Because We Cannot Know

One Twitter user is about to lose his pseudonymity, at least as far as the government is concerned:

A man who proclaimed his desire on Twitter to sodomize Michele Bachmann with a machete will have his identity revealed to federal investigators, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., has ruled.

The man — who for now remains anonymous in public court filings, and is referred to in Chief Judge Royce Lamberth’s ruling as “Mr. X” — wrote a tweet in August 2011 stating, “I want to fuck Michelle [sic] Bachmann in the ass with a Vietnam era machete.”

Arguing that the tweet was clearly meant in jest, Mr. X filed a motion to quash a subpoena filed by a federal grand jury against Twitter for records pertaining to his identity. Lamberth, however, denied the motion, reasoning that Mr. X’s identity could help prosecutors determine whether the tweet really constituted a threat against Bachmann or not.

Mr. X doesn’t even need someone to make the standard “joke defense” for him in this case (and I will be annoyed at anyone trying to do so in the comments, since this is the point of this post; read for understanding). He’s done it himself. Even Judge Lamberth considers Mr. X’s tweet stream to be a pathetically transparent “attempt to elicit the attention on the Internet that he surely lacks in real life.”

That still doesn’t matter. [Read more…]

Pro-Life…as Long as It Doesn’t Need to Be Fed

Breasts are God’s gift to the wee little babies we insist be born, but ugh, keep them out of church.

A Georgia woman was told to “cover up and go away” when she started breastfeeding her newborn child during a church service. The pastor ordered Nirvana Jennette to feed her baby in the bathroom, and when she objected he told her that breastfeeding is lewd and compared her to a stripper.

The pastor asked Jennette to not return to the church, which Jennette describes as a “biker church” with a congregation made up of people who ride motorcycles.

Georgia law says a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location where she and the baby are otherwise permitted to be. If an establishment prohibits a woman from feeding her baby in public, they must provide an alternative. Jennette says a bathroom doesn’t qualify.

She’s right. Georgia law specifically tells employers that they have to provide a “private location, other than a toilet stall” for their employees who pump breast milk. Because, you know, the pastor hadn’t already screwed this one up so badly.

“Don’t Feed the Trolls” Is Bad Science

You’ve seen it. You see it when you point out antisocial behavior, more often when that antisocial behavior involves racism or sexism or something else people are uncomfortable talking about:

“Don’t feed the trolls. Attention is what they want. Ignore them and they’ll go away.”

It’s nearly as strong a silencing tactic as “Oh, they’re just anonymous adolescent boys [which they’re frequently not] so you can’t expect any different.” It is also just as wrong, something that started to come into the general consciousness of the internet with the #mencallmethings campaign last year. “Ignoring” the trolls, dealing with them on your own without social support, doesn’t make them stop. It makes you stop.

It’s not surprising the advice about trolls is wrong if you look at where it came from. [Read more…]

The Blunt Amendment: Making Health Care Worse for All

By now, you’ve probably heard of the Blunt Amendment. It is the response of Republican Senator Roy Blunt to the Catholic whining over Obama’s compromise on coverage of birth control. Not content to have the requirement lifted that they pay for birth control coverage without a copay (the insurance companies will absorb the cost, which is likely to reduce their overall expenditures), they instead want to be able to control the kind of health care their employees are offered.

Blunt wrote them a bill to let them do just that. He even helpfully provides a copy of that bill in pdf form on his website, suggesting that he’s proud of that fact. But what does the bill say? Well, you might be surprised, since contrary to coverage in the popular press, this bill has implications far beyond women’s reproductive health care. All wrapped up in invocations of Thomas Jefferson and the rights of conscience is this small piece of very effective language: [Read more…]

And It Was All for This

Yesterday was a bit of a slog, even if I didn’t do the majority of the work. At 11:15 a.m., Ben and I showed up at a local dance studio, hauled a couple hundred pounds of stuff out of the car and into the room, then spent the next two hours turning one end of it into a 20′ x 20′ theater.

