Open Thread

image of Matthew Lillard wearing a jaunty cap

Hosted by Matthew Lillard.

Today's Lillard Fact: Matthew Lillard, who famously played Shaggy in two Scooby-Doo films, once said of the role: "I was like, what the hell is my life coming to? I'm a trained actor! I've done Shakespeare and here I am having farting contests with an imaginary dog!"

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The Virtual Pub Is Open

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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And Then This Happened

[Content Note: Privilege; harassment.]

So, a straight white male Christian minister decides to "try" atheism for a year by pretending god doesn't exist (ha ha that is not atheism!), and in a single day, movement atheists raise $19,000 for him.

I love that the justification is "people appreciate that this guy is giving atheism a shot." Sure. Terrific. Give him all the cookies. Meanwhile, definitely continue being hostile to marginalized people who are living their lives every day as atheists, and, if they deign to challenge privilege in movement atheism, harass the fuck out of them.


"He learned what it's like to be an atheist real fast," said Hemant Mehta, a prominent atheist blogger and schoolteacher in Illinois.

...Mehta said he admired Bell's pluck and sympathized with his plight. Though he had never spoken with the pastor, Mehta set up an online fundraiser for Bell on Tuesday. In just one day, nearly 900 people donated more than $19,000 to help "the pastor giving atheism a try."

"I think more than anything else, people appreciate that this guy is giving atheism a shot," Mehta said. "I mean, he lost three jobs in the span of a week just for saying he was exploring it."
Not for nothing, but some of us who are actually atheists have lost jobs over it. It's sure neat to see Christian privilege even within movement atheism, though.

* * *

UPDATE: Mehta has a post about this fundraiser here, in which he responds to Heina Dadabhoy at Skepchick having asked "why so many atheists have been eager to donate to the fundraiser about Ryan Bell, the pastor giving atheism a try, yet not nearly as enthusiastic to donate to the Women's Leadership Project (WLP), a 'feminist humanist mentoring and civic engagement program in South L.A. serving young women of color.'"

Mehta says: "[W]hy would people give money to Bell—a stranger they don't know—and not, say, a project run by a well-known atheist author that advances Humanism and helps young women? I wish I knew."

Yes, it's a real mystery.

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Utah Marriage News

Although the state government of Utah will not recognize the marriages performed for the short period that same-sex marriage was legal in the state, the Obama administration announced today that the federal government will recognize them. Good.

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Fatsronauts 101

Fatsronauts 101 is a series in which I address assumptions and stereotypes about fat people that treat us as a monolith and are used to dehumanize and marginalize us. If there is a stereotype you'd like me to address, email me.

[Content Note: Fat bias; disablism.]

#22: All fat people are lazy and/or weak.

This topic was requested by Shaker CeltGurl60, and it's another one of those Fat 101 topics on which I could write an entire book, but it's really as simple as this: No, not all fat people are lazy and/or weak.

As with virtually all stereotypes about fat people, laziness and weakness are qualities that some humans have, irrespective of their size. There are people of all sizes who are lazy and/or weak—and there are lots of people who are regarded as "lazy" or "weak" who are really people with disabilities that might not be visible.

Some fat people might be fat at least in part because they are sedentary, which is not actually the same thing as laziness or weakness, which may be wholly a choice, or may be due to illness or injury, or any one of a number of other reasons.

And there are a whole lot of fat people who will say, "Yes, I'm fat because I don't get enough exercise," or even, "because I am lazy," because it's easier to say that, to confess to the assumptions made about them all the time, to repeat internalized hatred of self, a hatred for which fat people are frequently commended, than it is to reveal a painful vulnerability by admitting that they don't move more than they do because they have been shamed and humiliated into non-movement by fat-hating bullies.

It isn't when I'm sitting on my couch watching TV that I'm yelled at by some rando about how fat I am. It's when I'm outside, walking the dogs or riding a bike or just strolling down the sidewalk. It's when I'm doing the things that fat haters ostensibly want my fat ass to do that I am subjected to the most humiliating discouragements of being fat in public.

Which is to say nothing of the shaming and bullying of fat people that goes on at many gyms and other activity centers.

It is incredibly easy for lots of fat people to feel that they are emotionally weak, that there's something wrong with them, for not being able to muster the strength to be visibly active when being visibly active risks being targeted by heaploads of nasty abuse, from which you will have few defenders.

And that in turn makes it easier to acquiesce, "Yes, I'm lazy," than it is to say, "I'm not lazy; I'm just tired of being abused."

An awful lot of fat people are asked to make the choice between their physical health and their emotional health. That isn't about being lazy. And it isn't about being weak.

"Weakness" is an accusation routinely lobbed at both our emotional constitutions and our actual bodies. There is no universal truth about fat people's strength, except for the fact that is is wrong to suggest that none of us are strong.

I can only speak for myself, but I am strong in both body and mind. I navigate a colossal amount of fat hatred every day of my life, and I still walk into the world with my head held high, and that is an act of both will and bravery.

I walk into the world on strong legs, thinking sometimes about the irony that it is the "calories in, calories out!" crowd of genius troll scientists screaming at me about "basic math!" who are most likely to fail to understand that carrying around my fat body for decades has made me physically strong.

That is not every fat person's experience; it is mine. But I am not exceptional. I am just inclined to speak.



#21: Fat bodies have no feeling.
#20: Fat people aren't that bright.
#19: All fat people hate/want to change their bodies.
#18: You can diagnose fat people's health issues by looking at them.
#17: Fat people's choices are always dictated by their fat.
#16: You are helping fat people by shaming them.
#15: Fat people hate having their pictures taken.
#14: All fat people are unhealthy.
#13: Fat people looooooooooove Twinkies!
#12: Fat people don't like/want to see media representations of themselves.
#11: No one wants to be fat.
#10: Fat people need you to intervene in their lives.
#9: Fat people don't know how they look.
#8: Fat people don't deserve anything nice.
#7: Fat people are permission slips for thin people to eat what they want.
#6: Any fat person eating a salad or exercising is trying to lose weight.
#5: Fat is axiomatically ugly.
#4: Fat people eat enormous amounts of food.
#3: Fat people are jolly/mean, and fat people are shy/loud.
#2: I can tell how someone eats all the time, because of how they eat around me.
#1: Everyone who is fat is fat for the same reason.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Olivia the White Farm Cat sitting on my lap, yawning

Oh, pardon me. Am I boring you?

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 pink shoes.

Recommended Reading:

Cristy: [Content Note: Stalking] The Basics: Unconsented Contact, or Stalking is a Synonym for Hunting

Rachel: [CN: Breast cancer] False Alarms Remain a Huge Problem with Mammograms Used for Breast Cancer Screening

Andy: Maryland Lawmakers to Introduce Trans Rights Bill, 'Ex-Gay' Therapy Ban

Jamilah: No Black Artists Had Number One Singles in 2013

Trudy: Janelle Monáe Is Flawless and Beyoncé Is an Electric Lady

BYP: African Americans Rank #1 for Social Media Site Use

Mannion: Christie

Nick: Imagine your life if you hadn't seen this.

Leave your links and recommendations in comments...

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Tripod: "True Geek Love"

This week's TMNS have been brought to you by geeky songs.

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today!

[Content Note: War; displacement] Government forces in South Sudan have launched an offensive against rebels, causing thousands of people to flee from Bentiu. "As peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia continue to falter, at least 201,000 people are now displaced across the country, 60,000 of whom are receiving UN support. An estimated 32,000 have fled to neighbouring Uganda, which has called for financial support."

The massive credit/debit breach at Target reported last month was actually "nearly twice as large as previously revealed, with the retailer saying 70 million customers were hit—making it one of the largest security breaches of its kind. ...The stolen information includes names, mailing addresses, phone numbers or email addresses for up to 70 million individuals." Fuhhhhhhhhh.

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced "that women at risk for breast cancer will be able to get preventive cancer drugs, like tamoxifen and raloxifene, at no additional cost to them under the Affordable Care Act," clearing up ambiguity about whether "chemoprevention drugs" qualify as a preventative service.

