Photography

A Minor Detail (Tennessee Six)

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet'.

Perhaps it seems nitpickety, but if we attend the setup from Steve Benen

In the aftermath of the deadly school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, opponents of gun reforms came up with quite a few culprits to blame for the bloodshed. None of them, of course, included easy access to firearms.

The public should blame the number of doors at the school, for example. And abortion. And video games. And Ritalin, secularism, Common Core, and trench coats.

And while some of this was expected—the right consistently tries to steer public discussions away from guns after mass shootings—Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) broke new ground when she tried to connect school shootings and porn.

—and the detail via Jennifer Bendery

During a meeting last week with local pastors, Black raised the issue of gun violence in schools and why it keeps happening.

“Pornography,” she said.

“It’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there,” she continued. “All of this is available without parental guidance. I think that is a big part of the root cause.”

—it seems well enough to note Mr. Benen’s punch line—

Her argument raised a variety of questions, though I’m inclined to start with this one: where exactly is Diane Black buying her groceries?

—might be leading with the wrong question. To the other, who really wants to make the point when the result means listening to a bunch of Republicans talking about internet pornography.

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The Basic Act of Eternal Vigilance

Freedom and Responsibility, Ballot and Beer. 3 November 2016, Mill Creek, Washington. (Photo: bd)

Freedom and responsibility. Ballot and beer. Vote.

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Incongruous

'Man dies after police hogtie him at Mississippi concert': Headline for Reuters story by Karen Brooks, 21 July 2015, alongside a cow kissing a kitten; detail of screenshot dated 2 August 2015.

The headline reads, “Man dies after police hogtie him at Mississippi concert”.

Compelling, indeed, and a sad tale from Karen Brooks of Reuters.

And now here’s a picture of a cow kissing a kitten.

This incongruity is brought to you by the letter A, as in automation.

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Properly Crazy

Joe Morrissey (right) and former receptionist Myrna Pride pose in antebellum dress to celebrate and announce the birth of a son; Mr. Morrissey, a former Virginia state representative, previously denied any sexual involvement with Ms. Pride, and even pled to reduced charges after being accused of molesting her as a minor.  Uncredited photo circa May, 2015, via Joe St. George, Twitter, 14 May 2015.

This is one of those things for which I have exactly nothing:

Let’s dissect this, shall we?

To the right stands former Virginia delegate Joe Morrissey, 57, a Democrat running for a Virginia state Senate seat as an Independent after Democratic Party officials rejected his attempt to seek office. Joining Morrissey are his 19-year-old receptionist, Myrna Pride, and their 9-week-old son Chase, a child Morrissey publicly acknowledged as his son for the first time Wednesday.

The image shows Morrissey, who is white, and Pride, who is black, in what some reporters have described as “period” dress — without mention of the fact that said period would appear to be the antebellum South or that said photo was taken in Virginia Beach, a city that sits about two hours from Richmond, the onetime capital of the Confederacy.

(Ross)

Would you believe me if I told you things only go downhill from there? As Janell Ross explained for the Washington Post: (more…)

The Mike Huckabee Experience (Christian Hatedown Remix)

In this April 18, 2015 file photo, former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH.  Huckabee is set to announce he will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  He has an event planned for May 5 in his hometown of Hope, Ark., where former President Bill Clinton was also born.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

This is a look ahead, toward some difficult times.

On Tuesday, Mike Huckabee made it official. The former Republican Arkansas governor and Fox News host launched his second bid for the White House in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas, vowing to stop the “slaughter” of abortion and calling for the protection of the “laws of nature” from the “the false God of judicial supremacy.”

Tim Murphy reports, for Mother Jones, the “Mike Huckabee you may not remember”, and it’s just as foul a history as you might imagine.

Huckabee, then a Baptist pastor who operated a small television station out of his Arkadelphia church, made sex and morality the centerpieces of his ’92 campaign—and he preached as fiery a message from the stump as he did from the pulpit. The novice politician let loose with eyebrow-raising tirades that occasionally put him to the right of the most fire-breathing conservatives. He endorsed quarantining AIDS patients, condemned efforts to shield homosexuals from discrimination, and called for the death penalty to be imposed on big-time drug dealers. He attacked Bumpers repeatedly as a libertine who supposedly supported giving condoms to 12-year-olds, sanctioned gay throuples, and voted to use taxpayer funds on “pornographic” art.

Serrano, Piss Christ (detail)Huckabee’s 1992 platform was an artifact of the Moral Majority’s high-water mark. In interviews and on the stump he explained that the nation had strayed toward “selfishness and sensuality” and had been “savaged by radical groups bent on a moral and social agenda” at odds with Judeo-Christian values. “When I was in school, they passed out Gideon Bibles—today, they pass out condoms,” he said at stop after stop on the trail. In the new liberal order, Huckabee warned his hometown paper, the Hope Star, a family would consist of “three homosexual men living together.”

