In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: Death penalty] Well, here is some good(ish) news: "Executions and new death sentences dropped to their lowest numbers in decades in 2014, an anti-death penalty group said in a new report." But it's not wholly good news, of course, because executions are still happening, and death sentences are still being handed out: "The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes executions and tracks the issue, said 35 inmates were executed this year and 71 have so far been given death sentences. The last time fewer inmates were put to death was in 1994, when there were 31 executions nationwide. The number of new sentences is the lowest in the 40 years that the center calls the modern death penalty era." Lowest in 40 years is still not good enough. It won't be good enough until the number is 0. End the death penalty now.

[CN: Criminalizing addiction; misogyny] "A federal civil rights lawsuit is being filed on behalf of a Wisconsin woman who was jailed after allegedly using methamphetamines while 14 weeks pregnant. Tamara Loertscher, 30, was jailed after seeking prenatal care at a Mayo Clinic branch in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Loertscher was seeking treatment for a serious thyroid condition and depression, and disclosed to doctors that she'd been using drugs before she knew she was pregnant. Hospital workers then had Loertscher jailed." The law under which Loertscher was jailed is colloquially known as the "cocaine mom law." Because of course it is.

[CN: Transphobia] An Indiana man who is trans was finally granted an amended birth certificate after a year-and-a-half struggle. I hope this victory will streamline the process for other trans* Hoosiers, and I fear that instead our garbage state legislature will enact laws making it even more difficult.

[CN: Disablism; video may autoplay at link] What the everloving fuck? "The parents of an eight-year-old boy in Missouri are outraged after they say their blind son's cane was taken away and replaced with a pool noodle" as a punishment. I am truly without words.

[CN: Transphobia] Do you remember Karen Adell Scot, the high school teacher whose students told her she was their hero after she transitioned? Here she is talking about her first year after transitioning, the great bits and the hard bits.

Something something Jeb Bush and his ridiculous party and ideological rigidity.

Something something Hillary Clinton meaningless poll.

(Boy oh boy I can't wait to get back to the This Guy! That Gal! Poll! portion of the election that hasn't even started yet!)

[CN: Misogyny; antifeminism; violence] Here is some further detail on the colossal failure that is DC's new Wonder Woman series.

Everyone in the multiverse (and thanks to each and every one of you!) has sent me the video of a dog running on 3-D printed legs for the first time, so here it is and yayayayay! Go, doggie, go!

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Authority on Her Own Life

[Content Note: Misogynoir.]

Yesterday I mentioned that President and First Lady Obama had sat down with People magazine to talk about some of their experiences with racism. The one example I quoted was Michelle Obama's experience at Target:

"I tell this story—I mean, even as the first lady—during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn't anything new."
Now, this didn't happen here, but in a bunch of other spaces, I saw non-black people protesting that the woman in Target probably just asked for the First Lady's help because she's tall. "It wasn't necessarily racism," was a phrase I saw a lot.

These are not mutually exclusive possibilities, of course: It is possible that the woman who asked for the First Lady's help was asking her both because she is tall and because of racism, either because she assumed a black woman at Target was an employee or because she felt entitled to a black woman's assistance.

But that's really neither here nor there, because, for one thing, Michelle Obama's point is not just that this lady asked her for help; it was that no one else spoke to her except a woman asking for help. That context is not irrelevant.

Secondly, Michelle Obama was sharing her perception of the incident. Her perception of her lived experience seen through the prism of a lifetime of being a black woman moving through a racist and misogynist world. I trust her perception of that incident, because I believe her to be an authority on her own life.

I fully trust that Michelle Obama knows the difference between someone asking her to reach something because she is tall, and someone who is the only person who notices her at all asking her to reach something because she's a (tall) black woman in a store where employees are routinely expected to assist customers.

A lifetime of experiences teaches all of us in marginalized populations to discern between innocuous motivations and microaggressions.

And here's the thing: If someone with privilege behaves in a clueless way toward someone who does not share their privilege, in a way that is virtually indistinguishable from an expression of that privilege, that's on them. What's the meaningful difference to a person who perceives that they are being slighted—because that behavior looks exactly like a thousand other deliberate slights they've experienced—that someone is merely unaware of marginalizing behavior instead of actively practicing it? The result is the same either way.

Marginalized people aren't mind-readers who can magically discern someone's intent.