We laid down a new, temporary two-layer floor over the scuffed dance flooring. We swore when the second roll of vinyl sheeting turned out not to be continuous. Then we figured out how to cope. We used copious amounts of gaff tape to keep anything from moving as people ran and jumped and were generally moved about bodily. We hung ten 10′ black velvet curtains across the back. Finally, we lit the whole thing.

Then it was eight and a half hours of dancers. With checks and paperwork and anxious parents who had to wait in the lobby. They came in batches and in costumes designed to make them all look as much alike as possible. It was my job to make sure we knew which of the 1,500 pictures were of which dancers and that we knew what photos their parents wanted.

It was also apparently my job to model a long back and keeping one’s chin up and smiling “naturally”, so I have some unusual sore muscles today to go with my bruised knees from laying the floor.

Finally, after all that, it took an hour to strike the set and pack everything back in the car. Eleven and a half hours of nearly nonstop labor, and it was all for this: [Read more…]

The Secularization of U.S. Latinos

Hispanics/Latinos are now the largest minority ethnic population in the U.S. They are also one of the fastest-growing populations of those who identify as having no religion. That doesn’t necessarily mean a high percentage of atheists, but it does mean we should be paying more attention to this group than we usually do.

The Black Skeptics posted an interview on Wednesday with Juhem Navarro-Rivera, one of the few people who do seem to be catering to the needs of this population. In addition to his blog The LatiNone, which is an interesting look at how secular Latinos fit into public discussions of religion and the politics of ethnicity, Navarro-Rivera is also a political scientist studying secularism. He’s one of the researchers on the ARIS survey and the author of U.S. Latino Religious Identification 1990-2008: Change, Diversity & Transformation. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: ILU-486

I know nothing about Amanda Ching. It doesn’t matter. This story does what science fiction is supposed to do.

The instructions said to wait. Don’t pack a bag. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t plan for childcare. Nothing bad will happen. Just wait. Pretend nothing is amiss. We come to you.

There was more, of course. She understood that she had taken mifepristone, and that if she hadn’t yet miscarried, then she’d need the second drug. More importantly, she needed to get rid of the evidence. Terminating a fetus in any way was a crime, even if it was an accident. According to the cop she saw last time, there were no accidents, only what he called “accidents”, with finger quotes.

Rachel hadn’t been sure what he had meant by that. What she did know was that she had three kids, a bad job, and an ex-boyfriend who’d thought condoms were the devil. He’d said that once, that condoms were the devil, and when she had laughed at him, he’d smacked her one across the face. She might have been happy, or at least okay with marrying him for the added income until that had happened. Then three days later, the bruise still fresh on her face, she’d taken the test, seen the pink lines, and thanked god she hadn’t used the local clinic for the free pregnancy test. Sure it was free, but the moment it was positive, you were entered in the free natal care monitoring system.

She’d done what she’d heard whispered about at work in the diner, put a red kerchief on her window sill and closed the sash, just letting it hang there, and after about three days she’d noticed it was gone. In its place was a little flowerpot with a little violet sitting precariously on the ledge. She’d found the packet with the pills and the paper inside the dirt, under the roots, and almost wept with relief.

Now, she waited for something to happen. Maybe the cops would come. Maybe it was all a set-up. Her kids slept on. She could hear her upstairs neighbor kick on his video game machine and load some game with a lot of machine guns.

There was a knock at her door, and Rachel felt her heart almost stutter. She plodded to the door. Maybe she could just ignore it and it would all go away. She was in the process of reaching for the doorknob when she was seized with a cramp and she had to freeze, suck in a breath. No, there was no going back, not since she’d swallowed a few pills the day before.

She swung the door open and was grabbed by the arms before she could even say anything.

“This won’t take long,” someone hissed in her ear. “We love you. Every part of you belongs to you.”

Rachel felt her feet being fitted into her clogs, her coat being thrown about her shoulders. Upstairs the machine guns rattled on. Her kids slept through anything. She went a little limp, trudged between the two people wearing masks, leading her down the hallway and out the front doors of the apartment complex, towards a running van.

One of the masked people poked her in the ribs. “Just struggle a little. Make it look real.”

Keep reading.