Sunday Reading, in the usual lack of any particular order

by zunguzungu

Don’t get raped and pregnant in the military:

Jessica Kenyon found out she was pregnant when she was summoned by her army commander in Korea and told she would be charged with adultery. In fact, Kenyon says, she’d been raped by another soldier. And the only way to get an abortion would be to leave the country.

Under current Department of Defense policy, servicemembers and their families can’t use their insurance to pay for abortions. A separate policy prohibits abortions from being performed in military facilities even when using private funds. Kenyon’s options were few. “I wasn’t ready to handle a child, especially a child produced that way,” she told me. With few exceptions, abortion is illegal in South Korea. In desperation, she began asking EMTs for home remedies to induce abortion. She hadn’t previously reported the rape, after having been ostracized and blamed when she reported her instructor for sexual harassment back in the States. “That case was handled so badly that reputation of being a squealer from his harassment followed me to Korea,” she told me. In fact, the first thing the sergeant in Korea told her was that he’d been warned about her. “Reporting a sexual assault in the military is a career ender at this point,” Kenyon said. “Even if they don’t forcibly take you out, they will make the rest of your career a living hell.”

Jonathan Simon:

Just think of prisons as a kind of housing, the new public housing, and it may seem less crazy to wonder if the decline of the portion of Americans who are homeowners may coincide with a decline in the portion of Americans who make their home in a prison…The astounding rise of American prison populations, which began in the late 1970s (when hyper inflation was keeping homeownership down), seems to have ended in the early 2000s, while homeownership was still trending up. [Moreover] the expansion of homeownership to the solid majority of Americans, accomplished by the late 1960s, helped prepare a public more inclined to fear crime and to look to imprisonment as an answer to it.

Also, Sara Mayeux and Jonathan Simon on California’s Plata decision mandating reducing the number of inmates. And this piece on Justice Scalia’s “Overheated Dissent.”

Gil Scott-Heron, on Jaws and black people in horror movies:


This recession, worst job losses since WWII, by far, and not getting better:

But hey, imagine what the jobs number would be if McDonalds hadn’t just hired 62,000 people!

20 facts about inequality that everyone should know (great visualizations).

The Male Birth Control Nobody’s Talking About.

Congo-Brazzaville bans plastic bags.

Reverse Graffiti, via

An argument for raising the rims:

[T]he current 10-foot rim, which has been at that arbitrary height ever since James Naismith nailed a peach basket to the lower railing of the balcony at Springfield (Mass.) College in 1891 has ‘‘grown’’ too low.

Well, the rim hasn’t moved, but the forest around it has. And that forest has become more specialized than ever. That is, the rim’s accessibility to all the freakishly tall men and jumping phenoms has made it into something not even close to what Naismith had in mind. We don’t need to honor that inventive man by adhering to all his wishes — ol’ Doc didn’t think about backboards, goaltending or even dribbling at the start — but we should acknowledge one key principle of his game: The rim was supposed to be something that was essentially out of reach, at which players shot the ball, not jammed it through from above.

Bill Easterly checks whether the “Benevolent Autocrat” thesis holds water — the argument that dictators are good at promoting economic growth — and finds that it is unsupported by the data:

Formal theory and evidence provides little or no basis on which to believe the benevolent autocrat story. The benevolent autocrat story has been around for a long time and  has proved very adaptable to many different political motivations. The interaction between well-known cognitive biases and stylized facts would predict beliefs in benevolent autocrats even if they did not exist.

Naturally Clean:

In the category of things we take as “natural” is how great it feels to be clean. I noticed a few online discussions about morning versus evening showering and one striking feature of the comments is how many people assert that taking anything less than a daily shower – or even two showers – leaves them feeling “funky” or “yucky.” Being unclean seems to spur a primal, natural reaction in us.

Of course, it is not primal or natural. Children have to be taught to feel yucky about being dirty. That feeling is not even natural for adults. Americans who today have the urge to get clean had great-grandparents who felt that bathing once or twice a week was just about right. And those folks, in turn, had great-grandparents who suspected that bathing was a danger, a cause of illness, and thought that honest workingman’s dirt never hurt anyone.

From the Smithsonian, best facial hair of the civil war.

The Times neglected to publish this letter to the editor on Nakba protests and Thomas Friedman.

This fellow hates the facebook, in an amusing way. Wayne singles out the phrases “shit sherbet” and “ever-burning fire of our memories” for particular praise.

Miami cops run wild.

Saratu goes back to Nigeria.

Vodophone claims credit for the Egyptian revolution. In actuality, Vodaphone helped out with the crackdown.

