2014 - %3, July

Being an Oakland Raiders Cheerleader Just Got a Little Less Awful

| Mon Jul. 7, 2014 5:34 PM EDT

Update: On September 4, 2014, the Oakland Raiders agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle the class-action lawsuit brought by former cheerleader Lacy T. The team will pay an average of $6,000 per season to each Raiderette who worked from 2010 to 2012, and $2,500 to Raiderettes who worked the 2013-14 season. According to a joint statement, "The settlement will resolve disputed claims regarding payment for hours worked, including practices and appearances, expenses, interest, and penalties under the California Labor Code." Lacy told the LA Times, "I feel a sense of satisfaction knowing this long journey is over and will end happily for 90 women…I know we're just cheerleaders to people, but we're low-wage workers working for a billion-dollar industry."

In January, an Oakland Raiders cheerleader named Lacy T. filed a class-action lawsuit against the team with a laundry list of embarrassing allegations: Raiderettes were paid well below minimum wage, fined for things like forgetting to bring their pom-poms to practice or gaining five pounds, prohibited from talking to the press about their working conditions, and required to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket for hair appointments, tanning sessions, and other beauty supplies. Similar lawsuits quickly followed from four other NFL cheer squads: the Ben-Gals (Cincinnati Bengals), the Flight Crew (New York Jets), the Jills (Buffalo Bills), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cheerleaders. (Read Mother Jones' roundup of NFL cheerleaders' allegations here.)

An ad for Raiderette auditions stated that this year's cheerleaders will earn $9 per hour, making the Raiders the first of the sued NFL teams to give their squads a raise.

But last week, the Raiderettes had a small but real victory: In audition flyers that have since been taken off the team's website, the Raiders stated that this year's cheerleaders will earn $9 per hour, California's minimum wage. This makes the Raiders the first of the sued NFL teams to give their cheerleaders a raise. Furthermore, Caitlin Y., a cheerleader waging a separate class-action lawsuit against the Raiders, was invited back to the team after auditions this past weekend, making her the first active cheerleader to have spoken openly to the press against the team's working conditions.

The battle isn't over yet for the Raiderettes: Arbitration in mid-July will address other allegations from the January lawsuit, like the requirement that cheerleaders pay out of pocket for beauty expenses, and will discuss the potential for veterans to receive back pay to make up for lost wages. The lawsuit that Caitlin Y. and teammate Jenny C. filed against both the Raiders and the NFL is still under way. In addition to claims about low pay, it alleges that cheerleaders are ridiculed for the size of their breasts, called "Oompa Loompas" if their skin is too tan, and routinely required to work events where they are subject to the inappropriate comments and groping hands of drunken fans.

Notably, this degrading treatment echoes claims made in other squads' lawsuits: Buffalo Bills cheerleaders allege that they are subject to routine "jiggle tests" to make sure that their stomachs and thighs aren't too bouncy, and that at the team's annual golf tournament the bikini-clad cheerleaders are dunked into pools of water and "auctioned off" to the highest bidder.

The cheerleaders have a long road ahead, but, just maybe, a pay raise for the Raiderettes could be the first step toward NFL teams treating their cheerleaders with some semblance of dignity. If professional cheerleaders can't keep their hopes up, who can?

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Corb Lund's Sizzling, Glorious "Counterfeit Blues"

| Mon Jul. 7, 2014 11:12 AM EDT

Corb Lund
Counterfeit Blues
New West

When Canadian country rocker Corb Lund and his longtime backing trio, the Hurtin' Albertans, entered legendary Sun Studio (launching pad for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, et al.) in Memphis for two days of sessions, the result was this crackerjack album. Cut live in gloriously warm mono, Counterfeit Blues features new versions of previously recorded songs Lund and company had performed on stage for years, and it shows—in the best possible way. The band is loose and energetic, but tight as can be, while Lund's spirited vocals are playful and commanding at once. This sizzling brew of honky-tonk, rockabilly, and boogie recalls the '80s glory days of Nashville upstarts Jason and the Scorchers, and that's an impressive achievement indeed.

