THE CHORES

Invisible Women is, if not the best book of 2019, at least tied for that honor with How to Hide an Empire. Briefly, it covers many ways that excluding women from data and research (e.g., all crash test dummies used by the NHTSA are male bodies, when the mass, distribution of mass, muscle strength, and spinal physics of women are different) has created a lot of real-world problems. To finish the same example, women are far more likely to be injured in a side-impact crash compared to men in the same accident.

One of the book’s most frequently cited statistics raised some interesting ideas for me: that women do 75% of all “care” work – housekeeping, parenting, elder care, cooking, etc. Now, we could drive a bus through the methodological holes in the idea of care work (Is this self-reported? How is that validated? In what society? Now or in the past? But what about XYZ that shows men do more housework than ever?) but this is a good example of a data point where getting hung up on the precision of the figure completely misses the point.

Do women do exactly 75% of housework, and not 74%? I mean, that’s not actually important. There’s no question that, in a two-adult heterosexual household, women are doing more of this work. Whether it’s 55-45, 66-33, 75-25, or 90-10 is of considerably less interest.
One reason I think the exact figure doesn’t matter is that there’s a tremendous range of experience and domestic arrangements people have. You might be saying “My wife and I are 50-50!” right now, and maybe that’s true. In a large sample those kinds of individual differences will average out. The more interesting thing I kept coming back to as this statistic was mentioned is: how much Housework is there?

I’d be willing to bet that, looking more closely at research on the gender breakdown of domestic work there is not only a disparity between how much housework men and women do, but how much housework they think there is.

Take a hypothetical parent who tells their kid, “When you’re done with your math homework, let’s go over it together.” Another parent, the helicopter control-freak type, says “Sit down and we are doing your math homework. OK number one. No, don’t do it that way. No not like that. Here, let me show you.” The first parent spends 10 minutes and the second spends an hour. But here’s the thing: That person spent an hour because they wanted to do it that way, not because they “had to.”

Let me give you a binary example now that Question Cathy and I live together. Prior to this, I spent 10 years living alone, doing 100% of all my housework by definition. So I’m certainly not averse to housework, nor do I ever expect any of it to be done for me.

But consider laundry. Due to the way my previous career worked out, I found myself in the habit of wearing nearly every single item of clothing I own and creating an enormous, almost mountainous pile of dirty laundry that I would then take to a laundromat and do all in one big Laundry Session. I’m talking about saving up 3, sometimes 4 weeks of laundry and then cleaning everything I own in one burst.
QC prefers to do laundry every day, almost. Both of us clean our clothes, but if comparing our “systems” it is clear that hers takes vastly more human-hours of labor. I’d argue that it isn’t entirely necessary to do laundry so often – it’s a choice. What happens, of course, is that we are slowly drifting together. I am doing laundry more often, she is doing it a little less often, and we will meet at some point.

Conversely, QC prefers to do one thorough house-cleaning per week. I’m on board with that except for one thing: the floors. I *hate* dirty floors, even just a little bit dirty. The feeling of crumbs or whatever on the bottom of my feet (who wears shoes indoors all the time?) is super unpleasant. So I sweep every day, and hand-wash the hard floors probably every 3-4 days. Do I “have to” do that? I’d argue no. It’s a preference. I choose to do it, so it would be silly for me to argue “I slave over a mop for you!”

My point is simple: treating “the housework” as a defined, objective amount of labor is a mistake. All available data shows that in countries like the US, the amount of labor required at home has been steadily decreasing thanks to labor-saving devices for over a century (although some of that gain has been eaten away by increased standards of how clean things are expected to be). Whatever the amount of work is, the burden falls unequally on women. Don’t walk away from this with an impression that I doubt that for a second. I’m simply curious, in the process of trying to figure out how much of the burden falls on men versus women, the idea of “the housework” is quantified.

