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United Airlines Banned Two Girls From Boarding A Flight Because They Wore Leggings

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This story is still developing, but United–delivering on its brand promise as America’s absolute worst airline–has apparently added sexist nonsense to its many other sins. A gate agent reportedly banned young girls from boarding a flight from Denver to Minneapolis because they were wearing grey leggings.

Shannon Watts, the founder of gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, tweeted the following from the Denver gate, where she was waiting to board a flight to Mexico:

Watts later clarified that the young girls were white, and one of them was only 10 years old.

As is United’s wont, they responded with risible, tone-deaf customer service, tweeting the following response to Watts:

They then blanket-tweeted this response to all further inquiries.

Eventually, someone with basic PR experience must have been called over, and United offered this more specific, concrete explanation for their treatment of the girls:

Watts had the perfect response:

Whatever type of ticket these girls had, it’s still trash behavior to police the clothing of 10-year-olds. And yes, there are much bigger issues with U.S. airlines right now: the Muslim ban (2.0), “random” screenings, the TSA’s sexual-assault body searches, etc. But this is still an egregious example of the ways that girls are randomly policed and inappropriately sexualized. This is how we teach girls that their comfort is disgusting, that their shame should be paramount, and that their bodies are not their own.

I expected about a thousand tweets of leggings-wearing women on United’s competitors in 3,2…

(Via Twitter and Washington Post; image via Shutterstock)

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mwclarkson
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Now YouTube Will Have to Treat Racists the Same Way It Treats Mental Health Advocates and LGBTQIA Creators…Yay?

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YouTube-logo-full_colorThe YouTube advertiser boycott is growing.

On Friday, PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores and Starbucks all announced that they would suspend their YouTube advertising until the company addressed their concerns about ads appearing alongside homophobic and racist videos. AT&T, Verizon, and the UK government had pulled their ads earlier this month, after it was revealed that white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, and other hateful content creators were generating revenue from many brand’s ads.

Deciphering and categorizing YouTube content is admittedly a Herculean task. As Ronan Harris, the managing director for Google U.K., said in a blog post on the issue: “Just last year, we removed nearly 2 billion bad ads from our systems, removed over 100,000 publishers from our AdSense program, and prevented ads from serving on over 300 million YouTube videos.” With so much content, compounded by the complexity of cataloging video as a medium, it would be unfair to expect YouTube to have a perfect system.

However, this oversight is particularly glaring given YouTube’s recent LGBTQIA snafu and previous ad policies. A wide variety of LGBTQIA content, including all-ages programming, was recently categorized as “mature” and therefore unavailable when viewing the site in “Restricted Mode.” YouTube was rightly blasted for the move, which treats the very existence of LGBTQIA people as something lewd and unsuitable for children. WTF.

Back in September, YouTube was also criticized for pulling ad revenue from videos about issues like depression or acne. These videos were deemed “controversial” and therefore insufficiently “ad-friendly,” but now we discover that David Duke’s screeds got enough of a pass to feature ads for the UK Royal Navy. What sort of system are they using?

Algorithms are not neutral. They inherit the inherent biases of their creators, and YouTube seems to be struggling against those of its employees. YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, a company whose technical staff is 81% male and 57% white. It is perhaps unsurprising that the terminology of racism and sexism wasn’t as well-documented by this workforce, and videos featuring that language therefore slipped through and received ad revenue. Still, it’s on YouTube to foresee and combat these problems. Engineers can’t be expected to be perfect, but a major company can be expected to double-check those engineers’ work.

In a Tuesday blog post from Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, the company promised to address advertisers’ concerns with a “tougher stance” on hateful content.

“We know advertisers don’t want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values. So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.”

YouTube’s concrete steps include: changing the default settings for ads to “meet[] a higher level of brand safety and exclude[] potentially objectionable content,” making it easier for advertisers to exclude specific channels from their ad buy, and adding more advanced controls so that brands can “fine-tune” their advertising.

