Friday, June 22, 2018

Weekend Reading: Teetering on the Brink Edition

I underslept last night. This has been happening a lot: I wake up before 6 and can't go back to sleep so I end up getting up and starting my day, but I'm terribly tired. I don't know what's going on here. I'm trying to get to bed earlier to accommodate this, but that cuts into the time I have to hang out with Mr. Snarky. It is frustrating.

Anyway, I'm a little fuzzy-headed, but let's get to the links.

There was a lot of news about immigration policy this week. I am still struggling to keep up without drowning in despair, but I do have some links for you.

Zack Beauchamp's article at Vox about what the "turnaround" in Trump policy means gets at something that is really scary about this situation and about our situation in the US right now in general: A large number of people were OK with the policy of separating children from their families and detaining them in cages or in tents. He also points out that because this policy didn't last long (although I'm not sure it is really gone... more on that in a bit), opinions didn't have time to solidify around partisan lines. So depressingly, it is likely to get worse.

I can't argue with this quote, and that chills me:

"It’s simply a fact that Trump’s racial politics are popular with millions of white Americans; even a policy as vicious as the family separations attracted significant amounts of support. It’s also a demonstrable fact that the strength of GOP partisanship means that, in theory, Republican presidents should be able to attract the support of the party base and, as a result, its political establishment. Those two facts mean that Trump will pretty much always be able to get them to back his attacks on members of minority groups, given time and effort."

Here's another article about partisan identity and how it divides us right now, from Scientific American.

I still have friends who are conservative. I'm not sure if they still identify as Republican: I haven't asked. I value these friendships and maintain them because I like my friends and our policy differences are mostly around tax policy and government regulations. These things matter, but they are at the level of "reasonable people can disagree" in my book.

I am also friends with people who want many fewer immigrants to come to the US and want to change to a system that makes it harder for immigrants to sponsor other family members. I don't agree with those views, but this is also a case where I think reasonable people can disagree.

But I cannot be friends with someone who thinks some of my other friends should be deported because they are Muslim. I cannot be friends with someone who is OK with our immigration policy being implemented in a way that dehumanizes immigrants. Stricter laws could still be implemented in a way that respects the humanity of the people attempting to come here.

And I have to be honest: I am not particularly interested in being friends with people who call people with my political views "libtards." I am not generally friends with people who don't treat me with respect.

OK, back to the immigration issues:

I don't consider the family separation policy over because the children are not reunited with their parents, and it looks like no one had any plan for how to do that. I find that horrifying.

It also looks like the plan is to detain the kids with their families and then use the fact that this is illegal after 20 days to justify separating them again.

I hope continued outcry will make the administration rethink that plan, especially since there are alternatives to detention that have been shown to be effective and much, much cheaper. Given this reality, I struggle to find a rationale for detaining these families during their asylum proceedings other than to deter people from exercising their legal right to request asylum... which is a rationale administration officials have actually admitted to.

This made me lolsob a bit, particularly because a lot of people keep forgetting that Democrats have repeatedly tried to make deals on immigration only to have them fall apart due to Republican hardliners.

And here is my "if you read only one thing" pick for this week. Please read this thread:

We are in a very dangerous place as a country right now. Things are happening that could well turn out to be the initial steps to something very, very bad. This thread is a message from Germans of the 1930s, but present day Germans (who, unlike Americans, learn the full truth about the worst of their history in school) have also been trying to warn us. I hope enough of us listen to allow us to change course. 

I have said many times that I think the 2018 elections are the most important of my life. I am pushing myself to do more to fight for the outcome I think we need to remain a democracy on the path to living up to our ideals. I truly think we have this election and maybe the 2020 election to choose that outcome. If we don't swing at least the house in 2018 and we re-elect Trump in 2020, I think we are leaving the fate of our democracy in the hands of a man who looks up to dictators and the people who have deluded themselves into thinking they can use him to achieve their aims and do not realize that it will actually be the other way around. I do not have high hopes for that situation ending well. So: Let's fight now to avoid the darkest timeline.

