Alexander Micek commenting on Guns

Well, I guess I’ve been reading kottke too long. He posted the SAME EXACT two things about gun violence (among other good links).

Can Not Learn

Sometimes I don’t write because so many others do it better. For example, Umair Haque, in his essay What Do You Call a World That Can’t Learn From Itself?:

Americans enjoy lower qualities of life on every single indicator that you can possibly think of. Life expectancy in France and Spain is 83 years, but in America it’s only 78 years — that’s half a decade of life, folks. The same is true for things like maternal mortality, stress, work and leisure, press freedom, quality of democracy — every single thing you can think of that impacts how well, happily, meaningfully, and sanely you live is worse in America, by a very long way. These are forms of impoverishment, of deprivation — as is every form of not realizing potential that could be.

But I don’t wish to write a jeremiad, for I am not a pundit. The question is this: why don’t Americans understand how poor their lives have become? Is it even a fair question to ask?

Of course, one can speak of capitalism and false consciousness and class war, of technology hypnotizing people with outrage. But I think there is a deeper truth here. There is a myth of exceptionalism in America that prevents it from looking outward, and learning from the world. It is made up of littler myths about greed being good, the weak deserving nothing, society being an arena, not a lever, for the survival of the fittest — and America is busy recounting those myths, not learning from the world, in slightly weaker (Democrats) or stronger (Republicans) forms. Still, the myths stay the same — and the debate is only really about whether a lightning bolt or a thunderstorm is the just punishment from the gods for the fallen, and a palace or a kingdom is the just reward for the cunning.

Hence, I have never once sees in America a leader saying, “hey! See that British healthcare system? That German union and pension system? Why don’t we propose that? They work!!” Instead, the whole American debate is self-referential — pundits debating Andrew Jackson (LOL) instead of, say, what the rest of the world does today in 2017. How can a broken society grow only by looking inwards? If you are a desperate, heart-broken addict, what can you learn from yourself? Won’t you only, recounting your pain, reach for the needle quicker? So we must look outwards, always, to learn best and truest — but I will return to that.

Check out that lightning bolt / thunderstorm / palace / kingdom sentence. That says more, with more accuracy and indelibility than I could hope to with 5, 10, 20 runs at writing the same idea. And that’s just one sentence.

Anyway, he’s right.


This tweet replays in my brain regularly. Dan Hodges, on Twitter:

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.

Others may draw different conclusions from reading that tweet but here’s mine: fixing America’s laws on guns is hopeless. Our broken, puerile, reckless, heedless, thoughtless, irresponsible, unreasonable, STUPID, deadly stance on guns will persist until the demise of the republic. More required reading, one I re-read regularly: Our Moloch by Gary Wills:

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

It has the power to destroy the reasoning process. It forbids making logical connections. We are required to deny that there is any connection between the fact that we have the greatest number of guns in private hands and the greatest number of deaths from them. Denial on this scale always comes from or is protected by religious fundamentalism. Thus do we deny global warming, or evolution, or biblical errancy. Reason is helpless before such abject faith.

Reason is helpless before such abject faith.

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Bones & Skin & Brain

Via Mykala, this morning:

“Mama, is ‘stupendous’ another way to say ‘excellent’?”
YES. Who taught you that?”
“Nobody. Me. I taught myself. I just taught my bones and my skin and my brain.”

That is stupendous.

Swedish Welfare

If Americans never understand what a social welfare system is, how it salves wounds of our gross economic inequality, why it is one of the most humane, advanced, amazing efforts we as humans can band together and work on, then this country will continue to go down the toilet.† Here is an exceptionally well-written, non-exceptional story, copied out of a tweetstorm by Alison Gerber — you’ll find that link to be dead, likely because Ms. Gerber’s thoughts attracted tons of attention, and in this toilet bowl internet era we live in, likely lots of death threats. Or worse: requests to do television interviews. Anyway:

