Friday, August 12, 2016

Weekend Reading: The More Than a Bit Verbose Edition

Alternative title for this post: I'm tired of talking about literal headaches, so let's talk about some figurative headaches instead! But that seemed too verbose even for a links post that is more verbose than most, so I decided against it.

I've got a couple of sets of links that I want to talk a bit about, and then the usual garden variety links... so let's just get to it.

First up, I forgot to link to Jess Zimmerman's wonderful essay Hunger Makes Me earlier. In a way, that's fortuitous, because I think that reading it in conjunction with Kristi Coulter's essay Enjoli is particularly useful. The common thread I noticed in these two essays is how much this world makes us women learn to hide our desires and even our own identities, and how much damage that does. I've written before about how unmooring I found it to realize that I'd changed myself so much to fit in to my male-dominated work environment that I didn't even really know who the real me was anymore. One of the things I've been doing since going out on my own is trying to reconnect with who I am and what I want. This has been surprisingly hard.

I'm not sure what, if anything, I'd do differently from my earlier career. I was just doing what I needed to do to build a career in my chosen field. One thing I would perhaps try to differently, though, would be to be more aware of the compromises I was making. I think those compromises were worth making, but I wish I'd noticed them more at the time. Maybe that would have helped me build a stronger core, that could have carried me through the tough times better, and left me still feeling like "me."

The more I think about it, the more I think I'd have to go back earlier, though. I'd need to go back to the little girl who first starting getting the messages that our culture sends about what is worthy of respect, what makes you smart, what makes you "cool," and all that. I can see some of those messages more clearly now, and I see my own daughters receiving them. I am starting to think that the most important, useful thing I can do for them is to teach them how to recognize their own wishes, and help them learn to be aware of when they're compromising one of those wishes. I want to help them see the obstacles they face more clearly both so that they can develop strategies for overcoming them and so that perhaps the process of overcoming them won't come with such a high cost.

Also, it would be nice to spare them some of the angst I went through.

I think that figuring out what you really want from life and who you really are is work everyone has to do. But I also think that our culture teaches girls from a very early age that these aren't even questions they have a right to ask themselves, and that this makes it harder for women to eventually find their answers. THAT is what I want to help my girls avoid. I don't know how to go about doing that, but I'm going to try.

OK, moving on....

Next, we have politics. This Brian Beutler piece about the structural issues the GOP would be facing in this election, regardless of who they had nominated, is a good.

But my Twitter feed was mostly full of people talking about this story from the Washington Post about what a new poll says about Trump voters.

Ross Douthat makes a good case for why this doesn't mean that there is economic uncertainty involved in the rise of Trump. Start with this tweet and read his whole thread:

BUT... he doesn't address why not all working class white people feeling this uncertainty are going for Trump. Even the relative he mentions is probably voting Democrat.

And here is a thread from Matt Yglesias expressing the counterpoint:

I don't think we should ignore the economic stress a lot of Trump voters are experiencing. But I also don't think that gives them a pass for the ugly, racist way in which they are expressing that stress, or at least are comfortable with other people expressing it.

To argue that the Trump phenomenon is solely down to economics is to do a huge disservice to the many economically stressed people who have looked at the hatred and racism Trump is spewing and decided that is NOT the answer.

It feels like this election is setting us up to finally reckon with the fall out from the Civil Rights era. The Republican's "Southern strategy" has been faltering for awhile, but Republicans continued to subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) use race-based scaremongering to get the votes they needed to win. Trump has gone all in on this approach. As Josh Marshall points out, "mainstream" Republicans' unwillingness to distance themselves from him indicates that at a minimum, they believe that maintaining the support of these racially motivated voters is essential to win.

If this is true, then I'm afraid we're about to start having a lot of elections about white nationalism, and I'm afraid it is going to get even uglier than it already has.

This country does not have a good track record of being able to make progress on racial equality peacefully.  Whether or not we break that bad record is going to be determined by what all of us do next. Do the Republicans finally learn that they need to build a different sort of coalition if they want to win? Or do the double down on the racial scaremongering? And how do the rest of us respond?

I've tried several times to express my thoughts on what the rest of us can do, and I don't think I have succeeded. Luckily for me, Anand Giridharadas put together a series of tweets that captures a lot of what I have been trying to say.

In the end, it doesn't matter how much I think that our current mess is the result of a narrow-minded, short-sighted political strategy used by the Republicans after the Civil Rights Act. I could be right, I could be wrong. Either way, I've got to live with what is happening now. This country isn't some trinket in a shop with a "you break it, you bought it" sign. It doesn't matter who broke it, we all own it now.

Sometimes, being an adult is cleaning up a mess you didn't make. I think we all benefit from cleaning up this mess. I'll be a lot happier if the Republican party decides to help clean up this mess. Hell, I'd be happy if they'd just stop making more of the damn mess. But I'm not going to sit here and stew in the mess just to prove a point. There is too much to lose from letting this fester, and too much to gain from cleaning it up. So I say, let's all get to work.