In my adult experience, there is a certain baseline level of work that has to be done. Beyond that, it is what you decide it should be. I haven’t had a dishwasher for a decade, and the amount of labor that created was a matter of…well, how much I was willing to live with some piled-up dishes. Had I done every dirty dish every single day, I would have had X hours per week dedicated to dishes. Instead I did like, X/2 or X/3. It was a choice, with benefits and consequences.

It is useful, I think, for people to keep this in mind. The amount of labor that parenting or housekeeping requires is always a matter, to some degree, of what you make it. “Oh, I have to drop my kids off at school and then wait in the long line to pick them up!” Really? Or do you choose to do that because you won’t let them ride the school bus? Or because you tell them it’s “too dangerous” to walk six blocks to school? Either way is fine! It’s your choice! But recognize that you’re making a choice. Some things are not optional; you have to feed your child and do laundry. But how much time you spend on those activities is…flexible. It is not in any way fixed.

What does all this mean? Nothing, really. It was just a thing that came to mind when the topic was being covered. Data is always a matter of how you quantify and conceptualize your variables, and this is an especially clear example of how hard it is to measure some nebulous concepts. If you doubt me that “How much housework needs to be done?” is subjective, go ask your kids how clean they think their rooms need to be.

RELATIONSHIP STATUS

So another war is starting, and it feels odd to write about myself while that's happening. But I feel like I owe an explanation of where I've been for the past two months.

They say ("they" always say) that if you love something you shouldn't do it for money, because eventually you will grow to hate it. I think that's a bit strong. Now that I make a living writing I don't hate writing. Far from it. It is fair to say, however, that my relationship with writing has changed. That's not necessarily a bad thing; hell, I've been doing this for 15+ years and if you don't change as a person over 15+ years that's pretty alarming.

The fact is that I'm now writing a ton, in multiple contexts and on multiple projects simultaneously. That has dampened my enthusiasm for what we might call Pleasure Writing, which is what this blog has always been. I still love it. I still have things I want to say that have no other outlet. A lot of times I simply find myself…written out, so to speak. Write for six or eight hours, then sit down and try to start writing something new from scratch and see how far you get. There are only so many sentences you can create in one day before the sentences start being forced and stop making sense.

The other issue at play, and this is an ongoing problem, is that blogging is a dead art form. Social media won. People are down to visiting all of, what, four websites? And anything that isn't channeled through that medium doesn't exist. The result is that, when I do feel "Hey I have an interesting thing to say about this!" it is no longer my first reaction to turn here and write 1000 words about it. That was my first reaction for a long time, but the way people consume information and interact with one another has changed. I can't stop that and it isn't up to me.

I've redirected a lot of my "free" time and energy to Mass for Shut-ins, since podcasts are 1) very fun, as it turns out, and 2) the more contemporary format in which people consume the kind of material, content, energy, and subject matter that was channeled into blogs back in the Aughts. Formats change. Vinyl becomes 8-track becomes cassette becomes CD becomes streaming audio. There are things that each new format adds, and things that are lost with each transition. Again, I can't exercise any control over that evolution. Instead I'm enjoying what the podcast format offers in terms of fun, content, and creative possibilities.

I also moved across the country on Nov. 1 and bought a house for the first time in my life. That transition – moving, getting used to a new place, settling in, keeping up with work – has been…time consuming. That's just a practical reality.

These points add up to a change in the way I utilize this format. I do need to get back to writing here more regularly, for the simple reason that the more I write the better. It's a muscle that requires regular exercise. I also continue to have plenty of things I'd like to write about that do not interest an editor and do not become paid pieces to run somewhere else. Some ideas are going to end up appealing mostly to me, which means the self-publishing format is the ideal outlet for them.

I don't think, given the nature of the change in the way people use the internet, that I will ever get back to posting five long pieces here every week. That era has passed, not just for me personally but for this format overall. However, I also want to do better (for myself and for you) than one sporadic piece per month. A couple times per week is a reasonable goal that shouldn't undermine my efforts in any other area – writing freelance, making a podcast, writing samples for a book proposal, etc. It's easy to make excuses not to do any additional writing, but the bottom line is that I want to and I should. Mea culpa.

