Category Archives: Politics

Biblical womanhood and other undead sexist matters

Working on Undead Sexist Cliches, one thing I keep running across is the deep misogyny of the religious right. We have John Piper, who insists even if you’re dating Black Widow, in a danger situation, you do the fighting…but if the husband slaps his wife around, she has to suck it up. In the male supremacist world of complementarian theology, a man who fails in his duty to care for his wife is less of a problem than a woman who defies her man by not letting him assault her.

THE MAKING OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allison Barr describes the Southern Baptist author’s realization that complementarianism — the belief women and men have separate spheres and neither should intrude on the other — wasn’t what Piper and similar preachers said. They claimed that by steering Christianity away from the fallen world of “egalitarian” feminist thinking, they were keeping it pure and apart from the world. In reality, their embrace of rigid gender roles simply embraced secular male supremacy and made it Christian (as noted at the link above, separate spheres wasn’t seen as Biblically mandated until women’s liberation was established in the 1970s).

Barr argues that Piper, Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson and others of their ilk get there by ignoring the long history of Christian women preaching and witnessing; mistranslating the Bible to eliminate women’s roles (e.g., women deacons referenced in the New Testament get downgraded because they’re inconsistent with women’s roles) and reinterpreting the Pauline epistles. Barr argues that by Roman standards, what stands out is not Paul saying women must obey their husbands but a)setting responsibilities on husbands and b)addressing his directives to both of them, instead of telling the husband as secular thinkers of the time would have.

This focuses much more on theological issues than my own writing and thinking, but I still rate it excellent.

Now, some links:

The pandemic has hurt women’s careers as they struggle to both work and care for kids stuck at home. Unsurprisingly, conservatives are spinning this as women happily choosing family over career. We’ve been through this before.

A North Carolina bill would raise the age for marriage in this state from 14 to 18. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger is blocking its passage.

The “birthing people” controversy.

Stacey Abrams writes romances. Tucker Carlson thinks this is hysterical.

““It doesn’t matter who you are, what your life is, your situation, who you surround yourself with, how strong you are, how smart you are. You can always be taken advantage of. ” — singer Billie Ellish on abusive relationships.

Teargas can mess up menstruation.


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Republicans say they were trying to “stop the steal” but …

Trump’s Stop the Steal campaign failed miserably. Biden won legitimately. Every lawsuit failed. The Kraken was not released. None of the supposed evidence panned out. The Republicans’ attempt to prove fraud in Arizona looks fishy as ever which hasn’t stopped Trump worshippers threatening state government officials.

Nevertheless the campaign has become incredibly damaging to our democracy. Millions of Republicans have chosen to believe that they were cheated, their voices shut out. Then Republicans such as Josh Hawley and Rep. Elise Stefanik, having egged on their voters to question the results, then turn around and say they’re just raising issues their voters are concerned about.

In reality, Stefanik is a baldfaced liar and Trump toady who claims Republicans trying to overthrow the election represents a defense of the constitution. Unsurprisingly she’s now poised to replace Liz Chaney as #3 in the House Republican power structure. Cheney, as Adam Serwer chronicles, has always been a hard-right extremist embracing Republican bullshit (Obama’s a Muslim! Democrats hate America! Defending terrorists in court is treason) but now that she’s defied the Republican God-King on the non-existent election fraud, her deviation from the new Republican orthodoxy won’t save her. As Serwer says, “The tragedy is not that she might suffer for her folly, but that American democracy will. Her latter-day epiphany is welcome, but it also comes far too late.”

And that’s where we are, with Republicans setting up absolute loyalty to Ex President Man Baby as its only moral standard, and doing everything they can to make sure that next time when they try to steal the White House. This is not good, even if, as suggested here, being the Party of Trump works against them.

In other news:

Rep. Mo Brooks told the Sedition Day insurrectionists that it was time to take names and kick ass. Like other supporters of the coup, he’s been sued — but he refuses to accept the paperwork. Oh, sedition day rioters are still being busted by their social media posts.

Newsmax head and Stop The Steal advocate Chris Ruddy has a long history of Republican bullshit — but the bill may be coming due.

