Open Thread

A b&w photo of a woman using an ear trumpet with a man speaking into it.

Hosted by an ear trumpet.

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The Virtual Pub Is Open

image of a pub photoshopped to be named 'The Sans La Dinde Saloon'
[Explanations: lol your fat. pathetic anger bread. hey your gay.]

TFIF, Shakers!

Belly up to the bar,
and name your poison!

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Daily Dose of Cute

Coming this fall to a theater near you: The Turkey Slice Heist. This caper is as cute as it is delicious, but your turkey is long gone, fool. Starring:

image of Matilda the Cat lying on the chaise, meowing
Matilda as The Brains

close-up image of Olivia the Cat licking her paw
Olivia as The Brawn

image of Sophie the Cat looking mysterious
Sophie as The Feint

image of Zelda the Mutt looking out the window
Zelda as The Lookout

image of Dudley the Greyhound sitting on the couch with goofy ears, grinning
And Dudley!

Shakes Manor's A-list stars come together to pull off the most daring heist the kitchen has ever known... Five animals, twenty legs, ten slices of turkey, one chance to pull it off!

Rated R for Ridiculously Adorbz.

[Thanks to Shaker friday_freakin_jones for the suggestion.]

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Today in Mitt Romney Gets a Great Reception from Passers-By in London: "Scowl." "LULZ."

image of Mitt Romney on a street corner in London, with one older male pedestrian who appears to be white scowling mightily at him and another younger male pedestrian who appears to be white laughing at him
U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is recognized by pedestrians at Grosvenor Place in London, July 27, 2012, as he was forced by gridlock traffic to walk from his hotel to the Irish Embassy to meet with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny. [Reuters Pictures]
Aww, lol. No wonder he doesn't like mingling with the hoi polloi!

In other great news for Mitt Romney:
Former American sprinter and gold medal winner Carl Lewis today waded into the row over Mitt Romney's comments about London's preparedness for the Olympics.

...Carl Lewis, who spoke to The Independent as the First Lady, Michelle Obama, arrived in London to lead the US delegation, said: "Every Olympics is ready, I don't care whatever he said. I swear, sometimes I think some Americans shouldn't leave the country. Are you kidding me, stay home if you don't know what to say."

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Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by clocks.

Recommended Reading:

Laura: Planned Parenthoods Rescued by Obama Administration with Large Title X Grants

Indian Homemaker: Do You See a Connection? [Content Note: The post at this link includes discussion of violent misogyny.]

Pam: Around the Country, Students Demand Removal of Chick-Fil-A from Campuses [Content Note: The post at this link includes discussion of homophobia.]

Ana: This Is a Real Thing in the Real World [Content Note: The post at this link includes discussion of racism; clicking through to the "Save the Pearls" site will also launch a video with blackface, and that site contains racism, heterocentrism, and misogynist eliminationism.]

Jessica: Equality on the Pitch: Major League Soccer's Support of the LGBT Community [Content Note: The post at this link includes discussion of homophobia; please also note that a video begins to play automatically on click-through.]

Philippa: Policing Blame: A Failful Anti-Rape Campaign [Content Note: The post at this link contains discussion and imagery of victim-blaming and rape culture.]

Chloe: Faster, Higher, and Stronger—But No Less Sexist [Content Note: The post at this link contains discussion of body policing, fat bias, and misogyny.]

Angus: Andrew Sullivan, Sally Ride, and Bayard Rustin

Andy: Kirk Cameron Rejects Request to Meet with Bullied LGBT Teens

Leave your links and recommendations in comments...

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What Does a Serial Rapist Sound Like?

[Content Note: Sexual violence; rape culture.]

Pretty much exactly what you'd expect.

That link leads to a Reddit thread in which a man admits to being a serial rapist, talks about why and how he raped women and got away with it, and answers questions about his history. He claims on one hand to be remorseful, but, on the other, still says a lot of stuff that suggests otherwise, including his rather chilling enjoyment of the fact that his anonymity will allow him to engage with other Redditors without their knowing who he really is: "I'm going back to my main account to do normal reddit looking at cats and posting pictures of bacon, and I think it's kind of funny that no one will ever know if the person they're talking to on reddit, or someone who moderates their subreddit, is me on my main account... just food for thought."

I just wanted to provide a space in which to discuss this thread, without worry of encountering an abundance of rape apologia, so I'm not going to say a whole lot about it. Only this:

There are a lot of disturbingly familiar details about his story. I'm not suggesting, at all, that this guy was the person who raped me. It's just remarkable to see the similarities in their approaches, down to the use of a blanket, and, later, in comments, the way in which he convinced his wife that a friend's warnings about him were the invented fantasies of a jilted crush—precisely the way the person who raped me convinced the girl he dated (groomed) after me that she should ignore me. (Unfortunately, she later told me he raped her, too.)

It's not coincidental that the details are similar.

If there is one thing that the Reddit thread makes clear, it's that no one is more intimately familiar with the rape culture, and how to exploit it to his advantage, than a rapist.

[H/T to everyone in the multiverse, and thanks to each and every one of you.]

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Reproductive Rights Updates: South Dakota & Michigan

South Dakota has long waged a war to be the state most hostile to autonomy (for those keeping track Mississippi is hoping to surpass them soon, with Kansas being heavy competition) and, as such, has spent some time in court defending its various legislation designed to interfere with access and autonomy in health care.

Last December I posted that a federal appeals court had agreed to re-hear arguments regarding one particular aspect of then-recently passed legislation that would require doctors to lie to people seeking abortions by informing them that abortion may lead to wanting to commit suicide. Lie. It's a well-documented outright lie (.pdf).

On Tuesday of this week, the court upheld the legislation requiring doctors to lie to people--and the state of South Dakota has apparently spent $377,335 dollars to defend this specious, unethical legislation.

The defense of a 2005 abortion law has cost the taxpayers of South Dakota $377,735, according to the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office.

On Tuesday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a provision in the informed consent law that requires doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that the procedure could lead to an increased risk of suicide.
From the 2008 American Psychological Association Mental Health and Abortion report (.pdf):
The most methodologically strong studies in this group showed that interpersonal concerns, including feelings of stigma, perceived need for secrecy, exposure to antiabortion picketing, and low perceived or anticipated social support for the abortion decision, negatively affected women’s postabortion psychological experiences.


[T]his Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion concludes that the most methodologi- cally sound research indicates that among women who have a legal, first-trimester abortion of an un-planned pregnancy for nontherapeutic reasons, the relative risks of mental health problems are no greater than the risks among women who deliver an un- planned pregnancy.
Which backed up a 1990 report that came to the same conclusions. So, South Dakota, since you are all about "informed consent", I can't wait to see the legislation requiring doctors to inform people who want to continue a pregnancy about how doing so may lead to wanting to commit suicide. It's all about "protecting women", right?


I'm sure you recall the recent events in Michigan where a House legislator was sanctioned and silenced by the Republican leadership, not for saying "vagina" (though that did get a reaction from her colleagues), but for saying "no means no" in response to more anti-autonomy legislation (which ultimately passed the House). Well:
With only 19 hours public notice, the Senate Judiciary Committee met Thursday morning and pushed through a controversial anti-abortion bill that sparked controversy in the House of Representatives last month.

At the end of a two-hour session almost solely devoted to the abortion bill, the committee recommended the bill to the full Senate with a vote of 3-1.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, would add regulations to clinics that perform abortions and requires fetal remains past 10 weeks to be treated as a deceased infant.
I have discussed my miscarriage (note: emotionally graphic) here before, in where I miscarried at home. I passed everything into the toilet. This is not uncommon. I was in my 10th week of gestation. But, you see, I miscarried at home. So, under this legislation, it wouldn't necessarily matter. Its aim is for people who have abortions.
"Miscarriage" means the spontaneous expulsion of a nonviable fetus that has completed less than 20 weeks of gestation.