Thanks for continuing to read this format, if you do. I don't want it to fall into disuse. I can't keep a format alive single-handedly, but I also do not need anyone else's permission or approval to continue to work in it when I feel the urge to do so and when it suits the point I want to make. It is, ultimately, what we make of it, and I think there is still something for us to make of it.

TOO MANY COOKS 2019

The candidacies of people like Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick (potentially) at the last moments of the pre-primary season are answers to questions nobody – and I mean nobody – was asking.

Bloomberg is a Republican billionaire trying the same thing that several other generic Rich White Guy candidates have already done, albeit with a slightly more recognizable surname. The idea that there was something the Howard Schultz or Tom Steyer campaigns couldn't do that Bloomberg somehow can is…well, it's the kind of thing that appeals to pundits desperate to apply their 2005-era Democratic Wisdom to the 2020 race (The path to victory is right down the middle!) Like Schultz, the most likely impetus behind the campaign is that Bloomberg talked to whatever Politics People he knows – fellow clueless elites, no doubt – and they realized they could milk some free money out of him if they told him it's a good idea. He has consultants who are flat-out making things up to encourage him to run, things no professional would say with a straight face and without being very handsomely paid in advance. Things like "Well, you're gonna skip the first four primaries and then win all the rest, because that's a thing that could happen."

This isn't a campaign, it's a handout to the campaign professionals with the least integrity and the best poker faces. I wonder how many election cycles it is going to take before these ultra wealthy egotists who end up getting 2% before dropping out realize that paid staffers have an incentive to tell the candidate who is paying them to continue running.

As for Patrick, the Bain Capital bigwig and former Basically a Republican Governor of Massachusetts, that anyone within the Democratic Party may have encouraged him to run is a sign of desperation. It is possible that he cooked up the idea on his own without anyone in a position of leadership or influence in The Party suggesting this, but he adds little that other candidates do not offer – candidates who are doing pretty badly, overall. He's a nicer Booker (is Booker not sufficiently Nice?) who's going to repeat the "Big business is our friend and better things aren't possible" message already being delivered by Biden, Pete, and Klobuchar.

If Patrick does have some powerful people encouraging him to do this, it's a clear sign that some people in the Democratic Party still believe that message works and they just need to find the right messenger. Imagine being two months away from 2020, being conscious for any point in the last 20 years, and believing that a guy who works for Mitt Romney's venture capital firm is the magic bullet.

NORMALIZATION OF DEVIANCE

(the "2" in the url suggests that this is the second post I've entitled "Normalization of Deviance" which I find amusing and alarming in equal measures).

It's clear, as I have written elsewhere, that Trump senses he has screwed up harder and gotten himself in bigger trouble with this Ukraine thing than at any previous point in his presidency. It very well may work out the same as before – that is to say, with no consequences – but the sheer number of excuses they've floated trial balloons for is noteworthy. "Rick Perry told me to do it" and "I'm being set up by the CIA" are not excuses one trots out when things seem like they're going well. Someone's worried, and it stands to reason that indicates that even worse things will be revealed before long (as always).

The strategy, big picture, is the same strategy Trump has fallen back on repeatedly over the past few years, and we saw it when he answered reporters' questions by openly asking foreign governments to "investigate" Biden. He's already admitted he did it, and mountains of evidence will tumble forth confirming that he did it, so his only play is to talk about it openly to make it seem like the most normal thing in the world. "Everyone does it" and "This is just a normal part of my job" are narratives intended to normalize what he did to the point that he can bank on everyone shrugging at it like speeding or being illegally parked – it's against the law but nobody thinks it's a big deal.

That's the goal. Whether it will work is not yet clear. It has worked before, so it could work again. But there is a real reluctance on the part of a lot of Republicans to get drawn into this one so far. That might change. Right now, though, some of them appear smart enough to realize that every time Trump gets himself into these situations, the information that comes out starts with a trickle of bad news and turns into a river. If they are thinking, hell this sounds pretty bad and it's probably even worse than this, the next couple weeks could be crucial.

