[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

• “ If our eschatology … assumes that Jesus is going to come back and forcibly crush his enemies under his feet, then excuse me, but we have a major problem. Why would a Jesus whose very essence is always and only non-violent enemy-love come back to force his enemies into subjection?”

• Today is February 27. Raymond Allen was unarmed when killed by police on February 27, 2012.

Screen shot 2015-02-27 at 4.20.32 PM

Dammit. And thank you. RIP Leonard Nimoy.

• Let him who is without sin cast the first apple: Wheaton College is a Christian liberal arts college. Yet it produces students and graduates who are capable of writing “Dear Enemy” letters pompously signed “Not Ashamed of the Truth” without a trace of irony or self-awareness. Such faux-pious gasbaggery doesn’t seem compatible with either Christianity or a liberal arts education.

In the future, when I occasionally use the term “apple-tossers” to refer to self-righteous indignation-addicts who treat faith as a LARP fantasy game they’ve forgotten they’re playing, it will be because of this story.

• “You might make sport of their meatballs, but in the end the Swedes get the better of you.”

• D-list celebrity and professional apple-tosser Jessa Duggar says that if the God you worship isn’t a petty, vindictive jerk, then you’re worshipping a non-existent false God.

God isn’t slacking to fulfill His promised Judgement on sin — it’s coming,” Duggar wrote. “The only reason you’re are alive right now is because He is merciful and has kept your heart beating for another day. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. …” (That last bit is a paraphrase, but that’s the gist of her message.)

• “Anyone unfamiliar with the term is free to look it up, but you probably shouldn’t.

• ASAP Science is on the ball with a quick, handy explainer of why a terribly photographed blue and black dress can appear white and gold:

Click here to view the embedded video.


[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

  •  You’re Excluding Stories By Straight, White, Cis Men? J’accuse! J’accuse! | K Tempest Bradford (February 22): “Reading only women for a year takes some thought and effort. And if you do that, people hardly ever assume that it happened Just Because or On Accident or because you were Just Reading The Best Books Regardless Of The Identity Of The Author. […] A reviewer who makes the choice to focus exclusively on marginalized voices is making a good choice. There are plenty of places for the privileged to get and gain attention. Making a space for everyone else is not bias, it’s a step towards balance.”
  • Teachers’ gender bias in maths affects girls later | Sue Wilson at The Conversation (February 25): “The researchers followed nearly 3000 students from 6th grade to the end of high school. As a measure of teacher bias, they compared school 6th grade test marks given by teachers who knew the students’ sex, with external test marks for the same students, but with no identifying characteristics provided. The researchers identified that a worrying number of teachers gave boys higher maths test results than girls of the same ability. They also studied the long-term effects of this bias. The study found that the effects of teacher bias (measured by giving lower marks in mathematics for the same standard of work as boys) persisted for girls, leading to poorer results through their high school years. However, many boys whose teachers over-assessed their performance in the early years went on to be successful in mathematics and science.”
  • JamForLeelah: Trans Positive Game Jam | Matthew Boucher and Kara Jayne (February 22): [warning for discussion of abuse and suicide] “JamForLeelah is a month long trans positive game jam to raise awareness on LGBTIQ issues, specifically trans youth issues and Leelah’s Law as well as an attempt to raise money for trans specific charities such as the Transgender Law Center, Camp Aranu’tiq, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. […] Leelah expressed an intense interest in not only gaming, but game development as well. She made this clear on both her Tumblr and Reddit accounts, so an indie game jam felt like a possible way to raise awareness for Leelah’s plea for social change, in a method she may not have only approved of, but also taken part in.”
  • The Future’s Been Here Since 1939: Female Fans, Cosplay, and Conventions | Uncanny Magazine (Jan/Feb): [warning for descriptions of violence] “Cosplay has been around since the very first science fiction fan conventions in the 1930s and before the word “cosplay” was invented. The first recorded cosplayers, Myrtle R. Jones and Forrest J. Ackerman, wore what they called “futuristicostume” during the first Worldcon in 1939.”
  • I tried tracking my period and it was even worse than I could have imagined | Maggie Delano at Medium (February 23): “yet another example of technology telling queer, unpartnered, infertile, and/or women uninterested in procreating that they aren’t even women. It’s telling women that the only women worth designing technology for are those women who are capable of conceiving and who are not only in a relationship, but in a sexual relationship, and in a sexual relationship with someone who can potentially get them pregnant. Read: straight, sexually active, partnered, cis women with enough money for a smartphone to run the app.”
  • Man Who Terrorized Brianna Wu For Months Says He Was Just Kiddin Around | Jezebel (February 24): [warning for discussion of threats and harassment] “The problem with Gamergate is you can’t satirize these people. I can’t stress this enough: the wider point here is the gamification of the harassment of women.” It’s already hard enough to get law enforcement to take threats against women online seriously. Wu worries that Rankowski’s hilarious joke will give police yet another excuse not to investigate violent threats online.”
  • The Harassment Game | Mikki Kendall at Model View Culture (February 23): [warning for discussion of threats and harassment] “And it dawned on me, there is no life after being harassed if you’re a marginalized person speaking up on the internet. Whether my harassment comes from talking about race in 2009, abortion in 2011, feminism in 2013, or some brand new topic in 2015, it’s clearly a part of my life. My choices are never speak, or be harassed for speaking. The topics really don’t matter. Because none of this is about ethics in game journalism, protecting the unborn, or defending feminism, comics, or science fiction from the perceived threat of people wanting them to be more inclusive.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

What Do Women (Seeking Men) Want?

Feb. 27th, 2015 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

Flashback Friday.

Dating site OKCupid did an analysis of 500,000 inquiry messages to determine what keywords correlate most strongly with getting a reply.  It has some great lessons about dating and some counter-stereotypical news about what heterosexual women want from men.

This first graph shows that mentioning someone’s level of attractiveness decreased the likelihood of getting a response (for both men and women), though men were more likely to mention looks.  But general compliments about one’s profile increased the likelihood of getting a response (the middle line is the average number of responses, the green bars signify an increase in the number of responses, and the red bars a decrease):


A good lesson in operationalization: “pretty” is used in two ways in our culture, so when they made sure to differentiate between pretty (meaning “sort of”) and pretty (meaning “attractive”), you can see clearly the way that commenting on looks decreases the recipients’ interest:

So, in contrast to stereotypes, many women cannot be flattered into a date (though the figure above includes men and women, I’m assuming most people being called “pretty” are female).

Further, the site found that when men sent messages, female recipients preferred humility to bold self-confidence.  The words below all increased the chances of a woman responding to a man’s inquiry:

Instead of bravado and flattery, women appear to actually like men who take an interest in them.  They respond positively to phrases that indicate that a guy actually read their profile and is interested in the content of their person:

The lesson: Treat a woman (on the OK Cupid dating site) like a human being and she will respond positively.

And to answer the question, “What do women want?”  As my dear friend David Landsberg would say: “Everything!

This post originally appeared in 2009.

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)


Feb. 27th, 2015 08:43 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger


For the last few days, I've been falling asleep to the sound of Joe giggling. That's a pleasant way to enter the land of restful dreams. He's been reading A Man Called Ove, which he moved to the top of his reading pile
at my request. I expected him to find the book very, very funny. I also expected him to find the book incredibly moving. I was right on both counts.

Many years ago, when Joe and I were just out of university, we had a long and ongoing argument about literature. We held opposing views. We drank a lot of beer while we argued, often with a passion that those at other tables didn't understand. "Are those boys arguing about books?"

My contention is that most of what we call 'literature' (as opposed to a summer read) is essentially flawed because of lack of inclusion and diversity amongst the characters that people a story. An author, I said, needed to tell a story in a way that reflected the times, the people and the culture in which the story unravels. And as such, deleting people from these stories; people of colour, LGBT people, disabled people,   non-subservient women, inherently diminishes the writer from artist to author and reduces the impact of the story and the relevance to the reader. They may still be great books, but they could have been more. I believed, even then before we talked about 'diversity' and 'inclusion' that it is the job of the artist to open minds as well as to craft a work.

Joe completely disagreed with me. I can't articulate his point well, because I never agreed with it, but essentially he thought that writers were completely free to write what they would in the manner that they wanted (a point we both agreed on) and the determination of a great novel is based on the quality of the story and the excellence of the text alone (a point we never agreed on).

This blog is not about that argument or about who was right or who was wrong. As we talked about this last night, in reference to A Man Called Ove, we laughed about the fact that we were so young as to have the energy to argue about this for HOURS and DAYS. Now our discussions after a movie are often reduced to, you like it? Yeah. You? Nah. Wanna go for lunch?

But A Man Called Ove, I realized, all these years later, is what I was talking about. This book is one of the most inclusive books I've ever read. It is peopled with a community of characters and as such reflects diversity in such a natural way. You never feel that the author is thinking, 'oh better get the gays in now' or 'I can stuff a disabled character in here' or 'now's the time for diversity of faith.' Never. Instead you feel invited in to meet the community of people who live around Ove's house and who people his world.

A Man Called Ove may be one of the best books I've ever read (I won't really know for a year or so, I need to see if it's still with me the way other books from other times are still informing and illuminating my life.) If you are looking for a book that demonstrates the power of community. A book that will make you laugh. A book that will make you cry. A book that you will immediately want to share. You can't go wrong here.

I loved this book.

I loved the people in it.

It moved me, deeply.
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Gerald Horne

By Gerald Horne (Guest Contributor)

Though scholars and historians in the U.S. have been astringent critics to a greater or lesser degree of virtually all revolutions–French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, etc.—there has been a stunning array of unity across the political spectrum, left to right, singing the praises of the revolt against British rule in 1776 leading to the formation of the United States of America.


A Typical Representation of Slaves Supporting the Revolution

To gain a better understanding of this epochal revolt, the story should not begin in the 1770s–but, instead, with the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ in England in 1688; inter alia, this led to the undermining of the Royal African Company under the thumb of the Crown and the advance of the rising merchant class, as the profitable trade in enslaved Africans was “deregulated”, leading to “Free Trade in Africans.”  At once this created great wealth that propelled capitalist relations in the colonies, making the latter more of an economic challenger to the metropolis headquartered in London but, also, accelerated slave revolts as the number of angry Africans grew exponentially.

As African rebelliousness grew, London was enmeshed in second thoughts about the viability of a colonial project based on slave labor.  Moreover, in order to better confront competing empires–e.g. Spain–that were arming Africans, London could not rule out acting similarly, the prospect of which outraged the settlers pushing them toward revolt in 1776.

Incipient abolitionism in London and growing attraction to enslavement in the colonies led to a predictable result:  it is well-known that by an order of magnitude Africans–ancestors of those now denoted as ‘African-American’–sided with London, not least since Britain was moving toward abolition of slavery as evidenced in ‘Somerset’s Case’ in 1772, a decision which outraged numerous North American settlers leading directly to the 1776 revolt.

“Somerset’s Case,” which involved the attempt by an African with roots in Virginia to gain freedom in England, seemed to suggest that the decision in his favor would lead to an extension of this abolitionist principle across the Atlantic to the North American colonies.  This would jeopardize fortunes built not only on slavery and the slavery trade but, as well, the banking, insurance and shipbuilding enterprises–centered in e.g. New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts–that underpinned the peculiar institution.

Today African-Americans suffer from all manner of ills–including one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world–yet the now archaic unanimity on the alleged virtues of 1776 hinders the ability of history to scrutinize the origins of what became a slaveholders’ republic then a Jim Crow regime in explicating this dire condition.

The Counter-Revolution of 1776 seeks to drive readers to a new understanding of a nation that touts its supposed revolutionary origins–yet has become the leading status quo power in the world, consonant with its less than heroic origins.

counter revolutionGerald Horne is Moores Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston. His books include The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (2014), Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois, and Race War!: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Every Friday, I’m posting installments from my original series of Left Behind posts, starting with Book 1, page 1. By a little over a year from now I’ll have re-posted all of the pieces collected in The Anti-Christ Handbook, Vol. 1 — now available as an eBook at Amazon.com.

RidgeleyThat book is affordably priced at a mere $3.99, but that’s still $3.99 more than reading the same material here, where it’s all been posted, and is now being re-posted, for free.

Plus here you get the comments, which really are the best part of the whole series. An eBook that offers all the posts but none of the comments is a bit like a John Oates solo record — not bad, but it seems like something’s missing.

Still, the eBook lets you read uninterrupted and offline, without needing to navigate the archives of this blog. (Like most blogs, the archives here are in reverse chronological order, which makes reading a series like this in the proper order a bit tricky. I could fix that problem, making my archives much easier to navigate, by writing and posting here in reverse chronological order, but that’s even trickier to pull off.)

For the free, comment-enriched version of the entire Left Behind series here, you can check out the Left Behind category for the blog archives. Start with the oldest page, with the post at the bottom, working your way to the top. If that process gets bothersome, and you’ve got $3.99 to spare, please consider downloading a copy of The Anti-Christ Handbook.

Anyway, here’s a post from the beginning of Chapter 3 of Left Behind, originally posted March 31, 2004.

Left Behind, pp. 41-43

While we the readers were busy turning the page to the beginning of Chapter 3, Rayford Steele was making a risky and precarious landing on the narrow, smoke-filled runways of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I’m sure it was terribly exciting, but Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins felt it was best not to let us read about it.

As Chapter 3 begins, they pick up where they left off — with an exciting discussion of airport logistics:

Hattie Durham and what was left of her crew encouraged passengers …

… what was left of the passengers …

… to study the safety cards in their seat pockets. Many feared they would be unable to jump and slide down the chutes, especially with their carry-on luggage. They were instructed to remove their shoes and to jump seatfirst onto the chute. Then crew members would toss down their shoes and bags. …

I know what you’re thinking: Millions of people worldwide have disappeared. Every child and infant on the planet is gone. Death and destruction litter the landscape.

