[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

I thought it was a battle to which the winner would be proclaimed 'the most polite.' That's what it seemed to be when the door opened. Some hapless fellow got there first and, noticing us coming, stood holding the door. We got there at the same time. Me in my wheelchair, her in her industrial strength running shoes. As we got there at the same time, I said, "Go ahead."

And then it started.

"No you go ahead."

"No you go ahead."

As we continued the emphasis began to change:

"No YOU go ahead."

"NO you Go ahead."

The poor guy at the door is looking helpless, he didn't know or how to intervene and get the two of us through the door.

I know I was being stubborn but I offered first. I like to be in a position where I can defer to another's needs. And besides that I OFFERED FIRST.

Finally, I go for a joke, "You know, I'm comfortably seated, this can go on for awhile."

Then she said, "But you have to go first, I'm supposed to help people like you. It's what's right."

I'm guessing she didn't mean 'morally right' but 'culturally right.' It's right in our culture for the non-disabled person to be the person that helps someone with a disability. It can't be right for a disabled person to be in the helping role - that would upset the apple cart and society would crumble into the abyss of equality. Who wants what that shit would bring?

"Well, then, I think I should let you go first because you are a woman." I thought this was the perfect rejoinder to show how silly this was.

She said, "Well, put that way, that makes sense."

And it ended. We were both through the door. The fellow who'd been holding the door said that he felt caught is some weird psychodrama.

Maybe he was right.

Sunday WTF?

Apr. 19th, 2015 10:25 am
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

2 Kings 6:24-29

Some time later King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army; he marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. As the siege continued, famine in Samaria became so great that a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. 

Now as the king of Israel was walking on the city wall, a woman cried out to him, “Help, my lord king!”

He said, “No! Let the Lord help you. How can I help you? From the threshing-floor or from the wine press?” But then the king asked her, “What is your complaint?”

She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son; we will eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son and we will eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.”

The politics and theology of Superman

Apr. 18th, 2015 11:41 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

The problem with Superman is that almost nothing can stop him.

That can be a storytelling challenge, making it difficult to imagine battles that the Man of Steel can’t easily and obviously win.* The usual approach, then, is to focus on the challenge he faces in defeating his foes without killing them all. It’s more interesting if you can have him square off against good, innocent people who have been tricked or coerced into confronting him. The real trick of telling Superman stories, in other words, is by setting up problems that can’t be resolved with sheer power.

But the more such stories are told and explored, the more we’re confonted with the uncomfortable politics of Superman. Concentrating so much unstoppable, unchecked, near-absolute power in the hands of a single individual seems a bit, well, fascist. Unchecked power goes against our hard-earned democratic and republican instincts. We’ve tried that before. Giving one person near-total power doesn’t usually end well.

I’m pleased to see that the new teaser trailer for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie addresses this political dilemma.

Click here to view the embedded video.

What are the limits on Superman’s use and/or abuse of his power? Basically, there are only two:

1. His benevolence. The Kents raised him well and he’s a good guy.

2. A couple of eccentric billionaires have green rocks hidden in caves under their mansions, just in case.

Neither of those seems quite satisfactory. The former asks us to place blind trust in Superman himself. The latter suggests that our only alternative is equally blind trust in either Bruce Wayne or Lex Luthor. Either way, blind trust that power won’t be abused is never an adequate check on the abuse of power.

Such Madisonian musing about checks and balances tends to lead to another kind of musing about the relationship between omnipotence and benevolence. It leads us, inexorably, into questions of theology and, specifically, of theodicy. Superman stories, I think, always bring us to this subject.

It seems as though Superman ought to be able to save anyone — perhaps even everyone. And yet he doesn’t. Why not? Is it simply that Superman doesn’t care about everyone (that he is not really good)? Or is it that he isn’t really all-powerful after all?

The better answer, I think, is the latter. Superman, after all, is only almost omnipotent — and he is neither omniscient nor omnipresent. So perhaps he cannot be said to be capable of — or responsible for — saving everyone or correcting every injustice.** But more often, it seems, storytellers opt for something more like a Calvinist answer. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen will always be saved, but most people are not among the fortunate elect and lie outside Superman’s capacity for grace.

That strikes me as an uglier answer because it suggests that Superman isn’t really benevolent. It focuses on the limits to his goodness, not on the limits of his power. (And this answer doesn’t get less ugly, in my opinion, if we simply redefine “goodness” to mean that Superman thinks all of the people he declines to save deserve to die.)

But just as I earlier suggested that there are more interesting approaches to telling Superman stories, I think there are also much more interesting approaches to the problem of theodicy. The story doesn’t have to be about the limits of power or the limits of benevolence. It might be, rather, about the kinds of problems that cannot be fixed by the application of sheer power.

It’s intriguing, then, that the climax of the trailer above poses a question to Superman himself. Batman does not ask, “Are there limits to your power?” and he does not ask, “Is your goodness really deserving of our blind trust?”

Instead he asks this: “Do you bleed?”

For any discussion of theodicy, I think that’s a better question.


- – - – - – - – - – - -

* It’s also a storytelling problem in that most people enjoy rooting for the underdog — and Superman isn’t ever really believable as the underdog. This is something that has always puzzled me about my fellow Mets fan Jerry Seinfeld. He loves the Mets, and he loves Superman. Superman just seems more like a Yankee-fan’s idea of a superhero.

** If I were hired to write Superman comics, I’d want to explore those limits by questioning, for example, just how much sleep the Man of Steel requires. Does he even need to sleep at all? If so, how does sleep-deprivation affect him?

I’m thinking of a storyline in which Clark pushes the limits — pulling all-nighters out of a sense of obligation to all the people he might be able to save in other time zones — until his lack of sleep begins to affect his ability to think and function clearly. Then I imagine Lex Luthor taking notice of this effect and trying to put it to use to weaken his nemesis. …

[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

1,007,000 Americans working full-time earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. All of that pay, to all of those people, for all of 2014 adds up to $14 billion dollars. And that is less than half of what employees on Wall Street earned in bonuses alone.

This is your image of the week:


Source: Institute for Policy Studies.

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)

Cabinet of Curiosities: xviii

Apr. 18th, 2015 11:00 am
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by April Stevens

By April Stevens (W&M Managing Editor)

Here at Wonders & Marvels, we are big supporters of the Digital Humanities (we are a blog after all!).  It seems that every day people are coming up with new ways to illuminate the past using the most modern technologies. This week we are happy to share a few of the newest and best digital innovations.

There’s an App for That

cdli tabletHistory is going mobile! With an increasing number of us glued to our phone and Ipad screens, there are an increasing number of apps that help you explore history. But which ones are the most useful? Luckily, Kate Wiles has already done the testing for us in History Today’s list of The Best History Apps. This list highlights something for everyone from the Cdli Tablet’s virtual exploration of ancient Mesopatamia to the Braginsky Collection that holds eight centuries of Jewish manuscripts and texts.

Another app that caught our eye takes full advantage of the mobility today’s tech offers. Women on the Map works with Google’s Field Trip app will buzz when you are close to a place where a woman made history. With the goal of narrowing the gender gap in history, the app has already researched 100 women who made history around the world and continue to add to the collection.

There’s a Map for That

tea mapA picture may be worth a thousand words, but a good map could be worth even more. Charting history is easier than ever with new cartographic innovations.

A huge benefit of the internet age for historians is the accessibility of documents from all over theworld. One impressive collection, the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection has recently added more than 2,000 new pictoral maps to its online collection. These gorgeous pictorial maps, like the map visualizing the tea trade on the left, help researchers and readers alike envision history in a myriad of ways.

It is oftBomb2en hard to visualize the magnitude of historical events, but with digital maps historians can easily illustrate history’s movements. The Bomb Sight Project’s new map helps historians to visualize the impact of World War II by seeing where bombs fell in London during the war. The result is astounding: a vision of London practically covered in red bombs.

If this has whetted your appetite to dig into some history, take a look at our recent posts:

Hiding in Plain Stripe

The Christians Party in Rome

Arab Warrior Queens

Even though we love all things digital, we are a fan of hard-copy books too! Sign up for our giveaways!

Annoyance, Identification and Empathy

Apr. 18th, 2015 06:50 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger


It's part of the experience of daily living for everyone. Everyone. And in many cases the annoyance is understood, people around are empathic, compassionate and supportive. I remember being in a store hearing a woman, upset that she had driven into the city to find that the section of the store she wanted to visit was under renovation, express herself and her annoyance clearly. The staff were apologetic, they made it known that they would feel that way too. In the end they all agreed that the situation was unfair. One clerk called around to where the customer could find similar products in a store nearby. It was resolved.

It wasn't resolved because of the store nearby but because the clerks there understood the frustration, identified with the woman's situation and communicated their acceptance of her annoyance as being real and the situation frustrating. It began with affirmation.


The other day Joe and I decided that we wanted to go to a particular store to do some shopping on our drive from one city to the next. It was only a wee bit out of our way and I began my work day with the idea that I'd be doing something fun and relaxing before doing the drive to the next city. When the day was over, I got into the van, and we headed to the store. When I rolled in, I could see immediately that the section of the store that I wanted to shop in was the only section of the store that was up a flight of stairs. I could see that there was no elevator. I was disappointed. I had really looked forward to this.

I expressed my frustration, politely, to the clerk. She looked at me and said, "Yeah, well, that's the way it is." I felt slapped. No compassion. No empathy. No understanding. She stood there with her arms crossed looking from me to the stairs with a 'aren't you used to this by now,' look. Joe went upstairs, after hearing what I was looking for, and he and another, nicer, clerk, brought things down to me. This is not how I shop. I like to browse. Neither Joe or the woman helping really understood what I wanted, so I thanked the clerk who'd helped and we left.

At no point did either clerk show an understanding and appreciation for the source of my annoyance. At no point did they validate that, yeah, coming to a store, indeed coming out of my way to a store, and having the section be inaccessible would be annoying. More than annoying, it was isolating. Sitting at the bottom of stairs while people ran up and down bringing me what I didn't want. Sitting there feeling the mounting frustration of the clerk who brought me a selection of things I didn't want, like she expected me to buy something because she brought them. I work too hard for my money to be buying things to make clerks happy.

I sometimes wonder if people get annoyed with my annoyance because they can't, or won't , use empathy as part of their process of understanding. They could identify with a woman, who was 'like' them. Here the clerk couldn't identify with a person 'different' from them.

I wonder if a large part of prejudice is the inability or unwillingness to be empathic with a class of people that someone devalues. I wonder if the idea of empathy, which requires a degree of emotional identification, is terrifying at the least or sullying at the worst, is actually eschewed by those who simply can't accept the essential unifying humanity of an other, a lesser.

I don't know.

But, it would have gone a long way for me and my experience of the store.

Hiding in Plain Stripe

Apr. 17th, 2015 05:00 pm
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Juliet Wagner


Dazzle Ship, Tobias Rehberger, 2014. Image credit – Chris Wainwright

By Juliet Wagner (Regular Contributor) and Margaret Walker

Anyone wandering along London’s South Bank since July 2014 will have noticed the remarkable ‘graffiti’ed ship docked across the river opposite the Tate Modern. The ship is one of three surviving First World War naval vessels, HMS President (1918). It was painted by the German artist Tobias Rehberger in the “dazzle style” invented during the First World War to camouflage merchant vessels and protect them from torpedo attacks.

