Question of the Day

If you had three days to yourself to do anything you wanted, and money was no object, what would you do?

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Theme from "Good Times"

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The Monday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by peppermint.

Recommended Reading:

Keith: [Content Note: Gun violence] Michigan Man Gets Residency at Hospital That Saved His Life 9 Years Ago

stavvers: [CN: Domestic violence; abuse apologia; gaslighting] Shit I Cannot Believe Needs Saying: Your Mate Might Be Nice, But Is an Abuser

Jenn: [CN: Racism] Ann Coulter Calls Asian Americans "Mandarins"—and Insists It's the Correct Term

Ragen: [CN: Fat hatred] David Wolfe Fat-Shames Adele

Jessie: [CN: Anti-choice fuckery] Doctors in Peru Become Strong Champions of Safe and Legal Abortion

Dana: [CN: Transphobia] Quote of the Day: "You're a Bigot, Lady!"

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

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Wow. WOW.

So, Bernie Sanders gave an interview to Rolling Stone, and you should definitely read the whole thing, because it's pretty incredible in a bunch of different ways! Like, for instance, what a jerk he is to reporter Tim Dickinson, telling him his questions are "absurd" and "dumb." Or, for another instance, how he says that he pities "in a sense" Hillary Clinton. Cool.

But probably the most incredible part is how he says that he hasn't figured out how to be president, because he's too busy running for president.

No, really.

When reporter Tim Dickinson asks Bernie about his widely-criticized failure to offer "more specifics behind what the political revolution means as a form of governing," Bernie gets very testy with him, but Dickinson presses on, asking how, for example, "you get something like public-college-for-all passed with Paul Ryan as your counterpart."

Bernie replies that he's aware Ryan won't merely step aside and capitulate; that it's going to take a huge effort to convince an obstructionist Congress to pass his agenda. And then comes this: "Now, is it easy to do? No. How do you do it? It's a good question. And the truth is, right now I'm a bit busy running for president to have figured that out, other than to tell you that it requires a mass-based political effort bringing millions of people together to stand up and fight back."
I've got a piece about this at BNR, with way more.

Honestly, y'all. I would be so embarrassed if I were supporting a presidential candidate who said that.


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A Funny Feminist Thing's Happened To Game of Thrones

[Content Note: discussion of rape, sexual abuse, and sexualized violence.]

Spoilers: Heavy spoilers through episode 6, season 6, of Game of Thrones. Although I have read the books, this discussion relates strictly to the televisions series. Please be careful in discussion so as not to spoil the books for those who may not have read them.

What’s happened to Game of Thrones? And I mean that in a good way.

As readers of this space well know, this show has, for years, given us some of the most interesting and complicated female characters in fantasy film or television. But it's come at the price of seeing the majority of those characters frequently subjected to rape, sexual abuse, sexualized violence or (minimally) threats thereof. Such scenes were presented in ways that developed male characters rather than the victimized women (as when Sansa’s abusive wedding night ended with a close-up of Theon’s reaction) or worse, served as mere background (as in a scene at Craster’s Keep, where the on-screen rape of multiple unnamed women itself was the backdrop to a male character’s monologue).

Excuses about this being true to canon rang hollow, particularly when consensual scenes of sex from the books became non-consensual onscreen. As for claims that this was more “historically accurate” (but with zombies), well, give that last excuse to someone who doesn’t teach women’s history, thanks. As I wrote two years ago:

Why, I wonder, do the "realism!!!" rape apologists never expect to see any of the real-life historical dynamics which occasionally helped protect women from violence, or at least minimize it somewhat by punishing men's violence? Why is "realism" only invoked in one direction?

Did somebody read that essay? Because something has changed this season. And it’s been damn compelling.

To be honest, at first it was the absence of awfulness I noticed. In Epsiode 3, when Varys confronted the sex worker Vala about her support for the Sons of the Harpy, I snarked to my partner that they’d missed their chance to set yet another scene in a brothel for no apparent reason (other than to use nameless, naked women’s bodies as backdrops, of course). While I was unhappy that Osha met her death at the hands of Ramsay Bolton in episode four, I couldn’t help but notice that she was allowed to die with some dignity. Although it happened as she attempt to seduce Ramsay, the death was remarkably... unsexualized, particularly when compared to, say, Joffrey’s murder of Roz. Progress?

But then, without snark, I realized: there really has been progress. Maybe most dramatically when a character was finally is allowed to process, to react, and to discuss her victimization. In episode 5, Sansa confronts Littlefinger about setting her up with Ramsay, asking “did you know?” and forcing him to contemplate just her experiences were like. As Littlefinger sputters helplessly that he “can’t imagine” her tortures, she cuts him off. She straight up tells him that she can still feel what Ramsay did: “…and I don’t mean I can feel it in my tender little heart. I feel it in my body, now, standing here. “ Holy shit. You can watch the amazing scene for yourself (auto-play at link, content note for this and other scenes as for the post.) It’s quite an amazing bit of writing, and acting.

The show has also finally discovered something I suggested two years ago: the idea that even in very patriarchal periods of history, there still existed cultural norms that might sometimes protect women:

Take, for example, the absence of anything like the medieval Christian Church in the television story. Historically, that was a highly misogynist institution, yes. But it also offered rules and punishments about sexuality and violence which sometimes might restrain men's worst behavior. The men at Craster's, for example, might "realistically" include some men who would hesitate at committing mass rape, particularly in the face of death and with oathbreaking and rebellion already on their consciences.

Welp, in the first episode of Season 6, Game of Thrones finally discovered a compelling cultural/religious reason not to rape! Admittedly it only applies to widows of Khals, but what do you know, the cultural compunction was strong enough that Khal Moro actually chose not to assault Dany when she was his helpless captive. Powerful stuff, those cultural norms! And our glimpse of the widows of Khals who apparently advise the Dothraki on governance gave us another hint that maybe it’s possible for women who are literally hidden away to wield power or influence.

And speaking of influence, the newly introduced religious plotlines have finally yielded something other than women’s degradation or evil. My very words:

And speaking of politics, what if women could gain power through their piety? What if, for example, Margaery's acts of charity were part of her larger reputation for personal piety, one she could use to her advantage in King's Landing? What if Sansa could gain the status of living saint through her devotion and purity? So far both women have played a conventional role by pleasing men, but what if they could play an alternative role, pleasing the gods? Why has one of the most important ways that women historically gained influence out of these women's reach?

Well, helloo, Margaery’s conveniently timed conversion to Sparrow cause in episode 6! I could be wrong about this, but I have a strong suspicion that she’s going to use her new status to, well, wield power and influence. (You can watch the scene where she explains her conversion to the very-malleable King Tommen. And then watch her get out of a walk of Atonement while preventing a bloodbath. Nice save, Margaery!)

Even my complaint that the few women who wield religious power have been evil is softened a bit in Season 6. Neither the Red Priestess Kinvara in Mereen nor Melisandre at the Wall are exactly good guys in my book, but helping quell civil violence and reviving Jon Snow count for something. So far, septas have only been shown as glorified governesses or Nurse Ratched-type prison guards. But maybe we’ll get the equivalent of a powerful medieval Abbess in the Faith of the Seven yet!

And while it isn’t piety that Sansa has embraced, she too is discovering a way to wield power through the invocation of traditional cultural norms, much as her mother was able to, briefly. When Brienne finally got a break and succeeded in fulfilling her promise to protect Lady Starks’ daughter, and when Sansa finally accepted her service using the traditional words you can watch Sansa use the traditional ceremonial formula to accept Brienne’s service here, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one cheering. Indications that Sansa plans to build an anti-Bolton movement in the North feel grounded in both the show’s history—her mother was instrumental in building Robb’s alliance—and in real historyI Has someone been reading up on the role of women in the Wars of the Roses?