So how will these passengers get their checked baggage?

… They were advised not to wait in the terminal for their checked baggage. That, they were promised, would eventually be delivered to their homes. No guarantees when.

So you see, the situation is serious. Now let’s watch as Buck Williams puts the moves on Hattie:

Buck Williams gave Hattie his card and got her phone number, “just in case I get through to your people before you do.”

“You’re with Global Weekly?” she said. “I had no idea.”

“And you were going to send me to my room for tampering with the phone.”

Even amidst the post-apocalyptic chaos, chicks dig guys who work for newsweeklies. (I’ve read that Joe Klein has to beat ‘em off with a stick.) Buck secures the digits.

Now Buck says his farewells to Harold’s wife. The reader, like Buck, never learns her name:

When he opened the bin to pull down his leather bag, he found the old man’s hat and jacket still perched atop it. Harold’s wife sat staring at Buck, her eyes full, jaw set. “Ma’am,” he said quietly, “would you want these?”

The grieving woman gratefully gathered in the hat and coat, and crushed them against her chest as if she would never let them go. She said something Buck couldn’t hear. He asked her to repeat it. “I can’t jump out of any airplane,” she said.

Even poor Harold’s wife is obsessed with logistics. You might think that some of the people on the plane whose loved ones had vanished would refuse to leave. They might want to stick around to see if they reappeared as inexplicably as they had gone. You might also expect that at least one of them would have gone into shock, or perhaps a crazed parent snapping, tearing the plane apart in a mad frenzy to find their lost child. But no, just like our heroes, they’re mainly concerned with getting from point A to point B.

Buck carefully laid his laptop and case in among his clothes. With his bag zipped, he hurried to the front of the line, eager to show others how easy it was …

Another cool thing about working for a major newsweekly magazine is that you get to cut to the front of the line. Chicks dig that too. It shows them that you know you’re special.

Over the last two pages, Buck has come across as a bit of a pushy, swollen-headed jerk. That’s what makes the next little scene so surprising. What happens next was so unexpected to me that I’m almost inclined to say I liked it:

… he clutched his bag across his chest, took a quick step and threw his feet out in front of him.

A bit enthusiastic, he landed not on his seat but on his shoulders, which threw his feet over the top of his head. He picked up speed and hit the bottom with his weight shifting forward. The buggy-whip centripetal force slammed his stockinged feet to the ground and brought his torso up and over in a somersault that barely missed planting his face on the concrete.

It’s slapstick, but I like slapstick. The scene loses a bit of its comic, Blake Edwardsian kick when Buck ends up slamming the back of his head on the concrete and jumps up, his hair “already matted with blood.” (In general, slapstick should avoid profuse bleeding.* A big lump on the back of his head would’ve been funnier than sticky gore.)

He quickly retrieved his shoes and began jogging toward the terminal …

He may be injured, but he’s still Buck Williams. He’s got places to go.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* Some exceptions that come to mind are a handful of Monty Python sketches, that SNL bit with Dan Ackroyd as Julia Child, and Itchy and Scratchy. From these examples we can perhaps discern a corollary rule: If you’re going to have blood in your slapstick, make sure you’ve got a lot of blood.

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

My phone wasn’t charging properly and it was gradually getting worse. At first I thought it was the cheapo charging cord I was using, but then I started to think it was a problem with the phone itself.

For a while, I could recharge the phone by rigging a rubber band that kept the cord snugly docked into the phone, but even that stopped working and it got to the point where the phone only charged if I was physically holding it — actively shoving the cord into its little dock, which was not an optimal arrangement. So the other day I finally bit the bullet and took the phone and went to the Verizon store in the hopes of getting it fixed or rebuilt or replaced, whichever turned out to be necessary.

Screen shot 2015-02-26 at 6.53.21 PMThis was worrisome. I was fretting about warranties and upgrade schedules and what all of this might wind up costing. I was mentally juggling our various bills and expenses and debts, trying to estimate which ones I could maybe cut back on or delay in order to get my phone back in working order. So I was pretty stressed about the situation when I walked up to the counter at the Verizon store.

But then Brad, the Verizon guy, pulled out a paper clip and squinted into the little charging dock on my phone. He probed around in there for a second with the end of the paper clip and pulled out a BB-sized ball of pocket lint. And then another.

“That ought to do it,” he said, plugging my phone into a charger behind the counter.

Boop,” said the phone, happily charging itself like the day it came out of the box.

I was equal parts relieved and mortified. I was relieved because this wasn’t going to cost me anything — no money, no time. The problem had been quickly and easily solved. For free.

But I was also embarrassed because I had allowed myself to be inconvenienced and bothered and worried for weeks over nothing more than pocket lint. What I had feared was some potentially large problem turned out to be something easily resolved with a paper clip. Seeing how simple and obvious the solution was made me feel kind of stupid because I had been kind of stupid.

That has happened before. And it will happen again.

There are two morals to this story.

First, of course, is that the charging dock on a cellphone can get clogged with pocket lint. If yours starts to get a bit unreliable, shine a flashlight in there and poke around a bit — gently — with a toothpick or the end of a paper clip. That should take care of that for you. Good to know.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The second lesson here is just as practical, but it has wider implications. The second lesson here is that briefly feeling kind of stupid can be a Good Thing. It means there’s a solution that you hadn’t seen before — maybe even a quick, easy, obvious and no-cost solution. And briefly feeling a bit stupid — owning up to the fact that there was something simple you had overlooked or failed to think of — is a small price to pay for the relief that comes from no longer having to worry about problems that turn out to be easily solved.

There’s a perverse impulse to get defensive when confronted with anything that might make us feel embarrassed or force us to admit that we maybe did something foolish or unthinking. And that defensiveness can lead us to resent or to reject the simple advice that can free us from what may turn out to be wholly avoidable and easily resolvable problems.

It was kind of stupid of me to jump to the conclusion that my phone was broken in some expensive way. But it would have been far more stupid to stubbornly cling to that conclusion, refusing to believe that Brad knew more than I did and refusing to let him help me by not just solving my problem but showing me how to avoid it in the future.

Many of us want to avoid ever feeling stupid, ever admitting there was something obvious we overlooked, or admitting that others know things we don’t know. But such minor embarrassments are an unavoidable part of what it means to be human. Sometimes our oversights inconvenience ourselves and burden us with silly stress. Sometimes those oversights burden others with harms and offenses that are no less harmful or offensive for being unintentional.

I suppose if I were perfect then I would never need to worry about fessing up to having done something stupid, having overlooked something obvious, having not known everything that somebody else might have known. But I’m not perfect. And trying to convince myself or others that I am wouldn’t actually spare me from occasional stupidities, oversights and offenses. It would only prevent me from correcting them.

Every few months we see an Internet flurry prompted by someone — Jonathan Chait, Freddie DeBoer — complaining about the “political correctness” of their online critics. These complaints are an expression of the pretense of perfection. They’re based on the idea that any of us would somehow be capable of writing or speaking in public for years without, somewhere along the way, saying something dumb or thoughtless or hurtful. They’re embarrassed by their embarrassment, and so they lash back at the critics who called them out in the hopes that this will allow them to maintain the illusion of unwavering perfection and omniscience.

That doesn’t work. Whining about supposed “political correctness” is just a way of refusing to listen and refusing to learn. It’s a way of turning some minor stupidity into a major stupidity, doubling down.

Brad the Verizon Guy was very kind. He was polite and generously reassuring, and that made my embarrassment easier to overcome. But really it shouldn’t matter. My embarrassment wasn’t the actual problem. I didn’t go to the Verizon store to have my feelings tended, I went there to get my phone fixed. And he showed me how to fix it.

That’s all that matters. If he had been a total jerk — if he had announced in a loud voice, “Hey, everybody, check out this moron. He thinks his phone is broken but he didn’t even bother to check for lint in charging dock!” — that still wouldn’t change the fundamental fact that he was showing me how to solve my problem.

And when someone tells you how to solve your problem, it would be stupid not to listen.


[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Walmart recently announced it will be raising its wages at 1,434 of its stores — boosting the incomes of nearly 500,000 of its employees. The parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods followed by announcing a wage increase for about 200,000 workers in their stores.

I work for another big retailer — one with about 2,000 stores of its own here in the U.S. And for that company, this is fantastic news. About 700,000 of our customers just got a raise! They’ve now got more money to spend in our stores.

There’s no way that fact is not Very Good News for the Big Box chain I work for.

Let’s call him Bob. Bob works at a HomeGoods store and he’s making nine bucks an hour. By the end of the year, he’ll be making $10 an hour. That’s not a huge raise, and $10 an hour still isn’t really even a living wage. Bob isn’t suddenly living the American Dream. But still, at the end of the week, he’ll be taking home an extra $32 bucks or so. He’ll have an additional $64 in every paycheck, and an additional $128 in his monthly budget.

i60ibBob won’t be spending all of that, or even most of that, in our Big Box store. But he’ll be spending some of it there. He’ll finally be able to get around to some of the things he’s been putting off — the home improvements he’s long wished he could make, the maintenance he’s too-long deferred around the house or the apartment. The next time he comes into the Big Box it won’t just be to pick up another roll of duct tape. He’ll have a project.

The up-selling mantra in our company is “sell the project.” That’s a bit less sleazy than most forms of up-selling, because the aim is to send customers home with everything they need to get done what they’re trying to do. They’ll be happier if they don’t have to make a second or a third trip back to the store before they can finish the job. So if somebody’s buying paint, make sure they’ve got brushes and rollers and pans and masking tape and dropcloths. If somebody’s buying a new bathroom mirror, make sure they’ve got the hardware to hang it and maybe a stud-finder and tape measure. That means more sales, yes, but it’s also pretty good customer service.

But you can’t “sell the project” to customers who make $9 an hour working retail. Guys like Bob can’t afford to buy the project. For customers like that, the trick becomes figuring out the bare minimum they can use to scrape by or to make do. That means you can sell them duct tape and Vimes’ boots,* but you can never sell them the cartful of stuff they’ll need for a quality, satisfying home-maintenance or home-improvement project.

An extra $128 a month won’t mean that Bob can run wild, remodeling his kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances, oak cabinets and granite countertops. But you can still do a lot with $100. Instead of coming in to buy another roll of the cheapest plumber’s tape, Bob might come in to get a decent new bathroom faucet, and maybe even a decent wrench to install it.

Bob got a raise. Bob can now spend more money in our stores. That’s Very Good News for our company.

It’s Very Good News for a lot of companies. Bob has been making $9 and hour, so he has been forced to learn the discipline of thrift. Thrift borne of necessity involves the making of conscious decisions dozens of times a day, every day. Bob is acutely aware of every one of those decisions — every deferral and denial he has been constrained to make. And he will be just as acutely aware of what the difference between $9/hour and $10/hour means for every one of those decisions.

That additional income — that new influx of $64 a paycheck, or $128 a month, or $192 dollars in those glorious three-paycheck months — is going to be spent. Bob has been denying himself minor luxuries and deferring minor necessities — probably even some major necessities — and he won’t need to stop and think about what he’s going to do with this new income. He already knows. He’s been thinking about this, constantly, for years.

Bob is our customer, so good news for Bob means good news for us. “Customers first,” like our CEO always says.

But this isn’t how our CEO will react to this happy news for Bob and for 700,000 more of our customers. None of the above — absolutely none of it — will occur to him at all. Because our CEO, like most CEOs, has lost the ability to think of our customers as people with jobs and budgets. So he won’t be thinking, “Woohoo! 700,000 of our customers just got a raise!” He’ll be thinking, “Ohnoes! Wage increases in the retail sector could lead to higher labor costs — I must oppose this!

And if the fear of the possibility of the potential of the shadow of a slight increase in labor costs requires our CEO to fight to screw over 700,000 or 7 million or 70 million of our customers, then he will enthusiastically screw over our customers.

This is why the lobbyists of the Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation always fight against any increase in the minimum wage. That screws over their customers — which is stupid and self-destructive and Very Bad Business, but this is how CEOs and Chambers of Commerce think. Or how they fail to think.

We just went through an iteration of this whole process involving the Affordable Care Act. The officers, executives and local managers of the Big Box had a great deal to say about Obamacare. They predicted all manner of calamity and sky-falling — none of which came to pass. But not one of them ever, even for a second, entertained the possibility that reducing health insurance costs for tens of millions of our customers might be good news for our company.

“Customers first?” Our customers didn’t enter their thinking at all. Ever. Never once, apparently, did any of our managers or district managers or corporate officers ever entertain the possibility that, for example, people financially constrained because they were denied health insurance due to diabetes cannot afford to repaint the living room or to spruce up the front walkway with those spiffy paving stones.

But it’s not just the managers and executives at the Big Box who think this way. The managers and executives of most companies think this way. They employ armies of accountants to strangle every last cost-cutting penny from their labor expenses, and then hire a second army of lobbyists to fight for newer, more extreme ways of cutting those costs. And that is the only lens they have for considering any public policy.

The health and security and well-being of their customers never appears anywhere in their policy agenda, or in their personnel agenda.

P.S.: “But wait,” someone might say, “I have an overly simplistic economic ideology gleaned from dimly remembered textbook abstractions and a denial of global realities, so isn’t it fair to worry that these raises from Walmart and T.J. Maxx could produce inflationary pressure?”

