Friday, February 28, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Don't Panic Edition

I had a delightful rollerblade today. Beautiful weather, not many people out... just wonderful.

I've been thinking a lot about what I can expect myself to do to help fix things in the world, and what I can give myself a pass on. I may write a full post about this soon. First, I want to think some more about what it would mean to really give myself a pass on some things.

Anyway, let's get to the links.

In politics:

This David Roberts essay about the crisis of trust in America right now is really good, and the bit at the end clearly articulates my biggest worry about Bernie Sanders as a nominee (and then President): That he's promising big change with no realistic plan for achieving it. (Sorry, I don't think there's going to be a groundswell of protests to propel his agenda forward and even if there is, I don't think it would move Republican Senators.)

But this is not something I can fix and no one really knows what will happen in the primary, the general election, or after the election... so I'm telling myself to wait and see.

If you're freaking out about Sanders as a potential nominee... this Robert Reich essay may help.

My main insight from my beach walk on Wednesday was that there is no need to panic about any of the possible outcomes. We don't know what will happen, and so I shouldn't borrow trouble. I should work for my preferred outcome, make some sensible hedges against less desirable outcomes, and remember that freaking out is counterproductive.

In coronavirus news:

Zeynep Tufecki's post about how to prepare for when the outbreak reaches your area is really good.

The latest reports indicate we're starting to see community transmission in Northern California. We'll see it other places, too. Now is the time to make sensible preparations. Practice washing your hands more and better (and get your kids to do it, too). Work on breaking your habit of touching your face (this will be hard but I did something similar when we took our big Circle Pacific trip and it gets easier with practice, so start practicing now!) and try not freak out.

Remember that a lot of the advice is about trying to "flatten the curve" - space out infections a bit more so that hospitals will have the bandwidth to give all of the serious cases the attention they need.

Also, if you have the means, maybe start thinking about how we'll cushion the economic blow this situation is going to have on so many people, both the people without adequate insurance who get sick and the people without the ability to work from home who lose income.

Here's another post with sensible preparation advice, from an infectious disease researcher in Australia.

Here's a first hand account of having coronavirus from someone from the cruise ship. It sounds like has a pretty mild case.

This is funny:

This is amazing:

Here's your weekly bunny!

That's all I have this week. There was a weird moment at this week's debate where the candidates were asked what their motto was. I thought mine would be borrowed from Voltaire: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." But maybe this week, I should borrow from Douglas Adams instead and make it "DON'T PANIC."

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

My Foray into Campaign Volunteering

One of the great benefits of my current job is that it is really flexible. I didn't have any meetings today, so I was able to shift my schedule and get out for a walk on the beach in the afternoon. We're having a few days of warm weather and the beach was glorious today. I can always feel the knot in my right shoulder start to relax when I start walking on the beach. I often wonder how far I'd have to walk to have that knot come all the way undone. I did not find out today, but it was still a nice walk.

I've been feeling pretty stressed about the election lately. It is partially due to the primary, but honestly I've talked myself around to being OK with whatever the outcome is from the primary. I have my preferred candidate (Elizabeth Warren!) but I can see myself voting for any of them, even Mike Bloomberg whose main benefit in this primary was clarifying for me that yes, there is a candidate I'm less enthused about than Bernie and Biden.

It is easy to get myself worried because I still follow some Never Trump type Republicans on Twitter (I added them back before the 2016 election when I was trying to diversify the ideological viewpoints I saw and I've never stopped following them). They are really worried about Bernie and electability and I have to remind myself that they called 2016 wrong and there's no reason to think they're right now.

On my walk, I decided that since the outcome of the primary is largely out of my hands, I should stop worrying about it. I also did some thinking about what I'll do if Trump is re-elected, because I think THAT worry is the real source of the stress I'm feeling. I figured some things out, and realized that the answer isn't "pack my bags for New Zealand the next day" and feel a little better.

This evening I also did a shift of texting for the Warren campaign. I didn't hate it, but I don't think it is for me. Also, since "quiet hours" start at 9 p.m. local time, and most of my free time starts at 9 p.m. California time... there isn't a lot of time available for me to text. I'm supposed to monitor my list for responses for another 48 hours, and then I think I'll just log out of the system and tell myself I did my part.

Really, this was just a trial run to "break the ice" for eventually getting more involved in the general election. I'm not sure if I'll be willing to text for the Democratic candidate in the general or not. There were only a few rude responses and a couple of people genuinely wanted more info that I was able to provide them... but maybe I'm too old to be a texting volunteer! It just doesn't feel natural to me and hasn't left me feeling better they way postcard writing usually does.

