There is Nothing New Under the Sun

Transitions can feel like celebration, growth, an unopened present. And like loss.

As another group of high-school seniors graduated and got ready to head out on their next steps, I was struck at how it can feel overwhelming and scary and joyful all at once. And we’ll do it again next year and the year after that and the year after that.

We can feel alone, and it can feel dangerous, but the path ahead is well trodden.

What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.

Mass Shootings as Pro-Gun Propaganda

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

We often hear statistics about “mass shootings” in the United States. But those aren’t really what most of us think of as mass shootings. Most news and policy organizations use an FBI-derived statistic which looks at firearms incidents in which four or more people are shot, regardless of the severity of the injuries. That can include stick-ups gone wrong, family disputes, gang hits, everything under the sun.

When most of us think of mass shootings we’re talking about school shootings, or the seemingly related kinds of indiscriminate mass shootings we just saw in Allen, Texas, the one last year in Buffalo and the countless others. They’re different in kind from other shootings. And we know them when we see them.

[…]the statistics we see about mass shootings don’t really take these salient factors into account. If anything they understate the rapid growth of this kind of mass shooting. It’s frequently said that the mass shootings in this category get outsized attention compared to the vast numbers of people who die everyday in “ordinary” shootings, or firearm suicides. And that’s true in terms of toll in human life. But that ignores the salient point. Mass shootings as I’m defining them here are a form of terrorism and a successful one. Their indiscriminate nature is meant to instill a generalized terror and demonstrate the power both of the individual shooter and guns themselves.

America’s continued infatuation with guns and tolerance for gun violence has myriad reasons. But significant is our willingness to put up with it — and, in fact, increase the likelihood of being victims of gun violence ourselves — is the self-reinforcing pro-gun propaganda of mass shootings in Marshall’s definition (indiscriminate, goal to maximize death, shooter’s expectation to die).

Because the policy solutions are so impossible (not because they aren’t clear, but because they feel so impossible politically), we can feel like the only accessible solution to these events of indiscriminate mass-death terrorism is to arm ourselves. More guns feels like the only solution when someone might just kill you for not reason other than instilling fear.

These mass shootings, and others, are, ironically, pro-gun propaganda.

Feinstein Remains Unwilling to Entertain Discussions about Leaving the Senate

The New York Times:

Senator Dianne Feinstein, 89, whose recent bout with shingles included contracting encephalitis, is frailer than ever. But she remains unwilling to entertain discussions about leaving the Senate.

Being a trailblazer can’t be easy, and you almost certainly get used to people telling you what you can’t do or what you should do, and you become a trailblazer by ignoring and defying those naysayers.

But knowing when to step aside is a critical skill of leaders, often easier for outsiders to see. Feinstein, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her, are only hurting the causes they care so deeply about and have fought so hard for.

How We Became a One-car Household: Slowly, Then Suddenly

When Laura and I bought electric pedal-assist bikes in March 2022, our goal was to ditch one of our cars at some vague future date, but we didn’t really know how it would happen.

I mean, cars are just so convenient, and when you have them it’s easy to just keep them, right?

We spent the year replacing car miles with bike miles (and, during shitty weather, bus miles).

Like most folks, the majority of our trips are just a few miles. Laura found her commute into downtown Iowa City was faster by bike than car because she cut out the five-minute walk from parking to the office. My 12-mile commute didn’t have the same time savings, but it really only added 15 minutes or so.

Groceries were manageable with panniers and the extra weight didn’t matter because of the peddle assistance. Costco trips were still by car, but Laura hauled fence posts for her garden on her bike, and we just don’t haul much.

Most of the time, at least one of our cars sat unused for weeks at a time, though it was easy to get lazy and make an excuse to use a car.

I started marking bike days on my calendar and lumping as best I could days I would need to travel from my office (or urging phone and video calls when it made sense). I did rely on coworkers for tides when we were going to an offsite meeting together, but that just means carpooling which we should be doing anyway.

Then, in just before last Christmas, a driver failed to yield and smashed into our sedan, totaling it. (Everyone was fine, albeit a little shaken). So here we were, in the middle of an Iowa winter, with one car. And it was fine.

(We went back to two cars for a short time when we got a Prius to replace the relatively inefficient Subaru Outback.)

It helps that our high schooler (1) doesn’t drive a lot, (2) doesn’t travel for extra curricular activities since they’re boarding at school, (3) our jobs are flexible enough that we can work from home during bad weather, (4) we can afford costly cab/rideshare fares and (5) have coworkers willing to drive. But we’re going to save thousands of dollars each year on car insurance, gasoline, oil changes and other maintenance. You might also save of parking costs we don’t have.

Electric pedal-assist bikes are transformative. A good one isn’t cheap (we spent $4,000 each for our class 3 Specialized Turbo Vado 4.0 bikes plus more on gear), but it’s cheaper that a car and gets the job done. I’ve found it’s easier if I just plan to ride every day, alleviating decision-making second guessing.

NPR Quits Twitter

National Public Radio has left Twitter, like list of people, after being “state-affiliated” like Chinese and Russian propagandists. The organization won’t return even if the label is changed, says NPR CEO John Lansing, who told in-house media reporter David Folkenflik:

“At this point I have lost my faith in the decision-making at Twitter. I would need some time to understand whether Twitter can be trusted again.”

Better late than never.

Fair Play

I think I watched more basketball over the past week than I have in a couple of decades. It was thrilling and emotional and disappointing and really fun.

Then, following the emotional, and disappointing, loss to LSU in the NCAA championship game, lots of Iowa fans got mad. Mad at LSU star Angel Reese and mad at the mostly anonymous officiating crew.

It was classless, Iowa fans, and shockingly lacking self-unawareness.

Others have done a better job than I can delving into the racial and gender dynamics of calling out a Reese, a young, Black woman in a big moment, for “classlessness,” but watching Iowa fans twist themselves into knots to define where the line between self-assured shit talking in a big moment and taunting lies was sad after celebrating Caitlin Clark for her cockiness all season. Turnabout is fair play in sports, and I’m sorry it hurt your feelings.1

And blaming referees for a loss — a decisive 17-point loss — is, well, not being honest. Unless the officials gave Jasmine Carson 22 points in 22 minutes off the bench. I am the fairest of fair-weather fans, jumping on the bandwagon late in season and quick to move on, so maybe I don’t understand how basketball works.

Instead of celebrating the ride — including beating the defending and undefeated champion — the reaction took away exactly what Iowa fans said they were mad they were being distracted from: a magical season from a scrappy team with a home-grown superstar.

1 | Kudos to Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder for her response when asked Reese’s end-of-game actions: “I’m sure she was really proud of her accomplishment. And I would be really proud of my accomplishment if I made it, won the national championship too. We’re all different people, and we all have different ways to show our emotion. Again, I’ve got to focus on what I can control.”

Jason Kottke Hits 25 Years of Blogging

I can’t remember when I started reading Jason Kottke’s blog, but I find I’m often surprised how long I’ve been reading someone when I start to work it out. I’m guessing it’s been since the mid-2000s. The eponymous blog has always hit a sweet spot for me.

Several years ago, I was the subject of a post and it gave me insight into how much Jason’s site drives conversation on the web, as I followed along as the story was picked up by increasing prominent news outlets (Buzzfeed, Adweek, cnet, Forbes) and, eventually, the New York Times.

Congratulations on reaching 25 years, Jason.