'Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny' by Kate Manne

The racial dimensions of the election of a billionaire who popularized the Birther movement, ran on a platform explicitly equating Mexicans with rapists, and who labeled Africa a collection of shithole countries are completely absent from Manne’s election autopsy. It is lost on Manne that the reason the United States does not currently have a female president is because of racism. Is it possible that white women may be active participants and benefactors in the perpetuation of white supremacy? In Manne’s shockingly aracial analysis of why white women voted for Trump, it does not seem so.

31 Jul 2020 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Protests in Modi's India; the meat-substitute industry; and fun reviews of bad pop science

Early on, we had two goals that were fully aligned: to be identical to a burger from a cow and to be much better than a burger from a cow. Now they’re somewhat at odds, and we talk about the chocolate-doughnut problem: What if what people really like in a burger is what makes it taste like a chocolate doughnut, so you keep increasing those qualities and suddenly you’re not making a burger at all?

13 Jan 2020 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Female politicians in developing countries; development lessons from the Congolese Ebola response; revisiting Wong Kar-Wai; and Barry Jenkins' signature close-ups

The biggest impediment to containing Ebola in Congo is not its contagiousness, but suspicion of the state and of aid personnel… The international responders aggravated the community’s distrust by interpreting reluctance to follow rules about safe burials and patient isolation as a lack of understanding of public health that required reeducation. In fact, the reluctance reflected an understandable lack of enthusiasm for practices that required total separation from loved ones during their illness, denial of human touch at the point of death, and the abandonment of traditional funeral rites, which are of central importance to social and cultural life.

10 Jan 2020 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Climate change underrepresentations; the 'productive disappointment' of the Obama era; and 'Parasite' (2019)

The choice of the name ‘game theory’ was brilliant as a marketing device. I think it’s a very tempting idea for people, that they can take something simple and apply it to situations that are very complicated, like the economic crisis or nuclear deterrence. But this is an illusion. Now my views, I have to say, are extreme compared to many of my colleagues. I believe that game theory is very interesting, I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about it. But I don’t respect the claims that it has direct applications… If I could repeat my life, I would probably follow my unfulfilled dream to be a lawyer.

04 Nov 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

HBO’s Chernobyl; the assassination by Patricia Lockwood of the coward John Updike; and stratified randomization

The trafficking of arms from the United States is rarely discussed as a cause of the violence people are fleeing; the drug war, she argues, is also hemispheric: it ‘begins in the Great Lakes of the northern United States and ends in the mountains of Celaque in southern Honduras’. Consumers and producers of prohibited drugs bear responsibility in each country along the route, as do the dysfunctional laws that push the trade into a violent underground. The migrant children, she writes, are more accurately described as refugees of a hemispheric war.

03 Nov 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

The bombing of Nagasaki; Hong Kong as a failed experiment; and 'immigration as reparations'

Fuel was getting dangerously low and the hornets’ nest of defence they had stirred up below was an unacceptable risk for a plane carrying so destructive a weapon. Sweeney conferred by intercom with Beahan and the weaponeer, Lieutenant-Commander Frederick Ashworth. They decided to leave Kokura and head for Nagasaki, 160km to the south. The weather there didn’t look any more promising than Kokura, but the only other approved target, Niigata in northern Honshu, was too far away for their remaining fuel. Sweeney gathered his composure and asked the navigator, ‘Jim, give me the heading for Nagasaki.’

09 Aug 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

The remarkable efficiency of the kidnapping industry; the science of suppressing disease-vector mosquitoes; and the monotony of op-eds

The UN forbids the transfer of money to designated terrorist groups. Private persons and entities cannot legally make concessions to proscribed groups, and if they do, their insurers cannot legally reimburse them, though ransom-payers are rarely if ever prosecuted. But it’s not always clear which category kidnappers fit into. Some terrorists pretend to be part of criminal organizations so that they can legally collect ransoms. Shortland reports that when a Somali told British negotiators that he represented the ‘commercial arm’ of al-Shabaab, the jihadist fundamentalist group, ’they had to explain that this was not sufficiently removed from the parent organization to have a payment authorized.’

09 Aug 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Sex workers' rights; and 'Dark Money' by Jane Mayer

Is sex work degrading or empowering? Mac and Smith reject this dichotomy from the start. ‘This book—and the perspective of the contemporary left sex worker movement—is not about enjoying sex work,’ they write. Work need not be a good time for workers to deserve autonomy, respect, safety, and better pay. The British coal miners who battled Margaret Thatcher hardly claimed that their coal pits were fun. The question ‘Is sex work good?’ has little to do with ‘Should sex workers have rights?’ But this obvious truth is often ignored by writers who get hung up on the ‘sex’ part, painting sex workers as brainless bimbos or voiceless victims. ‘Sex workers are associated with sex, and to be associated with sex is to be dismissible.’

08 Aug 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

The opioid crisis; 'the sameness of Cass Sunstein'; and 'Storming the Wall' by Todd Miller

You already know what you’re going to get: a section on the joys and uses of cost-benefit analysis, some dashed-off thoughts about utilitarianism and negative freedoms, three or four chapters on nudges and their importance to the design of seatbelt policy, the primacy of Daniel Kahneman–style ‘slow thinking’ over intuition and moral heuristics, a Learned Hand quote, and a few weak anecdotes about Sunstein’s time as President Obama’s regulator-in-chief, all delivered through a prose that combines the dreariest elements of Anglo-American analytical style with the proto-numerate giddiness of a libertarian undergrad who’s just made first contact with the production possibility frontier.

22 Jul 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Data imperialism in the NBA; Apichatpong Weerasethakul; the virtues of academic giants dying; and Emily Wilson on translating Homer

In 2003, the two of us made a wager. We had just left a talk by a renowned scientist when Pierre quipped, ‘It must be amazing to work in his orbit, where his brilliance and the intellectual exchange of ideas must raise the level of scholarship of everyone around him.’ Josh, a bit more sardonic in nature, replied, ‘I don’t know. I bet he consumes a lot of scarce research resources and commands an oversized amount of attention. He might well suck all the oxygen out of the room.’ Without missing a beat, Pierre countered that this was really an empirical question. Nearly a decade-and-a-half later, we have some answers. It seems we were both right. These results paint a picture of scientific fields as scholarly guilds to which elite scientists can regulate access, providing them with outsized opportunities to shape the direction of scientific advance in that space.

20 Jul 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis