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23 Nov 17:00

David Beckham, Sexiest Man Alive

by Mallory Ortberg

Creepy, torture. But still so funny.

Hugh. George. Matthew. Johnny. Ryan. Bradley. Channing. Pierce. Ben. Brad. He kept these names always at the forefront of his mind, naming each one at the pace of his breath and his feet. For as long as he could remember, he had been running.

The names feed the machine.

Read more David Beckham, Sexiest Man Alive at The Toast.

15 Nov 01:16

‘Bring in the candles’

by Fred Clark

So apparently there’s a dumb Internet rumor circulating that says we’re going to have “15 days of darkness in November.” Phil Plait heaves a sad sigh and debunks this nonsense, thereby providing a link that you can post as a reply to anyone spreading this silliness in your Facebook timeline.

As Plait notes, absolutely nothing about this rumor makes any sense. It seems like it was written on a dare, or maybe on a bet, by someone who had been challenged to come up with the most scientifically ignorant stew of malarkey they could then convince others to believe.

Astronomers from NASA have indicated that the world will remain in complete darkness starting on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 3 a.m. and will end on Monday, November 30, 2015 at 4:15 p.m. According to officials, the “November Black Out” event will be caused by another astronomical event between Venus and Jupiter.

… The light from Venus will heat up the gases on Jupiter causing a reaction. The gaseous reaction will release an unprecedented amount of hydrogen into space. … The hydrogen making contact with the sun will cause a massive explosion on the sun’s surface. … The sun will then attempt to cease the explosions by emitting heat from its core. The heat will cause the Sun to dim to a bluish color. Once the sun reaches the bluish color, it will take approximately 14 days to restore its normal surface temperature, returning its normal color to the Red Giant.

Pretty much everything about that is wrong, backwards, or impossible, but since when has that ever kept an Internet rumor from going viral?

Anyway, as Phil Plait says, “No, We’re Not Going to Have 15 Days of Darkness in November.”

But what if we did? What if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow morning? What if the skies were to suddenly, inexplicably grew dark at noon?

This has happened before. It happened on May 19, 1780 — New England’s Dark Day. On that day:

… an unusual darkening of the day sky was observed over the New England states and parts of Canada. … The darkness was so complete that candles were required from noon on. It did not disperse until the middle of the next night.

We now think that strange event was due to cloudy, foggy weather combined with smoke from a huge forest fire then burning in Ontario. But no one experiencing the eerie daytime darkness throughout most of New England that day had any way of knowing about that fire hundreds of miles away. They knew it wasn’t an eclipse, but they couldn’t know what was happening.

Portrait of Abraham Davenport by Ralph Earl, 1788.

Portrait of Abraham Davenport by Ralph Earl, 1788 (via Wikipedia).

Many people, therefore, decided that they were witnessing the end of the world. To be fair, given what they were experiencing and how little access they had to any possible explanation, this was not an entirely unreasonable guess.

The best response to this unexplained event and the fears it invited came from Abraham Davenport, who was then a member of Connecticut’s state legislature. When the sun failed and darkness came at noon, signaling, perhaps, the Day of Judgment, some called for an emergency adjournment to the legislature’s session.

“I am against adjournment,” Davenport said. “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

John Greenleaf Whittier rephrased that slightly in his poem “Abraham Davenport“: “Let God do His work, we will see to ours. / Bring in the candles.”

This is, I think, excellent eschatology. That’s the fancy word for the branch of theology that deals with “last things” or “end things” — a category that includes not just End Times and the end of the world, but also death (i.e., the end of the world for each of us, inevitably).

Davenport’s maxim applies in either case — whether we’re talking about the End of the World or just the end of our time in the world. That end is either fast approaching or it is not. If it is not, then keep working. If it is, then keep working.

And if it starts to get dark, light some candles. “Simple duty hath no place for fear.”






15 Nov 23:29

Pronouncing "Daesh"

by Mark Liberman

In the comments on yesterday's post, the question arose about how the  Arabic-based acronym "Daesh" (from al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, "the islamic state of Iraq and the Levant", maybe better rendered as "Da’ish") would be pronounced in English.

We now know what Barack Obama's choice is — [dæʃ], as in "dash":

Turkey's been a strong partner with the United States and other members of the coalition in going after uh the activities of ISIL or Daesh uh both in Syria and Iraq
 uh to help to fortify the borders between Syria and Turkey that uh allowed Daesh to operate
and to eliminate uh Daesh as uh a force that can create uh so much pain and suffering

And by the way, you might have noticed that President Barack Obama is just as capable of extended passages of uptalk as President George W. Bush was:

Update — I had the impression that the French generally pronounce "Daesh" as two syllables, something like [dɐ.ɛʃ]. And this is true the first time that François Hollande uses the word in his address yesterday:

"… une armée terroriste, Daesh …"

But in the other usage of the term in that same speech, he makes it one syllable, more like [dɐʃ]:

"… la France sera impitoyable à l'egard des barbares de Daesh …"

Some quantitative indications of the difference:

  • In his first pronunciation, the vocalic part is about 268 msec. long, whereas in the second one it's only about 167 msec.
  • In the first version, the second formant rises steadily from about a minimum of about 1550 Hz. about a third of the way through the vocalic region, to a maximum of to about 1950 Hz. at the end. But in the second version, the F2 minimum of around 1440 Hz. occurs most of the way through the vocalic region, and the rise (associated with the transition to the palatal fricative) only gets to about 1600 Hz.

Update #2 — See also Alice Guthrie "Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand?", Free Word 2/19/2015, which provides a clear and extensive explanation of the origin and progress of the term, and also includes this interesting illustration, with the caption "'Da'ish' becomes 'Ja'hish' – 'The state of donkeys in Iraq and Syria'":

Update #3 — Another approach, by John Oliver:

Quand John Oliver se lâche sur les terroristes…

Quand John Oliver se lâche sur les terroristes… (vidéo traduite en Français)L'animateur de la chaîne américaine HBO a défendu la culture française face au barbarie. Un message qu'on voulait vous partager, et traduire.

Posted by minutebuzz on Monday, November 16, 2015

18 Nov 15:00

What Your Napping Style Says About You: The Afternoon Despair Quadrant

by Mallory Ortberg

Fell asleep while it was still light out, woke up while it was still light out: You are an effortlessly perfect person. You do things like read in magazines that it's optimally healthy to drink a small cup of coffee right before taking a fifteen-minute nap, decide to start doing this, and then actually start doing this.

Read more What Your Napping Style Says About You: The Afternoon Despair Quadrant at The Toast.

18 Nov 16:00

Queer Girl Pick-up Strategies That Rarely Work Yet Are Replicated Incessantly, in Haiku

by Anna Pulley

Perfect the art of
leaning on things. Once mastered,
hook thumbs into jeans.

Drink excessively
the whole night. When she’s nearby,
talk a lot louder.

Read more Queer Girl Pick-up Strategies That Rarely Work Yet Are Replicated Incessantly, in Haiku at The Toast.

19 Nov 16:42

France Struggles With Its Identity As It Seeks To Heal From Paris Attacks

by Farai Chideya

Last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris have given a new and harsher edge to a multigenerational debate among those in France and its capital about the role of race, ethnicity and national origin in their society.