I think Giridharadas is right that those of us who are happy with the diversity in our country need to try to help the people made anxious by it see that there will be a place for them in the more diverse America. I think that white people who are happy with the diversity in our country in particular need to work on this. We take on less risk in doing so, and we've benefited from the privilege whose decline is making our fellow white people anxious.

How do we go about showing the anxious people that they'll be OK in future America? I don't really know. It probably starts by not referring derisively to "flyover country" and not sneering at "red states." It would help to visit some of those states and try to really understand how life there differs from life in our coastal cities. Here's one small example: I have exactly zero desire to own a gun living where I live now, but when we drove across southern Colorado on our vacation two years ago, I found myself thinking that I'd want a gun if I lived out there. It is empty, empty country, and that sort of country forces a certain self-reliance on you.

We could question why the "good jobs" have to cluster so fiercely. Why can't companies whose product is a bunch of code open some offices in places outside of the usual locales? Why can't venture capital fund a software start up in West Virginia? The honest answers to those questions would not reflect well on us.

I certainly don't have the answers. But I want to try to find them. I want to try to bring more white people over to my way of viewing our future.

OK, so that's the verbose part. Here are the garden variety links:

Another judge worried more about the effect of punishment on a rapist than the effect of the rape on the victim, and another powerful victim statement.

Palo Alto has an affordable housing problem. And here's some more analysis of it, which is relevant to all of us who live in expensive places.

Here's some really good news about peanut allergies in children.

Programs that provide cash to people facing imminent homelessness are very effective.

I meant to link to this NYT piece about the history of home pregnancy tests last week, but forgot because: MIGRAINE. (h/t to Bad Mom Good Mom for that one)

Reminder! I'm running a GoodReads giveaway for The Lilies of Dawn and it ends TODAY.

And here's your funny thing at the end (click through and read the full thread and don't miss the pictures):

Happy weekend, everyone!


  1. Re: to the "fussing" white assholes who are pro-Trump. Yeah, no, F*** them. Empathy is wasted on racists and misogynists. If empathy was enough, they would already not be dangerous violent jerks. I don't know if they're all sociopaths or what, but massaging their feefees has been tried and it does not work.

    And as someone from flyover country who goes back a couple times a year, they don't care if you call it flyover country. They don't care what "cosmo" people think about them. People in cities do not matter. Cities are far away.

    As someone who lives in a red state, nobody cares if you call it a red state. All the Trump voters care about is that they don't have to admit to themselves that the reason they aren't amazing is because some black or Hispanic person or Muslim or woman stole what they deserved. Also for some reason they're terrified of homosexuals. I don't know why.

    Irresponsible people have guns because it makes them feel macho. In their monster trucks.

    They are bad people, the Trump supporters. There are plenty of good people in red states, conservative or republican. Plenty of responsible gun owners. But they're not voting for Trump. Romney, McCain (or not with Palin), Bush, Dole, Bush, Regan, but not Trump.

    As for clustering-- the jobs go where the educated workers are. And there are plenty of high skill clusters in red states in the cities. But the teachers aren't unionized so salaries are low and the state legislatures have their hands on curricula so they use TX textbooks that are full of halftruths and untruths. State colleges out here are like high schools in the midwest. Memorization and rote learning are the mode. Graduate school is like college in the midwest-- kids learn about shades of grey and asking questions for the first time. Where do you think R&D is going to be more likely to start up? Maybe places where creative thinking isn't stifled. And still, there are plenty of good jobs and industrial centers in red states (even if they hire a lot of northern transplants to work in them).

    Re: software clustering. Most knowledge/skill industries cluster and have always clustered. There are good economics reasons for that, mostly dealing with labor markets. So jewelry is produced in one place, cloth, steel, software and so on in another. Hysteresis tends to keep them in the same place decades and even centuries later.

    WV has a long and complicated history, tied up with coal on one hand and Robert C. Byrd on the other. It's an open question as to why WV is so screwed up but it is special.

    Also I was not impressed with that letter from the Palo Alto person. You don't have to spend 2 million dollars to get a house that you can raise kids with in that area. Houses aren't cheap, but you don't need a 2 million dollar house. You don't even need to live in Palo Alto. Affordable housing is a problem out there, but the 2 million dollar house is a strawman they didn't need to bring up. Get a 2br in one of the nearby suburbs with decent schools if you want to raise kids or keep renting if you're in that situation. Affordable housing is a real problem out there for the working class who are getting priced out of apartments, not the "sharing a 2 million dollar house with another couple" class. (As if moving to Santa Clara is a huge hardship. Tiny violin!)

    Boy am I grumpy. Also cynical.

