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13 Apr 17:50

A Texas Man Was Fined $266 For Riding His Horse To Taco Bell

by dguproxx


A woman leaves a Taco Bell restaurant June 14, 2002 where "dirty" bomb suspect Jose Padilla worked for two years in Davie, Florida.

Getty Image

Texas man Rick Braun was fined $266 for riding his horse to Taco Bell.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. Texas man Rick Braun was actually fined $266 for riding his horse “on a public sidewalk” or “within any portion of the street or right-of-way of a heavily traveled street,” as outlined in Allen, Texas city code Chapter 3-18F. The fact that he was going to Taco Bell is technically irrelevant. It’s not like there’s a specific provision outlawing riding your horse just to Taco Bell, even though it’s super fun to imagine a world where that particular act became such a problem that the city council was forced to step in to do something about it. So that’s kind of a let down.

On the bright side, the story did give us this wonderful three paragraph chunk of local news gold. From WFAA:

“It’s horse country!” he said. “Everywhere you go, there’s horses everywhere.”

But that argument didn’t register with Allen authorities after he and friends rode into that city from Lucas two weeks ago. They had stopped over at a Taco Bell on Stacy Road. Braun said he’s been going there by horse for years, often two to three nights a week.

Allen police spokesman Jon Felty said officers had warned Braun repeatedly. “We’ve asked them, please don’t do this,” he said.

Awful lot going on there. And the plot gets even thicker: The Taco Bell in question is seven miles away. He’s been riding his horse seven miles — both ways — to Taco Bell, multiple nights a week, “for years.” That might actually be the real story here.

(Via Eater)

13 Apr 17:35

OH SNAP: The Internet Reacted With Zest To Gwyneth Paltrow Taking The ‘Food Stamp Challenge’

by ludditeandroid

She'll never live like common people.

Premiere Of Lionsgate's "Mortdecai" - Arrivals

Getty Image

Strap in. Gwyneth Paltrow decided to continue being Gwyneth Paltrow this week, and the internet was none too pleased about it.

So, what’s got the internet whooped up in anti-Goop fervor this time? Not anything to do with steaming lady bits or Rollergirl casting. This time she accepted the The Food Bank for New York City’s challenge to live on a $29 per person weekly budget similar to some people relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The challenge came about after two cuts to food stamp programs since 2013. So what did Paltrow buy with her $29 this week? Taco Bell and sweatpants? No. This.

This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week.
Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) April 09, 2015

Yes, that’s the food for one week, and we’re sure it’s all she’ll eat. She definitely won’t reach for something else when all that’s left after a few days is a handful of cilantro and four limes. Should’ve bought white rice, pinto beans, hot sauce, carrots, and potatoes instead of the brown rice, black beans, cilantro, an avocado, and limes. Way to go, Paltrow. Now you’re STARVING, and there’s nothing you could possibly do about it.

By the way, her follow-up tweet said, “We’re walking in their shoes to see how far we get.”

She’ll never live like common people.

Okay, but it is for a good cause, and trying to replicate a low-cost budget to be more price-conscious isn’t a bad thing to try, but, man, did that “walking in their shoes” and SEVEN LIMES business hit me the wrong way. And I wasn’t the only one.

Twitter was its usual wharrgarbl of spite and sarcasm in response to Paltrow’s tweet, so we’ve collected some of our favorite jokes here. We left out the eleventy bajillion comments about the s in SNAP standing for “supplemental” (HURR DURR thanks never heard that before) and the ones cussing her out for being Gwyneth Paltrow (pretty sure those are just the standard reaction to all of her tweets, not this specific food stamp challenge one).

First, there were the people commenting on the most obvious first impression: SEVEN LIMES?

@GwynethPaltrow @moorehn why would anyone buy 7 limes when on a budget?

— Daryl Tremblay (@DarylT) April 9, 2015

@GwynethPaltrow not that you're wrong, but you you had $29 and you bought SEVEN FUCKING LIMES? Lemme teach you how to shop and cook, kid.

— Marc J. Randazza (@marcorandazza) April 11, 2015

@GwynethPaltrow So do you, like, just causally eat limes during the week? Or is there a case of Corona I'm not seeing?

— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) April 11, 2015

@KateRolleston @GwynethPaltrow Aw come on. Who doesn't eat 7 limes, an avocado and a bunch of cilantro every week? #PaltrowSurvivalSecrets

— J.Zo (@thezordaj) April 11, 2015

@redsoutrage @BecketAdams @GwynethPaltrow you haven't lived until you've had a lime omelet.

— james hotaling (@bklyncook) April 11, 2015


Which spiraled into general comments and jokes about the whole spread.

@dstfelix ah yes organic soy beans and whole grain rice . . .she really nails american poverty

— nellie (not furtado) (@NellieGayle) April 9, 2015

@chrisanddale @GwynethPaltrow garlic, parsley, avocado…just the essentials.

— L (@OrwellForks) April 11, 2015

@geekylonglegs @dstfelix @GwynethPaltrow lmao @ family tomato

— Safy (@SafyHallanFarah) April 9, 2015

@GwynethPaltrow You bought the stupidest ingredients. You're gonna die in 6 days

— Petrit Husenaj (@PetritHusenaj) April 10, 2015


Some offered new baby names to rival Apple and Moses.

@wutangcher @SafyHallanFarah @geekylonglegs @GwynethPaltrow she might name her next child guacamole the way she's set up

— Deaux (@dstfelix) April 9, 2015

09 Apr 20:30

Icky '101 Things Black & Latina Girls Should Know' Sign Rankles Teens 

by Kelly Faircloth

Dear Denver,
Bro. You are far from what we might call a "subject matter expert" here. Let's stick to tips on things like tennis and crappuccinos

Encouraging high schoolers isn’t the easiest job in the world. But, rule of thumb, papering the school with lists of what “Black and Latina Girls Should Know” and including things like “wearing too much makeup looks like a clown” likely won’t go over so well.


09 Apr 03:30

This Guy Got Away With The Absolute Best Name On His Student ID

by Mark Shrayber
Jafar's student ID


A Redditor who went to Langstaff Secondary School (in Canada) during the 2009-2010 school year showed just how well he followed the school’s motto — “maturity through responsibility”  — by posting his 11th grade student ID, which he probably hid for the last five years to escape any retribution. But now that the statute of limitations is up, he’s showing the world how clever he was (the answer: very clever). The best part of the ID? How specific it is. It’s not just ‘Jaffar,’ it’s ‘Jaffar from Aladdin,’ and not from any of the sequels. Points for style, if not for spelling.

