ASK Musings

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Daily Archive: 15/03/2015



March 2015



When Paris Went Dark by Ronald C. Rosbottom

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Three stars.


This is a dense book, but it’s easy to read. It’s an almost 400-page look at the four years when the Nazis occupied Paris. As someone raised in the U.S., I’ve heard jokes about how quickly the French surrendered during World War II, and how the U.S. liberated them. But that seemed a bit simplistic, so when I saw this in a book store I knew I wanted to read it.

Mr. Rosbottom has done a ton of research and created a really interesting story. Even though there is no, say, central narrative (i.e. there is no one family we follow from start to finish, which some writers of history do, such as Erik Larson did with “In the Garden of Beasts,” which I read earlier this year), each chapter follows the previous in a logical manner, and is still filled with stories that help us understand what life was like.

He spends time talking through how very quickly the French did come to an agreement with the Nazis about how France would be governed. Ultimately this probably saved Paris from being destroyed in bombing campaigns. He follows that up with how the Nazis were greeted and interacted with Parisians during the first year, and how that slowly changed. There were eventually curfews, and rations. Jewish people (especially foreign-born Jewish people) were rounded up and send off to prisons and concentration camps.

And this is where the most interesting discussions come up. How much should the French people – not the military, but the people – have fought back? By not engaging in a resistance movement, were they essentially accepting the Nazis? Were they cowards, or were they people who recognized that they didn’t have much they could do? Should we blame those who, say, served Nazi soldiers, even though the acts of resistance some carried out resulted in many deaths of French people? Do we blame people for doing what they think they need to do to survive?

This is clearly a sore spot in French history. Immediately after the liberation, those who were considered to be ‘collaborators’ were treated horribly – and many of those were women, who were taken in the street, had their heads shaved, and paraded around for sleeping with Nazis. Some people were accused of things they didn’t do and were killed by mobs. And some, like members of the French Police, helped bring in people to be sent out of the country and ultimately killed. How much responsibility should they bear when acting under an Occupation?

These are bigger discussions than can be resolved in one book, but if Paris interests you, if World War II interests you, and if philosophical discussions interest you, I’d suggest this book.



March 2015



What I’m Reading – March 15, 2015

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading


– ” One USDA pilot program in Massachusetts provides a credit of 30 cents for every SNAP dollar spent on fruits and vegetables. The preliminary data shows the program resulted in a 25 percent increase in produce consumption. A similar program that doubles SNAP expenditures at farmers markets—you get $2 worth of fresh produce for every SNAP dollar you spend—has shown similar promise.” People on Food Stamps Make Healthier Grocery Decisions Than Most of Us (via @MotherJones)


– “I’m sure a white man who despises black people enough to sing about violently harming them can be a perfectly great dude to other white people. Why wouldn’t he be? He thinks white people are superior and deserving of his respect.” “He is a good boy.”

Climate Change

– “DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.” In Florida, officials ban term ‘climate change’ (h/t @das_kunk)

Sexism in Tech

– “I found that 18 percent had characters whose gender was not identifiable (i.e., potatoes, cats or monkeys). Of the apps that did have gender-identifiable characters, 98 percent offered boy characters. What shocked me was that only 46 percent offered girl characters. Even worse, of these 50 apps, 90 percent offered boy characters for free, while only 15 percent offered girl characters for free.” I’m a 12-year-old girl. Why don’t the characters in my apps look like me? (h/t @JessicaValenti)


– “Anne McLeer, Director of Research & Strategic Planning at SEIU Local 500, says: “There’s no question there’s a role for adjunct faculty and professionals with outside experience coming in to teach a class or two. But the problem is a disproportionate number of classes, especially in the humanities, being taught by adjuncts who don’t have any job security or opportunity to advance up the levels.”” I was a professor at four universities. I still couldn’t make ends meet. (h/t @greenhousenyt)


– “Anthony, who valiantly and publicly struggled with mental illness and bipolar disorder, was walking and rolling around on the ground in his apartment complex completely naked. Clearly having some type of psychotic episode, witnesses observed Anthony and called police to help him. He threatened no one.” The tragically unnecessary police murder of Anthony Hill (via @ShaunKing)

– “Computer users identified by Capital as working on the NYPD headquarters’ network have edited and attempted to delete Wikipedia entries for several well-known victims of police altercations, including entries for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. Capital identified 85 NYPD addresses that have edited Wikipedia, although it is unclear how many users were involved, as computers on the NYPD network can operate on the department’s range of IP addresses.” Edits to Wikipedia pages on Bell, Garner, Diallo traced to 1 Police Plaza (h/t @kellyweill)

– “Leutz made contact with three separate women outside of police business, including romantic advances (”did u feels something when we locked eyes” is an actual text he sent to a woman he stopped and then pursued for a month) including one woman who he thought might be the victim of domestic violence.” SPD fires officer who should probably have been fired a while ago (via @Seattlish)

Government Overreach

– “The Apple research is consistent with a much broader secret U.S. government program to analyze “secure communications products, both foreign and domestic” in order to “develop exploitation capabilities against the authentication and encryption schemes,” according to the 2013 Congressional Budget Justification. Known widely as the “Black Budget,” the top-secret CBJ was provided to The Intercept by Snowden and gives a sprawling overview of the U.S. intelligence community’s spending and architecture.” I Spy: The CIA Campaign to Steal Apple’s Secrets (via @jeremyscahill)

– “The petition calls for criminal charges against 47 senators who “committed a treasonous offense” in writing a menacing letter to the government of Iran, now in the middle of negotiations with President Obama aimed at reaching a nuclear energy agreement.” White House petition to try 47 Republican senators for treason goes viral (h/t @jaythenerdkid)