ASK Musings

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Politics Archive

Sunday

13

September 2020

0

COMMENTS

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

4 Stars

Best for:
Anyone concerned about how inequity is perpetuated by seemingly ‘neutral’ or ‘scientific’ processes.

In a nutshell:
Data scientist O’Neil explores what she calls WMDs, or Weapons of Math Destruction – large algorithms that are largely opaque and control aspects of our lives, from college rankings and admissions to credit scores to voting. She argues that these systems are flawed and have biases built in that harm all of us.

Worth quoting:
“The human victims of WMDs, we’ll see time and again, are held to a far higher standard of evidence than the algorithms themselves.”

“A model’s blind spots reflect the judgments and priorities of its creators.”

Why I chose it:
Seemed appropriate given the recent A-level shitstorm we’ve lived through in the UK.

Review:
Every August in England, 17- and 18-year-olds find out their A-level scores. Unlike in the US, where basically unless you royally screw up in the final term of your senior year you are going to the University you were accepted to in March, in the UK students receive conditional offers. Let’s say you want to go study Chemistry. Well, at a top school, you might receive a condition offer of AAA – meaning you need As on three of your A-levels (the best mark is an A*), and one of those will need to be Chemistry. Okay, so come mid-August, you go to your school and learn that you received … AAA! Hurrah! You confirm your place at university, and start the following month.

This year, because of the pandemic, A-level exams were scrapped. Instead, the government put together an algorithm that was meant to sort out what grades students would have gotten had they sat their exams. It was based on a few things, like practice exams, coursework, etc. It also, apparently, took past performance of the school a student attended into account.

Do you see where this is going?

On results day, tens of thousands of students received A-level results DRAMATICALLY lower than what they had been predicted to get. And the general theme was that those lower scores were received by students in areas with overall poorer performing schools. Students were essentially punished by the algorithm for doing too well, and had their places in university pulled out from under them, upending their entire futures. In the end, the algorithm was scrapped, students were put through horrible stresses, and universities now have more students than they would have, in the middle of a pandemic.

I share this story because I can see it making its way into this book during the next revision. O’Neil is a great writer, making a book that could have been dry and confusing extremely easy to read and engaging. It’s also infuriating,

She looks at things like credit scores being used to rule people out of jobs, at recidivism models used in sentencing in the criminal punishment system, and even the college rankings in US News and World Report. She also touches on how Facebook and Google create profiles using all the data they have, adjusting their targeting accordingly.

She refers to algorithms as ‘opinions formalized in code,’ and that’s especially frightening considering how many people view such algorithms as value-neutral and just ‘showing data.’ The negative impacts – generally borne by people who are poor, or aren’t white – are seen not as self-perpetuated by the models themselves, but as moral failings of the individuals who are judged by these flawed systems. Its insidious.

It seems inescapable, but O’Neil does offer some suggestions at the end, and they don’t seem entirely out of the realm of possibility (GDPR, which is law in the EU, is one fix, and it passed). But man, it’s yet another thing that our society needs to fix.

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

Saturday

22

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Those interested in the history of enslaved people who successfully fought back.

In a nutshell:
Enslaved people revolt against the British, Spanish, and French over twelve years, eventually creating Haiti.

Worth quoting:
“The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression.”

Why I chose it:
I received this as a birthday gift this year.

Review:
You will be shocked to learn that I, a white woman raised and educated in the US, knew nothing about how Haiti came to be. I KNOW. It’s almost as though the history I was taught was incomplete in some very specific ways.

This fascinating book tells the story of how those who were enslaved in what is now Haiti revolted across over a dozen years to eventually claim victory by ensuring an end to slavery, expelling the French colonial government, and declaring independence.

The story told by this book begins 229 years ago this week (21 August 1791), and follows the complexities of race, class, slavery, and revolution. The main focus is on Toussaint Louverture, who led most of the revolution, though eventually he was taken to France and died in jail. He was a slave until 1776, then fought in multiple battles until undertaking, with others, a fight inspire by the French revolution.

I have some trouble following detailed military histories, especially when I don’t have the basics already in mind. I only recognized one name in this book before I read it – Napoleon, and he only shows up in the last 50 pages or so. I think to truly grasp everything in here, I would need to read it at least two more times, maybe more. But that speaks not to the quality of the writing, but to my lack of foundational knowledge of the subject.