Razzle Dazzle

After the declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany in January 1917, the British navy was acutely aware of the need for camouflage to protect ships crossing the Atlantic and the Channel with supplies. Attempts to make the ships less visible proved unsuccessful, and the artist Norman Wilkinson, then serving in the Navy, instead proposed the “Dazzle” technique. The premise behind Dazzle was that bold patterns and stripes could create optical illusions that would trick the human eye, and disrupt the ability of the German torpedo operator –viewing from a periscope—to predict where to shoot. (Operators had to estimate size, speed, direction of travel, and distance from the target ship to calculate where it would be when the torpedo reached it, and consequently perception was crucial to an effective strike). Wilkinson worked with a team of five designers and 11 female art students in a workshop in the Royal Academy in London to create small wooden prototypes, and a miniature periscope through which to view them, as King George V did when he visited the studio in 1918.

Into the Vortex


In Dry Dock 1918. Woodcut paper. Wadsworth, Edward Alexander (ARA) (1889 – 1949) http://www.1418now.org.uk/commissions/dazzle-ships/background/

Once the British Admiralty chose to adopt the Dazzle technique for merchant vessels in October 1917, Wilkinson appointed the artist Edward Wadsworth to oversee the painting in the shipyards in Liverpool and Bristol. Wadsworth had been a major figure in the Vorticist avant-garde art movement, and the similarity of Vorticism to the Dazzle designs is striking, suggesting that Wadsworth’s influence on the Dazzle ships was substantial. Margaret Walker has argued that Wilkinson not only hired Wadsworth based on his familiarity with Wadsworth’s pre-war artwork, but that the Dazzle ship’s Vorticist-looking designs played a central role in the “mainstreaming” of modernist visual culture in Great Britain. The modernism of the Dazzle ships was certainly not lost on educated contemporaries: one New York journalist quipped in reference to Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” (1912) that the Dazzle Ship rather resembled “A Drunken Sailor Falling down a Hatchway.” The Dazzle camouflage technique was employed by American merchant vessels too, and was known in the USA as “Razzle Dazzle.” Although it is now most closely associated with ships, it was applied in other contexts too.

“A Flock of sea-going Easter Eggs”


© IWM (Art.IWM ART 4030) NORMAN WILKINSON image: A view of a distant convoy of ‘dazzle’ painted camouflaged ships at sea. By day, the ships are obviously visible, though from a distance the ‘dazzle’ effect stills works to confuse the number and outline of the different ships in the convoy. Imperial War Museum, Art Section commission

Rehberger’s South Bank dazzle ship is striking enough alone, but the technique was considered most effective for convoys, functioning like the stripes on a herd of zebra to confuse a predator and make individuals hard to identify and target. A convoy of dazzle ships in dock must have been a remarkable sight: a contemporary journalist described a group as a: “a flock of sea-going Easter Eggs.” Data collected by the British Navy suggested that Dazzle was only modestly successful at protecting convoys, but the practice was continued for reasons of morale, and by the end of the war, there were 2,300 dazzle ships in service, each with a unique Dazzle design.



Margaret Walker’s MSc thesis at the University of Edinburgh is entitled “Art of Illusion: Vorticism, Dazzle Ships and the Mainstreaming of Modern Art in Britain during the Great War” (August 2013)

On the history of camouflage, see: Roy R. Behrens, Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (Bobolink Books, 2009)

Tobias Rehnberger’s Dazzle Ship will be docked opposite the Tate Modern until July 2015:


Margaret Walker is the art curator assistant at the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery. Before gaining her MSc in History of Art, Theory and Display at Edinburgh University, she studied History at Princeton University.

[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

This was the week of tableflip.club!

  • tableflip dot club: “Women are leaving your tech company because you don’t deserve to keep us around.”
  • Why Women in Tech Need to Start Flipping Tables | Motherboard: “I think the huge response to the piece makes it clear how much these are the shared experiences women in tech have, so I’m glad I did go all-out. I’ll probably reveal myself eventually. It’s not like people don’t already know my opinions, but commentary on individual issues are a bit different from a call for women in tech to flip all the tables :)”
  • Screw leaning in. It’s time to slam the door in Silicon Valley’s face | The Guardian: “Even as an outside observer, I found the tableflip.club manifesto energizing. It has the feeling of a furious tweetstorm or impassioned speech – it goes beyond a mission statement and into the realm of oratory. It’s a huge departure from the usual women-in-tech rhetoric, which usually focuses on prying the doors of the tech world open through education, a positive attitude and changing the work environment. Nobody ever advocates just slamming the door back in Silicon Valley’s face.”

Other links:

  • Not the affirmative action you meant, not the history you’re making | Epiphany 2.0: “See, in America we often forget that the various initiatives which made up the capital-A Affirmative Action program were based on policies and procedures that have always existed for white men… SFFdom has not been immune to this societal tendency to give straight white guys more, treat them more kindly, eagerly open doors to them that are firmly shut against others.”
  • Codes of conduct and the trade-offs of copyleft — Crooked Timber: “But the first step might be — if you’re trying to get your community to adopt a code of conduct, you might benefit by looking at other freedom-restricting tradeoffs the community is okay with, so you can draw out that comparison.”
  • Does 18F Pass the Bechdel Test for Tech? | 18F: “We decided to see how many 18F projects pass this modified test. To pass, a project had to have at least one function written by a woman dev that called another function written by another woman dev.”
  • This Public Shaming Is Not Like The Other | Buzzfeed: “What makes this book an uncomfortable, if distant, cousin of GamerGate and men’s rights activist logic is that it, too, relies on a series of false equivalencies and muddy distinctions in order to elevate being shamed on social media to epic proportions. These sorts of distortions are dangerous because they minimize — and even threaten to erase — far more systematic and serious problems that have taken years to even reach the public consciousness.”
  • Black Girls Code Founder: To Bring Diversity to Tech, First We Need Role Models | Inc.com: “Bryant credits her own mentor, an electrical engineering upperclassman she met in college who was black and female, for keeping her — a student from inner city Memphis — in technology and in school. ”
  • Help Me Help You | Jenna Pederson: “I am asked, in what turns out to be a not so awesome way, if I’ll consider speaking at a conference or event. And if I won’t, do I know any other women who will. Sometimes this request comes after the speaker list has already been set and organizers have realized they don’t have enough diversity on the speaker lineup. Or it comes in a passive-aggressive, backhanded comment like ‘Well, if only Jenna would have submitted a talk…’ with a side-glance my way. Wait… so now it’s my fault?”
  • As Tech Giants Push For Diversity, Blacks And Latinos Are Fleeing Once-Diverse San Francisco | International Business Times: “It’s been a year since many tech companies in Silicon Valley released workforce transparency reports laying bare a sorry track record in minority hiring and announced plans to be more inclusive. But the Bay Area’s changing demographics are working against them. Local African-American and Hispanic residents are employed only in minuscule numbers by the tech industry, and increasingly finding themselves priced out and forced to leave.”
  • The Attention Game | Accidentally in Code: “This idea that you do things for “exposure” where the formula is exposure -> ??? -> profit. OK maybe you can argue that this model works for Kim Kardashian but not, I think for most of us. It didn’t work for Monica Lewinsky. Exposure is not inherently valuable. The value is in what results from it.”
  • Female Programmer Denied Job Because of Her ‘Unprofessional’ Attire | Daily Dot: “Elizabeth is a senior at Oberlin College in Ohio, and like many college seniors, she’s currently interviewing for jobs. But one interview made her so angry that she took to Facebook to vent her frustration.”
  • What They Really Mean When They Say They’re Not a Feminist | Everyday Feminism: “If you don’t call yourself a feminist, see if you find some of your reasons here. The stories in this comic can help us all have more respect for the wide range of ways we stand up to oppression.”
  • Project Opportunity: Contribute Stories on Digital Labor | HASTAC: “I’m currently launching a project that will act as this kind of publication, using familiar aesthetics and tropes of tech and business media to tell digital labor stories that usually don’t get coverage. The aim is to use familiar media elements to disrupt (to use a popular tech-industry word) dialogues on digital technology and the labor it runs on.”
  • BGN’s Women in Gaming Series: Nichol Bradford | Black Girl Nerds: “Nichol is currently CEO of The Willow Group, whose mission is to permanently move 100 million people into a state of fundamental well-being by 2025. She is also the Executive Director of the Transformative Technology Lab at Sofia University that is working outside traditional research boundaries to find creative ways to manage the intersection of technology and consciousness. We had a chance to talk about what it takes to be the architect of your own success, the power of “raising your hand” to create opportunities and the benefits of being obsessive about your passions in life.”

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.

Taking too much too lightly

Apr. 17th, 2015 03:24 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Chewie looks good for his age:

Click here to view the embedded video.

• I loved The Cabin in the Woods for the way it deconstructed and repurposed nearly all of the stale tropes and hackneyed clichés of horror movies. It’s kind of hilarious, then, to see that some guy is now suing the screenwriters and Lionsgate, claiming they plagiarized from his self-published horror novel … because he used many of the same stale tropes and hackneyed clichés the movie deconstructs. (Via Whedonesque.)

• Let me add my personal anecdotal affirmation to Atrios’ personal anecdotal observation. He writes, “Once a judge legalized same sex marriage in Pennsylvania … everybody just stopped talking about it.” Pretty much. The sky did not fall and this already seems like ancient history. In terms of state politics, at least, no one seems determined to turn back the clock.

• Right-wing culture warrior Daniel Lapin doesn’t like American liberals or Islamist extremists. But Lapin seems to find the Islamists irresistibly “masculine.” Lapin’s explanation for why feminists love Sharia law is just as weirdly delusional as his contention that feminists love Sharia law. 


Delegates from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious visit the Iron Bank of Braavos.

Hemant Mehta is appropriately bewildered by the newly invented KosherSwitch — a device that allows Orthodox Jews to turn electric lights on and off on the Sabbath while very, very technically not breaking the very, very technical commandment their tradition says forbids them to do so. This is the end game of any form of rule- or commandment-based ethics — loopholes that honor the rules only circuitously, by allowing them to be violated through obscure technicalities.

I hope my friend the Friendly Atheist won’t be offended when I say that his reaction to the KosherSwitch is rather Pauline (in a good way). This is pretty close to what Galatians is all about.

• “Guys! Guys! You Totally Have to Check This Out!” Matthew Keville writes, directing our attention to A Book of Creatures — a bestiary blog of monsters from folklore. This is me seconding what he said.

Consider, for example, the Boongurunguru of the Solomon Islands. It’s part of the regional flood myth — which includes an ark and a rainbow. The similarities to other ancient flood myths clearly indicate, then, that these are all references to an actual historical event and that the Boongurunguru really exists. Anyone who says otherwise hates the Bible.

• Paul Davidson continues exploring the tantalizing puzzle of the synoptic problem, this time looking at the different versions of a parable told by both Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. Did Luke copy Matthew? Did Matthew copy Luke? Did they both copy from Q? Or from Marcion’s Evangelion? Or from a possible proto-Luke?

I’ll say it again: The synoptic problem is just plain fun.

• Kudos to Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery III for saying this, “I am quite confident that the Bible’s distinguished place in history will not be diminished in the absence of a state’s endorsement.”

Slatery also noted that the bill state legislators are pushing to make the Bible the state’s “official book” would be unconstitutional, as Tennessee’s constitution says “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”

So the Bible cannot legally join the Volunteer State’s other official honorees, such as the official state amphibian (the cave salamander) and the official state tree (the tulip poplar). I’m not clear about Tennessee’s official state song, though. It’s “The Tennessee Waltz” — but I’m not sure if that means the classic Patti Page song or the song-within-the-song to which her old friend danced with her sweetheart. Here’s a nice sad take on the former by Norah Jones:

Click here to view the embedded video.

