ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



July 2018



What I’m Reading – 15 July 2018

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Trump Administration’s Horrible Treatment of Immigrants

“In a press release Sunday, state Senate Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley stated that he and several other state and local officials plan to hold a press conference Monday in front of the building leased by MVM. Farley said the officials will call for closure of the “illegally-operating migrant detention facility” as well as “the implementation of more humane and just immigration policies from the Trump and Ducey Administrations.”” After Reveal investigation, officials call for closure of Phoenix child detention facility (by Aura Bogado and Ziva Branstetter for Reveal)

Ridiculous Workplace Rules

But when she was taking part in a swimming test that was part of the exam, an examiner saw the tattoo on her foot and told her she could not continue because it could be visible when worn with a skirt. Ms Martín understood that the rules no longer obliged women to wear skirts and, given that that the tattoo was not visible when she wore trousers, she argued that it was within the regulations. However, she says the examiner insisted that she could be ordered to wear a skirt and refused to change his mind. “I felt terrible, at first I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “The reasons he was giving me seemed so absurd. I left utterly distraught, I was crying.”” Tattoo taboo: Spanish woman fights rejection by army (by Guy Hedgecoe for BBC)

Reproductive Rights

“Some of these articles have relied on Kavanaugh’s statements that he will “respect precedent” as an assurance that he wouldn’t, at the first opportunity, vote to upend Roe v. Wade. But Kavanaugh doesn’t respect Roe as a precedent. All we have to do is take him at his word. As law professor David Cohen pointed out, as recently as September Kavanaugh was publicly praising former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s dissenting opinion in Roe. And he didn’t just do so a little. He praised the dissent a lot.” There Is No Liberal Case for Brett Kavanaugh (by Jessica Mason Pieklo for Rewire)


“Because we can’t — we cannot — we’re constantly being told — I’m told every day I’m on air that I’m racist because I call out racism. That is maddening to me. And I’m crying about it because it’s crazy. And I wish that somebody who is a colleague of mine like Alice could at least acknowledge that fact. That is so frustrating. We’re supposed to be talking about a 12-year-old boy who was just trying to deliver newspapers, and the police are called him in Ohio where Tamir Rice was killed in the same age. I want to be acknowledged and see that this is not OK for our children. This is not OK for the future direction of this country. So, I want to say, I commend you for saying what you said. It means the world to me.” Angela Rye Breaks Down During CNN Panel: ‘I’m Told Every Day I’m On Air That I’m Racist’ (by Ashleigh Atwell for Blavity)

“Allison Scott, chief of research at the Kapor Center, told USA Today that diversity efforts in silicon valley are never truly intersectional. “Women of color, who simultaneously experience two marginalized identities within the tech ecosystem, face unique barriers and obstacles that are not well understood or acknowledged,” Scott said. “Without a specific focus on strategies to recruit, hire and retain women of color, progress will remain stalled.”” Facebook Still Isn’t Hiring Enough Black People, Changes To How They Evaluate Talent May Be The Answer (by Ricky Riley for Blavity)


“Palmer, a retired basketball referee, broke the NBA’s gender barrier in 1997 when she and Dee Kanter were hired. Palmer was the first woman to officiate an NBA game ― on Oct. 31, 1997, between the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks. She was also the first woman to ref an NBA playoff game ― between the Indiana Pacers and the New Jersey Nets on April 25, 2006.” Two Women Refereed An NBA Game Together For The First Time Ever (by Alanna Vagianos for Huff Post)

Mental Health

“But Andy’s research shows that while gaming does cause emotional changes in players, these are all short-lived – a spike in happiness if you win or rage quitting (that’s stopping playing a game in anger, in case you didn’t know). The industry often defends itself against accusations it’s harmful by pointing to player testimonies that games helped them through difficult periods, or allowed them to build strong communities of friends. But “the evidence for long-term benefits is just as sketchy as the evidence which says there are problems,” Andy says. The World Health Organisation has classified “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition where an individual prioritises games over “other life activities” for more than 12 months with negative consequences.” Video games and mental health: ‘Nobody’s properly talking’ (by Alysia Judge for BBC)

Something Good

“Most importantly, the Wild Boars themselves were instrumental to their own rescue. Every boy was brave in the face of mind-boggling adversity, in conditions that strike fear in professional divers. According to the New York Times, one boy, an undocumented immigrant from Myanmar, spoke English (and four other languages) and served as the crucial interpreter with the international diver team; the young coach, who had been raised as an orphan in a monastery, taught the children meditation to help relieve stress and get them through their hunger. The local doctor in charge of their recovery reported that their mental health was remarkably stable, crediting the coach’s management of the situation–teaching them skills to cope–and the way they took care of one another as likely factors.” What I Learned About Resilience From the Thai Soccer Team (by Meredith Li-Vollmer for Public Health Insider)



July 2018



“Bring the Noise”

Written by , Posted in Adventures, Politics

Since moving to London in January I’ve felt a bit disconnected from the US political nightmare that is President* Trump. I do listen to podcasts of the three MSNBC evening shows (Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell) daily to at least stay informed, but especially since I’ve left Facebook and Twitter, it hasn’t been as in my face as it was during the first year of his presidency*. Plus, I’m living in a country that has its own absurd nightmare unfolding (*cough* BREXIT *cough*), so sometimes its too much to process all of it and I end up watching reruns of Game of Thrones just to experience some lighter fare.

It’s also been a bit challenging to get acclimated to our new community. I want to support folks fighting against oppression, but I also just got here six months ago and so am not entirely sure of all the different issues, nor do I know who the trustworthy players are. I’m working at learning, but it’s definitely taking time.

That said, a few months ago (while still a member of Facebook), I started following the Women’s March London. When it was announced that President* Trump would be visiting the UK sometime in July, they scheduled a “Bring the Noise” protest. Once the date was finalized, I responded to a call for volunteers and ultimately agreed to serve as a march steward.