I’d recommend this to anyone who is interested in history and the fight for freedom.

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

Thursday

2

January 2020

0

COMMENTS

Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism by Vladimir Lenin

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People interested in a sense of what the Marxist philosophers were saying in the 1900s. Admittedly a niche market at this point (for now, anyway).

In a nutshell:
The title basically nails it – Lenin argues that Imperialism is Capitalism at its end.

Worth quoting:
“..for both uneven development and a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production.”

Why I chose it:
It was assigned as part of the Marxist book club I’m in.

Review:
My how my life has changed. Never thought I’d be reading and reviewing Lenin, but here we are.

This fairly short book serves as a surprisingly relevant discussion of imperialism, and specifically how capitalism fuels the colonialist actions of nations. Lenin lays out the development of monopolies (along the way refuting the idea of truly free markets, as they eventually evolve into monopolies), the major role that banks play in consolidating wealth and capital, and how the need to further feed these monopolies needs nations and corporations to seek out further raw materials and financing.

In the book, the primary areas discussed are oil and coal, but substitute pretty much anything modern and its clear that monopolies have not gone anywhere, and imperialism is alive and well, though perhaps not in the exact same way. Amazon.com doesn’t invade countries and claim their land, but they do take over cities, making those cities dependent on them to survive (*cough* Seattle *cough*). Something like 40% of the box office in 2019 were came from Disney studios. Companies — and countries — continue to seek new customers and new materials for their products, further consolidating until all those ‘choices’ we think we have are just different ways of our money going to the same few individuals.

Some people may not find this disturbing. As long as they get their next season of Stranger Things, or their favorite shampoo arriving on their doorstep 24 hours after they order it, they don’t much care. And frankly, much of the time, when I’m not thinking about it, I don’t care either. But then I look at how Amazon treats their warehouse employees. In some places that might be the ‘best’ job available, but it’s still crap, and Amazon can get away with it because they’re the only game in town. Monopolies like this are harmful to nearly everyone in some way (except the people diving into their vault of cash, Scrooge McDuck-style).

There are a couple of areas that I picked up on that don’t seem to have held up (or at least, haven’t necessarily come to pass on the time line of 100+ years). At one point Lenin talks about how the Stock Markets have become less important and I get the impression that he thinks they will eventually fade away. However, in the US we can see that while Stock Markets are playing around with essentially fake value, how those markets move drives so much of the commentary about how ‘healthy’ the economy is. A company can lose millions of dollars in ‘value’ in the stock market in one day because of a news story, and that’s what’s reported. The overall value of the market is still shared at the end of newscasts. People care about it, even if it shouldn’t matter.

The other area (which may be the result of me not fully understanding the book) that I found didn’t quite hold up is the assumption that this imperialism is the last stage of capitalism, and that necessarily capitalism is decaying. To me this implies that soon after this writing (in the early 1900s), Lenin believed that capitalism would cease to be. Obviously that hasn’t held, but perhaps his other writings clarify this point or provide detail on what would need to happen to speed up this decay.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Toss it (I read a printout of a PDF, and as its in the public domain, anyone can read it online.)

Sunday

3

November 2019

0

COMMENTS

The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People interested in the history and politics behind mass strike movements.

In a nutshell:
Philosopher and Marxist Luxemburg provides a history of the mass strike in Russia, and outlines how it could work in Germany (I think?).

Worth quoting:
“The plan of undertaking mass strikes as a serious political class action with organised workers only is absolutely hopeless.”

Why I chose it:
It was this month’s pick for a book club I’m in. I know some of the politicians many of my peers (and at times myself) support identify as socialists; I realized I don’t know much about the history of socialism, communism, or anti-capitalism. This book club I’m in is exploring more of that history.

Review:
Since moving to the UK I’ve become much more aware of worker rights in general and unions in particular. My partner is the head of a union branch and is working to actively organize people in his industry. I’ve been a member of a union long ago but am not currently in one. I’ve also supported strikes – I participated in the Women’s Strike in March of 2017, though that one had some issues.

This small book provides a history of strikes up through about 1910, then talks about how it might work in Germany. I think. I have to admit that I have a hard time following some of this writing. There are terms that clearly mean something specific when discussion worker actions and socialism but I don’t quite understand them. I’m looking forward to the book club discussion taking place later this week so I can get a better sense. However, I think the main point is that strikes can work but they cannot be limited to just organized labor. Maybe?