    1. At the same time, I live in L.A., and I know that we could not afford our small house and its small lot in Santa Clara or San Jose. I'm looking at right now, and a condo with comparable square footage costs nearly twice as much as our house. If we lose a bedroom (in addition to the small yard and the garage), we could find something that cost only one and a half times as much.

      To live in those communities, we would have to have made a lot of different life choices about what we do for a living and how we want to spend our time. We'd have to be different people to get those different salaries to afford that even smaller life.

      But the schools are a little better, so there's that.

    2. I can't afford to buy a house in Silicon Valley either, but that's mainly because I don't have a job in Silicon Valley that allows me to afford half the rent on a 2 million dollar house. If I did, then I could save up to eventually buy a small place in mountain view. Or just rent a smaller place. Immediate home ownership isn't a right and there are a lot of tradeoffs to living in that area. Whether or not it is a smaller live is arguable. There are tradeoffs. More people are willing to make those tradeoffs whic is why it is so expensive to live out there.

      Yes, that area should allow more higher apartment buildings if they can do it in a way that doesn't result in infinite congestion on the roads, but they can't magically create more 4+bedroom houses or smaller places next to downtown or Stanford. What that woman wants is an entitled impossiblity.

    3. Regarding the Palo Alto Letter, the woman is moving to Santa Cruz, not Santa Clara. Santa Cruz is a 45 minute drive from Palo Alto in the absence of traffic, but there is always traffic in the Bay Area, especially during rush hour.

      She and her husband are making a rational and completely legal choice given their utility curves and budget constraints, and I agree with you that they don't particularly deserve our sympathy. But their choice has conseqeunces for others, not just for them. There is no good public transit from Santa Cruz to Palo Alto. If her husband drives to his job at Palantir, he will be contributing to traffic, parking, and climate change problems. So their choice hurts the rest of us, including me. THis is already true for thousands of lower-income workers commuting by 3 hour drives from remote areas like Tracy. Yes, they can probably buy more house, but I bet some of those people would live closer to the bay area if there was more housing here. The reason that more housing isn't being built in desirable parts of the bay area is because powerful community groups lobby against it, in the interest of preserving "quality of life" and "neightborhood character" and also their property value.

      I'm glad the letter has gathered as much attention as it has, and I don't think eye-rolling is productive here as it just legitimizes the resistance to change exemplified by (some) incumbent homeowners. I will say that I do empathize with the eye-rolling-- I also don't think are entitled to single-family house, and need to make choices given the reality. But I also think that the cities who play a role in shaping this reality need to think about what kinds of choices they're giving people and what the consequences are going to be. The citizens of Palo Alto are, I'm sure, asking themselves what kind of society they want to be, and it looks think the answer is a very very very expensive one that imports all of its workers. Which is sad (for me, even though I can afford to live there if I want to), because it doesn't have to be this way. It could be so so so much better.

      It's true that they can't magically create lots of units right on University Avenue overnight, but Palo Alto could do things like raise height limits and have more permissive zoning to allow more high density housing to be built near transit. There are plenty of parking lots that could get converted to parking garages+housing if the zoning laws were different. And there is *tons* of empty, inefficiently used space on El Camino. This is a solvable problem. There's space, there's money, there are things like buses that can be run on existing streets. But none of that is going to change if Palo Alto as a community fails to recognize that thire is a problem that's worth solving.

    4. You're basically repeating my last paragraph back to me. The woman in that letter doesn't *want* to live an an apartment. She wants a 2 million dollar house. In Palo Alto. I can't think of many people who wouldn't want that if given the opportunity. Instead they end up in Mountain View or Sunnyvale or one of the northern suburbs in the same commuting zone.

      Why not being able to afford a single family 3+br/great location house in Palo Alto means she needs to move to Santa Cruz makes no sense to me.

      It's a distraction that ignores real problems of people who can't afford the apartment they're living in in, say, East Palo Alto or Oakland. Or who live in EPA and want better schools for their kids. Attention to this letter is unlikely to help either of those concerns.

    5. The woman (Kate Downing) has been advocating for precisely the kind of changes you and I agree are needed for years. Why did the letter piss you off so much? I don't really see how her letter distracts from these other bigger problems. In my experience of the Internet last week, it got people that were previously oblivious to pay attention at all.

    6. I didn't say it pissed me off. I said it didn't impress me. For the reasons I said it didn't impress me.

      Having my words repeated to me as if I hadn't said them... that pissed me off a little bit. And being told that my "eye-rolling" is "unproductive"-- also, pretty obnoxious.

      Being asked why the letter pissed me off when I was not in fact, pissed off by it, well, that is also pretty obnoxious.

      I don't know if you're male or not, but you sure are good at mansplaining.