I'm a short white woman who often has to ask for help reaching things. It's my responsibility to understand that people of color are often mistaken as employees by white people, and to be aware of how my behavior might play into that existing dynamic. It's not incumbent on people of color to afford me the benefit of good intentions if I just randomly ask for them to help me reach shit, even if it is just because they're tall. (Tall people don't owe me their free labor, anyway.)

But, back to the main point: All of these apologetics, all the auditing of Michelle Obama's perception of her own lived experience, really distracts from the primary issue. She is telling a story about being the First Lady of the United States of America visiting a Target, and the only person who approached her was someone asking for help.

You really think that's about her being tall? It isn't.

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More Abductions in Nigeria

[Content Note: Violence; abduction; misogyny; terrorism.]

Gunmen suspected to be part of Boko Haram, the terrorist organization who abducted 234 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in April, have struck once again, abducting "more than 100 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the remote northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri."

Although no one has claimed it yet, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 women in April from a secondary school in Chibok, only 24 km (15 miles) from this latest attack.

...Thousands of people have been killed and many hundreds abducted, raising questions about the ability of security forces to protect civilians, especially around the north Cameroon border where the militants are well established.

Maina Chibok, who did not witness the attack but is from Gumsuri and visited family there shortly afterwards, said the insurgents came in pick-up trucks and sprayed the town with bullets from AK-47s and machine guns.

"They gathered the people, shot dead over 30 people and took away more than 100 women and children in two open-top trucks," Chibok said. Burials of many of the victims had already happened, he added.

News from remote parts of Nigeria that are cut off from mobile communications sometimes takes days to emerge.

A security source confirmed that more than 100 had been abducted and said 35 people had been killed, including the district head.

"They also burned down a government medical center, houses and shops," Chibok said.
This is just intolerable. I am so sad and so angry for the people who are just trying to live their lives in this region, and who are being constantly terrorized by people who use them as pawns in their disgusting ideological games.

I feel helpless to do anything: Bring Back Our Girls suggests that the most important thing we can do is make noise—"make as much noise as possible, to be globally loud, so that the Nigerian government will not be allowed peace till every one of the Chibok girls is back with their families."

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The Interview Gets Pulled

[Content Note: Terrorism.]

I don't even know what to make of this business: The Interview is a comedy film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen about two celebrity tabloid journalists who land an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and are recruited by the CIA to exploit the opportunity to assassinate him. It was slated to debut in theaters at Christmas, but following a major hacking at Sony and terrorist threats to cinemagoers, which prompted several major cinema chains to cancel screenings in the US, Sony has pulled the release altogether.

A group calling itself Guardians of Peace (GOP) published an online message on Tuesday warning cinemagoers to stay away from screenings of The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The threats led five of biggest cinema chains in the US to drop the film. A federal investigation is also under way.

The decision to cancel the release marks the climax of a torrid month for Sony. GOP has also claimed responsibility for a huge hack on Sony's computer systems in November, which led to the release of thousands of confidential documents revealing executive pay structure, corporate profits, unreleased films, personal email correspondence and employee social security numbers.

"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatergoers," Sony Pictures said in a statement.
Anonymous senior Obama administration officials have said that North Korea was "centrally involved" in the hacking. What that means, exactly, is unclear:
It's unclear from the Times report what "centrally involved" means and whether the intelligence officials are saying the hackers were state-sponsored or actually agents of the state. The Times also notes that "It is not clear how the United States came to its determination that the North Korean regime played a central role in the Sony attacks." The public evidence pointing at the Hermit Kingdom is flimsy.

...It was only on December 8, after a week of media stories connecting North Korea and the Sony film to the hack, that the attackers made their first reference to the film in one of their public announcements. But they continued to trounce the theory that North Korea was behind their actions, and they denied ownership of an email sent to Sony staffers after the hack, threatening them and their families with harm if they didn't denounce their employer.

At this point, it's quite possible the media are guilty of inspiring the hacker's narrative, since it was only after news reports tying the attack to the Sony film that GOP began condemning the movie in public statements. This week the hackers have pounced on that narrative, using it to escalate the stakes by making oblique terrorist threats against the film's New York premiere and theaters scheduled to screen it Christmas day.
A lot of jumbled thoughts about this at the moment:

* I think Sony is making a corporate, capitalist decision. Lots of people are talking about free speech and free expression and letting the terrorists win and lots of lofty concepts that realistically have nothing to do with Sony's decision-making. I'm not saying those issues are irrelevant full-stop; I'm saying that I don't think corporations care very much about them when they're making business decisions, except insomuch as they'll claim to be heroes of free speech when it happens to align with their financial interests.