France has acknowledged some painful aspects of its history, erecting monuments large and small around Paris that, for example, pay tribute to children and families deported by the Vichy government to die in camps in the Holocaust. But it is still struggling to come to terms with its practice in past centuries of acquiring colonies and protectorates, which led to substantial immigration from those areas when the colonies became free and produced tension very much evident today.

A substantial strain of French politics is built upon resentment of those immigrants, and those feelings have bubbled to the surface in the aftermath of last week’s attacks. Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s National Front party and the de facto face of the nation’s political far-right, offered condolences and support to victims of the attacks before saying in a news conference, “France and the French are no longer safe. It is my duty to tell you so.” She added that the nation needed to “finally determine who are its allies and who are its enemies” and “recover the control of its national borders.” Le Pen also stated that “fundamentalist Islam must be wiped out.”

Last year the National Front won the most votes in representing France in the European parliamentary elections. The party has spoken out on behalf of keeping French jobs in the hands of ethnic French. France’s current unemployment rate is 10.3 percent.

In this atmosphere, many immigrants and their children have made it clear in public-opinion polls that they regularly experience discrimination. In 2008, France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, a branch of the federal government, completed a multiyear study of attitudes on national origin, including immigrants from former colonies and France’s Overseas Territories. Among the study’s key findings: Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Sahelian African (including Sudanese), and Turkish immigrants and their children are the least likely to feel they are considered French. (DOM refers to France’s Overseas Territories, including Guadeloupe and French Polynesia.)


The chart below is a translation of the Institute’s data in response to a survey of people from the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris and its suburbs. It provides a statistical perspective on the cultural and political debates rending France today.


Although France is now a post-colonial nation, its history of trying to run other parts of the world is a long one. At various points, its colonies and territories have included Cambodia; Vietnam; West African countries such as Senegal and the Ivory Coast; and North African nations including Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The Algerian war for independence lasted for seven years, ending in 1962. Its death toll is still contested by the two countries; France says it was 400,000, and Algeria says 1.5 million people died. Hundreds of thousands of European-Algerians (“pieds-noir,” as they became known in France, most of whom had never lived in Europe) fled to France, and the country was roiled by protests including one in 1961 during which French citizens threw Algerian protesters off a bridge to drown. Yet as its former colonies and territories gained independence, through war or diplomacy, France advertised its belief in liberté, egalité, fraternité — liberty, equality and brotherhood for all — providing, if you were an immigrant, that you fully assimilated into French culture and customs.

Those immigrants came in large numbers and continue to do so. In 2013, 57 percent of the residency cards given to first-time immigrants to France were granted to Africans. (This does not take into account migration into France by citizens of other countries in the European Union.)

For many immigrants, the cultural bargain has been difficult to strike. In his 2003 memoir, “We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World,” Malian-born writer and academic Manthia Diawara writes about the impossibility of meeting the cultural expectations to be French and both honor and lovingly critique the immigrant Malian community (where, among other things, he encountered elders who supported clitoridectomy). A younger relative resents his bringing up the topic of racism, which of course both of them have experienced firsthand. “My nephew, like most French people, has accepted the notion that Africans and Arabs — as the last wave of immigrants in France — must work twice as hard and comply with the police when they are doing their work, as the price of their integration into French society,” he wrote.

In many ways, Diawara’s book presaged the events of 2005, when three weeks of riots between police and young people of North and West African descent devastated Clichy-sous-Bois, a low-income suburb of Paris largely populated by African immigrants. Two youths were electrocuted accidentally while fleeing the police, setting off the violence and years of subsequent soul-searching about how immigrants and their children are treated in, and treat, France. That soul-searching continues today, as the country seeks to heal.

16 Nov 16:21

On the insidious sexism of the Covergirl Star Wars collection

by Lisa Wade, PhD

So, Star Wars is out with a new movie and instead of pretending female fans don’t exist, Disney has decided to license the Star Wars brand to Covergirl. A reader named David, intrigued, sent in a two-page ad from Cosmopolitan for analysis.

What I find interesting about this ad campaign — or, more accurately — boring, is its invitation to women to choose whether they are good or bad. “Light side or dark side. Which side are you on?” it asks. Your makeup purchases, apparently, follow.




This is the old — and by “old” I mean ooooooooold — tradition of dividing women into good and bad. The Madonna and the whore. The woman on the pedestal and her fallen counterpart. Except Covergirl, like many cosmetics companies before that have used exactly the same gimmick, is offering women the opportunity to choose which she wants to be. Is this some sort of feminist twist? Now we get to choose whether men want to marry us or just fuck us? Great.

But that part’s just boring. What’s obnoxious about the ad campaign is the idea that, for women, what really matters about the ultimate battle between good and evil is whether it goes with her complexion. It affirms the stereotype that women are deeply trivial, shallow, and vapid. What interests us about Star Wars? Why, makeup, of course!

If David — who also noted the inclusion of a single Asian model as part of the Dark Side — hadn’t asked me to write about this, I probably wouldn’t have. It feels like low hanging fruit because it’s just makeup advertising and who cares. But this constant message that women are genuinely excited at the idea of getting to choose which color packet to use as some sort of idiotic contribution to a battle of good versus evil is corrosive.

Moreover, the constant reiteration of the idea that we are thrilled to paint our faces actually obscures the fact that we are essentially required to do so if we want to be taken seriously as professionals, potential partners or, really, valuable human beings. So, not only does this kind of message teach us not to take women seriously at all, it hides the very serious way in which we are actively forced to capitulate to the male gaze — every. damn. day. — and feed capitalism while we’re at it.

This ad isn’t asking us if we want to be on the dark side or the light side. It’s asking us if we want to wear makeup or wear makeup. It’s not a choice at all. But it sure does make subordination seem fun.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

(View original at

18 Nov 01:16

Why Bobby Jindal’s Candidacy Failed

by Harry Enten

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday evening became the third governor (current or former) to drop out of the Republican primary race for president. It’s not exactly surprising; he had raised little money and never went very far in the polls. Still, Jindal’s inability to catch on, like that of the other two Republicans to drop out so far — Rick Perry and Scott Walker — shows that candidates who try to appeal to both the establishment and a more conservative part of the party may be stretching themselves too thin.

Here’s our updated five-ring circus chart, a graphical view of the 2016 field and the five factions of the Republican Party.


Jindal was best known as a policy wonk before this campaign, but he tried to merge that wonkiness with hard-core conservatism. He ended up with one foot in the Christian conservative camp and one in the establishment wing of the party. What did that get him? A high net-favorability rating in Iowa (where he visited frequently), but little else. If you try to please everyone, you risk pleasing no one.

Perry and Walker had similar problems. Perry had ties to the tea party, but also tried to appeal to the establishment, following his disastrous 2012 run. Walker, on the other hand, struggled with subjects outside his economic wheelhouse. There were better establishment candidates (with less baggage in Perry’s case and better political skills in Walker’s) and purer tea party/outsider candidates.