There have been a lot of moments that feel more spectacularly feminist this season. It would be hard to miss Dany literally burning down the Dothraki patriarchal establishment—with the patriarchs in it--and emerging unscathed from the flames. But it’s the subtler moments that keep sticking with me. Brienne finally getting to fulfill her promise to Catelyn Stark, finally getting to succeed in her mission.

And I can’t help but think of Arya’s most recent rejection of the House of Black and White in feminist terms. Her time training as an apprentice to the Faceless Men reminds me, in a weird way, of story arc in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3, when Buffy begins to realize that the alleged “good guys,” the Watchers who have trained her, are themselves just another controlling, patriarchal organization. They want to use her as a tool, and don’t give a damn about her as a person. Likewise, the Faceless Men talk a good game, but forcing a woman to completely sublimate her own identity, power, and selfhood sounds less than empowering. If Arya didn’t want to disappear within a dynastically convenient marriage, why would she choose to similarly disappear into a society of assassins?

This season has also spent a good deal of time on brother-sister relationships (that aren’t incestuous Lannister ones, I mean.) Again with the history books: I note that such relationships were some of the most egalitarian that might be experienced between men and women in early modern England. (Particularly when compared to marriages, in which the husband was granted clear legal and social authority over the wife.) In both the Stark and the Greyjoy families, a brother is supporting his sister’s political goals and ambitions, letting her (for the moment at least) seemingly take the lead. (You can watch Theon’s impassioned speech in favor of his sister’s leadership here.) And Margaery seems fiercely committed to helping her brother out of prison (see their scene here). So much so, that I’m quite sure her episode 6 conversion has as much to do with sparing Loras humiliation as anything else. (Or maybe she really did have a completely sincere religious experience, but if you believe that, then I have some lush green wight-free farmland north of the Wall to sell you.)

So where is all of this coming from? This is a change, and a mighty one at that. Jon Pedewsda, who’s directed several episodes, claimed last year that the show would be responding to concerns about its portrayal of rape. Show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, on the other hand, say that fan criticism didn’t change anything about Season 6. In fact, they seem to be saying that the inclusion of particularly empowering storylines for female characters is just part of a longer character arc, to which I say: sure. That sounds suspiciously like the ”Rape Turns Ladies Into Superheroes" trope, which is in itself misogynistic (and which I’ve written about here.)

The problem with this show was never just that Bad Stuff happened to female characters. It was never just that there were characters who experienced rape. It was the overwhelming barrage of sexualized violence. It was the casual way that violence “just happened,” like a natural disaster. It was that the sexualized violence was so often totally irrelevant to the development of the characters or plot (What was the storytelling reason for Jaime’s assault on Cersei? How did it change anything?) It was that when it did serve a purpose, it never seemed to be about women who suffered it. (By contrast, Theon’s seasons-long suffering at the hands of Ramsay Bolton was always as much about the fallout for him as establishing how dreadful Ramsay was.) And that’s before we get to the dehumanizing women-as-background-bodies.

My point is that it was never just one thing, it was an entire collection of things that, so far, Season 6 has mostly turned a corner on. And maybe the criticisms didn’t “change” any words written for Season 6, but it would be nice to think that somebody, somewhere, in the creative team considered those years-long criticism when Season 6 was written in the first place.

For whatever reason, the show has changed. For the better. In doing so, it’s proving you can make compelling tv without constant reliance on tired misogynist tropes (because dragons or history or whatever.) I can't call it a feminist show. I can't even say for sure it's taken a feminist turn. But it certainly feels as if a feminist thing has happened, altering the show in both large and small ways. And for that I say: thank you, Game of Thrones. Sunday night has been a whole lot better this spring, in more ways than one.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Matilda the Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat sitting on a dining room chair with her head poking out over the table, on which is laid out a game of Talisman
Tils wanted to play Talisman with Iain, Deeks, and me over the weekend.
Unfortunately, her idea of "playing Talisman" is just knocking shit over.

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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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: War; terrorism; displacement] "Islamic State militants in central Fallujah are believed to have prevented at least 20,000 residents from leaving the city and are offering fierce resistance to advancing Iraqi forces. A string of cautious early engagements, which are believed to have killed scores of Isis members and a smaller number of Iraqi troops, have set the scene for a protracted and difficult fight for Iraq's fourth city that will likely expose large numbers of trapped civilians, whom the group is using as human shields." Fucking hell.

Hillary Clinton got a couple of major endorsements today: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund endorsed her, which is the "first time it's backed a presidential candidate." And Democratic California Governor Jerry Brown endorsed her, ahead of the California primary, saying she's the nominee a majority of voters have decided they want. In case you aren't familiar with Brown, he ran a presidential campaign in 1992 very similar to Bernie Sanders', which he ultimately lost to Bill Clinton.

[CN: Authoritarianism] Buried deep, deep within this Washington Post article is a chilling quote from Donald Trump that should terrify anyone with a basic sense of history: "Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you've been looking for for 50 years. I'm the only one." SHIVER.

Relatedly, I've got a piece up at BNR about Trump's tirade at the media earlier today: "Donald Trump launched a vicious attack on the media today, who have, until this point, been treating him with kid gloves and disproportionately favorable coverage. It was a chilling view into how a Trump administration would try to undermine, intimidate, and silence the press."

[CN: ICE raids] This is an interesting interview with Father John Olenick, pastor of Visitation Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Parish in Philadelphia, a city which has been designated a "sanctuary city" because of its refusal to cooperate with deportation and having put an end to police-ICE collaborations. "The church is also one of 19 member congregations in the New Sanctuaries Movement. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced in January plans for mass immigration raids, New Sanctuary members and staff set up the emergency hotline and 'Know Your Rights' training sessions for undocumented immigrants."

In (tentative) good news: "Nearly 40,000 striking Verizon employees will return to work Wednesday after reaching a tentative contract agreement that includes 1,300 new call center jobs and nearly 11 percent in raises over four years but also makes health care plan changes to save the company money, the company and unions said Monday. The pact, subject to approval by union members, stands to end one of the largest strikes in the United States in recent years. Workers and Verizon Communications Inc. had reached an agreement in principle Friday but hadn't released details or a date for the workers' return. The strike began in mid-April."

[CN: Domestic violence; abuse apologia; gaslighting] This piece by comedian Doug Stanhope, "Johnny Depp Is Being Blackmailed by Amber Heard—Here's How I Know," is despicable trash. For about a million different reasons, not least of which is this: Trust that a defender of Polanski knows how to preemptively gaslight someone he's abused by telling friends she's out to get him.

[CN: Rape culture; sexual assault] Speaking of Polanski: "Roman Polanski faces a fresh extradition challenge after the Polish government announced Tuesday it would appeal a court decision not to force him to face U.S. courts over a 1977 child sex conviction."

[CN: Guns; death] My god: "At least 60 people were shot, six fatally, over the Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. That is fewer homicides than the holiday weekend last year, when 12 people were killed, but the overall shooting rates in Chicago continue to be higher than the year before, according to the Chicago Tribune's ongoing tally. ...Memorial Day weekend, which falls midway through the year, is an annual, unofficial indicator of a city's gun violence landscape, as the warmer summer weather is typically met with a jump in crime rates. In New York City, at least one person was fatally shot and 16 others injured in shootings over the weekend. But shooting rates in other major cities continue to pale in comparison to those in Chicago, the third-largest city in the US. While fewer homicides occurred in Chicago over the holiday weekend compared to last year, in the first five months of 2016, more people were shot each month than in the same month a year earlier. This time last year, 957 people had been shot, according to the Tribune. On Tuesday, the number for 2016 was around 1,500, the newspaper said."

RIP Lou Richards: "A member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was immortalized in the 1992 film A League of Their Own has died. Lucille 'Lou' Richards was 90. ...She was a shortstop for the Racine Belles and the South Bend Blue Sox in 1945 as part of the first women's professional baseball league." My condolences to her family, friends, teammates, and fans.

