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!

Monday is Memorial Day in the US, and several of the mods will be traveling and/or doing Memorial Day type things that day, as will lots of readers, so we're going to take Monday off and we'll see you back here Tuesday.

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The Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by blue ink.

Recommended Reading:

Socchan: On String Orchestra Dragons

Stephanie: Getting Started in Tech's Social Justice Movement

Alona: [Content Note: Racism; colonialism; ciscentrism; heterocentrism] This Is What Happens When a Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant Queer Walks into a Wildlife Training

Jim: [CN: Sex abuse; victim-blaming; homophobia] Argentine Judges Reduce Sentence for Child Predator, Saying Six-Year-Old Victim Showed 'Homosexual Tendencies'

Emily: [CN: Homophobia] Senate Bill Would Prohibit LGBTQ Discrimination in Adoption and Foster Placement

Lisa: [CN: Racism; description of violence] Bessie: Unapologetically Black, Female, and Queer

MG Staff: Meet Amanda Saab, the First Headscarf-Clad Chef on Primetime Television

James: [CN: Disablist language] The Groundbreaking History of Star Wars Toys

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

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound lying on the couch with his head on a pillow
This guy. ♥

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

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Sexual abuse; rape apologia.]

Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh's actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn't mean 'unforgivable.' He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.

Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today's blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one's judgement is not mature. No one needs to defend Josh's actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family's authenticity and humility.

Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims.

Janet and I love Jim Bob and Michelle and their entire family. They are no more perfect a family than any family, but their Christian witness is not marred in our eyes because following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God's love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support.
—Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, on Facebook today.

There is so much wrong with that, I hardly know where to begin, and I'll leave you to parse out every little bit of heinousness in comments.

I will simply point out that Huckabee's pretense to care about Josh Duggar's victims is reprehensible. The family claims on the one hand to have sought counseling for Josh Duggar and his victims, but then admits that the "counseling" for Josh was just being sent away to live with a family friend. Are we then to trust that his victims were given access to legitimate counseling services?

We are meant to ignore that Josh Duggar, in his statement to People, says: "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life." He was concerned that continuing to abuse girls would ruin his life. His life.

And, in his statement regarding his resignation from the Family Research Council, he requests prayers for himself but not for his victims. He doesn't give a fuck about his victims. Neither, seemingly, do his parents, who concealed his crimes until the statute of limitations for prosecution had passed.

Huckabee, whose candidacy has been endorsed by the Duggars, can wax poetic about the Duggars' "authenticity and humility" all he wants, but the only qualities that are relevant to this situation are their interest in accountability and their sensitivity to survivors.

Both of which are decidedly lacking.

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime



Christina Aguilera: "Ain't No Other Man" (Junior Vasquez Club Mix)

This week's TMNS brought to you by Junior Vasquez remixes!

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: Environmental disaster; animal endangerment] The Plains All American Pipeline oil spill off the California coast Tuesday, the cause of which is currently under investigation, is causing a huge fucking mess of an environmental disaster, including endangering animals: "A fleet of 18 vessels is battling to contain an oil slick stretching nine miles along the California coast as rescuers on land try to save seals, birds, and other wildlife trapped in the black goo. ...Crews have so far extracted 7,770 gallons of oily water from the ocean while on beaches workers in white protective suits shovelled sludge which coated sand, rocks and plants. The cleanup could last months, officials said. Currents, tides and winds make the oil slick 'a moving target' as it drifts offshore, coast guard captain Jennifer Williams told reporters."

In good news: The Girl Scouts of the USA welcomes transgender girls (actually, they have for awhile now), and their chief girl expert (I love that they have a chief girl expert!) Andrea Bastiani Archibald says: "Our position is not new. It conforms with our continuous commitment to inclusivity." Naturally, the usual suspects are acting like this is THE END OF THE WORLD!!!11!1!eleventy!! but fuck them.