Jindal, Perry and Walker’s struggles reflect the unusual nature of a now 14-candidate Republican field: At this stage, it may be better to be the first choice of a medium number of voters than the second or third choice of a lot of voters. In the past, winning candidates appealed to multiple wings of the party. George W. Bush did well with the establishment and Christian conservatives in 2000. John McCain did well with the establishment and moderates in 2008. At this point in the campaign, 2016 voters have so many choices that they don’t need to settle. They can choose the candidate who best reflects their ideological preference. Voters looking for a clean break from the establishment, for example, can choose someone like Ben Carson, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.

That’s potentially a dangerous sign for Marco Rubio, a candidate who supposedly appeals to multiple parts of the party. Rubio continues to be the favorite of most analysts to win the nomination (including yours truly) because he is conservative enough to appeal to the right wing, but enough of an establishment figure to satisfy the old guard as well. It’s part of the reason that he has such strong net favorability ratings.

Yet, Rubio continues not to do particularly well on the ballot test. So is Jindal’s failure proof having it both ways won’t work in 2016?

It’s hard to say. Simply put, this primary (still) has a lot of candidates and Republican voters remain volatile; with so many variables in the equation, the potential for chaos — or at the least, disarray — is high.

18 Nov 17:00

Grape Fiends

by Edith Zimmerman

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.55.10 AMIf you’d rather sponsor a turkey than eat one this Thanksgiving (or both, I guess), here are this year’s “stars” from Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey Project. I think I like Tibbott. And I didn’t realize how much they liked grapes! Help these turkeys with their grape addictions!

18 Nov 17:00

That One Scene From Conan The Barbarian Everyone Knows, As Written By Me

by Mallory Ortberg

GENERAL: Conan! What is best in life?
CONAN: Never getting yelled at, even once! Never getting yelled at, even if it means never speaking to someone again, or stifling your own feelings, as long as it means that getting yelled at literally never happens.
GENERAL: That is good! That is good.

Read more That One Scene From Conan The Barbarian Everyone Knows, As Written By Me at The Toast.

19 Nov 15:45

“in fact, it was exacerbating their dehydration”

by Edith Zimmerman

1. “Lost at sea.”

2. Weeks later, just in case…

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.49.41 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.49.52 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.50.05 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.50.16 AM

[delete delete]

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.50.45 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.50.53 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.51.16 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.51.27 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.52.11 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.52.26 AM

Still no!

19 Nov 15:58

The global sanitation crisis on #WorldToiletDay

by Raul Pacheco-Vega PhD

4One of the first things other academics ask me is “why are you interested in toilets?”

For the vast majority of people, the biological function of waste excretion is an after thought, an activity that nobody wants to talk about, and often times, the mere thought of talking about shit grosses them out. I, however, am fascinated by the human and political dimensions of human waste and the challenges that solving the global sanitation crisis presents. More than excrement itself, I’m interested in a holistic view of sanitation (waste disposal, transportation, removal, treatment and reuse). This interest stems primarily from my training as a chemical engineer, my work experience as a sanitation engineer and researcher, and my interest from my doctoral studies in understanding the politics of policy intervention.

Contrary to what one might think, toilets are political. Owning a toilet will become a necessary prerequisite for politicians to run for office in Gujarat, India. The new Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, has made ending open defecation and increasing access to toilets one of his campaign promises and a crucial component of his political and public policy agenda. Modi’s “toilets first, temples later” has been seen as a strong statement in favor of increasing toilet and latrine access in India.

In my own work I have emphasized that even if we have the technical capabilities to increase access to toilets, latrines and sanitation infrastructure, often times we see lack of progress because institutional, cultural, behavioral and societal barriers have been erected through time. I have shown that the behavioral determinants of sanitation governance are complex and multicausal, and also have multiple effects. Not having a toilet in your own home or easily accessible can lead to violence and physical/sexual assault. Lack of toilets affects women disproportionately and leaves them vulnerable to physical violence. Earlier this year I wrote about the complex linkages between menstrual hygiene management, access to toilets, and violence against women.

To end open defecation and increase sanitation access, we need a set of policy strategies that aren’t solely focused (individually) on cultural practices, or access to latrines, or poverty alleviation. All these factors must be tackled simultaneously.

World Toilet Day takes place on November 19th. This year finally the United Nations named World Toilet Day an official UN day, although for all the noise it has been making, we are WAY behind the target for the Millennium Development Goals. If we really want to end open defecation by 2025, as the UN indicates, we are definitely going to need a better approach. In my own research, I have found that institution- and routine-based strategies help increase access to sanitation. I have also argued that access to toilets can be used as a political manipulation strategy. We should be interested in the global politics of sanitation because the crisis is far-reaching and widespread.

Today, I encourage you to reflect on the fact that over 1 billion people defecate in the open because they lack the dignity of a toilet, and that 2.6 billion people don’t have access to improved water and sanitation sources.

Think about it. It IS political. Because we can’t wait to solve the global sanitation crisis.

Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD is a professor of Resource Management and Environmental Studies with a specialty in the global politics of sanitation. You can follow him at, where this post originally appeared, and on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

20 Nov 15:26

What explains differences in color preference by sex?

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Flashback Friday.

A study published in 2001, to which I was alerted by Family Inequality, asked undergraduate college students their favorite color and presented the results by sex.  Men’s favorites are on the left, women’s on the right:

The article is a great example of the difference between research findings and the interpretation of those findings.  For example, this is how I would interpret it:

Today in the US, but not elsewhere and not always, blue is gendered male and pink gendered female.  We might expect, then, that men would internalize a preference for blue and women a preference for pink.  We live, however, in an androcentric society that values masculinity over femininity.  This rewards the embracing of masculinity by both men and women (making it essentially compulsory for men) and stigmatizes the embracing of femininity (especially for men).

We might expect, then, that men would comfortably embrace a love of blue (blue = masculinity = good), while many women will have a troubled relationship to pink (pink = femininity = devalued, but encouraged for women) and gravitate to blue and all of the good, masculine meaning it offers.

That’s how I’d interpret it.

Here’s how the authors of the study interpreted it:

…we are inclined to suspect the involvement of neurohormonal factors. Studies of rats have found average sex differences in the number of neurons comprising various parts of the visual cortex. Also, gender differences have been found in rat preferences for the amount of sweetness in drinking water. One experiment demonstrated that the sex differences in rat preferences for sweetness was eliminated by depriving males of male-typical testosterone levels in utero. Perhaps, prenatal exposure to testosterone and other sex hormones operates in a similar way to “bias” preferences for certain colors in humans.

Go figure.

Important lesson here: data never stands alone. It must always be interpreted.

Originally posted in 2010.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

(View original at

14 Nov 22:28

Paris and Beirut and …

by Fred Clark

In the wake of tragedy and horror — whether from a natural disaster or the evil that humans do — there is a sense that one should say something. If one is to speak at all, then one must speak of this.

But there is little that can be said. We can express our horror and grief, extend our “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and to those who knew and loved them. We can mourn with those who mourn.

Yet after calamity, we seem to wish that someone, somewhere, would say something else, something more. We want to hear someone explain this, explain how to correct it somehow, how to prevent it from ever happening again (or, less nobly, how to prevent it from ever happening to us). And there can be a pressure, or a temptation, to try to be the person who says all of that. Our desperate need to hear something that will make sense of it all can lead us to try to say something that might appear to make sense of it all.