So I’m an American living in Sweden, the socialist nanny-state hellscape of the GOP’s fantasies. Here’s what it’s like to live in a country with a high effective tax rate and a commitment to spending for the common good: I don’t worry that a minor accident, illness, or other bump in the road will derail my family’s future or mean that we lose everything. We have excellent health care and social insurance, and the state steps up when we are in a crisis. It’s not perfect, of course. There are emergency room wait times and such, just like everywhere else. But, for example: I broke the crap out of my foot a while back, in a pretty awful accident involving a zipline. The local hospital in Malmö took a couple of hours to get me through intake, doctors, x-rays, and diagnosis. They sent me home with a soft cast and instructions to come back for a hard cast in two weeks or so. The next day two handsome gentlemen showed up at my apartment. They were from the city’s “hjälpmedel” office, which I hadn’t known existed. They take responsibility for providing resources to people with permanent or temporary disabilities. Their goal is to provide the aids necessary “to independently, or with help, meet basic personal needs and perform daily activities.”. In my case, this meant that they installed a seat in my shower and fitted me out with a wheelchair. The wheelchair was brand new and they unwrapped a soft seat and made sure the foot rests were adjusted to the correct heights. Then they carried it back down a few flights of stairs and parked it just inside the front door, ready to go. They gave me a crazy grabber stick thing so I could get things from the comfort of my sofa, and pimped the crutches we’d gotten from the doctor with reflectors and soft grips. All of this was free. They gave me their numbers so I could call if I needed anything else. I fooled myself into thinking that I was fine to work from home for a couple of days before I realized that the painkillers I was taking were not exactly helping me to do my best work. I called the HR person at my job, and she walked me through how to call out sick (after scolding me for not calling earlier and for trying to work, which she found ridiculous). I was unpaid for one mysterious “karensdag”, then received the standard 80% of my salary as long as I was out sick - plus a bump up to 90%, since i was employed by the state. Probably if I’d been out for a long time it would’ve involved some hassle, but for a few weeks it was just that call and a form. I had get some folks to cover my classes for me, which everyone treated like a reasonable part of working life. You’re sick. Obviously we’ll solve it. Later I got the hard cast, got the cast removed, got more x rays, then started physical therapy with an amazing PT that I chose from the many options in town. Money was never a part of my decision making. You do pay a small amount to see a doctor here, up to about $50, but you only have to pay $130 per year for such visits, and then you get a “free card” for the rest of the year. There’s a similar system for medication. There is, obviously, no discrimination against those with free cards. I still see that physical therapist from time to time. About a year after the accident the zipline place’s insurance company sent me some money - about $1000 - intended to cover any costs I might have had : new shoes with better support, a couple of taxi rides, etc - this because they had filled out a form when the accident happened.

That’s enough of that. Let’s see. Oh! Yes, I had a kid here. Obviously very intense prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care was included in this medical system - though a good deal of it is actually exempted from those small $20-50 fees, so those visits are totally free. We chose to have our kid at an extremely hippy dippy hospital about an hour away from where we lived; it was the home of Swedish Midwifery. The main differences were, as far as we could tell, that a) it was not a big deal to get vegan meals and b) the essential oils that they would drop into the large whirlpool tub that was provided were biodynamically produced. We stayed for a couple of days after the birth, in a “family room” that was basically a hotel room with constant excellent room service and adjustable beds. An ultrasound had suggested our kid might have something up with his kidneys, so he saw a doctor earlier than most; on day 3 they took him for a lil’ scan. Everything was fine. We stayed for “only” 3 days with the cable TV and vegan food deliveries, then headed home. I don’t remember anything at all about the costs of all this, because there were none, basically. Mothers’ and childrens’ health care is free. We did have to pay for gas to get to that faraway hippy hospital, so that’s probably like $40 round trip.

Well, what more should I say: what is it like living in a country that uses its significant financial resources to take care of its citizenry? Let’s keep talking about those kids. The kid was born, and we didn’t plan well: neither of us had a full-time job with a permanent contract at the time, so we got the minimum allowable parental leave money (as opposed to the 80% of our salaries if we had planned better / if we organized our lives around money). What that meant for us was, more or less, we split child care 50/50 that first year. One of us was always with the kid while the other one was working. When you were “staying home” with the kid, you were never really stuck at home: there was a crazy world of free and nearly-free stuff to do all the time with small kids, mostly run by the city but also with city and state money through a variety of organizations. Our favorite was the local “open preschool”, a few blocks from our place, where parents could bring their pre-preschool-aged kids to a giant very well stocked playroom and hang out. There were rooms full of toys and full-time professional pedagogically-trained staff to play with the kids, but you didn’t drop them off: you stayed, and depending on your personality maybe you were down on the floor playing with the toddlers or maybe you were just sitting over at the table drinking coffee with some other parents. This was basically open all the time and was free, and was a place to meet friends, make friends, give your kid some time with other kids, give yourself a break. Most of the parents there were pretty chill.