According to the poster, the school had blank name tickets for students who’d lost their official ones, so he just grabbed a blank, put down JAFFAR FROMALADDIN as his given name and then reaped the rewards for an entire year. He says the teachers thought it was hilarious. And although he doesn’t mention if he also automatically became a school legend, a prank like that must have only been the beginning, right?

(Via Reddit)

06 Apr 22:12

Medical examiner rules death of woman found in trunk ‘undetermined’

by Tristan Hallman


Lisa Byrd-New Andrews

Lisa Byrd-New Andrews

Dallas County coroners still don’t know what killed a woman whose body they found in her car … [visit site to read more]

06 Apr 20:10

Why Is Walmart Hiding Copies of Ronda Rousey's Book From Customers? 

by Anna Merlan

actually puzzled.

This is a weird choice: Walmart will reportedly sell copies of MMA fighter Ronda Rousey’s autobiography, but they won’t display them in the store. Customers can only buy the book from a Walmart if they order it online and then pick it up at the store. A report from the New York Post claims it’s because the book is “too violent.”


06 Apr 20:30

Excuse Me, Is This Your Unruly Goat? 

by Kelly Faircloth


Have you misplaced a goat? If so, the police department of Paramus, New Jersey would like a word.


31 Mar 18:57

Suspect in illegal buttocks injection case was arrested on same charge in 2010

by Naomi Martin

Well, I was unsatisfied with the general lack of sumptuousness in my butt. So like any thinking person, I turned to Denise “Wee Wee” Ross

Denise "Wee Wee" Ross

Denise “Wee Wee” Ross

Update at 5:48 p.m.:

A Dallas woman arrested on a charge of … [visit site to read more]

30 Mar 21:16

Dallas police looking for man who keeps breaking into same downtown Dallas sub shop

by Robert Wilonsky

Let's just say, he won't be going to trial on this one.

Dallas police hope you can recognize the man who keeps breaking into a downtown Dallas sandwich shop.

Police say the Lenny’s Sub Shop at 1300 Jackson St. has been hit four … [visit site to read more]

02 Apr 02:45

Snoop Dogg Posted A Photo To Instagram That Got A Texas Police Officer In Trouble

by rmjoseph23

This is dehumanizing bullshit

Snoop Dogg - SXSW Keynote - 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festivale

Getty Image

Snoop Dogg spent last month’s South by Southwest festival by giving the keynote address to attendees, reminiscing, among other things, about that time he flew to Amsterdam to meet country icon Willie Nelson.

He also took time to take (what appeared to be) a harmless picture with a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper named Billy Spears, which he uploaded to his Instagram:

Instagram Photo


That post has now gotten Spears into trouble. According to the Dallas Morning-News, Spears has been ordered to receive counseling for posing with the Doggfather:

DPS officials saw the posting and cited Spears for deficiencies that require counseling for posing with a known criminal.

Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg, has been convicted several times of drug possession. In 1993, he faced a murder charge when his bodyguard shot and killed a rival gang member. Snoop Dogg and the bodyguard eventually were acquitted of the charge.

The paper then cites the Department’s detailed reasoning behind reprimanding the trooper:

“The public figure posted the photo on social media and it reflects poorly on the Agency.”

While this all seems innocuous, Spears’ attorney Ty Clevenger is calling attention to the issue because Spears cannot appeal since it wasn’t a formal disciplinary action. In a detailed blog post, Clevenger reveals what could be behind the punishment. He not only questions the DPS’ motives based on race (“Would the DPS hiearchy get so bent out of shape about a picture with Willie Nelson?”), but he also points to a previous incident in which Spears was involved with a fellow trooper:

[T]he disciplinary counseling appears to be the latest act of retaliation against Billy since he reported misconduct by an officer from another agency last year.

According to multiple witnesses, Sgt. Marcus Stokke of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission detained Billy without probable cause while Billy was off duty. It appears that Sgt. Stokke thought Billy disrespected him in public (a charge disputed by Billy and other witnesses), but then “disrespecting the po-po” is not supposed to be a crime in this country.

Currently, the DPS sticks by its punishment, while Snoop hasn’t issued a statement.

(H/T The A.V. Club)

02 Apr 04:46

The New Google Chromebit Turns Your TV Into A Working Chromebook

by Ryan Harkness


Google really wants to get it on with your television. They’ve been aggressively pushing their Chromecast device at super low prices for over a year, and now they’ve partnered with ASUS to produce the Chromebit, a dongle that plugs into your TV and effectively turns it into a Chromebook:

It’s portable, cute, comes in three attractive colors, and has a super-smart swivel on the business end so you can plug it into practically any HDMI socket without needing an extension cable. (If you ask me, all dongles should feature that.)

In addition to your Rockchip RK3288 (with quad-core Mali 760 graphics) you get 2GB of RAM, 16GB of solid state storage, 2×2 dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a single full-size USB 2.0 port on one end. It won’t be the most powerful PC you could plug into a TV, but it shouldn’t be too bad for the browser-based OS. Google also expects it to make quite a splash with small businesses and third-world countries due to price and easy manageability.

Google isn’t the first or only company that’s getting into the ‘computer in an HDMI stick’ game, but they do differentiate themselves by running their device on the fast and reliable Chrome OS. Trying to go full desktop on televisions has never really taken off – perhaps the Chromebit will simplify things to a point where it becomes the default choice for people pissed off at how stupid their Smart TV software tends to be.

The ASUS Chromebit is set to debut this summer at a retail cost of under 100 dollars.

[Via Gizmodo]

02 Apr 14:30

Rob Corddry Is Pretty Sure His Daughter Is A Witch

by Aaron

Rob Corddry stopped by Conan last night to promote the new season of Children’s Hospital, and the conversation became about his children for a hot minute. Corddry admitted to Conan that he’s pretty sure his daughter — who might be 8 years old, someone check on that — is possibly a witch.

Sure, she may indeed be channeling crystal vortex energies and attending 2 a.m. Pagan rituals in the forest, but as long as she’s getting good grades, Corddry doesn’t mind. Hell, she could be dealing cocaine out there in the woods for all he cares!

That witch cocaine is a hell of a drug.

(Source: Team Coco)

31 Mar 12:00

Stop Working On Your Days Off

by Eric Ravenscraft

If it's on the INTERNET...

Days off are as precious as they are rare. It should be surprising, then, that so many of us throw them away so quickly by using them to catch up on yet more work. Cut it out.


31 Mar 04:30

d3dk0w: awwww-cute: I have to use a decoy keyboard to get any...



I have to use a decoy keyboard to get any work done


31 Mar 01:30

The Residents Of An Ohio Retirement Home Stripped Down For Charity

by Courtney Enlow

I find this unbearably adorable.