(5) If a fetal death occurs without medical attendance at or after the delivery or if inquiry is required by the medical examiner, the attendant, mother, or other person having knowledge of the fetal death shall notify the medical examiner who shall investigate the cause and prepare and file the fetal death report. Except as otherwise specifically provided, this section and section 2848 do not apply to a miscarriage that occurs outside an institution.


Sec. 2836. (1) ALL fetal remains resulting from abortions shall be disposed of by means lawful for other dead bodies, including burial, cremation, or interment. Unless the mother has provided written consent for research on the fetal remains under section 2688, a physician who performs an abortion shall arrange for the final disposition of the fetal remains resulting from the abortion. If the fetal remains resulting from an abortion are disposed of by cremation, the fetal remains shall be incinerated separately from any other medical waste. However, this subsection does not prohibit the simultaneous cremation of fetal remains with products of conception or other fetal remains resulting from abortions.

(2) This section does not require a physician to discuss the final disposition of the fetal remains with the mother before performing the abortion, nor does it require a physician to obtain authorization from the mother for the final disposition of the fetal remains upon completion of the abortion.
All "fetal remains" are equal but some are more equal than others.

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

The Finn Brothers: "Only Talking Sense"

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Meet an Olympian: Marlen Esparza

Via Women You Should Know: "Twenty-two year old, 5'3" boxer Marlen Esparza will be making history competing in women's boxing for the first time as an Olympic event. Boxing since the age of 11, Marlen is already a winner. She holds the bronze medal from the 2006 Women's World Boxing Championships, and is a six-time consecutive National flyweight champion. Ranked sixth in the world, Marlen is a serious medal contender in London and will be fighting her way to gold, turning her dreams into reality along the way."

Recently, Soledad O'Brien profiled Esparza for CNN's Latino in America series:

Marlen Esparza, a young Latina woman, stretches next to her car at sunrise, then begins to jog down a quiet suburban street. Cut to video of her in a boxing ring, punching another female boxer. Montage of her training, fighting, winning. In voiceover, she says, "When you beat somebody in the ring, you're not just beating them up or something. You're, like, beating the entire symbolism of them. You're beating who they are."

Montage of Esparza doing push-ups, fixing herself a shake at home, more training and sparring. In voiceover, CNN's Soledad O'Brien says, "Marlen Esparza's early mornings always start with math—how much to eat, how far to run, how many pounds, sprints, crunches, how many endless hours of training will it take to win?"

Video of O'Brien sitting down with Esparza in the gym. O'Brien asks, "Why are you here every day?"

Esparza, smiling: "Because I want to win. This is my life, and this is what I do, like, and I can honestly say, like, this is who I am, like, right here, you're with it, you see it, this is what I do."

More montagery of Esparza training at the gym. In voiceover, O'Brien says, "Esparza trains in a gym along a lonely stretch of Houston's I-10. Coach Rudy Silva took charge of her life when she was just 12. She's now 22."

Video of O'Brien sitting with Silva. "Is she allowed to have a boyfriend," O'Brien asks. "No." "Is she allowed to party on the weekends?" "No." "Is she allowed to just take a few days off and not train when she's worn out?" "No." "That's a lotta nos." "Yes." He smiles.

More montagery of Esparza winning bouts and showing off her medals/belts and grinning. In voiceover, O'Brien says, "Esparza won the first of seven national championships by age 16. She dreamed of fighting at the Olympics, even though boxing was the only sport that didn't allow woman."

Video of O'Brien standing with Esparza in the ring at the gym. "The Olympics is a goal—a big goal," says O'Brien. Esparza replies, "Yeah, it's huge. It's probably—I honestly, truly feel like if I go to the Olympics and medal, that, uh, I could probably be totally happy for the rest of my life." O'Brien chuckles. "Yeah," adds Esparza, "like completely happy."

More montagery of Esparza training, shooting a Coke advert, meeting fans, and signing autographs. In voiceover, O'Brien says, "Now the Olympic glass ceiling has been shattered, women will be boxing at the London Games for the first time in history. Sponsors have lined up behind Marlen—Nike, Covergirl, Coca-Cola. And her community is excited to have a Latina star." In voiceover, Esparza says, "The Mexicans are tooootally gonna love it—they're gonna freak when it happens!"

Video of Esparza boxing. In voiceover, O'Brien says, "Esparza was the first American female boxer to qualify for the Games. Her dream of going to the Olympics is now just around the corner."

Onscreen, Esparza says, "I think like the atmosphere and the energy is just gonna be like something I've never felt, and I think that's one of the main things that I'm kind of looking forward to. I think that's really gonna put me over the top and ready to compete." Video of Esparza being given a USA boxing medal after winning a fight.

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I'm a Fat Fascist Communist, No Doy

[Content Note: Homophobia; fat bias.]

I've spent part of the morning on Twitter expressing my regret that Chick-Fil-A's right to use its corporate profits to advocate against marriage equality is protected free speech, because corporations are people and money is speech, but Chicago (or anyplace) has no legal right to protect its citizenry against corporate-funded advocacy against their basic rights.

(Please note I'm not arguing that the private citizens who own Chick-Fil-A should not be allowed to do whatever they want with their private money; I'm just grousing about corporate donations being used in pursuit of legislating discrimination. Also: Slippery slope arguments blah blah, I believe it's eminently possible to draw clear distinctions between corporate agendas that seek to limit rights, which hurts populations, verses those that seek to expand rights, which benefits populations.)

I feel like it's super fucked-up that, in a democracy, we prioritize protecting the right of for-profit enterprise to operate anywhere with any political intent, over empowering states to expand and protect the rights of their citizenry.

I know that's the way it is; I don't think that's the way it should be.

Anyway. Whatever. There are some other progressive writers who disagree with me, and that's fine.

But of course I couldn't get through the discussion without tweets calling me a communist (sure), and then this brilliant observation:

LOL! It always comes back to the fat. Always.

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Top Five

Here is your topic: Top Five Favorite Poets. Go!

Please feel welcome to share stories about why your Top Five picks are what they are, though a straight-up list is fine, too. Please refrain from negatively auditing other people's lists, because judgment discourages participation.

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Number of the Day

$2.5 million: The amount of money pledged by founder and president Jeff Bezos and his wife, author MacKenzie Bezos, "to help pass a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington State, instantly becoming among the largest financial backers of gay marriage rights in the country."

With the gift, the couple have doubled the money available to the proponents of Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state by affirming a law that passed the Legislature this year.

...Mr. Bezos was approached via e-mail on Sunday by Jennifer Cast, one of Amazon's earliest employees and a lesbian mother of four children who is now a fund-raising chairwoman of the pro-referendum effort.

In her e-mail, sent Sunday evening, Ms. Cast, 50, implored Mr. Bezos to understand the importance of the issue to her and her longtime partner.

"I want to have the right to marry the love of my life and to let my children and grandchildren know their family is honored like a 'real' family," Ms. Cast wrote. "We need help from straight people. To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win."

In an interview on Thursday night, Ms. Cast said she had no idea how Mr. Bezos would respond. Though she had worked closely with him when Amazon had only a few dozen employees, she left the company in 2001 and said she had never talked about same-sex marriage with him.

"We were chatting about the biz. We weren't chatting about our lives," she said, recalling her time at the company. "I never, ever in my life talked to him about gay marriage."

In the e-mail, Ms. Cast described in detail the pain she endured as a young adult and the difficulties she faced publicly acknowledging her sexuality. At the end, she pointedly asked him to donate between $100,000 and $200,000 to the referendum cause.

"Jeff, I suspect you support marriage equality," she wrote. "I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so."

She hit "send" and waited.

Two days later, on Tuesday, she received a reply while in a car with her family. Recalling that moment, she said she had to read it out loud twice to make sure she had read it right.