[CN: Transphobia] 16-year-old Jewelyes Gutierrez is a trans student who was bullied by her classmates at school, where the administration did not respond to her request for intervention. So when she fought back as her only recourse, she was charged with a misdemeanor count of battery. Meanwhile, her harassers got a temporary suspension. Her sister has started a petition asking the District Attorney to drop the charges against Jewelyes, which you can sign here.

[CN: Environmental harm] A chemical spill along the Elk river in Charleston, West Virginia, "has resulted in a tap water ban for as many as 300,000 people, shutting down schools, bars and restaurants and forcing residents to queue at stores for bottled water. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties as a result of Thursday's spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry. ...Health officials were advising residents to use the water only for flushing toilets and fighting fires."

[CN: Medical malpractice] ProPublica, in its continuing investigation into patient safety in the US, shares reader stories about failing to find representation for malpractice cases, because they or their lost family members didn't earn enough or weren't young enough to make the cases financially viable. Accountability is for the rich.

Neat: "Astronomers have found a new class of 'hypervelocity stars'—lone stars traveling fast enough to break away from the gravitational pull of the Milky Way galaxy. ...Experts believe that a star must get a million-plus mile-per-hour boost relative to the motion of the galaxy to achieve escape velocity. They also approximate that the Milky Way's central black hole has a mass equivalent to four millions suns, big enough to generate a gravitational force powerful enough to speed up stars to hyper velocities. When a binary pair of stars becomes caught in the black hole's grip, this is what happens: As one of the stars spiral in toward the black hole, its companion is heaved outward at an incredible velocity. So far, 18 giant blue hypervelocity stars have been discovered than could have been generated by such a mechanism."

Blub: 78-year-old Joseph Cox slipped and fell outside his home in the cold and couldn't get up, but his neighbor's dog Angus made sure he was rescued.

And finally: CSIRO builds Sophie a dragon! [Background story. Note: Video begins playing automatically at link.]

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Misogyny; anti-choice rhetoric; racism.]

"Speaking of Wendy Davis, I personally am concerned about the 'super women' ticket of Abortion Barbie with Hispanic Sen Leticia Van De Putte as her running mate."—Denton County Republican Party Chair Dianne Edmondson, in her Jan. 7 newsletter, in which she announced she was resolved "to do everything we can right here at home in Denton country to KEEP TEXAS RED!"

The Republican outreach plan to female and Latin@ voters looks like it's going splendidly!

[H/T to Pam.]

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Here Are Two Stories I Just Read Back-to-Back

[Content Note: Class warfare.]

1. Economic Policy Institute: Unemployment Rate Drops as Workers Flee Weak Labor Market.

The jobs report released this morning marks six years since the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007 and four-and-a-half years since its official end in June 2009. Today's report shows a very weak labor market, and the continued fleeing of workers from the labor force because job opportunities are weak.

The unemployment rate dropped from 7.0 percent to 6.7 percent in December, but as has been a constant refrain throughout this recovery, the improvement was not for "good" reasons. The share of the working-age population with a job did not increase in December, and the labor force participation rate dropped back down to its lowest point in 35 years. The number of "missing workers" increased from 5.6 million to 6.0 million. (Missing workers are jobless workers who are not actively seeking work but who would be either employed or looking for work if job opportunities were stronger, after taking into account long-run demographic trends.) If these workers were in the labor force looking for work, the unemployment rate would be 10.2% instead of 6.7%.

...With job opportunities so weak for so long, workers have gotten stuck in unemployment for record lengths of time. Last month, the extensions of unemployment insurance benefits were allowed to expire—an unprecedented move given the weak state of the labor market. The share of the workforce that is long-term unemployed (i.e., jobless for more than six months) is nearly twice as high today as it was in any other period when we allowed an extended benefits program to expire following earlier recessions. This is no time for Congress to turn its back on the long-term unemployed.
Emphasis mine.

2. OpenSecrets: Millionaires' Club: For First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus.
For the first time in history, most members of Congress are millionaires, according to a new analysis of personal financial disclosure data by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767—an increase from last year when it was $966,000. In addition, at least one of the members elected since then, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), is a millionaire, according to forms she filed as a candidate. (There is currently one vacancy in Congress.)

Last year only 257 members, or about 48 percent of lawmakers, had a median net worth of at least $1 million.

Members of Congress have long been far wealthier than the typical American, but the fact that now a majority of members—albeit just a hair over 50 percent—are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code.
Emphasis mine.

The ruling elite has never been so elite! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Meanwhile, thanks to a slew of garbage decisions by the US Supreme Court, like the democracy-obliterating Citizens United, he (used advisedly) who has the most money wins. It's virtually impossible for a candidate with fewer resources to win a congressional campaign now. So we are looking forward to a whole lot more of privileged millionaires making decisions about a social safety net they will never need.

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Rachel Maddow: An Alternate Theory of the Christie Scandal

Yesterday at his press conference, Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shot down the theory that the George Washington Bridge lane closures were political retribution for Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's failure to endorse Christie in his reelection bid. That was the only proffered theory for why Christie's now-fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly had sent an email last August to the Port Authority reading, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Even given Christie's proclivities toward bullying, it was a pretty weak explanation for a decision to majorly fuck the people of Fort Lee. So, maybe it was something else?

On her show last night, Rachel Maddow put forth an alternative theory of what motivated the Washington Bridge lane closures, and it's very compelling stuff.

The full transcript will be here, when it's made available. In the meantime, it would take me all day to transcribe 17 minutes, so, care of Steve Benen, here is a summary of the details of the alternate theory, which is laid out in the last six minutes of the above video segment:
In New Jersey, state Supreme Court justices serve an initial term of seven years, at which point the sitting governor decides whether or not to reappoint them. Since the New Jersey constitution was revised and adopted in 1947, every governor has reappointed every state Supreme Court justice without exception.

That is, until Christie took office. In 2010, soon after Christie's inauguration, he did something unprecedented: he declined to reappoint one of the justices: New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, the court's only African-American member. Wallace was not burdened by scandal or allegations of wrongdoing; Christie simply didn't want him on the high court anymore.

Democrats in the state Senate were livid. Rachel described the political firestorm that soon erupted in Trenton:
Senate Democrats made Chris Christie's first nominee to replace Justice Wallace, they made her wait until somebody else's seat came up on the court then they would consider her for that one, but not Justice Wallace's.

Then, Chris Christie nominated a man named Phil [Kwon] for the state Supreme Court, Senate Democrats said no. Then, Chris Christie nominated a man named Bruce Harris for the court, Senate Democrats said no.

Senate Democrats were so mad about what Christie did to take John Harris off the Supreme Court when he was up for re-nomination that they would not let anyone through. It's been a big political crisis in New Jersey. Senate Democrats rejected every one of those Christie nominees, one after the other.

And then when another of the justices on the Supreme Court, a Republican, came up for re-nomination just like John Harris had, and the Senate Democrats signaled that they were going to give her a whale of a time at her re-nomination hearing, Chris Christie just flipped out. He had enough. He pulled that justice off the Supreme Court rather than submit her to re-nomination before the Senate Democrats.
No governor had ever failed to reappoint a sitting state Supreme Court justice, but Christie had suddenly done it twice – once for the court's only African-American jurist, infuriating Democrats, and then again for a justice he actually liked. The governor, enraged, held a press conference to tell reporters, "I was not going to let her loose to the animals."

The "animals," in this case, were the Democrats in the state Senate.

Christie said that on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 2013.

On the morning of Aug. 13, 2013, Christie's deputy chief of staff told the governor's guy at the Port Authority, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The leader of the Senate Democrats at the time was a senator from … Fort Lee.
The Republican judge who came up for renomination was just not any judge. She was married to a key member of Christie's administration. It wasn't just political; it was personal.

I hope some enterprising journalists in New Jersey will ask the governor about this today.

[H/T to Alison.]

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Open Thread

image of actor Matthew Lillard wearing a ski cap

Hosted by Matthew Lillard.