Ugh, there’s so much I don’t know.

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

Saturday

14

July 2018

0

COMMENTS

“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

 

 

Sunday

2

July 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – July 2, 2017

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary Action

“Nevertheless, the Texas Supreme Court held on Friday that the benefits of marriage may not need to be granted to same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples. And the Texas court reached this frivolous conclusion in an unanimous opinion.” The Texas Supreme Court just gave a big, fat middle finger to same-sex couples (by Ian Millhiser for Think Progress)

“The all-girl team representing Afghanistan hails from Herat, a city of half a million people in the western part of the country. To interview for their visas, the girls risked a 500 mile trek cross-country to the American embassy in Kabul – the site of several recent suicide attacks and one deadly truck bomb in early June that killed at least 90 people. Despite the recent violence, the teenagers braved the trip to the country’s capital not once, but twice, hoping a second round of interviews might help secure their 7-day visas after the team was rejected on its first try. But no luck.” Denied: Afghanistan’s All-Girl Robotics Team Can’t Get Visas To The US (by Hilary Brueck for Forbes)

Speech

“The law does not share that interpretation. “The First Amendment only regulates the government,” explained Rebecca Tushnet, a professor of First Amendment law at Harvard. Does she think there is any merit in telling a person that her critique of your art is infringing on your free speech? “No.” It’s been a surprisingly effective rhetorical strategy nonetheless. Americans are fiercely proud of our culture of (nearly) unfettered expression, though often not so clear on the actual parameters of the First Amendment. To defend speech is to plant a flag on the right side of history; to defend unpopular speech is to be a real rogue, a sophisticate, the kind of guy who gets it. “Freedom of speech is such a buzzword that people can rally around,” Ms. Sarkeesian said, “and that works really well in their favor. They’re weaponizing free speech to maintain their cultural dominance.”” Save Free Speech From Trolls (by Lindy West for The New York Times)

Misogyny

“The event, called Gaming Ladies, was intended to create a safe space for female game developers, a demographic that’s woefully underrepresented in the gaming world. In response, a small, vitriolic group plotted on the forum ForoCoches (an invite-only car forum that’s basically a Spanish-language 4chan) to pretend to be transgender women in order to gain access to the conference and disrupt it.” King’s Gaming Ladies event canceled following targeted online harassment campaign (by Tim Mulkerin for Mic)

“Their presence was plainly not, as one of them later said in an “apology” video he posted to Twitter, to “give us the chance we never gave them” and to “hear us out,” but was instead to intimidate me and put me on edge. They will no doubt plead innocent and act shocked at what they characterize as the outrageousness of such allegations. This, too, is part of their strategy: gaslighting, acting in a way intended to encourage me and their other targets to doubt ourselves and to wonder if all of this isn’t just in our heads. But to anyone who examines their patterns of behavior with clear eyes, the intentions of their actions are undeniably apparent.” On VidCon, Harassment & Garbage Humans (by Anita Sarkeesian for Feminist Frequency)

Racism

“A longtime symphony fan, Ahmad knows the orchestra doesn’t permit flash photography during its performances, so she turned her flash off to snap a shot before the show started. “I was shocked,” she said. “I just very calmly said to him, ‘You cannot hit me. That’s assault. If you hit me again, I will charge you.’ At that point he called me a child and an expletive, and it was just very stunning. I won’t repeat the word.”” Professor says she was assaulted twice at the Toronto symphony and nobody stood up for her (by the CBC)

Criminal Punishment System

“Violence against People of Color (POC), gender and sexual violence against Womxn of Color (WOC) and Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC), is endemic and systemic. It is colonial, centuries-old, poured into the very foundation of this nation. It keeps the status quo intact; upholding cis male patriarchy and white supremacy by brutalizing the marginalized into submission. Violence is the norm and it has been happening for a long time. If you’re surprised by recent tragic events–then you’re not paying attention but, more importantly, you have the privilege to not pay attention. Ask yourself, why did I not see? What in the world around allows me to not see? What in myself allows me to not see?” 9 Ways Non-Black Folks Can Show Up For Charleena Lyles (by Sharon H. Change for South Sound Emerald)

