Ben Dreyfuss

Ben Dreyfuss

Engagement Editor

Ben Dreyfuss is the engagement editor at Mother Jones.

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The Civil Rights Act Was Signed Into Law 50 Years Ago Today

| Wed Jul. 2, 2014 7:04 PM EDT

Here is President Obama's statement on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:


In 1964, President Johnson put pen to paper and signed the Civil Rights Act into law.  Fifty years later, few pieces of legislation have defined our national identity as distinctly, or as powerfully.  By outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, the Civil Rights Act effectively ended segregation in schools, workplaces, and public facilities.  It opened the door for the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act.  And it transformed the concepts of justice, equality, and democracy for generations to come.
 
The Civil Rights Act brought us closer to making real the declaration at the heart of our founding – that we are all created equal.  But that journey continues.  A half a century later, we’re still working to tear down barriers and put opportunity within reach for every American, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they come from.  So as we celebrate this anniversary and the undeniable progress we’ve made over the past 50 years, we also remember those who have fought tirelessly to perfect our union, and recommit ourselves to making America more just, more equal and more free.

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7 Things We Hate About Belgium

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 4:19 PM EDT

Our glorious fighting boys of the US men's soccer team are playing Belgium today in their first elimination match of the World Cup.

We want the US team to win. You should too!

Here are some of the things we hate most about Belgium.

1. King Leopold II
This guy! He oversaw one of the cruelest regimes in history in the Congo. His regime was responsible for 10 million Congolese deaths. If there is a hell, King Leopold is burning in it.

2. Tintin
Sure he's cute and so is the dog. But he's a terrible reporter and also Herge was a real racist.

A frame from Tintin's first adventure, "Tintin in the Congo" Wikimedia Commons

3. The Smurfs
Did you know that possibly the most annoying cartoon franchise in the history of animation was set in a Belgian socialist village? No amount of French fries will make up for that crime against humanity.

4. Dr. Evil
Not only is he evil, and Belgian, but he was a seminal character in one of the most grossly overrated, discussed, and imitated films of the 1990s.

5. Jean-Claude Van Damme
He's quite good at kicking, but Street Fighter was awful. Also, 1999's Universal Soldier: The Return, in which "the Muscles from Brussels" has to off a rampaging fight computer-led robot army. Critics were not impressed. As the New York Post put it, Van Damme's accent "makes Stallone sound like a master of elocution".

6. Belgian waffles aren't even a thing in Belgium
"What is known in North America as the 'Belgian waffle' does not exist in Belgium," sayeth Wikipedia.

7. They are somehow even worse than us on gender equality.
For all the flack the United States gets over gender equality, the US actually beats Belgium handsomely on a few important counts. In 2011, the last year that data is available, 90.1 percent of US women got at least a secondary education. In Belgium, only 72 percent did. In the US, the boards of publicly traded companies are 12 percent women. In Belgium? 10.8 percent. In the US, 57 percent of women were at work in 2012— way above the OECD average of 54 percent, and way, way above Belgium's rate of 47 percent.

No surprise that a country with fewer women in the workplace also has fewer women overseeing things. In 2008, the last year for which data is available, 13.9 percent of US working women held down some managerial responsibilities—more than double the OECD average that year. In Belgium, only 8 percent of working women were managing anything. Worse yet, that figure has fallen to 4.7 percent as of 2011.

On the other hand Audrey Hepburn is from there and she was the best. Still, all in all, USA > Belgium.

Via ohmyglobyougays.tumblr.com/
 

This Judge Just Destroyed the Stupidest Argument Against Gay Marriage Ever

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 1:54 PM EDT

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and issued a withering take-down of marriage equality opponents.

Kentucky had argued that legalizing gay marriage would harm the state's birth rate. "These arguments are not those of serious people," wrote US district judge John Heyburn. "Though it seems almost unnecessary to explain, here are the reasons why.

"Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have.

"The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in 'ensuring humanity’s continued existence' are at best illogical and even bewildering…The Court can think of no other conceivable legitimate reason for Kentucky’s laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage."

Heyburn stayed his ruling while Kentucky appeals, meaning no same-sex marriages are taking place just yet.

Read the full ruling:

 

Justice Ginsburg's Epic Hobby Lobby Dissent Was Just Turned Into the Best Song You'll Hear All Day

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 11:19 AM EDT

Jonathan Mann writes a song every day. Yesterday, he turned Justice Ginsburg's epic, blistering Hobby Lobby dissent into a pretty good one!

Why can't he be on the Supreme Court?

Facebook Just Admitted It Tinkered With People's News Feeds to Manipulate Their Emotions

| Sat Jun. 28, 2014 6:43 PM EDT

Emotional contagion is when people subconsciously take on the emotions of those around them. It's when happy people are around sad people and then feel rather down themselves. Or when sad people are in happy crowds and suddenly just want to dance.  Like so many things in real life, this happens on the internet as well. Your emotional state converges with the general feeling of your Twitter feed or your Facebook friends. This is how humans work, it's how we're wired, and it's nothing to lose sleep over.

What may in fact be worth losing sleep over is that Facebook just admitted to intentionally manipulating people's emotions by selectively choosing which type of their friends' posts—positive or negative—appeared in their News Feed.

Take it away, Next Web:

The company has revealed in a research paper that it carried out a week-long experiment that affected nearly 700,000 users to test the effects of transferring emotion online.

The News Feeds belonging to 689,003 users of the English language version were altered to see “whether exposure to emotions led people to change their own posting behaviors,” Facebook says. There was one track for those receiving more positive posts, and another for those who were exposed to more emotionally negative content from their friends. Posts themselves were not affected and could still be viewed from friends’ profiles, the trial instead edited what the guinea pig users saw in their News Feed, which itself is governed by a selective algorithm, as brands frustrated by the system can attest to.

Facebook found that the emotion in posts is contagious. Those who saw positive content were, on average, more positive and less negative with their Facebook activity in the days that followed. The reverse was true for those who were tested with more negative postings in their News Feed.

Ok, let's break some stuff down:

Can they do this?

Yes. You agree to let the company use its information about you for "data analysis, testing, research and service improvement" when you agree to without reading the terms of service. It's the "research" bit that's relevant.

Should they?

I don't know! There are clearly some ethical questions about it. A lot of people are pretty outraged. Even the editor of the study thought it was a bit creepy.

Should I quit Facebook?

You're not going to quit Facebook.

No, really. I might.

You're not going to quit Facebook.

You don't even know me. I really might quit. No joke. I have my finger on the button. I saw an ad for a little house out in the country. No internet. No cell service. I could sell everything and go there and live a quite, deliberate life by a pond. I could be happy there in that stillness.

Cool, so, I personally am not going to quit Facebook. That seems to me to be an overreaction. But I do not presume to know you well enough to advise you on this matter.

(You're not going to quit Facebook.)

Anything else?

Yes, actually!

Earlier this year there was a minor brouhaha over the news that USAID had introduced a fake Twitter into Cuba in an attempt to foment democracy. It didn't work and they pulled the plug. Let's dress up and play the game pretend: If Facebook has the power to make people arbitrarily happy or sad, it could be quite the force politically in countries where it has a high penetration rate. (Cuba isn't actually one of those countries. According to Freedom House, only 5% of the population has access to the World Wide Web.)

Economic confidence is one of the biggest factors people consider when going to vote. What if for the week before the election your News Feed became filled with posts from your unemployed friends looking for work? Not that Mark Zuckerburg and co. would ever do that, but they could!

Have fun, conspiracy theorists!

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