Neat! After some delay and trial and error and sticktoitiveness, the International Space Station finally has its new room!

And finally! This collection of photographs of Galgos (Spanish Greyhounds) is THE BEST. Yayayayay!

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Me, Too

This is a great observation by Paul Krugman, and this has absolutely been my experience as well:

This is my fifth presidential campaign as a New York Times columnist, so I've watched a lot of election coverage, and I came into this cycle prepared for the worst. Or so I thought.

But I was wrong. So far, election commentary has been even worse than I imagined it would be. It's not just the focus on the horse race at the expense of substance; much of the horse-race coverage has been bang-your-head-on-the-desk awful, too. I know this isn't scientific, but based on conversations I've had recently, many people — smart people, who read newspapers and try to keep track of events — have been given a fundamentally wrong impression of the current state of play.

And when I say a "wrong impression," I don't mean that I disagree with other people's takes. I mean that people aren't being properly informed about the basic arithmetic of the situation.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

Even people who sort of grasp that Bernie Sanders has no path to victory at this point are still getting things very wrong.

I have had to explain on numerous occasions, for example, that, no, Sanders is not in the same position Hillary Clinton was in 2008. At this point in the 2008 race, Clinton and Obama were separated by a third of the number of delegates that currently separate Clinton and Sanders, and Clinton and Obama were virtually tied in the popular vote, while Sanders is losing by about three million votes.

It's really not the same. It's really not a horserace. Not anymore.

And the media has done a very, very poor job of communicating this very basic fact. Because they are creating a reality that is more compelling and thus more profitable, without regard for the fact that hurting Clinton's chances increases the chances of her general election opponent, who is a terrifying nightmare human that actually endorses the displacement of millions of US residents, war crimes, and nuclear proliferation. Just for a start.

Why not. It's only the country's future at stake.

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I Write Letters

[Content Note: Bigotry; violence.]

Dear Elected Republicans:

I've been watching with horror the line-up of those among your ranks who have decided that it's best to support Donald Trump in order to stop Hillary Clinton.

Really? You're really comfortable with supporting a reckless, dangerous, erratic, incompetent bigot who has no compunction about blowing up the world with nukes, if it means stopping Clinton from giving people healthcare? Or whatever it is you're so afraid she'll do?

Have you no sense of self-preservation?

Your level of capitulation to Trump is just revolting. He is dangerous. How can you not care? HOW CAN YOU NOT CARE?

What I find absolutely gobsmacking is that many of you know Clinton personally. You've worked with her. You know she isn't reckless. You know she puts the country first. You know that she is not the monster that the most odious swaths of your base say that she is. You know that she is sensible and prepared and would make a very good president, even if you disagree with some of her policies.

Why are you pretending like she is a bigger risk to the future of this country than Donald Trump?!

Because your base likes him? Well, frankly, you should be decent enough to tell your base that a vote for Trump is a bad idea.


If you're the patriots you claim, risk reelection on stopping this guy. If for no other reason than because it's fairly shortsighted to prioritize your reelection over the safety of the nation to whose government you want to get reelected. If he destroys our Democracy, or the whole fucking planet, prioritizing your jobs will have been pretty silly, won't it?

I've literally never had a lower opinion of you than I have now, watching you get in line behind a candidate you know is reckless. It's beyond the most craven political expediency and self-interest. It is an unfathomably selfish miscalculation to support Trump.

And I don't have the luxury of waiting for history to judge you as the cowards you're being.

I want the present to judge you. Because by the time history judges you, it'll be too late.

Try doing the right thing, for once in your lives. For fuck's sake.

No Love,

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For Dr. Tiller

[Content Note: Anti-choice terrorism.]

Today marks seven years since Dr. George Tiller, a reproductive rights advocate and one of the precious few physicians in the country who performed lifesaving late-term abortions, was murdered at his church.

Seven years on we still aren't doing enough to protect abortion doctors and clinic staff. Anti-choice violence, harassment, and vandalism is increasing, thanks to anti-choice fuckery like the CMP's mendaciously edited undercover video series and the Republican Congressional caucus treating it like it made Planned Parenthood deserving of investigation and dozens of Republican governors launching their own state investigations of Planned Parenthood, none of which found any wrongdoing.

I have written countless words on the inherent violence and devaluing of pregnant people of the anti-choice movement. It is an ugly, terrorist campaign. It claimed the life of Dr. Tiller, and it will claim more if we do not start meaningfully addressing these tactics, instead of continuing to indulge this "two sides" false equivalence.

To everyone who works to provide abortions and ensure continued access, I see the work you are doing and its personal cost to you. And I am deeply appreciative to you for recognizing, on this day and always, that abortion is healthcare.

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Here We Go Again

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

Over the weekend, Kevin Drum published a piece at Mother Jones titled "Hillary Clinton Has a Shouting Problem." It's just as bad as you'd expect, and possibly even worse, given that his issue is not merely that Clinton "shouts" but that she is also boring:

The shouting is one part of it, but the other part (in victory speeches and ordinary stump speeches) is that she never has anything even remotely interesting to say. I know that these kinds of speeches are usually pretty canned affairs, but there's no reason Hillary can't mix things up a little bit.
Hillary Clinton has successfully normalized speaking explicitly about the rights of women, people of color, LGBT folks, and disabled people in every speech. BO-RING! She's only completely revolutionized (and significantly raised the bar on) what we can expect from Democratic presidential candidates, but WHAT ELSE YA GOT, LADY?

A bunch of people have asked me if I'm going to write something in response to this piece, but I've been writing about this issue for more than eight years (and that is just a sample). There isn't any new way for me to say "this shit is misogynist garbage" under the sun.

I did do a little tweeting about it over the weekend, and I've Storified those tweets.

Jamil Smith (who is terrific and if you are not following him on Twitter, you should be!) said: "Okay, so you're a man bothered by @HillaryClinton's voice. It's interesting that you feel we should listen to you complain about it."

Yes. Especially since a man publicly complaining about the sound of Hillary Clinton's voice doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists in a culture where lots of women, and I am among them, have been told that there's something wrong with our voices. Too shouty. Too shrill. Too strident. Too loud. Laugh like a murderous cackle. Voice like a buzzsaw. You sound like a nagging wife.

When I see/hear some dude musing about how he doesn't like Clinton's voice, I hear all the men who have told me that they don't like my voice, or some other woman's voice.

Men don't have to actually say these words for them to communicate all the same: She bugs me...and you'd bug me, too.

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Open Thread

image of the Scottish Highlands

Hosted by the Highlands of Scotland.
(Photo by me, August 2001.)

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The Virtual Pub Is Open + Programming Note

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!

I need to wrap up a little early, because I've got some personal stuff to do this afternoon—nothing fun, I'm afraid. I've got to retrieve my car from the shop after having to get it towed for a $1,000 repair! (That is not a solicitation for donations; I've totally got it covered. It's just a grousy complaint! Harrumph!) And then I've got some other equally unexciting junk to do at the DMV and the bank!

Since Monday is Memorial Day, and a few members of the mod team will be traveling or otherwise engaged, we'll be taking Monday off, and I'll see you back here Tuesday morning. Have a nice weekend!

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Kenny Loggins: "Playing with the Boys"

And this masterpiece of 1986 music video feminism thus concludes Kenny Loggins week!

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Dear Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders gave an absolutely ridiculous interview to Time about "the future of the Democratic Party," and, well, Peter Daou and I had a few things to say about that.