* I think the concept of this film is shitty, and treating North Korea like a punchline is asshole behavior. Listen to any US late-night talkshow monologue on any night of any week, and there's bound to be a joke about North Korea; about Kim Jong-un being "weird." We spend way more time in this country making jokes about North Korea than we do talking about how it is one of the cruelest regimes on the planet. And I don't buy this nonsense about how privileged white American men make jokes about Kim Jong-un because he's awful. No one with any decency can read an account of what happens in North Korea's prison work camps and decide the best way to address that sort of unfathomable cruelty is with jokes about Kim Jong-un's haircut. Fuck off. This film never should have been made in the first place, out of respect for the people of North Korea.

* That said, I don't think one's opinion of whether and how this matters should be based on what kind of film (genre-wise) it is. People haughtily sniffing indifference because it's a lowbrow comedy (and not because of the content of that comedy) are showing their classist asses.

* I also think it's kind of precious that lots of privileged white people are pretending that this is the first time that this sort of capitulation has happened, when, in fact, as Sydette pointed out on Twitter, films made by and with black people, stories of black lives, have been pulled in certain parts of the country dozens of times because of threats from white supremacists. And there was hardly this level of outrage about that.

* What are you even talking about, Mitt Romney?!

screen cap of tweet authored by Mitt Romney reading: '@SonyPictures don't cave, fight: release @TheInterview free online globally. Ask viewers for voluntary $5 contribution to fight #Ebola.'

(Thanks to Jessica Luther, who knows my soul, for passing along that tweet.)

So, yeah. Those are my thoughts at the moment. In summation: Because James Franco. Discuss.

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Open Thread

image of a cassette single of David Bowie's track 'Thursday's Child'

Hosted by David Bowie's "Thursday's Child." On cassette!

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker themiddlevoice: "What is the coolest place you have visited?"

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Zelly Belly Is Magic

Thank you to everyone who has sent good thoughts for Zelda and inquired to see how she's been doing. ♥

We have finally gotten a diagnosis: It is indeed Cushings disease. Today, Zelly started her meds, which will hopefully agree with her and start making her feel better very soon.

(And will hopefully allow me to sleep through the night again, lol. Of course, if it took being tired for the rest of my days to take care of Zelly, I would be tired for the rest of my days. That's that.)

We're glad at least to have an answer now.

During one of our many recent trips to the vet, I was sitting in the waiting room with Zelda, and one the techs came by to clean up some pee nearby, left by another visitor, presumably of the four-legged variety. She looked at Zelda and said, "She's got weird ears. She'd be a lot cuter with bigger ears."


It is my suspicion that most pet owners don't like hearing how ugly their pets are generally, but sitting in a waiting room hoping that your dog has a survivable health issue is pretty much the last place you want that sort of unsolicited commentary.

"Oh, I love her little Dorito ears," I said, and gave them a good rub.

The tech asked me what kind of dog Zelda is. Relieved that we had moved on from the "weird ears" commentary, I told her that she was a shar pei, blue heeler, and husky mix.

My relief was short-lived, as it turned out this was just an opening for her to launch into a long story about how her brother-in-law's dog is half chow and half shepherd, but has shepherd ears, so thus is highly cute. "That dog is lucky she got the big ears." She frowned at Zelda's little triangular ears.

Zelda sat beside me and grinned. Because that's what Zelda does.

Later, I was telling the other contributors and mods about this bizarre exchange. I told them: "I mean, granted, I am hugely biased, but I have always thought she is super adorable! But from the moment we got her... There is one person I don't like at the Humane Society from which we adopted her, and he looked like I had asked if we could take home a bag of dogshit when we said we wanted her. And I'm sure you recall the number of bloggers who have been obsessed with documenting how ugly she is. I suspect that Zelly is a magical creature who rewards people whose hearts are full of love by appearing ridiculously adorable to them, while appearing like a hideous monster to people whose hearts are full of crap."

It was resolved that Zelly is indeed a magical shapeshifting creature. WE'RE ONTO YOU, ZELLY!

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt smiling cheekily
Mwah ha ha ha.

Well, she might not be magical. And whether she's cute is a matter of opinion. But she is a VERY GOOD GIRL, who will hopefully be feeling better very soon. Thank you again to everyone who cares about our wee sweet mutt.

