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“Like a Vision” — Street art by Mister Thoms

I’m Still Learning to Know When to Resist Engagement

“We’re strip-mining humanity for engagement and fracking the decency out of society because we’re working within a system of rewards that doesn’t give a damn about the long-term effects, only short-term gains.” Mike Monteiro in Ruined by Design on the effects of optimizing social media and other online experiences for “engagement”

One of the big lessons I’ve learned about myself — and all of us — these past few years is how social media is changing not just our attention spans but also the way we interact with one another. I’ve been guilty of being snappish and curt on social media, quick to make judgments. I’ve lost a few friends (or “friends” since I’m not sure Facebook relationships with people you’ve not seen for 20+ years qualify as real friendships — especially when those relationships swing largely between silence and combativeness). I’ve blocked a few people. …


Image from the Twitter account of @DotJenna showing her flashing a peace sign outside a broken Capitol building window.
Image from the Twitter account of @DotJenna showing her flashing a peace sign outside a broken Capitol building window.
From the Twitter account of real estate broker Jenna Ryan aka @DotJenna via TinEye image search. An accompanying tweet read: “Window at The capital. And if the news doesn’t stop lying about us we’re going to come after their studios next.”

Among the many ugly symbols on display in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the event itself stands as the most offensive symbol of all

The attack on the United States Capitol by insurrectionist Trump supporters was awful for a litany of reasons, but it’s symbolism of the event itself that makes it so unique.

Yes, there were Confederate flags. Yes, there was that casually horrifying Camp Auschwitz hoodie. There was the QAnon “Q” worn by many, signifying alliance to cultish conspiracy theories. But these were borne by individuals, so many others who broke into the Capitol could claim a sort of plausible deniability: They will protest that they’re not aligned with those particular symbols. …


Photo of woman holding sign reading “We are all immigrants” at the Women’s March in New York, NY, January 22nd, 2017.
Photo of woman holding sign reading “We are all immigrants” at the Women’s March in New York, NY, January 22nd, 2017.
“We are all immigrants” — photo by Robert Stribley

The economic imperative for restoring immigration and labor movement in the wake of COVID-19

As many western industrial nations drifted towards protectionism if not outright nationalism in the last decade, an already constrictive environment had developed for the free movement of the labor market. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, gave such nations just the hammer they needed to further nail immigration constraints into place.

COVID-19 triggered mass unemployment globally with The Brookings Institute estimating that approximately 11.9 percent of workers were out of a job across the 20 countries they studied. That number reached almost 15 percent for the United States. And early this year, the IMF forecast that the global economy would contract by 3 percent in 2020, a worse contraction than we saw as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. But there’s little indication these immigration restrictions have helped any of the players in the global economy resolve their economic woes. …


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Thanksgiving Video Conference Call with Military Service Personnel — White House Flickr Account, Public Domain

Trump lost and it was pretty predictable he would in retrospect

I imagine I have a few friends who perhaps think Donald Trump won the 2020 election and there’s some sort of fraud involved in Biden winning. I want to make a few quick points, not be to be argumentative, but primarily because I think the rhetoric in some quarters (elected officials, QAnon types, Rudy Giuliani, Trump himself) is getting down right dangerous to the point that it could incite violence. Considering that many have been receiving death threats and QAnon organized placing a noose outside one 20-year-old Dominion employee’s Georgia home, I’d say we’re already there.

Trump didn’t win and it wasn’t difficult to predict he probably wouldn’t in advance. (Though, certainly, no one could say for sure, in the days leading up to election.) But as a lot of misinformation is getting tossed around right now, I think we should keep the following 6 points in mind to avoid something awful happening here. …


Image of transgender women detained at the Cibola Country Correctional Center
Image of transgender women detained at the Cibola Country Correctional Center
Transgender women detained at the Cibola Country Correctional Center, NM — Image from ICE

The Criminal Treatment of Transgender Asylum Seekers in the United States

Over the past four years, the Trump administration enacted an unprecedented reduction in the number of asylum seekers admitted to the United States, slashing admissions to a level approximately 16 percent of the cap the Obama administration offered in 2016. Transgender asylum seekers, who are already more at-risk than typical applicants now face tremendous hurdles and abuse as they try to survive in the opaque confines of this increasingly constrictive immigration system.