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Hey Catholic Bishops! If You Don't Want to Be Called Bigots, Then Dial Back the Bigotry

[Content note: queerphobia, hostility to marriage equality, hostility to reproductive agency]

To: The Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, President of the US Council of Catholic Bishops

CC: Members of the USCCB

BCC: @Pontifex

From: Aphra Behn, Associate Professor of Historical Ladybusiness

Re: "Made For Freedom" Video

Dear Archbishop Kurtz:

Greetings! You know, it's been a while since I've written one of these. In fact, I think this is the first one I've written to you. (I might have written one or two or ten to your predecessor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.) So anyway, hi, how are you doing, I hope your collar is starchy and your mitre is pointy and and your crosier is crooked today! And all that. Howdy!

I'm writing to talk to you about the swell new video the UCCB has released as part of its "Marriage: Unique for a Reason" campaign. In it, you feature people from the Heritage Foundation and the Alliance Defending Freedom with hot takes like this (courtesy The New Civil Rights Movement):

Arguing that Catholics should be able to discriminate in public, Heritage Foundation's anti-gay spokesperson Ryan T. Anderson says in the video that the "most important thing now is to protect the freedom to be faithful in the public square." He goes on to insist that Catholic institutions (which receive state and/or federal funding) "shouldn't be penalized because of their faith, because of their beliefs."

But much of the video features anti-gay attorney Kellie Fiedorek with the Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom. "...As an attorney, I represent a number of clients who are being punished and coerced by the government to change their views on marriage," Fiedorek notes. "We're seeing this happen to florists, to bakers, to photographers, we're seeing this happen to judges and to clerks who are authorized to solemnize weddings and have a religious objection to doing so....The implications of the redefinition of marriage for religious freedom are vast," says Fiedorek. "I think that the short term effects we will see will first come in the attempt to silence people of faith, or people that hold a conviction that marriage is something sacred, something special, they will be silenced. Whether that's by the government, or simply out of fear."

..."If in any way shape or form, you disagree with the prevailing narrative about what is appropriate in terms of sexuality, same-sex marriage, even a hint of it, it sort of takes the air out of the room," says Gloria Purvis. "People begin to think you're closed minded, you're a bigot, and you're hateful.

All that, plus lots of filmy shots of female brides and male grooms clutching hands, toothily grinning at each other, attending pre-Cana, serving the poor and needy, wandering around in 80s concept music videos, etc.

So here's my own hot take: if you don't want to be called a bigot, then maybe don't act like a bigot.

That was good, huh? For no extra charge, I will throw in specifics:

1. Why are you obsessed with same-sex marriage? There are many conditions that prevent a sacramental Catholic marriage, or one that the church recognizes as valid if not sacramental. Admittedly it's been a few years since I graduated from Catholic high school but (a) I did take the prize in religion class and (b) I seem to recall that there are many conditions preventing Catholic recognition of a marriage. Special dispensations are generally necessary for a Baptized person to marry a non-Baptized person, such as a Catholic marrying a Jew or lifelong atheist. (The whole interfaith marriage is a really complicated issue.) I seem to recall that an annulment of the previous marriage was necessary for a formerly divorced person to marry in the church (and such annulments are far from automatic). And there's something about being in good standing with church law. That means living together with your intended is a big no-no. If memory serves, a Bishop could even deny marriage, like any other sacrament, to a person who publicly advocates positions contrary to the teachings of the church (such as being pro-choice).

And yet, curiously, you are not fervently campaigning against divorce and premarital sex between straight people. Don't get me wrong: I'm sure priests and teachers are promulgating formal Catholic doctrines in these areas. But not with the singular passion you have about same-sex marriage. Your cool videos and "defense of marriage" FAQs and your big-bucks campaigns are disproportionately focused on homophobic narratives with a generous helping of anti-birth control on the side. (Maybe the utter failure of the latter to persuade most ordinary Catholics should tell you something.)

In short: the disproportionate focus on same-sex marriage, among all the many forms of marriage you discourage or disallow, sure does look and feel discriminatory! What's that saying? If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably not a wombat!

2. Why are you partnering with horrible bigots? So, the guy you're quoting from the Heritage Foundation is notorious for using junk science to promote anti-LGBTQ positions, and for just outright lying about easily disprovable claims. Via Media Matters:

In his Heritage Foundation report, "Marriage Matters: Consequences of Redefining Marriage," for example, Anderson claimed that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts forced Catholic adoption agencies to close (false) and resulted in public schools being forced to teach children about same-sex marriages (also false). He's repeatedly warned that legalizing same-sex marriage would create a slippery slope to "throuples" -- three people in a marriage -- and polygamy.

In 2014, Anderson twice parroted the bogus story ordained ministers in an Idaho town being "forced" to perform same-sex marriages or face jail time. In reality, the ministers had received no threats of any legal action from the town and were able to remain exempt from local non-discrimination laws by registering their chapel as a religious non-profit.

In an error-filled report criticizing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Anderson claimed that extending non-discrimination protections to LGBT employees would create "special privileges" and punish workers who have religious convictions about homosexuality.

Anderson also routinely conflates homosexuality with pedophilia, and touts harmful conversion therapy as an effective way to change people's sexual orientation. In short: he lies and twists facts in order to paint a marginalized group as twisted and harmful. That's pretty much a definition of bigotry, right there.

And how about your other pals? Well, Kellie Fieodorek has a neat history of equating LGBTQ folk with KKK members, for a start. Her bosses at the ADF have enthusiastically promoted laws that would give jail time for gay sex. One of their attorneys has called Matthew Shepard's death a hate crime hoax. Of late, they've been busy trying to make sure trans kids can't safely use the bathroom. And they were the geniuses behind Arizona SB 1062, which would have allowed any business owner to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of sincere religious belief. This was so extreme that Jan Brewer vetoed it. Yes, that Jan Brewer. (Which hasn't kept the ADF from drafting more of these laws in other states, of course! Wheee!)

In short: when you hang around with hideous bigots, people just might conclude you are... also not a wombat, if you get my drift.

So, I'm sorry to have gotten this to you so late, because I realize I could have saved you a whoooole lot of money that you just spent on a garbage video. What I am suggesting is pretty simple, and it doesn't even involve the repudiation of Catholic doctrines about same-sex marriage. (For the record, I don't agree with those, either! But I'm trying to meet you halfway, okay? I will even bring lunch, if you let me.) In any case, I think I can solve your great anxiety about being seen as horrible bigots!

First: Treat same-sex couples getting married with precisely the same amount of concern (or lack thereof) that you treat other couples getting married who don't happen to meet Catholic standards. To be clear, I'm actually not suggesting you pour your money into videos about the evils of divorced people people getting married down at the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I think you can figure this out. Do you encourage Catholic caterers, florists, dressmakers, and the like to refuse service to divorced brides and grooms? Do you tell Catholic JPs they shouldn't preside at the civil marriages of interfaith couples, or couples who have been living together? No? Then stop doing so for perfectly legal same-sex marriages.

Second: Stop allying yourself with hateful bigots who openly advocate anti-LGBTQ positions that are blatantly at odds with Catholic teaching about treating LGBTQ folk decently. If I recall, Catholic teaching talks about treating gay people with "with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." Now admittedly, I'm no Most Reverend or even Mildly Reverend, but I don't see much respect, compassion, or sensitivity in promoting laws that jail people for having sex, or torturing kids with bogus "therapy,"or promoting hateful untruths about Matt Shepard.

So that's my advice about this big problem you have with people perceiving you to be bigoted! I sure do hope you find it helpful. If you find yourself having the urge to partner with assholes, single out queer folks for discrimination, or say silly things about ladies, well... you can always write back. Any time!

Most Irreverendly Sincerely,

Aphra Behn

(Commenting note: please take care in comments to distinguish the Catholic Bishops from ordinary Catholic practitioners, many of whom are completely appalled by the discriminatory words and action of their leadership. Thanks.)

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt sitting on the couch, looking at me
Zelly: The zelliest of all the bellies.

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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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: Nuclear warfare] President Obama gave an address in Hiroshima, Japan, today: "In the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity's core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will—those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction. ...The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening." Here is the entire text of his speech.

