5, FIVE, V

Aug. 28th, 2014 07:46 am
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Posted by Dave Hingsburger

A couple days ago I went to get air in the tires of my power wheelchair. The wheels have a silly design in that they can't be pumped at a gas station, they have to be pumped by a mechanic. I'll never understand that. So we made our trip down to Canadian Tire where they will do this for me. I don't like going there, even though they are always nice about it, because I don't like having to ask people for help like that and it's a wee bit difficult to get to. As a result of those things I left it way too long. Strangers were telling me my tires were low.

I could feel the air enter the tires, I rose up first on one side, then on the other. On driving out I noticed that I was having real difficulty. The chair was operating at maximum capacity. It turned on a dime, the slightest touch to the joystick and the chair leapt in that direction. It's two days later and I'm still getting used to the performance of the chair.

I'll admit it's nice to be able to turn so quickly and in such a tight circle. I don't have to manoeuvre so much to get into and out of a space. It's just faster, it responds more quickly, it's quieter and, I'm a little bit taller.

All of this is to say that I'm about to take five days off, in a row, with no plans and nothing on the agenda. Just five days off. I'm having an extended Labour Day weekend. I'm hoping that when I come back from holidays I'll be faster, I'll respond more quickly, I'll be mumbling less about being tired and I'll be a little taller.

I suppose all of us need to take the time to get the air in our tires, either literally or figuratively, well this is my time for that.

So.

I'm ready to take a breather.

I'm ready to get some rest.

I'm ready to put 'nothing' on the agenda - and mean it.

Hope all of you catch some 'nothing' over the long weekend yourselves.

Rabies: Ancient Biological Weapon?

Aug. 28th, 2014 06:00 am
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Posted by AdrienneMayor

By Adrienne Mayor (Regular Contributor)

Little brown batRabies spread by bites of infected dogs has been deeply feared since antiquity. The main vector is domestic dogs, but wild animals such as foxes and bats can transmit the disease to humans. Rabies is almost invariably fatal. The earliest record of canine rabies appears in Mesopotamian cuneiform law tablets from about 2000 BC. The codex set a heavy fine for an dog owner who allowed a dog with symptoms of the disease to bite another person. The disease’s zoonotic ability to jump from animals to humans is thought to have originated in Mesopotamia, reaching China in the sixth century BC. Rabies was known in ancient Anatolia by the fifth century BC, mentioned by Xenophon and Aristotle. As rabies spread to Italy and Europe, many Byzantine doctors and medieval medical writers described the symptoms and course of the dread disease (animal symptoms include snapping and biting, excessive drooling, hydrophobia).

Rabies arrived in Greece in the fifth century BC. The ancient temple of Athena at Rhocca (Crete) was notorious for rabid dogs. Athena of Rhocca was invoked to cure human victims of rabies. In about AD 200, the natural historian Aelian described an experiment to cure some young boys who had been bitten by rabid dogs near Rhocca, whose ruins are found south of Methymna, Crete. A doctor administered the toxic stomach acid of seahorses to his patients in an attempt to counteract the mad dog “venom.” This early attempt to fight poison/venom with another poison/venom (anticipating the principles of vaccines, chemotherapy, and venomics) failed and the stricken boys died.

Aelian remarked that a piece of cloth bitten by a rabid dog could imbue the fabric with deadly saliva, causing second-hand infection of anyone who came into intimate contact with it. The virus can indeed infect via an open wound. Aelian’s ominous comment insinuates that mad-dog “venom” could have weapon potential.

Sure enough, historical detective work uncovers two intriguing formulas for creating biological weapons in an ancient Indian manual of warfare. The Arthashastra by Kautilya (fourth century BC) tells how to make many different types of poison arrows. One recipe calls for mixing various toxins with the blood of a musk rat. “Anyone pierced with this arrow,” wrote Kautylia, “will be compelled to bite ten companions, who will each in turn bite ten more people.” The implication is that musk rats were a vector of rabies in India. The other poison arrow recipe calls for “the blood of a man and a goat to induce biting madness,” which sounds suspiciously like rabies. Perhaps goats were susceptible to rabid animal bites. Two thousand years later, in about 1500, the idea of “weaponizing” rabies occurred to Leonardo da Vinci, who envisioned a terror-bomb created from sulphur, arsenic, tarantula venom, toxic toads, and the saliva of mad dogs. In 1650, the Polish general Casimir Siemenowicz entertained a similar notion. He suggested placing “the slobber from rabid dogs” in hollow glass or clay balls and catapulting them on the enemy to cause “epidemics” of rabies. The effectiveness of such weapons is dubious, but the diabolical intentions are chilling.

Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University. She is the author of “Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World” (2009); and “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy,” a nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award.

This post first appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 6 July 2013.

 

Kirk Cameron’s Citizen Cane

Aug. 28th, 2014 12:22 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

Uh-oh, it seems our favorite white evangelical movie star has set his sights on Saving Christmas.

As Hemant Mehta says, “If someone filmed a parody about the ‘War on Christmas,‘” it might look just like this upcoming, family friendly holiday treat from the man who was once Buck Williams.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze, reports on the upcoming film: “Hollywood Actor Says His New Movie Will Hammer Political Correctness and Frustrate Atheist Activists.”

I’m guessing that headline is true. This looks like a movie that will “hammer” and “frustrate” everyone who sees it.

Beckling Billy Hallowell reports:

Actor Kirk Cameron is taking political correctness to task this fall with a new movie that aims to deflate arguments regularly made against Christmas, while simultaneously pushing back against atheist activists’ annual attacks on the holiday.

In “Saving Christmas,” Cameron plans to tackle some of the most controversial and disputed issues surrounding the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday — claims that he says have had a profound impact on the way believers and nonbelievers alike view the Christian celebration.

The odd thing, judging from Cameron’s comments and description of the project, and from what we can see in the trailer, is that Saving Christmas isn’t going after more than just the usual targets in the annual Fox News “War on Christmas” faux-persecution festival. That’s part of it — Cameron’s voiceover in the trailer laments the phrases “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings.” He sneers, “Whatever that means,” because, apparently, he’s unaware of when winter begins and he’s never heard of Hannukah or New Year’s Day.

The movie’s unoriginal tag line – “Put Christ Back in Christmas” — follows that same Fox agenda of asserting sectarian hegemony. But Cameron also seems intent on defending all the rest of the cultural accretions associated with the holiday — Christmas trees, boughs of holly, stockings, candy canes, partridges in pear trees, silver bells, the Detroit Lions, Black Friday … maybe even Frosty and Rudolph — as being specific, sectarian expressions of Christian faith.

“It’s all about Jesus,” Cameron’s character says in the trailer, seeming to insist that everything we associate with Christmas is somehow directly related to Jesus and the story of the Nativity. The Blaze article seems to suggest that too:

Unlike some of his more recent projects, Saving Christmas isn’t a documentary. It’s a comedic narrative that weaves together educational elements that, through a character-driven storyline, address these common complaints and critiques.

Cameron said some of the claims that will be addressed in the film include: the notion that Christmas is really a church co-opting of winter solstice celebrations, that Jesus was not born on December 25, that Christmas trees are pagan and that consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season.

Hoo-boy. Sounds like Cam-Cam is saying that he’s going to try to convince us that December 25 is Jesus actual birthday. And also that consumerism is really an expression of “the true reason for the season.”

So let me just pre-emptively post this snippet from the Snopes.com page on the origin of the candy cane:

In recent years several different stories have been advanced claiming that the candy cane was designed to be fraught with Christian religious symbolism, variously offering it as a secret form of identification used by European Christians during a time of persecution, a sweet treat created to induce children to behave well in church, or a confection dreamed up by a candymaker in Indiana to express his Christian faith. 

CAMCAMThe first of these claims — that the candy cane was intended as a means by which persecuted Christians could furtively identify each other — is directly contradicted by history. Even questionable accounts regarding the origins of the candy cane place its origins no earlier the latter part of the 17th century, at which time Europe was almost entirely Christian. By then, only people who were not Christians would have been the ones in need of this form of “secret handshake!” Like the apocryphal tale of the “true” meaning of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” this claim is a modern day attempt to infuse a primarily secular holiday artifact with Christian origins and meanings. 

Another popular account claims a choirmaster in Cologne, Germany, as the inventor of the candy cane. … However, this account also presents significant historical problems. Despite the authoritative-sounding appeal to “church history,” no one has yet produced any documentation that either verifies this account as true or reliably dates it to the 17th century — it exists only in the form of anecdote, recorded no earlier than the mid-20th century. Moreover, English-language references to “candy canes” (1866) and their association with Christmas (1874) didn’t begin to pop up until the latter part of the 19th century, two hundred years after the treat had supposedly been invented and popularized as a Christmastime confection. 

… Claims made about the candy’s Christian symbolism have become increasingly widespread as religious leaders have assured their congregations that these mythologies are factual, the press have published these claims as authoritative answers to readers’ inquiries about the confection’s meaning, and several lavishly illustrated books purport to tell the “true story” of the candy cane’s origins. This is charming folklore, but one should not lose sight of the fact that such stories of the candy cane’s origins are, like Santa Claus, myths and not “true stories.” 

Here is my bet with you, dear readers. I’ll wager that some variation of this “charming folklore” about candy canes gets presented as fact in Cameron’s movie.

The stakes of this bet are very high: If I lose, I have to watch the entire thing.

 

 

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Posted by Fred Clark

What’s the harm of bombing [ISIS] at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?

This is Bill Kristol’s idea of foreign policy. Drop some bombs and “see what happens.”

"What's the harm ...?"

“What’s the harm …?”

You may remember Kristol and his Neoconservative friends for advocating this same idea back in 2003 — “What’s the harm of invading Iraq at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?” I’m so old I can still remember how that turned out.

This is the basis of the Neocons’ preferential option for war: Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

One of the many problems with that mentality is that it tends to produce an answer to that question.

We don’t need to take a careful look at the jus ad bello criteria of just war theory to consider whether Kristol’s argument for war is justifiable. It’s not simply that his argument violates those criteria, but that it refuses to acknowledge that there are or ever could be any criteria for whether or not war is a reasonable or just measure. For Kristol, war is the default — the perpetual first resort.

We could kill a lot of very bad guys,” Kristol said, revealing he’s still committed to the simple, neat and wrong idea that shaped American policy during the Bush administration — just kill all the bad people and all your problems will be solved:

As jaw-droppingly awful as it is to realize that Kristol hasn’t learned anything from his complicity in the biggest, deadliest blunder of a generation, it’s just as awful to realize that many others haven’t learned anything from that mistake either. “Someone said on a panel with me,” Kristol says there — because he’s still regularly invited to sit on panels and to offer advice. It’s the same advice he offered in 2002 and 2003 and yet, despite everything that came of that, people still imagine it’s worth listening to.

As James Fallows wrote last month for The Atlantic, the lethal debacle of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq means “Some people have earned the right not to be listened to.”

Fallows boggles at the fact that Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby — two men who were definitively and massively wrong about everything from 2002 on — were recently hired to teach a course titled, “The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making.”

For a bit of contrast from a saner time, here’s a snippet of Anthony S. Pitch’s piece marking the bicentennial of the burning of Washington by British troops in 1814:

The man most responsible for the catastrophe was none other than the Secretary of War, John Armstrong, of whom it was said, “Nature and habits forbid him to speak well of any man.” When a frantic head of the capital’s militia went to see him, the officious and stubborn secretary of war belittled the threat to the capital.

“They would not come with such a fleet without meaning to strike somewhere. But they certainly will not come here!” he said. “What the devil will they do here? Baltimore is the place.” Later he would become the most reviled man in the country and resigned from office.

Armstrong’s resignation and his complete disappearance from public life was necessary. His becoming “the most reviled man in the country” was wholly appropriate.

But Armstrong wasn’t as massively, sweepingly wrong as people like Kristol, Wolfowitz, Libby, Chaney, Rice, Powell and Bush were in 2002. And the consequences of Armstrong’s catastrophic wrongness were not as vast and enduring as the ongoing catastrophe chosen by those fools.

Plus Armstrong at least had the decency to go away. Kristol, et. al., refuse to do so.

They’re still on TV, on the radio, online and in print. And they’re still saying the same foolish thing: “We could kill a lot of very bad guys. … What’s the harm of bombing them … and seeing what happens?”

The recklessness and pride of that still-influential ideology, I think, gives an answer to Scott Paeth’s recent question: “Has the ‘Niebuhr Moment’ Passed?” No, it hasn’t. It hasn’t even arrived yet.

Night falls, Mr. Moonlight

Aug. 27th, 2014 06:58 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

• “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”

• Joel Duff reviews Conversations on Geology: Comprising a Familiar Explanation of the Huttonian and Wernerian Systems; the Mosaic Geology, as Explained by Mr. Granville Penn; and the Late Discoveries of Professor Buckland, Humboldt, Dr. MacCulloch, and Others.

They just don’t title books like that anymore. And Mr. Granville Penn, I think, is what we’d get if Kurt Vonnegut had been a 19th-century creationist.

• A Cry for Justice — a blog about domestic violence and abuse in evangelical churches — recently posted a dismayingly perceptive piece describing the 11 steps to nowhere of “What a Victim Can Expect in a Typical Evangelical Church.”

Even more dismaying — take away some of the sectarian specifics and you’re left with “What a Victim Can Expect in Any Typical Institution.” The dynamic of institutional preservation — especially as described in Steps 9, 10 and 11 — reminds me of The Wire (it’s almost like part of the outline for Season 6). And just to be clear, when your institutional dynamics recall The Wire, that’s a Very Bad Thing.

• Groups like the American Family Association’s “One Million Moms” speak longingly of the lost innocence of the white Protestant hegemony of the 1950s America they imagine they’d grown up in. If One Million Moms had been around in the ’50s, I wonder if they’d have called one of their boycotts against Crunchie bars:

GoldenAge

• “Say what you will about Harold Camping, but he didn’t get rich off of his crazy beliefs; instead, he lost everything in trying to be true to them. Without demonstrating any such willingness to be proven wrong (or right), Ken Ham nevertheless insists that his crazy beliefs are the only way to honor God and his word.”

• Competition is a market mechanism for keeping prices in check. That’s part of capitalism. Yet when the city of Somerset, Kentucky, took that rule of capitalism seriously, businesses that had previously enjoyed a price-gouging monopoly cried “Socialism!”

Businesses in a small Kentucky town are crying “socialism” after the mayor got tired of constant price gouging and opened a city-owned gas station.

According to the Associated Press, the Somerset Fuel Center was a hit with consumers when it opened [last month]. It served 75 customers in the first three hours, and has been averaging about 300 fill-ups per day ever since.

Mayor Eddie Girdler said that residents of Somerset … had complained for years about high gas prices, which the town estimated were 20 to 30 cents higher per gallon than surrounding cities.

So for less the $75,000, the city was able to open the fueling center, with 10 pumps and no frills. The station doesn’t sell snacks or do repairs.

While the mayor expected to break even on the operation, he said that the goal was to lower the overall price of gas in Somerset. And it seems to be working. Nearby stations had already cut prices by 10 cents.

Mayor Girdler didn’t take over the existing businesses. Nor did he try to impose price caps on them. He just expanded the market in which they have to compete by adding a public option. I like that idea, but like it or not, you can’t call that socialism.

