The Virtual Pub

We're wrapping up a little early today because I've got some personal stuff to attend to...

image of a pub Photoshopped to be named 'The Shakesville Arms'
[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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"Judging Jewell"

[Content Note: Terrorism.]

Following the Boston Marathon Bombing, there was a lot of misinformation and speculation and misidentification of "suspects." In a piece committing to practice patience and not rush to judgment, I wrote:

The bombing of Centennial Park at the Atlanta Summer Olympics took place on July 27, 1996. The person who eventually confessed to the crime, Eric Rudolph, was not even identified as a suspect until almost two years later on February 14, 1998.

In the intervening two years, Richard Jewell, the man who found the pipe bomb left by Rudolph—which exploded before it could be safely detonated, killing one person and wounding 111 others—had his life torn to shreds by accusations that he was the bomber. Those accusations were wrong.

I am practicing patience.

To this day, when I think of the name Eric Rudolph, it is this picture of Richard Jewell that accompanies the name. I swear to fuck that picture was everywhere for something like six solid months after the bombing. Just now, I had to go look up what Eric Rudolph looks like; I couldn't call him to mind at all.

I am practicing patience.

I remember Eric Rudolph's name, but I remember Richard Jewell's face. That is the legacy of irresponsible leaking and reporting, in the aftermath of a public act of violence. That is also the legacy of public impatience, during a time when care must be taken.
Following publication of this piece, I had a conversation with some people, in the same age cohort as myself, young adults at the time of the Atlanta Olympics bombing, who had never even realized in the intervening decades that Jewell was not, in fact, the bomber. That someone else had confessed to the crime.

The media was slightly less zealous in reporting that he was ruled out as the suspect than they had been in reporting that he was a suspect.

In the same week it was announced that one of the actual Boston bombers will face the death penalty if convicted, ESPN has released a mini-documentary about Richard Jewell, a man who actually saved lives on that fateful day, and then had his life utterly ruined.

The hat tip goes to Linda Holmes, who says: "Sobering, to say the least."

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Daily Dose of Cute

Dudley is tall. Very tall. He's so tall that Zelda, who is a 60-pound dog, can casually stroll beneath his belly barely having to duck. When they play together, she is a swirling streak of shiny black fur as she does figure-8s between his legs, weaving away from his reach as he tries to grab the toy clutched in her jaws.

Dudley is also long. Very long. One of his favorite passive-aggressive maneuvers is to stand sideways in front of me, his long flank blocking anyone else from reaching me, while I deliver the requested affection.

But the thing is, he's tall. So Zelda has found a way to thwart him.

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt with her head peeking out from under Dudley the Greyhound's belly
"Me! Pet me now!"

image of Zelda with her head peeking out from under Dudley's belly, and Dudley throwing a WTF look
Irresistibly cute.

Meanwhile, in cat news...

image of Olivia the White Farm Cat sitting with her paw on my tablet

"Just you wait for my exposé on these dog shenanigans!"

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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The Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by spoons.

Recommended Reading:

Veronica: [Content Note: White supremacy] The Color of Toxicity

Jeremy: [CN: Homophobia] Indiana Marriage Equality Opponents Essentially Admitting That Tide Is Turning Against Them

Mannion: [CN: Misogyny; racism; class warfare] A Woman's Place is in the Classroom, as Long as She Doesn't Expect to Make an Actual Career out of It

Following are three pieces that are all related and essential reading on the media coverage of Wendy Davis' Texas gubernatorial campaign:

Jess: About How Wayne Slater Wrote about the Custody of Wendy Davis' Daughter

Jess: My Response to the Response from the Editor of the Dallas Morning News

Andrea: Whose Discourse? Our Discourse!

And here are a few links that contain videos (if anyone can locate transcripts for these, I would be so grateful if you dropped a link in comments):

Jamilah: Janet Mock Talks about Sex Work in New Book Redefining Realness

Andy: Laverne Cox Speech on Trans Struggles in America Brings the House Down

Digby: Elizabeth Warren Is Madder Than Hell

Leave your links and recommendations in comments...

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Nichelle Nichols: "Beyond Antares"

This week's TMNS brought to you by the vocal stylings of Star Trek alumni.

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today.

[Content Note: Injury; death] This story about a 77-year-old man collapsing outside a D.C. fire station and the rescue workers inside refusing to help, supposedly because they misunderstood the regulations about self-dispatching, is terribly sad and infuriating. Also, I really hate the implication that because Mr. Mills was a city worker, his life was worth more. "I'm quite disturbed and disappointed by what appears to be an inappropriate response," said Paul A. Quander Jr., the deputy mayor for public safety. "Mr. Mills was someone that worked for the District for a number of years, and the pain and the anguish that the family has gone through is unacceptable." How about: "Mr. Mills was a human being, and the pain and anguish that family has gone through is unacceptable."?

The New York State Assembly passed the Women's Equality Act earlier this week, "an omnibus bill designed to strengthen women's rights in 10 different areas. The Women's Equality Act codifies Roe v. Wade, ensuring that a woman can get an abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy, and protects providers from prosecution. It also closes loopholes in equal pay laws, extends protections against sexual harassment to all workplaces, allows the recovery of attorney fees in harassment cases, ends employment discrimination based on whether a woman has children or is pregnant, stops housing discrimination toward victims of domestic violence, and strengthens order of protection laws and human trafficking laws in the state." Awesome.

Democratic Representative Henry Waxman announced yesterday that he will not seek reelection this fall. The announcement came as a surprise, and it seems like Waxman is just fed the hell up serving in a dysfunctional Congress: "We're going through a difficult time now in Congress. It's quite dysfunctional, because the Tea Party Republican extremists have taken over, and their view is compromise is a dirty word. The Republicans at the moment want to say no to everything that President Obama wants, just because it's Obama. That doesn't make sense to me. It's unfortunate." Damn.

[Content Note: Racism; violence. Video begins to play automatically at link.] George Zimmerman, the man who murdered unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has agreed to a celebrity boxing match, and the promoter of this reprehensible event says Zimmerman is open to fighting a black person, but: "We're not looking at it as a race thing... We haven't discussed purple, yellow, white, black." I love how "purple" is the go-to color for racists trying to pretend they're not racist.

[CN: Sexism; policing; fat bias] Former First Lady Laura Bush said, presumably sardonically, that the first First Gentleman should be subjected to the same scrutiny as First Ladies: "And maybe we should be that way about the first gentlemen, also, really critique the way they look all the time. Their choice of tie, or their hair style. Whatever. Or maybe their weight." I get what she's going for here, but I always hate the idea, even proposed jokingly, that the best way to achieve parity is to treat men as shitty as we treat women. Maybe let's raise the bar, instead of lowering it.

[CN: Reference to child sex abuse] The conservative trash-rag known as National Review may be put out of business by a lawsuit brought by a climate scientist whom a former writer for the magazine, Mark Steyn, accused of falsifying data and perpetuating intellectual fraud. The scientist, Michael Mann, is "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data," said paid anti-climate science operative Rand Simberg, quoted by Steyn. Really, you've just got to read the whole article to understand the depth of this fuckery.

Actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have called for a boycott of magazines that publish pictures of celebrities' kids. Right on.

Did you love Sharknado? Then you will probably be excited to hear that Ian Ziering and Tara Reid have agreed to return for the sequel!

And finally: RIP Greater, the world's oldest known flamingo, who died at age 83.

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Insert Grunting Noises Here

[Content Note: Misogyny; patriarchy.]