At a little after 10 on 13 July, we gathered near the BBC headquarters near Oxford Circus and received instructions, along with some gorgeous high-visibility vests and wristbands identifying us as part of this march. That ultimately proved handy as many, many individuals had high-visibility vests and shirts on that day. Myself and a handful of other women volunteered to serve at the back of the march, basically ensuring the group stayed together and allowing for the street sweeper (as well as an ambulance and a police vehicle) to follow behind.

In anticipation of crowds not being sure where to go, we were dispatched to tube station exits nearby. We did a lot of shouting at folks with placards to direct them to our meeting point. However, there was a second march scheduled for around 2 PM the same day (and following a similar route), so we did get some confused folks.

In fact, the sole negative interaction I had came from someone who was looking for the steward meeting point for that parade. He asked where the stewards were meeting, and I asked “for which march?” I think that must have deeply offended him, as his next statement was “the main one.” I sort of tilted my head at him because I was genuinely confused. Again, I’m no longer really on any social media, so while I knew there was another march, I had no real idea who was involved (other than the Socialist party, as they had signs already out at 9 AM), and I certainly didn’t know if that one was meant to be the larger, or if the Women’s March was. “Which is the main one?” He got quite huffy and said “No disrespect, but you know what I mean.” Unfortunately for both of us, I really didn’t, so I said so, to which he responded “I’m just trying to do a good thing. God!” And then stormed off.

People can be so odd.

The start of the march itself was lovely. There were opera singers who sang a couple of songs and then led the crowd in “We Are Family” before the march stepped off. The back of the march finally crossed the start line about 20 minutes later, and ultimately spent about 90 minutes marching through central London to Parliament Square. It was loud. It was fun (at times). It was depressing to think about how this was so necessary. There were some fantastic signs, some great costumes and make-up, and a lot of people with children. It was inspiring, and also at times frustrating.

Because of the other march, some folks saw us marching and thought they’d missed it, so they jumped in with us. Which, the more the merrier! But we always made sure to let them know what this march was, and where the other was starting just in case it wasn’t where they wanted to be.

It was also a warm (though not oppressively hot) day, and some folks were a bit slow, so we’d have to encourage them to speed it up a little because there were rather large cars following quite close behind us and they were encouraging us to keep the gaps as small as possible. There were community liaison officers from the police department there as well, and they were nice and helpful, but I’ve got some feelings about policing in general, so I wasn’t entirely sure how to interact with the men. It is a bit of a different dynamic here as they don’t carry guns so there isn’t the immediate fear that a wrong word will lead to a POC getting shot, but still.

Once we passed Trafalgar Square it got a bit harder to contain folks as the streets there are wide and the road was closed the entire way. By the time we reached Parliament Square (and the Trump Baby Balloon – which you can sort of see in this blurred shot), I was completely drained.

I didn’t stay for the rally, but walked across the bridge to catch a bus home and finally eat something other than grapes (my planning was poor – though I did have plenty of water!).

I feel that what I did was necessary and helped make the march experience a better one for people, but I’m not sure it’s something I’d have the energy to do on a regular basis. At the same time, I know these protests are important, and while there are folks taking the lead to organize them, they also need volunteers to do some of the grunt. I think a good ratio might be 1:3 or 1:4 — for every three or four similar events I go to, I need to volunteer to help with one. If we all did that, we certainly would have plenty of folks helping out.

In the end, these protests were meant to show President* Trump that he is not welcome in the UK, and that people here do not support him. I doubt he got that message. He’s not very intelligent, and he’s willfully ignorant on many topics. I can’t imagine his aids allowing him to see coverage of the protests, and I doubt Fox News framed them as anything other than gatherings of wounded snowflake liberals.

That’s not okay, but it’s reality these days, so instead I think we should focus on the fact that we all took some time on a Friday to show each other and the rest of the world that we do not support President* Trump — not his policies, not his racism, not his misogyny.

And that’s something.

Some coverage of the event:

Women lead day of angry London protests against Donald Trump

Thousands of women storm London in #BringTheNoise march against Donald Trump

*Always an asterisk, because he didn’t actually win the popular vote, and at least some of the votes he did earn were likely influence by a foreign government





July 2018



What I’m Reading – 8 July, 2018

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England is in the semi-finals of the Men’s World Cup. In honor of that, today’s first article is one highlighting the kindness of their manager.

“Southgate’s saved penalty gave Germany the chance to go through to the final if they scored their next penalty, which they did. The England manager at the time, Terry Venables, hugged a devastated Southgate. Now, images of Southgate being consoled 22 years ago and being the consoler after Tuesday’s game have emerged online, prompting praise for Southgate’s compassion towards Colombia’s Mateus Uribe, who missed his spot-kick.” World Cup 2018: Gareth Southgate’s compassion praised (by Andree Massiah for BBC)

Trump’s Monstrous Immigration Policies

“The ruling involves the same agency that has been responsible for housing thousands of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent weeks. But this case centers on a different form of family separation, one that predates the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for border crossers: one in which children already living in the United States are taken from their families and placed in federal custody. This practice had been rare until last year.” Judge orders end to requiring director’s approval to release migrant kids (by Patrick Michels for Reveal)

“US Health Secretary Alex Azar said the tests were needed to meet a court deadline to reunite families, as the agency’s usual methods were too slow. Mr Azar, whose agency oversees migrant detention centres, said about 100 of the children were aged under five. Activists fear the DNA data can be used by the government for other purposes. Critics also say that the children are too young to consent to a DNA test.” DNA tests ordered to reunite separated migrant families (BBC)

“Videos shot by an alarmed neighbor show children dressed in sweatsuits being led – one so young she was carried – into the 3,200-square-foot building in early June. The building is not licensed by Arizona to hold children, and the contractor, MVM Inc., has claimed publicly that it does not operate “shelters or any other type of housing” for children.” Defense contractor detained migrant kids in vacant Phoenix office building (by Aura Bogado, Ziva Branstetter, and Vanessa Swales for Reveal)

