[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

One of the main Muzak loops they play at the store (overnight, all night, the music never stops at the Big Box) includes a couple of Indigo Girls songs. “Watershed” is lovely, and so is “Power of Two.” No complaint about either of those, and after hearing them both a couple of times a night for a couple of weeks, I’ve even got the harmony parts down pretty well.

But the Big Box is a hardware store. It’s kind of bewildering that a hardware store would play two Indigo Girls songs every four hours without either of them being this one:

Click here to view the embedded video.

It’s even weirder because every 10 minutes or so, the PA interrupts whatever song is playing for one of the store’s in-house ads. “Let’s get out there and get building,” the ad says, touting a sale on hammers and nails before cutting back to “Power of Two.”

HammerNail(I recently learned that there’s a name for the annoying presumed intimacy of that “let’s” construction. It’s apparently called “forced teaming.” I’ve always just thought of such presumptuous first-person-plural rhetoric in terms of the old Lone Ranger and Tonto joke — “What do you mean ‘we,’ kemosabe?”)

The Muzak channel that plays the Indigos is full of mellow, acoustic folkie pop. A little Norah Jones, some Sarah MacLachlan, Jonatha Brooke, Shawn Colvin and the like. All quite lovely in the right setting, but not exactly the kind of thing to keep one awake and energized at four in the morning.

The ’70s music channel that sometimes plays instead is better for that. Say what you will about disco, but those beats-per-minute do keep your heart-rate up. Plus it can be a fun reminder of some of the great music I don’t always think of as “1970s” stuff — old Bowie or Springsteen or Dolly Parton. But then it also includes some songs that are even more 1970s than I might have thought possible — like “Float On” from The Floaters, a song so utterly whatever it is that I’m a little bit in awe of it.

The other weird Muzak channel is a decent mix of ’80s and ’90s pop. Some oddly wonderful choices in that playlist, but the strangest thing to me is the Simple Minds. There are five Simple Minds songs in that tape loop — five!

These are songs I don’t ever remember hearing on the radio. I think the only reason I know them is because I forgot to send in that Columbia House Record Club card once in college and wound up owing them like $28 for the Live in the City of Light double album.

So in case anyone was wondering what Jim Kerr was up to these days, now you know. He’s working for Muzak, programming the overnight playlists of Big Box hardware chain stores. (Not actually true — according to Wikipedia the former Simple Minds frontman is actually running a hotel in Sicily. No, really.)

Anyway, if you’re awaiting the point to this post, there is none. But there’s a No Prize for anybody in comments who can guess all five Simple Minds songs.

[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by Tim Chevalier

With his permission, I’m reposting this blog comment from Marco Rogers, in a reply to an anti-feminist comment on a blog post about women in tech that he wrote 2 1/2 years ago. Although the post is that old, the comment is from a few days ago, because even years later, anti-feminist trolls are stumbling across Marco’s blog post and feeling the need to express their displeasure with it.

I’m reposting Marco’s comment because I think it’s a good example about how to respond to a troll. I would love to see more men let their anti-feminist peers know that uninformed anti-feminist wankery is a waste of time. And I would love to do that more often myself, rather than engaging with it.

Hi [REDACTED]. I thought a long time about whether to let this comment stand or delete it. I do listen to input from different perspectives. I read this entire thing. And I’m sorry to say it was a waste of my time.

I’m afraid this reply won’t be very constructive. I had to chose whether to waste further time dismantling your false logic, and I had to take into account whether it would make any difference to you or anyone reading. I don’t think it will. In my experience, it’s very difficult to educate men who think like you do.

I’ll admit it also annoys me that you would come and write a small novel in my blog comments but not say anything new or original. Men have been making this argument that their long history of sexism is somehow the natural order of things since the beginning of time. It’s not revelatory, it’s not some profound wisdom that people haven’t heard, it’s boring. The feminist/womanist movement grew in direct opposition to all the nonsense you spouted above. There is a ton of literature that debunks and rejects every single point you are poorly trying to make. The least you can do is educate yourself on the system you’re up against, so you can sound more cogent and have an actual chance of convincing anyone.

The question remains of whether I let your comment stay up. I think I will. Not because I feel compelled to represent multiple viewpoints here. This is my blog and I choose what goes here. But I’ll leave it because I’m no longer afraid of letting people read tripe like this. You’re losing. We WILL create a world where the mentality of men like you is a minority and women get to exist as themselves without fear. You can’t stop it. Stay mad bro. Thanks for dropping by.

Lafayette the Centaur

Oct. 21st, 2014 11:00 am
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by April Stevens

CentaurBy Laura Auricchio (Guest Contributor)

The Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, was a man of many names. In 1757, a rural curate honored a host of heavenly saints and earthly ancestors by baptizing him Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette. From the 1770s through the 1830s, grateful Americans came to know him as the Hero of Two Worlds, the Apostle of Liberty, or – in affectionate shorthand – simply The Marquis. During the French Revolution, though, less flattering nicknames accrued to Lafayette. Royalists denounced him as a traitor; radicals termed him a coward; and, in 1791, at least one caricaturist friendly to the monarchy depicted Lafayette as a centaur – a monstrous man-horse hybrid.

On one hand, the caricature mocks Lafayette’s uncommon attachment to his steed. From July 1789 to July 1791, Lafayette cut a conspicuously equestrian figure on the streets of Paris. As Commander of the National Guard, he was so often seen atop a majestic white horse that newspapers and gossip sheets described man and beast as inseparable. According to some reports, the two fused so thoroughly in the popular imagination that at one event in 1790s Lafayette’s admirers nearly smothered both man and mount with warm embraces.

But in eighteenth-century France, where every learned man knew his Greek mythology, picturing Lafayette as a centaur implied something darker. Centaurs were dangerous beings whose base and disorderly natures threatened the very foundations of civilization. So, the caricature implies, was Lafayette, seen here galloping past the severed heads of royalists.

Staunch monarchists held Lafayette responsible for the downfall of Louis XVI, but Lafayette, who wanted to reform, not abolish, the Bourbon throne, considered himself blameless. “The Blameless One” – Le Sans Tort – is the title of the caricature. It is no coincidence that, in French, “Le Sans Tort” sounds precisely like “the centaur.”


MarquisLaura Auricchio is Associate Professor of Art History and Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at The New School for Public Engagement. Her newest book The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered offers a visually-informed biography on the Marquis de Lafayette.

W&M is excited to have three (3) copies of Laura Auricchio’s new book The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered for this month’s giveaway! Be sure to enter below by 11:00pm EST on October 31 to qualify (your entry includes a subscription to W&M Monthly).

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

Monthly Book Giveaways

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October Book Giveaways


Oct. 21st, 2014 04:42 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

In moments we head to the airport.

In moments I have to put myself and my needs into the hands of others.

And sometime, noon, the day before.

I begin to pray, to hope and to will into being.

A day full of decent people.

I don't ask for kind people.

I don't ask for generous people.

Just decent.

I don't want humiliation.

That's all.


That's all.

(no subject)

Oct. 21st, 2014 12:02 am
[syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
I will be at the Jamboree Road Barnes & Noble in Irvine, CA at 7:00 tonight!

Thursday, I'll be at Bookshop Santa Cruz at 4:30' and Friday at The Reading Bug in San Carlos at 4:00!

Stop by if you're in he area, say hi!
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Sarah Wanenchak

In truth, I didn’t pay a tremendous amount of attention to iOS8 until a post scrolled by on my Tumblr feed, which disturbed me a good deal: The new iteration of Apple’s OS included “Health”, an app that – among many other things – contains a weight tracker and a calorie counter.

And can’t be deleted.

1 (3) - Copy

Okay, so why is this a big deal? Pretty much all “health” apps include those features. I have one (third-party). A lot of people have one. They can be very useful. Apple sticking non-removable apps into its OS is annoying, but why would it be something worth getting up in arms over? This is where it becomes a bit difficult to explain, and where you’re likely to encounter two kinds of people (somewhat oversimplified, but go with me here). One group will react with mild bafflement. The other will immediately understand what’s at stake.

The Health app is literally dangerous, specifically to people dealing with/in recovery from eating disorders and related obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Obsessive weight tracking and calorie counting are classic symptoms. These disorders literally kill people. A lot of people. Apple’s Health app is an enabler of this behavior, a temptation to fall back into self-destructive habits. The fact that it can’t be deleted makes it worse by orders of magnitude.

So why can’t people just not use it? Why not just hide it? That’s not how obsessive-compulsive behavior works. One of the nastiest things about OCD symptoms – and one of the most difficult to understand for people who haven’t experienced them – is the fact that a brain with this kind of chemical imbalance can and will make you do things you don’t want to do. That’s what “compulsive” means. Things you know you shouldn’t do, that will hurt you. When it’s at its worst it’s almost impossible to fight, and it’s painful and frightening. I don’t deal with disordered eating, but my messed-up neurochemistry has forced me to do things I desperately didn’t want to do, things that damaged me. The very presence of this app on a device is a very real threat (from post linked above):

Whilst of course the app cannot force you to use it, it cannot be deleted, so will be present within your apps and can be a source of feelings of temptation to record numbers and of guilt and judgement for not using the app.

Apple doesn’t hate people with eating disorders. They probably weren’t thinking about people with eating disorders at all. That’s the problem.

Then this weekend another post caught my attention: The Health app doesn’t include the ability to track menstrual cycles, something that’s actually kind of important for the health of people who menstruate. Again: so? Apple thinks a number of other forms of incredibly specific tracking were important enough to include:

In case you’re wondering whether Health is only concerned with a few basics: Apple has predicted the need to input data about blood oxygen saturation, your daily molybdenum or pathogenic acid intake, cycling distance, number of times fallen and your electrodermal activity, but nothing to do with recording information about your menstrual cycle.

Again: Apple almost certainly doesn’t actively hate cisgender women, or anyone else who menstruates. They didn’t consider including a cycle tracker and then went “PFFT SCREW WOMEN.” They probably weren’t thinking about women at all.

During the design phase of this OS, half the world’s population was probably invisible. The specific needs of this half of the population were folded into an unspecified default. Which doesn’t – generally – menstruate.

I should note that – of course – third-party menstrual cycle tracking apps exist. But people have problems with these (problems I share), and it would have been nice if Apple had provided an escape from them:

There are already many apps designed for tracking periods, although many of my survey respondents mentioned that they’re too gendered (there were many complaints about colour schemes, needless ornamentation and twee language), difficult to use, too focused on conceiving, or not taking into account things that the respondents wanted to track.

Both of these problems are part of a larger design issue, and it’s one we’ve talked about before, more than once. The design of things – pretty much all things – reflects assumptions about what kind of people are going to be using the things, and how those people are going to use them. That means that design isn’t neutral. Design is a picture of inequality, of systems of power and domination both subtle and not. Apple didn’t consider what people with eating disorders might be dealing with; that’s ableism. Apple didn’t consider what menstruating women might need to do with a health app; that’s sexism.

The fact that the app cannot be removed is a further problem. For all intents and purposes, updating to a new OS is almost mandatory for users of Apple devices, at least eventually. Apple already has a kind of control over a device that’s a bit worrying, blurring the line between owner and user and threatening to replace one with the other. The Health app is a glimpse of a kind of well-meaning but ultimately harmful paternalist approach to design: We know what you need, what you want; we know what’s best. We don’t need to give you control over this. We know what we’re doing.

This isn’t just about failure of the imagination. This is about social power. And it’s troubling.

Sarah Wanenchak is a PhD student at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her current research focuses on contentious politics and communications technology in a global context, particularly the role of emotion mediated by technology as a mobilizing force. She blogs at Cyborgology, where this post originally appearedand you can follow her at @dynamicsymmetry.

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

[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by Tim Chevalier

Simply Secure is a new non-profit that focuses on helping the open source community do a better job at security. Their focus is on adding usable security technology on top of existing, already-widely-adopted platforms and services, and their advisory board includes Wendy Seltzer, Cory Doctorow, and Angela Sasse, among others. (Full disclosure: I went to college with the executive director and founder, Sara “Scout” Sinclair Brody.)

They are hiring for two full-time positions right now: a research director/associate director with some mix of practical experience and formal education in security and UX design (sufficient experience compensates for a lesser degree of formal education), and an operations manager who will write grants and manage finances. Simply Secure strongly encourages applications from populations under-represented in the technology industry. For both positions, experience with and/or enthusiasm for open source is desirable but not required. Simply Secure is located in the US in Philadelphia and is actively recruiting candidates who work remotely.

To apply, visit their jobs page!

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

In the original Star Trek series, the title sequence included a stirring bit of narration that summarized the premise of the show:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

That introduction captured the imagination because it was an invitation to a compelling story. At the same time, though, it reminded viewers of an enormous problem with that story. “Space: the final frontier” is really, really big. It’s far too big to get anywhere on a “five-year mission.”

Space is so big that we measure its distances in light years, or how far light can travel in a year. Even if there are strange new worlds out there in space — new life and new civilizations orbiting other stars — they’re too far away for us to reach within five years, even if we could travel at the speed of light (which we can’t). So Star Trek doesn’t work, as a story, unless it includes faster-than-light travel, which is impossible.

USSEnterpriseFor Star Trek, the solution to this story-telling obstacle was “warp speed” — a way of traveling far faster than the speed of light. How does that work? Well, the warp drive warps space and time by mumblemumblemumble dilithium mumblemumble gravimetric field displacement mumblemumblemumble.

There’s a lot of mumbling in there because, of course, a functioning warp drive has not yet been invented. The storytellers didn’t need to actually invent it. They didn’t need to produce blueprints and a schematic for such a hypothetical faster-than-light technology. All they needed to do was to assert its existence, providing just enough scientific-sounding technobabble for viewers to accept its existence as plausible and, therefore, to be willing to suspend disbelief enough to accept the stories they were telling.

The writers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to refer to such technobabble as “phlebotinum.” It may be magical or mystical, it may involve theoretical physics (or just something that sounds kind of like theoretical physics). It may involve the wondrous properties of kryptonium or of unobtainium, transdimensional wormholes, reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, an ancient prophecy or a mysterious artifact. The details don’t matter so much. What matters is the assurance that the phlebotinum, somehow, accounts for the unaccountable. Phlebotinum explains the impossible. Or, rather, it offers a deal in which we, the audience, accept the idea that such an explanation exists, in exchange for which we will allow ourselves to enjoy a compelling story without getting tripped up by the impossibilities it otherwise entails.

That can be a good deal for the audience, provided the story is any good. Why should we deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of a good story by allowing ourselves to get distracted by something like the inconvenient impossibility of faster-than-light travel? But, still, we do require that the storytellers give us something. Phlebotinum doesn’t need to be ironclad and fully explained, but the storyteller needs at least to nod in the general direction of the impossibilities involved, to acknowledge the difficulty they present and to reassure us that we needn’t worry about such things because phlebotinum.

This bargain — the exchange of phlebotinum for our willing suspension of disbelief — is conducted between countless storytellers and their audiences in the realm of science fiction, fantasy, horror, comic books, action movies, detective stories, etc.

