July Recommended Reading

At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

LGBTQ Rights:

The Real Reason Why Conservatives Like Ross Douthat Oppose The Gay Marriage Ruling – Amanda Marcotte

“In this sense, Douthat isn’t wrong that “support for same-sex marriage and the decline of straight marital norms exist in a kind of feedback loop.” To accept same-sex marriage is to accept this modern idea that marriage is about love and partnership, instead of about dutiful procreation and female submission. Traditional gender roles where husbands rule over wives are disintegrating and that process is definitely helped along by these new laws allowing that marriage doesn’t have to be a gendered institution at all.”

Change Doesn’t Usually Come This Fast – Nate Silver

“I came along just a few years too soon (I was born in 1978) to really consider coming out as gay when growing up. There were no openly gay students in my high school. And there were few gay role models in American society: certainly not on television and in the movies, which invariably portrayed gay men as camp characters, or freaks, or AIDS victims.

If coming out was hard to contemplate, however, the possibility of gay marriage was unthinkable. At the time Andrew Sullivan wrote his now-famous essay in support of gay marriage in The New Republic in 1989, almost no polling firms even bothered asking questions about gay marriage. One that did — the General Social Survey — found that just 12 percent of the population was in favor of it.”

Racism:

If It Were Mega Churches, We’d Know Who Was Burning Them – Ingrid Cruz

“Having been raised in a devout Christian family, I ask myself, where are mega churches and their pastors when it comes to the burning of African-American churches? So many who would normally call these acts a desecration of sacred symbols are nowhere to be seen or heard. I’m certain that if mega churches, or predominantly white churches were burning, all TV networks would cover these fires and the perpetrators in charge of these arsons would already be caught, or there would be a strong strategy to catch them.”

Sexism:

Can We Just, Like, Get Over the Way Women Talk? – Ann Friedman

” “With men, we listen for what they’re saying, their point, their assertions. Which is what all of us want others to do when we speak,” Lakoff says. “With women, we tend to listen to how they’re talking, the words they use, what they emphasize, whether they smile.” Men also use the word just. Men engage in upspeak. Men have vocal fry. Men pepper their sentences with unnecessary “likes” and “sorrys.” I haven’t read any articles encouraging them to change this behavior. The supposed distinctions between men’s and women’s ways of talking are, often, not that distinct.”

Masculinity and Mass Shootings in the U.S. – Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober

“Mass shootings are a pressing issue in the United States. And gun control is an important part of this problem. But, when we focus only on the guns, we sometimes gloss over an important fact: mass shootings are also enactments of masculinity. And they will continue to occur when this fact is combined with a sense among some men that male privilege is a birthright–and one that many feel unjustly denied.”

Classism:

Dunkin’ CEO: $15 minimum wage is ‘outrageous’ – Jackie Wattles

“Fast food workers making about $12 per hour sounds more reasonable to Travis. He said that would be the living wage for a worker with family at home.

MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, however, indicates New York state’s living wage is currently $12.75 for a single adult. For a household with two working parents and two kids, it estimates each worker would need to make $18.30 an hour. The current minimum wage in New York State is $8.75 and hour.”

Activism:

Resilience Is Futile: How Well-Meaning Nonprofits Perpetuate Poverty – Melissa Chadburn

“We started to absorb this woman’s idea that changing people’s behavior was the solution to their problems, which meant absorbing the idea that people’s behavior was the source of their problems. But I knew at the core of me this was false. The problem had never been that I didn’t know the right number to call. It’s a lack of resources that produces a lack of resilience, not the other way around.

But the work of the initiative said otherwise. This is what we did: we gathered residents in the community and pointed out what their individual and community assets were. Nothing else. We didn’t provide services, or even find a way to coordinate between the different service providers.”