You can’t put your kid in public child care till one year of age, so it’s assumed that everyone will take at least a year’s parental leave (divided between parents) and most will take more. Anyway. We took hella advantage of the open preschool, theatre and singing groups for babies, everything there was. Then it was time to start preschool when he turned one. It wasn’t perfect. We were assigned to a preschool in the building next door to ours, and we didn’t love it. We thought it was a bit too dark and that they didn’t spend enough time outdoors, and we liked some of the teachers a lot but weren’t in love with some others. It was full-time care, with relatively flexible hours, and cost us about $100 a month if I remember correctly. When our son was a few months old I had to go to Norway to work for a few months, and we decided to take advantage of the break and request that he change preschools. By this time we had a sense of the reputations of all the preschools within walking distance of our place (and yes, this was an incredibly frustrating process, since officially all of the preschools are of exactly the same quality and have exactly the same amenities and procedures etc etc… navigating social democratic bureaucracies is not all chocolate and roses, especially for a foreigner) and had a list of a few we’d have been happy to switch to.

When we came back after the Norway trip, our son started at an amazing place with wonderful teachers and nice bright rooms and they spent all the time playing outside we could have hoped for and we loved it. And he loved it. Again, we didn’t make much money, so it was less than $100 a month for full time care; if we’d been rich, the fees would have topped out at about $150 a month. Of course, if you have multiple kids, you pay less for each child you have in full time preschool - the second kid costs about $110 a month in my city if you’re well off, and the third about $90 per month. You pay for max three kids even if you have octuplets.

Oh! I forgot. When you have a kid you get a “child allowance” in your bank account every month. At the moment this is about $125 per month if you have one kid. Everyone gets this, even the superrich. You get the allowance for each kid, plus a “large family supplement” that increases with each extra kid. Anyway, the child allowance basically pays for child care and other stuff you need - afterschool care, school supplies. Anyway. Let’s skip ahead a decade. Kid is now 12 and firmly ensconced in middle school. He goes to school a block from our house. If we wanted him to go to another school, we could pick another school. We have “free school choice”, which is not all positive consequences for society, but it does mean.. that if our kid’s school wasn’t working out for some reason we could change to one of the other schools in the area - a variety of municipal schools, nonprofit schools, and for-profit schools. He goes to a nonprofit school, and we love them. His first couple of years there we used their “free time care” program, which provided before-, afterschool, and vacation day programming. They were AMAZING. Some of the most dedicated teachers I’ve ever met, doing the hard work to build amazing lil’ citizens. They hung out, danced, had tough conversations, crafted, developed interests and hobbies, and were safe and cared for when we (parents who worked long hours) couldn’t always be right there. One summer two teachers decided to take our son, along with a couple of other kids, to an amusement park in another city about three hours away. We dropped him off at the train station in the morning and picked him up late at night, laughing hysterically and covered in candy floss. It’s one of his best memories from the last few years. These teachers were SAINTS, I tell you.

We make more money now than we did when he was born, so those last couple of years we were paying the maximum fee for all this before-school and after-school and vacation day care (and oh there are many many vacation days here), so we paid $107 per month. If we still made as little as we did when he was born, we’d have been paying $24 per month for the same care. Anyway.

He’s no longer using that program, being a big man and all nowadays, but we use the bejesus out of city programming for kids in other ways. Here’s an example: during the summertime and the longer school breaks, the city distributes money to nonprofits all over the city to create free programming for kids. A big catalog comes out, and you just do what you want. This last summer, among other things, lil’ man went to a weeklong full-day camp on the ocean where he learned to sail boats. TO SAIL BOATS. BY HIMSELF.