Self-proclaimed prophets who saw Trump returning to the White House last year in a cloud of glory are still insisting they’re right. They’re not happy that some conservative Christian leaders are trying to rein them in. After all, they’re not going to get the YouTube hits and mailing lists of gullible marks (a big part of Ruddy’s business plan) if people stop listening. Josh Hawley, for examples, is out to milk his new book by offering it free for a $75 donation — a recurring donation if you don’t uncheck the pre-checked box on the form.

Speaking of prophets, Stop The Steal attorney Lin Wood “allegedly believed that he would be appointed to the highest seat in the U.S. justice system based on a prophecy he heard in a YouTube video and a conspiracy theory that Chief Justice John Roberts would be revealed to be part of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring and was being blackmailed by liberals to rule in their favor.”

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Undead Sexist of the Day: Warren Farrell

Lots of people have said something hideously sexist. Some people have built careers out of it. Case in point, Warren Farrell.

Back in the 1970s, Farrell was, I’ve read, an active male feminist. For whatever reason, that changed. He’s now a men’s rights activist, rape apologist and generally odious, at least to someone of my political bent. I first encountered his work in the 1990s, in The Myth of Male Power. Here he argues that husbands are way worse off than wives because men are often drones at the bottom of the hierarchy in their workplace; women, by contrast, are 100 percent in charge at home

Except they’re not. If the man earns the money, that gives him a greater say in decisions. Much more so than a wife can exercise over her husband’s career. And far from being an exalted position, being a stay-at-home wife/monther is damn hard work. The husband’s work day may stop when he gets home; Mom may be working (dinner, putting the kids to bed) long into the night.

And even if a man is top dog at work, in reality his sexy secretary controls him.

Farrell also claimed that 90 percent of rape cases were false accusations, for example because the guy dumped the woman and she wanted revenge. Um, no (see here for relevant discussion) And besides, lots of things are just as traumatic for men as rape is for women. Getting fired is equally traumatic (I’ve been fired. I’ve known women who were raped. Not. The. Same.). Getting cockteased is equally traumatic (wrong again).

It’s no surprise his more recent writing (which I encountered working on Undead Sexist Cliches) thinks that “date fraud” or “date rejection” — a couple go on a date when the woman’s already decided not to have sex is a)a Bad Thing and b)very traumatic.

He’s also argued that no means yes: if a woman says no to sex but she’s French kissing her date, isn’t that a sign she wants it? Maybe she’s hoping her date will just keep going and seduce her, like in romance novels. Because if chicks read romance novels, they must want the same in relationships, right (spoiler: no). Heck, according to Farrell, even if she sues a man for sexual harassment, what she really wants is for him to not give up, just like romance novel heroes!

Besides, it’s sex, so she has to be enjoying it, right? “A man being sued after a woman has more sex than intended is like Lay’s being sued after someone has more potato chips than intended. In brief, date rape can be a crime, a misunderstanding, or buyer’s remorse.” Pinning someone down and forcing them to eat potato chips would have a coercive quality to it — but that’s clearly not the simile Farrell’s going for here.

If Farrell was ever sincerely a feminist, he went way, way to the dark side.

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The margin of hope is wafer-thin

As someone who feared Biden would be centrist and too eager to cooperate with Republicans, I’ve been happily surprised that he’s pushing a relatively radical agenda for 21st century America. As John Scalzi says, it’s hard for Repubs to hammer him as the Evil Devil Socialist because he’s a blandly boring, decent white dude. While Republicans shriek about him betraying his talk of unity, Catherine Rampell says he’s delivering it a different way: by not treating the enemy the way Trump treated his.

The downside? Although Biden’s policies are popular and Republican policies are very much unpopular, our country has reached a point at which Republicans find minority rule easy. It’s not just that they won two of the last five elections despite losing the popular vote; the counter-majority elements in the U.S. system also give them disproportionate power in the House, the Senate and at state level. And they’re pushing to make it harder to vote while lying it’s because the election was stolen.  Or that their voters think it was stolen (“When half of the voters of this country don’t have faith in our electoral system, doing nothing is not an option,”) which is supposedly enough of a reason (I’m sure if Dems feel the same about 2024, they’ll be back to “fuck your feelings.”).