It’s not yet clear how wide-reaching these changes will be, or whether YouTube will accidentally block other, not-racist content in its sweep. The wider the ad restrictions, the likelier it is that content which is not morally objectionable will get picked up by those restrictions. And while depriving a channel of ad revenue is a far cry from “censorship” (you do not have a legal right to make money on someone else’s video-upload site), YouTube’s greatest asset is its unconventional, honest community of creators. It would be a real loss to make their careers less viable by getting too ham-fisted in appeasing the advertisers. With all the resources at their disposal, I hope YouTube can finally calibrate this one correctly, defunding the racists without robbing the rest of their creators.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter; image via YouTube)

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mwclarkson
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INSUFFICIENT
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Sportswriters Whine About Kid Reporter Asking Legitimate Question At Press Conference

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In South Carolina coach Frank Martin’s postgame press conference last night, preteen Sports Illustrated Kids reporter Max Bonnstetter asked an interesting and well-formulated question—one that, somehow, upset a handful of “adult” journalists:

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mwclarkson
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Who are the worse journalists: beltway pundits or sports reporters? Discuss, or don't, life's too short.
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Do Economists Really Not Know These Things?

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There’s an NY Times article, “What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?“, that completely perplexes me. Neil Irwin writes (boldface mine):

But as much as we love economics here — this column is named Economic View, after all — there just may be a downside to this one academic discipline having such primacy in shaping public policy…

Sociologists spend their careers trying to understand how societies work. And some of the most pressing problems in big chunks of the United States may show up in economic data as low employment levels and stagnant wages but are also evident in elevated rates of depression, drug addiction and premature death. In other words, economics is only a piece of a broader, societal problem. So maybe the people who study just that could be worth listening to…

For starters, while economists tend to view a job as a straightforward exchange of labor for money, a wide body of sociological research shows how tied up work is with a sense of purpose and identity.

“Wages are very important because of course they help people live and provide for their families,” said Herbert Gans, an emeritus professor of sociology at Columbia. “But what social values can do is say that unemployment isn’t just losing wages, it’s losing dignity and self-respect and a feeling of usefulness and all the things that make human beings happy and able to function.”

That seems to be doubly true in the United States. For example, Ofer Sharone, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, studied unemployed white-collar workers and found that in the United States, his subjects viewed their ability to land a job as a personal reflection of their self-worth rather than as an arbitrary matter. They therefore took rejection hard, blaming themselves and in many cases giving up looking for work. In contrast, in Israel similar unemployed workers viewed getting a job as more like winning a lottery, and were less discouraged by rejection.

It seems plausible that this helps explain why so many Americans who lost jobs in the 2008 recession have never returned to the labor force despite an improved job market. Mr. Sharone is working with career counselors to explore how to put this finding to work to help the long-term unemployed.

Jennifer M. Silva of Bucknell University has in recent years studied young working-class adults and found a profound sense of economic insecurity in which the traditional markers of reaching adulthood — buying a house, marrying, landing a steady job — feel out of reach.

Put those lessons together, and you may think that the economic nostalgia that fueled Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign was not so much about the loss of income from vanishing manufacturing jobs. Rather, it may be that the industrial economy offered blue-collar men a sense of identity and purpose that the modern service economy doesn’t.

Sociology also offers important lessons about poverty that economics alone does not. “Evicted,” a much-heralded book by the Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, shows how the ever-present risk of losing a home breeds an insecurity and despondency among poor Americans.

It works against the tendency to think about housing policy as solely a matter of which subsidy goes to whom and what incentives ought to be in place to encourage banks to lend in poor neighborhoods. All that stuff is important, of course, but doesn’t really address the overwhelming challenge of insecurity that affects millions of people.

How does anyone in the U.S. not know that the “ability to land a job as a personal reflection of their self-worth rather than as an arbitrary matter” is a commonly held notion?

I have no idea if this is an accurate assessment of how economists think–and to the extent economists do read my shitty blog, they are probably left-leaning–but if it’s even close, then economics, as many of the heterodox critics charge, really is divorced from basic reality.

Or maybe it’s just very incomplete sociology?




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mwclarkson
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The Witcher's Author Says He Doesn't Get One Cent From The Games' Success

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If you happen to run into Andrzej Sapkowski, creator of The Witcher, you might not want to bring up the video games. They haven’t made his life much better, in part because they’re not making him any money.

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mwclarkson
2 days ago
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Well, I mean, he got cash up front and has presumably sold a few books off of the success.
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Here's the Important Stuff That Happens in Iron Fist So You Don't Have to Watch It

io9
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Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist is not good TV. It is bad and boring TV with terrible fight scenes and a lead actor who comes from the “petulant grimace” school of acting. The only reason to watch Iron Fist is so you can be prepared for The Defenders, the epic series that will cross Iron Fist over with the casts of

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mwclarkson
5 days ago
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could be even shorter tbh
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