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The Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by zippers.

Recommended Reading:

Brittney: [Content Note: Misogynoir] "Listen When I Talk to You!": How White Entitlement Marred My Trip to a Ferguson Teach-in

Anne: [CN: Racism; white supremacy] Leigh Anne Tuohy, Racism, and the White Saviour Complex

Soojin: [CN: Fat hatred] Five Shocking Things I Heard Pitching My Body Positive Story

Tessara: [CN: Misogynoir; homophobia; sexual assault] What I Fear as a Black Woman: Broadening the Conversation about Violence

Maya: [CN: Rape culture; war on agency; misogyny] Missouri Lawmaker Pushes for Law Requiring Consent of the "Father" to Get an Abortion

Jamilah: The Queer Women of Color Video Streaming Service That's Cheaper Than Netflix

Leave your links and recommendations in comments. Self-promotion welcome and encouraged!

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt using her large plush duck toy as a pillow
Zelda and Duckie.

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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[Content Note: Violence; death; issues of consent and ethics.]

Serial is a podcast, one of the most popular podcasts of all time, hosted by reporter Sarah Koenig, who is investigating the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, whose ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, is serving a life sentence for the crime. Koenig started her investigation last year, after one of Syed's friends reached out to her asking for help. The podcast, which is a spinoff of This American Life, documents the investigation and began earlier this year. Eleven episodes have aired in weekly downloads; the twelfth and concluding episode will be available tomorrow.

I've gotten a bunch of emails asking for my opinion about Serial. Over the past few days, I've been listening to it—I just finished Episode Six—trying to get caught up before the finale.

The first time I ever heard about it was when I read a piece by Jessica Goldstein: "The Complicated Ethics of 'Serial,' The Most Popular Podcast of All Time." And I strongly recommend that piece, because it brings up a lot of the problems I have with Serial—or, at least, the questions I have about it.

From an entertainment perspective, Serial is terrific. It's well put together, and it's utterly appealing to someone like me, who loves true crime stuff.

But the thing about true crime stuff is that it's true. There are real people involved, some of whom aren't even offered the chance to consent. Often, in true crime storytelling, a chance to participate is equated with a chance to consent: These are not the same things. You can decline to participate, but that story's getting told with or without your input.

At least as far as I've listened, Koenig has never addressed whether she sought the consent or participation of Hae Min Lee's family—and, based on her brother's public statements (see Goldstein's piece), it doesn't appear like she did. (Besides possibly one ignored Facebook message.) Her parents, according to her brother, don't even know about it.

That said, if an innocent person is sentenced to life behind bars, for a murder zie didn't commit, should hir potential exoneration be contingent on the consent of the victim's family, who might reasonably believe in hir guilt, based on hir conviction?

But in Serial, we don't know if Adnan Syed is not guilty of the murder of Hae Min Lee. That is ostensibly what the investigation is intended to uncover.

I have a lot of thoughts about Serial, and its ethics, which has less to do with the investigation itself than the way it's being presented. And many of those thoughts won't be solidified until the series reaches its conclusion.

Which brings up a whole other set of questions for me, largely around whether the end can justify the means.

Serial has already been greenlit for a second season. And, I have to be honest, I have a ton of reservations around trying to recreate this process, this search for justice presented as entertainment. Because even if nothing goes horribly ethically wrong in this series, it's only a matter of time before it does. It skates on an edge too thin to sustain its weight forever.

Anyway. Here is a thread to discuss Serial, before tomorrow's conclusion.

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Tony! Toni! Toné!: "Feels Good"

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Please Support Shakesville: End-of-Year Fundraiser

image of a teaspoon drawing water from an ocean, with text reading: End-of-Year Fundraiser: Your donations help keep Shakesville going strong. Every teaspoon counts.
[Click to donate.]

This is, for those who have requested it, your bi-monthly reminder to donate to Shakesville and/or to make sure to renew subscriptions that have lapsed.

It is also the time of year when I ask readers who visit this space and do not generally make donations (but can afford to) to please kick in to support Shakesville and the work we do here.

If you value the content and/or community in this space, please consider setting up a subscription or making a one-time contribution.