"Jen," the e-mail said, "this is right for so many reasons. We're in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie."
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos will quite rightly get a lot of credit for donating such a substantial sum to marriage equality. Without taking anything away from them, I want to congratulate Jennifer Cast for being so brave and making herself vulnerable, on behalf of her community. It's not easy to put yourself out there in the way she did, and we all get a lot of cultural discouragements against the simple and intimidating act of asking.

Asking can be a radical act. And so can answering. What a great story.

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Open Thread

A great horned owl, wings spread.

Hosted by a great horned owl.

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Question of the Day

What is your least favorite show currently airing on television? And by currently airing, I don't mean it has to be in-season now, since most US networks are on summer hiatus; I mean only that it has to be airing new episodes when it is on, rather than a show available exclusively in re-run.

I have only seen a few minutes of one episode, but that was enough for me to nominate without hesitation Two and a Half Men.

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Quote of the Day

"In keeping with our special relationship, the president also made it clear that he has the utmost confidence in our close friend and ally, the United Kingdom, as they finalize preparations to host the London Olympics."White House Spokesman Jay Carney.

Ouch. LOL.

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Headline of the Day

Bloomberg Businessweek: Karl Rove: He's Back, Big Time.


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Garbage Treasures: Now with extra Chuck Norris!

As you may recall, Deeky collects and saves useless garbage like we're beyond Thunderdome and useless garbage is now a form of currency and he's a garbageaire. Then, instead of throwing it away, he throws pieces of his fancy detritus collection into an envelope and pays money to ship it to me, at which point I put them in plastic treasure chests and put them out by the curb every week to be collected by the "treasure man," who buries them at the "treasure dump" for me for safe keeping.

But not before taking a picture of the bounty so that I can post it, natch.

image of the collection of garbage treasures described below
[Click to embiggen.

Clockwise from bottom left: A schedule effective January 9,2012 for the Metrolink; a promotional sticker for Allagash Brewing Company of Portland, Maine; a Trojan-Enz lubricated condom (my preferred brand!) that looks to be about a decade old; a pamphlet on STD Facts; a stack of glossy "Get Out of Jail Free" business cards; a stack of glossy "Over the Top" business cards; a flyer for Maryland Deathfest ("America's biggest metal party of the year!") which took place two months ago; a post-it stack featuring an army of Bossk the Bounty Hunter action figures; a burned DVD labeled "Cowboy George"; and, the pièce de résistance, a hardcover copy of Chuck Norris with Ken Abraham's Against All Odds: My Story, which came with a note attached on post-it stationery from the desk of Jim Devlin, Vice President of Finance for GM, that read: "I thought this might make a good replacement for your Bush book! Love, Deeks."

image of handwritten note stuck to book cover
In case you hadn't guessed, Deeky's real identity is not Jim Devlin, Vice President of Finance for GM.

All of which came in a package for which the return address was simply: "DEEKY."

image of envelope


1. I will definitely do something with the Chuck Norris with Ken Abraham book. I don't know what yet. Watch this space.

2. I will carry around some of the Chance cards with me wherever I go, and the next time someone around me says something ignorant about fatties (FOR EXAMPLE) or immigrants (FOR EXAMPLE), and then realizes I am fat or married to an immigrant, I will hand them one of those cards.

3. The Bossk post-its, which Deeky created for his desk "but didn't realize til they got here that there is NO PLACE TO WRITE ON THEM," which is WHY I LOVE THEM MOST OF ALL, are going with me every time I travel. And I will leave one, mysteriously, wherever I go.

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Generally Speaking

There is A LOT of presidential election-related news today! Most of it is about how Mitt Romney is terrible! In ways we hadn't even yet begun to imagine! So here is a Generally Speaking post, which still won't be daily again for awhile, to collate a bunch of those election-related items, plus a picture of President Barack Obama campaigning that I really like. Hooray for us all!

image of President Barack Obama in a crowd, visible between the raised arms of someone taking a picture of him on a mobile phone
Portland, Oregon: July 24.

Steve Holland for Reuters—"Anglo-Saxon" quote overshadows start of Romney tour: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney began a foreign tour on Wednesday forced to disavow a report that an adviser had accused President Barack Obama of not understanding the shared 'Anglo-Saxon heritage' of Britain and the United States. ... Romney, in an NBC News interview, dismissed the comment but said the United States and Britain do enjoy specialties and that he believes Obama recognizes this as well." How magnanimous, etc.

Pema Levy at TPM—Anger Games: Cameron, British Press pounce on Romney's Olympics critiques: "Mitt Romney's big international tour got off to a rocky start Thursday morning, as British officials including Prime Minister David Cameron took offense at the Republican candidate's criticisms over London's preparedness for the Olympics. Romney expressed wariness over England's ability to pull off the Olympics without a hitch, as well as reservations over security [and wondered if Britons would unite to make the Olympic Games successful]. ... The comments did not go over well in Britain."

Owen Gibson in the GuardianDavid Cameron hits back at Mitt Romney over London 2012 doubts: "Cameron, who was due to meet Romney later on Thursday, said: 'In terms of people coming together, the torch relay demonstrated that this is not a London Games, this is not an England Games but this is a United Kingdom Games. We'll show the world we've not only come together as a United Kingdom but are extremely good at welcoming people from across the world.' Cameron said he was going to make this point to Romney when he met him later on Thursday."

Greg Sargent in the Washington PostRomney: Foreign trip not the time to detail foreign policy: "If a foreign trip is not a good time to discuss foreign policy, why take the trip at all? This raises questions as to whether the trip is only about staging political theatrics for a domestic audience."

Aviva Shen at Think Progress—Heavily edited Romney video targets black voters, shows NAACP audience applauding: "Mitt Romney's speech at the NAACP was defined in the media by the resounding chorus of boos he elicited from the crowd. Campaign staffers had a different interpretation, insisting that he received 'thunderous applause over and over again.' Reflecting this idea, the campaign's new video targeting African American voters, 'We Need Mitt Romney,' rewrites history by splicing together Romney's speech with shots of a couple audience members nodding as if in agreement. While Romney received a polite standing ovation when he was done speaking, the video has been edited to make it seem like the audience rose to their feet to applaud him mid-speech."

Michael D. Shear for the New York TimesConservative paper faults Romney on tax disclosure: "The Union Leader newspaper in Manchester, N.H., known for its conservative editorial stances, slammed Mitt Romney on Thursday for not releasing multiple years of his tax returns. 'Maintaining the secrecy creates the impression, justly or not, that there is something there to hide. No escaping that reality. The impression is there,' the paper wrote in an editorial posted online early Thursday. The newspaper expressed surprise that Mr. Romney had not ensured that his tax returns were 'above reproach' in the many years he was pursuing a national political career."

Daniel J. Weiss and Seth Hanlon at the Center for American Progress—Romney tax plan: Many happy returns for Big Oil: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's economic plan slashes corporate tax rates while failing to identify a single corporate tax loophole to eliminate. Highly profitable large oil companies that already enjoy lucrative tax breaks stand to receive some of the biggest benefits from Gov. Romney's plan. The world's five biggest public oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—would keep special tax breaks worth $2.4 billion each year. And by cutting corporate tax rates, the Romney plan could lower the companies' annual tax bill by another $2.3 billion, based on an analysis of the companies' tax expense for 2011. The special tax breaks, supplemented by Gov. Romney's lower corporate rates, could benefit the oil companies by more than $4 billion annually."

And in Obama news...

Gallup—U.S. Business Owners Now Among Least Approving of Obama: "U.S. business owners' approval of President Barack Obama fell in the second quarter of 2012 to 35%, essentially tying farmers and fishers for the lowest approval among major occupational groups. Overall, professional workers remain the most approving, at 52%."

