September 17, 2014
"There is a tendency to judge the actions of those with the least amount of power the same as those with more power and then ask, “Isn’t that what equality means?” It’s a clever rhetorical evasion of the issue. Equality is the goal, but to pretend that we actually exist as equals right now is to ignore reality. Like it or not, we all carry history with us in our personal interactions."

Mychal Denzel Smith.  Smith’s comments are being made in the context of domestic violence, but I think this quote has a universal quality to it that applies to many other contexts as well, political, personal, and otherwise.

September 13, 2014
"Do we really want this to be the new normal of the way we interact with the world? Do we want to be doing this all over the world, forever, indefinitely, in counterterrorism campaigns that go on indefinitely and that we don’t call war, just adding new countries to the list of where we do this stuff, every year, year after year…when does it ever stop?"

Rachel Maddow

September 12, 2014
4 Year Olds


I was looking around my son’s pre-k classroom this morning and noticed that, this week, all the kids made little versions of themselves using paper plates for their heads, googly eyes, and string for mouths. They’re all hanging up on a bulletin board.

Apparently the teachers asked each kid what they’re “best at” and then they wrote little sentences for each kid. My son’s is pretty predictable; he says he’s the best train track builder. He’s right; he’s become very good at building elaborate train sets with his wooden railway track pieces and he’ll play with his trains for hours, by himself or with others. Other kids in the class say they are the best bike rider or baseball player or dancer. It’s all very cute.

One boy, one of my son’s four self-described “best buddies,” said he was the best friend. Kudos to this kid’s parents; they’re doing an awesome job.

LTMC: I have a friend who is a single mom with a 6-year old.  When her daughter was five, my friend had to explain to her daughter what cancer was because my friend was going in for surgery to get HPV cells removed from her cervix.  They were at the hospital one day and saw kids with cancer, and her daughter noticed the kids were bald.  Her daughter asked why those kids didn’t have hair, and my friend explained to her daughter that sometimes cancer makes you bald while the doctors try to make you better.

Her daughter’s response?  ”That’s not fair.  Mommy, I have lots of hair.  I want to give it to the kids with cancer so their friends won’t make fun of them.  Can I do that?”

Let’s just say we spent all day cleaning up the feels.

September 11, 2014

Late Night Music: Ryan Adams, Kim


I can’t sleep, can’t go home
Underneath the branches of a sycamore tree
On a darkened road
With this key, scratched into the wall
I spell out your name
It’s fucking with my head
Like it’s fucking with my heart

As the autumn leaves begin to fall
Walking down the street
Where you and I would walk
I see him, kim, kim, kim, kim

I can’t sleep, can’t let go
Underneath my feet it’s miles
Nothing, there’s nowhere to go
With this key, scratched into my arm
I spell out your name, it’s ringing in my head
Like a false alarm

As the autumn leaves begin to fall and grey
Walking down the street
I watched you walk away
To be with him, kim, kim, kim, kim

Like I never seen
Walking down the streets
We’ll never walk again
Kim, kim, kim, kim
Oh kim

11:52pm  |   URL:
Filed under: late night music 
September 11, 2014
Libertarian Jeffrey Carson appears in congressional debate

It’s always nice when third party candidates are actually allowed in the room:

Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, running for Congress in northern Virginia, appeared in a candidate debate on Sept. 2, 2014.ARLnow reported:

A former U.S. Army captain, Carson decried the nation’s “meddlesome, haphazard and dangerous interventionist foreign policy; our failed and unconstitutional drug war; NSA domestic spying; militarized police forces and the erosion of our civil liberties.” He accused Edmond of talking about lower taxes while proposing spending hikes rather than spending cuts, then accused Beyer of ignoring the problem of the national debt altogether.

A video appears at the link above.

September 11, 2014


This excellent human being is named Draven Rodriguez and he’s a student at Schenectady High School. He wants this photo to be in his yearbook photo, but the school administration are being massive tools and not letting him.
Which is bullshit.
In fact, I think lasers and cats should be mandatory in all high school yearbook photos
Jessica Roy at NYMag disagrees because:

It may seem cute and funny and cool now, but imagine explaining it to your future significant other in ten years. It’s not worth it, bro. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything …

Bullshit. If his future significant other rejects him for this amazing photo, they’re a loser and he should walk away.
update: here’s the petition

Today’s profile in courage. 