Reproductive Rights

“As health-care providers, present and future, our ethical duty to cause no harm, protect our patients’ safety, and save lives is paramount. That’s why we feel compelled to speak out against the Trump administration’s unjust and dangerous policy—one it is moving to bring stateside— which censors health-care providers and restricts the services we can make available. In this way, Trump’s global gag rule rips away the core tenet of our provider-patient relationship.” The Effects of the Global Gag Rule Are Being Felt Everywhere (by Melvine Ouyo and Alexa Henderson for Rewire)

“The laws in both states had taken aim at religiously affiliated facilities and crisis pregnancy centers, and provoked controversy—pitting health-care providers, who contend that fake clinics peddle anti-choice misinformation, against religious groups that argue the facilities are an exercise of their faith. Passed in 2016, the Illinois law requires health care providers with religious objections to abortion to refer patients to providers where they may get the service, if the patient requests that information. The ADF filed suits in state and federal court to block the law, Theriot said. The Hawaii law requires “limited service pregnancy centers,” a category that includes fake clinics, to provide information about state programs offering free and low-cost family planning services and to follow state and federal patient privacy laws.” The Supreme Court Sided With Fake Clinics in California. The Fallout Could Spread Nationwide. (by Nicole Night for Rewire)

Anti-Trans Bigotry

“The rule ran into resistance from religious leaders and parents opposed to an alleged “trans ideology.” The board of the Indian River School District voted unanimously to send a letter to the governor and board of education protesting the proposed regulation. The regulation received 11,000 comments in its public comment period, most in opposition, at which point Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting rewrote the rule. “It got on the radar on the professional anti-LGBT and trans people organizations and it has turned into a proposal that would actually make it worse for a lot of trans students,” National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling said in an interview with Rewire.News. “It’s our position that we’d better off without it. Delaware is such a positive state and has been a real beacon for [trans-friendly] public policy and this just isn’t.”” Delaware Democrats Bow to Right-Wing Pressure on Rules for Transgender Students (by Katelyn Burns for Rewire)

“The group carried signs with anti-trans slogans, such as “transactivists erase lesbians”, while they distributed leaflets opposing trans-friendly reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and calling for trans women to be banned from women’s spaces. The campaigners briefly lay on the ground to physically block the march from continuing, but after negotiations with Pride staff were permitted to get up and march the entire route.” Anti-trans group allowed to lead Pride in London march after hijack (by Hazel Southwell for Pink News)


“He says the taboo around death means that families usually avoid discussing until it is too late. Most people do not know how their relatives want to be treated if the worst happens. “So we need to start preparing young people and getting them to have tough conversations with their loved ones,” he says. “Death lessons” could include the legal aspects of what mental and physical capacity means, how to draw up a will and an advanced care plan, and the biological processes of dying and death.” Putting death on the school timetable (by Matt Pickles for BBC)

Ridiculousness of Brexit

“According to Vote Leave’s dossier, the commission finds the campaign group:

  • made an inaccurate return of campaign expenditure
  • is missing invoices and receipts
  • failed to comply with a statutory notice
  • exceeded its spending limit

Crucially, the draft report is said to claim there was coordination between Vote Leave and a smaller campaign, BeLeave, which received a donation of more than £600,000 in the closing weeks of the referendum, after advice from the Vote Leave director Dominic Cummings.” Vote Leave broke electoral law, Electoral Commission expected to say (by Laura Kuenssberg for BBC)



July 2018



What I’m Reading – July 1, 2018

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We’ve made it through half of the year. Things in the US seem to keep getting worse, but there is reason to hope, thanks to some amazing activism taking place across the country.

Atrocious Treatment of Immigrants and Others by the President* Trump’s Administration

“Because the Tohono O’odham Nation’s village of Topawa is on the U.S- Mexican border, agents have reportedly been harassing the people living on the Mexican side. Remes recorded the video Thursday to prove a point. There has been a history of injustice against his people who may be split up due to President Donald Trump’s policies.” Heart-Wrenching Video Shows Border Patrol Agent Running Over Native American Man (by Ricky Riley for Blavity)

“The supervisor told me I was going to get a medication injection to calm me down,” the girl said. “Two staff grabbed me, and the doctor gave me the injection despite my objection and left me there on the bed.”Another child recounted being made to take pills in the morning, at noon and night. The child said “the staff told me that some of the pills are vitamins because they think I need to gain weight. The vitamins changed about two times, and each time I feel different.” Immigrant children forcibly injected with drugs, lawsuit claims (by Matt Smith and Aura Bogado for Reveal)

“Vulgarity and incivility are indeed coarse and uncomfortable, but like any weapon there are moments when they must be employed in self-defense. This is just such a time. If we cannot be vulgar about a cabinet secretary lying to the nation and saying “we do not have a policy of separating families at the border” when her own department has produced statistics and photos evidencing just such a policy, then what is vulgarity for? The milk of human kindness, strained as it is, should be spared for those children and their shattered families — and, indeed, for their homelands who have oft suffered from American foreign policy stretching back decades.” The Atrocities On Our Border Prove Trump’s Base Isn’t Worth Talking To (by Katherine Cross for The Establishment)


“Major European news outlets claimed Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal made history for scoring in eight consecutive major tournaments when he scored a hat-trick against Spain Friday. In actuality, a Ghanian player, Asamoah Gyan, holds the record. Gyan accomplished the feat three years ago. In a tweet, he called out the “disregard” of his achievements. “People disregard my achievements in the World Cup history,” he tweeted Friday.” African Soccer Player Calls Out Colonizers Who Refuse To Acknowledge His Place In World Cup History (by Rickey Riley for Blavity)

“It turns out the young girl was raising money for a trip to Disneyland. The girl and her mother, Instagram user Ladyesowavy, received a flood of support after the video went viral from those tired of white people calling the cops on black people for during mundane things. Musician Jonathon Brannon was one of those people and he reached out to the mother and daughter. He reportedly bought four tickets to Disneyland for the young girl.” 8-Year-Old At Center Of #PermitPatty Controversy Receives Surprise From Generous Man (by Rickey Riley for Blavity)