Today's Lillard Fact: Matthew Lillard has appeared in five films with fellow thespian Freddie Prinze, Jr.: Wing Commander (1999), Summer Catch (2001), She's All That (1999), Scooby-Doo (2002) and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004).

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker masculine_lady: "What has surprised you recently?"

That at age 39 I've suddenly developed a taste for coffee. Recently, my palate has changed in a way that makes bitter more pleasant than it used to be—I never used to like tea or wine or Scotch, either (or, as Iain likes to say, "You didn't drink any adult beverages!" lol). I always loved the smell of coffee, but could never tolerate the taste. Then, suddenly, I did!

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Photo of the Day

image of partially frozen Niagara Falls
From the Telegraph's Pictures of the Day for 9 January 2014: "The U.S. side of the Niagara Falls, also known as the American Falls, is encrusted with icicles. The Canadian side is still flowing." [REUTERS]

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In which @DeekyMD, @SoDevolved, and I talk about the movie Her, but not really, because, as always, it immediately degenerates into silly bullshit. Enjoy.

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Pro-Choice, Part Wev in an Ongoing Series

Not twenty minutes after I published the previous piece was this posted on Twitter:

screen cap of a tweet posted by The Frisky reading: 'Let's hear from the moms out there! Is liveblogging birth appalling or intriguing? #ThisorThat @TheMamaFesto @TheMamaBee @HuffPostParents'

So now we can have dueling discussions on whether it's "ethical" to liveblog death and "appalling" to liveblog birth. PERFECT.

Let's just make this easier for everyone: Women should STFU about everything always. Y/N?

I am tired to my very bones of the ubiquitous failure to embrace the simple idea that individual people should be allowed to make individual decisions for themselves.

And I am more committed every day to being pro-choice in all things.

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What is this article?

[Content Note: Choice policing; terminal illness; disablism.]

There aren't sufficient words to describe my reverberating contempt for the fact that this article was written and published: "Forget funeral selfies. What are the ethics of tweeting a terminal illness?"

The article, written for the Guardian by Emma G. Keller, is about the Twitter feed of Lisa Bonchek Adams, a woman with terminal stage 4 breast cancer which has metastasized to her bones, joints, hips, spine, liver, and lungs. She has long been documenting her illness, her life and her death, on Twitter, and on her blog, and Keller wants to have a discussion about the "ethics" of that choice.

One may wonder why anyone would raise a question regarding the ethics of publicly speaking about one's own terminal illness. The answer appears to be that the author of the piece is deeply conflicted about being drawn to the twitter feed of a dying woman.

As her condition declined, her tweets amped up both in frequency and intensity. I couldn't stop reading – I even set up a dedicated @adamslisa column in Tweetdeck – but I felt embarrassed at my voyeurism. Should there be boundaries in this kind of experience? Is there such a thing as TMI? Are her tweets a grim equivalent of deathbed selfies, one step further than funeral selfies? Why am I so obsessed?
"Why am I so obsessed?" A better question might be: Why am I tasking Lisa Bonchek Adams with the responsibility for my obsession?

Jessica Luther, who gave me the heads-up about this piece, asked on Twitter: "Your piece on @AdamsLisa, @emmagkeller, made her own personal journey towards death ALL ABOUT YOU. Why even do that?" That's a pretty good question, too.

After carefully detailing the quantity of Lisa Bonchek Adams' tweets ("Over the past few years she has tweeted more than 165,000 times (well over 200 tweets in the past 24 hours alone."), Keller further goes on to audit the quality of her tweeting:
It's clear that tweeting as compulsively as Lisa Adams does is an attempt to exercise some kind of control over her experience. She doesn't deny that. She sees herself as an educator, giving voice to what so many people go through. And she is trying to create her own boundaries, flimsy as they might be. She'll tell you all about her pain, for example, but precious little about her children or husband and what they are going through. She describes a fantastic set up at Sloan-Kettering, where she can order what she wants to eat at any time of day or night and get as much pain medication as she needs from a dedicated and compassionate "team", but there is no mention of the cost. She was enraged a few days ago when a couple of people turned up to visit her unannounced. She's living out loud online, but she wants her privacy in real life.

…Will our memories be the ones she wants? What is the appeal of watching someone trying to stay alive? Is this the new way of death? You can put a "no visitors sign" on the door of your hospital room, but you welcome the world into your orbit and describe every last Fentanyl patch. Would we, the readers, be more dignified if we turned away? Or is this part of the human experience?
Everything, everything, about that is contemptible.

Where an individual person decides to draw one's boundaries does not make them "flimsy" boundaries, if they're not where someone else thinks they ought to be. Lisa Bonchek Adams' pain is her own experience to share; she needs only her own consent to speak about it. What her children or husband are going through is not hers to tell. That doesn't seem like a "flimsy" boundary to me; it seems like a firm, clear, appropriate, and generous one.

Additionally, there is no ethical conundrum here: "She's living out loud online, but she wants her privacy in real life." Setting aside the false distinction between "online life" and "real life," any person can draw whatever lines they like about who has access to them, in what space. Plenty of people, myself among them, give access to online readerships to certain parts of our lives, some of them incredibly intimate, while wanting to retain privacy in offline life. The only ethical problem here is publicly policing those choices, as if one is entitled to complete access to another person's life.

Whether to "turn away" or immerse oneself in Lisa Bonchek Adams' public narrative of her illness is not an ethical question, nor one of "dignity." It's just another choice, like her choice to share her experiences.

Personally, I want to know how to do things. One of the things I want to know how to do is die. Every death is particular and unique, but I am grateful to people who share their deaths, who give me the best opportunity I have to learn how to do something I'm going to have to do one day.

Not everyone need share that perspective.

There's nothing inherently "dignified" or "undignified" about either choice. It is, however, pretty goddamn undignified to publicly question whether a dying woman, whose Twitter feed and blog no one is forced to read, is being self-indulgent—or whether she's being self-indulgent in the wrong way. For fuck's sake.

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Quote of the Day

What I confirmed during my couple months as an undercover candidate for US Congress is what the data clearly tells us and more importantly what the hard working families of my Kentucky 2nd US Congressional District have been telling me: We have an economy in which people and our families have become expendable. We no longer have an economy that rewards hard work or playing by the rules. We are increasingly becoming a nation of declining fortunes for the majority and a nation in which the American dream is increasingly beyond reach and social mobility is one direction—down—for a growing majority.

...The ever-widening disparity in America is unethical, disrespectful to working men and women, dishonorable, and completely lacking in integrity—and is absolutely unsustainable. If America is to maintain our position in the world, we need leaders not looters.
—Ron Leach, Democratic candidate for Kentucky's 2nd Congressional district, who spent the last few months working as an air handler for UPS in Louisville, Kentucky, where he found he "could not have survived the past couple months at the 'entry level' of America's economy in which an increasing majority find themselves trapped."

I encourage you to read his entire account, in which he documents his experience and notes how some of his privileges (like already owning appropriate work boots from his time in the military, and having healthcare coverage) made things easier for him than for the average person.

[H/T to my friend Ben.]

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It's Not Just You

Again, Disqus is being glitchy, and it's not just you seeing 0 comments on threads where there are comments. I notified Disqus this morning. I've received no response yet, but hopefully it will be resolved quickly. I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Matilda the Blue-Eyed Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat looking up at something


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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True Facts

[Related Reading: Today in Fat-Hatin', Fat News!, Headline of the Day, Chris Christie's "Secret" Weight Loss Surgery.]

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

The Rentals: "Please Let That Be You"

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today!

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is "embarrassed and humiliated" over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last September, which "appear to have been designed to punish a local Democratic mayor who declined to back Christie's re-election" and thwarted emergency responders. Christie has fired one of his top aides, deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who sent an email authorizing the closing, and he claims no previous knowledge, which Michael Tomasky thinks is bullshit. Relatedly, this story has brought out the fat-haters, because criticizing Christie for being an unethical, bullying jerk using facts is apparently too much work.