Last night, Kenny Blogginz was telling me that he had watched some of Tim Allen's sitcom Last Man Standing (see also), and that it was even worse than his old show, Home Improvement.

Iain came to the States a few years after Home Improvement had left the airwaves, and has never seen Last Man Standing, so we were trying to explain Tim Allen's career to him. Care of YouTube, I showed him a piece of Tim Allen's famous stand-up special titled Men Are Pigs, and then we watched this amazing 14-minute supercut of every grunt from Home Improvement.

Iain just looked so confused, lol. I mean, how to explain that there is a very popular celebrity whose entire career is based on the idea that men are grunting animals? That he had a show which ran for eight seasons in which he just grunted and waa-barked and squealed, and people thought it was hilarious? And that now he has a show which is even worse?

The thing is, Tim Allen would be the first person to say that feminists are man-haters. But I can think of exactly zero feminists who have become multimillionaires on the premise that men are literally grunting animals who need to be tamed.

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Boehner Releases GOP's Immigration Principles

[Content Note: Immigration reform; racism.]

Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner unveiled a document outlining the Republican Party's new principles on immigration, which the GOP will use as the basis for crafting immigration legislation, which they hope will be key to winning back the majority in both houses of Congress this November. Here is the document in full:


Our nation's immigration system is broken and our laws are not being enforced. Washington’s failure to fix them is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security. The overriding purpose of our immigration system is to promote and further America's national interests and that is not the case today. The serious problems in our immigration system must be solved, and we are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to solve them. But they cannot be solved with a single, massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand, and therefore, we will not go to a conference with the Senate's immigration bill. The problems in our immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our country's borders, enforcing our laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures. These are the principals guiding us in that effort.

Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First

It is the fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders, and the United States is failing in this mission. We must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure. In addition, we must ensure now that when immigration reform is enacted, there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future. Faced with a consistent pattern of administrations of both parties only selectively enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, we must enact reform that ensures that a President cannot unilaterally stop immigration enforcement.

Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System

A fully functioning Entry-Exit system has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the last 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. We must implement this system so we can identify and track down visitors who abuse our laws.

Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement

In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.

Reforms to the Legal Immigration System

For far too long, the United States has emphasized extended family members and pure luck over employment-based immigration. This is inconsistent with nearly every other developed country. Every year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at America's colleges and universities, particularly in high skilled fields. Many of them want to use their expertise in U.S. industries that will spur economic growth and create jobs for Americans. When visas aren't available, we end up exporting this labor and ingenuity to other countries. Visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow our economy.

The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen our national security by allowing for realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.


One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.

Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law

Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation's immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.

After the document had been made public, President Obama said he wouldn't prejudge whatever immigration legislation eventually comes to his desk, but: "The fact that they're for something, I think, is progress." LOL. Awesome.

The thing that strikes me most about this document is that it's written by people—note: people who are tasked with writing immigration law—who don't even understand some fundamental basics about immigration in the US. As but one example, this bit from the final paragraph:
There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation's immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).
First of all, there are a lot of documented immigrants who are passionate supporters of amnesty. This idea that it's "unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules" is bullshit. I'm sure there are some documented immigrants who feel that way, but there are also many who, both knowing how difficult and expensive the process is and understanding a little something about the why of undocumented immigration, are keen supporters of amnesty. And further don't remotely feel like it's unfair to make the process easier for someone who's been living and working here under constant fear of being deported.

I happen to be married to one of those immigrants. Iain came to the US not because of need. He came on a fiancée visa (a resource, by the way, only available to us because we are of different sexes) because he fell in love with an American. He had the great fortune of being born in a country with lots of opportunity, and moving to one with the same.

Suggesting that undocumented immigrants are somehow less deserving of citizenship because many of them come out of need, and accusing them of somehow cheating the "Real Americans" who "played by the rules," doesn't resonate with people like us. We all the know there are different rules for different people, and being "American" is more than a piece of paper. Sometimes the people who weren't born here seem to understand that better than many of those who were.

And there are a lot of legal immigrants who would appreciate the Republican Party not using them, and some alleged "unfairness" if fines aren't levied, as an excuse to not support broad amnesty.

Also? Undocumented immigrants already pay a lot of taxes. A higher percentage of taxes are paid by undocumented workers than are paid by the 1%.

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Happy Birthday, SKM!

image of a birthday cake with an image of Clint Eastwood on it

Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuuu!
Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuuu!
You look like a purveyor of the radical feminazi agendaaaaaaa!
And you smell like one, too!

(Mmm, turmeric!)

Every year on her birthday, SKM gets a cake featuring a Very Manly Man Offering Very Manly Birthday Wishes for her: Tom Selleck, Chuck Norris, Mr. T., Ron Swanson, a marvelous mustache. This year, her birthday party is just gonna be us, Clint, and an empty chair.

Happy Birthday, SKM!!! I adore you, lady. I hope you have a great day and a terrific year.

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Open Thread

Hosted by Zotz.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker masculine_lady: "If I was inviting you to a potluck dinner, what would you bring?"

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Stripey Jumper!

During last week's episode of Parks and Recreation, I noticed that Retta, who plays Donna Meagle, was wearing a stripey jumper that I also own!

screen cap of Retta, a fat black middle-aged woman, clicking a glass of wine with Aziz Ansari, a young thin Indian American man
There it is!

I tweeted about it at the time, but I'm too lazy to go find it and who cares. Anyway! So my #365FeministSelfie pic today was of me wearing the stripey jumper. (Which I seriously wear ALL THE TIME because I love it SO MUCH.)

image of me standing in the bathroom mirror with my phone, taking a picture, while wearing the stripey jumper

This, you see, is a Big Deal. Because I never see any clothes I own/wear on TV shows or in films. Because, ya know, very few fat ladies!

It's a funny thing, too, because Retta is a fat woman who is fat in the same shape I am fat, so I've always paid attention her clothes (on Parks and Rec and in pix from promotional events, etc.) for inspiration. Especially because she always looks terrific.

The dearth of visible fat women, especially fat women without an hourglass figure, means I was, for a long time, unsure what looked good (to me) on bodies like mine. Although I was fairly certain it wasn't the billowing tunics designed to mask the shape of my body that are ubiquitous in plus-size lines, and I knew I didn't give a damn for rules like "no horizontal stripes." O RLY? THEY MIGHT MAKE ME LOOK FAT? O NOES!

So yeah. I was always checking out Retta's clothes and styling, so I take the Stripey Jumper Incident as evidence I'm on the right track. *wink!*

(Note: I don't think there's One Right Track for how to dress—only the right track toward feeling good about yourself. Which actually may be many tracks. It's your call for you! You do you! Treat yoself!)

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Justice Dept. Seeks Death Penalty for Tsarnaev

[Content Note: Death penalty; terrorism.]


The Justice Department has notified a federal judge that it intends to seek the death penalty if a jury convicts Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for last April's bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon.

Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on charges that he and his brother built and planted two pressure-cooker bombs that killed three people and injured at least 260 others. He is also charged with killing an MIT campus police officer.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement: "After consideration of the relevant facts, the applicable regulations and the submissions made by the defendant's counsel, I have determined that the United States will seek the death penalty in this matter. The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision."
The resultant harm compels us to kill him.

I don't have anything to add to what moderator Scott Madin said on Twitter: "DoJ is seeking the death penalty for Tsarnaev. That's a shame, but I'm not very surprised."