P.S. The state Senate in Tennessee declined to act on the Bible bill after the egregiously illegal proposal passed the state House.


[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Gwen Sharp, PhD

Flashback Friday.

Yesterday I went to Marshall’s to take some photos for this post and overheard a conversation between a teenager and her mother that perfectly illustrated what I was planning on posting about. The teen pulled her mom over to look at a purse she wanted for Christmas. It was $148, but she was making a case to her mom that it was actually a great buy compared to how much it would have been at the original price, which, as she pointed out to her mom, was listed as $368.

Ellen Ruppel Shell discusses this topic at length in Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Here’s a relevant photo I took:

It indicates that you are getting a great deal by shopping at Marshall’s compared to the original price of the item.

Except that is not, in fact, what they are saying. Look at the image again: the wording is “compare at…” The tags do not say “marked down from” or “original price” or “was.” There is a crucial difference: when you are told to “compare at,” the implication is that the shoes were originally $175, making them a super steal at $49. The “manufacturer’s suggested retail price” (MSRP) gives you the same info.

But as Shell points out, these numbers are largely fictional. Marshall’s is not actually telling you that those shoes were ever sold for $175. You’re just supposed to “compare” $49 to $175. But $175 may be an entirely meaningless number. The shoes may never have been sold for $175 at any store; certainly no specifics are given. Even if they were, the fact that a large number of them ended up at Marshall’s would indicate that many customers didn’t consider $175 an acceptable price.

The same goes for the MSRP: it’s meaningless. Among other things, that’s not how pricing works these days for big retail outlets. The manufacturer doesn’t make a product and then tell the retailer how much they ought to charge for it. Retailers hold much more power than manufacturers; generally, they pressure suppliers to meet their price and to constantly lower costs, putting the burden on the suppliers to figure out how to do so (often by reducing wages). The idea that manufacturers are able to tell Macy’s or Target or other big retailers how much to charge for their items is ridiculous. Rather, the retailer usually tells the manufacturer what MSRP to print on the tag of items they’ll be purchasing (I saw some tags at Marshall’s where it said MSRP but no price had been printed on it).

So what’s the point of a MSRP on a price tag, or a “compare at” number? These numbers serve as “anchor” prices — that is, they set a high “starting” point for the product, so the “sale” price seems like a great deal in comparison. Except the “sale” price isn’t actually a discount at all — it’s only a sale price in comparison to this fictional original price that was developed for the sole purpose of making you think “Holy crap! I can get $175 shoes for just $49!”

The point is to redirect your thinking from “Do I think these shoes are worth $49?” to “I can save $126!” This is a powerful psychological motivator; marketing research shows that people are fairly easily swayed by perceived savings. A sweater we might not think is worth $40 if we saw it at Banana Republic suddenly becomes worth $50 if we see it at Marshall’s (or T.J. Maxx, an outlet mall, Ross, etc.) and are told it used to sell for $80. We focus not on the fact that we’re spending $50, but on the fact that we’re saving $30.

And that makes us feel smart: we’ve beat the system! Instead of going to the mall and paying $368 for that purse, we hunted through the discount retailer and found it for $148! We worked for it, and we were smart enough to not get conned into buying it at the inflated price. Shell describes research that shows that, in these situations, we feel like we didn’t just save that money, we actually earned it by going to the effort to search out deals. When we buy that $148 purse, we’re likely to leave feeling like we’re somehow $220 richer (since we didn’t pay $368) rather than $148 poorer. And we’ll value it more highly because we feel like we were smart to find it; that is, we’re likely to think a $148 purse bought on “sale” is cooler and better quality than we would the identical purse if we bought it at full price for $120.

And stores capitalize on these psychological tendencies by giving us cues that seem to indicate we’re getting an amazing deal. Sometimes we are. But often we’re being distracted with numbers that seem to give us meaningful information but are largely irrelevant, if not entirely fictional.

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)

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Posted by Fred Clark

Originally posted June 15, 2004.

Left Behind, pp. 48-49

Rayford Steele finally reaches a pay phone and places a call to his home. He’s already read the plot summary on the back of the book and, realizing that he’s in a novel about the “Rapture,” knows that his born-again wife Irene won’t be there to answer his call:

His answering machine at home picked up immediately, and he was pierced to hear the cheerful voice of his wife. “Your call is important to us,” she said. “Please leave a message after the beep.”

Rayford punched a few buttons to check for messages. He ran through three or four mundane ones, then was startled to hear Chloe’s voice. “Mom? Dad? Are you there? Have you seen what’s going on? Call me as soon as you can. …”

Here as ever we witness Jenkins’ tin ear for choice of detail. Those “mundane” messages from Rayford’s life before the calamity could have offered telling reminders to both the reader and the character of all that he has lost and how vastly his world has changed. Each of those messages would either be from someone now disappeared or from someone else left behind — a link, a connection, to some other survivor.

I wonder who would be calling the Steele household. Their impersonal answering machine message (“Your call is important to us”) seems more suited to a tech-support line than to the machine of a family that regularly gets phone calls from friends.

Irene is such a wholehearted devotee of her church and its subculture that she isn’t likely to know anyone else who might have been left behind. This points to one of the paradoxes of America’s insular evangelical world. For evangelical Christians, evangelism — spreading their faith to nonbelievers — is an essential obligation. Yet evangelicals have constructed a comprehensive, separate, parallel world that virtually ensures they won’t know any outsiders with whom they can share their faith.

As for poor Rayford, the guy doesn’t seem to have any friends at all.

The message from his daughter introduces another major character in these books. Chloe is LB’s ingenue. (For those keeping score at home, that’s three female characters: Chloe, the ingenue; Irene, the madonna; and Hattie, the whore.) Chloe was away at Stanford, where relatively few of those elite intellectuals were taken home by God.

Well, at least he knew Chloe was still around. All he wanted was to hold her.

One hopes that when Rayford finally greets his daughter, he does not do so by saying, “Well, at least you’re still around.”


From left: The Rev. Vernon Billings, Rayford Steele, Irene Steele, Spiky Alice, Buck Williams, Chloe Steele, Steve Plank, Raymie and Sorrow.

This section of the book reminded me of the “Sorrow Floats” chapter in John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire – another story in which the mother and the youngest boy are suddenly lost. Irving’s book is deeply affecting as he poignantly shows the impact these losses have on the rest of the family. L&J’s book not so much. Yet here we do see the rare acknowledgement from L&J that the practical consequences of a sudden “Rapture” and of a sudden death are really no different. Does it really matter to those left behind whether it’s little Egg lost in a plane crash or little Raymie whisked off to heaven like Elijah? Gone is gone.

The “Rapture” idea, ultimately, is a pretty flimsy device for the denial of death. The scripture passages Tim LaHaye cites in support of this idea were written to give believers hope in the face of inevitable death. For LaHaye and his followers, the fear of death overwhelms that hope. Thus “we will not all SLEEP, but we will be CHANGED” is twisted into “we will not ALL sleep, but WE will be changed.”

St. Paul was writing about what happens when believers die. LaHaye doesn’t want to believe that true believers will die. Rayford’s response to his wife and son’s undying deaths — albeit a response awkwardly rendered by Jenkins — offers a glimpse of emotional honesty not usually permitted by LaHaye’s fear- and denial-fuelled “Rapture” ideology.

I sometimes think that the best response, the best counter-argument, to End Times enthusiasts and apocalypse-obsessed “prophecy” nuts is not a comprehensive biblical and theological rebuttal, but rather to borrow a line from Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck:

“Cosmo? I just want you to know. No matter what you do. You are going to die, just like everybody else.”


Apr. 17th, 2015 07:19 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

There is a certain kind of stamina required if you are going to lecture, travel, lecture, travel. I've been off the road for a few months, presenting only the occasional 'one off' conference here and there locally. Nebraska is breaking me in for the next few months when I'm travelling and speaking a lot. But YOWZA it's been a workout. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving every minute of it. I've had lovely audiences, great questions and terrific support, but YOWZA.

My blog hasn't been updated for a few days because when we finish a day, we get in a car and drive and by the time we get into the hotel, get food ordered, I'm just whacked. This isn't a bad thing though, in fact it feels very, very, good. It's that good tired that you get when you've worked hard, concentrated intensely and given it your all. So. I've been sleeping well.

On our way down, we drove so I could have my power chair, we stopped at a hotel and on checking in I was chatting with folks also in the line. They asked if I was going to the casino, I told them that I was getting to bed because I had to be up for a long drive the next day. One of them asked why I was going to Omaha, did I have family there? I said, that I was gong there for work.

A guy said, "Wow, good for you."

It seemed silly at the time. I knew he was being nice, but all the same it seemed silly.

But not now.

After all the YOWZA involved in a lecture tour, I take his comment as a compliment.

I always have a bit of a worry when I've not lectured like this for a couple of months. I worry that I won't have the energy, or the stamina, or the ability to do it. It's a deep worry. It's a worry that brings along with it a premonition of pain.


I'm here.

I've one day to go.

Then I go home.

I'm tired. Good tired. And now the worry is gone, bring on Calgary, bring on Vancouver ... in fact bring 'em all on, I'm good to go.

Work It Work It

Apr. 16th, 2015 11:38 pm
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Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

Claire you dork

I am in Calgary for Calgary Expo! Come by table 722 and I will be happy to draw for you and sell you stuff!

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Posted by Fred Clark

Chris Morran of The Consumerist reports on a mystery: “Walmart Raises Suspicions After Closing 5 Stores in Same Day for ‘Plumbing’ Problems.”

There are thousands of Walmarts in the U.S., so the fact that five of them were temporarily shut down all on the same day, all for the same reason, and all for the same estimated amount of time, may be statistically insignificant. But some workers and city officials are raising questions about what’s actually behind these six-month shutterings.

The five stores — two in Texas, one in California, one in Oklahoma, and another in Florida — were all closed on Monday without advance notice to shoppers or the thousands of affected employees. At each of the stores, the reason given for the closures — which are estimated to last upwards of six months — was problems with plumbing.

But it seems no one at those stores was aware of these plumbing problems. “No plumbing permits have been pulled in any of the municipalities where Walmart closed stores on Monday.” Walmart’s own local plumbing technicians don’t know what this is about. And the plumbing inspector from Midland, Texas, was actually “sent away when he tried to visited the closed store earlier this week to help them secure necessary permits.”

Hmm. Five stores abruptly closed due to “plumbing problems.” But pretty clearly not due to plumbing problems.

The likeliest explanation for this mystery isn’t all that mysterious. This smells like a (possibly illegal) lockout designed to squelch worker protests:

Some employees at [the Pico Rivera, California] store are questioning the motive, as it’s been a focal point of the pro-union OUR Walmart movement, and was the first location to stage a wage-related walkout back in 2012.

Ah. This appears to be a bit of union-busting, or — since the OUR Walmart movement isn’t actually a formal union — proto-union-busting. Walmart isn’t calling in plumbers, they’re calling in Pinkertons. If so, the only “plumbers” involved are plumbers only in the Nixonian, Watergate sense of the term.

Walmart has a long history of closing stores to avoid any hint of union activity. The company closed a Quebec store shortly after its workers voted to join the UFCW in 2004. When a Colorado Walmart worker organized a union vote that same year, the company transferred in anti-union workers to swing the vote.

k9o8gAnd do you know why you can’t get fresh cut meat at a Walmart? It’s because back in 2000, the butchers at a Texas store voted to join UFCW Local 540. “Two weeks later, Walmart close[d] its 180 meat counters and switche[d] to prepackaged cuts only.”