There's no confidence that Trump will ever face any consequences – now or ever – as he has spent his whole life avoiding them. It's not your imagination, though. This situation is different, at least in how worried it has the people who are once again going to have to defend and make excuses for this guy. If they get the sense that he won't survive this, the stampede for the exits will be on.

WHAT IS WARREN?

I've largely stayed out of discussing the many candidates vying for the Democratic nomination because, frankly, most of them are so indistinguishable that it legitimately does not matter to me which one of them comes out ahead. Mayor Pete vs. Kamala Harris vs. a cup of tap water? Who cares, you'll get the same outcome from any of them. Harris's sole saving grace as a candidate is that it would be fun to watch her yell at Trump in a debate. Her presidency would make Obama look like Trotsky, though. So I can't bring myself to care.

Warren is the one candidate I've expressed support for in the past, and the rash of Thinkpieces about her more recently just haven't been interesting. Mainstream Democrat calls her the Messiah; Leftist criticizes her for not being as Left as some people once thought she might be. It's boring.

With the understand that Biden is terrible and will be an unmitigated disaster should he win the nomination, here is my take on the other two parts of the Three Leading Candidates right now.

I like Sanders' ideas, and while I don't expect him to win anything I think he is crucially important to the Party that he hates and that hates him. Do you think every candidate is talking about Medicare for All today because of, what, Hillary Clinton? Rahm Emanuel? Sanders pulls the discourse away from the center, which is important because it has been drifting toward the center for nearly 30 years. Someone needs to remind these people that the Democratic Party used to stand for some things it no longer stands for, and that it has lost voters because of that. Now they want those voters back, but they are reluctant to listen to the guy who seems to get *how* to do that.

Warren is, in my view, at the most leftward part of the mainstream Democratic Party. She's not a Socialist, she's not some bomb-throwing would-be Independent. She's a pretty liberal Democrat, given a Democratic Party that frankly isn't very liberal at all anymore. She is, again in my opinion, about as far left as any candidate can be without having no chance to win. That's less a compliment to her than an indictment of the Democratic Party.

She has some obvious flaws, namely that harebrained DNA test thing. The best way to deal with that – here is advice she absolutely will not take – is to ignore it. Say "I responded to that back in January and I do not have anything more to add to what I said." Instead she'll probably apologize and explain endlessly, which will cause the media to press her on it repeatedly because getting a response out of a candidate makes them feel powerful.

On the plus side, she seems to have broad appeal to voters who don't care much about policy (they think she's sassy, or whatever, which is great; whatever people need to get motivated to vote I guess). She also will convert more Bernard Brothers than any other candidate. For the 10,000th time, most of them came around in 2016 and (grudgingly) voted for HRC despite what people in Facebook comment sections insist. Are you going to get all of them? Of course not. But compared to, say, Biden, she has a better chance to get them to – again, maybe grudgingly – vote for her.

Grudging doesn't matter if you're a candidate. Voters being thrilled about voting for you doesn't help. Still counts as one vote.

Warren seems like the only one of these candidates smart enough to not completely, explicitly alienate the Left by replicating the 2016 strategy of screaming at disgruntled primary voters that they were obligated to vote for the Most Qualified Candidate Ever. HRC 2016 wasn't really about anything, policy-wise. The campaign was about how bad Trump is and how great HRC is. Warren seems more likely to throw some policy bone at voters she knows she needs. Like, give them one thing you can default to when making the case; "You like _____ don't you? She's gonna do it!" may not be the best argument ever posited but it beats the hell out of "You are a racist sexist Bro, you suck and you HAVE TO vote for her." Objectively it's a better argument.