No. No it’s not. There’s a simple test for whether or not any given economy faces such inflationary pressure. Anyone who thinks that describes the context today in the U.S. is invited to attempt that test to see for themselves.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* From Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms: The Play (which I’ve never read, except for this bit, which well-read commenters here have posted so many times over the years that it’s become a favorite passage of mine):

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

[syndicated profile] aqueductpress_feed

Posted by Timmi Duchamp

I'm pleased to announce the release, in both trade paperback and e-book editions, of The Prince of the Aquamarines as the forty-fourth volume in the Conversation Pieces series. It collects a pair of fairy tales by eighteenth-century author Louise Cavalier Levesque, translated by Ruth Berman, and an essay by the translator on the tradition of early modern French fairy tales and Levesque’s contribution to that tradition.

Louise Cavelier Levesque was born in Rouen, November 23, 1703, and died in Paris, May 18, 1745. She was one of the eighteenth-century writers who continued the tradition that had begun in the decade before her birth of creating new versions of fairy tales. Her two fairy tales were reprinted in 1744 and again as part of the Cabinet des fées. A much-abridged translation of "The Invisible Prince" was included in Andrew Lang's The Yellow Fairy Book (1894), but "Le Prince des Aigues Marines" has not appeared before in English.

In "The Prince of the Aquamarines," the Prince is cursed by a Bad Fairy with the gift of the death-dealing glance. The heroine, the Princess of the Island of Night, is likewise condemned by a Fairy to live alone in the Dark Tower, until freed by a monster whose sight brings death. In "The Invisible Prince," the curse is a prophecy delivered by the priest of Plutus, the god of wealth, who announces that the young prince will undergo assorted dangers that will, however, lead in the end to good fortune. The Prince's guardian fairy gives him the stone of invisibility in the hope that it will help get him safely through the intervening dangers. Both tales are all-out adventure stories featuring princes, princesses, bad fairies, shipwrecks, magical gifts, and dark towers.

The Prince of the Aquamarines is available now from Aqueduct's site, and will soon be available elsewhere.


Feb. 26th, 2015 07:30 pm
[syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
It has been a bad winter for pets.

Angus the little orange cat passed away yesterday. He'd been dropping weight faster than I liked, which we thought was a dental problem, but a week ago he started stumbling. It rapidly became clear that he had terrible vertigo, he began falling even with sitting, and his pupils were different sizes, which is a pretty clear sign of neurological problems. Our options were down to spending an exorbitant amount of money on CAT scans just to confirm what the vet was already sure of--tumor on the inner ear, clearly growing very fast.

There's very little treatment at that point. Even if we could spend an insane sum on brain surgery on a senior cat, even if it was miraculously successful, the inner ear was already damaged and he would spend the rest of his life thinking he was falling over. Since I would not wish my worst enemy to die of vertigo, we put him to sleep yesterday afternoon.

It was a shockingly fast decline and I'm still rather stunned. He was the sweetest little cat in the world, he wanted nothing more than to be on the bed, preferably tucked up against a human. He liked to sleep with his head on other cats' butts, to their general dismay.

I know this is the price of admission for having pets, and I never doubt that I will do it again and again and again, but god, we only lost Brandon last month. Twice in a row like this is hard. We are as skilled as people can be in making these choices, but I'd really like to not exercise that skill for awhile.

Well. Ben (or at least, Ben's butt) was the great love of Angus's life, and I hope they are together again in whatever afterlife awaits cats. And no one else in the house is allowed to die until 2016 at the earliest.
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by terriko

An internationally known community manager, speaker and author, Leslie Hawthorn has spent the past decade creating, cultivating and enabling open source communities. She created the world’s first initiative to involve pre-university students in open source software development, launched Google’s #2 Developer Blog, received an O’Reilly Open Source Award in 2010 and gave a few great talks on many things open source. In August 2013, she joined Elasticsearch as Director of Developer Relations, where she leads community relations efforts.

I’ve known Leslie for years now, and she is forever inspiring me with her ability not only to find visionary ways to improve the world, but also to follow-through with the rabble-rousing, cat herding, paperwork, and everything else that’s needed to take ideas from “wouldn’t it be nice if?” to “this is how we’re going to do it.”  I really enjoyed her recent blog post, A Place to Hang Your Hat, and asked Leslie if she had a bit of time for an interview to tell Geek Feminism blog readers a bit more about the idea.

For people who haven’t read your blog post yet, can you give us the point of “let’s all build a hat rack” in a few sentences?

In open source software projects – and life in general – there are any number of contributions that are underappreciated or go unacknowledged. I’m very aware of how often that underappreciation or lack of acknowledgement is due to socialization around what labor is considered valuable vs. what is largely invisible – we are taught to value and celebrate the accomplishments of white men and minimize the impact of the labor of women, people of color, transpeople, differently abled people, etc.

The let’s all build a hat rack project is a call to acknowledge all the diverse contributors and contributions in our work lives and volunteer projects, with a special emphasis on acknowledging folks who are not like you first. You can do this easily by writing them a recommendation on LinkedIn – which they can decide to approve for inclusion on their profile – or just sending them a thank you note they can use later. Bonus points for sharing your appreciation on social media using hashtag #LABHR.

Recommendation on LinkedIn: Holly Ross is, quite simply, amazing. She has completely transformed the Drupal Association into a well-run organization that is able to respond proactively, rather than reactively, to fast-paced changes in the larger Drupal ecosystem. She deeply understands the importance of communicating “early and often,” and has brought an enormous amount of transparency to our organization. She’s also extremely savvy about the unique challenges in an enormous, globally diverse, and largely unpaid community of contributors, and conscientious about how to balance that with the needs of our staff and our sponsors. I’ve never seen her back down from a challenge, and every time I have the pleasure of working with her, we always get tons of stuff done, and have tons of fun in the process.

Today, in the further adventures of #LABHR, a LinkedIn recommendation for the indefatigable @drupalhross! pic.twitter.com/b2ynru6uAa

— webchick (@webchick) February 18, 2015

What inspired the project?

It came about for a few reasons, but first and foremost I want to acknowledge Deb Nicholson for inspiring the phrase “let’s all build a hat rack.” There’s more about Deb’s contributions to my thinking and the open source community in the post, so please check it out.

Beyond that, the project came about largely due to the intersection of two frustrations: the lack of understanding people have for everything I – and friends like Deb – have accomplished, and the seemingly unending cycle of horrible news in the tech industry. While it’s important to have a clear and candid dialog about sexism, racism, ableism, transphobia and other issues impacting the diversity of the technical community, that seems to be all I am reading lately. The news is usually sensationalistic and often depressing.

I wanted to give myself and everyone I know something uplifting and useful to read, to encourage all of us to show gratitude and appreciation, and to make that show of gratitude a useful way for contributors who are usually not acknowledged to get the credit they deserve. Not just because they deserve it, but because that public acknowledgement of their work helps with acquiring jobs, landing their next big project and feeling good about continued contributions.

What tips do you have for people struggling to find someone to recommend?

You know, I figured this project would be really easy until I started writing up recommendations. To my earlier point about being socialized to see some labor as invisible or less valuable, I had no trouble thinking up white dudes who had done things I appreciate. I had to push myself harder to think about the women in my life who have made significant contributions, even though they are numerous. I can imagine that some humans, specifically male humans, are having the same issues.

So, to get started, think about things /actions / projects that have meant a great deal to you. Was there a conference you attended where you had an “ah ha” moment? Were you able to solve a problem thanks to great support on a project’s web forum or in their IRC channel? Did you read a blog post that was filled with brilliance and inspired you to be better at your craft? Cool. Were there people involved who were not like you? Great! Not sure exactly what they did? I’d call that an excellent opportunity to find out more about their involvement, thank them for educating you and their contribution, and then use that information to write a recommendation.

I’m not going to lie to anyone – you’re may have to think hard about this at first and it will be uncomfortable. You have to internalize the fact that you’ve been taught to see some very amazing work as non-existent or, at best, mere window dressing. That’s OK, too. The first step toward progress is thinking through that discomfort, then finding the humans to thank at the end of it.

If you’re still having trouble thinking of someone, that’s OK. Talk to your friends or fellow project members for suggestions. Tell them you’re thinking about participating in the #LABHR project, but need help getting started. Friends can help you think of people you’ve missed celebrating, and they may also want to join the experiment and recommend people, too!

I’ve always been impressed with your gracious ways of thanking and recommending people, so I feel like you must have some insight into writing good recommendations. Are there any suggestions you have for people who want to write a great ones?

Keep it short and simple. One of the things that makes writing recommendations hard is that we’re trying to encapsulate so many good qualities into a few short sentences. You don’t have to write down everything wonderful about the person you’re recommending, just the 3-5 ways they’ve been most impactful in your project / company / life. In a pinch, concentrate on things employers want to hear about, as that will make your recommendation most useful.

What impact do you hope to have on people’s lives with LABHR?

I’d like this experiment to give the technical community a reason to express more gratitude for all contributions. I especially want to give white male allies a clear, actionable path to improving things for underrepresented groups. Writing a recommendation will take you about 15 minutes, but it can have immeasurable impact on someone’s future career prospects.

I’m really excited to say that I’ve seen 15 permanent recommendations go by and a whole lot of shout-outs under the #LABHR hashtag so far. I hope many more recommendations will come.

Want to see more inspirational LABHR entries? Check out the #LABHR hashtag on twitter and then write your own!

[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

“First, let me say that I’m tired of all of this talk about ‘snubs,'” said an anonymous member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And continued:

And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.

In the video below, Jay Smooth takes on the idea that only “hillbillies” are racist and asks about the idea of the “good person” and what it actually takes to be one.

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)


Feb. 26th, 2015 08:24 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

I've been asked, many, many, times, how it is possible that I have enough stories, from my life as a fat, disabled man, to write a daily blog. The question always is asked with a tone that suggests that maybe I should just admit that these things I write about are more fiction than fact. For me, I always wondered how people could go through a whole day and NOT have a story to tell at the end of it, but then, we're all different.

I knew that I might have the 'story advantage' for a few reasons.

1. Visually, I'm 'dually different' I'm really fat, and I use a wheelchair. Right off that sets me up for interactions that are founded in one of those two differences. I have come to believe, from my own personal experience, that the most common social experience of those who are visibly different is social hostility in one form or another. That's not to say there aren't positive experiences, but if you added up every experience and placed them into two categories. Social violence would top social welcome every single time, every single day. I had an argument with someone with a disability who sees me as being 'too negative' about this fact. When I said this, she said that wasn't her experience. I asked her if in her calculations of her days, did she include the staring, the inappropriate comments, the annoyance of the space she takes. She said, dismissively, 'oh, I've gotten used to all that.' Well, maybe, but they still count.

Stories arise out of these kinds of interactions if you stay open enough to still see them, which I do, even years later.

2. I require help from others. My need of assistance pulls me into an odd kind of intimacy, even with strangers. Even the briefest interaction, like asking someone to reach something for me, results in a story pretty much every single time. I don't tell that story, to anyone other than Joe, to everyone all the time. Asking is an act of both bravery and vulnerability and establishes a dynamic that is entirely different from person to person and situation to situation.

3. By nature, I am a story teller. By nature I am introspective.

All of these I had realized a long while ago and I realized them all through the writing of this blog. But I wondered if those were the only reason. On a whim, I decided to try an experiment. I didn't tell Joe of this until after it was over because he was part of this little test. We were heading down Yonge Street, from Bloor to Dundas. It's a fair walk. The day was one that felt warm because the temperature was up to -8. I decided to count the number of interactions I had with random strangers on the street versus the number of interactions that Joe had. Joe is an affable guy so this was a very fair measure.

By the time we were down to College Street, in my mind this is about the half way point, I had spoken to 17 people and had non-verbal conversations with 3. Now the speaking to was mostly, 'excuse me' or 'sorry, can I get past please.' The non verbal conversations were about negotiating space - who's going which way and when. Joe had had 1. He's said hello to someone he recognized from the building we live in.

By the time we were down at Dundas, I was up to 28 verbal and 7 non verbal. Joe was still at 1. This means I had interactions with 34 more people than Joe did. Thirty four! That's a lot. I admit that I was surprised at the numbers, I expected that I had more interactions, I just didn't know exactly how big that number would be. I suspect it would be higher in summer with more people out on the sidewalks walking.

So clearly, at least to me, the more interactions you have, the more likely a story results.

However, this little study answered two questions. One we just looked at. The other? I'd wondered why I was always so socially tired when I got home from being out. Why, since I became disabled, I seemed to have a much greater need for privacy and quiet when I got home. I guess that's understandable now.

28:7:1 Wow

Celebrate World Pistachio Day!

Feb. 26th, 2015 12:42 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Today is World Pistachio Day!

(Wait … is this really a thing? It sounds made up. Let’s check. Yep, it’s real. Who knew?)

This is, obviously, a very big day for “American Pistachio Growers, the trade association representing more than 625 pistachio grower members in California, Arizona and New Mexico.”

PistachioDayThe pistachio growers trade association, of course, wants us all to celebrate World Pistachio Day by buying and eating lots of pistachios.

This is, on the one hand, an almost clumsily transparent example of crass commercialism. But then, on the other hand, it’s also a celebration of pistachios — which are delicious and nutritious and worth celebrating.

I mean, think about it — what’s the worst thing about pistachios? It’s those last few unopened nuts in the bottom of the bag, sitting there with their shells tightly clamped shut. You were just going to eat a few of these and save the rest for later, but then you couldn’t stop, somehow, and now you’ve got a pile of empty shells and you still want more, even though you’ve passed the point of Peak Pistachio. You’ve got a nutcracker around someplace in one of those drawers in the kitchen, but you haven’t seen it since last Christmas and you’re not sure if you can find it, or if it would even work since it’s designed for, like, Walnut-sized nuts. And anyway you’re not in the kitchen at the moment, so you just decide to try using your teeth. And that hurts.

It hurts, but it works — sort of. So you separate the rock-hard shell fragments in your mouth from the tasty morsel of that obstinate final pistachio, savoring it while giving thanks that you didn’t chip a tooth.

