Sunday, October 28, 2012


The list will be back the week following the U.S. elections (and back on Twitter the night before the elections). In the meanwhile, its proprietor is enjoying a much-needed break from the outrage of the internets. Luckily there are no shortage of wonderful books by women to read!

Have a good week or two, all of you. And I hope all of you in the path of Sandy stay safe, dry, and fully powered.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Links for the week ending 21 October 2012

From last Sunday. If these mind-boggling statistics are accurate, it seems to me to be the most shameful outrage committed against a civilian population by the United States in my lifetime — which is some pretty stiff competition. "The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010." I would sure like to see one of the major science journalists take a good look at this study, because if it holds up to scrutiny, this ought to be changing everything about how we conduct armed conflict. By Sarah Morrison for The Independent.

By Heather Stewart at The Guardian, an article that will undoubtedly seem prescient: "the financialisation of the market for basic foodstuffs has led to prices drifting far away from the fundamentals of supply and demand, as investors treat betting on the future price of food as just another asset for their portfolio." What could possibly go wrong?

It's not enough to shut Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein out of the debate. No, she and her running mate had to be arrested. For blocking traffic. Uh-huh. By Allison Kilkenny for The Nation.

"'Acts that have no criminal nexus whatsoever, talking about who should be a speaker at a church panel, for example, are listed under headings of criminal acts'." Monica Brady-Myerov at WBUR reports on the efforts of the Boston chapter of the ACLU to end police spying on lawful activities.

I have to admit that I have more or less Had It with the internets this week after reading too many articles about trolling and misogyny. If you have not already met the same fate, here is one piece for the Independent by Laurie Penny about the suicide of Canadian teenager and harassment victim Amanda Todd — this piece seems to me to be more about righteous outrage and motivating for action than about using a child's tragedy as a platform to prove how clever and lyrical and worthy of employment one is as a feminist writer. Also, this piece in the Atlantic by Whitney Phillips makes the very necessary point "that trolls and sensationalist corporate media have more in common than the latter would care to admit, and that by engaging in a grotesque pantomime of the best corporate practices, trolls call attention to how the sensationalist sausage is made."

On the other hand, THIS is how clever, lyrical, employment-worthy feminist writing makes itself the most excellent kind of cultural commentary: Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress with "Gawker's Violentacrez Expose And How 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' Predicted Geek Misogyny."

"It is like saying that Oprah would be the right one to manage the auto bailout because she gave away cars on her show." Amy Davidson at The New Yorker on "Mitt Romney's Charity and a Family's Story."

While the FDA is now recommending checking for infection anyone treated with products from the Framingham, MA compounding pharmacy whose injectable steroids have killed 15 people, Carolyn Johnson and Kay Lazar at the Boston Globe profile a meticulously run and accredited compounding pharmacy not far away. Sharon Begley for Reuters explains how compounding pharmacies have thus far escaped any attempt to regulate them more closely.

While we're on the subject of bad faith and injectable drugs! At The Last Word On Nothing, Christie Aschwanden writes about whistleblowers and Lance Armstrong.

On the other hand, sometimes people have good reason to be operating off the books and just outside regulations, like in the case of this Philadelphia cardiologist who has been smuggling used cardiac implants in his luggage for reuse for desperately poor patients in Indian hospitals. By JoNel Aleccia for NBC News.

Oh, look! Science has found that I'm personally responsible for the failures of feminism after all (pace Linda Hirshman): men whose wives are not employed are more likely to "'exhibit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that undermine the role of women in the workplace.'" By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon for the Atlantic, which is itself, of course, a stalwart and consistent defender of feminism.

This, however, was the Atlantic article voted "Most Likely To Make Me Cry": Emily Badger on a collaborative project that allows you to compare photographs from an aerial survey of Connecticut in 1934 to current Google satellite imagery. Watch the trees disappear!

Quick! Mood-improvement break! "Omaha schoolgirl dresses as a different historical figure each day." By Erin Grace at

"I've seen dozens of 'diverse' workplaces in which all the people of color are in the manual jobs and all the women are doing clerical work." Rinku Sen at Colorlines on the ways binders full of women and lip-service commitments to diversity mean nothing if they're not linked to the goal of equity.

Appalling portrait of the dehumanization of domestic workers (most immigrants from Asia and Africa) in Lebanon by Jess Hill for The Global Mail.