Hardly a ringing "endorsement," obviously. I've simply repeatedly lowered my expectations about politics to the point at which I recognize the gap between what I like and what is likely to happen. At least a Warren presidency would result in some low-visibility bureaucratic stuff that would be positive (reviving CFPB?) if nothing else. Won't get that out of any of the others, who all seem poised to piss away four hypothetical years on playing nice with Mitch McConnell.

Remember the instrumental nature of voting that I've talked about on my podcast a lot – this isn't an act that belongs at the top of Maslow's hierarchy. This isn't your heart and soul. It's not self-actualization. It's just a process, one in which you make the best decision you can. If you want to vote for (insert candidate), vote for him or her. Whatever. At the end of the day, though, I struggle to see any of these other candidates as someone who will do anything, anything at all, beyond keeping the seat warm and wasting four years. Maybe that's enough for you, but my rapidly plummeting expectations haven't gotten that low yet.

IN PLAIN SIGHT

Those of us who remember the interval between 9/11 and the War in Iraq – and knew in real time that it was all based on bullshit – have to marvel at how much things have changed for neocons since then. The made-up case for Iraq was carefully crafted with just enough remotely plausible elements that Serious People (a demographic predisposed to like a good war now and then) could support it and later claim that they made an honest boo-boo.

With this Iran thing, the maneuvering is being done in plain sight by a group of people whose plotting skills strongly recall the Three Stooges. After John Bolton took his shot and blew it with "They shot down our drone!" as a rousing cry to war, there are now a bunch of people linked to the Saudi government just sitting around and openly musing, "Hey let's come up with some kind of way to justify attacking Iran. Doesn't even have to be good."

The Saudi line is now "This is our 9/11" because…some technologically obsolete drones hit some oil refining equipment and caused zero fatalities. Mind you, it's still not even clear exactly what happened; accepting that it was a drone attack of foreign origin requires us to take the word of some extremely unreliable and highly motivated narrators here. For all we know, the Saudis did it themselves. Or Yemeni rebel groups did it. Or Iran did it. Or Iranians in southern Iraq did it. It's kind of a grab bag of potential explanations right now.

Outside of the Beltway, there is zero support for war with Iran. None. None whatsoever. Even the most red-necked racist MAGA dude is like, wait what? Oh, they used a Radio Shack robot to bomb…an oil refinery, huh? In Saudi Arabia?

Not exactly a compelling narrative, to say the least. No opportunities for jingoism, no bloody shirt to wave, not even any plausible connection to the United States. This is, in so many ways, just the dumbest concept ever. And it seems like everyone involved in trying to plan it realizes that, and they're all just kind of openly brainstorming rationales that are so stupid that nobody outside of Congress and the offices of major Pentagon contractors could repeat it with a straight face. "How about we say this is 9/11 for Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia is the same as America" appears to be the best they can come up with. If another pointless war is to be avoided, the saving grace will be that these people are so dumb they can't even con the gullible.

THE SINGULARITY

The Epstein thing is fascinating, as perhaps the only current example of an issue where nobody will trust or accept the official view of events irrespective of political beliefs.

People want the world to be more interesting than it is. People want life to be like the movies. That is the basic appeal of conspiracy theories. Plus, speculating is fun. No, seriously. It is. I get it. In this case and as usual, it requires people to assert with a high degree of confidence that they know how something works without really having any idea what they're talking about.

Obviously Epstein's death is extremely suspicious at best. However, a few things need clarifying before we can jump with any reasonable certainty to "omg murder."

First of all, the idea that an aged pedophile would kill himself in prison is plausible and given more credence by Epstein's previous suicide attempt (or maybe attempts). In a vacuum, it isn't hard to believe at all that he would commit suicide.

The question on which every suggestion that he was murdered (or was somehow the victim of foul play) hinges is: what does "suicide watch" mean in the context of the facility where he was held? This is where everyone's rampant speculation has really blossomed. Suddenly the world is full of experts who know what a Federal correctional facility's suicide watch is like.

