What I’m Reading, September 28, 2015

What it’s like to live on $2 a day in the United States, Chico Harlan, Washington Post, September 11, 2015

It’s worth pondering for a moment just how difficult it is to survive on $2 per day. That’s a single gallon of gasoline. Or half a gallon of milk. If you took a D.C. bus this morning, you have 25 cents left for dinner. Among this group in extreme poverty, some get a boost from housing subsidies. Many collect food stamps — an essential part of survival. But so complete is their destitution, they have little means to climb out. (The book described one woman who scored a job interview, couldn’t afford transportation, walked 20 blocks to get there, and showed up looking haggard and drenched in sweat. She didn’t get hired.)

Edin is a professor specializing in poverty at Johns Hopkins University. Shaefer is an associate professor of social work and public policy at the University of Michigan. In several years of research that led to this book, they set up field offices both urban and rural — in Chicago, in Cleveland, in Johnson City, Tenn., in the Mississippi Delta — and tried to document this jarring form of American poverty.

Batman: Arkham Knight Has a Serious Problem With Women, Denny Connolly, Game Rant, June 2015 Continue reading


Fool Me Once on Social Media…

If you don’t know by now that you should always Google the subject matter of a meme before re-posting it, then you are either (a) too young to use a computer yet, or (b) hopeless. That said, it is now becoming clear that you shouldn’t always trust a debunking of a meme.

A series of images making their way around the web show huge numbers of people piling onto some rusty, rickety ships. The description often accompanying the image suggests that these are Syrian (or Libyan) refugees headed for Europe, with sinister suggestions for what that implies…

Via Ahmet Aykac / Facebook Continue reading


What I’m Reading, September 25, 2015

The terrifying cost of the Planned Parenthood hoax: “I have never seen such a volume, intensity and escalation of hate speech”, Bob Cesca, Salon, September 12, 2015

What’s also perfectly clear is that a series of horrendously edited videos accusing Planned Parenthood of ghoulish criminal activity has effectively amplified the anti-choice outrage machine, which has to include the well-known terrorist fringe of the movement. As with the connection between the protest and the attack, there’s no way to know at this point whether the terrorist or terrorists responsible were specifically incited by the videos, but it’s reasonable to conclude that the videos, while being fraudulently produced, have touched off a new chapter of unmitigated sanctimony and bug-eyed fury over Planned Parenthood and other clinics that offer reproductive services for women.

Of course, the fakery of the videos, as well as the reality that Planned Parenthood saves considerably more lives than abortion services performed is irrelevant in the face of single-minded automatons who are feverishly motivated by the very thought of an aborted fetus. Nothing, in their minds, morally outweighs the photographic images of fetuses. Nothing. Yes, it’s all very graphic to laypeople, but the procedure shouldn’t in any universe morally justify threats or acts of terrorism. The same can be said about too many congressional and state level Republicans who are wasting untold millions of dollars in taxpayer revenue to investigate Planned Parenthood based on completely false charges. No wonder Florida Governor Rick Scott scrubbed the results of his investigation when they ended up showing zero wrongdoing on behalf of the clinics.

Bernie Sanders’s speech at Liberty University wasn’t a stunt. It’s core to his campaign. Andrew Prokop, Vox, September 14, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, September 24, 2015

The new racism embodied in total contempt for Obama, Wendell Berry, Lexington Herald-Leader, September 13, 2015

Nobody can doubt that virtually all of the president’s political enemies would vehemently defend themselves against a charge of racism. Virtually all of them observe the forms and taboos of political correctness. If any very visible one of their own should insult the president by a recognized racial slur, they would all join in the predictable outrage. But the paramount fact of this moment in the history of racism is that you don’t have to denominate the president by a recognized racial slur when his very name can be used as a synonym.

This subtilized racism is not only a perhaps unignorable lure to Republican politicians; it can also be noticeably corrupting to Democrats.

In Kentucky, for example, where Obama is acknowledged carefully to be “unpopular,” candidates of both parties have been, and still are, running “against Obama.” If the president comes into the state to visit, some Democratic candidates, like Republican candidates, become conspicuously busy elsewhere.

Scaring Up the Vote, Jamelle Bouie, Slate, September 8, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, September 23, 2015

5 Surprising Things I Learned Infiltrating An Armed Militia, Harmon Leon, Cracked, August 03, 2015

The sound of gunfire rang off in the distance. Tense and paranoid, the backroom of the Westside Pistol Range felt like an Alex Jones discussion board come to life. Amalia arrived late with a lot on her mind. She shuffled through a handful of notes from her independent research on a nightmare anti-Utopian vision of America in which citizens are rounded up by their own government and placed in giant concentration camps. “They could just take us — because they kind of own us!” she stated with certainty.