Here's a political ad that made me donate to someone in a district that is solidly red. I am directing most of my donations to swing districts, but I want to help the candidates fighting the good fight in the more difficult districts, too.


In other news:

I found this Slate article speculating about why Elena Kagan is siding with conservative justices more frequently now to be really interesting, and persuasive. I think this is Kagan's way of fighting to prevent the darkest timeline.

Leaving politics altogether: Here is a good right up from Derek Lowe of a really interesting finding in Alzheimer's research.

Derek Lowe also wrote a good post about the risks of right to try.

Jia Tolentino will make you want to see Coco if you haven't already.

This is cool:

And this made me smile:

Floofy bunny!

Monday, June 18, 2018

What I Am Doing Now

In my Weekend Reading post, I mentioned that I was pulling back from reading all the stories about the humanitarian crisis our government has created on our southern border because I found it made me despondent, and that made it harder for me to fight for change. I got an email from a reader asking me what I was doing to fight for change right now. I used to post my weekly actions to Twitter every Wednesday morning, but since going back to a regular full time job, I haven't been doing that. I have been trying to take action, though.

First of all, I haven't stated why I am so upset by this. I am horrified by this policy, and the administration statements indicating they are using this policy as a bargaining chip to get a wall or stop the diversity lottery in our immigration system are just disgusting. Their statements indicating they hope this will be a deterrent are also disgusting. What we are doing to those children is cruel and inhumane. Whatever you think of their parents' decision to seek asylum, inflicting suffering on children is abhorrent. That they are doing this in my name makes me ashamed.

Beyond the immediate crisis, though, I worry about the path we are on. We have ICE agents who are willing to rip a breastfeeding baby away from his or her mother. We have agents who can make jokes about the sound of crying children who are distraught about being separated from their families. Frankly, I am not sure what these agents will not do at this point. I do not say that lightly. It is terrifying to think about where this path could go, particularly since ICE agents have authority within 100 miles of the border. I live within 100 miles of the border. So do two-thirds of all Americans.

So what am I doing?

I have contacted my Senators and my Representative. All have already spoken out against the policy. Dianne Feinstein has authored legislation to stop it, and Kamala Harris was an early co-sponsor. But I contacted them anyway to add my voice in support of their position.

Next, we will be donating to one of the organizations listed here. I want to donate more than my personal "blow on whatever I want" fund supports, so I need to sit down with my husband and decide who we'll donate to and how much. We'll do that this week.

More generally, I am fighting to make Republicans lose wherever I can. That is much more starkly partisan than I usually am, but I think it is warranted right now. Even 3 of the 4 the Never Trump conservatives interviewed in that article I posted on Friday are hoping that the Democrats will take at least the House. I think it is clear that the Republicans aren't going to provide any check on Trump. If they do, they will be primaried (evidence: Mark Sanford's loss in South Carolina).

I also think it is clear that the Republican party has been captured by its more racist wing. Steve King retweeted an open Nazi sympathizer and not one Republican politician calls him on it. Corey Stewart has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Virginia.

And of course, there is the influence of Stephen Miller on immigration policy.

I think the least painful way we break this fever is to make the Republicans start losing for their support of the policies and their embrace of these people. If we fail to do that, I am genuinely fearful about what it will take to turn things around. So I am focusing my efforts to turn things around at the ballot box.

I continue to write for Postcards to Voters.

I have also decided that every paycheck between now and November, I will pick three congressional races to donate to. I started this week. I looked at the Cook Political Report on competitive races, and this week I decided to donate to Josh Harder (CA-10) and Amy McGrath (KY-6). Both races are listed as toss ups. I also sent money to Beto O'Rourke. He is a bit of a long shot, but he's been very outspoken on the policy to separate children from their families at the border, and gosh, I'd love to see Ted Cruz lose.

My husband and I may also send some more money to Let America Vote, Vote Riders, Mi Familia Vota, or some other organization working to expand and protect voting rights.