LTMC: #localpride



This excellent human being is named Draven Rodriguez and he’s a student at Schenectady High School. He wants this photo to be in his yearbook photo, but the school administration are being massive tools and not letting him.

Which is bullshit.

In fact, I think lasers and cats should be mandatory in all high school yearbook photos

Jessica Roy at NYMag disagrees because:

It may seem cute and funny and cool now, but imagine explaining it to your future significant other in ten years. It’s not worth it, bro. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything …

Bullshit. If his future significant other rejects him for this amazing photo, they’re a loser and he should walk away.

update: here’s the petition

Today’s profile in courage. 

LTMC: #localpride

September 11, 2014
The largest predatory dinosaur ever was 'half-duck, half-crocodile'

Never not post cool dinosaur news:

The largest predatory dinosaur to walk this earth wasn’t the T. rex. It was Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a 50-foot long creature with powerful jaws and a solid, spiny sail on its back that dwelled in Northern Africa 95 million years ago. But even though paleontologists have known about this particular dinosaur for almost a century, its true form has only just been revealed.

This is “the first water-adapted non-avian dinosaur on record,” said University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno in a press conference yesterday. Sereno is part of a team of researchers that was finally able to reconstruct Spinosaurus in full using newly discovered fossils and information gathered from the dinosaur’s initial discoverer, a German paleontologist named Ernst Stromer. According to their reconstruction, published today inScienceSpinosaurus aegyptiacus was a gigantic fish-eating, water-paddling marvel; one that, in Sereno’s words, was “a chimera — half duck, half crocodile.”

Read More

4:17pm  |   URL:
Filed under: dinosaurs science 
September 11, 2014
What We Should Remember On 9/11

Last year’s message seems equally relevant today:

On the anniversary of 9/11, we should recommit ourselves to ensuring that we don’t allow fear to determine our public policy choices.  We should learn the unmistakable lesson of the past 12 years: that trading liberty for more security is a false choice that leads us down a dark path.  As Justice Brennan said in 1988:

For as adamant as my country has been about civil liberties during peacetime, it has a long history of failing to preserve civil liberties when it perceived its national security threatened. This series of failures is particularly frustrating in that it appears to result not from informed and rational decisions that protecting civil liberties would expose the United States to unacceptable security risks, but rather from the episodic nature of our security crises. After each perceived security crises ended, the United States has remorsefully realized that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. but it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis came along.

Let us recommit ourselves to not making this error again.  Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

(Source: letterstomycountry)

September 9, 2014
Domestic Violence & Victim Agency

Yesterday, I wrote about how punishing Ray Rice’s domestic violence transgressions by cancelling his contract and (effectively) blacklisting him from the NFL may not be in the best interests of the victim, Janay Palmer.

Today, Janay took to social media to write about how she feels about the way people are reacting to her situation:

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend.  But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself.  No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family.  To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing.  To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a [sic] horrific.  THIS IS OUR LIFE!  What don’t you all get.  If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels.  Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!  Ravensnation we love you!

Janay’s response, and our reaction to it, brings up a broader debate about how much we should respect the agency of domestic violence victims.  A lot of people with good intentions treat domestic violence victims as if they are effectively mentally incapacitated.  Battered Spouse Syndrome is regularly used in both social science literature and courtroom litigation to deny domestic violence victims agency over their lives.  They are deemed to be the victims of a psychosis called "learned helplessness."  Prosecutors regularly use this diagnosis to force victims to testify against their abusers against the victim’s wishes.  Judges often deny bond to the offending partner and throw them in jail, again, against the victim’s wishes. Concerned activists call for harsher punishments and softer evidence standards, making it easier to convict abusers and extract victims from their situation.  That a particular victim may protest and resist intervention is simply viewed as further evidence of mental incapacity.

Battered Spouse Syndrome has been challenged by a number of observers in recent years, due in no small part to its denial of victim agency.  For example, Mary Ann Dutton from George Washington University notes that this Syndrome is “vague,” and tends to overlook the fact that (1) there is not one single cause of domestic violence, (2) not all victims’s reactions to domestic violence fit the “Battered Spouse” model, and (3) many victims have unique needs and circumstances that are not served by the “Battered Spouse” model.  As Dutton notes, actual real-world data suggests that “battered women’s reactions to violence and abuse vary,” and it’s not safe to assume that every woman who chooses to stay with their abuser is doing so because they have Battered Spouse Syndrome.  As Dutton notes, “[a] particular battered woman’s reactions may or may not meet criteria to warrant a clinical diagnosis.”

