Question of the Day

Jul. 20th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Suggested by Shaker DesertRose: "If you enjoy reading, do you have a 'comfort book' or several? What is it/are they? One of mine is Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, which got me through my degree, because the main character is an English major as I was, and re-reading it helped lift my spirits and remind me why I was doing what I was doing."

Throwback Thursdays

Jul. 20th, 2017 05:30 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of me standing in a road, holding a CD, on an Edinburgh street
Edinburgh, 2001.

In the photo, I'm holding a Clann an Drumma CD, which I'd just purchased after seeing the band perform at the Scott Monument. I'm standing on the street leading into the housing estate at which Iain lived at the time.

[Please share your own throwback pix in comments. Just make sure the pix are just of you and/or you have consent to post from other living people in the pic. And please note that they don't have to be pictures from childhood, especially since childhood pix might be difficult for people who come from abusive backgrounds or have transitioned or lots of other reasons. It can be a picture from last week, if that's what works for you. And of course no one should feel obliged to share a picture at all! Only if it's fun!]
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Rebecca Shabad at CBS News: Senate GOP eyes Tuesday for Health Care Vote, But Exact Plan up in the Air.

Calling the plan "up in the air" is far too kind. Republican Senate leadership straight-up don't want potential objectors in their caucus to see the bill before the vote, so they don't know what they're voting on and thus can't mount substantive objections.

If you imagine that's hyperbole, I assure you it is not:
Senate GOP leaders are eyeing Tuesday for a health care vote, but no one knows yet which proposal will be voted on.

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said the first vote will be on the House-passed health care bill from May just to open up debate and the amendment process.

"The motion to proceed will be just to get on the House bill and the substitute [amendment] will be, you know it'll be a judgment call the leader will make, at some point between now and Tuesday," Thune told reporters.

Asked if the substitute amendment would be the repeal only plan, Thune said, "It could be that, or the other," referring to the repeal and replace plan.

"Who knows?" he shrugged as the doors of his elevator closed.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Thursday that 50 people are ultimately going to decide whether there's an "outcome" in the end.

"Any three people can kill the bill at the end if they're not satisfied," he said.

But when asked if senators would want to know the plan beforehand, Cornyn said, "Yeah, but it's a luxury we don't have."
Knowing what they're voting on isn't a luxury in any normal democratic process. It is not unusual that federal legislators don't have time to read bills in their entirety (which is bad enough), but it's unheard of that they wouldn't even know the basic details — and most bills aren't as significant as a "healthcare" reform that will affect 1/6th of the United States economy.

Republicans just refuse to slow down the process to give senators the "luxury" of knowing what's in the bill before the vote, because they know their proposal will be such garbage that even some Republicans won't reflexively vote for it.

And instead of making the bill better, they are just making the process of passing it worse, because the objective is to get a win as fast as possible.

A win for them, that is. A loss for all the rest of us.

Shaker Gourmet

Jul. 20th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Whatcha been cooking up in your kitchen lately, Shakers?

Share your favorite recipes, solicit good recipes, share recipes you've recently tried, want to try, are trying to perfect, whatever! Whether they're your own creation, or something you found elsewhere, share away.

Also welcome: Recipes you've seen recently that you'd love to try, but haven't yet!
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Twelve percent of them do, anyway: "About one in eight people who voted for [Donald] Trump said they are not sure they would do so again after witnessing Trump's tumultuous first six months in office, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 2016 voters."

There is nothing that Trump has done so far that wasn't entirely predictable, no behavior he's demonstrated that wasn't on full display during the campaign, no repulsive attribute or lack of qualification and competency that he had not revealed before Election Day.

So what's changed?

They didn't think he'd come after the undocumented immigrants in their families? They didn't think he'd come after the Muslims in their communities? They didn't think he'd take away their healthcare?

He was just supposed to get rid of all the bad swarthy folks, not the "good ones" they know — the exceptions. He was just supposed to take away the healthcare from the moochers on Obamacare, not the upstanding citizens on the Affordable Care Act.

They're mad that their bigot king isn't making exceptions for them.

The people who cast their votes for a conman who made them feel special are now feeling betrayed at the discovery that they're not special to him at all. Not even a little.


Daily Dose of Cute

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:30 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of Olivia the White Farm Cat curled up asleep on a white chair

At first glance, you may think this is another rare image of Olivia not being naughty — but that's only because you didn't know that she's curled up asleep in my desk chair, from which I walked away for maybe two whole minutes to use the bathroom, lol. IRREPRESSIBLE SCAMP!

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

We Resist: Day 182

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:15 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Trump Hands Putin Another Gift and On Trump's Latest Interview with the NYT.


[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Laura Litvan, Steven T. Dennis, and Shannon Pettypiece at Bloomberg: Trump Urges Senate GOP to Delay Recess as Health Talks Revived. "Donald Trump told Senate Republicans Wednesday they should stay in Washington until they repeal Obamacare, sparking renewed negotiations just two days after GOP efforts to enact a new health-care law collapsed. A group of about 20 Republican senators met at the Capitol Wednesday night with White House officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, to hash out possible paths forward, including reviving a measure proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell."

I'm going to say this one more time: DO NOT BELIEVE REPORTS THAT THE REPEAL IS DEAD. How many times now have we heard that Republican healthcare reform is "dead"? We heard it when the House bill failed the first time — only for them to rally and pass a bill. We heard it when the Senate bill failed the first time — only for them to rally and try a second time. We heard it after the Senate bill failed the second time — and now here they are rallying again. If they can't replace it, they'll just repeal it. THIS IS NOT OVER. Not even close.

Kyle Cheney and Rachael Bade at Politico: Freedom Caucus to Try to Force Vote on Obamacare Repeal. "House conservatives are launching a late effort to force their colleagues to vote on an outright repeal of Obamacare. Leaders of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday evening will jump-start a process intended to force the measure — a mirror of the 2015 repeal proposal that President Barack Obama vetoed — to the floor as early as September."

See? And trust that they will stoop to levels we haven't even begun to contemplate in order to take away people's healthcare.

To wit: Sam Stein at the Daily Beast: Team Trump Used Obamacare Money to Run PR Effort Against It. "The Trump administration has spent taxpayer money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it. ...'I'm on a daily basis horrified by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services who seem intent on taking healthcare away from the constituents they are supposed to serve,' former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with The Daily Beast." Disgusting behavior.

In service of a disgusting objective:

* * *

Welp! This is about to get very interesting, for a whole lot of reasons, not least of which is that Trump might now try to fire Mueller. Fucking hell.

* * *

CBS/AP: Russia Says Talks Underway on Joint U.S. Cybersecurity Unit. "A Russian official was quoted by the country's government-run media on Thursday as saying Moscow and the U.S. government were in talks about establishing a joint cybersecurity unit — a prospect first raised, and then seemingly dismissed by [Donald] Trump after he met with Vladimir Putin. The RIA news agency said Russia's special envoy on cybersecurity Andrey Krutskikh confirmed that talks were underway to create a bilateral working group, and acknowledging that it could create a 'problem' for [Donald] Trump. Krutskikh was quoted as saying, 'there is no need to dramatize the working process, it is undoubtedly difficult, taking into account the current American realities, but this is a problem rather of the U.S. administration, not ours.'" WOW.

Margaret Hartmann at NY Mag: Paul Manafort Owed Millions to Pro-Russia Interests. "Before becoming Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort owed as much as $17 million to pro-Russia interests, according to financial records from Cyprus. ...One of the more interesting debts is $7.8 million owed to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Deripaska has previously claimed that Manafort and his associates owed him $19 million for a failed investment in a Ukrainian TV company." The question is: Did Manafort repay those debts by selling the White House? (Spoiler alert: Probably!)

Allegra Kirkland at TPM: Not Deep Throat: The Trump Scandal Figure Who's Too Open for His Own Good. "[Carter Page] is one of a handful of former Trump campaign hands reported to be under federal scrutiny for his ties to Russia... Page is not concerned about the prospect of legal consequences for his foreign contacts. 'There's nothing to hide,' Page said, reiterating that he sat for over 10 hours of interviews with FBI agents without a lawyer present and is relying on unnamed 'volunteers' for legal advice." This fucking guy.

* * *

Trump is slowly starting to fill a few of the multitudinous vacancies in his administration, and the choices are exactly what you'd expect.

Rebecca Kheel at the Hill: Trump to Nominate Raytheon Lobbyist for Army Secretary.

Juliet Eilperin and Chris Mooney at the Washington Post: Trump Just Nominated a Climate Change Skeptic to USDA's Top Science Post.

Maureen Groppe at the Indianapolis Star: [CN: video may autoplay] Trump Picks Indiana Agriculture Director Ted McKinney for USDA Post.

Everything is fine.

* * *

Oh, hey, here's a pretty good reason why everything is not fucking fine: The Republican-controlled legislative branch refuses to provide checks and balances on the president, and Trump is busily reshaping the judiciary so that they won't, while also waging war on the press so that they can't, either.

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH — Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade at Politico: Republicans Lament an Agenda in 'Quicksand'. "'I don't even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don't care. They're a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction,' complained Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). 'At first, it was 'Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He'll learn, he'll learn.' And you just don't see that happening.'" So ignore him, rather than hold him accountable? Cool.