The group listened intently. A large man behind me chimed in, his words accented by gunshots: “When the banks fail, they can confiscate our assets and not pay us back,” he said. Then he added that what Amalia mentioned could be found in a secret military manual called Civilian Management.

The 15 members present were frustrated, and wanted to take control of their lives in an America which they see as spinning out of control. Most importantly, these patriots wanted to hold on to their guns, so as to be armed against “unconstitutional” orders from an increasingly tyrannical government.

These are the Oath Keepers, a nonpartisan (but libertarian-leaning) organization whose members call themselves “Guardians of the Republic.” Founded in 2009 by Yale-educated attorney, former army paratrooper, and Ron Paul staffer Stewart Rhodes, their mission is to defend the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. The Oath Keepers’ core membership is largely comprised of active duty and retired police officers, firefighters, and military. Since Hurricane Katrina, they’ve feared that martial law will be instigated during future disasters and land every American in a 24/7 FEMA camp. Their motto: “Not on our watch!”

America’s Fragile Constitution, Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic, October 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, September 22, 2015

Nativism: Everywhere the Enemy of Human Rights, Jack Healey, Huffington Post, September 17, 2015

Though we are a nation of immigrants, a segment of the American people has always wanted to walk through the door and then close it behind them, keeping everyone else out. This segment dates back most clearly to the nativist movement that took place in the years leading up to the Civil War. When the nativists have their way, the US stops being a nation united by principles of freedom and justice. We are unfortunately witnessing a resurgence of these politics. An understanding of their history, and the history of their defeat, could help to embolden the contemporary generation.

Only a few decades after the American Revolution, the “bad’ folk were the Irish escaping from the famine and British oppression. Many of the nativists of that time were Protestant, mostly Presbyterian and Lutheran, living in Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. One of the strangest parts of their story was their flag, which carried the banner “Native Americans Beware of Foreign Influence.” Of course, none of the nativists were American Indians. In fact, Indians were branded as “bad’ folks as well.

“Lean the f*** away from me”: Jessica Williams, “impostor syndrome” and the many ways we serially doubt women, Katie McDonough, Salon, February 18, 2015 Continue reading


Extra Innings

I’m not a baseball fan (at all), but my wife is quite fond of the Royals. Since we got our Apple TV up and running (after cutting the proverbial cord), and she signed up for MLB.tv, baseball has been a prominent feature of our home.

Since I am exceedingly good at finding ways to entertain myself while others are watching sports, I often spend the time researching baseball trivia based on random, oft-idiotic questions that occur to me. Most of what I have learned isn’t all that surprising (e.g. no Major League team has ever had an undefeated season, probably because it’s improbable to the point of impossibility to win 162 games in a row.)

During a Royals game the other night that ran into multiple extra innings, I began to wonder how long a baseball game could go before someone in a position of authority decided to put off further play until another time. I based this query partly on the HBO special “7 Days in Hell,” about a fictional 7-day tennis match that involved nightly breaks for sleep. How long would a baseball game have to go on before everyone goes home? To the interwebz!!! Continue reading


Random Thoughts on Ruin Porn

Ruin porn is one of the more interesting “first-world” developments of recent years, at least in my humble opinion. For those unfamiliar with the concept, “urban exploration” involves visiting and photographing decaying areas, usually in cities.

You are God in the hell, you are Satan in the heaven.

There’s something hauntingly beautiful about many of these images, but at the same time, it feels extremely exploitative. Many of these most popular sites for urban exploration are in ruins because of ongoing economic crises (see “ruin porn” in Detroit. Lots and lots of Detroit.)

In the course of trying to clear out blog post drafts, I cam across many half-formed thoughts on this topic, as well as links to interesting examples. I figured I’d just try to distill everything down to one post here, even if it just means listing some of the links: Continue reading


What I’m Reading, September 21, 2015

Police Officer Fired For Racial Bias After Falsely Claiming Black Man Attacked Her With Golf Club, Andy Campbell, Huffington Post, September 17, 2015

Seattle Police Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was fired Tuesday for showing racial bias and a lack of remorse when she improperly arrested a 69-year-old black man who was using a golf club as a cane.

“I was disappointed by your failure during your Loudermill hearing to take any responsibility, or show any understanding that your conduct at issue here was inappropriate,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole wrote in her decision to fire Whitlatch. “In particular, when I asked you what if anything you would do differently in retrospect, you stated that you would do nothing differently.”

‘The narrowing of opportunity in modern America’ (And the rise of the “mandarin” class), Nick Sorrentino, Against Crony Capitalism, February 15, 2015 Continue reading


All Bark…

This is a realistic depiction of most internet arguments:

(via Phadrus on Imgur)

And here we see the “live version” of that scene: Continue reading