So, yeah. The surprise closing of five stores Monday probably isn’t a mystery. And it probably ain’t about plumbing.

All of this is pretty depressing. The game is rigged and the deck is stacked and workers have little recourse to organize or negotiate. Even asking for a voice or a seat at the table invites swift, harsh retaliation.

But allowing ourselves to get depressed, or to despair, just guarantees that nothing can ever change. We can’t pursue any course of action for worker justice unless we start to believe that something better is possible. And we can’t start to believe that if we let ourselves get depressed and dismayed and disheartened by this latest bit of depressing, dismaying and disheartening news.

So here’s an idea to cheer us up a bit before we even start to think about responses like consumer boycotts, demonstrations, Pete Seeger sing-ins, or legislative campaigns.

Let’s try to imagine some other possible explanations for the “mystery” of Walmart’s sudden outbreak of “plumbing problems.” What was going on in those stores? Or, perhaps, beneath those stores? Were these closures an attempt to keep some dark secret? Were they necessary to keep the public — the world — safe from something else, something it couldn’t possibly understand?

Bonus points for references, allusions or derivations from any of the following: The X-Files, Men in Black, Chuck, The Thanatos Syndrome, Torchwood, Warehouse 13, Stargate, H.P. Lovecraft, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and/or Three Days of the Condor.

The Insufferable Spider-Man

Apr. 16th, 2015 05:51 pm
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Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Marvel/The Atlantic

While anxiously awaiting the retconning/re-marriage of Peter Parker, I came across this io9 list of the four worst Spider-Man stories of all time. The contenders are The Clone Saga, The Gathering Of Five, Sins Past and One More Day. I'm not sure if these are in order of awfulness or not, but I agree with the listing—these are all pretty bad. The contest is a little unfair: You can go back and read through earlier issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and find some forgettable stories. But when the "event" era hit Marvel—huge crossover, multi-issue epics—awfulness mixed with hype. Nothing, then, was forgettable. And then there's the Internet generation—many of us remember The Clone Saga in a way that we don't remember, say, the earlier escapades of The Jackal and the Gwen Stacy (always a bad idea), so the awfulness of the 90s and the aughts resonates in a way that awfulness of the 60s, 70s and early 80s doesn't.

And I'm not sure that's totally fair to Marvel. When "big" works it works. Greg Pak's rendition of the Banner family, told across a number of years, is awesome. (Nerd diversion: There's a really gripping scene in Incredible Hulks #619 where Jarella, Glen Talbot and Hirom Oldstrong come back from the dead to fight for the Hulks. OK, back to business.) I'm really enjoying Jonathan Hickman's sprawling "Time Runs Out" storyline, even if I don't fully understand all of it. And Kraven's Last Hunt, if slightly more contained, is one of my favorite Marvel stories of all time. When you go big, everyone remembers—for good and bad reasons.

So which of io9's four do I dub truly most baleful?  My disdain for One More Day is fairly well known, and I feel like, at this point, it's a little too easy to hate on. I'm going to go with The Clone Saga for the great sin of resurrecting Norman Osborne. Since that resurrection, and since his departure from the Spider-books, he's proved to be an interesting villain. (See Matt Fraction's take on him in The Invincible Ironman.) But he's been made interesting by basically being made into a new character. Osborne has been resurrected in name only, and what's been lost is the force of presence he exerted off-panel for nearly 25 years:

And then the final out was resurrecting Norman Osborn, the single worst move ever made by Spider-Man writers. He had attained a reputation and fearsome aura in death far greater than in life, haunting Peter so much. To explain he'd spent 24 years of stories "recovering in Europe" was ridiculous, as was making him the true mastermind of all this then turning him into a poor man's Lex Luthor. 20 years later and it's still the storyline that all Spider-Man fans grit their teeth at.

I don't think all resurrections are bad. But in a genre where death is malleable, I think it's easy to miss how well certain characters work while dead, how they exert a gravity on the main story. Perhaps more than any major superhero, save arguably Superman, Spider-Man is a character largely defined by death—the death of his parents, of Gwen Stacy, of his Uncle Ben. During the formative years of his life, it seemed like everything he touched turned to ash. This included the father of his best friend. It was powerful stuff while it lasted. I just wish it lasted a little longer.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/04/the-insufferable-spider-man/390702/

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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

Every year the National Priorities Project helps Americans understand how the money they paid in federal taxes was spent. Here’s the data for 2014:


Since the 1940s, individual Americans have paid 40-50% of the federal government’s bills through taxes on income and investment. Another chunk (about 1/3rd today) is paid in the form of payroll taxes for things like social security and medicare. This year, corporate taxes made up only about 11% of the federal government’s revenue; this is way down from a historic high of almost 40% in 1943.


Visit the National Priorities Project here and find out where state tax dollars went, how each state benefits from federal tax dollars, and who gets the biggest tax breaks. Or fiddle around with how you would organize American priorities.

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

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

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Posted by Daily Otter

It's Pupping Season for Sea Otters at California's Elkhorn Slough

Over the years we’ve featured a lot of sea otters from California’s Monterey Bay area, including Elkhorn Slough, where sea otter and harbor seal pupping season is currently in full swing! The Monterey Herald writes:

“It’s pretty magical,” said marine biologist Giancarlo Thomae, who helps conduct several daily excursions through the wetlands aboard a 17-foot pontoon boat with a company called Elkhorn Slough Safari. “The weather has been beautiful and there’s a lot of activity in the slough right now. Just about two minutes after we leave the dock, we’re going to see hundreds of harbor seals and lots of sea otters with their pups.”

Birthing season for seals and otters will be near its peak over the next three weeks, enlivening a hideaway that serves as both a resting area and a playground for wildlife.

Thomae and boat captain Yohn Giddeon counted 53 sea otters on Tuesday alone (and lots more harbor seals) and there are currently about five newborn pups regularly seen in the slough.

Locals and visitors can take boat or kayak tours of the wetlands, but please keep your distance from the wildlife. The Herald again:

[T]oo much traffic in the slough will make the mothers more likely to abandon the pups, which usually results in the death of the pup. Thomae also warns that there are strict federal guidelines in place to protect the wildlife in the slough. Anybody caught harassing a marine animal can face a fine of up to $10,000.

Photo by Giancarlo Thomae, Moss Landing, March 2015

America’s First Pop Psychologist

Apr. 16th, 2015 11:03 am
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Posted by April Stevens

by Jack El-Hai, Wonders & Marvels Contributor

When Joseph Jastrow died in 1944 at age 80, he was almost a forgotten figure in American psychology and certainly an irrelevant one to many minds. Decades earlier he had given up full-time work in academe, and his most recent writing, an analysis of the psychology of Adolf Hitler, had been ignored.

Joseph Jastrow (Wikimedia Commons)

Yet for many years he had been America’s preeminent pop psychologist, finding ways to explain and interpret psychological ideas to lay audiences interested in bringing the wisdom of this new science into their daily lives. Drawn away from experimental psychology by personal tragedies, he wrote popular books and contributed to Harper’s Monthly and other consumer magazines. The Polish-born Jastrow was thus a predecessor of such recent pop psychologists as Joyce Brothers, M. Scott Peck, Wayne Dyer, and “Dr. Phil” McGraw.

Short and bespectacled, Jastrow was the first American to receive a doctorate in psychology, in 1883. He joined the faculty of the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin. There he built the first psychology laboratory that specialized in investigations of the senses. He examined involuntary movement, stereoscopic vision, deception, hypnosis, the mental acuity of conjurers, reasoning processes, and the formation of judgments. His studies of optical and psychological illusions carried his name around the world, and several of his illusions — still known as Jastrow Objects — continue to appear in psychology textbooks.

By 1900, his passion for experimental psychology had run dry and the stresses of his career brought him a mental breakdown and the need to seek medical care. (A newspaper headlined a story on Jastrow’s troubles as “Famous Mind Doctor Loses His Own.”) After a year away from academics, he focused his attention on popularizing psychology rather than continuing to labor in the laboratory. Later, the death of his son in World War I and his wife’s death added to Jastrow’s depression. He now tapped his talent for presenting psychology to the public, a skill he had cultivated years earlier at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At that public gathering — the same one at which the serial killer H.H. Holmes found his victims — Jastrow created an exhibit that included participatory activities, including psychological tests that visitors could take on the spot. One of his test-takers was the teenaged Helen Keller, who received from Jastrow the first thorough examination of her sensory faculties.

The Rabbit-Duck Illusion, one of the best known Jastrow Objects. (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1901 Jastrow wrote Fact and Fable, the first of his many popular books on psychology. One of his favorite topics was the deceptive performances of mediums and psychics, and he joined with the stage entertainer Harry Houdini in jousting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others who believed in the supposed talents of spiritualists. Meanwhile, although Jastrow came off as boring and incomprehensible in the classroom, he developed into an entertaining speaker on the popular lecture circuit. He gained fame for his lectures on “the will to believe,” his phrase for our tendency to let authority and sensationalism persuade us even when scientific evidence suggests we shouldn’t.

Toward the end of his life, Jastrow became a well known media personality. Soon after resigning from his teaching position at the University of Wisconsin, from which he had grown distant, Jastrow began writing a syndicated newspaper column, “Keeping Mentally Fit,” in 1927, and during the 1930s he refashioned his topics for radio audiences. His final books bore such titles as Piloting Your Life, Effective Thinking, and Sanity First — early entries in today’s self-help category. His last volume, Hitler: Mask and Myth, never found a publisher. By the end, audiences viewed his style as old-fashioned and formal, but he introduced countless people to the illuminating potential of the study of human behavior. “There was no exploiting just for the sake of sales or publicity,” one of his eulogists concluded. “Jastrow always left a dignified impression of psychology and did nothing to bring the science into disrepute.” Not all of today’s pop psychologists can claim the same.


Behrens, Peter J. “War, Sanity, and the Nazi Mind: The Last Passion of Joseph Jastrow.” History of Psychology, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 266-284.

Blum, Deborah. “Mind Tricks for the Masses.” On Wisconsin Magazine, Summer 2010.

Pettit, Michael. “Joseph Jastrow, the Psychology of Deception, and the Racial Economy of Observation.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 43(2), pp. 159-175.

Pillsbury, W.B. “Joseph Jastrow, 1863-1944.” The Psychological Review, Vol. 51, No. 5, pp. 261-265.

This post first appeared on Wonders & Marvels in October 2012.

[syndicated profile] chinookjargon_feed

Posted by chinookjargon

One fictional (1898):Skookum cheer

One factual (1897):

UW cheerJust try and tell the difference!

A lot of team yells several decades ago sported equally nonsensical blends of Chinook Jargon and, um, white-people vocables.