And this same bargain is made, regularly, between young-Earth creationists and the fans of that genre of speculative fiction. Young-Earth creationism is all about phlebotinum.

Consider, for example, this recent story from Nature: “World’s oldest art found in Indonesian cave.” It’s a pretty cool story:

Artwork in an Indonesian cave has been found to date back at least 40,000 years, making it the oldest sign yet of human creative art — likely pre-dating art from European caves.

Somebody stenciled paintings of their hands on the wall of a cave 40,000 years ago. And those paintings are still there. That’s awesome.

But it’s not so awesome if you’re a fan of young-Earth creationism. The whole premise of the story young-Earth creationists tell one another is that the universe is only about 6,000 years old. A set of 40,000-year-old cave paintings can’t be reconciled with that story. These cave paintings would seem to disprove that story.

So the first thing the young-Earth creationists will say in response to this news is that the scientists dating the age of these cave paintings simply must be wrong. They’re just guessing and their guess is incorrect.

But, alas, the dating of these cave paintings isn’t based on guesswork or theory. It’s based on measurement, using uranium-thorium dating:

Though the paint itself cannot be dated, uranium-thorium dating can estimate the age of the bumpy layers of calcium carbonate (known as “cave popcorn”) that formed on the surface of the paintings. As mineral layers are deposited, they draw in uranium. Because uranium decays into thorium at a known rate, the ratio of uranium to thorium isotopes in a sample indicates how old it is.

The researchers dated 12 stencils of human hands and two images of large animals. Because they sampled the top layer of calcium carbonate, the uranium dating technique gave them a minimum age for each sample.

They found that the oldest stencil was at least 39,900 years old — 2,000 years older than the minimum age of the oldest European hand stencil. An image of a babirusa, or “pig-deer,” resembling an aubergine with stick-like legs jutting from each end, was estimated to be 35,400 years old — around the same age as the earliest large animal pictures in European caves.

Again, pretty cool. Unless you’re a young-Earth creationist, in which case you’ve got a big problem.

That problem threatens the story the young-Earth creationists are enjoying. It threatens the story in precisely the same way that the impossibility of faster-than-light travel threatens the story that Star Trek fans enjoy. And thus young-Earth creationists respond to this problem in exactly the same way: with applied phlebotinum.

Click over to Answers in Genesis and search for articles on radioactive dating methods and you’ll find lots of phlebotinum — lots of articles explaining that such methods are unreliable because mumblemumblemumble gravimetric field displacement mumblemumble reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.

Do any of these articles actually make sense? Do any of them really disprove the reliability of things like uranium-thorium dating?

No, but that’s not the point. They don’t have to prove that such methods are unreliable any more than Gene Roddenberry had to prove that his warp drive was possible. Phlebotinum doesn’t need to be detailed and fully functional — that’s not what it’s for.

The purpose of phlebotinum is simply to allow the story to continue — to prevent it from getting derailed by the inconvenient existence of impossibilities and insurmountable realities. The purpose is to make the bargain with the audience: We, the storytellers, will acknowledge the existence of such impossibilities and, in exchange for this acknowledgement, you the audience will agree to suspend your disbelief so that the story may continue.

That bargain works for Star Trek, and for Buffy, and for Doctor Who and all the rest. It’s a good deal for fans of those stories.

But it’s not a good deal for fans of the story being told by young-Earth creationists because those story-tellers are making a different claim. They’re insisting that their story is true. A true story requires more than just the willing suspension of disbelief. A true story has to be believable. For a true story, phlebotinum won’t cut it.

When J.K. Rowling tells us that Harry Potter’s broomstick can fly because of magic, we’ll accept that bit of phlebotinum and agree to that bargain because she’s telling us a terrific story and we’re happy to go along for the ride. But Ken Ham is actually asking us to get on the broomstick and jump out the window. And before agreeing to do that, he’s going to need to tell us something more than just, “Trust me, it’s magic.”


[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Elizabeth Goldsmith

By Elizabeth C. Goldsmith (Regular Contributor)

Lately I’ve been researching old travel narratives from the 17th and 18th centuries, and rereading Robinson Crusoe. Then the other day I was watching The Apartment, Billy Wilder’s wonderful 1960 movie about corporate America. I was struck when Jack Lemmon says to Shirley MacLaine: “I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. And then one day I saw a footprint in the sand, and there you were. ”

That got me thinking about that famous footprint-in-the-sand episode, when Crusoe first stumbles upon a sign of human habitation on his island. How many different ways has it been depicted and interpreted over the past 300 years? In the book, and in the illustration to the first editions, Crusoe is shocked, thrown off balance and appalled at the sight:

“I stood as one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an apparition. … I came home not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps …”

Imagining what type of person he might be about to encounter (cannibals?), Crusoe calms himself and tries to stave off nightmares by thinking that the footprint might in fact have been his own. But then, knowing that to be impossible, he decides that any fellow human is bound to at least resemble him in some way. When Friday finally appears in the flesh, Crusoe will quickly make him over into a loyal servant and shadow of himself.


Contemplative Crusoe

Subsequent illustrations of the episode have reflected a change in the way different generations of readers have approached it – Crusoe is no longer depicted as terrified, only curious, sometimes on bended knee like an explorer or tracker, examining the evidence more closely before deciding what to do. And modern editions of the story as presented to young readers seem to emphasize the humanity of the moment. Crusoe is lonely, longing for a friend, and Friday will become one. We no longer see images of the scene where Crusoe places his foot on the neck of the kneeling Friday, signifying the Englishman’s mastery over the black man whose footprint had frightened him.

Shipwrecked in Hawaii?

The script writers for the popular TV series Mad Men might have been playing around with Defoe’s iconic moment in an episode where Don Draper takes a trip to Hawaii. He comes back with an idea for an ad showing footprints in the sand, next to the discarded clothing of a businessman. Are the footprints those of another person? Or has this modern traveler decided to go native? Don’s clients reject the ad idea, saying the image is too ambiguous, and even potentially depressing, suggestive not of the liberation of the castaway, but of a suicide.




Oct. 20th, 2014 07:07 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

I lost it yesterday.

Just lost it.

In order to understand, for those of you who don't use a wheelchair, I need to explain the build up. I had to work Saturday until two and therefore didn't get home until somewhere after three. We got home and left immediately, planning to catch the four o'clock showing of Fury. Never realizing that it would be me who was unleashing fury even before getting to the movie.

The sidewalks were packed and after a block or two we regretted not just taking the subway. I drove steadfastly and carefully. I've never run into anyone, although others have run into me, and I fill my mouth with politeness - excuse me please, thank you very much, could I just get by you there. These are mostly directed at people who are standing in the middle of a sidewalk texting or talking or otherwise 'I-ing' with their phone. It gets tiresome using manners when your whole being wants to shout - get out of the freaking way!!!

I was pretty used up with my store of politeness and patience, therefore, when I got to the lobby of the building which houses the cinema on the fourth floor. We went to the elevators and were the only ones waiting. The building has a remarkable set of escalators giving those without disabilities and without strollers an excellent option. However, there are those, like the twenty-somethings, out together in a group, gathered behind us, who for some reason prefer the elevator.

We were clearly there first.

We were clearly in front.

This means that we were waiting longest.

The door opened to an empty elevator and they swarmed around me piling on the elevator. I was trying to turn around to back on when one of them almost ran into me. I stopped. I was furious. I said, "No, no, please go ahead!" Then I brought my chair to a complete stop. One of them told me to go ahead, I said, knowing that the elevator was full now, "No, you are so damned desperate to get on before the cripple does so get the hell on." They got on.

I turned to see Joe in the elevator holding the door open for me. The others were on, if they packed to each side, I could get on, but they stood there looking at me to solve the problem. Well, I did. "Joe, get off, we'll take the next one unless selfish prats swarm us then too. I guess being first in line means nothing to people who consider themselves above such conventions." Joe got off, the door closed on me saying, "I hope you very important people find someone else to teach your children manners."

We managed to get to the theatre on time. I asked Joe if he was looking forward to seeing Fury, he said, mocking me, "I feel like I already have."
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

Gamergate and online harassment

Other Stuff

  • Ada Lovelace, a Computer Programmer Ahead of Her Time | Mashable (October 15): Read more about the life of the “enchantress of numbers”
  • Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist | this is not a pattern (October 14): “These are little things. Things that many people do without thinking about them and certainly without intending anything by them. Things that individually are meaningless, but in aggregate set the tone of an entire community.”
  • The Malala you won’t hear about | The People’s Record (October 16): “This is the Malala the Western corporate media doesn’t like to quote. This is the Malala whose politics do not fit neatly into the neocolonialist, cookie-cutter frame of presentation. This is the Malala who recognizes that true liberation will take more than just education, that it will take the establishment of not just bourgeois political “democracy,” but ofeconomic democracy, of socialism.”
  • Where’s Thor When You Need Her? Women In Comics Fight An Uphill Battle | NPR (October 10): “On Facebook, women make up just under half of all self-identified comics fans. But even as the female audience grows, female creators for DC and Marvel, colloquially known as “the Big Two,” are still in the minority.”
  • Internal Memo: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sets new diversity plan after ‘humbling’ experience | GeekWire (October 15): “The memo, sent prior to a regular monthly Q&A session with employees, went on to outline a series of steps that Nadella says the company will be taking to improve diversity and inclusion across the company, including the company’s engineering and senior leadership teams.”
  • FiveThirtyEight Turns the Lidless Eye of Data Crunching to Gender Disparity in Superhero Comics Characters | The Mary Sue (October 15): “Hanley has been crunching the numbers on the gender make up of the folks who work on Marvel and DC comics for years, but FiveThirtyEight wanted to take a slightly different tack by looking at the characters who make up those comics in the first place.”
  • Mary Berners-Lee: Ada Lovelace Day Hero | equalitism (October 19): “Tim Berners-Lee’s mom, Mary Lee Woods was a badass mathematician/computer scientist before he was. Both of Tim’s parents worked on a team that developed programs in the School of Computer Science, University of Manchester Mark 1, Ferranti Mark 1 and Mark 1 Star computers.”
  • 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.

    Sunday favorites

    Oct. 19th, 2014 10:34 am
    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    Isaiah 43:18-19

    Do not remember the former things,
       or consider the things of old. 
    I am about to do a new thing;
       now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
       and rivers in the desert.


    How I Write History…with Gary Krist

    Oct. 19th, 2014 11:05 am
    [syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

    Posted by April Stevens

    An Interview with Gary Krist (Guest Contributor)

    WoKrist Headshotnders and Marvels: You began your career writing novels and short stories. What inspired you to start writing about history in the form of narrative nonfiction?

    Gary Krist: Until I hit forty, I read–and wrote–mostly fiction. But at a certain point, I found I wanted to know more about how the world actually came to be, so I started reading history. And that interest soon bled over into my writing life. I began writing a historical novel, Extravagance, which took place partly in late-17th century London. I made several trips to the UK and discovered that I just loved the whole research process. So, after Extravagance, I decided to take the full leap to narrative history, and that’s where I’ve been for my last three books. I do think that I’ll write another novel at some point, but right now I feel I’ve found my true calling.

    W&M: As an accomplished writer of fiction, how do you incorporate the art of storytelling when writing history?

    Gary Krist: I want my readers to experience history with great immediacy, so I try to alternate background analysis with a series of unfolding foreground episodes that readers can really see and feel, as they would the episodes of a novel. But since I try to hold myself to strict standards of scholarship, I don’t have the freedom to invent dialogue or do extensive imaginary scene-setting. I’ve got to find all of that detail in the historical record. So I’m always on the lookout for things like memoirs, letters, court testimony, and newspaper interviews that can provide the specifics I need. Of course, such sources, like any others, are not necessarily gospel truth, so I have to weigh the reliability of every document. Sometimes I discuss this evaluation process in the endnotes, so readers can see how I make those decisions.

    W&M: Does your writing process differ when writing fiction versus narrative nonfiction? How so?

    gazebo krist

    Gary’s gazebo where he writes year round.

    Gary Krist: I always feel that I’m in the narrative business, whether I’m writing fiction or history. And the basics of creating an effective narrative are the same either way. You want to bring out the individuality and motivations of your characters; you want to ground those characters in a world with a vivid texture of sights, sounds, and atmosphere; and you want the action to unfold in a way that keeps readers engaged. But with narrative history, you have to do all of that with the elements of the actual historical record. It can be a challenge.

    W&M: What advice do you have for writers who want to take a different approach to writing history?

    Gary Krist: Narrative nonfiction history—the kind that aims at a popular audience but maintains high scholarly standards—is still a relatively new genre, so it’s important that writers make clear that they’re not doing New Journalism (with its freely fictionalized elements) or old-style “local-color” history (which dealt in unfootnoted folklore more than verifiable fact). Earning and keeping the trust of your audience is crucial to the success of any piece of narrative nonfiction; readers have to be convinced that what you’ve written is indeed what it purports to be—i.e., NONfiction. That’s why I labor over my endnotes. As a reader, I don’t like sketchy notes that just list a bunch of citations for an entire paragraph, without specifying what fact or quotation came from which source. So as a writer I try to pinpoint exactly where I found a particular detail. I also try to make my notes somewhat conversational, discussing, for instance, the pros and cons of various biographies of a particular figure in the story. “Transparency” is an overused buzzword these days, but I do think it’s something for any writer of nonfiction to strive for.


    Empire of SinGary Krist is the bestselling author of City of Scoundrels and The White Cascade, as well as several works of fiction. His new book, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, has just been published.

    W&M is excited to have five (5) copies of Gary Krist’s’s new book Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans for this month’s giveaway! Be sure to enter below by 11:00pm EST on October 31 to qualify (your entry includes a subscription to W&M Monthly).

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

    Monthly Book Giveaways

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    October Book Giveaways

    Spitting on Spite

    Oct. 19th, 2014 07:05 am
    [syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

    Posted by Dave Hingsburger

    I was reading an article today about sexuality and disability and the feature was about a woman with cerebral palsy. The subtitle of the article said something like (sorry I looked but couldn't find it again) 'She doesn't let cerebral palsy get in the way of living her life.' Now, remember, this from my remembering - I am sure I got some words wrong but what I didn't get wrong was the fact that she not letting her disability get in the way of her living her life.

    This kind of thing annoys the shit out of me because it places 'disability' at the centre of the problem, it states that disability, itself, is the barrier, it telegraphs the message - DISABILITY DOES BAD THINGS TO YOUR LIFE. There is no question that having a disability adds a whole new wrinkle to living one's life but pretty much everyone with a disability learns pretty quickly that disability is the LEAST of the problem.


    There's a very short and not even slightly comprehensive list of what 'gets in the way' of living life fully.

    Sexuality and disability - check the prejudices and the assumptions that people make of us as somewhat slightly less than fully human and only slightly below the 'icky' line of sexual attractiveness.

    Employment and disability - check the attitudinal barriers that are bolstered by the physical barriers, shit if I had to make the work site accessible I'd have to work with 'those people' so I can pretend it's the stairs not the stares that are the problem.