JUDICIAL BRANCH — Ronald A. Klain at the Washington Post: The One Area Where Trump Has Been Wildly Successful. "[While Donald] Trump is incompetent at countless aspects of his job, he is proving wildly successful in one respect: naming youthful conservative nominees to the federal bench in record-setting numbers. ...He not only put Neil M. Gorsuch in the Supreme Court vacancy created by Merrick Garland's blocked confirmation, but he also selected 27 lower-court judges as of mid-July. Twenty-seven! That's three times Obama's total and more than double the totals of Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton — combined. For the Courts of Appeals — the final authority for 95 percent of federal cases — no president before Trump named more than three judges whose nominations were processed in his first six months; Trump has named nine. Trump is on pace to more than double the number of federal judges nominated by any president in his first year."

(As you may recall, I've been frantically and repeatedly raising the alarm about Trump's 100 federal court vacancies for quite some time. Also: I would stake a fuckload of pennies on Pence running the court appointments, which means that this problem isn't even solved if Trump is removed from office.)

PRESS — [CN: Video may autoplay at link] Jacqueline Alemany at CBS News: For Details of Trump's Meetings, Foreign Governments Fill in the Blanks. "When news broke that [Donald] Trump had chatted with Russia President Vladimir Putin in a previously undisclosed meeting for an hour at the G-20 summit in Germany, it was another reminder that much of the information about the president's whereabouts and policymaking comes from sources outside the White House. ...Since Mr. Trump took office in January, White House reporters — and by extension the American public — have on more than this occasion received more detailed information about the president's conversations and whereabouts from foreign governments rather than from official channels in Washington."

* * *

There is literally so much awful news today, I feel like I've barely begun to scratch the service, but I've got to draw a line under it somewhere, so I can get it posted. As always, please crowdsource the resistance and share what you've been reading that I missed!

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

"But What Is Harm?"

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:00 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Content Note: Discussion of assisted death.]

Although this piece in the Guardian by Haider Javed Warraich has an absolutely dreadful headline, it is a very good piece on the history of right-to-die law and the current state of the assisted death debate in the United States.

I definitely recommend it, especially if you are, like me, someone who would like to have this legal choice available, when and if we need it.

[Note: Although discussions of right-to-die laws routinely refer to patients' deaths as "physician assisted suicide," right-to-die laws are really not about suicide, which is the intentional taking of one's own life. Terminally ill people's lives are already being taken by disease; they are just being given control of the "when" of their deaths. Please bear that distinction in mind in this thread and take care not to conflate "suicide" with assisted death in comments.]
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

So, Donald Trump did another interview with the New York Times, extended excerpts from which [Content Note: video may autoplay at link] have been published for all of us to read and build core strength by repeatedly recoiling in horror.

The major pull item from the interview has been [CN: video may autoplay] Trump complaining about Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation: "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else."

Yikes. Walter Schaub, who recently resigned as Director of the Office of Government Ethics, said bluntly: "That's an absolutely outrageous statement for the president to have made." Yup. And it was hardly the only outrageous statement he made regarding the Russia investigation: Trump "also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey's dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election," warning "investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia."

All of which constitutes just a small percentage of the alarming content of the far-ranging interview, during which he also referred once again to his "enemies" in the press and described his granddaughter (who just happened to stroll in during the interview to say "I love you, Grandpa" in Chinese) as having "good, smart genes."

Following are just a few other quotes which piqued my interest for various reasons (and, yes, all of these are real):

On healthcare.

"So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you're 21 years old, you start working and you're paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan. Here's something where you walk up and say, 'I want my insurance.' It's a very tough deal, but it is something that we're doing a good job of."

"I want to either get it done or not get it done. If we don't get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we'll blame the Democrats."

"This health care is a tough deal. I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn't believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care. [garbled]"

On his travels abroad.

"I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president."

"[French President Emmanuel Macron]'s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand. People don't realize he loves holding my hand. And that's good, as far as that goes. I mean, really. He's a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand."

"It was a two-hour parade. They had so many different zones. Maybe 100,000 different uniforms, different divisions, different bands. Then we had the retired, the older, the ones who were badly injured. The whole thing, it was an incredible thing."

"We had dinner at the Eiffel Tower, and the bottom of the Eiffel Tower looked like they could have never had a bigger celebration ever in the history of the Eiffel Tower. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people, 'cause they heard we were having dinner."


"Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: 'No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.' [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn't go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? [garbled] Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army. But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they've won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. [crosstalk] It's pretty amazing. So, we're having a good time. The economy is doing great."

On the economy.

"I've given the farmers back their farms. I've given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things."

"Dodd-Frank is going to be, you know, modified, and again, I want rules and regulations. But you don't want to choke, right? People can't get loans to buy a pizza parlor."

On his undisclosed meeting with Putin at the G20.

"We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr.] had in that meeting. As I've said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, 'By the way, we have information on your opponent,' I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], 'Who wouldn't have taken a meeting like that?'"

On foreign policy.

"Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn't actually. He didn't talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn't do the shot. I did the shot."

On Jeff Sessions' recusal.

"Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else. ...So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, 'Thanks, Jeff, but I can't, you know, I'm not going to take you.' It's extremely unfair, and that's a mild word, to the president."

"Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, 'Why didn't you tell me this before?' I would have — then I said, 'Who's your deputy?' So his deputy he hardly knew, and that's Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he's from Baltimore."

On Bob Mueller's investigation.

"By the way, I would say, I don't — I don't — I mean, it's possible there's a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don't make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don't make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don't have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don't. They said I made money from Russia. I don't. It's not my thing. I don't, I don't do that. Over the years, I've looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk]."


Trump Hands Putin Another Gift

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:28 am
[syndicated profile] shakesville_feed

Posted by Melissa McEwan

Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous at the Washington Post: Trump Ends Covert CIA Program to Arm Anti-Assad Rebels in Syria, a Move Sought by Moscow.
[Donald] Trump has decided to end the CIA's covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

...Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump's interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests.

...After the Trump-Putin meeting, the United States and Russia announced an agreement to back a new cease-fire in southwest Syria, along the Jordanian border, where many of the CIA-backed rebels have long operated. Trump described the limited cease-fire deal as one of the benefits of a constructive working relationship with Moscow.
To describe this as "a move long sought by Moscow" is an understatement. My friend (and expert in this area) Leah McElrath explains:
By ceasing U.S. military aid to anti-Assad forces in Syria, Trump gave Russian Putin a gift Russia has sought for more than a century: Earlier this year, Putin signed a treaty with Assad to establish and expand a naval base on the coast of Syria that is allowed to house up to eleven nuclear-powered warships at a time for 49 years, with ability to extend for another 25 years.

Historically, a central geopolitical goal for Russia has been to conquer enough territory to obtain a warm-water port for itself which will enable it to reach the Mediterranean Sea and, from there, the Atlantic Ocean. The vast majority of its extensive coastline is in the north in cold-waters that tend to freeze over. The warm-water coastal areas in Russia front land-locked seas.

So, by withdrawing the relatively minimal support provided by the U.S. to the anti-Assad forces, the likelihood of Assad killing everyone who is left opposing him in Syria is much higher. And Putin gets Russia its warm-water port after more than a century of effort by the country, as it has moved through its various iterations as an empire, a socialist union, and an authoritarian federation.
This is, of course, the second long-sought gift Trump has delivered to Putin, the first being subversion the of U.S.-Germany alliance. As I noted in May: "Trump is working very hard to undermine goodwill with our NATO allies, with a special insult to Germany. Since the end of WWII, Russia has had an explicit objective of busting up the U.S.-German alliance, because the combined strength of the U.S. and Germany, in both military might and democratic cultural influence, provided a check on the empiric aspirations of the Soviet Union, now Russia. Trump's subversion of the U.S-Germany relationship is providing a dangerous opening to Putin, who has already made abundantly clear his intent to rebuild Russia's reach with his annexation of Crimea and moves in Ukraine."

Aspirations about which two female world leaders — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May — have explicitly warned Trump. (Three female world leaders, if we count Hillary Clinton. Which we should.) But one of the problems with choosing a rank misogynist to run the country is that he won't listen to women, especially when he's also a disloyal scofflaw who is intent on making Putin's wish fulfillment the centerpiece of his presidency.

So here we are.

One last item: Last month, I detailed the curious history of this "work with Russia to defeat IS in Syria" foreign policy approach — and how, before the 2016 election, joining forces with Russia to defeat ISIS was not a mainstream position, on either side of the aisle, because, as Hillary Clinton explained during the second presidential debate, Putin "isn't interested in ISIS" and Russia's assault on Aleppo was instead intended to destroy Syrian rebels opposed to Assad's regime.

Nonetheless, during the 2016 election, the one in which Russia interfered with the objective of critically weakening Clinton, every single one of her leading opponents suggested working with Russia in some manner, using the justification of joining forces to defeat ISIS.

Her Democratic primary opponent Bernie Sanders, and all of her general election opponents — Donald Trump, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson — all four from across the political spectrum, and all four with campaign ties to Russia, each offered a policy of aligning with Russia, with the rationale of defeating ISIS, a foreign policy position that was not being advocated by any serious politicians before the 2016 election.

