Sam Brodey

Sam Brodey

Online Editorial Fellow

Sam Brodey is an online editorial fellow at Mother Jones in San Francisco. Before coming to the magazine, he worked at Slate and PolicyMic while an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter at @s_brodez or drop him a line at sbrodey [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Pennsylvania Teenager Simulates Oral Sex With Jesus Statue, Faces 2 Years in Prison

| Fri Sep. 12, 2014 1:39 PM EDT

Teenagers are prone to dumb, tasteless pranks, but one 14-year-old is facing prison time for his latest stunt. The teen, from Everett, Pennsylvania, hopped on top of a statue of a kneeling Jesus—in front of an organization called "Love in the Name of Christ"—and simulated oral sex with the statue's face. Naturally, he posted the pictures to Facebook, which made their way to authorities.

Officials in Bedford County charged the teen (whose name hasn't been released) with desecration of a venerated object, invoking a 1972 Pennsylvania statute that criminalizes "defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action." You'd think an appropriate punishment for a kid violating this seldom-invoked law might be picking up trash or, at worst, paying a fine. If convicted, he faces much worse: two years in juvenile detention.

Truth Wins Out, a LGBT advocacy nonprofit, has argued that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the establishment clause—"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"—and free speech rights—"Congress shall make no law abridging the right to hump a statue of Jesus."

Pennsylvania is not the only state with a "venerated objects" law—many states have some version of it, but most define "desecration" as vandalizing or otherwise physically harming an object of civic or religious significance. Alabama, Tennessee, and Oregon have laws like Pennsylvania's, which can be interpreted to punish individuals—like this bold, dumb teenager—who simply decide to do something offensive.

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Book Review: The Human Age

| Wed Sep. 10, 2014 3:32 PM EDT
the human age

The Human Age

By Diane Ackerman

NORTON

Is humankind so dominant that we deserve our very own geologic era? Naturalist Diane Ackerman answers an emphatic "yes" in this ambitious survey of our brief reign on Earth. Despite pockets of purplish prose, The Human Age is a well-crafted and often compelling book: Orangutans with iPads, self-aware robots, and visionary fishermen are characters in her expansive story of how human advancement affects our lives and our environment. Ackerman is neither overly optimistic nor alarmist as she explores the pros and cons of humanity, expressing wonder and concern at all the things we're capable of.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones.

3 Ways the Baltimore Ravens Completely Screwed Up the Ray Rice Mess

| Mon Sep. 8, 2014 4:17 PM EDT

This afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens released running back Ray Rice in response to a video released by TMZ showing Rice knocking his then-fiancée (and current wife) Janay Palmer unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator in February. Rice has been the subject of intense scrutiny since the NFL suspended him for two games—earlier today, it suspended him indefinitely—but some had given the star running back the benefit of the doubt after he claimed he was simply defending himself. (Indeed, both Rice and Palmer were charged with assault following the incident.)

This new footage, though, clearly shows that wasn't the case, and as outrage mounted today, the Ravens had little choice but to take decisive action against Rice. But we should hardly be praising the team. If anything, the Ravens have been defending Rice and victim-blaming from the very beginning. For example:

1. In May, the Ravens decided it'd be a good idea to sit Rice and Palmer in front of the media and have them publicly address the Atlantic City incident. The result was a complete PR disaster. Rice began by apologizing not to Palmer, but to senior Ravens management and coach John Harbaugh. Rice also chose his words poorly, defining failure as "not getting knocked down, but not getting back up."

2. Even more tone-deaf than the press conference itself was how the Ravens presented it. The team had a staffer live-tweeting the spectacle, and the team's official account sent out this unbelievable tweet, straight out of Victim-Blaming 101:

 

The tweet was deleted today.

3. After Rice's two-game suspension was handed down in late July, people were outraged that occasional pot smokers got harsher punishments from the NFL. The Ravens PR machine thought it was the perfect time to start rehabilitating Rice's image, releasing a glowing dispatch from his first major public appearance after the punishment. The article, posted on the team's website, says Rice got a "standing ovation" from fans who "showed him a lot of love," even though he had been under "national scrutiny." After noting that he showed his "usual fun-loving side," the piece observed with remarkable subtlety that "Rice jerseys sprinkled the crowd, worn by both males and females."

The NFL has earned much-deserved flak for toughening its domestic-violence penalties only when the national criticism ramped up. Today's move by the Ravens should be seen in a similar light: Cutting Rice was the right decision, but it's clear the organization has never taken his offenses all that seriously. It took an even-worse leaked video to make the Ravens finally act.