August Recommended Reading

notjust_viaJohnnySilvercloudAt 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.


Half of women ‘sexually harassed at work’ – TUC Survey – BBC

“The TUC found that in nine out of 10 cases the perpetrator was male and nearly one in five women (17%) said it was their line manager, or someone with direct authority over them.

Some 79% of women who said they were victims of sexual harassment did not tell their employer.

Reasons given included fear that reporting would affect their relationships at work (28%) or their career prospects (15%).

Nearly a quarter (24%) of those who did not report abuse said it was because they felt that they would not be believed or taken seriously and 20% said they were too embarrassed.”

Can a Woman’s Voice Ever Be Right? From the Roman Forum to the 2016 campaign trail, anxiety over what women sound like is part of our cultural DNA. – Jordan Kisner

“Afrania was probably not the first outspoken woman whose voice was said to grate, and she certainly would not be the last. Elizabeth I was frequently judged to be unwomanly in her speech (“She says the most extraordinary things,” complained the Spanish ambassador regarding marriage negotiations she refused). As was Margaret Thatcher, whose biographer noted that she contracted a speech coach (“The hectoring tones of the housewife gave way to softer notes”). More recently, the women of NPR have been harangued for sounding unauthoritative (“like high-school girls”), and the voice of Jill Abramson, former editor of the New York Times, was described in The New Yorker as “the equivalent of a nasal car honk.”

And then, of course, there is Hillary Clinton, whose voice has been called “excruciating,” “shrill,” “bitter,” “decidedly grating,” and compared to that of a “nagging wife” and a “landlady yelling up the stairs” by both her opponents and political analysts. During Clinton’s first presidential campaign, Glenn Beck, then a CNN news host, did a segment on how her voice “sticks in your ear like an ice pick” and “makes angels cry.” This election cycle, Donald Trump gave a mocking impression of her “robot voice” at a rally in Connecticut. The criticism has been so rampant that The New Republic felt compelled to run a feature called “Why Do So Many People Hate the Sound of Hillary Clinton’s Voice?,” and the New York Times’ analysis of Clinton’s presidential campaign video noted with approval that Hillary had used her “quieter-but-confident speaking voice” rather than “the VOICE.” All the critiques imply something Beck declared outright: Clinton sounds like (so therefore must be) “a stereotypical bitch.”

The public sniping at women’s voices reflects a deeper cultural anxiety about whether they have a right to speak at all.”

Helping Rape Victims After the Brock Turner Case – Alexandra Brodsky and Claire Simonich

“California legislators are correct to recognize an injustice here: Why does it matter if a rapist uses a gun or alcohol to facilitate an assault? Either way, the victim was denied autonomy. The proposed bill seeks to close what these legislators see as a loophole.

But inflexible mandatory minimum sentences, like the kind the California legislators want, are not the answer to our anger. During the second half of the 20th century, federal and state governments established mandatory minimum sentences, with a special focus on drug offenses. Many supporters saw minimums as a way to be “tough on crime,” but some also saw an opportunity to reduce disparities in sentences. Reformers worried that people like Brock Turner, white men with access to expensive lawyers, received more lenient sentences than minorities and poor people charged with the same crimes. These advocates hoped that minimums might make sentences fairer.

Unfortunately, mandatory minimums have proved a failed experiment, contributing to prison overcrowding, racial imbalances and overly punitive sentences — all without, studies show, reducing crime.”

Massachusetts took a big, unprecedented step to help close the gender wage gap – Emily Crockett

“Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed the nation’s strongest equal pay law this week. It’s the strongest partly because it does something no other state has done before: It forbids companies from asking prospective employees how much they made at their last job before making an offer. That’s a big deal when it comes to ensuring equal pay for women, advocates say.

Women make less than men even right out of college, and the wage gap only increases as they get older. One reason the wage gap widens with age is because women still take on more child-rearing and household duties than men. But it’s also basic math: If you start off underpaid, and every new job pays you based in part on what your last job paid you, you’ll pretty much be screwed until retirement — and you’ll have less saved up for that, too.”


The tyranny of a traffic ticket – German Lopez

“The tragic outcomes show just another way low-level offenses can trap someone for life — and even to death — in the criminal justice system. For starters, every one of these encounters carries a risk that something will go terribly wrong — as it did for Garner, DuBose, Bland, and Castile. But the system can also make these encounters happen frequently, and with increasing weight in a person’s life. It begins with one ticket or a traffic stop. But if someone can’t afford to pay that fine, police might try to stop or arrest him or her again to get the person to pay up.

This can lead to someone getting fined again for not paying up the first time. And again. And again. One ticket leads to a vicious cycle that can sink someone for life. With each of these encounters, someone’s record piles up — giving officers more reason, in their view, to stop him or her, because they recognize the person, or perhaps see the person’s record when running a license plate, for example. And with each of these stops, people are exposed to more instances in which a police encounter could go tragically wrong.

And it happens disproportionately to poor people of color.”

The Justice Department’s incredibly damning report on Baltimore police, explained – German Lopez

“The Baltimore Police Department is a complete and utter disaster.

That’s the only possible takeaway from reading the US Department of Justice’s 163-page report into Baltimore police, leaked on Tuesday. The report found major flaws in even the most basic modern policing practices, from arrests to use of force to basic interactions with the community. To make it worse, these findings are compounded by what appears to be purposeful, disproportionate targeting of the city’s black residents.

