Weekend Reading

Last fall I went on a blogging adventure and created Historically Speaking. It was short-lived, and I plan on revisiting it sometime when I’m able to concentrate more on history and politics academically. One thing the blog had before it abruptly ended, one thing that I want to bring back, was the weekend reading. I’m hoping to hold to this, so bear with me while I link you to everything worth reading from the year so far, in something that closely resembles no particular order.

To start, here are some vintage advertisements rife with sexism. And in a similar vein, why this book is “better” than a beautiful woman.

This President is quite impressed with marshmallow launchers.

Aaron Bady inaugurated his new corner at The New Inquiry with this fantastic review of David Graeber’s Debt.

A moving testimony against SB 1474 (which is a bill in Arizona that would allow guns on college campuses).

While we’re at it – another bill that the Arizona legislature wants to pass, prohibiting colleges from being obscene.

Comparing vintage cereal boxes to contemporary ones over at the Retronaut.

An Egyptian artist feminizes a tank.

A day at South Sudan’s only zoo.

Are single people discriminated against?

Ron Paul and the revised Civil War.

Eight annoying things that Homeland Security does to make you feel better, but don’t really help.

Praying While Shi’a, yet another scandal in the NYPD.

A look back at the Oakland Police Department’s transgressions by al Jazeera.

World Vision is standing by their decision to send Patriots Super Bowl shirts (and other gifts-in-kind) to the developing world, because they’re addicted to stuff we don’t want.

During last year’s controversy, Aid Watch requested documentation proving the need for and impact of their GIK program. World Vision admitted that they had not conducted a single evaluation of the GIK program because they state that these are donations, not a program. Yet GIK makes up one quarter of their annual revenue. It would seem both prudent and professional to evaluate such a large part of their work – however you want to classify it. At $251 million per year, the amount World Vision claims in GIK is greater than the total annual revenue of most non-profits in the United States.

While World Vision did not evaluate their GIK program before last year, you would think that they would have made an effort to evaluate their massive GIK program since then, after all many professionals in the field spoke out against their GIK program. Instead World Vision’s recent blog post states:

“Some individuals knowledgeable about the effectiveness of community programs in the developing world have contended that product donations, especially shirts and other clothing, is ‘bad aid,’ and should play no role in the work of non-governmental organizations. Based on our more than 60 years of experience, World Vision respectfully disagrees.”

So in 60 years they’ve never evaluated the need, impact, or effectiveness of their GIK and they’re certainly not going to start doing that now. Where is the “continuous improvement?”

Privatization is a trap, no matter what industry it’s in.

Why some women in Iran are training to become ninjas.

1962: Arizona’s Halftime.

Only terrorists care about privacy while at internet cafes. Only terrorists.

How Twitter leads to a meritocracy of ideas in international development.

From a long time ago – Wonder Woman fights breast cancer.

PACs Americana: a future that needs no political campaign to not coordinate with.

Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, and Occupy Wall Street.

Some people still  might think this my analogy ridiculous and offensive. African Americans under Jim Crow suffered real, horrific racial discrimination. The suffering of the so-called 99% cannot compare, and thus cannot justify civil disobedience. Well it’s true that Jim Crow was horrible, and that America has made a lot of progress since the 1960s, thanks to people like MLK. But the poor in this country still suffer greatly. Poor people of colour still suffer worse, fighting against unequal opportunity, an unfair and brutal police system and prison industrial complex, racism and xenophobia, a real lack of safety net, and an unfair financial and economic system that privileges the wealthy. On a global level, the gap between the haves and have-nots is even more terrifying, and the racial divide is even starker. So I think all that is worth blocking a few streets, or yelling outside some buildings peacefully, and striking, and rallying, and demanding justice.

How Congress is redlining our schools.

Modern art on the streets of a Swiss town.

What happens when Bambi meets Godzilla? Labor in higher education.

Your bank knows when you’re getting divorced.

Reverse Orientalism from the Arab Spring to Africa.

What the occupation of Iraq did to its universities.

When Ignorance and Bigotry Become “Parental” Rights.

Driving while white on the I-95: Tim Wise flies below the radar.

Providing education as a right rather than through debt.

Toure sat down and watched The Help, and had this to say.

Feeling conflicted about conflict minerals.

DVR versus broadcast television viewers.

The government as the debt collector.

Puritan baby-naming needs to make a come-back, please.

For my local readers, the demise of Maryvale, a Phoenix suburb I drove through a lot this past fall. It’s a story replicated across Phoenix, and probably a lot of suburban America.

Its vulnerabilities were literally built in. Everything was cheaply built. These quickly mass-produced, affordable houses offered very few design features to differentiate one from another, ultimately necessary to make them something of lasting value. Maryvale was totally car-dependent, an artifact of an age when gasoline was cheap, America was a petroleum superpower and climate change barely imagined, much less its cause. Walkable retail? Mixed use? Forget it. They were zoned out, using the “up-to-date” codes of the era. Phoenix under Milt Graham, the popular young mayor through much of the 1960s, was vehemently anti-transit (even as it was anti-freeway). The stamped-out effect of production housing is monotonous and deadening, right down to the square, flat parks. With more land than brains, Phoenix kept replicating Maryvale all over, invariably siphoning off residents who hungered for the newest new tract house. Yet for decades, Maryvale prospered. After I left Phoenix, I would run into younger people who went to Maryvale, Alhambra and Carl Hayden high schools — all fiercely proud of their roots and all successful professionals. Maryvale was loved.

Several events created today’s very different place. In the 1980s, the city began an ambitious effort to expand Sky Harbor. Its centerpiece was bulldozing historic barrios, such as Golden Gate, which were equally loved by their Mexican-American residents if not by the city. The displaced residents used their city payout to buy houses in Maryvale. White flight ensued, and there were plenty of places to fly because the Long model had been reproduced across the Valley, morphing into “master planned communities.” Spec retail space in newer areas drew away many stores, and residents didn’t have their old purchasing power. The diverse economy that created plenty of middle-class jobs declined, leaving a huge gap between the super-rich and relatively affluent, and the working poor. This barbell economy was the antithesis of the one that favored Maryvale. Schools declined along with the tax base. Finally, the vast migration from Mexico from the 1980s through 2007 dramatically destabilized the old Mexican-American population of Phoenix, an event heavily felt in Maryvale. Owner-occupied housing plummeted, and with it the sense of proprietorship that comes with owning property.

Now Maryvale Precinct would be my first choice for a ride-along. Crime and gangs are widespread. Most houses have either fallen into disrepair, or been remade with outside walls sporting spikes and ironwork. Many of the front lawns are now just dirt (or worse, gravel), the pools green and lethal. I still know proud Maryvale residents; none Anglo. They are part of a law-abiding, hard-working majority trapped in decaying suburbia, where the banks won’t make loans for historic rehabs, the state won’t properly fund the schools, and the economy lacks the rungs in the ladder of upward mobility. Transit is difficult at best, a key impediment for people needing jobs. No wonder studies now show poverty has become centered in American suburbs, not center cities.

The limits of the Responsibility to Protect, comparing Libya to Syria.

Daniel Trombly gives some in-depth analysis at Syria too.

Why trying to “even the odds” in Syria isn’t realistic.

The History of ALEC and Prison Labor.

One Town’s War on Gay Teens.

What courts can and will do – the case of marriage equality and the case of orca slavery.

Do Scholarship and Politics Mix? Another look at academic freedom.

Solving the money-in-elections problem with more money, Chris Blattman gives you the MegaPAC.


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