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“I talked with the federal authorities two weeks ago, asking for additional federal assistance, I was told point-blank ‘no’.” September 26, 2017

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Paul Ryan’s tax postcard, explained: “The form’s simplicity makes its priorities clear: No matter what rates are applied or which deductions or credits are allowed, a worker would end up paying twice as much in taxes as an investor with the same income.

GOP sheriffs reportedly under pressure from Trump to break the law. Good on them for standing their ground. (Are Democratic sheriffs not getting credit for resisting, or simply not being asked?)

Oregon governor asked the Trump adminstratiion for wildfire support: “I talked with the federal authorities two weeks ago, asking for additional federal assistance, I was told point-blank ‘no’.”

“In the 35 years between their jobs as janitors, corporations across America have flocked to a new management theory: Focus on core competence and outsource the rest. The approach has made companies more nimble and more productive, and delivered huge profits for shareholders. It has also fueled inequality and helps explain why many working-class Americans are struggling even in an ostensibly healthy economy.

“My supervisor, for example, runs a large department. He was just promoted to a new, even more demanding position, but his position running the department will not be filled. He will now be doing what is a 60-to-70-hour job ‘on the side.’

“Virtually all the top political jobs below Carson remained vacant. Carson himself was barely to be seen — he never made the walk-through of the building customary of past new secretaries. ‘It was just nothing,’ said one career employee. ‘I’ve never been so bored in my life. No agenda, nothing to move forward or push back against. Just nothing.’

“We find that white Trump supporters randomly exposed to a black (versus a white) man in the context of soliciting their support for a housing-assistance policy were more opposed to the policy, angrier about the policy, and more likely to blame beneficiaries for their situation.

“But it’s the degree to which the alt-righters differed from the comparison sample that’s most striking — especially when it came to measures of dehumanization, support for collective white action, and admitting to harassing others online..”

“Mr. Hermansson, who was sent undercover by the British anti-racist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, spent months insinuating himself into the alt-right, using his Swedish nationality (many neo-Nazis are obsessed with Sweden because of its “Nordic” heritage) as a way in. It wasn’t always easy. ‘You want to punch them in the face,’ he told me of the people he met undercover.

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“Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention span.” September 15, 2017

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“A self-described “email prankster” in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official’s private email address unsolicited.”

“Among [McMaster’s] biggest challenges was holding the attention of the president. […] Trump had little time for in-depth briefings on Afghanistan’s history, its complicated politics or its seemingly endless civil war. Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention span on the subject, said senior White House officials.”

From August: “Residents told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that at least 100 civilians had been killed [by US-led airstrikes on Raqqa] since Sunday, with 55 civilians killed in the eastern neighbourhoods of Bedou and al-Sukhani on Monday.”

And my eleven-year-old asked me what that sticker meant, and what did it have to do with Trump, and weren’t we not supposed to use words like that.”

Meanwhile, when people were lining up for a Hillary Clinton book signing (starting the night before), she sent her staff to deliver them pizzas. Imagine having someone like that in the Oval Office. Imagine.

Good news about escaping from Irma, Chechnya, and/or the KKK September 10, 2017

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The last flight out of Puerto Rico, ninja’ing its way out the narrow spiral between the body of Hurricane Irma and one of the arms. These pilots, and the people on the ground who plotted that flight, deserve some kind of medal.

“They helped him get job training. They helped him get counseling. And now, as a former white supremacist himself, he will receive training on how to help other people. It’s a very individual program and it really works.” The important work of Life After Hate (whose government funding got cut under this administration, because of course).

I was a neo-Nazi. Then I fell in love with a black woman.” It’s more complicated and less Pollyanna than the headline suggests, but the progress is genuine.

“For three months, the [Canadian] federal government has been secretly spiriting gay Chechen men from Russia to Canada, under a clandestine program unique in the world.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.

Vintage subways, eclipses on other planets, and music on X-rays August 19, 2017

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Photos of the Boston construction of America’s first subway system.

“On Jupiter, which has 69 moons, it’s possible for there to be multiple eclipses occurring at the same time. On Pluto, whose moon appears much larger in its sky than the Sun, total eclipses can happen every day for years on end.” [Video]

The only music that was allowed were classic composers, or simple folk tunes, whose words were all about how great socialism was.” So Soviet Russia got an underground cottage industry in illegal music…recorded on discarded X-ray film.

Doctor Who co-creator Sydney Newman advocated a female Doctor in 1986. (As well as some very ’70s companions.)

People tend to lose track of actual facts about the Bible, including how Lovecraftian it is: There are twelve pearly gates, they’re carved from a single pearl each, and they are never, ever closed.