As we’ve seen the past month or so, given a choice between supporting corporate America and making it harder for people to vote, they prioritize disenfranchising people. This leads to bizarre twists such as Ted Cruz admitting he’s sold out America for corporate donations and pretending he won’t do it again.  Or Marco Rubio’s outrage that corporations won’t support the new version of Jim Crow. Or Glenn Beck being shocked and appalled that anyone would see this as a return to Jim Crow (whereas it’s perfectly acceptable for him to call liberals Nazis). Of course Ron DeSantis tops him by insisting systemic racism is a myth.

Hell, they’re still trying to “prove” Trump won in 2020.

Republican candidates have to worry about alienating their voters in primaries much more than winning over the majority. That gives them an incentive to let their inner, anti-American scumbag out. Especially with Trump still demanding revenge for Republicans not overthrowing the government for him. That involves giving them someone to hate; as gay-hating is losing its punch, we’ve seen the sudden concern about the trans menace. Sexism isn’t the only thing that spawns undead cliches.

And there’s no stopping the rejection of reality or the lies. Michelle Bachman lying about how Biden will impose the homosexual agenda. Tucker Carlson telling viewers to call the cops on parents with masked kids. Republicans supporting Carlson’s rants about replacement theory. A lying snake who claims the George Floyd murder was a hoax. Or the completely bullshit claims that Biden’s climate-change plan will restrict Americans to one burger a month.

Meanwhile, the capital rioters are still struggling to stay out of jail. And extremist groups are making it fun and entertaining to become a white supremacist and hang out with your buddies. Which is not surprising: it was part of the appeal of the 1920s KKK.

And when you get down to the state level, like Kansas Rep. Mark Samsel, they’re even creepier.

I keep trying to think of ways I can contribute besides writing a check, or writing to the lying liar Sen. Thom Tillis, but so far I haven’t much in the way of ideas.

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Undead Sexist Cliche: Statistics prove men are better at everything

One of the topics I tackle in the Undead Sexist Cliches book is statistics, and how they supposedly explain men getting the best jobs and the top positions in everything.

Male and female performance statistics overlap quite a lot. The average woman and man scored on pretty much any skill are going to be closer to each other than the best and worst man (or woman) are. When you graph the stats, however, the male bell curve spreads out much further than the female: the very best and the very worst are both men.

This, according to a number of articles I’ve read over the years, is why men rule, girls drool. Okay, not drool, but obviously if the very best in (for example), STEM fields are always men, it’s no surprise women don’t get the plum jobs. What woman in physics can match up with Einstein, Bohr, Oppenheimer? No discrimination at all, no sirree bob.

There are a number of problems with this argument. First off, the assumption that because the very best people in the field are men, therefore the men applying for a job must be better than the women. This does not follow: Einstein was a genius but that doesn’t mean every man who applies must be closer to Einstein than the female applicants are. Most people are going to fall into that big average bulge at the center of the Bell curve. That’s the nature of averages. And given that men occupy the bottom of the skill distribution too, wouldn’t it make just as much sense to assume that the average woman has a good chance to be better than the male applicants? Indeed, one study found women who apply for STEM jobs tend to be above average, possibly because only an exceptional woman thinks she has a shot.

About 15 years ago, Larry Summers made a speech on why women were underrepresented in STEM: in his opinion, they just weren’t as good. Several right-wing pundits, such as John Leo and Walter Williams, cheered him and insisted his argument should end any talk of sexism or bias affecting women’s chances. But that’s a load of codswallop. I’ve read lots of stories of women winning traditionally male jobs and the response is rarely “Wow, you must be way better than the average woman. I’m impressed to have you on my team!” It’s more likely “affirmative action” or “tokenism” or “who did she blow to get that job?” One bank back in Florida, for instance, discovered the president had promoted a woman he was having an affair with; they promptly demoted every woman he’d promoted.

And if all else fails, there’s the old “Why is that bitch taking a man’s job?”

So no, statistics do not prove we live in a post-sexism world.