Today, Irish voters take to the polls to vote on a referendum that could legalize same-sex marriage. "Though some 20 other countries worldwide have already legalised gay marriage, Ireland would be the first to do so through a referendum. The move would mark the culmination of an improbable journey in a country in which homosexual acts were still illegal as recently as 1993. Voter turnout is said to be higher than in previous referendums in the republic, with some urban areas, particularly in the key greater Dublin battleground, reporting that 20% of the electorate had cast their vote before lunchtime." That's probably a good sign for the yesses.

In case Hillary Clinton hasn't apologized enough for her Iraq War vote for you, she has once again said that it was a mistake: "I made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple."

[CN: Class warfare] Holy shit: Experts at real estate company Trulia have found "new [college] grads can't really afford to live anywhere among the country's 25 largest rental markets. While the median annual income for new grads ranges from about $16,000 to about $41,000 in these cities, the income needed to afford median rent is two to three times that—assuming grads don't want to spend more than 31 percent of their income on rent."

[CN: Stalking; harassment; coercion; sexual assault] Fucking hell: "A worker at the US embassy in London is accused of cyberstalking hundreds of women, threatening to post their private photos unless they met his demands. Michael C Ford, who has lived in the UK since 2006, was arrested last week while visiting family in Atlanta. Prosecutors say Mr Ford hacked accounts of women to obtain sexually explicit images of them. ...Mr Ford threatened his victims with the stolen images, demanding that they shoot videos of other women undressing, prosecutors said. ...In at least one case, prosecutors say, he emailed private photos to one woman's parents and brother." This shitbird no longer words at the US embassy, according to an embassy spokesperson. Uh, good.

[CN: Sexual abuse of children; rape culture] A documentary about the "open secret" of the sexual abuse of children in the entertainment industry is struggling to find distribution, because of course it is. "What you see in the film is literally just the tip of the iceberg," says executive producer Gabe Hoffman. "For every victim that's in the film, there are another five or 10 with fact-checked, legitimate accounts who didn't want to be identified." Sob.

[CN: Climate change] Shit: "Satellites have seen a sudden dramatic change in the behaviour of glaciers on the Antarctica Peninsula, according to a Bristol University-led study. The ice streams were broadly stable up until 2009, since when they have been losing on the order of 56 billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean. Warm waters from the deep sea may be driving the changes, the UK-based team says."

This is pretty damn cool: "Astronomers have spent decades trying to find out more about the star called Nasty 1 which is far bigger than our sun. It has been identified as a Wolf-Rayet star, which loses its hydrogen-filled outer layers quickly to expose its super-hot and bright helium core. But while astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope expected to see two lobes of gas coming out of the star, they were surprised to see a huge disc surrounding it. The area of gas is around 1,000 times the diameter of our solar system and may have formed as a result of a clash with a nearby star. It could be evidence of a rare space event. NASA said: 'The vast disk is nearly two trillion miles wide, and may have formed from an unseen companion star that snacked on the outer envelope of the newly formed Wolf-Rayet.'" Two trillion miles wide!

[CN: Domestic violence] Phoenix, Arizona's Sojourner Center, one of the largest and oldest domestic violence shelters in the country, now welcomes pets who are seeking refuge from abuse with their owners. Blub.

And finally! The Mewgaroo lets you take your cat, small dog, rabbit, or other pet with you wherever you go! Sophie tells me I need to get one of these PRONTO.

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An Observation

[Content Note: Disablism; fat hatred; spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road.]

So, I really liked Mad Max: Fury Road. (You may have heard.) And I liked it, in part, because I found it to be a deeply feminist film, if a flawed one, for lots of reasons.

Over the past few days, I've read some white feminists' criticisms of the film as unfeminist, with some of whom I typically agree on most things. And, you know, to each her own. Not all of us have to agree on everything!

But one thing I've noticed among these critiques is that there hasn't been much (or any) acknowledgement of the positive representations of fat women and women with disabilities in the film.

That isn't incidental.

Read Laura talking about what it meant to see a body like hers in this film. Listen to Ana Mardoll and me talking about what it meant to us to see fat women as heroes.

Visibilizing and validating marginalized female bodies is a feminist act.

Ignoring or minimizing the importance of fat and disability in Mad Max: Fury Road, in order to claim it's unfeminist, feels shitty to this fat feminist with a disability. Especially given the fact that corporate white feminism routinely ignores disability and fat as feminist issues.