[CN: Rape culture] Here are my friends Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon on what's happening at Baylor. It is in large part because of their reporting, and because of their sensitive and unyielding commitment to survivors, that Baylor has now fired its football coach and demoted its president. Brave survivors and relentless reporters who made themselves trustworthy. I am so proud to know Jess and Dan.

RIP Hedy Epstein: "Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 91, died at her home in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, on May 26, 2016. An internationally renowned, respected, and admired advocate for human and civil rights, Hedy was encircled by friends who lovingly cared for her at home." My condolences to her family, friends, colleagues, and admirers.

[CN: Self-harm] Sheila Foster Anthony, the sister of Vince Foster, has written a piece for the Washington Post about Donald Trump exploiting her brother's death to try to harm Hillary Clinton: "It is beyond contempt that a politician would use a family tragedy to further his candidacy, but such is the character of Donald Trump displayed in his recent comments to The Washington Post. In this interview, Trump cynically, crassly and recklessly insinuated that my brother, Vincent W. Foster Jr., may have been murdered because 'he had intimate knowledge of what was going on' and that Hillary Clinton may have somehow played a role in Vince's death. How wrong. How irresponsible. How cruel. ...For Trump to raise these theories again for political advantage is wrong. I cannot let such craven behavior pass without a response." I am so desperately sorry she had to write this.

I mean: "Fox, CNN, CNBC and MSNBC all featured this shot of an empty podium waiting for a Donald Trump press conference this afternoon. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was in Las Vegas discussing her plans to raise incomes for working families."

Hahahahahahaha: "Hillary Clinton is the unofficial winner of the Kentucky Democratic presidential primary after a recanvass of results, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes announced Thursday. Bernie Sanders's campaign earlier this week asked Kentucky officials to review the votes from last week's primary after the results showed Clinton beating Sanders by just half a percentage point. The recanvass began Thursday morning. The State Board of Elections will certify the results on May 31 at 10 a.m., Grimes tweeted. 'The unofficial winner of Kentucky's Democratic presidential primary remains Hillary Clinton,' Grimes said at the press conference on Thursday." Welp, that's probably not how Jeff Weaver had hoped that would pan out!

"Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn't like a Supreme Court operating with only eight justices... 'Eight, as you know, is not a good number for a multi-member court,' Ginsburg said Thursday at a New York conference for judges and lawyers. 'When we year, I anticipate reporting on the decisions of a full bench.'" From your mouth to Republican obstructionists' ears!

[CN: Illness] Yikes: "For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotic of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could signal 'the end of the road' for antibiotics. The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. Defense Department researchers determined that she carried a strain of E. coli resistant to the antibiotic colistin, according to a study published Thursday in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology. The authors wrote that the discovery 'heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria.'" As someone with an autoimmune disorder, I'm pretty terrified by this, even though I knew it was coming.

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] "At 96, Dr. Heimlich finally uses his life-saving technique: When he heard that a resident was choking, Perry Gaines, maître d' for the Deupree House dining room, ran toward the table. Gaines has been trained in the Heimlich maneuver and has performed it at least twice in the two years he has worked at the Hyde Park senior living facility. When Gaines arrived at the table, Dr. Henry Heimlich, a 96-year-old resident of the Deupree House who invented the famous technique for clearing a blocked airway, was standing behind the woman, ready to perform it. Typically, a staff member would do it. 'But,' Gaines said, pausing, 'it is Dr. Heimlich.'" LOL! And yay for saving that lady, who made a full recovery right away.

And finally! "Sheep eat cannabis plants, terrorize town: "A group of sheep in South Wales are stirring up trouble after officials suspect they have ingested cannabis plants that were dumped by an illegal cannabis factory, UPI reports. ...It was reported that a flock of sheep has been seen about a Welsh village, apparently intruding on people's homes." Hey, don't blame the sheep that y'all left weed lying around and now they have the munchies!

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Racism; misogyny.]

"Looking through photos of Hillary on the campaign trail, I see a beautiful mix of faces, a mix that America was always meant to be. And I see women who look like me beaming with pride and hope. You can feel the emotion of Americans from all walks of life, who are finally being acknowledged and embraced for who they are, just as they are. That the lives and concerns of all Americans are valid and valuable. We feel, some of us for the very first time in our lives, that we truly matter and our voices are being heard."—Leela Daou, my friend and colleague, in a moving essay about growing up in the US a dark-skinned girl, made to feel other, and finding herself feeling like she truly belongs for the first time.

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The Presidency Is Not a Sinecure, Donald Trump

by Shaker Alison Rose, a fierce queer feminist, avid book lover, and proud cat lady who lives in the northern SF Bay Area.

Let's say you own a business. You're conducting interviews for an open position. One of the potential hires—a man named, ohhhh let's say Ronald Gump—is pretty bombastic and a bit too aggressive. He seems to be inflating his resume, but that's nothing you haven't heard before.

But then he holds up a sheet of paper with the job description on it, and starts pointing at various bulleted tasks, saying, "I don't want to do this one, that one looks boring, I'd rather have an assistant to do these ones..." He says this in a tone of voice that makes you think he's imagining a sudden role reversal, where you are now the outsider and he's running the show.

Would this person seem like the right fit for the job? When they're openly saying they're not interested in doing specific parts of it, and when they seem incredibly nonchalant about it, as though there's no chance you could or should be put off by their attitude?

Of course not. But in the bizarro world of Ronald Gump—er, Donald Trump—this is how it works. You want the job, but you don't want all the work of the job? No problem!

The vice presidential pick will also be part of the process of proving he's ready for the White House, [campaign chairman and chief strategist Paul] Manafort said.

"He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn't want to do. He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.
Let us pause for a moment and recall the rumors that Sarah Palin might be on his YOOGE BEAUTIFUL list of potential running mates. Don't you feel better now?! I know I do, if by 'better' you mean 'ready to hop in a rocketship and fly to Mars'. Oh, but no worries, because as Manafort said, the campaign probably wouldn't pick a woman or a member of a minority group because "that would be viewed as pandering."

Cool story, bro.

But. Here we have the Republican nominee for president (jiminy fucking crickets!) who is pretty explicit about not wanting to be president so much as be called president. He wants to be the big name at the top of the staff listing, he wants to run meetings (can they be called meetings if he's the only who talks?), he wants to give big blustery speeches and tell a lot of people what to do, and, I don't know, throw darts at a world map to decide who our next mortal enemy will be. He wants to delegate all the boring crappy work to whatever random Straight White Man Who Is About Two Molecules Less Repulsive Than Trump he gloms onto as his running mate.

I mean, there are sixteen kajillion reasons not to want this man to be President and all of them are far greater sins than laziness. But laziness matters! He doesn't even want the damn job! He just wants the title. He's running on his business experience (such as it is, and 'as it is' is a pile of dog crap) but he doesn't want to have to do any actual business.

Can't we just make a big, gold name plate that says PRESIDENT DONALD J TRUMP, have someone build him a replica of the White House on the deserted property of one of his failed casinos, and have done with it?

Sadly, not wanting to do the work is just another reason his supporters are eager to hire him.


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She Shouldn't Have to Navigate This Toxic Stew, But I'm Damn Appreciative That She Does

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

I have read an awful lot about Hillary Clinton over the years. I've probably forgotten more about Hillary than most people will ever know about her.

There are, however, certain things that really stick in my mind. Like the time she said, "It's not a yurt—it's a ger." Or the time she was asked, one of many times, about her favorite designers:

Interviewer: Okay. Which designers do you prefer?

Hillary Clinton: What designers of clothes?

Interviewer: Yes.

Hillary Clinton: Would you ever ask a man that question?

Interviewer: Probably not. Probably not.
That will probably stick in my mind forever, her asking: "Would you ever ask a man that question?" even though she already knew the answer.

