ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: February 2019

Sunday

17

February 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 17 February 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Content note: Racism, transphobia, sexual assault, Islamophobia

Racism

“Then, McLaurin said, that student replied, “I’m just trying to be honest with you on why we did not end up calling you.” Part of the reason, the student wrote in an email, was “because I found it easier to lead the discussion without black presence in the room, since I do feel somewhat uncomfortable with the (perceived) threat that it poses — something which I have been working on, but it will take more time than I would like it to be.” Mclaurin posted a screenshot of the email on Twitter. “You would think,” he tweeted, that “NYU was not like this, especially their SOCIAL WORK program. But I guess it is. I’m very tired. I’ve been dealing with this since I started.”” After Black Student Is Kept Out of Class Discussion, NYU School Acknowledges ‘Institutional Racism’ (by Emma Pettit for The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Trans Erasure

“As trans people and allies from all walks of life took issue with this interpretation, Levy flatly denied wrongdoing. “Write your own book,” she insisted repeatedly, rejecting what she calls ‘the trans take’ on Barry’s life. The utter absence of any comprehensive ‘trans take’ on history speaks volumes about Levy’s interest in her own protagonist. Recent research into James Barry’s relationship with his own gender has been a rare, precious find for trans communities. This isn’t just because his historical record shows evidence of a trans man living a full, rewarding, and exciting life. It’s because history — both the recording and doing of it — rarely offers up such a fascinating, complex, and well-documented case study of a transgender person.” “The Trans Take”: Towards a Transgender Public History (by Jack Doyle via Medium)

Labor

“Activision Blizzard made the layoffs official on Tuesday, the same day it reported record revenue and earnings per share for both the fourth quarter of 2018 and the year. Despite the record numbers, the company fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for revenue and gave disappointing guidance. As the news broke, many in the video game industry criticized Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick for boasting about the company’s record revenue as hundreds of people were laid off with no advance notice.” People in the video game industry are rallying around the 800 employees laid off by Activision Blizzard (by Kevin Webb for Business Insider)

“According to reports it was mainly support staff, QA, esports, IT, and publishing affected by the layoffs. While Activision Blizzard posted $1.98 billion profit for 2018, up from $1.3 billion the year prior, Kotick told investors that the publisher hasn’t “grown at the rates that reflect the opportunities our industry afford”. Game Workers Unite argued that Kotick’s $30 million salary is “built from the stolen wages of his workers”.” Game Workers Unite sparks campaign to fire Activision Blizzard CEO following mass layoffs (by Haydn Taylor for Games Industry)

Reproductive Health

“Listen to me when I am talking to you. I am a human being, and I am more than a vessel and I speak for my daughter whom I never heard cry. I speak for that 17-year-old girl bent across a kitchen counter. I speak for the strange woman I have become. And I speak to all of the women like me, the ones who came before, and after, who have been or will be in the same position ― or perhaps your story is completely different and powerful in its own right.” I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter (by Dina Zirlott for Huffington Post)

“In late 2018, Devos issued her own Title IX guidance, to the immediate alarm of advocates for sexual assault survivors and women’s rights groups. Among other things, the Devos rules restricts the scope of what counts as sexual harassment, limits the types of school employees responsible for reporting sexual assault, and narrows the very definition of what, exactly, counts as a campus sexual assault.” Betsy DeVos is making campuses safer for rapists and their enablers (by Lindsay Gibbs for Think Progress)

“Arkansas and Tennessee lawmakers are planning for the fall of Roe v. Wade, Republicans in multiple states are still obsessed with bathrooms, and legislators in at least ten states have introduced measures this year to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected.” Legislative Lowlights: Lawmakers in Ten States Have Introduced ‘Heartbeat’ Bans This Year (by Brie Shea for Rewire)

Judges Being Assholes

“In an article that she wrote for the Yale Herald in 1994, Rao questioned whether some women who reported that they were sexually assaulted while intoxicated were really just making false accusations stemming from regret. In that same article, Rao said that “a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober.” In another piece published at the Yale Free Press in 1993, Rao suggested that women need to “understand and accept responsibility for their sexuality” in order to prevent the problems of date rape. She claimed that the term “date rape” “removes the burden of sexual ambiguity from the woman’s shoulders.” And she criticized feminists for claiming that “women should be free to wear short skirts or bright lipstick,” because, according to Rao,“[m]isunderstandings occur from subtle glances, ambiguous words.”” Getting ‘Kavanaughed’ Isn’t a Thing; Neomi Rao Just Isn’t Fit for the Federal Judiciary (by Shiwali Patel for Rewire)