“Racially disparate impact is present at every stage of BPD’s enforcement actions, from the initial decision to stop individuals on Baltimore streets to searches, arrests, and uses of force,” the report concluded. “These racial disparities, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination, erode the community trust that is critical to effective policing.” ”


Don’t appreciate the significance of Hillary Clinton’s nomination? Too bad. This moment doesn’t belong to you. – Melissa Batchelor Warnke

“You know what was completely bittersweet about that moment? That I’d had to defend my joy all week. That each and every time I opened my mouth to say, wow, this is meaningful for women and the men who stand with them, and I’m so glad to be living through it, there was someone there — whether a Bernie diehard or a third party supporter or a conservative friend or an internet troll — to say: Here’s a reason why you don’t get to be excited. Here’s a thing she did wrong in 1998. Here’s a community she hasn’t fully shown up for. She’s a warmonger. She’s just the nominee. Did you hear about her emails? (Yes. Five hundred times.)

So let me set the record straight, for everyone who hears a woman say it’s meaningful to her that a woman was nominated for President — something which has not happened in the 240 years since the colonies declared their independence — and says in response: “Yes, but.…”

This is not your moment. When you’re used to having power look like you, it’s baffling to live in a moment that isn’t yours.”

The Moral Tribalism of Contemporary Politics – Michael Schulson

“In a lot of ways, the country seems to be getting less religious, more pluralistic, and more tolerant. But at the same time, partisanship is coming to look more and more like a muscular, tribal—almost religious—kind of identity.

What’s at issue here is a kind of moral tribalism. By that, I mean the tendency of people to link beliefs about the nature and direction of the world (this is the way things are, and this is the way things should be) with a deep sense of membership in a particular group. For a long time, many Americans have assumed that religion is the great source of moral tribalism in our society. The assumption makes sense: Religious identity is thought to be fixed, fundamental, and uncompromising. It is often divisive. Politics, by contrast, looks more like high-stakes shopping: people sit down, consider all their policy beliefs and other group memberships, and then choose a side.”

‘Vote for the crook. It’s important.’ – Fred Clark

“Louisiana Republicans hated Edwin Edwards and they were fiercely determined to prevent him from retaking office for another term as governor. But unfortunately, GOP primary voters were split between Gov. Roemer and U.S. Rep. Clyde Holloway and Duke, with Duke coming out ahead.

And David Duke was a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, an outspoken white supremacist, and an ally of Neo-Nazi groups.

Although Duke won the Republican nomination, he was not endorsed by Republican officials in Louisiana. Instead, they condemned him as “unfit for office,” urging Louisiana voters to stop him by voting for Edwards. Louisiana Republicans famously distributed bumper stickers reading “Vote for the Crook. It’s important.” And it was important. It was necessary to save their state. And it was necessary to save their party.”

Trump: A True Story – David A. Fahrenthold and Robert O’Harrow Jr.

“The lawyers confronted the mogul with his past statements — and with his company’s internal documents, which often showed those statements had been incorrect or invented. The lawyers were relentless. Trump, the bigger-than-life mogul, was vulnerable — cornered, out-prepared and under oath. Thirty times, they caught him. Trump had misstated sales at his condo buildings. Inflated the price of membership at one of his golf clubs. Overstated the depth of his past debts and the number of his employees.

That deposition — 170 transcribed pages — offers extraordinary insights into Trump’s relationship with the truth. Trump’s falsehoods were unstrategic — needless, highly specific, easy to disprove. When caught, Trump sometimes blamed others for the error or explained that the untrue thing really was true, in his mind, because he saw the situation more positively than others did.”


Being vegan isn’t as good for humanity as you think – Chase Purdy

“So why not go whole-hog vegan? When applied to an entire global population, the vegan diet wastes available land that could otherwise feed more people. That’s because we use different kinds of land to produce different types of food, and not all diets exploit these land types equally.

Grazing land is often unsuitable for growing crops, but great for feeding food animals such as cattle. Perennial cropland supports crops that are alive year-round and are harvested multiple times before dying, including a lot of the grain and hay used to feed livestock. Cultivated cropland is where you typically find vegetables, fruits and nuts.

The five diets that contained the most meat used all available crop and animal grazing land. The five diets using the least amount of meat—or none at all—varied in land use. But the vegan diet stood out because it was the only diet that used no perennial cropland at all, and, as a result, would waste the chance to produce a lot of food.”

Climate Change:

My Education in Climate-Denial Jujitsu – Maryam Zaringhalam

“Instead of holding ExxonMobil accountable, Smith conjured up a witch-hunt invoking science-positive rhetoric in an overt overreach of power. In so doing, he and his like-minded colleagues have intimidated and persecuted the very nonprofit organizations and scientists whose First Amendment rights he purports to protect.

Those ten minutes in the Science Committee chambers primed me to understand that underestimating the anti-science elite is a rookie mistake. Big money factors calculating minds into the calculus of whom to support.

So don’t think for a minute they aren’t listening to the experts. They are listening so they can retool our words and wield them against us.”


Are You a Scientist and Sexual Harasser? We Have Some Questions… – Paul Raeburn

“Over the last several years, a rising tide of science journalists, many (though not all) of them women, have trained their lenses not just on the practice of science and its myriad successes and failures, but on scientists themselves — particularly those who continue to flourish in male-dominated departments and institutions at the expense of female colleagues. It may be overstating things to call “sexual harassment in science” a full-fledged beat — and to be sure, the problem has a long pedigree. The National Academy of Sciences’ landmark report “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering,” which documented relentless discrimination against female researchers, is already a decade old, after all.

But it would be easy to argue the counterpoint: that were it not for a new and brash generation of young science journalists, for whom persistent pockets of old-boy sexism within the academy are as absurdly anachronistic as an episode of “Mad Men,” we might not know that such pockets still exist.

They very much do.”


Image Credit: Johnny Silvercloud

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