It sticks in my mind because it's one of the few times she's presented an interviewer with that rhetorical inquiry. And because it came in response to this particular question. So banal, and so insidious. So casual in its sexism.

There are questions to which Hillary could offer the same rejoinder every day. Questions that are less overtly sexist and, simultaneously, incalculably more pernicious.

Sometimes it's the questions themselves, and sometimes it's just the way they are asked. Sometimes it's the fact that the same questions are asked of her whether she loses or whether she wins. Like: What will you do to reach out to your competitors' supporters?

She was asked that question when she lost to President Obama in 2008. And she's being asked against now, after defeating Bernie Sanders. In both cases, somehow, she's expected to orchestrate the reconciliation.

Compromise is woman's work. Apparently.

It's quite the expectation we put on Hillary Clinton—a painfully similar expectation to that we have imposed on President Obama—to be both steadfast leader and deferential arbitrator. To speak with the loudest voice, yet never shout. To be impervious to sustained personal attacks, but remain vulnerable enough to be seen as human.

Even as certain human emotions are set firmly off-limits. Like anger. Especially at the aggressive injustice of having one's identity ruthlessly exploited by one's opponents, but never being allowed to even mention it oneself, lest one be accused of playing the gender (or race) card.

Would you ever ask a man any of these questions? I don't know how Hillary manages to get through her every day, rife with the petty indignities and shameless attacks, without screaming that question. I want to scream it on her behalf.

The double-standards are intolerable to behold. But she carries onward, because she's resigned herself to the sickening reality that this is the cost of being first.

She puts on a smile, and whatever invisible armor she wears to find a way to keep enough of it out of her gut to keep functioning, and she walks out into her day, knowing what's coming.

The questions that would never be asked of a man. The standards to which a man would never be held. The expectations and denigrations that are reserved for women.

That's what greets her. Every day.

But so do the women she meets along the campaign trail, who know what she faces. Who face the same things, and whatever additional oppressions they face, by virtue of complex identities. Who share her fortitude, because we are all so obliged. Who appreciate that she does it on such a visible, unfathomable scale.

She smiles for us. And I hope that sometimes she smiles because of us, too—because she knows we've got her back, just as she has ours.

image of Hillary Clinton at a campaign event, surrounded by people with a US flag in the background; she is smiling broadly
[Photo by Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America.]

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Open Thread

image of ice cubes

Hosted by ice cubes.

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Question of the Day

When was the last time you made music? Any kind of music, with the broadest definition that includes people who can't hear music in the traditional sense: Humming to yourself, singing a silly made-up song to your kids or pets, playing an instrument, singing in a choir, tapping your foot, creating a vibration that feels of music to you, whatever!

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Kenny Loggins: "This Is It"

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But He Won't Let Us See His Taxes, Naturally

So, you've heard about Trump University, right? Another fine product in the Trump empire, just like his high-quality steaks and classy bottled water. Well, it was basically a huge fraud ALLEGEDLY, just like his steaks and bottled water.

And I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that, while it was still in operation, one of Trump's hand-picked financial experts gave a cool seminar on how to avoid paying taxes using real estate loopholes.

Now, there are lots of people across the nation who aren't wealthy, and who don't even know how to take advantage of the tax benefits for which they qualify. There's absolutely nothing wrong with people making use of whatever tax breaks they can get—and, frankly, there is a great need for making information freely available to working people on how to navigate our complicated tax code, so that they aren’t paying more than their fair share.

But this is not what we're talking about here. In this case, an obscenely wealthy businessman, who made an enormous amount of money exploiting real estate loopholes, charged people money to have "the loopholes queen" tell them how they can follow his lead—the implication being, though never explicitly stated, that wealth in the realm of Donald's could follow.

The catch, of course, is that Donald started out with enormous wealth. This wasn't helpful advice being offered to the Average Jane and Joe out of the goodness of Donald's heart, but a sinister hoodwinking that charged people to get "tools" that only work for people who already have money to invest—and to pay real financial professionals who offer this advice as part of their job.

Far from being a useful recommendation for average working people, exploiting real estate tax loopholes is bad for the economy to which our fates are tied...
I've got more at BNR, so head on over to read the rest.

One of the more interesting things to me about all this is how Trump was happy to charge people money to share with them this great information about tax loopholes he's proud to have exploited, but doesn't want to release his taxes so we can see that he was so successful at it he's (presumably) got a tax rate of zero. Huh.

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Photo of the Day

black and white photo of Hillary Clinton posing for a selfie with a black woman and a woman who appears to be white or Latina
[Los Angeles, May 24. Photo by Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America.]

I just love everything about this picture, basically.

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I See You. All of You.

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

So, Donald Trump spokesperson Healy Baumgardner appeared on CNN earlier, giving the second of two disastrous appearances in as many weeks. The interview is excruciating to watch, as the CNN anchors express their shock and contempt that she isn't better prepared.

Which, yeah. But this video is really interesting to me for two more important reasons:

1. I've never seen Trump ​himself , nor his right-hand men Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, get grilled that hard. Baumgardner gets grilled way harder than the male representatives of the campaign do, and way harder than even the candidate himself does. I'm not saying, naturally, that they should lay off her, but simply noting they don't give him the same treatment.

2. Clearly, Baumgardner is utterly disempowered by the Trump campaign. She can't be an effective spokesperson because she hasn't been empowered to be one. Which I think speaks very clearly to how much Trump values women in his campaign: She's just a token, who's been sent out to do a job she can't possibly do. Her only value to him is being able to have a female spokesperson. It isn't her skills, whatever they may be.

There's so much going on in that video about both the Trump campaign structure and the media approach to Trump, especially with regard to whom the media is willing to confront.

And it's pretty evident that Trump and the media are in agreement that it's fine to use Healy Baumgardner as a rhetorical punching bag, so that the media can avoid having to levy meaningful accountability, and Trump can avoid having to face it.

We can all watch her get thrown under the bus and are meant to agree that it's a job well done all around.


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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat stretching up under my desk with her paws on my leg, rubbing the top of her head on the bottom of my desk
"Pet me!"

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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Give Me a Break. Seriously. I Need One.

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

As you may have heard, Donald Trump said he wanted to debate Bernie Sanders—and Sanders jumped all over it. Then Trump said it was all a joke, making Sanders look like a fool.

I have a few thoughts about that! Namely, that Sanders is out of his depth, and that I find it incredibly problematic that this was obviously a bid to try to coerce Hillary Clinton into debating him, after she already said no.

Meanwhile, Jeff Weaver tries to salvage it by saying Team Sanders didn't think it was a joke and that they hope Trump doesn't "chicken out."

I can't even.

I can't.

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: Refugee crisis; death] This is just so awful: "Up to 30 migrants are feared dead after a boat capsized in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast while some 50 were rescued by EU vessels from the sea. Ships from an EU task force and Italy's coast guard raced to the scene 35 nautical miles (65km) off the coast as survivors clung to the hull or swam. The alert had been raised by a Luxembourg reconnaissance plane which saw the capsized boat. The Italian navy rescued 562 migrants from a capsized boat on Wednesday. Some 6,000 migrants trying to reach Europe have been rescued from flimsy craft in the Mediterranean this week alone. Aid agencies say the crossing between Libya and Italy is the main route for migrants since an EU deal with Turkey curbed the number sailing across the Aegean to Greece." Just a constant, slow-moving tragedy. People losing their lives desperately trying to save their lives.

[CN: Video may autoplay] I'm sure they are: "President Obama said world leaders are 'rattled' by Donald Trump as the likely Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency. 'They are paying very close attention to this election,' the president told reporters Wednesday in Japan of his discussions with world leaders. 'They are surprised by the Republican nominee. They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements but they're rattled by him, and for good reason.' Trump has shown an 'ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what it is required to keep America safe and secure and prosperous,' Obama said."