And a rationale that has never made, and continues to make, no sense based on the most basic understanding of Russia's objectives and alliances in Syria.

Trump, whose campaign appears to have received the most direct help from Russia and may have colluded with Russia during the election, is now the president. And so he is the one who is now enacting this "futile and dangerous" policy.

Hillary Clinton was the only candidate who we can be certain never would have handed this gift to Putin.

The Big Idea: Nat Segaloff

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:34 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

When biographer and historian Nat Segaloff sat down to interview science fiction Grand Master Harlan Ellison for his new book A Lit Fuse, he knew that he was in for a challenge. What surprised him about the process was how much it wasn’t just about Ellison, but also about him.


How do you write something new about someone everybody thinks they already know? A writer who is famous for putting so much of his life into his stories that his fans feel that even his most bizarre work is autobiographical? That was the unspoken challenge in late 2013 when I agreed to write Harlan Ellison’s biography, an adventure that is just now seeing daylight with the publican of A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

I wrote the book because Harlan wouldn’t. He came close in 2008 when he announced he would write Working Without a Net for “a major publisher,” but he never did. Maybe he figured he’d said enough in his 1700 short stories, essays, and articles he’s published over the last 60 years. It wasn’t as if he was afraid of the truth; he always said he never lies about himself because that way nobody can hold anything against him. That was my challenge.

When we shook hands and I became his biographer, I also became the only person he ever gave permission to quote from his work and take a tour of his life. What I really wanted to do, though, was to explore his mind. What I didn’t expect was that, as I examined his creative process, I would also bare my own.

When you sit down with someone for a conversation, it’s fun; when you sit down with someone for an interview, it’s serious. Harlan has been interviewed countless times and he has always been in control. This time, I was. I had to get him to say stuff that was new, and I had to go beyond where others had stopped.

A Harlan Ellison interview is a performance. He will be quotable, precise, vague, and outrageous. He takes no prisoners. He will run and fetch a comic book, figurine, photograph, or book to illustrate a point, all of which breaks the mood. My job was to get him to sit still and not be “Harlan Ellison” but simply Harlan.

Harlan is one of the few speculative fiction writers (along with Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and a handful of others) who became public figures. Part of this stemmed from the quality of his work but much of it was created by his being, as I kept finding in the clippings, ““fractious,” “famously litigious,” and “argumentative.” Indeed, most of the stories I found during my research could be divided into two categories: “What a wild man Harlan is” and “I alone escaped to tell thee.”

Balderdash. What I discovered was a man who takes his craft seriously and fiercely defends others who labor in the field of words. An attack on them was an attack on him, and an attack on him was not to be deflected but returned in kind. “I don’t mind if you think I’m stupid,” he told one antagonist, “it’s just that I resent it when you talk to me as if I’m stupid.”

Even though I had final cut, I ran whole sections past him to get his reaction. He never flinched. In fact, he challenged me to go deeper. It was almost as if – and don’t take this the wrong way – I was Clarice Starling and he was Hannibal Lecter — the more I asked of Harlan, the more I had to give of myself. Both of us put our blood in the book even though I am the author.


A Lit Fuse: Amazon|NESFA Press


One woman’s voice

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:19 pm
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Posted by Megan Stodel

Megan Stodel finds that OperaUpClose’s La Voix Humaine doesn’t go far enough in its attempt to subvert the opera’s gender roles

A tale of unlikeable women

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Sarah Tinsley

Sarah Tinsley applauds Helen McClory’s Flesh of the Peach for refusing to shy away from women’s less palatable traits and experiences

Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet

Jul. 19th, 2017 09:11 pm
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Posted by Juliana Britto Schwartz

The controversial hydropower project which led to the murder of land defender Berta Cáceres has been halted as funders are forced to pull out due to years of indigenous-lead organizing.

David Wallace-Wells’ recent NY Mag essay on the worst-case scenario of climate change was terrifying. It has journalists asking whether doomsday narratives harm or help the climate movement.

Former NASA scientist releases a paper in support of a group of young plaintiffs who are suing the federal government for violating their rights by failing to stop climate change. The paper argues that we will need to not only reduce carbon emissions but remove carbon from the air in order for this planet to remain livable for future generations.

Washington just became the first state to pass a law that requires domestic violence victims know when their abuser has acquired a gun.

Getting Lucky With College Costs

Jul. 19th, 2017 07:02 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

The bill for Athena’s fall semester at Miami University arrived a couple of days ago, and we paid it, and I have some various thoughts about that I want to share.

When I went to college, 30 years ago now, I couldn’t pay for it. I did what the majority of people did then and do now — I cobbled together various sorts of funding from multiple sources. A scholarship here, a Pell grant there, a work study job and loans — and still it wasn’t quite enough when one of my funding sources fumbled the ball pretty badly and I had to ask my grandfather for help (which to be clear, he was happy to provide, with the only provision being that I would write him a letter a month, a request very much in my wheelhouse). I graduated with a fair amount of student debt, rather more than the average amount back in 1991, which was around $8,200. I think I was around 30 when we paid it off.

I don’t regret my college debt — I’m of the opinion that my education was worth what I paid for it and then some — but at the time I didn’t really like having the anxiety of wondering how it was all going to be paid for, and my education being contingent on outside financial forces, over which I had no control. I was lucky I was able to find ways to cover it all. I was also lucky that I got a good job right out of college (in 1991, during a recession), and was always financially solvent afterward. That college debt never became a drag or a worry, as it easily could have been, and which it did become for a number of my friends.

I don’t think scrambling for money or paying down college debt added anything beneficial to my life, however. As much as certain people might make a fetish of having to struggle in one way or another for one’s education, and that struggle having a value in itself, I’m not especially convinced that the current American manner of “struggle” — pricing college education at excessive rates and then requiring students and family to take on significant amounts of debt, effectively transferring decades of capital from the poor, working and middle classes to banks and their (generally wealthy) shareholders — is really such a great way to do that, especially since wages in general have stagnated over the last 40 years, the same period of time in which college tuition costs have skyrocketed, consistently above the rate of inflation. Worrying about college funding and paying off college debt isn’t character-building in any real sense. It’s opportunity cost, time wasted that might be productively spent doing something else educationally or financially beneficial.

So: I don’t regret my college debt, but I don’t think it was something that added value, either, to my education or my life. All things being equal, I suspect I would have been better off not having to worry whether I had enough funding for college any particular quarter, or being able to take the monthly post-collegiate debt payment and use it for something else, including investment. Not just me, of course; I don’t think anyone, students or parents (or colleges, for that matter), benefits from the current patchwork method of college funding, or the decade-long (or longer) hangover of college debt service.

We always assumed Athena would go to college; very early on we began saving and investing with the specific goal of funding her education. Along the way we caught the break of my writing career taking off, which meant the account intended for her education plumped out substantially. By the time it was the moment for Athena to decide where to go to college, we were in the fortunate position of being able to pay for it — all of it — wherever it was she decided to go. So, to go back to the initial paragraph, when that first Miami University bill came up, we were able to cut that check and send it off. No muss, no fuss. We’ll be able to do the same for the other college bills over the next four years.

Which is great for us! And not bad for Athena, who will end her college experience debt-free in a world where the average US student with college debt in 2016 was in the hole for $37,000, with that number only likely to go up from here. But let’s also look at everything that had to happen in order for us to get to that point: We saved early, which was smart of us, but we also had the wherewithal to save, which meant we got lucky that Krissy and I both had work, that in her case her gig included health insurance for all of us and that in my case I was in constant demand as a freelance writer, which, I assure you, is not always the case. We got lucky that the books took off as they did; the odds on that were not great. We were lucky that no one of us got seriously or chronically ill, or that other family crises depleted savings. Athena is an only child; that’s not necessarily lucky, but it definitely was a factor when it came to paying for college. We only have to do this once.

All of which is to say that Athena will be getting out of college debt-free partly because we planned early but mostly because of factors that we had only some control over, and over which she had almost none. She didn’t choose her parents or her circumstances; she got what she got. And in this case, she got lucky.

That’s fine for her. But it’s not a very useful strategy for paying for college. “Get lucky picking your parents” should not be the determining factor for whether you leave college debt-free, leave with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, or can’t afford to go to college at all. Every single one of those circumstances can have a substantial effect on how the rest of one’s economic life will go — and how the economic life of how one’s children will go. There’s a reason why in the United States, home of the “American Dream,” it’s actually pretty difficult to move up the social ladder. Yes, I did it, but I also don’t pretend I didn’t get lucky — a lot — or that my path is easily repeatable. Take it from someone who is living the American Dream: It stays only a dream for most of those dreaming of it.

I’m proud that we can pay for our daughter’s college education. I’m also well aware how many things had to break our way to be at this point, which just as easily could have gone another way. It would be better to live in a world where luck, one way or another, is not a salient, determinative factor for whether one can afford college, or whether one can graduate from college without debt. In fact, that world does exist; just not here in the US. College tuition in most developed countries is substantially less than it is here, including being basically free in places like Germany and France. We could do that here, for state schools at least, if we decided we wanted to.

But we don’t. I know we have our reasons. I just don’t think those reasons are very good.

