Monthly Archives: September 2011

Weekend Reading

While it’s still ungodly hot in Arizona, fall is supposedly on the way for most of you. If you’re not taking some time to step outside and enjoy the weather, you might as well take some time and stay inside reading the whole internets.

He hates children.

If you have to starve to death, it’s best to do it in a war-torn country.

David Scheffer applauds Kathryn Sikkink’s new book on international justice, kind of.

The Post Office “crisis” was actually made by Congress, and the USPS could save itself if they let it.

Instead of just updating his Facebook status, this photographer told people he was going to be a dad in person – and photographed it.

America is slowly losing its client states.

When it comes to the digital humanities, it’s not the “job market,” but the profession.

Last weekend, Greek students occupied the state television studio to make their statement.

Having trouble finding the time to protest something that you kind of care about? This Dutch company will hire some Africans to protest for you!

The due-process-free assassination of US citizens is now reality.

How important is it that Anwar al Awlaki is dead?

The most racist thing that’s ever happened to me:

Modern racism is a much more subtle, nuanced, slippery beast than its father or grandfather were. It has ways of making itself seem to not exist, which can drive you crazy trying to prove its existence sometimes. You’re in Target. Is the security guard following you? You’re not sure. You think he is but you can’t be certain. Maybe the guard is black, so if you tried to explain it to a white friend they might not understand it as racist, but the guard’s boss isn’t black. Or maybe he is. Maybe what you’re feeling are his ashamed vibes as if he’s sending you a silent signal of apology for following you. Or maybe . . . now you’re looking for the Tylenol for migraines when you all you needed was toothpaste.

And that’s one of the basest examples of racism. That says nothing of the constellation of anxieties that could flash through you when the stakes are high–when you’re applying for a job or competing for a promotion, or applying to a school, buying a house, or asking for a loan. When you’re wondering if the white person who appears less qualified got the promotion because they were actually better than you or because they were better at networking upper management, or someone wrongly assumed you’re not as good because you’re black or . . .

I asked my 105 interviewees, What is the most racist thing that has ever happened to you? The response I received most often was indicative of modern racism: The answer is unknowable. “I imagine it’d be a thing I don’t even know ever happened,” Aaron McGruder said. “It would be that opportunity that never manifested and I’ll never know that it was even possible.” A decision is made in a back room or a high-level office, perhaps by someone you’ll never see, about whether or not you get a job or a home loan or admission to a school. Or perhaps you’ll never be allowed to know that a home in a certain area or a job is available. This is how modern institutional racism functions and it can weigh on and shape a black person differently than the more overt, simplistic racism of the past did.

A brief history of the income tax.

A breakdown of how America is criminalizing poverty during a recession.

What Borders employees finally told their customers.

Why you should definitely not see Machine Gun Preacher.

Officials in the Philippines photoshopped themselves into disaster relief photos.

Mindy Kaling writes about how unrealistic romantic comedies are, including some easy-to-recognize characters:

I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible. They’re all participating in a similar level of fakey razzle-dazzle, and I enjoy every second of it.

This week, the Daily Cal celebrated 40 years since becoming an independent student paper.

House Subcommittee launches an extensive investigation into Planned Parenthood because an anti-abortion group asked it to.

“I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one.”

Hey, what ever happened to all those Libyan surface-to-air missiles? Oh yeah, they’re missing.

A documentary on Qaddafi’s arms dealing includes startling real footage from the IRA in 1988 a new video game.

Where did Salva Kiir get his ten gallon hat? George W. Bush, probably.

Students and teachers commemorate the first Banned Websites Awareness Day.

Bill Easterly is keeping tabs on the World Bank.

A piece by Ursus Wherli, click for more!

A veteran deals with returning to college life at Georgetown.

How a fellow at Newsweek conned his way to free hotels and flights – and then scammed a tech company.

This is what happens when a female reporter does some polite joking in her sports column, and I am ashamed in Buffalo fans. I’m glad she put it out in public, but these people are horrendously sexist and terribly mean.

Marketing versus branding in the Ugandan elections this year.

Carnegie Mellon professors are protesting their university’s partnership with Rwanda.

I don’t know why there is a flip-the-plane-over-and-dive button in the cockpit, but you shouldn’t press it.