    Access and disability - check the frequency with which people with guide dogs are disallowed in stores and in churches and on transit. As was pointed out recently (Hi Amy) that no one in the Western World is unaware that guide dogs and other accessible devises are allowed in public spaces. Denying them is, then, not an act of ignorance but an act of hatred. Get it right.

    I've even had people say to me that 'in spite of your disability, you've done pretty well,' I wanted to respond, 'And I must say that I think you've done well in spite of being a woman.' I didn't say it, I wouldn't say it because even to make a point I don't think that sexist language should be part of a discourse. Saying 'in spite of being who you are ... ' means 'who you are is a bad thing and you are coping well, poor dear ...'

    If non-disabled people want to write about disability shouldnt' get have at least an inkling that we also may be the audience. That subtitle on that article was written, not for readers with disabilities but for readers without. It was written up to shore the idea that 'hey you don't have to do anything because what she faces she faces because of cerebral palsy none of it could be because you are a hateful ass who refuses to see people with disabilities as fully adult and fully human.'

    This isn't an subtitle that suggests the article is about her at all, it assures non-disabled people that it's safe to read - the disability stands accused so you won't be.



    I didn't read it.

    I couldn't get by the subtitle, it was like the writer placed a staircase in front of the article barring access to those of us who live with disabilities and who think while we read.
    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    • “When did arrogance cease to be immoral?” Pretty good column from Mallory’s Dad. I would add, too, When did rabid misogyny cease to be immoral? (I’ll see your Mere Christianity quote, Pastor Ortberg, and raise you a Great Divorce reference.)

    You better let somebody love you before it’s too late.

    henleyvshenleyWhatever the legal technicalities, it would have been far more graceful for the former Eagle to accept this ad as an affectionate nod rather than fighting it as a trademark infringement. Henley should’ve taken a cue from Paul Simon, who had the good sense not to sue the Carnegie Deli over its 50 Ways to Love Your Liver sandwich.

    You can file lawsuits like this one, but you keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside.

    Related: Charles Kuffner defends “Desperado” from music snobs (with the help of Johnny Cash). Yeah, the song probably romanticizes the very attitude it attempts to critique, but it’s still a nearly perfectly constructed song. Bracket your preconceptions and just hear it sung by then-9-year-old Sheila Behman for the Langley Schools Music Project.

    Also too: “Everyone is married to Don Henley.” That explains so much.

    • Yes, they are coming for your birth control.

    • I suppose it’s possible that Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio’s campaign manager wasn’t really suggesting racial profiling. He just figured — probably correctly — that any young and/or black people showing up at the Republican candidate’s events must be opposition research trackers because DeMaio has nothing to offer that young and/or black voters might be interested in.

    • We control the microphones. And then we tell other people it’s not polite to shout. But sometimes they shout anyway. Terribly uncivil.

    • And speaking of delicious rants, perfectnumber628 has a good one about “The Line” as in, “Stop accusing us of How close can we get to The Line.”

    This isn’t just a thing with white evangelical purity culture when it comes to sex. It’s a thing with white evangelical purity culture when it comes to everything. Cross The Line and you’re in sin. So, to be safe, create a buffer zone to avoid getting too close to The Line. Then, to be a bit safer, create a warning track before the buffer zone. And then a DMZ before the warning track, because you can’t be too safe. Because it’s all about not crossing The Line.

    Stay as far away as you can from The Line, they warn. Just look at Jesus, he’s just as far away from The Line as they are — way, way over there on the other side of it, where he’s hugging that leper and touching that bleeding woman and … nevermind, bad example.

    • Just to prove there’s not ill feelings implied with all the Don Henley business above, here’s a video of Henley performing one of my favorite songs of his:

    Click here to view the embedded video.


    Oct. 18th, 2014 06:51 pm
    [syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
    Just hit the 199th moth species in the garden, with the Root Collar Borer Moth (a minor pest on tuliptrees.)

    C'mon, 200!
    [syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

    Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

    For those of us in favor of same-sex marriage rights, it’s been an exciting few years. Politicians and legislatures have been increasingly tipping toward marriage equality. Lots of us are commending the powerful and high-profile individuals who have decided to support the cause.

    But, let’s not be too grateful.

    A figure at xkcd puts this in perspective. It traces four pieces of data over time: popular approval and legalization of both interracial marriage and same-sex marriage. It shows that the state-by-state legalization of same-sex marriage is following public opinion, whereas the legalization of interracial marriage led public opinion.


    There’s a reason that we look back at Civil Rights legislation and see leadership. Politicians, litigators, and activists were pushing for rights that the public wasn’t necessarily ready to extend. In comparison, today’s power brokers appear to be following public opinion, changing their mind because the wind is suddenly blowing a new way.

    I’m sure there are politicians out there taking risks at the local level. On the whole, though, this doesn’t look like leadership, it looks like political expedience.

    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)

    A Quest for Flavor

    Oct. 18th, 2014 01:00 pm
    [syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

    Posted by Gastropod

    By Gastropod (Regular Contributor)

    In this latest episode of Gastropod, chef and author Dan Barber takes listeners on a journey around the world in search of great flavor and the ecosystems that support it, from Spain to the deep South. You’ll hear how a carefully tended landscape of cork trees makes for delicious ham, and about a squash so cutting edge it doesn’t yet have a name, in this deep dive into the intertwined history and science of soil, cuisine, and flavor.

    Ecosystem Cuisines

    It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time before refrigerators, before long-distance trucks and ships. Most people had to survive on food from their immediate surroundings, no matter how poor the soil or challenging the terrain. They couldn’t import apples from New Zealand and potatoes from Peru, or rely on chemical fertilizer to boost their yields.

    Grains on table Nicola Twilley

    Dan Barber showed us grains from Klaas Martens’ farm in upstate New York. After a visit to Martens’ farm to source local wheat, Barber realized he needed to purchase and serve the other crops that Martens was growing in rotation on his fields in order to support the soil that grew the wheat. Photograph by Nicola Twilley

    From within these constraints, communities around the world developed a way of eating that Dan Barber calls “ecosystem cuisines.” Barber, the James Beard-award-winning chef of Blue Hill restaurant and author of the new book The Third Plate, spoke to Gastropod about his conviction that this historically-inspired style of cuisine can be reinvented, with the help of plant-breeders, his fellow chefs, and the latest in flavor science, in order to create a truly sustainable way to eat for the twenty-first century.

    Ecosystem cuisines, as Barber explains , survived in often harsh landscapes for hundreds or even thousands of years, because the local farmers cultivated a mutually beneficial community of plants and animals that grew well together, supported soil fertility, and could be combined in ways that still taste utterly fantastic today.

    Barber became famous for his farm-to-table cooking—a style of cuisine that prioritizes serving local, seasonal food, and that has become increasingly popular across America as a sustainable, delicious way to eat. But, as he began to understand how ecosystem cuisines incorporated all the ingredients of a healthy landscape, he realized that the typical farm-to-table chef’s approach of only showcasing a region’s very best local products isn’t really sustainable at all.

    Cork harvest montado Nicola Twilley

    Cork harvesting in the montado, the Portuguese equivalent of the Spanish dehesa. In this region of both countries, the cork oak acorns are eaten by foraging pigs, while the bark supplies much of the world’s natural cork for wine bottles. Photograph by Nicola Twilley.

    For example, Barber told us that the world-famous jamon iberico de bellota, Spain’s mouth-watering Iberian ham, simply could not exist if the local community didn’t also value, maintain, and consume the entire ecosystem around it. This landscape, a carefully tended combination of grasslands and widely spaced cork and holm oak trees, is called the dehesa in Spanish. As Barber explained, despite being a remote region with poor soils and a dry climate, the Spanish dehesa supports a thriving mix of pigs, sheep, and cows, olives, mushrooms, wild game and herbs, wheat—and people, whose dinner plates traditionally reflect all of the landscape’s products, rather than just its superstar ham.

    Inspired by the dehesa, Barber has set himself (and anyone who cooks) an inspiring and intimidating goal: to invent thousands of entirely new cuisines for America—cuisines that include all the edible products of a healthy, ecologically balanced local landscape, and are actually more delicious than a cuisine that only relies a region’s most famous foods.

    The Science Behind Great Flavor

    The first chapter of our conversation with Dan Barber explores the particular environmental and cultural circumstances that helped establish these traditional ecosystem cuisines in the past. But Barber is very clear that he’s not advocating some kind of impossible return to a simpler time. Instead, as we go on to discuss in the episode’s second and third chapters, Barber is working with a variety of scientists at the cutting edge of their fields in his quest for truly great flavor.

    Stone Barns greenhouse Nicola Twilley

    Amaranth growing in the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, which supplies much of the food that Dan Barber serves at Blue Hill. Photograph by Nicola Twilley.

    In the book, this involves a visit to a futuristic hydrological engineering project in southern Spain, in which the flow of water through a series of 1920s-era canals has been reversed to revive one of Europe’s largest wetlands, creating a perfect habitat for both migrating birds and farm-raised sea bass that Barber describes as among the most delicious fish he has ever tasted. It also involves a series of failures in an innovative attempt to produce ethical foie gras, a bread raised using phytoplankton rather than yeast, and an impassioned argument for increased government support of agricultural research.

    In this Gastropod episode, however, we focus on the science behind two approaches to creating great flavor: soil health and plant breeding. With Barber as our guide, we tease out the complicated and barely understood relationship between a soil’s mineral content and the nutrient density and flavor of the crops it supports, as well as the emerging science of microbe-root relationships and plant health.

    Barber Wheat

    Barber Wheat in the greenhouse (left) and freshly sowed in the fields at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture (right). Photograph via Dan Barber.

    Finally, we look at what it takes to breed truly delicious crop varieties. Barber introduces us to new squash developed by Michael Mazourek at Cornell University that has yet to receive a name, but is “so delicious that it blows your mind.” Barber’s latest obsession, however, is a new variety of wheat, specially bred by Steve Jones at the Washington State Research and Extension Center to deliver intense flavor while growing well in the Hudson River valley. It’s called, to his great delight, “Barber wheat.”


    Dan Barber and The Third PlateDan Barber is a guest on the latest episode of Gastropod, a new podcast hosted by award-winning science journalist Cynthia Graber and Edible Geography-author Nicola Twilley. Listen to this episode to learn more surprising stories about the history and science of great flavor, including how the American Civil War can be traced back, in part, to a forgotten soil crisis, as well as the shocking research showing significant declines in the minerals in both American vegetables and soils over the past fifty years.


    Buffy the Linkspam Slayer

    Oct. 17th, 2014 07:16 pm
    [syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

    Posted by spam-spam

    • Anita Sarkeesian explains why she canceled USU lecture | Salt Lake City Tribune (October 16): “A nationally known feminist media critic said Wednesday that “it would be irresponsible” to give a lecture amidst mass shooting threats at Utah State University, knowing that police would not screen for weapons at the door. In a phone interview from San Francisco, Anita Sarkeesian said she canceled Wednesday’s lecture not because of three death threats — one of which promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” — but because firearms would be allowed in spite of the threats.”
    • When gun rights trump public safety | Mary Elizabeth Williams (October 15): “It’s one thing to accept and understand that plenty of reasonable and responsible people own guns and that is their constitutional right. It is another to be so outrageously afraid of legitimate and sane restrictions that you have a situation in which it is entirely permissible to carry a loaded weapon into an event that carries a threat that the people attending it will “die screaming.””
    • The Threats Against Anita Sarkeesian Expose The Darkest Aspects of Online Misogyny | Maureen Ryan (October 15): “The question that’s been haunting many observers for weeks is now right out in the open in the wake of the latest threats leveled at Sarkeesian: Is someone going to have to die for things to change?”
    • #Gamergate Trolls Aren’t Ethics Crusaders; They’re a Hate Group | Jezebel (October 13): “I set about locking down accounts, emailing professors, contacting campus safety, and calling family. It was an exhausting process, but I considered it necessary. The attack could get out of hand. I mentioned offhand to my sister, about two hours in, that “it was getting to be my turn anyways,” to nonchalantly minimize my hurt. That was the moment I broke down. I realized just how much I’d internalized the presumed process: if you’re even asking about equality or diversity in games, being shouted down in a traumatizing manner is now a mandatory step that you have to sit back and endure.”
    • Sweatin’ the Small Stuff, of, Beware Your Throwaway Jokes About Middle-Aged Women in Magic | One General to Rule them All (October 14): “I dare Wizards to give us a major female Magic character (read: Planeswalker) in the next couple of sets who doesn’t have a body that wouldn’t look out of place on a runway or the cover of Playboy. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage was a great start, but that was three blocks ago. Hell, at this point, I’ll take more than one female Planeswalker per set.”
    • AdaCamp: Spending Time with Women in Open Source and Technology | Zara Rahman (October 13): “There were some sessions that really opened my eyes to another area of this ‘open’ bubble- for example, talking about women in open source. Most of the women there were coders, who had contributed to open source code projects; and despite my having read accounts of abuse and harassment within the open source community fairly regularly before, the severity of the situations they face, really hit home for me during this session.
    • Ada Lovelace Day: Meet the 6 women who gave you ‘the computer’ | The Register (October 14): “All six are now sadly no longer with us – Bartik was the last to pass away. But their achievements were profound, not just in terms of inadvertently cementing the name “computer”. In the absence of manuals literally working out how to use this giant, the team of six installed computer programs working from sheets of paper, nimbly unplugging and replugging a rat’s nest of cables and resetting switches.”
    • Don’t Be Fooled by Apple and Facebook, Egg Freezing Is Not a Benefit | The Daily Beast (October 15): “Of all the women Snyder surveyed, nearly 90 percent of them said they did not plan on returning to the tech industry in the future. The incompatibility between motherhood and tech, it seems, runs far deeper than the timing of pregnancy alone. And the problem is so severe that the women who leave almost never want to come back. In this context, the decision to cover egg freezing reads as Silicon Valley at its most typical, deploying a hasty technological stopgap for a cultural problem.”
    • Tech’s Meritocracy Problem | Medium (October 10): “Engineers love to be skeptics — it’s time to bring our skepticism to the concept of meritocracy. If we can be skeptical enough about our own ability to detect merit, and balance it with more objective measurement or outright mitigatory adjustments — we’ll come closer to resembling an actual meritocracy.”
    • HERoes: Genevieve Valentine | Comicosity (October 2): “From journalist to award winning novelist, Genevieve Valentine is now channeling her inner crime boss. She is providing a new voice to a suited up Selina Kyle, starting with this month’s issue of Catwoman. She tells Comicosity about switching the role of female characters in comics and the importance of reader perspective while consuming.”
    •  Comic Books are Still Made by Men, For Men, and About Men | FiveThirtyEight (October 13): “But these recent advancements don’t make up for the fact that women have been ignored in comic books for decades. And they still don’t bring women anywhere close to parity: Females make up about one in four comic book characters. Among comic-creators, the numbers are even more discouraging. Tim Hanley, a comics historian and researcher, analyzes who’s behind each month’s batch of releases, counting up writers, artists, editors, pencilers and more. In August, Hanley found that men outnumbered women nine-to-one behind the scenes at both DC and Marvel.”
    • Life, Engineered: How Lynn Conway reinvented her world and ours | University of Michigan (October 8): “Ten years earlier, Conway had been one of the first Americans to undergo a modern gender transition. It had cost her a job and her family. Once she established herself as a woman, she kept the past a secret. Conway stayed behind the scenes as much as she could. As a result, so did many of her achievements.”