 

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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

When Hurricane Katrina broke the levees of New Orleans and flooded 85% of the city, 100,000 people were left homeless. Disproportionately, these were the poor and black residents of New Orleans. This same population faced more hurdles to returning than their wealthier and whiter counterparts thanks to the effects of poverty, but also choices made by policymakers and politicians — some would say made deliberately — that reduced the black population of the city.

With them went many of the practitioners of voodoo, a faith with its origins in the merging of West African belief systems and Catholicism.  At Newsweek, Stacey Anderson writes that locals claim that the voodoo community was 2,500 to 3,000 people strong before Katrina, but after that number was reduced to around 300.

The result has been a bridging of different voodoo traditions and communities. Prior to the storm, celebrations and ceremonies were race segregated and those who adhered to Haitian- and New Orleans-style voodoo kept their distance.  After the storm, with their numbers decimated, they could no longer sustain the in-groups and out-groups they once had.  Voodoo practitioners forged bonds across prior divides.

Voodoo Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman performs a ceremony at Bayou St. John (photo by Alfonso Bresciani):

1

Voodoo Priestess Miriam Chamani performs a ceremony at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple:

3

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

Achievement Unlocked: London & Berlin

Aug. 27th, 2014 01:46 pm
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We are back from the wilds of Europe!

...wow. That was pretty awesome.

So much happened that I feel like I have no chance of talking about all of it. It was Kevin's first trip out of North America, so it was awesome to be able to take him there, and it was only my second as an adult. Loncon was actually fantastic, and there is just no comparison to the Worldcon in San Antonio. And Eurofurence was amazing and I had so much fun. They took very good care of us.

Since I have absolutely no way of breaking down everything, here is a partial list of interesting things I did or discovered or saw or thought or whatever.

1. It is super weird to take the Tube in London and see all the station names and know that they are attached to places that you've read about. I never disbelieved in Hyde Park or the Tower of London, you understand, but it existed in my head in bookspace rather than realspace and thus on some level was lumped with Narnia and Pern and New York and other questionably existent places.

2. The ravens at the Tower of London are enormous.

3. I got to meet Terri Windling and talk to her for awhile and tell her that the Wood Wife is one of my great comfort reads and that was really wonderful. Also Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and Amal El-motar and Terese Nielsen Hayden and SO MANY OTHER AWESOME PEOPLE. And a bunch of them knew I existed! What's up with that? How did they know that? These are real people with names on books! I draw honey badgers on the internet! How is this my life, again?

4. Aardvarks are much bigger than I thought they were. They're like the size of pigs. Holy mackerel.

5. I still vaguely regret not buying the T-shirt with the Underground logo that said "Mind The Gap" on it.

6. Crosswalk signs in Berlin are very strange.

7. The British Museum goes on forever. Every single Brit I spoke to about it uttered some variation on "Oh, yeah, that's where we keep all the stuff we stole!"

7a. We spent about two hours at the British Museum and it pretty much destroyed our sense of age. You walk in and look at paintings painted when our country hadn't been founded yet, you think "Old." Then you go down and there's the Rosetta Stone and statuary from 1500 BC and you go "Really old." And then you wander into the room where they've got ancient Chinese jade and there are pieces from 5000 BC and you go "These were really old when they were carving those statues downstairs." And then you go through another room and another room and hey, look, it's artifacts from Jericho. And those were ancient when the jade pieces were carved.

Kevin sort of gave up at that point and started clutching his head and heading for the gift shop. Unfortunately for us, on the far side of the gift shop was a library with stuffed hoopoes. Great! And also hand axes, which were dated at something like 400,000 BC, and at that point you are standing on a fractional sliver of the vast sweep of human history and you realize that if civilization were pounded into dust tomorrow, it would be the eradication of an exceedingly brief anomaly.

And then you go buy a hot dog stuffed into a hollowed-out baguette, because really, what else can you do?

8. Hot dogs stuffed into hollowed-out baguettes are awesome.

9. Both hotels, in London and Berlin, did these massive breakfasts like they expected we were preparing for a nine-day siege.

10. The Brandenburg Gate is amazing and I am a terrible person because all I could think for a minute on seeing it was "Hey! I built that in Civ 5!"

11. It is very surreal to walk through Berlin and keep seeing this meandering double line of bricks. It's where the wall was. Every now and again that realization would kind of grab me by the throat. That happened in my lifetime. I watched that wall come down on TV as a kid. And here I am, many thousands of miles and over two decades away from being that kid and I am actually standing here staring at the place where the wall was and a whole city that has basically put itself together in the aftermath and things grind in my head between real and unreal.

12. I just don't get currywurst.

13. The European way of living with WWII is a lot different than the American one. A very nice German woman in London gave me directions to an old Templar church, which she said was the best in London. "Of course, we blew out all the stained glass in the Blitz," she said cheerfully. "Pity we didn't get [German train station]," muttered her (British) friend. "Yeah," said the German woman, "if you had, we could have built something that actually worked."

There is no possible response an American can make to any of this, beyond smiling and nodding. This is a far greater culture shock than little things like lack of public restrooms.

14. There is a near-total lack of public restrooms.

15. German coffee is mediocre. British cream is amazing. I am told that German beer is basically the greatest thing ever.

16. The British version of Indian cuisine lives up to all the hype and is incredible.

17. You can sell alcohol at a dealer's table in Berlin. We were seated next to the schnapps dealer. One of them spoke very good English and helped me navigate a phone tree to figure out where my laptop had gone to (answer: left on plane flying into Berlin) and the other spoke virtually no English. He and Kevin, with a mutual vocabulary of perhaps ten words, managed to have several lengthy discussions of techno music. Apparently "oontz" is universal.

18. Losing my laptop was very stressful, but I tried to make the best of it. "We will go in early on Monday," I said, "and check with lost & found. I am sure the airport is run with typical German efficiency!"

"....No," said one of our German hosts sadly.

Despite this, after a lengthy wait in a line full of increasingly angry people, I got into the Lost & Found and said "I left my messenger bag on this flight, it had a laptop--"

"Brown leather, Macbook Air. Wait here." Two minutes later, I was reunited with my laptop. So that was nice.

19. There is this moment where you are standing in an electronica dance party full of furries and somebody hands you a straw and you are drinking Cuba Libres out of a gallon bucket with a group of fursuiters and you think "How is this my life, again?"

20. When the con sends a limo to pick you up that is made out of five Trabbis welded together and the limo driver is explaining that these cars are made primarily out of pressed wool and incidentally, that's the Reichstaag over there and you think "How is this my life, again?"

21. I would love to go back.

Out of the Closet AGAIN!

Aug. 27th, 2014 08:24 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

In the many years that I have written this blog I have never written about pain. I've written about various social aspects of my disability, I've written about the physical barriers that I encounter, but I've not written about pain. In many ways, I'm afraid to. My silence, here, and in my social life in general, about pain is, I think, mainly to protect me. My silence buys me freedom from pitying looks and concerned expressions. It buys me freedom from others doing an immediate reevaluation of the quality of my life. It buys me from an increase, even a slight one would be overwhelming, of the 'better dead' approach to disabilities that the issue of pain brings.

I'm choosing to do this now for two reasons, I want to have an accurate 'diary' of my life as a disabled man - the original purpose of this blog and secondly I've learned that silence isn't really the solution to anything. So, I have been experiencing chronic pain for several years now. It varies in intensity. Sometimes it's the kind of pain that you feel when you aren't doing anything else but disappears when involved in something, working, reading, chatting. Pain that is easily pushed to the side. That's what I have most of the time. However, there is also the kind of pain that interrupts my life, my thoughts, my ability to fully concentrate. This is the kind of pain that's been slowly increasing in frequency over the last few months.

Does it diminish the quality of my life? No, certainly not. Does it diminish the quality of a moment? Yes, sometimes, of course it does. It helps that Joe is aware of this and that I can talk about it when it happens. I know he feels helpless to do something mostly because he doesn't understanding that listening and caring IS doing something. Sometimes it's even enough to make it manageable, first and then it can be shoved aside.

Today I've made the decision that it's time to talk to the doctor about pain management. Up until now it's not been on the table because I've been managing pain, pain has not been managing me. I don't want that to change.

I feel weirdly vulnerable writing this. I know when I became a wheelchair user many people stopped booking me as a speaker, even though I think I have more to say, and I say it more clearly, than I did before the wheelchair. Will the same happen with the issue of pain? Will people assume that I can no longer manage? Will people ignore the daily blog, the daily trips to work, the daily living of my life and assume that I no longer want to or am willing to continue of the path that I've set for myself?

The question really then, is will my honesty about my experience of physical pain result in social pain?

I don't know.

But even though this feels a bit scary, it also feels right. I need to, I want to, live an authentic life. I've only got one, I want to be free to explore it in all it's complexities.

And because I want these things ... I'm going to pursue them.

Oddly, I never felt a moments pain while writing about pain. It's was there, but shoved aside, diminished by the concentration and the contemplation involved in writing these words.

Purpose is for me, a helluva pain killer.
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Posted by Fred Clark

In a thought-provoking, mordantly funny, piece at Medium, Dex Digital writes, “Can someone just shoot Jesus Christ already?

For a moment there, things were looking pretty good. A boy shot multiple times with his hands up. College bound. Poor. Innocent. And in response: helicopters and tanks. Maybe this time, we thought, they would believe us.

But that’s all been ruined.

We now have all sorts of reasons to make us doubt Brown’s humanity. He may have stolen some cigarillos. He may have been facing the officer when he was shot. He got shot in the top of the head, which might mean that he was surrendering, or might mean he was being defiant. He made amateur rap songs. Perhaps worst of all, he’s been caught grimacing at a camera making a contorted peace sign, and it turns out that he was pretty tall.

It doesn’t matter that the many voices lining up to assure us that Michael Brown “was no angel” often contradict themselves or contradict reality, Dex Digital writes. Nor does it matter that they’re (mostly) savvy enough not to come right out and state explicitly that this litany of human flaws that they’re attributing to Brown, real or imagined, excuses his abrupt execution. (That’s too outrageous and ridiculous to say outright, so they just hint at it instead.)

But still, it was disappointing.

Not because we believed that these were reasons for the boys to die. But because we knew that so many Americans were itching for a reason, any reason, to condemn the boys to death in their minds. To make it all our fault. And by being simply human, these dead spirits gave them that ammunition.

Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant. They failed us all by not being perfect.

The only way to expose and abolish such victim-blaming, he writes — to ensure that “maybe this time … they would believe us” — would be to find a victim who was faultless, flawless and perfectly innocent. And with deadpan gallows humor, that’s what he suggests:

So maybe what all of these terrified racists need is someone that, no matter how hard they try, cannot be dehumanized. Someone beyond human. Someone Christlike.

Someone that can save them from themselves, and wash their souls of fear and hate and judgement. Someone that can bring them into the light of humanity and love and logic.

Maybe what we need is a 5’8″, light-skinned, Harvard-bound, star tennis player/violinist/poet that volunteers at the local pet shelter, bakes amazing blueberry muffins, speaks with a Mid-Atlantic accent, has a white name, who has never taken a photo with anything other than a thumbs up and a smile, and just recently published a groundbreaking cure for cancer in Science.

And we need him to die. Someone needs to find this boy, and kill him in public. It’s our only hope.

Still wouldn’t work. The same process of dehumanizing thuggification performed on Brown and Martin and Grant would soon transform this flawless saint into an unrecognizable menace.

That’s part of what makes Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant Christlike. Because the same thing happened to Jesus.

Sure, in the Gospels — written decades later by devoted followers — Jesus is portrayed as perfect and sinless, an innocent, spotless lamb. But that’s not what it looked like at the time. He was executed because he was a thug who deserved it — a seditious vandal who knocked over tables, blasphemed, and threatened to destroy the House of God. Jesus died in disgrace.

Disgrace is a vital weapon for the Powers That Be. It’s their main tool — perhaps even more than physical violence — for ensuring that they remain the Powers That Be.

There’s this mistaken idea in a lot of heroic stories that the oppressive evil villains can’t afford to kill the rebellious hero because they can’t risk turning them into a martyr. But that’s not how oppressive evil villains — or oppressive evil systems — work. They can kill without making martyrs because everyone they kill they also actively disgrace.

Thus when Ferguson, Missouri, police arrested the wrong Henry Davis then beat him bloody in a jail cell, they had to consequently thuggify him. They denied him his status as an innocent victim by charging him with a crime — four counts of property damage, because when one police officer kicked him in the head, his blood splattered onto four officers’ uniforms.

That’s a bitterly flimsy pretext for criminalizing Mr. Davis, but that’s what’s so disgraceful about this process of disgrace-ing. It doesn’t matter how flimsy or dishonest the pretext may be, it works and will keep working just as long as most people — most white people, that is — are eager to participate in the disgrace-ing and the thuggifying of innocent victims.

He “resisted arrest,” he didn’t do what he was told as quickly as he should have, he may have shoved someone, he smoked a joint, he flirted with a white girl, he broke the Sabbath and disturbed the peace. … Those are all the same thing.

One thing that’s particularly frustrating to me, as a Christian, is that it seems so many of my fellow white Christians love to imagine that they would stand beside Longinus on Calvary, saying, “Truly this man was a son of God.” Yet at the same time they’re unwilling to look upon the slain body of Michael Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or Oscar Grant, and say the same thing.

The bitterest thing about Dex Digital’s bitter joke is that it’s already happened. And it just keeps happening.

See also: Jamilah King on “Michael Brown and the Danger of the Perfect Victim Frame.”

[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Jack El-Hai

by Jack El-Hai, Wonders & Marvels contributor

Imagine you are a boy bicycling along the beach with a friend on a cool November evening on Anastasia Island, Florida. Perhaps you stop to examine shells, driftwood, and small burrowing crabs. Then, unexpectedly, you see looming at the shoreline, partly buried in the sand, an enormous something…a mass of flesh…a monster.

The St. Augustine Monster in 1897, weeks after its discovery.

The St. Augustine Monster in 1897, weeks after its discovery.

Dunham Coretter and Herbert Coles together made such a grotesque find in 1896. Whatever it was — and its youthful discoverers suspected it was the remains of a whale — the creature was greatly decomposed. The boys notified DeWitt Webb, a naturalist in nearby St. Augustine, who wasted no time in trekking to Anastasia Island.

A globster

Today we call this sort of unidentified washed-up biomass a globster, and beachcombers and fishermen have chanced upon many of them over the centuries. (The Montauk Monster, for instance, appeared on a New York beach in 2008.) Webb found what he described as a pale carcass bearing the remains of tentacles. Its texture was very tough and almost impossible to cut with a knife. He measured its visible length at six meters and its width at 2.5 meters, and he estimated its weight at five tons. Webb preliminarily identified it as the remains of a giant octopus.

Other people, including the owner of a nearby hotel, made their own observations. Many confirmed that the beached creature had arms, and some even saw a head “as large as an ordinary flour barrel” that resembled the head of a sea lion. Partial excavations of the creature from the sand showed it to be much larger than Webb had previously measured.

Weeks later the globster was still embedded in the sand, but a January storm pulled the carcass back into the sea. It soon reappeared on a beach two miles away. Webb took numerous photos of the hulk and sent them to various zoologists. Speculation on its origins ranged from squid to sperm whale to extinct sea monster. With difficulty and a team of six horses, Webb managed to haul the carcass away from the beach to a more protected spot, where it became a spectacle for tourists. The remains eventually rotted away or vanished, and its ultimate fate remains unknown.