Apparently Amazon is just as bad a giant company as the rest of them, if not worse:

Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn’t quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

The supply of temporary workers keeps Amazon’s warehouse fully staffed without the expense of a permanent workforce that expects raises and good benefits. Using temporary employees in general also helps reduce the prospect that employees will organize a union that pushes for better treatment because the employees are in constant flux, labor experts say. And Amazon limits its liability for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance because most of the workers don’t work for Amazon, they work for the temp agency.

This is just a neat video by Amy Walker in which she does 21 accents, including the always-great Transatlantic Accent!

A handy index of rude hand gestures.

Game theory, explained with hotel reviews.

Facebook’s new Timeline feature will be awesome for hackers.

And why one guy deleted his Facebook account.

What exactly did the Irvine 11 do?

In February 2010, as Oren began to speak about the U.S.-Israeli relationship at a campus speech, the students rose one-by-one to object to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. One shouted, “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” As the offender was removed from the audience, a designated compatriot shouted, “You, sir, are an accomplice to genocide!” And so on. According to an attorney for one of the students, the longest of the interruptions lasted roughly 8 seconds, and the total amount of time taken up by their outbursts—combined—was roughly one minute.

StudentActivism.net ran all sorts of stories on UC activism this week, click away:

Why one professor wanted to buy all of the cupcakes at the Affirmative Action Bake Sale.

Tactical thoughts on Occupy Wall Street.

The case of magical penis theft has yet to be solved.

The President visits Washington, California, and a Square State!

Our government pretty much doesn’t function anymore, in which Gin and Tacos expands on David Frum’s piece on CNN about American governance.

Mali is steadily moving forwards to being a full-fledged democracy. Hopefully the international community will help see it happen.

The White House confuses Wyoming with the other rectangular state.

Wait, we don’t give aid to countries because they need it? How about because they like us?

I guess American troops aren’t going to get medals from the Iraqi government.

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Weekend Reading

Here’s another edition of weekly reading! I hope you find something worth clicking.

Rachel Strohm has a series of Hipstamatic photos from Ghana, replete with advertising, nationalism, education, and more. Feel free to click the stadium to see the whole series.

A funny and witty critique of the aid dollar naysayers – why you shouldn’t donate your bras.

This is a few weeks old, but it’s worth linking to. The World Trade Center as portrayed in comic books.

A course in U.S. military history reveals the challenges of military life – and the need for better programs and policies for returning veterans.

What these students needed was personal catharsis, but I am not a trained psychologist. What these students craved was the opportunity to express their anger or pain, but my class was not the place to do it.

Student veterans are not a homogeneous lot, and I would never use a broad brush to paint them all as unstable or troubled, but any reasonably observant person could see that beneath their quiet demeanor, politeness, and deference, some were visibly scarred. Students find me accessible, and I listened sympathetically to each one. I feel for these young people and what they have endured. Many shared photos and stories with me, and some showed me their physical scars. My heart goes out to them, but a course in military history is not an appropriate place for a therapy session. Since I foresee no diminution of this problem, and indeed believe it will intensify significantly over the next decade, I have decided that I can no longer teach the course.

My classroom experience suggests that universities must intensify their search for ways to help our student veterans and their loved ones confront their emotional distress rather than leave those tasks to academics who lack the appropriate professional training. I can’t imagine a more important university priority.

Did the native inhabitants of Easter Island really commit ecological suicide? Here’s a busted myth.

How Whole Foods “primes” you to shop (although just about every grocery store does a lot of this).

Mother Jones has a list of some of the gutsiest student newspapers, which has some interesting stories in it.

I’m assuming you’ve read at least one article about children growing up with autism. There’s a great read at NYT about adults with autism.

Esquire has a really interesting profile on Jon Stewart (you should read the whole thing) that has this to say:

Kids who couldn’t sleep at night worrying that their president was a bad guyand that their country was doing bad things could now rest easy knowing that their president was just a dick, and that their country, while stupid, was still essentially innocent. It was like you could get upset about what was going on but still live your life, because there was Jon Stewart right before bedtime, showing you how to get upset entertainingly, how to give a shit without having to do anything about it.