UPDATE: Mixed reactions, naturally, from the survivors of the attack.

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Self-harm.]

"I didn't feel it was that big a deal; I did what anyone would do. I wasn't trying to fix his problems that day—I just listened."—Neil Laybourn, who stopped Jonny Benjamin from jumping off a bridge six years ago. The two men were reunited following Benjamin's campaign to locate Laybourn to thank him.

Would that it were true that just listening is a thing that anyone would do.

We talk a lot in this space about the importance of listening. Its importance can't be understated: Listening can literally save lives.

There is video of the men's reunion here. H/T to Shaker GoldFishy.

[Note: I, along with some of you I imagine, have some feelings about the public campaign to locate Laybourn, irrespective of the fact that he was pleased to have been found. I do want to acknowledge that, but it is not on topic for this thread. This thread is about how powerful the very basic human kindness of listening to one another is.]

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What is this article?

[Content Note: Classism; racism.]

Actual Headline: "Heat or eat? Bitter winter forces unique cuts."

Unique cuts? Making a choice between food and warmth constitutes a "unique cut"?

Ha ha don't worry—it's not really about people who are making a choice between eating and staying warm. It's about people with the "first world problems" (actually used in the article) of "canceling vacations, shelving clothes shopping, and even—horror of horrors—buying cheap wine."

"Dinners out? What IS that?!" asks Susie Quick, a resident of Midway, Ky., who is purposely injecting a chill into her home and her spending due to a monthly power bill that's leaped from $90 to $300. Several southern states recently have shivered through the lowest temperatures in years.

"I walk around my house like a lumberjack in layers of silk underwear, plaid flannel shirt, down vest, scarf, hat, sweater leggings and furry faux UGGs. I only wish I could grow a beard for added warmth," said Quick, who lives on a horse and cow farm, and who works as a medical editor at the University of Kentucky. Her house is electrically heated.

On recent nights, she's been allowing her 45-pound coonhound and two cats to sleep with her — "if there was room for my horse, I'd bring him in, too." As for food, she's a "non-elective vegan" but said she can't afford "pricey" fake meat like tofu hot dogs and tempeh burgers. Instead, she dines on rice and beans, and greens. Going to a hair salon is too expensive so she's become "my own amateur hair stylist and colorist and I'm really afraid it shows."

"I have three rooms shut off with towels down at the door bottoms to prevent drafts. My furniture is also lumberjack-chic and covered in blankets and throws. I refuse to succumb to a Snuggie, though a Thuggie has appeal. So House Beautiful this is not," said Quick, who refers to her heating bills as "hate mail."
A Thuggie (which is a cross between a hoodie and a blanket) has appeal. Of course it does.

Listen, having your heating bill triple is not nothing. This horrendo FuckWinter is costing us money beyond what we budget, too: We're having to run the heat a lot more and keep water running to avoid the pipes freezing, which would create an even bigger cost. But people (including Iain and me) who can afford the increase by cutting back a bit are not making the choice between heat or eat. For fuck's sake.

There are lots of people across the US who are really making that incredibly difficult choice—a choice no one should ever have to make, especially in the richest country on the planet.

Not every article has to be about every thing, and I know lots of rich white people need to see their suffering reflected in the media as often as possible, ahem, so publish the fucking article if you must, NBC News, but don't give it a headline that mocks the real choice between sustenance and warmth that lots of people have to make.

Also: This was the same outlet who last week offered up a piece of shit article about fatties shivering away the pounds, about which I said: "I...find it particularly gross to run this article at a time when many people in the country are struggling to stay warm. I don't want to read this shit at all, no less when I am reading stories in the local papers about families who lost homes (and sometimes lives) trying to stay warm with a space heater."

Rinse and repeat.

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"Hillary Clinton is the biggest frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination ever. Yes, ever."

Big like a planet, you mean? Big like a giant mancrushing ladymonster?


The biggest lead EVER?

Yes, ever.



Y'all, I'm starting to hope that Hillary Clinton does not run for president, just because I'm afraid it will break my sarcasm module. And I just had it updated after Mitt Romney won the '12 nomination.

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An Observation

If there is one turn of phrase for which I'm known, well, it's probably Terrible Bargain. But if there's another phrase for which I'm known, it's: I'm not offended; I'm contemptuous.

For reasons that I probably don't need to explain to anyone who's been paying attention, I've lately been thinking about the ways in which accusations of anger (or fury, or rage, or whatever variations thereof) are used as discrediting strategies in the same way accusations of offense are.

And in the same way that marginalized people are accused of being offended, when what we are really are is contemptuous, marginalized people are frequently accused of being angry, when what we really are is frustrated.

Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against anger; to the contrary, I find anger can be useful, and necessary, and the root of progress.

But there are a lot of times I am accused of being angry (as if that's a bad thing) when I'm not actually angry—and I see that happening to a lot of marginalized people, especially women of every and any intersectional identity. We are dismissed out of hand as angry, when we are really frustrated—usually because we are being obliged to play games around having our lived experience audited with a validity prism being wielded by a privileged person who erroneously sees themselves as An Objective Arbiter, who is, in so doing, literally frustrating our ability to assert expertise on our own perceptions.

Frustration is not anger. (Although it certainly has the capacity to morph into anger, or coexist with it.) Frustration is "a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems."

That is the thing I am feeling when I am most likely to be called angry. Overwhelming dissatisfaction as a result of the cyclical and systemic lack of being heard, respected, treated as an equal.

So, to the lexicon of useful phrases I add this: I'm not angry; I'm dissatisfied.

[Originally posted March 28, 2013.]

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound standing on the couch looking out the front door window, with an impossibly long neck

Dog + Cat + Horse + Giraffe = Greyhound.

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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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Kate Mulgrew: "Over the Rainbow"

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today!

Atlanta's mayor tweeted before the snow started falling: "Atlanta, we are ready for the snow." Whoops.

The GOP has plans to make their case to the middle class. Good luck with that! "The challenge for Republicans is convincing voters that their newfound concern is sincere." LOL!

[Content Note: War on agency; anti-choice terrorism] More terrific news from my terrific state: Proposed legislation in the Indiana state senate could mean that doctors who treat people post-abortion may be publicly named. Which is, of course, an intimidation tactic. Anti-choicers get real mad when I say that anti-abortion legislation is state-sponsored terrorism, but the Republican Party supports this garbage knowing full well that anti-choice terrorism exists, and that people die because of it.

[CN: Racism; racial slur] Travis Waldron on "The Epic Battle to Save the Most Offensive Team Name in Professional Sports."

A fascinating new stem cell breakthrough: "Two new studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature describe a method of taking mature cells from mice and turning them into embryonic-like stem cells, which can be coaxed into becoming any other kind of cell possible. ...This method by [Dr. Charles Vacanti, director of the laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston and senior author on one of the studies] and his colleagues 'is truly the simplest, cheapest, fastest method ever achieved for reprogramming [cells],' said Jeff Karp, associate professor of medicine at the Brigham & Women's Hospital and principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute."

[CN: Environmental devastation] Monarch butterflies are in trouble. Sadface. One of my favorite early memories is lying in the grass in the backyard, when I was about three, and trying to stay perfectly still after a monarch butterfly landed on my nose, and walked up across my forehead before flying away.

[CN: Injury] Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, who was severely injured in a skiing accident last month, is being slowly awoken from a medically induced coma. There is still a chance he could eventually make a full recovery.