By their own accounting, the Department of Homeland Security had approximately 300 transgender asylum seekers in their custody in 2019. Under U.S. law, anyone has the right to present themselves as an asylum seeker at the U.S. border or within the United States — regardless of how and where they enter. Before they can be removed, the law requires they be given the opportunity to present their case for a “credible fear” screening before a judge or qualified asylum officer. However, transgender asylum-seekers find themselves housed in detention centers at rates over twice that of typical applicants, their average detainment being about 99 days. They’re also unlikely to have their cases reviewed by individuals familiar with their unique needs and circumstances both as transgender individuals and in the context of their home countries. …


3D medical animation still shot showing structure of a coronavirus — Wikimedia, Creative Commons license
3D medical animation still shot showing structure of a coronavirus — Wikimedia, Creative Commons license
3D medical animation still shot showing structure of a coronavirus — Wikimedia, Creative Commons license

Always Be Evaluating Your Sources—Especially During a Pandemic

*Updated July 31, 2020 to include additional significant randomized studies, including those examining the use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure

Can I provide an illustration of why it’s always important to consider evidence from multiple authoritative sources when studying subjects like COVID-19, the use of masks, and in this case, the use of hydroxychloroquine? Especially during this time of pandemic. (But, really, this strategy applies to any subject.)

If I were to look for something that initially seems compelling (as a non expert, non epidemiologist) on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID, this Newsweek essay by Yale professor Harvey Risch certainly might grab my attention. …


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The U.S.-Mexico border as seen from Tijuana, Mexico — Photo by Robert Stribley

How U.S. Policy for Handling Migrants Violates International Criminal Law—As Well as Our Own

Imagine you’re an immigrant who fled danger to seek asylum in the United States after escaping torture and beatings in your own country. Arriving here, you make your case, but instead of proceeding through a careful review process, you’re interviewed by an asylum officer completely unfamiliar with the dynamics of your situation and designated for speedy deportation back to your place of origin, where your life may still be in danger. That’s the story of Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a Sri Lankan asylum seeker whose case we’ll explore in more detail below. …


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Protestors outside Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY on June 2nd, 2020 — photo by Robert Stribley

Thoughts on race and confronting racism from a former fundamentalist

We all have those moments in our lives, when we wish we could go back in time and do something differently, right? Lately, I’ve been returning to one prominent moment from when I was about 20 years old.

I was playing half-court basketball one warm summer night behind the gym at the South Carolina college I was attending. There were probably six of us. As it happens in these scrappy pickup games, one player eventually bumped into another or something and one young guy got angry. …


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Woman passes a poster in Brooklyn memorializing the dead due to COVID-19 in the United States — photo by Robert Stribley

This piece was prompted by a Facebook post from a friend in which she described how she was exposed to the kind of behavior I describe below at her local grocery store, when she went shopping for the first time in a month or two.

One of the most extraordinary things about this time period is seeing people describe being asked to wearing a thin piece of fabric temporarily in some places they pass through as “tyranny” or an infringement upon their liberties. …


Highlighting independent artists who deserve your attention and support during the COVID-19 crisis

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Curtis Eller playing playing at Rèst Âü Ránt in Queens back in January 2017 — Photo by Robert Stribley

Curtis Eller is a remarkable banjo player who writes gripping songs tied to history, religion, and the maddening elements of the American dream. Songs with names like “The Heart That Forgave Richard Nixon” and “Battlefield Amputation.” Songs both vivid and vigorous, but also often gloomily funny. Music which summons up much for us to gnaw on.

Since his songbook rests against the sort of broad spectrum of music you might refer to as “Americana,” I’ve often thought that TV shows like Deadwood or Justified have dropped the ball by not featuring his songs—and regularly. (There’s still time Ozark!)

For a great example, here’s Curtis singing “Sweatshop Fire,” which presumably alludes to 1911's infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village. As you’ll see, Curtis combines finely-crafted lyrics with a signature banjo playing style, which proves uniquely physical and which always makes for a highly engaging and intimate live show. …

About

Robert A Stribley

Writer and photographer with interests in immigration, privacy, security, culture and digital design. Day jobs in UX at Publicis Sapient and faculty at SVA.

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