I can imagine if you aren't used to desperately wishing to see positive images of visible fat women, if you don't give a shit about fat as a feminist issue, then the sight of freed fat women quenching the world's thirst might not have registered as very important. But I cheered. And I cried.

I've seen and heard people say, "Oh, I didn't even notice it was the fat women who released the water." I noticed. I noticed what felt like poetry written just for me, and didn't even register to people busily asserting the film isn't feminist.

I saw a woman with a disability kick ass in a hundred different ways. I saw fat women who were coerced to nourish their captors use their first act of freedom to nourish the whole world. I saw a pregnant woman be a hero. I saw old women be powerful warriors. I sat in an audience who was asked to believe victimized women, rather than being shown their victimization, no "evidence" required. ALL IN ONE FUCKING MOVIE.

Would that all "unfeminist" films were so goddamn feminist.

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On Josh Duggar

[Content Note: Sexual assault; rape culture; video may autoplay at first link.]

Josh Duggar, the oldest child of the Duggar clan, made famous by their TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, has confirmed reports that he was accused of sexually assaulting five girls twelve years ago, and has admitted that the allegations are true.

"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends," Josh, 27, tells People in a statement. "I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."
Many reports about Duggar's history of sexual abuse have pointed out that Duggar, whose conservative Christian family prominently opposes LGBTQI rights, has hypocritically linked homosexuality and child predation. This is a true thing—but also his hypocrisy is hardly the most important aspect of this story. His anti-gay and anti-trans* views are abhorrent irrespective of whether he is a sexual predator. And his being a sexual predator is abhorrent irrespective of his anti-gay and anti-trans* bigotry.

What's more important than his hypocrisy is that he sexually assaulted five girls, some of whom may have been his sisters, and that his parents covered up his crimes when they found out.
Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.

Jim Bob then "met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on." No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a "program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003."

He said the program was a "Christian program." Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, "it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said "kind of."
His parents knew, the church elders knew, and the "home remodeling mentor" to whom Josh was sent for "counseling" knew, but no one contacted police on behalf of his underage victims. Instead, an entire community closed ranks to protect a sexual predator.

After a repeat offense nine months after the first incidents, the Duggars took their son to speak to a police officer, who was a friend of the family, apparently so he could scare Josh Duggar straight: "[I]n 2003, Jim Bob, accompanied by some of his church elders, took Josh to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens. Jim Bob knew Hutchens personally. Hutchens did not take any official action and instead gave Josh a 'very stern talk.' ...Hutchens is now serving 56-years in prison for child pornography. He took no action on the Duggar case."

It was only after the Duggars were scheduled to appear on an episode of Oprah Winfrey's talkshow in 2006, and "an email was sent to the show warning them about the alleged molestation," prompting Harpo Studios to forward the letter to the Department of Human Services, that an official investigation was opened by local police. Jim Bob Duggar "refused to produce his son for questioning," and police were forced to abandon pursuing charges because the statute of limitations had expired.

It's certainly very curious to me that a letter was sent to the Oprah show ahead of a single appearance, but supposedly none was sent to TLC during the years of broadcast of the Duggars' reality show. Frankly, I find that incredibly unlikely. I would be amazed if TLC had never been similarly alerted, and simply chose to ignore it to avoid embarrassment and losing the profits from their massively popular show about a Good Christian Family.

It's impossible to believe TLC didn't know, one way or another. And if they didn't, are they not furious that the Duggars disclosed this information to church elders and a police officer and a "home remodeling mentor," but not to the network paying them?

The Duggars also disclosed Josh's history of sexual abuse to his wife and her parents, two years before the marriage, framing it as "past teenage mistakes" by a regretful young man who had learned his lesson and been forgiven by his victims.

An entire community, that grew bigger year by year, rallied behind a sexual predator to protect him. And now they stand behind him still, talking about his repeated predation as "mistakes."
"Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives," Jim Bob, 49, and Michelle, 48, said in a joint statement. "When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before."

...And Josh's wife Anna, 26, says she has remained supportive of her husband – even after he confessed his "past teenage mistakes" two years before he proposed marriage.