“Hughes is known for delivering history lectures, issuing blunt critiques about improper courtroom attire and accusing the Justice Department of abusing government resources. Visitors to his court either perceive him as obnoxious and vindictive or witty and astute. He’s been called a loose cannon who lashes out at attorneys unaware of his expectations or revered as a no-nonsense defender of constitutionally-guaranteed rights. A 2017 Houston Bar Association poll found that lawyers felt he needed the most improvement in being impartial, following the law and being courteous to attorneys and witnesses.” Houston federal judge bars female prosecutor from trial, sparking standoff with U.S. attorney’s office (by Gabrielle Banks and Lise Olsen for Houston Chronicle)

Islamophobia

“It’s an issue that is overlooked, not least of all because it’s a ‘hidden second layer’ for many Muslims seeking support for mental health difficulties, but also due to the lack of awareness surrounding the important issue. The Runneymede Trust’s report on Islamophobia highlights an increased risk between perceptions of discrimination and mental disorders, and this is echoed by mental health charities and campaigners. Jolel Miah, founder of Our Minds Matter, a charity promoting mental health awareness in Luton, a town with a significant Muslim population, says Islamophobia is a form of abuse, whether it manifests itself in physical attacks or the perception that Muslims are constantly ‘under the microscope’, which he has seen lead to ‘depression and low self-esteem’.” “A state of constant anxiety and hypervigilance” – Islamophobia and how it affects the mental health of Muslims (Media Diversified)

Something Good

Sunday

10

February 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 10 February 2019

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Reproductive Health

“Threatening people’s lives is always wrong, but there is no possible world in which Ted Shulman’s two threats create an entire new category of “pro-choice extremism” that the FBI should be worried about. As Jodi Magee, the CEO and president of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, said at the time of his arrest, “Our doctors have received hundreds and thousands of death threats and worse at the hands of anti-abortion activists …. That kind of violence is a noted pattern in the anti-abortion movement. To my knowledge, [anti-abortion activists] are not persecuted in the same way that physicians providing legal medical services to patients have been.”” A Movement of None: The FBI’s Bogus ‘Pro-Choice Extremist’ Label (by David S. Cohen for Rewire)

“The California measure would be the first mandate of its kinds in the United States after state legislators made history last year by passing the first-ever legislation to address the rights of intersex people. The non-binding resolution, authored by Wiener, recognized intersex people as “a part of the fabric of our state’s diversity” and called for deferring surgeries “until the child is able to participate in decision making.”” California Could Be First to Ban Medically Unnecessary Surgeries on Intersex Babies (by Amy Littlefield for Rewire)

“Instead of talking about Republicans’ move to outlaw early abortion—which is when most terminations happen—the national discourse around reproductive rights is focused on rarely performed procedures that almost always happen because of fetal abnormalities or a risk to women’s health. The vast majority of abortions in America—over 91 percent—are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy. Even after that, most abortions still happen before 20 weeks. In fact, it’s only a little over one percent of abortions that are performed past the 21st week of pregnancy.” The Truth About ‘Late-Term Abortion’ (by Jessica Valenti on Medium)

“The act would remove reckless restrictions on international recipients of U.S. funding, ensuring that organizations can effectively serve their communities. It would allow NGOs to use non-U.S. funds to provide, counsel, or advocate for legal abortion care. It would ground U.S. health assistance in evidence rather than ideology, and ensure that NGOs never again have to choose between receiving U.S. funds and offering comprehensive care. And critically, it would remove—in perpetuity—the U.S. president’s power to restrict health care for millions of women with merely a signature.” The Global Gag Rule Has Put Women in Danger for Decades. Here’s How We Can Stop It. (by Vanessa Rios & Nina Besser Doorley for Rewire)