Pleasant Pointe Calendar

Fox 8

Remember that movie Calendar Girls where Helen Mirren and other older women got naked for a calendar? This is like that, but 20 or more years older and no Helen Mirren. Residents at Pleasant Pointe assisted living facility in Barberton, Ohio (more like Babe-erton, amirite?) posed for the calendar to raise money for the local Kiwanis club’s Esther Ryan Shoe Fund, donating shoes to area school children. And the models were very excited to be photographed in the all-together.

“The residents were very excited to be a part of this calendar,” said spokesperson Michelle Clapper.
As is apparent when looking at the pictures, Clapper said the sharp-minded men and women are a fun-loving bunch who were eager to participate.

“That morning of the shoot … the residents were like 20-year-olds — giggling, and having the time of their lives. I do not believe the elderly should just sit around staring at each other. I want a fun environment where I challenge them and they challenge me,” said Pleasant Pointe administrator Teresa Morris. “I love supporting their independence and will go above and beyond for each of them.”

Even Grandma and Grandpa aren’t afraid to get sexy for a good cause.

Sources: Akron Beacon Journal, Fox 8

30 Mar 22:30

New Hampshire May Revive Bill They Happily Destroyed in Front of Kids

by Anna Merlan

Oh, you saw that?! Damn.

A New Hampshire politician is trying to revive a bill that his colleagues merrily beat to death in front of the schoolchildren who authored it. State Senator Jeff Woodburn says the bill, written by fourth graders to make the red-tailed hawk the new state raptor, shouldn't have turned into a messy beatdown invoking both hot dogs and abortion. You don't say?


26 Mar 18:31

Charles Bukowski’s Unpublished Cat Literature Can Be Yours In October

“If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live 10 times longer than if you have 10,” wrote Charles Bukowski. “Someday… Read More

26 Mar 18:35

Watch Run The Jewels’ New Video For ‘Close Your Eyes’ With Zack De La Rocha

by tsscrew

Words By Aspektz

Run The Jewels’ new flick for “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F***)” might be one the most important, poignant videos of the decade. Killer Mike, El-P and Zack De La Rocha don’t show their faces for most of it but the visuals illustrate their thoughts quite well. Directed by AG Rojas, this emotional roller coaster provides an unspoken narrative on law enforcement. Plus its subject matter’s prime for dissection as soon as the play button puts it in motion.

Mike and El are evidently mindful of authorities clashing with communities they’re supposed to protect. Their brand of edutainment here shows they have more to offer beyond rapping for sport. So RTJ’s aim, with the help of an anti-establishment legend like De La Rocha, could mold plenty of young minds to force positive change.

However, the same peace MLK demands on his porch and the same calm Obama requests in Ferguson seems hard to command with this track hitting thousands of impressionable ears. One thing remains true to this day from the civil rights movement – the rear-view is always clearer than the windshield.

The stage is yours, gentleman – run it.

25 Mar 19:39

Perfection: Steven Spielberg to Direct Ready Player One Adaptation - Well Wheat-done, Warner Bros.

by Carolyn Cox

ReadyPlayerOne RD 1 finals 2
Good news, nerds! The long-anticipated Warner Bros. adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One just got a big-name director (and no, it’s not Christopher Nolan).

According to Deadline, Steven Spielberg will helm the Zak Penn-scripted project, returning to Warner Bros. for the first time since 2001′s A.I.

Considering that The Goonies is one of Ready Player One‘s biggest influences, Spielberg actually seems like the perfect choice to direct the adaptation (although it’s hard to think of another project more suited for Edgar Wright).

What say you, friends?

Are you following The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google +?

23 Mar 15:40

This Houston Texans Cheerleader Thinks She Could Beat Ronda Rousey

by Jessica Hudnall

Please fight. And sweet Jesus, please win. That would brighten my entire week.

It looks like we’ve got another person throwing their hat into the “call out Ronda Rousey” sweepstakes. This time, it’s Houston Texans cheerleader Antonieta Osuna.

Instagram Photo

She’s not just a cheerleader, though. Osuna, who also goes by “Miss Boxer,” is a former amateur boxer, having won a Texas state title back in 2005.

Instagram Photo

Osuna recently spoke with TMZ Sports and said she wouldn’t be afraid to step into the ring with Rousey, and she even offered insight into her game plan:

“If I can give her hooks and jabs and prevent her from taking me down, it’s possible that I could get her.”

My advice to Antonieta is pretty simple: Do not fight Ronda Rousey. It’s probably really hard to be a good cheerleader without use of both arms. If the fight does go down, my other advice is to not throw a flying knee at Ronda one second into the fight.

Maybe Osuna will fight Rousey on the same card as Chandler Jones fighting his brother Jon. Make a whole NFL versus UFC event!

20 Mar 16:12

Latin America Is Quitting Smoking, And Africa Is Taking It Up

by Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Over the past decade, Panama has adopted some of the strictest smoking laws in the world. In 2008, the country banned smoking in nearly all public spaces, indoor and out, as well as all workplaces and sports venues. That same year, it became the first country in the Americas to ban all advertising, promotion or sponsorship of tobacco products. It also requires 60 percent of tobacco packaging to be covered with health warnings.

These efforts helped Panama become the No. 1 nation at cutting smoking prevalence over the past 15 years, bringing the estimated number of smokers down to 191,200 this year, according to a World Health Organization report released Wednesday. The report details estimated smoking prevalence by country every five years starting in 2000, with projections through 2025.8 To figure out which countries had seen the biggest improvements, I calculated the percentage change in smoking prevalence from 2000 to 2015. Panama topped the list, with a 57 percent decline. I also calculated the percentage change projected from 2015 to 2025.

India, though it has more than 101 million smokers, now has 37 million fewer than it did 15 years ago, the largest drop in number of any country (India had the sixth-largest percentage decline in smoking prevalence).

Among the 26 countries that have seen an increase in smoking over the past 15 years, 16 are low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The biggest increase in smoking is in the Republic of Congo, where the WHO estimates that smoking prevalence jumped from nearly 6 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2015 and expects that number to climb all the way to 47 percent by 2025. Cameroon, Bahrain and Niger also saw increases of more than 100 percent over the past 15 years.

In East Asia, Indonesia is the only country to see an increase (though given its population, that increase is equal to nearly 30 million people), while in the Americas, Haiti was the lone country with an increase in smoking prevalence.

The 10 countries with the biggest decreases in smoking prevalence span continents and GDPs. Iceland and Norway, wealthy countries with strong public health systems, are second and third for biggest declines in prevalence, while Myanmar comes in fourth. While the WHO projections show Myanmar continuing on a downward trajectory, some inside the country are worried that a recent lift in sanctions is ushering in Big Tobacco.