The gay agenda, he believed, was influencing and restricting the nation’s response to the AIDS crisis. He endorsed quarantining AIDS patients from the rest of society—a radical view even among conservatives at the time—while arguing that the severity of the epidemic had been exaggerated because gay people wielded so much political clout. The federal government should spend less money on AIDS, he insisted, and more on diseases that the afflicted had not brought on themselves, such as cancer.

“I realize a lot of people have received AIDS through blood transfusions, but AIDS is basically a lifestyle disease, and when the lifestyle is changed, the disease risk goes significantly down,” Huckabee said in one interview. AIDS advocates themselves, not taxpayers, should pony up: “Elizabeth Taylor went before Congress and made a big pitch that we needed more federal funding for AIDS. If Elizabeth Taylor would take one of the rings off her finger and sell it, she could get more money for AIDS research than the average Arkansan will make in two years of hard work. If she’s really serious about it, she’s got assets that she could dispose of. Why should she make me take money from my children’s future, and take it right off my table when she needs to cough up some of her own coin for that.”

It is worth noting that in this time when American Christians lament that they are, in various ways, under some sort of siege―from gays, women, television, even basic reality―it probably won’t help anyone to have so many Republican candidates rushing to proclaim hatred in Jesus’ name.

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A Moment for MESSENGER

Detail of Mercury global mosaic compiled by MESSENGER probe, which crashed into the planet's surface 30 April 2015 SCET.  Image via Johns Hopkins University.

Thank you, MESSENGER.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., confirmed today [30 April 2015] that NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury, as predicted, at 3:26 p.m. EDT this afternoon (3:34 p.m. ground time).

MESSENGER Mission Complete: Final statistics for MESSENGER probe, which crashed into Mercury 30 April 2015 SCET.  Image from screenshot from mission page at Johns Hopkins University.Mission controllers were able to confirm the end of operations just a few minutes later at 3:40 p.m., when no signal was detected by the Deep Space Network (DSN) station in Goldstone, California, at the time the spacecraft would have emerged from behind the planet had MESSENGER not impacted the surface. This conclusion was independently confirmed by the DSN’s Radio Science team, who were simultaneously looking for the signal from MESSENGER from their posts in California.

MESSENGER was launched on August 3, 2004, and it began orbiting Mercury on March 18, 2011. The spacecraft completed its primary science objectives by March 2012. Because MESSENGER’s initial discoveries raised important new questions and the payload remained healthy, the mission was extended twice, allowing the spacecraft to make observations from extraordinarily low altitudes and capture images and information about the planet in unprecedented detail.

Last month — during a final short extension of the mission referred to as XM2′– the team embarked on a hover campaign that allowed the spacecraft at its closest approach to operate within a narrow band of altitudes, 5 to 35 kilometers above the planet’s surface. On April 28, the team successfully executed the last of seven orbit-correction maneuvers (the last four of which were conducted entirely with helium pressurant after the remaining liquid hydrazine had been depleted), which kept MESSENGER aloft for the additional month, sufficiently long for the spacecraft’s instruments to collect critical information that could shed light on Mercury’s crustal magnetic anomalies and ice-filled polar craters, among other features.

With no way to increase its altitude, MESSENGER was finally unable to resist the perturbations to its orbit by the Sun’s gravitational pull, and it slammed into Mercury’s surface at around 8,750 miles per hour, creating a new crater up to 52 feet wide.

“Today we bid a fond farewell to one of the most resilient and accomplished spacecraft ever to have explored our neighboring planets,” said Sean Solomon, MESSENGER’s Principal Investigator and Director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Our craft set a record for planetary flybys, spent more than four years in orbit about the planet closest to the Sun, and survived both punishing heat and extreme doses of radiation. Among its other achievements, MESSENGER determined Mercury’s surface composition, revealed its geological history, discovered that its internal magnetic field is offset from the planet’s center, taught us about Mercury’s unusual internal structure, followed the chemical inventory of its exosphere with season and time of day, discovered novel aspects of its extraordinarily active magnetosphere, and verified that its polar deposits are dominantly water ice. A resourceful and committed team of engineers, mission operators, scientists, and managers can be extremely proud that the MESSENGER mission has surpassed all expectations and delivered a stunningly long list of discoveries that have changed our views not only of one of Earth’s sibling planets but of the entire inner solar system.”

(Johns Hopkins University)

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Full Color Fabulous

“They have the same daily challenges as anyone else but also have the struggle of trying to navigate obstacles and attitudes. China is not an easy place sometimes, but for many they face the greatest difficulty in finding acceptance from their families.”

Kevin Frayer

Two words―breathtaking humanity.