    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.

    Mapping the New Jim Crow

    Oct. 17th, 2014 06:19 pm
    [syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

    Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Update: An earlier version of this post included a chart that compared black America's incarceration rate with those of other countries. The chart incorrectly listed black Americans' incarceration rate in 2010 as 4,347 per 100,000 Americans. In fact, that is the rate for black American men. The rate for black American women is 260 per 100,000 Americans, and the rate for black Americans as a whole is 2,207 per 100,000 Americans. The graphic has been updated.

    Theodore Johnson's excellent piece appraising "Black America" as a country gives us some sense of the beast with which Michelle Alexander was grappling. Another factoid to consider while looking at this: "No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities," writes Alexander. "The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid."

    Somehow, looking at Johnson's post, the term "mass incarceration" seems not to capture exactly what this country is doing to its African American population. Does this equal a "new Jim Crow?" The more I think about it, the less important I find the debate to be. Was convict-leasing really "slavery by another name?" I'm not quite convinced. But at the same time the greater point seems to be that America's entire history is marked by the state imposing unfreedom on a large swath of the African American population. Whatever the successes of the past 50 years, there is no evidence that that trend has ended.

    I would be remiss if I did not offer two other entries into the debate. Here is law professor James Forman's critique of The New Jim Crow. Forman mostly agrees with Alexander but offers an argument for jettisoning the "Jim Crow" framing. In support of Alexander, I offer the concluding words from chapter three of Randall Kennedy's Race, Crime and the Law. Kennedy published his book in 1997, but this section—on inmate rights—feels especially relevant to our conversation:

    Some observers will argue that the indifference, if not hostility, shown by governments at every level toward inmates despite the large percentage of whites in the inmate population negates any suggestion that this indifference or hostility is tainted by illicit racial sentiments. That argument, however, should by no means be viewed as decisive.

    First, it may be that the politically influential sectors of the society are unaware that whites constitute a large proportion of inmate populations. It is possible, indeed likely, that the imagery of the Negro as criminal has misled some people into believing that blacks (and other people of color) constitute an even larger percentage of incarcerated populations than is actually the case, thereby misleading these same people into erroneously minimizing the number of whites who face danger and misery in jails and prisons.

    Second, even if voters and their representatives do have an accurate understanding of the racial demographics of inmate populations, that alone does not negate the possibility that racially selective hostility or indifference is at work in affecting public sentiment and thus public policy regarding incarceration. Although whites constitute a large proportion of the prisoner population, white inmates constitute a much smaller percentage of the overall white population than is the case with black inmates. In 1990, for every 100,000 white Americans, 289 were in jail or prison; for every 100,000 black Americans, 1,860 were in jail or prison.

    It is entirely plausible that the white-dominated political institutions of America would not tolerate present conditions in jails and prisons if as large a percentage of the white population were incarcerated as is the reality facing the black population. It is surely possible, to many likely, that if the racial shoe were on the other foot, white-dominated political structures would be more responsive than they are now to the terrors of incarceration. That possibility should make more alarming the fact that the darkening of jail and prison populations during the past twenty years has been attended by a discernible increase and hardening of antagonism toward the incarcerated.

    One indication of this increased public hostility is the return of chain gangs and other policies calculated to increase the immiserization of prison life. It is impossible to say definitively whether attitudes toward the in-carcerated would be different if those who are jailed and imprisoned represented as large a proportion of the white population as the jailed and imprisoned represent of the black population. That this hypothesis is at least plausible is itself a damning statement about the state of American race relations.

    Moreover, apart from the matter of governmental intentions, the plain fact is that deplorable, unlawful conditions in jails and prisons have a distinctively racial appearance because such a relatively large percentage of the black population is, has been, or will be incarcerated. At present, jails and prisons are among the most influential institutions of socialization in African-American communities. The extent to which authorities allow these institutions to remain dangerous, destructive, lawless hells is the extent to which authorities strengthen the belief held by an appreciable number of black Americans that the “white man’s” system of criminal justice remains their enemy.

    I highlighted the sentences about proportionality because they offer some perspective on the "collateral damage" critique. Previously, I asserted that the sheer number of white people damaged by mass incarceration made it hard to view it strictly through the lens of racist control. But looking at those numbers relative to the total population of each group tells a different story.

    I know that a number of you had feelings about the book, on reflection. Feel free to offer them here.

    This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/mapping-the-new-jim-crow/381617/

    [syndicated profile] aqueductpress_feed

    Posted by Timmi Duchamp

    The Fall issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out! This is one of our special focus issues, this time on Women and the Gaming World, brought to us by guest editor Diana Sherman. In addition to the special focus, the issue also brings us Marc Laidlaw's "The Legend of Kit Read" for our Grandmother Magma column and "The Old Testacles," a short story by Anna Tambour.

    Here is the table of contents:

     Vol. 4 No. 4 — October 2014

    Special Focus on Women and the Gaming Worldand the Gaming World
    Asking the Right Questions in Games
       by Fred Zeleny

    The Women of Dragon Age
       by Marie Brennan

    The Othering of Women in Gaming
        by L. Wagner

    Grandmother Magma
    The Legend of Kit Reed
       by Marc Laidlaw

    Chicks Dig Gaming, edited by Jennifer Brozek,
    Robert Smith?, and Lars Pearson
       reviewed by Victoria Elisabeth Garcia

    Mass Effect Trilogy, by BioWare
       reviewed by Rachel Blackman

    Long Live the Queen, by Hanako Games
      reviewed by Linsey Duncan

    Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games by Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist Frequency
       reviewed by Arinn Dembo

    The Old Testacles
       by Anna Tambour

    Featured Artist
    Realm Lovejoy
    The digital version of the issue can be purchased for $3, the print version for $5, here

    Every Pigeon Tells a Story

    Oct. 17th, 2014 06:15 pm
    [syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

    Posted by Juliet Wagner

    By Juliet Wagner (Regular Contributor)

    3 pigeons-PigeoncamerasBetween 1903 and 1906, Julius Neubronner, a pharmacist in a small town near Frankfurt, would regularly receive prescriptions and deliver small quantities of medication to a nearby sanatorium by carrier pigeon. After a particular pigeon that had been missing for a few weeks returned to him in good health, Neubronner wondered where the truant pigeon had been, and his curiosity inspired him to design a special automatic camera-suit for his birds that took photographs beneath them as they flew.

    A New Flock of Spies?

    Although Neubronner’s original motivation was to spy on his pigeons, it soon became clear to him that the pigeons themselves could be employed as airborne spies, and he was quick to tout the potential military applications of pigeon photography after he patented his device in 1908. His design took advantage of the fairly consistent altitude of pigeon flight to calculate focal length, and different versions of the suit had different camera features. Neubronner also developed a mobile dovecote with an enlarged landing entrance to accommodate the extra bulk of his flying photographers’ gear.

    The poor birds modeling the suits on these photographs were probably stuffed, but Neubronner did successfully demonstrate the camera-suit on live pigeons. He used beautiful images of the German landscape –askance and framed by the tips of the photographer’s wings—to prove it.


    Drone Prototypes

    The Prussian military was negotiating with Neubronner to purchase his camera-suit technology and team of pigeons when the First World War broke out in August 1914. Bowing to national emergency, Neubronner’s pigeons were drafted and reportedly tested with some success by the Prussian army, but were never used widely. The promise of small, reliable, unobtrusive airborne spies was not truly fulfilled until the widespread use of drones by the US military almost a century later.

    No longer an exclusively military technology, drones are becoming common in much less ominous settings. Drone photography is now used for class photo group shots, for example, replacing the old-school photographer on her precarious stepladder, and is also applied to analyze football plays, supervise farmland and to entertain crowds at public events. In a reversal of Neubronner’s innovation, amazon.com has recently proposed using drones to deliver packages.

    Like the humble pigeon, however, 21st century drones are not without predators. The latest online drone-video craze features impressive drone-eye-view hawk attacks.

    For more on Julius Neubronner:

    Franziska Brons, “Bilder im Fluge: Julius Neubronners Brieftaubenfotografie” Fotogeschichte: Beiträge zur Geshichte un Äesthetik der Fotografie, Jahrgang 26, Heft 100 (2006), pp. 17-36.

    As well as a pharmacist and inventor, Neubronner was an amateur film enthusiast. A short film he made performing magic tricks in 1904 is viewable here (his pigeons feature!).

    Additional images of Neubronner’s pigeons and the views they captured are available here.


    Juliet Wagner is a Research Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where she is also an active participant in colloquia in ‘Medicine, Health and Society’ and at the Penn Warren Humanities Center. She is currently completing the final touches on her first book, on film and shell shock during the First World War, which argues that the notion of “suggestion” was central to both trauma and cinema in the early twentieth century.


    [syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

    Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The Economic Policy Institute has just released a report by Richard Rothstein that gives some sense of how the world of Michael Brown came to be. It turns out that that world was born from the exact same forces that forged cities and suburbs across the country—racist housing policy at the local, state, and national levels. Rothstein's report eschews talk of mindless white flight, and black-hearted individual racists, and puts the onus exactly where it belongs:

    That governmental actions, not mere private prejudice, were responsible for segregating greater St. Louis was once conventional informed opinion. In 1974, a three-judge panel of the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that “segregated housing in the St. Louis metropolitan area was … in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.”

    Similar observations accurately describe every other large metropolitan area; in St. Louis, the Department of Justice stipulated to this truth but took no action in response. In 1980, a federal court order included an instruction for the state, county, and city governments to devise plans to integrate schools by integrating housing. Public officials ignored this aspect of the order, devising only a voluntary busing plan to integrate schools, but no programs to combat housing segregation.

    A lot of what's here—redlining, housing covenants, blockbusting, etc.—will be well-known to those with a good handle on 20th-century American history. I focused on this particular era in my case for reparations. But it bears constant repeating: The geography of America would be unrecognizable today without the racist social engineering of the mid-20th century. The policy included—but was not limited to—mortgage loans backed by the Federal Housing Authority and the Veteran's Administration:

    At its peak in 1943 when civilian construction was limited, the FHA financed 80 percent of all private home construction nationwide. During the postwar period, it dropped to one-third. But even when subdivisions were not built with advance FHA commitments, individual homebuyers needed access to FHA or VA insured mortgages, so similar standards for new construction pertained. Subdivisions throughout St. Louis County were developed in this way, with FHA advance commitments for the builders and a resulting whites-only sale policy.

    The FHA’s suburban whites-only policy continued through the postwar housing boom that lasted through the mid-1960s. In 1947, the FHA sanitized its manual, removing literal race references but still demanding “compatibility among neighborhood occupants” for mortgage guarantees. “Neighborhoods constituted of families that are congenial,” the FHA manual explained, “… generally exhibit strong appeal and stability.” This very slightly sanitized language suggested no change in policy, and the FHA continued to finance builders with open policies of racial exclusion for another 15 years.

    In 1959, the United States Commission on Civil Rights concluded that only 2 percent of all FHA-backed loans had gone to blacks. "Most of this housing," concluded the report, "has been in all-Negro developments in the South."

    As it relates to black America, segregation must always be understood, as a system of plunder. Once the big game has been fenced off, then comes the hunt:

    According to a study by the St. Louis nonprofit Better Together, Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent. Municipal reliance on revenue generated from traffic stops adds pressure to make more of them. One town, Sycamore Hills, has stationed a radar-gun-wielding police officer on its 250-foot northbound stretch of Interstate.

    With primarily white police forces that rely disproportionately on traffic citation revenue, blacks are pulled over, cited and arrested in numbers far exceeding their population share, according to a recent report from Missouri’s attorney general. In Ferguson last year, 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches and 93 percent of arrests were of black people—despite the fact that police officers were far less likely to find contraband on black drivers (22 percent versus 34 percent of whites). This worsens inequality, as struggling blacks do more to fund local government than relatively affluent whites.

    And this is but one aspect. I strongly suspect that if I talked to some housing attorneys in the region they could tell me a story.

    This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/the-racist-housing-policies-that-built-ferguson/381595/

    Four things

    Oct. 17th, 2014 02:09 pm
    [syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

    Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

    Four things that happened this morning.

    1. I stayed up super late, but I got all the sweater pieces finished, and washed, and semi-blocked. By semi-blocked, I mean that I laid it out sort of orderly on the rack of the dryer, and then set it for a while, and went to bed.

    2. I got up super early, so that I could hit the reset on the dryer if it was still too damp for sewing up.  Even though this means that I got way too little sleep, it was a very good call. All pieces are now dry, and in my suitcase.  I’ll sew them up when I land. After I buy buttons.  Ok. I’m a little behind. I still think it’s totally possible though.

    sweaterpieces 2014-10-17

    3. I drank coffee and carefully wound some yarn for the trip, then realized that I’d wound the yarn in the wrong direction (don’t laugh, this yarn totally has a direction) and decided to quickly re-wind it.  I’ve known that my ball-winder was headed for the great big yarn shop in the sky for some time – I can always tell that I’ve worn through another one when they start making breast shaped yarn cones instead of pretty cakes, but this one confirmed it’s impending absolute uselessness by being nearly completely bloody useless this morning. It made a freaky shaped yarn thing, then flung it off the winder, tangling in the tension curl, and tumbling to the floor with the other half of the ball.  (It there collected an unreasonable amount of cat hair, but that’s hardly the ball winders fault.)  It did this as my cab arrived.  I had 30 seconds to curse its vile name, put the tangled snarl into my suitcase for rescue tonight, and quickly grab something already wound.  I guess I’m making socks.

    4. I drank enough coffee (see #1 and 2) that I can sort of feel my hair growing.

    [syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

    Posted by Gwen Sharp, PhD

    Flashback Friday.

    While preparing a lecture on sex tourism, I ran across this video about men who have sex with female tourists in the Caribbean:

    There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on there, no? I was fascinated by the female hotel owner who talks about the men “preying” on the female tourists, clearly placing the power in the hands the men who, she argues, use the female tourists for money but don’t really care about them. I tried to imagine someone talking similarly about female sex workers “preying” on foreign men’s need for affection and attention.

    This might make for a great discussion about perceptions of sexual agency: how do gendered sexual norms, economic differences, and the different races and nationalities of the individuals involved affect how we think of their interactions and who we see as the victim?

    In her chapter on sex tourism in Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality), sociologist Joane Nagel discusses the role of racialized sexualities in making some groups attractive tourists looking for an ethnosexual adventure. In the Caribbean, dark-skinned men with dreads are particularly attractive to some female tourists because of stereotypes of Black men as extremely sexual and masculine, which plays into fantasies of being swept away by a strong, skilled lover. At the same time, White Western women may represent the possibility of a better life (through continued gifts of money even after the vacation is over) and sexualized adventures to the men they sleep with while on vacation. Nagel argues that these encounters generally reinforce, rather than challenge, existing racial and gender inequalities, since they play on stereotypes of sexualized Others as animalistic, primitive, and, in the case of men, as super-masculine (and super-endowed).

    Then again, Nagel also questions whether any relationship between tourists and “local” men should count as sex work. The individuals involved don’t necessarily think of their interactions in those terms. And who is to decide if a particular situation is “sex tourism” as opposed to a “real” relationship? How does that assumption invalidate the possibility that Black men and White women might have real, meaningful relationships? Or primarily sexual relationships, but with both partners respecting the other?

    Originally posted in 2009.

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

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

    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    To say I was appalled by what I found in the early pages of the first Left Behind novel would be like saying the Great Wall of China was long.

    Left Behind, pp. 6&7

    It’s a dangerous thing for a writer to introduce a fictional character who is, the reader is told, the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time. The pitfall here is the same as if you introduce a character by telling readers he is “the absolute funniest person who ever lived.”

    You can get away with this, somewhat, if you’re writing about a great painter or musician. There you can get away with simply piling on the superlatives, perhaps describing the reaction of others to the artist’s work. Readers do not expect you to actually show them a painting or play for them a symphony.

    But if you introduce a character, as LaHaye & Jenkins do with Buck Williams, as a great writer and reporter, the reader has a right to expect that you will provide more than overheated adjectives. Readers want to read what the GIRAT has written.

    L&J provide only the briefest snippets of their master journalist’s handiwork, and these fall far short of the buildup that Buck is the greatest writer in the world, or even a good or competent journalist.

    This is particularly glaring since Buck has been an eyewitness to some astonishing events. In the next few pages, we read of his firsthand involvement in two pieces of unprecedented, world-changing, revolutionary actions, all of which is mere setup for what happens next — a third, overwhelmingly illusion-shattering incident that forms the premise for all that follows in the book.

    Any one of these events should serve, on its own, to invert everything everyone thought they knew. All preconceptions should be altered, the world and world-view of everyone on earth should be irreversibly shaken to its foundation and tentatively rebuilt.

    But that doesn’t happen. The characters who occupy L&J’s fictional world are as oblivious, self-absorbed and incurious as L&J rely on their readers to be.

    Take the second incident Williams witnesses: Russia launches a massive undeclared first strike against Israel. Why? That is never explained, and it doesn’t occur to the authors or to their master investigative reporter to ask such a simple question.

    We are simply told that Russia, unprovoked, launches every missile, every warhead, every plane it has against Israel. That alone should be sufficient to reset everyone’s mental calendar. Every person’s internal and external frame of reference would be altered to think of the world in terms of Before and After. Think September 11 magnified by several factors of ten.

    Yet this event registers as only a flicker in the mind of the GIRAT, even though he was in Israel at the time of the attack.

    The other characters we’ve met so far — a pilot and flight attendant whose daily routine consists of international travel, and an End Times-obsessed housewife who would likely watch news about the Middle East more closely than news about her own school district — don’t even seem to have noticed that this all-out nuclear assault happened. We read nothing about any disruptions in international flights following this war. We read nothing about Irene Steele’s citing this apocalyptic conflict to her husband in their many arguments about her own interpretation of the Last Days. In coming chapters, the novel becomes preoccupied with the United Nations. Yet scarcely any mention is made of how the unilateral launching of a nuclear war by a permanent member of the Security Council might alter the dynamics of that body.

    Anyway, here’s how the GIRAT reported, firsthand, from the scene of an all-out nuclear surprise attack:

    To say the Israelis were caught off guard, Cameron Williams had written, was like saying the Great Wall of China was long.

    Just remember, when L&J discuss good writing, this is what they mean.


    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    The CEO of a local business is upset because the city has subpoenaed transcripts of a bunch of public speeches he gave earlier this year.

    On the one hand, it’s kind of weird that the CEO is upset and that he’s claiming victimhood over this. These were public speeches in public settings — speeches that he had, at the time, public-ized. The CEO had crafted these words with the intent and desire to have them heard and read and disseminated as widely as possible. So it seems odd, now, for him to turn around and claim that the city is somehow violating his privacy or his right to … something or other, by attempting to read those speeches now.

    It’s just weird that he is acting as though the city had subpoenaed his medical records, or his browser history, or his private diary.

    But on the other hand, isn’t there something kind of creepy about the city just going around, willy nilly, deciding to subpoena private citizens for no apparent reason? Even if the particular materials being sought here — public speeches — don’t make this particular case seem intrusive, doesn’t this still seem like an abuse of power? Or, at least, doesn’t it seem like it might be similar to something that one could imagine turning into a form of something that’s close to what might become something like an abuse of power?

    And that’s Bad, isn’t it? It seems bad if you look at it like that. We don’t like to think that the city can just go around arbitrarily issuing subpoenas for no reason.

    Turns out, though, that the city does have a reason for subpoenaing these public speeches from this CEO. The city is defending itself in a lawsuit — a lawsuit filed against the city by … wait for it … that very same CEO.

    Oh. So, in other words, this is discovery — the routine legal business that occurs whenever two parties go to court. The CEO’s speeches are part of the facts of the matter in question. In defending itself against the CEO’s lawsuit, the city has a right to access to those facts. Those facts — and those speeches — are what this lawsuit is about.

    OK, but still … why is this CEO suing the city? Whatever the particulars of his lawsuit, he’s got to be the Good Guy in this, right? He’s literally fighting City Hall. Doesn’t that automatically make him the hero in this story? That’s how the trope works, after all — when a private citizen stands up to fight City Hall, City Hall is never the Good Guy in the story.


    But this is real life, not a Hollywood movie. In real life, City Hall isn’t always the big, corrupt oppressor abusing its power to crush the little guy. Sometimes it is! But in real life, City Hall is also, you know, the government — doing the job of the government in a democracy by standing up for the little guys.

    And in that capacity — when City Hall is acting in its proper role as the Good Guy — cities get sued. A lot. They spend a lot of time in court fighting lawsuits filed by slumlords, tax cheats, wage thieves, racketeers, polluters, and all manner of other powerful, wealthy scofflaws who have deeper pockets than the taxpayers and who would rather tie the city up in court than comply with the laws that apply to everyone else.

    So no, fighting City Hall doesn’t automatically make you the Good Guy. But it doesn’t automatically make you the Bad Guy, either.

    Which kind of story is this one? Which kind of lawsuit is this one? Is City Hall the Good Guy or the Bad Guy in this case?

    Well, here’s what happened. The city council passed a law protecting minorities from getting fired just for being minorities. Specifically, the city’s new law protects LGBT people from employment discrimination.

    The CEO doesn’t like this law. What’s more, he thinks most people in the city don’t like it either. It’s quite possible he’s right about that. After all, laws protecting minorities from being treated unfairly wouldn’t ever come up in the first place unless it weren’t the case that a big chunk of the majority population was inclined to treat them unfairly. It’s often the case that a majority of the majority doesn’t like it when the law keeps them from taking advantage of a small minority.

    But the CEO was so sure that a majority of the people of the city saw things his way that he launched a petition drive to force a ballot initiative that would allow the people of the city, by direct vote, to overrule their elected council and repeal the anti-discrimination law.

    I will now pause to allow you to decide for yourself whether or not this CEO is the Good Guy in this story.

    But that’s not ultimately relevant. It doesn’t matter if you think the city’s anti-discrimination statute is just or unjust, or whether you think the CEO’s ballot initiative to overturn it was just or unjust. Because that’s not what the CEO’s lawsuit is about.

    The CEO filed his lawsuit after his petition drive failed. He didn’t manage to collect enough valid signatures to get his repeal initiative on the ballot.

    But the CEO argues that he collected a whole bunch of valid signatures that were unfairly disqualified by election officials. If you count those, he says, then he’s got enough to get his repeal initiative. So he’s suing.

    This lawsuit, in other words, isn’t about discrimination or anti-discrimination laws. It’s about something far more technical, mundane and boring. It’s about the electoral rules involving petition drives – about things like the number of signatures collected, how the validity of those signatures is determined, and the legitimacy of the tactics used to collect them. Some of those laws can be technical and complicated, but the function of such laws is quite clear: to ensure that all signatures represent actual people who intended to lend their name to the effort.

    And that is why, in response to the CEO’s lawsuit, the city’s lawyers wound up subpoenaing the CEO’s speeches.

    Not all of his speeches, mind you. They’re not interested in all of his speeches — just the ones related to the failed petition drive. Just a limited number of public speeches that were delivered publicly in support of the thoroughly public matter of an intrinsically public and political petition drive.

    You can understand why such speeches are relevant to the matter of this lawsuit. The CEO’s descriptions of his petition in those speeches have a direct bearing on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the methods he was using to collect signatures. The content of those speeches is essential to the legal questions the CEO’s lawsuit addresses. What instructions were given to those who were collecting signatures? Did those instructions comply with election law or not?

    So no matter what you think of the anti-discrimination statute, or of the CEO’s position, or of the city’s position, the necessity of examining his public statements offering instruction, direction and support for his petition drive shouldn’t seem weird or unseemly or inappropriate. That’s the heart of the whole lawsuit.

    The subpoenas filed by the city’s attorneys are utterly predictable, mundane, and unavoidable steps in the process the CEO himself began by filing his suit.

    If there’s any whiff here of anything unseemly or inappropriate, it’s coming from the CEO’s sudden perturbation over the prospect of close legal scrutiny of the tactics and rhetorics he employed in his petition drive. He’s quite a bit more worried than we might expect someone to be if they were confident they had followed election law properly.

    But here’s the wrinkle: I’ve streamlined some of the description above to make the outlines of this case easier to describe and to understand.

    The actual lawsuit involves not just a single CEO, but several CEOs of nonprofit corporations in Houston, Texas.

    And those CEOs are also clergy, and the nonprofit corporations they oversee are Christian churches.

    Now, churches are not — legally — just exactly like every other business. And clergy are not legally just like every other CEO. Those legal differences are, in general, a very important thing.

    But I don’t get why those differences substantially change anything in this case. I’m not sure how or why those differences should make any difference.

    Nothing in this case involves either the establishment of religion or the city attempting to restrict the free exercise thereof, so this doesn’t seem to raise any First Amendment issues.

    The separation of church and state is an enormously important principle in American, but I don’t see what it would mean to invoke that principle here.

    The separation of church and state does not forbid pastors and churches from participating in petition drives. Nor does it mean that pastors and churches are prohibited from filing a lawsuit against the city. But it also does not and cannot mean that when pastors or churches do file such lawsuits, they are magically exempt from the laws that govern such lawsuits or from the legal process and legal rules that the city and everyone else has to obey.

    So what am I missing here? These sermons have direct bearing on the facts being disputed in this lawsuit — a lawsuit initiated by the churches themselves, not by the city. Those sermons have direct bearing on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the methods used to collect signatures, which is the center of this entire legal dispute.

    If the city’s subpoenas involved the speeches of a CEO in an otherwise identical lawsuit, no one would bat an eye at the obvious necessity of collecting and consulting such relevant material in the case.

    What is it about the fact that these public speeches were sermons that significantly changes that?

    For more on this legal battle: Off the Kuff; Marc Campos; Texpatriate; Snopes; Pat Robertson.

    Birds, Plants, Stuff

    Oct. 17th, 2014 12:11 am
    [syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
    Went out twitching today after a rare bird that was just plausible enough to be sighted in Durham...and discovered that some idiot had been listing the exotic waterfowl collection over at Duke. (I just map-quested the coordinates and didn't realize where it was located until I got to the gardens and had a sudden sinking feeling. What I get for not checking closer.)

    Oh, well. It got me out of the house, anyhow. I haven't been birding in weeks, beyond glancing into the backyard occasionally. There are worse fates than a morning spent birding at Duke Gardens, even if it's all yellowthroats and vireos.



    I mean, I grow this stuff, and this never occurred to me. (I don't have a slope like that, mind you...) It's a clumping native grass with pink seed heads, grows about two feet tall, gets a pretty good spread. Never ever seen it used like that.

    Then I stopped at the Botanical Garden on the way home, and there went the rest of the morning. Did you know there is a plant called "Farkleberry"?! (Okay, it's been rebranded as "Sparkleberry" and is a native holly, but seriously, that used to be "Farkleberry." The little tag informed me solemnly that not even google knew the origins of "farkle.")

    So that was my morning. Didn't suck, even with the not-actually-wild goose chase.

    The Dryad's Shoe

    Oct. 16th, 2014 10:16 pm
    [syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
    My short story in the Women Destroy Fantasy collection is available to read on-line!

    The Dryad's Shoe

    If you enjoy it, please consider buying either the e-book or print volume from Fantasy Magazine of the whole issue--it is some super cool stuff.

    And can I just say how awesome it is to have been involved in this project? I was so honored that Cat Rambo seized this one. I frequently lack the energy or the sanity to really get both hands into all the worthy causes that I should and being able to be part of WDF and the whole we-are-part-of-fantasy-no-matter-what-the-haters-say awesomness of it is just...whoa.

    (It's also T. Kingfisher's first trad publishing credit, so, y'know. How cool izzat?)

    Maybe it’s required

    Oct. 16th, 2014 07:24 pm
    [syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

    Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

    This year, I swore it would be different.  This year, I swore that I would get a grip, and not do this to myself, and just opt out of the madness, because it’s totally optional. This year, when I finished Myrie’s sweater and found myself a week out from Rhinebeck, I had a moment of complete and total delusion in which I wondered if I could knit a Rhinebeck sweater in a week.  (Actually, this year it was six days.)  I sat there, and I thought about it, and I even went so far as to choose yarn and a sweater, and I calculated how much I would have to do each day, and I thought about what it was like last year, and this year, I looked at my time and energy, and my friends, I chose life.


    I still wanted a Rhinebeck sweater though, and I thought about something that @litknitgrit on said on Twitter, when I asked if it was too late to try for one.  She said “The trick is to find one almost finished that needs sewing up and blocking. You know you have one”.  I thought about that – and you know what? She was right – or sort of right.  A little while ago (FINE. MAY 2011) my friend Andrea and i were having a little knitalong on a sweater, and I don’t know what happened, except that both of us wandered off, really close to the end.  Since then that sweater has been plunked in a bag, just waiting for me to care about it again.  I had knit both sleeves, and the better part of the body.  I was almost at the part where you divide the thing into two fronts and a back, and other than that, it just needed button bands, and buttons, and blocking, and sewing up.  This – this seemed perfect.