If you have appreciated being able to tune into Shakesville for explorations of feminist issues, for getting distilled news about politics or other topics, for a safe and image-free space to discuss acts of public violence, for recaps of your favorite show, for recipes, for the Fat Fashion threads, or for whatever else you appreciate at Shakesville, whether it's the moderation, the community in Open Threads, Film Corner, video transcripts, the blogarounds, or anything else, please remember that Shakesville is run exclusively on donations.

I cannot afford to do this full-time for free, but, even if I could, fundraising is also one of the most feminist acts I do here. I ask to be paid for my work because progressive feminist advocacy has value; because women's work has value.

I would certainly be grateful for your support, if you are able to chip in. The donation link is in the sidebar to the right. Or click here.

Thank you to each of you who donates or has donated, whether monthly or as a one-off. I am deeply appreciative. This community couldn't exist without that support, truly. Thank you.

My thanks as well to everyone who contributes to the space in other ways, whether as a contributor, a moderator, a guest writer, a transcriber, and/or as someone who takes the time to send me a note of support and encouragement. (Or a cool drawing!) This community couldn't exist without you, either.

Please note that I don't want anyone to feel obliged to contribute financially, especially if money is tight. There is a big enough readership that no one needs to donate if it would be a hardship, and no one should ever feel bad about that. ♥

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

This is really quite amazing: "The United States and Cuba have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, marking a historic shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island after a half-century of enmity dating back to the Cold War, American officials said Wednesday. The announcement came amid a series of sudden confidence-building measures between the longtime foes, including the release of American prisoner Alan Gross, as well as a swap for a U.S. intelligence asset held in Cuba and the freeing of three Cubans jailed in the U.S. Gross arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington late Wednesday morning. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro were to separately address their nations around noon. The two leaders spoke by phone for more than 45 minutes Tuesday, the first substantive presidential-level discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961." WOW.

[CN: Violence] Today is the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. On this day, what we can do to in support of sex workers is remember and talk about that stigma kills.

[CN: Racism] President and First Lady Obama talk to People magazine about their own experiences with racism: "I tell this story—I mean, even as the first lady—during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn't anything new."

[CN: Torture; police brutality] Hillary Clinton is not great when it comes to talking about issues of race. She always sounds awkward and unnatural, like she's really trying hard to avoid saying the wrong thing. So, I don't know how she sounded when she said it, but I like that she tied police brutality against black communities to torture policies abroad, as part of a culture of abuses and exploitation that needs to change: "What would [Robert F. Kennedy] say to all those who have lost trust in our government and our other institutions, who shudder at images of excessive force, who read reports about torture done in the name of our country, who see too many representatives in Washington quick to protect a big bank from regulation but slow to take action to help working families facing ever greater pressure."

[CN: Homophobia; violence] "The three suspects accused in a heinous attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia on September 11 will stand trial on charges of felony assault and conspiracy, among other charges... Today's preliminary hearing was to determine whether the prosecution had met the burden of proof required to charge and try the defendants. Judge Charles Hayden Found they had." Good.

[CN: Sexual violence; rape culture] Roman Polanski is mounting a legal bid to overturn his 1978 charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. Because of course he is.

In good news: The Church of England has named the Rev. Libby Lane its first female bishop. Congrats, Rev. Lane!

And finally! Eddie the Terrible Chihuahua has found a home, thanks to a creative video that detailed all his good qualities and all of his terrible ones. ♥

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"Breathe Easy." F@#k You.

[Content Note: Police brutality; racism.]

Eric Garner's last words were "I can't breathe." He said it over and over as police put him in the choke hold that would kill him. It has become a protest refrain, chanted by demonstrators in streets and emblazoned on signs and t-shirts, the literal words of a dying man and a figurative description of the feeling of communities oppressed by state-sanctioned violence, for which there is no accountability.

In South Bend, Indiana, a store owned by Mishawaka Police Corporal Jason Barthel has begun selling t-shirts featuring a police badge and text reading: "Breathe Easy: Don't Break the Law."

Not only does this insensitive and contemptible shirt appropriate the rallying cry of people protesting police violence, but it does so to make a mockery of their pain, and to implicitly victim-blame anyone who is subjected to police brutality. The clear message is: If you break the law, you won't be able to breathe easy. Or at all.

It's a justification for murderous police brutality against the black community, while simultaneously eliding that many of the black people recently killed by police haven't actually broken any laws, and implicitly asserting that being killed in the street is a legitimate consequence of lawbreaking.

Naturally, however, that wasn't the police officer's intent. Of course it wasn't.