"I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock," she says. "When my family and I first visited the Duggar home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh, he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was – even very difficult past mistakes."
Sexual assault is not "a mistake."

But certainly that's the way it must be framed for parents, church leaders, police, members of the community, in-laws, a wife, television executives, and now fans to speak in grave tones about the redemptive forgiveness of god and to convince themselves that it was just a blip in an otherwise exemplary life—while diligently ignoring the profound trauma of Josh Duggar's victims and the secondary trauma caused by a lack of justice lingering under the heavy shadow of his carefully maintained public image as a model of virtue.

This is a textbook study in how the rape culture works, how entire communities conspire to abet and protect sexual predators while silencing and retraumatizing victims.

Josh Duggar did not make "mistakes." He sexually preyed on multiple girls while they slept. And then he got away with it, because virtually everyone else around him was invested in making sure that he would.

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Six Officers Indicted in Freddie Gray's Death

[Content Note: Police brutality; racism.]

Yesterday, a grand jury in Baltimore indicted all six police officers who had been charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

Baltimore state's attorney Marilyn Mosby announced on Thursday that some of the charges against the officers, whom she had already charged earlier in the month, had been amended.

"Additional information has been discovered and, as is often the case during an ongoing investigation, charges can and should be revised based on the evidence," Mosby said.

The most serious charges – of second-degree murder against officer Caesar Goodson, and involuntary manslaughter against four of the officers – were affirmed by the grand jury and remained unchanged.

...Mosby added that all six officers, who were freed on bail after posting bonds of several hundred thousand dollars each, would be arraigned in court on 2 July.

"Now that the grand jury has also found probable cause to charge the aforementioned officers based upon the evidence these officers who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, are now scheduled to be arraigned on July 2," Mosby said.
This is good news, in terms of working within the system we've got. But it is complicated news because the system we've got stinks.

Again, I want to recommend this piece by Prison Culture, who wisely notes that, even if these officers are convicted and even if they are sentenced, it will not truly be justice. Meaningful justice will only be achieved by dismantling the (in)justice system which is catastrophically contaminated by white supremacy.

Which is a daunting task to contemplate, but the enormity of the task before us shouldn't let us treat as justice what will be, at best, limited individual accountability in a comprehensively corrupt system.

Mychal Denzel Smith once wrote: "Justice for Renisha would have looked like Michael Brown being able to attend college. Justice for Trayvon would have looked like Renisha McBride getting the help she needed the night of her accident. Justice for Oscar Grant would have looked like Trayvon Martin making it home to finish watching the NBA All-Star game, Skittles and iced tea in tow. And so on, and so on. Justice should be the affirmation of our existence."

Real justice will be no more death.

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Open Thread

image of a whole kiwi fruit sitting beside a halved kiwi fruit

Hosted by kiwis.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker boutet: "What weird recurring dream or dream detail do you have? My teeth often break or crumble in dreams."

I have the loose/breaking/crumbling teeth dreams, too, although I had them a lot more when I was younger and they're much more infrequent now. These days, my most insistent recurring dream is that I'm in a high-rise being swept away by a towering tsunami wave. :/

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Neat

New evidence suggests that dogs have been living alongside humans for more than twice as long as was previously thought:

Previous studies have indicated that the ancestors of modern-day dogs diverged from wolves no more than 16,000 years ago, after the last ice age. But new evidence – from a small bone found in a remote region of Siberia – indicates that the special relationship between man and dog is much older.

Analysis of the 35,000-year-old rib bone fragment from the Taimyr Peninsular showed that it belonged to the most recent common ancestor of modern wolves and dogs.

...In their paper, the scientists point out that there have been several reports of dog-like "canids" – the family that includes wolves and domestic dogs – up to 36,000 years old in the fossil record. There was also evidence that domesticated dogs may have accompanied early humans migrating from Asia to North America, possibly as long as 30,000 years ago.

