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Even Samantha Power, one of the world's most powerful women, deals with sexism at work

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Samantha Power is many things: Current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Former Harvard professor. Pulitzer prize winner. And, as a particularly galling incident involving a French ambassador makes clear, reported in this week's profile by The New Yorker's Evan Osnos, she is also someone who, despite all of those impressive accomplishments, is still expected to take time out of her busy schedule to bow to outdated gender norms.

Here is what happened, according to Osnos' story: Gérard Araud, the current French Ambassador to the US and at the time French ambassador to the UN, sent Power a text one day while they were on the Security Councilthat read, "On behalf of the French delegation, I want to tell you, you are very beautiful." The source for this story is Araud himself.

That's right: Araud, in his capacity as diplomatic representative of France, not only sent an obnoxious text to the US Ambassador to the United Nations, while they were in the Security Council, but later bragged about it to the New Yorker, saying that "As a Frenchman, I'm not condemned to be politically correct."

Araud also told Osnos that he'd expected Power to be an "NGO girl" before he met her, but was pleasantly surprised by her ability when they worked together — a remark that's a contender for the back-handed compliment hall of fame.

That incident is telling about the degree to which international diplomacy remains a boys club, even if some women reach its highest levels.

But Power's response to Araud is more telling still: she played the role that he demanded, sending a reply text that said "This is one of the nicest SMSs I have ever received." Her strategy, apparently, was effective: Osnos reports that Araud became "one of Power's closest collaborators."

I'm not criticizing Power's decision to send that response — it worked, and she had a job to do. But it is frustrating to consider that the US ambassador to the UN — the representative of the world's most powerful country to the world's most important institution — was put in a position of having to simper about compliments to her appearance in order to not jeopardize a working relationship with a US ally.

Compliments can be lovely, but receiving that sort of remark from a professional colleague who isn't a friend places women in a deeply annoying position: either respond positively and risk being seen as unprofessional and flirtatious, or respond negatively and risk being seen as rude. I'd wager that that's a tradeoff that every working woman in America has had to make — albeit probably not in response to the French Ambassador.

Likewise, Power seemed to be careful not to appear too ambitious when speaking to Osnos. She took pains to paint her career as the result of impulse and emotion, rather than ambition and dedication. "My career is not well thought out," she told him. "Every choice has been instinctive and, quite literally, impulsive in many ways."

That description is totally at odds with the actual facts of Power's career: this is a woman who, after writing a paper about genocide in her second year of law school, sent it to Marty Peretz, then the editor of the New Republic, and to Anthony Lewis, then a columnist for the New York Times. And who then parlayed that very paper into a book, the book into a Pulitzer Prize, the Pulitzer into a Harvard professorship, and then her role at Harvard into positions in Barack Obama's first presidential campaign and then his administration. (Some instincts! Some impulses!)

But unfortunately it's not at odds with the truth that ambitious women are often seen as demanding, unpleasant, or unreasonable. That is a tightrope that our society expects all successful women to walk, but it's still frustrating to be reminded that there is no position senior enough to escape the contradictionsof being a successful woman in America. Be high-achieving, but not ambitious. Be attractive, but don't appear to prioritize your appearance over other things. Sit at the table with powerful men, and if they don't know how to handle that, gracefully overlook their misbehavior.

We have progressed far enough to appoint a woman as ambassador to the UN, but not so far that she won't have to navigate those oppressive gender expectations once she gets there.

I have met Samantha Power, and am familiar with her work. I can say firsthand that her looks are the least remarkable thing about her. And I don't always agree with her, but her ambition is inspiring, and her accomplishments are impressive. I wish we lived in a society that let her own that without judgment. Apparently we don't.

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3087 days ago
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3087 days ago
New York, NY
3088 days ago
I normally love France, but this is a real "What in the actual fuck, France" type situation.
San Francisco, CA

Spinning Boehner

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Photo: Medil DC. Used via Creative Commons

As many of you know, John Boehner is my representative in Congress. Because of this, I get a fair number of people asking me via the Internet what the hell he’s thinking with regard to this whole shutdown thing. Because, of course, me and Boehner are totally tight, and he calls me up nightly to commiserate and share all his plans, even though I’ve never voted for him and it seems highly unlikely that I ever will. Be that as it may, someone apparently needs to explain him, and since he’s my guy, that job falls to me.