Fatphobia

“When we returned for our sophomore year, she told me the pressure had become too much. She feared for her partners’ shame, feared for more bullying from her tough love parents, feared for the jeering her thinner friends had to endure when they spent time with her. So she got weight loss surgery. I told her I was happy for her, and I was. She’d made a decision about how to engage with her own body. We’d often talked about how often our bodies were taken from us — from unsolicited diet advice to fatcalling, unwelcome comments about our orders at restaurants to bullying in the name of “concern.” Thinness was the only way she could truly end all of that.” On Weight Loss Surgery And The Unbearable Thinness Of Being (by Your Fat Friend for The Establishment)

Sexism

“However, Gail Simone, whose Wonder Woman comics from 2008 to 2010 inspired several facets of the film, noted on Twitter that her name did not appear among other thanked creators in the credits. That list was, in fact, entirely male, leaving out other influential creators, such as series editor Karen Berger. And while “The Marston Family” is listed, William Moulton Marston’s partners Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne—two women who played integral roles in the character’s inception—are not named, nor is Marston’s assistant and longtime Wonder Woman ghostwriter Joye Hummel Murchison. This isn’t to say men weren’t snubbed too (H.G. Peter, another of Marston’s co-creators, remains uncredited), but it’s hard not raise an eyebrow when two men who created a sword are given credit instead of any woman who worked on the world’s most famous female superhero.” ‘Wonder Woman’s’ Credits Reveal the Sexist Mistreatment of Women in Comics (by Sam Riedel for Bitch)

Something Awesome to End The Week

Sunday

21

May 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 21, 2017

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

Fight Back

“An honest examination of your beliefs is a lot like cleaning house (I’m using creative imagination here because I never clean my house). You have a lot of stuff in your house and it can all seem like very necessary stuff. But if you buy every item that catches your eye and take it home with you, it will pile up, block your doorway, and cut you off from the rest of the world. But if you regularly hold each item up to the light and ask, “why do I really have this? Is it helping me? Is this meeting my needs? Did this ever meet my needs?” You Must Understand Why You Believe What You Believe — And How You Got There (by Ijeoma Oluo for The Establishment)

Horrific Executive Action and Legislation

“DeVos’ selection of these individuals, along with existing staff at the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), confirms what many suspected: that DeVos will push hard for school privatization from the beginning of her term as education secretary. This, in turn, could endanger the general success of the country’s K-12 education while creating even larger barriers to fair treatment in school for already marginalized populations.” Betsy DeVos’ Choice of New Hires Suggests She’ll Keep Her School Privatization Promises (by Alex Kotch for Rewire)

Media

“Many of Fallon’s famous friends show up to explain that Fallon just isn’t an edgy, political guy. He wants to provide silly humor for as wide an audience as possible. What we are meant to understand is that Jimmy Fallon just doesn’t pick sides, okay? No. That’s not okay. It wasn’t okay when Fallon ruffled Trump’s hair before the election, and it sure as shit isn’t okay now that Trump is president.” Sorry, Jimmy Fallon. We All Have to Pick Sides Now. (by Melissa McEwan for Shakesville)

““I used to say that I kicked down the door, but no one else came in,” Gayle Sierens told Richard Sandomir of the New York Times in 2009. “But I think that day is nearing. I really do.”
Mowins joined ESPN in 1994, and has since worked as a play-by-play announcer for NCAA Championships in basketball, softball, soccer, and volleyball, and according to ESPN Media Zone, has been the voice of the Women’s College World Series for over 20 years.” For the first time in NFL history, a woman will call play-by-play on national television (by Lindsay Gibbs for Think Progress)

Racism

“Across the South, communities began taking a critical look at many other symbols honoring the Confederacy and its icons — statues and monuments; city seals; the names of streets, parks and schools; and even official state holidays. There have been more than 100 attempts at the state and local levels to remove the symbols or add features to provide more historical context.” Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy (Southern Poverty Law Center)

Transphobia

“The possibilities, should I fly round trip from the United States to the Philippines and back again, are these: everything goes fine, but I am justifiably terrified of being publicly assaulted and degraded; I am, in fact, publicly assaulted and degraded; either of the above, plus I’m racially profiled. Traveling through a post-9/11 world while ambiguously brown has always meant a curious sort of luck when it comes to winning the random selection-and-arbitrary-detention lottery.” The ‘Trans Tax’: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Leaving My House (by Nacasio Andres Reed for Rewire)