And related to that is the pressure not to say the thing that none of us wants to hear — that maybe we can’t explain this or make sense of it or tidily reassure one another and ourselves that everything will always be sensible and understandable and fair and safe.

Here’s a snippet from one of those lost and recently recovered old Left Behind posts that seems relevant today:

I moved to Everybody’s Hometown shortly after the accident and I had lunch that week with a friend who serves as a pastor there. Five teens from the local high school had been riding together in a car that was going too fast to negotiate a notorious curve. Some of the funerals were at my friend’s church. He was exhausted, beaten down. During the course of that meal, he cycled through all of Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief several times over.

Five children in a town of about 10,000 turned out to be an unbearably high percentage. The families were distraught. The high school was devastated. No one in town seemed untouched or unaffected or unscathed. People needed answers and many of them were turning to my friend. He is a wise man with a rock-solid faith, but when I met him for lunch that day he seemed to want to run away or hide or beat the rock like Moses and scream at the silent heavens.

The people of our town needed to hear some explanation and they were turning to my friend to provide one. Wasn’t that his job, after all — to make sense of all of this senselessness and to explain it to the rest of us? But what we wanted him to say was something impossible and untrue. We wanted him to give us words that would make the loss of those children seem like something fair, something sensible, something we could live with. And there was no true thing he could tell us that could do any of that.

All he could do was what he did: Mourn with those who mourn. Stand with and stand beside others in the senselessness and unfairness of it all. Redeem the time, for the days are evil. Strengthen the things that remain. Knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


11 Nov 18:00

Why the Trend of Adoption Crowdfunding Makes Me So Uncomfortable

by Nicole S. Chung

Last year, a couple in Florida – presumably hoping to distinguish their $45,000 adoption crowdfunding campaign from others like it – came up with a gimmick they referred to as the “Baby Draft”: If you donated, you could vote for your favorite football team, and the adopted child would be raised as a fan of whichever team got the most votes.

Read more Why the Trend of Adoption Crowdfunding Makes Me So Uncomfortable at The Toast.

13 Nov 12:12

This could be a bad night to be Donald Trump

by Fred Clark

It’s Friday the 13th … do you believe in ghosts?


It’s not widely discussed. Those who have witnessed it firsthand are, for obvious reasons, reluctant to talk about it. You’ll never see them publicly recounting their tales in front of the cameras and the microphones. These aren’t stories they are eager to tell.

But one hears whispers, rumors, stories told by the friends of friends. And those whispers, rumors and stories are too numerous and too eerily similar to be dismissed.

Something is happening. Something, it seems, happens every Friday the 13th, just before midnight.

The stories begin right around the turn of the 20th century, with the earliest reference I can find coming from August of 1897. …

What I’ve pieced together from all these stories sounds unbelievable, and I certainly cannot prove any of it. But there are more things in heaven and earth than I can prove.

All I can tell you is what I believe. And what I believe is this: Somewhere in America, just before midnight on every Friday the 13th, the ghost of Frederick Douglass appears at the bedside of some racist wretch.

It happened to Henry Billings Brown, and to D.L. Griffith, George Wallace, and Ty Cobb. Byron de la Beckwith barely survived the encounter. We have no way of knowing who could be next. The spirit moveth whithersoever it will.

But there is a long list of Americans who might want to take a cue tonight from the rumored ritual of media mogul Roger Ailes. Every Friday the 13th, it is said, he gets a bottle of 12-year-old Scotch and joins a group of friends for an all-night poker game. “It’s the weekend,” he likes to say, “We don’t need to sleep tonight.” And then, his forced laughter trailing off, “I’m not sleeping tonight. Mustn’t sleep. That’s when he finds you …”


11 Nov 19:40

Armistice Day and apologies

by Fred Clark

Beverly Engel writes that a meaningful apology “communicates … the three R’s — regret, responsibility, and remedy”:

1. A statement of regret for having caused the inconvenience, hurt or damage. This includes an expression of empathy toward the other person, including an acknowledgement of the inconvenience, hurt, or damage that you caused the other person. …

2. An acceptance of responsibility for your actions. This means not blaming anyone else for what you did and not making excuses for your actions but instead accepting full responsibility for what you did and for the consequences of your actions.

3. A statement of your willingness to take some action to remedy the situation — either by promising to not repeat your action, a promise to work toward not making the same mistake again, a statement as to how you are going to remedy the situation … or by making restitution for the damages you caused.

Aaron Lazare, similarly, outlines what he says are the “up to four parts to an effective apology“:

1. A valid acknowledgment of the offense that makes clear who the offender is and who is the offended. The offender must clearly and completely acknowledge the offense.

2. An effective explanation, which shows an offense was neither intentional nor personal, and is unlikely to recur.

3. Expressions of remorse, shame, and humility, which show that the offender recognizes the suffering of the offended.

4. A reparation of some kind, in the form of a real or symbolic compensation for the offender’s transgression.

I think both of those outline the essential, necessary components of any meaningful apology — one that can be described as genuine, worthy of being offered, and capable of being accepted.

And both models show us, clearly I think, that neither “Thank you for your service,” nor “Happy Veterans Day” comes close to satisfying those criteria. These ritual statements are inadequate and unsatisfying apologies — partly due to the fact that we repeat them without ever quite acknowledging that they have anything to do with the attempt, and the need, to apologize.

The parades and flag-waving and all the rest are legitimate and necessary expressions of gratitude, but they are also attempts to skip ahead to what Engel calls “remedy” and Lazare calls “symbolic compensation.” The gratitude they attempt to convey is thus undermined by the reminder that regret and responsibility may never be explored, discussed or acknowledged.

That failure to express, or even consider, regret and responsibility also prevents us from providing another essential element to any meaningful apology: The pledge not to do it again.

And again, and again, and again.

We can’t offer such a promise because we’re going to do it again. We’re still doing it now. And we have no intention of stopping.

Click here to view the embedded video.




10 Nov 16:00

“Red Pill, Blue Pill”: A Tale For MRA Children

by Jaya Saxena and Matt Lubchansky

One pill, two pill
Red pill, blue pill

Take the red pill
Unlock free will

Read more “Red Pill, Blue Pill”: A Tale For MRA Children at The Toast.

09 Nov 17:30

Ben Carson is ‘Bad Jackie’

by Fred Clark

The reference to “Bad Jackie” in the title here is to a post or parable from back in 2010, Jackie at the Crossroads. I refer back to that a lot because it’s my best attempt to describe something that happens to all of us: We find out we were misinformed. And when we realize that, we have a choice to make. We can take the opportunity to learn, even if that involves the minor embarrassment of admitting that we were misinformed. Or we can double-down, defending ourselves and projecting ourselves to others as people who are never wrong.

This often happens in seemingly small ways involving minor points or trivia, rumors, or urban legends. It can be some small thing we’d heard or read somewhere and innocently believed. But even if the substance of that misconception is inconsequential, the choice we make when we have the chance to learn better is not. It’s the kind of decision that forms our habits, which in turn forms our character.