Yarn, and how we love it

Apr. 16th, 2015 04:18 am
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

A drive by from me – getting ready to go from Port Ludlow to Galiano Island for the Knit Social Retreat. (Then it’s home for a few days, then onto Minneapolis for Yarnover, and to teach at Fiber Fest. There’s room in those classes by the way – Yarnover is full, but the crew at StevenBe has room in the Knitting for Speed and Efficiency class, and in the Colour Theory class – they’re both fun.) In the meantime, allow me to entertain you with the amazing yarnbombings at the Resort this go around. The retreaters went above and beyond – and they’re totally charming.  Enjoy.

morecorkguys 2015-04-15 morecorks 2015-04-15 corksagain 2015-04-15 spoonguys 2015-04-15 geesebetter 2015-04-15 fireex3 2015-04-15 fruit 2015-04-15 sail 2015-04-15 caphats 2015-04-15 sheep1 2015-04-15 fireex2 2015-04-15 fireex 2015-04-15 shipinabottle 2015-04-15 fishlap 2015-04-15 kittens 2015-04-15 Statue2 2015-04-15storkthing 2015-04-15

duck 2015-04-15



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Posted by Fred Clark

The former party of Lincoln marked the 150th anniversary of his assassination with an infelicitously worded tweet:

Screen shot 2015-04-15 at 6.05.22 PM

Um, er, that is, what they meant to say was that …

Let me remember our greatest president by linking back to an excerpt from the journal of Baptist missionary and abolitionist Nathaniel Brown, who was part of a delegation of abolitionist ministers who met with President Lincoln in the White House on New Year’s Eve, 1862.

Brown was a fascinating character in his own right — a thrice-widowered missionary to the Congo who returned to the states in the 1850s to become the editor of an abolitionist newspaper. After the war, he married a thrice-widowed former missionary to Japan, learned Japanese, and served another 20 years or so as a missionary in that country.

I love Brown’s account of this meeting with Lincoln because it offers an up-close, personal glimpse of the man. The earnest clergymen present weren’t sure quite what to make of Lincoln, who seems to have crushed and dismissed their arguments while still agreeing with their conclusions.

Here’s a taste of Brown’s account of that conversation:

“You come to me as God’s ministers, and you are positive that you know exactly what God’s will is. You tell me that slavery is a sin; but other’s of God’s ministers say the opposite – which am I to believe? You assume that you only have the knowledge of God’s will.”

“No, Mr. President,” said Dr. Cheever, “we only refer to God’s word, which speaks plainly on this point. The Golden Rule is sufficient.”

The President said to Dr. Cheever, that he presumed he was the writer of the memorial. Mr. Goodell said that the other members of the Committee had a part in it.

“Well, Dr. Cheever, I must say that you are a very illogical reasoner, at least, that is my opinion – ha! ha! ha!” The President seemed to have a habit, whenever he said anything sharp or sarcastic, of finishing it up with a sort of forced, mechanical laugh – a pretty good imitation, too, of a right hearty, spontaneous laugh – to show that he was in good humor. This made his sarcasm appear not at all offensive, but rather as good natured pleasantry, and Dr. Cheever could not but thank him for his frankness. Several times his laugh was so earnest, that, mingled with his wit, it succeeded in bringing the whole Committee into a tolerably sympathetic he-haw.

The President said all his convictions and feelings were against slavery. “But,”? said he, “I am not so certain that God’s views and feelings in respect to it are the same as mine. If his feelings were like mine, how could he have permitted it to remain so long? I am obliged to believe that God may not, after all, look upon it in the same light as I do.”


[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Warren Buffett seems like a nice old man. He’s not.

When the billionaire philanthropist first moved into the manufactured home business, it seemed like his much-touted philosophy of investing for value would be a boon to the industry that provides so much of America’s affordable housing stock. His reputation as an investor who sought out quality goods and services, growing his fortune with their success, suggested that Buffett would focus on the beneficial aspects of factory-built homes, leading away from the unsustainable predatory practices and value-less rent-seeking that have plagued the business.

But that didn’t happen. Buffett’s “value” talk, it turns out, is pure shinola. And he’s raised value-less rent-seeking to an art form.

Mike Baker and Daniel Wagner of the Seattle Times and the Center for Public Integrity have detailed Buffett’s ugly strategy of gouging the poor in a devastating exposé, “The mobile-home trap: How a Warren Buffett empire preys on the poor“:

Buffett’s mobile-home empire promises low-income Americans the dream of homeownership. But Clayton relies on predatory sales practices, exorbitant fees, and interest rates that can exceed 15 percent, trapping many buyers in loans they can’t afford and in homes that are almost impossible to sell or refinance. …

Berkshire Hathaway, the investment conglomerate Buffett leads, bought Clayton in 2003 and spent billions building it into the mobile-home industry’s biggest manufacturer and lender. Today, Clayton is a many-headed hydra with companies operating under at least 18 names, constructing nearly half of the industry’s new homes and selling them through its own retailers. It finances more mobile-home purchases than any other lender by a factor of six. It also sells property insurance on them and repossesses them when borrowers fail to pay.

… More than a dozen Clayton customers described a consistent array of deceptive practices that locked them into ruinous deals: loan terms that changed abruptly after they paid deposits or prepared land for their new homes; surprise fees tacked on to loans; and pressure to take on excessive payments based on false promises that they could later refinance.

Former dealers said the company encouraged them to steer buyers to finance with Clayton’s own high-interest lenders.

Warren Buffett hasn’t invested in manufactured housing. He’s invested in ripping off working-class and elderly people who don’t have the power to fight back. Buffett’s “Clayton Homes” is not a business that sells housing. It’s a pretext for high-interest loans to milk families dry before expelling their penniless husks and moving on to the next victim.


Two fictional villains and one real one.

An editorial from the East Oregonian sums up the only conclusion possible from reading Baker and Wagner’s report. “There’s nothing wrong with mobile homes,” the paper says. “But there’s a lot wrong with taking advantage of those who lack good alternatives”:

It’s like discovering the person we thought was Santa Claus is actually rapaciously mean old banker Mr. Henry F. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life: respected philanthropist Warren Buffet turns out to be America’s worst mobile-home slumlord.

This is the conclusion of an investigative series by the Seattle Times and the Center for Public Integrity, the first part of which was published April 2. Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, the legendary investment conglomerate that has built a reputation for sensible acquisitions of famous American companies, owns a veritable rat’s nest of mobile-home interests collectively known as Clayton.

Again, Clayton is not a company that provides affordable homes for low-income families and retired people. Clayton is a company that uses the need for affordable housing as a pretext for draining as much money as possible from low-income families and retired people before ultimately leaving them homeless. Warren Buffett did not invest in affordable housing. Warren Buffett invested in usury — in unaffordable, predatory lending.

How is the formerly respected third-richest man in the world responding to evidence that he’s an enormous sleazeball who’s been lying to his investors for decades with his bogus “value” talk?

By doubling-down on the sleaze. Just days after this report exposed the old vampire’s morally repugnant practices, his lobbyists got his congressional henchmen to push a bill through the House of Representatives deregulating the manufactured-home loans Buffett uses to fleece the poor.

To quote my favorite economist, I’d say that makes the so-called Sage of Omaha nothing but a scurvy little spider.




The Myth of Police Reform

Apr. 15th, 2015 06:32 pm
[syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Julie Jacobson/AP

There is a tendency, when examining police shootings, to focus on tactics at the expense of strategy. One interrogates the actions of the officer in the moment trying to discern their mind-state. We ask ourselves, "Were they justified in shooting?" But, in this time of heightened concern around the policing, a more essential question might be, "Were we justified in sending them?" At some point, Americans decided that the best answer to every social ill lay in the power of the criminal-justice system. Vexing social problems—homelessness, drug use, the inability to support one's children, mental illness—are presently solved by sending in men and women who specialize in inspiring fear and ensuring compliance. Fear and compliance have their place, but it can't be every place.

When Walter Scott fled from the North Charleston police, he was not merely fleeing Michael Thomas Slager, he was attempting to flee incarceration. He was doing this because we have decided that the criminal-justice system is the best tool for dealing with men who can't, or won't, support their children at a level that we deem satisfactory. Peel back the layers of most of the recent police shootings that have captured attention and you will find a broad societal problem that we have looked at, thrown our hands up, and said to the criminal-justice system, "You deal with this."

Last week I was in Madison, Wisconsin, where I was informed of the killing of Tony Robinson by a police officer. Robinson was high on mushrooms. The police were summoned after he chased a car. The police killed him. A month earlier, I'd been thinking a lot about Anthony Hill, who was mentally ill. One day last month, Hill stripped off his clothes and started jumping off of his balcony. The police were called. They killed him. I can't see the image of Tamir Rice aimlessly kicking snow outside the Cleveland projects and think of how little we invest in occupying the minds of children. A bored Tamir Rice decided to occupy his time with a airsoft gun. He was killed.

There is of course another way. Was Walter Scott's malfunctioning third-brake light really worth a police encounter? Should the state repeatedly incarcerate him for not paying child support? Do we really want people trained to fight crime dealing with someone who's ceased taking medication? Does the presence of a gun really improve the chance of peacefully resolving a drug episode? In this sense, the police—and the idea of police reform—are a symptom of something larger. The idea that all social problems can, and should, be resolved by sheer power is not limited to the police. In Atlanta, a problem that began with the poor state of public schools has now ending by feeding more people into the maw of the carceral state.

There are many problems with expecting people trained in crime-fighting to be social workers. In the black community, there is a problem of legitimacy. In his 1953 book The Quest For Community, conservative Robert Nisbet distinguishes between "power" and "authority." Authority, claims Nisbet, is a matter of relationships, allegiances, and association and is "based ultimately upon the consent of those under it." Power, on the other hand, is "external" and "based upon force." Power exists where allegiances have decayed or never existed at all. "Power arises," writes Nesbit, "only when authority breaks down."

African Americans, for most of our history, have lived under the power of the criminal-justice system, not its authority. The dominant feature in the relationship between African Americans and their country is plunder, and plunder has made police authority an impossibility, and police power a necessity. The skepticism of Officer Darren Wilson's account in the shooting of Michael Brown, for instance, emerges out of lack of police authority—which is to say it comes from a belief that the police are as likely to lie as any other citizen. When African American parents give their children "The Talk," they do not urge them to make no sudden movements in the presence of police out of a profound respect for the democratic ideal, but out of the knowledge that police can, and will, kill them.

But for most Americans, the police—and the criminal-justice system—are figures of authority. The badge does not merely represent rule via lethal force, but rule through consent and legitimacy rooted in nobility. This is why whenever a liberal politician offers even the mildest criticism of the police, they must add that "the majority of officers are good, noble people." Taken at face value this is not much of a defense—like a restaurant claiming that on most nights, there really are no rats in the dining room. But interpreted less literally the line is not meant to defend police officers, but to communicate the message that the speaker is not questioning police authority, which is to say the authority of our justice system, which is to say—in a democracy—the authority of the people themselves.

Thus it was not surprising, last week, to see that the mayor of North Charleston ordered the use of body cameras for all officers. Body cameras are the least divisive and least invasive step toward reforming the practices of the men and women we permit to kill in our names. Body cameras are helpful in police work, but they are also helpful in avoiding a deeper conversation over what it means to keep whole swaths of America under the power of the justice system, as opposed to the authority of other branches of civil society.

Police officers fight crime. Police officers are neither case-workers, nor teachers, nor mental-health professionals, nor drug counselors. One of the great hallmarks of the past forty years of American domestic policy is a broad disinterest in that difference. The problem of restoring police authority is not really a problem of police authority, but a problem of democratic authority. It is what happens when you decide to solve all your problems with a hammer. To ask, at this late date, why the police seem to have lost their minds is to ask why our hammers are so bad at installing air-conditioners. More it is to ignore the state of the house all around us. A reform that begins with the officer on the beat is not reform at all. It's avoidance. It's a continuance of the American preference for considering the actions of bad individuals, as opposed to the function and intention of systems.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-myth-of-police-reform/390057/

From Our Archives: Taxes

Apr. 15th, 2015 02:00 pm
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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

1 (3)The Numbers

Some History

The Winners and the Losers

Tax Cultures

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)

Setting half the trends we know

Apr. 15th, 2015 12:09 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

• Jack Jenkins summarizes some of the many, many, many reasons it’s absurd for anti-gay white American evangelicals to fantasize about themselves as the second coming of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I’m pretty sure that deep down, they know this too. At some level, at least, they recognize that their claim to be just like Bonhoeffer is no different from someone introducing himself as a “Level 22 half-elf magic user.” It’s just a game where they invent monsters so that they can pretend to be the hero fighting them.