[Content Note: Discussion of gender policing] Kole starts "an 'on the ground' conversation about social construction of what it means to be a man or a woman outside of academia and within community" with a great post.

[CN: Misogyny] Meryl Streep, self-proclaimed "rabid man-eating feminist," calls out Walt Disney's sexism in a speech honoring Emma Thompson.

[CN: Gun violence] Former Congress member Gabby Giffords goes sky-diving to mark her three-year anniversary of surviving being shot.

Wow: "The first female law firm in Saudi Arabia launched last week, founded by the first Saudi female lawyer Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran. Saudi Arabia issued law licenses to Al-Zahran and three other female lawyers in October 2013, the first time the country issued such licenses to female law graduates. Al-Zahran told Arab News that her law firm's objective will be to fight for Saudi women's rights and to get women's cases heard in court. 'I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system,' she said. 'This law firm will make a difference in the history of court cases and female disputes in the Kingdom.'"

Graphs by MIT Students Show the Enormously Intrusive Nature of Metadata. Whoa.

[CN: Antisemitism; violence] Mein Kampf has become an ebook bestseller. 1. Gross. 2. What is up with that? I hardly believe it's just a sudden upsurge in curious amateur historians. I am reminded of the recent findings that there's been an uptick in antisemitism in Europe, and I am inclined to take this news very seriously.

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Whooooooops Your Garbage Poverty Stats

[Content Note: Class warfare; misogyny; food insecurity.]

Jordan Weissmann: The Poverty Line Was Designed Assuming Every Family Had a Housewife Who Was a 'Skillful Cook'.

The official poverty line, as I wrote yesterday, is a dated and crude statistical concept that in many ways fails to capture America's historical success at fighting economic need. It was based on the cost of food in 1963, mostly because the Department of Agriculture had some idea of what a basic grocery budget should look like, whereas there wasn't any real agreement on what families needed to spend on other essentials. Since then, it's mostly just been adjusted for inflation.

Keep that history in mind while reading this passage, which I found in a 1992 report by the Social Security Administration on how the poverty threshold came to be:
When the hypothetical family cut back its food expenditures to the point where they equaled the cost of the economy food plan (or the low cost food plan) for a family of that size, the family would have reached the point at which its food expenditures were minimal but adequate, assuming that "the housewife will be a careful shopper, a skillful cook, and a good manager who will prepare all the family's meals at home."
...What I think this passage that when we try to capture abstract concepts like "poverty" in a statistic, we inevitably end up wrapping a certain set of values and social expectations into the package, which can then become very outdated. As we dwell on America's successes or failures fighting poverty 50 years after Lyndon Johnson declared war on it, remember that the stats we use in that conversation are almost never as simple or straightforward as they seem.
Even at the time, the assumption that every family looked basically the same was bullshit. There have always been communities in the US, especially communities with endemic poverty, where many families were headed by multiple generations of women, most or all of whom worked outside the home, often in service work for privileged families who fit the "hypothetical family" model.

But it's exponential bullshit now to imagine all families fit this neat model, or to imagine that even in families which look like 1963's "hypothetical model," two opposite-sex parents + kids, it's reasonable to assume there's a stay-at-home mom to be "a careful shopper, a skillful cook, and a good manager who will prepare all the family's meals at home."

Which of course is to say nothing about food deserts. This fantastical assumption about Sous-zie Homemaker makes no accommodation for lack of access to affordable food.

The presumptions on which the federal poverty line is based were garbage in 1963, and now they are impossibly outdated garbage. And yet this is the baseline we're still using. Meanwhile, the national conversation is about how poor people are lazy and entitled and blah blah blah bootstraps.

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I Would Like to High Five Senator Dick Durbin

Because YES:

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Republicans to stop reading Ayn Rand books and help Democrats pass legislation aimed to give struggling Americans a hand.

"I say to my conservative friends, put down those Ayn Rand books for a minute and take a look at the real world," Durbin said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "If we can't stand behind those who are struggling in life, who are we; what are we?"

Durbin was marking the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty speech.

Unfortunately, it's hilarious because it's true. There is perhaps no one more reluctant to take a look at the real world than a modern conservative politician. The real world is just a thing that gets in the way of creating their own reality.

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Open Thread

image of actor Matthew Lillard in a baseball cap

Hosted by Matthew Lillard.

Today's Lillard Fact: Matthew Lillard attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, California, with fellow thespian Paul Rudd.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker themiddlevoice: "What is the best unexpected thing you've ever received?"

[Got a good suggestion for a QotD? Drop it into comments here.]

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Quote of the Day

"We have sighted an eastern bearded dragon at one of our telescopes, observed dragonflies, and even measured body temperatures of the mallee dragon. But our work has never ventured into dragons of the mythical, fire breathing variety. And for this Australia, we are sorry."—From a statement by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia's national science agency, in response to a letter from a 7-year-old girl named Sophie, who wanted to know if the scientists at the CSIRO could make her a dragon.

[H/T to Misty, who saw it at The Mary Sue.]

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The Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by slippers.

Recommended Reading:

David: [Content Note: Class warfare] The Right Can't Handle the Reality of the 21st Century Economy

Amanda: Just a Reminder

Flavia: [CN: White supremacy; silencing] Side Eyeing Feminism and Undoing the Harm

Renee: [CN: White supremacy; racist apologism] Ani DiFranco and the Problem with Hero Worship

Veronica: #365FeministSelfies and My Mother

Atrios: Governor Fucks with People's Lives for Petty Political Revenge

Leave your links and recommendations in comments...

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[Content Note: Violent crime.]

I've never read Leif G.W. Persson's Backstrom books, so I have no idea what the tone of the books is, but the description of this television show based on the series is raising all the red flags:

The series centers on Detective Everett Backstrom (The Office's Rainn Wilson), an offensive, irascible detective, as he tries, and fails, to change his self-destructive behavior. Throughout the series, Backstrom leads his team, the Serious Crimes Unit, as they navigate Portland's most sensitive cases.
At this point, I wonder: Has comedic actor Rainn Wilson been cast in a serious drama, or is this basically Law & Order: SVU reimagined as a comedy? And apparently it's the latter.
"[Bones creator/exec producer] Hart Hanson and Rainn Wilson are the perfect combination of creative vision and on-screen talent to bring this one-of-a-kind character and story like Backstrom to Fox," said Fox chairman Kevin Reilly. "I've been in business with Hart for a long time, and not only does he have a rare gift for infusing darker themes with relatable humor, he's one of the best showrunners out there today." Added 20th TV chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman, "There are so few creators out there with the genuine ability to mix great procedural storytelling with humor, and Hart Hanson is one of those guys. Getting another show on the air with him has been a top priority of this company."

Backstrom reunites Wilson with his Office co-star Mindy Kaling, who toplines Fox's The Mindy Project, and Reilly. "Fox is the perfect home for this fun and disturbed piece of entertainment," Wilson said.
A "fun and disturbed piece of entertainment" about "the Serious Crimes Unit" and "Portland's most sensitive cases." Sure. It's about time we had an entire series that was one giant rape joke.

[Related Reading: Oh, Crap.]

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Liss & Deeks Talk About Intelligence

[Content Note: Spoilers for the premiere episode of Intelligence. Imagery of gun below.]

image of actor Josh Holloway holding a gun during a tense scene at a paintball field
You had us at paintball.

So, last night was the premiere of the new CBS drama Intelligence, starring Josh Holloway from Lost. Long-time readers will recall that Deeks and I were massive Lost fans, so we decided we needed to watch Intelligence together, even if it did look like The Six Million Dollar Sawyer Bourne.

The thing is, it turned out to be good fun, despite its admittedly silly premise ("A drama centered on a high-tech intelligence operative who is enhanced with a super-computer microchip in his brain, and the director of the elite government cyber-security agency who supports him."), and there were a lot of lady characters! It passed the Bechdel Test within the first five minutes of the show.

Below, our text conversation during and after the show...

Deeky: Intelligence is on in ten minutes.

Liss: Oh I'm ready!