BenCarsonIn this parable of Jackie at the Crossroads, the difference between a Good Jackie and a Bad Jackie is partly that Good Jackie is willing to admit that she’d been misinformed and to learn better, while Bad Jackie doubles-down, angrily defending her misconception. That’s a crossroads because it changes the nature of the thing. Up until that moment, both versions of Jackie can be said to be mostly innocent. They have been deceived, led astray. If we’re feeling ungenerous, we might say they’ve been gullible or naive or not as vigilantly skeptical as we might think everyone ought to be at all times, but mainly they’re guilty of nothing more than the human condition. At this point, their fault is that they’ve trusted some source that was not trustworthy, and when that happens — as it does and will for all of us at some point — the guilt ought to lie primarily with the untrustworthy source, not with those who have been tricked by it.

The choice to double-down on that untrustworthy untruth, though, changes one’s relationship to that falsehood. It changes you from being its victim to being its champion. It means that you are no longer merely deceived, but that you are choosing to deceive others — that you have decided that leading others astray would be, for whatever reason, preferable to admitting that you’d ever been led astray yourself.

And that’s the difference between the two Jackies in our parable. It’s the difference between Good and Bad.

In that story, Good Jackie found it easier to admit she’d been honestly deceived because she had been more honestly deceived. She’d believed the urban legend about the deadly South American airport spiders because her co-worker had insisted that she’d read about it in a magazine and that a friend’s cousin knew the person who died from being bitten. Those details had made the story more convincing to Good Jackie, but she’s later able to recognize that those details were dishonest embellishments made by her co-worker.

But when Bad Jackie had repeated that same story, she had, almost unconsciously, appropriated those claims for herself. She had assured others that the story was true because she had read it in a magazine, and that her friend’s cousin, or her cousin’s friend, personally knew the victim. Those claims were not true, but when she had made those false claims, she didn’t really feel like she was lying. It was more that she’d just gotten wrapped up in how she’d learned that this kind of story is supposed to be told. After you explain the part about the deadly spiders living under the toilet seats in airport bathrooms, you get to the part where you underscore the impact of that by explaining that you’d read this in a respectable magazine.

Such embellishments do, indeed, make for a more effective story, but I think they also reveal something crucially important about the character of the storyteller. This is a red flag — a warning sign that deserves our attention.

So pay attention to this, because it’s important. It’s a way to prevent becoming misinformed and a way to identify people who do not deserve your trust.

You’re talking to a friend or reading Facebook and you find you’re being told some wild story. Pay attention to the details about the source of that story. The difference is subtle, but it’s hugely revealing.

Sometimes you will hear something like this: “Scientists have found Joshua’s missing day.” Or like this: “The CEO of Procter & Gamble was on Oprah and said that part of their profits go to the Church of Satan.”

And when you hear that, you are dealing with someone who has been deceived. The person passing along this misinformation has been misled — perhaps mostly innocently.

But sometimes you will hear, instead, something like this: “A scientist told me that they’ve found Joshua’s missing day.”  Or like this: “I saw the CEO of Procter & Gamble on Oprah …”

And when you hear that, you are dealing with someone who is trying to deceive you. The person passing along that misinformation is lying to you. This is an untrustworthy person — someone who is either deliberately lying, or else who is “bullshitting” in the Frankfurt sense of the word, someone who is wholly unconcerned with the truth or falsehood of anything they say. This is someone who, in Douglass’ phrase, requires heat, not more light.

Which brings us to Ben Carson, the distinguished neurosurgeon now reinventing himself as a right-wing politician.

Ben Carson is Bad Jackie. He is doubling-down on his misconceptions because, like that version of Jackie, he has invested his own integrity and identity in them. Carson has said a host of outrageous, inaccurate and untrue things. Doug Muder offers a partial run-down of some of them:

The Holocaust wouldn’t have happened if Germany’s Jews had been armed; anarchy might force the 2016 elections to be cancelled; Russian president Putin, Palestinian leader Abbas, and Iranian leader Khamenei were all students together in 1968; Medicare and Medicaid fraud amounts to half a trillion dollars; Satan motivated Darwin to create the theory of evolution; and the signers of the Declaration of Independence had no elected office experience. He found fault with the victims of a mass shooting. He told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly: “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” He wants to use the Department of Education to police liberal (but not conservative) bias at colleges and universities (and justified the need for such policing by citing an event that didn’t quite happen the way he claimed).

(Muder provides links for all of those, click through to his post for the full backgrounds. See also this list of Carson’s untrue statements from Kevin Drum.)

One often gets the sense that many of these stranger statements involve Carson repeating misinformation he’s received from elsewhere. He says these things with the attitude of someone accustomed to spending most of his time in a community of misconception where these ideas are generally “known” as common knowledge — things that do not need to be examined or scrutinized because they are simply known and accepted and circulated within that community. That’s part of why Carson often comes across as indignantly startled or defensive when he is challenged to verify any of these claims.

But it’s more than simply that with Ben Carson. He has not been passing along this misinformation as someone who was, himself, innocently deceived. He has consistently gone beyond that, appropriating the details of these claims for himself by adding as embellishment and flourish the claims that he, personally, can assure you of the truth of these claims because their truth has been verified to and by him personally.

Many of the odd things he has said might be widely shared and believed by other members of his primary community of misconception, but when most of those people repeat such misconceptions, they do so without inserting themselves as the supposed source — without staking the credibility of the claim they’re repeating to their own credibility. They’ll tell you that they heard it somewhere or read it somewhere from some scientist or something. Ben Carson will tell you that he spoke to the scientist personally, because he’s someone who regularly does that, routinely dazzling those scientists with his superior intellect and leaving them speechless because he is able to cut through all the nonsense of their supposed expertise.

That’s the red flag. And in Carson’s case it’s particularly egregious because of the common theme and common thread he weaves through his retelling of all these stories. That theme is this: the greatness of Ben Carson. That is the message he is constantly, urgently, desperately trying to convey: Me, me, me.

And that separates Carson from most of the people you’ll hear sharing his misconceptions about evolution, or addiction, or poverty, or whatever else the apparent subject may be. Most of the people passing along urban legends that supposedly disprove evolution do so because they’re trying to convince you not to “believe” in evolution. Carson recasts those legends into something else — stories meant to convince you that he, Ben Carson, is superior to anyone who disagrees with his misconceptions.

If there’s a moment at the crossroads that separates Good Jackie from Bad Jackie, Ben Carson passed that crossroads a long way back. This is a look at the dismal, foolish future that awaits anyone who has decided that they have never entertained any misconceptions and that they can never be wrong.

This is what an untrustworthy person looks like.



04 Nov 15:00

“Remember You’re Not Dead Yet”: Reverse Memento Mori In Western Art

by Mallory Ortberg

Do you know what I am strongly not about? The entire motif of Memento mori in Western art history. You're familiar with the general premise, where supposedly Roman generals being fêted in the streets during a Triumph were followed about by servants whispering "Remember you will die", and then medieval artists picked up the theme and bunged a lot of skulls into their paintings.

Read more “Remember You’re Not Dead Yet”: Reverse Memento Mori In Western Art at The Toast.

04 Nov 19:00

Every Comment On Every Article About Bras Ever

by Mallory Ortberg

It sounds like you're wearing the wrong bra size.

Did you know that 400% of American women are wearing the wrong bra size?

Read more Every Comment On Every Article About Bras Ever at The Toast.