Cheerios is back with another ad for the upcoming Superbowl featuring the "controversial" mixed-race family. Ha ha suck it, haters.

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Republicans Really Think People Are Stupid

[Content Note: Class warfare.]

So, I'm reading this article in which conservative commentator S.E. Cupp (who is also the author of a book titled Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity, lol) interviews Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and he says that the Republican Party needs to communicate that they don't want to cut programs; they want to reform them.

Whether talking about entitlement reform, food stamps, unemployment benefits or social programs, his one word mantra? Emphasize "reform."

"The mistake I think we often make is," he continued, "if we're the party of no, and we're the party of austerity, the people of this country want more. The difference is, the left offers them more government, more benefits, more assistance. We should offer them more freedom, more opportunity, more prosperity."
Sure. Because "more freedom, more opportunity, more prosperity" is not inextricably linked, especially for the lower classes, to "more government, more benefits, more assistance." More freedom and opportunity and prosperity happen by a magical combination of lower tax rates for corporations, bootstraps, and pixie dust.

Later, he says, on raising the minimum wage:
"It is a cheap political stunt that may be well-intentioned by some, but it has an incredibly buzz saw type effect on the economy. And it's nothing more than a photo-op to pretend that people are doing something about creating jobs."
Yep, just bury that shit beneath the word "reform," buddy. See how that works out for you.

I mean, this is the sort of thinking we're dealing with: Someone who imagines that there is a better way to "more freedom, more opportunity, more prosperity" for the working poor than raising their wages. That raising their wages is just a "cheap political stunt" and a "photo-op." That entrenching poverty among the working poor doesn't have "an incredibly buzz saw type effect on the economy" (whatever the fuck that means). That maintaining the status quo after decades of wage stagnation is somehow "reform."

Jesus fucking Jones.

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"For 2016, Hillary Clinton has commanding lead over Democrats, GOP race wide open." In case you were wondering how things are shaping up almost three years before the election in which no one has announced a candidacy.

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Open Thread

Hosted by Bottlecaps.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker MammaBear: "What was the best part of your day today? (Or this week, month, etc.) I love reading Shakers' happy moments!"

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Big Money

Earlier today in comments, I answered a question about how to raise the minimum wage without inflating the cost of goods and services, and that passing those higher costs onto workers:

There needs to be a way to raise the wage without passing that cost on to those same workers.

There is: Prioritizing people over profits and flattening wages so that executives don't make hundreds of times as much as average workers in the same company.

Certainly there are cases, especially in very small businesses, where it's not feasible to significantly raise wages without raises prices on goods or services, but there are a lot of businesses where it would be totally feasible to raise wages and keep the price of goods or services stable, if only corporate executives and/or shareholders were willing to give a little.

ETA. And it's a sharp commentary on our national priorities that this isn't even considered a solution that's worthy of public discussion, so thoroughly certain are we all that it's never going to happen.
Apropos of this idea: Fortune 50 CEO pay vs. our salaries.

If a CEO making 6,258 times the salary of a typical worker in hir company claims there's no way to raise wages without raising prices, they're lying. It's sheer avarice.

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[Content Note: Misogyny.]

Well, here is one possible answer to the constantly asked questions about why Republicans won't STFU with their shitty comments about women: "The latest survey from Democratic PPP released Wednesday showed [former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee] surging among Republican voters nationwide in the wake of his head-scratching comment about the female libido."

According to the poll, 16 percent of GOP primary voters said they would prefer to see Huckabee as the party's presidential nominee in 2016, making him the top Republican in the field. Only a month ago, PPP showed Huckabee polling at 11 percent and trailing both New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) among GOP voters.
Their base eats that shit up.

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The Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by cashews.

Recommended Reading:

BYP: [Content Note: Racism; fat bias; othering] In Lengthy Essay, White Woman Laments about Being in Yoga with a Lone Black Woman

Flavia: [CN: White supremacy] Pulling My Hair—A Media Strategy

Trudy: [CN: Racism] Thoughts about Shonda Rhimes' DGA Speech on Diversity

Joseph: [CN: Homophobia] A Man Tells His Coming Out Story Through a Conversation with His Dog

Dani: [CN: Misogyny] "Someday I want to write a book with no male characters."

Carla: For First Time Ever, College Football Players Organize to Unionize

Leave your links and recommendations in comments...

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On That Nation Piece

So, Michelle Goldberg wrote a cover story for The Nation entitled "Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars." And, because the piece largely sets up these "Twitter wars" as a war between white women and women of color, I'm having trouble composing a response that doesn't read as cookie-seeking and/or nothing more than an attempt to distance myself from other white feminists.

So, I'm just going to say this: I really find the article objectionable, for a lot of reasons. And it has not been my personal experience that women who make good faith criticisms of my work want to harm me, but that they want me to listen and to do better, because when I fail, I harm them.

For discussion of the piece, please see: @Karnythia, @DrJaneChi, @Blackamazon, @TheAngryFangirl, @thetrudz, @dreamhampton, and @scATX. If your first instinct is to push back, don't.

Please feel welcome and encouraged to leave links to additional responses in comments.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting on a cat tower, looking out the window thoughtfully

Contemplative Sophs.

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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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Reproductive policing; misogyny.]

"We should sell that message. Not in a mean way to tell people who already have made a bad decision, but if you've had one child and you're not married, you shouldn't have another one. ...We need to be telling kids 'don't have kids until you're married.' It's your best chance to get in the middle class is not to have kids. There's all kinds of ways, and we can debate...but there are all kinds of ways to stop having kids. ...You know, but we have to teach our kids that. But some of that's sort of some tough love too. Maybe we have to say 'enough's enough, you shouldn't be having kids after a certain amount.' I don't know how you do all that because then it's tough to tell a woman with four kids that she's got a fifth kid we're not going to give her any more money."—Senator Rand Paul, at a luncheon in Lexington, Kentucky, last week.

First of all: "The idea of withholding benefits from women who have more than a certain number of children is actually current policy in many states. While most programs through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, or welfare) give families more money if they have more children, 16 states cap the assistance and don't give any extra money for new children if someone in the household is already receiving aid." And all that policy does is put a greater strain on a family already dependent on assistance to survive. It doesn't deter additional births (especially since access to abortion is increasingly limited for women in poverty).

Secondly, I love (as always) how this is all about telling women to "stop having kids." As if women with partners get pregnant on their own. And I also love (as always) how assistance is misrepresented as giving "her more money." An increase in assistance after the birth of another child is money for that child, not for "her."

Finally: Yes, Rand Paul, yes indeed there are "all kinds of ways to stop having kids." One of them is access to abortion. Maybe you should try supporting that, you shithead.

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Patrick Stewart: "A You're Adorable (The Alphabet Song)"

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today!

FuckWinter continues to fuck with everyone.

[Content Note: Gun violence] Welp: "During President Obama's State of the Union address in which he vowed to take action on—among other things—the pervasiveness of gun violence, there was yet another shooting on a school campus. Police were called to the campus of Tennessee State University shortly after 9:00pm, where an unidentified individual was found having been shot in the leg. The university has not yet released any information on either the suspect or the victim."