Meanwhile in Uruguay, which holds fifth place, smoking prevalence dropped by nearly 50 percent over the past 15 years and is expected to decrease to just more than 14 percent by 2025. But the South American nation of 2.7 million is currently embroiled in a battle with Philip Morris, which claims that legislation requiring 80 percent of cigarette packs to be covered with health warnings is devaluing its “legally-protected trademark and brand.”

Uruguay has been getting help from the foundation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pay for legal fees in the lawsuit. And soon it may not be the only one; Bloomberg and Bill Gates announced a $4 million fund Wednesday to help developing countries fend off legal challenges from tobacco companies.

20 Mar 18:10

Autism-Busting Paleo Book for Babies Pulled Because It Will Kill Them

by Mark Shrayber

People's Opinions! About Science!

Here's some news that might come as a big surprise to you: A baby cookboo called Bubba Yum Yum written by a TV chef, a mommy blogger and a naturopath may not be as safe as previously thought. Sure, it might stop your baby from developing autism, but only because your baby will be dead. (Better dead than neuroatypical, though, right?) (Wasn't that the anti-communist slogan back in the 50s?)


18 Mar 17:37

How To Bury Your Parents

by Geoffrey Redick

Michael, I am a pregnant lady, I can not deal with shit like this at work.

Your mom is going to die. Your dad is also going to die.


18 Mar 06:31

gravyholocaustsucks:It’s been driving me nuts trying to figure...


It’s been driving me nuts trying to figure out who old man Sean Penn looks like; finally figured it out Penn has devolved into Al Pacino from ‘Dick Tracy’

13 Mar 16:00

Hysteria and Teenage Girls

by Hayley Krischer
by Hayley Krischer

It was a typical Thursday night at Smash Burger. My friend was with her two sons who were furiously stuffing sweet potato French fries in their mouths. In the booth behind her, my friend saw a young boy who looked a lot like Justin Bieber. So she called her 16-year-old-niece, Kate (not her real name), a Justin Bieber fanatic since she was 12. Kate owns two life-size cardboard Bieber cut-outs—one with a squiggly black mustache drawn on his upper lip by a mischievous cousin—hovering over her bed.

No one knows yet that Justin Bieber was on a religious retreat in my small New Jersey town, at the home of the new pastor to the stars, Carl Lentz. Justin Bieber was just trying to have a burger in peace for about five minutes.

That all ends once Kate walked in and confirmed that, yes, it really was Justin Bieber. She screamed and fell to the ground on her knees. “She had a total nervous breakdown. Crying, hands shaking. She couldn’t move. I had to walk her to the booth,” my friend says. Kate’s screaming was Bieber’s cue to leave, but by then he was surrounded by a swarm of girls. He signed the autograph of a girl in a wheelchair, took a quick picture, left his uneaten food in the booth and bolted.

Kate cradled his empty soda cup in the booth, which is when my friend started filming her. And there she is, this young girl, her face stricken like she witnessed a shooting or an attack, tears and mascara streaming down her face, an expression society would call “hysterical.” Even the counter guy, who I spoke to a few days later, told me: “The Justin Bieber part was weird, but that girl screaming, that’s what made everything explode.” Kate babbled some half-coherent sentences like, “I’m going to die. Oh my God, Justin Bieber at Smash Burger. This is beyond my comprehension. I’m going to kill myself.” And then the phone rings. It’s Kate’s friend. “Alex,” she says, hiccupping through tears. “I’m holding his cuuuuuuup.”

All I wanted to do was hug her when I heard this story—I’ve had my own nervous breakdowns about musicians. What makes girls from the Beatles to Duran Duran to N’Sync to Michael Jackson to One Direction—full on freak out?

* * *

Hysteria has always been a women’s issue. The concept goes back about 4,000 years. In Ancient Egypt, hysterical disorders were said to be caused by “spontaneous uterus movement within the female body;” hysterical women who were diagnosed with a uterus too far “up” inside the body were treated with sour and bitter odors near her mouth and nose. If the uterus was too far down, then the putrid odors were placed near her vagina.

In Greek mythology, the Argonaut Melampus treated hysterical women who refused to honor the Greek’s massive phallic symbols and ran away to hide in the mountains from these Goliath-sized penises. During that time, the giant phallus was a representation of God, life and fertility. Melampus cured these virgins, according to research, by urging them to have sex with “young and strong men” because their uterus was being “poisoned by venomous humors due to a lack of orgasms.”

By fifth century B.C., Hippocrates was the first person to use the word “hysteria.” He took the notion of the poisonous uterus to another level—he believed that the “restless” uterus was because of a woman’s “cold and wet” body (as opposed to a man’s “dry and warm and superior” body). He explains that the uterus is a sickly organ—especially if it’s sexually deprived. Writes psychiatric researcher Mauro Giovanni Carta, “[Hippocrates] goes further; especially in virgins, widows, single, or sterile women, this “bad” uterus—since it is not satisfied—not only produces toxic fumes but also takes to wandering around the body, causing various kinds of disorders such as anxiety, sense of suffocation, tremors, sometimes even convulsions and paralysis.”

By the mid 1600’s, doctors like Thomas Willis and philosophers like René Descartes were explaining that hysteria wasn’t because of “bad” lady parts but as a psychological issue; specifically, a psychological women’s issue. For the next 200-250 years, hysteria was defined as part of female “nature,” a hostile “characteristic,” explains researcher Elanie Showalter in Hysteria Beyond Freud. “As a general rule,” wrote the French physician Auguste Fabre in 1883, “all women are hysterical and…every woman carries with her the seeds of hysteria. Hysteria, before being an illness, is a temperament, and what constitutes the temperament of a woman is rudimentary hysteria.” Meaning: women don’t need a reason to be hysterical. We just are.

By the late 1800s and the early 1900s, Freud took on hysteria, theorizing that some of hysteria had to do with traumatic events, but most of hysteria was because of sexual repression. I asked my therapist about this theory, and she told me that hysteria was treated as if there was nothing neurologically going on. “Doctors would take a woman, put her on a table and stimulate her clitoris to orgasm in hopes that she’d be cured of her hysteria,” she explained.

This wasn’t an enviable job though, historians say; doctors were burdened by the chore of bringing their patients to climax, complaining about how long it took. Husbands didn’t want to be sidled with this job of having to bring their hysterical wives to climax either. That's why the vibrator was invented, writes Rachel P. Maines in her book, The Technology of Orgasm. It was considered a medical instrument “in response to demand from physicians for more rapid and efficient physical therapies, particularly for hysteria.”