05 Oct 21:07

On Generational Treachery

by Alexandra Molotkow

I'm waiting for Andrew to say "the flute wasn't actually off-key!" or something here, but recordings certainly did have more infelicities then than now, and I do think we're the poorer for it.


I have a very low tolerance for curmudgeons, especially when it comes to music—as I see it, old people who hate young person things are just too exhausted to get with it, and that’s totally fine, and not even the issue. The issue is the belief that your hang-ups are fact.

My tolerance is low because… I was once that person. I was a Dad in my teens and a Grandpa by my 20s. I spurned “today’s music” (even when I loved it) and tucked myself into a Snuggie of irrelevance. At 22, for instance, I believed that sunshine pop was literally the best kind of music. Like, you know the song “Cherish”? I would have told you it was a better song than “Teenage Dream.” (It is a really, really great song.) I only bought psych-pop vinyl and CD reissues. I once made a Facebook post to the effect of, “Once we had the Beatles… now we have DAFT PUNK,” to which a friend replied, What are you talking about? Could you provide one solitary defense of that statement and no, I couldn’t.

The attraction to old music comes, I think, from a desire for retreat. For me, music has always felt most like home, and I want to be alone at home, or alone with the people I choose. Songs from another era put some distance between me and my surroundings, in which I felt vulnerable, as teens do, as curmudgeons do. The past was like Middle Earth, or, I dunno, “The Galaxy.”

I used to think I wasn’t made for these times, that I’d have had a better experience in, say, Yorkville or Haight-Ashbury. That, of course, was totally false. Every era is full of the same jerks and the same sad teens and mean teens with the same insecurities. I would have felt just as alienated at the height of the ’60s, more so because in the ’60s you had to do drugs to fit in. And because the ’60s were a horrible time to be most kinds of person. The Summer of Love might have looked like fun from the aughts, where it was easy to overlook all the casual predators and gang-rapist bikers and the “revolutionaries” who hated women and gays and fetishized people of color while stealing their culture. It was a hot and heavy time to be white, male, and straight, but a predictably difficult one for everyone else.

Also: I was totally made for these times. When you’re young, you’re stuck with people you never choose, and who you don’t necessarily relate to. When you get a little older, if you’re lucky, you find your people, and then you realize there are more of you than you ever knew. You’re part of a cohort, with a set of references and a loose set of values: fluidity, as a general concept, as well as the sense that you can do a lot by yourself, and self-direction, and inclusivity. The music that seems relevant now reflects these values, and “music now”—of course I’m referring to the stuff that gets played on the radio I listen to and shared within my social media feeds—is way better and more interesting than music has been in a century. There’s more invention now, in more abundance, than there ever was. That is my opinion.

I say that, but I still love Steely Dan. There are hallmarks of old music that I sometimes miss in modern stuff. Someone once pointed out to me that the flute solo in “California Dreaming” is off-key. I love that! To me it’s evidence of character, not a flaw for its own sake, but a flaw in spite of someone’s best efforts, which is human—not a flaw, really, but a dimple. I have a hard time with high-gloss production—I just prefer a sound that’s a little more intimate, where you can hear the strings of Jorge Ben’s guitar or the wail in his voice. I catch on the off notes and when I pine for Michael Jackson or Laura Nyro, it’s for the spectacle of THIS PERSON WHO IS JUST A PERSON CAN DO THAT, HOLY SHIT.

Not that you can’t get that from Beyonce, or Bjork, or FKA twigs, all of whom I love, even when I’m listening to Todd Rundgren or George Duke. It’s just a matter of taste, which still feels like a retreat of sorts, the way an apartment does—it’s no better than anyone else’s, but it happens to be mine. A favorite coat might be a better analogy: it’s meant to keep me warm, but I want it to look just like mine, alongside yours. My hang-ups are ideally just dimples.

03 Nov 19:00

Desserts I Have Been Horrified By On “The Great British Bake-Off”

by Mallory Ortberg
02 Nov 17:00

Children’s Stories Made Horrific: Curious George

by Mallory Ortberg

This is George.
He lived in the forest.
He was very happy.
But he had one fault. He was too curious.
Now he is not happy. Now he has many faults.
What is your fault?
What will make you unhappy?

Read more Children’s Stories Made Horrific: Curious George at The Toast.

01 Nov 18:08

Degrees of spiciness

by Victor Mair

Tim Leonard sent in the following photograph of a Korean restaurant sign:

I present the transcription and translation of the sign in two slightly different versions:


ttekpokki yoli cenmwuncem 뗙볶이 요리 전문점
("stir-fried rice cake specialty store")

ttekpokki maywun leypeyl 떡볶이 매운 레벨
("stir-fried rice cake — the level of spiciness")

Level 1 haswu 하 수 (下手)*
("an unskilled player; a low-grade player")

Level 2 phyengmin 평민 (平民)
("a commoner")

Level 3 cwungswu 중수 (中手)
("a mid-grade player")

Level 4 koswu 고수 (高手)
("mastery/ a master, a high-grade player")

Level 5 cicon 지존 (至尊)
("the most revered")

Level 6 choin 초인 (超人)
("a superman, Übermensch")

Level 7 kep 겁 (劫)
("a kalpa, eternity")

*hanja (Chinese characters) added


Korean Romanization McCune-Reischauer Romanization Hanja English translation
1 hasu hasu 下手 ‘unskilled’ (as used in games, martial arts)
2 pyeongmin p'yŏngmin 平民 ‘commoner’
3 jungsu chungsu 中手 ‘middle ranking (player)’
(a neologism, not commonly used, but clear in comparison with 1 and 4)
4 gosu kosu 高手 ‘master’
5 jijon chijon 至尊 ‘most revered’
6 choin ch'o in 超人 ‘super-human’
7 geop kŏp ‘terror’**
(the only grade not referring to a person)

떡 볶 이 요리 전문점
(Korean Romanization) tteokbokki yori jeonmunjeom
(M-R) ttŏkpokki yori chŏnmunjŏm

떡 볶 이 매운 레벨
(Korean Romanization) tteokbokki maeun lebel
(M-R) ttŏkpokki maeun lepel

**This literally means "scary", but as a slang term it seems to imply "extraordinary" or extreme".

I'm afraid that I would fall somewhere between level 1 and level 2, and if I tried level 7 I would end up in the eternal hereafter.

For Koreans, though, it seems that such specialized small restaurants for spicy rice cakes are popular among young people these days, and one explanation is because they are looking for something that can reduce or release their stress, which in this case is achieved by eating spicy food.

[Thanks to Haewon Cho, Sung Shin Kim, and Daniel Sou]

28 Oct 13:38

Maybe Republicans Really Are In Disarray

by Nate Silver

As many of you have probably noticed, we’re suspicious of overarching political “narratives” here at FiveThirtyEight. Oftentimes, they’re applied prematurely to explain short-term fluctuations in the polls that prove irrelevant in the end.34 And even when narratives avoid this problem, they tend to be ad hoc, introduced after the fact to describe results rather than predicting them in advance.

Which narratives deserve more credit? We’re inclined to give more attention to theories of the 2016 campaign that (in the manner of testable scientific hypotheses) were proposed before it began. And we give more credence to narratives that rely on evidence other than polls,35 since polls just aren’t very predictive of much at this stage of the campaign.

