You hear a lot of talk about how to fix our education system, in particular, how to provide the same basic standards of quality and learning opportunities to African American kids that most white kids get in today’s public schools. And you mostly hear about failed attempts. But as Nikole Hannah-Jones explains in the latest episode of This American Life, The Problem We All Live With, there’s something nobody tries anymore, despite a slew of evidence that it is the one thing that actually works: desegregation. She chronicles an accidental desegregation program in the school district from which Michael Brown had graduated—against so many brutal, unconscionable odds—just three weeks before he was shot and killed by police in Ferguson. I found the data and stories in this account to be utterly chilling and eye-opening. Everybody should listen to it.
And, speaking of systems that are broken, New Yorker’s Amy Davidson gives us a snapshot of democracy totally derailed by big money (in case you needed any extra evidence that we sorely, sorely need election reform in this country). We know this is how it works, but still it’s just unfathomable to me:
In this election, the post-Citizens United financing mechanisms have fully matured, effectively removing the limits and the disclosure requirements for individual donations to campaigns. The money may have to be laundered through a super PAC, but that is just a formality. This distorts the process in both parties and might help explain the large assortment of candidates. Cruz may seem like a preening opportunist, unpopular among his colleagues, but having attracted more than fifty million dollars in contributions, he is a credible candidate. The Times reported that a significant portion of his early money came from a single donor: Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund executive who is so private that one of the few traces of his personal life in the public record is a lawsuit that he brought against a toy company that installed a model train set in his home and, he felt, overcharged him—by two million dollars.
To mount a Presidential campaign these days, you need just two people: a candidate and a wealthy donor. Or in Trump’s case, just one: he is his own billionaire.
(Emphasis mine. And, um, a multi-million dollar train set?!? That says it all.)
Trump’s reality-TV influence is not negligible. Davidson also points out that not two GOP candidates have recently released videos of themselves destroying stuff. (Rand Paul went at a stack of paper representing the US tax code with a chain saw before setting it on fire. Lindsey Graham did all sorts of things to his cell phone—picture a cleaver, a concrete block, and, yes, flames—after Trump had publicly shared Graham’s telephone number.)
Clearly this is a terrible time for Jon Stewart to close up shop. I am grieving. (For old time’s sake, here’s one of my favorite Stewart clips ever: The total annihilation of Tucker Carlson. Oh, man, it’s good.)
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In better news: Netflix raised the bar for the rest of corporate America by giving employees up to a year of paid maternity and paternity leave. And, (peer pressure??) Microsoft upped their parental leave ante too.
Here are three good articles on climate change:
The first is a depressing long piece by Rolling Stone, while I do not exactly like the tone (can we get some hope up in here?), I think it is pretty powerful.
When we have to rely on big businesses to be our savior, boy are we in trouble.
And here’s a good article on Obama’s climate communication.
Curious how Obama’s Clean Power Plan actually works? Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide.
As someone who’s about to jump into—or maybe just wade into, because yikes—the Seattle housing market, I’ve imagined what the home I’d buy would look like. Would it have a picket fence? A porch? Maybe a garden? Adding an intriguing angle into this image is a story from the Washington Post about a woman who has refused to mow her lawn though it’s been officially declared a “nuisance” by her township. This woman sees her “natural yard” as a bridge between bigger natural spaces like parks and nature preserves. She writes:
There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the United States, more than double the size of the country’s largest national forest. We disconnect ourselves from wildlife habitat loss by viewing it as a problem caused by industry and agriculture. But habitat loss isn’t a problem happening out there somewhere; it’s happening in our own back yards. This has serious consequences. About 95 percent of the natural landscape in the lower 48 states has been developed into cities, suburbs and farmland. Meanwhile, the global population of vertebrate animals, from birds to fish, has been cut in half during the past four decades.
Plus, if you’re wondering how to have more gratitude for the little things, just remember that “a waffle iron is always a treat and demands to be regarded accordingly.”
The Lowline project in Manhattan is an “urban renewal” project that wants to build an underground park in the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley terminal. The one-acre station was retired in 1948. The name is a play on the High Line, an elevated park in New York that reclaimed a rail space as well (my college friend works for the High Line). They’ve had two Kickstarters since 2012 and an “imagine the lowline” exhibit. Read more about it!