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Derek Chauvin, guilty of all charges

This is a good thing. That we live in a country where past experience made me and lots of other people wonder if that was possible is not so good. The system worked this time but it far too frequently fails.

Is the Chauvin verdict an outlier? The police department for once didn’t go Blue Wall but hung him out to dry (which was the right call); does that mean after this it’s back to normal or is the first crack in the dam? I’ve no idea.

Certainly Republicans are hoping to get back to giving cops a bank check, hence the slew of bills cracking down on protesters. Particularly telling is the Kentucky bill making it illegal to address police with “‘offensive or derisive” words or gestures that would have “a direct tendency to provoke a violent response.'” If you’re arrested under the bill you must be held in jail 48 hours, which is not mandatory for accused murderers or rapists. In Minnesota, a proposed bill would deny protesters student loans and other forms of aid.

I’m quite sure all these bills will be applied discriminately when Republicans have any say so. BLM protests are protests; Oath Keepers and other right-wing extremists will be labeled something else. Running over protesters who are a good Trump voters will be treated as a crime, running over BLM will be justice.

Over at Gateway Pundit, the Chauvin verdict has commenters seething about uppity blacks and oppressed white people. White supremacist misogynist Tucker Carlson insists Chauvin didn’t kill George Floyd (which is not out of character for Carlson), proving once again that the judge who said nobody should believe Carlson was spot on. Dave Daubenmire weighs in on what he sees as the big issues in policing: women shouldn’t be cops. Lots of other right-wingers chime in on how unjust the verdict is.

Oh Carlson also claims that Rep. Ted Lieu confessed that replacement theory — the idea immigrants are going to take over and marginalize white America — is true.

Fred Clark on how white evangelical theology supports racism.

How do we change the police for the future? Much good discussion in this LGM thread including what sort of jobs should be turned over to social workers, mental-health professionals (or if police should be restructured to include specialists like that). Related, here’s what I think is good news: The Manhattan DA says his office will no longer prosecute prostitution. And AG Merrick Garland says the DOJ will be looking into Minneapolis policing practices.

Abolishing ICE, the agency younger than CSI Miami, seems like an excellent idea.

Texas’ newest voting restrictions don’t even figleaf the racism: they specifically target urban counties with large populations and not rural counties.

A final thought: one of the standard complaints when cops get punished for killing someone is that they’ll hold back — do you want them to hesitate when lives are at stake? Well, yes; when someone’s helpless or an unarmed teenager is standing there, I think they should be hesitating, at least a little.

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Turning a blind eye to sexual harassment (and other undead sexist links)

While I’m not actively researching for Undead Sexist Cliches any more, I did wind up reading The Bad Apple Theory in Sexual Harassment Law by Anna Lawton (downloadable here) and I’ll probably incorporate some of her thoughts into the sexual harassment chapter. The paper argues that to avoid liability for sexual harassers in their workforce, companies only have to a)have a No Sexual Harassment policy and b)have a reporting system. Doesn’t matter whether they enforce the policy or do anything to prevent harassment; there’s no other obligation on them until a worker reports (this was a 2005 paper so that may have changed, of course). It’s okay to make the reporting system unusable: one company required workers report within a week of the incident (at which point the victim may be debating whether it’s really bad enough to make an issue of it), then penalized a worker who took longer. The courts were okay with the retaliation — that’s just an internal business management decision, right?

The whole piece was worth reading, reminding me of Marti Noxon’s discussion of how employers need to be conscious of how the office environment can nourish harassment if they don’t act to prevent it.

An incel pepper-sprayed and assaulted people with little consequence, but he’s now in trouble from making bomb threats.

Speaking of incels, here’s one claiming if you’re attractive enough to attract rapists, you’re privileged so shut up. As I’ve blogged about before, looks are not a factor in rape.

David Futrelle looks at violent men who are convinced their desire for women is something women do to them.

More on Matt Gaetz’ alleged statutory rape case.

First came women’s liberation. Then some conservative Christians became convinced complementarianism — women and men must exist in separate spheres — was a Biblical imperative. Now it’s considered an integral element of the faith.

Will this be the abortion case that gets to the Supreme Court? Oh, and U.S. forced-birth groups are all in on Republican election-stealing plans.