As Gerry points out:

“American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students” — unless you’re a liberal arts student. So the questions now are obvious. Who will pay the salary of the business department? How can we make business education relevant again? Isn’t it time to defund the MBAs? Can the non-liberal-arts be saved? Etc., etc., etc…

David Byrne on the post-cd music industry.

Haiti: When the Media is the Disaster.

Tips on how to write a book from 23 people who write books.

Laura Seays on Darfur:

Reasonable people everywhere can agree that whatever happened in Darfur in 2003-04 was horrible and constituted horrific human rights violations on a massive scale.  Does it really matter whether we labeled it genocide or not?  The standard advocacy answer is “yes,” because labeling Darfur as genocide meant that the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide would then go into effect.  Yet, as Darfur makes clear, even when a conflict is labeled “genocide,” this seems to have little effect on whether states will take the necessary steps to prevent, halt, or punish those who engaged in the crime.  Labeling the crime as such in Darfur made very little difference for on-the-ground outcomes.

Or did it?  As Mamdani points out, calling the crisis genocide had direct effects on the global community’s inability to broker a crisis.  By labeling Khartoum as génocidaires and the Darfuris as victims, there is very little room for reconciliation or peace talks, the normal processes for ending an uprising or civil war.  If Darfur is genocide, then al-Bashir is a war criminal, and we cannot negotiate with war criminals, even if a negotiated settlement would be the best way to restore stability and peace to the region.

At Jaddaliyya “Entrapment and the “Homegrown Terrorist” Canard” And the report it comes from.

The science on whether cell phones are killing you.

Kevin Drum, on what Wisconsin really means:

In 2008, a liberal Democrat was elected president. Landslide votes gave Democrats huge congressional majorities. Eight years of war and scandal and George W. Bush had stigmatized the Republican Party almost beyond redemption. A global financial crisis had discredited the disciples of free-market fundamentalism, and Americans were ready for serious change.

Or so it seemed. But two years later, Wall Street is back to earning record profits, andconservatives are triumphant. To understand why this happened, it’s not enough to examine polls and tea parties and the makeup of Barack Obama’s economic team. You have to understand how we fell so short, and what we rightfully should have expected from Obama’s election. And you have to understand two crucial things about American politics…

How did we get here? In the past, after all, liberal politicians did make it their business to advocate for the working and middle classes, and they worked that advocacy through the Democratic Party. But they largely stopped doing this in the ’70s, leaving the interests of corporations and the wealthy nearly unopposed. The story of how this happened is the key to understanding why the Obama era lasted less than two years.

On the twitter counterrevolution in Bahrain, Jillian York:

Last weekend, I became the latest victim of the Bahraini Twitter war after I came across some tweets which claimed that I was behind a website called “Human Rights for Bahrain.” As it turned out, the website had copied and pasted several of my articles from Global Voices, about Bahraini bloggers who had been detained, causing people to believe I was the force behind the entire site (I assure you, I’m not).

Truthfully, I’ve been largely quiet on Bahrain. I tweet the occasional article, and I retweet friends in the country whom I trust, but the truth is, I simply don’t know or understand enough of Bahrain’s politics to be truly involved. And yet, as an advocate for human rights and free expression, I can’t remain quiet as journalists and bloggers are silenced for speaking out.

In any case, last Sunday, I was targeted by one Bahraini who decided to start a campaign to “educate” me about “the real situation in Bahrain.” Within a few minutes, I was bombarded with tweets, many from people who assumed that I supported the Bahraini opposition or that I was in fact behind the aforementioned website. While the woman who started the campaign remained polite, not everyone did. By the end of the day, I had over one hundred and fifty new followers, the majority in Bahrain.

How the logic of “free speech” demands that (some) speech be silenced, and (other) speech effectively reinforced.

Step away from the store-bought Cilantro:

At least 34 unapproved pesticides showed up on cilantro samples analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the agency’s routine testing of a rotating selection of produce. Cilantro was the first fresh herb to be tested in the 20-year-old program. “We are not really sure why the cilantro came up with these residues,” said Chris Pappas, a chemist who oversees the Virginia-based USDA pesticide testing. Researchers suspect growers may have confused guidelines for cilantro and flat-leaf parsley, for which more pesticides are approved.

This is not a form of brainwashing:

Manan, on Pakistan’s paradox of knowledge and denial:

“I was scared. We were close enough to see their T-shirts, which were screenprinted with the Sipah-e Sahaba logo. I turned to my police companion, in the back seat. Aren’t they banned? Shouldn’t they not be traveling openly on the motorway?”

Derek Catsam’s Africa roundup.

The African Cities Reader, in pdfs. Can’t wait to dig into this.

