September Reading

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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.

Racism:

Mass. High Court Says Black Men May Have Legitimate Reason To Flee Police – Zeninjor Enwemeka

“In its ruling, the court made two major findings: The justices said police didn’t have the right to stop Warren in the first place, and the fact that he ran away shouldn’t be used against him.

On the first point, the court said the description of the break-in suspects’ clothing was “vague,” making it impossible for police to “reasonably and rationally” target Warren or any other black man wearing dark clothing as a suspect. The court said the “ubiquitous” clothing description and the officer’s “hunch” wasn’t enough to justify the stop. …

On the second point, the court noted that state law gives individuals the right to not speak to police and even walk away if they aren’t charged with anything. The court said when an individual does flee, the action doesn’t necessarily mean the person is guilty. And when it comes to black men, the BPD and ACLU reports “documenting a pattern of racial profiling of black males in the city of Boston” must be taken into consideration, the court said.”

The Shooting of an Unarmed Black Man in Oklahoma – Yasmeen Serhan

“The department identified two officers involved in the shooting, according to the Associated Press. The first, Tyler Turnbough, was said to have fired a stun gun at Crutcher. The second, Betty Shelby, fired the shot that killed him. Shelby, who has served as an officer in Tulsa since 2011, was placed on paid leave.

Police spokeswoman Jeanne MacKenzie said Saturday that Crutcher refused the officers’ commands to put his hands up. Members of Crutcher’s family, who saw the video before to it was released to the public, said the footage contradicts that claim.

‘We saw that Terence did not have any weapon. Terence did not make any sudden movements. We saw that Terence was not being belligerent,’ Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney for Crutcher’s family, said in a press conference Monday.”

New videos, photos and documents provide fresh look at 2011 St. Louis police killing – Christine Byers

“The dashboard camera and two cameras at the restaurant show the officers pull behind Smith’s rented silver Buick. As they get out, Smith backs into the police SUV and maneuvers his way out of the parking lot, speeding past Stockley and nearly knocking an AK-47 rifle out of the officer’s hands. Officials said Stockley was not authorized to carry the rifle, which he owned personally.

Stockley fires several shots from his department-issued handgun before Bianchi picks him up and gives chase with the in-car cameras rolling: one pointed through the windshield and one on the ceiling looking down on the back seat.

Stockley yells directions over the police radio, reporting that shots have been fired. At one point, he says something inaudible to his partner. He also can be heard saying something about shooting Smith, which court documents have characterized as, “Going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.” ”

Xenophobia:

Immigrants Aren’t Taking Americans’ Jobs, New Study Finds – Julia Preston

  • “We found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term,” said Francine D. Blau, an economics professor at Cornell University who led the group that produced the 550-page report.
  • Some immigrants who arrived in earlier generations, but were still in the same low-wage labor markets as foreigners just coming to the country, earned less and had more trouble finding jobs because of the competition with newer arrivals.
  • Teenagers who did not finish high school also saw their hours of work reduced by immigrants, although not their ability to find jobs. Professor Blau said economists had found many reasons that young people who drop out of high school struggle to find work. “There is no indication immigration is the major factor,” she said.
  • High-skilled immigrants, especially in technology and science, who have come in larger numbers in recent years, had a significant “positive impact” on Americans with skills, and also on working-class Americans. They spurred innovation, helping to create jobs.”

Media:

The Myth of the Millennial as Cultural Rebel – Laura Marsh

“Which explanation seems more likely? Do we use Zipcar because we are ideologically committed to sharing, or because car ownership is still out of reach for a lot of people and renting piecemeal is the next best thing? Does a married couple decide to live with roommates because of our generational “openness to communal living” or because people in New York face impossible rents? Do people stop using napkins because of unshakeable cultural convictions, or because they’re a waste of money? If the new generation were really waging war on their forebears’ way of life, I doubt they’d start with the disposable table settings.