Nonetheless, a lot of us probably believe that Janay Palmer is nothing short of insane for choosing to stay with a man that hit her hard enough to make her lose consciousness in an elevator.   I personally cannot imagine a situation in which I would stay romantically involved with someone after suffering the type of violence that Janay Palmer suffered.  

But I’m not Janay Palmer.  None of us are.  And it’s pretty clear by now that if we actually respected Janay Palmer’s wishes, Ray Rice would still be playing football for the Ravens, as much as that chafes our innate sense of justice.

This is probably an unsatisfying answer for a lot of people, because it feels like a “do-nothing” response.  It feels like Ray Rice would be getting let off the hook for something that is beyond question absolutely awful.  It’s frustrating to think that there’s no way to punish Ray Rice without hurting Janay Palmer, indirectly or otherwise.

But the bottom line is that Janay Palmer is the victim here, not us.  And as much as it may confuse or bewilder us, she is screaming from the rooftops that she wants everyone to leave her and her husband alone.  I think Ray Rice is a scumbag for what he’s done, but I also don’t want Janay Palmer to suffer more than she already has.  And if punishing Ray Rice will cause Janay even more pain—and she’s telling us pretty clearly that is is—then maybe that’s not the best way to address the situation.

September 8, 2014
Ray Rice And The Politics Of Domestic Violence

Recently, video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice knocking out cold his then-fiance, Janay Palmer in an elevator.  Ray Rice was given a 2-game suspension, which many people decried as far too lenient.  Some critics pointed out that other NFL players have received year-long suspensions for smoking marijuana, which most people would agree is much, much less awful than nearly killing your fiance in an elevator.

The Baltimore Ravens, perhaps taking advantage of a morality clause in Ray Rice’s contract, have now announced that they are terminating Ray Rice’s contract.  They were no doubt motivated by the backlash and outrage over what many feel was an incredibly lenient 2-game suspension for an unquestionably criminal act.

While Ray Rice’s actions against his wife are terrible, I would like to suggest that terminating Ray Rice is not in Janay Palmer’s best interests.  In fact, terminating Ray Rice is probably worse for Janay Palmer’s welfare than if Ray Rice were allowed to continue playing football.

Domestic Violence is a complicated issue.  Victims often continue to rely on the abusive partner for emotional and financial support after the violence subsides.  This means that authorities are often forced to choose between punishing the offender, or being lenient so that the offender can continue to provide support for the victim.  Punishing the abuser by incarcerating them or taking away their means of generating income can often make the victim’s situation worse.  One prosecutor who deals with domestic violence cases put it this way:

Sometimes these women don’t have the best jobs and they don’t have a lot of opportunities. If the man’s working and supporting their children and then gets arrested and the paycheck stops coming in, these women have a very hard time financially.  They are forced to get a some [sic] job waitressing tables, and then whose [sic] going to watch the kids? I’ve had victims come in that have been honest and say, “Look, he’s paying the rent, I can’t afford to not have him around.”

A judge who deals with domestic violence cases in his courtroom (at the link above) agreed:

Victims often tell me that their abuser is their families’ only source of food and money. If they pursue the case, they realize that he may be going to jail and then hell lose his job, and they need to make ends meet so they come to me and say they will not cooperate.

Janay Palmer married Ray Rice a month after Rice knocked her out in an elevator.  She appeared beside Ray Rice when he apologized at a press conference, and is still married to him today.  The fact that she chose to remain with Ray Rice after a brutal assault suggests that at a bare minimum, she is still relying on Ray Rice for the financial benefits that flow from his contract with the NFL.  Terminating Ray Rice doesn’t just hurt Ray Rice.  It hurts Janay Palmer as well.

Does this mean Ray Rice should go unpunished for brutally assaulting Janay Palmer?  Not necessarily.  But the question of what Ray Rice’s “punishment” should actually look like is not as simple as terminating his contract and throwing him in jail.  In cases involving domestic violence, it has to be remembered that harshly punishing the abuser is not always in the best interests of the victim.  Often times, you cannot punish the abuser without making the victim’s situation worse.  If Janay Palmer chooses to remain married to Ray Rice, then punishing him by removing his livelihood hurts her as well.  It may feel right to us that Ray Rice is getting his contract revoked, but Janay Palmer is the one who has to deal with the consequences, not us.

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »