light to keep next to my moral compass and my panic "flee now" button.

So anyway, some links.

If you read only one link this week, I'd say read Liel Libovitz on the lessons of his grandfather about Trump.

If you want more advice on how to approach the age of Trump, Sarah Kendzior's advice comes from a unique intersection of knowledge or authoritarianism and of Trump's base. Her advice to write a list of things you won't do rings true to me.

If you're looking for something to give you a bit of hope we'll come through OK, Heather Cox Richardson's history of the late 1800s might be what you want to read.

But then Matt Yglesias' article about the risk of systemic corruption will probably crush that hope.

Baratunde Thurston tries to explain that empathy needs to go both ways.

If you're still trying to understand that nice people can do racist things, this thread might help:

This interview with a man who has made a fortune off of fake news makes me want to scream. He has built his company off of lying to people. That is wrong, and was always wrong, even when the only effect was making people feel bad about being duped. That he recognizes he might have influenced the election to elect a President he says he hates and then says that he's going to keep publishing fake news anyway is pretty amazing. He is hurting people for money. Surely he can find a better way to pay his bills.

This essay about talking to our daughters now made me cry. I am so grateful for all the heroines I can point out to my daughters.

How about some happy news: remember Batkid? He's doing great.

One of the things I'm doing to hold on to my own source of light right now is appreciating art more. Look at the motion in this beautiful painting.

And of course, there are the bunnies:

Bunnies always bring light.

Now I'm off to rollerblade. Wishing you all a great weekend.


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