“Instead of offering aid, McCain advised them to move to a different state.” August 17, 2017

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“[Kevin Pratt-King] had asked McCain for help after being diagnosed with the same form of aggressive cancer, glioblastoma. Instead of offering aid, according to Roy’s tweet, McCain advised them to move to a different state.”

“Social workers began going door to door in San Juan housing projects, explaining that a pill could be taken daily to prevent pregnancy. Once women were told what the pill did, they signed up by the hundreds. However, these women were not informed that they were part of a clinical trial or that the treatment was experimental.”

“Side effects [of the vaginal implant] can range from chronic pain and loss of sexual function, to major complications like the implant protruding through the bladder, or bowels, even necessitating removal of organs ensnared in the mesh. It can shrink inside your body, slicing through nerve endings, tissue and organs.

If someone makes the effort of going to doctor after doctor, and all they are given is a pat on the head and told, ‘Oh, sweetie, you’ll be OK—you just need to smile more,’ that is a failure of the physicians.” Article covers both social biases (like doctors assuming a woman’s problems are psychosomatic instead of doing tests) and biological ones (like researchers only testing on male mice, leaving them with huge gaps in knowledge regarding biologically female humans).

“The Gay Men’s Chorus posed to illustrate the impact of AIDS. Those dressed in black, with their backs turned, represent those who had died.” This 1993 photo is a punch in the heart.

The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care.”

And for something more hopeful:

An experiment, recounted in comic form: If you put rats alone in cages, they’ll addict themselves to morphine. If you put them in an enriching environment with a bunch of other rats to hang out with, they’ll avoid it.

Gisella Perl, the “Angel of Auschwitz” — who got that title by providing abortions, so the Nazis wouldn’t have pregnant Jewish women to experiment on.

“As what was thought to be the largest referral service in the country, which referred an estimated half million women for abortions in its six years of existence, the [Clergy Consultation Service] had significant market power that it leveraged to reduce the going rate for an abortion.” The name isn’t a euphemism. It was literally a coalition of Protestant and Jewish religious leaders.

“Intersex advocates are rejoicing at a paper released by three former US Surgeons General. The surgeon-generals called for an end to forced medical surgeries on young intersex people.

Lives that matter, from St. Louis to Sandy Hook to Charlottesville August 14, 2017

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People killed by police in the US, 2017. Currently at 759.

Charlottesville-based organizations that can take your money. (The Twitter thread have been going around; this is a blog post that rounds up the links.)

‘I was expecting him to come home, not to be buried,’ [the 16-year-old’s grandmother] told the station. ‘I was telling him, give yourself a little while and you’ll be home with me.'” Justice for Aries Clark.

“We are among the vast majority of Americans who believe that we must take sensible steps to prevent massacres like the one that took my daughter’s life. We will continue to speak up. We will not go away.”

2014 FBI study: “There were, on average, 16.4 [mass] shootings a year from 2007 to 2013, compared with an average of 6.4 shootings annually from 2000 to 2006. In the past 13 years, 486 people have been killed in such shootings, with 366 of the deaths in the past seven years.” This was commissioned by Obama post-Sandy Hook, and was the first FBI study of its kind.

“…two officers who encountered the armed off-duty officer ordered him to the ground. He complied. When they recognized the off-duty officer, they told him he could stand up and walk toward them. Another officer just arriving at the scene saw the off-duty officer get up and, not knowing he was an officer, fired his weapon once at the man.

“Southaven officers went to the wrong house to serve a warrant on Monday, which resulted in the shooting death of a man who did not have any active warrants out for his arrest.” Worse, they shot Ismael Lopez through his front door.

Refugees, tomato raids, libertarian towns, and more August 8, 2017

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You can send a set of ITMFA pins to your Congressperson. Proceeds go to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“‘The refugee agencies didn’t really feel comfortable sending their kids anywhere,’ Adams says. ‘We needed to be that place for them.” It’s no coincidence that as Sullivan has established itself as the go-to school for refugees in the last couple of years, its academic standing has also risen.

“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.

“I was having lunch with Shonda Rhimes last week and a woman stopped at the table — well-dressed, probably in her 40s or 50s — and she said, ‘I just can’t leave this restaurant without telling you I’m just so devastated,’ and she just started to cry. I was on the other side of the table, or I would have done what I have done countless times since the election, which is just put my arms around her. Because people are so profoundly hurt.” The surreal post-election life of Hillary Clinton.