Well, this is starting to get long. What else. Transit. In the US we had a car, because we had to have a car. It was expensive, and dangerous (compared to other modes of travel), and not great for the environment, but we needed it to commute to work and get to a decent grocery and just generally to do much of anything. I am from the midwest, and have both had a car and needed to have a car since I was old enough to drive. You can get by without one, of course, but it’s not easy, and in a lot of places not really plausible. Here, we don’t have a car, and I haven’t even gotten a license (my US one hasn’t worked here since my one-year anniversity of living here. It’s ridiculous, but that’s another story). Once every four or six months we borrow a friend’s car to run an errand, or rent a car for a few days while we’re on vacation. Otherwise it’s all walking, biking, and excellent public transit. There are bike lanes everywhere, no one ever screams at me or tries to hit me with their car, and there are bike tools and pumps in public for everyone to use. I commute to the next city over for work, which commute involves: I bike less than five minutes to the nearest train station (I could also walk ~15 minutes), go down an escalator, and within ten minutes or so I get on a train that takes me to the next city in 12-20 minutes. From there it’s another five minute walk to my office. I pay for my travel a month at a time, which costs $105 per month. I think that this is egregious, and that it should be further subsidized. But such is life. The trains run on time and frequently throughout the day. As do buses, both city and regional. We complain when trains and buses are the least bit late and act like it’s a travesty but to be honest I’ve never encountered public transit this good anywhere in the US. We think it’s expensive, but compared to pretty much anywhere in the US that I’ve been it’s a steal - especially considering that it can get you almost anywhere you need to be, relatively quickly and easily. Almost always more quickly than it would be to drive yourself. I’ve taken public transit out to national parks in the countryside and onto tiny island ferries into legit hobbit wonderlands. It works.

Um, let’s see. What else. Ah yes, inequality. Obviously Sweden’s better on this count, unless you enjoy watching the poor suffer. Which I guess some people do. Income inequality, poverty rate, you name it: Sweden’s a better place to be for most of us. But what about the American Dream, you ask? Don’t we want to give everyone the opportunity to succeed? Well, chances for upward intergenerational mobility are far better in Sweden than in the US - so if you’re going to be poor, you probably would want to be born poor here, both because your quality of life will be better, your health outcomes will be better, etc etc etc., but also because you are more likely to be able to “get ahead in life” here than in the USA. If that’s your jam.

Crime? Well, I’m careful when I’m out alone at night in the US, and I don’t think about it here, though I live in what those with no knowledge of the situation on the ground think of as Sweden’s “murder city”, Malmö. Murder rate per 100,000 in Sweden: 1.1. In the US: 4.9. Generally speaking, yeah, I will probably get my bike stolen someday, but I’m very unlikely to be killed by a stray bullet (much less one that’s aimed at me). I could go on and on. What I meant to say is this: that ridiculous tax bill is headed back to the Senate this morning and most likely to the president’s desk. I haven’t seen much in the way of in-depth, well-reported explainers on what we stand to lose as a nation: what the near-inevitable cuts to public services and infrastructure are going to mean, while my feeds are dripping with straightforward “ways to make the new tax bill work for you,” & a cynical guide to “hacking the tax plan” that promises to help you learn “ways to profit off the Republican tax bill.” There’s no texture to that conversation, no sense of what it means on the ground.

We made more money on paper in the US than we do in Sweden, and we paid far less in taxes. We were also more stressed for money than we’ve ever been in Sweden, including back in the days when we lived well below what the Swedes call the “existence minimum”, and one little problem - a nonserious but lengthy illness, a lost job, a car breakdown, a day care closure - was always out there, dangling above our heads, threatening to send everything into a chaos we might have never recovered from. We chose to move back to Sweden. We now are lucky to have two reasonably OK paying middle-classish jobs; we also pay high taxes. We make less on paper, and we net less each month - far less. We basically don’t have a ton of disposable income each month after the bills are paid. But that’s the thing: we had some “disposable” income back in the US… that we used to pay for life’s necessities… for ourselves. We weren’t lifting everyone else’s boat, we were furiously paddling our own little raft, and while we weren’t exactly stomping the fingers of desperate swimmers that clutched at our planks we also weren’t pulling them on board… not really, anyway. Sure, we used some of that disposable income to “do the right thing”. We gave to charities and nonprofits & shopped at the coops & bought organic. But really, it was all we could do to keep our own heads above water.