It wasn’t until the 1960s that feminists took the idea of hysteria and redefined it—feminist thinkers like Juliet Mitchell believe that hysteria was the first step to feminism, because it was feminine pathology that spoke to and against patriarchy. Hysteria, in other words, has always been a language that women have used to attempt to shut down centuries of mansplaining—and only until the 1960s were they successful at it.

* * *

In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, two girls—9-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams—began having what was described as uncontrollable “hysterical” fits. They were screaming, crying, moaning, their bodies convulsed and they babbled incoherently. A doctor diagnosed the girls of being under the spell of witchcraft and soon, more girls became “afflicted” with the same symptoms. By the end of that year, 13 women and five men were accused of witchcraft and hanged, according to the Salem Witch Museum.

Though there have been a number of theories as to why this happened; some blame ergot (a fungus) poisoning, others say they were rebelling against their social standing, some historians say the fasting and the obsessive prayer rituals caused tremendous stress. Salem was very religious, it was a small settlement described by historians as “rife with anxiety,” a “crumbling providence.” The girls, in other words, did not just become hysterical out of the blue—there was a lot to be afraid of.

But because it spread from person to person like a social contagion, psychologists explain the hysteria in Salem as conversion disorder. Conversion disorder is a physical manifestation of psychological stress and anxiety. Like, say, the contagious hysteria that goes on at a Justin Bieber concert.

I started researching other cases of conversion disorder. In Monroe, Louisiana in 1952, 165 cheerleaders fainted during a football game. In 1998 in McMinniville, Tenneesse, a teacher noticed a gas-like odor and though the school was evacuated, her symptoms spread to 180 students and teachers. In 2007, in Chalco, Mexico, 600 girls became feverish and nauseated. But the most highly publicized case happened in 2012 in Le Roy, New York, when 14 students (13 girls, one boy), developed symptoms of involuntary twitching and clapping, snorting, muscle spasms and even loss of consciousness.

Two books came out this year based on the Le Roy incident: Megan Abbott’s poetic and creepy The Fever and Katherine Howe’s disturbing Conversion. Because Howe, who also wrote “The Penguin Book of Witches,” is something of a Salem encyclopedia, I spoke with her about the hysteria in Le Roy and if there’s a tie between what happened there and the hysteria surrounding pop stars. And though she was hesitant to name a connection, she did say that there seems to be an expression of excitement and release in conversion disorder.

“Here’s this space in which its almost socially sanctioned to release this kind of tension, especially for adolescent girls who are supposed to control themselves. It’s what they’re supposed to master as a teenager, to control themselves,” she said. Hysteria goes against every grain that adolescent girls learn: be good, be better than the next girl, don’t be loud, don’t be promiscuous. There’s an intensity to hysteria that’s significant, Howe says.

In fact, during her research of the Le Roy incident, she found that one girl described the experience as a “build up of tension which was then released by a verbal disorder and that she felt better if she gave into the physical disorder, the tic,” she said. “There’s a thread that connects it to female anxiety and female emotionalism.”

What is this thread, I wondered? I spoke to Jane Mendle, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Cornell University who specializes in adolescent girls. First, she made clear that the hysteria we see with girls in front of pop stars is not the same as what’s happening in conversion disorder. Conversion disorder is a diagnosable, psychological disorder; in the case of girls and rock stars, the term “hysteria” is really a metaphorical description of their behavior. But “that doesn’t mean that the elements of screaming and crying over rock stars and symptoms of conversion disorder in adolescent females aren’t driven by some of the same underlying principles,” Mendle told me. “There is a strong element of social contagion for both of these things.”

When a group of girls develop conversion disorder, it typically starts with somebody who is at the top of the social pecking order; the Queen Bee or someone close to her. But in the case of Bieber or One Direction hysteria, it may be more complex than just social ranking, because fame is more “valued now than it has been in the past,” Mendle says. A few generations ago, when girls were screaming over The Beatles or The Jackson Five, they didn’t have the option to share that experience on Instagram or Facebook. They shared it with each other, collectively, in the moment. Today’s fame component changes everything. “The majority of tweens and adolescents are extremely interested in becoming famous themselves—it is one of their top priorities for their lives,” Mendle says.

I ask her if this means fame alone would inspire hysteria. “To some degree,” she replied, “because fame as a value and considering Justin Bieber as a part of their lives, even though they’ve never met him, is really what has inspired a lot of this.”

What about conversion disorder? Even though it typically starts with the Queen Bee, there’s still an element that seems to be inspired by wanting attention. Mendle agrees. “One of the things that is most noticeable about conversion disorder is that it tends to occur in people who don’t necessarily command a lot of social attention; by social attention, I really mean society’s attention—in that they are not the focus of their society. And historically and traditionally that’s women,” she said. “So when you look to things like the Salem Witch Trials, these girls were by no means a focus of their community until they developed their physical symptoms. And then they became a center of a town’s narrative in a way they would have never have been able to otherwise.”

* * *

Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera” was number two on the Billboard chart in 1956. The narrative goes like this: A girl asks her mother about her future, “Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?” The mother replies:

Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera.

The mother isn’t wrong, the future isn’t ours, but when you look at it in the context of women’s place in society the song sums up patriarchal 1950s pretty well. There’s zero agency in it. There’s no question about her passions outside of looking good and being wealthy. Now look at the popular male artists of that same time: the dominators were ultra-macho crooners like Elvis, Frank Sinatra or Dion. As historian Kimberly Cura points out in her paper “The Beatles and Female Fanaticism,” Elvis used his sex appeal and pushy lyrics, Frank Sinatra had his sentimental crooner image and Dion had his womanizing songs like “The Wanderer,” which goes like this:

Oh well, I'm the type of guy who will never settle down
Where pretty girls are well, you know that I'm around
I kiss em and I love em cause to me they’re all the same
I hug em and I squeeze em they don’t even know my name

It’s no wonder girls lost it when The Beatles entered the music scene—they had remarkable differences to these hyper-masculine artists, namely in their lyrics. Adolescent girls went crazy when they heard “She Loves You,” a song that I never really paid much attention to because the chorus, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,” was repetitive and annoying. But revisiting the song now and deconstructing it, as well as giving it some historical context, changes it.

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind
And now she says she knows
You’re not the hurting kind
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, oooh

The Beatles then become this sensitive guy vessel with this song, injecting your stereotypical blockhead male rhetoric with an emotional narrative. Look, you hurt this girl and she knows you didn’t mean it, and she wants to give you a second chance, so why don’t you talk to her, man? “’She Loves You,’ not only speaks of a common real-life dynamic between lovers, but also—and most importantly—places responsibility on the man, not his partner,” explains Cura.