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Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting on my lap looking up at me with a serious expression
"Pet me."

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

I've got some stuff to do this afternoon, so I will be taking the rest of the day off. I'll see you back here tomorrow!
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Posted by Sejal Singh

Rebecca McCray has a horrifying piece in Slate this week about sexual and domestic violence survivors who are thrown into jail – by the very prosecutors they turn to for help.

The piece describes a Honolulu domestic violence center operated by the prosecutor’s office. Rather than focusing on getting survivors and their kids to safety, the shelter seizes survivors’ cellphones and laptops, refuses to admit their kids, and will turn away anyone who won’t promise to testify against their abusers. Disturbingly, the city is prioritizing its conviction rate before its moral obligation to ensure survivors have a safe, welcoming place to go when they flee violence.

Gender-based violence is notoriously underreported; services must be available to the vast majority of survivors who just aren’t willing to testify against perpetrators. A model like the Honolulu shelter would literally leave them out in the cold, potentially forcing them to choose between being homeless and returning to an abusive partner. And I worry that if a survivor seeking help goes to a “shelter” that treats them not like a human being who needs help, but as a tool in a prosecutor’s strategy, they may be less likely to seek help in the future.

Even worse, some prosecutors are so hell-bent on securing convictions they are even willing to put survivors in jail to force them to testify against their abusers. McRary writes:

Last year in Oregon, a woman who alleged she’d been sexually assaulted by a corrections officer was jailed on a material witness warrant to ensure she’d cooperate with authorities; she was held even though she told the judge she intended to testify. In Houston, Texas, former Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson’s office jailed a rape victim for 28 days to force her to testify. “There were no apparent alternatives that would ensure both the victim’s safety and her appearance at trial,” said Anderson in a video statement defending the choice. In New Orleans, the practice of detaining domestic violence and sex crime victims to secure testimony is the status quo.….

In 2011, [Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro] had a woman arrested at her graduation party to guarantee her testimony against an ex-boyfriend who’d allegedly abused her.

Throwing survivors in jail, robbing them of their autonomy in the wake of violence, is the ultimate form of revictimization.

The likely result of this is that fewer survivors come forward to report. For survivors who, in the wake of trauma, are grappling with how to seek safety and healing, the possibility that you’d be locked up because you’re not ready to take the stand is one hell of a deterrent to coming forward.

It’s a harsh illustration of the priorities that underlie the criminal system: prosecution is fundamentally about vindicating the interest of the state, even when that’s at odds with the needs, well-being, and dignity of survivors. And it’s another reminder of why survivors need civil solutions to gender-based violence.

You can read McCrary’s full piece here.

Image credit: University of Idaho Women’s Center

The Democracy Killers, Part Two

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:00 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Part One.]

I have said once or twice or thrice or four times or a million times now that the Republican Party is currently behaving like a party who believes they will never have to be accountable to voters again.

Exhibit Three Jillion:

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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Of course he did. Karen DeYoung and Philip Rucker report at the Washington Post:
After his much-publicized two-and-a-quarter-hour meeting early this month with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, [Donald] Trump chatted informally with the Russian leader for up to an additional hour later the same day.

The second meeting, undisclosed at the time, took place at a dinner for G-20 leaders, a senior administration official said. At some point during the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Trump approached alone, and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter.

...The dinner conversation with Putin was first reported Monday by Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, in a newsletter to group clients. Bremmer said the meeting began "halfway" into the meal and lasted "roughly an hour." The senior administration official said it began with the dessert course, but did not comment on its length.

Pool reporters covering Trump noted that his and Putin's motorcades were among the last to leave the event, departing within minutes of each other just before midnight.

Trump lashed out at the media for reporting on his undisclosed meeting with Putin, saying the "fake news" was "sick" and "dishonest."
And, as per usual, that is projection. It isn't the press reporting this undisclosed meeting who are sick and dishonest; it's the President of the United States, who continues to try to conceal his interactions with a foreign adversary and its president, who is sick and dishonest.

I don't even know what else to say anymore. Unless and until the Republican Party has had enough of this rank disloyalty from the president — and clearly that isn't going to happen anytime soon, since most of them are just as disloyal and the rest are fucking cowards — there is nothing I can do except document the horror of watching our democracy slide away under the stomping feet of a vile tyrant.

I Present to You: Bernie Sanders

Jul. 19th, 2017 08:30 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Via Ryan Adams, I saw last night that Bernie Sanders did an interview on MSNBC with Ari Melber, during which Melber asked him if he would do things differently during the 2016 Democratic primary, knowing what we know now about Russian hacking and their attempts to disrupt the democratic process.

First Sanders was evasive, and then he was very blunt indeed: "Of course we knew that they were trying to cause divisiveness within the Democratic Party. That's no great secret."

Yep. That's just Bernie Sanders flatly admitting that his campaign knew the Russians were trying to influence the Democratic primary (against Hillary Clinton). Note that means he didn't bother to alert his supporters to the fact that they were being used as agents in Russia's disinformation campaign — and why would he, since he chose to leverage it to his advantage.

At 4:00 in the video, Melber says he wants to "turn to Russia, the hacks, 2016...but look at it on the Democratic primary side." He brings up the DNC hack and notes that emails from that hack were used to call for then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's resignation, and that Sanders was one of the people who called for her resignation based on those hacked emails. Melber asks: "When you look back at that, which happened after the leaks, she did ultimately get ousted right before the convention — what we didn't fully know then that is so understood now is that those were partly operations of Russia, according to U.S. intelligence. Did you, in a way, benefit from that, and would you do it differently then, knowing what we know now?"

Sanders replies, "Well, knowing what we know now, you know, doesn't help me figure out what I would've done back then." He then goes into a long (and entirely correct) monologue about how Russian hacking is "unacceptable" and is intended to destabilize our democracy, and that Russia must "pay a price for that. That cannot be allowed to continue."

At 5:35, Melber tries again: "But at the time, I mean, it does look different in hindsight. Did you know then that this might have been part of their design — was to leak these emails precisely so there would be more riffs in the Democratic Party?"

Sanders replies, "What we knew is — well, of course we knew that. And of course we knew that they were trying to cause divisiveness within the Democratic Party. That's no great secret."

At that point, Melber moves on to the next subject.

There is nothing I can say that I haven't already said dozens of times before about this guy. I strongly suggest the Democratic Party immediately replace him as chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and quit pretending that Sanders' behavior is anything but a malignancy within the party that needs to be removed.

The Big Idea: Cassandra Khaw

Jul. 19th, 2017 12:37 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

Identity issues can sometimes be a bear, as the protagonist of Bearly a Lady finds out — in no small part because author Cassandra Khaw experienced something similar in her real life.


The first time I came out as bisexual to a partner, it was a mess. What was a passably tolerable relationship became a wasteland of conspiratorial winks, elbow nudges, and endless attempts to convince me to have a threesome with someone, anyone, just pick an attractive person of the same gender.

Thing is, I don’t blame him.

Bisexual representation in media is a fraught topic. More often than not, bisexual people are characterized as wild, promiscuous individuals with thrilling sex lives, perpetually ready to jump into bed with whomever they find attractive. (Not necessarily untrue or even wrong, but that’s a conversation for another space.) Consequently, we end up with people like my ex, who begin quivering with lascivious curiosity the moment they so much as hear the hum of that first syllable.

But we are getting better at it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has one of my favorite bisexual characters of all times: Darryl Whitefeather, a middle-aged divorcee who comes out mid-season and proceeds to have a stunningly healthy relationship with his new boyfriend. (That show has its problems, but I will forever love the writers for making sure the queer couple is the happy one.) And genre writing is even further ahead in that department. Take Kai Ashante Wilson’s work, for example, which remarks on polyamorous queer relationships without even the barest breath of hesitation. After all, in a world of dragons and technical-minded gods, what is there to fear about a man who loves a man and also a woman?

I’m digressing.

With Bearly a Lady, I’m hoping to build on that canon. Zelda McCartney is a complicated character, for all that she might sometimes appear like an airhead. She’s been out for a long time; this isn’t a self-discovery story. Instead, the book, which goes into some dark places between the lines, interrogates the idea of expectations, labels, and toxic relationships.

And that is because she is a werebear in a human world, a woman endlessly bombarded by external forces, all looking to chip at her self-esteem for the sake of a quick buck or someone else’s emotional fulfillment. It’s no surprise that Zelda has only half an idea as to which box she belongs. Honestly, a lot of people don’t figure that out. Especially those raised outside of liberal communities.

I’d know. For the longest time, that was me.

(Except for the werebear part.)

So, that’s one of the Big Ideas behind Bearly a Lady. I wanted my main character to be full of internal conflict, certain in her identity but uncertain of the words that one might use to define oneself. A mess of paradoxes and imperfections glued together by bad sitcoms and ice-cream. I’m hoping that, one day, Bearly a Lady might be part of some bisexual teenager’s library, another piece in the puzzle as they figure out who they are. Maybe, Zelda will be an example of who they hope not to be. Maybe, they’ll see a bit of themselves in her. Who knows? That’s not up to me.

Bearly a Lady might be a queer paranormal rom-com with werebears, vampires, and billionaire fairies galore, but it’s also a look into the life of a queer woman who doesn’t always get it straight.