Police Violence

“Activists are staging eight days of protest after another black man died following an interaction with the Sacramento Police Department. The action began on Tuesday during a city council meeting, according to The Sacramento Bee. The coalition chose eight days to symbolize the number of times Stephon Clark was shot in March. The group hopes the eight day protest will result in accountability for the deaths of Clark and Brandon Smith, who died on June 6 while being transported in a police vehicle.” Sacramento Activists Announce Eight Days Of Protests After Another Black Man Dies Following Encounter With Sacramento Police (by Ashleigh Atwell for Blavity)


“But a collaboration between Reveal and the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst offers the most detailed picture ever of the entire field and allows those that are public to be compared with all their peers. The equity center, after a confidentiality review by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, provided Reveal with anonymized statistics for 177 companies. Reveal and the equity center then independently analyzed the data. When it comes to diversity, companies often want to shift responsibility to others, according to Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Employment Equity.“This is not something they do for any other part of the production process,” he said.” Here’s the clearest picture of Silicon Valley’s diversity yet: It’s bad. But some companies are doing less bad (by Sinduja Rangarajan for Reveal)

Reproductive Health

“The new language requires a Catholic institution that affiliates with another health-care entity to “ensure that neither its administrators nor its employees will manage, carry out, assist in carrying out, make its facilities available for, make referrals for, or benefit from the revenue generated by immoral procedures.” “In any kind of collaboration, whatever comes under the control of the Catholic institution—whether by acquisition, governance, or management—must be operated in full accord with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, including these Directives,” the document states.” Catholic Hospitals Offer a Preview of Life Without Roe. And Bishops Just Tightened the Rules. (by Amy Littlefield for Rewire)

““The state has a legitimate interest in informing women about abortion, but the means used under the statute enacted does not meaningfully serve that objective,” Cady wrote. “Because our constitution requires more, we reverse the decision of the district court.” The forced 72-hour waiting period is part of a law banning most abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The 20-week ban is in effect and isn’t part of the legal challenge.“We are pleased that the Iowa Supreme Court saw this law for what it was — a ploy to make safe, legal abortion less accessible,” said Planned Parenthood Federation of America Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens in a statement following the opinion.” Iowa Supreme Court Blocks GOP’s Forced 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period (by Jessica Mason Pieklo for Rewire)

Fight Back

“The truth is that for all of the recent handwringing about civility, the methods now being employed against the administration’s core supporters are actually quite civil. The manner in which Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave was actually the portrait of civility; it was a communal decision taken by staff, she was informed of the decision in private and politely asked to leave, and was not charged for any orders that had already been delivered. So what happened, exactly? Well, she was shunned. A social consequence was applied to her actions as Press Secretary that served as a powerful reminder: What she does is not normal, and should not be taken lightly.Shunning Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is The Definition Of Civility (by Katherine Cross for The Establishment)

““My father is an illegal immigrant, so today is very important,” said Brittany Velazquez Peters, a West Virginia resident, at the protest in the nation’s capital. She held a sign that red in Spanish “Are you serious?”Others in DC donned foil sheets, similar to those that migrant children in detention have been photographed sleeping in, emblazoned with the words, “We care. Y don’t u?” — a jab at the jacket worn by First Lady Melania Trump when she went to visit migrant children. Also in the nation’s capital, Lin-Manuel Miranda sang “Dear Theodosia,” a lullaby from his musical Hamilton, a song he said he chose because “there are parents right now who can’t sing lullabies to their kids.” There Were Huge Protests Across The Country Against Trump’s Immigration Policies (by Amber Jamieson for Buzzfeed News)

Something Good

These buddies turn 7 today. We’ve been caring for them for 6 1/2 years, and they have brought us more joy that we could have imagined.

The Day They Came To Us

Keeping the house safe from birds

Tigger in a box

Jameson in the sun




June 2018



Consequences by E. M. Delafield

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: Those looking for a Victorian-set novel about England that isn’t happy and (spoiler alert) doesn’t end in a happy romance.

In a nutshell: Alex Chase is miserable and cannot find a way to be happy.

Worth quoting:
“The despair that invades an undeveloped being is the blackest in the world, because of its utter want of perspective.”
“What do girls want to write to one another for? They can’t have anything to say.”
“One suffered until one could bear no more, and then it was all numbness and inertia.”

Why I chose it:
There is an amazing bookshop in London called Persephone Books. They are not just a shop; they publish works as well, focusing primarily on forgotten female authors. I visited earlier this year and snapped up three books; this is the first I’ve gotten around to reading.

This book is not for those going through a rough patch. It does not end on a high note, and there isn’t much along the way to make the reader feel hopeful. But at the same time, it feels honest, as not all people experience a life that is full of happiness, or redemption, or joy.

Alex is the eldest of three girls and two boys, and is being raised in a Victorian home that is clearly well-off (her father is, in fact, a sir). We meet Alex when she is just 12 years old, and she is clearly emotionally distraught. She craves attention and seems only to think to find it by misbehaving. Not intentionally so much; she just doesn’t think about the consequences (see what I did there) of her actions. When her lack of thought leads to her sister being seriously injured, she is sent to a convent for education.

At the convent she receives an education but does not make friends, and receives negative attention (if she receives any at all). She is painfully awkward, and unable to make the connections she craves. She is infatuated with a fellow classmate who barely acknowledges her existence until she realizes that Alex might be a good social connection.

That friendship never pans out, and when Alex is of age to come out to society, she doesn’t find much success. Her mother seems to care, as does her father, although her father throughout the book says some very heartless things. No one seems to care much that Alex is clearly distraught and depressed; Alex herself is often unable to articulate her own wants and fears. Part of that stems from the Victorian era, and part of that I think stems from piss-poor parenting.