Here’s one narrative that passes these tests. You might or might not agree with it, but it deserves a hearing. I was reminded of it the other day when reading an interview with the political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, who have written extensively about it. The theory is that Republicans are a broken, dysfunctional political party — that the GOP is in disarray, in other words.

This idea has a little bit of tenure, having been introduced by Mann and Ornstein several years ago. And it can conjure plenty of evidence other than polls. For instance:

  • The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, recently resigned under pressure from a dissident group of Republicans, the House Freedom Caucus.
  • Under Republican leadership, the House entered into an unpopular government shutdown and only narrowly avoided a crisis over raising the debt ceiling.
  • The 112th and 113th congresses were among the least productive ever as measured by the amount of legislation passed, with filibusters and other parliamentary tactics used frequently.
  • Statistical measurements of voting in Congress like DW-Nominate find that Republicans are, on average, more conservative than at any point in the modern era. Democrats in Congress have also become more liberal, especially in the past few years, but the polarization is asymmetric (Republicans have moved to the right more than Democrats have moved to the left).
  • Nonetheless, there are also high levels of disagreement among Republicans in Congress. Because Congress is highly partisan, Republicans may be largely united when voting against Democrats, but this conceals profound differences among Republicans about tactics, strategy and policy objectives.
  • In 2010, 2012 and 2014, Republican incumbents such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana were ousted in primary challenges. Meanwhile, “outsider” candidates such as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Ken Buck in Colorado won the Republican nomination in key open-seat Senate races, possibly costing the GOP several Senate seats.
  • Although establishment-backed candidates eventually won, Republicans were relatively slow to settle on presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 as compared with previous years. The 2012 campaign featured several surges for candidates like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich who were openly opposed by the party establishment.
  • Republicans are apparently having trouble choosing their 2016 nominee as well, not just as measured by the polls, but also according to other measures of support like fundraising and endorsements.

That seems like a coherent story. But before you get too comfortable with it, consider the following rebuttals.

The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, recently resigned under pressure from a dissident group of Republicans, the House Freedom Caucus.

Boehner may have resigned his speakership, but he served for a reasonably long time and was reasonably effectual at the job. Furthermore, after all the drama, the new speaker will probably wind up being Paul Ryan — who has plenty of establishment backing and who got the Freedom Caucus to accede to several of his conditions.

Under Republican leadership, the House entered into an unpopular government shutdown and only narrowly avoided a crisis over raising the debt ceiling.

The government shutdown was short-lived and probably did not cause substantial long-term damage to the GOP. And while the fights over the debt ceiling may have been scary, it’s not clear how close we actually came to breaching it — tense negotiations often involve brinksmanship.

The 112th and 113th congresses were among the least productive ever as measured by the amount of legislation passed, with filibusters and other parliamentary tactics used frequently.

This could just as easily result from plain ol’ partisanship and divided government — Democrats were in charge of the White House and (until this year) the Senate.

Statistical measurements of voting in Congress like DW-Nominate find that Republicans in Congress are, on average, more conservative than at any point in the modern era.

This data doesn’t necessarily prove that Republicans are dysfunctional. Instead, it just suggests they’ve become more conservative. A party can be extremely conservative (or extremely liberal) but also highly organized.

There are high levels of disagreement among Republicans in Congress.

Perhaps, but these intramural debates may be largely irrelevant. The GOP does not have much ability to affect policy so long as Democrats control the White House, and their behavior might change were they to win the presidency again. Republicans were reasonably unified when they last had unilateral control of government under George W. Bush.

In 2010, 2012 and 2014, Republican incumbents such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana were ousted in primary challenges. Meanwhile, “outsider” candidates like Christine O’Donnell and Ken Buck won the Republican nomination in key open-seat races, possibly costing the GOP several seats in the Senate.

Some incumbents lost — but the vast majority survived. And it’s hard to argue that the tea party was all that damaging to Republicans given that the GOP had historically great midterm results in both 2010 and 2014. Overall, Republicans are doing quite well electorally, with the obvious and important exception of the presidency.

Although establishment-backed candidates eventually won, Republicans were relatively slow to settle on presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 as compared with previous years.

These elections seem par for the course: John McCain and Mitt Romney wrapped up their respective nominations by Super Tuesday or shortly thereafter, which is about average for past nomination races. Also, the “Party Decides” theory of presidential primaries favored by political scientists (we like it too) is mostly focused on the end result of the nomination process. It predicts that candidates must have some establishment backing to win their nominations in the end; it doesn’t have that much to say about the path they take to get there.

Republicans are apparently having trouble choosing their 2016 nominee as well.

Emphasis on “apparently”; it’s still early. Almost every nomination race seems dramatic in real time. Almost every time, people advance convincing-seeming arguments about how “this time is different” and how past rules should be thrown out. And yet, almost every time, a fairly conventional candidate wins the nomination in the end.

So then, the “Republicans in Disarray!” theory has been debunked? No, not really; I just wanted to present both sides of the case. (Welcome to FiveThirtyEight, the site where we argue against ourselves.) Grand theories of politics are hard to prove definitively given the paucity of actual election results (just one data point every two or four years, depending on how you’re counting). The “Republicans in Disarray!” argument is credible, and pretty convincing when applied to Congress. But it’s not dispositive. Even if you buy it, you also have to decide where the theory applies; what effect it has on presidential primaries (as opposed to congressional elections) or on election outcomes (as opposed to governance once a candidate is elected to office) is hard to say.

But there is one dynamic of the 2016 GOP presidential primary that lends credence to the “Republicans in Disarray!” case. Under the “Party Decides” theory, which presumes reasonably arrayed parties, the most important proxy for party support is endorsements. And so far, Republicans lawmakers aren’t endorsing much of anyone.

Take our endorsement tracker. It finds that Republican lawmakers are issuing endorsements at their slowest pace ever.36 We’re at a time in the campaign when the rate of endorsements ordinarily accelerates — but Jeb Bush, the putative leader in endorsements, has received just two since Labor Day. There have been just three endorsements for any Republican candidate in the past two weeks (all three were for Marco Rubio). Hillary Clinton has roughly twice as many endorsements as the entire GOP field put together.

It may be revealing to break the endorsement data down by the ideology of the endorsers, as measured by DW-Nominate. In the chart below, I’ve split the 301 current Republican members of Congress (both senators and representatives) into three groups: the most moderate 100 members, the most conservative 100 members, and the 101 in between.


Among the most moderate Republicans in Congress, it’s mostly business as usual. The pace of endorsements is sluggish (about two-thirds of these relatively moderate Republicans haven’t endorsed anyone yet) but largely in line with past elections, including 2012 and 2008. Jeb Bush is the clear front-runner with this group, with 16 percent of the endorsements from moderate Republicans in Congress; Chris Christie is in second place, with 5 percent.

A decade or two ago, the majority of Republicans in Congress would have fit into what we’re now calling the “moderate” group.37 But now, the center of gravity has shifted. And the 101 Republicans near the median of the party have had much more trouble reaching consensus. About 80 percent of them have yet to issue any endorsement. And no candidate (Bush and Rubio are nominally tied for first place) has received more than 5 percent of their support.