    7. I'm sorry for mansplaining and being obnoxious. I'll try to do better next time I comment on the blogosphere.

      I write what I wrote because, as far as I can tell from both talking to people, reading local news/fora, and trying to understand the history of the region, 1) NIMBY-ism is playing a huge role in limiting infill housing construction in the Bay Area and 2) collective "eye-rolling" at "entitled techie millenials" often accompanies this NIMBY-ism and in some ways legitimizes it.

      Sounds like your assessment of the situation is different than mine.

    8. I'm sorry for mansplaining. I didn't realize that's what I was doing and 1I'll try to do better next time.

      I wrote what I wrote because from my perspective 1) NIMBY-ism in Palo Alto and other wealthy cities in the bay area is a huge factor in preventing the area from being affordable and 2) collective eye-rolling at "entitled millenials" by incumbent homeowners all over the bay area, and especially Palo Alto, seems to serve a way to derail the conversation from "we have a real affordability problem that is having bad consequences" to "we don't need to do anything, there's no real problem, these tech employees are just entitled."

      Sounds like your assessment of the situation is completely different from mine.

  2. Oh, wow, that Jess Zimmerman post. Several years before Mr. Sandwich, I dated a guy who told me that all the things I wanted were wrong, and that I didn't know that because I hadn't dated much. I didn't think that was right (not the part about not dating much, that was true), because what I wanted was a relationship in which each of us treated the other like a person who mattered, but still I worked So Hard at not taking up space in his life.

    And then it became clear that I didn't matter, that I was taking up too much space. So I left. And eventually (still not dating much), Mr. Sandwich and I found each other and recognized that we wanted the same things, and each other.

    I can't believe I stayed with that guy for nearly a year. Maybe I wouldn't have if I'd dated more.

  3. Sorry I haven't been participating in the discussion! We drove over to our neighboring red state to drop my kids with my parents for a week. And then we've been enjoying our short term kid-free status.

    I should clarify a couple of things:

    (1) I don't think the Republicans living in red states care if we call them red states, although I do have some more liberal friends there who get tired of having their efforts to improve things in their state dismissed by coastal liberals. But that's another story. What I wanted to say and didn't make clear is that those of us in "blue states" should stop dismissing the other states without trying to understand what the people in those states really want. I think there are a fair number of Trump supporters who we'll never convince, but that there are probably some whose fears can be addressed and who can move towards accepting our diverse society, even if they won't ever really embrace it. That's what I think we need to work for.

    Also, I think that if we can try to understand and address legitimate concerns, we have a better chance of calling a spade a spade with the next white nationalist candidate, who will probably be a much better politician than Trump is.

    However, on reflection, it wasn't correct of me to imply that us coastal liberals need to go visit some "flyover states" to understand these concerns. I think we shold visit the interior states because they're beautiful and it is worth trying to visit and understand all parts of our country. But we can find Trump supporters at home. I see cars with Trump stickers when I drive around town. And as the murder in New York this weekend shows, there is intolerance and hatred everywhere, too.

    I know it is a long shot that we'll be able to change many minds, but I think we have to try. Or maybe we have to try to try to keep the hatred from taking root in the next generation. I don't know.

    (2) On the housing issue: I have zero direct knowledge of what's going on in the Bay Area. The post and discussion resonated with me because I watched a proposal to put new condos/apartments in my neighborhood, as part of trolley line expansion, get shouted down by home owners worried about "changing the character of the neighborhood." Meanwhile, plenty of them have expanded their houses and that plus the rising cost of property here have already "changed the character of the neighborhood," but in a way they're OK with, I guess. To be honest, a lot of the scaremongering about the proposal sounded like a polite veneer over a desire not to have lower income people move into our neighborhood. Which for many is probably yet another veneer over a desire not to have people of color move in.

    We're a central neighborhood, close to some major job clusters, with good freeway and transit access. We should try to increase density a bit. Instead, we're content to push people further and further out of town, and then we wonder why there is a yellow smudge of air pollution out over the ocean so many days.

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful discussion, everyone!

    1. With Palo Alto, it isn't a NIMBY thing going on. Who is going to move into Palo Alto if there's more housing? People connected to Stanford, people who work in the Tech business (particularly couples with one partner in Redwood City and one on Sunnyvale), google employees, etc. They already have lots of public transportation and terrible traffic. There's some real city planning problems in the area.

      And gentrification is starting to make Oakland unaffordable (and, according to some friends who live out there, Mountain View, which is becoming more like Palo Alto). The same thing would happen to East Palo Alto if people like the woman in the letter weren't racist/scared/entitled/etc. (or if East Palo Alto had public transportation that wasn't the bus.)

  4. Anand Giridharadas is making some good points. It put things in perspective for me. I started to write a comment here that was getting too long so I shifted it to my blog. Thanks Cloud for drawing this person to my attention. I am better able to understand my experiences through his views.


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