Now, with two middle class salaries, we have to consider costs when we go to eat, go out for a beer. For an American it can be hard. We have to save up for major purchases, sometimes for quite some time. We don’t have much disposable income. And we basically don’t think about it…. ever. Because we’re not desperately fighting to stay afloat, and the people around us aren’t, either. It’s hard to explain what it feels like when that stress is lifted from a community, from a city. But you can feel it. And it’s true that stress hasn’t been lifted from everyone. There are people living in poverty here, migrants living without access to the system. And not everything about these systems works perfectly, or as it should, or as we’d want it to. But I wanted to put this out there so that some of you could get a sense of what it’s like, on the ground, to stop worrying about your tax bill and to start thinking in terms of the country that we can build together. I peek at the AM papers in the US: the tax bill is still being carried forward. The rich will get far richer, and you might get to keep a little more of your income, for a while. But don’t forget what you’re giving up, and take a moment to consider whether it’s worth it.

So the bill passed, of course. I thought about coming back to my earlier rant-thread when I got home from work (I have so much more to say! I didn’t even get into, say, the fact that my son’s preschool teachers made reasonable salaries! Or that we welcome more refugees per capita than anywhere else in Europe! I didn’t get all that much into the weeds about Sweden’s integration issues vs America’s structural racism!) but I’m just feeling… defeated. Most Americans opposed the tax bill, and it didn’t matter. Let’s hope the backlash is a strong one.

Sweden, Norway, Denmark. What amazing places to live. Thousands of years from now, they’ll be remembered as the pinacle of our democratic age.

† This is my “going down the toilet” justification footnote. Consider these: universal healthcare. Universal childcare. Basic services for all. Obligate maternity and paternity leave. All areas where the United States is so far behind it can’t hope to ever catch up unless citizens agree on the necessity of these things. And they don’t. Hence my toilet bowl comment.

DACA Is Japanese Internment 2.0

Reproducing this here in its entirety because when I want to read it ten years hence, twitter will probably be gone… or at least the URL linking to this will be broken. So:

In light of what’s going on with #Dreamers, it’s time to talk about Japanese internment. Because the #DACA showdown is Japanese internment 2.0.

Japanese immigrants in the 19th & early 20th centuries came to the US in large part for manual farm labor in California. Sound familiar?

Japan had much more advanced horticulture than the US at that time, so these immigrants weren’t just bringing brute labor. They were bringing a lot of basic how-to’s of commercial farming that built the foundation for California’s success as an agricultural powerhouse today. Japanese immigrant farm laborers American Dream’d so hard, many families were able to save money to buy their own land and start farming for themselves. “The California Farm Bureau was quoted by The News, saying that Japanese farmers were responsible for 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the state, including nearly 100 percent of all tomatoes, celery, strawberries and peppers.” (San Francisco Museum)

The Central Valley used to be peppered with Japanese family farms. Not anymore. What happened to them?

WW2’s Japanese internment. Japanese internment was a land grab by white farmers. Full stop.

The initial call for Japanese internment came mere hours after the Pearl Harbor bombing, from the Salinas Valley Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association.

AKA, Japanese internment was initiated by the California farm lobby: “The average value/acre of all West Coast farms in 1940 was $37.94, whereas that of Japanese farms was $279.96… 3/4 acres of Japanese farm lands were devoted to actual crop production, whereas only 1/4 acres of all farm land in the areas was planted in crops.”

Check out those numbers. Japan’s farm traditions were based on maximizing use of space, so they made more $ per acre. That tends to drive up land prices. And rising land prices tend to make people whose farming skills can’t keep up feel very nervous. So. Japanese farmers’ success came from having tight management skills, and that threatened their white neighbors.

White farmers had a choice: level up their game, or play dirty.

Let me reiterate: given a choice between being good at their job and lobbying the gov’t to make their problems go away, US farmers chose the second option. This is a classic move that those in the farm industry will still recognize.

“We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do.”
-Austin E. Anson, Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association

They weren’t even trying to hide it. Japanese internment was about white good ol’ boys being jealous of successful immigrants. There was a downside though. Remember how Japanese American farmers were growing nearly half the country’s produce? And the US war strategy was “an army marches on its stomach, so we need super solid supply chains for food”? It turns out putting most of the country’s skilled farmers in jail … didn’t help with making food. Once internment started, food shortages quickly followed.

How did the US handle that misstep? Victory gardens! “Victory Gardens were the propagandistic answer to the chaos created by FDR’s roundup and imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in early 1942. (Cindy McNatt at the Orange County Register)” So yeah, victory gardens were less “plucky nation pitches in with the war effort” and more “oh wow we systematic racism-ed so hard that we punched a hole in the economy. Do we admit we the mistake and fix it? Nahhhh, let’s foist the consequences off on civilians.”