She clings to anyone who might give her attention, eventually leading her to join a convent but unfortunately things do not improve for her. The last hundred pages or so are rough to read, not because they are poorly written, but because Alex continues to experience such an inability to navigate the world she lives in.

As I said, it is not a happy book, but I think it is good enough that I can recommend it to those who might find the premise interesting.




June 2018



Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

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3 Stars

Best for: People looking for a push to consider leaving social media.

In a nutshell: Silicon Valley veteran (seriously, he worked on internet stuffs in the early 80s) attempts to make the case that social media — in its current form — is harming us and society, and tried to get us to quit. Mixed results follow.

Worth quoting:
“Yes, being able to quit is a privilege; many genuinely can’t. But if you have the latitude to quit and don’t, you are not supporting the less fortunate; you are only reinforcing the system in which many people are trapped.”
“The core of the BUMMER machine is not a technology, exactly, but a style of business plan that spews out perverse incentives and corrupts people.”
“You know the adage that you should choose a partner on the basis of who you become when you’re around the person? That’s a good way to choose technologies, too.”
“When we’re all seeing different, private worlds, then our cues to one another become meaningless… Can you imagine if Wikipedia showed different versions of entries to each person on the basis of a secret data profile of that person?”

Why I chose it:
I’ve been spending time this year focusing on how I spend my time – I read “How to Break Up with Your Phone” and “Silence” in quick succession. I’ve also been more and more frustrated with how much time I find myself checking Facebook and Twitter, so I thought I’d see if this book helped push me one way or the other.

Author Lanier’s premise is that the internet is not bad, but our current social media options (most, at least), are. He uses the abbreviation BUMMER throughout as shorthand for what he calls “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent.” He makes some good arguments, but his writing leaves a lot to be desired. Part of my issue is seeing the word BUMMER multiple times a page (it feels like I’m being shouted at) and part of my issue is that the editing of this book is not great. There are a lot of ideas slotted into a lot of subcategories that makes it difficult to follow at times.

Lanier makes some great points. He discusses how our empathy for others has eroded because it is based on knowing a bit about what they experience, but the algorithms mean we all are seeing different things. It’s hard to respond to someone talking about something you’ve never been exposed to, or that is the complete opposite of what you’ve been exposed to. He also — and I think this is his strongest point — suggests we look at the type of person we are when we’re on different social media platforms.

As I said above, he’s not saying that it’s *the internet* that is to blame, but instead the business model that sells the consumer as the product. It’s not so much about malice (although the people behind the bots that helped sway the US election were certainly full of malice from my perspective), but about subtle adjustments to what we see so that we then do what makes the advertisers the most money. It’s obnoxious and is hurting our society.

Lanier has issues with some of the big companies — mainly Facebook, Google, and Twitter. And the companies owned by them, including WhatsApp and Instagram. I have to admit I’m confused by his disdain for WhatsApp, because they don’t do ads and the content of the messages is encrypted.

So where does that leave us? Yesterday I deleted my Facebook account … sort of. I’m trying to make a career out of writing, so I kept my blog’s Facebook page, which needs to have an administrator, so I created a new Facebook account that has no friends. I also deleted all the tweets from my personal account, and am now only posting things I write to @AKelmoreWrites on Twitter. I’d love to delete it all, but I also would love to figure out how to have a writing career, and the two things seem diametrically opposed.



June 2018



The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale

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4 Stars

Best for: People who know that there’s a deeper problem with the police than most of our society will acknowledge, but don’t have all the evidence at their fingertips.

In a nutshell: Sociology professor Vitale offers a logical and thorough examination of the many different areas where police are seen as necessary but are, in reality, making things worse. And, more importantly, offers alternatives to police involvement in those areas.

Worth quoting:
“At root, they fail to appreciate that the basic nature of the law and the police, since its earliest origins, is to be a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo.”
“A kinder, gentler, and more diverse war on the poor is still a war on the poor.”
“We must break completely with the idea of using police in schools. They have no positive role to play that couldn’t be better handled by nonpolice personnel.”
“We must move beyond the false choice of living with widespread disorder or relying on the police to be the enforcers of civility.”
“They need stability, positive guidance, and real pathways out of poverty. This requires a long-term commitment to their wellbeing, not a telephone referral and home visits by the same people who arrest and harass them and their friends on the streets.”

Why I chose it:
I know that the police (in general) in the US are not helping. But even suggesting that perhaps their power needs to be tamped down is often greeted with disbelief and the suggestion that they are necessary. I wanted a book that would provide me with the facts I needed to counter the disbelief.

This is a well-researched, well-sourced, well-written discussion of the state of policing in the US. Author Vitale starts with a history of policing to redirect readers from the idea that the police were created to protect people. He then breaks down policing into eight areas where they are often seen as ‘necessary:’ police in schools, police as responders to people in mental health crisis, police sweeping up those experiencing homelessness, police “saving” sex workers, the war on drugs, police in gang areas, police at the border, and police silencing political opponents.

My favorite part of this book is that Vitale offers not just descriptions of the problems, but also attempted reforms (and why they aren’t sufficient), and then offers ALTERNATIVES. That is what, I feel, is missing in so many books that take on this topic. They share important information and outline the problems, but then sort of throw up their hands in a ‘yup, it sucks’ manner. Vitale instead points out what will actually work, and it’s often much better (and cheaper) for the community.

The best examples of this are in the sections on police in schools, police and homelessness, police and those with mental illness, police at the border, and police as political silencers. The solutions offered in the police and sex work and police and the war on drugs sections require a bit more on society’s part, but are definitely do-able. The solutions offered on gang violence, however, admittedly require a much larger shift in how we provide support to our communities than many people accept.

The section on the border patrol was especially poignant given what is going on in the United States right now; I know many of us would like to see ICE abolished, and this book certainly helps make that case.