    This year, I thought, as I pulled Acer out, and hunted up the pattern again – this year I would have a Rhinebeck sweater, and it would be easy, and I wouldn’t have to stay up all night, or put it in the oven, or sew it up in the car on the way to the fairgrounds.  This year, I had it licked. This year, I got too cocky.

    sweaternotdone 2014-10-16

    This year, my friends, I was wrong again.  Turns out that Acer needed more than I thought. (The tiny angry owls were probably a mistake too, time wise)  I thought I was pretty much done the body – Wrong. It needed about 8 more centimetres, and I’ve somehow only got one front done (and it’s the wrong length. I have to rip it out and add more, and last night I finished the back, but that still leaves 1.5 fronts and the button bands and the neckband, and the blocking, which is really the biggest problem, because that’s the only thing I can’t make happen really fast.  (I have a rack for the dryer. It might work, but that’s not really blocking. Still, it’s as good a day as any to cheat.) After that there’s sewing and buttons and ….

    And I’m starting to think that there’s a thing with the Rhinebeck sweater. Maybe it has to be like this? Maybe it always ends in a mad dash to the finish, maybe that’s part of its charm? Who the hell knows, certainly not me, and I can’t talk about it now.  I’ve got a flight in the morning, and in the name of all things woolly and pure – I will have this sweater.


    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    Maureen Ryan, “The Threats Against Anita Sarkeesian Expose the Darkest Aspects of Online Misogyny”

    It’s the price women pay when they encounter abuse and have to process it intellectually and emotionally. It’s the price they pay when they have to stop what they’re doing and report harassment or other intimidating behavior to a website or network. It’s the time and the mental energy they lose when they ponder what to write and create — and what not to write and create — in order to avoid living a life that is not dominated by a dread of what could be lurking around the next corner.

    The women who endure this abuse daily, hourly, for months, for years: I don’t know how they get through it, because the tax being levied on them and their loved ones is so high. It’s too goddamn high.

    Duncan Black, “Nobody Cares About the Deficit”

    Uninformed voters have some notion that borrowing is “irresponsible” and “objective” reporters have put it on the list of things they’re allowed to “objectively” say is bad without thinking that they’ve abandoned their objectivity, but the people who make careers out of being deficit scolds just want to cut or steal Social Security. That’s the point.

    Jerry Seinfeld, Clio Acceptance Speech

    Click here to view the embedded video.

    Paul Waldman, “When the Next Terrorist Attack Comes, Will We Be Capable of Keeping Our Heads?”

    Most of us appreciate, at least intellectually, that our chance of dying in a terrorist attack is approximately zero, and even if it increases, that increase would mean it has gone from approximately zero all the way up to pretty much zero. But that’s not how we act and react. So let’s go back to that attack, and consider what would happen in response. It would be the biggest news story of the year, every report emphasizing that it happened “just steps from the White House and the Capitol building.” The news media would amp up the fear to levels we haven’t seen in the last decade, encouraging everyone to look for sleeper cells lurking down at the Piggly Wiggly. Republicans would of course unite behind President Obama in our time of mourning — kidding! They’d go on TV to denounce him for being so weak that the evildoers struck us in our very heart, and proclaim not only that the blood of the victims is on the hands of every Democrat, but that more attacks are coming and we’re more vulnerable than we’ve ever been. Dick Cheney would emerge snarling from his subterranean lair to warn us that this is only the beginning and we really need to start bombing at least five or six more countries. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has already said about ISIL that “this president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home,” might just tear off his shirt and scream, “We’re all gonna die! We’re all gonna die!” right on Fox News Sunday.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Old Jim Crow”

    The consequences of rendering black people criminals for being human have been profound and extend beyond the argument over whether we really are facing a “new” Jim Crow. The fact is that for most of our history, every black person who’s ever actively resisted was effectively committing a criminal act. Harriet Tubman might grace postage stamps today, but in her time she was a criminal who likely would have been executed or sold South had she been caught.




    [syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

    Posted by Tim Chevalier

    [Content warning: rape]

    Back in April, we published a statement of support for the victim in the Dana McCallum rape case. In the letter — written by Liz Henry and co-signed by Leigh Honeywell, Valerie Aurora, Brenda Wallace, Tim Chevalier (me), Annalee Flower Horne, and Beth Flanagan — we stated our empathy and support for the victim/survivor — who is McCallum’s wife (they are in the process of divorcing) — in this case as well as for her family.

    This month, McCallum accepted a guilty plea for two misdemeanors in this case: one count of domestic violence with corporal injury to the spouse and one count of false imprisonment. McCallum will serve probation, community service, and will have to undergo counseling. We already included this link in a linkspam, but given our previous statement of support for McCallum’s victim, I want to reiterate that support.

    As Liz wrote in our statement of support back in April, “Rape is a horrible violent crime no matter who the rapist is.” McCallum’s wife read a statement that says, in part:

    I must say that it deeply saddens me that as a victim, my only public support has been from hate groups. I expected more from the LGBT and feminist community. It’s a shame that they can’t do the emotional work it requires to process that someone they love is capable of such an awful crime. That is their burden to carry, though.

    In April, we also expressed disappointment in the transmisogynistic response to McCallum’s crime. As geek feminists, we believed then, and do now, that we can and must accept that someone in our community is capable of the crime of rape. Hard as it may be to accept, self-identified feminists can sustain rape culture — up to and including actually committing rape — too. We also believe that at the same time, we must resist the narrative that would use this crime to de-gender or misgender McCallum and, by extension, trans women. Rape can be committed by anyone, regardless of their assigned sex at birth or their self-affirmed sex or gender. Structural power dynamics and rape culture mean it’s far more likely to be committed by cis men than by people in any other group, but that is a fact that needs to inform anti-rape organizing — it does not make rapes committed by specific non-cis, non-male people less damaging.

    McCallum’s wife also said that she still loves McCallum and wants “forgiveness” to prevail. The Revolution Starts at Home (PDF link) is recommended reading for anyone curious about what that might look like.

    Edited to add: McCallum’s ex has also written a public blog post, as a guest post on Helen Boyd’s blog, about her experience:

    The transphobic radical feminists and other transphobic people will continue to rage over the state of my wife’s genitals, and I can’t stop them. But I hope more intelligent and thoughtful people will rise to the occasion to steer the conversation to what really matters.

    I want her to be accountable. I want this to never happen again. I want to forgive her. I want this story to be about forgiveness and redemption. I need it to be. I need others to let it be that, too – to be my story, my trauma, my choice, my agency.

    I recommend reading the post, but not the comments.

    [syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

    Posted by Tom Megginson

    The United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign had a fantastic launch, with Emma Watson’s impassioned speech deservedly going viral. She stood up and described how everyday sexism continues to discourage girls and women from being strong, physical, and outspoken. And she defended the “feminist” label as a simple demand for sexual equality. But most importantly, she called for solidarity between men and women in achieving it.

    And then this video came out:

    On the surface, it looks like a group of men from all walks of life answering Ms. Watson’s call. But delve deeper, and it becomes problematic. For me, anyway.

    I’m a man, and I consider myself a feminist. But when I think about working towards an end to sexism, the last thing I would do is get a group of men to discuss the issue isolated from women. And yet that’s what this video seems to be trying to do.

    It feels like a male encounter group, but obviously highly scripted. The different men describe their commitment to #HeForShe in terms of protective paternalistic stereotypes (“I can’t let my daughters, or my wife, suffer because I didn’t do MY job”) and entitlement (“If we don’t change it, it’s never gonna change.”)

    I realize that men have to be part of the solution, but this video feels like it is saying that men ARE the solution. As if a bunch of bros getting together to share their feelings are going to solve sexism, with no reference to how sisters have been doing it for themselves for over 200 years. They don’t need a heroic male takeover of the women’s movement that helps us all feel proud of ourselves because we are “#NotAllMen.” They need real understanding and support.

    Am I being too harsh? Maybe. But when the one man says, “Understand that it’s not only speaking out FOR women, but WITH women” to a sausage fest, the irony speaks volumes to me.

    I think #HeForShe is a great idea, “a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other of humanity, for the entirety of humanity.”

    So why can’t we do it together? Are men considered to be so sexist already that we need to find a “manly” way to be feminist?

    Here’s an idea: Talk to women about the issue. But more importantly, listen to them about what they experience. There is far more work for us to do together.

    Tom Megginson is a Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. He is a specialist in social marketing, cause marketing, and corporate social responsibility. You can follow Tom at Osocio, where this post originally appeared, and The Ethical Adman Work That Matters.

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

    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    • This is, probably, really good news:

    Click here to view the embedded video.

    I say “probably” because, well, Lynch and Frost seemed to burn their bridges with the premature “ending” of the original series, and Fire Walk With Me didn’t change that. I still want to know what happened to the good Dale. And here’s hoping that Chris Isaak and Bowie will turn up too.

    • “A letter to the organisation’s member churches from Brian Houston said there was ‘no reason’ for the new abuse cases to be announced, as they could be used by critics of the church to further their agendas.” Yes, they could. And, yes, they should.


    Calvary, worldwide box office as of 10/12: $11,023,460. Left Behind, worldwide box office as of 10/12: $10,845,791. Both figures subject to change come award season, of course.

    Wheaton College, sex, and the law. And also, Wheaton College, sex, and the law.

    • “Mathew Hagee Says Ebola Crisis Is a Sign of the End Times.” Because Matthew Hagee says everything is a sign of the End Times.

    Hagee is following in the footsteps of his dad, perpetual End Times prophesier John Hagee. That makes Matthew a second-generation proponent of the belief that we are in the last generation.

    That may seem like an absurd, self-refuting contradiction, but Matthew Hagee says that such contradictions are signs of the End Times.

    • Writing about Spellbound and those old psychoanalytic breakthrough movies yesterday made me think of High Anxiety, which led, in turn, to re-watching this:

    Click here to view the embedded video.

    Julia Pastrana, ‘bearded lady’

    Oct. 16th, 2014 05:29 am
    [syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

    Posted by Helen King

    By Helen King (Regular Contributor)

    Julia Pastrana

    In February 2013 there was a big day for the ‘bearded lady': Julia Pastrana’s body was repatriated to her native Mexico and buried, her coffin covered with white roses. Julia, ‘the world’s ugliest woman’, suffered from excessive hair growth on her face. She was exhibited at freak shows by her impresario husband in the 1850s and, after her death in 1860, he went on travelling with her embalmed body, displayed so that audiences could now gaze at her without the embarrassment of her returning their stares. Rebecca Stern has listed the many parallels between Julia and the character Marian Halcombe in Wilkie Collins’ Woman in White, which was serialised in 1859-60. For example, we are told that Halcombe’s ‘complexion was almost swarthy, and the dark down on her upper lip was almost a moustache’, and that the viewer is ‘almost repelled by the masculine form and masculine look of the features in which the perfectly shaped figure ended’.

    Julia was by no means the first such woman to be displayed. In the Renaissance, the three Gonzales ‘hairy girls’ were moved around the courts of Europe during the sixteenth century, like living items in a cabinet of curiosities. But it was in the mid-nineteenth century that the ‘bearded lady’ became a staple of the live freak show. The rise of the railway and the steam ship in the 1830s enabled such shows to take off, with performers being able to travel not just within one country, but also between nations. Nadja Durbach argued that the peak of their popularity came at a time of ‘modern and imperial self-fashioning’. Why ‘modern’? Because, scholars argue, the display of the ‘weird’ is part of modernity’s attempts to restrict the possibilities for individual variation. Not just the paying public, but also medical professionals, were interested in these variations.

    While some such ‘women’ may have been men dressed in women’s clothing, many were not. Those displayed included people of uncertain sex – such as Gottlieb Göttlich, who travelled over Europe as medical experts failed to decide on the ‘true sex’ – as well women with various hormonal or genetic conditions who grew beards or were hairy all over. The ‘bearded lady’ was often shown smartly dressed, looking like a respectable woman of the time. This made the beard even more of a shock. Those with hair all over were shown in skimpy clothing and displayed as the ‘missing link’ with the animal kingdom; for example, both photographs and posters survive showing a woman who was exhibited from 1883 as ‘Krao’, and the posters were drawn to make her more hairy than she really was.

    Were these people exploited, tragic figures, or were they in control and finding a way to make a living? Was this a career – or a form of slavery? Krao’s display coincided with the move for women’s rights in education and politics, making the ‘bearded lady’ a particularly worrying figure. In one cartoon of the period, a suffragette asks the bearded lady on display in a shop window ‘How did you manage it?’ The bearded lady has her travelling bag beside her; this shows that, in some ways, it is she rather than the suffragette who has the greater freedom.


    To find out more:
    Nadja Durbach, Spectacle of Deformity. Freak Shows and Modern British Culture, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2010.

    Rebecca Stern, ‘Our bear women, ourselves. Affiliating with Julia Pastrana’ in Marlene Tromp (ed.), Victorian Freaks. The Social Context of Freakery in Britain, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2008, 200-233.

    Merry Wiesner-Hanks, The Marvellous Hairy Girls, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009.


    This post first appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 10 March 2013. Since then, I’ve extended my interest in the disruptive potential of the beard with a piece for The Conversation on the Conchita Wurst phenomenon.


    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound is a Hollywood classic. It’s got Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck and dream sequences designed by Salvador Dali — what’s not to like?

    Well, plenty. Because Spellbound is one of those psychological “breakthrough” stories that were popular in the ’40s and ’50s. And those stories just strike me as frustratingly dim. The problem, I think, is that they seem to confuse a diagnosis with a cure. The climax of these stories is always the big breakthrough — the eureka moment in which the analyst suddenly shouts that the protagonist, for example, is unable to trust others because he was abandoned by his parents as a child. Yes, that’s it! Of course!

    MakingBailAnd then everyone celebrates as though they’ve solved the problem rather than just identified it.

    The credits roll, but the poor bastard isn’t really much better off than he was at the beginning of the movie. He may have a bit more insight into the source of his problem, but his problem is still there and it’s still a problem.

    Something similar to that can happen when we talk about sin, the spiritual bondage to the powers of death, injustice, evil, oppression and all that other Bad Stuff we Christians believe needs to be redeemed and transformed in ourselves and in the world. We can fall into that same trap of mistaking a diagnosis for a cure — of thinking that identifying the problem with great precision amounts to having solved it.

    Knowing what the problem is doesn’t solve that problem. And in some ways it can make the problem more acute. (I think that’s part of what Paul was getting at in his discussion of sin, death, enslavement and the law in Romans 7.)

    Earlier today, I argued that progressive Christianity offers a better theological understanding of what “spiritual slavery and bondage” entails than can be found in mainstream white evangelical Christianity.

    My jumping-off point for that post was a discussion from Richard Beck, who responded in a comment here. Richard agrees that the “progressive” diagnosis is insightful and constructive. But he also highlights a potential danger in that progressive viewpoint — the danger that it can become a way of “mainly talking about the sins of other people.

    What he was trying to get at, he writes:

    … was a personal vision of Christus Victor, how Christ might rescue me from my sin, as a liberal, as a progressive. Phrased another way, if you wrote another post how would you describe the spiritual bondage that liberals and progressive are enslaved to? That vision is what I find missing among progressives/liberals, a robust vision of their own spiritual bondage and slavery. And without that vision progressives have no need of Christus Victor theology. Conservatives surely need it, but not progressives. That was the issue I was trying to get at.