Octopus or whale?

Before that disappearance, however, Webb had sent a specimen from the globster to William Healey Dall at the Smithsonian Institution. That sample sat forgotten in the Smithsonian’s archives for decades, until interest in it reignited in the 1970s. A 1971 study of the specimen declared it part of an octopus, a determination agreed upon 15 years later by another investigation. During the 1990s, the application of new technology cast that identification in doubt. Finally in 2004, DNA analysis confirmed that the biomass consisted of a massive sheet of collagen that had, in life, belonged to a whale.

The boys who discovered the St. Augustine Monster 108 years earlier had been right about it all along.

Further reading:

Broad, William J. “Ogre? Octopus? Blobologists Solve an Ancient Mystery.The New York Times, July 27, 2004.

Ellis, Richard. Monsters of the Sea. Lyons Press, 2000.

 

[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

Equity a distant prospect for women in CSIRO|Canberra Times: “CSIRO’s [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] latest annual report released in 2013 indicates that women represent 40 per cent of employees, but only 12 per cent of technical services roles and 24 per cent of research scientists are female. In contrast, women are over-represented in more poorly-paid, traditionally female roles such as administrative support which is 76 per cent female. At higher levels of the hierarchy, the situation for women is even bleaker, with only 11 per cent of research management roles held by women.” (August 25)

We Need to Talk About Silicon Valley’s Racism|The Daily Beast: “an elite set of tech investors that Forbes labels “The Midas List,” 100 venture capitalists with staggeringly profitable portfolios in the tech industry. And if you scroll down the complete Midas List, some visible trends begin to emerge. The featured photo for the list, first of all, is as white as a loaf of Wonder Bread and as male as a football locker room. There are only four women on the list, none of whom rank in the Top 20. And of the 96 men on the Midas List, the overwhelming majority appear to be white, including every single member of the Top 10.” (August 22)

Lunch with Dads|Ellen’s Blog: “That’s what being different does. It makes you aware of your actions, and that you might be imposing. It’s so minor, but it adds up…..When you don’t have a diverse team, there will be that nagging sensation for the few people who are different. It’s more likely those people will leave, or continue to feel out of place.” (August 23)

I accept trans women in my tech feminism | 0xabad1dea: “Trying to enforce the separation of trans women from other women does not support any cause I believe in – especially if that enforcement is being proposed by a man, no matter how well-meaning or feminist.” (August 22)

Adding misogyny to Fark moderator guidelines | Fark: “as of today, the FArQ will be updated with new rules reminding you all that we don’t want to be the He Man Woman Hater’s Club.  This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary.” “I recommend that when encountering grey areas, instead of trying to figure out where the actual line is, the best strategy would be to stay out of the grey area entirely.” (August 22)

Late Night Thoughts on Boundaries & Consent | Julie Pagano: “Being nice is incredibly overrated. I have no desire to be nice, and I think a culture of “nice” is counter to a culture of consent and boundaries. I prefer to be kind and empathetic – these are things to aspire to.” (August 24)

People of Color-led Makerspace and Hackerspace! | Indiegogo: Liberating Ourselves Locally is one of the few (if not only) people of color-led makerspaces/hackerspaces in the Bay Area. If you do a search for “people of color makerspace” on Google, we’re not just the first result, we fill the first page. We lost one of our main funding sources recently, so we’re appealing to our community to keep the space running.

If White Characters Were Described Like People Of Color In Literature|Buzzfeed:
“2. She took off his shirt, his skin glistening in the sun like a glazed doughnut. The glaze part, not the doughnut part.” (August 22)

 

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Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Books For The Horde: A Reading Group

Aug. 26th, 2014 10:18 pm
[syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This September we're going to revive the old book group. But instead of looking at the Civil War and Reconstruction, we're going to look at mass incarceration. There's no better book to start with on that project than Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Here is a rough schedule. We can discuss below whether this works for people. Our moderator, Kathleen will be leading the discussion.

Wednesday, September 17: 
Introduction and Chapter 1 (history of racialized social control in the United States)

Wednesday, September 24: 
Chapter 2 (structure of mass incarceration) and Chapter 3 (role of race in the U.S. criminal justice system)

Wednesday, October 1: 
Chapter 4 (what happens once people are released from prison) and Chapter 5 (parallels between mass incarceration and Jim Crow)

Wednesday, October 8: 
Chapter 6 (what acknowledging the presence of the New Jim Crow means for the future of civil rights advocacy)








[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

• Ever notice it’s always the “constitutional conservatives” who want to get rid of the 14th Amendment? (And probably also the 13th, and the 19th …)

• So back when we were discussing Mark Driscoll’s ugly “pussification” rants, you may have wondered — why “William Wallace II”? This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill dudebro fondness for Braveheart. In Driscoll’s region of the white evangelical subculture, Mel Gibson’s Academy Award-winning movie holds a unique and revered place as a portrait and emblem of Real True Christian Manliness. That’s thanks to popular author and self-proclaimed RTC Manliness expert John Eldredge and his book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.

Despite being named after a Nic Cage movie, Eldredge’s book actually argues that “the Secret of a Man’s Soul” is to be more like Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

Mark Bruce has a fascinating, multi-part discussion of Eldredge’s pop-culture projection and reinvention of Gibson-Wallace, beginning with this post: “Recovering the Unreal Man: William Wallace, Blind Hary, and the Medievalism of John Eldredge.”

(It’s a long read, but perhaps Driscoll’s six-week leave of absence will give him time to read it.)

GVC2

• (Mulching is a process of inbred fertilization which employs certain decomposed organic materials — including, but not limited to animal sediment — to blanket an area in which vegetation is desired.)

I’m younger than the average Fred. (via)

Irin Carmon visits Wheaton College:

“People are so adamant with everything to do with reproductive rights,” [student Jordan Ashley Barney] said. “For me, even if someone is pro-life, and I consider myself pro-choice, what Wheaton is doing is not helpful at all for preventing abortion in any sort of way. I think the college should be strongly supporting the Affordable Care Act, because this is a way to prevent abortion.”

Also liked this bit:

Barney and a friend went to an on-campus forum about Wheaton’s suit against the Obama administration, featuring one of the attorneys in the case.

“There was a kid in the back who was a biology major,” Barney recalled. “He kept asking questions about the morning-after pill that supposedly causes abortion. And it was utterly refuted by the simple facts that this biology major had learned as a twenty one year old. And the lawyer knew nothing about the scientific facts of this so-called abortion pill … He kept saying, ‘I’m not a scientist.’”

I suppose it’s reassuring that Wheaton president Philip Ryken’s rejection of human biology hasn’t trickled down to the point where his lies and distortions change what biology majors are studying. Yet.

Boring Blog

Aug. 26th, 2014 06:59 pm
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

You know, I’ve thought this before, but I don’t know if I’ve said it.  I think this blog being interesting relies pretty heavily on my ability to screw knitting up in an unlimited number of ways.  I think most of you, while being kind, lovely people, would say that your entertainment value goes way up when I do something stupid or misinterpret a pattern. It’s not like you really want something bad to happen to my knitting, but isn’t it more fun when it does? Take this project.  it’s going perfectly.  My gauge swatch was bang on the first time, the yarn is the perfect choice, despite a slightly complex construction it’s coming together properly… Who wants to turn up and see this?

minnigoignfine 2014-08-26

This project is so boring for a watch-a-long that I can’t imagine how you’re going to stand it.  Last night I thought, for one tiny second that I’d made a mistake…. but I hadn’t. It’s fine. Totally fine, totally boring, and the only thing it’s got going for it is that it has so many provisional cast-ons that at some point I’m probably going to snap and complain about them, but I think that might be all you’ve got to look forward to.

stillniceminni 2014-08-26

Can I distract you from my (likely short lived) perfection with what has to be almost the last round of Karmic Balancing gifts?

Your fellow knitter Linda has four skeins of Noro Transitions that are ready to go to a happy home, I bet that Ceres will love them.

lindasnoro 2014-08-25

Grace Sheese is a potter, and keeps a lovely Etsy shop here, has two pretty, pretty cups inspired by North Ronaldsay sheep to give away.

cupssheepgrace 2014-08-25

They’re charming, to say the least, and will be winging their way (carefully wrapped, of course) to Jessica C!

Dana’s a designer, and she’s donating a pattern for her gorgeous Birthstone Cowl.

Birthstonecowl 2014-08-25

Isn’t it pretty? The whole series is a good idea, and I hope that Rachel C loves it. Why wouldn’t she?

You fellow knitter Terri (who is all kinds of amazing. You would love her) has gone into her stash and come up with some gifts that are ready to fly to new homes. What she’s wanting to pass along is amazing and generous.  Hold on, here we go:

Terri has five skeins of this scrumptious Alchemy Haiku going to Nancy A.

5alchemyhaiku 2014-08-26

Three skeins of this cashmere/silk laceweight is making its way to Carol W.

3cashmeresilk 2014-08-26

This skein of Zen Serenity lace now belongs to Jennifer W.

zenserenitylace 2014-08-26

A whole big lot of Olmue cotton/rayon (I love those colours) are going to Claudia W.

olmuecotton 2014-08-26

A bunch of Manos Silk Blend is going to Diyang T.

manossilk 2014-08-26

Terri’s party doesn’t stop there – this skein of J Knits Lace-a-licious will be in the post to Jan C.

jknitslacealicious 2014-08-26

Last, but certainly not the least – a lovely skein of Handmaiden Sea Sock  is on its way to Jamie G.

handmaidenseasock 2014-08-26

Do you all know Romi? Sure you do. (If you don’t, you can actually kiss an hour or two of your life goodbye flipping though her patterns. Addictive.)   Here she is with some treats to share.

First up, a beautiful kit – a PDF copy of the completed Y3 7 Small Shawls eBook (7 small shawls + 4 other projects) with a skein of Sock yarn from Iridaceae Colorworks in Irisberry to knit the Sierra Lupine Scarf will be heading off to Jennifer K.

romiscarf 2014-08-26 Iridaceaecolourworks 2014-08-26

Romi doesn’t stop there- Debbie G will be getting the book to make whatever she wants.

7smallshawls 2014-08-26

and finally, Pam G and Robynn W will be getting PDF copies of her new book in progress: The Great Oddments Knitdown.  (This is an amazing idea, by the way.  A collection of gift-worthy projects that use up your little bits. Exciting.)

oddmentsknitdown 2014-08-26

Next up, the folks over at Signature Needle Arts (you all know how I feel about Signature Needles) have three gifts to give away.

A convertible circular, in the size of Julia C’s choosing,

convertiblesigs 2014-08-26

A set of single points (my favourites) in the size that’s Kyle P’s favourite.

straightsigs 2014-08-26

And, a set of DPN’s just the way that Leah W likes them.

dpnsigs 2014-08-26

Nice, right?  Next (oh yes, there’s more) Robynn Weldon has a pattern to give to Chris S and that’s not all – she’s throwing in the yarn to make it! It’s the Elfbaby hat, and a skein of Bonny by The Yarn Yard.

elfbaby 2014-08-26

bonny 2014-08-26

Last today (oh yeah, at least one more round after this one!) Lisa at Fairmount Fibers (they’re the nice people who distribute Manos yarns in the US) have a good one.

fairmountmanos 2014-08-26

That’s a picture of one bundle (That’s ten skeins!) of Manos Silk Blend in Forget-me-not, but Gayle K can choose whatever colour her heart desires.  I hope she’s thrilled.

Whew! See you tomorrow.  Maybe by then I’ll have screwed up my knitting.

[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

Holding a college degree, it is widely assumed, improves the likelihood that a person will be successful in the labor market.  This maxim draws individuals into college across the class spectrum and aspiring students who are low-income or non-white may find themselves enrolled at a for-profit college.

For profit colleges have been getting slammed for their high prices, low bars, and atrocious graduation rates.  Now we have another reason to worry that these institutions are doing more harm than good.

Economist Rajeev Darolia and his colleagues sent out 8,914 fictitious resumes and waited to see if they received a response.  They were interested in whether attending a for-profit college actually enhanced job opportunities, as ads for such schools claim, so they varied the level of education on the resumes and whether the applicant attended a for-profit or community college.

1

It turns out that employers evaluate applicants who attended two-year community colleges and those who attended for-profit colleges about equally.  Community colleges, in other words, open just as many doors to possibility as for-profit ones.

Darolia and his colleagues then tested whether employers displayed a preference for applicants who went to for-profit colleges versus applicants with no college at all.  They didn’t. Employers treated people with high school diplomas and coursework at for-profit colleges equivalently.

Being economists, they staidly conclude that enrolling in a for-profit college is a bad investment.

H/t Gin and Tacos. Image borrowed from Salon.com.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

• Carlos L. Malavé, “They Are Our Children” (Bread for the World)

The Church is called to be the most unequivocal expression of the heart and conscience of Christ. The way we respond to the cries of the children of God either affirms our legitimacy or exposes our failure. Our allegiance is not to the political, theological, or sociological winds of the time. Our allegiance is to the one who will call us into account when the last act of the human drama wraps up.

Every follower of Christ, every minister, and every local congregation must offer refuge to those seeking freedom, healing, and salvation. Our ears cannot become deaf to the words of Jesus: “Because you did it unto one of these little ones, you have done it unto me.”

• Josephine McKenna, “Pope Francis: End the ‘racist and xenophobic’ approach to migrants along US-Mexico border” (Religion News Service)

“Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically,” the pope said in a message sent to a global conference in Mexico.

“Many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

• Allan R. Bevere, “Refugee Children and the Border Crisis: Some Questions for the Nation Called Church”

The church that exists in America needs to say to the powers that be in Washington DC, you would be a better and more just nation if you found a place of these children. But, first and foremost, the burden of the biblical concern for the stranger and the alien and the oppressed must be borne by the people of God, the church.

• Alan  Bean, “Jesus and the children on our doorstep”

Are we as heartless as Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton seem to believe?

You bet we are.  Moreover, religious commitment seems to have little influence on how we respond to the immigration crisis.  According to a recent Pew poll, 43 percent of the religiously unaffiliated agree with the current policy of mass deportation while 48 percent oppose it.  The only religious constituencies showing more compassion than  the “nones” are Hispanic Catholics (59 percent of whom oppose mass deportation), and African American Protestants (46 percent).

Only 41 percent of white evangelicals oppose the policy of mass deportation and the white mainline is only slightly more compassionate at 42 percent.

To summarize, religious conviction has little bearing on the immigration debate and white Protestants find it particularly hard to empathize with the plight of the undocumented.

• David R. Gibson, “Jesuits tell their alumni in Congress: Protect border children” (Religion News Service)

“I ask you, as a leader, a parent, and a Catholic, to uphold an American tradition of which we are all proud,” the Rev. Thomas Smolich, head of the U.S. Jesuit conference, wrote to House Speaker John Boehner and 42 other House members who graduated from Jesuit high schools and colleges.

“We must welcome the refugee, the victim of trafficking, the child who has been abused or abandoned,” Smolich wrote in the July 29 letter.