The only thing that was missing, and that I would have liked to see, would be a discussion of the need (or not) for police to investigate crimes. Does Vitale think that in situations where murders have taken place, we could have a small police squad? Or does he think the community could manage that as well? I’m unsure what that could look like, but would enjoy reading his thoughts on that.



June 2018





June 2018



Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Written by , Posted in Reviews

4 Stars

Best for: Those looking for a bit of inspiration in tough times; those who want to learn more about a group of WWII women (the Rabbits) who haven’t received a lot of coverage.

In a nutshell: Three women’s lives intertwine – Caroline, a retired US broadway star who volunteers at the French Consulate in NYC, Kasia, a Polish teen who is just starting to assist the resistance, and Herta, a German Doctor who experiments on young girls in a concentration camp.

Worth quoting:
“To make things worse, Washington tightened visa restrictions, and it became almost impossible to enter the United States from Europe.”
“A new thing the Nazis had forced upon us was patriotic music, played via loud-speaker outside the theater.”
“It’s just a thing, Kasia. Don’t waste your energy on the hate. That will kill you sure as anything. Focus on keeping your strength. You’re resourceful. Find a way to outsmart them.”
“The county doesn’t want more foreigners.” — “Foreigners? Half the country just got here a generation ago. How can you just let people die?”

Why I chose it:
I’m not sure why I originally purchased it, but I brought it with me when I moved. I decided to read it now partly because of the horrendous actions the US government is taking against refugees seeking asylum. I thought there might be some parallels, and there definitely are.

That whole idea of ‘never again’ seems to ring hollow these days. It’s distressing how a book set nearly 80 years in the past can resonate with the current state of the world. And yet, here we are.

Note: There are some minor spoilers below, but this is a novelization of real events, so it’s more history than spoilers. Also, this review is LONG.

First, let’s start with the fear I had: that the depiction of the Nazi doctor Herta (who really existed) would attempt to bring the readers to, if not an understanding of her perspective, then at least an explanation for her actions. But nope. Herta is evil in the scariest way: she’s not extraordinary. She doesn’t bark orders or dream up new ways to kill people. She is not pleased with her first task, of ‘expediting’ the deaths of those at the ‘reeducation’ (read: concentration) camp who were ‘too ill.’ She loves Germany, and sees nothing wrong with what Hitler is doing. She doesn’t try to get away from her tasks, which includes the horrific sulfonamide experiments on teenage girls.

Ms. Hall Kelly’s depiction of Herta shows that there are no excuses for participating in such activities, and that even if there are parts of your personality that are perfectly pleasant and normal, you can still do evil things. Even more so than in “All the Light We Cannot See,” the author here is effective in avoiding the trope that you have to be a monster to do monstrous things. Herta is a human. A horrible human, but she’s still a human. Nazis weren’t animals; they were people who made the active choice to harm other humans; to view them as less than.

I share this somewhat spoiler-y (there is no redemption arc for Herta) information so that those who might find any book that tries to find the good in the Nazis repugnant needn’t worry that this is one of them.

The style of this book is quite effective – each of the three women featured speak from their own perspective in alternating chapters. In the first part, it’s a simple 1 / 2 / 3 pattern; in the second part it mostly sticks to that; by the third and final part, Herta is featured less as we focus on the post-war lives of Caroline and Kasia. Many chapters end in cliffhangers, which can get a bit old, but for the most part it worked well.

I appreciated a couple of things about how Caroline was portrayed (keeping in mind that she is a real person): that she was still living her life even against the backdrop of the horrors of war, and that part of her life involved helping people she didn’t know and might never meet. There is a romantic entanglement that shows that the world does not stop when bad things happen, even if perhaps we feel it should. Caroline does a lot, working at the consulate, selling possessions to fund care packages for orphans in France and then fighting on behalf of the Rabbits years after WWII is over. I don’t know if she could have done more, but there are certainly others who were doing less. She cares about people who have been harmed, even when some of her countrymen think we should all move on.

Finally, Kasia. Kasia is the one character who isn’t 100% real, although she is based mostly off of a real Rabbit. The Rabbits were Polish political prisoners at a concentration camp who were operated on in horrendous ways (by Herta, and by others). Over ten years after the end of the war, many still had challenges getting quality medical care, as Poland went from Nazi control to Communist control when the war ended.

Kasia changes the most in this book, from a 15-year-old whose biggest issue is that the boy she likes seems to be into her best friend, to someone having an understandably difficult tie adjusting to what the Nazis did to her, her family, her friends, and her country. She survives six years in the ‘reeducation’ camp, and at one point wonders how ordinary life could be as challenging. She is not perfect; she is spirited, scared, and filled with guilt as she blames herself for getting her family in the position they find themselves in. It is heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful.

As I said in the beginning, this book reminds me of what is going on in the US regarding immigration. I’m going to quote the book at length here because I think this is important.

Mr.s Mikelsky held Jagoda [her baby girl] tight.
“Give it to me,” the prisoner-guard said.
Mrs. Mikelsky only held tighter.
“She’s a good baby,” I said to the guard.
The guard pulled harder at the child. Would they tear her in two?
“It can’t be helped,” the guard said. “Don’t make a scene.”

“Just take it,” Binz said with a save of her crop.
The guard who had come with Binz held Mrs. Mikelsky from behind while the first guard pried Jagoda from her mother’s arms.”

The guard hiked the baby higher on her shoulder and walked back through the incoming crowd.
Mrs. Mikelsky crumbled to the floor like a burning piece of paper as she watched her baby be taken away.”

First, notice the guards always refer to the little girl as “it?” She’s not a human baby, she’s a thing to them. Hopefully you can see why this stood out to me. ICE agents might claim to just be following orders, but what they are doing to people is inhumane and disgusting, and somehow it’s just … happening. Some members of the US Congress are speaking out, but US citizens haven’t taken to the streets, haven’t shut down all of the detention facilities. We could argue that we’re exhausted because every day, the US President or his minions do something more horrendous than the day before. And that’s true. We must pick our battles. But preventing children from being torn from their parents arms, and all of them being locked into cages? That seems to be a damn good battle.