Back to writing postcards, I guess.... That is more my speed.

But first, I have to figure out how I'll vote in my down ballot elections! My election day is next Tuesday and I've still got a bunch of judges and a few local propositions to sort through.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Too Much Going On Edition

I went out for a rollerblade today, but it didn't refresh me like it usually does. I've got too many things going on right now, both at work and outside it, and my brain just kept telling me about all the things I should be doing instead of rollerblading. Bah.

I came back from my rollerblade and had to get back to work instead of writing my weekend reading post like I usually do. But I don't want to skip again since I skipped last week so you'll get a short and frazzled post.

There was no post last week because we took a mini-break for a nice weekend away. We went to Palm Springs with our kids and rode the tram up Mt. San Jacinto to play in the snow. I've got an Adjusted Latitudes post halfway written about it.

Anyway, here are the links I've accumulated:

This article about being an Elizabeth Warren fan is woefully out of date now... there was the less than stellar showing in the New Hampshire primary and then this week's strong debate performance that has pundits saying maybe this is her comeback. I hope it is, because I still think she's our best candidate.

If you read only one thing this week, though, make it Adam Serwer's Atlantic article The First Days of the Trump Regime. It will remind you why this election is so crucial.

I also really liked Ezra Klein's article about why Bloomberg is also dangerous.

Here's another old article, this one about Taika Waititi's acknowledgement of the Native land on which the Oscars were held. If you're curious what Native land you live on, you can look it up here. I live on Kumeyaay land.

In recommended listening this week: Ta-Nehisi Coates' conversation with Ezra Klein about Klein's new book is the really good. I listen to the Ezra Klein show and The Weeds, so I've heard several interviews/discussions about this book. This one is my favorite.

This Daily Show clip about Stop and Frisk is really good:

I don't know what to make of this:
Here's your weekly bunny:

Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, February 07, 2020

Weekend Reading: A Short and Somewhat Depressing Edition

I almost didn't go out for my rollerblade - I had a migraine last night and was still feeling woozy today. But I rallied and went, and I'm glad I did. I'm always glad I go out and rollerblade! I still need to buy some exercise leggings that come down to my ankles, though....

Anyway, let's get straight to the links.

In pseudo-self promotion links: Pre-orders for the next Annorlunda book are now available! Nontraditional is a collection of linked essays by Nan Kuhlman about teaching composition in a community college, and I think you'll really enjoy it. You can pre-order from the usual places or if you're interested in writing a review, you can sign up to get a free copy as an advance reader.

Also, I'm running my first sale on the previous new release, The Boy Who Was Mistaken for a Fairy King, by HL Fullerton. The ebook is $0.99 on Amazon right now, and the other vendors will be dropping their prices soon (if they haven't already).

Onto less happy news...

Trump has started his retribution for the impeachment hearings. (Here's a post about some earlier acts of retribution.) I knew this was coming, but it is still depressing to see.

I could link to all sorts of essays about the failure of the Republicans in the Senate to stop this, etc. etc. But there's nothing new in them. This outcome was essentially determined when the Republicans held the Senate. Mitt Romney's speech and vote aside, I think the current Republican party has shown us what it is. The stakes in this year's election are unbelievably high. Please think about how you can help us win this one and get involved. I'm already psyching myself up for some phone banking (I hate making phone calls).

This story about living with HIV for 30 years is really well done.

This is a nice story about some seniors inspired by Greta Thunberg to take action against climate change.

In recommended listening: This Weeds episode with Claudia Sahm about setting up better automatic economic stabilizers to counter recessions is really good.

This is pretty cool:

Here are your bunnies for the week:

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

A Politics Post

Today is a sad day. Given the composition of the Senate, I am not surprised the Senate voted to acquit Trump. But I am still sad that more Republicans couldn't find the moral courage to do what the country needed them to do. Good on Mitt Romney for having that courage, and good on the vulnerable Democrats - Doug Jones, Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin for having that courage, too.

But the impeachment vote isn't what I want to write about tonight. I will make some donations to help Doug Jones (who is in a tough election this year) and to register my displeasure at the Republicans. (If you also want to register your displeasure and don't want to pick candidates to donate to yourself, here are three ideas: Swing Left, The Payback Project, and @Pinboard's Great Slate - pick the one with the strategy you like best and help out. If you're a Republican who can't bring yourself to support those organizations, check out The Lincoln Project or Stand Up America.)