When he protests that he’s a comedian, he’s not escaping from the collective fantasy. He’s feeding it. The collective fantasy, you see, is not just about Jon Stewart, it’s about America, especially liberal America, and its need for redeemers to rise out of its ranks. Jon Stewart’s just a comedian the way gunslingers in old westerns are really peaceable sodbusters who hate all that bloodshed and all that killin’ but finally have to strap on them six-guns and march on into town.

What matters is that even when Stewart’s a dick, he is never the dick. It is Stewart’s unique talent for coming across as decent and well-meaning when he’s bullying and hectoring and self-righteous. And this is because his talent is not just for comedy and not just for media criticism or truth-telling; it’s for being — for remaining — likable.

Three days before a crucial election, Jon Stewart had stood in America’s most symbolic public space and given a speech to two hundred thousand people. The speech wasn’t about his need to be a player or his need for power or his need for influence. It wasn’t about getting out the vote or telling people to vote in a certain way. It was about Jon Stewart — about his need for another kind of out. For years, his out had been his comedy. Now it was his sincerity — his evenhandedness, his ability to rise above politics, his goodness.

In Somalia, al Shabab had a contest for kids with prizes including AK-47s and hand grenades. Thelatest scary fact about al Shabab.

An analysis of some the museums of Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Santa Cruz Police Department is using algorithms to predict crime. Could give a whole new meaning to “wrong place, wrong time.”

The recession and how it hits community colleges.

Charles Larson, on Right-Wing Terrorism in the U.S.:

Tax cuts, unfunded wars, lax oversight of banks and Wall Street, the massive redistribution of wealth in the country trickling upward (against gravity) from the middle class to the upper class (particularly the super elite)—all these events combined over several decades have done significantly more damage to the United States than the terrorism on 9/11.  Even the three thousand plus deaths on that day cannot equal the suicides of traumatized veterans and of the newly poor, the havoc brought to a generation of children living in broken homes, in families where jobs have been lost, and the tens of thousands of people now living in sub-standard housing or on the streets.

Apparently if you charge $1 for non-patrons to use the restroom,you’ll end up in a fight and getting arrested.

I’m glad somebody else noticed the utter lack of women writers at the Emmy’s.

And also why we should keep talking about why there aren’t more women in Silicon Valley.

One of Ten Myths about Affirmative Action:

As many as 15 percent of freshmen at America’s top schools are white students who failed to meet their university’s minimum standards for admission, according to Peter Schmidt, deputy editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education. These kids are “people with a long-standing relationship with the university,” or in other words, the children of faculty, wealthy alumni and politicians.

According to Schmidt, these unqualified but privileged kids are nearly twice as common on top campuses as Black and Latino students who had benefited from affirmative action.

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A Man Was Lynched Yesterday

circa 1938, from the Library of Congress

In 1920 the NAACP began to hang this flag outside of its New York City office whenever a black man was killed as the result of racial violence. They used it until 1938, when they had to remove it to keep their lease. A man was lynched yesterday.

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Weekend Reading

Here’s your weekly edition of links in no particular order.

Why are carrots orange? Because of the Dutch.

Also, ugly fruits are making a comeback in Europe.

Where is the densest urban environment in the world? You’d be surprised.

What happens when a taxidermist who has never seen a lion tries to stuff one? Hilarity ensues, that’s what.

What did Martin Luther King, Jr. really do? And what did he and his colleagues in the Civil Rights movement really achieve?

This is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished.  Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.

He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.

I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing “The Help,” may not understand what this was all about.  But living in the south (and in parts of the mid west and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.

It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.

You really must disabuse yourself of this idea.  Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them.  You all know about lynching.  But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.

This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running.  It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

So what did they do?

They told us: — whatever you are most afraid of doing vis a vis white people, go do it.  Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.

Go ahead sit at that lunch counter.  Sue the local school board.  All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.

If we do it all together, we’ll be OK.

They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad.  They taught black people how to take a beating — from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses.  They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating.  They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.

Photos of the construction of the US Capitol, via How to Be a Retronaut

Is the freelancing trend as big as the Industrial Revolution?

Did Americans have British accents in 1776? Or did the British have American accents?

Twitter loves you for who you are.