Racism

“However the 50 or so people who were deported today, the 50 black people of Jamaican descent, we know far less about them, we know a couple of their faces but we didn’t hear in their own words published by the mainstream media why they were detained by the UK home office. In fact when would they have had time to write for Comment is Free? They were arrested from their homes with no warning, detained and shipped off to immigration detention centres, the horrors of which have been detailed in numerous articles including on this site.” There is a war on Black people in Britain. If you’re complacent, you’re complicit (by Samantha Asumadu for Media Diversified)

“Black folks have always been interested in our history, our families, and their unique legacies of resistance and survival. But as a new wave of young Black people attempts to learn more about its heritage, some of the only places available for us to look are sites of deep violence and trauma, like that plantation. In the search for your own history, whether personal or communal, you may find yourself on the way to a similar historic site. Here are some things you may need to prepare for, and ways to structure the trip to mitigate harm.” What to Expect When Visiting A Plantation Where Your Ancestors Were Enslaved (by Benji Hart for Teen Vogue)

Mental Health

“Even without being a heaping pile of metaphors, the show is excellent and well worth every second of its brief runtime. But for those of us with mental illness, Russian Doll is an absolute gift, understanding experiences that often feel impossible to describe or explain — right down to their cyclical, seemingly unending nature. Grief, pain, mental illness, addiction, trauma: These experiences are not linear. There is no clear endpoint, and you can find yourself feeling true progress one day only to end up right back where you started by the next.” Russian Doll and the (Seemingly) Neverending Cycle of Trauma (by Courtney Enlow for SyFy)

Anti-Muslim Bigotry

“This, however, is the same Supreme Court that has rewritten fundamental principles of its own religious liberty jurisprudence in cases like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby when conservative Christians claimed that their religious beliefs were under attack. It is also the same court that upheld President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban despite the fact that Trump literally bragged repeatedly about his plans to ban members of a certain faith from the country. Moreover, as Kagan notes, the prison warden did not deny Ray’s request to have his imam present until January 23. So Ray went through the prison’s administrative channels to get the relief he sought, and then he filed suit just five days after his request was denied. Given this timing, it appears very likely that the majority’s claim that Ray waited too long to file his suit is pretextual.” The Supreme Court just handed down a truly shocking attack on Muslims (by Ian Millhiser for Think Progress)

Climate Change

“The answer, by the way, is that climate isn’t weather. Weather is what’s happening over the short term, climate is what happens over the long term. The National Centers for Environmental Information, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says that weather tells us what to wear on a given day, while climate tells us what we should put in our closets. It’s why you don’t find many South Floridians with an extensive down coat collection.” For a Climate Reporter, a Dreaded Question: ‘Then Why Is It So Cold?’ (by Kendra Pierre-Louis for New York Times)

Something Good

A little Freddy Mercury, as interpreted by Patrick Wilson.

Friday

8

February 2019

1

COMMENTS

Give People Money by Annie Lowrey

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone interested in changing the world, addressing poverty, or fixing the ills of capitalism.

In a nutshell:
What would the world — or just the US — look like if every single person received money every single month. Regardless of need. Regardless of ability to work. Just to keep them at a baseline level of existence, out of poverty.

Worth quoting (so much – sorry!):
“We no longer have a jobs crisis … but we do have a good-jobs crisis, a more permanent, festering problem that started more than a generation ago.”
“…we find no evidence that cash transfers reduce the labor supply, while service sector workers appear to have increased their hours of work.”
“Providing the poor with those steps might mean seeing them as deserving for no other reason than their poverty — something that is not and has never been part of this country’s social contract. We believe that there is a moral difference between taking a home mortgage interest deduction and receiving a Section 8 voucher.”

Why I chose it:
The train to a friend’s wedding was delayed, so we had some time and I hadn’t brought a book (damn tiny fancy purses). Said fuck it and bought this. I met said friend in a philosophy program where I first heard universal basic income even mentioned, so it seemed appropriate.

Review:
This book is FASCINATING. I was expecting an examination of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and how it can help in places in the world where people live on less than $2 per day, and it does offer that. But author Lowrey spends the majority of the book looking at what UBI could do for the US. And after reading it, I’m still a bit up in the air about how it can work in practice, but absolutely on board for it in theory.