Look toward the most conservative 100 Republicans, and there are even more signs of disarray. As with the previous group, about 80 percent of them haven’t endorsed anyone yet. But among those who have endorsed, the leading choices are Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, two candidates who spend a lot of their time poking a finger in the eye of the Republican establishment.

Looking at these endorsements, the Republican Party appears to be disarrayed, or at least not as arrayed as it usually is. Most elected officials haven’t yet picked a candidate, and there’s substantial disagreement among those who have.

So then: President Trump? Well, probably not. Trump (and Ben Carson) has a lot of problems other than lack of support from the Republican establishment. And even if the Republican Party is too weak to easily reach consensus on a candidate, it may nevertheless be strong enough to veto an unacceptable nominee from being chosen. (Trump has little support even among the Freedom Caucus.)

But someone like Ted Cruz could be a more plausible nominee than under ordinary circumstances. And even if the establishment “wins” and gets its preferred nominee, that process might take longer than normal, possibly including a race that’s undecided after the final primary and caucus states vote in June.

Republicans have had a lot of close calls in recent years. Events such as the debt ceiling debate and the speakership transition looked like potential crises, but cooler heads prevailed in the end. Close calls, however, are usually a sign of being accident-prone. The risk of an “accident” is higher than usual.

Check out our live coverage of the Republican Presidential debate.

29 Oct 14:53

A new non-heteronormativity in couples Halloween costumes

by Lisa Wade, PhD

In 2012, I wrote about the heteronormativity in the couples Halloween costume category at Party City. Now, it’s 2015 and Party City has changed.

I counted all 103 costume sets, dividing them into whether they featured a heterosexual couple, a man-man couple, a woman-woman couple, or were ambiguous. Among them, 74 were aimed at heterosexuals, 12 were for men with men, and 3 were for women with women.

3 5

It might be too strong to say that the heteronormativity is gone. There are still more man-woman couples represented than man-man or woman-woman couples, but they’re very centrally there.

This makes people in similar-sex couples more visible. It also has the interesting effect of making some costumes not-so-obviously heterosexual anymore, like the bears or the Ghostbuster costumes. I counted 14 that were at least a little ambiguous as to whether they were intended for a similar-sex or other-sex couple.



Party City is not doing anything overly clever. Clearly they’re just looking for costumes they already have and putting them in combinations that might sell. And they could do a better job about thinking up woman-woman sets. But, there they are. And that’s a real change.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

(View original at

29 Oct 18:00

Things I Have Yelled At My Television, Which Cannot Hear Me, While Watching The Time In Between

by Mallory Ortberg


Read more Things I Have Yelled At My Television, Which Cannot Hear Me, While Watching The Time In Between at The Toast.

30 Oct 14:31

“Man” vs. “girl,” Halloween edition

by Lisa Wade, PhD

The practice of pairing the word “men” (which refers to adults) with “girls” (which does not) reinforces a gender hierarchy by mapping it onto age.  Jason S. discovered an example of this tendency at Halloween Adventure (East Village, NYC) and snapped a picture to send in:


Sara P. found another example, this time from iparty.  The flyer puts a girl and a boy side-by-side in police officer costumes.  The boy’s is labeled “policeman” and the girl’s is labeled “police girl.”


This type of language often goes unnoticed, but it sends a ubiquitous gender message about how seriously we should take men and women.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

(View original at

27 Oct 16:25

Invisible dancing after an invisible famine

by Fred Clark

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.”

That’s Luke 15:25, smack dab in the middle of the wonderful, famous parable we call “The Prodigal Son.” So I must have read that verse dozens of times while growing up in our fundamentalist Baptist church and attending our private Christian school. And I must have heard it read out loud by others dozens of times more.

But in all that time I somehow never noticed that “music and dancing.” And I never thought about what it meant to hear that story read from the very same pulpits and platforms where I regularly heard pious warnings condemning music and dancing. (Not condemning all music, of course — only the sort of music that might make anybody want to dance.)

If you’d asked me about that at the time, I likely would’ve just been confused. I didn’t recall any music or dancing in that story, so if you’d asked me about it, I probably would’ve just assumed those were a part of the prodigal son’s prodigality — the sinful, wicked things he squandered his fortune on while living sinfully and wickedly among the sinful, wicked outsiders.

And that’s not all I would have missed in that story back then. I also don’t remember ever noticing the famine.

“When you have read the Parable of the Prodigal Son did you hear the part about the famine?” Scot McKnight asked recently. He was discussing Mark Allan Powell’s book What Do They Hear? Powell is a New Testament professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, but he’s taught students from all over the world and he’s studied the way students from different backgrounds hear the Bible differently.

McKnight summarizes what Powell found when it came to the story of the Prodigal Son:

Mark examines how some of his American students, how some of his Russian students, and how some of his Tanzanian students all hear the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Here’s a result:

· Americans 100% of them heard the part about the son squandering his money.
· Americans 6% observed that there was a famine.
· Russians 34% mentioned the squandering while 84% heard the part about the famine.

That’s interesting. Here’s that part of the story from Luke 15:

The younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

The students from Tanzania tended to notice what the American students almost entirely overlooked — that the story cites a famine as the cause of the son’s desperate need, and the way the wicked people of the distant land exploited his desperation instead of helping him.

The famine in this story turns out to be almost invisible to white American readers. We read this story and glide right past that vital detail without it ever registering.

We are, in other words, not really reading the story at all. We’re reading the story we expect — and that’s not the same thing as the story that Luke says Jesus actually told.

We’re reading the story the way we’ve been trained and habituated to read it. Just look at that name we give it again — the Prodigal Son. We’ve given it a title that says the son’s squandering and “dissolute living” is the main and essential point of his character and of the plot here. That further conditions us not to see what it’s actually saying.


The logo of a former Chicago bar illustrates how we usually picture the “Prodigal Son” squandering his inheritance through dissolute living. But this could just as easily be a picture from the END of that story — where the son returns home and there is music and dancing and dissolute feasting galore.

Emphasizing the younger son’s prodigality and ignoring the famine and the fact that no one helped him is also, of course, a self-serving reading of this parable — or, at least, a self-reassuring reading. It carries all the fear-turned-to-self-congratulation of white American Christianity’s just-world fallacy. That starts with the fear of destitution and calamity, staved off with the reassuring hope that such things can be avoided by diligence and moral rectitude. That curdles into the notion that those facing destitution and/or calamity must therefore be lacking in diligence and moral rectitude — that they must, somehow, deserve their poverty and deprivation. To think otherwise would be to allow that fear to return in greater strength. This victim-blaming notion of deserved destitution, in turn, reinforces the reassuring idea that we must, somehow, be exemplary creatures with superior diligence and moral rectitude.

Alas, no matter how pleasant it may be to tell ourselves that we have nothing to be afraid of because we’re apparently better than everyone else, such reassurance is never wholly convincing. Particularly since this same just-world fallacy turns us into precisely the sort of people who would refuse to help the desperate immigrant we’ve hired to slop our pigs for starvation wages. And all of that only serves to continue feeding the same anxieties and fears that started this whole cycle to begin with.

So it’s not just this parable that gets distorted and deformed by our selective white American perspective. Wherever it is we’re looking, when we see people in desperate need, we always overemphasize the squandering and we always ignore the famine.