What I want to write about is the Democratic Presidential primary. At the start, I thought I'd stay out of it (beyond casting my vote) and just throw myself into supporting the nominee once one was chosen. But I find that I am not pleased with how it is going. Some candidates I thought were strong - Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, to be specific - didn't catch on and are out of the race. When I look at who is left, I realize I don't feel good staying on the sidelines anymore.

I will vote for the Democrat in the general election, unless by some weird confluence of events the nominee is Tulsi Gabbard, in which case I am selling everything and moving to New Zealand.

But I am no longer in the "wait and see" camp in terms of the primary. I'll be voting for Elizabeth Warren.

I am ignoring the question of who will be the stronger opponent against Donald Trump because I think that is not something we can judge. Am I worried about the fact that Sanders - who a lot of pundits are now calling our front runner - has never faced really negative campaign ads against him? Sure, but I don't pretend to know what that will do in the general. And I think that the Trump campaign and their helpers on Fox News have shown that they won't be constrained by facts in this campaign, so there's no reason to think he will fare worse than any other candidate. Am I convinced by the Sanders camp's argument that they'll expand the electorate? Not really. I haven't seen evidence they can expand it in a meaningful way in the places that matter for the Electoral College.

So I decided early on not to play pundit and try to game out who would have the best chance in the general election.

Instead, I am basing my vote on who I think will be the best President for this country at this time.

As Cory Booker was fond of saying, beating Trump is the floor, not the ceiling. As I look at the state of the country, I think we need some big changes. Too many people are being left out of the general prosperity and don't have hope for the future. There is a fundamental rot in our system when policies supported by large majorities can't even get a vote. I think that if we don't fix these deep problems, we'll just keep getting people like Trump, who will play on our worst instincts and rile up hate within our country.

So, I think we need change. Who can best deliver it?

I do not think Joe Biden understands the historical moment and recognizes the depth of changes we need, so not him.

I think Bernie Sanders wants to bring changes, and I'm even OK with some of the more radical changes he wants to bring to us. But I see no evidence he has the skills needed to make change happen. I look at how he's run his campaign and who he's hired, and I see someone who prioritizes ideological agreement over the ability to get things done or build coalitions. I look at his career in the Senate, and I don't see a lot of concrete accomplishments. I worry that he'd be elected promising big changes and be unable to deliver anything - further corroding people's belief in the ability of our system to represent their wishes. So not him.

I think Pete Buttigieg is smart and ambitious... and way too inexperienced for this moment. He needed to spend some time better understanding a lot of things, including this country's history of racism and how that continues to manifest today, before he would be ready to be President. So not him.

Mike Bloomberg has done a lot of good things with his money. But he's still a billionaire, and has not shown an understanding of why that makes people leery of him. He'd probably do some things I agree with as president, but I don't think he's going to make the changes that we need to prevent the next Trump. Same thing for Tom Steyer. So not them.

That leaves me exactly where the New York Times Editorial Board ended up: Deciding between Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. Unlike the Times, I'll make a decision. I prefer Elizabeth Warren, because she has shown me that she understands the level of change needed right now. I think she is correct in her diagnosis that moneyed interests have worked their way into too many levers of power and have corrupted our system. I love that she has so many detailed plans for fixing things.

The thing that got me off the fence was when she put out her plan for how to clean up government after Trump. It made me think that she really understands what a historic mess she would be facing as President. As far as I know, she's the only candidate who has acknowledged that Trump has broken the inner workings of our government, and put out a plan for how to quickly get things working again.

I guess it boils down to the fact that Elizabeth Warren has convinced me she really understands what is at stake right now, and is ready to use the crisis that is Donald Trump to try to fix the big problems in our system. Klobuchar ends up in second place for me because I think she also knows how to get things done in Washington - but I think she's aiming at the surface problems that are easy to see and point at, not the deeper problems that we really need to tackle to make sure that we don't end up with Trump 2.0 in another eight years.

Is Elizabeth Warren the perfect candidate? No, of course not. She's made mistakes and there are some specific policies I may not agree with. But I'm not looking for someone to be my hero or to put up on some sort of pedestal. I'm looking to hire someone for the job of President of the United States, and I think she's the best person for the job given our field of candidates.

And that's probably all I'm going to say about the primary. I know a lot of people will come to a different conclusion about who to vote for, and that is fine. Let's just all remember to come together after the primary and fight as hard as we can to elect our nominee.