[fifteen minutes later]

Deeky: I think I've figured it out. Sawyer is the Bourne Identity but with a bionic brain.

Liss: It's like he's got Google Glass on the inside of his brains!

Deeky: Right?

Liss: Hello, Marg Helgenberger! Welp, it's already passed the Bechdel Test!

Deeky: She's great.

Liss: Cyber Command!

Deeky: LOLOLOL Cyber Command!

Liss: Is that dude the kidnapper doctor's boyfriend?

Deeky: LOLOLOL the guy in the glasses? No, it's his son.

Liss: Oh. Boring. Is this second chip going to be used to create Sawyer Bourne's nemesis?

Deeky: No doy it is! He'll also be played by Sawyer but will have a goatee.

Liss: LOLOLOL. Okay, that paintball scene kinda kicked ass, lol.

Deeky: Yeah, I think that's when I really decided I liked it.

Liss: It's way better than I expected!

Deeky: I was like, okay, this is a stupid show, but it's fun.

Liss: [in a flurry of excited texts] He's cyber rendering! I knew that Amos hipster fuck was up to no good! This agent has the same backstory as Kate! The doctor sniper!!! Love! This guy's eMacGuyver!


Liss: His nemesis is awake! And it's not Sawyer Bourne with a goatee, but another female character! And a woman of color! Woot! That episode proved way more fun than I anticipated.

Deeky: Okay. So he can upload to a fucking satellite but he can't send a text message to his boss saying he was kidnapped?

Liss: LOLOLOL! Prolly AT&T was down. Also: I love how people with manslaughter charges can become secret service agents apparently.

Deeky: Right? How's that not an automatic disqualification?

Liss: I do kinda hate how Agent Riley Neal's backstory is of the "abuse turns women into superheroes" variety. I hope that doesn't become A Thing.

Deeky: Grody. Such unoriginal dogshit. Can't a female character be a badass just because?

Liss: For real. So, in summation, the premise is very silly and there are some problems, but overall it's good fun and very stylish. I enjoyed it!

Deeky: Me too. So it'll probably be cancelled.

Liss: LOL right? We like it way too much for it to stay on the air!

Deeky: Also, during the break there was a commercial for a new episode of NCIS: Los Angeles. How is THAT still on?

Liss: LOL I have never seen one episode of that show, but I totally believe it to be terrible.

Deeky: NCIS: Los Angeles is the Milton of TV shows. It's probably been canceled but a glitch in accounting keeps sending the producers money.

Liss: LOLOLOL the Milton of TV shows!

Deeky: The agent assigned to protect him was pretty cool.

Liss: I dug how she still kicked ass even after being shot. Hell yeah. I also love, like looooooooove, that he's married and the agent is all in on finding his wife, so there's no imminent romantic garbage subplot.

Deeky: Well, I was kind of thinking they brought her in to keep him in line with the power of her vag. Because obviously.

Liss: Women do tame men. Think how out of control you'd be without my domesticating influence.

Deeky: LOLOLOL! Yeah, good job. I had a boy over tonight. Top-notch work, June.

Liss: "It's because Liss is a hobag."—James Taranto, probably.


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Green Light for Fat-Shaming

[Content note: fat hatred, food policing, mention of ED and disordered eating.]

Welp, this sounds like a wonderful idea not at all likely to promote fat-shaming! Via CBC: "Traffic light food labels promote healthy, lasting choices: Putting red, yellow and green labels on foods could help reduce obesity, U.S. researchers say."

Traffic light food labels! How awesome is that? Well, according to the researchers, it is somehow totes awesome! (I am less sure of that!)

The labels modelled after a traffic light break down the choices this way:

Green: fruits, Vegetables and lean sources of protein.

Yellow: Less nutritious foods.

Red: Foods with little or no nutritive value, and high fat or caloric content.

...In Tuesday's issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers in Boston say they found the proportion of sales of red items decreased from 24 per cent at the start of the study to 20 per cent after 24 months.

What's more, green sales increased from 41 per cent to 46 per cent after two years.

"These results suggest that simple food environment interventions can play a major role in public health policies to reduce obesity," Dr. Anne Thorndike of Massachusetts General Hospital and her co-authors said.

Hmmm. 4% and 5% over two years don't sound all that dramatic to me. I'm also wondering about their control groups. Were there any? What happened in cafeterias that didn't use the labeling? And more importantly: what evidence is there that these changes in sales actually helped anybody's health?

Maybe next time they need to hire a Food Traffic Police Officer for their nifty study! "STOP right there, fatty! You'd better GO over to the GREEN labels!" *whistle* "Come on forward, thin person, you can probably handle the complexities of YELLOW!"

Or maybe they can just rely on the fat shaming, both internal and external, that goes on when one is Eating While Fat. Because that shit is super, duper, HEALTHY. And we definitely need more of it! Maybe by using big, obvious, glaring food labels! Sure.

Look, I appreciate having lots of information about foods. I would like to see more informative labels, especially in cafeterias! Better designed! Non-judgemental! Easy to read! But I don't appreciate the pre-packaged assumptions about what is healthy or unhealthy, based on the food's alleged connection to fatness alone.

For example, dietary fibre information is apparently not addressed in this study (although aren't fatties supposed to eat lots of it? Tsk.) But it's a nutrient for some people, a health hazard for others. Normally, I try to eat 5 or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day; I also seek out higher-fibre grain choices. But sometimes IBS and endometriosis pair up to turn my "innards" into "outards," ahem. At those times, fibre is definitely not a healthy choice for me, so I avoid it. And I might need more calorie-dense foods at that time than I usually eat, since it's hard for my body to absorb any nutrition at all.

None of that, not a bit, is covered in a study that apparently frames acceptable vs. non-acceptable foods solely in terms of their alleged links to my body's weight. Nor the concerns of people with food allergies, who may be forced to pick pre-packaged "red" items because of contamination concerns.

And certainly, in the case of those recovering from eating disorders or disorderd eating, the red light/green light dichotomy can be actively harmful. Labeling food "good" or "bad" based on calories is not exactly conducive to promoting healthier thought patterns about eating.

And the list could go on.

But it's all about health, right? Which means ignoring everything that could possibly go wrong with this approach, and the active harm it engenders. Because that sounds completely and totally healthy. Sure.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat standing on me, kneading my belly, with her ears lit up by the sunshine

"Esscuse me, I just needs to knead you right here, Two-Legs."

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

TV on the Radio: "Golden Age"

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Another Republican for Child Labor

[Content Note: Child exploitation; class warfare.]

Joining the illustrious ranks of Newt Gingrich, Ray Canterbury, and Jack Kingston, Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage says that children should be allowed to work, because failing to support child labor is "causing damage to our economy."

"We don't allow children to work until they're 16, but two years later, when they're 18, they can go to war and fight for us," LePage said. "That's causing damage to our economy. I started working far earlier than that, and it didn't hurt me at all. There is nothing wrong with being a paperboy at 12 years old, or at a store sorting bottles at 12 years old."
Sure, there's nothing wrong with it. Except for how lots of kids who do have jobs while they're still in school are constantly tired and/or don't have enough time for their schoolwork.

This is, naturally, also an issue of privilege. A middle- or upper-class kid who wants to do a paper route, or mow lawns, or whatever, for a little extra pocket money is in a fundamentally different situation than a kid who takes on whatever work zie can get out of necessity, because hir basic needs aren't being met, because hir parents have been out of work or can't find a job with a livable wage and their government is failing them with a catastrophically underfunded social safety net.

Is it really not letting kids work that's "causing damage to our economy," or garbage conservative policy and bootstraps bullshit that's doing the job?

And, listen, I don't know what the deal is in Maine, but I can tell you that in Indiana, a 12-year-old who wants a paper route is shit outta luck in a lot of places, because they're already taken by adults who are trying to make ends meet. I can't even think of the last time I saw an actual teenager bagging groceries.

Governor LaPage was 12 years old in 1960. Things have changed.

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today!