Misogyny

“Ironically, the Global Gag Rule isn’t associated with lower abortion rates. In some areas, it has been shown to actually increase the number of abortions, especially the number of unsafe abortions. After President George W. Bush reinstated the Gag, the U.S. cut off aid to organizations it said violated the policy in 20 developing countries, limiting women’s access not only to family planning but also to HIV prevention and treatment, maternal and child health services, and even malaria prevention and treatment.” Let’s Not Forget This Trump Policy Will Kill Women Around the World (by Lauren Rankin for Allure)

Sunday

19

March 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – March 18, 2017

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

Essential Read

  • “Hi! I see you there! Welcome to the anti-racism movement. I know you were kind of hoping to sneak in the back of class in the middle of this semester and then raise your hand in a few days to offer up expert opinion like you’ve always been here — but you’ve been spotted, and I have some homework for you, because you’ve missed A LOT and we don’t have the time to go over it all together. I’m glad you are here (I mean, I’d really rather you arrived sooner and I’m a little/lot resentful at how often we have to stop this class to cover all the material for people who are just now realizing that this is a class they should be taking, but better late than never I guess) and I know that once you catch up, you can contribute a lot to the work being done here.” Welcome To The Anti-Racism Movement — Here’s What You’ve Missed (by Ijeoma Oluo for The Establishment)

Fight Back

  • “There was a time when I assumed that your anti-Black responses to my posts were an indication that you simply didn’t understand what you were saying. There was a time when I’d spend days figuring out how to explain why your comments were so fucked up, all the while making sure I didn’t say anything too confrontational. Because you’d accuse me of pulling the “race card” (no such thing) and of getting too emotional, and then refuse to listen until I “calmed down,” I’d put extra effort into projecting civility and calm, hoping you’d understand the rationality and legitimacy of what I had to say. I’d call your words “insensitive” instead of racist, because using the r-word is an automatic eject from a conversation.” Dear People Who Comment On My Facebook Posts To Silence Me (by Talynn Kel for The Establishment)
  • “The NAACP proposal does not strictly define ethnic studies, but the subject is often described as an interdisciplinary study of power, race, ethnicity and national origin, often including gender and sexual orientation, from the perspectives of marginalized groups. It’s meant to fill in the wide gaps left by traditional textbooks, literature and curricula that predominately focus on the contributions and world views of white men.” Seattle Schools may make ethnic studies mandatory (by Ann Dornfeld for KUOW)

Horrendous Executive Orders and Legislation

  • “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to me when immigration agents came into my apartment after they arrested my father outside. I was arrested, too, detained and brought to this center. Agents said that a tattoo on my arm means I’m in a gang. I got that tattoo when I was 18 to honor La Paz, Mexico, the city where I was born. Agents interrogated me for hours and insisted I was a gang member because I’m from the Central Valley. They are all gang members there, they told me. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I told them that I wasn’t.” Daniel Ramirez Medina: I’m a ‘dreamer,’ but immigration agents detained me anyway (by Daniel Ramirez Medina for Washington Post)
  • “Born and raised in Houston, Barazi is a Muslim whose father emigrated from Syria and has been a US citizen for nearly four decades. Barazi’s mom said she couldn’t deal with the fear that her son might be singled out for extra inspection or, worse, detained when he tried to re-enter the United States. So Barazi, 22, joined the ranks of American Muslims whose ability to travel is restricted not by official Trump administration policy, but because they’re scared of what might happen when they land in US airport.” American Muslims Are Canceling Spring Break Trips To Avoid Being Hassled At The Airport (by Hannah Allam for Buzzfeed)
  • “House appropriations subcommittees began reviewing the plan late Wednesday. Among the cuts: drastic reductions in the 60-year-old State Department Food for Peace Program, which sends food to poor countries hit by war or natural disasters, and the elimination of the Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes flights to rural airports.” Donald Trump Budget Slashes Funds for E.P.A. and State Department (by Glenn Thrush and Coral Davenport for the New York Times)
  • “”One of the officers calls out to me and says, ‘Hey, give me your phone,'” recalled Shibly. “And I said, ‘No, because I already went through this.'” The officer asked a second time. Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend’s face turn red as the officer’s chokehold tightened.” American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone

Racism

  • “Within the last week, nearly a dozen teens of color have gone missing in the Washington D.C. area. According to the D.C. Police Department, more than 10 Black and Latinx teens have been reported missing. Sadly, the only mention of their disappearance comes from a series of tweets including several messages from the police department’s Twitter account and a small number of online news sites, including The Root and Teen Vogue.” What We Know So Far About D.C.’s Missing Black and Latinx Teens (by Mariya Moseley for Essence)
  • “But former KKK leader, white supremacist, and former GOP Louisiana gubernatorial nominee David Duke praised the tweet as proof that “sanity reigns supreme” in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District (which King represents).” Congressman Steve King stands by racist tweet: ‘I meant exactly what I said’ (by Josh Israel for Think Progress)

Transphobia

  • “But it appears that Just Want Privacy’s latest fear-mongering effort has backfired. Last week, the group tried to use the story of Kelly Herron, a local marathoner who was allegedly attacked by a man in a Golden Gardens bathroom, to promote their anti-trans ballot measure in a fundraising e-mail and on Facebook. Unfortunately for Just Want Privacy, Herron has now spoken out against their campaign. “To the people behind I-1552, I say ‘not today, mutherf*ckers,'” Herron said in a public statement today about Just Want Privacy’s attempts to use her story, repeating the words she says she screamed at her attacker. “I refuse to allow anyone to use me and my horrific sexual assault to cause harm and discrimination to others.”” Golden Gardens Jogger Demands Anti-Trans Group Retract Fundraising Effort Using Her Story (by Sydney Brownstone for The Stranger)

Heroin Overdoses

  • “Drug overdoses have led to a spike in the number of bodies coming to the Stark County morgue — an increase of about 20 percent in the last year. The additional bodies led to the need for more space, so the coroner’s office borrowed a trailer from the state until it gets caught up. “I’ve been involved in public safety for 40 some years; I remember the drug problem we had in the late ’60s and early ’70s when I joined the department,” Walters said. “The fatality numbers are nothing even close to this.”” Drugs are killing so many people in Ohio that cold-storage trailers are being used as morgues (by Kristine Phillips for the Washington Post)

Reproductive Rights

  • “Unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland, where women face up to life in prison. It is estimated that more than a thousand women each year travel to Great Britain for terminations. However, Northern Irish women are not entitled to free abortions on the NHS, despite being UK taxpayers and they instead must pay for private procedures. Activists say this means low-income women are increasingly unable to travel and are instead buying abortion pills online and taking them at home in Northern Ireland.” Northern Irish police raid women’s homes in crackdown on abortion pills (by Siobhan Fenton for The Independent)
  • “When it comes to issues related to health, state Rep. Jessica Farrar says that men should have to undergo the same “unnecessary” and “invasive” procedures that she says Texas women are subjected to under recently passed state laws. That’s why the the Houston Democrat on Friday filed House Bill 4260, which would fine men $100 for masturbating and create a required booklet for men with medical information related to the benefits and concerns of a man seeking a vasectomy, a Viagra prescription or a colonoscopy. The bill would also let doctors invoke their “personal, moralistic, or religious beliefs” in refusing to perform an elective vasectomy or prescribe Viagra, among other proposed requirements in the bill.” With proposal to penalize men for masturbating, legislator aims to shake up health debate (by Alex Samuels for The Texas Tribune)

Sunday

12

March 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – March 12, 2017

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

Fight Back

  • “After a stop at the locked-down East Precinct at 12th and Pine, the huge three-block crowd of marchers made its way down 12th toward the King County Youth Services Center — also known as juvenile hall. Last week, activists learned that the the Hearing Examiner had dismissed an appeal blocking construction of a new youth jail and justice center at the site. In a decision issued last week, the examiner dismissed the appeal brought by Ending the Prison Industrial Complex’s asking for exceptions made in permits issued by the city to be overturned.” Protest march covers Black Lives Matter hot spots from Capitol Hill to youth jail to Midtown Center (by J Seattle for Capitol Hill Blog)

Horrific Executive Action and Legislation

  • “Today, Governor Daugaard signed Senate Bill 149 into law, making South Dakota the first state in 2017 to pass anti-LGBT legislation. The bill will allow taxpayer funded agencies to refuse to provide any service, including adoption or foster care services, on the basis on the agency’s religious or moral convictions.” Governor Daugaard Signs Discriminatory Senate Bill (ACLU)
  • “The officials told the Chronicle that agents feel free to engage in more “collateral arrests,” or arrests of people who are not the intended targets of the operation. These kinds of arrests were discouraged in the Obama years, when those with criminal records were the targets of raids. Now, agents are free to detain them if they’ve broken immigration law.” Immigration agents are reportedly basking in their new, less-regulated roles under Trump (by Matthew Rodriguez for Mic)