[CN: Video may autoplay] And in related news: Trump is no longer just the "likely" Republican nominee but "has reached the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican Party's presidential nomination. Based on ABC News' analysis of pledged delegates won and commitments made by unbound delegates, Trump has enough support to secure the Republican nomination for president. He now has 1,239 total delegates, according to ABC News' estimates of both pledged and superdelegates."

Meanwhile: "Donald Trump trails Hillary Clinton by 7 percentage points among middle-income voters in the Rust Belt, a key demographic he almost certainly needs to become president. Likely voters with annual family incomes of $30,000 to $75,000 in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin back Clinton over Trump, 46 percent to 39 percent, the latest Purple Slice online poll for Bloomberg Politics shows."

Relatedly: The United Automobile Workers union endorsed Clinton yesterday. "'Hillary Clinton understands our issues on trade, understands the complexities of multinational economies and supports American workers, their families and communities,' said UAW President Dennis Williams."

[CN: Rape culture] In news that will not shock anyone but should infuriate everyone: "Kenneth Starr, bête noire of liberals in America, is making a comeback, though not entirely of his choosing. Starr, the president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is facing mounting pressure over how the university has handled reports of rape and assault by football players. The university says its governing board is still studying the results of an internal investigation and has refused to confirm speculation that Starr will be ousted." Not entirely of his choosing. As if it's not a choice whether to uphold rape culture and treat victims with indifference and disdain.

[CN: Homophobia; transphobia] Oh for fuck's sake! "An energy and water bill was killed in the House on Thursday as the result of an ongoing battle in Congress over LGBT rights and so-called 'religious freedom.' Openly gay New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney successfully added an amendment onto that bill late Wednesday which would ban federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Specifically, Maloney wanted to ensure the enforcement of President Obama's 2014 executive order that prohibits such discrimination. However, two Republican representatives, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), also successfully added a 'religious freedom' amendment and an amendment that would have banned the Obama administration from withholding federal funds from North Carolina over HB 2. The pro-LGBT amendment from Maloney combined with the anti-LGBT amendments from Pitts and Pittenger were enough to kill the bill altogether."

Heads-up! "A new documentary is set to examine the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement, from its start as a hashtag campaign to its impact on the ground in cities across the nation. Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement is directed by Laurens Grant (producer on The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Freedom Riders). Activist and actor Jesse Williams served as executive producer on the project. It's the latest installment in BET's The Truth Series, which launched last July." You can catch it tonight on BET at 9pm ET.

And finally! "Tiny Cat Has Been Best Friends with His Horse Since He Was a Kitten." Awwwwww!

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Quote of the Day

"You don't change Donald Trump."—Trump campaign chair and chief strategist Paul Manafort, explaining in a remarkably awful interview how Trump is gonna win by being maximum Trump. Because he appeals to strongly to white men, and "while we are behind among women over all, we're ahead among white women even now. We'll get some black and Hispanic women as we go along." Cool cool cool.

It was a tough call on my favorite, ahem, quote between that one and this one:

Trump doesn't read briefing papers, but he is a magnet for information, Manafort said. "He reads the newspapers, and he talks on the phone and to office visitors in a never-ending stream. You're sitting there in his office and you realize that he is constantly picking up stuff as he goes."
Yeah, well, so does a Roomba. That doesn't mean I'm gonna vote for one for president.

What an amazing specimen Donald Trump is! He just collects information and the votes of women of color like magic, through the sheer force of his own magnetism. Neat.

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Suspected Arson at Planned Parenthood Clinic

[Content Note: Anti-choice terrorism.]

I am just incandescently angry about this:

A suspicious fire in a Central California Planned Parenthood clinic has forced the local women's health center to shut down for the rest of the week.

The suspected arson took place early Wednesday morning, according to police. Water from the building's sprinkler system has permanently damaged the office and its medical equipment. Police have yet to determine what or who started the fire at the Modesto clinic — but staff have reason to believe it was intentional.

"We have not been receiving threats, but we have been receiving more suspicious calls," Liz Figueroa, a spokeswoman with Planned Parenthood told the local FOX station. "The FBI is looking into it as we speak."

This attack is only the most recent in a string of vandalism directed toward Planned Parenthood clinics across the country in the aftermath of a malicious video campaign directed at the organization...

While the Modesto Planned Parenthood assesses its damage, patients will be redirected to their nearest health center. The next closest Planned Parenthood is a half hour drive away.
I have been obliged to write about so many incidents like this over the last decade, I don't even know what to say anymore. When is this going to be taken seriously? When are we going to center the reality that it's not just abortion access that is under attack, but abortion providers, clinic staff, abortion-seeking people? When are we going to start calling this the terrorism that it is?

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Lowlife, Huh?

[Content Note: Bullying.]

In his latest tirade about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump called her a "lowlife," and naturally I had some thoughts about that:

If Hillary is a lowlife, I can't imagine what that makes the rest of us women by Donald's calculations.

Haha—just kidding! Of course I can imagine what that makes the rest of us. We are things.

I guess he hasn't gotten around to watching Mad Max: Fury Road yet. Or else he'd know WE ARE NOT THINGS.
As always, there's more at the link.

I swear to the fates that Trump is just begging for women to show up en masse on Election Day to defeat him in the most spectacular fashion.

The dude does not know how to compete against a woman. He does not know how to receive criticism from a woman. He does not know how to deal with even the possibility of a woman besting him, or having control over him.

He is deeply fearful of women, and, like most profound fears, that fear manifests as hatred. He constantly lashes out at women in the most despicable ways, and thinks that somehow that strategy is going to endear him to an electorate that is more than 50% women.

Well. I guess he's going to get a lesson in what relentlessly insulting women gets you, come the eighth of November.

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Heck Yeah

Yesterday, during a campaign stop in California, Hillary Clinton promised a massive infrastructure plan, which is also a jobs plan, in her first 100 days as president. WOOT!

In my first 100 days, I will send a plan to Congress to make the biggest, most forward-looking investment in American infrastructure in fifty years! [applause] I will put forth a plan that is as big—in fact, bigger in some ways—than what President Eisenhower did when he created the interstate highway system! [applause] Why would I do that? Because that's how we're gonna create the next generation of jobs for people—good jobs with rising incomes!
Which is pretty damn good news, given that [CN: video autoplays at link] a CNN investigation found "that more than 60,000 bridges have been deemed structurally deficient" and "200 million drive over structurally deficient bridges daily."

This is exactly the kind of stuff I want to be hearing from my candidate.

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Open Thread

image of a collection of scoops of delicious-looking ice cream

Hosted by ice cream.

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Question of the Day

What inanimate thing have you lost, and it still bothers you to this day?

(And by "lost," I mean actually lost, left behind, forgot, etc. rather than having it taken from you in some way.)

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On Hillary's Emails

So. Today the State Department's Office of the Inspector General issued a report finding that "Clinton's use of private email for public business was 'not an appropriate method' of preserving documents and that her practices failed to comply with department policies meant to ensure that federal record laws are followed."

Now, as you may recall, I am not a reflexive defender of Clinton on this issue. When the news first broke in March of last year, I was critical of her decision, which was a violation of the Federal Records Act, in no small part because I spent such an enormous amount of time criticizing the Bush administration for multiple violations of the Federal Records Act. This isn't a small thing to me.

That said, one of the crucial differences between Bush-era violations, and Clinton's violation—which became clear as additional information emerged—is that Clinton wasn't fundamentally deviating from practices and habits of former Secretaries of State. While I still believe that Clinton made a mistake here, I'm much less annoyed about it than I was in March 2015.

Which, in case it's not already abundantly clear, isn't because I am a Clinton supporter—since I was then, too—but because I have carefully followed this story, even down to reading her emails, and further information has reshaped my position.

What strikes me the most about this situation is that Clinton occupied the office at a time—and I don't think this time has yet passed—when best practices governing sensitive electronic communications are still emerging.