• Joel Goza, “Is the heart of Texas too small for children?” (Houston Chronicle)

We need fears that drive us to that which we know is right rather than fears that commit us to the hard-heartedness necessary to do what we know is wrong. Perhaps rather than fearing the cost of caring for children with deep needs, we should fear the cost of losing the piece of our humanity that sending them away always entails. Perhaps rather than fearing accepting children who fail to meet our legal standards, we should fear our acceptance of a code of laws that writes the care of children out of the statues of justice. Perhaps rather than fearing an unknown future represented in the yearning eyes of young immigrants, we should fear a future shaped around the perversions of our self-interest that make tomorrows unworthy of future generations. Perhaps we should fear a world in which drug cartels have the final word concerning the value of children’s lives.

• Adelle M. Banks, “More than 100 religious, immigration activists arrested at White House” (Religion News Service)

More than 100 religious leaders and activists were arrested Thursday (July 31) in a White House protest aimed at halting deportations and aiding immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The direct action sponsored by Church World Service and Casa de Maryland, an immigration advocacy group, brought leaders from New England to Hawaii to the nation’s capital.

The U.S. Park Police completed the arrests of 112 people by 3 p.m., charging each with “blocking passage” on the sidewalk outside the White House, a misdemeanor, said Sidney Traynham, a spokesman for Church World Service.

• Miles Mullin, “Evangelicals and Immigration — 1940s Style”

The actions of the leaders and constituency of the National Association of Evangelicals in the late 1940s demonstrate something about the ethos of mid-century evangelism: it possessed an attitude of expansive welcome towards those who were displaced.  In our current context, let us at least demonstrate the same attitude as our compassionate evangelical forebears.

• Morgan Lee, “Evangelical Organization to Support Hundreds of Immigrant Children” (Christian Post)

The National Latino Evangelical Coalition will be working with faith-based organizations across the country to open up 600 beds to Central American children who have crossed into the country without their parents.

• Russell D. Moore, “Immigration and the Gospel” (Southern Baptist Convention)

The Christian response to immigrant communities in the United States cannot be “You kids get off of my lawn” in Spanish. While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by gospel and mission.

I’m amazed when I hear evangelical Christians speak of undocumented immigrants in this country with disdain as “those people” who are “draining our health care and welfare resources.” It’s horrifying to hear those identified with the gospel speak, whatever their position on the issues, with mean-spirited disdain for the immigrants themselves.

• Steve Thorngate, “Welcoming these kids is the least we can do” (Christian Century)

We should welcome these unaccompanied minors with open arms. But if the idea of accepting refugees or granting asylum makes us think proud thoughts about the Statue of Liberty or whatever, it probably shouldn’t. This isn’t really America being great. It’s more like the least we can do.

• John Allen, “The Politics of Welcoming the Immigrant”

Many have advocated that this country has no responsibility for these migrants. Biblically speaking, their position is off the ethical map. In the story of Ruth, as throughout the Hebrew Bible, allowing immigrants to glean is an unquestionable and basic ethical requirement. In the story of Ruth however, Boaz earns God’s superlative praise by extending hospitality and resources that exceed the most basic requirement.

As people of faith we are certainly required to extend basic material support to migrants who journey in our land. Feeding, clothing, and sheltering vulnerable children who come across our border alone is as clear an ethical mandate today as it was to allow gleaning in the ancient world. Let’s also imagine how we might add Boaz’s more enthusiastic hospitality to the range of political options. Rather than housing children in humane conditions until they can be safely deported, we could work to unite them with family in the United States. We could provide education and supportive services. We could learn to expect that newcomers will offer new richness to this society rather than fear only that they will become a burden.

• Timothy Kincaid, “Catholic Church stops funding immigrants group”

• Amanda Marcotte, “Some Bible verses for good Christians angry that migrant kids might sleep in a bed” (Raw Story)

• Alan Bean, “Fear, faith, and the border children”

• Joey Aszterbaum, “Murrietta Is a Mess: Border Crisis and Confusion”

• Natasha S. Robinson, “Immigration Reform: What Christians Need to Know” (Urban Faith)

• Joe Conason, “Border Crisis Tests Religious Faith — and Some Fail Badly”

• Welcoming America, “Unaccompanied Children”

• Bread for the World, “We Must Feed the Starving Refugees”

• Episcopal Church, “Welcoming the Stranger Advocacy Toolkit”

Office of Refugee Resettlement

Church World Service

 

My Face, Their Future

Aug. 26th, 2014 08:25 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

Yesterday I had to go north to Canadian Tire to get air in my tires. On the way there we stopped at the bank and I decided, which is very unlike me, to not go in. I wanted to just pull my chair off to the side and sit outside in the warm embrace of summer. I got myself positioned and then just people watched. A great way to kill time and, as it's a busy area, the flow of people was endless.

Now, before I continue, I need to tell you that I am very aware of my face. An odd thing to say, no? Well, I am. I have a face that at rest looks angry or disapproving or judgemental or hostile. I have no control over this. I was born with an angry face. In fact, I am seldom angry. That might be a surprise to you who've read this blog over the years, but remember I only post stories that are a very, very small part of my day. So, I know, before an interaction happens that my face may, all on it's own, be giving messages that I am unaware of.

So, back to the flow of people going by. I noticed a young couple holding hands. They were just a shade over twenty, I'd guess, and they held hands tightly. I've noticed more and more LGBT couples holding hands in the downtown core, and I've also noticed that gay people simply don't hold hands like straight people do. Straight people hold hands simply as an act of affection that they expect that everyone will see and not only approve but laud. So there is an ease with which fingers touch fingers. There is a lightness to the touch.

This couple, both pretty young women, held on as if the wind might suddenly yank them apart. They held on as if they were walking through dangerous terrain. And, of course, they are. I imagine we are still years away from same gendered couples can hold hands lightly, breezily, tenderly. I saw in their movements the affection they held for each other, I saw in their hands an act of tenderness, outrageous tenderness. Tenderness as an act of defiance. Tenderness as a political act of declaration. Tenderness as an act of love.

It will not surprise you to know that my reaction was one of complete pleasure. Good on them. Good for them. I was proud of who they were and what they were doing. So, perhaps, my gaze lingered a bit.

And that's when my face got in the way.

The woman closest to me said to me, with quiet anger, "We have every right to walk together holding hands."

I held my hands up and said, quickly, "No, no, I think it's lovely. I'm an old gay man and I never thought I'd see the day where this could happen. I'm just so pleased."

"You looked angry," she said, softening as she explained her tone.

"My face is one of those faces that look disapproving, give me a wimple and I'd look like Mother Superior on a rampage."

She laughed, "You must be gay if you know what a wimple is!"

They were on their way, smiling.

I thought, afterwards, that I understood that quiet, ready anger that she carried with her. Though I'm not angry often, I an not unfamiliar with using anger when necessary and when it was the appropriate tool for self defence. I am not unfamiliar with the dangers that come with declarations of a right to space, a right to love and a right to be. I am not unfamiliar at all.

Two young women took to the streets, in love, and holding hands to assert that love, and assert their right to space and assert their right to simply be.

I was, and am, a little in awe of them.
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Miranda Nesler

By Chet Van Duzer (Guest Contributor)

+ Giveaway Below

Cartography and Fancy: Depicting Monsters 

When we think about sea monsters on medieval and Renaissance maps, I think for many people an image comes to mind of fanciful sea monsters cavorting in the oceans. In researching my book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, I found that this perception is not very accurate. It turns out that the sea monsters on most medieval maps are less fanciful—at least in the eyes of the cartographers who painted them—than they seem to our eyes. Most of these monsters were taken from books such as medieval encyclopedias and bestiaries that the cartographers believed to be accurate scientific sources. But around the middle of the sixteenth century a fashion arose of purely fanciful sea monsters that were clearly invented by cartographers, rather than taken from scientific texts.

The Isolario & Creative Cartography

In 1572 Tomaso Porcacchi (ca. 1530-1585?) published an isolario, or island book, illustrated with maps. His L’Isole più famose del Mondo is the first isolario to include sea monsters on its maps. His monsters are remarkably varied and abundant, and so fantastic that in some cases it is difficult to describe them—many of them are certainly Porcacchi’s inventions. On Porcacchi’s map of Crete he has a curious sea monster with a bulbous, cactus-like body and a porcine nose; on his map of Cyprus there is a spectacular winged sea dragon with a hint of peacock; and on his map of the New World there is a sort of sea elephant with an impressive array of spikes jutting from its back (see the illustration). Porcacchi’s use of invented sea monsters rather than monsters derived from scientific books emphasizes their decorative aspect, and also suggests a desire to surprise and fascinate the viewers of his maps—and also perhaps increase the sales of his book. On the one hand, these invented sea monsters privilege the role of cartographer as artist and creator, but on the other, they represent an early step towards the disappearance of sea monsters from maps. The implicit recognition that the images of monsters were purely decorative, rather than conveying information about creatures believed to exist, made their decline inevitable in the course of the next two centuries as maps became more precise and practical. Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 12.42.22 PMChet Van Duzer has published extensively on medieval and Renaissance maps in journals such as Imago Mundi, Terrae Incognitae and Word & Image. He is also the author of Johann Schöner’s Globe of 1515: Transcription and Study, and Seeing the World Anew: The Radical Vision of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 & 1516 World Maps. His current book project will be published by the British Library. For more information on whimsical sea monsters of the sixteenth century, as well as of the cartographic sea monsters of earlier centuries, refer to Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, which comes out in paperback in September of 2014.

Wonders & Marvels is excited to have three (3) copies of Sea Monsters on Medieval & Renaissance Maps to give away! To enter, simply sign up below for the giveaways of your choice by 11:59 pm EST on August 29. Your entry will also get you updates from our Monthly Features. (At this time, prizes can only be shipped within the US)

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August Book Giveaways

So let the judgment fall on me

Aug. 26th, 2014 05:28 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

• The Rev. John Hagee has a problem. The Bible specifically condemns his variety of sit-around-doing-nothing-until-Jesus-gets-back religion. His solution? Pretend that passage isn’t about him, but that it’s actually about those “lazy” and “nasty” poors.

You can’t learn much about the Bible from Hagee, but you can learn some fascinating stuff about rationalization.

• “It was a first love, and second marriage, for them both.” Sniff.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet: Back at the newspaper, after a couple rounds of layoffs cut our copy desk in half, we sometimes wound up with dummy type going to press in the first edition. Sometimes that meant a photo with a cutline that read “asdf asdf asdf asdf …” or a wire story with a headline that read “hed here.”

But that’s all we’d use for dummy type — the place-holding text sometimes needed to lay out a page before the actual text arrives. It’s bad and embarrassing to have such nonsensical strings of letters get published, but it’s still better than accidentally publishing dummy type that misleads readers.

That’s why — as a rule — you don’t use jokey dummy type. No one will be laughing if those jokes wind up in print.

A corollary to that rule, of course, is that you should never use jokey dummy type that’s also full of ethnic slurs. One would think that could go without saying, but apparently not.

• Brooke Palmieri shared this 17th-century illustration, reminding us that gatekeepers are not a new phenomenon — and that they’ve always hated bloggers:

Palmieri3

• Art Robinson, chair of the Oregon Republican Party, has some interesting ideas about nuclear waste.

• “Police in Ferguson, Missouri, have been spraying abortion-causing chemicals on crowds of civilians.” Apparently, tear gas — unlike Plan B — really can work as an abortifacient. (Can closely held corporations in Ferguson, then, withhold their taxes from the police department?) Oh, and the same tear gas that it’s perfectly legal to use on unarmed American citizens is illegal to use against armed enemy combatants during war

• Memo to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach: When church leaders criticize you for advocating policies that would result in racial discrimination, try not to confirm those critics’ worst suspicions by suggesting that the AME isn’t really a legitimate church.

• Broadway dynamo — and evangelical Southerner — Kristin Chenoweth has recorded an endorsement of marriage equality for the Human Rights Campaign. It is, of course, adorable.

Here’s Chenoweth singing “If You Hadn’t, But You Did” (which can’t be improved on, although updating the lyric from “Joe” to “Bro” might make it even timelier):

Click here to view the embedded video.

Lisa M. Bradley's The Haunted Girl

Aug. 25th, 2014 05:39 pm
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Posted by Timmi Duchamp

I'm pleased to announce the release of Lisa M. Bradley's The Haunted Girl, as volume 41 in Aqueduct's Conversation pieces series. The volume includes twenty-one poems and five stories. The supernatural, the animal, and the deadly often find each other in Bradley's landscapes, tame or wild. Vampires, either restless or filled with ennui; shape-shifters and skin-walkers; demigoddesses of evil and lust; haunted girls and dying fairies—the characters in this collection inhabit worlds of danger, decay, and, sometimes, rebirth. Often rooted in issues of family, ritual, and belonging, the poems and short stories in The Haunted Girl display Bradley's loving mastery of language, which grants us myriad moments of impish wit and startling beauty.

The cover of The Haunted Girl features Jenny Andersen's "Texts for a Lost Tribe, #3."

The Haunted Girl is available now through Aqueduct's website in both print and e-book editions. It will be available elsewhere shortly.

Michael Brown's Unremarkable Humanity

Aug. 25th, 2014 08:48 pm
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Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The New York Times has a feature today looking at the brief life of Michael Brown, informing us that he was "no angel." The reasons for this are many. Brown smoked marijuana. He lived in a community that "had rough patches." He wrote rap songs that were "by turns contemplative and vulgar." He shoplifted and pushed a store clerk who tried to stop him. These details certainly paint a portrait of a young man who failed to be angelic. That is because no person is angelic—least of all teenagers—and there is very little in this piece that distinguishes Brown from any other kid his age.

What horrifies a lot of us beholding the spectacle of Ferguson, beholding the spectacle of Sanford, of Jacksonville, is how easily we could see ourselves in these kids. I shudder to think of my reaction, at 17, to some strange dude following me through my own housing development. I shudder to think of my reaction, at 17, to some other strange dude pulling up next to me and telling me to turn down my music.

And if Michael Brown was not angelic, I was practically demonic. I had my first drink when I was 11. I once brawled in the cafeteria after getting hit in the head with a steel trash can. In my junior year I failed five out of seven classes. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been arrested for assaulting a teacher and been kicked out of school (twice.) And yet no one who knew me thought I had the least bit of thug in me. That is because I also read a lot of books, loved my Commodore 64, and ghostwrote love notes for my friends. In other words, I was a human being. A large number of American teenagers live exactly like Michael Brown. Very few of them are shot in the head and left to bake on the pavement.

The "angelic" standard was not one created by the reporter. It was created by a society that cannot face itself, and thus must employ a dubious "morality" to hide its sins. It is reinforced by people who have embraced the notion of "twice as good" while avoiding the circumstances which gave that notion birth. Consider how easily living in a community "with rough patches" becomes part of a list of ostensible sins. Consider how easily "black-on-black crime" becomes not a marker of a shameful legacy of segregation but a moral failing.

We've been through this before. We will almost certainly go through it again.








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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

1

W.E.B. DuBois (1934):

The colored people of America are coming to face the fact quite calmly that most white Americans do not like them, and are planning neither for their survival, nor for their definite future if it involves free, self-assertive modern manhood. This does not mean all Americans. A saving few are worried about the Negro problem; a still larger group are not ill-disposed, but they fear prevailing public opinion. The great mass of Americans are, however, merely representatives of average humanity. They muddle along with their own affairs and scarcely can be expected to take seriously the affairs of strangers or people whom they partly fear and partly despise.