So the bad news for Rick Scarborough and Eric Metaxas and the rest is that their self-aggrandizing self-deception isn’t fooling anybody other than them. But the good news, I guess, is that at least they can say that Tom Hanks played them in the TV movie of their lives.

Two of these guys are still acting.

Two of these guys are still acting.

• Semi-related: Whatever happened to Chris Makepeace? IMDB and Wikipedia don’t seem to know.

Sen. Mark Kirk stepped in it. The Illinois Republican was trying to express his concern for “helping the African-American community,” but wound up instead demonstrating that he automatically thinks of that community as a Them separate from some undifferentiated white Us.

Kirk said his goal was to help “the black community” so that it would no longer be “the one we drive faster through.”

What you mean “we,” Kemosabe? For Kirk, there’s “we” Americans. And then there’s those people, over there, whose neighborhoods “we” are scared to drive through.

Kirk’s unconscious admission/othering is a version of the same thing Ben Moberg rightly complains about in a recent Time magazine cover contrasting “The Attack on Gay Rights” with “The Attack on Believers.” Two wholly distinct categories. No LGBT people are “believers” and no “believers” are LGBT.

That’s objectively inaccurate. It’s not just rude, it’s also factually untrue.

• Speaking of objective, measurable, demonstrable facts, here’s a question: Does Jordan have a nuclear arsenal?

For those who live here in reality, the answer is clearly No. Jordan does not have a nuclear arsenal.

But those who don’t much care for reality and instead prefer the World’s Worst Books and the delirious fantasies of Tim LaHaye, the Rev. Tim Johnson of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana, offers an alternative answer. Johnson, who has inexplicably been given a newspaper column, says that the question of Jordan’s nuclear arsenal can’t be answered by worldly methods like looking to see whether or not the country has or wants any nukes. Johnson says we should, instead, turn to the Bible — grabbing little bits of Ezekiel, Revelation, Amos and the Psalms, mincing them, shuffling them together, and then sort of squinting a bit — to conclude that, yes, in fact, Jordan is prophetically predestined to have nuclear bombs and to use them, somewhat recklessly, against the neighboring country upwind of them.

• Semi-related: The Anti-Christ Handbook: Vol. 1 is still available for just $3.99 from Amazon.

• “In the same period (actually, 2001- April, 2015) US deaths-in-action in Iraq and Afghanistan total 5374. Saddam and his army, the Taliban, ISIL and all the rest have killed, at a minimum, ~two hundred fewer Americans than our domestic police.”

Dave Lartigue looks back at 1983′s self-titled album from the Violent Femmes, which is still — to me too — an irresistible piece of adolescent pop-punk delight.

I got it from Amy, one of the more “rebellious” kids in our fundamentalist church youth group. She bought it on vinyl, but she couldn’t keep it because her parents regularly inspected her music for anything unacceptable. Their idea of unacceptable was “hard rock” like Petra or the Resurrection Band, or any post-Age to Age Amy Grant. The Femmes would’ve gotten her grounded for life.

So I made a cassette of the album for her and labeled it something like “Twila Paris: The Warrior Is a Child.” And I still have the vinyl.

(If somehow you’re reading this, Ames, thank you. And I can return the record if you want. Probably safe now.)


All the kinds of done

Apr. 15th, 2015 04:35 am
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Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

The April Retreat is done, and it was beautiful, and fabulous, and we so enjoyed having Clara and Kate with us, and I think I do no wrong when I say that this might have been one of the best ever.  (I will show you more pictures tomorrow. The yarnbombings this time were of a spectacular quality.)

splityarn5 2015-04-14

There was so much information, and so much fun, and some really, really intense learning, and even though all those things were more than amazing, let me tell you the best part.

clarapic 2015-04-14 (1) katepic 2015-04-14

I finished my socks,

socksdone 2015-04-14

and I am almost finished my sweater,

sweaterdone 2015-04-14

which is awesome, because when I got here I unpacked my suitcase, I was staggered to discover that while I was sure I had a sweater with me, there wasn’t one in my bag.   It turns out I was counting the unfinished beast in my bag.  That, my friends, is a really, really knitterly mindset.

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Posted by Fred Clark

• Our forsythia bush timidly cleared its throat last week with some pale yellow shoots, but yesterday it finally got serious. Now it’s all, like, “You think you know what ‘yellow’ means? I’ll show you yellow. Boom.”

So even though the trees around here are still bare, the forsythia have announced, loudly, that spring has arrived.

Via Katie Halper, an Equal Pay Day reminder from Batgirl:

Click here to view the embedded video.

We’ve made some progress since that Nixon-Era PSA was recorded and broadcast more than 40 years ago, but the anti-feminist culture wars also make it impossible to imagine such a thing today. If something like that aired now, the religious right would threaten Batman’s advertisers with a boycott and Yvonne Craig would be getting Dixie Chick-ed.

• Dianna E. Anderson provides a fun pop-song/CCM-song lyrical quiz: “Wait, Is This About Sex or God?

The examples are pretty funny, but I’m actually a fan of pop-songs that can’t easily be reduced to being about only one thing at a time. For many of my favorite songs, the answer to “Is This About Sex or God?” is “Yes.” A good love song should be the doorway to a thousand churches. And if you want to kiss the sky, you’ve gotta learn how to kneel.

• The Affordable Care Act is dramatically reducing the number of Americans without health insurance:


That’s not surprising — since this is exactly what the core of the ACA was designed to do. As Matt Yglesias writes, “Of course a law that mandates the purchase of insurance and then subsidizes it will succeed in getting people health insurance.”

But as Matt also notes, anti-Obamacare critics have also spent years denying that the law would do this. It’s worth pausing to consider how weirdly extreme that argument was and is. They weren’t simply saying that this blunt mechanism of mandating and subsidizing health insurance was the wrong approach, but that this approach wouldn’t work.

That’s just weird. Pennsylvania, like most (all?) states, makes it illegal to drive without auto insurance. Laws mandating auto insurance work. Once drivers were required to have auto insurance, the number of drivers without it plummeted because duh. It took an extreme form of partisan delusion to imagine that the same wouldn’t prove to be true of health insurance.

• Speaking of extreme forms of partisan delusion, here’s one way of self-enforcing this kind of retreat from reality: “Texas lawmaker refuses to meet with constituents who don’t share her views, staff says it is ‘a waste of time’.”

It’s one thing to focus on your political “base,” but it’s something else entirely to make that base your sole basis. I sent a lot of letters to Rick Santorum back when he was my U.S. senator and, to his credit and the credit of his staff, he always sent a response explaining his disagreement. His letters didn’t persuade me any more than my letters persuaded him, but at least we were communicating.

• I forget who said it, but trying to reduce traffic congestion by expanding the highway is like trying to lose weight by loosening your belt.

• “Because evolution can’t be seen, it’s hard to believe in, like electricity or skeletons. …”

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Posted by Fred Clark

Aric Clark of Two Friars and a Fool recently wrote about “What the Bible Is NOT.” He starts with this:

The Bible is not the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. We go to the Bible because of the testimony of the saints that the Word of God can be encountered there through faithful reading which is an active process of interpretation not passive reception. Readings of the Bible which hurt people and diminish love are not of God because they are not consistent with the character of Jesus who is the Word of God.

For most Christians in most places throughout most of the history of the faith, that’s a simple, obvious and orthodox statement. (The last bit is more or less a paraphrase of Augustine.)

BIBLEFor Christians here in the U.S., in the last couple centuries, though, that’s a frightening, radical claim. For white evangelicals in America, those are fightin‘ words. “The B-I-B-L-E,” we’re taught to sing. “Yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”

That’s a strange development. Just look at that word “Christian.” It suggests a faith based and centered on Jesus Christ. When Jesus gets replaced by the Bible, shouldn’t that word be changed to reflect that?

It’s also a strange development given that his statement — “The Bible is not the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God.” — is biblical, while the now-fashionable innovation of switching that around isn’t. “In the beginning was the Word,” the Bible says, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And it’s just kind of weird to wind up contradicting the Bible under the guise of elevating it.

Aric Clark then adds a quick list of four other things the Bible is not, including: “The Bible is not a text book. … The Bible is not an oracle or any other kind of ‘magic’ book. … The Bible is not a self-help book,” and “The Bible is not written to you.”

This is not a random list. He’s responding to a very real set of problems and a very real set of misunderstandings. He’s addressing the ways that we white evangelicals have taught ourselves to misread the Bible — to read it as something it is not, something it never was, and something it never can be:

The Bible is not a self-help book. While it contains a lot of advice about life it isn’t primarily a book designed to help people live well or be healthy. Plenty of the advice is terrible, like when it’s acceptable to sell your daughter into slavery. Some of the advice only works in certain contexts and the vast majority of it is not aimed at individuals, but at communities.

The Bible is not written to you. The authors had no idea you would ever exist, couldn’t have imagined your culture or your particular life experience, and did not put that one verse in there 2000+ years ago just so you would find it now. This doesn’t mean you can’t get meaning from the Bible but just recognize it isn’t your personal devotional.

This is something I tried to write about recently in a post called “The Bible wasn’t written to provide source material for inspirational posters.”

It’s also what I’ve been trying to address in the weekly “Sunday WTF?” series. That started out years ago here as a series called “Sunday favorites,” in which I would post, without comment, biblical passages and stories that I find inspiring, or challenging, or thought-provoking, or surprising, or otherwise commendable and recommendable.

But I gradually came to worry that highlighting such passages could reinforce the kind of misreading, mistreatment and misappropriation of the Bible that Aric Clark writes about above — the evangelical lens that treats the Bible as a self-help book and our personal devotional. I worried that this could feed into the modern approach that treats the entire Bible as a collection of proverbs. (Even that is misleading, really, since this evangelical lens doesn’t even allow us to read Proverbs as a collection of proverbs.)

So this year I’ve switched gears with that feature, highlighting instead biblical passages that I hope will help to remind us that the actual Bible itself is a far stranger, older and wilder collection of books than this personal devotional approach that elevates the letter of the text above the person of Jesus. I’ve started focusing on passages that are bewildering, disturbing, or disgusting — passages that force us to recognize that this is an incomprehensibly ancient collection of texts, some of which are inscrutable, opaque and offensive.

And there’s no shortage of such stuff there in the Bible. It’s full of passages that should make us all pause, step back, and ask “WTF?”

I’m sure that some people will perceive my focus on these passages as an “attack” on the Bible. But I’m not attacking it, I’m just quoting it — accurately. Those who wish to “defend” the Bible from being quoted accurately need to recognize that it cannot be the Bible itself that they’re defending.

The “Sunday WTF?” feature doesn’t attempt to contend with the passages I’m quoting, but I’m hoping that it demonstrates that such passages need to be contended with.

The idea that we have to contend with the Bible horrifies and frightens many within white evangelicalism. It goes against the main thrust of their argument, which says that the Bible judges us. We must never presume to contend with the Bible, they say. We are in no position to do so. We are fallen, wretched sinners and the Bible is the only thing that can save us — the only external, objective authority that can teach us right from wrong.