    This is important. It highlights, for me, the greatest potential danger of the progressive/liberal/liberationist critique of injustice, oppression and enslavement to dark spiritual powers. And that, I think, is the danger of imagining that this critique is exclusively or primarily about “the sins of other people.”

    Which is why I think the first thing to be said about “the spiritual bondage that liberals and progressives are enslaved to” is that it is the same as the kind of bondage that we progressive-ish-types are so good at identifying in conservatives.

    This was powerfully argued in two insightful pieces I’ve excerpted here recently in some of those “Smart people saying smart things” posts. Neither of these is intentionally theological, but both are congruent with the progressive Christian understanding of enslavement to sin that we’ve been talking about here.

    The first is from poet/blogger Scott Woods, in the context of his response to Ani DiFranco’s plantation pratfall and her initially graceless response to getting called out on it. Woods wrote:

    Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it.

    That’s not a theological analysis, but it lines up quite well with many of the theological views we discussed earlier — Reinhold Niebuhr’s understanding of original sin and of prideful self-deception, Walter Wink’s insights into the powers and principalities, etc.

    Woods is reminding us that we can’t ever congratulate ourselves on having arrived as one of the Good People who thereby become somehow exempt from the dynamics he’s describing. It’s not just other people — those conservatives over there — who are subject to these insidious snares. It’s also me, you, Ani, and all the other righteous babes with all the best of intentions.

    Mychal Denzel Smith wasn’t thinking in explicitly theological terms either when he wrote about “Sexism in the alt-lit community and a message for all us wanna-be male feminists.” But his essay, too, aligns with the same things we were discussing here under the theological rubric of “spiritual bondage to the powers of death.”

    Smith writes:

    The unlearning of misogyny, sexism, and patriarchy is not done by standing on a proverbial mountaintop and shouting “I Am a Feminist.” You can’t purchase a bunch of “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirts and think you’ve got it down. You can’t be “good” just because you’ve declared yourself so.

    … It’s not enough to separate ourselves out into categories of “good” and “bad,” “feminist” and “misogynist,” because too often the assigning of the label is mistaken for the work.

    … It’s easy to pawn off misogyny and sexism to “those guys,” to proclaim you’re “not that guy,” and feel yourself clean. But if the problem were just “jocks” or “Pat Robertson,” it would be much easier to solve. The culture of male entitlement is pervasive, and it doesn’t miss you just because you opted to pick up Audre Lorde and Gloria Anzaldúa rather than a football and a Bible.

    The deeper danger Smith highlights is much like the concern Richard Beck raises: the mistake of thinking that the problem exists mainly as a problem for other people and not for me, too. As a warning sign against this, Smith points to the story of a “hip alt-lit editor” who seemed to say all the right things, becoming “a man who believed himself ‘good’ and therefore absolved of the toxic sexist culture and therefore incapable of harm. And therefore, also, even more entitled.”

    If we start to think that identifying the problem means we are “therefore absolved” of it, and “therefore incapable of harm,” then the next thing you know we’ll be putting down our buckets, imagining there’s no need to keep bailing.

    And then we’ll drown.

    A theological response to these un-theological discussions of sin might complain that neither Woods nor Smith seems to allow much room for grace or for sanctification. But I think they do. Grace, I think, is what taught our hearts to fear the waters flooding our boat — it’s what allows us to start scooping, and to keep at it. We couldn’t do that on our own. We can only do it because of grace (the grace of God, we Christians say, but also the amazing grace shown us by other people).

    And sanctification, I think, doesn’t entail our being exempt or absolved or finished with the duty to keep bailing, but rather has to do with getting better at it — with a heightened awareness of the danger posed by rising water and a greater determination not to let it swallow us.

    If a Knitter has a minute

    Oct. 15th, 2014 04:44 pm
    [syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

    Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

    After I finished Myrie’s sweater, I decided to follow in the grand tradition of knitting the littlest cousins matching things. (It’s not actually a tradition. I just made that up.)  it seemed a waste to not make the most of the 24 hours I had free before Thanksgiving/Myrie’s Birthday gathering to make her and Lou more knitted things.

    Last week,  a promo copy of Gramma Nancy’s Animal Hats arrived here, and at first glance, I thought it was perfect.  A lot of the time when things arrive here without me asking for them, they get passed along to a knitter who will really use and love them, but this book reflects a deep truth that dwells within me.

    One of the things I like best about little kids is that you can put whatever you want on them, and this book totally feeds that bizarre urge to dress a little baby up like a chicken. (Or a pig. Or a BEAVER. See? It’s totally normal.)  On second look, I wasn’t sure the book was for me.  The hats are all knitted out of Vanna’s Pride (a yarn that I’m not a huge fan of, I like natural fibres for the very young. Get them while they’re little, I say) and more than that, all the parts of the crazy cute hats were supported with styrofoam (no thank you) and put together with a hot glue gun. (Would that really work?) While it’s totally fine for you to like those things, I don’t like those things (also I dislike apple pie and mistrust most dogs)  so I almost put the book aside, then got a grip on myself and realized that I could change the yarn, and stuff things with wool roving, and sew wherever she said “glue”.  Once I had that idea sorted I was on my way to hat town, and there was no stopping me.

    hatsdone 2014-10-15

    One evening had the simple roll brim hats finished, and I thought once that was done, that would be the bulk of it finished.  Wrong again, knitter.  It took longer to knit all the little bits (beaks, ears, etc) than it did to knit the hats.

    beaks 2014-10-15

    I thought that was time consuming, and then things got wild.  I’d decided not to glue anything, and so I embroidered the yellow onto the black for the eyes (8mm felt disc) and then sewed the black to the white, then sewed the white to the hat. (The original pattern suggested that I was to disassemble a wiggle eye, and glue the parts together, then glue it onto the hat, but I kept imagining Lou chewing off the plastic discs – which are totally too small to block an airway, but still make me nervous. I feel better about a sewn on disc of felt than a glued on disc of plastic. There’s no accounting for it.)

    I found it easier to get the beaks on if I put the hats over the newel post for the stairs, I used it like a huge darning egg.

    sewingowl 2014-10-15

    (Let us gloss over the part where Joe came home from work, and I had a baby hat over our stair-post, and was sewing an upper beak on while clutching a lower beak in my teeth. It wasn’t a super normal moment in our marriage.) The wee hats, when they were finished, were a thing of beauty.  I love them.  No, wait, that needs all caps.  I LOVE THEM.

    owlsdone 2014-10-15


    Best part? We can make the tiny people wear them, for they have no power.

    owlhat 2014-10-15

    myriewont 2014-10-15

    Ok.  Maybe they have a little power. Myrie tried to eat the beak off hers, and then threw it on the ground. I believe she’ll feel differently when the snow flies. There’s nothing like super-cold weather to bring a kid round to the power of hats. She’ll get there, and even if she doesn’t?

    owlsalldone 2014-10-15


    That will be all.



    The Old Jim Crow

    Oct. 15th, 2014 04:17 pm
    [syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

    Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    I'm still processing much of what was talked about here during our reading of The New Jim Crow. In continuing my studies this week, I picked up Randall Kennedy's book Race, Crime, and the Law. As I've said before, one insight that's stuck from Alexander's work is the need for skepticism when we discuss "law" and its cousin "order." Laws are not synonyms for justice. Indeed, Alexander is arguing not that the criminal-justice system is flawed but that it is fundamentally unjust and has always been so.

    That latter point deserves some emphasis. If there's one thing I am drawing from the historical portion of Kennedy's work, it's that America has always viewed its black population as a kind of sleeper cell—either criminals in fact, or criminals in waiting. All of our racist political rhetoric, from birtherism to "welfare queens" to "state's rights" to Willie Horton to Sister Souljah, reflects this. Black people represent an element in this country that tends to either break the law or exploit its loopholes at the expense of good, hard-working white people.

    And this view is old. For most, if not all, of their existence, black people have been America's premier outlaw class. From Kennedy:

    Prior to the Civil War, many jurisdictions made slaves into “criminals” by prohibiting them from pursuing a wide range of activities that whites were typically free to pursue. Authorities enacted criminal statutes barring slaves from learning to read, leaving their masters’ property without a proper pass, engaging in “unbecoming” conduct in the presence of a white female, assembling to worship outside the supervisory presence of a white person, neglecting to step out of the way when a white person approached on a walkway, smoking in public, walking with a cane, making loud noises, or defending themselves from assaults. Governed by a separate law of crimes, slaves were also subjected to a separate brand of punishment. Slaves, for example, were subjected to capital punishment for a wider range of crimes than any other sector of the population. Virginia, for instance, defined seventy-three capital crimes applicable to slaves but only one—first degree murder—applicable to whites.

    To criminalize black people for reading, walking, worshipping—things whites do all the time—is to essentially criminalize black humanity. And this not just a matter of enslaved black people. States like Illinois and Oregon passed laws barring all black people from entering their borders. Among those criminalized by these laws was a black man who brought his fiancée to Illinois in hopes of marrying her. He was prosecuted and convicted, and in upholding his conviction the Illinois Supreme Court declared its intent "to exclude any further ingress of negroes, and to remove those already among us as speedily as possible."

    The Fugitive Slave Act took this criminalization further, essentially allowing white "man-catchers" to declare black people escaped slaves—again criminals—and remand them to custody. And there was great incentive to do so, as the individual enforcers of the act were given $5 if it were determined "that a slavemaster was not entitled to an alleged fugitive slave" but $10 if it were determined the slavemaster did have a right to his "property." A U.S. marshal refusing to participate could himself be criminalized and fined $1,000. A marshal who allowed an enslaved person to escape "would be liable to an owner for the full value."

    One reason why I was hoping for a tighter history from The New Jim Crow is that I could intuitively feel the connections between the new system and the old. I thought that those links deserved more attention, more clarity, and would have strengthened the case. I suspect Kennedy would be skeptical of a "new" Jim Crow. Nevertheless, his history makes clear how much the old system of justice and the new have in common—criminalizing the behavior of black humans, punishing black humans under harsher terms, incentivizing the seizing of black bodies. I suspect there's even more.

    The consequences of rendering black people criminals for being human have been profound and extend beyond the argument over whether we really are facing a "new" Jim Crow. The fact is that for most of our history, every black person who's ever actively resisted was effectively committing a criminal act. Harriet Tubman might grace postage stamps today, but in her time she was a criminal who likely would have been executed or sold South had she been caught.

    Frederick Douglass was a flagrant criminal. And he knew it:

    I appear before you this evening as a thief and a robber. I stole this head, these limbs, this body from my master and ran off with them.

    The black men who served in the Union Army were regarded by the Confederate opposition not as soldiers but as outlaws:

    We cannot treat negroes ... as prisoners of war without a destruction of the social system for which we contend .... We must claim the full control of all negroes who may fall into our hands, to punish with death, or any other penalty.

    And it wasn't just the Confederates—80 percent of all Union soldiers executed for mutiny were black. Martin Luther King was a criminal. Rosa Parks was a criminal. Malcolm X was not just a criminal in his youth but regarded and treated as such by the FBI until the end of his life. Indeed, J. Edgar Hoover criminalized much of black leadership from Marcus Garvey to King to Malcolm to the Black Panthers for his entire career.

    And Hoover did much more. When Viola Liuzzo was brutally murdered by white supremacists, Hoover's FBI spread rumors that she was heroin addict who liked to sleep with black men (a crime in several states.) The rumors had the intended effect:

    ... the July 1965 issue of The Ladies' Home Journal published a poll that asked if readers thought Liuzzo was a good mother. Fifty-five percent didn't. ("I feel sorry for what happened," said one woman in a focus group convened to talk about the Liuzzo story, "but I feel she should have stayed home and minded her own business.")

    Why was Hoover so dead-set on criminalizing Liuzzo? Because Hoover himself was a criminal who'd placed an informant in the car with her murderers. The informant had cut his teeth beating the daylights out of Freedom Riders. Hoover did nothing to restrain him. Liuzzo's husband tried to defend her name. He later turned to drinking and died. Liuzzo's family sued the FBI and lost. Today the name of J. Edgar Hoover—an inveterate racist and scourge of black people—decorates the headquarters of the incorruptible FBI.

    Even being technically within the law has not insured protection for black people. The Freedom Riders were not seeking new laws; they were trying to get the federal government to enforce a Supreme Court ruling already on the books. The response from law enforcement was to treat them like outlaws. The attorney general's office was essentially created to enforce civil rights for black people, but when called to actually enforce the law, Robert Kennedy denounced not the Southern police but the Freedom Riders, for producing "good propaganda for America's enemies." Meanwhile informants, ostensibly in his employ, were helping white supremacists wreak havoc.

    All of this must be remembered the next time the police invoke "Stop Snitchin'"—the same police who've long maintained a blue wall of silence. The uncomfortable fact is that "The Law" in America has been—at best—a halting friend of black people, and more often a direct enemy.

    I keep going back to the first conversation I ever had with Mr. Clyde Ross. I keep thinking about him telling me that he'd fled Mississippi seeking "the protection of the law." And now I am thinking about William Goodell (quoted by Kennedy) speaking of black people:

    [The enslaved] is nevertheless accounted criminal for acts which are deemed innocent in others, and punished with a severity from which all others are exempted. He is under the control of law, though unprotected by law, and can know law only as an enemy, and not as a friend.

    So little has changed.

    This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/the-old-jim-crow/381473/

    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    Richard Beck is one of my favorite bloggers and one of the kindest, wisest people in my RSS feed. He’s someone I like and admire so much that I’ll offer this kind of gushing praise for him even when it’s not in anticipation of a qualifying “but” to follow.

    But … (And this disagreement on one point in no way diminishes any of what I’ve just said. Seriously, bookmark his blog. Subscribe. Read it. Absorb it. It’s terrific stuff and he is, himself, a mensch.) … but …

    I appreciate the main thrust of Beck’s post yesterday on “Christus Victor and Progressive Christianity,” … but … I think he’s overlooking a great deal of what progressive Christianity is saying. And also overlooking a great deal of what mainstream white evangelical Christianity is incapable of saying.

    Christus Victor is a theory of the atonement that says Jesus died and rose to free us from bondage to sin, death and evil. A lot of people who are sometimes called “progressive Christians” find this a more appealing explanation for the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection than, say, the more recent penal substitutionary theory of atonement, which seems to imply an unlovely, vindictive bloodthirstiness on the part of God. (Not that every progressive type Christian would go so far as to describe penal substitutionary atonement as a ghoulishly Lovecraftian horror — but some of us might say exactly that.)

    Hence the appeal of alternative theological theories, including Christus Victor.

    The problem, Beck says, is this:

    For Christus Victor theology to make any sense you have to have a robust theology of those dark enslaving powers, a robust theology regarding our spiritual bondage to the powers of death, Satan and sin. And yet, because of their pervasive struggles with doubt and disenchantment, along with their post-evangelical reluctance to talk about our enslavement to sin, progressive Christians lack an important aspect of Christus Victor atonement: a vision of enslavement to dark spiritual powers.