Migration and Revolution in North Africa.

Fair use for academic dummies

Lesbian pulp fiction covers from 1935 to 1958.

In video games, “we always play as middle class. We just occasionally start out in peasant drag”:

[T]though several game narratives exhibit an awareness of class, race, and the intersections of those two, the games themselves as systems display an exasperatingly predictable upper middle class image of social mobility, reliant upon fantasies of self-made wealth achieved at the expense of others and the local ecosystem.

I don’t wish to belabor this analogy, as the medieval capitalist fantasy has its origins much earlier than the modern RPG. But I should hope that the models of profiteering and social passing are not lost on the average gamer. Wealth, prestige, and access are interconnected with class as well as with race, the complex politics of which don’t happen to lend themselves to the comparatively easy mathematical functions of accumulation and free movement games use.

Few games will keep doors eternally closed to you. If the king won’t see you right now, come back when you’ve made more of a name for yourself. If the head of the church won’t lower herself to interact with someone of your race, chances are she’s evil and you’ll have to kill her—serves her right. In these games you are entitled to the key to every door and chest, provided you labor hard enough using the methods prescribed. The system will not choose to deny you a weapons upgrade because of your character’s skin color or what her parents did for a living. It’s all about you, the self-actualized hero, transcendentally unattached and unresisted as you float through life gaining friends, wealth, and property.

Joseph Massad: Are Palestinian Children Less Worthy?

The Dictator-Karimov family’s own goal is hilarious.

Bilal Tanweer on how to discover Faiz:

STEP 1: Get yourself born into a middle-class family in Karachi where books are considered the least useful of all forms of pulped wood—including pulped wood itself. Ensure that your father, who used to read Jasoosi Digest until a few years ago, now reads only Aurad-o Waza’if (Book of Daily Devotions and Prayers). Ideally, your mother should be an expert on all kinds ofwaza’if, big and small.

STEP 2: To really get going, however, you need even more discouragement. Pick an inauspicious moment, such as right after your parents’ shouting match over your mother’s shopping habits. Ask your father with great trepidation if he has a book of Faiz’s verse. Hear him tell you flatly: “Beta yeh sha’iri to bhand, mirasiyo’n aur kanjaro’n ka kaam hai; tumhara iss se kya lena dena?” (“Son, poetry is for wags and pimps—what do you have to do with it?”) Please note that while saying this, he will have his gaze fixed on a handsome saas on TV conniving against her sexy bahu.

STEP 3: Now go to the nearest bookstore (which also sells cheap plastic toys and boardgames to keep the business on lubricated tracks) and ask the bookstore owner—a man most accurately described as a talking heap of flab piled on a chair, reeking of paan—if he has Faiz’s book of verse.

The Big Picture, a finance blog, offers these guidelines for user comments:

“Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.”

It was the strangest thing. “We go to walk our dog and Bono ends up in our car,” Brule said.

Tom Chivers notes David Simon’s response to the U.S. Attorney General’s request that they make another season of The Wire:

“The Attorney-General’s kind remarks are noted and appreciated. I’ve spoken to Ed Burns and we are prepared to go to work on season six of The Wire if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanising drug prohibition.“[The US government’s war on drugs is] nothing more or less than a war on our underclass, succeeding only in transforming our democracy into the jailingest nation on the planet.”

to which Chivers adds:

I’ve gone on and on before about the evidence. I’ll just recap: the evidence seems to suggest that there is no link between how harsh the drug laws are and how many people take drugs. Three studies, one by the Cato Institute looking at Portugal, one by the World Health Organisation, and one in the British Medical Journal found that by every measure, intelligently applied regulation of drugs is better than prohibition. In Portugal, the Cato Institute found, which decriminalised all drugs in 2001 but kept trafficking punishable by jail, drug use dropped in the young, HIV infections among drug users fell, drug-related deaths fell, there was a decrease in trafficking, and a huge amount of money was saved by offering treatment instead of prison sentences. The World Health Organization study concluded: “Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly and is not simply related to drug policy, since countries with stringent user-level illegal drug policies did not have lower levels of use than countries with liberal ones.” A systematic review in the International Journal of Drug Policy in March of this year found that “increasing drug law enforcement is unlikely to reduce drug market violence. Instead, the existing evidence base suggests that gun violence and high homicide rates may be an inevitable consequence of drug prohibition and that disrupting drug markets can paradoxically increase violence.” They recommended that “since drug prohibition has not meaningfully reduced drug supply, alternative regulatory models will be required if drug supply and drug market violence are to be meaningfully reduced.”

The Mouse That Crawled Up Inside A Man, And Other Urban Legends Of The 17th Century.