Friday, June 17, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Silly Season Edition

Another week with no post between the weekend reading posts! I hate that. My excuse this week is that it is the last full week of school for my kids. I call this silly season, because school-related things crop up unexpectedly in addition to the multiple scheduled events.

So, I am lucky if I keep on top of my work and blogging time is basically nil.

However, I do have a few links for you:

This piece by Alex Massie about the assassination of Jo Cox in Britain is one I think we should read and consider here in the US, too. We tend to frame our political agruments in very dramatic terms. As Massie says (and I think is so important I'm going to bold it):

"When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word."

I see this extreme rhetoric more from the right than the left here in the US, but it is not entirely absent on the left. It is wrong wherever it happens, even if (perhaps especially if) you agree with the cause being argued.

I also wonder if our tendency to ratchet up the rhetoric has made it harder for people to take the danger of Donald Trump as seriously as we should. Here is a case where comparisons to the rise of fascism in other countries are warranted, as historians, political scientists, and people who lived through the Holocaust have attested. And yet, so many people brush them off. Is it a "boy who cried wolf" problem? Did the ratcheted up rhetoric about George W. Bush and Barack Obama make it easier for portions of the population to ignore the warnings about Trump? I don't know. But I hope we can ratchet things down.

Donald Trump revoked the Washington Post's press credentials. So Alexandra Petri wrote a style guide for covering Trump.

Here's the story that apparently annoyed Trump so much. Let's make sure everyone reads it!

Speaking of ratcheting down, Bernie Sanders has not conceded, but he is no longer attacking Hillary Clinton and has said he looks forward to working with her to stop Trump. So that's something. But he's still annoying a lot of top Democrats, and this piece from Matt Yglesias explains why.

I don't think Sanders cares what top Democrats think of him. He is not, afterall, really a Democrat. He's an interesting man, and I am curious to see if his campaign has any lasting impact on politics in this country. I've seen arguments both ways, and I certainly don't have any special insight. There are aspects I hope persist (some of his ideas to make our social safety net stronger, for instance) and some aspects I hope we never see again (the aggressive behavior of some of his supporters, for instance). I think if he and/or his supporters want to change the Democratic party, though, they're more likely to do it from the inside than by yelling from the outside.

What happens when a rabbi walks into a gay bar? That's not the start of a joke... it was something better.

This poem by Maggie Smith really spoke to me this week.

Billionaires and the threat to our free press, from the editors of Mother Jones.

Speaking of Mother Jones, they had a deep dive into gun companies that I am hoping to read this weekend.

Speaking of guns, this piece from Jamelle Bouie expresses how I've come to think about the gun debate better than I can. Here's a particularly important quote:

" It took 30 years for a fringe right-wing vision of the Second Amendment—an individual right to bear arms—to become the dominant one, adopted by all sides and ratified by the Supreme Court. It will likely take just as long to reverse that status quo. The past few years of shootings and massacres have galvanized more and more Americans to take action and try to out-organize the gun-rights movement. If those efforts succeed, then this period, which feels like a nadir, doesn't have to be one."

If we want to change this, we have to be willing to keep up our efforts for the long haul. I was thrilled to see Chris Murphy's filibuster, and the outpouring of support for it. But it was only a start. An important start, but just a start. I see momentum growing, but we have to be ready for this effort to take a long time.

OK, now we need some fun to end on:

Apparently, New Zealand had an avocado shortage this year, and this has led to an avocado crime wave of sorts. Our own crop from our backyard tree is pretty much done now, but it is still funny to think about an avocado shortage when just a month ago we were giving avocados away to pretty much anyone who would take them.

Here's some cool research from Cambodia, showing the existence of large urban centers in the 12th century.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great weekend!

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