At this point, I think there are actually three reasonable explanations as to Boehner’s actions in the last few weeks, “reasonable” being “having some possible relationship to reality, whether I like it or not.” They are:

1. Boehner has gone full teabag, decided that the looming specter of Obamacare is manifestly worse than the possibility of defaulting on the US’ debts and thereby jeopardizing the entire global economy, and is saying, more or less, fuck it, it’s been a nice run for the US but now it’s time to let China take a turn at running the world, ha ha ha ha those suckers.

2. Boehner recognizes that the Tea Party contingent in his caucus is unrealistic but also recognizes that not spinning this out until the very last minute will cause the Tea Partiers to rebel, jeopardizing his speakership. So basically he’s stuck pretending to be irrational about the shutdown and debt limit until we get to the point that everyone (and I mean everyone) except the most irrational Tea Partiers are terrified about the default, at which point he can (quite reasonably) say “look, we gave it our best shot,” and send along a joint debt ceiling/government funding bill that takes care of this problem for another year, at which point everyone will be in election mode and in no mood for a shutdown.

3. Boehner realizes that his Tea Party wing is a bunch of irrational and fundamentally undemocratic yahoos who would rather watch everything burn than not get their way, and that this fact represents a danger, not only to the GOP but to the function of government in the United States at large — but that the tea party still remains popular with the GOP base. And so Boehner is strategically acceding to their demands, not because he is weak but because there is no other way to show the moderates and rational conservatives of GOP that the Tea Party represents a clear and present threat to the party and to the function of the nation, and they will, no joke, be happy to run the country into the ground if they don’t get their way. The moderates and rational conservatives, thus shocked, wake up from their slumber and actively engage in grassroots and funding of rational GOP candidates to fend off another wave of frothy Tea Party dim bulbs in the primaries, thus keeping the GOP a viable institution rather than punting itself further down the path of unelectability as the demographics of the US change (despite the GOPs efforts to disenfranchise as many poor and/or non-white people as possible, which is, at best, a temporary tactic).

Of these three options, I see 1) as the least likely and 3) as being rather too complicated for Boehner, for whom Machiavellian-level intrigue has never been noted to be one of his characteristics. That leaves 2), which, frankly, sucks, not in the least because it leaves open the possibility that Boehner will at the last moment have a failure of nerve and refuse to allow a vote, plunging us all into dangerous and uncharted territory because he’d rather be the Speaker in Hell than deposed rank and file in, if not Heaven, at least a world where a rump of bratty children are not allowed to push the United States to the brink of default via a temper tantrum.

My own personal opinion on the matter is that Boehner is a fundamentally decent conservative who believes in the processes of the government , and realized too late that he was dealing with people who, whatever their superficial commonalities in political philosophy, don’t have the same respect for process that he does. When should have he realized this? Oh, the opening months of 2010 might have been nice. But on the other hand up until this point, it’s all been reasonably manageable , which is to say the Democrats and Obama have been willing to concede points to keep things going. From a practical point of view, you can’t blame the GOP for using a tactic that works.

The failure of the Tea Party people is in being either unwilling or actually unable to recognize that Obamacare was a bridge too far for them. Obama’s been through the Supreme Court and the 2012 election with it, and won both times. There is absolutely no percentage for him to concede anything now, especially when the majority of the public (correctly) sees this shutdown and debt limit crisis as a fight that the Tea Party manufactured and drove the GOP to have. Obama’s far from being his most popular these days, but even there he has a substantially larger margin to work with than the congressional Republicans, who are in aggregate about as popular as cholera.

So here we are. And now here Boehner is. We’ll see where he, and we, go from here.

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3523 days ago
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3522 days ago
This is a cogent explaination
Nashville, TN


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Power is intoxicating. Everyone loves having the ability to make their decisions into reality — to think "this should be something that happens," and then actually be able to make that thing happen.

It is also dangerous.