Transphobia

  • “Adichie saying that trans women once experienced male privilege before “changing” genders and implying that this disqualifies them from being women without an adjective erases their experiences of womanhood at all stages of their lives. It further ignores the very real violence they face (Chyna Gibson’s name still fresh on our lips, images of Dandara dos Santos’s brutal murder splashed across social media, at least seven trans women of color murdered in the US since 2017 began) and leaves nonbinary trans people and trans men out of the conversation entirely.” Why Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Comments on Trans Women are Wrong and Dangerous (by Jarune Uwujaren for Unapologetic Feminism)
  • “A lawyer representing the family told LGBTQ Nation this all started last month, with the parents trying to get medical help for their daughter, who has type 1 diabetes and epilepsy. Although they agreed to something called a “therapeutic separation,” the attorney confirmed the parents never signed any documents surrendering their parental rights or authorizing any treatment of her gender identity, and in fact have attempted to have her moved to another hospital.” Is Christian-run hospital forcing this 5-year-old transgender girl to be a boy? (by Dawn Ennis for LGBTQ Nation)

Racism

  • “In addition, the majority of more than 1,800 innocent defendants framed by law enforcement since 1989 in widespread police scandals are African American, says the report, “Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States,” published Tuesday as a companion to the annual National Registry of Exonerations. “Judging from the cases we know, a substantial majority of innocent people who are convicted of crimes in the United States are African Americans,” the report declares.” Innocent Blacks More Likely Than Whites To Be Wrongfully Convicted (by Matt Ferner for Huffington Post)

Health Care

  • “His claim—that if people would just make the right choices, they wouldn’t be so ding-dang poor—is part and parcel of the GOP’s long tradition of demonizing low-income members of the public. Republicans have been spouting the same canards for decades, castigating people with low incomes as lazy, moochers, and on the endless hunt for free stuff. And somehow the GOP seems to consistently equate poor with Black.” Jason Chaffetz’s Stance on iPhones and Health Care Is Both Heartless and Unoriginal (by Imani Gandy for Rewire)

Representation

  • “Despite this context, the creators of Speechless and the family drama Switched at Birth, both on air this spring, are talking to people with lived experience with disability, casting disabled people to play disabled characters, and using the structure of their respective genres to tell stories that ring true to a parent like me. And by incorporating unconventional families — which resemble my own in their battles over access and stigma — into classic American television genres, they are directing contemporary dialogues about disability straight at a mainstream audience.” The Shows Shaking Up Disability Representation on Television (by David M. Perry for Pacific Standard)

Misogyny

  • “Co-host Allison Kilkenny, who is also Kilstein’s estranged wife (they separated last year), announced Kilstein’s departure from the show via a Facebook post last Monday in which she wrote, “Recently, some disturbing allegations have been brought to my attention entailing several women who have accused Jamie of being manipulative, emotionally abusive, and predatory in his behavior.” It’s not clear, however, whether any specific incident triggered the departure.” Progressive Performer Jamie Kilstein Ousted From Citizen Radio After ‘Disturbing Allegations’ (by Prachi Gupta for Jezebel)

Sunday

5

March 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – March 5, 2017

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

Fight Back

  • “US District Court Judge Mark R. Hornak issued a temporary injunction barring Pine-Richland School District from enforcing a policy that said transgender students could either use single-person bathrooms or facilities matching their birth sex. In issuing his opinion suspending that policy, Hornak ruled that the students would likely prevail on their claims that the rule denied their equal protection rights under the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.” Transgender Sister Of Singer At Trump Inauguration Wins Federal Court Bathroom Ruling (by Dominic Holden for Buzzfeed)