Would you have put yourself through all of that if pistachios weren’t worth celebrating?

Anyway, in the spirit of World Pistachio Day, I invite you to mark the occasion with my own clumsily transparent effort of crass commercialism in support of something tasty and nutritious. What goes better with pistachios than your very own eBook copy of The Anti-Christ Handbook? 

Just like a bag of pistachios, this book comes in convenient bite-sized chunks, but you still have the option of devouring the whole thing in one sitting. Yet it won’t leave you with a bunch of unopened, uncrackable chapters at the bottom.

The Anti-Christ Handbook is also far safer for those with nut allergies.

(Note: Today is also, apparently, “Tell a Fairy Tale Day,” which might have been a more apt subject for an awkward attempt to plug my ebook. But I’m not fully convinced this “event” is more than just an Internet rumor. I checked all the national fairy tale trade associations and couldn’t find any press releases mentioning the occasion.)

The Color of Pirating

Feb. 26th, 2015 12:34 pm
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Posted by April Stevens

By Peter T. Leeson (Guest Contributor)

Black PirateEighteenth-century pirate features, from skull-emblazed flags to wooden legs, pervade popular culture. One important pirate feature that doesn’t appear in most pop-culture treatments, however, is the fact that upward of a quarter of the average early 18th-century pirate crew was black.

Historical evidence on the free vs. slave status of black pirates is conflicting. Because of this it’s tempting to conclude that pirates, who were no more racially enlightened than their legitimate contemporaries, typically treated blacks as their legitimate contemporaries did: they enslaved them.

But as I argue in my new book, The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, this conclusion may be mistaken. Although some black pirates were slaves, it’s probable that many, and perhaps even most, black pirates were not. To be sure, pirates were as prejudiced as their legitimate contemporaries. But unlike in legitimate society, in pirate society, prejudiced thinking didn’t necessarily mean prejudiced policy.

The reason for this is straightforward: pirates were profit seekers. They cared more about gold and silver than they cared about black and white. And granting blacks their freedom was often more profitable than enslaving them.

A pirate crew’s benefit of enslaving a sailor was the additional booty the slave’s wage-less labor brought it. But the crew’s cost of enslaving a sailor could be much higher. If the slave escaped and informed the authorities on his pirate captors, or together with other conscripts succeeded in overthrowing his enslavers and delivered them to the law, the pirates faced the unpleasant prospect of hanging and thus the end of their roguish lives. Since the cost of enslaving a sailor often exceeded the benefit, in many cases, granting black sailors their freedom was simply good business.

Pirate profit seeking, not progressivism, prodded some sea scoundrels to practice racial tolerance. But this doesn’t diminish the tolerance they showed. In their pursuit of self-interest these pirates were led, as if by an “invisible hook,” in some ways reminiscent of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” to treat black sailors as equals.

Peter T. Leeson is author of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates (Princeton University Press). Image courtesy of the author.


[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

• “I support establishing Christianity as the national religion.” — 57 percent of Republicans, according to a recent survey by Public Policy Polling. Another 13 percent were “not sure” whether or not repealing the First Amendment was a good idea.

• “The three biggest problems that have to be solved are welfare, the debt and our ridiculous immigration system where we’re becoming the welfare magnet for the western hemisphere.” — Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin.

Alabama state Chief Justice Roy Moore is anti-LGBT, but also a bit confused about what exactly the B and T parts of that mean: “When two bisexuals or two transgendered marry, how large is that family? Can they marry two persons, one of the same sex and one of the opposite sex? Then, you’ve got a family of four or how many?”

GOP• “Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?” That’s Idaho state Rep. Vito Barbieri during a debate on new abortion restrictions he supports (because controlling women’s bodies apparently doesn’t require understanding them). Rep. Barbieri directed the question to Dr. Julie Madsen, who patiently explained that a pill swallowed by a woman would not end up in her vagina.

Poor Barbieri is probably now rethinking how it is that those little blue pills he swallows might work.

• “If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus, and we can put a pic line into your body and we’re flushing, let’s say, salt water, sodium cardonate [sic], through that line, and flushing out the fungus. … These are some procedures that are not FDA-approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective.” — Republican Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore. (Note: Cancer is actually not a “fungus” that can be flushed out with salt water. Just FYI.)

• “If I want to let my child be with God, why is that wrong?” — Idaho state Rep. Christy Perry, speaking in opposition to a proposed law to prevent parents from denying their children medical care and opting instead for “faith healing.”

• “I do not believe in evolution.” — 49 percent of Republicans, according to the same PPP poll. Again, 13 percent were also “not sure.”

• “Each illegal alien will get $24,000 in compensation,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona. The tough part of fact-checking this story wasn’t demonstrating that Gosar’s claim was false, but trying to figure out what the heck he might even be talking about.

• “Mistakes were made.” — Former Pres. George H.W. Bush, former Pres. George W. Bush, and now former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

• “A strategically placed nuclear weapon would save the lives of our soldiers and quickly turn things around.” — Republican Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, calling for the U.S. to nuke ISIS.

• “The Black Caucus … are really against war because they want all of that money to go to food stamps for people here,” said retired Republican Rep. Ron Paul. Whenever he says stuff like that, some poor staffer in the office of his son, Sen. Rand Paul, has to come up with some way of spinning it where it sounds less enthusiastically racist.

• “I come from a town where all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.” — Mississippi state Rep. Gene Alday, who says his remarks were taken out of context, but was unable to provide any context, real or imagined, that might not make them sound stupid and awful. Alday’s comments, by the way, were in opposition to funding for education.

• “Obviously, rape is awful,” said West Virginia Del. Brian Kurcaba who, alas, was not done talking. “What is beautiful is the child that could come from this.”




Children of the Prison Boom

Feb. 25th, 2015 09:45 pm
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

The United States imprisons more people than any other country. This is true whether you measure by percentage of the population or by sheer, raw numbers. If the phrase mass incarceration applies anywhere, it applies in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

It wasn’t always this way. Rates of incarceration began rising as a result of President Reagan’s “war on drugs” in the ’80s (marijuana, for example), whereby the number of people imprisoned for non-violent crimes began climbing at an alarming rate. Today, about one-in-31 adults are in prison. his is a human rights crisis for the people that are incarcerated, but its impact also echoes through the job sector, communities, families, and the hearts of children. One-in-28 school-age children — 2.7 million — have a parent in prison.

2 (1)

In a new book, Children of the Prison Boom, sociologists Christopher Wildeman and Sara Wakefield describe the impact of parental imprisonment on children: an increase in poverty, homelessness, depression, anxiety, learning disorders, behavioral problems, and interpersonal aggression. Some argue that taking parents who have committed a crime out of the family might be good for children, but the data is in. It’s not.

Parental incarceration is now included in research on Adverse Childhood Experiences and it’s particular contours include shame and stigma alongside the trauma. It has become such a large problem that Sesame Street is incorporating in their Little Children, Big Challenges series and has a webpage devoted to the issue. Try not to cry as a cast member sings “you’re not alone” and children talk about what it feels like to have a parent in prison:

Wildeman and Wakefield, alongside another sociologist who researches the issue, Kristin Turney, are interviewed for a story about the problem at The Nation. They argue that even if we start to remedy mass incarceration — something we’re not doing — we will still have to deal with the consequences. They are, Wildeman and Wakefield say, “a lost generation now coming of age.”

The subtitle of their book, Mass Incarceration and the Future of Inequality, points to how that lost generation might exacerbate the already deep race and class differences in America. At The Nation, Katy Reckdahl writes:

One in four black children born in 1990 saw their father head off to prison before they turned 14… For white children of the same age, the risk is one in thirty. For black children whose fathers didn’t finish high school, the odds are even greater: more than 50 percent have dads who were locked up by the time they turned 14…

Even well-educated black families are disproportionately affected by the incarceration boom. Wakefield and Wildeman found that black children with college-educated fathers are twice as likely to see them incarcerated as the children of white high-school dropouts.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow hung like a weight around the shoulders of the parents of black and brown children. After Jim Crow, the GI Bill and residential redlining strangled their chances to build wealth that they could pass down. The mass incarceration boom is just another in a long history of state policies that target black and brown people — and their children — severely inhibiting their life chances.

Hat tip Citings and Sightings. Cross-posted at A Nerd’s Guide to New Orleans.

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

The Anti-Christ Handbook: The Horror and Hilarity of Left Behind is now the No. 1 best-seller on Amazon.com (sub-category Kindle Store; sub-category Kindle eBooks; sub-category paid; sub-category Religion & Spirituality; sub-category Christian Books & Bibles; sub-category Theology; sub-category Eschatology.) The very top of its sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-category! Number 1!

It’s an honor just to see my name alongside those of distinguished theologians like N.T. Wright and Todd Burpo.

Screen shot 2015-02-25 at 2.47.11 PM

The Anti-Christ Handbook is also No. 5 in the sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-category of Theology, and No. 60 in the sub∧5-category of Christian eBooks and Bibles. Plus it’s No. 18 in the sub-sub-sub-sub-category of Kindle/eBooks/paid/Humor (where, inexplicably, Heaven Is for Real doesn’t seem to be listed at all).

Just imagine what might happen once I hire ResultSource to work their magic!

Let me switch off all snark here for a moment to say a sincere Thank You to everyone who’s purchased a copy of this or shared/Tweeted/recommended it to others.

And hearty thanks, as well, to those of you who offered kind words in your reviews at Amazon.

I’d be delighted if this ebook continued to sell well enough that all of you who’ve read and supported this site for so long were eventually able to strike a hipster pose and sniff, “Yeah, well, The Anti-Christ Handbook is OK, but I liked it better when it was on TypePad. …” You’ve earned that, at the very least.

Sincerely, thank you.

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Mike Huckabee describes Masada as “a God-made fortress.” That confusion — the inability to tell the difference between God and King Herod — explains much of Huckabee’s ideology.

• It’s not surprising that Christian-brand media is mainly watched/read/listened to by Christian-brand audiences. The survey was conducted by the Southern Baptist affiliated LifeWay, which puts a positive spin on it, suggesting it shows one third of the audience for “Christian” media industry is “unchurched.”


Dave Lartigue writes in praise of Guy Smoking a Pipe in a Rocketship. (click pic for link)

Christianity Today provides an even more positive and spinnier spin by describing this media consumption as one-third “evangelism” and two-thirds “discipleship.” That’s a bit optimistic, considering we’re talking about the kind of “Christian” media peddled by the National Religious Broadcasters and the CBA (those letters once stood for “Christian Booksellers Association,” but the group now fesses up and just calls itself the “Association for Christian Retail”). It’s hard to see how 90 percent of that stuff could be considered credible for either evangelism or discipleship.

To be fair, of course, Sturgeon’s Law reminds us that 90 percent of everything is crud.

• Completely unrelated: “America’s Largest Christian Bookstore Chain Files for Bankruptcy.” They’re not planning on closing any stores, though, so this shouldn’t affect the nation’s vital supply of Amish romance novels.

• Speaking of book sales: The Anti-Christ Handbook, Vol. 1 has now sold 191 copies — just 475 more to reach my goal!

• Surprised not to find “sensible shoes” in this list: “Code Words for Lesbianism in Classic Films.”

• “Bush Derangement Syndrome sought extraordinary explanations for extraordinary events; Obama Derangement Syndrome seeks extraordinary explanations for an ordinary presidency.”

• “Historian” David Barton recounts his personal history as a record-setting NCAA basketball player. This appears to be every bit as reliable as everything else Barton says.

• “Save the Bros.” Well played, Organic Valley. Well played.

Click here to view the embedded video.


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Posted by April Stevens

By Adrienne Mayor (Regular Contributor)

AEleTeethfrican slaves dug up some colossal teeth while working in a swampy field on Stono Plantation (North Carolina) in about 1725. The English botanist Mark Catesby visited Stono to view the amazing discovery. His hosts, the plantation owners, told him that the great molars were all that was left of a giant victim of Noah’s Flood from the Bible. At that time, that was the common explanation for all oversized fossils in Europe and the American colonies. But Catesby also questioned the slaves on the plantation. He wrote that the “Opinion of all the Negroes, native Africans, who saw the teeth” was unanimous. These were the molars of  a familiar animal from their homeland. The slaves insisted that the big teeth belonged to an elephant. Catesby agreed with the slaves. Unlike the white masters, Catesby had examined some enormous molars of an African elephant in a London museum.

In Paris the famous French naturalist Georges Cuvier was intrigued by Catesby’s account. Cuvier was working on his new theory that huge fossils around the world belonged to prehistoric creatures, mammoths and mastodons. He was gathering evidence to show that these animals were the ancient ancestors of  today’s elephants, and that they had all perished in a catastrophe ages ago. Cuvier was impressed, declaring that “les nègres” in America had correctly recognized a fossil elephant species before any European naturalist realized that extinct mammoths were related to living elephants.

The slaves at Stono were originally from Angola or the Congo, the habitat of living Loxodonta elephant species of Africa. The teeth they found at Stono belonged to a great Columbian mammoth that had died thousands of years earlier and was buried in the swamp. Mammoth teeth are flat with ridges (unlike the sharp, pointed teeth of mastodons) and they closely resemble the “grinders” of living African elephants. African people had often observed the skeletons, skulls, and teeth of  elephants in Africa, and that experience allowed them to correctly identify the mammoth teeth in America. They must have been excited to find the remains of a familiar African animal so far from home.