Still, the list of such articles is infuriatingly long. Fusion’s Patrick Hogan counted 47 institutions and industries that millennials have been accused of destroying so far, including credit, car culture, the American Dream, relationships, and golf. Of course, in each of these cases, there is a real story to be told: Yes, young people are buying less on credit; yes, car sales are down; and, not surprisingly, 48 percent of economically squeezed under-30s don’t buy into the uplift of the American Dream, according to one poll.

But the language of these articles tells another story on top of those, one that isn’t backed up by any evidence at all: that millennials are “killing” those things, choosing to eliminate them from our shared life. That’s a deeply frustrating story to keep reading, when headlines of “Millennials are killing the X industry” could just as easily read “Millennials are locked out of the X industry.” There’s nothing like being told precarity is actually your cool lifestyle choice.”

The Death of ‘He Said, She Said’ Journalism – Peter Beinart

“Such stories, according to the NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, follow this formula: ‘There’s a public dispute. The dispute makes news. No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story … The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.’

For an example of such a story, consider the way the Times covered George W. Bush’s claim, during his campaign against John Kerry, that Saddam Hussein had worked closely with Al Qaeda. ‘Bush and Cheney Talk Strongly of Qaeda Links With Hussein,’ noted a Times headline on June 18, 2004. Why were Bush and Cheney raising the subject? Because the day before, the 9/11 Commission had reported that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda did not have a ‘collaborative relationship.’ Nonetheless, the Times reported Bush’s claims and Kerry’s response as equally valid. Bush himself had helped create the Commission to provide an authoritative, nonpartisan account of the events leading up to 9/11. Yet the Times refused to grant its view any more weight than Bush’s own. It refused to render any judgment about what was true.”

Politics:

Don’t Lose Friendships Over Politics – Jeffrey Tucker

“People perceive the stakes this year to be that high. To be sure, political philosophy does matter and does carry high stakes. However, the partisan struggle for the control of the state apparatus by this or that temporary manager doesn’t matter as much as election season seems to suggest. You might be being manipulated, and friendships and families are actually too precious to throw away for transient reasons.

It’s a pity to cause permanent rifts, and so unnecessary. The people who rearrange their personal relationships for the election imagine that they are taking control of their lives. They don’t seem to realize that they are actually letting strangers control their lives – strangers who care nothing for them in a system that actually seeks to divide people so it can conquer them. To permit politics to fundamentally alter something so important as friendship is to give politicians more importance than they deserve.”

Climate:

Are Tote Bags Really Good for the Environment? – Noah Dillon

“Canvas bags might actually be worse for the environment than the plastic ones they are meant to replace. In 2008, the UK Environment Agency (UKEA) published a study of resource expenditures for various bags: paper, plastic, canvas, and recycled-polypropylene tote bags. Surprisingly, the authors found that in typical patterns of use and disposal, consumers seeking to minimize pollution and carbon emissions should use plastic grocery bags and then reuse those bags at least once—as trash-can liners or for other secondary tasks. Conventional plastic bags made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE, the plastic sacks found at grocery stores) had the smallest per-use environmental impact of all those tested. Cotton tote bags, by contrast, exhibited the highest and most severe global-warming potential by far since they require more resources to produce and distribute.

Such results feel deeply counterintuitive. HDPE bags seem foreign, artificial. They lodge in trees, catch in the esophagi of animals, fester in landfills, clot cities, and are reduced to small particles floating in ocean gyres—for hundreds of years into the future. But even though they don’t easily degrade, they require very few resources to manufacture and transport. They produce less carbon, waste, and byproducts than cotton or paper bags. They’re recyclable. They’re cheap. For all those reasons, they’re ubiquitous.”

Science:

Grading the Presidential Candidates on Science – Christine Gorman and Ryan F. Mandelbaum

“Overall, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton scored highest in our readers’ estimation, as well as our own, followed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Republican Party candidate Donald Trump came in last on all counts. One PhD in biology wrote, “Trump’s answers demonstrate an almost complete ignorance of science or the importance of these imposing problems facing us in maintaining a livable world for everyone.” A clinical microbiologist with 25 years of experience added, “[Trump’s] answers show how uninformed he is on the issues.” Although Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson’s responses arrived too late for reader evaluations, we have included our assessment of his responses below.”

 

 

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