If "suicide watch" means that someone walks past the cells every 3-5 minutes to check on the occupants, then it is entirely plausible that a person could commit suicide under those conditions.

If "suicide watch" means that the person is under nonstop observation (presumably by camera) then it becomes considerably less plausible. It would be very difficult, in fact, to believe that someone watching Epstein hang himself would neither notice what was happening nor have time to intervene.

Yet even under the latter conditions, it's not impossible that this really was suicide. Have you ever met a prison guard? They're like cops, but lazier. It's also not impossible that someone tasked with staring at a bank of monitors for hours on end could let their attention wander. Maybe the people responsible for watching him are just bad at their job. That's not hard to imagine.

With all that said, the idea of a high profile inmate on suicide watch committing suicide without intervention is highly suspicious. It makes perfect sense that ears would perk up and that everyone would reflexively question that version of events. I cannot imagine what kind of investigation could be done that would produce a result that would NOT be rejected by a large part of the population, but I hope a more complete version of events emerges. Whatever happened, conspiracy theories about this event will persist until long after this presidency ends.

DANGEROUS PIEROGI

Ten days ago Question Cathy and I were driving to Pierogi Festival in lovely (not lovely) Whiting, Indiana. It is the kind of thing one does when 1) Whiting, IN is not far, 2) the weather is good, 3) it's as good as any option for a random summer Friday, and 4) pierogi are good.

I am not a huge fan of big crowds, of events like music festivals or parades where masses of sweaty people I very much would not like were I to know them are shoved ass-to-nuts against one another. I don't like being massively sweaty, being touched and pushed and jostled by strangers, and generally having to deal firsthand with idiots behaving like idiots. But, pierogi.

Instinctively, the first thing I did when we arrived on the one main street along which Pierogi Fest is set up was check that the street was blocked off properly at its beginning and end points. By "properly" I mean with something large and heavy enough to deter a vehicle-ramming attack, because that's just a thing that happens regularly now.

Then I did a 360 scan for cops (so they could engage the mass shooter after he only managed to get off maybe 50 rounds) and alleys or side streets we could use to quickly get off the crowded street. There were none. The lack of entry and exit points from the street, once we were swallowed up by the crowd, made me nervous.

This is just what we have to do now, I guess. The pierogi were good. But on the ride home, Question Cathy admitted that although she felt silly, she had been hesitant about the event because of the potential that someone would show up and start shooting for no reason. I allowed that I felt exactly the same, and we both enjoyed the amusing idea that anything as tame as a festival to celebrate Polish ravioli would ever, in a million years, be a terrorist target.

The next morning we woke up to find that someone shot and killed three people at Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA, known worldwide for its garlic ice cream and a guy dressed up as a giant garlic mascot.

This is how we live now, I guess. We have to calculate the risk of being killed at small-town food festivals before leaving the house.

THE SCARCITY ECONOMY

Lots of talk this week about higher education, specifically student loan debt forgiveness. Any plan that forgives student debt would have to be paired with some sort of plan for free public school, or else it would simply degenerate into spiraling tuition costs ("Who cares, just borrow it and never pay it back, kids!") and an indirect subsidy of higher education through the worst possible means.

There is a lot of resistance to free higher education in any of the forms that left-leaning candidates have proposed it, most of which fall into the predictable "Yeah well who's gonna PAY for it huh?" trough that American political discourse uses whenever something that doesn't directly and obviously benefit the wealthy is proposed. But I think there are two other important things going on with the resistance to free or at least heavily subsidized college.

One is that the "Education is the silver bullet" mantra on the center-left would be undermined. Right now we can keep convincing people that their economic struggles are their own fault; if only you had the right skills you'd be doing so much better! We are already seeing a generation that has discovered the flaws with that argument. It turns out, of course, that many of the problems with the job markets and the economy are structural and not at all within the control of the individual. Sure, go get yourself all the fancy skills you can. When the jobs are being shipped overseas or turned into gig economy, no-benefits type work, those skills aren't going to feel very valuable. And the constant emphasis on the "right" skills is a canard; what skills are in high demand changes constantly, and encouraging students to flock toward whatever the hot skill of the moment might be has long term consequences that will appear in 20 years when that skill is decidedly no longer hot.