The researchers wrote: "Our results provide direct evidence for a longer timescale for the divergence of the dog and wolf lineages than previously assumed, and thus suggest that dogs may have originated much earlier than commonly accepted."
Humankind owes so much of our success and survival to dogs. They have helped us hunt and protected us from predators. They ensured agricultural success by keeping critters away from cultivated land. They flushed pests from the earth. They helped us herd. They helped us navigate. They kept us warm. They accompanied us to war. They have retrieved on land and in water. They were service dogs to people with disabilities long before we even had a term like "service dog."

They have been our companions, in every conceivable way, for longer than we imagined.

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Jeb Bush: Clearly the Best Candidate

[Content Note: Climate change denialism.]

Jeb Bush is very smart and very decent and here he is just proving that he is definitely absolutely for sure the best candidate for US president the world has ever known:

"The climate is changing. I don't think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It's convoluted," he told roughly 150 people at a house party [in New Hampshire] Wednesday night. "And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it even."
If there's one thing I always say I'm looking for in a presidential candidate, it's an ability to sound exactly like a disgruntled commenter who bitterly complains about being censored when they are clearly not being censored, just because a majority disagrees with them and tells them that they are wrong.

Jeb Bush is a highly sophisticated and well-funded troll, which is why I am holding my $10,000 a plate fundraiser for him under a bridge at dusk.
The issue of climate change came up as the host of the house party asked Bush to comment on a speech given Wednesday by President Obama, who said that climate change is a "serious threat" to national security.

"Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security," Obama told Coast Guard graduates in their dress white uniforms at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, "and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act—and we need to act now."

In response, Bush said that climate change should be just "part of, a small part of prioritization of our foreign policy." He suggested that the United States should encourage countries that have higher carbon emissions rates to reduce them.

But, he added, "We've had a pretty significant decrease and we'll continue on, not because of Barack Obama, but because of the energy revolution."
Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!! He went on to describe the Republican Party as "the party of discovery, the party of science, the party of innovation." GOOD ONE! Is this guy running for president or Last Comic Standing?!

See also: Steve Benen.

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Fat Fashion

This is your semi-regular thread in which fat women can share pix, make recommendations for clothes they love, ask questions of other fat women about where to locate certain plus-size items, share info about sales, talk about what jeans cut at what retailer best fits their body shapes, discuss how to accessorize neutral colored suits, share stories of going bare-armed for the first time, brag about a cool fashion moment, whatever.

* * *

image of me in a full-length mirror wearing a white dress with purple polka dots, a purple cardigan, and purple flats

I finally got a full-length mirror care of Ikea for $40 (woot!), although unfortunately the only place we had to hang it was at the end of a hallway with shitty lighting. OH WELL! It's progress!

This was my outfit for my birthday dinner: "The Story of Citrus Dress in Lilac" from ModCloth (which is no longer available in lilac, but is still available in orange and black and white); a purple cardigan that I've had for so many years I don't even remember where I bought it (and long ago cut out the scratchy tag); and my purple Docs.

Although it's not very visible, even despite my downcast eyes, I was also wearing Perpetual Purple eyeshadow by L'Oreal.

I felt great in this outfit. Purple is one of my favorite colors (in case you couldn't have guessed from this get-up!), everything fit the way I wanted it to fit, and it was precisely as dressy but also as fun as was appropriate for the occasion. Also: Everything was comfortable. Success!

Anyway! As always, all subjects related to fat fashion are on topic, but if you want a topic for discussion: What outfit makes you feel super confident every time you wear it?

Have at it in comments! Please remember to make fat women of all sizes, especially women who find themselves regularly sizing out of standard plus-size lines, welcome in this conversation, and pass no judgment on fat women who want to and/or feel obliged, for any reason, to conform to beauty standards. And please make sure if you're soliciting advice, you make it clear you're seeking suggestions—and please be considerate not to offer unsolicited advice. Sometimes people just need to complain and want solidarity, not solutions.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Olivia the White Farm Cat lying on the arm of the loveseat with her paw on a purple plastic bag

Olivia, who loves to lick plastic bags, has claimed this plastic bag as her own. "It's mine now. You cannot take it from me." Don't even try.

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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Too Right

[Content Note: Disablist language at link.]

This is pretty amusing: "The Definition of Hell for Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type."