The controversial twist on the "I can't Breathe" campaign — one intended to protest Eric Garner's death by a police officer — is meant to spread a message that "police are there for you," according to the South Bend store owned by Mishawaka Police Corporal Jason Barthel.

..."For those upset, please understand when we use the slogan 'Breathe Easy' we are referring to knowing the police are there for you!" South Bend Uniform posted on their Facebook page in response to angry comments, some calling the design "insensitive" and "disrespectful."

"The police are here to protect and serve. 99.9% of us have the greater good in our hearts each time we strap on our uniforms and duty belts. We are all one people and this is by no means is a slam on Eric Garner or his family, God rest his soul," the company's post continues. "Let's all band together as AMERICANS regardless of our feelings and know we can and will be better! Thank you for your support."
I don't buy for a moment that this shirt wasn't explicitly designed to justify police brutality, but, even indulging Barthel's ludicrous assertion that it was merely intended to remind people that police are on their side, that means he had no expectation of how the shirt would be "misread," which itself highlights how disconnected he is from the lived experiences of victims of police violence.

In other words: Even in his best case garbage fantasy scenario, it's still fucking terrible.

Again, I don't believe that Barthel did not understand how this "controversial twist" would be received, and I don't believe that he intended it to communicate merely a helpful reminder that "the police are here to protect and serve" and that "99.9% of us [citation needed] have the greater good in our hearts." But even if he did, and he's not the giant fucking liar he appears to be, this is still a colossal failure.

The shirt is harmful, even if one accepts his pathetic explanation. Because, as we discuss regarding various social justice issues all the time, when any portion of a group of which you're a member, either by identity or chosen affiliation, fucks up, the right response is not to insist, "Most of us aren't like that!" The right response is to acknowledge why those failures have led to mistrust, and endeavoring to make yourself trustworthy. A huge part of which is condemning the fuck-ups, not trying to mask them behind, "Most of us have goodness in our hearts."

#NotAllCops. Just a small but vocal minority. Sure.

If you want us to believe that, then the large majority of police needs to get vocal. Needs to publicly and unilaterally condemn police killing. Needs to stop indulging this pretense that every black person who is being killed was committing a crime at the time. Needs to stop suggesting that committing any crime is justification for being shot by police. Needs to advocate accountability for cops who act as judge, jury, and executioner. Needs to meaningfully address issues of privilege and racism that means black people are disproportionately victimized by police violence. Needs to speak the fuck up in support of victims of police violence, and shut down clowns like Police Corporal Jason Barthel.

I don't care if your hearts are filled with good intentions. I want your heads to be filled with justice.

[H/T to Aphra_Behn.]

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Scientists Find Possible Evidence of Life on Mars


A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday.

Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months.

For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.

"It is one of the few hypotheses that we can propose that we must consider as we go forward," said John P. Grotzinger, the mission's project scientist.

The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them.

"This is really a great moment for the mission," Dr. Grotzinger told a news conference here at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The presence of methane is significant because the gas cannot exist for long. Calculations indicate that sunlight and chemical reactions in the Martian atmosphere would break up the molecules within a few hundred years, so any methane there now must have been created recently.

It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.

Even if the explanation for the methane turns out to be geological, the hydrothermal systems would still be prime locations to search for signs of life.
I think now would be an excellent time to listen to David Bowie's "Life on Mars." Because everything is better with a Bowie song, no less such a perfectly appropriate one.


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District Court Judge Declares President Obama's Immigration Action Unconstitutional

This is incredibly strange: Yesterday, a Republican-appointed judge in a federal court in Pennsylvania, Judge Arthur Schwab, "declared aspects of President Obama's executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional." What's strange about this ruling is that the constitutionality of Obama's executive action was not under scrutiny; it was a pretty typical immigration case in which the defendant had been deported and then reentered the country illegally, and the defense team did not raise the issue of the new immigration action. The judge instigated it.

In considering how to sentence the defendant, the court sought supplemental briefing on the applicability of the new policies to the defendant, and whether these policies would provide the defendant with additional avenues for seeking the deferral of his deportation. In this case, however, it's not entirely clear it was necessary to reach the constitutional question to resolve the issues before the court with regard to the defendant's sentence.