June 2018



What I’m Reading – 10 June 2018

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Tr*mp Administration Being Shitty, As Per Usual

“But absent from the summit’s introductory statement were reporters from several news outlets, including the Associated Press, CNN, and E&E News. One reporter with the Associated Press was allegedly forcibly removed from the EPA headquarters after trying to enter to report on the summit.” EPA bans CNN, AP from covering summit on chemicals, ‘forcibly’ removes reporter (by Natasha Geiling for Think Progress)

“The Attorney General did not appear to be unveiling a new policy so much as amplifying a practice that has been adopted by the Trump Administration, which has been separating parents who are in immigration detention from their children. The Times reported in December that the federal government was considering a policy of separating families in order to discourage asylum seekers from entering. By that time, nonprofit groups were already raising the alarm about the practice, which they said had affected a number of families. In March, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the hundreds of families that had been separated when they entered the country with the intention of seeking asylum.” Taking Children from Their Parents is a Form of State Terror (by Masha Gessen for The New Yorker)

“Border authorities were accused of kicking a child in the ribs and forcing a 16-year-old girl to “spread her legs” for an aggressive body search. Other children accused officers of punching a child in the head three times, running over a 17-year-old boy and denying medical care to a pregnant teen, who later had a stillbirth.” Border Patrol Kicked, Punched, Migrant Children, Threatened Some with Sexual Abuse, ACLU Alleges (by Gillian Edevane for Newsweek)

“After I told the officers that I was here to seek asylum, they brought me into a room and asked me questions about why I had come to the United States. I told them of the danger that I had faced in Honduras — resulting from a military crackdown against protests following a contested presidential election. Each day people were disappearing; I fled just after the military tear-gassed our home.
I turned over documents that showed both my identity and my son’s, including my Honduran ID card, his birth certificate and his birth record from the hospital — and the latter two documents listed me as his mother. The officers kept all these documents, and they never asked any questions about whether he was my son. We spent that night in a facility — it would be the last night that my son would sleep in my arms for months.” At the border, my son was taken from me (by Mirian G for CNN)

“Instead, Manuel died a brutal death alone in a foreign land, a symbol of gang supremacy in a country plagued by violent drug cartels. It happened three weeks after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned him to Mexico, a country he had left at age 3 when his parents brought him here without a visa.” Des Moines DREAMer dies within weeks after being sent back to Mexico’s violence (by Rekha Basu for Des Moines Register)

Failed Emergency Response

“When journalists were getting texts from people in the administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló who said that the aftermath of the hurricane felt like a nuclear bomb had struck the island and that the situation was worse than what everyone thought, we knew the death toll wasn’t accurate. When funeral directors started telling people that they were burying way more bodies than usual, or when our family members told us about their neighbors dying in still-darkened rooms, or being buried outside their homes, we knew that the official death toll was much higher than the 64 people the government had eventually admitted to.” Puerto Ricans knew the official Hurricane Maria death toll was fake. We saw too many dead to believe it. (by Julio Ricardo Varela for NBC)

“We now have an answer to this question as the scope of devastation from Hurricane Maria becomes more clear. What we have learned is that there are life-and-death consequences to putting someone like Donald Trump in command of the federal government. The profound failure of leadership and management that Trump’s critics feared has actually happened, and we are just now learning the scale of that disaster.” Trump’s Human Toll (by Jamelle Bouie for Slate)


“A new study, however, suggests that the main threat to our democracy may not be the hardening of political ideology, but rather the hardening of one particular political ideology. Political scientists Steven V. Miller of Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M have released a working paper titled “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy.” Their study finds a correlation between white American’s intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.” The Trump effect: New study connects white American intolerance and support for authoritarianism (by Noah Berlatsky for NBC)

Criminal Punishment System

“To the assertion that the police simply need to be better trained, we must ask, better trained in what? The history of policing in the United States makes clear the police are in fact trained to discriminately execute, brutalize, and detain people, many of whom haven’t done anything against the law. Once you come to understand the institution’s ties to white supremacy, it becomes clear the system is toxic and cannot be fixed. So instead of spending more time trying to reform the institution, we should focus on delegitimizing police and ramping up well-organized approaches that benefit our communities.” The Case for Delegitimizing the Police (by William C. Anderson for Rewire)

“The officers instructed Barnett to exit the vehicle and to get on the ground. Once he was on the ground, they began to kick him, Barnett says. Barnett was transported to a local hospital for treatment of the wounds sustained during the stop. Once there, he says the officers began to beat him again. Barnett says he never fought back.” Two Mississippi Officers Have Been Fired After Being Accused Of Beating A Black Man Ordered To The Ground At Gunpoint (by Ashleigh Atwell for Blavity)

“Kazazi was carrying $58,100 in plainly labeled bank note bundles, along with receipts for his withdrawals and documentation showing that the funds were to be spent on a property in Tirana, Albania for his relatives. Cleveland TSA officials found the money and alerted Customs and Border Protection, who repeatedly questioned Kazazi, denying him an interpreter (his English is not fluent), strip searching him, and, eventually, confiscating his life’s savings under civil asset forfeiture rules. CBP has not charged Kazazi with any crimes or civil infractions, but under civil asset forfeiture rules, they don’t have to. It’s not Kazazi who’s under suspicion — it’s the money, and it is literally presumed guilty until proven innocent. Kazazi has to pay out of his own pocket for a lawyer to sue the government to defend his money and prove that it is not proceeds from a crime.” Customs stole a US citizen’s life savings when he boarded a domestic flight, now he’s suing to get it back (by Cory Doctorow for Boing Boing)