For many years it was the theory of most Negro leaders that this attitude was the insensibility of ignorance and inexperience, that white America did not know of or realize the continuing plight of the Negro.  Accordingly, for the last two decades, we have striven by book and periodical, by speech and appeal, by various dramatic methods of agitation, to put the essential facts before the American people.  Today there can be no doubt that Americans know the facts; and yet they remain for the most part indifferent and unmoved.

- From “A Negro Nation Within a Nation.

Borrowed from an essay by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Photo from ibtimes.com.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

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Posted by Fred Clark

Corbin Bernsen has given us a new romantic comedy: Christian Mingle: The Movie.

I like the premise. There’s a story worth telling in it:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Yes, it’s formulaic, but it’s a romantic comedy — it’s supposed to be formulaic. That’s the beauty of it. Complaining that a rom-com is formulaic is like complaining that all sonnets have the same number of lines. And CMTM offers a (potentially) fun variation of that formula: Girl pretends to be a white evangelical to use white evangelical Christian dating site. Girl meets and falls for white evangelical boy. Girl is torn between showing her genuine affection and hiding her false pretense.

That’s a serviceable dilemma for a rom-com plot. It’s the same little-white-lie dilemma that TV sit-coms have been mining for decades with endless variations (“Mulva?“), and Bernsen’s religious angle via Christian Mingle adds a nice twist. The Christian-Mingle episode of Three’s Company practically writes itself. (Chrissy pretends to be evangelical to meet a guy on the site. Jack, after first lecturing her on her dishonesty, can’t resist doing the same. Hilarity ensues until the final act, in which their increasingly outrageous lies are exposed and the Very Nice People they had tried to deceive walk off arm in arm.)

It’s no coincidence that Corbin Bernsen has spent the past decade working on Psych, a show based on a protagonist perpetually trapped in his own little-white-lie dilemma.

The TV sit-com version of this plot differs from the movie rom-com version, of course. Sit-coms are episodic series, so they can’t end with Happily Ever After. Resolve all the conflicts in a sit-com and there’s no story left to tell next week. So the sit-com version of the little-white-lie story usually instead ends with the protagonist’s comeuppance and their learning an Important Lesson (even though sit-com protagonists never actually seem to learn those lessons lest, again, there be no story left to tell next week).

But movies end at the end, and rom-coms — being coms — end happily.

Alas, it seems Bernsen can’t resist spoiling the happy ending of his romantic comedy with an epic Jesus juke, as described in his studio’s summary of the film:

Gwyneth Hayden is a 30-something marketing executive with a top-notch career, killer wardrobe, dream apartment and great friends. She thinks the only thing missing is a man. In a moment of inspired desperation, she fills out a profile on the dating website ChristianMingle .com hoping to find Mr. Right.  However, Gwyneth’s attempts at impressing her dream guy end in disaster when he calls her out on her “faux faith.” In an honest realization, she sees her superficial life for what it really is, and she’s driven to create a personal relationship with God. In the end, He delivers on the true desires of her heart: “life-changing” love.

Promotional blurbs for movies probably shouldn’t contain the phrase “In the end …” That’s a bit spoiler-ish. (“In the end, it turns out Bruce Willis/William Holden was dead the whole time.” “In the end, Chazz Palminteri is shocked to learn he’s already met Keyser Söze.”)

The studio summary is supposed to describe the premise of the story, not its conclusion, but this one was written to appeal to white evangelical box office, seeking the approval of tribal gatekeepers by assuring them that this rom-com doesn’t just end at the altar, but with an altar call. That’s why the movie’s website has an “endorsements” page listing its gatekeeper imprimaturs — the Dove Foundation, MovieGuide, etc.

MrRight

And by “Mr. Right,” we mean Jesus. (Just in case that capital “H” was too subtle.)

The problem here isn’t just that Bernsen seems to be offering a religious bait-and-switch. The larger problem is that his story seems to ignore the give-and-take necessary for a rom-com to work. In this story, Mr. Right is always right, while poor Lacey Chabert is always wrong. She has to change, completely transforming “her superficial life.” But he doesn’t have to change or grow at all.

Romantic comedies are supposed to be about two people coming together — they both have to move toward each other. The set-up for Christian Mingle: The Movie suggests that one side of this couple doesn’t move — that he cannot and should not change because he’s already got all the answers. She pursues him because she’s lonely (and because, the trailer seems to suggest, no woman is complete without getting married). Why does he pursue her?

I haven’t seen this movie yet, of course, but it seems the story isn’t interested in answering that question. And without a compelling answer to that question there’s no way for Jonathan Patrick Moore to play his part well. He’ll be reduced to a Magic Jesus Dream Boy — “a stock character [who] has no discernible inner life, and usually only exists to provide the protagonist some important life lessons.” He would become a plot-device more than a character — the Mr. Perfect who exists only as a reward for Ms. Superficiality once she mends her ways to become Mrs. Perfect herself.

One-sided romantic comedies don’t work. This one looks one-sided, so I doubt it will work.

But, hey, it’s got Stephen Tobolowsky. So there’s that.

 

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Posted by PamelaToler

By Pamela Toler (Regular Contributor)

Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar

Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar (1891-1956) was one of the great men of the twentieth century, though he is virtually unknown in the west.

Untouchable

Ambedkar was born into the “untouchable” caste of Mahars in the Indian state of Maharashtra. At the time, untouchables suffered under legal restrictions that made the Jim Crow laws of the United States look mild by comparison. They traditionally performed jobs considered “unclean” by Hindu theology: a religious and economic catch-22 in which they were ritually unclean because of the work they did and could only do certain types of work because they were ritually unclean. They were not allowed to enter Hindu temples–in some regions they couldn’t even walk on the road in front of a temple. In the South Indian state of Travancore, untouchables had to carry a bell that announced their presence so higher caste Hindus would not be defiled by their proximity.

Like African-American reformer Frederick Douglas, Ambedkar became a spokesman for an oppressed people thanks to education. At a time when fewer than one percent of his caste could read, Ambedkar was supported in his quest for education by both his family and high caste Hindu reformers who recognized his talents. Between 1912 and 1923, he earned a BA in Bombay, an MA and PhD in economics from Columbia University, and a MA and D.Sci in economics from London University–and passed the bar from Grey’s Inn in London.

Reformer

Back in India, Ambedkar devoted himself to improving the lives of untouchables. He soon found himself in conflict with Gandhi, who had declared himself an untouchable by choice. They disagreed at both the symbolic and the practical level. Both men recognized the power of abandoning the term “untouchable”. Gandhi proposed Harijans (people of God) as a substitute. Ambedkar rejected Harijan as patronizing, preferring the term dalit (oppressed). Gandhi wanted to improve the lives of Untouchables by appealing to caste Hindus to abandon untouchability. Ambedkar recognized that it was easier to change laws than to change people’s hearts and heads. He preferred to lead dalits in campaigns designed to improve access to education and to secure basic civil and religious rights, including the right to use the public water system and to enter temples.

In 1935, after an unsuccessful five-year campaign to gain the right to enter Hindu temples, Ambedkar decided if you can’t beat them, leave them. He declared “I was born a Hindu, but I will not die a Hindu” He urged untouchables to “change your religion”: reject Hinduism and convert to a religion that doesn’t recognize caste or untouchabliity.

Both Christianity and Buddhism fit the description, but Ambedkar leaned toward Buddhism, which had ceased to be a living religion in India when Muslim invaders destroyed its temples and monasteries in the twelfth century, On October 4, 1956, after twenty years of study and writing on the subject, Ambedkar and thousands of other dalits converted to Buddhism in a massive ceremony. In the following years, more than four million dalits declared themselves Buddhists and stepped outside the mental framework of the caste system.

Founding Father

Ambedkar fought bitterly with Gandhi and the Indian National Congress on issues of dalit rights and representation throughout the 1930s and 1940s. But when India achieved independence, Nehru named Ambedkar India’s first Minister of Law. More important for the position of dalits in independent India, the new nation’s temporary assembly elected Ambedkar chairman of the committee that drafted its constitution. Under his leadership, the constitution legally abolished untouchability and included safeguards for depressed minorities.

Since independence, India has implemented affirmative action programs for the benefit of what are officially called the “Scheduled Castes and Tribes”. In 1997, fifty years after independence, India elected its first dalit president–an event what would have been unthinkable during Ambedkar’s lifetime. Nonetheless, dalits still suffer from discrimination on many fronts. (Does any of this sound familiar to my fellow Americans?)

Ultimately, both Ambedkar and Gandhi were right: in order to abolish untouchability or other types of political and economic discrimination, it is necessary to change not only laws but also people’s hearts.

Ice-buckets, IVF and mass-murderers

Aug. 25th, 2014 01:54 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has warned parishioners not to participate in the ALS Association’s Ice-Bucket Challenge fundraiser, because the organization supports research involving embryonic stem cells.

This again. The Catholic hierarchy’s teaching is at least consistent. It seems perverse to me — and to the vast majority of lay Catholics — to portray the life-giving technologies of stem-cell research and in vitro fertilization as forms of mass murder rather than benevolent ways to increase human flourishing. But hey, at least the bishops aren’t contradicting themselves the way their Republican Party has been doing for the past 25 years.

Click here to view the embedded video.

As I wrote here eight years ago:

You can approve of both embryonic stem-cell research and IVF clinics, or you can disapprove of both. But you cannot, as President Bush does, condemn the former while embracing the latter. The logic of Bush’s “youngest members of the human family” argument against stem-cell research demands an even stronger opposition to fertility clinics. The logic of Bush’s sanguine acceptance of fertility clinics demands an even stronger affirmation of embryonic stem-cell research.

If you accept the anti-abortion premise and the anti-abortion logic of the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to embryonic stem-cell research, then you must also believe that IVF fertility clinics are slaughterhouses far worse than any abortion clinic. You must also believe that couples who have used IVF treatments to have children are also morally repugnant killers complicit in mass murder.

I doubt you believe this. I doubt that anyone is capable of truly believing this — intellectually, ethically, emotionally, instinctually.

One of these things is not like the other.

One of these things is not like the other.

We’ve discussed this thought experiment before, but let’s do it again:

A fire breaks out in an IVF clinic. There’s a young girl, 10 years old, unconscious on the floor, and there’s a tray of frozen embryos in the freezer. You have just enough time to rescue either the girl or the embryos, but you cannot rescue both. Do you leave the burning building with a single human person — the girl? Or do you leave the girl behind and rescue the dozens of “snowflake babies” from the freezer?

I would rescue the girl, every time. And I would probably regard anyone who chose otherwise as monstrous.

Professors’ Pet Peeves

Aug. 25th, 2014 02:00 pm
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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

1 (2)

I got this email from an Ivy League student when I arrived to give a speech. She was responsible for making sure that I was delivered to my hotel and knew where to go the next day:

Omg you’re here! Ahh i need to get my shit together now lol. Jk. Give me a ring when u can/want, my cell is [redacted]. I have class until 1230 but then im free! i will let the teacher she u will be there, shes a darling. Perhaps ill come to the end of the talk and meet you there after. Between the faculty lunch and your talk, we can chat! ill take make sure the rooms are all ready for u. See ya!

To say the least, this did not make me feel confident that my visit would go smoothly.

I will use this poor student to kick off this year’s list of Professors’ Pet Peeves.  I reached out to my network and collected some things that really get on instructors’ nerves.  Here are the results: some of the “don’ts” for how to interact with your professor or teaching assistant.  For what it’s worth, #2 was by far the most common complaint.

1. Don’t use unprofessional correspondence.

Your instructors are not your friends. Correspond with them as if you’re in a workplace, because you are. We’re not saying that you can’t ever write like this, but you do need to demonstrate that you know when such communication is and isn’t appropriate.  You don’t wear pajamas to a job interview, right? Same thing.

2. Don’t ask the professor if you “missed anything important” during an absence.

No, you didn’t miss anything important.  We spent the whole hour watching cats play the theremin on youtube!

Of course you missed something important!  We’re college professors!  Thinking everything we do is important is an occupational hazard.  Here’s an alternative way to phrase it:  “I’m so sorry I missed class. I’m sure it was awesome.”

If you’re concerned about what you missed, try this instead: Do the reading, get notes from a classmate (if you don’t have any friends in class, ask the professor if they’ll send an email to help you find a partner to swap notes with), read them over, and drop by office hours to discuss anything you didn’t understand.

3. Don’t pack up your things as the class is ending.

We get it.  The minute hand is closing in on the end of class, there’s a shift in the instructor’s voice, and you hear something like “For next time…”  That’s the cue for everyone to start putting their stuff away. Once one person does it, it’s like an avalanche of notebooks slapping closed, backpack zippers zipping, and cell phones coming out.

Don’t do it.

Just wait 10 more seconds until the class is actually over.  If you don’t, it makes it seem like you are dying to get out of there and, hey, that hurts our feelings!

4. Don’t ask a question about the readings or assignments until checking the syllabus first.

It’s easy to send off an email asking your instructor a quick question, but that person put a lot of effort into the syllabus for a reason.  Remember, each professor has dozens or hundreds of students.  What seems like a small thing on your end can add up to death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts on our end.  Make a good faith effort to figure out the answer before you ask the professor.

5. Don’t get mad if you receive critical feedback.

If an instructor takes a red pen and massacres your writing, that’s a sign that they care.  Giving negative feedback is hard work, so the red ink means that we’re taking an interest in you and your future.  Moreover, we know it’s going to make some students angry at us. We do it anyway because we care enough about you to try to help you become a stronger thinker and writer.  It’s counterintuitive but lots of red ink is probably a sign that the instructor thinks you have a lot of potential.

6. Don’t grade grub.

Definitely go into office hours to find out how to study better or improve your performance, but don’t go in expecting to change your instructor’s mind about the grade.   Put your energy into studying harder on the next exam, bringing your paper idea to the professor or teaching assistant in office hours, doing the reading, and raising your hand in class. That will have more of a pay-off in the long run.

7. Don’t futz with paper formatting.

Paper isn’t long enough?  Think you can make the font a teensy bit bigger or the margins a tad bit wider? Think we won’t notice if you use a 12-point font that’s just a little more widely spaced?  Don’t do it. We’ve been staring at the printed page for thousands of hours. We have an eagle eye for these kinds of things. Whatever your motivation, here’s what they say to us: “Hi Prof!, I’m trying to trick you into thinking that I’m fulfilling the assignment requirements. I’m lazy and you’re stupid!”  Work on the assignment, not the document settings.

8. Don’t pad your introductions and conclusions with fluff.

Never start off a paper with the phrase, “Since the beginning of time…”  “Since the beginning of time, men have engaged in war.”  Wait, what?  Like, the big bang?  And, anyway, how the heck do you know?  You better have a damn strong citation for that!  “Historically,” “Traditionally,” and “Throughout history” are equally bad offenders.  Strike them from your vocabulary now.

In your conclusion, say something smart.  Or, barring that, just say what you said.  But never say: “Hopefully someday there will be no war.”  Duh.  We’d all like that, but unless you’ve got ideas as to how to make it that way, such statements are simple hopefulness and inappropriate in an academic paper.

9. Don’t misrepresent facts as opinions and opinions as facts.

Figure out the difference.  Here’s an example of how not to represent a fact, via CNN:

Considering that Clinton’s departure will leave only 16 women in the Senate out of 100 senators, many feminists believe women are underrepresented on Capitol Hill.