About 50 years later, in 1782, workmen digging in salt marshes in Virginia unearthed teeth and “Bones of uncommon size.” Major Arthur Campbell sent these to Thomas Jefferson, with a letter saying that “Several sensible Africans have seen the tooth, particularly a fellow” owned by Jefferson’s neighbor. “All [the Africans] pronounced it an Elephant.” That means that the teeth belonged to a mammoth like at Stono, not to a mastodon. Once again, African slaves correctly identified the fossils that bewildered their white masters. Jefferson had a hard time accepting Cuvier’s idea that all that these behemoths were extinct. He wanted to believe that they still lived somewhere in the New World and hoped that Lewis and Clark would find herds of great American elephants grazing in the Northwest Territories.

About the author: Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University. She is the author of “Fossil Legends of the First Americans” (2005); “The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myths in Greek and Roman Times” (2011), and “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy,” a nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award.


Two Babies

Feb. 25th, 2015 08:06 am
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Posted by Dave Hingsburger

A few days ago I had the opportunity to hold a brand, new, baby. A little girl. She was only days old. I had been making my way through a mall near me when I heard my name called out. I turned to see a woman waving, someone I did not recognize, and I turned to roll back to her. It turns out that she'd heard me lecture a few times and had been assigned to read two of my books as part of her college studies. She wanted to say "Hi." She was sitting, as she talked with me, with a baby carriage that she was slowly and gently pushing forward and then pulling back.

After we exchanged a few pleasantries she asked if I'd do her the honour of letting her take a picture of m with her baby. She explained quickly, seeming to want to make the request understandable, that her little girl had Down Syndrome and she wanted, one day, to have this picture to show her child. I was immediately, and profoundly, moved by the request. I eagerly agreed. I like kids. I like all the possibilities that they represent.

Mom roused the infant from sleep and placed her in my arms. She opened her eyes, looked at me, and fell immediately back to sleep. Twice honoured. She felt safe in my arms. I felt wonderful holding her. The picture was snapped. I asked if I could hold the baby for just a wee while longer. When we were done chatting, I passed the little girl over and we said our goodbyes.

I left thinking about another time and another baby. Then, again, an infant girl with Down Syndrome. The difference was, then, that the child had been abandoned at birth and was adopted by a woman who worked at a service agency that I consulted to. She was thrilled and proud of her little girl and when I came to visit, I'd get to hold the baby.

I remember the first time I held that baby all those years ago. Institutions were still doing brisk business, segregated schools still were the primary option and work shops rather than work places were where all paths led. I held her and tried to think of a future full of colour and of choice, of self determination and of voice, of the possibilities of love and the possibilities of adulthood. I tried to think of this for her. I tried, in my heart to imagine her into a future that she would create, rather than a future that others would make for her. I tried and it was hard. Really hard. I remember the weight of that baby in my arms and the weight on my shoulders as I recommitted myself to work for change.

This time, I held the baby, it was different somehow. The institutions are closed, segregated schools are gone, people with disabilities are finding their way into meaningful lives. I have been to high school graduations. I have been to weddings. I have been served, in shops, by people with disabilities. It's different. But. It's not different. I didn't know about the abuse of people with disabilities back then. I didn't know about the rate of bullying and teasing back then. I knew these things happened but I didn't know how big the problem is. I held this baby, this little girl, who felt safe in my arms. Who slept in my arms. Who trusted herself to me. I held her and again felt a need to recommit myself to work for change.

All of us in the disability community, those with disabilities themselves, those who parent those with disabilities, those who work to support those with disabilities, those who are family and friends of those with disabilities, those who work for and advocate for justice and rights and freedom for people with disabilities, we all need moments where we recommit ourselves to the fight for change. We need to have moments when we look, again, at why we do what we do. We need to realize it matters.

Really matters.

Because there is a baby girl, with Down Syndrome, sleeping comfortably in the trust that her future will be bright.

And by God, we can't break that trust.
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Posted by Jack El-Hai

By Jack El-Hai, Wonders & Marvels contributor

Eighty years ago, racially motivated lynching in the U.S. was disturbingly common — there were 20 lynchings reported in 1935. Among its many activities intended to call attention to the injustice and brutality of these public murders, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sponsored an art exhibition in New York City. It was the first display of art in the U.S. organized around the themes of lynching and discrimination against African-American men. At the time, few galleries anywhere in America showed art by black artists or works that explored racial themes.

The 1893 lynching of Henry Smith, Paris, Texas

The 1893 lynching of Henry Smith, Paris, Texas

Titled An Art Commentary on Lynching, the show ran from February 13 through March 2, 1935, in the Arthur U. Newton Galleries in Midtown Manhattan. (Its home was originally to be the Jacques Seligmann Galleries, but the management there backed out.) It was a pet project of NAACP director Walter White, who wanted to build support for legislation to make lynching a federal crime.

The 38 artists whose works appeared in the exhibition included one woman (Peggy Bacon) and ten African Americans. White asked each of the contributors to focus on the violence of lynching, no matter how disturbing the result may be for visitors. And White got what he wanted: a collection of works laden with gore, terror, and hatred. (A few of the artists used milder religious imagery.) About 3,000 people took it all in.

Visitors saw John Steuart Curry’s lithograph The Fugitive, Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture Death, Harry Sternberg’s lithograph Southern Holiday, Thomas Hart Benton’s painting A Lynching, Wilmer Jennings’s linocut At the End of the Rope, and Peggy Bacon’s caricatures of infamous Southern judges, among other memorable works. Much of the exhibition’s featured art has not survived to the present day, and many of their creators have disappeared into obscurity.

White hoped that the creation and display of these artworks would heighten the public’s awareness of lynching and increase the general outrage. In the end, while his advocacy opened some eyes and generated a little news coverage it failed to bring about the passage of any federal anti-lynching legislation. His work to launch An Art Commentary on Lynching on a national tour also never came to fruition.

Further reading:

Dray, Philip. At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America. Random House, 2002.

Vendryes, Margaret Rose. “Hanging on Their Walls: An Art Commentary on Lynching, the Forgotten 1935 Art Exhibition,” published in Race Consciousness: African-American Studies for the New Century, edited by Judith Jackson Fossett and Jeffrey A. Tucker. New York University Press, 1997.



And I saw a lot of seaweed

Feb. 25th, 2015 02:38 am
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Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Today was a very good day. I woke up early, and I was lying in my bed, unable to go back to sleep because of these huge black birds that call out to each other in a way that’s as effective as any alarm.  They start to shrill out to each other just before sunrise, announcing to their whole world that another day is starting, and as the sky just started to lighten, I realized that I had an opportunity. An opportunity to see the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea, and to take a picture so that I could post it, and it would then seem to all of you that I am the sort of person who gets up for the sunrise.

sunrise 2015-02-24

See? Doesn’t it look exactly like I’m the sort of pure spirit who gets up and does that? Sure it does.  (I will admit to doing one tiny sun salutation on the beach, but hell. How could you not?)  The rest of the day marched along smartly, with one major development.

snorkleknit 2015-02-24

Miraculously, today I got really comfortable with snorkelling. Mum and I tried it for the first time last year, and she was really good, and goes out alone all the time, and she’s starting to look pretty savvy out there. Me? My attempts have largely been successful, though have been punctuated by episodes where I inexplicably screw the whole thing up, draw a large lungful of air, and then near drown myself just offshore.

Today was different. Today I got the hang of how to clear the thing, and how to get it on your face so it doesn’t leak, and how to keep it from fogging up – it went really well.  I don’t have any fins, so I just swim along, and I don’t make good time, but I am a very strong swimmer, so I can stay out a long time.  Today I remembered I’m a good swimmer, and I got the mask on right, and figured out what to do if the whole system fills up, and once I had that all sorted, it was really fun. It was… peaceful, and weird to be floating along with your face down in the water, and still be breathing. (Trick number one to snorkelling. Convince yourself that you can breathe, even though your face is underwater. It’s harder than you think.  Instinct is a powerful, beautiful thing.)   Today it was all going so well, and I saw some pretty fish that were blue and yellow and black, and some that were just black and white, and many fish that I know are Barracuda, and then a fish that was as long as me – and about seven of his friends, all lurking around on the bottom of the sea, trying to look innocent, even thought they all had great pointy teeth.

The moment though – was when I was cruising along, and suddenly a great chunk of the ocean floor moved. I wasn’t in very deep, and I was in a place where the sand rose up, in a small underwater hill, and below me, only a metre or two away, a big thing was going. I don’t see very well, and I didn’t have my glasses on (obviously) so I kept swimming on, and only when I was right on top of the thing did I realize it was a big stingray. I froze.

I stopped swimming entirely, and didn’t move a muscle as it winged by right underneath me, and I tried desperately to remember what I knew about them.  Did they really sting? Was that a myth? What made it sting? What about that Australian guy? Was there anywhere to go? Was this dangerous? How do you run away in the ocean?

I realized quickly that he was going his way, and I was going mine, and I couldn’t think of any reason we would hurt each other if we were both quiet and sorted, and off it went, with its great long tail trailing behind it.  It was huge, and it was beautiful, and I am very glad I am learning to snorkle.

Then about 5 seconds later a piece of seaweed touched my leg and I just about had a heart attack and drowned myself.

It was elegant.  Knittter out.

Niebuhr and Aristotle and Jay Smooth

Feb. 24th, 2015 11:40 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

President Obama’s recent speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, followed by his remarks at the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, have produced yet another round of discussion of Obama’s Niebuhrian philosophy.

Some of that discussion has been interesting, while much of it has also been ponderous and pretentious.

Let’s cut past all of that ponderousness and pretension here and check out the latest Illipsis video from YouTube philosopher Jay Smooth, “The Oscars and learning the craft of being good.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Smooth doesn’t cite Niebuhr, but if you want a nutshell summary of the theologian’s ideas about ethics and human nature, he provides it for you right here:

That mindset right there is what does as much as anything to perpetuate injustice all over our society. That assumption that only a “cretin” or a monster or a bad person would ever be racist or sexist or harbor any sort of bias or prejudice.

ReinholdJayThat right there is the Big Lie. There is nothing that does more to perpetuate injustice than good people who assume that injustice is caused by bad people. That’s just not how being good works. And that’s not how being a human being works.

The truth … is that all of us, as good people, are still naturally prone to doing bad things. We all have natural tendencies toward implicit bias and prejudice and bad habits. …

This is something I’ve learned the hard way in my 25 years in hip hop. I’ve worked on lots of projects over the years and I have never once said to myself, “I would like to have a roomful of dudes on this project.” But if I didn’t make a conscious commitment to prioritize breaking that Roomful of Dudes cycle, if I just took for granted that I’m a fair person and therefore I’ll make fair decisions, I usually wound up with a room full of dudes. Because that’s how everything just naturally flows in the hip hop industry, and it took me a long time to learn — and I’m still learning, every day — that if I just believe that I’m a just person, and therefore my choices are just, I’m going to be part of the problem.

“All of us, as good people, are still naturally prone to doing bad things.” And “There is nothing that does more to perpetuate injustice than good people who assume that injustice is caused by bad people.”

There you go. Two sentences from a five-minute video and you just saved yourself all the time it would’ve taken you to read Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness and The Irony of American History and The Nature and Destiny of Man. (You should still read them, I think. Niebuhr does have a bit more to say than only that. But that little snippet from Jay Smooth gives you all you’ll need to bluff your way through a conversation at a seminary faculty luncheon.)

But wait … there’s more. In addition to a crash-course in Niebuhrian human nature and the way injustice gets structured into human institutions and human society, Jay Smooth also offers us a pithy, fast-paced introduction to virtue ethics a la Aristotle and Co.

… it took me a long time to learn — and I’m still learning, every day — that if I just believe that I’m a just person, and therefore my choices are just, I’m going to be part of the problem. And I can only really be just, I can only really be good, if I commit every day to learning the craft of being good, to practicing the craft of being good.

Every actor that we saw on that Oscar stage last night is an artist who is committed to the craft of acting. And I guarantee that not one of them just wakes up every day assuming that they’re a good actor. They all work and practice every day to be the best actor they can be, because they are committed to this as a craft. … We are imperfect humans who constantly generate imperfections, and that means no matter how good you think you are, you can’t just wake up every day assuming that you’re a good, fair, well-rounded person. Being a good person has to be a craft that you practice every day.

And when you see these broader patterns of exclusion reflected on the Oscar stage, we’ve got to recognize that not as the product of monsters or cretins, but as a status quo perpetuated by people just like me and you making hundreds of decisions every day where we assume that we’re good and that’s good enough instead of committing to the practice, to learning the craft of being good.

That’s more than enough to let you bluff your way through any discussion of virtue ethics. (If cornered, you can pretend you read this in Stanley Hauerwas or Alasdair MacIntyre rather than admitting it came from a Jay Smooth video on YouTube.)

At the risk of reintroducing some of that ponderousness and pretension I’m trying to avoid here, let me also point out that Smooth’s argument seamlessly blends that Niebuhrian stuff and the crafty stuff from virtue ethics. These two things aren’t always seen as complementary — some have even argued that they’re contradictory. Part of what I like about this video is that Smooth shows how they can — maybe even must — go together.


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Posted by Fred Clark

My friend was nervous about meeting her new boyfriend’s mother for the first time.

“She’s Catholic,” she said.

“You’re Catholic,” I reminded her.

“Yeah, but she’s, like, very Catholic.”

Ah. That’s different.

I’ve known lots of people who might, in the usual sense of very, be described as “very Catholic.” In my first job after college, I was part of an interfaith network that included the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and a bunch of other impressive, formidable women from a host of other Catholic orders. These were people whose lives were wholly shaped by their faith and wholly devoted to their various remarkable ministries. Their lives exemplified the Christian virtues and the fruits of the Spirit.

But people like that aren’t what we mean when we talk about someone like my friend’s future mother-in-law (as it turns out), who are not just Catholic but very Catholic.