    Basically, what are you being rescued from if you aren’t enslaved to anything in the first place?

    Progressive Christians like the idea of Jesus spiritually rescuing us but they do a damned poor job of describing how all of us, without Christ, are in spiritual bondage. But without a robust vision of spiritual slavery and bondage in the hands of progressive Christians Christus Victor theology is a non sequitur, it just doesn’t make any logical or theological sense.

    I appreciate the gist of that — we shouldn’t go around singing “We Shall Overcome” unless we’ve got a clear idea of what it is that needs overcoming. But if we listen to Christians on the progressive side of the church, I think we’ll find that they have a very clear idea indeed.

    For me, this is part of the appeal of progressive Christianity. It articulates a powerful, liberating understanding of “spiritual bondage to the powers of death, Satan and sin.” The explanation and exploration of such spiritual bondage is far more serious and substantial than any corresponding effort I have seen in mainstream white evangelicalism. It is precisely this robust theology — the very thing Beck says here is lacking — that has drawn me and many, many others to look beyond the individualist white-evangelical piety of a “personal Lord and savior.” We were looking for something that could help us to make sense of the world — and of the meaning of redemption, bondage, sin, and liberation.

    And if that’s what you’re looking for — “a robust vision of spiritual slavery and bondage” to help make sense of the world — then progressive Christianity is a fruitful place to start. After all, where do you think “Liberation theologies” got their name? Or look to Walter Wink on the powers and principalities. Or to Reinhold Niebuhr on the pervasive corruption of pride and the way sin gets institutionalized, precluding sinless possibilities. Or to the recent wave of “empire” theory and criticism.

    More importantly, should we imagine it’s possible to have anything like an accurate appreciation for the meaning of “enslavement to dark spiritual powers” without understanding the role of powers and principalities like racism, patriarchy, class, privilege, violence, nationalism, colonialism, etc.? Does anyone really believe that conservative white, male, American evangelical theology offers an adequate understanding of any of those things?

    No, if you want to truly understand “our spiritual bondage to the powers of death, Satan and sin,” then you’re going to have to read theologians of color, feminist and womanist theologies, queer theologies, liberation theologies and other theologies of the poor. Those voices are, shamefully, often marginalized even within nominally “progressive” Christianity, but if we’re speaking in broad, general terms about “progressive” and “conservative” camps, then that progressive camp is where you’re going to find them.

    Let me go further than that. It is not progressive Christianity, but mainstream white evangelicalism that is “reluctant to talk about our enslavement to sin.” It is reluctant to do so because it is unable to do so. And it is unable to do so because it has, itself, become one of The Powers That Be — or, at least, it has become their faithful servant.

    On the other hand, look at the proliferation of young progressive Christian voices in the blogosphere or on Twitter. I’m not sure that “pervasive struggles with doubt and disenchantment” are words I’d use to describe them. I look at them and I see liberation — people who have broken free from dark spiritual forces they have come to understand all too well.

    (“Disenchantment” is an odd word. Like, “disillusioned.” it sounds bad — until you realize that its opposite sounds even worse. “Enchantment,” after all, is a kind of bondage. So maybe disenchantment can be a kind of liberation.)

    Look at the plethora of young women offering insightful critiques of purity culture, modesty culture and rape culture. Look at the amazing, ongoing discussions of racism, white supremacy and white privilege that Christians (among many others) have been having around #Ferguson. (Including the related discussion of how the term “progressive Christian” can be, itself, a tool of white privilege, supremacy and hegemony.) What are those conversations if not, in fact, expressions of “a robust vision of spiritual slavery and bondage”?


    The Bridge Illustration

    And what is the alternative that these progressive Christians have allegedly turned away from? Where in mainstream white evangelicalism can we find a superior understanding of the meaning of spiritual slavery?

    The Bridge Illustration from the Navigators is a classic expression of the white evangelical understanding of the meaning of sin. But that illustration is about estrangement, not enslavement.

    How about The Screwtape Letters? 

    Don’t get me wrong — I love The Screwtape Letters. I have an audio version of it read by John Cleese that I think is just about the most perfect marriage of text and narrator ever recorded. It’s an insightful, wise, sometimes profound, often hilarious self-help book. It’s a self-help book that offers some immensely helpful spiritual advice. But having said all that, it’s still a self-help book. It deals with the self by itself — detached and excerpted from all social context. (Or, perhaps, presumed to share the same unconsciously normative context of Lewis’ self.) Like most of what you’ll find in mainstream white evangelical discussions of “enslavement to sin,” it has far more to say about spiritual bondage to bad personal habits than it does about spiritual slavery and bondage.

    Poor Wormwood turns out to be a hapless tempter, but his devilish uncle isn’t much more effective. Neither of them gives much thought to the weightier matters of justice, and so they are ultimately unable to prevent their subject from finding redemption, salvation and liberation. Screwtape should have read more widely, seeking infernal inspiration from the insights offered by the “robust vision of spiritual slavery and bondage” that he might have found in progressive Christianity.

    Screwtape’s job, remember, was to imprison his subject in bondage to death and sin. He failed at that devilish task because his understanding of such bondage was limited to the shallow, inadequate, individualistic understanding of conservative white Protestantism.

    If Screwtape had read James Cone or Martin Luther King Jr., he might have learned a thousand subtle ways to rot their subject’s soul with the corrosive effects of white privilege, white supremacy, and white guilt curdling into resentment. If he had read feminist theologians, he might have learned countless new tricks that could bind that subject’s soul in the oppressor’s oppressive chains of patriarchy, slowly turning him into a seething ball of Driscollian rage. Or Screwtape might have turned to the progressive Christianity of queer theology, inverting its insights into a prison that deceives the subject into thinking of equality as persecution.

    I’m not arguing here that structural injustices trump personal sins. I’m not even arguing that participation in structural and social injustice is “weightier” than personal sin. What I’m trying to get at, rather, is the way that ignoring the existence of social injustice and our participation in it distorts our understanding of personal sin as well. We can’t say that white evangelicalism understands individual, personal sin while failing to understand social injustice. Because it fails to understand — or even acknowledge — social injustice, it cannot understand individual, personal sin either.

    There’s a hole in white evangelicalism’s understanding of sin, death, evil and spiritual bondage. It’s a gaping chasm wider than the one in the Navigator’s bridge illustration. It’s the blind spot that allowed America’s first great theologian to write “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” before sitting down to a meal cooked by his slaves. Or the blind spot that allowed America’s first great revivalist to preach salvation from sin while simultaneously working to overturn the colony of Georgia’s ban on slavery.

    It turns out that people who were enslaved to enslaving others weren’t in a good position to understand enslavement to sin. Yet from Edwards and Whitefield on, those blind spots have been woven into the fabric of white American Christianity.

    A reluctance to affirm that failed understanding of “enslavement to sin” does not constitute a lack of a robust theology of spiritual bondage. It suggests, rather, a desire to instill such a robust theology where none has previously existed.

    [syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

    Posted by Jay Livingston, PhD

    Four years ago, twenty-three economists (mostly conservative) signed a letter to Ben Bernanke warning that the Fed’s quantitative easing policy – adding billions of dollars to the economy – would be disastrous. It would “debase the currency,” create high inflation, distort financial markets, and do nothing to reduce unemployment.

    Four years later, it’s clear that they were wrong (as Paul Krugman never tires of reminding us). Have they changed their beliefs?

    Of course not.

    Bloomberg asked the letter-signers what they now thought about their prophecy.  Here’s the headline: “Fed Critics Say ’10 Letter Warning Inflation Still Right.”
    This despite the actual low inflation:

    I don’t know why I assume that high-level economists would be more likely than some ordinary people to change their ideas to adjust for new facts. Fifty years ago, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn showed that even in areas like chemistry and physics, scientists cling to their paradigms even in the face of accumulated anomalous facts. Why should big-shot economists be any different? It also occurs to me that it’s the most eminent in a profession who will be more resistant to change.  After all, it’s the people at the top who have the greatest amount invested in their ideas – publications, reputations, consultantships, and of course ego. Economists call these “sunk costs.”

    So how do they maintain their beliefs?

    Most of the 23 declined to comment; a few could not be reached (including Ronald McKinnon, who died the previous day).  Of those who responded, only one, Peter Wallison at the American Enterprise Institute, came close to saying, “My prediciton was wrong.”

    “All of us, I think, who signed the letter have never seen anything like what’s happened here.”

    Most of the others preferred denial:

    “The letter was correct as stated.” (David Malpass. He worked in Treasury under Reagan and Bush I)

    “The letter mentioned several things… and all have happened.” (John Taylor, Stanford)

    “I think there’s plenty of inflation — not at the checkout counter, necessarily, but on Wall Street.” (Jim Grant of “Grant’s Interest Rate Observer.” Kinda makes you wonder how closely he’s been observing interest rates.)

    Then there was equivocation. After Thursday night’s debacle – Giants 8, Pirates 0, knocking Pittsburgh out of the playoffs– someone reminded me, “Hey, didn’t you tell me that the Pirates would win the World Series?”

    “Yes, but I didn’t say when.”

    Some of the letter-signers used this same tactic, and just about as convincingly.

    “Note that word ‘risk.’ And note the absence of a date.” (Niall Ferguson, Harvard)

    “Inflation could come…” (Amity Shlaes, Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation)

    The 1954 sociology classic When Prophecy Fails describes group built around a prediction that the world would soon be destroyed and that they, the believers, would be saved by flying saucers from outer space.  When it didn’t happen, they too faced the problem of cognitive dissonance – dissonance between belief and fact. But because they had been very specific about what would happen and when it would happen, they could not very well use the  denial and equivocation favored by the economists. Instead, they first by claimed that what had averted the disaster was their own faith. By meeting and planning and believing so strongly in their extraterrestrial rescuers, they had literally saved the world. The economists, by contrast, could not claim that their warnings saved us from inflation, for their warning – their predictions and prescriptions – had been ignored by Fed. So instead they argue that there actually is, or will be, serious inflation.

    The other tactic that the millenarian group seized on was to start proselytizing – trying to convert others and to bring new members into the fold.  For the conservative economists, this tactic is practically a given, but it is not necessarily a change.  They had already been spreading their faith, as professors and as advisors (to policy makers, political candidates, wealthy investors, et al.). They haven’t necessarily redoubled their efforts, but the evidence has not given them pause.  They continue to publish their unreconstructed views to as wide an audience as possible.

    That’s the curious thing about cognitive dissonance. The goal is to reduce the dissonance, and it really doesn’t matter how.  Of course, you could change your ideas, but letting go of long and deeply held ideas when the facts no longer co-operate is difficult. Apparently it’s easier to change the facts (by denial, equivocation, etc.). Or, equally effective in reducing the dissonance, you can convince others that you are right. That validation is just as effective as a friendly set of facts, especially if it comes from powerful and important people and comes with rewards both social and financial.

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

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

    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    The relatio of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family asks a very important question: “Are we capable of welcoming these people?”

    That is, and has always been, an inescapable question for the church. The particulars of who we mean by “these people” may change in different times and circumstances, but the question itself has always been there, ever since Pentecost.

    And before Pentecost, even. This question arose before there ever was any such thing as the church or a church or “Christians.” Jesus himself had to answer this question.

    And Jesus got it wrong — at first, anyway.

    You may remember this story. It’s pretty memorable, since it’s the only story in the Gospels in which Jesus loses an argument. Here’s how that story starts in Matthew’s Gospel:

    Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

    But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”

    He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

    But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

    He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

    “Are you capable of welcoming people like us?” the woman asked Jesus. And he said No.

    He said it nicely, at first. He explained to her that a religious principle was at stake here, and that this principle — wholly defensible according to scripture and tradition — made it clear that he was only capable of welcoming a certain kind of people. Not her kind of people, sorry. Rules are rules.

    ©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽdaBut then, when she wouldn’t take no for an answer, he gets kind of harsh. He tells her she’s a dog — an unclean animal that doesn’t deserve a place at the table.

    In Jesus’ defense, this was exactly the kind of thing he’d been trying to get away from, so it’s understandable that he might be a bit testy. He’s supposed to be off the clock, on a well-earned vacation. He’s just gone to great lengths to get away from all of this — fleeing to another country, for his sake. The version of this story in Mark’s Gospel says Jesus “did not want anyone to know he was there, yet he could not escape notice.” And he sounds like that here. He sounds like someone who needs to get away, but finds he can’t escape.

    But it doesn’t really matter if his tone is harsh. His tone is irrelevant.

    Tone is always irrelevant when you’re telling someone that you are not capable of welcoming people like them. It’s never possible to exclude people nicely. It’s the act that wounds, not the words that dress it up.

    Jesus is telling this woman that he is not capable of welcoming her. He is telling her that he will not heal her sick daughter. No words can make that worse and no words can make it better. Wrap it up in the kindest, sweetest words imaginable and her daughter is still going to die. Calling her a dog on top of that can’t make her pain appreciably worse.

    “Are you capable of welcoming people like us?” the woman asked.

    “No,” Jesus said. “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

    And she didn’t blink, she didn’t back down. “Well, then,” she asked, “are you capable of welcoming ‘dogs’ like us?”

    But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

    He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

    She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

    Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

    Jesus lost the argument. He stood corrected. He changed his mind and changed his rules.

    Or maybe you read that story and you think that must have been what Jesus intended to do all along. Maybe he was just testing this woman’s faith.

    Or maybe he was teaching his disciples a lesson. “Send her away,” they told him. Send her away because we are not capable of welcoming those people, they thought. And maybe Jesus wanted to show them that this was the wrong answer before he showed them what the right answer looked like.

    You can make a case for any of those readings of this story, but they all point to the same conclusion: Jesus’ initial response was the wrong one and his final response was the right one.

    When the question is “Are we capable of welcoming these people?,” then “No” is always the wrong answer.

    Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Read all of the stories that follow this story in the Bible and see how they answer this question.

    Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. … Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs …

    Are we capable of welcoming these people?

    Yes. “Each one heard them speaking in the native language of each,” saying, “God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”

    Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

    Are we capable of welcoming these people?

    Yes. And so they appointed the first deacons — all apparently Hellenists themselves — and corrected the injustice.

    Philip the Evangelist took that whole business about “all flesh” very seriously, and so right after Pentecost he made a beeline for Samaria — the unclean capital of uncleanness.

    Samaritans? Are we capable of welcoming these people?

    Yes. And “there was great joy in that city.”

    From there the book of Acts just starts getting over-the-top. The Holy Spirit whisks Philip off down south to meet an Ethiopian eunuch. Yes and yes. We are capable of welcoming Ethiopians. We are capable of welcoming eunuchs.

    How about an uncircumcised soldier of imperial Rome? Are we capable of welcoming those people?

    Peter considers this a tough question. The scriptures, he notes, are very clear on this point and we can’t just …

    So God knocks him out and gives him a vision, repeating it three times before the uncircumcised gentiles knock on Peter’s door. And then he finally gets it.

    Are we capable of welcoming these people?

    Yes. And yes. And yes, yes, yes. Always yes.


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