Chinese drag queens perform at the Chunai 98 club on January 9, 2015 in Nanning, Guangxi Province, southern China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Other than that, JamesMichael Nichols’ brief Q&A with photographer Kevin Frayer, for Huffington Post, is just another link sitting on my desktop for far too long. And they really are awesome photos, really are that fabulous.

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Nichols, JamesMichael. “Kevin Frayer, Photographer, Showcases Stunning Drag Queens In China”. The Huffington Post. 8 March 2015.

The Barbaras

Via the one and only Meredith Shiner:

Such reflections come on the heels of news that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will retire at age seventy-eight, after a thirty-year run in the upper chamber:

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski announced Monday she will not seek another term in the Senate.

Speaking at a press conference, the Maryland Democrat said she asked herself: “Do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?”

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA; left) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), in undated, uncredited photo via Instagram.Mikulski, 78, is the longest serving woman in Congress. She has been in the Senate since 1987, after serving 10 years in the House.

Her retirement will likely launch a feeding frenzy among candidates eager to run for a rare open Senate seat in Maryland. Both party campaign committees quickly released statements arguing the seat’s competitiveness in a state Democrats have dominated statewide in federal races ....

.... Mikulski is the second senator to announce she is retiring next year, following California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

(Levinson and Lesniewski)

2016 will be an interesting cycle, to say the least.

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Image note: Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA; left) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), in undated, uncredited photo via Instagram.

Shiner, Meredith. “omg this pic”. Twitter. 2 March 2015.

Levinson, Alexis and Niels Lesniewski. “Mikulski Will Not Seek Another Term (Updated)”. At the Races. 2 March 2015.

The Trouble With Trolling

Photo of Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, via My Strange Family, September, 2009..There are always ethical questions involved with this sort of research, but we might assuage those by pointing out (A) nobody was killed or physically harmed in order to get these results, (B) sometimes we simply need this data, and (C) we get headlines like, “Scientists Tried Trolling Conspiracy Theorists”, and, “Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study”.

Yes, the results are about what you might imagine.

Ben Richmond of Motherboard explains:

What they found is that the people who you see trolling with conspiracy theories on non-conspiracy sites are the outliers. An astounding 91.53 percent of people who like posts on conspiracy theory pages pretty much only engage with conspiracy theory pages.

Not only that, compared to the science pages, conspiracy theory page posts are a lot more likely to be liked and shared. They call this a commitment to diffusion.

This focus on liking and sharing only from conspiracy theory pages also keeps conspiracy theorists posting and sharing amongst themselves, and rarely venture to comment or like things on the science pages.

Travis Gettys of Raw Story picked up the story and tried simplifying:

The researchers then tested the strength of these users’ biases by posting “troll information” – or sarcastic comments parodying anti-science views – on Facebook.

“These posts are clearly unsubstantiated claims, like the undisclosed news that infinite energy has been finally discovered, or that a new lamp made of actinides (e.g. plutonium and uranium) might solve problems of energy gathering with less impact on the environment, or that the chemical analysis revealed that chemtrails contains sildenafil citratum (the active ingredient of Viagra),” the researchers said.

They found that 78 percent of those who “liked” these 4,709 troll posts interacted primarily with conspiracy theory pages, as were 81 percent of those who commented on them.

The researchers also noted that anti-conspiracy theorists often wasted “cognitive resources” pushing back against these unscientific “troll” claims, even when they were “satirical imitation of false claims.”

Right. Pretty much what you would have expected.

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Image note: Photo of Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, via My Strange Family, September, 2013.

Richmond, Ben. “Scientists Tried Trolling Conspiracy Theorists”. Motherboard. 24 February 2015.

Gettys, Travis. “Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study”. RawStory. 24 February 2015.

Christian Faith and Character in Idaho

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Jesus Christ

The word from Laura Zuckerman of Reuters:

Serrano, Piss Christ (detail)Members of a county Republican Party in Idaho are to take up a measure on Tuesday evening that would declare the state a Christian one to bolster what the proposal calls the “Judeo-Christian bedrock of the founding of the United States.”

The resolution to be voted on by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee is non-binding, meaning it does not have the effect of laws or rules.

The proposal seeks that Idaho be “formally and specifically declared a Christian state,” guided by a Judeo-Christian faith reflected in the U.S. Declaration of Independence where all authority and power is attributed to God, the resolution reads.

The measure argues that the Christian faith is under “strident attack” in the United States, and cites as evidence the absence of Christian traditions and symbols in public institutions such as schools.

To the one, we have yet another reminder that for many, “equality” can only mean “supremacism”.

To the other, we have yet another reminder that conservatives prefer to pretend their piety before others than actually live their faith.

Bottom line: If the Christians can’t be Christian, why should anyone else?

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Image note: Detail of Piss Christ by Andres Serrano, 1987.

Zuckerman, Laura. “Republicans propose declaring Idaho a ‘Christian state'”. Reuters. 24 February 2015.