I agree strongly with Paul Waldman's assessment:

[I]t also appears, from what we know so far, that there weren't really any practical consequences for the country because of her decision — no covert operations compromised, no key national security information delivered to our enemies. And cybersecurity experts will tell you that her emails likely would have been no less vulnerable had they been on the State Department's servers, which are the target of constant hacking attempts.

So maybe the best thing for Clinton to do now would be to say that this whole episode has brought home to her the need for the federal government to dramatically improve its cybersecurity, and she wants to assemble a blue-ribbon commission of experts to devise a plan to reform the systems across the government, one that she hopes Republicans will join with her to pass through Congress within her first year in office so it can be implemented as soon as possible. At least then some good might come of this controversy.
That's a good idea. And, frankly, it strikes me as precisely the sort of thing that I've seen Clinton do before—take a lesson and make improvements based on what she's learned.

Waldman also notes, quite rightly, that "Republicans aren't making a big deal out of this because of their deep and abiding concern for cybersecurity. They just want something to hammer Clinton with."

And that's a point I made in March of last year, too: "Because I so keenly remember the yawning indifference, of the media and of average USians, to the Bush administration email scandal, I will note that, if this turns into a massive story for Clinton, a potentially presidential-derailing story, it is not because people give a shit about compliance with the Federal Records Act, unless people have suddenly developed an inexplicable fondness for it in the intervening eight years."

Which is a great shame, really. That Clinton's mistake will lead to, bluntly, the even bigger mistake of ignoring the root security issues in order to turn this entire thing into a political football, with no objective but harming the person who might be keenest to fix it.

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UPDATE: This piece by Charles Tiefer for Forbes is definitely worth a read: "State Department Report on Email Vindicates Clinton Rather Than Nails Her."

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Kenny Loggins: "Meet Me Half Way"

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The Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by a warm breeze.

Recommended Reading:

Flor: [Content Note: Transphobia; violence; anti-immigrationism] TLC Condemns New Immigration Detention Center in Texas

Kiki: [CN: Disablism; misogyny] #MillionsMissing Protest: Highlighting an Illness Whose Toll Is Unseen

Sabah: [CN: Transphobia; patriarchy] What It Means for Me to Be Trans-Masculine at the Barbershop

Michelle: [CN: Discussion of eating and fat hatred] You Don't Have to Figure Out the Universal Truth of Nutrition

Keith: Marshawn Lynch Helped NFL Players Build a School in Haiti

Jonathan: The New Ghostbusters Action Figures Are Revolutionizing Toy Store Shelves

Amanda: Top 10 Superheroines Who Deserve Their Own Movies

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

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Whooooooooops! Email SNAFU Alerts Media Trump Plans to Hit Clinton on Whitewater

The revival of the '90s attacks continues!

This is just sad on so many levels:

Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo on Wednesday morning emailed a researcher at the Republican National Committee asking him to "work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible. This is for immediate use and for the afternoon talking points process."

The email was obtained by POLITICO when Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, who Caputo copied on his request to the RNC, accidentally responded instead to Marc Caputo, a POLITICO reporter who is not related to the Republican consultant.
First, Donald Trump continues to demonstrate a catastrophic inability to face Hillary Clinton on the issues, given that his policy platform amounts to a bunch of contradictory bigotry shouted during the rambling monologues he calls speeches.

Second, his campaign's buffoonery is the reason we know that he's now fixing to go after Clinton on Whitewater.

Third, this is more evidence that Trump is afraid—afraid of competing on the merits, afraid of fighting fair, afraid of women.

Women will Trump Donald—unless, perhaps, he manages to Trump himself first.

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

Hillary Clinton's emails! (I will have a dedicated post about this later, so save discussion for that thread, please.)

[Content Note: War on agency; anti-LGBT bigotry] "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will meet in June with conservative religious leaders, including those from anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ organizations, in a closed-door 'conversation.'" Where, presumably, he will reassure them that he promises to be just as heinous on abortion access and queer rights as they want him to be.

[CN: Transphobia] "Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will announce a lawsuit against the federal government on Wednesday over the Obama administration's guidance on transgender students." Because of course he will. And, once again, I will note: The next time you hear some asshole saying that elections don't matter, that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, remind them of how a Democratic president is doing everything he can to protect transgender USians, and one of the biggest organizations from which he has to try to protect them is Republicans.

[CN: Descriptions of sexual assault; rape culture; racism] This is an absolutely horrifying story, and incredibly difficult to read, about a black disabled teenager who was raped by his white teammates on the high school football team. Toxic masculinity meets white supremacy meets sports culture. I am absolutely sick about every aspect of this heinous attack, part of an ongoing and escalating campaign of bullying and assault that was not sufficiently addressed by the adults ostensibly charged with the care of these students, and I take up space in solidarity with the victim.

[CN: Eliminationist racism; gun violence; death; white supremacy; death penalty] Dylann Roof is a killer whose vicious white supremacist mass murderer whose actions probably test the convictions of many death penalty opponents. But here is "Why We Must Stand Against the Death Penalty, Even in the Case of Racist Murderer Dylann Roof."

[CN: Misogyny] Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in on Friday as Taiwan's first female president, and already she's the subject of a widely criticized opinion piece, published by the Chinese state media's Xinhua news agency, claiming that she has exhibited "erratic behavior" because: "As a single female politician, Tsai Ing-wen does not have the emotional burden of love, of 'family,' or children, so her political style and strategies are displayed to be more emotional, personal, and extreme." Sounds legit!

[CN: Racism; patriarchy] "Young Black and Latino men need trusted pathways to skills development and mental health resources to succeed, according to a new report. Market research firm Motivational Educational Entertainment Productions drew from the results of nine focus groups to develop 'Heard, Not Judged: Insights into the Talents, Realities, and Needs of Young Men of Color.' The groups featured Black and Latino men ages 18 to 24... 'BMOC are extremely stressed out, taken off task by distractions and temptation, don't believe in the American Dream, and can barely see beyond surviving. They feel trapped at the bottom of the ladder because of a lack of resources, negative peer pressure, and racism. They are afraid to fail and lack awareness and trust of resources currently available to help them.'" Fucking hell.

[CN: Discussion of homophobia] "How an Ad Campaign Made Lesbians Fall in Love with Subaru." Love. P.S. Iain and I totally own a Subaru, and that is not a coincidence!

Hahahahahahaha! "A stealthy, stronger line of female salamanders are skipping sex and stealing DNA from males instead." TEACH US YOUR WAYS.

And finally! "Is This the Most Beautiful Horse in the World?" PROBABLY!!!

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Matilda the Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat sitting on the arm of the couch, with a ribbon hanging off her head
Some people have the world on a string. Others not so much.

Although that looks like a straw wrapper hanging off her head, it's actually a piece of ribbon (her favorite thing), which was originally the handle of a giftbag that she nearly destroyed trying to detach the ribbon, lol.

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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image of thumbs up & thumbs down Shaker Thumbs

Shaker Thumbs is your opportunity to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to a product or service you have used and that you'd recommend to other Shakers or warn them away from.

Today I am giving a thumbs-up to, from which I've purchased a few things lately, including this terrific print of Kings Cross station in London, which is where Iain and I met in person for the first time.

image of a black and white photograph of Kings Cross station hanging on my living room wall

I've just had the best luck with The quality of the products is great, their shipping time is fast, and they have frequent sales. I can't vouch for their customer service—but only because their service has been so splendid that I haven't had to use it!

I've never used their "print your own photo" service, but I have received a gift from Deeks of an image he created for me (which is just as AMAZING as you would imagine), and the quality was just as good as the stuff I've ordered from the available images on their site.

Anyway! Give us your thumbs-up or thumbs-down in comments!

Just to be abundantly clear, I am not affiliated in any way with, nor am I receiving any form of payment for recommending them. It's just a thing I've personally found super useful and am happy to recommend.

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