So that's what I'm doing to fight back right now. Tell us what you're doing in the comments if you'd like!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Weekend Reading: School's Out Edition

Wednesday was the last day of school here, and so the first half of the week was full of the usual end of school year events. This year we had some extra events, because Pumpkin finished 5th grade, which is the end of elementary school here. There was a promotion party at Mission Bay on Sunday, and some extra things for her at school. Petunia's class, meanwhile, decided to have a "last day of school breakfast." Petunia asked if I could send scones, and scones are easy so I said yes. But then she asked could I make them Wednesday morning so they'd be hot... and I laughed at myself for being such a sucker, but I said yes again.

So anyway, it has been a busy week, which always shortens my links list. And the news has just been soul-crushing this week. The news about the separation of children from their parents at our border is excruciating to follow. I have been following, but not in detail, because I find that when I allow myself to get too sucked in to these distressing news cycles, I lose my motivation to keep working for change. So, I took a step back so that I could keep working to move us past this period. That means I won't be sharing stories on this topic this week.

Here are the links I do have:

I continue to follow voting rights issues, and the Supreme Court's decision to allow Ohio's voter purge law to stand is disappointing. Here is a discussion of Justice Sotomayor's dissent, and how it may show the path to getting rid of these laws, which have been shown to disproportionately disenfranchise poorer voters and voters of color.

This is an interesting round table with four Never-Trump conservatives.

Sarah Rich on her son who likes to wear dresses and the limits we impose on boys.

David Roberts wrote an explainer about carbon dioxide capture technology and what it does and does not mean for climate change.



That's all I have this week. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, June 08, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Edition I Don't Have a Name For

The weather here was gorgeous today. It was the first time in awhile that I've been able to go rollerblading in shorts, and it felt great to be out by the bay with the warm sun and the cool breeze.

I'm trying to notice these small happy things a bit more, as an antidote to the large unhappy things going on in the news. It isn't that I want to ignore the news, it is that I need to hold on to the happy things to give me the fortitude to keep facing the news and trying to do my bit to make things better.

The "notice the happy things" message came at me from two directions this week: Once from Laura Vanderkam's new book, Off the Clock (which I've finished and enjoyed and will be writing about over at my real name blog soonish) and once from the episode of Ana Marie Cox's podcast With Friends Like These in which she interviewed Diana Butler Bass.

So anyway, it was a particularly nice rollerblade today, and I made a point of noticing that.

On to the links!

In semi-self-promotional news: The ebook edition of Tattoo, Michelle Rene's novella about a future in which our pasts are written on our skin, was on sale for $0.99 this week. The price will go back to normal tomorrow, so if you act quickly you can still get a discounted copy.

In other news:

There were two stories this week about how we're missing the forest for the trees in the Trump-Russia affair. First David Corn wrote about how Trump's simple, repetitive lies are setting the narrative and making people overlook what is obvious:

"In 2016, Vladimir Putin’s regime mounted information warfare against the United States, in part to help Trump become president. While this attack was underway, the Trump crew tried to collude covertly with Moscow, sought to set up a secret communications channel with Putin’s office, and repeatedly denied in public that this assault was happening, providing cover to the Russian operation. Trump and his lieutenants aligned themselves with and assisted a foreign adversary, as it was attacking the United States. The evidence is rock-solid: They committed a profound act of betrayal. That is the scandal. "

Second, Josh Marshall wrote about how we obviously have a problem with a President who is advancing Russia's interests, and how it doesn't really matter at this point if we can prove there was a quid pro quo that led to it:

"We have a President who clearly got a great deal of assistance from Russia in getting elected. We can argue about how important it was to his victory. But the reality of the help is not in any real dispute. His campaign at a minimum had numerous highly suspicious contacts with people either in the Russian government or acting on behalf of the Russian government while that was happening. That is a very generous interpretation. He’s doing all the stuff he’d have been asked to do if such a corrupt bargain had been made. At a certain point – and I’d say we’re clearly at or past that point – it really doesn’t matter whether we can prove such a bargain was made."

The news this morning about Anthony Bourdain was so sad. If anyone reading this is struggling right now, please reach out for help and please know that we want you to stay here with us. You matter.