Should misogynistic violence be a hate crime?

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Undead Sexist Cliche: Men have to compete for mates, women just sit on their butts

The purpose of many Undead Sexist Cliches is to explain that male dominance isn’t in any way shape or form the result of sexism. It’s just that women want to make babies, not careers. Or that statistics prove the best in any field are men, therefore it’s logical to assume that male job candidates are the superior ones (it isn’t. I’ll come back to this cliche at some point). Or our genes haven’t advanced since the Paleolithic Age so we’re stuck with the same gender dynamics as our prehistoric ancestors (here’s an example of that kind of reasoning).

Marlene Zuk calls this a paleofantasy, speculations about Stone Age life when we know absolutely nothing about how our ancestors mated. Stephen Jay Gould has labeled similar tales Just So Stories, made up fantasies about how the world we see is perfectly natural. One such example is the idea men dominate because they’re more competitive. Why are they more competitive? Because evolution made them that way. Men won mates by aggressively competing to outperform other men and thereby impress women. Women had no need to compete: they could simply sit passively and wait for a superior male to offer them some mammoth meat.

Dr. Roy Baumeister, for instance, argues that “men much more than the women had to stand out and fight their way to the top, had to dominate some hierarchy.” Mating favored superior men willing to take great risks for great gains, so natural selection made competitiveness “more deeply rooted in the male than in the female psyche.” Pundit John Tierney has similarly claimed that “women don’t get as big a reproductive payoff by reaching the top.” Scientist RD Alexander similarly concluded from his research that women’s best reproductive strategy is to play it safe while men need “a higher risk, higher stakes adventure” (Cordelia Fine points out the flaws in this in her Testosterone Rex).

This argument is full of holes. If women played it safe, they wouldn’t have babies: it’s a high-risk endeavor that was frequently fatal in the centuries before modern medicine (and the U.S. is still number one in maternal mortality). Risk-taking isn’t the only path for men to attract mates: agriculture is low-risk compared to hunting or war, but farmers marry and produce children. There’s also the problem that unless the risk-taking gene is entirely sex-linked, daughters would inherit it too, just like sons would inherit mom’s Play It Safe chromosomes.

Another problem is that where most Just So Stories explain the world around us, this cliche imagines a world that’s nothing like reality. Women aren’t at all passive about finding love; they’re as active and aggressive in mate selection as men. It’s not as obvious because for much of my life social codes dictated that men make the first move. Women had to compete subtly, using ploys to get the man to ask her out, or “put themselves out there” where suitable guys could potentially spot them. They compete by looking good for men; just as men can use looks, wealth and status to impress a potential mate, women can use clothes, makeup and money to serve the same purpose.

Unlike a lot of species, both men and women make active mate selection. This shouldn’t be surprising because passivity in relationships is a bad strategy. Sitting and waiting doesn’t work if nobody shows up; accepting the first marriage/date offer you get may not work out well. Bad marriages can have lifelong negative consequences; actively hunting for a good partner makes good sense. As TYG says, if men weren’t selective, wouldn’t that make them the inferior sex? Who do we respect more, the college that takes only the top students or the l0w-ranked school that will admit anyone?


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White supremacy is getting steadily more mainstream

As witness Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz have now formed an America First Caucus in Congress, dedicated to the propositions that America is built on Anglo-Saxon values and that post-1965 immigration — the year the U.S. stopped prioritizing European immigrants — has been a bad thing: “History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country.”

Despite Gaetz’ outraged cries this is “hit piece” and his goal is fighting “illegal immigration,” the group is quite open it has problems with legal immigration too. And when you emphasize Anglo-Saxon as your ideal, that translates into wanting more white immigration and less any other kind. As I’ve said before, this is why the Republican Party is now anti-American: the U.S. isn’t an Angl0-Saxon nation (and never really was) and they can’t accept that. The racism is sufficiently blatant that as Heather Cox Richardson says, some prominent Republicans are freaking out. More freaking out here. Apparently enough that Greene has announced they’re pulling the plug.

The America First Caucus has no apparent connection to the America First Policy Institute, which seems to exist to give jobs to unwanted Trump officials.