[CN: Misogyny; sexual harassment] An pseudonymous female games industry veteran gives an interview to Kotaku's Rachel Edidin about having been sexually harassed by a reporter seeking information on a fiercely guarded game in development: "When we finally talk, I'm struck immediately by how much Mercier feels obliged to qualify. Without asking, I learn how she dresses for work and professional events; how she acts in professional contexts; the image she strives to project; her boundaries for friends and friendly acquaintances and colleagues. She also tells me, unprompted the exact scope of her previous contact with and relationship to Josh Mattingly leading up to the conversation where he told her repeatedly and explicitly what he'd like to do to her vagina. She's seen the comments on Mattingly's apology post, and she's acutely aware that, in the court of public opinion, it's she, not necessarily Mattingly, who is on trial. ...When I point out the irony—that, of the two participants in the conversation, Mercier was the one worried that her behavior might burn a professional bridge—she laughs ruefully."

[CN: Rape culture] Indian politician Asha Mirje, a Nationalist Congress party (NCP) leader in western Maharashtra state, engages in some gross victim-blaming: "Did Nirbhaya really have to go and watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend? ...Rapes take place also because of a woman's clothes, her behaviour and her presence at inappropriate places." Yeahno.

Do you want to find out more about income inequality near you? Check out this chart at ProPublica. (Although if you live in a very small county, information may not be available.)

[CN: Gun violence] A cable provider in South Africa will launch a 24-hour dedicated channel for the trial of Oscar Pistorius, which begins in March. Well, all the commentary around that case has been super responsible, so I'm sure filling 24 hours a day with gossip and theorizing will be terrific for everyone.

Breaking News: Human Beings Not Designed for Space Travel.

Budweiser, your beer stinks, but this ad is AMAZING.

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Hard Work

[Content Note: Kyriarchal oppressions.]

I grew up, and still live, in Northwest Indiana, in the shadow of a decimated steel industry where the most common occupation of my childhood friends' fathers was "laid off." It is a place where, when I was laid off in 2005, I was greeted at the local unemployment office by a man who told me: "If you're not a nurse or truck driver, you're probably going to have a hard time finding work again."

Jobs with good salaries and benefits are scarce, unless you are willing to do a two-hour (by car) or three-hour (by train) round-trip commute to and from Chicago every day. Even longer if you work somewhere other than downtown, near the train station. Whether you go by rail or pay for gas and parking, it is expensive to get to your job.

Jobs have been an issue here for as long as I've been alive.

Good jobs. We need good jobs. We need stable jobs that pay a livable wage.

It's not unlike a lot of the rest of the country in that way. Good jobs. Good jobs that pay. Good jobs we can get to, and stay in.

Given the opportunity, people longing for these good jobs will work hard. Working hard is not the issue; it never is, despite the narratives of moochers and takers and people who refuse to take responsibility for their own lives.

$10.10 isn't enough to make a job a good job.

And a job, even with a truly livable wage, is not a good job, if it doesn't come with protections against unequal pay and discrimination.

What makes a job a good job is more than the wage. A good job is a job that's reasonably accessible. A job that comes with the protected right to organize. A job that offers healthcare benefits. A job that offers paid leave—for vacations, for emergencies, for births and deaths. A job where taking that leave isn't held against employees. A job that provides for a good work-life balance. A job where every department is fully staffed. A job where any of the items needed to do that job are paid for by the employer. A job where federal overtime rules are not treated as a suggestion. A job where one is treated with dignity, and never exploited.

This is the bare minimum for what makes a job a good job, for the most privileged workers.

What makes a job a good job for someone from a marginalized population is more yet than a good wage and all of these basics. A good job is a job that pays equal pay for equal work. A job where there is no discrimination on the basis of one's identity. A job where it's safe to disclose all aspects of one's identity. A job which accommodates disabilities, in every way. A job that provides space for nursing parents. A job where the expectation to "get along" is placed always and only on bullies and harassers, and never on the people being bullied or harassed. A job where it is safe to report bullying and harassment and discrimination.

Neither of these constitutes a comprehensive list.

These protections, these things that make a job a good job, are things that the government must legislate and that employers must be willing to put into practice in a meaningful way, because it is decent, not just because it is required.

That takes hard work. To convince people to legislate and implement these protections, and then to legislate and implement them.

And that is the hard work for which there is very little will in this country.

But, by all means, let us continue talking of moochers and takers and welfare queens. And let us continue pretending that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 is enough.

It's just so much easier that way.

[Related Reading: Justice for All.]

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[Content Note: Class warfare; worker exploitation.]

Here is the White House's fact sheet on President Obama's executive order that will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers. It's titled: "Opportunity for All—Rewarding Hard Work." And there is an awful lot about why raising the minimum wage for workers who work on federal contracts is good for business, but not a lot about how giving people a livable wage (I'll come back to that) is just a decent thing to do.

I admit my bias here, but all the references to "hard work" read to me less like an acknowledgment of the hard work people are already doing, and more an admonishment to people to keep working harder.

As for the contention that $10.10 is a livable wage that will keep people (and families) out of poverty, well: Right now, someone working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage, without overtime or bonuses, makes $15,080 before taxes. At the maximum increase ($10.10), someone will make $21,008. The current federal poverty level for a family of four is $23,550.

Work hard, everyone!

Capitalism is garbage in a whole lotta ways—but one of the worst is that it is built on the damnable lie that everyone earns what they deserve. And there are far too many high-earning people in the US who believe that they work harder behind a desk than every single person who works a behind a counter. Bullshit. BULLSHIT.

Let me repeat myself: I don't feel inclined to get into a whole Marxist discussion about the means of production here, but what these insufferable, vainglorious, classist captains of self-aggrandizing bullshit seem never to grasp, or possibly just acknowledge, is that if you want to live in a capitalist society that gives you the opportunity to get nasty rich, then we can't all be wealthy. And if you want to be the kind of person who doesn't pump your own gas, or make your own sandwiches, or clean your own house, or manicure your own fingernails, or drain your own dog's anal glands, or build your own car elevator, then there are going to have to be people who fill all those jobs.

And most of those professional, hard-working people will put in at least 40 hours a week, or more, and even still, many of them won't be given healthcare benefits, and many of them won't earn enough money to feed a family, and many of them won't be able to save as much as they'll need for their retirement.

People who honorably dedicate their time, energy, and talents to jobs that might not pay well are indeed entitled to something—to not work their whole lives only to find themselves poverty-stricken, or hungry, or homeless after one small (or not small) financial crisis. And if we're not going to ensure that every job comes with a livable wage, access to affordable healthcare, and retirement benefits, then we've got to provide a robust and well-funded social safety net.

I don't think that's asking for much, in exchange for a lifetime of providing service to their chosen vocation.

Though I grant it's certainly easier to scream BOOTSTRAPS! and carelessly assert that people who don't have everything they need just aren't trying hard enough.

Funny how the Grand Advocates of Hard Work are always the ones making the easy arguments.

The working poor in the US—and all of the people who navigate a tenuous existence in the middle class, from which they could be unceremoniously exiled after a brush with unemployment or a health crisis—are not working any less hard than their wealthy counterparts (in fact, many of us work a lot harder, but had the silly idea to pursue a vocation not as highly valued as making privileged people and corporations wealthy), and we not are not fools, and we do not "deserve" to have twenty-four times less wealth and its attendant security and opportunity.

This cavernous disparity is the result of wanton avarice, of cruel greed, of a void of empathy and a colossally short-sighted contempt toward the notion of culture, toward the idea that we are all in this thing together.

All of us—even the people who won't get our backs, the bullies who attack us just to feel less put upon themselves, the self-loathing enablers who harbor foolish dreams of being invited to the table of privilege one day, the barrel-chested barons of a new Gilded Age who stand astride the bodies of those condemned to less fortunate fates, singing the praises of social Darwinism, bellowing about the superfluity of a social safety net, and declaring "The government never gave me anything!" as they deposit seven-figure bonuses made possible by a taxpayer-funded bailout.