[Content Note: War] The South Sudan peace talks have stalled: "Even as several dozen people held a peace march in Juba, South Sudan's capital, on Wednesday, there was little evidence that the conflict is moving toward resolution, more than three weeks after spiralling violence broke out. Two officials in Ethiopia [where the peace talks are being held] said the peace talks had stalled over the issue of political prisoners. The special envoy of Igad, a bloc of East African countries, has flown to Juba to speak about political detainees."

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, has written a new memoir in which he "unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama's leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war. ...It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president." Huh.

The Republican Party continues its bid to look less garbagey while not actually changing its garbage policies: "First, Republicans were given lessons on how to talk to women while denying them reproductive services. Now, they're learning how to talk to the long-term unemployed and their families while denying them benefits. As members of the Republican Party fight against extending unemployment insurance to those who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks, the party's leadership is circulating talking points on the best language to use when discussing such opposition, the Washington Post reports. The goal is to show compassion." The goal is to show compassion, while not actually having any.

[CN: Gun violence] A beautiful, moving essay from former Congressional representative Gabby Giffords: "The Lessons of Physical Therapy."

[CN: Transphobia] Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera Enlighten Katie Couric on Gender Identity: "By focusing on bodies we don't focus on the lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination."

Congratulations to Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, who were married in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve after 42 years together.

Terrific news for lovers of fat hatred: The Paul Blart: Mall Cop sequel has its director!

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I Have Questions

[Content Note: Lack of healthcare access; class warfare; fat hatred; racism; consent issues.]

So, there's a really important article in The Atlantic today about poverty and healthcare in the US: "Living Poor and Uninsured in a Red State: Obamacare assumed states would expand Medicaid, but half of them aren't. What will happen to those states' uninsured people?"

I am recommending the article, because it's very good. But I have questions about the photo that was chosen for the top of the article.

screencap of an image of a fat woman with dark hair standing at a clinic window with her hand covering her face; the photo is captioned 'A woman stands at the registration window at a clinic in San Juan, Texas. (Eric Gay/AP)'

All of the other photos in the piece were taken by the writer, but the one at the top, the first thing people see, is an AP photo of an unnamed fat woman with her face covered with her hand. Which doesn't make her a headless fatty, but a faceless one.

Now, certainly, there is an anonymity issue to consider when publishing an image of a person accessing healthcare. But are The Atlantic's editors really unaware of the issues surrounding publishing images of fat people whose faces and/or heads are not visible?

Further, are they really unaware of the narratives around fat people and healthcare? And fat people and poverty? And the potential for this particular image to flavor the entire article in a very specific way for the many people who are inclined to believe that fat (especially fat and poor) people do not deserve access to healthcare, especially healthcare subsidized by tax dollars?

That the woman in the photo may be Latina only further complicates the issues around an article primarily about healthcare and poverty in Texas.

Were none of the people to whom the author spoke willing to have their photos taken while accessing healthcare? If not, did the woman in this image give her consent for her image to be used in a story about poverty and healthcare in Texas?

(I realize consent for the publication of wire images is not the norm. But just because something is the norm doesn't mean it's right. See: Why Progressives Exist.)

I'm not assuming bad faith. I don't imagine whoever chose to use this picture did so with any kind of malicious motives. But, as every journalist and editor knows (or should know), images of people from marginalized populations tend to turn those people into representatives of whole populations against which people with biases wield their judgments.

Using a picture of a fat woman of color in a story about healthcare and poverty has to be done sensitively. It has to center consent, so as to honor individual identity. It cannot be (even inadvertently) dehumanizing.

If you cannot find a subject who explicitly consents to participation in that way, well, maybe there's a reason for that. And maybe you just need to use another kind of picture altogether.

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I Have a Suggestion

[Content Note: Misogyny; harassment.]

It's a three-part suggestion, actually, for any straight dude who may, in 2014, consider writing a How Not to Be Creepy article for his fellow straight dudes, e.g. How Not to Be Creepy While Asking a Girl Out, or How Not to Be Creepy on Social Media, or whatever.

1. Don't write it. Because framing harassment, hostility to consent, or potential sexual assault as "creepiness" in a conversation with other dudes is bullshit. Here's the thing: I would wager that virtually all of the men who have behaved toward me in ways described as "creepy" don't consider themselves creepy. "Creepy" is something other dudes are. If you want to have a serious talk with men about their interactions with women, you can't use language that very few of the men who need to take this lesson believe applies to them.

When you write a piece about "creeps," you're writing about "other guys," as far as lots and lots of dudes are concerned. You might get lots of cookies from grateful women, and some high fives from dudes who are also definitely not creepy, but if the point of your piece is validation rather than a meaningful conversation with men who cause harm, then you're kind of a creep yourself.

2. Don't write it. Because inevitably there's a flavor to How Not to Be Creepy advice pieces of offering help to well-intentioned but clueless dudes. And, sure, maybe some of those guys exist, but the assumption that most dudes are just creepy by accident, because they don't know any better, is bullshit. And it serves as rape apologia. One of the most pernicious narratives about men who harm women sexually is that they just made a mistake. Hostility to consent is not a mistake.

Cultural and institutional reform to reduce "creepiness" toward women begins with acknowledging that predators are not otherwise good boys who just made a mistake. But they're sure grateful when we think they are, and talk about "creepiness" as the misguided bumblings of a hapless dude who just didn't know any better.

And if you're inclined to insist but there really are hapless dudes who just don't know any better! I will ask you to consider: 1. How do you know? Listen to the women who can tell you story after story of men who insistently breached their consent, who "creeped" on them in spite of their clear, explicit communication to stop, but could play the hapless doofus for the benefit of other men, specifically because they know narratives about "mistakes" exist and that playing into those narratives protects and abets them. 2. So what if those guys do exist? If those guys want to not harm women, they'll learn even if you target your allyship in a way that centers accountability for any harm, irrespective of intent.

3. Don't write it. Instead, invite a woman to write a piece about consent from her perspective, then leverage your male privilege to endorse and champion it. Host it in your space. Invite other men to listen to what your female guest writer has to say. The thing about "creeps" is that they don't respect women; they don't listen to us; they don't empathize with us.

If you really want men to not harm women, then find ways of encouraging them to respect, listen to, and empathize women. To see what "creepiness" looks like from our perspective.

Talking about women as targets, as objects, as things to be approached this way and not approached that way, is not humanizing. It's othering.

If you want to reduce harm to women, not othering us is a good place to start.

[Related Reading: Please, No More Dating Guides.]

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Open Thread

image of actor Matthew Lillard with Kermit the Frog

Hosted by Matthew Lillard and his friend Kermie.

Today's Lillard Fact: Matthew Lillard and I have the same middle name—Lyn!

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Grey: "What is your favorite use of a song or other piece of music in television or film?"

[Got a good suggestion for a QotD? Drop it into comments here.]

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Greyhound Goofiness

Everyone in the multiverse (and thanks to each and every one of you!) has sent me this terrific video of a greyhound named Mosley wearing Batman pajamas and playing in the snow. So here it is! Enjoy!

(And, yes, this is exactly how Dudley behaves in the snow. Earlier this afternoon, I was watching him through the kitchen window as he ran around in the backyard, dramatically leaping in snowdrifts and spinning in circles to get Zelly to chase him. And right in the middle of a huge loop through the garden, he came to a complete stop, then pivoted and ran for the back door and started whining pitifully to be let back in. When he's had enough, he's had enough!)

Video Description: Mosley, a brindle greyhound wearing Batman pajamas runs around in a big fenced yard, covered in snow. He runs toward his guardian holding the camera, grinning and panting. He spins in silly circles. Then stops. Then runs a little. Then stops. Then runs and spins. Pant pant pant. Play-bow. Run. Spin. Zooooooom! He play-yaps at his guardian. Play-bow. Run. Spin. Rinse and repeat. Wheeeeeeeee!

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

[Content Note: Misogyny; gender essentialism.]