Darren Samuelsohn for the PoliticoObama: AK-47s belong on battlefield, not streets: At the National Urban League conference in New Orleans, President Obama said, "I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. I think we recognize the traditions of gun ownership passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage. But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers and not in the hands of crooks. They belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

In related news: Colorado gun sales up after cinema killings.

Talk about these things! Or don't. Whatever makes you happy. Life is short.

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Photo of the Day

image of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sitting next to President Barack Obama during a cabinet meeting
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens at left as President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July, 26, 2012. [Getty Images]
Look at her. No doubt still plotting to ruin his electoral chances and personally destroy him the way all those highly-paid and very smart pundits predicted she would after losing the 2008 primary! It would be just like Hillary Clinton to insinuate herself into his cabinet, do an awesome job for four years, get absurdly high approval ratings, reflect well on his presidency, and then, when we're all LEAST EXPECTING IT, do something conniving like campaign for his reelection. She's dastardly, that one. She'll stop at NOTHING to fulfill her ambitions!

Insert ALL the derisive snorts here. And all the hearts for Hilz.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound lounging on the couch with his ears perked up
This is Dudley.

image of Dudley sitting politely
This is Dudley sitting politely like a Good Boy, begging for a treat.

image of Dudley yawning with part of a purple flower on his head
This is Dudley yawning with a bit of violet on his head.

image of Dudley looking at me from the corner of his eye while he hangs his head over the edge of the chaise
This is Dudley giving me the stink-eye.

image of Dudley sprawled out asleep on the chaise
This is Dudley taking a nap because he is worn out from being cute.

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An Observation

I'm in the middle of moving. And I don't want to have to stop and cook.

So I bought some really cheapo frozen pizzas and entrees to eat while I'm packing the apartment, but I might have gone TOO cheap. This pizza is listed as having a "pepperoni FLAVORED" topping.

I don't even want to know what's in it, or where you get "pepperoni flavor."

ETA: Maybe a vestment?

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I Write Letters

[Content Note: Violence; misogyny.]

To Whom It May Concern:

What the fuck? CNN, we really don't need Bill Bennett exploiting the Aurora Shooting to promote more of his misogynistic garbage. I'm not just saying that as a feminist, and a woman, but as a human being with a modicum of fucking decency. Jesus Jones.

Also: What the fuck? Wall Street Journal, exactly how fucking gross does James Taranto have to be before you sever your relationship with him? I'm not just asking that as a feminist, and a woman, but as a human being with a modicum of fucking decency. Jesus Jones.

I love, ahem, how even the Denver Shooting has to become a referendum on the value of women.

Get it together, planet.


cc. Aphra-Behn, who gave me the head-ups on the Taranto tweet, care of Digby.

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Do You Need a Nice Story?

Here is a very nice story about a retired racing greyhound named Audi who became a therapy dog and a reading companion to children (and adults) at his local library.

"I want them to learn about being gentle, about being kind," [said Audi's guardian Cheryl Woolnough]. "But I also want them to love coming to the library. I want them to love reading and stories."
I don't guess I need to tell you that the fact Audi resembles a certain other greyhound I know who's hung out the library made me blub with above-average blubbiness.

[Via @GreyhoundSafe.]

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Today in Mitt Romney Is Confused

image of Mitt Romney visiting the UK, standing in the middle of a display with giant text reading 'GREAT BRITAIN' on the ground, to which I have added a dialogue bubble reading: 'What country are we in again?'
US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (2nd R) tours the Great Pavilion exhibit with British Secretary William Hague (2nd L), alongside other government officials, at the Foreign Ministry in London, July 26, 2012. [Reuters Pictures]
[Content Note: Guns; discussion of shooting in Colorado.]

I'm sure Mitt Romney is aware he is in Great Britain. He is not, however, aware of anything resembling facts about gun access and the shooting outside Denver:
Well, this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And so we can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people.
As Annie-Rose points out at Think Progress: "In fact, 24-year-old Holmes legally purchased every firearm, bullet, and piece of tactical gear that he used for the attack, according to local law enforcement. He bought most of it over the Internet."

Romney's spokesperson is now trying to spin this bullshit with: "Romney was referring to the bombs the shooter set in his apartment, which police found and disarmed after the shooting occurred." Except that all of the bombs found in James Holmes' apartment were fashioned from totally legal materials.

The fact is, Mitt Romney either has no idea what he's talking about, or is deliberately lying in order to justify his bullshit argument that tighter gun controls wouldn't have saved lives lost in Holmes' massacre. Possibly both. Either way, he's a jackass who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the US presidency.

In other news: Water wet.

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Random Nerd Nostalgia: The Exciting Ant Farm

[Image Description: Headline: "Now! Your Very Own! EXITING ANT FARM! As Seen On TV! AN ANT'S ENTIRE WORLD! COMPLETE WITH LIVE ANTS!" There is a picture of a white boy and girl, starting in apparent rapt appreciation at their EXCITING ANT FARM, where ants the size of the kids' EYES burrow into the ground and also hang around the ant farmhouse, windmill, and ant-barn. There is also a lot of super-tuny text exhorting you to apprecate the wonders of the ant farm. Headlines include:"WHAT IS AN 'ANT FARM'?" "FASCINATING!....EDUCATIONAL!....WORLD'S TINIEST ENGINEERS! SEE YOUR TINY PETS! ONLY $2.98!" (but whooops the DELUXE version will run you $6.98. "Discover how ants now!"

I love the urgency of these ads. It's as if the entire future of the Cold War depends on your immediate consumerism. "ORDER THE ANT FARM OR THE COMMIES WIN!"

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Neil Finn: "Sinner"

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Anaheim Protests/Police Violence: Two Americas

[Content Note: Police brutality; shooting; violence.]

There have been protests in Anaheim, California, all week, following two separate police shootings over the weekend that left two Latino men dead. The FBI has agreed to review the shootings. As the rioting has continued, tensions with police have escalated, and there has been some property damage and lots of arrests. More protests are scheduled.

I've been following this story, although I've not written about it because, for one, I'm on a serious shortage of spoons at the moment, but mostly because I was sort of waiting to see what the national coverage would be like, not figuring it would be essentially nonexistent.

But it is.

Part of that is because the media is still very focused on the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and Maude forbid we focus on two whole stories at once. And part of it is the usual racism: We routinely fail in the US to give attention to the ongoing problem of state-sponsored police brutality and murder of people of color.

I also suspect, rather cynically, that there is no small urge among our national corporate media to downplay evidence of class-based unrest across the US. The situation in Anaheim is not merely one of police vs. people, or white supremacy vs. Latino communities, but also one of the Haves vs. the Have-Nots.

Anaheim could hardly be a town more symbolic of the increasing class divide in the US, with Disneyland ("the happiest place on earth!"), populated by rich tourists, taking up one part of town, and extremely poor communities with high unemployment taking up another. Desperate residents of Anaheim who long for the ability to provide stable lives for themselves can watch from the front porches a parade of privilege, just out of their reach.

How can that not take a toll?

As the city blows up, its evident suitability as an emblem for the nation at large cannot be missed. It can, however, be ignored by a media whose wealthy private owners would certainly prefer not to broadcast encouragements to revolution across a nation whose compliance keeps them in gold-plated bidets.

But they are delaying the inevitable. This is where we are all headed, if something doesn't change. Meaningfully. And quick.

The Two Americas are breaking in half.

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Top Five

[Content Note: Food, eating.]

Here is your topic: Top Five Favorite Foods. (Dishes, individual foods, beverages, savory, sweet, whatever.) Go!

Please feel welcome to share stories about why your Top Five picks are what they are, though a straight-up list is fine, too. Please refrain from negatively auditing other people's lists, because judgment discourages participation.

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This is so the worst thing you're going to read all day.

Frank Deford for NPR: From Obscurity to the Olympics Back to Obscurity.