Or a government contract, for which they only have to pay workers $10.10 an hour.

We're all in the same leaky, creaky, unreliable boat. And knowing that means understanding even the most voracious self-interest is best served by egalitarianism: A fortune is worth nothing at the bottom of the ocean, less than a single penny carried safely to shore.

So, yeah, it's a smart idea to pay people a (genuinely) livable wage. But it's also the decent thing to do. Because people are already working hard.

Frankly, any implication that people aren't working hard enough is shameful, either a mendacious deflection of accountability onto workers, or an absurd cluelessness born of cavernous detachment from the realities of working people's lives.

In order to maximize profits, corporations have ubiquitously adopted the practice of not filling jobs when people leave and simply redistributing their work among remaining staff, who aren't compensated for the additional duties. The extra cash goes in the coffers while skeleton crews juggle the same workload once balanced among a larger staff.

With the constant threat of losing their jobs in a shitty economy hanging over the heads of workers, they'll work harder, longer, do more for less, just to retain their jobs. And lots of unscrupulous employers are exploiting this to the fullest, running their businesses chronically understaffed by people who don't dare complain lest they lose the terrible jobs they desperately hate and face the even worse fate of unemployment.

"The Great Speedup" is a despicable practice, largely ignored in discussions of both workers' rights and workers' compensation.

Employment is down, wages are down, but efficiency and profits are up. Yet still employers are not being criticized—not for exploiting workers, not for using a bad economy and endemic unemployment to maximize profits, not for being deliberately stingy with job creation because it's actually in their financial interest to overload existing employees in a market that favors employers.

Instead, our President warmly invites these same companies to make the choice to do right by their employers in his State of the Union. And workers are expected to work even harder.

For $10.10 an hour.

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So the President Gave a Speech Last Night...

image of the President speaking, while, behind him, Vice President Biden is making a silly face and Speaker Boehner looks super annoyed

President Obama gave his 2014 State of the Union address last night. C-SPAN has video of the address here. (As well as video of Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers' rebuttal here.) The New York Times has a complete transcript of the President's address here.

A couple of brief observations:

1. The speech was peppered with lots of ideas about how corporations can make workers' lives better. President Obama urged companies to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 on their own. There was also a lot of rhetoric about hard work and opportunity. Very little of it felt, to me, like it reflected the reality for millions of US workers, whose companies are actively and openly trying to deny them benefits, overtime, safety on the job—anything to save money and maximize profits. People are working hard. Good jobs with a livable wage are vanishing, and people are working harder and harder to make ends meet. Their employers are often the enemy of their security. All of it just felt really out of touch.

2. The President gave short shrift (two sentences) to the prevention of gun violence. Welp.

3. The President did not address federal employment protections for LGBTQI workers at all. Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, said in a statement after the address: "We are...pleased that the President is using his pen like he said he would to move things forward: in this instance by signing an executive order to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers. However, he must go further and sign an executive order that bans discrimination against the same contract workers who are LGBT. The irony is that some LGBT federal contract workers will get a pay raise but they could still be fired for who they are and who they love. The longer the President waits the more damage LGBT people will face."

4. Ahead of the speech, the White House was telling media that women's issues would be a central piece of the speech. (At CNN, for example: "Obama to put women's issues 'front and center' in address.") And the President did address the pay gap, though he failed to acknowledge the pay gap is even bigger for women of color. He offered a great line for a perfect viral soundbite—"It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode."—and got a lot of applause for his call to give women equal pay for equal work, but once again he failed to mention reproductive rights access, and how crucial it is for women to be able to control their reproduction in order to meet educational and employment goals and achieve financial security.

5. [Content Note: War; injury; disablism] The longest sustained applause of the evening came when President Obama introduced Army Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, a soldier who was seriously injured in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb on his tenth deployment. Ten deployments. Ten fucking deployments. President Obama told Remsburg's story:
[O]n his 10th deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.

For months, he lay in a coma. And the next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn't speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he's endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he's learned to speak again and stand again and walk again, and he's working toward the day when he can serve his country again.

"My recovery has not been easy," he says. "Nothing in life that's worth anything is easy."

Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.
Thunderous applause. Tears. And then the President used Remsburg as a symbol of inspiration:
My fellow Americans — my fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy... The America we want for our kids — a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us — none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, the way Cory summoned what is best in him, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it's within our reach.
Setting aside the grossness of the "Person with a Disability as Inspiration" trope, which has a long history in State of the Union addresses, and the cynical appropriation of the personal story of a member of the military, which also has a long history in State of the Union addresses, I'm not sure I see Remsburg symbolizing the same things the President does.

When invited to look at him as a symbol, I didn't see a man who reminds me that "the American Dream" isn't easy. What I saw is a man who, like so many other men and women, offered their service, and potentially their lives, to protect their country, but was instead sent to a war of choice. Ten times. What I see is a man who has a struggle he didn't have before, because of corporate interests masquerading as national security, because of lies, because powerful people who tell pretty patriotic stories about "the American Dream" convince brave (and/or desperate) young men and women to go fight wars that make those powerful people very, very rich.

That doesn't take anything away from Remsburg's courage and loyalty and service. Ten fucking deployments. That guy is hard as nails.

He went to his job, and he worked hard, and he gave everything short of his life to his work. And his employer, the US government, worked him right through until they couldn't work him anymore. And that story seems less symbolic of how nothing comes easy, as much as it does indicative of how brutally hard it is for US workers, while it's so very easy for the people who make decisions about their lives.

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Open Thread

Hosted by Hot Dog Gum.

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State of the Union Open Thread

image from one of President Obama's State of the Union addresses; he is standing and speaking; behind him, Vice President Biden is laughing and Speaker Boeher is scowling

Here we go!

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Question of the Day

What do you hope to hear in President Obama's State of the Union address tonight?

Note: The State of the Union Open Thread will be published at 8:45 ET, 15 minutes before the address is scheduled to begin. See you then!

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Invisibility is Not What I am Fighting For

by Shaker masculine_lady, who shares her home and life with her wife, three children, and a badass cat named Eartha Kitty.

[Content Note: Invisbilizing queer folks.]

This past Sunday, I saw this book in my church bookstore:

image of a book cover featuring images of queer people titled: 'You Can Tell Just by Looking' and 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People

I don't really have a lot of info on the content; it's the title "myth" that I am so grumpy about. I want you to know that I am a Grade A Gay when you look at me. If you don't see queer me, you don't see me, and invisibility is not what I am fighting for.

I'm reminded of an interaction I had years ago, when I sat on a "raising awareness about the gays" panel. A woman came up to me afterward and said, "I would've never guessed that you were a...lesbian. You really can't tell by looking!" This was followed by a lot of reassurance that I was a perfectly lovely young lady. I bristled then, and I bristle now.

When you look at me, and you don't see that I am a lesbian, you aren't actually seeing me. You are seeing the version of me that you are comfortable seeing—the non-threatening, not politically queer version of me. You might see my lesbian family, with the good-looking kids and the house and the mini-van and the whatnot. But you do not see who I truly am if you are unwilling to see the parts of me that make me different from you. I do not want my queerness to be invisible,* and my fight for full citizenship is not bound up in proving I am just like you (or anyone, for that matter).

