What I've been reading, featuring the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Hong Kong as a failed neoliberal experiment, and 'immigration as reparations'

I may never get over the role of weather and fuel capacity in the unintended atomic bombing of Nagasaki 74 years ago today. Nagasaki wasn’t even on the target list until a few days prior and apparently was only bombed because more conventional targets were inaccessible after a storm depleted the carrier’s fuel mid-flight. Blindly bombing Nagasakii was deemed preferable to squandering a billion-dollar nuclear weapon on the ocean. Mind-boggling to consider the influence of weather in history; recall that an article in the post from earlier today quoted then-General Eisenhower attributing the Allied victory on the Western Front victory to their superior meteorologists.

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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 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 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 our blindnesses, Tony Romo's vision, and Theranos' blind vision

When the suffrage movement sold out to white supremacy. This was my first time coming across the speech by suffragist and writer Frances Ellen Watkins Harper to the Eleventh National Women's Rights Convention in New York on May 1, 1866:

We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members.

…I do not believe that giving the woman the ballot is immediately going to cure all the ills of life. I do not believe that white women are dew-drops just exhaled from the skies. I think that like men they may be divided into three classes, the good, the bad, and the indifferent.

….Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on. It is a normal school, and the white women of this country need it. While there exists this brutal element in society which tramples upon the feeble and treads down the weak, I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.

I’m disheartened by the defensiveness of the NYT reader comments; there is value in the type of introspection these challenges evoke. This week, I was called out by a caring friend for what they considered half-hearted allyship and I tried to take it as an opportunity to step back and re-assess. I hope others have done the same when I worked up the same courage to share my pain with them. Critically revisiting our shortcomings and identifying our blind spots are the purposes of events like Black History Month (this month in the States) or LGBT month (this month here in the UK). Addressing ongoing struggles should be uncomfortable; let’s not sterilize and misremember the details for palatability and peace of mind. Sorry if this paragraph reads as trite, but I’ve been feeling this a lot lately and wouldn’t mind erring on the side of trite enunciation.

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What I've been reading, featuring how we write about other cultures, how we write about racism, how we write about climate change, and how we write about the Animorphs

When I first watched “Roma”, I wrote here: “reading the responses… revealed a homogeneity in the backgrounds of the cultural intelligentsia. In the face of an obviously intimate film in a very specific setting and depicting a complex familial dynamic, they seem to use technical observations as a crutch for their unfamiliarity—I don’t think that’s good enough.” I then linked to this collection of Latino critical responses.

But this review stands apart and is a prime example of why diversity matters. It’s not enough to make note of the hierarchy or power dynamics of the society depicted. A movie this compassionate calls for more: “Cuarón is not interested in portraying Cleo anthropologically: he wants to show us what she was to him, and to tell the story of Mexico City and what happened to Cleo the year that his own family shattered.” With the attention bestowed upon it by a Best Picture nomination, this film is too rare, important, and (above all) good to not be talked about with the specificity and insight Guillermoprieto provides.

I once interviewed a couple of dozen domestic servants about their work. It was hard to get young empleadas to talk to me, particularly if they were from the countryside… But the older women had plenty to say. A surprising number stated that they were happy with their families… But what I heard most frequently was the rage they felt at previous employers who had fired them with no warning or thought for their feelings. What about the children? they would ask. They fire us, we have to abandon them, and then you have to learn to love a new set of children, and you’re always afraid you’re going to be fired all over again and lose them. One woman cried as she explained this. “They never think about the fact that we love the children,” she said.

…That the women I interviewed could love the children they cared for—and love them, in fact, to the point of heartbreak—was to me nothing short of miraculous."

…So much happens in “Roma”. It is so bursting with life, Mexican life!… When I saw the movie in New York, the entire audience sat in silence as the credits rolled over a long, meditative shot of the staircase and the sky, until the screen blacked out over the title, and they sighed, and moved on.

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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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What I've been reading, featuring NK Jemisin inventing and changing worlds

Who did get into Oxford back then? A small group whose upholding of the old traditions of Englishness can no longer prepare a British Isles – made up of all its various peoples – for the forces of modernity. For our real place in the world, for the consequences of Empire.

This is the shrinking Kingdom of the English, who subjugated Wales and Scotland and Ireland. The biggest problem of elite cliques is myopia. The country is far more brittle and divided than they can see. They are the believers who still, somewhere, think that the map of the world is pink. But they forget their Classics lessons; what happens when an empire falls? With no one else to dominate, the establishment turns on its own people. We become subjects, not of the British Empire, but of the last dregs of the English upper classes. A report into undergraduate admissions earlier this year found that in 2017 Oxford admitted more pupils from Westminster School than black students, a glaring piece of evidence about how the knot is being tightened even more firmly around the bag of family silver.

I wonder now about all the other kids like me, the ones at odd angles, the queer and working class and black, or even just Northern, or Welsh, or provincial. This is not a place for them, however loudly they might be knocking on the door.

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