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

There’s no denying that Batman: Arkham Knight is an incredibly well-made game. The combat, exploration, and detective mechanics are all as tight as ever and the final installment is one of the best in the series. That said, the game seems to be ages behind in its representation of women.

We’ll get to specific details after the spoiler warning here, but it’s safe to say that the game includes a handful of female comic book (and cartoon) characters who are incredibly smart and strong in their source material and wastes no time reducing them to damsels in distress or glorified power-ups for the Caped Crusader

Trump on his debate foreign policy flub: ‘Arab name, Arab name, Arab …’ Hunter, Daily Kos, September 17, 2015

[Trump’s] advisers have yet to get him to the point where he understands that Iranians are not Arab, and Trump is still not entirely convinced that conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt wasn’t just pulling the names from an exceptionally esoteric Jeopardy category.

Again, though—Donald Trump’s support is not predicated on knowing buggerall about foreign policy, or domestic policy, or anything else. His supporters already have a keen idea that Donald Trump is an outsider with little to no actual policy experience; they don’t care, because Donald Trump’s support comes from people who themselves don’t believe there’s as much to this policy nonsense as the political class sniffles about. They, too, believe that knowing the difference between Quds and Kurds is a gotcha question; the answer is that everyone in that general region is bad, and “policy” doesn’t need to get any more detailed than that. Call it the curse of knowing so little that you don’t know what you don’t know.

The Sunny Side of Smut, Melinda Wenner Moyer, Scientific American, June 23, 2011

Repression seems to figure prominently into the puzzle of pornography. In 2009 Michael P. Twohig, a psychologist at Utah State University, asked 299 undergraduate students whether they considered their pornography consumption problematic; for example, causing intrusive sexual thoughts or difficulty finding like-minded sex partners. Then he assessed the students with an eye to understanding the root causes of their issues.

It turns out that among porn viewers, the amount of porn each subject consumed had nothing to do with his or her mental state. What mattered most, Twohig found, was whether the subjects tried to control their sexual thoughts and desires. The more they tried to clamp down on their urge for sex or porn, the more likely they were to consider their own pornography use a problem. The findings suggest that suppressing the desire to view pornography, for example, for moral or religious reasons, might actually strengthen the urge for it and exacerbate sexual problems. It’s all about “personal views and personal values,” Twohig says. In other words, the effects of pornography—positive or negative—have little to do with the medium itself and everything to do with the person viewing it.


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