The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Journalism error on NPR

Yesterday, Boston University clinical journalism instructor and WGBH-Boston reporter Jenifer McKim presented a story on NPR's Morning Edition about Grindr, the gay dating app. NPR's Steve Inskeep introduced the story by saying "the dating app Grindr is a popular site for men seeking other men. It's also used by underage boys, which can put them at risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking."

Between that introduction and the body of the story, I got pretty steamed. This morning I sent the following comment to NPR:

I have serious problems with the way Jenifer McKim presented this story. Principally, despite the quote from Jack Turban that "gay people aren't more likely to be sexual predators than straight people," the story heavily implies the opposite. McKim's bookending the story with quotes from assault victim German Chavez sets it up as a story about abused children, strongly implying that gay dating app Grindr is to blame (and also implying that gay men are to blame). Yet Chavez admitted that he lied about his age to circumvent Grindr's age policy, and Kathryn Macpagal even says "there aren't a lot of spaces for LGBT teens online to make friends." It seems that the problem is a lack of safe spaces for gay teens, not an app explicitly marketed to adults with strictly enforced age policies.

Further, in the graf immediately following that quote from Macpagal, McKim blows all the homophobic dog whistles, saying "over 100 men...includ[ing] police officers, priests and teachers" have "faced charges...related to sexually assaulting or attempting to meet minors for sex on Grindr." This is exactly the language that conservative groups use to vilify gays and dating apps in general.

Of course I am not downplaying the harms of sexual assault and predation on minors. But I think McKim had an obligation to put the incidence of those harms in proper context. Start with the proportion of one hundred men out of millions of Grindr users. Of the 100, how many were "police officers, priests and teachers?" How many were journalists or BU professors? How many were convicted? In how many cases was it determined that the minors in question lied about their ages? Did Grindr cooperate with the investigations? What proportion of the cases were assaults, and what proportion were "attempt[s] to meet minors?" And what proportion of Tinder users, or OKCupid users, or FarmersD users for that matter, were police, priests, or teachers (assuming McKim meant "or" and meant to include the Oxford comma) accused of crimes against children directly related to their use of the app?

I applaud McKim's ongoing efforts to protect children. But the structure, presentation, and tone of her story yesterday did not live up to the standards for accuracy and against sensationalism that I expect from NPR or WGBH-Boston.

I'll post any reply from NPR, WGBH, or McKim that I receive.

Consumers really have gotten worse to service workers

Amanda Mull examines why.

Because consumer identities are constructed by external forces, [historian Susan Strasser, the author of Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market] said, they are uniquely vulnerable, and the people who hold them are uniquely insecure. If your self-perception is predicated on how you spend your money, then you have to keep spending it, especially if your overall class status has become precarious, as it has for millions of middle-class people in the past few decades. At some point, one of those transactions will be acutely unsatisfying. Those instances, instead of being minor and routine inconveniences, destabilize something inside people, Strasser told me. Although Americans at pretty much every income level have now been socialized into this behavior by the pervasiveness of consumer life, its breakdown can be a reminder of the psychological trap of middle-classness, the one that service-worker deference to consumers allows people to forget temporarily: You know, deep down, that you’re not as rich or as powerful as you’ve been made to feel by the people who want something from you. Your station in life is much more similar to that of the cashier or the receptionist than to the person who signs their paychecks.

There are endless ways to make sense of the situation America is in now, in which new horror stories from retail hell make national news every few days, and stores and restaurants all over the country complain that no one wants to work for them. Perhaps the most obvious one is simply how damaging this whole arrangement is for service workers. Although underpaid, poorly treated service workers certainly exist around the world, American expectations on their behavior are particularly extreme and widespread, according to Nancy Wong, a consumer psychologist and the chair of the consumer-science department at the University of Wisconsin. “Business is at fault here,” Wong told me. “This whole industry has profited from exploitation of a class of workers that clearly should not be sustainable.”

When I was a kid, I read Robert Heinlein's novel Friday, which contained this observation: “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named...but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

Andrew Cuomo facing impeachment, criminal charges: reports

New York State Attorney General Letitia James released a report yesterday that alleges New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women, including a New York State Police trooper assigned to his protective detail:

The report, released by the attorney general, Letitia James, and the announcement from the Albany County prosecutor, Kevin Soares, endangered Mr. Cuomo’s political future while also placing him in legal jeopardy.

“Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws,” Ms. James said, adding that the governor’s administration had “fostered a toxic workplace” in which staffers suppressed complaints because of a “climate of fear.”

Shortly after the report was released, Mr. Soares issued a statement saying that his office was conducting an investigation into Mr. Cuomo’s behavior and that it would be requesting investigative materials that the attorney general’s office had obtained. Mr. Soares encouraged other victims to come forward to aid in the inquiry.

President Biden has called on Cuomo to resign, as has US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The State Assembly Speaker has opened an impeachment inquiry. I don't expect Cuomo to remain in office past the end of this month, but like other malignant narcissists I could mention, he may not understand that he's done.

Note that all the people I mentioned in this post are Democrats, from the President on down. I'm glad that my party finally wants to get rid of this asshole, and frustrated it took so long. But at least we ultimately do the right thing.

Welcome to August

While I look out my hermetically-sealed office window at some beautiful September weather in Chicago (another argument for working from home), I have a lot of news to digest:

And finally, Jakob Nielsen explains to web designers as patiently as possible why pop-ups piss off users.

Summertime daftness everywhere

A few examples of idiocy, bad intent, or general ineptness crossed my desk this morning:

Finally, in an effort not to complain about politics or the Olympics, Gail Collins takes on robocalls.

We're about done with this crap

As Chicago contemplates returning to a more-restrictive environment because of rising Covid-19 cases, those of us who have gotten vaccinated have had about enough of people who refuse to get the jab. This has led to our more-unhinged party backpedaling like they're about to fall off a cliff:

In late Spring it seemed like COVID was basically about over. Critically, it seemed like the non-vaccinated might be able to hitch a ride on the rest of the country’s vaccinated immunity. Everyone could drop their masks and get back into restaurants and theaters and it would all be fine. Clearly that didn’t pan out. One of the most hopeful signs in the last week is that that fact is leading a lot of people to go get vaccinated. After months of declines, the number of vaccinations is starting to rise again. But among the vaccinated there’s a growing realization that we’re going backwards, seeing rates go up, seeing some mask mandates come back because of the non-vaccinated. And people are getting frustrated. That is a big part of why you’re seeing Republicans not simply encouraging people to get vaccinated but even more trying to ditch the vaccine-resistant brand. They’re feeling exposed to shifting public opinion. In short, they don’t want to be accountable for what they’ve done.

Most elected Republicans haven’t been explicitly anti-vaccination. Indeed, even before the last couple weeks many have made low volume statements saying they’ve been vaccinated and encouraging others to do so. But they’ve almost all participated in the effort to make vaccine resistance into a kind of freedom movement – banning government or private businesses from using vaccine passports, banning mask mandates, politicizing debates over school reopenings. As a party they’ve leaned into valorizing vaccine resistance and banning any private or governmental efforts to place the burden of the consequences of non-vaccination on those who choose not to be vaccinated.

They thought that would supercharge their already happy prospects for 2022 by riding an anti-vax or anti-vax mandate wave. And now they’re thinking they may have miscalculated.

David Frum says that vaccine hesitancy, rather than outright refusal, has played a bigger role in this than those on the rational side may expect, but yeah, we're  still done with that crap:

Part of the trouble is that pro-Trump state legislatures are enacting ever more ambitious protections for people who refuse vaccines. They are forbidding business owners to ask for proof of vaccination from their customers. They are requiring cruise linessports stadiums, and bars to serve the unvaccinated. In Montana, they have even forbidden hospitals to require health-care workers to get vaccinated.

Pro-Trump vaccine resistance exacts a harsh cost from pro-Trump loyalists. We read pitiful story after pitiful story of deluded and deceived people getting sick when they did not have to get sick, infecting their loved ones, being intubated, and dying. And as these loyalists harm themselves and expose all of us to unnecessary and preventable risk, publications—including this one—have run articles sympathetically explaining the recalcitrance of the unvaccinated.

Reading about the fates of people who refused the vaccine is sorrowful. But as summer camp and travel plans are disrupted—as local authorities reimpose mask mandates that could have been laid aside forever—many in the vaccinated majority must be thinking: Yes, I’m very sorry that so many of the unvaccinated are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions. I’m also very sorry that the responsible rest of us are suffering the consequences of their bad decisions.