I am a perfectly lovely masculine lady and I don't happen to be queer. I am unstoppably queer.


* I totally understand that there are folks who need, as a matter of safety, to fly under the gaydar. Those folks are a major part of the reason I don't want to be invisible—because I can and they can't. Queer visibility makes the world safer for all of us.

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HJR-3 Update

[Content Note: Homophobia.]

So, HJR-3 isn't dead yet, because the Indiana House decided to pass the amended version, which stripped out the sentence banning civil unions, but the Indiana Senate will vote on the non-amended version. If they pass that, then they can send it back to the House—and if the House then votes to pass the non-amended version, it will end up on the ballot this November.


So, now, if you're in Indiana, it's time to contact your state senator and ask them to oppose HJR-3.

I have never seen people so determined to be indecent.

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[Content Note: Class-based othering.]

So, I'm reading this piece at Salon by "card-carrying member of the ACLU" John Haggerty, who recounts his experience spending "the entire month of October [watching] Fox News for approximately three hours every day, while at the same time strictly abstaining from any other sources of information about current events." And Haggerty makes some observations about Fox News that might not totally come as a surprise to anyone who's watching Fox News for 30 minutes or so.

That sounds unreasonably snarky, maybe. But I suspect someone without his privileges, i.e. someone among the kind of people routinely and aggressively targeted by Fox News as the People Who Are Ruining America, has a slightly different perspective on the conservative news outlet. It's a very different thing to audit Fox News on the basis of How It Does News Badly and to audit Fox News on the basis of How It Demonizes People Like Me.

So, okay, Haggerty and I aren't coming from the same place. But even acknowledging that profound difference in perspective, we're both (ostensibly) progressives. Which is why this passage felt particularly shocking to me:

Even in my short time watching Fox I found poverty fading from my mind as a problem. I was surprised one day when, during a discussion of deficit reduction (something that they talk about almost constantly), I found myself nodding in agreement that there was room to cut social programs that had already been radically slashed. Fox couldn't convince me to care about the issues they are obsessed with (Obama's treachery and the deficit, mostly), but by simply failing to mention a topic like income inequality, it managed to make me stop caring about the things it would prefer that I ignore.

I have an optimistic view of Americans. I think we are basically a kind and generous people—that if we are confronted with suffering, we are willing to act, even to sacrifice our own interests, in order to alleviate it. Perhaps, I began to think, we are not becoming progressively crueler and more callous, as it sometimes appears. Perhaps we have simply forgotten about the suffering all around us because we haven't been reminded of it lately.
We have forgotten about the suffering all around us because we haven't been reminded of it lately.

Who is the "we" and the "us" in that construction?

We know certainly that it is not the people who are actually suffering. All around us.

People who are suffering because of our catastrophically underfunded social safety net, because of high unemployment, because of crushing debt, because of lack of access to healthcare, because of predatory loans and bankruptcy and foreclosure, because we can't agree that people are entitled to food—those people haven't "forgotten" and do not need to be "reminded" of their own suffering.

I know that piece was supposed to make me care about the horrors of Fox News playing some terrible game of "Us vs. Them," but I'm frankly more concerned that "card-carrying members of the ACLU" are still mired in elitist philosophical musings about the Haves' disconnection from the Have-Nots, and blaming that disconnection on the goddamned news.

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Film Corner!

[Content Note: Christian Supremacy; homophobia.]

It seems like every time I turn around, our good friend Kirk Cameron is promoting a terrific new movie! There was 2012's Monumental, which was obviously amazing I'm sure even though I didn't see it, and 2013's Unstoppable, which was also obviously spectacular I'm sure even though I didn't see that one, either. I mean, listen, I'm a busy lady with an important schedule of watching Nicolas Cage films. I can't see every damn masterpiece that's released for one day in the cinemaplexes.

Anyway! I hope you are all looking forward to not seeing 2014's Mercy Rule as much as I am!

Like all good trailers, this one opens with a personal message from the filmmaker...

Kirk Cameron, former child star and current Christian Supremacist annoyfuck, appears onscreen at a community baseball field, wearing a Ford Gear Head t-shirt: "I asked over a million of you how you wanted to see my new movie, Mercy Rule—and you told me. So I am not gonna make you wait. You said you wanna see it now; I'm bringing it to ya right now! This is a movie about a family who learns the important lessons of mercy, patience, sacrifice, courage, and trusting god. And you know what makes this movie even more special for me? My wife Chelsea and I are playing [clasps hands] husband and wife in it together. I love that! And guess who else is in it? Bas Rutten, from Here Comes the Boom—you know, TWISTY! [makes a twisting motion with his hand] He plays the coach! And comedian Tim Hawkins—you know, the Chick-Fil-A song guy? This is his very first feature film, and he plays my brother! How great is that? I can't wait for you to see this, so join me on Valentine's Day—watch this movie with your kids, and fall in love with being a family again. All right, here it is—enjoy the world premiere trailer of Mercy Rule."

Holy moly. We haven't even gotten to the actual trailer yet?! I've already had to sit through this fucking guy trying to convince me that Bas Rutten, a secondary character from a Kevin James MMA movie, and Tim Hawkins, some dipshit who writes "comedic" songs about a corporation's institutional bigotry, are celebrities, and we haven't even gotten to the actual trailer yet?!


Logo Onscreen: CAMFAM. Ha ha get it? Cameron + Family = CAMFAM. Did comedian Tim Hawkins come up with that?

Cut to the interior of a home, where Kirk Cameron ("Dad") is standing in the kitchen casually giving a cool lecture to his wife ("Mom"), daughter ("Daughter"), and son ("Son"). The acoustics of this scene indicate the budget on this shit was astronomical. "You know why Pops loved baseball?" he asks, and Mom, Daughter, and Son gaze at him quietly with expectant grins in anticipation of his reply.

image of a woman, a teenage girl, and a tween boy, all white, sitting at a table smiling
"Tell us, Dad!"

He gives them a smug look. Guitar riff. Footage of a little leaguer hitting a baseball. Cut back to Dad. "Everyone's on a team," he explains. Guitar riff. Footage of little leaguers cheering at the dugout fence. Cut back to Dad. "But everyone faces the pitcher alone." Guitar riff. Footage of little league pitchers. Cut back to Dad, giving another smug look. "Every player in that line-up walks to the plate like a champion of an army." (HA HA WHUT.) Guitar riff. Footage of Dad in a suit and tie (sure) leading a little league team onto the pitch. Cut back to dad. "With the whole team heaped up on his shoulders, betting on his bat." (FUCKING HELL WHERE IS THIS GARBAGE METAPHOR GOING? GET TO THE POINT ALREADY.) Guitar music. Footage of kids (boy kids) playing baseball.

MONTAGERY! Dad at a desk, talking to someone. Coach Bas Rutten in a kitchen talking to kids. Some dude (maybe comedian Tim Hawkins?!) in a hat squatting on a couch. The same dude in another scene smiling at who knows what. Son on a bike. Dad, Mom, and Daughter cheering on Son from the stands. Baseball scenes. Coach Bas Rutten laughing. Lady smiling. Mom on phone. Dad popping a treat in his mouth. Family talking. Baseball scenes. Daughter smiling. Son eating a snack. Mom and Dad clinking coffee mugs.

The montage is not over. I want to interrupt my transcript at this point to note that I am not describing these scenes in any less detail than they actually have. It is the most random, lackluster, uninformative montage of images I have ever seen in a movie trailer, equivalent in their banality and their brevity.