But again, as Aric Clark reminds us, this is not what Christianity has usually claimed. Jesus is supposed to be our savior, not the Bible. And the evangelical claim that the Bible serves as an external, objective authority to teach us right from wrong seems to reduce the scriptures to something like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

And, again, look at that word “Christianity.” As that name suggests, we’re not supposed to be looking for some external objective authority. We’re supposed to be following a subject — a person, not worshipping an object.

The idea that the scriptures are something that the faithful must sometimes contend with is as old as the scriptures themselves — which is to say that it is older even than Christianity. Judaism offers a very long history of the faithful contending with and contending against scripture. And much of that contentious history is recorded and reflected in the scriptures themselves. It’s modeled there by Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Qoheleth, Peter and Paul, among others. And by Jesus “But I Say to You” Christ himself.

The mistake of replacing Jesus with the Bible as the “Word of God” — the mistake of pretending the Bible provides us with an accessible, external objective authority — has caused us to forget how to contend with the Bible. So instead of contending with these many, many WTF? passages, we’ve taught ourselves to ignore them. We’ve come to pretend they’re not there.

That won’t do.


The Quinoa Economy

Apr. 14th, 2015 01:50 pm
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Posted by Aarushi Bhandari

Within the last decade, the grain quinoa has emerged as an alleged “super food” in western dietary practices. Health food stores and upscale grocery chains have aisles dedicated to varieties of quinoa, packaged under many different brand labels, touting it to be a nutritional goldmine. A simple Google search of the word returns pages of results with buzzwords like “healthiest,” “organic,” and “wholesome.” Vegan and health-enthusiast subcultures swear by this expensive food product, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) even declared the year 2013 International Year of the Quinoa, owing to the grain’s popularity.

The journey of the grain — as it makes it to the gourmet kitchen at upscale restaurants in countries like the United States — however, is often overlooked in mainstream discourse. It often begins in the Yellow Andes region of Bolivia, where the farmers that grow this crop have depended on it as almost a sole nutritional source for decades, if not centuries. The boom in western markets, with exceedingly high demands for this crop has caused it to transition from a traditional food crop to a major cash crop.

While critical global organizations like the FAO have been portraying this as positive, they tend to discount the challenge of participating in a demanding global market. Within-country inequality, skewed export/import dynamics, and capitalist trade practices that remain in the favor of the powerful player in these dynamics – the core consumer – cause new and difficult problems for Bolivian farmers, like not being able to afford to buy the food they have traditionally depended upon.

2 3

Meanwhile, growing such large amounts of quinoa has been degrading the Andean soil: even the FAO outlines concerns for biodiversity, while otherwise touting the phenomenon.


While efforts have been put in place by farmer unions, cooperatives and development initiatives to mitigate some negative effects on the primary producers of quinoa, they have not been enough to protect the food security of these Andean farmers. Increased consumer consciousness is therefore essential in ensuring that these farmers don’t continue to suffer because of Western dietary fads.

Cross-posted at Sociology Lens.

Aarushi Bhandari is a doctoral student at Stony Brook University interested in globalization and the impact of neoliberal policies on the developing world. She wants to study global food security within a global neoliberal framework and the world systems perspective.

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

“The Christians” Party in Rome

Apr. 14th, 2015 01:39 pm
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Posted by Douglas Boin

By Douglas Boin (Guest Contributor)

The birthday party was over, but the hangover was fierce.

On April 21st, 248 A.D., the Emperor Philip had celebrated Rome’s 1,000th anniversary. Exotic elk, hippopotami, giraffes, lions, and tigers were put on parade in the Circus (or put to death in the Colosseum). It was a fête befitting the citizens of a diverse empire. And then Philip, tragically, was killed. Unity would not come easy in the years that followed. When Emperor Decius, in 250 A.D., announced a Mediterranean-wide campaign asking citizens to gather in their cities, participate in local sacrifices, and share in the banquet that followed, some citizens balked. They worshipped Jesus the Messiah, they said. They couldn’t be expected to do what other citizens were doing. “Christians” were different.

It’s a compelling way to tell the story: Christians fought the tyranny of persecution, and they eventually won the free right to practice their faith as they wished. Only history’s a little more complicated.

As I show in my new book, Coming Out RomanChristian in the Roman World, many Christians did exactly the thing generations of historians have assumed they did not do. They participated in Roman festivals and civic banquets. We know because many of their own peers vilified them for it. Curiously, though, we’ve never tried to see history from their perspective. And that’s where the story gets really interesting.

In Roman Spain, two men in particular—their names are Martial and Basilides—were at the forefront of an outreach campaign showing their friends and neighbors that they could be Christian and Roman at the same time. Martial and Basilides both attended the emperor’s call for sacrifice in 250 A.D. Martial himself probably took part in sacrifices regularly as part of his commitment to a local Roman social club, called in a Latin a collegium, or guild. Archaeological remains of these guilds have been identified all throughout the Mediterranean. The city of Ostia, the harbor town of Rome, offers several examples. Guilds usually had rooms for banquets and, more importantly, temples where the club’s patron gods were worshipped.

Martial was a member of one of these organizations. He was also a Christian bishop. He lived a hyphenated life. Martial’s ability to build bridges with people in town—by attending “pagan” sacrifices and participating in Roman civic life—also did not sit well with other Christians. One bishop in North Africa even considered his compromise, like Basilides’, a sign that “the end of the world” was coming.

History, however, is not just an account of who shouted the loudest. It also includes the quieter voices we might have overlooked. And that’s why Martial and Basilides are so important to the history of the Roman Empire. Many people assume that Christians were incapable of living as citizens in the Roman world and that, when the followers of Jesus eventually moved into the palace, they finally succeeded in “Christianizing” it. The evidence I’ve collected in my book suggests a much different picture. Many Christians didn’t need to “Christianize” anything, and their lives change how we tell Roman history.

ChristianCoverDouglas Boin is an archaeologist and a historian of the ancient Mediterranean world who teaches at Saint Louis University. In his research and public writing, he explores how ancient texts and artifacts can help us reconstruct relations between Jews, Christians, and non-Christians throughout the Roman Empire. He is the author of Ostia in Late Antiquity and, most recently, a general history book, Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire, available from Bloomsbury Press.  

W&M is excited to have three (3) copies of Coming out Christian this month’s giveaway! Be sure to enter below by 11:00pm EST on April 30th to qualify (your entry includes a subscription to W&M Monthly).

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

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Image: Getty Open Content Program. Unknown, “Fragment of a Fresco Panel with a Meal Preparation,” Roman, 100 – 150 A.D., Fresco, 69.5 x 127 x 3.5 cm (27 3/8 x 50 x 1 3/8 in.), 79.AG.112.

Where Joe Gets Goosed!

Apr. 14th, 2015 04:43 am
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Posted by Dave Hingsburger

Photo Description: A blue statue of a man's face with two hands, one on either side of the face forming chairs. Set in a park. Joe is sitting on one of the hands.
Joe and I spent a day in Omaha, We'd driven from Toronto to Omaha in two days, which is a gruelling drive and needed a day to relax before beginning work. We stayed right down town in Omaha and right next, or nearly next, to a wonderful walk along the water. It was shirtsleeve weather. The walk was made accessible by a set of switchback ramps on both ends. We strolled along the water, Joe stopping to rest on an odd statue. It looked like, I told him in a huff, the statue was grabbing his butt! And he liked it!

We were able to cross over the water via a cute little bridge. It was a really, really, nice way to spend some time. Sometimes, and I'll explain this, I simply feel blessed to be living as a disabled person at a time when public spaces like this are made to be wheelchair accessible. I know that non-disabled people may feel blessed by being able to walk along the water, but they probably don't feel blessed that they have access to it. I keep trying to remind myself to not feel grateful for what I should take for granted. But, I've not conquered that yet.

Later we went over to the Old Market area for lunch. There were several places we could choose, some because they had outdoor patios, some because they were in buildings built with a flat entrance but we chose to go to Stokes simply because of the ramp. The management of the restaurant built a lovely contraption with a terrific ramp up one side and stairs up the other, both leading to the FRONT DOOR. Once inside we were greeted with great decor and a warm welcome:

Photo Description: Reception area of Stokes Restaurant with their name in some of the metal work decorations with flow through the space.
The food was amazing, the staff were great, the environment, including the bathroom, was accessible. At one point I asked to speak to the manager. They always approach with a kind of worried expression, I'm guessing people are ticked more often than they are thankful so they anticipate the worst. I just told the nice man that I chose the restaurant because of the ramp. The ramp spoke of the intentionality of welcome, not the accident of access. I appreciated it, I wanted him to know and to pass it along to the owner.

It was so comfortable there that we lingered a bit over a final pot of tea for me and a beer that was brewed in Nebraska for Joe. It was a nice day. We roamed around a bit more, did some shopping, very little of the shopping was possible because the stores were, by an large, inaccessible. We ended with having a stop at 'The Max' for a drink and we watched Jeopardy with a few others, some surprisingly, and delightfully, competitive.

I'll have 'Nice Day' for a 1000 Alex!
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Posted by chinookjargon

(Previous installment.)


[…] Hlawt ilihi, klaska wiht skukum pus iskom
[…] Hallout village, can also be counted on to take

mokst tatilam pipa; Shushwap tilikom, kopa
twenty copies; the Shuswap people, among

taii Adam iaka tanas, klaska wiht skukum
chief Adam’s children, are also reliable

pus iskom mokst tatilam pipa; Shushwap
to take twenty copies; the Shuswap

tilikom kopa Kwawt ilihi, klaska tlus kopa iht
people at Quaaout village are good for

iht tatilam pipa; Nort Tomson tilikom, klaska
ten copies here and there; the North Thompson people

skukum pus iskom mokst tatilam pipa;
can be relied on to take twenty copies;

Skishistin tilikom, klaska skukum pus
the Skeetchestn people can be counted on to

iskom tatilam pipa; kopa Nikola, Duglas
take ten copies; at Nicola the Douglas

Lik pi Nikola Lik tilikom, klaska tlus pus
Lake and Nicola Lake people are good to

iskom mokst tatilam pipa.
take twenty copies.

     Tlus alta hloima ilihi tilikom mamuk
     Now let the people of the other villages

tomtom kansih pipa klaska tiki tlap kopa iht
decide how many copies they want to get in each

ilihi, pi kansih pipa kopa iht ilihi.
place, and how many copies in other places.


     Naika wiht alta tlap oihat pus mamuk
     I’ve also now found a way to make

styuil pipa, aias kakwa ukuk pipa: pus
prayer books the size of this paper;

kata msaika tomtom kopa ukuk. Naika
what do you folks think about that? I

komtaks, ayu tilikom ankati tlap sik tomtom […]
know a lot of people used to get mad […]

[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

In the working and middle class neighborhoods of many Southern cities, you fill find rows of “shotgun” houses. These houses are long and narrow, consisting of three or more rooms in a row. Originally, there would have been no indoor plumbing — they date back to the early 1800s in the U.S. — and, so, no bathroom or kitchen.

Here’s a photograph of a shotgun house I took in the 7th ward of New Orleans. It gives you an idea of just how skinny they are.


In a traditional shotgun house, there are no hallways, just doors that take a person from one room to the next. Here’s my rendition of a shotgun floor plan; doors are usually all in a row:


At nola.com, Richard Campanella describes the possible origins and sociological significance of this housing form. He follows folklorist John Michael Vlach, who has argued that shotgun houses are indigenous to Western and Central Africa, arriving in the American South via Haiti. Campella writes:

Vlach hypothesizes that the 1809 exodus of Haitians to New Orleans after the St. Domingue slave insurrection of 1791 to 1803 brought this vernacular house type to the banks of the Mississippi.