Compassion should always be the first reaction to vaccine hesitation. Maybe some unvaccinated people have trouble getting time off work to deal with side effects, maybe they are disorganized, maybe they are just irrationally anxious. But there’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of the unvaccinated are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Yes, they have been deceived and manipulated by garbage TV, toxic Facebook content, and craven or crazy politicians. But these are the same people who keep talking about “personal responsibility.” In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet.

Will Blue America ever decide it’s had enough of being put medically at risk by people and places whose bills it pays? Check yourself: Have you?

Oh, yes I bloody well have. And I'm looking at the Right Honourable Gentleman from Uxbridge and South Ruislip for cocking it up in my Ancestral Homeland as well. Politicizing a pandemic isn't the stupidest thing the right have ever done, but it's in the top five.

Niggling irritation at corporate hubris

Wednesday I caught a story on NPR's Morning Edition that lingered, and not in a good way. Reporter David Gura presented a story about how corporate boards have difficulty telling their top executives not to engage in risky activities. One executive Gura interviewed, former GM executive Robert Lutz, expressed his feelings thus:

ROBERT LUTZ: I will tell you, I encountered these restrictions my whole career, never took them very seriously and got away with it for 47 years.

GURA: He also liked skiing and motorcycles. And Lutz owned and flew two fighter planes. When GM wanted Lutz back for another big job in 2001, this came up, and Lutz remembers what he told the board.

LUTZ: I'm happy to rejoin the company. I'm happy to assume the post as vice chairman. But I need absolute freedom as far as my hobbies are concerned.

GURA: Lutz says he got that absolute freedom. And he flew those jets until he was 87, by the way. He had to stop two years ago when he failed an eye exam. Lutz thinks more executives should be daredevils.

LUTZ: As opposed to, you know, calm, peaceful guys who never want to put themselves at risk, always drive at the speed limit, drive a minivan as their only vehicle and so forth - who the heck wants a person like that to lead a corporation or be in a leadership position at a corporation?

Imagine that: an old, rich white guy who thinks only people like him should run corporations. No wonder America has so many problems! And that's only my first thought on why this guy pissed me off so much.

By the way, if you're 87 and have to fail an eye test to stop flying planes, that's not just putting yourself at risk; that's putting everyone at risk. No wonder GM did so well in the the early 2000s.

Did Gura not follow up on Lutz's outrageous statement because he figured the listeners would fill in the rest? Or did Gura drop the ball here? I'm tempted to ask NPR.

More stuff to read

I know, two days in a row I can't be arsed to write a real blog post. Sometimes I have actual work to do, y'know?

Finally, as I've gone through my CD collection in the order I bought them, I occasionally encounter something that has not aged well. Today I came across Julie Brown's "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," which...just, no. Not in this century.

In the news today...

I haven't had time to read a lot lately, as I mentioned. Maybe these explain why:

And finally, a man in Chicago suburb Lisle, Ill., has made a life's work out of preserving old TV commercials.

Know-Nothings come to Niles Public Library

The Niles, Ill., public library topped lists around the world for its best-in-class offerings. As part of the North Suburban Library System, it shares resources with other world-class public libraries, including the one I grew up in. But following the Library Board elections this past April, the Niles Public Library has become noteworthy for something completely different:

Over the course of the next few months and the installation of a new Board of Directors, the library’s funding has been deeply slashed, hours reduced to below-state-standard levels, the library director quit, and essential services to the community shuttered.

Three new Board members — Joe Makula, Susan Schoenfeldt, and Olivia Hanusiak — were elected, allowing for a return to a conservative, tax-conscious voting block. All three were candidates [Board member Carolyn] Drblik sought, and now she had enough support to be elected Board president. It’s rumored they spent up to $15,000 on this small local election. Makula himself is a Trump donor, and the group, Dove Lempke believes, is working to install themselves on taxing bodies across the state and country in order to gut public institutions from the inside.

Immediately upon the board being installed, they hired a technology consultant to investigate the library’s processes and procedures. This consultant, a wedding videographer with no auditing credentials, is simply a friend of Drblik and the rest of her new Board block and campaigned for their election.

He was hired at $100 an hour with no experience and no cap.

Consequence? The Niles Public Library is on its way to not being a world-class library. And in an odd turn of events, the entire library staff joined AFSCME Local 31 in June.

The moral of the story: vote, people! Especially in local elections.