"It is this not-our-fault mentality that accounts for the plutocrats' profound sense of victimization in the Obama era." An excerpt from Chrystia Freeland's new book Plutocrats at Reuters.

"Jim Cullinan, vice president of corporate communications for Clear Channel Outdoor, said in an email that 85 billboards contain the message, and that they will not be taken down." But voter intimidation in Milwaukee is, of course, not Clear Channel's fault. By Georgia Pabst of Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel.

Science shows that kids' behavior reflects whether or not they judge the adults around them to be full of it! Rebecca Boyle at Popular Science reports on a new version of the classic "marshmallow experiment" measuring children's ability to exert self-control.

At Colorlines, Channing Kennedy (who is a guy) interviews Negin Farsad (who is not a guy) about her new documentary, The Muslims Are Coming!, about six Muslim comedians on stand-up tour across the United States.

This may be more than you really wanted to know about the state of Moroccan hip-hop, but there are a lot of excellent observations about how "we have to make a genuine effort to see things through a frame in which the US and our narratives, our expectations, our 'national interests,' are not the center of the conversation — and keep seeing them that way." By Kendra Salois for The New Inquiry.

By Mae Rice at The Morning News, "Under the Bridge Downtown," an essay about her high-school job as grocery bagger — and learning to accept human complexity.

At Rookie, Emily Gordon on "Why We Play: It's true — video games are good for you."

At The Crunk Feminist Collective, wpeeps goes to the shooting range and comes away "Armed and…. Ambivalent?"

Because I have to admit that I stood in front of the Pumpkin Spiced Coffee for a full minute wondering, "Do I dare disturb the universe?" At The Awl, Sarah Sprague breaks down "How Many Pumpkin Items Are In This Trader Joe's Flyer? A Pie Chart Analysis."

At Letters of Note, a 2006 letter from Harper Lee to Oprah Winfrey on learning what books were worth.

Finally, at PandoDaily, "Suddenly everyone wants New Yorker style content. Only one catch: Who is going to write it?" By Sarah Lacy

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Links for the week ending 14 October 2012

Thursday marked the first observance of the International Day of the Girl, but the rest of the week provided a relentless stream of news that shows how very, very far the world has to go before we can say that we actually do respect and honor girls. At Al Jazeera English, Manuela Picq looks at the way entire communities often collude to protect the perpetrators of sexual violence against girls and concludes, "It takes a village to rape a woman."

At the Guardian, Kamila Shamsie reflects on the shooting of 14-year-old Pakistani activist for girls' education Malal Yousafzai and asks, "For political differences, seek political solutions. But what do you do in the face of an enemy with a pathological hatred of women?" (You can read Yousafzai's original diaries for the BBC, written when she was 11 years old, here.)

Two members of Pussy Riot — the ones with young children — are sentenced to two years in penal colonies, while the third member is released. From Moscow, Miriam Elder reported on the sentencing for the Guardian. At The New Republic, Julia Ioffe analyzes the divide-and-conquer techniques at play.

Political scientist Laura Seay summarizes a new report from Simon Fraser University concluding that sexual violence in wartime is not on the rise, and is as much a function of continuing domestic violence as it is about assaults by combatants. Lauren Wolfe, the director of the Women Under Siege Project, which documents reports of rape in conflict, takes a closer look at the report and disagrees with the upbeat frame in which it has been presented.

Closer to (my) home: at The Boston Globe, Yvonne Abraham profiles a young mother who fell through the holes in a shifting safety net and was raped as a result.

At Jezebel, Katie J.M. Baker reports on one Reddit member's short-lived campaign to out men who post to the subreddit r/CreepShots, which posts clandestine, sexualized photos of women and girls. At Betabeat, Jessica Roy advises us to take cover in the coming "inter-website war" as Gawker writer Adrian Chen publishes the identify of an r/CreepShots moderator. **Edited to add link to the post Zeynep Tufekci published this morning on this and what it says about how we define free speech.**

At The New York Times, public editor Margaret Sullivan takes no prisoners on the question of whether a male freelance journalist should still be published by the paper of record after insinuating that successful women have slept their way to the top — or wanted to. "Given his misbehavior on Twitter and his status as a highly replaceable freelancer, I think his editors are extraordinarily generous to give it to him."

At The New Yorker, Amelia Lester writes about Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's blistering speech in parliament about the misogyny of the leader of the opposition. If you haven't, do watch the clip of the speech. It is very satisfying. But also check out this post from ourcatastrope on what viewers outside Australia should know about whether Gillard should qualify as anyone's feminist hero. (Via Lili Loofbourow.)

At The American Prospect, E.J. Graff takes a second look at the question, "Are Women Better Off Than We Were Four Years Ago?" Spoiler: yes, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which disqualifies "being a woman" as a pre-existing condition.

At The Christian Science Monitor, Jina Moore examines the surprisingly complicated question of how one defines poverty in America.

For Reuters, Margot Roosevelt profiles economically struggling voters, who still largely support Obama in the bitterly disputed swing-state of Nevada. Meanwhile, Colorlines' Aura Bogado presents a dispatch from Kate Sedinger about how Nevada state-run public service agencies are failing to perform their federally mandated responsibility to serve as voter registration sites.

I suspect that Zeynep Tufekci may just be the smartest person on the internet. Here is a wonderfully clear post on her blog about political party identification in polls that explains confounding variables, "the reason you should run, most of the time, when someone says 'correlation does not equal causation' without saying anything more substantive."

"Why Your 4-Year-Old Is As Smart as Nate Silver." Er. Maybe not, but still an interesting read from Alison Gopnik at Slate about how very young children can interpret statistical data more quickly and accurately than adults, who filter it through the biases of our already-acquired knowledge.

A blog post by Marie-Claire Shanahan at the University of Alberta on Helvetica, science education, and the failures of modernism: "Why is it so hard to give up on hoping that facts speak for themselves?" (Via Scicurious.)

Should disadvantaged children be given drugs to improve their performance in school? Maia Szalavitz at Time is — understandably — skeptical that this approach benefits anyone besides pharmaceutical companies in the long run.

News you can use: "Many drugs are just fine years after they 'expire,' study finds." By Karen Kaplan for the Los Angeles Times. (Via Eryn Brown.)

From that well-known liberal rag Fortune, Becky Quick wonders why the Justice Department is quick to make sure that consumers don't face a monopoly when it comes to sticky-notes, but seems to be just fine with vertical integration that allows drug store behemoth CVS to move into the prescription benefits business.

At the Daily Dot, Jennifer Abel explains why the Supreme Court may effectively shut down the secondhand market for any goods made abroad when it decides Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley and Sons.

As the Supreme Court hears arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, Julianne Hing at Colorlines traces the history of how "the diversity rationale" became the main legal argument in the defense of college affirmative action policies.

Mind-blowing: "Of the 10,000 firefighters in New York City, only 28 of them are female." Ravenna Koenig at Women's Media Center with a case study on how discrimination can flourish despite laws that theoretically end it.

From lady business (which has a laugh-out-loud tagline), a very preliminary analysis of the gender breakdown of authors and protagonists among award-winning YA books. Surprise! If Our Boys aren't reading, it's not because books that portray them are suffering from a lack of visibility. (Via Penni Russon in one time zone and Rachel Hartman in another!)

It was also National Coming Out Day this week. I loved this post from crunkashell at the Crunk Feminist Collective: "what does a person with a belief profile like mine do on a day like today? I was going to use my rainbow umbrella but it didn't rain."

At The Independent, a surprisingly lyrical and very moving piece by Peaches Geldof on the very different coming-out of her adolescent best friend and his boyfriend.

At The New Inquiry, Leah Caldwell makes me grateful to be middle-aged with her analysis of "Party Rock," and the band that holds the trademark on that phrase: "The LMFAO party simulacrum at their performances masks the way our ordinary lives have become an endless, joyless elaboration of the same party principles." Fun!

At The New Republic, Eliza Gray looks at how Scientology has been successfully recruiting the Nation of Islam. In the future all UFO-based religions will be one?

For The New York Review of Books, Anne Applebaum reviews four new books about various moments in the history of Russian spying. You don't have to have grown up watching Get Smart reruns to know that is a MUST-CLICK topic.

If I know my audience, something like 97% of you hold opinions on this topic. So enjoy this post from Rohan Maitzen: "Am I Making Excuses for Gaudy Night?" Via Aaron Bady.