In New Orleans, shotgun houses are found in the parts of town originally settled by free people of color, people who would have identified as Creole, and a variety of immigrants. Outside of New Orleans, we tend to see shotgun houses in places with large black populations.

The house, though, doesn’t just represent a building technique, it tells a story about how families were expected to interact. Shotgun houses offer essentially zero privacy. Everyone has to tromp through everyone’s room to get around the house. There’s no expectation that a child won’t just walk into their parents’ room at literally any time, or vice versa. There’s no way around it.

“According to some theories,” then, Campanella says:

…cultures that produced shotgun houses… tended to be more gregarious, or at least unwilling to sacrifice valuable living space for the purpose of occasional passage.

Cultures that valued privacy, on the other hand, were willing to make this trade-off.

Sure enough, in the part of New Orleans settled by people of Anglo-Saxon descent, shotgun houses are much less common and, instead, homes are more “privacy-conscious.”

Over time, as even New Orleans became more and more culturally Anglo-Saxon — and as the housing form increasingly became associated with poverty — shotguns fell out of favor.  They’re enjoying a renaissance today but, as Campanella notes, many renovations of these historic buildings include a fancy, new hallway.

Cross-posted at A Nerd’s Guide to New Orleans.

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

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


Apr. 13th, 2015 08:18 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

Photo Description: 9 rows of blue children's windmills placed in a park on grass, just coming green, in front of a tree coming into bud.
We checked into our hotel in Omaha and, as it was early enough, and as it was warm enough, went out for a stroll. We were pleasantly surprised that our hotel had a list of pubs in the Old Market area which included one LGBT spot. Right on Marriott! We made our way through town and found the pub which was both physically and attitudinally accessible. Right on 'The Max.' We were there long enough to wind down from the trip and, then, suddenly felt very tired. We said our goodbyes and left heading home a different way.

Joe noticed this glittering, madly whirling, installation of windmills. We crossed the street to see it. It was delightful. Really, really delightful. It was simple. It was joyful. Then I noticed the sign beside it. It said that April was Child Abuse Awareness month and then that powerful slogan, the one that brought me to tears the first time I saw it, "It shouldn't hurt to be a child." I looked back at the rows of windmills and now it seemed that their frenetic spinning might be an attempt to fly up and into the hands of a child who needed, just a little bit of, joy.

We walked the rest of the way back to the hotel quietly. We were tired, we'd done an eight and a half hour drive after all. But I was remembering. Remembering the time that I was called upon to measure and document a child's bruises. She had been beaten by her mother who had flown into a rage because this little girl had woken mom from a nap because she was hungry. I was given calipers so that I could get an exact measure. The child had an intellectual disability but the listlessness with which she greeted me and her frantic compliance to my requests to get a measure of the bruises which covered her arms, her lower legs, her right cheek, told me that she feared me, mistrusted me, and wanted to appease me so that I wouldn't hurt her further.

I took the paper, the one with the outline of the body and with instructions to draw the bruises on the outline indicating where violence had left it's mark. It's silly, I know, but I didn't want to bruise this paper child. I wanted, instead, for the hurt to stop. I've always been good at making up games, on the spot, for children. I didn't want the cold calipers to touch her skin until she saw them as something that could be fun. I managed to get her to measure other things in the room with them. Then, magically, the child began to emerge. She got silly with them, she wanted to measure her fingers, she wanted to measure my big, big nose. She giggled.

When I saw the child. Not the bruised and beaten little girl who had greeted me, but the child. The child who in forgetting the colours of pain on her body became unbruised, I wondered at how anyone could strike her, beat her. After the play, |I set about my work and got the drawing done. I got the bruises measured. The ones on her body, mind, not the ones on her heart, her mind or her soul. As I was leaving she asked if she could keep the toy for awhile, she wanted to measure some more things. I gave it over to her.

It shouldn't hurt to be a child.

It shouldn't hurt to be a child.

But it does sometimes.

And these windmills, twirling furiously in Omaha, are trying to stop it.

Are we?

When Agnodice Became a Handbag…

Apr. 13th, 2015 10:33 am
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Helen King

By Helen King (Regular Contributor)

I am always interested in how the past is used in advertising. Whether that’s in a trade name (when I grew up, ‘Vim’ was used for scrubbing all sorts of surfaces and it was fun when I started to study Latin and found out it meant ‘Force’) or in an image (Greek columns as signifying a ‘classy’ if not a classical product), the ancient world is never far away. There’s a security firm in Vienna called Sparta, sparta security viennafor example – which has all the right sense of living a simple life, being careful with your money, being strong…

As readers of this blog know, I have a bit of a thing about the mythical ancient figure, Agnodice. I’ve written half a book about her. In the only ancient source in which she features, she appears in a story about how ‘the ancients had no midwives’ until she came along – but the rest of the story is about her disguising herself as a man and learning not midwifery, but medicine in general. At various points in the story, generations of readers have translated the Latin differently according to whether they want her to be the ‘first midwife’ or the ‘first female physician’. That second label is not straightforward – if she is supposed to be the first woman who becomes a physician, then what sort of physician does she become? A woman who can treat any patient, or a woman who can only treat her fellow women?

Like any scholar today, I’ve set up some Google alerts to let me know when key words from my research interests pop up on the web. I don’t get a lot for ‘Agnodice’. But one day recently I did – and it’s a great one. Because now you can buy a handbag called Agnodice!

In designing this bag with its ‘elegance and savoir-fair’, Porsche Design seem unaware of Agnodice’s main claim to fame: her willingness to lift up her clothes to prove she is a woman, a gesture she first does to a female patient who doesn’t want to discuss her medical problems with a man, and then repeats when brought to court on a charge of gaining her popularity as a physician by seducing women patients. But never mind. The company is quite up-front about why they picked the name. It’s not just the high-class nature of the product, with its ‘outstanding craftsmanship, luxurious leather and amazing brass metal details’. Rather, it’s the capacious nature of the bag; the design ‘is reminiscent of a traditional doctor’s bag and was inspired by the Greek physician Agnodike’.

So, in the long history of the debate over whether Agnodice was a midwife or a physician, Porsche Designs comes down on the side of a physician. And I have to say that I agree with them. The story gives every sign of being about a woman learning medicine and treating other women for a range of medical conditions.

The quality of the product is intended to ‘make Agnodice your perfect companion’. At 1790 €, however, much as I like Agnodice, I don’t think I can afford friends like that!



Apr. 12th, 2015 11:53 pm
[syndicated profile] forget_what_did_feed

Posted by John Finnemore

Hello! There is no way of doing this that doesn't sound incredibly self-important, so let's all just grin and bear it. The thing is, in the next few weeks I'm hoping to be able to announce a couple of new things I'm doing this year, at least one of which will involve live performances. Now (here comes the self-important bit) in the past, tickets for things like this have gone quite quickly, and I would like to make sure that people who are interested enough to, for example, keep tabs on this blog have the chance to get them. So, if you put your email address into the box below, I will send you an email about these things a week or so before I announce them generally.

(Your email won't be passed on to anyone else, and I won't send you emails very often. And of course you can always unsubscribe again. Your umbrella may go down as well as up.)


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I’m a Member of the Linkspam Crew

Apr. 12th, 2015 05:00 pm
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

  • Beyond Storytelling: Actionable Ways to Help with Tech’s “Woman Problem” | Autostraddle (April 11): “How many times do we have to tell these stories before they become real — before we all agree that this is a problem, and more than that, agree to do something about it? The conversation around sexism in the tech industry is completely halted in the “telling our stories” phase. I am sick of talking about “tech’s diversity problem.” I want to move the conversation forward, and I want to make things better.”
  • Sexism and Fonts | Typographica (April 8): “We spend a lot of time critiquing typefaces: their formal qualities, their historical references, their contemporary influences. We spend a bit less time discussing how those fonts are marketed and advertised. […] Consider a few choice lines from the microsites that describe… the type: “the flowing curves of a woman’s body” “all wrapped up in the leggy body of a Brazilian supermodel” “Like a supermodel, it can’t be squeezed into every situation.” “packed with alternates to play with… enough to turn you on and satisfy” “It looks good dressed down or in a little black dress.” Is talking about and presenting type in the visual language of seductive advertising sexist?”
  • Girls Make Games Proves Future Of The Gaming Industry Won’t Look Like A Boys Club | iDigitalTimes (April 9): About the formation of Girls Make Games, a summer camp for girls aged 9-13 to learn skills in game design, leading to creating successful games such as the newly-Greenlit The Hole Story.
  • Coding Scholarship for High School Girls – Kode with Karlie Kloss | Flatiron School: Flatiron School teams up with model Karlie Kloss to provide full scholarships for high school girls to learn software engineering.
  • Where Are the Women of Color in New Media Art? | Hyperallergic (April 7): “If radical and marginalized voices were meant to be a part of the conversation, why was the group specifically hand-picked? Why not allow women to have a seat at the table and join the conversation? It becomes challenging when [Women of Color] and [Queer & Trans Women of Color] are exchanging and sharing knowledge only among themselves — the situation becomes circular. The internet certainly allows for groups to engage in global conversations, but the fact remains that a “congress of cyberfeminist[s]” comprised of predominantly cis white women discussing issues of privacy, surveillance, new media, and digital art at a prestigious university doesn’t exactly help the communities that become the subjects of their discussions. It can be isolating to women in search of this type of (necessary) dialogue.”
  • Silicon Valley’s Other Diversity Problem: Age Bias in Tech by Grace Wong | Model View Culture (April 9): “But the open-mindedness that permits very young people to succeed in tech seems to go out the window when it comes to the other end of the age spectrum. Individuals who try to enter the tech industry via a non-traditional route are frequently told to “fake it until you make it,” but age is a tricky thing to try to fake. If asked outright, once you answer honestly, it feels like you’ve revealed something that can’t be taken back. And you have no control over how it will influence the way your abilities are judged.”
  • Making a makerspace – part 1 | Velochic Design: Shirley Hicks writes about the process of co-founding the Red Mountain Makers space in Alabama.
  • Fresh Romance Diverse Comics Magazine Announces New Creative Teams and Gail Simone Goal | The Mary Sue (April 8): New goals for the Kickstarter project for Fresh Romance, created to provide more opportunities for women in comics.
  • Who wants to be CEO? Not millennial women. | Fortune (April 3): “In a recent study by talent management firm Saba and WorkplaceTrends.com, just 36% of respondents who said they aspire to a C-level position at their company were women. Also disinterested in the top job: Millennials, who accounted for only 31% of those who said they wanted a spot in the C-Suite. That compares with 68% of older employees wanting top-level jobs. What’s going on here? When it comes to women, there’s one obvious factor at work: A lack of role models.”
  • 2014 VIDA Women in Literary Arts Count (April 4): Exploring the representation of women, including a specific survey of women of color, in literary writing.
  • A 12-Year-Old Girl Takes On The Video Game Industry | NPR Planet Money (April 8): “In a lot of video games, the default character is a guy. If you want to play as a female character, it’s not easy. Often you have to pay. […] Maddie decided to test her claim with a research project. She downloaded the 50 most popular games in the same category as Temple Run. She counted up how many offered female characters and how much they cost. And she handwrote her results on a spreadsheet. Out of the 50 games, 37 offered free male characters. Just five offered free female characters.”


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