Jessica (@scatx) absolutely destroyed this article on Twitter yesterday (a sample: "'Can you even name a gymnast?' Your problem is that they are getting attention only once every 4 yrs so instead they should get none? Also, the answer to that question was YES."), during which she observed: "Is there more of a time that women's sports are praised and followed than during the Olympics?"

And to that I'd add: Or when men's sports frequently coded as "feminine" (gymnastics, trampoline, equestrian events, ice skating in the winter games, etc.) and/or are not directly physical, aggressive contests (swimming vs. American football) are given so much attention?

There are legitimate criticisms to be made about the Olympics, and privilege, and indulgent displays in a context of global need, and other things, but many of the harrumphy grump pieces like Deford's that you'll being seeing over the next couple of weeks will justify their hostility with some variation on "unseriousness" or "frivolity" or "useless sports," which is simply coded misogyny.

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Open Thread

Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet.

Hosted by Louis Armstrong.

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Question of the Day

What is your favorite show currently airing on television? And by currently airing, I don't mean it has to be in-season now, since most US networks are on summer hiatus; I mean only that it has to be airing new episodes when it is on, rather than a show available exclusively in re-run.

Obviously, I gotta go with Parks & Rec.

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Tweet of the Day

Earlier today, the US Senate passed a bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts for another year for middle class Americans (defined as individuals making up to $200,000 and families making up to $250,000). It was, however, an exercise in futility: "Senate Democrats called for House Republicans to act immediately so the president can sign the bill into law. But House Republicans have no plans to do so. They plan to take up their own bill next week that would extend the Bush tax rates for all Americans for one year while taking up comprehensive tax reform."

Where "comprehensive tax reform" equals "further rigging the system in favor of the one-percenters and corporations."

[See also.]

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Simplified Tax Plan

At long last, the Republicans have come up with their simplified tax plan for America.

Senate Republicans will press this week to extend tax cuts for affluent families scheduled to expire Jan. 1, but the same Republican tax plan would allow a series of tax cuts for the working poor and the middle class to end next year.

Republicans say the tax breaks for lower-income families — passed with little notice in the extensive 2009 economic stimulus law — were always supposed to be temporary. But President Obama had made them a priority in 2009 and demanded their extension in 2010 as a price for extending the Bush-era tax cuts for two years, and both the White House and Senate Democrats are determined to extend them again.

That sets up a potentially tricky issue for Republicans. They have said they do not want taxes to go up on anyone while the economy struggles to gain altitude, but under their plan, written by Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, about 13 million families would see their tax refunds reduced, and some would see their taxes increase.
Hey, if you had any real ambition, you wouldn't settle for just being middle class.

Crossposted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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Can't Wait (I Can Wait)

The debate formats have been selected and announced for this year's US presidential election:

First presidential debate: October 3, University of Denver, Colorado: Domestic issues, questions selected by moderator.

Vice presidential debate: October 11, Centre College, Danville, Kentucky: Domestic and foreign issues, questions selected by moderator.

Second presidential debate: October 16, Hofstra University, Hampstead, N.Y.: Town-hall meeting format with questions from undecided voters.

Third presidential debate: October 22, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida: Foreign issues, questions selected by moderator.
Are you more looking forward to listening to President Obama fail to be a solid and unapologetic ally on reproductive rights (Oct. 3), or listening to Not-President Romney get a defense boner for bombing Iran (Oct. 22)? Both will be very fun, I'm sure!

I am also suuuuuuuuuuuuper looking forward to a rousing round of rhetorical fisticuffs between Vice-President Joe "Gaffe Machine" Biden and Romney To-Be-Announced Running Mate Privileged "Racism Machine" Whitedude!

Maude Bless America!

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Infographic of the Day

Two images: The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right, in which the ice sheet has almost totally melted.
The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right. In the image, the areas classified as 'probable melt' (light pink) correspond to those sites where at least one satellite detected surface melting. The areas classified as 'melt' (dark pink) correspond to sites where two or three satellites detected surface melting. [Photograph: NASA.]
Suzanne Goldenberg for the Guardian:
The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.

The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.

In a statement posted on Nasa's website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.

"This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" Son Nghiem of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.

He consulted with several colleagues, who confirmed his findings.

..."I think it's fair to say that this is unprecedented," Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Guardian.

The set of images released by Nasa on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%.

Scientists attributed the sudden melt to a heat dome, or a burst of unusually warm air, which hovered over Greenland from 8 July until 16 July.

Greenland had returned to more typical summer conditions by 21 or 22 July.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Mutt lying on the floor with her front paws crossed, staring off into space dreamily
Bones, treats, peanut butter, toys, snuggles...

"Hey, Zelly!"

image of Zelda the Mutt lying on the floor with her front paws crossed, looking at the camera

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I Am Not a Rape Aficionado

[Content Note: Sexual violence; guns.]

I cannot even begin to convey the multiple layers and colors and shapes of my contempt for this piece in The Daily Beast about Paxton Quigley, a female gun advocate who's made a career out of appropriating the experiences of female survivors of sexual violence, arguing that women can prevent rape by arming themselves.

She's a victim-blamer:

"Every 2 minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in the U.S. There are 207,754 victims of sexual assault each year. Eighty percent are under the age of 30," she says, citing statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN. "That's a lot of women walking around who are targets. They're talking on their cellphones or texting, totally unaware of what's going on. It's part of the reason why people get themselves into trouble."
—and a patronizing asshole, who think she can speak for all women, and for survivors:
"So many women out there are now living alone or are heads of households. They have to learn to protect themselves, protect their families. I can tell you this: a woman will be antigun, but then once she's assaulted, she wants a gun."
Fuck off. I have been assaulted, and I don't want a fucking gun.

It's not, however, even the article itself which is the primary target of my ire.

Not only did The Daily Beast run this piece of shit article; someone from their public relations team emailed me to tell me about it. The expectation was clearly not that I would write about it favorably, so someone actually made a decision to email a well-known survivor of sexual assault a traffic-seeking, inflammatory article that exploits survivors, hoping to infuriate me enough that I'd write about it and drive traffic to their site.

My other option, of course, was to simply ignore it. Except my ignoring it doesn't change the fact that the article is still out there, and it doesn't change the fact that The Daily Beast thinks it's a cool business model to appeal to survivors' righteous indignation about being exploited by a gun advocate in the wake of a shooting mass murder.

That is some gross opportunism, and I don't feel inclined to let it slide.

One of the realities of identifying as a survivor, especially one who writes a lot about the rape culture, is that I get sent a lot of articles about sexual violence. I'm fine with that.

What I'm not fine with is a publication publishing a stupidly provocative piece and then using it like a stick to poke me. (And, presumably, other writers like me.)

What I'm not fine with is being reduced to my value to your publication as a survivor who writes about rape culture, because you don't pitch me on any of the other content in your rag, but suddenly find me a useful contact on your exploitative rape piece.

What I'm not fine with is surviving sexual violence being treated like a personal interest. My interest in the rape culture isn't akin to a being a tennis aficionado. If your promotional process looks anything like, "Hey, Melissa McEwan might want to see this because she was totally raped!", you have derailed.

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Today in Mitt Romney Hunts for a Flag

image of Mitt Romney shaking the hand of an elderly white male veteran in front of a giant US flag, to which I have added a dialogue bubble reading: 'Thank you for your service. Now, do you happen to have any idea where I might find a huge flag?'

Oh, Mitt Romney! Your situational awareness continues to be as abysmal as your ability to empathize with the non-moon mansionites!

In election news today, Team Romney continues to mendaciously misrepresent President Obama's comments about business owners because Mitt Romney is an unethical d-bag with garbage policies he'd prefer to shield from scrutiny behind a smokescreen of bullshit.

In response, Team Obama wonders: "Does he even understand how our economy works?" LOL!

Also: Sob. Because that jerkbag might be our next president.