The second issue is that, to be crass, credentials are only valuable if there is some scarcity. Education is always valuable in the abstract, improving what the individual knows and can do. But when high school graduation rates neared 90%, what happened to a high school diploma? It became nearly worthless except as a basic entree into employment. The same thing has started to happen to the Bachelor's Degree. With more than 1/3 of adults holding one in the U.S., it's often not worth much on the job market (mileage varying based on field and brand name). If the theoretical everyone has one, no one is going to benefit from having one.

So to some extent – and sadly this is quite logical – a lot of the opposition to truly throwing open the doors to higher education comes from people with higher ed credentials who don't want to see the inevitable watering-down of the things they've used to establish professional success. We're looking at a pool of politically important, professionally successful people who are thinking, I paid out the ass for my kid to go to ____ and now people are just gonna get a BA for free? It's not the most attractive logic (and not enough of a reason on its own not to make a public policy that benefits society as a whole) but I certainly understand it. I have an advanced degree, and if everyone in America suddenly had an advanced degree it would be worth significantly less (if that's possible). So, I get it.

That said, only people who completely ignore the numbers and the inequity of what this generation has been subjected to in order to get the college degrees we tell them they absolutely MUST have can argue that we don't need to do something aggressive about student debt. Look at what has happened to college tuition since 2000 and stop pretending like your experiences going to college in the 70s and 80s is in any way meaningful to the current conversation. This really is a debt "crisis" and it's impacting every area of the economy down the line. People aren't buying houses, cars, investments, vacations, and all that other crap we tell people they should do (for their own long-term economic good, but moreso because our economy depends on people doing those things) because they can't afford it.

I understand the resistance, but this isn't a problem that can be ignored. And it's better to start with the most aggressive possible idea – free college period, debt forgiveness period – since you know whatever "solution" eventually gets out of Congress is going to be watered down a million times anyway. Don't do the watering-down up front. I thought we learned that lesson in 2009.

THE BIG SHIFT

The NYT dropped a serious piece of crap on Sunday based on a flawed premise about responsibility for (and, concurrently, solutions to) climate change. "If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?" they ask, hinting darkly, "In the age of global warming, traveling — by plane, boat or car — is a fraught choice. And yet the world beckons."

A fraught choice? Only if you accept the ridiculous premise that your choice to use a plastic straw or fly commercial to London is really the cause of or solution to climate change.

Climate change is a collective problem, caused primarily by the decisions of nation- or planet-level actors. The petrochemical industry causes climate change. Car dependence causes climate change. Heavy industry causes climate change. Use of unrecyclable throw-away crap causes climate change. More than anything, electricity generation from burning fossil fuel causes climate change.

It is facile, stupid, and wrong to suggest that because you drive or use electricity that you, Joe Blow, are the one who either caused the problem or can solve it. You didn't make the choice to subsidize oil, coal, and gas-burning power plants – you have to live with it. You didn't decide to lay the entire United States out physically and geographically on the presumption that everyone has a car and fuel is cheap. And your decision to stop driving or buying gas will not make one goddamn bit of difference absent meaningful collective action from others.

You are one person who lives within a system that caused, and can help abate, climate change. That system is what needs to change, not you. Guilting you and I about our personal choices on the premise that those choices cause, prolong, or could solve climate change is just gratuitous. Worse, it's an industry-backed tactic for excusing their inaction by shifting the blame from the collective to the individual level.

Your decisions can no more stop climate change than your personal decision not to be racist can solve racism, or than your decision to be honest solves the problem of lying. Your contribution to the problem is a spit in the ocean, yet the parties most responsible have a vested interest in making you feel like it is up to you personally to decide whether or not the problem persists.

It's idiotic logic. Reject it.