This was in Sightline’s daily news round-up, but worth reading over and over: America’s two-party system is the problem. Support for democracy is declining in two-party countries like the US (also called majoritarian countries, they are almost exclusively former British colonies), which are caught in bitter partisan battles and unable to address the pressing problems of inequality, lack of opportunity, social justice, and social safety nets. In contrast,
parliamentary democracies with Proportional Representation elections and stable multiparty coalition governments, typical of the Nordic region, generate a broader consensus about welfare policies addressing inequality, exclusion, and social justice, and this avoids the adversarial winner-take-all divisive politics and social inequality more characteristic of majoritarian systems.
Sky-high housing costs in jobs-rich areas are driving inequality in the US. It used to be that you could move to a jobs-rich area and increase your net income, but now housing eats up so much of low-skilled workers’ income that they are overall worse off if they move to high-income areas, to the detriment of everyone, but especially lower-income workers and lower-income states.
In short, with more elastic housing supply, the United States would be richer on average, and the gains would be disproportionately concentrated among poorer people and poorer states.
It takes a village, but there are no villages.
By village I mean . . . the way of life inherent to relatively small, relatively contained multigenerational communities. Communities within which individuals know one another well, share the joys, burdens, and sorrows of everyday life, nurture one another in times of need, mind the well-being of each other’s ever-roaming children and increasingly dependent elderly, and feel fed by their clearly essential contribution to the group that securely holds them.
All over the world, teenagers are doing less fighting and drinking, and are less likely to get pregnant. But why? Kevin Drum argues that it’s a consequence of reduced levels of lead, which had such adverse consequences for older cohorts.
Clear your calendar this weekend because you are about to binge-watch all six episodes of Wild, Wild Country on Netflix. It’s a fascinating chapter of Northwest history that ends up involving a huge number of Oregon’s elite and raises questions about who gets to decide who belongs where. And if like, you me, you have childhood memories of the events (we had close friends in The Dalles) it’s doubly fascinating to review them with some distance.
Harvard Business Review describes new research showing that smart phones—even if turned off and lying face down—impair our cognitive abilities:
…merely having their smartphones out on the desk led to a small but statistically significant impairment of individuals’ cognitive capacity — on par with effects of lacking sleep.
…they are constantly calling to us, exerting a gravitational pull on our attention. If you have ever felt a “phantom buzz” you inherently know this. Attempts to block or resist this pull takes a toll by impairing our cognitive abilities. In a poignant twist, then, this means that when we are successful at resisting the urge to attend to our smartphones, we may actually be undermining our own cognitive performance.
Are you affected? Most likely.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis may be the most fascinating Cascadian to watch right now, as detailed in an excellent NYT profile.
Have you ever wondered why capitalism is so hard to escape, even though it seems like so many people are disillusioned with it (to say the least) as the dominant human social paradigm? It may be because of our similarity to leaf cutter ants.
Scientists have finally found some good news about coral reefs. Scientists have also come up with an interesting way to think about the climate impacts of car use:
The researchers also calculated the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and glacier mass loss. They found that under current climatic conditions, every kilogram of carbon dioxide emissions will eventually result in the disappearance of 15.8 kilograms of glacier ice. In other words, for every 500 meters you drive a car, you lose a pocket glacier roughly the size of a large guinea pig.
For the record, 500 meters is roughly 1600 feet, or less than one third of a mile.
If you’re not already taking responsibility for your own carbon emissions, you really should, if for no other reason than not doing so currently puts you behind Shell Oil, morally speaking, and that is a pretty sad place to be. The epitome of Big Oil just released a radical decarbonization scenario, outlining the steps it sees as necessary to fulfill the objectives of the Paris agreement:
The scenario, which finds the world in a net-zero emissions state by 2070, is based on the idea that “a simple extension of current efforts, whether efficiency mandates, modest carbon taxes, or renewable energy supports, is insufficient for the scale of change required,” the oil company document reads.
“The relevant transformations in the energy and natural systems require concurrent climate policy action and the deployment of disruptive new technologies at mass scale within government policy environments that strongly incentivize investment and innovation.”
If you haven’t yet seen any photos from the March for Our Lives, go here now. I don’t know if it will end up being as revolutionary as I hope, but it was truly inspiring.
And for a little levity, ever heard of an egg spoon? I hadn’t until this week, but apparently it’s the next frontier in the food culture wars. So now you know.
The New York Times released its annual diversity report this week, detailing the gender and racial breakdown of its overall staff and in its leadership positions. There’s some upward trends, but the progress in hiring more people of color is not as readily apparent. Though this was painful to look through, both as a person of color and as a former journalist who worked there once upon a time, I remain appreciative of the fact that the company is willing to be this transparent about the makeup of its staff. Now it’s a question of being better, and perhaps setting an example for the rest of the industry—and other sectors that struggle with diversity and inclusion.
(Not that it’s all gloomy in journalism on that count: the Orlando Sentinel recently promoted Iliana Romero to sports editor, the first and only Latina sports editor at a major US newspaper.)
I have three questions to share that I’ve been reflecting on.
First, how has your perspective of gender changed throughout your life?
As a Tacoma kid, I was raised in the norms of a cis, hetero, white, Hispanic Catholic household. I had to wear a skirt at school, and was only allowed to wear pants after 4th grade if it was winter. Winter was the best season—I couldn’t get teased for not shaving my legs if I could hide them in pants. It was, as many of you might relate to, strictly binary and unyielding.
I constantly seek a new understanding of gender to confront that upbringing. I thought this week’s piece on Swedish schools challenging gender norms in toddlers was a wonderful story exploring the flexibility of gender norms. My favorite line was this: “Otto prefers to wear dresses because he likes the way they fan out when he spins around, and it does not make him unusual here.” See how beautifully a child’s spirit thrives when we just let go of the false binary?
One of the photo captions sums up the massive amount of work we have to do to achieve gender equality: “Izabell Sandberg, a teacher at the school, said the parents of one girl complained that she had become cheeky and defiant at home after being encouraged to say ‘No!’” The work we need to do exists within us and between us.
Second, how could your perspective of gender change in the future?
Seattle tech company Tableau was just announced as the official data visualization software for United Nations. Tableau’s data analytics are going to be accessible to professionals working in 193 Member States. And I assure you that tech is not neutral— it matters who designs it.
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The Sustainable Development Goal I like to focus on is #5 (for gender equality, of course). And yet, most of the global gender data is only binary. I’m not sure the global big data community knows what’s coming their way, but I sincerely hope that the strong LGBTQ community of Cascadia brings a nuanced understanding of gender to Tableau’s global efforts.
And third, how does your understanding of gender influence policy?
I’ve been in awe at Canadian policy news that is unfortunately, poorly covered in the US. According to the Minister of the Status of Women, “the whole [federal] budget was looked at ‘through an intersectional gender lens.’” All we have in the US at the federal level is a volunteer effort at the National Weather Service, and I really thought that effort is something big for us.
To sum it up, you can actually pay women to review an entire country’s budget for gender equality. So let’s dream big. And then let’s let go of the false binary and dream bigger.
Democracy Now! devoted much of its March 26 daily show to the March for Our Lives against gun violence.
Margaret Talbot, staff writer at the New Yorker, ran an article on the “extraordinary inclusiveness,” of that same March.
A week later, Ms. Talbot published this profile of Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
In a related item, for readers looking for the next opportunity to march, the March for Science is planned on April 14, in Washington D.C., with satellite events shown on the map at this embedded link. I count at least two events in each state/province within Cascadia.
Barbara Clabots is a Sightline Daily editor.
John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other posts.