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Top Five

Here is your topic (suggested by Shaker allochthon): Top Five Best Decisions You've Ever Made. Go!

Please feel welcome to share stories about why your Top Five picks are what they are, though a straight-up list is fine, too. Please refrain from negatively auditing other people's lists, because judgment discourages participation.

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Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround is brought to you by sunflowers.

Recommended Reading:

Zahir: A Muslim Community, Tarred Again [Content Note: The post at this link includes discussion of racism/Islamophobia.]

Adrienne: I Eat Stereotypes Like You for Breakfast [Content Note: The post at this link contains discussion and imagery of stereotypes of Native peoples.]

Rinku: I'm Here: Showing Support for Immigrant Women and Their Human Rights

Atrios: The Whole Purpose Is to Enable Theft

Fannie: Lady Astronauts [Content Note: The post at this link contains discussion of misogyny and gender essentialism.]

Lara: Looks Can Be Deceiving [Content Note: The post at this link includes discussion of fat bias.]

Angry Asian Man: Who Are Asian Pacific America's Most Influential Authors? [Content Note: The post at this link includes discussion of racism.]

Andy: Wisconsin State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa Comes Out as Bisexual

Suevon: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws

Leave your links and recommendations in comments...

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Crowded House: "Don't Dream It's Over"

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Enough with the Pranks

[Content Note: Pranking; bullying; endangerment.]

I have previously noted my resounding contempt for "pranks," the vast majority of which are nothing but bullying paired with a rhetorical arsenal full of "humorless!" ready to be launched at any of its unwilling targets who dare to object.

Never mind that many targets of "pranking" are not so much objecting as they are getting triggered. Shock humor can be an absolute nightmare for many veterans and other survivors of trauma, for some people who are neuro-atypical, for people with anxiety disorders, among others—well beyond the common "I hate being pranked" reaction that a lot of people without additional considerations have.

The popularity of "pranking" is thus troubling because it's a tacit endorsement of bullying, even as we shake our heads and wring our hands and make grave faces about the horrors of bullying. (Might Karen Klein's teenage bullies merely have imagined they were "pulling a prank" as they filmed their torment?) Pranksters try to one-up each other, filming their antics for upload, and we are all meant to laugh, and to ignore that the target of the prank probably wasn't given the option to choose whether their "pranking" was made available to the entire world.

It's messed up on a lot of levels, is what I'm saying.

So it's really frustrating to see CNN doing a cutesy story on some d-bag who "pranks" his wife by routinely scaring the shit out of her, after a video of one of his "pranks"—that he filmed while driving on the highway with his family in the car—went viral this week.

[Transcript here; it's the very last segment on the page.]

"See prankster's wife get rude awakening." Har har. It would have been EVEN MORE HILARIOUS if she'd reflexively grabbed the wheel and crashed the car, don't you think? Well, let's hope someone ups the ante to try to get on national television! I'm sure if we all REALLY TRY we can kill a few people with pranks this summer!

Seriously. Enough with the fucking pranks.

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Scotland May Soon Have Marriage Equality

Moving right along:

Scotland could become the first part of the UK to introduce gay marriage after the SNP government announced plans to make the change.

Ministers confirmed they would bring forward a bill on the issue, indicating the earliest ceremonies could take place by the start of 2015. ... The announcement was made in the wake of a government consultation which produced a record 77,508 responses.

Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships and the Holyrood government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.

...Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: "We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships - we believe that this is the right thing to do."
Naturally, the Catholic Church is OUTRAGED at this wanton display of respect for love. "The Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale." How terribly tiresome.

The Church of Scotland is equivocating, but acknowledges that opinions differ among their constituency, and the Rev. Alan Hamilton, convener of the Church of Scotland legal questions committee noted, despite the church's non-commitment to supporting marriage equality (at this point): "We believe homophobia to be sinful." Welp, time to get on-board the marriage equality train then!

Choo choo!

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The commenting policy is not a suggestion. If you are unwilling to abide the guidelines for participation in this space, including respecting me and the other moderators when they say move on, you will lose your commenting privileges.

You don't have to agree with the guidelines, and you don't have to like the rules, but you do have to participate in accordance with them while you are here.

I will also remind commenters that many of the guidelines and moderating decisions that may seem "unfair" are boundaries drawn to maintain the safe space for contributors.

And almost nothing makes this space less safe for us than to be routinely ignored when we set something off-limits. I shouldn't need to tell anyone who comments here that a flagrant disregard of stated boundaries is unacceptable.

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Meet an Olympian: Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi

image of a very pregnant Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, a Malaysian woman in a pink headscarf carrying her rifle bag
Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi

Not only is Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi the first female Malaysian rifle shooter to compete in Olympic history, she is also eight months pregnant, making her the "most pregnant" woman to ever compete in the Olympics. She's also the only woman with a known/disclosed pregnancy to compete in this year's games.
On paper, Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi is entirely average for athletes competing in the women's 10-meter air rifle event at the 2012 London Olympics. There's just one difference: when she steps up to the line to shoot, she will be eight months pregnant.

"When I found out that I was pregnant before competing in the Asian meet, I thought that that was the end of my Olympic dream as I will have to turn my attention to the baby," she told Malaysian's leading newspaper, The Star. "But when I eventually qualified for the 10-meter air rifle event on merit, it made me rethink that perhaps I am supposed to go all the way despite my pregnancy."

...While shooting requires less physical strain on the body than sprinting or some of the other summer sports, Nur Suryani said she has had to alter her stance and train at all times of day to predict how she would feel during competition.

"The Olympic Games are important to me ... Every athlete dreams of competing at the Olympics," she told The Star.

...The 10-meter air rifle event is set for July 28.

[H/T to Shaker TheLadyEve. If you read an inspiring or interesting story about an Olympian you believe may be of interest to Shakers, email me. Please note I probably won't be able to cover all submissions.]

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Open Thread

A comic cover featuring

Hosted by Hot Stuff.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker sidewriter: "What's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?"

I can think of a lot of nice things people have done for me. The man in the Cure shirt who yanked me out of London traffic when I looked the wrong way crossing the street in 1987. The Shaker whose generosity literally kept food on our table when I was laid off, and who has never asked for a thing in return. The contributors and mods—how can I begin to account for all the nice things they do? All of my friends, and all their kindnesses. Iain always being my ally, even when it's hard.

And if there is indeed one thing that can be objectively quantified as the nicest, it's quite possibly something of which I'm not even aware—catching a ball that might have caught me in the temple, a recommendation in the right person's ear, some seemingly small thing that I don't know about or didn't notice that changed my life.

This is probably a dreadful answer to this lovely question. But there it is.

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RIP Sherman Hemsley

close-up image of Sherman Hemsley's face

Sherman Hemsley, iconic star of the TV series All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Amen, among other projects, has died at age 74.
Born in South Philadelphia, Hemsley dropped out of high school to join the Air Force. He returned to Philadelphia and worked for the U.S. Postal Service, while taking acting classes at night.

After performing with local groups in Philadelphia, Hemsley moved to New York to make his Broadway debut as Gitlow in Purlie.

While touring with the production, television writer and producer Norman Lear contacted Hemsley to play the role of Jefferson on his new sitcom, All in the Family. Hemsley hesitated to accept but Lear held the role open for him and two years later, Hemsley joined the cast.

Less than two years after Hemsley made his television debut, he and All in the Family costar Isabel Sanford were given their own spin-off in The Jeffersons. The series earned Hemsley Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in 1984 and 1985 respectively.

Sanford died in 2004 at age 86.

In 1986, Hemsley was cast as Deacon Ernest Frye in the NBC series, Amen. The role would last five seasons, ending in 1991.

He was also a professional singer and released a single on Sutra Record called "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" in 1989. In 1992, he released Dance, an R&B album.

Although he retired from television acting, Hemsley joined Sanford through the late '90s and early 2000's to reprise their roles as George and Louise "Weezy" Jefferson on guest spots. The duo appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and in commercials for Old Navy, Gap and Denny's.
I grew up watching The Jeffersons and Amen, and I always adored Hemsley. He was such a great comedic actor. Outstanding physical comedy and extraordinary timing. One of a kind, for real. RIP.

[Note: If there are less flattering things to be said about Hemsley, they have been excluded because I am unaware of them, not as the result of any deliberate intent to whitewash his life. Please feel welcome to comment on the entirety of his work and life in this thread.]

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[Content Note: Racism.]

It's like, I know Mitt Romney is a huge d-bag, but OMFG HE IS SUCH A HUGE D-BAG!

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[Content Note: Discussion of consent issues; rape culture continuum.]

While I was out walking the dogs this afternoon, I passed the local church, whose signage has been featured here previously, and saw this:

image of a church sign reading: 'A HUG THE IDEAL GIFT ONE SIZE FITS ALL'

HA HA except, you know, for people who HATE BEING HUGGED. By which I mean people who hate being hugged altogether, or people who hate being hugged by people outside a very intimate group, or people who hate being obliged to hug even if they aren't especially bothered (or triggered) by the actual act. Which is a lot of people.

Whoooooooooooooooops your one size fits ALL.

This is One of Those Things which routinely elicits exasperated accusations of oversensitivity when I write about them, but it's also One of Those Things which is a perfect example of how hostility toward consent is so endemic and so axiomatic in our culture that it shows up as a cutesy slogan on church signs.

No, not everyone wants a hug. That's a simple idea, in theory, but in reality try being a person who wants to draw boundaries around who can touch you in what way and see how "simple" it is in practice.

In the same way that we all say, "Everyone agrees that rape is bad!" as if there isn't rape apologia embedded in every aspect of our culture, we all say that it's fine for people to choose who is allowed to touch them, but simultaneously judge, and act offended by, people who turn away "shows of affection," which are, in fact, displays of aggression when done against someone's will.

It's all part of the same continuum of hostility to consent that collectively builds the rape culture.

And it's as easy to avoid as asking, "Do you hug?" I've been told yes and I've been told no. Either one is fine with me.

By the way, that is indeed a "No Trespassing" sign in the background. Oh the irony, etc.

section of previous image with yellow arrow added to point to 'No Trespassing' sign on church grounds

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Random Breznahan

an image of actor Kevin Breznahan in the film Adventureland, to which I have added text reading 'Maybe a vestment.'

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Quote of the Day

[Content note: this post contains a discussion of rape and rape culture.}

“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong.”--Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, sentencing Monsignor William J. Lynn to three to six years in prison forcovering up sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Monsignor Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official to be held legally accountable for covering up the sexual abuse of children. Specifically, he was convicted for his role in shuffling around predator Edward V. Avery, who, despite a psychiatric evaluation that said he should be kept away from children, was re-assigned to a parish without any restrictions. Avery subsequently raped another child.

Lynn's defense, that he was bound to obey the instructions of Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, is a thin one indeed. "I was following orders" isn't a defense in war crimes, and it should not be a defense in the enabling of a predator, either. That it was even attempted speaks volumes about the place of rape culture in our society.

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Number of the Day

26%: The percentage of private sector workers making less than $10 an hour, according to a National Employment Law Project report (pdf).

The last increase in the federal minimum wage was passed into law four years ago today, but the current minimum wage falls far short of meeting the needs of the average worker. To match the buying power of the 1968 minimum wage, for instance, today's would need to be increased to $10.55 an hour.

And yet...
In 2011, more than one in four private sector jobs (26 percent) were low‐wage positions paying less than $10 per hour. These jobs, moreover, were concentrated in industries where low‐wage workers make up a substantial share – in some cases more than half – of the entire workforce.
[Meanwhile] chief executives continue to rake in massive salaries, as AlterNet's Sarah Jaffe notes. At the 50 companies that employ the largest number of low-wage workers, CEOs made an average of $9.4 million — roughly 450 times more than the gross income of a full-time worker who makes $10 an hour.
This is what's called an unsustainable economy.

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Surprise Becks

I have mentioned once or twice or a dozen times that I like the Beckhams. If I'm honest, I feel sort of weirdly protective of them, because the horrendous tabloid scrutiny to which they're subjected, and the inexplicable narratives that result therefrom, so perfectly exemplify the culture of judgment—the shitty, uncritical culture of judgment—that is an outgrowth of the nightmarish entitlement we seem to believe we have to own every part of public figures' lives.

David Beckham is a world-class footballer subjected to petty arguments about being overrated that inevitably devolve into derisive snorts about underwear modeling. Victoria Beckham is a world-class designer whose fashion career is casually elided by people who want to accuse her of unearned fame, snorting reductive judgments about her participation in a (highly successful) girl-band once upon a time.

They are professionally successful, but incessantly picked-on as undeserving. That sort of thing irritates me generally, but really gets under my skin when it's done to the Beckhams (not that they need my defense), because, in addition to living parts of their hardworking lives in public for our entertainment, they seem quite nice.

Niceness is so underrated.

Anyway. That is an unnecessarily long preamble to introducing this adidas advert, featuring David Beckham. He is good sport, in every way.

Text Onscreen: adidas presents

Image of a photobooth labeled "Great Britain #takethestage".

Text Onscreen: We invited a bunch of people to take the stage and support Team GB."

Cut to a group of three football fans, two black women and a black man, doing a footie chant while taking pictures in the booth. Suddenly their expressions turn to surprise.

Text Onscreen: We also invited someone else...

Cut to two black young men in the photo booth; David Beckham peeks his head into the booth and they react with shock and delight. Becks laughs.

Cut to a montage of Becks taking pictures and grinning with lots of different groups of people, who are all surprised and grinning. He genuinely looks like he's having fun, throwing his arms around their shoulders and posing for pictures with them in the booth. He hugs people and lets women and men kiss his cheeks. He shakes their hands and says, "Nice to meet ya." With a group of two white men holding props, he is offered a prop microphone. "I've got the rubber duck!" he says, holding up a Union Jacked rubber ducky. He surprised a young white woman and asks, "Can I get in?" She squeals, "Yes!" and waves him into the booth. He hugs a little white boy who is weeping with being overwhelmed. "Should we do some pictures?" Becks asks him.

Cut to people who've had their pictures taken with Becks leaving in an elevator. They are all excited. "Best thing ever!" enthuses a black woman. "That was wonderful!" says a white woman. "Wow," whispers a black man. The little boy wipes his tears.

Text Onscreen: #takethestage / adidas / official sportswear partner of the 2012 London Olympics
That's the kind of advertising that makes me want to buy a product.

teaspoon icon Contact adidas and thank them for positive advertising that uplifts instead of putting people down.

[Via Andy.]

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Today in Mitt Romey Blah Blah Fart

image of Mitt Romney sitting in front of a huge sign reading 'Build It!'

Insert ALL the robot jokes here. Jokes that I would never make because obviously Mitt Romney is a very warm and super empathic human man person with a totally normal gold-plated moon mansion with a ruby-encrusted car elevator and a boathouse made from the shavings of unicorn hooves.

In election news today, Mitt Romney is terrible! He is sooooo terrible! Only a very terrible person would say that the first African-American President of the United States has a philosophy that is "foreign to the American experience" and try to pretend like that isn't some straight-up racist bullshit. Mitt Romney, you are THE WORST.

Luckily, he has conservative superPACs to buy the election for him! And they do not consider his being totes terrible a bug, but a feature! HOW LUCKY FOR HIM.

In other news, President Obama is fighting back against Team Romney's mendacity. Good. Because this:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. … Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
—is a true and eminently reasonable thing to say.

Talk about these things! Or don't. Whatever makes you happy. Life is short.

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Top Five

Here is your topic: Top Five Favorite Kitchen Gadgets Smaller Than a Toaster. Go!