...It is quite unusual for a district court to reach this sort of constitutional issue in this sort of case. Indeed, Judge Schwab appears to have reached out quite aggressively to engage the lawfulness of the President's actions. Based upon the procedural history recounted in the opinion, it appears the court requested briefing on the applicability of the new immigration policies on its own order. That is, the issue was not initially raised by the defendant in his own defense. As a result of the court's decision, however, the defendant now has the option of withdrawing his guilty plea and potentially seeking deferral of his deportation under the new policy.
At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser calls this "an extraordinary opinion that transforms a routine sentencing matter into a vehicle to strike down a politically controversial policy."
Schwab spends just five pages discussing his rationale for this conclusion, an unusually short amount of legal analysis for a complex question regarding the scope of the executive branch's power to set enforcement priorities. Notably, Schwab also spends nearly three pages discussing quotes from President Obama which, the judge claims, indicate that Obama once thought his present actions are illegal — even though Schwab eventually admits that these quotes are "not dispositive of the constitutionality of his Executive Action on immigration."

Half of Schwab's analysis of the Executive Action's constitutionality is devoted to a strawman. Noting that Obama cited Congress's failure to act on immigration in his speech announcing the new policy, Schwab devotes half of his analysis of the policy's constitutionality to explaining that "Inaction by Congress Does Not Make Unconstitutional Executive Action Constitutional." He's right on this point, just as Schwab would be correct if he argued that President Obama's authority to create this new policy does not come from a magic hat that Obama keeps in the Oval Office. But it's somewhat curious that the judge feels the need to present Obama's political rhetoric as if it were a constitutional argument and then tear that non-argument down.

The remainder of Schwab's brief constitutional analysis concludes that the new policy "Goes Beyond Prosecutorial Discretion — It is Legislation." Notably, however, Schwab cites no judicial precedents of any kind to support this conclusion.

...So Schwab's legal analysis is thin. He spends nearly as much time making what appear to be political attacks on the president as he does evaluating actual legal matters. And what little legal analysis he does provide fails to cite key Supreme Court decisions that seem to contradict his conclusion. Judge Schwab traveled far along a very thin branch to reach this decision, and he anchored his decision with little grounding in legal authorities.
I eagerly await conservatives' complaints about activist judges. Nope? Not on this one? Huh.

I understand why there are people who don't like that President Obama enacted immigration reform via executive action. Frankly, I'm not thrilled about it myself—but the ire about that is best directed at Congress, who failed utterly to even seriously consider no less pass meaningful immigration reform when it was desperately needed. President Obama didn't circumvent a legislative route; he did what the legislature refused to do.

And he did it in an entirely legal way. Not for nothing, but it ain't liberals who have traditionally argued for a strong unitary executive. Careful what you wish for, friends.

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Open Thread

screen shot of Wednesday Addams from the old television show, holding up a doll which is missing its head

Hosted by Wednesday Addams.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Quinalla: "What's your favorite teaspoon success story? When you spoke up or pushed back on something and got a positive result."

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Good Grief

[Content Note: Antifeminism; misogyny.]

Hey, remember when David Finch, the husband in the husband and wife team to whom DC handed over the Wonder Woman franchise, said some incredibly stupid shit about Wonder Woman and feminism? And we were all OH NO, and people were like BUT GIVE THEM A CHANCE YOU FIENDISH FEMINIST CYNICS?


When the Finches' first issue was released last week, I bought it immediately—and nearly threw it out just as fast.


On the cover, Wonder Woman resembles a 16-year-old model doing a pee-pee dance. Her first full scene is a shower sequence where she's in a towel. She has ridiculous mood swings. Without any evidence or provocation, she attacks Swamp Thing—and then gets beaten in the only fight she has in the issue. Thankfully, Aquaman is there to save the situation and give her a pep talk, while she clutches a teddy bear. Her biggest worry isn't Cheetah or the Silver Swan, but how to achieve the proper work-life balance. There are actually two characters that talk about misogyny and the subjugation of women, but they're both evil amazons we're meant to hate.

That comics are a bastion of sexism is a truism so banal it almost goes without saying. But it is particularly galling to watch the feminist superhero be treated in such a way. The Finches have made no small point of the fact that Meredith is one of only a handful of women to ever write Wonder Woman. "I love the idea that it's a woman writing a woman," David said in an interview with USA Today, "because we're trying to appeal to more female readers now."

What are you even doing, DC? What. Are you even. Doing.

[H/T to Aphra_Behn.]

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting in a metal container on my desk
Sophie sits in my in-box. Special delivery! First-class adorbz!

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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