These early Beatles songs created a world where women had freedom from traditional gender roles (like in Doris Day’s “Que, Sera, Sera”). “Women in The Beatles’ songs weren’t depicted as the idealized figures described in typical rock lyrics, but instead were represented fully-formed characters,” writes Cura. This was the key behind the hysteria that surrounded Beatlemania: women and girls were free to express themselves—finally!—because they were understood.

The same has to be said for Morrissey who not only openly embraced a fluid definition of sexuality, but who also wrote from the perspective of masculine sensitivity. His lyrics created a safe place for female fans to scream, to cry, to hand him roses on the stage while he sang. Morrissey reveled and embraced male vulnerability; he exhausted heartbreak. Take the lyrics to “How Soon Is Now:”

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does
There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go, and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home, and you cry and you want to die

In this song, he reveals his insecurity and his isolation—he goes to a club and can’t even be consoled because he’s so lonely. Morrissey sings countless songs like this—take “I Know It’s Over” in which he cries, “Oh mother, I can feel, the soil falling over my head. And as I climb into an empty bed. Oh well, enough said.”

Though Morrissey and The Beatles and Justin Bieber have little in common musically, they have everything in common as vulnerable lyricists; Justin Bieber takes the same page out of the Morrissey handbook, especially during his earlier mall days. In his movie Never Say Never he brings up a girl for each performance of “One Less Lonely Girl” and serenades her.

How many "I told you’s" and "start over’s" and shoulders have you cried on before?
How many promises? Be honest girl
How many tears you let hit the floor
How many bags you packed
Just to take them back
Tell me that how many either ‘or’s’
But no more if you let me inside of your world
There’ll be one less lonely girl

The appeal here, like with Morrissey, is that Justin Bieber talks to his subject as if he understands what true vulnerability and heartbreak is about. (And who am I to say? Maybe he does.) These kinds of lyrics allow girls to feel comfortable and secure, giving them permission to engage in hysteria, most noticeably after the introduction of the Beatles. Cura puts it like this: “The Beatles… was the first widespread outburst during the sixties to feature women—in this case, teenaged girls—in a radical context.”

Though lots of critics at the time wanted to write off the hysteria around the Beatles as yet another example of crazy, hormonal girls, or some kind of “social dysfunction,” or as depressive loners—their collective hysteria was really about them stepping outside of their prescribed identities. “Teen and pre-teen girls were expected not only to be good and pure, but to be the enforcers of purity within their teen society—drawing the line for overeager boys and ostracizing girls who failed in this responsibility,” writes journalist Barbara Ehrenreich.

Has much changed? Girls are still expected to act a certain way—but screaming over a pop star gives them a say. It’s like sexual release that’s allowed. Michelle Janning, a sociology professor at Whitman College, who has written about screaming girls, explains this in an email: “This bodily and vocal sexual expression could have two paradoxical interpretations: either a girl screaming at a concert is defiantly protesting girls’ sexual repression in a highly sexualized society, or she is doing so as an unsuspecting part of the larger project to maintain girls’ sexuality as controlled, quiet, and contained."

But performers like Bieber and Morrissey and The Beatles and Michael Jackson have something else in common: their somewhat androgynous man-boy looks. Adolescent girls see a feminine quality in these kinds of men, sociologists say, that reminded them of themselves. Girls feel safe around more androgynous singers because they’re not pushing the macho stereotype which can be intimidating to a teenage girl. Girls saw the (early) Beatles and Bieber as reflection of themselves, “a phenomenon that would be imitated in the future by androgynous stars such as David Bowie and Michael Jackson,” explains Steven Stark in Meet the Beatles. In the ‘80s, hysteria followed Duran Duran and Adam Ant, as Nina Blackwood, one of the early MTV “veejays” explained in an interview with CBS, “The guys were so beautiful. Not handsome in the classic "movie star" way, but actually pretty— lush lips, cheekbones a mile-high, porcelain skin— and they all knew how to apply make-up better than most women I knew."


It has to be the same reason women lost it around Franz Liszt, a pianist in Germany in the 1800s—so much that German critic Heinrich Heine, deemed it “Lisztomania.” Liszt also had that feminine quality (more so than other men that time who, at least in old-timey pictures, looked sort of inbred and hairy); Liszt was a Tori Amos kind of performer, historians say, in that he used his body liberally while he played, with “wild arms and swaying hips.” Women tore his clothes, pulled out pieces of his hair and one woman, wrote Alan Walker in a biography, picked up Liszt’s cigar stump, placed it in locket and monogramed it with his initials in diamonds.

The woman’s reaction to Liszt isn’t so far off from Kate’s who collected Justin Bieber’s cup. That plastic cup now rests on her bookshelf, sealed in a plastic zip lock bag.

* * *

“People started lining up five days ago.”

“I know they love me even though they don’t know me.”

“Because of you, we’re number one in 37 countries”


These are sound bites from the One Direction movie, This Is Us, which is cute and corny with stories about the boys and how they always wanted to be singers, but the primary story is of high-pitched soundtrack of thousands of screaming girls. They’re the screams of pleasure—which is exactly how the neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains it to the Wall Street Journal. The screaming, he says, is from the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel pleasure—it’s the chemical in our brain that’s released when we eat chocolate, or when a compulsive gambler wins.

But Levitin's research also found something else interesting: because the neural pathways in our brains are forming when we’re teenagers, the music that we like as teenagers then becomes hardwired in our brains. It's not an accident that you still know that pretzel cross-legged move to Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” you studied a million times when you were 14. That’s not nostalgia, according to Levitin’s research; that’s your brain being hardwired to experience pleasure every time you hear that song.

I couldn’t help but think of the music I went hysterical over as a teenager—I wasn’t a Duran Duran girl in the ‘80s. I saved my hysteria for girls, not boys; my heart belonged to Madonna. I was 15 in 1986, the year her album “True Blue” came out—which had some amazing songs like “Live To Tell,” but also some really uninspiring, unremarkable songs like “True Blue.” There was also “Papa Don’t Preach,” which was a departure for Madonna—she changed her whole look from her “Lucky Star”/”Burnin’ Up”/”Borderline” days (which I had memorized the dance moves to as well, though I didn’t completely understand the sexual narrative yet).

In the “Papa Don’t Preach” video she wore boyfriend jeans, had short straight hair, a striped nautical shirt and carried a black motorcycle jacket over her shoulder. My mother called her a Jean Seburg knock-off, but I was mesmerized.