I don’t know what this says about the glory of the internet, but you should watch this video. And if you are a least bit amused, watch these parodies. I sure can’t promise you’ll be glad you did, but I know I am.

Here’s the latest on why teachers are still under-appreciated and underpaid.

Also from Gin & Tacos, why we should learn from past tragedies instead of just “never forgetting” them.

A rite of passage for world leaders, for example, is the pilgrimage to Auschwitz. And people the world over know that the Holocaust is not to be forgotten. But what lesson do the solemn-faced presidents and Popes and prime ministers take away from their tour of the camps? What is it that we Don’t Forget about the Holocaust? For most people the lesson of the Holocaust is not to vote for anyone covered in swastikas and wearing a cartoon villain toothbrush mustache. The lesson is that if anyone proposes herding people into cattle cars, trucking them to a rural area, gassing them, and putting them in crematoria, we should do something to stop it. We have learned those rather useless lessons very well. What we haven’t learned, of course, is anything about the root causes and warning signs of fascism, the gruesome result of taking socio-political scapegoating and segregation to its logical conclusion, or the consequences of failing to accept our fundamental equality on the most basic human level. We learn that Nazis are evil and go back to railing against the immigrants or the fags or the poor or the dark people or whoever else we see as our social inferiors. It’s not just possible to remember something without learning anything from it – it’s remarkably easy.

The Borders African History Paradigm exists across the Atlantic too.

David from PhD Octopus has been traveling through Eastern Europe, which has led to some pretty good blogging, including posts on the history of towns and the history of family.

Internet is faster in Rhode Island than the rest of the country.

Car drivers don’t hate mass transit as much as they thought they did.

Chapati Mystery has a pair of posts on anti-Turk, anti-Muslim sentiment in Berlin, with startling anecdote.

Speaking of anti-Muslim, apparently the FBI thinks pious Muslims are more likely to be violent. And here’s a photo of one of the slides.

Apparently UC Irvine thought it was necessary to run anti-occupation training on campus.

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Who is Ralph Nader?

Ralph Nader and his young advocate followers - Nader's Raiders - at the Capitol.

I just finished watching An Unreasonable Man, a documentary about Ralph Nader. What’s interesting is how his image has changed so much with time. His actions from the 60s to the 90s have been eclipsed by his work in the 21st century. For most people of my generation, the sole memory of Nader is the story of how his bid in 2000 handed Gore’s victory to Bush, and to that he disrupted Kerry’s run as well, albeit to a lesser extent. I myself didn’t even now about Nader’s prior work until I got to college. But the true work of Ralph Nader was to work within government to protect Americans from corporations. I decided to watch the documentary just to learn a bit more about this time, but it also has quite a bit dedicated to the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Ralph Nader began his crusade for automobile safety after a colleague of his was rendered quadriplegic in a car crash. In the 1950s, automobile manufacturers were hesitant about the costs of implementing safety measures on their own, but they were even more worried about the government trying to impose regulations on them. Nader quickly became the center of the automobile safety push.

Up to then, car companies tended to blame drivers for operating vehicles in unsafe ways when in reality the vehicles were structurally dangerous to drive. Reporters, advocates and whistle blowers all gravitated to Nader. And the more they rallied to him, the more opponents accosted and threatened him. General Motors even sent people after Nader to try to find out if he was involved in any illegal activities, calling his friends and trying to seduce him in grocery stores. GM ultimately apologized in a Congressional hearing. At the same congressional hearing, Nader said that “I think the thing that has persuaded me to continue in this area is that I don’t want to have a climate in this country where one has to have an ascetic existence and steely determination in order to speak truthfully and candidly and critically of American industry.”

Nader would soon open a case for invasion of privacy, and the money he won in that case helped fund his subsequent campaigns in the name of consumer protection. After a few students reached out to Nader, a movement formed with students working in small groups on different commissions and revealing the problems in each one. Especially in the 60s and 70s this was a huge change in the way that people tried to alter the system – it was a testament to the power of the individual citizens not just in protesting on the streets but also in the corridors of power.

After several decades of dealing with Republicans that opposed his efforts and Democrats that failed to sacrifice any political capitol to support him as they turned more and more to corporate interests, Nader decided to finally step forwards. His involvement in the 2000 election would ultimately overshadow the huge success of what he had done for consumer protection. But his success goes beyond seat belts and airbags.