Bearly a Lady: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Read an excerpt online. Visit the authors site. Follow her on Twitter.

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Posted by Guest Blogger

The Feminist Library is a treasure trove of feminist history and needs support more than ever, which is why Anaïs Charles made a film about it

Question of the Day

Jul. 18th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Suggested by Shaker Sue Kerr: Did your family watch/read the news when you were young? Did they take a paper? Have a preferred news station? Did they include you in these habits?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

(no subject)

Jul. 18th, 2017 11:09 pm
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Posted by cuddyclothes

From Sandra Hill's erotic Viking novel, "Rough And Ready":


“As Hilda’s buttermilk bosoms squished up against his granite abs, Torolf almost had a dick aneurysm.”

“Torolf entered her like she was a lottery. His engorged pecker pushed inside her and she felt fulfilled with sexual fulfillment.”

“Her body was like a beautiful flower that was opening and somebody was pushing their dick inside it.”

Maude Save Me

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Trump has never shown an interest in policy detail. Ever. And still there are members of the press who are "surprised" by his lack of interest in policy detail.

You know, if the press had actually focused on policy for more than six seconds during the entire campaign, instead of drooling over "optics" for 18 months, perhaps more people would have noticed that Trump DOESN'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT SHIT AND DOESN'T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING.

Just a thought.

Here Is Something Nice

Jul. 18th, 2017 04:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Mark Freeley was walking his dogs, Storm and Sara, along the beach near the Long Island Sound when Storm ran off and jumped into the water after detecting a deer fawn in need of help. He swam to the struggling baby and grabbed her by the neck, dragging her to shore, where Storm proceeded to nudge and paw the panting deer, trying to help her recover.

image of a large white dog lying beside a deer fawn on a rocky beach

Freeley then wisely contacted an animal rescue team to help.
When Frank Floridia and Erica Kutzing of the Strong Island Animal Rescue League tried to get close to the deer, however, the skittish animal ran into the water again — this time, swimming even further out than before.

Floridia jumped into the water to save it.

"It was a do-or-die situation," the rescuer told the New York Daily News. "I really didn't have much of a choice. If I didn't go in the water, the deer would've died."

Thankfully, Floridia managed to bring the deer back to land. He and Kutzing then transported it to the Star Foundation, a Long Island nonprofit animal rescue organization.
In a Facebook update, the Strong Island Animal Rescue League reported the deer "will receive fluids, feedings, and when old enough she will be released back into the wild. She has a few superficial wounds from her exciting day but will survive."

Rescuer Kutzing says of the heroic dog who started this remarkable rescue: "I think we could all learn something from Storm. If we just learn to treat each other nicely and look out for each other, despite our differences, the world would be a better place."

And how. Good dog.

Kids Today

Jul. 18th, 2017 03:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Content Note: Transphobia.]

Teenager Jasper Behrends defied the administrators at his northern Virginia high school and kept doing the art he wanted to do, even though the vice principal told him "although he had 'no problem' with the LGBTQ theme, there is a 'time and a place' for 'these things' and that it did not belong in public schools."

Imagine being the kind of person who tells a transgender student that their school is neither the time nor the place for art about being transgender.

An educational institution that doesn't acknowledge individual students' lived experiences is not only creating a missed opportunity for privileged students and engaging in a cruel neglect of marginalized students, but it's providing a poor education.

Despite that bullshit:

On behalf of the College Board, I am pleased to inform you that your artwork has been selected for inclusion in the 2017-2018 AP® Studio Art Exhibit. The exhibit is produced annually by the AP Program to honor and celebrate the work of outstanding AP Studio Art students.
Jasper "earned the highest possible score on his Studio Art Exhibit." And will undoubtedly go on to do better things with his life than be a shitbird to students one is meant to support and protect.

Congratulations, Jasper. Your art is exquisite.

Daily Dose of Cute

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of Dudley the Greyhound sitting on the couch and grinning, with his tongue lolling out of this mouth
This guy, lol.

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

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Jul. 18th, 2017 07:15 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

It’s not just an old proverb. It’s literally happening across the street from where I live.

And yes, I like it that I write about high-tech futures from a place where it’s not at all unusual to see a Mennonite woman bundling hay using a tractor that’s probably as old as I am, and that the hay will probably go to feed the horses that pull the Amish buggies around here. Welcome to rural Ohio, y’all. We have juxtapositions.

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Posted by Melissa McEwan

The Republicans' attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act has collapsed. (For now.) Trump has made a statement, during which he boasted about how amazing the failing vote was (sure), and said this:

We've had a lot of victories, but we haven't had a victory on healthcare. We're disappointed — I am very disappointed, because, again, even as a civilian, for seven years, I've been hearing about healthcare, and I've been hearing about "repeal and replace," and Obamacare is a total disaster; some states had over two hundred percent increase, a two hundred percent increase in their premiums, and their deductibles are through the roof, and it's an absolute disaster, and I think you'll also agree that I've been saying for a long time "Let Obamacare fail," and that everybody's going to have to come together and fix it, and come up with a new plan, and a plan that is really good for the people with much lower premiums, much lower costs, and much better protection. I've been saying that — Mike, I think you'll agree [Pence nods] — for a long time: "Let Obamacare fail." It'll be a lot easier. And I think we're probably in that position, where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not gonna own it. I'm not gonna own it. I can tell ya the Republicans are not gonna own it. We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are gonna come to us and they're gonna say, "How do we fix it? How do we fix it?" Or, "How do we come up with a new plan?"
That is the President of the United States saying that he will let a major healthcare expansion fail, out of fucking spite.

I've got news for him: If he and his vile party engineer the failure of Obamacare, they sure as shit are going to own that.

We Resist: Day 180

Jul. 18th, 2017 12:15 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Healthcare Update: The Worst Possibility Yet.


[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Dan Merica at CNN: Pence on Health Care: 'Inaction Is Not an Option'. "Vice President Mike Pence, responding for the first time to the Senate's failure to pass an Obamacare repeal bill, said Tuesday that he and [Donald] Trump stand behind the new plan to repeal the health care plan now and replace it later. 'The Senate should vote to repeal now and replace later or return to the legislation carefully created in the House and the Senate. But either way, inaction is not an option,' Pence said. 'Congress needs to step up, Congress needs to do their job, and Congress needs to do their job now.'" Note that Mike Pence believes it is Congress' job to risk 32 million people losing their insurance just to get a win.

Mike DeBonis at the Washington Post: House GOP Unveils Budget Plan That Attaches Major Spending Cuts to Coming Tax Overhaul Bill.
The House Budget Committee blueprint, which is set for a Thursday committee vote, sets out special procedures that could ultimately allow Republicans to pass legislation over the objections of Senate Democrats who can normally block bills they oppose. GOP leaders in the House, as well as top Trump administration officials, hope to use those procedures — known as reconciliation — to pass a tax overhaul later this year.

The instructions in the draft budget, however, go well beyond tax policy and set the stage for a potential $203 billion rollback of financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending, and more. Those are policy areas where Republicans have, in many cases, already passed legislation in the House but have seen Democrats block action in the Senate.

House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said the spending proposal is "not just a vision for our country, but a plan for action."

"In past years, our proposals had little chance of becoming a reality because we faced a Democratic White House," she said in a statement Tuesday. "But now with a Republican Congress and a Republican administration, now is the time to put forward a governing document with real solutions to address our biggest challenges."
And they still have to "set out special procedures" to ram it through. No wonder the Republican caucus doesn't object to Trump's authoritarianism and erosion of democracy: They are keenly aware that's what it takes to enact their highly unpopular agenda of aggressive malice.

See in particular: Voter suppression. Erica Orden and Byron Tau at the Wall Street Journal: GOP Seeks to Close Federal Election Agency. "House Republicans are seeking to defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the sole federal agency that exclusively works to ensure the voting process is secure, as part of proposed federal budget cuts. The defunding move comes as the EAC is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine an attack late last year on the agency's computer systems by a Russian-speaking hacker."

It doesn't get any more blatant than that. I wasn't lying when I called them Democracy Killers.

* * *

Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post: Eighth Person in Trump Tower Meeting Is Identified. "Ike Kaveladze's presence was confirmed by Scott Balber, an attorney for Emin and Aras Agalarov, the Russian developers who hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in 2013. Balber said Kaveladze works for the Agalarovs' company and attended as their representative. ...Balber said Kaveladze believed he would act as a translator, but arrived to discover that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya had brought her own translator, a former State Department employee named Anatoli Samochornov."

That does not mean that only eight people attended. That means we have eight confirmed attendees so far.

Allegra Kirkland at TPM: NY Prosecutors Issue New Subpoena for Manafort Bank Records. "New York prosecutors have issued a subpoena seeking bank records from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort related to real estate loans of up to $16 million, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The Manhattan District Attorney's office has ordered the Federal Savings Bank, a small Chicago bank whose loans to Manafort make up almost a quarter of its equity capital, to turn over records related to loans issued for two properties owned by Manafort and his wife, according to the Journal."

Sam Stein and Asawin Suebsaeng at the Daily Beast: Trump's Campaign Conceded in a Memo That Comey Was Having Major Impact. "Elsewhere in his book, Green makes clear just how surprising the final win was to Trump's team. In the close of the campaign, he reports, chief strategist Steve Bannon had devised a scorched-earth approach to the close of the campaign that was premised on a Clinton victory. 'Our backup strategy,' he said of Clinton, according to Green, 'is to fuck her up so bad that she can't govern. If she gets 43 percent of the vote, she can't claim a mandate.' Later, Bannon added: 'My goal is that by November 8, when you hear her name, you're gonna throw up.'" Fuck this entire lot of fuckers.

* * *

Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post: U.S. Certifies That Iran Is Meeting Terms of Nuclear Deal. "The Trump administration certified to Congress late Monday that Iran has continued to meet the required conditions of its nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers. But senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging, and said that [Donald] Trump intends to impose new sanctions on Iran for ongoing 'malign activities' in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism. ...Earlier in the day, Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previewed the sanctions in a closed-door meeting with representatives of Washington-based think tanks. Reporters were not invited."

Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy: Tillerson to Shutter State Department War Crimes Office. "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is downgrading the U.S. campaign against mass atrocities, shuttering the Foggy Bottom office that worked for two decades to hold war criminals accountable, according to several former U.S. officials. ...The decision to close the office comes at a time when America's top diplomat has been seeking to reorganize the State Department to concentrate on what he sees as key priorities: pursuing economic opportunities for American businesses and strengthening U.S. military prowess. Those changes are coming at the expense of programs that promote human rights and fight world poverty, which have been targeted for steep budget cuts."

Andrew Arenge, Hannah Hartig, and Stephanie Perry at NBC News: Poll: American Fears of War Grow. "An overwhelming majority of Americans — 76 percent — are worried that the United States will become engaged in a major war in the next four years, according to a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey National Security Poll out Tuesday. Although Americans are concerned about a number of national security threats, a strong plurality (41 percent) believe that North Korea currently poses the greatest immediate danger to the United States, emerging as a more urgent concern than ISIS (28 percent) or Russia (18 percent), according to the poll, which was conducted online from July 10 through July 14." Welp.

Damian Paletta at the Washington Post: Steven Mnuchin, Trump's Treasury Secretary, Is Hurtling Toward His First Fiasco. "Mnuchin is hurtling toward his first fiasco, unable to get Congress, let alone his colleagues in the Trump administration, on board with a strategy to raise the federal limit on governmental borrowing. His struggles are casting doubt on whether the political neophyte, who made his name on Wall Street, has the stature in Washington to press through a vote on a measure that former treasury secretaries of both parties have said is critical to preserving the nation's reputation for financial stability." Huh. You mean someone with no relevant experience might have no idea what the fuck he's doing?! Shocking.

Finally, here's a palate cleanser care of the terrific Sarah Lerner, writing at Dame Magazine: Oh, White Men with Your Never-ending Need to Dictate the Democratic Platform. (I mean, this shit is still something we need to RESIST, but at least she writes about it in a way that I adore, lol.)
Perhaps most frustrating about this constantly recycled narrative around "identity politics" sinking the electoral chances of those on the left is that it is contradicted by data. The blatant bigotry that Trump voters rubber-stamped is often excused as "economic anxiety," but exit polls showed that Hillary Clinton won both the under-$30,000 and $30,000 to $49,999 brackets. And for all the talk of Trump's "populist" appeal, it was Clinton's economic message that voters preferred in nearly every swing state (yes, including the decisive Rust Belt) and across the country. Moreover, as The Atlantic reported, members of the white working class "who said their finances are only in fair or poor shape were nearly twice as likely to support Clinton compared to those who feel more economically secure."

Indeed, political scientists Brian Schaffner, Matthew MacWilliams, and Tatishe Nteta found that racism and sexism predicted support for Trump much more than economic dissatisfaction. As writers for The Nation put it in their own analysis, "The change in probability of a Trump vote for a white person with the highest to the lowest levels of racial animus is similar to changing their party identification from Republican to Democratic." In other words, Trump's dog whistles (which, let's be real, were really more like wolf howls) had a significant impact on voters' decisions, something that Barro also acknowledges, but feels should not be used to make white people feel bad. This does not make much practical sense to me: Why should Democrats shy away from calling this out if Trumpers prefer a bigoted message regardless? As Jezebel's Kara Brown noted, "Racism and bigotry are not the result of unfriendliness nor will they be undone by the opposite."
Indulging bigotry as "cultural difference" does nothing but give permission to hold onto that bigotry. What is actually effective in eradicating bigotry is making it fucking unpopular. It's amazing how much more likely people are to abandon beliefs which are simply given no harbor. Yes, there will always be hold-outs, but it forces them to navigate being ostracized as extremists as the cost of their bigotry. Which is at it should be. The only thing that happens when you tolerate bigotry in order not to alienate bigots is that more people feel comfortable embracing and espousing bigotry.

Fuck that.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

And Again

Jul. 18th, 2017 11:00 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Content Note: Police brutality; guns; death.]

Over the weekend, 40-year-old Justine Damond, a white woman, was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis after calling them to report what she thought was a sexual assault in an alley behind her home.

When police arrived, she "reportedly approached the driver's side window of the police car when it arrived in the alley and an officer shot across his partner at Damond more than once from the passenger seat."

She was wearing pajamas and was not carrying a weapon.

However, she "may have been holding a mobile phone, which was reportedly found near her body." That raises the possibility that the officer mistook her mobile for a weapon, which would not be the first time someone was killed by police holding a mobile, despite the fact that mobiles are now ubiquitous and many people gesture while holding their phones as second nature.

But we don't yet know for sure, because the statements of the involved officers have not been made public. And their body camera footage cannot be made public because it doesn't exist: The officers' cameras were not turned on, in violation of protocol.
The BCA confirmed the officer and his partner's body cameras were not turned on and their police car dashboard camera did not capture the incident. The Minneapolis mayor, Betsy Hodges, told reporters she has "a lot of questions why the body cameras were not on."

Lt Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation representing officers, said "the federation has decided to reserve all comment until case completion in the matter."

Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, said the officers violated police policy by not turning on their body cameras.

"This violation of policy thwarted the public's right to know what happened to Ms Damond and why the police killed her," Nelson said. "The two officers broke the policy not only when they didn't activate the body cameras before the incident, but also when they failed to do so after the use of force."
My condolences to Justine Damond's family, friends, colleagues, and community. I hope that they get the answers they seek, and something resembling justice — although true justice will be no one ever being shot and killed by police ever again.

On another note: White people who only care about police violence now that a white woman was shot, I see you.

What in Fat-Hating Hell Is This?

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:45 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Content Note: Body policing; fat hatred.]

The very last thing I want to be obliged to do is defend Donald fucking Trump in any way, but Ben Strauss at Politico has written a truly contemptible piece of vile fat-hating, body policing, and health auditing about Trump, so here we are.

There is a lot wrong with this piece, and I could spend the next three hours or so of my life deconstructing the many, many problems with it, but instead I will simply highlight one sentence, which is the attempt to justify the existence of a nearly 3,000-word article about how Donald Trump is fat and doesn't exercise: "All this scrutiny might seem like body shaming if it weren't for Trump's own obsession with appearances."

NOPE. All that scrutiny is still actually body shaming. That Trump does it to other people doesn't neutralize it when it gets done to him. That's not how it works.

There is no excuse — none — for publishing this lengthy exercise in fat hatred, the entirety of which is basically the equivalent of a Disney film using fat as shorthand to convey that a character is evil.

montage of fat Disney villains

Trump is incompetent, cruel, vainglorious, ethically bankrupt, intellectually lazy, morally repugnant, disloyal, nepotistic, avaristic, egomaniacal, insecure, impulsive, and corrupt, and not a single one of those character traits is unique to fat people — even though fat is frequently used to indicate precisely these moral failings, in pop culture and literature dating back hundreds of years.

On my long list of concerns about Donald Trump, what he looks like doesn't make the cut.

And suffice it to say I am not fooled by fat hatred masquerading as concerns about his health, under the auspices that the United States President owes healthfulness to the nation he petitioned to serve.

Finally, as a fat person who spends her days documenting and protesting and resisting every single abusive thing Trump is doing, I take strong issue with the implication that fatness is an indication of low moral character.

If someone is fat, here is what that can tell you about them in total: They are fat.

The end.

The Big Idea: Michael F. Haspil

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:18 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

Getting older often gives you a perspective that younger people don’t have. But what happens when you’re immortal? What is your perspective then? It’s a question Michael F. Haspil has considered for his debut novel, Graveyard Shift.


As human beings, we tell ourselves fictions to make it easier to cooperate one with one another.

Sometimes, the fiction is noble. We are all equal and entitled to certain inalienable rights. This story only extends to imaginary lines drawn on a representative map, a different sort of fiction. After all, “We” doesn’t apply to “Them”.

Many times, the fiction is merely useful. This color of light means “go” and another color means “stop”. All drivers must drive on this side of the street. Pieces of paper have value and you can use them to barter for goods. When people stop trusting in those fictions, life becomes hazardous and disagreeable.