I watched the “Papa Don’t Preach” video on You Tube and remembered those weird arm movements and the dance from that video clearly—then the oddest realization came to me. I’m still influenced by her style from that time, the jeans, the striped shirt, even the motorcycle jacket is currently in my fantasy shopping cart—which, okay, you the jacket has been an iconic staple since Marlon Brando wore it in The Wild Bunch. But then I made another connection. I named my dog, a rescue I just got nine months ago, Trudy Blue. When I started singing the song “True Blue” to her, I couldn’t figure out why—it really bothered me. Why this song?

But now I get it. The dopamine release I experienced as an adolescent girl is still affecting me years and years later. My Madonna hysteria never really waned. When I tell people I follow her on Instagram, they ask me why. And I’m like, “#BitchI’mMadonna,” but the real reason has a lot more to do with chemical engineering.

I wonder what that means for the swarms of Bieber fans like Kate or the One Directioners depicted in their movie. I thought about the years I spent being a hysterical teenage girl, either obsessing over Madonna or later over Morrissey or later REM, or over any of the countless musicians that impacted my life. Science has a great deal to do with hysteria—you can’t ignore the chemical impact of dopamine, but hysteria defined women and girls more broadly than just that; hysteria has been a method of communication in which women have used to separate themselves from men for centuries. I though about that video of Kate in Smash Burger, wondering if she’ll one day look back at it embarrassed, but I hope she won’t. I hope she’ll see it as her individuality shining through, as a way she was able to be true to herself at a very specific time in her life.

Hayley Krischer is a writer living in New Jersey.

Girls screaming via Flickr Commons, Franz Liszt via Wikimedia Commons, and Madonna via Papa Don't Preach.

13 Mar 16:30

Dallas police talk child sex suspect off roof of Jack in the Box

by Matt Peterson

DUMBASS! a Jack in the Box?!

Staff writer Mallory McDonald reports:

An employee at a Dallas Jack in the Box threatened to jump off of the restaurant’s roof Thursday evening after police arrived to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.

Roman Arellano, 33, was wanted on a warrant charging him with … [visit site to read more]

13 Mar 14:25

Interesting criminal justice bills, developments at Texas Lege this week

by Gritsforbreakfast

I'm sure there are plenty of bad bills, but these look great!!

Here are a few items that caught Grits' attention at the Lege this week as the bill filing deadline approaches at the end of the day today.

House backs prison guard raise
Budget writers in the Texas House "added a 10 percent raise for correctional officers, citing numerous vacancies," reported Peggy Fikac at the SA Express News. Grits has suggested they adjust penalties for state jail felonies, as state Rep. Senfronia Thompson proposed this week (see below), and close a couple of units to pay for it.

Maintenance deferred at DPS, TDCJ
The Texas Department of Public Safety says it needs $370 million for deferred maintenance on its facilities, while the Department of criminal Justice offered a surprisingly low number of $165 million for needed maintenance at its 109 units and administrative facilities.

Scale back incarceration for low-level, nonviolent crimes
Rep. Senfronia Thompson has filed a bill adjusting penalties downward for certain nonviolent misdemeanor and felony offenses, including indexing property crimes for inflation and reducing penalties for low-level possession of marijuana and less-than-a-gram of other controlled substances by one penalty category. The bill includes most of the suggestions offered for reducing corrections costs at the state and county level offered last month in this Grits post.

Stop suspending licenses for Driver Responsibility surcharge nonpayment
Rep. Thompson also has an excellent bill which would forbid suspension of drivers licenses for nonpayment of the Driver Responsibility surcharge, which would eliminate many of the worst unintended consequences from the program.

Speeding up appointment of indigent counsel
Senators Kel Seliger and Royce West filed legislation setting limits on how long defendants can sit in jail before a judge appoints them counsel if they're indigent - one day in counties with more than 250,000, and three days in counties with less than 250,000 population. Rep. Garnet Coleman has similar legislation in the House.

Require criminal conviction for asset forfeiture
Sen. Konni Burton filed legislation that would void asset forfeiture proceedings if prosecutors failed to secure an underlying conviction.

Replace grand juries with full-time "probable cause juries"
Rep. Harold Dutton filed a bill to transform grand juries into full-time, permanent "probable cause juries." These would be three person panels - one appointed by the county judge, one by the presiding officer of the largest municipality in the county, and a third, presiding juror selected by those two people. These must be licensed attorneys who've practiced ten years and have not worked as a prosecutor for at least the last two. Interesting idea.

Re-open law enforcement records on closed cases
Rep. Dutton also filed legislation which would reinstate the original application of the Texas Public Information Act for law enforcement records, reversing a two-decade old catastrophe dating from when the Texas Supreme Court gutted the act and the Legislature codified their bad ruling instead of repairing it. Dutton's bill would allow exemptions to the Public Information Act for ongoing cases and open them up after the cases are closed, which is how the state operated for nearly three decades before 1996-97. See Grits' arguments in favor of a similar Dutton bill from 2007. IMO this is perhaps the most effective and important police accountability bill proposed at the Texas Legislature this session.

Don't keep license plate reader records not part of a criminal case
Rep. Matt Rinaldi filed legislation to require all images from government owned license plate readers to be destroyed within seven days unless they're part of an ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution. Another bill by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione would mandate destruction of images after 90 days.

Limit automated traffic enforcement
Rep. Gary Elkins filed a bill to eliminate automated traffic enforcement systems and another forbidding issuance of civil instead of criminal penalties for traffic offenses under municipal ordinances.

Increased penalty for First Amendment activity by CHL holders
Rep. Jason Villaba's just-filed bill criminalizing non-MSM citizen filming of police officers is already drawing fire, in part because it's actually more restrictive if the person doing the filming is carrying a firearm with a concealed carry permit.

Introducing the Texas Drone Corps
Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville wants the governor's office to have a drone program. The bill doesn't say whether the governor would be authorized to arm the drones or outfit them with Stingrays/IMSI catchers, but there's no limits described on their use except that they be deployed for "state purposes. That couldn't be any broader.
13 Mar 04:27

Watch President Obama Read All Of The Mean Tweets People Have Posted About Him On ‘Kimmel’

by Andrew Roberts

Jimmy Kimmel
has come through to provide one of the best entries in the Mean Tweets series to this point. President Obama gets an entire segment to read all of the mean crap that people have posted to Twitter about him (minus the more hateful comments, I’m sure).

At this point in his presidency, Obama is probably ready to limp out of office. He’s had quite a battle for his entire run and some impossible hype to live up to, so it’s cool that he can laugh about it.

I’m sure folks will complain about this and say he’s got more important things to focus on, but that’s old news at this point. They should probably be more concerned about the price of Coors. The person who tweeted that isn’t lying, it’s expensive for a “cheap” beer. Hopefully Obama can hit his price lever in The Oval Office and get things back on track before he runs out of town.