And it is especially dangerous when applied to four-year-olds.

Four-year-olds lack the experience to wield power responsibly. They have no idea what to do with it or how to control it.

But they like it.

The dinosaur costume was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. The previous Halloween, which was the first Halloween I could actually remember, my parents had dressed me as a giant crayon, and the whole experience had been really uncomfortable for me.

But being a dinosaur felt natural.

And powerful.

The feeling had been slowly intensifying ever since I put the costume on that morning, and, as I stood there in the middle of the classroom, staring off into the distance in an unresponsive power trance, it finally hit critical mass.

I had to find some way to use it. Any way. Immediately.

The other children screamed and fled. The teacher chased me, yelling at me to stop. But I couldn't stop. I was a mindless juggernaut, a puppet for forces far greater than myself. I had completely lost control of my body.

All I knew was that being a dinosaur felt very different from being a person, and I was doing things that suddenly able to do things I had never even dreamed of doing before.

Of course, I had always had the ability to do these things — even as a person — but I didn't know that. I'd just assumed that I was unable. As a dinosaur, I didn't have any of those assumptions. It felt like I could do whatever I wanted without fear of repercussions.

The repercussions were also exactly the same as they were before I became a dinosaur.

I just experienced them differently.

My parents had to come pick me up at noon that day. The teacher explained that it must have been all the Halloween candy. "Some kids really can't handle sugar," she said. "It turns them into little monsters."

I suppose it was a reasonable enough conclusion, but it only served as a distraction from the real problem.

The thing about being an unstoppable force is that you can really only enjoy the experience of being one when you have something to bash yourself against. You need to have things trying to stop you so that you can get a better sense of how fast you are going as you smash through them. And whenever I was inside the dinosaur costume, that is the only thing I wanted to do.

The ban on sugar provided a convenient source of resistance. As long as I was not supposed to eat sugar, I could feel powerful by eating it anyway.

I'm sure the correlation started to seem rather strong after a while. I'd find some way to get sugar into myself, and then — drunk on the power of doing something I wasn't supposed to —I would lapse into psychotic monster mode. morph into a horrible, psychotic monster. To any reasonable observer, it would appear as though I was indeed having a reaction to the sugar.

My parents were so confused when when the terror sprees continued even after the house had been stripped of sugar. They were sure they had gotten rid of all of it. . . did I have a stash somewhere? Was I eating bugs or something?

They still weren't suspicious of the costume.

I lost weeks in a power-fueled haze. I often found myself inside the costume without even realizing I had put it on. One moment, I would be calmly drawing a picture, and the next I'd be robotically stumbling toward my closet where the dinosaur costume was and putting myself inside it.

It started to happen almost against my will.

Surely my parents made the connection subconsciously long before they became aware of what was really going on. After weeks of chaos, each instance punctuated by the presence of the costume, I have to imagine that the very sight of the thing would have triggered some sort of Pavlovian fear response.

They did figure it out eventually, though.

And the costume was finally taken away from me.

I was infuriated at the injustice of it all. I had become quite dependent on the costume, and it felt like part of my humanity was being forcibly and maliciously stripped away. I cursed my piddling human powers and their uselessness in the situation. If only I could put on the costume . . . just one more time.

But that was the costume's only weakness — it couldn't save itself. I had to watch helplessly as it disappeared inside a trash bag.

There was nothing I could do.

And so my reign of power came to an end, and I slowly learned to live as a person again.

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3528 days ago
Hyperbole and a Half!
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3527 days ago
The "Something is wrong. Something is going to happen." is absolutely correct.
3528 days ago
Baltimore, MD
3528 days ago
dinosaurs are more powerful than parents
New York, NY
3528 days ago
This certainly doesn't alleviate my concern about Allie's mental wellbeing.
3528 days ago
Masks allow us to stop hiding what we really are.
Palatine, IL
3528 days ago
The power... the POWER...
3528 days ago
evolve or get sent to the dump...
3528 days ago
A new Hyperbole and a Half!
Madison, WI
3529 days ago
As good an explanation as any to explain politicians and their behavior :)
Waterloo, Canada
3528 days ago
Well, most of them *are* dinosars in their own right.