Like Japanese families in the early 20th century, a lot of US immigrant population today is families that came to work on farms. And they’ve been here just long enough to actually get established and really start building a life. The US was kind of ok with immigration as long as it was get in, work for really cheap, get out. But we’re at a demographic turning point where a critical mass of farm immigrant families have reached some upward mobility and established themselves en masse.

And here’s the part that most people don’t know, unless they work in some really specific parts of the farm economy: Most of the US thinks of “immigrant farm workers” as grunt labor. And yes, most of the brute force work on farms is done by Latinx immigrants. But 1st and 2nd generation Latinx immigrants are also the knowledge base in modern US agriculture.

I’m gonna tell you guys a secret. A lot US farmers don’t actually know that much about farming. They know a lot about writing checks to Latinx contractors, who know how to farm.

The US farm industry isn’t just dependent on Latinx immigrants for labor. They’re dependent on Latinx immigrants for knowing HOW to farm. How to manage a harvest, how to run a packinghouse, how to keep a fleet of farm vehicles running. And I bet you money that scares the hell out of a lot of white people. Not the farmers, funnily enough. The actual farmers tend to be a lot more at peace with it than the rest of the rural/suburban white population. (Don’t get me wrong, they still mostly voted for Trump. Even though they knew his immigration policies are deadly for farms. They vote for conservatives and just expect things to magically turn out immigration-friendly anyway.)

The thing is, farmers aren’t the influential voting bloc they used to be. The new wrinkle entering the immigration debate right now, IMO, is private prisons. Prison labor’s been used in the US for manufacturing for quite some time. But it’s making significant new inroads into farm labor. Especially now that it’s becoming harder for immigrants to work in the US, farms are turning to inmate contracts. Prisoners working on a farm is a little different from manufacturing. In manufacturing, folks are locked down in a building. It’s pretty easy to control your workers. But farming is outdoors and, nowadays, super mechanized. That means to get anything done, you have to be able to give someone tools or a tractor and have a reasonable expectation that they’ll use them for work. Instead of, say, murdering the foreman and running off. You also need people with farm work experience. Farm work is an art. You just don’t get productive labor out of stoners. I say this as someone who’s personally supervised convict farm crews made of people in for minor drug charges. It’s… just a mess all around.

So say you’re a private prisoner contractor who’s looking at farm labor deals. To keep those clients happy, you need a steady stream of nonviolent criminals who are also have farm work experience. Talkin out the side of my mouth here, but if I were them, I’d see crackdowns on migrant laborers as a fantastic business move. I might even press my congressmen to write & sponsor bills like this one. Immigrants don’t even have to commit crimes to become part of my workforce, I mean go to jail. Just be poor. Or not have their green card in their pocket during a traffic stop.

Anyway, that’s my best guess as to why the GOP can’t get itself together to support a bill that most Americans want. There are a lot of primary voters, and a lot of donors, who have a vested interest in criminalizing immigrants.

To connect this back to Japanese internment. Internment was pushed through by a small farm lobby that wanted the land under Japanese American family farms, sure. But they couldn’t have pulled it off w/o the rest of the country’s xenophobia. Today we have private prisons whose business models look like they just kinda might depend on everyone being ok with jailing immigrants for being immigrants.
And there’s enough butthurt white people with “economic anxiety” to make that happen. Maybe. It’s really encouraging how many people support #DACA. We still have the same ugly dynamics that brought Japanese internment to life. But we also have a lot of people today who know better.

Keep those calls to your reps coming, folks.

Sarah Taber


Anna North, writing at Vox:

Meanwhile, girls learn from an early age that it is rude to reject boys. They learn to “let them down easily” and never humiliate them. They learn to give other people what they want, and to put their own desires second — especially when it comes to sex. And few girls get any sex education, either at school or from the culture they consume, that encourages them to think about sex in terms of what they actually desire, as opposed to how they will be perceived by others.

Recent abstinence-only curricula have included messages like, “Girls need to be aware they may be able to tell when a kiss is leading to something else. The girl may need to put the brakes on first in order to help the boy,” and, “girls need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex.”

Even when girls learn comprehensive sex ed, they frequently don’t learn how to ask for what they want, or even how to think about what that is. “We, as a nation, are uncomfortable with women having pleasure,” Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of the American Sexual Health Association, told Bustle in 2015.

