What I've been reading, featuring sex workers' rights and "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer

Fantastic and (for me) eye-opening read on sex workers’ rights. The book being reviewed is “Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights” by Molly Smith and Juno Mac, who are themselves sex workers. In my ignorance, I had always assumed the movement was one advocating simply for straightforward decriminalization as if such a thing existed.

Police described the [seven-month investigation in which they secretly installed cameras in massage rooms and made videos of the women as they gave handjobs to their customers] as an anti-trafficking operation, but no trafficking charges have been made. Four women who ran the massage parlors were arrested. Among other crimes, they were all charged with prostitution. All of them have spent more time in jail than any of the men they allegedly serviced.

…Prostitution laws primarily target women of color. Between 2012 and 2015, 85 percent of those booked in New York City under the dubious “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” charge—which encompasses such innocuous behaviors as wearing tight jeans and carrying condoms—were black and Latina women.

…For migrants, the consequences are even more dire: a single arrest may lead to their imprisonment or deportation. “When you are Black, [police] take the Black women and leave the white man,” says Tina, a Nigerian sex worker in Norway… Goaded on by Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, ICE began arresting immigrants at courthouses in 2017—and found an easy hunting ground in the [Human Trafficking Intervention Court] in Queens. Blowin’ Up captures the panic after three women are snatched and two likely deported back to China.

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What I've been reading, featuring mechanism design and social justice; and "Go Tell It on the Mountain" by James Baldwin

The titular “normative gap” refers to the inexactness with which the mechanism designed by consulting economists actually applies their favored theory of justice, which Hitzig identifies as Arneson’s ‘equal opportunity for welfare’ principle, a more complex normative framework than the notion of simple efficiency upon which microeconomic theory usually hangs its hat. More precisely, Hitzig argues that the deferred acceptance algorithm ultimately advanced by the consultants could not be described as an application of a particular matching theory, but rather as the imposition of a setting that coerces real-life people to role-play as the highly idealized agents the setting demands by assumption. Hitzig describes this as an enactment (as opposed to an application) arising from two idealizing assumptions: strict compliance (e.g. applicants are forced to disclose strict preferences they may not have) and favorable circumstances (e.g. applicants are forced to communicate complete preferences even if they do not have equal access to information on all schools). The language of coercion I use here derives from the implied consequence of non-participation being total exclusion from the BPS. Further, those excluded from the idealized system are typically also excluded from the welfare calculus.

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What I've been reading, featuring the opioid crisis, billionaires and academia, and "Storming the Wall" by Todd Miller

A review by a psychotherapist of “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” by the philosopher Kate Manne. Excerpts below slightly re-arranged for fluency:

There is nothing deep inside us, Richard Rorty once remarked, that we haven’t put there ourselves. So even though, at least for some people, psychoanalysis, and psychology more generally, have interesting things to say about misogyny, they also run the risk of naturalising it (misogyny is deep inside us because our mothers are)

Misogynists, of course, are radical essentialists when it comes to women. They know exactly what they are like, and we should not, Manne intimates, be fighting one essentialism with another.

Once misogyny is essentialised – once it is treated as in some way integral to our nature, or just a part of how we live – it all too easily becomes one of Manne’s exonerating narratives. If there is little justice for women, what is there? If there is no cure for misogyny, what is there? The question then is how to co-exist with it.

Her book is clarifying about misogyny, but it is equally interesting for what it has to say about the issue that has dogged the social sciences virtually since their inception: the relationship of the individual to the systems and structures that seemingly comprise him or her.

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What I've been reading, featuring the imperialism of data analytics in the NBA, academic gatekeeping, and Bill Hader's "Barry"

Finally returning to writing up some of what I’ve been reading after a more-than-four-month hiatus. Was tied up with commitments to my thesis and preliminary exams and then I had an extended post-exam period of absolute indolence, which included watching that new Netflix show about competitive glass-blowing (recommended!). In that time, I’ve accumulated a large stack of unread publication subscriptions I’ve neglected and over a hundred browser tabs of links I’ve saved to sift through. A first run-through:

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What I've been reading, featuring corrective narratives of the migrant caravan and the American frontier; and “Sabrina” by Nick Drnaso

Late post because I lost an early draft from two weeks ago. I also initially had a bullet-point on David Wallace-Wells’ climate change book here but it morphed into its own post.

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What I've been reading, featuring climate change only: “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, the moral imperative of alarmism, and climate intersectionality

“The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells

The title serves mostly to make explicit the book’s origin as the author’s 2017 long-form (here’s a version annotated by scientists), which quickly became New York magazine’s most read article ever (though it’s since been unseated by a “Fire and Fury” excerpt). Many called the original article’s focus on and presentation of worst-case scenarios sensationalist, maybe most prominent among them the climatologist and climate science communicator Prof. Michael Mann. In Mann’s words, his problem with the article was “the fact that there were SCIENTIFIC INACCURACIES that PREFERENTIALLY fed a somewhat doomist narrative.” In contrast, with this book adaptation, “David has done his due diligence, vetted the science, and gotten it right.” Since the publication of the original article, Mann and Wallace-Wells have participated in a public conversation hosted by NYU to discuss the communication of climate science and have jointly promoted the book.

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What I've been reading, featuring the abolition of billionaires; music's #MeToo; and "Die, My Love" by Ariana Harwicz

Noticed a funny dichotomy on the frontpage of the international edition of the Feb. 8 New York Times (pdf): two above-the-fold headlines on opposite sides: “It’s high time we abolish billionaires” on the left and “Trump casts socialists as Americans’ new threat” on the right. In between is an article about a growing trend of labor protests in the country with the second-most billionaires.

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What I've been reading, featuring climate change, here and now; and identity politics, everywhere and always

With the government shutdown over, NOAA and NASA finally affirm 2018 was the fourth-warmest year in recorded history: “The five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five... 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001”

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What I've been reading, featuring carbon dividends, Robert Caro's research process, and a breakthrough in non-line-of-sight imaging

"The last four people to lead the Federal Reserve, 15 former leaders of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and 27 Nobel laureates signed a letter endorsing a gradually rising carbon tax whose proceeds would be distributed to consumers as ‘carbon dividends.’"

  • With an emphasis on bipartisanship, WSJ has the statement. If paywalled, see this Bloomberg link.

  • The consensus endorsement of a rising carbon tax is not new, but to me and at least one climate economist, the dividends part was a surprise (Tyler Cowen, for one, is skeptical). He also told me he and other prominent economists had intended to also endorse the letter, but the form would not allow anyone without an American postcode to co-sign.

  • Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R): “This is a turning point in Republican climate policy, where the GOP economic brain trust unites behind the Baker-Shultz carbon dividends plan.”

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What I've been reading, featuring my vote in the 2016 election and the mediocrity of “Vice”

There was a special futility in my mailing my overseas ballot against Duterte in 2016 when I lived three minutes from Facebook’s East Palo Alto–gentrifying campus. Like even though I could well have been the only voter in the Philippine elections living in this historically disenfranchised American city still suffering from its legacy of redlining, racial segregation, crime, violence, and public neglect, the net contribution of my small neighborhood to my home country 7000 miles away was nothing less than the corrosion of its democracy.

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