Tech savvy folks of Reddit, what are the most mindblowing recent advancements most people still don't know about?

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[–]Fleurr 1295 points

Nuclear reactors. Specifically, molten salt reactors (MSRs). MORE specifically, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs, pronounced "lifters").

Imagine a nuclear power plant that

  • can't blow up

  • can't have fuel stolen to make a nuclear bomb

  • produces zero carbon emissions

  • produces almost ZERO nuclear waste

  • of the waste it produces, it lasts on the order of 100 years (as opposed to 100,000 years)

  • the byproduct of mining the fuel for this reactor is precious earth metals used in solar cells and wind turbines (and currently bought from China, who owns >80% of the world's supply of rare earth metals)

This is the future. MSRs have been proven to work since the 1960s (the MSRBE [Molten Salt Breeder Reactor Experiment] at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee). The first LFTR may go online in 3-5 years in Alabama.

Edit: Probably should have realized the bee's nest I poked with this comment. I'll try answering questions to the best of my abilities! I'm not a nuclear engineer, but I have experience/degrees in health physics (radiation protection) and a little bit of nuclear environmental engineering. I've also done a few specialized research proposals on MSRs, but if other NucEs want to step up they can.

Double Edit: /u/ProjectGO commented below about the "can't blow up" portion of MSRs/LFTRs (also known as "passive safety"). I've copied his post verbatim here, but if you find it interesting please make sure to upvote his comment appropriately.

At the bottom of the reactor chamber, there's a plug made out of salt. The plug is constantly cooled by pipes running refrigerant around it. If anything happens that causes the plant to lose power (for example, getting hit by a tsunami) the cooling system stops working. The molten salt in the reactor melts the plug, and drains out into a number of storage tanks, all sized to hold too little fuel to sustain the reaction.

I believe the term for it is "walk-away safe", since you could literally walk away and it would safely shut down on it's own if something went wrong.

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3573 days ago
wow never heard of this. Science is amazing.
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3573 days ago
sweet. Had heard of thorium but yeah, most people have not.
New York, NY
3573 days ago
Thread full of intriguing answers. Here's but one.

A Creator’s Note to “Gatekeepers”

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Which is to say,a note to those (mostly) dudes in geek circles, who decide it’s their job to determine who is geeky enough to enjoy the same entertainments and recreations that they do (hint: If you’re a woman, you start off with a failing grade). Yes, we’ve talked about this before, but they’re still doing it, because apparently some dudes just have a hard time learning.

So this time, let me talk to these dudes from the point of view of being a creator, i.e., one of the people who creates the stuff these (mostly) dudes spend their time defending from the horrible encroaching interest of others (mostly women).

Dudes: Cut that shit out. You’re fucking with my livelihood.

Let’s break this down a bit.

First: I didn’t ask you to be a gatekeeper. Did I, John Scalzi, come up to you and say, “Dude. I am so worried that the wrong people will like my stuff, and by ‘wrong,’ I mean ‘teh womans,’ ‘mostly people with ovaries,’ so if you’re not too busy I totally want to deputize you into the Society of Dudes Keeping Scalzi’s Stuff Safe From Teh Womans”? Mostly People With Ovaries”?

No? Then it’s not your job. Quit pretending that it is. When I want your help, I will ask for it. Directly to you. Until then, back off.

Second: I don’t needyou to be a gatekeeper. You dudes understand this is my job, right? As in, this is what I do for a living. As in, if I don’t sell what I produce, I don’t pay my mortgage, my kid doesn’t go to college, and my pets start evaluating me for my protein content. Books, which are what I produce, aren’t terribly expensive, and I don’t get to keep every penny of their sale price — I get a percentage. So in order to make money from these books, I have to sell a lot of them. Some of them get sold to geeky dudes. But a lot of them get sold to other people, who aren’t necessarily geeky, or dudes.

When you attempt to gatekeep my work, you’re trying to wave off peopleI want to have buy my work. If you manage to do this, then congratulations, you’ve made it more difficult for me to be successful with my work, and thus, make more of the work which you also like. Well done you. I’m curious how you think I should feel about people who make it more difficult for me to make a living. Do you think I should feel grateful? Because of the many words I would use to describe how I would feel, “grateful” isn’t one of them.