Lowrey’s starts by looking at the reality that jobs are going to start shrinking in hours and eventually going away as we become a more automated society. Driverless cars and trucks will put loads of people out of work — what are we to do with them? Some sectors will shrink and disappear (coal mining), and we haven’t necessarily seen the commensurate growth in other sectors. If everyone was guaranteed enough money to survive, then those who do not want to work 40+ hour weeks, or those who can’t, wouldn’t be subjected to life lived homeless.

But that’s not the main point of Lowrey’s book. We don’t need UBI because some jobs are going away; we need UBI because it can help address numerous societal wrongs right here in the US. Her chapter on racism and how US policies over the years have kept people of color from acquiring wealth and a rate anywhere near that of white people is brilliant, and a chapter I will be referring back to often. She also explores how the care economy and the work that women overwhelmingly do is completely undervalued, and a UBI could raise those workers up. And of course she is deeply interested in the overall poverty rate in the US. I think this is an absolutely true and desperately sad statement:

“The issue is not that the Unites States cannot pull its people above the poverty line, but that it does not want to.”

Lowrey is not oblivious to the problems of implementation. We already have a serious issue in the US of people disparaging and looking down upon people living in poverty; if benefits programs were re-organized and some of the benefits middle-class people have become used to getting go away, that resentment will build. Plus, if everyone in the US gets UBI, how we decide who qualifies? Only citizens? Legal residents? What will that do to a country that is already so deeply fucked up when it comes to immigration?

Finally, she looks at how we might pay for this, and this is the one area that I wish she spent more time on (and what brings this from a five-star to a four-star book for me). I have zero problem with giving people money for existing. I don’t think we should sentence people to lives without homes or health care because their ability or desire to work doesn’t match mine. But the money has to come from somewhere, right? Taxes on workers? Businesses? Carbon? ROBOTS? (seriously, it’s an interesting idea).

There is not enough political will for this to be a real thing in the US right now. But I think it deserves serious examination. There is no reason why anyone in the US — let along the world — should be living in poverty. No reason. We just have to have the courage to make some real changes.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it (and buy copies for other people)

Monday

4

February 2019

0

COMMENTS

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone interested in a quick read about family, crime,and the choices we make.

In a nutshell:
Korede’s sister Ayoola has just killed her third boyfriend. Korede has once again helped dispose of the body. Next up on Ayoola’s dance card? Korede’s coworker, who she has feelings for.

Worth quoting:
“I console myself with the knowledge that even the most beautiful flowers wither and die.”

Why I chose it:
I’ve seen so many people talking about it, and it sounded interesting.

Review:
What would you do if a close relative killed someone? How about three someones? Would you help them bury the bodies? Would it matter if there was a chance — however slight — that each act was an act of self-defense?

One of the pull quotes on the back of my copy (courtesy of Marie Claire) calls this ‘The wittiest and most fun murder party you’ve ever been invited to.’ I think that’s a pretty gross mischaracterization of the story. It’s not ‘fun’ and it’s not meant to be fun. There’s no murder party. It’s an exploration of values and the limits (if there are any) of what we do for the love of family.

I could go on, but I think many of you have heard of this book, and hopefully you’re planning to read it. If you’re expecting a ‘fun murder party,’ you might be a bit disappointed. But if that pull quote turned you off a bit, I hope you’ll reconsider, because I think this is an enjoyable, interesting, and well-told story.

This book is SUCH a quick read that I do sort of wish I’d checked it out of the library. It’s just over 220 pages, but many pages are only 1/2 full of text, given the author’s style. Plus, with a pretty big font, it honestly is more like 100 pages. Longer than a novella, but not really. Still worth checking out though.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Pass to a friend

Sunday

3

February 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 3 February 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Hate Crimes

“”Two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs,” a police statement said. The chemical substance poured on Smollett was not named, but some media reports said it was bleach. “At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck,” the statement added.” Jussie Smollett: Empire star victim of suspected hate crime in Chicago (BBC)