(Via Jimmy Kimmel Live)

12 Mar 10:07

Are Prisoners Less Likely To Be Atheists?

by Mona Chalabi

Dear Mona,

I recently read an article that said most of the prison population is religious while there are very few atheists in prison. Please tell if this is true for the United States.

Caroline, 44, Philadelphia

Dear Caroline,

Data on religion in U.S. prisons is hard to find and usually comes from biased sources. Back in 1997, a blog post appeared on, a now-dormant anti-religion website. Beneath the headline, an author using the name Rod Swift published statistics apparently received from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) showing the religious affiliations of inmates. One number jumped out at Swift: 0.2 percent of the prison population was atheist.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.30.54 PM

That number became a routinely cited statistic that wasn’t really challenged or updated — until 2013. Hemant Mehta (a writer who, seven years earlier, had become famous for selling his soul on eBay) issued a new Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Prisons asking for updated figures about the religious affiliation of prisoners. Today, those numbers are still the most detailed ones available.

But first, a few caveats. While you may have been interested in the religious affiliation of the 1.4 million Americans being held in state prisons, this data only relates to federal prisoners — of which there were about 216,000 in 2013 (PDF).

The data here is self-reported, so it’s also dependent on whether prisoners were willing to disclose their religion. Seventeen percent of inmates listed “no preference” for their religion, but the Bureau of Prisons couldn’t clarify how that is different from the 3 percent of prisoners who described themselves as “Other,” so I decided to cut it out of the data.

Protestant 28.7% 44.0%
Catholic 24.0 25.1
Muslim 8.4 0.6
Native American 3.1 0.1
Pagan 2.0 0.1
Jewish 1.7 1.2
Churches of Christ 1.5 0.8
Buddhist 1.0 0.5
Jehovah’s Witness 0.7 0.8
Seventh Day Adventist 0.3 0.4
Mormon 0.3 1.4
Eastern Orthodox 0.2 0.4
Apostolic 0.2 0.4
Hindu 0.1 0.3
Atheist 0.1 0.7
Pentecostal 0.1 2.4
Sikh <0.1 <0.1

To answer your question, I used Census Bureau data from 2008 (it’s the most recent we have), but its categories are pretty different from the ones used by the Bureau of Prisons.

Take Rastafarians for example. According to the BOP, 1.9 percent of federal prisoners identify as Rasta, but the Census Bureau doesn’t list Rastafarians as a separate group. Instead, the Census uses one category titled “other religions” that encompasses a whole range of groups including people who practice Santeria (as 1.2 percent of prisoners say they do), along with Scientologists and Druids.51

There are other categories that don’t match up. According to the Census Bureau, 0.6 percent of Americans describe themselves as Muslim. In prison, that figure is 5.6 percent. It’s already a considerable difference, but an additional 1.8 percent of prisoners identified with the Nation of Islam and another 1.2 percent said they were “Moorish” (which the BOP said should also be considered a variant of Muslim). Altogether, the percentage of Muslims in the prison population is about 14 times higher than that of the general population.

There are other noticeable differences: a prisoner is 39 times more likely than an un-incarcerated person to identify his or her religion as American Indian. Conversely, prisoners are far less likely to be Protestant than the rest of the country.52

Most importantly though, Caroline, you appear to be right about religiosity in prison. Overall, almost 1 in every 1,000 prisoners will identify as atheist compared to 1 in every 100 Americans.


So what explains these discrepancies between religious affiliation inside prisons and outside them? I’ll set out a couple of possible theories.

  1. Maybe it’s income. We know that Muslims and Americans who identify with historically black Protestant churches tend to have lower incomes than the national average. And we know that 44 percent of federal prisoners earned less than $1,500 in the month prior to their arrest (I’m afraid the last time prisoners’ income was surveyed was in 2004, though, and those are 2004 dollars).
  2. Maybe it’s race. We know that even though African-Americans represented only 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, they represented 36 percent of the prison population. And we know that Muslims are almost twice as likely to be African-American as the U.S. population as a whole. (I think race is also probably relevant when we’re thinking about the over-representation of Rastafarians and Santerians in prison too.)
  3. Maybe it’s immigration. We know that most American Muslims immigrated to the U.S. sometime after 1992. And we know that 12 percent of the federal prison population is described as “non-citizens” (a term that means they’re foreign-born and, according to Ed Ross, a spokesman at the Bureau of Prisons, entered the country illegally).
  4. Maybe it’s conversion. Ross explained that prisons collect information on religious affiliation from inmates as part of the intake screening process. That information gets stored as part of their case management. But, he added, “anywhere along the way, inmates can have their information changed to reflect a change in their religious status. Anyone can find god or lose god while in prison.”

Ed got me thinking: If few prisoners bother to change their religious affiliation in the official data, the theories I’ve described above are more likely to be relevant. But if prisoners are letting officials know about their change of faith (which I’m told by the BOP is relatively easy to do; it can be as simple as mentioning it to the chaplain), then it’s possible that prison conversion is influencing these statistics.

In 2012, Pew Research Center conducted a 50-state survey of prison chaplains of various faiths (they’re state chaplains though, so they don’t work with the federal inmates I’ve mentioned above — sorry, it’s the best data I could find). Three-quarters of the chaplains they spoke to said “religious switching” was common among inmates where they worked. When asked which affiliations were growing, chaplains were most likely to list Islam (51 percent), followed by Protestant and Pagan.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 3.30.06 PM

Though almost all of the state prison chaplains describe spending their time organizing religious programs, many suggest that religious influence is coming from elsewhere in the system. Seventy-four percent of the chaplains said that efforts by inmates to proselytize or convert other inmates are either very common (31 percent) or somewhat common (43 percent) in the prisons where they work.

Anyway, you’re right about religiosity in prison Caroline: Atheists are underrepresented. But not all religious groups are equally over-represented. That’s an interesting finding, but it’s a limited one because we don’t know what percentage of inmates change their faith while in prison and why — without those stats, understanding religiosity in prison is a bit of a guessing game.

Hope the numbers help,


Have a question you would like answered here? Send it to @MonaChalabi or

12 Mar 19:00

“A creature created by witches to steal milk. Only women can create and own them”

by Mallory Ortberg

I have four of these.

Friend of the Toast (and of self) Sara Cantor just got back from a weeklong vacation in Iceland, and, as is my custom, I engaged her in conversation about her trip.

SELF: Sara! How was Iceland?

SARA: Look at this: Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 11.53.33 AM


Read more “A creature created by witches to steal milk. Only women can create and own them” at The Toast.