I wonder how long before Gaetz and the anti-Semitic Greene make common cause with Rick Wiles and his warnings about Satanic Zionists?

Bill O’Reilly explains much of our current politics results from liberals hating white people. And here we have a guy explaining that affirmative action forces him to be racist. I have a strong suspicion he doesn’t exert the same scrutiny when debating whether a legacy admission earned their place in college on merit.

The Gaetz/Greene group also lies and claims the election was stolen. Given the Sedition Day violence, are we at high risk for more violence ahead? Part of the challenge of preventing it is that right-wing extremism is so closely interwoven with the Republican Party.

Oh, and the right-wing is still also lying about the Trump Virus.

Then there’s Tucker Carlson, who enthusiastically embraces misogyny and white supremacist replacement theory. He’s also fond of spotlighting journalists whose reporting he doesn’t like, which leads to harassment and death threats against them.

Attorney Kash Patel started in politics as a legal aide to Rep. Devin Nunes. The WaPo looks at how he rose, despite the lack of any qualifications, to be a major player in the intelligence community, as Trump sought to remake them into something loyal to himself. Unlike the article, I don’t find it reassuring that Trump’s reluctance to fight was a big reason the plan failed. That means with a competent leader in his place, it might have succeeded.

Right-wing pundit Candace Owens expresses outrage a BLM leader would buy a house in a white neighborhood.

A lot of cops donated anonymously (they thought) to defend accused murderer Kyle Rittenhouse.

QANon supporters are winning elections in local politics all across the country.

“Having now spoken with enough White friends about our juvenile transgressions, I think it is completely possible that even if, God forbid, I had physically harmed someone, I still could have avoided permanent consequences. In fact, several White friends who come from wealthier families have expressed shock that I faced charges at all.”


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Florida man makes lousy governor, and other links

Some cruise lines want to require proof of vaccination from their passengers. Florida Man and Governor Ron DeSantis says if they’re Florida-based, he won’t allow it. He’s a shit, but the media love him.

A new bill headed to DeSantis’ desk will monitor Florida universities for liberal bias. Okay, they talk about “diversity of viewpoints” but I don’t believe for a minute they’re as worried about, say, Holocaust deniers or anti-vaxxers as about tolerance for gays, discussions of slavery and racism in American history or science teachers pointing out creationism is a lie. It’s the old problem for their side: reality is against them, so they have to deny reality. I imagine that in a few years the Legislature will be wondering why schools are denying replacement theory.

Similarly, I’m sure Florida’s anti-protest bill will result in cracking down on Black Lives Matter harder than neo-Nazis or the Klan. Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but we’re past the point at which Republicans are entitled to any good faith in their intentions.

Of course Republicans are rejecting America too. They’ve been in paranoid mode for a while. And they’re still fantasizing about secession. Or that Biden isn’t president. And they’ll try very hard to ensure the next Democratic president can’t be president: “The difference between the 2020 and the 2024 elections will be the difference between a reactive Republican party focused on trying to flip the Electoral College and a proactive Republican party prepared to move past the Electoral College to the next pathway to victory.”

Republicans in Texas want to puts trans kids in foster care if their parents provide trans-appropriate medical care. It’s part of the GOP’s new war against trans kids now that bashing gays doesn’t have as much support.

Anti-semitic preacher/pundit Rick Wiles wants Antony Fauci waterboarded until he confesses the truth about the Trump Virus.

Is the corporate pushback against voting restrictions a game changer? Or just a nine-day wonder? I suspect it’s the latter, but for the moment Republicans are freaking out that corporate America dares question them. More freaking out. Much like Republican concepts of “freedom of religion,” the freedom of businesses to do as they please is conditional on them doing the right things.

A community adapts to surviving without the cops. And Maryland passes laws that radically restructure the rules for bad cops.

Here’s an extreme example of cops’ infamous “blue wall of silence”: the Boston PD believed allegations Officer Patrick Rose was a child molester, but they kept him on the force. Rose went on to molest a lot more children.

John Hopkins University decided the pandemic was a good excuse to cut off contributions to the faculty retirement fund.




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