Right to Die

“”There is no right or wrong decision. It’s hard to decide you want to die but it’s as hard to decide, I think, that you want to live. She hated it when someone said: ‘It’s so brave that you made this decision.’ She said choosing to live with dementia is just as brave.” Frank adds: “A good friend of mine said, ‘You have to stop your mother – as a son you have to stop her.’ I said, ‘No I’m not going to, I support her.’ His mother said [to me], ‘You’re killing your mother, you’re murdering your mother if you go on with this…’ It’s hard to hear.” Arguments like this are common among families and friends and reflect the wider debate which began in the Netherlands in the 1970s, when doctors first started carrying out so-called “mercy killing” fairly openly. The arguments continued in the run-up to the legalisation of euthanasia in 2002, and have never really stopped.” Wanting to die at ‘five to midnight’ – before dementia takes over (by Andrew Bomford for BBC)

Human Rights

“The annual contest is due to be held in Tel Aviv in May, following Israeli singer Netta’s victory in 2018. The winning country usually hosts the following year’s competition. However, the group of cultural figures, which also includes Mike Leigh, Maxine Peake and Miriam Margolyes, said the event’s “claim to celebrate diversity and inclusion must ring hollow” in light of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. “We cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” their letter read.” Stars urge BBC to ask for Eurovision to be moved out of Israel (by Mark Savage for BBC)

Criminal Punishment System

“While the elected officials toured the detention facility, the Metropolitan Detention Center’s surroundings echoed with the sound of incarcerated people banging on their windows in protest. In answer, hundreds of their family members and other supporters massed outside, chanting, “Humane treatment for all! Get those lights on! Get that heat on!” “I’m just worried about my son’s health,” said Tina Mongo, through tears. “I haven’t been able to speak with him, and I haven’t been able to visit, and I don’t know if he’s alright. I just don’t know.”” “Vicious and Brutal – Life Inside A Freezing Federal Prison Without Heat” (by Nick Pinto for The Intercept)

Reproductive Health

“To hear Republicans talk about it, you’d think women drag out their pregnancies, wantonly waiting to abort until the contractions set in merely for the fun of it. This is, as my colleague Sarah Jones wrote, “the stuff of pulp fiction, and the myth bears little resemblance to reality.” Here’s what’s real: The same people who are hand-wringing over imaginary infanticide are right now, in a very real way, fighting for policies that increase the number of later abortions, and that for some women, amount to a ban on abortion at all stages of pregnancy. If they succeed, they can thank Brett Kavanaugh.” A False War Over Late Abortion (by Irin Carmon for The Cut)

“Each year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases statistics about abortion in almost all 50 states, and the data clearly shows that complications from abortion are minimal. Of the 652,639 abortions reported to the CDC for 2014, the last year for which data is currently available, only six women were reported to have died from medical complications related to abortion. This government data paints the same picture as reputable studies and reports from the country’s leading medical and health organizations.” Six Facts About Abortion to Counter March for Life’s Junk Science (by Laura Huss for Rewire)

Public Health

“Measles is a contagious virus that spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing. Within three to five days, painful rashes start to appear all over the body. Children and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of dying from measles. Most of the patients thus far are children between the ages of 1 and 10. “These parents think they are avoiding putting something bad in their child’s body—but they are putting other people’s children at risk,” Alan Melnick, director of Clark County Public Health, told The Daily Beast. “There’s a significant number of parents who don’t trust ‘big pharma’—but this actually has nothing to do with that,” Melnick said. “They [some parents] think it causes autism which is absolutely untrue. “It’s nonsense. I just don’t understand it.”” Measles Spreads to 35 Patients in Portland Area, Fueled by Anti-Vaxxers (by Molly Enking and Natalie O’Neill for The Daily Beast)

Taxes 

“Progressive taxation should work as a corrective tax, like tobacco taxes or a carbon tax. Sure, tobacco taxes raise some revenue for the states. But their primary purpose is to curb smoking. While a carbon tax could produce a lot of government revenue, the real point is to limit global warming pollution. In essence, corrective taxes try to put themselves out of business; if tobacco tax revenues decline because people quit smoking, or if carbon taxes stop rolling in because the economy becomes fossil-free, that is victory, not defeat.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent tax on the rich isn’t about revenue, it’s about decreasing inequality (by Vanessa Williamson for NBC)

Something Good

Today is Austin Kelmore’s birthday. He’s a pretty great guy. Happy birthday!!