All too often, the fiction becomes a source of human polarization. The entertainment we criticize, others adore. The sports tribes we deride are idols to others even though we select them more often due to geography than anything else. Their ties are red, ours our blue, so they are immoral. We don’t understand the methods they use to heal; therefore, they are wicked. They have a different melanin content than we do; their lives aren’t worth as much as ours are. Our god is greater than theirs; therefore, they are evil.

It’s all about tribalism and defining the Other. We tell ourselves stories and then believe them to such an extent we can justify any action.

Viewed from the point of view of hypothetical immortals, or beings so long-lived that for all purposes they may as well be, the numbers of those who belong to their tribe shrink over time, until almost everyone they meet is the Other. Of what concern is any subject when humans change their minds or stop caring about them in a week, a month, a century?

Combine that idea with how many atrocities immortals might witness, as they become more and more detached from those fictions we humans tell ourselves. How many died because they followed the wrong leader? How many burned at the stake because of paranoia? How many mass graves? How many genocides? The immortals would tell themselves a new fiction. Humans don’t matter. They all die, some sooner than others.

The trolley problem is an ethical thought exercise. An observer stands near a switch as a runaway trolley bears down the tracks. On the tracks ahead of the trolley, several people are trapped, unable to move and will die when the trolley reaches them. The observer can pull the switch and divert the trolley to another set of tracks. However, an individual standing nearby will die when the trolley diverts. The problem lies in the observer’s choice of whether to kill one person to save many or do nothing and allow many to die.

As the immortals pass down through the centuries, the trolley problem breaks. Viewed on their timescale, what does it matter if everyone on the tracks dies? Their lives are so short, they are as good as dead anyway. Why should immortals trouble themselves with the lives of beings that end in a relative eye blink? Why should human morals matter? Or human laws? It’s not that immortals are more or less ethical than humans. It’s that over their eternal lives they tell themselves different stories. New fictions, humans aren’t equipped to understand.

Taken from the human point of view, these immortals inevitably become the Other. By comparison, our short lives would not afford us a window of understanding. Their decisions and justifications would be alien to us. What do fruit flies comprehend of human machinations?

If we knew of them at all, we would fear them. We would hate them. We would hunt them.

In my novel, Graveyard Shift, some of my heroes are so long-lived they may as well be immortal and so they share part of the problems I’ve described. Added to their condition, they often make the difficult choices of committing a lesser evil to prevent a greater one. It is a slippery slope. How many times can one justify collateral damage in the name of the greater good before one becomes a new source of evil?

In many other stories, my heroes — a vigilante, a vampire, a shapeshifter, a mummy — would be the villains. As Nietzsche warns, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” But when beings survive for millennia, becoming a monster, may be inevitable.

My characters aren’t nice people. On a good day, they are indifferent to the plight of the everyman. Often throughout the story, they do unpleasant things and they rationalize what they’ve done by convincing themselves it was a necessary evil to prevent something much worse. Most of the time, that’s true.

This was a bit of a struggle for me. How could I convey the apathy of immortals and still portray them as sympathetic heroes?

It ultimately came down to their motivations. The need for atonement drives many of my characters. They view their immortality and their continued service to humankind as a sort of penance for sins committed past and present.

It wouldn’t take much to flip the script and turn them into the true monsters other perceive them to be. This is what Matheson’s Richard Neville discovers at the conclusion of I Am Legend. Often, determining who is and who isn’t a monster, is solely based on the point of view and the fictions we tell ourselves.


Graveyard Shift: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Last night, after Republican Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah rebelled and announced they would not vote for the latest version of the Senate healthcare bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying he would pursue the worst possible avenue: Voting only on repealing the Affordable Care Act with no immediate replacement plan.
Regrettably, is it now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.

So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.
This is not good news. At TPM, Tierney Sneed reports: "The 2015 legislation would repeal many of Obamacare's taxes immediately, while repealing its Medicaid expansion and its tax credits for insurance after two years. It would leave in place Affordable Care Act market reforms, and the Congressional Budget Office estimated that it would lead to 32 million more uninsured by 2026 — even more than the 22 million fewer people with insurance that the CBO estimated would be the result of the Better Care Reconciliation Act."

The Senate leader of the Republican Party is willing to risk 32 million people losing their insurance just to get a win.

If this doesn't definitively prove that the entire point of this ghoulish endeavor has been to scorch Obamacare from the face of the earth, in vicious retribution for President Obama having managed to pass such significant legislation in spite of Republican obstructionism, I don't know what possibly could.

Start calling your senators now and let their office know in no uncertain terms that you stridently object to any vote to repeal Obamacare.

A new twist on some old standards

Jul. 18th, 2017 12:36 pm
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Posted by Nick Beard

Nick Beard cooks and bakes her way through 2015 Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain’s first cookbook Nadiya’s Kitchen and finds herself asking some thought-provoking questions along the way

Question of the Day

Jul. 17th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

[Content Note: Scatological humor.]

Suggested by Shaker RachelB: "What is the most amusing-to-you euphemism you've ever heard?"

There are about a zillion amusing (to me) euphemisms for "having a bowel movement," but the best I've ever heard, and it still makes me laugh, is when Spudsy, writing about his fear of shitting in public, said: "Maude forbid, if I'm out at a bar and I have to punch a grumpy, I'll go the fuck home."

Punch a grumpy! *falls over laughing*

Democracy Killers

Jul. 17th, 2017 04:30 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

Me, just earlier today: "Again, I will note that the Republican Party is pursuing this wildly unpopular legislation with a vigor that suggests a party who believes they will never have to be accountable to voters again. That seems worrying, no?"

Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post:
The day after Donald Trump was elected president, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, now the vice-chair of Trump's commission on voter fraud, told Trump's transition team of a proposal to change federal law to allow stricter requirements on voter registration.

Kobach's team was "putting together information on legislation drafts for submission to Congress early in the administration," Kobach wrote to transition team member Gene Hamilton in an email. "I have some already started regarding amendments to the NVRA [National Voter Registration Act] to make clear that proof of citizenship requirements are permitted (based on my ongoing litigation with the ACLU over this)."

...Amending the NVRA in such a manner "will lead to a dramatic reduction in access to voting," said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at NYU's Brennan Center, in an interview.
The day after Trump was elected. Oh.

As a reminder, the chair of this commission is Vice President Mike Pence.

Fat Fashion

Jul. 17th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

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

* * *

Today I am making a recommendation that I never thought I would make, since my multi-decade search for a sports bra that works well for me has never yielded anything even close to recommendable territory, but MIRACLES HAPPEN! I present to you Lane Bryant's Cooling No-Wire Sport Bra.

image of a chubby woman with brown skin modeling a black sports bra
^ Not me.

Unfortunately, it only comes in Lane Bryant's absurdly limited size range, but, if you happen to be within this range, and you're looking for a sports bra that gives you some lift and support without underwire and also doesn't make your boobs feel like they're being cooked in a microwave, I highly recommend this beauty.

In related news: Lane Bryant has every single bra on sale today. There are different deals, and some of them are really good. A few Buy 2 Get 2 Free deals, which is pretty terrific since BRAS ARE STUPIDLY EXPENSIVE.

Anyway! As always, all subjects related to fat fashion are on topic, but if you want a topic for discussion: What's your experience with bras? Got any good recommendations or advice?

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

Trump Was Inevitable

Jul. 17th, 2017 02:30 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

In response to Joe Scarborough's ridiculous op-ed for the Washington Post, in which the former Republican Congressman further tries to distance himself from the rise and domination of Trump in the Republican Party, I've got a post at Medium: "Trump Is Not an Anomaly of Republican Politics; He Is the Inevitable Endgame."

I posted it there because much of the text will be familiar to longtime readers in this space, as I've posted it in various forms here (and once at Shareblue) over the years. I keep tinkering with it, and keep republishing it by necessity. Unfortunately, the idea that the Republican Party hasn't deliberately cultivated bigotry as a central part of its winning strategy never seems to go away.

Anyway. There's some new stuff, so head on over if you want to read it, and please share it if you are so inclined!

Daily Dose of Cute

Jul. 17th, 2017 01:30 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of Matilda the Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat curled up asleep under my desk
Matilda curled up in "classic cat" position under my desk.

She usually chills out or naps in such ridiculous positions that it was actually shocking to me to find her in such a normal position, lol.

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

We Resist: Day 179

Jul. 17th, 2017 12:15 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Get Well Soon, McCain—Then Reconsider Your Politics and The Lying Liars Tell More Lies About Don Jr.'s Meeting.


[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Igor Bobic at the Huffington Post: Tom Price Says Insurers Should 'Dust Off How They Did Business Before Obamacare'.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price suggested Sunday that the nation's health insurance system ought to operate as it did before the Affordable Care Act was passed.

During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Price was asked to respond to a blistering criticism of the Senate Republicans' health care proposal by two major groups representing the U.S. health insurance industry. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this week, the groups called the latest version of the bill "simply unworkable in any form" and warned that it would cause "widespread terminations of coverage" to people with serious medical problems.

"It's really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare," Price said...

In discussing their health care plan, Republicans do not usually speak as candidly as Price about returning the nation's health care system to its pre-Obamacare period, a period marked by egregious insurance company abuses. Protections for pre-existing conditions remain highly popular around the country, and GOP lawmakers are loath to admit their policies would weaken them.