And finally: Mallory Ortberg wins the internet this week! First for this (what I can only hope is the beginning of a book-length) profile of children's book editor extraordinaire Ursula Nordstrom, at The Awl. And, second, for "Texts From Little Women." Featuring the all-time classic line: "Jo, Father still isn't dead" OH MY GOD.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Links for the week ending 7 October 2012

Hey! Let's not talk about the debate this week! Though if anyone wants to go in on a group tweet-a-long of Follow That Bird in lieu of watching the next one, I am SO THERE, baby. In the meantime! In The New Yorker, Chrystia Freeland reports on the tender feelings of the super-rich. My personal favorite: the president and his family did not write a prompt thank-you note after being presented with a book of self-published poetry written by the billionaire's 14-year-old granddaughter. The nerve!

A pair of stories: At The Atlantic, Julia Edwards profiles the "High Priest of Runaway College Inflation (He Regrets Nothing)." At ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education, Marian Wang, Beckie Supiano, and Andrea Fuller report on the ethically dubious business of federal Parent Plus college loans: "The loans are both remarkably easy to get and nearly impossible to get out from under for families who've overreached."

At Al Jazeera English, Sarah Kendzior considers the case against Aaron Swartz, who downloaded almost the entire catalog of JSTOR, and writes that "In academia, the ability to prohibit scholarship is considered more meaningful than the ability to produce it." (Repeating my usual friendly public service announcement to my Massachusetts readers: your residence in the Commonwealth entitles you to JSTOR access via an e-card to the Boston Public Library. Pass it on!)

This week California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill guaranteeing basic workplace rights — including overtime pay and meal breaks — to the state's domestic workers. At Salon, Irin Carmon looks at how "Devaluing care work — and women" became seen as a smart political move for the scions of the Democratic party.

Julianne Hing at Colorlines reports that Walmart workers walked off the job at several different locations on Thursday. Martinne Geller and Jessica Wohl for Reuters wrote about the complaints described by five Walmart employees to Wall Street analysts on Monday, with limited results. "Wal-Mart's labor practice have garnered criticism among consumers and in the press, but so far have not impacted investors." Sigh.

This seems to me like a Big Fucking Deal, as it's one of the longest-lasting legacies a president can leave: Joan Biskupic for Reuters on how President Obama has done little to counteract the successful conservative domination of the federal judiciary.

Here's one reason why the make-up of the federal judiciary matters immensely. At the ACLU's blog, Mitra Ebadolahi writes about the case of Nick George, who was denied access to his flight to California when the TSA objected to Arabic-English flashcards in his luggage.

Here's another: ""The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion,' he said. 'Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.'" Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon on that prince among justices, Antonin Scalia.

Lots more reasons when you consider how the prison industrial complex wrings money from the poorest communities. At Colorlines, Jamilah King interviews Ava DuVernay, whose film, "Middle of Nowhere," was presented as testimony at a recent FCC hearing on the cost of phone calls from prison.

Cassie Rodenberg published some truly amazing work this week. On her Tumblr, her account of going to Rikers Island to visit an incarcerated sex worker named Beauty, whom she knows through her work documenting prostitution and addiction in the South Bronx. Then, at her column at SciAm, a powerful personal narrative about the addict she grew up with: her father.

Liz Goodwin at Yahoo! News writes about how the proprietors of Colorado's flourishing medical marijuana dispensaries fear that a state ballot initiative to decriminalize trade of small amounts of pot will end with the federal government shutting them down entirely.

From a little over a week ago, Dr. Jen Gunter asks, "do you want your own health care provider to consider their own religious or personal beliefs first before offering you medical care?" That was the way it historically worked, after all. And weren't we all healthier then? Oh, right…

Who'd have thunk it? "Free Birth Control Access Can Reduce Abortion Rate by More Than Half," by Katherine Harmon at SciAm.

While Gov. Brown was denying protections for CA domestic workers (and immigrants, and plenty of other vulnerable populations), he did sign legislation requiring doctors to inform mammography patients if they have dense breasts. Laura Newman at Patient POV asks whether "dense-breast right-to-know laws" are helpful. (Spoiler: um, no?)

This story just got worse and worse as the week wore on. An outbreak of serious (and in some cases, deadly) fungal meningitis in patients who'd received injections in the spine was traced back to contaminated methylprednisolone supplied by a compounding pharmacy in Framingham, MA. Marilynn Marchione for the AP situates the outbreak within recent drug shortages that have encouraged compounding pharmacies to make products on a larger scale.