I really like how Ms. North took the latest revelation during a transient phenomenon (the #MeToo movement) and took it back to the basic problem: unspoken, unexamined limitations and expectations placed only on women, starting shortly after birth. So I think men should keep getting called out, and here is why.

The bar for getting a man fired for sexual harassment is impossibly high. Men rarely go to prison for abuse. Therefore, to provide some ACTUAL PRESSURE on men to behave better, women publicly denouncing behavior of men must continue. Men should be recalling their previous actions and feel unsure. They should question assumptions about who deserves what in society. Guilt and shame aren’t enough. Men should feel fear. Once that happens, we might have a shot at inculcating TRUE EQUALITY in our next generations and making laws supporting equality of women and men.

I’m pessimistic to the point of dismissal that the United States will ever pull itself together enough to be a credible progressive voice on the world stage, but we can continue looking elsewhere for examples. Like Sweden:

[In Sweden] For a girl to own her sexuality meant she owned her body, she owned herself. Women could do anything men did, but they could also — when they chose to — bear children. And that made us more powerful than men. The word “feminist” felt antiquated; there was no longer a use for it.

In America, a woman’s body seemed to belong to everybody but herself. Her sexuality belonged to her husband, her opinion of herself belonged to her social circles, and her uterus belonged to the government. She was supposed to be a mother and a lover and a career woman (at a fraction of the pay) while remaining perpetually youthful and slim. In America, important men were desirable. Important women had to be desirable. That got to me.

But the American woman is told she can do anything and then is knocked down the moment she proves it. In adapting myself to my new country, my Swedish woman power began to wilt. I joined the women around me who were struggling to do it all and failing miserably. I now have no choice but to pull the word “feminist” out of the dusty drawer and polish it up.

I want Ess to have “Swedish woman power” and I fear that, here in the United States, we can only give her a shadow of that power.

Doxology #1

From all that dwell below the skies
let songs of hope and faith arise;
let beauty, truth and good be sung
in every land, in every tongue.

Year End

Ess, you’ve been pushing everyone’s limits lately. Seeing what you can get away with, asking for things you’ve never asked for before. And tantrums — those are something else. But then we get to share a magical evening with you — one where we play at the kitchen table and build with dominoes together. One where you are smiling at us and imagining worlds and telling us you love us and giving HUGE hugs. Your mama had this Christmas instrumental channel on in the background and it kind of set the stage for thinking about the experiential and the remembering self at the same time: it was a rare gift to simultaneously enjoy the time with you while also experiencing the meta part. How important such the memory of tonight will be in the future. We love you Ess. Forever and ever. Thanks for spending 2017 with us.


Eighteen years of serving this website over insecure HTTP are over: I installed a certificate for HTTPS, though I suppose the purpose is more not wanting to be left behind than any true need. I’ve read it could make the site go faster, and I’ve read it might make it go slower, too. I suppose both could be true.

Some vignettes. I’m going back through random text files, where I’ve littered little phrases to jog my memory:

The Need to be Alone

The Need to be Alone”:

At a certain point, we have had enough of conversations that take us away from our own thought processes, enough of external demands that stop us heeding our inner tremors, enough of the pressure for superficial cheerfulness that denies the legitimacy of our latent inner melancholy – and enough of robust common-sense that flattens our peculiarities and less well-charted appetites.

We need to be alone because life among other people unfolds too quickly. The pace is relentless: the jokes, the insights, the excitements. There can sometimes be enough in five minutes of social life to take up an hour of analysis. It is a quirk of our minds that not every emotion that impacts us is at once fully acknowledged, understood or even – as it were – truly felt. After time among others, there are a myriad of sensations that exist in an ‘unprocessed’ form within us. Perhaps an idea that someone raised made us anxious, prompting inchoate impulses for changes in our lives. Perhaps an anecdote sparked off an envious ambition that is worth decoding and listening to in order to grow. Maybe someone subtly fired an aggressive dart at us, and we haven’t had the chance to realise we are hurt. We need some quiet time to console ourselves by formulating an explanation of where the nastiness might have come from. We are more vulnerable and tender-skinned than we’re encouraged to imagine.

I quote this at length because it is so-so good and if it ever disappears from the internet, I’d like to have some of it here. A great, brief, read.