The intensifier “very,” in this usage, doesn’t refer to a difference in degree, but to a difference in kind. When we say that someone is very Catholic, or very Baptist, in this sense, what we mean is that this is a person who has strong opinions about Catholicism — more specifically, we mean a person who has strong opinions about other people’s faith, which they likely regard as insufficient for a whole host of reasons. The boyfriend’s mom wasn’t “very Catholic” because she attended Mass several times a week, she was “very Catholic” because she frowned on anyone else who failed to do so.

So in a sense it’s not the substance of someone’s religion that makes that person “very” religious. It’s their habit of judging the substance of other people’s religion. Those we deem to be very religious are those, in other words, who make a point of pointing out that they are very religious. Some people like to say that they are more religious than the rest of us, and the rest of us, oddly, seem to take their word for it.

We shouldn’t take their word for it, but yet we usually do.

On the one hand, we recognize that their measure of religiosity isn’t the best one. We’re aware that being judgmental, touting extravagant religious totems, and constantly picking fights over the supposed shortcomings of others are not reliable evidence of healthy, credible religious devotion. But at the same time we often let them get away with this. In the Yeatsian terms we discussed the other day, we’ve allowed the worst to define for us what “passionate intensity” should look like.



Turn to any religious tradition that’s been around for a generation or more and you will find examples and exemplars from both ends of that spectrum. What you won’t find is any good reason to accept the assertion or the implication that those on one side actually possess or demonstrate a greater passion or conviction than those on the other. Yet we’ve learned to assume that’s the case. We’ve somehow got the idea in our heads that a more separatist, exclusive, bounded form of religion must involve a greater degree of devotion and commitment.

Look at the language we fall back on when we discuss violent religious conflict. It is the work, we say, of “extremists.” The peacemakers who seek to avoid or to end such violence we refer to as “moderates.” We thus grant one form of religion a presumption of authenticity and legitimate zeal, while we cast doubt on the other form, suspecting its adherents of a lukewarm, muddled “moderation.”

We often fall into this same biased language when we discuss less-violent forms of religious conflict, such as the “culture wars” here in the U.S. An anti-gay, anti-feminist or anti-science culture warrior is granted the presumption of authenticity. Any religious person who takes the opposing view is prone to being viewed as less authentic — less committed, less religious. (This is one part of why a statement endorsed by 500 mainline Protestant clergy never gets half the attention of a statement endorsed by 50 evangelical pastors.)

Again, on some level we recognize that this framework is absurd. To consider an extreme set of examples, we know that the inquisitorial obsession of Tomás de Torquemada cannot be said to represent a more authentic form of Christian conviction than the humility of Francis of Assisi. But we’re still more likely to describe the inquisitor as “extreme” or as “zealous” than we are to apply such valuations to the saint.

This is a funhouse mirror that skews our perception of religion. That, in turn, skews religion itself and the ways that religion affects the rest of the world.

This framework grants an advantage to one kind of religion over the other. One strain is rewarded with the presumption of authenticity. The other is punished with the presumption of a lack of conviction. That grants the former greater influence within the religious tradition, and greater influence in the larger society.

I’d prefer we didn’t do that.


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Posted by Seth Koven

By Seth Koven (Guest Contributor)


Muriel Lester, Courtesy of Bishopsgate Institute

The “lives of the obscure,” Virginia Woolf lamented, had a way of dissolving into the “fine mistlike substance of countless lives.”[i] Woolf may have demanded histories of watercress and flower girls and yet this task she conspicuously never undertook. The Match Girl and the Heiress accepts Woolf’s challenge. It chronicles the remarkable partnership of Nellie Dowell (1876-1923), a half-orphaned Cockney match factory worker and Muriel Lester (1883-1968), the daughter of a wealthy ship builder and world-renowned pacifist humanitarian. In loving one another, these unlikely soul mates sought to inaugurate a Christian revolution on earth founded upon living by the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount. The bricks and mortar incarnation of their friendship was Kingsley Hall “people’s house,” Gandhi’s London slum home in 1931.


When I first consulted the Lester papers in Dagenham, Nellie’s letters were among the few items that Muriel appeared to have self-archived. This is a photograph of the tattered manila envelope in which she put Nellie’s letters.

I stumbled upon Nellie Dowell the very first day I traveled to Kingsley Hall’s Dagenham branch. There, I found a wrinkled manila envelope on which Muriel, in the unsteady hand of great old age, had written the word “Nell” and self-archived her friend’s witty tender letters to her. Full of chatty details about nephews and sisters, humorous asides about clutching a volume of Tolstoy as German “Zeps” darkened the wartime sky, and her longing for Muriel, Nellie’s letters mystified and delighted me.

By the time Muriel reread Nellie’s letters for the last time and put them back into their envelope, Nellie had been dead for decades. And Muriel had long since become a grande dame of social justice pacifism. Her life story had apotheosized into the stuff of Sunday school curricula. Muriel Lester Houses and Groups dotted the post-WWII American landscape. This only deepened my curiosity. Why did Nellie write these letters and why had Muriel cherished and preserved them?


Nellie Dowell to Muriel Lester, Lester Papers, Courtesy of Bishopsgate Institute. Nellie contrasts the formality of Muriel’s opulent family home in her posh suburb of Loughton with the welcoming informality of Kingsley Hall.

To answer these seemingly small questions about Nellie and Muriel’s entwined lives led me to write a big book about rather large historical questions. Nellie’s confinement in late-Victorian England’s most notorious barrack school orphanage at Forest Gate brought me face to face with what it might mean for a child to not have a childhood. I found myself writing a history of global capitalism at the dawn of the new century as I retraced Nellie’s mobile proletarian life as a match factory worker from the London slums to the shimmering hillsides of Wellington, New Zealand to Sweden and back again to London. The letters beckoned me into forgotten worlds of Christian revolutionaries and pacifist feminists, of poor law orphans in their soul-deadening blue serge uniforms and fierce match factory girls on strike for fair wages and a safe workplace.

But above all, these loving letters prompted me to think about the elasticity and power of love to change the world. At the root of this friendship was a radical reinterpretation of God not as an angry punishing Father but as devoted reconciling friend. These letters beckoned me to explore the intimate inner life of Muriel and Nellie’s project to use Jesus’s love – and their own — to build a New Jerusalem in the heart of a London slum free from the deforming hierarchies of class, sex, race and nation. That they often failed to achieve these utopian goals even in their own everyday lives – and that they knew and accepted their own and humanity’s imperfections – must be counted among this book’s most important lessons. The Match Girl and the Heiress is my story about theirs.


[i] Virginia Woolf, “Lives of the Obscure,” in The Common Reader, First Series (London, 1925).

Screen shot 2015-02-23 at 4.49.07 PMSeth Koven is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University and the author of the recently published The Match Girl and the Heiress and Slumming: Social and Sexual Politics in Victorian London (2004).

W&M is excited to have three (3) copies of The Match Girl and the Heiress for this month’s giveaway! Be sure to enter below by 11:00pm EST on February 28th to qualify (your entry includes a subscription to W&M Monthly).

Please note that, at this time, we can only ship within the US.

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December Book Giveaways

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Posted by Fred Clark

So, here’s a link to the Amazon page for The Anti-Christ Handbook, Vol. 1., which compiles the first three years of Left Behind blogging here in convenient e-book format for Kindle or the Kindle app. (The app lets you read this on your phone, which seems strangely appropriate.)

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 9.43.23 AMOn the one hand, it seems odd to pay $3.99 for what is essentially repackaged content that can still be read for free here on this blog. But on the other hand, $3.99 is only about the same price as a Big Mac, and this e-book won’t result in the lingering discomfort of McRegret. So there’s that.

Self-publishing is, of course, a bit tacky — particularly since this product was also self-edited and therefore likely contains several glaring and embarrassing typos. But I’ve made my peace with that. I used to do dinner theater, after all — “interactive” murder mystery dinner theater for which the tickets cost a lot more than $3.99.

And despite the self-published tackiness, I’m still pretty pleased with this compilation. There are some pretty decent theological discussions in there, along with some pretty indecent jokes.

I should warn you that purchasing this collection will almost certainly mean that you won’t be Raptured. I don’t believe that Killer Vengeance Jesus is coming back to snatch away all the Real, True Christians, but in the unlikely event that such a thing does happen, the possession of this e-book will almost certainly disqualify you from being whisked off to Heaven. You will be left behind with the rest of us sinners.

But if you’re willing to take that risk, you can click over to Amazon and pick up your copy of The Anti-Christ Handbook. For now, at least, you can buy this book without even needing the number of the beast marked on your right hand and forehead.





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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

California’s Central Valley is a bread basket of America. It is the source of much of the country’s grapes, tree fruit, nuts, and vegetables. Many of the farms are massive, requiring large amounts of capital, land, and labor.

In the nearby small towns are the homes of the state’s farm laborers. They are primarily Latino. About half are undocumented. Most are poor and few have health care. Politically and economically weak, they are the primary human victims of pesticide drift.

Pesticide drift occurs when chemicals leave the fields for which they’re intended and travel to where humans can be exposed. According to data summarized by geographer Jill Harrison for her article on the topic, California is a pesticide-intensive state. It accounts for 2-3% of all cropland in the U.S., but uses 25% of the pesticides. One in ten of registered pesticides are prone to drift and a third include chemicals that are “highly acutely toxic” or cause cancer, reproductive or developmental disorders, or brain damage. Officially, there are an average of 370 cases of pesticide poisoning due to drift every year, but farmworker advocates say that this captures 10% of the victims at best.

Teresa DeAnda, an environmental justice advocate, stands on the dirt road between an agricultural field and her neighborhood (image from Voices from the Valley):

State officials and representatives of agriculture business minimize pesticide drift; Harrison calls this “down-scaling.” They claim it’s accidental, rare, and not an integral part of the system when it operates well. “Unfortunately from time to time we have tragic accidents,” says one Health Department official. “I think the number of incidents that have occurred given the, are really not that significant…” says another. “The system works,” says an Agricultural Commissioner, “Unfortunately, we have people who don’t follow the law.” All of these tactics serve to make the problem seem small and localized.

It’s not easy to get politicians to pay attention to some of the weakest of their constituents, but activists have made some headway by what Harrison calls “pushing it up the scale.” Contesting its framing it as small problem by virtue of its frequency or impact, they argue that pesticide drift is routine, regular, and systemic. “These things happen every day,” says one resident. “You can smell [the pesticide use],” says another. “You can see it. When you drive, it gets on your windshield.” An activist argues: “The art of pesticide application is not precision delivery. It’s sloppy, and it often spills.” They further contest the downscaling by arguing that pesticide drift is harming the overall air quality. By describing it as air pollution, they make it a state of California problem, one that affects everyone. This makes it more difficult for big agriculture to say it’s no big deal.

An activist upscales in Wasco, CA (image from Voices from the Valley):

Upscaling and downscaling are both part of the politics of scale, a tactic that involves making a problem seem big or little. Harrison notes that many environmentalists advocate a local approach. “The local,’” she writes, “is commonly touted as the space in which people can most directly voice their concerns and effect political change, due to local officials’ proximity to constituents and familiarity with local issues.” This case, though, suggests that justice isn’t one size fits all.

If you’d like to know more the struggle for environmental justice in the San Joaquin Valley, sociologist Tracy Perkins has started a website, called Voices from the Valley. You can also check out Remembering Teresa for more on pesticide drift.

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)

Frozen Pipes!

Feb. 24th, 2015 08:21 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

We are still using a rental car as we deal with the aftermath of being struck by a huge delivery truck. We are attempting to follow the instructions of those who tell us to be grateful that we weren't hurt. But that's cold comfort when dealing with the insurance people, the adjusters, the uncertainty of what happens next. We heard yesterday that our car was old, had 300,000 kilometres on it, and the cost of repair exceeds the worth of the car. It's a write off. I explained that the value of the car, to me, was that it fit my needs as a person and our needs as a couple, perfectly. But cost, as always, supersedes value.

So we are on the hunt for a good used car. We don't want a new car. We don't want to spend a lot of money. The car is used essentially to pick me up from work and take me home. Occasionally a trip to Barrie. Occasionally a trip to Newmarket. For any other travels we rent an accessible van.

One of the things we have learned from the rental car came as a bit of a shock. We've had a Volkswagen Beetle for many years and when the wheelchair is put in the back, it's in the body of the car. Now, with the rental, it's put in the trunk. Yesterday we took our longest run in the car as we travelled up to a golf course just off the 400 highway and when I got out of the warm car to sit in the wheelchair, I almost went into shock.

The metal was as cold as it was outside, colder even. I was embraced in this icy grip and cold shot through my clothes and straight into my bones. Yikes. Double yikes.

We got in and headed to the washroom, we are men over 60 after all, and I was terrified that my waterworks would have frozen solid. I mentioned this to Joe and he said, 'Let's hope a pipe didn't burst.'

And that did it.

We howled.

Just what we needed. To hell with the car and the insurance and the what next - there's still a good laugh to be had. They say laughter is the best medicine - I don't know about that but I can tell you it warms the blood. Exactly what I needed right then.

Happy Birthday, Judith Butler!

Feb. 24th, 2015 01:00 pm
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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

Philosopher Judith Butler has been influential across many disciplines, and sociology is no stranger to her works.  She first drew widespread attention with her book Gender TroubleIn it, Butler questioned the supposed naturalness of both the male/female sex binary and the differences between men and women. Not natural at all, she argued, gender is performed.  Butler has written over a dozen books and is a great scholar to be able to quote at parties if you want to impress upon others that you know your shit.


Found at The New School Free Press, via A Serving of Sociology.

Have a scholar we should commemorate?  Send us a wacky pic and we will!

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)

New Tiers on Kickstarter!