This, however, was my personal nominee for worst story for the week. At Wired, Maryn McKenna recounts becoming (maybe) part of her story about Salmonella contamination in peanut butter. (In this household, where peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are considered food of the gods, we are thankful to have experienced nothing worse than mild illness and one missed morning school bus as a result of the contamination.)

Perhaps you don't eat peanut butter, and your week did not have enough really disgusting moments in it? Then here's a nice article about bugs in people's ears. By Karen Rowan at MyHealthNewsDaily.

Do surgical checklists really reduce post-surgical deaths by nearly fifty percent? Julia Belluz at Science-ish investigates.

Maia Szalavitz at Time on the possible reasons why a new review suggesting that ketamine is effective at providing immediate relief from depression may not result in increased clinical use of the drug.

"'Teenagers enter unsafe situations not because they are drawn to dangerous or risky situations, but rather because they aren't informed enough about the odds of the consequences of their actions.'" Eryn Brown at the Los Angeles Times covers a new study on teens and risky behavior that destroys all my comforting illusions that my own risk-averse children will be protected by their anxiety from the more hazardous situations adolescence has to offer.

"Actually I think I just have a heightened case of the human condition." Lovely essay by Ann Finkbeiner at The Last Word On Nothing about two brothers, science, religion, and the anxiety of being alive.

Long, fascinating blog post by Kimberly Gerson summing up what science currently knows about the innovation and intelligence of crows and other corvids.

Lyrical guest post by Rebecca Wragg Sykes at SciAm, about the upheavals recorded in rocks of the northwest Scottish Highlands: "Time Is Not Made to Flow in Vain: Eternity and Apocalypse in Assynt and Mars."

At Nature, Helen Thompson reports on efforts to create hybrid chestnuts that might someday withstand the fungal blight that wiped out the once-dominant tree of American eastern deciduous forests.

At the Guardian, author Jo Marchant on the resumption of diver surveys off the Greek island of Antikythera, where divers over a hundred years ago found fragments of a sophisticated clockwork machine constructed in ancient Greece.

To follow are two New York Times articles. Use your free reads (or clear your cookies) wisely, okay? Last week Stephanie Coontz wrote a very satisfying Sunday opinion piece on "The Myth of Male Decline." In this week's Magazine, Maggie Koerth-Baker writes about the historical accidents and cultural peculiarities that determine why some technologies succeed and others fail: "Why Your Car Isn't Electric."

At Mother Jones, Dashka Slater profiles the founders of iFixit: "These Guys Can Make Your iPhone Last Forever." (Well, maybe not my iPhone — I'm kind of a klutz — but for those of you who are either braver or more dextrous, this is pretty damn cool.)

Via Rebecca Hamilton (@bechamilton), a wonderful piece by Ayom Wol Dahl for South Sudan's New Times on new English words and usages being coined to describe life in that newest of republics. "I am somehow" is my new favorite sentence ever, I think.

This is what you get when a senior reporter studies for the U.S. citizenship test: "I told her that my partner wrote an entire book about the vice president and won a Pulitzer Prize for the stories. I was pretty sure about this one. A parade of constitutional scholars backed me up." Dafna Linzer at ProPublica with "How I Passed My U.S. Citizenship Test: By Keeping the Right Answers to Myself."

At Rookie, Jenny Zhang writes about techniques for dealing with racism with humor — and the limitations of this approach. Read through to the end; the opening anecdote does not wrap up triumphantly the way you expect it might.

Anne Helen Petersen at The Hairpin presents the first part of a two-part look at Gloria Swanson. Are you ready for your closeup?

I have never read any books by Seanan McGuire, but after this blistering blog post on the assumption that rape of female protagonists is realistic and even inevitable, I shall. Wow.

At Vela Magazine, "Sweat Ride through the Smog Swamp," a moving essay by Lauren Quinn about navigating the maze of Hanoi's streets — and the scars of past experience — on the back of a hired motorbike.

Finally. Gawker, of all the unlikely places, is running a personal essay every Saturday. This week's essay, by dream hampton, is a flat-out devastating account of learning audacity in the face of ever-present danger. Last week's essay on infertility by Alison Umminger, "Don't Think of Elephants," is also very much worth your time.

Oh, okay, one more: if you have 11+ minutes left to kill this week, this bit of storytelling from Lindy West about coping with her internet trolls is just wonderful.