I mean, it's amusing if you don't take it too seriously. Because if you actually stop to consider how nightmarishly awful these scenarios are, well, don't do that! It's a bad idea!

(If you're thinking: But I'm someone who can't not take it seriously! Then just don't even look at it. You'll be haunted for the rest of the day.) (I mean it!) (Don't say I didn't warn you!)

I'm an INFJ, and my personal hell is described thus: "You are eternally damned to working for a morally corrupt company that aims to exploit the weak and generally degrade conditions for all of society."

LOLOLOL YES THAT IS AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF MY PERSONAL HELL!

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Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime



Dolly Parton: "Peace Train" (Junior Vasquez Extended Club Mix)

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In the News

Here is some stuff in the news today...

[Content Note: Environmental disaster] Prosecutors have begun an investigation into the Plains All American Pipeline oil spill off the California coast Tuesday: "Clean-up crews are working around the clock as investigators look into how tens of thousands of gallons of oil spewed into the sea off California. More than 6,000 gallons (22,700 litres) of oil have been mopped from the beach—a fraction of the 20,000 gallons officials say spilled into the sea after a pipe burst on Tuesday. Federal officials are to excavate the pipe to find clues to how it ruptured. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Wednesday to help the state 'quickly mobilise all available resources.' ...State and local prosecutors are investigating the incident to see if criminal charges could be brought or if there are grounds for civil liability."

This is amazing: Detroit high school teacher Nadirah Muhammad donated one of her kidneys to student A'Ja Booth in December. "On Tuesday, Booth returned to West Side Academy for the first time since her surgery. According to The Associated Press, students 'threw confetti' as the teen and her teacher walked down a red carpet in the gymnasium. Muhammad has been hailed as a 'hero,' but the teacher insists that she only did what she knew she had to do." Blub.

[CN: Assisted death] Assisted death for terminally ill people is not about deciding to end their own lives, but about knowing their lives are ending and taking control over when and how that will happen. That's not a choice everyone wants to make, but it should be a choice all of us have the option to make. So this is very good news: "In a move that's being described as 'historic,' and could potentially set a nationwide precedent, the California Medical Association (CMA) has formally dropped its decades-long opposition to laws that allow physicians to help terminally ill patients take lethal medication to end their lives." Again: To end their lives on the day of their choosing. That's not semantics; it's the crux of the issue.

[CN: Sexual abuse of children] A British investigation into allegations of child abuse, known as Operation Hydrant, has expanded to include 1,433 men who "have been identified in reports of alleged abuse by victims, since the operation was set up in 2014. Of these 216 are dead, 76 are politicians, both national and local figures, 43 are from the music industry, 135 from TV, film or radio and seven from the world of sport. The cases include recent high-profile convictions, including Rolf Harris, Gary Glitter, and Max Clifford. Hundreds of institutions have been identified by victims of non-recent abuse as places where their abuse took place. These include 154 schools, 75 children's homes, 40 religious institutions, 14 medical establishments, 11 community groups, nine prisons or young offender institutions, nine sports venues, and 28 other places including military establishments."

[CN: Exploitation] Four cancer charities run by a single family defrauded donors of $187 million from 2008 to 2012: "Most of the $187 million the groups raised went to pay professional fundraisers, who took as much as 90 cents of each dollar contributed, the complaint says. Much of what was left went to pay the salary of Reynolds and a network of at least two dozen extended family members and close friends of top executives. In the end, less than 3% of the donations were used for goods and cash distributed to the patients they claimed to serve, the complaint says." This is an awful story, but there is a lot of administrative and fundraising waste in many legitimate charities, which is one of many reasons that money should be given directly to people in need, wherever possible.

[CN: Homophobia] Anti-gay hatemongers are using the story of two gay men, who had to resort to an adoption agreement to protect their relationship when same-sex marriage wasn't legal, to suggest that same-sex marriage legalization is leading to father-son marriage. Utterly despicable.

[CN: Misogyny; ageism] Maggie Gyllenhaal: "There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time. I'm 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh."

I was a major Clearly Canadian head in the '90s, so I am preeeeeeetty excited about its return!