“Not only were the Hartes upstanding citizens with clean records, they were also both former Central Intelligence Agency officers. And they were not weed growers. Rather, the quick-trigger suspicion of law enforcement had snagged on — it would later turn out — tea leaves and a struggling tomato plant.

Initially, the city would impose property and sales taxes, but the property tax would ratchet down to zero over time. The business-friendly environment would draw new economic activity to Von Ormy, and eventually the town would cruise along on sales taxes alone.” Spoiler alert: it did not cruise. It crashed and burned.

“A Facebook group for Norwegians opposed to immigration was widely mocked after members apparently could not tell the difference between empty bus seats and burka-clad women.

How to stop overworking prisoners, underpaying workers, and under-insuring everyone August 3, 2017

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“Over the years, prisoners have packaged coffee for Starbucks Corp. and wrapped software for Microsoft Corp. They manufacture furniture, schools supplies and food products. They make dental products, train animals, work in call centers and even pick cotton. All of these activities put prisoners in direct competition with blue-collar American workers; the latter has essentially no chance.

“…in the substantial majority of instances (68 percent) overall employment increased after a federal minimum-wage increase. In the most substantially affected industries, the rates were even higher: in the leisure and hospitality sector employment rose 82 percent of the time following a federal wage increase, and in the retail sector it was 73 percent of the time.”

“…it seems safe to conclude that Seattle has tolerated its minimum wage increase well and that, by extension, other strong economies could do so. It also suggests that a key to successful large increases is a gradual phase-in that gives businesses time to adjust and experts time to study the impacts as they unfold.”

“If [McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer] and his fellow Republicans in Congress have their way, health insurers could soon be allowed to deny me coverage — or to double or triple the cost of my insurance — due to the fact that I lost two close blood relatives to the same disease.

“Republicans are now pushing up against a growing consensus that the government should guarantee health insurance. A Pew survey in January found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have health coverage. That was up from 51 percent last year, and the highest in nearly a decade.”

I didn’t have enough cat links or enough linguistics links for a full post. July 18, 2017

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Linguistics links:

Nothing new under the sun: “in tibullus 1.8 (a poem about his boyfriend Marathus) has this line about “pugnantibus linguis” (literally battling tongues) which means that the idea of tongues battling for dominance in homoerotic fiction has been going on since at least the 1st century bce

From Seaspeak to Singlish: cool English dialects and English-based creoles.

Hawaiian pidgin has a great all-purpose noun — it’s “you-know-what”, “whatchamacallit”, “so-and-so”, and “the thing” all at once.

Cat links:

Before there were laptops, cats were happy to sit on our portable typewriters.

“I was right there in case he got upset — I was expecting him to hiss or growl or slink away. But then one of the ginger kittens started licking Mason’s ear, and Mason sort of leaned into it and closed his eyes like it was the most amazing thing ever.

Trump’s White House couldn’t book him a hotel room, and other incompetent-to-treasonous tales from the right July 12, 2017

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While the Internet is going “can we impeach him NOW?” over Donald Trump’s kid releasing his own treasonous emails, here’s a grab-bag of other terribleness the right has been up to.

Donald: “On the campaign trail, Mr Trump repeatedly criticised President Barack Obama for golf outings during his presidency but as of his last trip to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Mr Trump has spent his 35th day at one his own golf properties.” That’s over 20% of his “presidency,” for those keeping score.

‘This is an act of insanity,’ a former Trump inner-circle associate told me, ‘but it’s how he functions.’”

Mike Pence: “He touched a piece of critical space flight hardware in the Orion clean room, despite the fact that there was a sign that clearly read, ‘DO NOT TOUCH.’

The State Department: “His team apparently waited too long to book accommodations for the President [at the G20] and his travelling staff and were told none of the major hotels had vacancies.” And this isn’t even the first time: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to stay several miles away – at a sanitarium outside of Bonn – from other leaders at the February G20 ministers’ meeting.”

The Defense Department: “National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump [reaffirming Article 5] and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told The New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.”

Eric Trump: “…while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.”

Mitch McConnell: “I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win, I think most of my colleagues didn’t, so we didn’t expect to be in this situation [of having to follow through on our own promises].”

Hobby Lobby: Hobby Lobby has been smuggling thousands of illegally-gained artifacts out of Iraq. In case you’re wondering, yes, this almost certainly means Hobby Lobby directly funds terrorists. Hobby Lobby is a sponsor of terrorism.

The RNC: “Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server.” (Hey, remember how many Americans’ personal data was exposed because of Hillary’s emails? None of it!)

The House: “Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) praised the recent Islamic State attack in Tehran as a ‘good thing’ and suggested that maybe the United States should work with the militant organization.”