James Taranto: "The Moralistic Fallacy." Below, an actual excerpt:

Nonetheless, the vast majority of children who are growing up without fathers are doing so in large part because of their mothers' choices. In our column last month, we half-facetiously raised "the converse lament that young females are insufficiently interested in 'becoming reliable wives and mothers.' " Let us now raise it half-seriously. It is trivially true that an unmarried woman who bears a child is not a reliable wife. If Hymowitz is correct about the baneful effects of fatherlessness on boys, such a woman also is not a reliable mother, at least to her sons.
LOLOLOL FOREVER. This is a real thing that a real adult human being wrote and which a real media organization published in the year of our lord Jesus Jones two thousand and fourteen.

[H/T to Shaker MMC.]

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Discussion Thread: Internet Life

I republished "Getting Real" in anticipation of this discussion thread, in which I want to invite a discussion about the ways the internet compliments our offline lives. I've recently read a(nother) handful of pieces about how the internet is inherently bad for and/or subversive of human interaction, and yet many people, myself among them, clearly have lives enhanced by access to the internet, in myriad ways, from forging friendships to providing access to educational and social justice resources with which we might not otherwise come in contact to the peculiarities of internet communication allowing parts of our personalities to flourish that offline life doesn't.

There are, to be sure, drawbacks to interacting with other humans on the internet, but this is a thread for discussing the ways in which our lives are enriched by it.

Have at it.

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Getting Real

[Content Note: Bullying. This piece was originally published February 14, 2013.]

I've been thinking about the "real life vs. internet life" article about which I wrote here, which was chiefly about dating but included general commentary underwriting narratives about how online relationships are inherently inferior to those formed in meatspace. It's a trope with which I am obliged to frequently engage, as it's deployed with regularity by apologists for Bad Behavior, particularly the harassment of social justice advocates, who are keen to educate me that It's the Internet and demand to know what do I expect. (Spoiler Alert: More!)

It's a problematic construction for a few reasons, not least of which, as I have observed previously, is that the internet is not separate from culture, but a reflection of culture. It takes a special sort of cultivated ignorance to imagine that the anonymity of the internet creates the urges that underlie bullying, rather than merely empowering bullies to be uglier, meaner, bolder than some of them would be face-to-face.

It's not like no random dude ever called me a fat cunt before I started a blog.

The distinction between "real life" and "internet life" is a false one. Communities on the internet, and relationships formed on the internet, are as real as those in meatspace, even if they are different.

And sometimes those differences are neutral. Sometimes they expose deficiencies, or benefits, in either in-person relationships or (primarily or exclusively) online relationships. Often, they create matched sets: Written communication lacks the nuance that in-person communication does; in-person communication does not engage the additional filter that written communication can. Or: There are indeed ways to deceive people on the internet that in-person interactions do not support; online communications protect against certain kinds of harm that interpersonal interactions do not. Et cetera.

Each has its own limitations and values, which themselves are entirely subjective based on the individual person(s) involved. While body language and facial expressions may be meaningful to me, they may not be of particular use to someone neuro-atypical who struggles to correctly interpret them.

For me, one of the most precious advantages of the internet is that it keeps me connected. I don't mean the ability to keep up with the goings-on of old friends and distant relations—although that, too. I mean that it keeps me from disappearing.

I disappear easily, vanishing from social interaction like a retreating turtle into its shell—long stretches of desired lonesomeness during which I am perfectly content to be my only company. It's not because I love my friends any less, or because I'm depressed, or for any Important Reason at all, except that I am who I am, and that is someone who is very shy.

I am a "learned extrovert," as Molly Shannon's character described herself on the last (brilliant) episode of Enlightened, but the first 13 years of my life, I was so painfully shy that I never laughed out loud at school, ever, which is difficult for friends made after that time to believe, because I laugh loudly and easily and often now. I still remember the first time I tried an out-loud laugh, hesitatingly and consciously, in Mr. Martz's social studies class, and Garth Miller looked at me from the next desk over with an expression one usually reserves for events like alien invasions and said, "I've never heard you laugh before!" Bless him, I had such a crush on him, and if he'd said it with less wonder and more judgment, I might never have laughed out loud again.

That is who I am, in the deepest roots of myself, the girl who had to summon the gumption to laugh out loud in class. And that is why it's so easy and so comfortable for me to disappear.

And disappearing, as I have a wont to do, was different before the internet. It read, quite understandably, like avoidance, when I stopped inviting people to socialize and picking up the phone. Even during a disappearance, I might still accept invitations and answer the phone to chat, but I stop reaching out. All of my limbs and my head and my tiny little triangular turtle tail get tucked inside the shell. And it isn't kind to be a friend who disappears without explanation, so I explain, as best "I am a shy turtle girl right now; no it isn't personal; no I am not depressed; no nothing is wrong I swear" can be explained, which I've found depends a lot on how inclined to turtliness the listener hirself is.

The internet has made disappearing easier, in the sense that I don't totally disappear. I can maintain the necessary indulgence of my introvert nature and still be the one doing the reaching out. Sometimes, it is during a disappearance that I write the most meaningful emails, have the most wonderful tumbling conversations via text, give my friends the biggest laugh by posting some elaborate Photoshopped monstrosity of their favorite things on their Facebook walls. Dispatches from the shell.

That is a life that feels real to me, and fuller than my life without the internet, which is a tool that helps me actively maintain relationships with my dear and deeply valued friends, in spite of the social anxiety that constantly invites me to retreat.

I find less need now to attend events during periods when my shyness and anxiety conspire to engulf me; I have fewer instances of sitting at the end of the bed, ostensibly deciding what to wear, but actually contemplating whether it is worth risking a panic attack in a crowded space in order to avoid having to make a call to a friend who would totally understand that I'm not coming. Not disappearing completely helps me engage in self-care.

Which is to say nothing about all the friendships I have made via the internet, not a few of which are with people who are shy in the same way I am. I value beyond measure my extroverted friends, but they can't totally relate to the part of me that does the disappearing act. It feels good to be understood intimately, by people who disappear, too.

It is a combination of in-person and online communication that lets me be who I am actually am.

That, I realize, it what gets under my skin about the diminishment of online communications and friendships as "not real"—because the internet has helped me become my realest self.

[Related Reading: The Sound of My Voice.]

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Liss and Ana Talk About Elementary

[Content Note: Spoilers for the most recent episode of Elementary.]

image of Natalie Dormer as Moriarty and Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes sitting on a couch with a giant portrait of Joan Watson sitting between them in the background
"Sherlock, I'm worried that Joan is coming between us."

Ana: It's a Natalie Dormer episode!!!

Liss: Yay Natalie Dormer!

Ana: I'm kinda pissed, lol, because I had finally decided to ride out my Amazon Video season pass and then not bother with Season 3, but then they dangle Natalie Dormer at me.

Liss: There's no resisting Natalie Dormer, lol.

Ana: I was super-concerned at the beginning when Sherlock was writing to her about Joan, because that's personal stuff and it seemed wrong for him to share it without her permission. (Especially since Joan is the one who caught Moriarty and revenge is a possible concern here. Let's maybe NOT share personal details that could be used to hurt her.) But I was glad that Joan pointed out that was wrong and very uncool, and he seemed uncomfortable about his own actions, so…okay? He's not perfect, and he messes up, but he's still trying, I guess? I don't recall if we got a real apology over that, though.

Liss: It's interesting to watch Sherlock start to navigate boundaries within a friendship. Like the stuff about sharing details about Joan's personal life—it's like he's at this point where he wants to share things because he cares about her and finds her interesting and all that, something that's a new experience for someone who never had much use for friends before, but he still doesn't understand that caring about someone and having access to hir life doesn't give you ownership of it.

Ana: Yes. I did very much like the themes of change and being a better person because you don't want to harm others, especially people who you care about. (I might be reading this through my own biases; I could see how the message is being a better person because you care what people think about you, but I'm going to be charitable here because I still want this show to be good, lol.) I liked that Moriarty wasn't really the villain like we were led to believe, which I thought was a good twist. I liked that this wasn't an episode about breaking her out of prison—she didn't try to run, she just did what she needed to do and then called Sherlock to pick her up with the police.

I liked that she didn't need Sherlock's help to save her daughter. This was really HER episode. I liked that she didn't bother trying to see her daughter—I thought it was an interesting touch that she cared about the safety of her daughter, but wasn't seeking a personal relationship with her. They didn't try to force her into an Emotional Mother role. (And I thought it was also a sensible move on her part and in keeping with her genuinely smart character; she seemed to recognize that trying to find the girl while dealing with her injuries would have just scared her and made things worse. I like that Moriarty is actually smart and not faux Smart Girl smart.)

Liss: I liked all of that stuff, too. And the code sent through the sketches! So clever. Yes yes yes to Moriarty being actually smart. I also loved the reveal at the end that the coordinates were to a vault where seeds are stored. LOL. It was just perfectly absurd, but also it was terrific that she knew exactly where that vault is.

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Daily Dose of Cute

Dudley was lying on the couch yesterday, and a beam of sunlight coming through the window caught his ear just right, illuminating his racing tattoo from behind:

image of Dudley the Greyhound lying on the loveseat, with a patch of light illuminating his inner ear

close-up of Dudley's head with illuminated ear

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

"This is a guise to obstruct, as has been happening during the five years President Obama has been President of the United States, and I object with as much fervor as I can."—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, during a Senate debate about the extension of unemployment benefits, in response to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposal "that he would be amenable to vote for an extension if Democrats agreed to a one-year delay of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act."

Republicans think people aren't entitled to food—and they also think people aren't entitled to healthcare and unemployment benefits.

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

They Might Be Giants: "Particle Man"

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today!

Janet Yellen has been confirmed by the US Senate as the next chair of the Federal Reserve. Congrats, Ms. Yellen!

[Content Note: Guns] A federal judge has overturned Chicago's ban "on the sale and transfer of firearms, ruling that the city's ordinances aimed at reducing gun violence are unconstitutional. ...The decision is just the latest to attack what were some of the toughest gun-control laws in the nation. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Chicago's long-standing gun ban. And last year, Illinois legislators were forced by a federal appeals court to adopt a law allowing residents to carry concealed weapons in Illinois, the only state that still banned the practice." Perfect.

AT&T's new policy threatens Network Neutrality: "AT&T today confirmed a long-rumored plan to monetize wireless data caps by charging content providers for the right to serve up video and other media without chewing up consumers' monthly data limits." AT&T claims the new policy doesn't threaten net neutrality, because the cost is charged to content providers instead of consumers, but yeahno.

[CN: Violence; police brutality; disablism] Keith Vidal's family are seeking answers after the 18-year-old was shot and killed by a police officer: "Mark Wilsey, the young man's stepfather, told reporters that the family called police to help subdue Vidal because he was holding a small screwdriver and threatening to fight his mother during a schizophrenic episode. But the situation appeared to be under control, with two officers restraining the 90-pound Vidal, when the third officer arrived and shot Vidal point-blank, Wilsey contended," after the officer reportedly said, "I don't have time for this. Tase him. Let's get him out of here." Once the teen had dropped to the floor after being hit with a stun gun, Wilsey alleges the officer shot him. When he asked why the officer shot him, he reportedly replied that he was "protecting my officers." From a 90-pound teenager who was lying on the floor. "He reached right up, shot this kid point-blank, with all intent to kill," Wilsey said. "He just murdered him flat out."

[CN: War on agency] A judge in Texas says pregnant people should stop whining about having to drive 150 miles to the nearest abortion clinic: "Do you know how long that takes in Texas at 75 miles an hour? This is a peculiarly flat and not congested highway." Ha ha fuck off.

[CN: Racism] Amy Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is back with another new book that sounds terrific: "[The Triple Package] claims some ethnic and religious groups are inherently more likely to succeed because of three specific traits... The book highlights Jews, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles and Mormons as groups with three qualities that set them apart. A superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control are the 'three cultural forces' driving these groups to achieve a disproportionate amount of success." Um.

This story about fisherman John Aldridge surviving going overboard on the North Atlantic is amazing!

[CN: Animal cruelty] Here's a perfect example of the damage done by blanket discrimination against individual dog breeds. Seethe.

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But What If She Were Fat?

[Content Note: Body shaming; fat hatred.]

While we were on break, another incident of public fat-shaming of an actress made the news. This time, it was comedian Jay Mohr, who body-shamed Alyssa Milano on his podcast after hosting a NASCAR event where Milano was a presenter. He said, in part: "It seems like she had a baby and said, 'I don't really give a shit. ...I read it on her gut. ...Somebody sat in the director's chair and was not wearing Spanx and I was like, 'Jesus Christ.'"

Anyway, Milano got wind of it and tweeted: ".@jaymohr37 So sorry you felt the need to publicly fat-shame me. Be well and God Bless. Please send my love to your beautiful wife."

From there, it took the usual path, as Mohr insisted it was a joke, and that it should have been obvious he was just joking (what—don't you have a sense of humor?!) because Milano is thin and beautiful and irony blah blah fart.

As if a man who's been in show business for a million years is unaware that thin women get earnestly fat-shamed and unironically body-policed all the time, too. Sure.

Eventually, he sorta apologized, while still insisting he was just joshing: "I had thought (incorrectly) in an improvisational moment, that the incongruousness of my statements, when held up to the light of how beautiful Alyssa Milano is, would have been funny given that she is the size of a thimble."

First of all, I call bullshit on his claim of being ironic, because nope. We all know what "ironic fat-hate" being deployed as an ostensible compliment looks like ("Boy, it's just too bad that [famously thin and beautiful woman] is so fat!") (which, by the way, is still gross) (just the worst), and what Mohr said doesn't look like that at all. It does, however, look exactly like the way insecure dudes bash women's bodies when they think they're in a closed conversation.

So, thumbs-down on Mohr's apology because he can't even be honest enough to own what he really did.

But secondly, and more importantly, this incident is yet another in a string of similar incidents of public fat-shaming (always as "a joke," of course) in which the dénouement is essentially: We all agree that the thin, beautiful woman who was fat-shamed is actually thin and beautiful, and all is right with the universe again.

Except, here's the thing...

Fat-shaming isn't wrong only when it's deployed against someone who isn't fat. It's wrong all the time. In fact, an actual fat woman who's subjected to public fat-shaming doesn't have access to this neat resolution where basically everyone agrees that she's gorgeous and she doesn't deserve to be fat-shamed and the fat-shamer is a real loser who should apologize to her.

An actual fat woman who's subjected to public fat-shaming is more likely to be told she deserves it; that she's ugly; that she's unhealthy. What does she expect, being all fat in public like that? The fat-shamer is a hero for saying out loud what everyone was thinking, anyway—a champion for not capitulating to the PC police.

It's a completely different narrative. No one makes apologies about how "heartbroken" they are for fat-shaming a fat woman.

There is no soft landing in the knowledge that, despite what some dipshit said, you have a socially-approved body.

Fat-haters wonder why the fuck fat activists talk publicly and often about loving our own bodies. Well, that's why: Because sometimes we are the only ones who do. When we get publicly fat-shamed, there is no outpouring of compliments, no reassurances that we are fine the way we are. We're responsible for providing all of that love and acceptance on our own.

The narrative has to change. Jay Mohr fat-shaming Alyssa Milano wasn't bullshit because she's not fat. (Although: That, too.) It was bullshit because fat-shaming is bullshit. It's utterly unjustifiable irrespective of the shape of the body of the person at whom it's directed.

Our collective response doesn't need to be: "Look at her—she's beautiful!" It needs to be: "Look at her—she is a human being."

Of course I realize that not everyone, especially not white male comedians, shares my opinion that human beings are entitled to dignity. But the only hope we have of subverting that pernicious disagreement is by changing our baseline expectations. I expect more than defending only privileged women against fat hatred, on the basis they're not even fat, anyway.

What if Alyssa Milano were fat? That shouldn't make a difference about how many people come to her defense.

But it does.

[Related Reading: This is so the worst thing you're going to read all day.]

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