Nader began his work in a time when people had utterly rejected working within Washington to bring about change and had taken to the streets. People were demonstrating against war, racism, and poverty everywhere. And it worked in many instances. But what Nader did was stay in the system and work hard to get the truth out, and he made huge gains for consumer protection and for citizen organizing.

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Two Memorials, One War

When I was in Washington, DC last month I had the chance to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall for the first time. I had never been to any of the war memorials in DC and was able to pass through on a cool and rainy morning with a friend. I had taken a course on the Vietnam War specifically in addition to other studies in American history, and I distinctly remembered pieces from this book on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Kristin Ann Hass’ book is about the quest to create the Memorial as well as the effects the Memorial has had on how Americans memorialize the dead. The whole book is well worth a read, but as we walked through the trees and the Wall came into view, I kept going back to the first chapter, which details the uphill battle that organizers faced in getting the Memorial actually built.

Today, almost thirty years after the memorial came into being, the monument seems to strike deep chord with most. I have relatively little connection to the casualties in Vietnam, compared to most – and yet I felt an emotional pull when I looked at the names on the granite. The memorial seems to stand as a stark reminder of the tragedy of war, etched into the ground on the National Mall. I can’t speak for others, but I feel like quite a few people experience the same feeling. But it wasn’t always that way.

When Maya Lin’s design was first approved (unanimously) by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund jury, it was seen as some as out of touch. The VVMF had required all submissions to “(1) be reflective and contemplative in character; (2) harmonize with its surroundings; (3) contain the names of those who had died in the conflict or who were still missing; and (4) make no political statement about the war.” Lin’s design fit the bill, but it was definitely abstract compared to other memorials. According to Hass, many thought the design was “too abstract, too intellectual.” In other words, it belonged to the upper class – the class that was immune to drafts and war. Many thought that there was a lack of ownership for veterans and that the somber emotions it invoked paid lip service to the anti-war movement.

While there was also support both from the press, the jury, and all of the major veterans groups, the Memorial faced opposition among many in Washington. In the end, Secretary of the Interior James Watt refused to allow the plans to move forwards unless the VVMF also approved The Three Fightingmen sculpture. The leaders of the push for the memorial had no choice but to acquiesce. The three bronze men now stand a hundred feet away, facing the Wall. Walking across the grounds, I felt like the men and the Wall were worlds apart: one was a traditional sculpture of nameless soldiers cast in bronze, gazing across the grounds; the other was an emotional and imposing wall that drew you in, discreetly bringing you face to face with 58,000 stories. The Vietnam War is definitely a conflict with many faces and many perspectives. I think the memorials on the National Mall are a testament to that. The two monuments stand as a reminder to how divisive the Vietnam War was – even its memory was difficult to create.

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Take it to the White House

Last night was one of a long series of Joint Appearances by Presidential Candidates (thanks to whoever tweeted JAPCans months ago) for the GOP. There was a portion of the “debate” in which candidates were asked what they would bring with them to the White House if elected. Michele Bachmann said she would bring the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, prompting many jokes on Twitter.

It is more than just semantics to understand what an amendment is. The Constitution of the United States has been amended 27 times – the first 10 simultaneously. Each and every one of these changes is an addendum to the document. The Bill of Rights are indeed part of the Constitution. But it’s important to remember that so are the other ones.

Just because they aren’t written on old paper with a menial ‘s’ doesn’t mean that other amendments are any less important. You can definitely make your own hierarchy, to be sure, but I think the authors of the Reconstruction amendments hold a similar place to the authors of the Constitution. The end of slavery, the authority to tax income, the popular vote of senators, the definition of citizenship, the suffrage of blacks, women, and young adults – these are all as important as the right to bear arms and enjoy privacy and protest. It’s a shame that these latter amendments are often ignored in favor of the glory of the Bill of Rights.

So, if for some reason the White House doesn’t have its own copy of the Constitution – every President should print out the original with all 27 amendments and keep it in his or her pocket. Keep in mind that that means you have the founding Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and 17 other important P.S.s – even two that negate each other – all in one handy document called the Constitution.

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