Wait. Feminists “believe”? Given that women are 51% of the population, 16 out of 100 means that women are underrepresented on Capitol Hill. This is a social fact, yeah?  Now, you can agree or disagree with feminists that this is a problem, but don’t suggest, as CNN does, that the fact itself is an opinion.

This is a common mistake and it’s frustrating for both instructors and students to get past.  Life will be much easier if you know the difference.

10. Don’t be too cool for school.

You know those students that sit at the back of the class, hunch down in their chair, and make an art of looking bored?  Don’t be that person.  Professors and teaching assistants are the top 3% of students.  They likely spent more than a decade in college. For better or worse, they value education. To stay on their good side, you should show them that you care too.  And, if you don’t, pretend like you do.

Thanks to @triciasryan, @hormiga, @wadewitz, @ameenaGK, @holdsher, @joanneminaker, @k_lseyrisman, @jessmetcalf87, @deeshaphilyaw, @currerbell, and @hist_enthusiast, and @gwensharpnv for their ideas!  Originally posted in 2013.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

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Posted by Fred Clark

• Manny Fernandez, “Towns Fight to Avoid Taking in Migrant Minors” (The New York Times)

Overwhelmed by an influx of unaccompanied minors who are fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America, federal officials are searching the country for places to house them and have been forced to scrap some proposed shelter sites in California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York and other states because of widespread opposition from residents and local officials.

… Some of the opposition has also bordered on the extreme. A few of the protesters who marched against a proposed shelter in Vassar, Mich., on Monday were armed with semiautomatic rifles and handguns. In Virginia, an effort to house the children at the shuttered campus of Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville caused such an uproar that federal officials pulled out, even though a five-month lease had been signed. Someone spray-painted anti-immigrant graffiti on a brick wall at a former Army Reserve facility in Westminster, Md., that was being considered as a shelter site.

Some cities have raised health and security concerns. Northeast of Oyster Creek, League City passed a resolution opposing any shelters from opening even though the federal government had no plans to do so. The resolution claimed that “illegal aliens suffering from diseases endemic in their countries of origin are being released into our communities.”

• Matt Hansen and Mark Boster, “Protesters in Murrietta block detainees’ buses in tense standoff” (Los Angeles Times)

A crowd of 200 to 300 people in downtown Murrieta surrounded three buses carrying immigrant detainees Tuesday afternoon, causing the buses to turn around before they reached a Border Patrol station in the Riverside County city.

Waving Americans flags and protest signs, the crowd refused to give way when the buses arrived with some 140 detainees from Texas, which has seen a flood of Central American immigrants cross the border in recent weeks without legal permission.

• Doktor Zoom, “American Genius Writes Real Good Vandalism Against Brown Babies” (Wonkette)

Before the announcement, just to make sure that precious funds weren’t wasted on housing and feeding children, Republican Rep. Andy Harris vowed that if the Department of Health and Human Services used the currently empty building to house filthy disease-ridden immigrant children, he’d block funding for HHS, because he’s on the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Harris posted a message to his Facebook praising the decision, because if constituent service means anything, it means making sure that brown children be shown no mercy.

• Jeremy Peters, “For the GOP, Fine Line Seen on Migration” (The New York Times)

Some senior Republicans are warning that the party cannot rebuild its reputation with Hispanics if it is drawn into another emotional fight over cracking down on migrants — especially when so many are young children who are escaping extreme poverty and violence. But pleas for compassion and even modest proposals for change are dividing the party, and setting off intense resistance among conservative Republicans who have resisted a broader overhaul of immigration.

Gestures of sympathy, like a trip to the border by Glenn Beck, the conservative radio and television personality who has raised more than $2 million to buy teddy bears, shoes and food for migrant children, were met with scorn and derision. Some anti-immigrant activists responded to news that the government was buying new clothing for the detainees by organizing a campaign to mail them dirty underwear.

• Keegan Hankes, “KKK Joins Immigration Debate With Calls for ‘Corpses’ on the Border” (Southern Poverty Law Center)

With thousands of undocumented children amassing at the U.S. border, Robert Jones, Imperial Wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, doesn’t want amnesty. He wants “corpses” on the border.

Speaking to Al Jazeera America, Jones, in full Klan robes, warned that immigrant children crossing the border are a threat to a “white homeland” and simply one more way President Obama has “sold out the American people.”

“If we can’t turn them back, I think if we pop a couple of them off and leave their corpses laying at the border maybe they’ll see we’re serious about stopping immigration,” Jones said.

• Miranda Blue, “GOP Committeewoman Warns Child Migrants ‘Highly Trained as Warriors’ Could ‘Rise Up Against Us as Americans’” (Right Wing Watch)

When we see these kids, you and I think young kids, we think maybe 12-year-olds, maybe homeschoolers — excuse me, middle-schoolers,” said [Republican National Committeewoman Tamara] Scott, who is also Concerned Women for American’s Iowa state director and works as a lobbyist for the conservative group The Family Leader. “But we know back in our revolution, we had 12-year-olds fighting in our revolution. And for many of these kids, depending on where they’re coming from, they could be coming from other countries and be highly trained as warriors who will meet up with their group here and actually rise up against us as Americans.”

• Brian Tashman, “Frank Wolf Thinks Terrorists Are Crossing the Border Whistling Dixie Thanks to Obama” (Right Wing Watch)

Rick Wiles may be a bizarre End Times radio host who promotes utterly insane conspiracy theories, but that hasn’t stopped Republican politicians from appearing on his show. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, appeared on Wiles’ show, “Trunews,” yesterday, where he warned that terrorists are crossing America’s southern border thanks to President Obama’s supposed refusal to administer immigration law.

• Margaret and Helen, “Jesus Loves the Legal Little Children”

Our good Christian Governor down here in Texas, Rick Perry, said he would use his executive authority to activate up to 1,000 National Guard troops to help secure the Texas border region against “criminal aliens.”   Criminal Aliens being Spanish for children, I think.

• Christy Hoppe, “Border sheriffs pan Perry’s plan to send National Guard” (Dallas Morning News)

Leaders along the Texas border with Mexico slammed Gov. Rick Perry’s move Monday to send 1,000 National Guard troops to South Texas, saying overwhelmed counties need law enforcement and charitable aid, not militarization.

• Rebecca Schoenkopf, “California Gets in on Hot Fun Screaming-at-Brown-Babies Action” (Wonkette)

As Jesus said, when I was hungry, you screamed in my face and chanted USA, when I was thirsty, you screamed in my face and chanted USA. …

• Miranda Blue, “Anti-Immigrant Protests a Bust: What This Weekend’s Rallies Tell Us About the Nativist Right” (Right Wing Watch)

The child refugee crisis has brought out the true colors of the anti-immigrant movement. Even as some conservative groups are urging compassion and care for the children fleeing to the southern border, Republican leaders seem to be buying the narrative of the small, Nativist anti-immigrant fringe.

• Emily Bazelon, “Blue State Disgrace” (Slate)

Where should the 57,000 children who are already here go? The answer is: Every state should be raising its hand and offering to take some of them. This is not a border-state problem. It is not up to Texas and Arizona to carry this load just because they’re the first places the children land. States in the Northeast and the Midwest can take some of these kids too. Yet some states are looking only for excuses to say no. Their leaders—including in my own state of Connecticut—are behaving shamefully. This NIMBY response is the worst kind of hypocrisy, especially coming from supposedly liberal blue states. Got a star on the flag? That means you have to pitch in right now.

• Tanseem Raja, “Child Migrants Have Been Coming Here Alone Since Ellis Island” (Mother Jones)

annieAn unaccompanied child migrant was the first person in line on opening day of the new immigration station at Ellis Island. Her name was Annie Moore, and that day, January 1, 1892, happened to be her 15th birthday. She had traveled with her two little brothers from Cork County, Ireland, and when they walked off the gangplank, she was awarded a certificate and a $10 gold coin for being the first to register. Today, a statue of Annie stands on the island, a testament to the courage of millions of children who passed through those same doors, often traveling without an older family member to help them along.

Of course, not everyone was lining up to give Annie and her fellow passengers a warm welcome. Alarmists painted immigrants — children included — as disease-ridden job stealers bent on destroying the American way of life. And they’re still at it. On a CNN segment about the current crisis of child migrants from Central and South America, Michele Bachmann used the word “invaders” and warned of rape and other dangers posed to Americans by the influx. And last week, National Review scoffed at appeals to American ideals of compassion and charity, claiming Ellis Island officials had a strict send-’em-back policy when it came to children showing up alone.

• Jamelle Bouie, “America’s Long History of Immigrant Scaremongering” (Slate)

• Thomas Nail, “Child Refugees: The New Barbarians” (Pacific Standard)

• Matthew Yglesias, “Ted Cruz: deporting DREAMers is my ‘top priority’” (Vox)

• Arturo Garcia, “Michele Bachmann calls immigrant children ‘invaders’ and compares them to rapists” (Raw Story)

• Arturo Garcia, “Georgia Republican tries to stir up fears that immigrant children are carrying Ebola virus” (Raw Story)

• Brahm Resnik, “Arizona politician mistakes YMCA campers for migrant children” (Arizona Republic)

• Scott Malone, “Maine governor bemoans move of eight child immigrants to his state” (Reuters)

• Glenn Evans, “Message to Simpson on border crisis: ‘Constituents come first’” (Longview [Texas] News Journal)

• National Religious Broadcasters Board of Directors Award Winner Todd Starnes: “Obama lectures Russia about invading Ukraine, but gives Central America a pass for invading us.” (Twitter)

• Adam Weinstein, “Breitbart.com Is Sure This Adidas Shirt’s an Islamo-Mexican Terror Rug” (Gawker)

• Miranda Blue, “Pat Buchanan: Possible Immigration Action Shows Obama ‘Doesn’t Like the America We Grew Up In’” (Right Wing Watch)

• Miranda Blue, “Jim Gilchrist: Hundreds of Thousands of Central American Children to Be ‘Vanguard’ in ‘Trojan-Horse Invasion’ of US” (Right Wing Watch)

• Miranda Blue, “Sandy Rios Suggests Treating Refugee Kids Like Lepers, Warns They Will Cause Death ‘In Huge Numbers’” (Right Wing Watch)

• Miranda Blue, “Michele Bachmann Proposes 100% Tax on Money Sent Home by Immigrants to Stop ‘War That Is Being Waged Against Us’” (Right Wing Watch)

• Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, “Ku Klux Klan Seizing on Anti-Immigrant Sentiment to Draw New Members” (Think Progress)

• David Edwards, “Arizona sheriff provokes protesters to block road with trucks to stop ‘invasion’ of 40 child refugees” (Raw Story)

• David Edwards, “Louie Gohmert: Obama won’t ‘defend women’ from ‘hundreds of thousands’ of immigrant rapists” (Raw Story)

• Brian Tashman, “Louie Gohmert Claims Central American Youth Are Lying About Violence” (Right Wing Watch)

• Brian Tashman, “Steve Stockman: ‘Third World’ Obama Wants to Transform America’s Culture” (Right Wing Watch)

• Rebecca Schoenkopf, “Ohio Jerk Going for the Gold in Punching-The-Border-Children-In-The-Face Olympics” (Wonkette)

• David Edwards, “George Will stuns Fox panel: ‘Preposterous’ that US can’t shelter child refugees from violence” (Raw Story)

The Wave

Aug. 25th, 2014 08:25 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

What did he expect?

We got to the movie theatre about 15 minutes before the doors opened. Several other patrons arrived around the same time as we did. Amongst them was a young fellow, early twenties, with cool clothes and a stylish backpack. He was by himself and adopted a pose with indicated that he wasn't waiting for anyone. Like everyone else who arrived, we all nodded with each other but, typically for city dwellers, no one started a conversation.

When the doors opened, everyone rushed in, Joe and I waited for the space to clear and then entered ourselves. By the time we got to the front of the line for tickets, we were near the last left in the lobby. I got a cup of tea and a small popcorn, Joe a small Cola. We took our goodies and went to find the theatre.

When we entered we found an empty room, with the exception of the fellow with the backpack. He'd sat, on the aisle, second row from the back. In this theatre the two back rows are shortened rows so that wheelchair seating could be made available. We took the back row, immediately behind him, and fussed around a bit until my chair was parked and popcorn and drinks sorted.

You know the thing about being in an empty theatre and then someone coming and sitting next to you? Well, this was the disability version of the same thing. I had one option for a seat, and took it, apologetically.

His discomfort with us being right behind him was palpable. He squirmed and glanced back at us with annoyance.

I profess now to be a horrible person.

I kinda took a little pleasure in his discomfort. He knew that there was someone there with a disability, he knew that he was sitting beside wheelchair seating. I'm guessing he just thought we were there to see a different movie in a different salon. He played seating roulette - and lost.

Finally he launches himself out of his seat in a great huff and storms out of the theatre. I find this very, very, funny. A few seconds before the lights go down he comes back in and sits several rows up, in the middle. He glances back at us, again with annoyance.

And ... I couldn't help it.

I waved.
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Posted by Timmi Duchamp

Have you read Karen Joy Fowler's The Science of Herself, a new volume in PM Press's Outspoken Authors series? The publication date is 2013, but I only recently read it. This series, if you don't know of it, includes, among other slim volumes the size of Conversation Pieces, Nalo Hopkinson's Report from Planet Midnight and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Wild Girls. The Science of Herself contains a brand new story, "The Science of Herself," two reprinted stories (the searing "The Pelican Bar" and "The Further Adventures of the Invisible Man"), "More Exuberant Than Is Strictly Tasteful," a characteristically snappy interview conducted by Terry Bisson, and "The Motherhood Statement," an essay combining fire and irony.

By the time I finished reading the second page of "The Science of Herself," which opens the volume, I'd fallen hard for it. The seaside village of Lyme Regis in the first decades of the nineteenth century? How could any voracious reader not think first of Anne Elliot watching Captain Wentworth as he fails to catch Louisa Musgrove when she willfully throws herself off the stairs, in Jane Austen's last novel, Persuasion? Fowler takes Anne Elliot's visit to Lyme Regis as her point of departure, leading to imagining Austen herself walking that beach and not seeing (yes, yes , not seeing) a young girl who was often to be found on that beach. "Strangely deressed, lower class, odd in affect, and desperately poor, she was not really the kind of girl who wanders into an Austen novel." (2) But then Fowler quickly goes on to note that Austen's visit to Lyme Regis had actually been made to see this girl's father, Richard Anning, a cabinetmaker. The connection between the unnoticed young girl and Jane Austen, though virtually invisible to the casual eye, is actual.

Anning, besides being a cabinetmaker, was also a fossil hunter; more interestingly, his daughter Mary proved to be not only a more redoubtable fossil hunter than he, the person who recovered the first complete ichthysaurus ever to be found, but also a sharp paleontologist whose contributions to the field were only belatedly awarded public acknowledgment when the British Royal Society named her on their list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. "The Science of Herself" tells a story about Mary Anning's life that "wouldn't have made sense [in Austen's novel] with her bits of gothic history, her lightning, her science, her creatures. She wouldn't make sense in any story until the story changed." (25)

 I've long been interested in the problem-- one that Fowler has been mining for some time-- of stories that don't fit "the story" that is the template for how stories are told. It's a problem faced by writers wishing to write stories that don't fit the limits or language or assumptions of the current conventions, and a problem for readers longing for such stories and virtually unable to find them anywhere (and so often resort to ingenious methods for reading what is there slant). That template is, fortunately, always shifting. "The Science of Herself" is as much an exploration of how the stories that could be told about Mary during her lifetime were constrained and limited--how her life overflowed those constraints. The form Fowler uses to tell the story is what? It's prose, certainly. But is it fiction or nonfiction?