There are a lot of people writing about Bourdain today. This short piece by Joshua Keating was one that really resonated with me, probably because it is about the travel aspect of his work (I'm not much of a foodie).

I would also like to post a link to an old post I wrote about a time when I failed at keeping my asthma under control, because every time I share it I hear that it helps people understand how chronic illnesses can get out of control.

The story about a DREAMer from Iowa who was sent back to Mexico and killed by gangs within weeks is heart-breaking. There are so many heart-breaking immigration stories right now. I have to look away from a lot of them, because they overwhelm me.

Jamelle Bouie got into a rather surprising Twitter argument about the Enlightenment and racism, and that turned into a really good essay.

In recommended listening: The With Friends Like These episode I mentioned above was good. I would also really recommend Ezra Klein's interview with Mehrsa Baradaran about the racial wealth gap.

Here's something happy:

And here's something LOLSOBy:

And here's some bunnies:

That's all I have this week. Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, June 04, 2018

Thoughts after a Peer Mentoring Meeting

I am member of a peer mentoring group that meets on the first Monday of every month. I highly recommend finding or building a peer mentoring group if you can - I get great ideas and support from my group. I came home today with several new ideas for where I might take my career and a lot more enthusiasm and optimism about said career than I had when I headed to the meeting.

It isn't that my career is going badly... it is more that I feel like I've lost the plot of my career. For years, the goals I was aiming for were obvious. But right now, they aren't. I am unsure what I really want to aim for. That's OK: I have a good job at a good company, working with people I like. I don't necessarily see much scope for advancement at this particular company, but that may not actually be a problem. As one of my peer mentors pointed out today, there are other things I could do to get growth.

The question I have to answer is: growth toward what? That is less obvious to me right now. Strangely, I think I am OK with that, too. I don't have an urgent need to change anything. I might take a little time to think about what my long term goals should be, pick some of the more low key growth ideas my peer group came up with, coast along for a bit without any urgency on them, and see which things sprout.

One option is to decide I don't need to grow further in my main career at all and focus more on growing my publishing business. I've been running it for four years. I said I'd evaluate at five years and see if it was a good investment of time and money. Right now it loses a little money each year but gives me a lot of enjoyment. Could I turn it into something self-sustaining? I am actually surprisingly close, although "self-sustaining" is a long, long way from "paying me enough to make it my main job."

Another option is to work to grow more of an online presence under my actual name, and maybe use that some time down the road to try out the independent path again. Maybe with some more time and thought, I can come up with a business that I would enjoy running and that would be financially sustainable.

Another option is to find a relevant association or society to get more active in, and use that to grow more skills and expand my network, which I could eventually translate into either my own business or a different sort of job in my main career.

And of course, maybe my current company will grow and there will be a growth opportunity there. I could try to think about what skills would set me up to take advantage of future growth at my company and work on those.

The peer group had some other ideas, too, so I have a lot to think about! It is strange to realize I'm maybe half-way through my working life (I think I have roughly 20 years to retirement, and I'm 19 years post-PhD) and still don't really know where I'm going. It is stranger still to be OK with that!

Friday, June 01, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Back in the Link Business Edition

We decided to get our Prius fixed. We hope to get a couple more years out of it and decided that the repair was worth it to get those years. We'll see how it goes. The Prius is with the mechanic now and I'm driving a rental car.

I've mostly caught up on what I meant to do last Friday. Hooray! But I've been pretty busy with both that and with my actual job, so haven't had a chance to write much. Boo!

Still, I have some links, so lets get to them:

This article from a former 911 dispatcher about racist 911 calls is depressing. But go read it anyway.

Sady Doyle on the ERA and what it might mean if we get it ratified.

And this article by Jess McIntosh about a bad evening and the continual redefining of our stories about our experiences as we gain more insight is really, really good.

My pick for the one article to read if you only have time for one: This article with the stories of refugees and deportees in Tijuana, and the people trying to help them.

Greg Sargent on what Republicans in Congress are helping to cover up.

This made me smile:

But bunnies are better!

Happy weekend, everyone!