And finally! This whispering dog is adorbz the end.

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Spoilers from Mad Max: Fury Road. There are blinking gifs at the link which may affect people with photosensitivity.]

"Watching Fury Road, I felt like I was watching my own struggle brought to life (albeit in a very fantastical setting), and I don't think I ever realized how truly profound that could be for me. Watch Furiosa load a shotgun. Watch Furiosa punch Max in the face, with her nubbins. Watch Furiosa drive a semi tractor trailer. Watch Furiosa fire a long shot, using Max's shoulder to stabilize the gun barrel, as an alternative to using two hands! Watch Furiosa do anything you can do, but better, and with half the number of fingers. The effortless manner in which this film has presented a character's disability is incredible. I literally could not ask for anything more. It's ubiquitous. No big deal. Her body is never a plot point. It is simply allowed to be."Laura, a fetal amputee whose disability is shared by the hero Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.

LOVE.

There are few things I read that I find more exhilarating than someone who sees hirself (someone like hirself) onscreen in a way that makes hir SO HAPPY. Because I get it. I get it so hard.

[H/T to Ana Mardoll.]

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IS Controls Half of Syria

[Content Note: War; war crimes.]

This is terrible, terrible news: The Islamic State has seized control of the Syrian city of Palmyra, which, according to the UK's Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, means that IS now controls more than half of Syrian territory. Further, IS has killed dozens of people in the resistance and may be destroying sites of historical significance.

Clashes in the Palmyra area since Wednesday killed at least 100 pro-government fighters, said [the Observatory's founder Rami Abdulrahman], who bases his information on a network of sources on the ground.

...Capturing the city marks a strategic military gain for Islamic State, because it is home to modern army installations and situated on a desert highway linking government-held Damascus and Homs with Syria's mainly rebel-held east.

The European Union's foreign policy chief expressed fears that thousands of people in Palmyra were at risk as well as the cultural sites.

"Mass killings and deliberate destruction of archaeological and cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq amount to a war crime," Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

...The ultra hardline group has destroyed antiquities and monuments in Iraq and there are fears it might now devastate Palmyra, home to renowned Roman-era ruins including well-preserved temples, colonnades and a theater.

The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO describes the site as a historical crossroads between the Roman Empire, India, China and ancient Persia and a testament to the world's diverse heritage.

"We may have different beliefs...different views, but we have to protect such incredible vestiges of human history," UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova told Reuters Television.

..."This is the fall of a civilization," Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters.
IS seized Palmyra less than a week after it seized Ramadi in Iraq, which "handed the Iraqi government its most significant setback in a year and exposed the limitations of both the army and U.S.-led air strikes designed to 'degrade and destroy' Islamic State."

And with IS taking control of a town with such extraordinary antiquities, the fear is not limited to the possibility that they will destroy them, as they have in other places, "branding them heretical according to its interpretation of Islam," but that they may sell some of them to black market collectors, to help fund their war: "Its fighters have smashed statues and buildings and sold off ancient artifacts that were small enough to be smuggled. The area surrounding Palmyra is also rich in gas and oil, potentially boosting the Islamic State's wealth."

Meanwhile, IS continues recruitment in places like the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, where young men enlist as volunteers and disappear—some are thought to have been abducted and Georgian authorities are suspected of protecting the recruiters.

And here, Republicans seem interested in the problem only insomuch as they can blame Obama for it. They've not got between the lot of them a single serious idea for meaningfully addressing the problem. Which, frankly, may be because there are no good ideas.

Although, to listen to the Republicans tell it, with their criticisms of Obama and Clinton for withdrawing troops from Iraq—even though the Obama administration was complying with the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement signed by then-President George W. Bush in 2008—they're keen to send troops back into Iraq and on the ground in Syria ASAP, as if that is the best idea ever. As if we can afford it. As if we know better what the people of that region need and don't need to listen to them and follow their lead. As if the people of the region can afford more of our brand of "helpful" intervention.

I don't know what the answer is. I am just feeling desperately sad for the people being harmed by this battle, whose lives and homes and cities are being fubared by multiple factions, none of whom respect their will.

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