Feb. 24th, 2015 12:39 am
[syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
So there's a Kickstarter for a nifty little book put together by the group of artists going to Botswana, being organized by the awesome Foxfeather, and you can see it all here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1729864809/expanding-horizons-artists-journey-to-africa

We've just added a couple of tiers, including the chance to be a saint on the Hidden Almanac and two Tuckerization slots to have a minor character in a T. Kingfisher novel. (Obviously those slots may take a while on fulfillment...) Check it out!

Even if you don't want my tiers, there are some just absurdly talented artists involved and you'd want the book just for their art...

ETA: And apparently people really want me to kill characters named after themselves, because those slots sold in ten minutes. Um. Whoa.

ETA: ...and the saints are sold. Ooookay. That was wild! Thank you, everyone! Now I know what to offer next time somebody wants a charity auction...

The Rise of the Strawberry

Feb. 23rd, 2015 02:04 pm
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

Strawberry shortcake, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry daiquiris, strawberry ice cream, and strawberries in your cereal. Just delicious combinations of strawberries and things? Of course not.

According to an investigative report at The Guardian, in the first half of the 1900s, Americans didn’t eat nearly as many strawberries as they do now. There weren’t actually as many strawberries to eat. They’re a fragile crop, more prone than others to insects and unpredictable weather.

In the mid-1950s, though, scientists at the University of California began experimenting with a poison called chloropicrin. Originally used as a toxic gas in World War I, scientists had learned that it was quite toxic to fungus, weeds, parasites, bacteria, and insects. By the 1960s, they were soaking the soil underneath strawberries with the stuff. Nearly every strawberry field in California — a state that produces 80% of our strawberries — was being treated with chloropicrin or a related chemical, methyl bromide.

In the meantime, a major grower had collaborated with the University, creating heartier varieties of strawberries and ones that could be grown throughout the year. These developments doubled the strawberry crop. This was more strawberries than California — and the country — had ever seen. The supply now outpaced the demand.

Enter: Strawberry Shortcake.


Strawberry Shortcake was invented by American Greetings, the greeting card company. She was created in cahoots with the strawberry growers association. They made a deal, just one part of a massive marketing campaign to raise the profile of the strawberry.

The head of the association at the time, Dave Riggs, aggressively marketed tie-ins with other products, too: Bisquick, Jello, Corn Flakes, and Cheerios. Cool Whip still has a strawberry on its container and its website is absolutely dotted with the fruit.


Riggs went to the most popular women’s magazines, too — Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping — and provided them with recipe ideas. It was an all out strawberry assault on America.

It worked. “Today,” according to The Guardian, “Americans eat four times as many fresh strawberries as they did in the 1970s.” We think it’s because we like them, but is it?

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)

Things are looking up

Feb. 23rd, 2015 05:59 pm
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Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

When I was in school, I had an art teacher remind me that sometimes, the trick to finding out how something was interesting was to change your perspective. “Look around” she said. “Squat down. Lie on the floor. Look up. Find another way to look at things.”  While I hardly need a way to make this trip interesting for me, I was thinking yesterday about a way to make it interesting for you, and I remembered the advice.  I was walking down the street here, and stopped to consider what was under my feet.  Two seconds later it was something else, then something else… Mum and I started looking at the gound – plants, tiles… interesting things that were right under our feet. It became a little game. An art project of a sort.  Here then (instead of a shot of a beach that looks just like a beach) is what we walked on yesterday.

lookdown7 2015-02-23 lookdown6 2015-02-23 lookdown5 2015-02-23 lookdown4 2015-02-23 lookdown3 2015-02-23 lookdown2 2015-02-23 lookdown 2015-02-23

Today’s Spanish words? Pies (that’s feet, and you say it pee-es, not like the apple kind) and el suelo. That’s the ground. (I didn’t find out what floor was. I’m sort of hoping it’s the same.)

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Posted by Fred Clark

• “Romance tips from an end-times pastor: Demons torture married couples who practice ‘woman on top.’” Katie Halper mostly just points and laughs — which is appropriate, and she’s good at it — but there’s a serious theological matter lurking here. I think this is missionary-induced rant on the missionary position. The pastor is Nigerian. His theology is not. This is the product of colonizing missiology — first world fantasies replanted as an exotic invasive species.

Spam is really popular on Guam, but that doesn’t make it indigenous to Guam. Lots of theologies have similarly been processed, canned and shipped from here in America to the church in the developing world, where some of them have become popular as well. That popularity elsewhere doesn’t make those theologies any less American, or any less canned and processed.

• I am, as always, shocked — shocked! — to learn that good Christian people are telling lies about Planned Parenthood.

Luther• “Maybe the people who like to ski are praying a little harder than the rest of us.” That’s from a Religion News Service piece on snowed-under churches in New England. The accompanying photo is worth more than a thousand words.

Meanwhile, the Ithaca Visitor’s Bureau briefly surrendered — the upstate New York city’s “Visit Ithaca” website, designed to promote tourism, greeted visitors with a picture of sunny beaches and the message, “Winter, you win. Key West, anyone?”

• Speaking of … anybody ever use a Sno Wovel? They look pretty ingenius, do you think they work as well as the folks who make them say?

• The Reboot offers a helpful glossary/guide: “Seminary, Divinity School, Bible College: What’s the Difference?

Unsurprisingly, these things range from high-cost/high-quality to low-cost/low-quality. Getting a seminary education is terrific, but most people can’t afford to take on student loan debt for studies that don’t boost their earning potential. Christians looking for a more affordable and more accessible source of theological education may turn to “Bible institutes,” which tend to be less expensive and more convenient — but which also tend to include more fundie folklore than actual theology or biblical study. I’d love to see seminaries and divinity schools offer something like those “institutes” — affordable theological education for lay people, but with actual theology rather than the kind of stuff they tend to peddle at “Bible institutes.”

• “You can’t run an army without profanity,” Gen. George Patton said, “and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.”

• “‘Human shield’ wraps around Oslo synagogue”

Click here to view the embedded video.


“Oriental” Jones

Feb. 23rd, 2015 02:56 pm
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Posted by PamelaToler

Sir William Jones

Sir William Jones (1746-1794), known to his contemporaries as “Oriental” Jones, was one of the great eighteenth century polymaths.  He was a linguist, what was then called an Orientalist,* and a successful public intellectual–the kind of scholar who is able to make abstruse topics not only accessible but exciting.

Jones started early with his love of language: he reportedly learned Persian from a Syrian merchant in London and translated the poems of Hafiz into English at the age of sixteen . Over the course of his life he studied twenty-eight languages including not only Latin and Greek, but German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and Turkish, several South Asian languages, and a smattering of Chinese.

By the time he received his bachelor of arts from Oxford in 1768, Jones had already become known as a scholar of all things “Oriental”–by which he and his contemporaries meant South Asia and the Middle East. The King of Denmark hired him to translate a biography of the emperor Nadir Shah from Persian into French. Published in 1770, the translation secured Jones’ reputation as translator and linguist. He was only 24.

Over the next thirteen years, Jones published a number of works related to the language and culture of the Islamic world , including the authoritative A Grammar of the Persian Language (1771), which he later translated into French, and a translation of seven famous pre-Islamic poems from Arabic that Tennyson later claimed as an inspiration . During this period, he also published a volume of his own poetry , in which he combined classical conventions with Islamic themes and imagery. (Anyone feeling a tad inadequate at this point will be pleased to know that his poems are workmanlike but not inspired. His biographer describes them as “minor classics”, but that’s generous.)

Like many a modern adjunct professor, Jones soon found it was difficult to make a living as an independent scholar, so he turned to the study of law. He was called to the bar in 1774. Working as a barrister, an attorney, and an Oxford fellow, he made a name for himself as a legal scholar and translated manuscripts in his spare time. He also became known for his pro-American sympathies, traveling to Paris three times during the American Revolution to meet with Benjamin Franklin regarding the military and political situation. In fact, it was rumored that he intended to emigrate America to help write the new country’s constitution. (The mind boggles at the image of Jones and Madison in collaboration.)

It was perhaps inevitable that a cash-strapped attorney with a talent for languages and a fascination with the Orient would end up in India in the service of the British East India Company.* Jones was engaged to be married,but didn’t have the income to support a wife. When a lucrative job as a judge on the supreme court of the British East India Company’s Bengal Presidency became available, he asked his friends to help him secure the position. Evidently his reputation as a legal scholar and Orientalist outweighed his reputation as a pro-American troublemaker. In 1783, Jones and his new wife sailed to Calcutta.

If Jones had not already earned the nickname “Oriental”, he certainly deserved it after his arrival in India. Many employees of the British East India Company hired local instructors to help them with Bengali, Hindi or Persian. Jones took the unusual step of adding Sanskrit to the list, making him the second Englishman known to have learned the language. During his eleven years in Calcutta, Jones founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal–a Calcutta variation on the Royal Society with an emphasis on “oriental” subjects. In addition to his semi-official work on Indian legal systems, he wrote extensively on Indian history, religion, languages, literature, botany and music. He translated a number of works of Indian literature into English, including Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda , the collection of fables known as the Hitopadesa, and the Laws of Manu, the first step in a compilation of Hindu and Muslim law intended to improve justice in British courts in India.

His most influential translation was Sakuntala, the masterwork of fourth century Indian poet and playwright Kalidasa, whom Jones described as “the Shakespeare of India”. Published in 1789, Jones’ Sakuntala went into five editions in twenty years–a best seller in eighteenth century terms–and was translated into German in 1791 and French in 1803. It is considered one of the most important influences on the first generation of Romantic poets

Most important, his study of Sanskrit led Jones to postulate a common source for what came to be known as the Indo-European languages. In his 1786 presidential discourse to the Asiatic Society, Jones described the relationships he had found between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek,  which he believed were too strong to be accidental, and suggested that they not only had “some common source, which perhaps no longer exists”, but were also related to the Gothic, Celtic and Persian languages. That single paper was the beginning of comparative philology

Jones died in Calcutta in April, 1794, exhausted by his twin pursuits of legal studies and Orientalism. His digest of Indian legal systems was incomplete, but he had effectively founded the academic disciplines of comparative philology and Indology (South Asian studies in modern college catalogs) and introduced the first generation of Romantic poets to a broader vision of the world.

* For purposes of this blog post, I am going to ignore the complications that now surround the term Orientalism. Otherwise we’ll be here all day.

**Just a reminder, at this point India was not a colony of the British government. The British East India Company held the right to administer various regions of the subcontinent as a vassal of the Mughal emperor. While this would increasingly become no more than a political fiction, in the 1780s it was still very much a political reality.

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Posted by Fred Clark

Wendell Berry, interview with The American Conservative

I don’t know when, why, or how it happened, but at some time the mainstream denominations put themselves in charge of the Sunday job of accrediting people for admission to Heaven, turning the workdays, the human economy, and the material creation over to the materialists. And so it became possible for people to commit their souls to God while participating in an economy dedicated to the swiftest possible extraction and consumption of everything it values in God’s world, with unlimited collateral damage to all creatures, humans included, that it does not value.

Once this desecration of creation, of life itself, becomes conventional economic practice, then the submersion of the Gospel in nationalism and the waging of Christian warfare readily follows. Once war is accepted as the normal condition of human, including Christian, life, then spying upon citizens, imprisonment without indictment or trial, torture of prisoners, and all the malpractice of a tyrannical “security” evidently follow and are justified by leaders. If the life of the poorest being that crawls on the earth is not respected as a great and holy mystery, then it may be that humans go “free” of all limits, become disoriented, and are truly unable to find themselves.

Addie Zierman, “3 Things We Need to Stop Saying to Youth Group Kids”

One of the recurrent themes in my Christian youth was the pressure to stay strong for God around peers and teachers who, I was told, would be antagonistic toward my beliefsSo many talks and sermons and rally-sessions wrapped tight around this topic, constricting my chest with the urgency of knowing how to accurately and compellingly disseminate the specifics of the Christian faith to others…even if they mocked me for it.

I spent the duration of junior high and high school braced against the entire student body, sure that they secretly mocked/hated/despised me. I wore Christian t-shirts like some kind of bullet-proof vest. I memorized all of the brilliant apologetic arguments in favor of Christianity in case any teacher or student ever cornered me in the hall and forced me to debate my faith.

But here’s the thing. No one ever did.

Elizabeth Stoker Breunig, “Is ISIS Authentically Islamic? Ask Better Questions”

Determining religious legitimacy would require not only a debate about how authority is sourced in each particular tradition, but an understanding of what relationship to that authority would produce authenticity. It would also require some sort of agreement on the identity of the person or group making the call, and their right to do so. After all, even if ISIS is ‘Muslim’ because they use Islamic texts and incorporate some elements of Islamic history into their political practice, isn’t it possible they’re bad Muslims, heretical Muslims, or some sort of ‘lapsed’ Muslims — still Muslim, but without the broadly damning consequences of less qualified labels? Our public discussions rarely penetrate this deeply into the matter precisely because we are not used to establishing the authentic content of religions. A moment of high religious tension is probably not the best one in which to try to develop a public language for debating these truths. And since we are neither equipped nor posed to develop such a language right now, the question of whether or not ISIS is authentically Muslim seems endlessly fraught and otiose.

Rod Dreher, “Is ISIS Islamic? How Would We Know?”

What the Hal Lindsey vision gave to me was a sense of purpose and meaning that I did not get anywhere else. Specifically, it charged daily life with intensity. I would read the newspaper in the morning over breakfast, and find my newfound apocalyptic beliefs confirmed in the headlines. Any time the Soviet Union would make a move, I would think, “Ha! Gog and Magog! We know where this is headed.” It is a crazy way to live, but I’m telling you, if you are inside that mindset, it is a kind of spiritual methamphetamine. You want to believe it, because it delivers you from boredom, insecurity, and the difficult business of getting through the day.