I'm particularly interested in the question of the form Fowler uses to tell Mary Anning's story because I've been sporadically working on a story about Emilie, the Marquise du Chatelet, for years now, struggling against the form it seems determined to take. The only form in which I seem able to cast the story of Emilie bears no resemblance to the forms in which stories about historical women are usually told. And I've been fighting that form because it resembles the form taken by "The Science of Herself," aware as I am that many readers would reject it as not really fiction (much less science fiction). I don't want to write an essay about Emilie. I want to imagine and explore aspects of her life as a woman of science in the same way in which I imagine and explore aspects of the lives of the characters I invent. In this sense, "The Science of Herself" is not an essay. Or is it? I'm thrilled that Fowler put this story out there, defying the demands that the writer choose one or the other. I think it will embolden me to finish the story. And I will say, for myself, that I'm increasingly uncertain about whether any clear distinctions can be drawn in every case between fiction and nonfiction. Obviously, some fictions are clearly, unequivocally fictional. But as someone trained in history, I've long been aware that because history is composed of narratives, it must always partake of the uncertainties (and distortions) of representation and won't ever be certain. Though based on "facts," imagination is the glue that makes those facts meaningful. In the end, we come down to story, and what stories can be told under this or that set of circumstances.

"The Science of Herself" plus "The Pelican Bar" alone would make this a bold book for a volume so slim, but "The Motherhood Statement" pushes it into the red zone. The book's second entry, "The Motherhood Statement," takes as its point of departure "The Motherhood Statement" in the Turkey City Lexicon (which Fowler describes as "a primer for science fiction workshops." "Motherhood" in this statement, like "apple pie," exemplifies "conventional social and humanistic pieties." Fowler, as anyone familiar with her work knows, is all about challenging comfortable conventions and "pieties."In principle, she's in agreement with the statement. But.
It's the specifics that give me pause. Apple pie, okay, fine, whatever. But motherhood? Nothing, absolutely nothing, appears to me more contested in our political and social and private lives than motherhood. Any woman who has ever had children can tell you it is no picnic of affirmation. Any woman who has not had children can tell you that that, too, is a controversial place to be. Neither is much admired. (28)

Fowler reminds us of something most science fiction (particularly that written by men) has not, until very recently, taken note of: "Motherhood is a concept that changes from culture to culture and over time. Sometimes it's set in opposition to mothering--motherhood, in this schematic, is the sacred duty of women, an artificial construct which underlies the whole system of patriarchy."(28)

Of course tarring "motherhood" with the brush of conventional social pieties has been a longstanding woman-bashing tradition for fiction written by US men in the twentieth century. It was a part of a concerted (highly successful) program for ejecting fiction by women from the upper echelons of literature in the US.* Fowler doesn't go into that, though, but focuses more closely on attitudes toward women vis-a-vis childraising, before paying tribute to the explorations made by feminist sf in the 1970s and then concluding with attending to the ferocious, on-going twenty-first-century attack on women's reproductive rights and how the free exercise of such rights has become a story many people and venues approach (if at all) with timidity at best and repulsion and censorship at worst. "I can remember no other time in which the attacks on women's freedom have been so widespread, so sustained, and so successful," Fowler writes. "Or half so scary... An argument that begins by positing women valuable only as mothers will end by suggesting that, even as mothers, women are not valuable at all." (32-33)  

Fowler ends the essay by returning to "The Motherhood Statement": "The easy assumption that motherhood constitutes some easy assumption is neither accurate nor serving us well. " (34)

She has a lot of good lines in her interview, but I'll offer you one here: "I believe that the learning in workshops happens to the critiquer not the critiqued." (72) Now go read this sharp little book yourself, if you haven't already.
_______________
*See, for instance, Paul Lauter, "Race and Gender in the Shaping of the American Literary Canon: A Case Study from the Twenties" (Feminist Studies 9,3 Fall 1983).

Child refugees: A reader, part 1

Aug. 24th, 2014 06:19 am
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

“Over the past few years, the US has seen a rapid increase in the number of unaccompanied children … crossing into the US illegally — most of them from Central America.” Dara Lind writes in a Vox explainer, “Everything you need to know about the child and family migrant crisis.”

One more thing you need to know is that most of these children are refugees — meaning they are not crossing the border “illegally.” US law and international law do not forbid refugees from fleeing across national borders. On the contrary, US law and international law say it is illegal to forbid refugees from crossing national borders.

Here are some excellent articles and resources explaining the basic outlines of the current child refugee situation, its causes, and some possible responses.

Click here to view the embedded video.

• Dara Lind, “Everything you need to know about the child and family migrant crisis” (Vox)

Over the past few years, the US has seen a rapid increase in the number of unaccompanied children … crossing into the US illegally — most of them from Central America. This year, the number of children is at a crisis point: 77,000 unaccompanied children will be apprehended by Border Patrol agents in fiscal year 2014. That’s nearly twice as much as last year.

Additionally, this year, there’s been a rapid increase in the number of parents arriving with young children. Tens of thousands of parents have been apprehended this year. Both of these influxes have been concentrated in the Rio Grande Valley on the Texas/Mexico border.

• Ian Gordon, “Why Are More and More Children Walking Across the Border?” (Mother Jones)

A major factor in the increase, known simply as “the surge” to government officials and child-welfare advocates, appears to be the rise in gang violence in Central America. The number of Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran children crossing alone has skyrocketed in recent years, even as the number of Mexican kids has held steady. “What’s alarming is that there’s an increasing number saying they’re fleeing forcible gang recruitment and gang violence,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, a San Diego State University researcher who studies unaccompanied child migrants. “They were being forcibly recruited into the gangs and didn’t want to be a part of it, and so they had to flee because threats had been made on them or their family members.”

BfWCRgraf

• Saul Elbein, “Guatemalans Aren’t Just Fleeing Gangs” (The New Republic)

What we’re seeing in Guatemala is not quite, in other words, a crime wave. It’s simply the way things have been there for a long time, pushed to the next level. If you are a civilian there, beneath the labels – soldier; gangster; policeman; army; cartel – is but one underlying reality: men with guns who do what they want and take what they want. Your options are to buy your own security and gunmen; to join a gang yourself; or to leave.

• Alfred Corchado, “Central American migrants face grueling journey north” (Dallas Morning News)

They carry almost nothing — a bottle of water, maybe a T-shirt, usually a scrap of paper with the name of a relative in case something happens to them. They are dependent even more than usual on the good will of others for food and shelter, adding to the challenge of an already desperate trek north.

The ride aboard the trains, known collectively as la bestia, The Beast, or tren de la muerte, Train of Death, is harrowing. Over the years, many migrants have fallen from the trains or been caught beneath their wheels, losing limbs and often their lives. Criminals have preyed on the helpless passengers, who face the threat of robbery, rape or death.

• Alfred Corchado, “Poverty, violence fuel exodus of youths from Honduras to US” (Dallas Morning News)

“What we’re witnessing today is an accumulation of factors that have continued building, leading to a steady increase in migration,” said Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin American program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “As people become more desperate and parents in the United States see things get more violent, people look for new solutions and a new way out. I lived in Central America during the conflict years, and while the refugee situation was different, the amount of violence and fear is just as great now as it was then.”

• Randall C. Archibald, “Hope Dwindles for Hondurans Living in Peril” (The New York Times)

The pastor came one afternoon to survey his church, or what was left of it: remnants of a “welcome” sign and a strip of Christmas garland still tacked to the wall.

The gang took the chairs. They took the light fixtures. They took the doors. They had given his family 24 hours to get out and so they did, abandoning their home and the small evangelical church he led.

“There was no other way,” Pastor Jorge Rivassaid the other day, on the porch of a house in another part of this violent city, where the family has taken refuge. “We would die there.” …

• Cindy Carcamo, “In Honduras, US deportees seek to journey north again” (Los Angeles Times)

“There are many youngsters who only three days after they’ve been deported are killed, shot by a firearm,” said Hector Hernandez, who runs the morgue in San Pedro Sula. “They return just to die.”

At least five, perhaps as many as 10, of the 42 children slain here since February had been recently deported from the U.S., Hernandez said.

See also:
• Immigration Policy Center, “Children in Danger: A Guide to the Humanitarian Challenge at the Border”

• Lazaro Zamora, “Unaccompanied Alien Children: A Primer” (Bipartisan Policy Center)

• Sue Sturgis, “Index: The refugee crisis unfolding on the US border” (Institute for Southern Studies)

• Derek Schwabe, “For Families in Central America, Heartbreaking Decisions” (Bread for the World)

• Elizabeth Kennedy, “No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children Are Fleeing Their Homes” (American Immigration Council)

• Patricia Zengerle & Julia Edwards, “Fight over human trafficking law jeopardizes US response to border crisis” (Reuters)

• Danny Vinik, “How Much Would It Cost to Deport All Undocumented Immigrants?” (The New Republic)

• Greg Sargent, “On border crisis, Ted Cruz and Steve King are not outliers” (The Washington Post)

• Kevin Drum, “If Congress Wants to Know Who’s Responsible for the Immigration Crisis, It Should Look in a Mirror” (Mother Jones)

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Posted by Tim Chevalier

Google is offering 5 grants for women in computer science (either working in or studying it) to attend EuroBSDcon 2014 — the main European conference about the open-source BSD family of operating systems — in Sofia, Bulgaria, to take place September 25-28. The grants cover conference registration as well as up to €1000 in travel costs.

Women who have a strong academic background and have demonstrated leadership (though if you don’t think you do, you should apply anyway) are encouraged to apply. Google’s form requires selecting either “male” or “female” as a gender; if you are not binary-identified but are marginalized in computer science and wish to apply, make use of the contact information for this Google program.

Also note that EuroBSDcon does not appear to have a code of conduct or anti-harassment policy. (If I’m wrong, add it to the wiki’s list of conferences that have anti-harassment policies!)

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Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Here's a talk I gave yesterday at The City Club of Cleveland outlining the Case for Reparations. I lost track of time, so I didn't get to talk as much about housing as I wanted. But the most of the basics of the case are there. I want to thank the City Club for having me out, and hosting my very first talk on reparations. There will be a lot more of these over the next year. Hope you enjoy.








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Posted by Martin Hart-Landsberg, PhD

If the well-being of our children is an indicator of the health of our society we definitely should be concerned.  Almost one-fourth of all children in the U.S. live in poverty.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes an annual data book on the status of American children.  Here are a few key quotes from 2014 (all data refer to children 18 and under, unless otherwise specified):

  • Nationally, 23 percent of children (16.4 million) lived in poor families in 2012, up from 19 percent in 2005 (13.4 million), representing an increase of 3 million more children in poverty.
  • In 2012, three in 10 children (23.1 million) lived in families where no parent had full-time, year-round employment. Since 2008, the number of such children climbed by 2.9 million.
  • Across the nation, 38 percent of children (27.8 million) lived in households with a high housing cost burden in 2012, compared with 37 percent in 2005 (27.4 million).

As alarming as these statistics are, they hide the terrible and continuing weight of racism.  Emily Badger, writing in the Washington Post, produced the following charts based on tables from the data book.

1 2 3

Children live in poverty because they live in families in poverty.  Sadly, despite the fact that we have been in a so-called economic expansion since 2009, most working people continue to struggle.  The Los Angeles Times reported that “four out of 10 American households were straining financially five years after the Great Recession — many struggling with tight credit, education debt and retirement issues, according to a new Federal Reserve survey of consumers.”

Martin Hart-Landsberg is a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College. You can follow him at Reports from the Economic Front.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

Camp, Campers, and Public Safety

Aug. 23rd, 2014 06:49 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

A Letter To Summer Camp Counsellors / Staff:

What is your job? Really, when it get down to the basics, what are you charged with doing? Many of you might say, 'ensuring the kids have a good time,' and you'd be right, that's one aspect of your job, but it's not the primary, basic, part of the job of Camp Counsellor. The first priority of your job is to keep the children in your care safe. Everything else comes from that. I know this because I was once, in my youth, a camp counsellor.

Yes, safety is the primary goal. But you need to define safety quite broadly. Safe from harm, obviously. Safe from being bullied or excluded by others, much less obviously. And, you have a responsibility to keep members of the public safe when you take the kids out for a field trip somewhere, anywhere.

Field trip?

Others?

Safety?

I can hear those questions rising in your minds. Let me give you an example. I went somewhere yesterday, one of Toronto's big tourist attractions, because I was taking friends there. When we arrived there were thousands upon thousands of children everywhere. They were all wearing matching coloured tee shirts announcing that they were part of a camp. I thought, upon seeing the tee shirts, that I'll be OK because the kids were in small groups and those groups were under supervision.

Here's two things that happened:

I was looking at a display monitor that had a touch screen that allowed me to access more information. Suddenly there appeared on the other side of a screen, a boy about 8. He stood there, and simply stared at me. His eyes running up and down my body taking it all in. It's incredibly invasive, these kind of full body scans. His camp counsellor was standing about six inches away from him, looking at another display. Clearly the counsellor forgot that he wasn't there to see the display he was there to supervise children. I finally said, kindly, "Please go look at something else, you are making me uncomfortable." He didn't move. But the counsellor did. He came and took him by the hand and guided him away. A glance of annoyance thrown my way was the CC's only interaction with me at all.

Annoyance.

Like I was supposed to let the kid do what he was doing. Like I was supposed to stop being a visitor and become an exhibit. Like, because he was a kid, I should let him do it.

Later, that same day, Joe and I were near ready for lunch. We were leaving a room into which a tsunami of children were crashing in. There were a group of 5 girls, maybe 10, who landed right in front of my wheelchair and right behind them was their CC. The girls, as if I could neither see them or hear them, began laughing at me because of my 'big fat belly'. I let this go on for a second, waiting for intervention, I looked to the CC who didn't even notice it. I don't know where she was but she wasn't at work. I have something I use, rarely, only in emergencies: my mother's look. My mother could stop a raging stampede of buffalo with her look. I pulled it out dusted it off and gave them the look. They stopped. "I can see you, you know," I said, calmly but firmly, "I can hear you, too. What I see and hear are rude young women. You know better than to laugh at people. You are just mean bullies and I have no respect for people who hurt other people. Get out of my way."

My statement, not loud, not angry, just firm, caught the ear of the CC who was shocked. The girls were completely silent, and a little upset, as the opened a space between them to let me through. I left, told Joe that I was weary of being there, and we headed out.

The subject of bullying and social violence is not a new one. Camp Counsellors probably work hard, or I hope they do, that kids don't bully kids in their programs. But when they are taking these kids into public, in a diverse city like Toronto, they need to be aware that there are people with differences and with disabilities that walk the street - in full daylight. Those same people with differences and with disabilities might even actually go to museums and galleries and tourist places. That being the case, isn't it the job of the camp to have policies about the safety of the public when the children are in public places? Isn't it the job of the camp counsellors to prepare the kids for what to do when they see someone who is different? Can't they be taught the skills for knowing what to do when they encourage human diversity?