Sexism and Misogyny

“And, look, you don’t have to take my word for it. Maybe a bunch of men calling me a cunt doesn’t strike you as harassment. The thing is, many, many other female journalists have experienced the same pile-on from MuskBros every time they tweet criticism of him. Shannon Stirone, a freelance journalist who covers space for publications like Popular Science, Wired, and The Atlantic, told me: “Sadly there is a pattern to what happens after criticizing Elon. There is a reason I don’t do it very often because I don’t enjoy dealing with the backlash from the army of men who come out to defend him. I’ve gotten replies calling me a ‘stupid bitch’ and names along the same vein. They are so deeply angry and instead of using their words they lash out in the only way they seem to know how, which is to be abusive and demeaning.” What It’s Like When Elon Musk’s Twitter Mob Comes After You (by Erin Biba for the Daily Beast)

“There is no mention of alteration, so we are left with the manipulative subliminal messaging that someone else achieved the forever pre pubescent “fantasy” but we can’t. We have failed. Her breasts have been plumped, her legs lengthened, her skin smoothed. But all in secret. It’s so dangerous to put these images into the world of women who themselves often do not even meet the requirements, without the help of a computer, and say nothing of it. There should either be a detailed declaration in small print of the features altered, or we should see the original image and celebrate the humanity and reality of the subject and her photographer. Who frankly, may as well not bloody be there if a computer is doing all the work. Where is the dignity in it? For anyone involved?” Please can we bloody ban airbrushing? (by Jameela Jamil for her website)

“The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lower court’s decision that allowed an undocumented immigrant teenager to obtain an abortion over the protests of the Trump administration. The action, which came in an unsigned opinion without noted dissents, wipes out the lower court’s ruling as precedent.” Supreme Court throws out lower-court decision that allowed immigrant teen to obtain abortion (by Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow for Washington Post)


“Of course, it’s difficult to imagine Hinkle being blindsided by the national team’s embrace of LGBTQ Pride. U.S. Soccer — and women’s soccer in particular — have long fostered a close relationship with the LGBTQ community. Multiple members of the USWNT — including Megan Rapinoe, Ashlyn Harris, and retired star Abby Wambach — are members of the queer community, and, as writer Katelyn Best wrote in OutSports, “the women’s national team fanbase is among the gayest in sports.”” Soccer star confirms she quit national team because God didn’t want her to wear a LGBTQ Pride jersey (by Lindsay Gibb for Think Progress)


“Every few months, another city, state, or country announces that it’s banning the use of plastic straws. These policies are meant to lead the way in removing plastics from the ocean, but, according to our best estimates, straws are not a major source of marine plastic pollution, and such laws are unlikely to have a noticeable affect on the levels of plastic entering our waters. The proposed bans do, however, have the unintended effect of making restaurants less accessible for many disabled people, while revealing the ableism embedded in far too much consumer-based environmentalism. There’s a better way. Instead of bans, we should shift all our use of disposable plastics from opt-out to opt-in. At the same time, let’s recognize the limits of focusing on consumer choice. Want to reduce plastics in the ocean? Make the producers pay for their waste.” Banning Straws Won’t Save the Oceans (by David M. Perry for Pacific Standard)

“Disabled people who shared their concerns, frustrations and criticisms of the straw ban on Twitter, many attempting to patiently explain why they are a necessity for some, have received hostility from many and support from few. The ‘just curious’ want to know why the alternatives aren’t good enough for disabled people and despite the abundance of articles, handy info graphics and tweets addressing that, seem incapable of finding the information out for themselves. Or perhaps it’s because those aren’t detailed enough and don’t explain exactly what is ‘wrong’ with the disabled person that prevents them from drinking without a straw.” Curiosity: Vancouver’s Straw Ban – Another Barrier and Another Excuse For Non-Disabled People to Shame, Marginalize, Interrogate and Demonstrate They Don’t Care About Discrimination Against Disabled People (by aneeone)

Gun Violence

“So far in 2018, 36 people have been killed by a school shooter. Ten of them died at Santa Fe, where 13 others were injured. Sarah is one of those 13, thanks to surgery that stemmed the bleeding from two major veins in her neck. Lopez’s life has predictably been turned upside down ever since. Her days are now spent at the hospital by Sarah’s bedside, organizing doctors and appointments. Then there are the stunningly surreal moments. Her marriage has broken down. She’s met the president of the United States. An NFL star dropped by to check on them.” Her Daughter Was Shot In The Santa Fe School Massacre. Here’s What It’s Like For One Mother. (by Amber Jamieson for BuzzFeed News)


“The court majority rejected an argument that federal labor law protects employees’ right to band together in legal action just like it protects their rights to organize unions. While the National Labor Relations Act grants collective bargaining rights, it “says nothing about how judges and arbitrators must try legal disputes that leave the workplace and enter the courtroom or arbitral forum,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch for the majority.” SCOTUS Just Screwed Workers. What Does That Mean for Washington State? (by Heidi Groover for The Stranger)


“The Stranger reported in April that five years of eviction records show the Seattle Housing Authority sometimes evicts tenants over missed rent of less than $100. The agency’s practices face criticism from legal and tenant advocates, who say SHA is too eager to kick people out of housing and too willing to saddle them with extra debt. SHA defends its practices, saying it offers tenants payment plans and other assistance if they fall behind on the rent. The agency says evictions represent a small fraction of the total number of people it houses.” Advocates Call For Changes to Seattle Housing Authority Evictions (by Heidi Groover for The Stranger)

Just Ridiculously Awful Human Beings

“In a phone call, Larson confirmed that he created the now-defunct websites and ― chat rooms that served as gathering places for pedophiles and violence-minded misogynists like himself. HuffPost contacted Larson after confirming that his campaign website shared an IP address with these forums, among others. His sites were terminated by their domain host on Tuesday. On the phone, he was open about his pedophilia and seemingly unfazed about his long odds of attaining government office.” Congressional Candidate In Virginia Admits He’s A Pedophile (by Jesselyn Cook and Andy Campbell for Huff Post)

Something Good

Abby Wambach is a national treasure, and she had some amazing things to say at the Barnard Commencement this year. Please read the whole thing. Abby Wambach, Remarks as Delivered