I remember sitting at a table in the school library in 7th grade, reading a newspaper and looking up and thinking, “If the Rapture happened five minutes from now, what would they all think of me? I would be gone, and most of them would be left behind. That would show them!” You see the power of this kind of thinking on the mind of a 13 year old kid who feels lost, scared, and overlooked. That’ll show them. They thought I was a social reject, but in the end, I will have been one of God’s favorites, and these of little faith will be left behind to suffer.


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Posted by spam-spam

  • DiversityMediocrityIllusion | Martin Fowler (January 13): “A common argument against pushing for greater diversity is that it will lower standards, raising the spectre of a diverse but mediocre group.” Martin Fowler explains why that’s nonsense.
  • On the Wadhwa Within, and Leaving | Medium (February): “That’s why I’m wary of the villainization of Vivek Wadhwa. For all that he is cartoonishly bad, going after him full force has the effect of drawing a bright line between Good People who see and crow over the error of Wadhwa’s ways and Bad People like Vivek. “
  • Q&A: Gillian Jacobs On Directing Her First Film And The Myth Of The Male Computer Geek | FiveThirtyEight (January 30): “This week, FiveThirtyEight launched its documentary film about Grace Hopper, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and the driving force behind the first compiled programming language.”
  • Video Games’ Blackness Problem | Evan Narcisse on Kotaku (February 19): “I decided to email with several prominent black critics and game developers to start a conversation. What is the source of video gaming’s blackness problem? What is to be done? I enlisted games researcher and critic Austin Walker, Treachery in Beatdown City developer Shawn Alexander Allen, Joylancer developer TJ Thomas and SoulForm developer and Brooklyn Gamery co-founder Catt Small to talk about what we all thought.”
  • I Pretended to Be a Male Gamer to Avoid Harassment | Daily Life (December 11): “Things went along smoothly until I started playing at the top level of WoW (World of Warcraft). To participate, you have to join a ‘guild’ — a large group of people who can commit to playing for long sessions. Being allowed into a guild is like a job interview, and as part of that process (like proving I had access to voice chat) I had to reveal that I was a girl.”
  • “Lean the f*** away from me”: Jessica Williams, “impostor syndrome” and the many ways we serially doubt women | Salon.com (February 18): “After a week of intense speculation about who would be taking over “The Daily Show,” Jessica Williams addressed the rumors that she was (or at least should be) the heir apparent for host. In a series of tweets, Williams thanked people for the support, but said she wouldn’t be sitting behind the anchor desk any time soon. (…) A little while later, a writer for the Billfold responded to Williams’ announcement with a piece that claimed she was a “victim” of impostor syndrome, and that she needed to “lean in.” “
  • Feminist writers are so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire | The Washington Post (February 20): “Jessica Valenti is one of the most successful and visible feminists of her generation. As a columnist for the Guardian, her face regularly appears on the site’s front page. She has written five books, one of which was adapted into a documentary, since founding the blog Feministing.com. She gives speeches all over the country. And she tells me that, because of the nonstop harassment that feminist writers face online, if she could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous.”
  • Research suggests that the pipeline of science talent may leak for men and women at the same rate | Inside Higher Ed (February 18): “For years, experts on the academic and scientific workforce have talked about a “leaky pipeline” in which women with talent in science and technology fields are less likely than men to pursue doctorates and potentially become faculty members. A study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Psychology says that the pipeline may no longer be leaking more women than men.”
  • Life Hacks for the Marginalized | Medium (February 16): “Being human is hard! It’s even harder when your humanity is brought into question on a daily basis. But don’t let that get you down! So you’re not white/straight/male/abled/cisgendered/thin/rich — that doesn’t mean your life is over! It just means it’s much, much, much, much, much, much harder.
    Luckily, we have some time-saving tips that can help! By “help,” we mean “mildly mitigate your problems.” To solve them completely, try building a time machine and either engineering a whole new history that gives your people more power, or fast-forwarding to a post-patriarchy utopia.”
  • Like it or not, Supanova, popular culture is political | The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (February 18): “Online protesters have urged Supanova to reconsider Baldwin’s attendance given the inflammatory and offensive comments he regularly makes on social media, particularly about women, transgender people and gay people. But when the expo released a statement saying it would be proceeding as planned, it showed it didn’t care about creating a safe and inclusive environment for attendees.”
  • The War for the Soul of Geek Culture | moviepilot.com (February 16): “The irony is that while externally, geeks are being accepted as a whole, internally, the story is much different. There’s an ugly core of nastiness coming from a very vocal minority, and as geek culture continues to expand, they only grow louder. And while the nastier moments of that ugly minority are starting to be recognized and picked up by mainstream media, it’s still largely our problem. Simply put, there is a war being waged right now for the soul of geek culture. And it’s a hell of a lot uglier than you realize.”
  • Binary Coeds | BackStory with the American History Guys (February 6): “The idea [of] the male programmer may be a stereotype, but having a male-heavy workforce is a real issue for the industry. Companies see a big gender disparity when they look at their technical workforce, and many are asking themselves how to get more women into computer science. But when you look at the history of computer programming, the question actually looks a little different. It’s less about how to get women into computer science than about how to get women back into computing.”
  • How To Talk To Girls On Twitter Without Coming Off Like A Creepy Rando | Adequate Man (February 17): “So, here you are, my friend, following a lot of brilliant women on Twitter (I hope). It’s so fun, and the best part of Twitter is connecting with people, so you want to reply to some of her great tweets with your own great opinions and jokes! Cool, cool, but here are some things to keep in mind.”
  • Art+Feminism Is Hosting Its Second Ever Wikipedia Edit-a-thon To Promote Gender Equality | The Mary Sue (February 18): ” In 2011, a survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation found that less than 10% of Wikipedia editors identified as female, to say nothing of recent clashes between editors in the Gamergate article that resulted in several women being banned from writing about gender at all. But just talking about the problem isn’t going to create more female editors—training women who are interested will.”
  • #ScienceWoman Special Project | Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls (February 16): “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls is teaming up with the hit PBS Digital Studios science YouTube show It’s Okay To Be Smart to celebrate amazing women in science. We’ve got a special project planned for the beginning of March, but we can’t do it without YOU!”

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You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

Back in the heyday of Burt Reynolds, having a hairy chest was oh-so-sexy. What a departure from the hairless chests of today’s masculine icons. At least it makes some sense to associate chest hair with masculinity, since men on average have more of it than women. It just goes to show that everything’s a social construction. But you knew that. ;)


Found at Cult of the Weird.

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)

Gosh, Sorry, My Mistake

Feb. 22nd, 2015 08:18 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

It was a blisteringly cold day. Joe needed new slippers and there was a sale on at the Bay. So out we went. Some may think that on a day where the temperature was 30 degrees below 'just stupid cold' was foolhardy, remember we're gay and it was a sale. My chair struggled a bit on the sidewalks which were covered in part snow, part slush and part salt that couldn't work because it gets to cold for salt you know. But we made progress.

When we reached the Bay, we pushed the door openers and rushed in. Immediately inside the door is the elevator. Its door opened as we came through and we climbed on and pushed the up button. It went down. Shit. We were so in a rush to get out of the cold we hadn't looked to see which way it was going. The door opened on a woman with a walker with her elderly husband and a younger woman in a wheelchair.

We apologized saying that we hadn't noticed it was going down and we were going up. We would have got off and let them have it, after all they had been waiting. But they were crowded at the door, leaving no passageway, and they were really, really impatient.

The door closed.

We went up.

Let me tell you about this elevator. It exists really only for those with mobility issues or those with strollers. It is beside a set of stairs. When you enter on the street level, as we did, there are 5 or six stairs up and five or six stairs down. Elevator waits are not long. I imagine that the elevator was back to pick everyone up in a couple of minutes.

Let me also tell you that I felt really badly about having rushed and not having noticed that the elevator was headed the wrong way. But. It was a mistake. I wasn't selfishly commandeering the elevator. This is one that is so quick that waits are never long, it's not a big deal. It was just a mistake.

It was a mistake we apologized for.

And received angry, put out faces in response.

The exact kind of faces I get from the non-disabled when I want or need space, when they have to step around me, when they have to share space with me. The exact faces.

I wish I had said, after the apology was rejected, "Listen we live in a world where everyone is impatient with us, shouldn't we, at least, be patient with each other?"

But, then, that's why I have a blog isn't it?

What I didn't say then, I can say now ...

Shouldn't we, at least, be patient with each other?

Sunday WTF?

Feb. 22nd, 2015 11:29 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

Genesis 19:30-38

Now Lot went up out of Zoar and settled in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar; so he lived in a cave with his two daughters. 

And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the world. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.”

So they made their father drink wine that night; and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she rose. On the next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Look, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.”

So they made their father drink wine that night also; and the younger rose, and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she rose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 

The firstborn bore a son, and named him Moab; he is the ancestor of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and named him Ben-ammi; he is the ancestor of the Ammonites to this day.

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Posted by Fred Clark

In Graeme Wood’s Atlantic essay, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel offers a bit of pseudo-theological commentary that comes across as so glibly dismissive, reckless and shallow that his remarks have become the focus of a wave of criticism (including from me in the previous post).

Now those comments are even being criticized by the man Wood describes as the “leading scholar” on the subject of ISIS’s theology — Bernard Haykel himself.

Jack Jenkins of ThinkProgress asked Haykel to respond to some of the criticism of his commentary, and he took the chance to clarify and qualify what he meant: “What the Atlantic Left Out About ISIS According to Their Own Expert.” (Thank you, Shira Mary, for pointing me to this.)

Here’s the bit from Haykel in Wood’s essay that I found contradictory and, frankly, rude:

Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

That passage leaped out at me because that language is so very familiar. He is reading there from a hackneyed script full of stale cliches. It is the same old language that religious fundamentalists always use to try to delegitimize the faith of non-fundies. It’s the same language that white evangelical Christians constantly use to try to discredit mainline Protestants. It’s the same language used in most of the hate-mail I receive as a non-fundamentalist religious blogger.

Haykel hits all the usual buzzwords there — “politically correct,” and “embarrassed” (this is where Christian fundies always recite “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ …” as a way of accusing those illegitimate liberals of being ashamed of the gospel).

Jenkins asked Haykel about this directly:

He was … unambiguous when responding to the … critique that Muslims who disavow ISIS are somehow deluded or not “real” Muslims.

“I consider people … who have criticized ISIS to be fully within the Islamic tradition, and in no way ‘less Muslim’ than ISIS,” he said. “I mean, that’s absurd.”

It is absurd, which is why so many of us responded when Haykel was accurately quoted making that absurd assertion in Wood’s essay.

Jenkins’ interview with Haykel has a different agenda than Wood’s essay. The Atlantic piece was all about emphasizing that ISIS is, in fact, Islamic — that it occupies a place within Islam. Having established that, Haykel takes the chance in this interview to clarify what kind of place ISIS occupies within Islam. And here he provides some helpful discussion:

The issue, Haykel says, lies in ISIS’s “ahistorical” theology, which justifies their horrific actions by essentially pretending that the last several centuries of Islamic history never happened.

“This is something I did point out to [Wood] but he didn’t bring out in the piece: ISIS’s representation of Islam is ahistorical,” Haykel said. “It’s saying we have to go back to the seventh century. It’s denying the legal complexity of the [Islamic] legal tradition over a thousand years.”

I grew up within the evangelical Christian subculture, so I’m familiar with a-historical theology and naive primitivism. The problem with such theologies isn’t just that they say “we have to go back to the seventh century” (or the first century), but also that they imagine we can do so. They mistakenly imagine it’s possible to do so. And then they make the impossible mandatory.

In the interview with Jenkins, Haykel also offers an interesting discussion of how ISIS’s eagerness to anathematize other Muslims puts other Muslims off-balance:

“Some Muslims are reticent to engage in a hereticization of ISIS because they feel that in doing so they would be doing what ISIS is doing,” he said. “ISIS is in a very strange and unique position among Sunnis in its kind of very deliberate and rapid and wanton use of hereticization of other Muslims. In other words, ISIS is constantly saying that Fadel and others are not Muslim, because they don’t agree with them. Sunnis don’t normally do that. Historically they don’t do that … You try to say that they’re errant Muslims, … that they’ve strayed from the straight path. Not to put them outside the veil of the religion.”

Set aside the sectarian particulars and what he’s describing there is part of the dynamic that ends up privileging fundamentalist and separatist sects over more ecumenical, neighborly forms of religion. The schismatic separatist types aggressively ensure that the “authenticity” or legitimacy of everyone else is constantly being discussed and debated and, therefore, undermined. But because those others do not share the separatist fundies’ taste for dishonesty and fighting dirty, the fundies’ authenticity and legitimacy is never being challenged.

Thus bad behavior gets rewarded. The most belligerent, aggressive, schismatic, overheated forms of religion wind up being granted a presumption of authenticity — their expression of the faith is presumed to be a legitimate one, or perhaps even the legitimate one. But all other forms of religion are rendered more suspect. Their good behavior — their refusal to follow the fundies’ example of acting like jerks — is punished with a presumption of inauthenticity. Their expression of faith is constantly being portrayed as illegitimate — not just by the jerkhole fundies, but in the media and throughout the rest of society.


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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

Pharmaceutical companies say that they need long patents that keep the price of their drugs high so that they can invest in research. But that’s not actually what they’re spending most of their money on. Instead, they’re spending more — sometimes twice as much — on advertising directly to doctors and consumers.

Data from the BBC, visualized by León Markovitz:

2“When do you cross the line from essential profits to profiteering?,” asked Dr Brian Druker, one of a group of physicians asking for price reductions.

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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