And should that teaching fail, isn't it the job of the Camp Counsellor to be alert to the behaviour of those in their charge? Shouldn't they be ready to intervene? Isn't that their job? The safety of the kids, the safety of others who share space with those kids?

Well, I tell you, it's not my job to intervene. I'll tell you too, it's hard to intervene when you are being targeted by anyone. Being openly stared at, or openly mocked, isn't easier to deal with because the kids are between 8 and 10 - everyone says that kids don't understand but I know they do. So, I restrain my annoyance and even anger, and use the calm voice I've developed over the years. But it's work. A lot of work. And I don't believe in this instance that it's my work to do. It's yours, Camp Counsellors.

So do it.
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Jay Livingston, PhD

Despite the cellphone video of two police officers killing Kajieme Powell, there is some dispute as to what happened (see this account in The Atlantic). Was Powell threatening them; did he hold the knife high; was he only three or four feet away? 

The video is all over the Internet, including the link above. I’m not going to include it here.  The officers get out of the car, immediately draw their guns, and walk towards Powell. Is this the best way to deal with a disturbed or possibly deranged individual – to confront him and then shoot him several times if he does something that might be threatening?

Watch the video, then watch London police confronting a truly deranged and dangerous man in 2011.  In St. Louis, Powell had a steak knife and it’s not clear whether he raised it or swung it at all.  The man in London has a machete and is swinging it about.


Unfortunately, the London video does not show us how the incident got started. By the time the recording begins, at least ten officers were already on the scene. They do not have guns. They have shields and truncheons. The London police tactic used more officers, and the incident took more time. But nobody died.  According to The Economist:

The police in and around Ferguson have shot and killed twice as many people in the past two weeks (Mr Brown plus one other) as the police in Japan, a nation of 127m, have shot and killed in the past six years. Nationwide, America’s police kill roughly one person a day.

The article includes this graphic:

1 (2)

I’m sure that the Powell killing will elicit not just sympathy for the St. Louis police but in some quarters high praise – something to the effect that what they did was a good deed and that the victims got what they deserved. But righteous slaughter is slaughter nevertheless. A life has been taken.<

You would think that other recent videos of righteous slaughter elsewhere in the world would get us to reconsider this response to killing. But instead, these seem only to strengthen tribal Us/Them ways of thinking. If one of Us who kills one of Them, then the killing must have been necessary and even virtuous.

Originally posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

Some days you’re the windshield

Aug. 22nd, 2014 05:38 pm
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

1. My sister called.  After careful consultation with her fashion team (that’s my mum) and a trial run of dress and shawl in daylight, with other shawl colours tried, and all the deep thinking that a wedding outfit should have, the shawl has been declared PERFECT.

erinsdetailperfect 2014-08-22

2. Even though I was totally and completely prepared to knit her another one (with consultation with her, I like surprises, but I don’t know if I could take the hit twice) I am totally freakin’ thrilled to bits that the one that I thought was perfect is perfect and that I don’t have to hustle another spectacular shawl off the needles on deadline.

3. Oddly, I am still thinking about knitting it anyway. Over the last few days I had to give it a lot of thought, and I got a little excited about it.

4. I haven’t started though, because I have a new project that I am just  wild about. Earlier this year I started buying yarn a little differently.  (Sometimes.)  Instead of buying yarn because I liked it, putting it into the stash and then raiding the stash when I found a pattern I liked, I started doing it the other way.  Finding a project I liked, then buying yarn for it – Even if I had no intention of starting the project anytime soon.

5. This seems to be working.  Even if I change my mind about the project – it’s at least getting me buying yarn in the right quantities.  A shawl’s worth, a sweaters worth, etc.

6. If I keep doing this, I’m going to start bagging the yarn up with the pattern though- or at least the name of the pattern.  I was in the stash the other day and there’s two of three lots of yarn that I bought that I know I had a great plan for, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.

7. That’s not the case with this though:

minnistart 2014-08-22

It’s Minni, by Lene Alve (do you read her blog Dances with Wool? You should. She hasn’t posted for a while, but even her archives are beautiful and inspiring.) When I first saw this pattern, I fell really hard for it, and I’ve been waiting for just the right little person to put it on. Now that there’s little person who was practically made for it, I’m in business.

It’s not a fast knit – I’m using 2.25mm needles to get gauge, and that’s not exactly a high speed size, but the yarn is delicious, and that makes it delightful to go slowly.  It’s Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, in Antler (the cream) and Magnolia Leaf (the gorgeous reddish orange.) So far it’s nothing but a party of short rows,  and a fascinating construction, and I’m having the loveliest time.

yarntoshsock 2014-08-22

I’ve got a pair of plain socks running in the background, but I’m totally in love with the sweater, and the only way the socks are seeing action is if I don’t pack the sweater along when I’m out.  I love this feeling, when a project comes together, and you love everything about it, and it’s all going right and …

I’m so glad Erin loved the shawl.

 

[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Gwen Sharp, PhD

Flashback Friday.

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is one of the most famous examples of unethical research. The study, funded by the federal government from 1932-1972, looked at the effects of untreated syphilis. In order to do this, a number of Black men in Alabama who had syphilis were misinformed about their illness. They were told they had “bad blood” (which was sometimes a euphemism for syphilis, though not always) and that the government was offering special free treatments for the condition. Here is an example of a letter sent out to the men to recruit them for more examinations:

The “special free treatment” was, in fact, nothing of the sort. The researchers conducted various examinations, including spinal taps, not to treat syphilis but just to see what its effects were. In fact, by the 1950s it was well established that a shot of penicillin would fully cure early-stage syphilis. Not only were the men not offered this life-saving treatment, the researchers conspired to be sure they didn’t find out about it, getting local doctors to agree that if any of the study subjects came in they wouldn’t tell them they had syphilis or that a cure was available.

The abusive nature of this study is obvious (letting men die slow deaths that could have been easily prevented, just for the sake of scientific curiosity) and shows the ways that racism can influence researchers’ evaluations of what is acceptable risk and whose lives matter. The Tuskegee experiment was a major cause for the emergence of human subjects protection requirements and oversight of federally-funded research once the study was exposed in the early 1970s. Some scholars argue that knowledge of the Tuskegee study increased African Americans’ distrust of the medical community, a suspicion that lingers to this day.

In 1997 President Clinton officially apologized for the experiment.

Originally posted in 2009.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

Words Aren’t Magic

Aug. 22nd, 2014 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by Annalee

So let’s talk about This Shit Right Here (that’s an archive.today link), in which technology consultant Jeff Reifman accuses Geek feminism blogger Leigh Honeywell and advice columnist Captain Awkward of harassment.

Last November, Reifman wrote a lengthy post about his relationship with an ex who eventually asked him to stop contacting her, then threatened to get a court order when he did not. He used her as an example to decry what he called ‘cutoff culture,’ and to suggest that women who want to cut exes out of their lives have an obligation to find some kind of ‘compromise’ to make sure their ex’s emotional needs are met.

Leigh and the Captain, both feminist activists, called him out. The Captain did so in this excellent post breaking down the entitlement and abuser-logic in his arguments. Leigh called him out on twitter. He wrote something in public; they challenged it in public.

Reifman then sent Leigh an email that prompted her to publicly and privately tell him never to contact her again.

So he wrote a blog post in which Leigh is very easy to identify to trash talk her for ‘harassing’ him, implying that it’s a a violation of Double Union’s Anti-Harassment Policy for her to call out his enormously-creepy behavior towards an ex who’d asked him to leave her alone (including publicly hashing out his relationship with said ex with roughly as much care for hiding her identity as he showed for hiding Leigh’s).
The Geek Feminism Code Of Conduct contains a section on things we specifically don’t consider harassment:

The Geek Feminism community prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort. The Geek Feminism Anti-Abuse Team will not act on complaints regarding:

  • ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’ (because these things don’t exist)
  • Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with you.”
  • Refusal to explain or debate social justice concepts
  • Communicating in a ‘tone’ you don’t find congenial
  • Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions

I wrote that section because people on an axis of privilege have a nasty tendency to appropriate social justice terminology (like privilege and harassment) and twist it around to serve their own point of view. They treat these words like magic incantations, as if it’s the words, rather than the argument, that convinces people.

Words are not magic incantations. They have meanings. Using a word without understanding its meaning just because you’ve seen other people successfully use it to convey a point is magical thinking.

Sometimes, the people who employ these words as magic incantations mistake other people’s refusal to engage for a victory–they must have successfully turned social justice sorcerers’ magic words against us, because we won’t argue with them anymore. Reifman himself engages in a version of this fallacy when he armchair-diagnoses his critics as ‘triggered’ rather than recognizing that their anger is a natural reaction to his demands for free emotional labor. The truth is more mundane: most of us are not interested in teaching reading comprehension to people whose comprehension is willfully limited to concepts that support their privilege.

This is the email that led Leigh to publicly tell Reifman to leave her alone:

From: Jeff Reifman
Date: Mon, May 12, 2014 at 11:03 PM
Subject: Responding to your tweets
To: Leigh Honeywell
Cc: [redacted mutual friend]

Hi Leigh, I don’t know if you remember meeting me – but I think we met
at Elysian, I’m actually close friends with [redacted mutual friend]. I saw your
tweets and your medium note and thought I would reach out.

I noticed that the comment policy on your blog asks that commenters be “
non-discriminatory, friendly, funny, or perspicacious” … I’m super
open to a discussion about this as long as comments are civil and
constructive. I would hope you would tweet as you wish others to
publicly comment on your blog.

Using the word shitbag … and repeated mentions of “fuck” both on
twitter and on medium doesn’t represent civil discussion very well.

the feedback I’ve received from the cutoff essay has been overall very
positive – but sometimes it triggers people … and I’ve now, only
twice, received attacks like this – you’re the second.

I’m open to talking about it – especially if you want to highlight
specifics … but I ask that you be civil and constructive …[sic]

Jeff Reifman

Translation: Tone argument, demand for free emotional labor and education, tone argument, tone argument, lurkers support me in email, tone argument.

You’ll notice that he CC’d a mutual friend of theirs. Then he went and wrote this follow-up post, using barely-pixelated avatars and so many direct quotes that Leigh and the Captain are laughably easy to identify. So for all his thinky thoughts about ‘shaming,’ he clearly has no problem with trying to shame people who call out his extremely inappropriate behavior.

Too bad he’s trying to do so with magic incantations.

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Click here to view the embedded video.

“Just follow the logic: if that first promise is conditional, then all the others are up for grabs too.”

Pietistic expectations with regard to worship are cruel. They put the burden on us, rather than inviting us to come and have our burdens relieved.”

“Perhaps we’re no closer to knowing if the truth really is out there, but we can be sure the lies are.”

“‘You can easily fit your whole arm up in there,’ says Mesnick. And she has.”

“During Napoleon’s time, villages were swept cleanly into one nation or another, the borders tidied up, but apparently – and no one can quite explain why – Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog escaped the broom.”

“Basically, nothing good came of the incident, because nothing good ever comes of acting like an asshole.”

“By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked.”

The Blair Church Project

“The gig economy is a crappy way to get good stories out of people.”

“So not only do you have nothing to fear from that grocery store rotisserie chicken, you could actually be doing a triple good deed by purchasing it — making your life easier, keeping prices down for your fellow shoppers, and helping the environment.”

“It racks in the tortures of aching hunger, and glows in bliss ineffable — bliss only you can give.”

“A large brawl involving approximately 50 representatives erupted on the House floor, ending only when a missed punch from Rep. Cadwallader Washburn of Wisconsin upended the hairpiece of Rep. William Barksdale of Mississippi.”

“That was really her being bad. She’s not a good babysitter.”

“The space, just big enough for a bunk bed, a mini-fridge and a few chairs, is slightly larger than the average American prison cell. It used to be Harrington’s office.”

They have earned the right not to be listened to.”

Years later, after I’d had my own child, and then my own post-partum depression, I finally asked my mother about the abortion comment. “

Fly, you fools!

Bullies, Bigots and Buffoons, Oh My

Aug. 22nd, 2014 07:52 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger


 

 (Photo Description: Gretchen Josephson, poet, sits looking off to the right, listening hard to what's being said.)

"Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice." That's what Richard Dawkins, a geneticist who is also billed, by Wikipedia as a both an ethologist and an evolutionary biologist said in answer to a question. When asked by a pregnant woman about the the possibility her foetus had Down Syndrome, he responded quickly and, somewhat brutally telling her to abort it. He later, when the predicted flood-gates of protest opened, gave a half apology. In that apology he said:

"If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down's baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child's own welfare"


Photo Description: Raymond Hu, wearing a suit and glasses.

He, wonderful man that he is, worries about the child's welfare. He states later that we have a duty to reduce. He wants to reduce suffering. SUFFERING. Anyone read that survey that showed 99 percent of people with Down Syndrome when interviewed, say that they are happy? But their voices would be discounted wouldn't they. They might have the lived experience of having Down Syndrome - but poor dears, the experience is wasted on them, they wouldn't understand. A person with an intellectual disability is always assumed to be incompetent when they disagree with authority.

Photo Description: Grainy photo of Sandra Jensen, she is smiling, wearing glasses and the sun is shining on her.

Firstly, let's remember that people with disabilities are a wide a varied group, there are poetspaintersactorsactivistsmusicians and, yes, even politicians. The ideas of who people with disabilities are come from stereotypes when we limited who people with Down Syndrome could be. Remember, always remember, that this is the first generation of people with Down Syndrome who have grown up without being in the shadow of large institutions. The first to experience schooling.The first to experiencing live in the mainstream. Oh, there were brave parents who kept their kids home and fought the good fight to get us where we are now - but it is this generation that is benefiting from that fight.

Photo Description: Edward Barbanell, wearing a shirt and tie and smiling at the camera.

The one think that Dawkins said that I can totally agree with is that we need to make choices that reduce human suffering. Well, I would ask him, how can he make a callous suggestion that people with disabilities are born to immoral parents, (for an atheist that comes awful close to the idea that people with disabilities were born as punishment to sinful parents) and not realize that HE is inflicting suffering.

 
Photo Description: Emmanuel Joseph Bishop wearing a tux and playing the violin.

It is attitudes and language like his that cause hurt and pain and anger. People in positions of power think that they have a right to bully and to bigotry and to loathsome buffoonery.  It is prejudice that hurts Mr. Dawkins. It is opinion based on ignorance that hurts Mr. Dawkins. It's the wilful propagation of attitudes that lead to social violence and societal exclusion that hurts, Mr. Dawkins. This comes from someone who wants to reduce suffering!


Photo Description: Stephen Green, after winning his election, looking at the camera satisfied.

There is a simple solution to this. Sit down, meet some folks with Down Syndrome, speak to their families and until you do this, simply, shut up.

In the simple act of shutting up you will increase the happiness of those of us with disabilities and decrease the amount of ignorant and hurtful twaddle that gets spewed about a people who when asked, not by you of course, if they are happy, say yes. When asked if they are suffering say no.

 
(photo description: 6 little girls in Disney Princess costumes. 

By the royal decree of 6 powerful princesses, we must all reduce suffering by reducing prejudice and ignorance and arrogance.

There's a challenge Mr. Dawkins.

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