A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes – Ian Urbina

“Industrial-scale violators of fishing bans and protected areas are a main reason more than half of the world’s major fishing grounds have been depleted and by some estimates over 90 percent of the ocean’s large fish like marlin, tuna and swordfish have vanished. Interpol had issued a Purple Notice on the Thunder (the equivalent of adding it to a Most Wanted List, a status reserved for only four other ships in the world), but no government had been willing to dedicate the personnel and millions of dollars needed to go after it.

So Sea Shepherd did instead, stalking the fugitive 202-foot steel-sided ship from a desolate patch of ocean at the bottom of the Earth, deep in Antarctic waters, to any ports it neared, where its crews could alert the authorities. ‘The poachers thrive by staying in the shadows,’ Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Barker, said while trying to level his ship through battering waves. ‘Our plan was to put a spotlight on them that they couldn’t escape.’ ”

Food:

How trans fats oozed into our diet and out again – Bethany Brookshire

“On June 16 the Food and Drug Administration made the final call: Trans fats are no longer “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. That means that food manufacturers have three years to ooze these cheap and useful fats out of their processed foods.

In fact, most of them already have. Trans fat —a big source of which is partially hydrogenated vegetable oils — has been the food villain of choice since 2006, when the FDA required companies to include trans fat content on food labels. Since then, the oily fats that used to lurk in everything from crackers to frosting have largely vanished — with a few exceptions, such as ice cream sprinkles and some doughnuts.

As trans fats went in and then out of style, some people blamed food companies for embracing the fats, which offered a cheaper alternative to animal products. But what trans fats brought to the world of microwave popcorn and Oreos was a bit more complicated than cost savings. And their fall from grace shows that nutrition — like any other scientific area — is subject to self-correction over time.”

The New York Times Gets It Wrong about Genetic Engineering – Henry Miller

“So what’s new? Not the genetic engineering of food, but only the techniques for accomplishing it. And the newest methods — recombinant-DNA technology, or ‘gene-splicing,’ and the new gene-editing techniques — are far more precise and predictable than their predecessors. They’re an extension, or refinement, of more-primitive techniques.

Here’s the take-home lesson: Because the techniques of molecular genetic engineering lead to greater control and certainty about the result, their use decreases the complexity of food production and the likelihood of what Spitznagel and Taleb call ‘unpredictable changes in the ecosystem.’ ”

Science:

Views of Pluto Through the Years

This is an animation showing just one little piece of the amazing data coming out of the Pluto system via New Horizons this month.

Sound Off – Peter Brennan

“Just how much noise has been added to the ocean has been revealed by the worldwide network of underwater microphones originally developed to eavesdrop on submarines. Hydrophones anchored to the continental slope off California, for instance, have recorded a doubling of background noise in the ocean every two decades since the 1960s. For whales, whose lives can be measured in centuries, the dramatic change to the environment is one that could be covered in the biography of a single whale. As a testament to that longevity, in 2007, during a traditional whale hunt, indigenous Alaskans pulled a bowhead whale out of the water with a harpoon embedded in its blubber that had been made in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the 1800s – a type of weapon that might have been familiar to Herman Melville.

‘It’s very likely that the individuals that were being recorded in 1956 were the same ones being recorded in 2000,’ Parks said. ‘Some of these whales were born before there were motorized vessels in the water at all.’ ”

Sarcasm: How the ‘lowest form of wit’ actually makes people brighter and more creative – Roger Dobson

“Well, that’s just great. Sarcasm, often derided as the lowest form of wit, actually makes people brighter and more creative. People on the receiving end of sarcastic comments – and those who made them – were found to be up to three times more creative in a range of tests carried out by a team of researchers from Insead, one of the world’s leading business schools, and Harvard and Columbia universities.”

Ideas:

No, it’s Not Your Opinion, You’re Just Wrong – Jef Rouner

“There’s a common conception that an opinion cannot be wrong. My dad said it. Hell, everyone’s dad probably said it and in the strictest terms it is true. However, before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion, you need to ask yourself two questions.

  1. Is this actually an opinion?
  2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?”
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