Please feel welcome to share stories about why your Top Five picks are what they are, though a straight-up list is fine, too. Please refrain from negatively auditing other people's lists, because judgment discourages participation.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Cat sitting in the glow of an electric light in an otherwise dark room

Sophie, in the warm glow of a tap-light during our blackout earlier today. That's not pre-sunrise; the sky was just so dark during the storm that the interior of the house was dark as nighttime.

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Garbage Treasures: The Movie

[Reposting this one from a while back, because reasons and a cumbling infrastructure and also as filler.]

The reviews are in:

"Four and half thumbs up!" — Roger Ebert

"Tropetastic!" — Elvis Mitchell

"★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★" — Leonard Maltin

"Wevs." — Pauline Kael

Time to walk down the red carpet, Shakers! Here it is, the world premiere of my first (and likely last) animated short film. Emphasis on short; it's only a minute long.

Cue the paparazzi, I'm wearing my finest Jean Paul Gaultier tux and snockered on rum. And tune in for my exclusive interview with Leeza Gibbons after the gala! Do people still use the word "gala"? Let's all pinky swear to use "gala" in conversation at least once today, okay? Okay!

Anyway, press play, if you want to watch me and Liss in animated action. In the meantime I'll be collecting all the Oscars. And Grammys. Take that, Foo Fighters!

Garbage Treasures: A Liss & Deeky Adventure

Vague transcript: Deeky mails Liss a package, but Liss is unhappy with her gift.

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Random Nerd Nostalgia: Get Your VENUS FLY TRAP!


[Image Description: On the left, a cartoon of a Venus flytrap, open and apparently accepting food from a white, manicured hand. Text reads: "Discover the hidden mysteries of nature's most exotic and mysterious house plant! The VENUS FLY TRAP! See how it lures, traps, eats and digests insects up to 20 times its size! Learn how you can actually train it with a pencil to perform only for you!Feed it with raw hamburger from your hand Experiment with it at home or at school!... The Venus Fly Trap will grow easily in your home. It blooms into a bright green-leafed plant with white and green flowers, in only 3-4 weeks and produced 6-12 traps per plant. Each pack comes with soil, bulbs, and a complete instruction booklet, filled with fascinating facts and hints. Mail in this coupon and start a Venus Flytrap garden of your own. You will be Delighted!" There is a coupon for Mirbar Corp, the company selling the plants, with prices--$1.55 for 2 plants, $2.35 for 4. Only $1 plus postage!]

Scanned from Wonder Woman 194, June 1972.

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Be Entrepreneurial! Be Self-Employed! Be a Job Creator! Be Broke.

by Shaker BrianWS, who may or may not become a full-time contributor someday based on whether Dwayne the Magical Groundhog sees his shadow three fortnights in a row.

I don't mind paying my taxes. I, personally, am something along the lines of what Republicans accuse President Obama of being – super far left, and I think the government can do quite a bit of good work with the social safety net and infrastructure with my taxes, so I'm happy to pay them.

What I still don't understand is how our government's tax code continues to penalize people for being self-employed in an economy where there are no jobs to begin with. I'll wheel back around to that later.

Personal disclaimer: I have a job I love. I get paid what would likely be considered a little bit more than a fair wage for the work I do. I don't have many business expenses, so I don't get to run down a Schedule C and Romney out my taxes to a microscopic percentage of what I make. I don't intend this post to be about my financial misfortune – I understand how privileged I am to be doing what I do and making what I make. Trust me.

I am able to live comfortably for the most part in the sense that I can pay my rent, I don't generally want for nourishment, I don't get behind on my bills, and I have a little bit of spending money left over every month.

But today, I went back into the 2011 tax year and looked into a couple of things. What I found shocked me, even though I already knew there was a high cost to self-employment, as Liss has noted on several occasions.

For those unfamiliar with how this "penalty" comes into play, there are a few ways in which being self-employed will increase the tax owed – the most glaring of which is the self-employment tax. Basically, in a traditional employer-employee relationship, the employee's payroll tax (that is, Social Security and Medicare taxes) is split evenly. The employer pays half, and the employee pays the other half. Self-employed people must pay both halves, a percentage that can be up to 15.3% of total income.

I found that overall it cost me $5,500 in taxes to be self-employed last year. That is no small sum of money, especially when compared to my overall yearly income. What could I do with that kind of money? It would pay my rent for nearly seven months. In just one year's taxes, that sum equals a third of what I paid for my car five years ago. I could put a down payment on a home with that. Even better for me, someone with an almost non-existent savings base because I have never had the kind of income that allowed me to seriously live any other way but paycheck-to-paycheck, I could save it!

But no, I'm self-employed. The thing that bugs me the most about it is not so much just the principle that it cost me $5,500 to be self-employed last year, but that had I been making the exact same total dollar amount working in service to a gigantic corporation, the government would say I was entitled to that $450+/month.

So there's the problem. We are all aware of a pretty serious unemployment situation in this country. Giant corporations, who reap all the benefits of a tax code increasingly designed to privilege them and their focus on the bottom line, hold all the cards here. They don't offer enough jobs for everyone – but those of us who wind up working for ourselves, rather than for them, are penalized for it.

I couldn't help but think about the guest post I wrote last summer after attending CGI with Liss. The entire system, from the very start in our education system, is designed to cater to corporations and those who help build their bottom lines. I always understood that in the abstract – but it hadn't been so personal for me until this morning, when I realized, thinking about what I could do with an extra $5,500 a year, how that money would legitimately change my life and financial security.

And it's not just about me at all – I know more than a few self-employed people who struggle much worse than I do. This is about them, too, and everyone else who is self-employed, and it's also about the way corporations are treated better than the fucking citizens of this country. But hey, corporations are people now, too, and they're richer than me so they get treated just like the mega-rich in this country while we all fight for scraps underneath.

It's a huge injustice that giant corporations and the very wealthy have hundreds of tax loopholes to exploit in order to pay a much smaller percentage of their total income in taxes, while everyone who bucks the system, intentionally or not, and doesn't play by those rules pays the price.

A price that I can put a real number on now.

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I Have Power!

[Video Description: He-Man saying, "I have the power!"]


True Fact: Anyone who says they run their business entirely on the steam of their own bootstraps without any support from the government doesn't live at the ass end of an ancient electrical grid in a state with garbage infrastructure!


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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Split Enz: "I Got You"

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Blog Note

There is a storm in the Chicago area:

And since this nation's infrastructure can't handle the rain and wind and weather, Liss is without power. She'll be back when the power is.

In the meantime, enjoy this ode to things electric:

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Open Thread

A lighthouse with a a large foghorn.

Hosted by a lighthouse.

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Question of the Day

What's the most out-of-character thing you've done lately?

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RIP Sally Ride

image of astronaut Sally Ride, in the shuttle

Sally Ride, who in 1983 became the first US woman in space on a journey aboard the Challenger, has died at age 61 from pancreatic cancer.
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She blasted off aboard Challenger, culminating a long journey that started in 1977 when the Ph.D candidate answered an ad seeking astronauts for NASA missions.

...According to her official biography, by the time Ride decided to apply to become an astronaut, she had already received degrees in physics and English and was on her way to a Ph.D in physics from Stanford University.

According to her NASA biography, Ride went back into space in October of 1984. She was assigned to another mission after that, but it was scrapped after the shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

Ride served on the Presidential Commission investigating the accident. After a stint as a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, Ride founded Sally Ride Science. As NASA puts it, the company allowed her to "pursue her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology."
In the President's official statement on Ride's passing, he said, "She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars." She did indeed.

[Note: If there are less flattering things to be said about Ride, they have been excluded because I am unaware of them, not as the result of any deliberate intent to whitewash her life. Please feel welcome to comment on the entirety of her work and life in this thread.]

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