Prior to Obamacare, 79 million — more than one in four Americans — either lacked health insurance or were underinsured. The poor, especially, lacked adequate coverage.
A perfect and terrible reminder from the Secretary of Health and Human Services that Donald Trump's cabinet appointees were chosen based on their willingness to destroy the departments they were chosen to lead. By the time Price is done with his tenure, I suspect a more accurate name will be the Department of No Health and No Human Services.

Ellee Achten at Rewire: West Virginia Families, Just Learning About Health-Care Access, Fear It Will Be Taken Away. "It is well known that Planned Parenthood offers contraception, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy services, as well as abortion services and referrals, but West Virginians also receive hormone therapy, and testing and treatment for HIV, while others take their entire families to the clinics for general health care. Planned Parenthood centers — like the one Calloway visits in Vienna — offer extensive health services to their communities, especially to those with lower incomes. And, as Calloway noted, some patients are even seeking help at Planned Parenthood in battling opioids — a long-term and yet rising concern for Central Appalachia. 'We all made the choice to go to Planned Parenthood for different reasons,' said Calloway, who wanted to give Senators more than a story, but a face. 'Putting politics aside, we rely on Planned Parenthood,' she said."

Noam N. Levey at the LA Times: Obamacare Repeal Bills Could Put Coverage out of Reach for Millions of Sick Americans. "Both the House GOP bill that passed in May and the revised Senate GOP bill unveiled last week effectively eliminate the coverage guarantee by allowing health insurers to once again sell skimpier plans and charge more to people with preexisting health conditions who need more-comprehensive coverage. At the same time, the House and Senate bills dramatically scale back financial aid to low- and moderate-income consumers, and slash funding for Medicaid, the government safety-net plan that has helped millions of sick and poor Americans gain coverage. That combination — looser insurance requirements and less financial assistance for patients — will once again put health plans out of reach for millions of sick Americans, according to numerous analyses."

Again, I will note that the Republican Party is pursuing this wildly unpopular legislation with a vigor that suggests a party who believes they will never have to be accountable to voters again. That seems worrying, no?

* * *

[CN: War; death] Samuel Oakford at the Daily Beast: Trump's Air War Has Already Killed More Than 2,000 Civilians. "Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House — roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated — upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration. ...Airwars estimates that the minimum approximate number of civilian deaths from Coalition attacks will have doubled under Trump's leadership within his first six months in office." Fucking hell.

This sounds very much like precisely what Trump threatened to do when he was a candidate, having told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade in December 2015 that, unlike Obama, who he accused of waging "a very politically correct war," he "would knock the hell out of ISIS... One of the problems that we have and one of the reasons we're so ineffective, they're using [civilians] as shields. ...With the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families."

So Trump's "politically incorrect" war doesn't care about civilian casualties. And, as a result, an enormous number of civilians are being killed — which is not only breathtakingly cruel but also ineffective, as airstrikes long ago "replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants." This is not making us more safe. Even if it were, it would be hideous that our safety came at the expense of the lives of innocent people, whom the U.S. president dismisses as "shields," stripping them of all humanity to encourage our indifferent as his decision to carelessly kill them.

* * *

[CN: Nativism; exploitation] Alex Horton at the Washington Post: Foreign-Born Recruits, Promised Citizenship by the Pentagon, Flee the Country to Avoid Deportation. "About 1,000 of those recruits have waited so long that they have fallen out of legal immigration status. An internal Defense Department memo obtained by The Post acknowledges that canceling these contracts would expose the recruits to deportation. In response, lawmakers urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to honor the contracts of those recruits. The recruits, who have already sworn allegiance to the United States in their oaths of enlistment, could potentially face harsh interrogations or jail time if they are deported to countries such as China or Russia, said Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor in the Obama administration." Unconscionable. This is absolutely heinous treatment of people who aided the U.S.

[CN: Nativism] Tina Vasquez at Rewire: Trump's Wall Sees Windfall and Many Don't Know Why. "Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Regional Center for Border Rights for the ACLU of New Mexico, told Rewire that her real concern is that politicians continue making decisions about what is needed at the border without consulting border communities. 'At a time when migration from Mexico has been at zero, apprehensions at the border are going down, and border communities are already experiencing militarization with little accountability and oversight, the question that begs to be asked is why do we need more resources at the border?' Gaubeca said." (Maybe the wall is actually less about keeping people out than keeping people in?)

[CN: Animal harm] Natasha Geiling at ThinkProgress: A Texas Wildlife Refuge Will Be Razed to Build the First Section of Trump's Wall. "The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge comprises 2,088-acres along the U.S.-Mexico border, and was established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds. The refuge is home to at least 400 species of birds, 450 types of plants, and half of the butterfly species found in North America. It is also home to the highly-endangered ocelot. Federal officials told the Texas Observer that the wall would consist of an 18-foot levee wall that would stretch for three miles in the wildlife refuge. The construction plan would require building a road south of the wall, as well as clearing land on either side. Such construction would 'essentially destroy the refuge,' an official told the Texas Observer." FUCK.

[CN: Nativism; Islamophobia; misogynist violence] Michelle Chen at the Guardian: Why Trump's Travel Ban Hits Women the Hardest. "On top of alienating an entire religious community, Trump's even longer ban on future refugee admissions deepens a hidden dimension of the crisis: the endemic gender injustice of warfare. ...According to US humanitarian organization Tahirh Justice Center, which focuses on gender-based human rights abuse, women face a disproportionate share of the trauma because at every stage in the refugee journey, even outside of the direct conflict zone, they 'find themselves unable to get out of situations that might threaten their safety...' Moreover they face ancillary gender-based human rights violations that tend to explode in conflict situations, including epidemics of sexual abuse and labor and sexual trafficking." I hate Trump so much.

Not good:

Meanwhile, the one person who has done something in vaguely in accordance with the law and ethical norms in the Trump administration is considered a betrayer by the president. Jonathan Swan at Axios: Trump Hasn't Forgiven Sessions for Russia Recusal. "Trump's initial fury about Sessions' recusal from the Russia probe has turned to a simmering resentment that may have permanently poisoned their relationship, according to sources close to both of them. ...Trump's top-line association for Sessions: The guy who showed tremendous weakness and caused tremendous problems by needlessly recusing himself from the Russia investigation." Welp.

Dylan Stableford at Yahoo News: Outgoing Federal Ethics Chief: 'We Are Pretty Close to a Laughingstock at This Point'.
The federal government's top ethics chief is resigning on Wednesday. And he's torching the Trump administration on his way out.

Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, told the New York Times that [Donald] Trump's apparent disdain for long-established ethical norms has undermined the credibility of the United States around the world.

"It's hard for the United States to pursue international anti-corruption and ethics initiatives when we're not even keeping our own side of the street clean," Shaub told the Times in an article published Monday. "I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point."

Shaub — who has been a vocal critic of Trump's since his election — said the president's frequent trips to his family-owned golf clubs are a microcosm of just how blurry the line between the White House and Trump brand has become.

"It creates the appearance of profiting from the presidency," Shaub said. "Misuse of position is really the heart of the ethics program, and the internationally accepted definition of corruption is abuse of entrusted power. It undermines the government ethics program by casting doubt on the integrity of government decision making."

Trump spent last weekend at another one of his golf courses, and repeatedly promoted the U.S. Women's Open Championship held there.

I deeply appreciate the organizations, like CREW, who are trying to hold Trump accountable for this shit. CREW, in fact, had a bit of good news this morning:

The only problem is that I don't trust for a moment that the records they get will reflect reality. If they haven't been fudged all along, I fully anticipate that Mar-a-Lago will tamper with them before submission. Sigh.

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Veronica Stracqualursi at ABC News: Trump Reaches a Low Even He Can't Ignore. "Few want a tweeter-in-chief: The ABC News-Washington Post poll out this morning shows that 67 percent of Americans don't like [Donald] Trump's use of Twitter and 70 percent say Trump has acted in an 'unpresidential' manner since taking office. [The poll also] shows Trump's six-month approval rating at 36 percent, the lowest of any president at this point in 70 years."

Goddddddddddd just fucking resign already! SHIT.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

The New Who

Jul. 17th, 2017 11:00 am
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

The thirteenth Dr. Who was revealed over the weekend in a perfect announcement video:

A cloaked figure walks through the woods. Ominous music. The figure lifts their hand and opens it, palm up. Electrical crackle. A key appears. The figure pulls back the hood of the cloak, revealing...a woman! She smiles and walks toward the TARDIS. Text onscreen: "Introducing Jodie Whittaker: The 13th Doctor." BBC logo.
Cue the high-frequency caterwauling of millions of misogynist dude-nerds!

I'm not going to recount any of their execrable complaining here. I don't even need to — whatever you're imagining, I assure you it's correct. They are as predictable as they are pathetic.

You already know how I feel about the sort of people who can dream up or dive into fantastical worlds filled with abundant magic and conjured technologies and fictional beings, but can't stretch their brains far enough to imagine a woman as a hero. But let me just go ahead and express my feelings once more, for the record.

Thank you and have a nice day.


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November 2011

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