What I Read on Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Archived Articles

Gavin Newsom, the Next Head of the California Resistance – Tad Friend

The New Yorker – November 5, 2018 Issue

I don’t know if I saved this in the first place because of work or because I live in California and care about politics, but I am glad I did. I had a pretty negative view of Newsom due to how selfish he was in the primary last year, and while Friend’s profile didn’t make me love the guy, it at least made him a bit more comprehensible.

Not to say that Newsom comes across particularly well in Friend’s telling. At times he seethes with a desperation to be liked and respected. At others he’s cocksure and dismissive, so fixated on his early struggles that he ignores the myriad advantages he’s enjoyed.

More sportsily, Gavin Newsom is the Golden State Warriors of politics: a once-beloved underdog whose achievements would have been impossible without huge amounts of luck and external support, he’s both irritated and incredulous that people don’t still focus on the struggle. Also they both purport to represent the entire state while being synonymous with the Bay Area—with San Francisco itself once the Dubs finish abandoning Oakland but that is not really anything from the article I just don’t really like the Warriors.

But I do like Gavin Newsom, at least a little bit. I like him because deep down, he knows he’s being irrational. He knows his insecurities are influencing everything he does, and tries to account for that in his actions. And while there’s some really suspect interactions with people of color in the piece, particularly an episode of alarming condescencion towards incoming SF Mayor London Breed, it does seem like his heart’s in the right place

Meditation in the Time of Disruption – Mike Powell

The Ringer – October 25, 2018

The Ringer is a frustratingly bad publication, so I was a little perplexed to find this in Pocket. Turns out it came from Next Draft, a really good daily news recap email that, if I still read it regularly, I would recommend to y’all.

Also I recommend this piece of writing! Powell examines the growing mindfulness industry from a deeply spiritual/religious point of view, a refreshing take on well-trod ground. He approaches the main three meditation apps (which he recognizes as a sort of inherently disgusting concept) with skepticism, and his takeaways are resonant, if not profound. 10% Happier sounds like the best one, if you’re wondering.

We are becoming, or have become, increasingly rational/logical/algorithmic/scientific. I am not passing judgement on that or anything. Climate change is real, etc. But I do think we may have accepted it as an objective good a bit too quickly. I am always happy to see a writer interrogate how we got there.

New and Interesting this Week

  • The Small, Small world of Facebook’s Anti-vaxxers—You should read most of what Alexis Madrigal writes, and everything he writes about how the internet works.
  • AMLO’s First Days – I keep reading Jorge Ramos’s columns for Splinter, and I keep coming away feeling like I almost learned something.
  • Can America Still Build Big? A California Rail Project Raises Doubts – This is cool because we’re all doomed.
  • Decriminalize sex work in New York – Remember when the whole media was freaking out because Julia Salazar did a bad job telling her own story? Weird how all that went quiet once she won, huh. Anyway I had just been wondering what she was up to, and turns out it’s co-sponsoring legislation to decriminalize sex work in NYC and writing opinion pieces about it in the NY Daily News. Might have lied about how rich she was, did not lie about being a legit progressive.
  • When Will Sex Work Finally Be Decriminalized? – This is a really good question! This is mostly quoted facts from the Ramos/Salazar piece above, but it also does a good job explaining just how hard the conversation is to have. And that is a really important thing to talk about I think. I feel actively weird any time I discuss decriminalizing sex work, even though anyone who believes in feminist movement or labor rights should be deeply invested in this cause. Even now I am sort of worried to write about this because like my grandma will probably read this. I am not gonna send it to her or anything but she loves and supports me and is surprisingly good at Google for a 91-year-old.
  • The Place to Watch Your Government in Action is on C-Span – You can actually just watch congressional hearings and other governmental business without any network commentary at all. You will have to form your own opinions about what happens though.

US News

  • Thousands of Immigrant Children Said They Were Sexually Abused in U.S. Detention Centers, Report Says – Skipped this the first time I saw the headline because I wasn’t ready to be horrified. It’s horrifying.
  • Congress passed gun control legislation for the first time in a decade. No one is thrilled about the compromise.
  • Oregon passed statewide rent control, or more accurately an anti-gouging law. No one is thrilled about the compromise.
  • Big pharma CEOs appeared before congress, could not justify high drug prices or their salaries.
  • So much Michael Cohen shit happened. Wired says that we had totally different experiences of it based on our individual media bubbles. We all know this but man it is always gonna get my click and also its really hard to see how we can continue to exist as a nation without a shared reality.


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