Horrific Executive Action and Legislation

  • “A recent Department of Homeland Security draft report did not find evidence that the people excluded because of the Muslim ban pose a terror threat to the country. As the Washington Post reported, “more than half of the 82 people who died in the pursuit of or were convicted of any terrorism-related offense inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, slightly more than half were native-born U.S. citizens.”” Trump lied. Right-wing extremists — not foreigners — commit more terror attacks in the U.S. (by Esther Yu Hsi Lee for Think Progress)
  • “The bill, SF 253, would give a fetus “the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Iowa,” and the laws of Iowa. A three-person state senate subcommittee on Monday voted to advance the bill.” Bill Outlawing Abortion Advances in Iowa Legislature (Updated) (by Michelle D. Anderson for Rewire)
  • “Whenever there’s a serious infectious disease outbreak, inside or even outside the US, the CDC leads the response. The scientists and researchers there are tasked with identifying outbreaks, and creating plans to stop them from spreading. Should a pandemic or any other public health crisis occur, we would want a team of experienced professionals in place that already knows the lay of the land, and has the administration’s trust,” said Wendy Parmet, a professor of health policy at Northeastern University. “The sooner that team forms, the better.”” Trump has set the US up to botch a global health crisis (by Julia Belluz for Vox)

Arts

  • “Ali is the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, a particularly notable achievement in 2017, when the White House has placed travel restrictions on individuals from several Muslim-majority nations. This win also makes Ali the fifth black actor to achieve a Supporting Actor Oscar.” Mahershala Ali Becomes The First Muslim Actor To Win An Oscar (by Maddie Crum for the Huffington Post)
  • “Davis, a Juilliard alum, has had quite the impressive journey. After winning a 2001 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her portrayal in the original production of King Hedley II, she power-walked into her breakout film role in Doubt, which earned the actress her first Oscar nomination. Once critics and audiences alike saw her accomplish the seemingly impossible–stealing a scene from Meryl Streep–her fame skyrocketed into oblivion. Davis went on to portray powerhouses in The Help, Shondaland’s How to Get Away With Murder, and mostly recently Fences–each of these roles brought the actress an array of accolades.” No, Viola Davis is Not the ‘Black Meryl Streep’ (by Tonja Renee Stidhum for Ebody)

Misogyny at Work

  • “The allegations of AJ Vandermeyden, who still works at the celebrated electric car manufacturer, paint a picture of a hostile work environment dominated by men where inappropriate sexual behavior is tolerated and women face numerous barriers to advance their careers.” A female engineer is suing Tesla for alleged sexism and harassment (by Sam Levin for The Guardian)
  • “Declarations from roughly 250 women and men who worked at Sterling, filed as part of a private class-action arbitration case, allege that female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed. Sterling disputes the allegations.” Hundreds allege sex harassment, discrimination at Kay and Jared jewelry company (by Drew Harwell for Washington Post)
  • “In one instance, a woman corporal in uniform was followed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina by a fellow Marine, who surreptitiously photographed her as she picked up her gear. Those photographs were posted online in the Facebook group “Marines United,” which has nearly 30,000 followers, drawing dozens of obscene comments.” Hundreds of Marines investigated for sharing photos of naked colleagues (by Thomas James Brennan for Reveal)
  • “While the team is committed to maintaining their professionalism and quality as the world’s best squad on the field, they’ve also been tasked with the herculean task of coaxing a federation that unfairly allots time and resources towards the men’s squad to see them merely as equals to their male counterparts. And however the women’s squad might have tried to maintain this difficult balance, the cracks of this tenuous relationship had already begun to show before this action against peaceful protest was put into place, and the context of that relationship simply can’t be ignored.” New US Soccer National Anthem Policy Unfairly Targets, Silences Women’s Team (by Claire Watkins for Vavel)

Racism

  • “Kalyb kept trying to walk away from the officer, and got more upset the farther they walked. The officer then handcuffed the 50-pound, four-foot boy and marched him to the principal’s office. According to the incident report, the officer said he cuffed the boy, who “appeared to be out of control,” to keep him from hurting himself.” Kids in Cuffs: Why Handcuff a Student With a Disability (by Hannah Rappleye, Brenda Breslauer, Stephanie Gosk and Kenzi Abou-Sabe for NBC)

Reproductive Rights

Anti-Sex-Worker

Homelessness

  • “So here’s what actually happened to those 12 or so individuals, according to Chloe Gale. Gale is the program director for REACH, the organization that provides outreach and offers services during encampment sweeps. REACH has been working with encampment residents “for about a year,” Gale says, “trying to figure out good solutions for the folks who were living there.”” The City Swept an Encampment Near the Ballard Locks. Here’s Where the Campers Went (by Erica C. Barnett forC is for Crank)