Finally, the montagery ends in a tremendously trite and poorly-shot slo-mo scene of Son practicing his pitching against a wooden fence while Daughter watches. Good grief.

Cut back to Dad in the kitchen, who, I think, is finally going to get to his point. "And then you do your best," he says. "You take your swings." Guitar riff. (OH HELL.) Footage of Dad swinging a mallet at his desk at work. "But the rest is outta your control." Baseball is like life. Where Dads coach and Sons play and Moms and Daughters sit on the sidelines and cheer. Or something.

Guitar music. MORE MONTAGERY! Coach Bas Rutten yelling. White people cheering in the stands. Dad holding a microphone, looking like he's probably giving a real stormer of a pep talk. Some guy doing something I literally can't even tell what. Baseball scenes. Dad jumps in slo-mo at the fence in front of the bleachers. Mom blows a kiss while wearing an oven mitt. (LOL OMG LOL.) Dad smiles.

And that is the end of the trailer, for what is apparently a very stupid film about how baseball is like life, if you're a straight white Christian who believes in TRADITIONAL FAMILIES with TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES and has TRADITIONAL VALUES. Which I only know because I already know that's what the film is about, because I certainly didn't get any of that shit from the trailer.

BUT IT'S NOT THE END! Because, as we all know, all good trailers also close with a personal message from the filmmaker...

Cameron, onscreen at the baseball field again: "I am so excited—because Fireproof restored marriages, and I know Mercy Rule will strengthen families. You told me how you wanted the movie, and I'm bringing it to you this way. You said DVD and download. So here's how you can get it right now. You can order the DVD, and I will ship it to your house to arrive by Valentine's Day, so that you can watch it—Friday night movie night!—with your kids. And! It comes with a family study guide. So you can talk with your kids about all the important things in the movie."

Like baseball. And guitars. And Bas Rutten.

Cameron continues: "Number Two: You can walk into a family Christian store anywhere in the country. They heard how you wanted this film, and they loaded up their store. And if you can't wait 'til Valentine's Day, the third option is: Get it right now! You can download and stream it instantly today. And tell your friends. If you do that, you and I together will change the way we bring movies from my family to yours, straight into your home. Thank you, and god bless you."

This guy's a regular Louis CK over here.

But just in case you're still not sold (BUT HOW COULD YOU NOT BE? DID YOU HEAR BAS RUTTEN IS IN IT?), Kirk Cameron did a little cool promoting on his Facebook page:

screencap of Kirk Cameron's Facebook status asking 'How did you like the Grammy's all out assault on traditional families last night?' then segueing into a pitch for his film, followed by an image of him standing in front of a US flag holding a tablet on which appears an image of the movie poster

Well, now that you're standing in front of a flag. SEND ME ONE MILLION COPIES ON BETMAX, SIR.

[H/T to Pajiba for Cameron's FB page promotion.]

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt lying on the stairs, beneath a series of photos of the furry ones of Shakes Manor


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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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Leonard Nimoy: "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins"

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today!

FuckWinter moves south, into parts of the US that are wholly unprepared for this sort of weather. I hope that employers prioritize safety and warmth, and allow people to stay home.

"The minimum wage is going to rise for over 500,000 American workers whether Congress likes it or not. In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama will announce a unilateral executive action to raise the minimum hourly pay that companies that receive federal contracts must offer, a victory for workers who have been walking off the job at federal facilities in Washington D.C. since last spring." I am genuinely happy to hear the minimum wage is being raised for federally subcontracted workers, although $10.10 is still hardly a livable wage, so.

SCOTUS strikes again: "A group of Indiana steelworkers is disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against an attempt to win pay for the time it takes to put on and take off protective gear. The lawsuit was filed by workers from U.S. Steel's Gary Works, arguing their work day was extended by up to two hours because of the time it takes to get dressed with flame-retardant jackets and other items and then travel to their work stations. The Supreme Court was unanimous Monday in ruling in favor of the company."

In news that will surprise no one: "More than a quarter of U.S. families are burdened by having to pay for medical care, and almost one in six struggle to pay health care bills, federal researchers reported on Tuesday. The 2010 Affordable Care Act is designed to reduce the burden by getting health insurance to more Americans. But the report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that even families with health insurance can struggle to pay bills."

"What if the battalions of lawyers, pundits, and politicians have missed the easiest—and possibly best—argument against 'corporate religious liberty rights' in the high-profile legal cases that challenge the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act?" This is a terrific article by Imani Gandy and you should definitely go read it!

"56 Democratic Lawmakers Back Hillary Clinton in 2016." Ha ha I am definitely tired of the 2016 election already, and it is only 2014!

Jonathan "Mike Ehrmantraut" Banks has joined the Breaking Bad "Better Call Saul" prequel series.

And finally: RIP Pete Seeger.

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You Are Humorless and Oversensitive

[Content Note: Cissexism; transmisogyny.]

Yesterday, Joss Whedon, he of the urge to rebrand feminism for us, was asked for advice on writing strong female leads in a comic. To which he replied:

screen cap of tweet authored by Joss Whedon reading: 'Must value #strength but also #community & not have peeny/balls'

Some people quite understandably rejected his cissexist definition of womanhood as lacking "peeny/balls." Eastsidekate has an amazing response here: "An Open Venn Diagram to Joss Whedon." And Aoife has an excellent response here: "Comic Book Anatomies: A Brief Response to Whedon on Real Women."

Whedon's response?

screen cap of tweet authored by Whedon reading: 'Anybody who thinks my actual opinion on ANY subject involves the word 'peeny' is free to unfollow me. No really I insist.'

I'm not sure, exactly, what we're meant to take from that. That if a cis person uses a silly euphemism for genitals, then they can't possibly be engaging in cissexism? Because: Nope.

If Whedon really meant just to imply that a strong female character has to be female, he could have said that. Just like he said in the same tweet that a strong female character has to be strong. But he did not say that. He said that she should not have a penis and testicles. That is not the same thing as saying she should be a woman.

And instead of just acknowledging that, he went on the offensive by telling anyone who takes that shit seriously to unfollow him. "No really I insist."

Welp. I'd be happy to, if I were following him in the first place.

Whedon evidently believes that it should be obvious to anyone that he was not being serious, that it was a joke, but where's the punchline? Specifically: Where is the punchline for trans*, intersex, and other women with "peeny/balls"? What's the humor for them in the suggestion that they are not women? What's the humor for men who don't have "peeny/balls"? This is a joke, such as it is, for people who are transphobic.

Perhaps Whedon imagines that it should have been apparent he was being sarcastic—but a cis man engaging in that sort of sarcasm can look indistinguishable from actual bigotry to someone targeted by it.

And, you know, even when a marginalized person does recognize an ostensible ally is engaging in that sort of sarcasm/satire, sometimes it's just not funny when you're routinely targeted by shit that sounds/looks exactly like it. There are lots of times I know a dude is being "ironic" about misogyny, but why is it supposed to be funny or interesting or trenchant to me? It just looks to me like he doesn't understand that I hear/see that shit for real every day of my life.

Why does Whedon think that people who are marginalized by this kind of rhetoric should be obliged to indulge his right to be flippant at their expense?

Perhaps he should consider if it's not that his critics are being too sensitive, but that he has failed to be sensitive enough.

And then maybe he can offer a meaningful apology, instead of resorting to the rankest of silencing tropes by implying that people who are harmed by this kind of language are just humorless and oversensitive.

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