I write books geek dudes like. But I don’t write books for only geek dudes to like. The difference there is subtle but real. Which brings me to my next point:

Third: Gatekeeping runs entirely counter to my intent as a writer. I’ve always been very clear that I write science fiction that’s meant to be readable to people who aren’t science fiction fans — or as I prefer to think of them, people who don’t know yet that they might like science fiction. Old Man’s War, Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation — all of these books were written with the intent of being readable to outsiders to the genre. To people who are willing to take a chance on trying something other than what they already know they like. I write gateway science fiction — science fiction designed to make the reader want to read more science fiction.

So, when I take the time and effort to create a gateway, to invite people into the genre, and then some dude shows up at that gateway, unasked, telling people they can’t come through unless they can name every Heinlein book in reverse chronological order (or whatever), I am, shall we say, less than pleased. One, demanding that people new to something be versed in all its trivia is stupid (it’s also stupid when they have liked it for some time). Two, assuming that one’s own interests are the only interests that define real geekdom is also stupid.

Three, get the fuck out of my gateway, asshole,I’m working here. Working to expand not only my audience, but the audience for written science fiction and science fiction in general.You are not helping. Go find someone one who really wants to you to gatekeep their work.

But here’s the thing about that:

Fourth: Almost no one wants you to be a gatekeeper. Geek dudes: Do you honestly think Marvel comics, owned by Disney, wants you to harass women away from enjoying the X-Men? Do you think DC Comics, owned by Time Warner, appreciates when you demand a woman present you with a list of every Green Lantern in order to be worthy of “true geekdom”? Do you think Paramount Pictures, owned by Viacom, is grateful that some dude has appointed himself Arbiter of Star Trek Fandom? Do you believe that Tor Books, owned by Macmillan, one of the world’s largest publishers, will pat you on the head for judging any potential customers of their books, including mine? Do you actually understand what it is these corporations do? They producecommercial art. To be widely enjoyed. By as many people as possible.

Moving away from corporations, do you think individual writers and creators really want you to wave away potential fans from their work? Almost all of them are in the same boat as I am, either directly or indirectly dependent on volume of sales for income. They are happy you like their stuff. They would be even happier if not only you liked their stuff. When you attack other people who like their stuff, you’re potentially cutting into their livelihood. You’re not making friends with the people whose work you’re making a centerpiece of your life. You’re hurting them.

Do you think the staff of the conventions you attend are in any way happy when you troll the other attendees? Those attendees go on Twitter and Facebook and blogs and talk about how unfriendly or even dangerous that convention is. Others pick up on that and amplify the complaints. The people who are trying to run the convention have to deal with it and have to apologize for the fact that you are being an asshole, becausethey are getting some of the blame for it. Who do you think the convention staff would prefer to have as an attendee? The cosplaying woman who is excited to be there and is enthusiastic about the convention, or the geek dude who spends his time shitting all over other people’s enjoyment of a convention, which the staff has invested so much time in to make work?

Nearly every creator wants you to enjoy what they create. Almost none of them want you to police it.

Now, bear in mind that I understand that when you’re off haranguing a woman (or anyone else) on the subject of geek worthiness, you’re not actually thinking of me or any other person or company who makes the work you enjoy and have made a focus of your life. You are effectively working under the assumption that all this stuff just magically appears out of nowhere, a golden store of treasure, of which there is a limited supply, and thus must be defended at all costs against the unworthy, which in this case are usually Teh Womans. the people with ovaries.

Well, surprise. It doesn’t come out of nowhere; we creators make it. It isn’t a limited resource; unlimited; we can make enough for anyone who wants it. It doesn’t need to be defended from anybody; we like it when it’s shared as widely as possible, including to Teh Womans. people with ovaries.

And as for who is unworthy of it: Well. It’s not the women or anyone else who wants to try it, or who has tried it, liked it, and wants in to get more. It’s the people who are trying their hardest to keep them out.

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3587 days ago
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