British Brewer Still Bitter Over American Revolution

| Thu Jul. 3, 2014 7:40 PM EDT

British actor and writer Stephen Merchant, who you can thank in-part for creating the original version of The Office, has a challenge for you this 4th of July: imagine if his people had won the war for independence. He's tired of acting like he's not bloody pissed that each year we celebrate beating his little country. He's so pissed in fact that he's made the following ad for Newcastle Brown Ale. Watch his plea, as he begs of you to image how "great" Great Brtiain 2 would be. And then, enjoy a hoedown, just to spite him:

"Jaws" Is Ridiculous, Say Kids Who Owe Everything to "Jaws"

| Thu Jul. 3, 2014 7:29 PM EDT

Happy Fourth of July! Thirty-nine years ago, Jaws became the first summer blockbuster. In it the town of Amity Island is terrorized by a killer great white shark around July Fourth weekend. In honor of that, we decided to publish a chat we just had about it. This chat has been edited for clarity.

Emily Dreyfuss: I saw Jaws last night in a movie theater.

Ben Dreyfuss: Why?

ED: Because it was playing right by our house and we needed to be somewhere air conditioned.

BD: Okay.

ED:  Two things: 1) You and dad are exactly alike and 2) I forgot that "we're going to need a bigger boat" wasn't his line, which makes me even angrier when people quote that in regard to him.

BD:  LOL, everyone thinks dad said that. He and I have this joke about Roy Scheider being pissed off about it for 25 years.

ED: I would be too! I hadn't seen Jaws since we saw it as a family 20 years ago.

BD: I watched it with mom last year. She was like, "I love Jaws. My favorite part is when dad kills the shark," and I was like, "Uh, he doesn't," and she was all, "Shut up, Ben. I was married to him for 10 years. He killed Jaws." So we watched it and then she was like, "Huh, I could have sworn he killed Jaws. I've been telling people that my ex-husband killed Jaws." "Well, I guess people think you were married to Roy Scheider." "I guess so."

ED: I mean, the way I read it last night, dad kind of fucked up and was semi-responsible for Quint's death. He dropped the dagger, then swam away and hid, and then the shark ate the captain and Roy Scheider was a hero.

BD: Yeah, I mean, he had the pole knocked out of his hand. Then he swims away and hides. He had just gone down in the cage which was a pretty brave thing to do. By the time he hides he had no chance of killing Jaws. Like, either let yourself be eaten or swim and hide. Scheider was objectively the hero though.

ED: Yeah, I mean, dad had no other options, but I just forgot that he wasn't the hero.

BD: Look, look, we love dad.

ED: Yes, to be clear, dad is the best.

BD: No one here is saying otherwise.

ED: I also forgot that his character was the rich kid! I guess I basically forgot everything.

BD: Oh yeah, with his tony, rich boat that they should have taken to avoid the whole death/sinking thing?

ED: I mean, they don't even address that, which is ridiculous. Like, his boat had all the things they needed! Like sonar.

BD: Right? And Quint demands that they take his rickety piece of shit which is just an insane thing to do. The only reasonable thing to say to Quint when he makes that demand is, "Sir, you are insane. We are not putting our lives in the hands of an insane person. You're fired. Good day."

ED: "Also, we should add, you can't catch a shark this big with a fishing pole. It had to be said."

BD: HAHAHAHAHA.

ED: Like, his big plan is that he is going to REEL it in with his human man arms.

BD: I was under the impression that he was using some sort of contraption to leverage the weight of the boat or something? But that might not be how science works.

ED: I don't think so. I think he was using the power of a metal cup to help hold the fishing rod and that is that and then it shows him reeling in and letting out and then being like, "This shark is so smart! I can't pull him in!"

BD: "He's either very very smart or very very dumb."

ED: LOL, yes. That's the line. Then he hands the rod—with the shark on the line!—to Scheider who knows nothing about fishing and isn't even strapped in!

BD: Then at the end he tries to tow him back to shore.

ED: Yeah and that works out well.

BD: Also, the entire notion of the shark following them out to sea seems suspect. Why would Jaws follow their dumb boat? It's just one boat.

ED:  Because of the dead fish and blood trail.

BD: That little bit of dead fish that Scheider throws in there though, it's not much! Like it's just a bit of blood. Jaws can eat that much fish whenever he wants.

ED: Oh oh oh, another thing that makes no sense is when dad and Roy find the boat with the dead fisherman at night and in the scariest moment of the film the dead body pops out and freaks dad out? WHY WOULD THE SHARK KILL THE FISHERMAN AND NOT EAT HIM? He is not a murderer. He's a "maneater!" He would have eaten that body!

BD: Jaws: Actually a story of a shark out for revenge against Ben Gardner. All the other attacks are just to cover up his crime.

ED: HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA.

BD: I mean, maybe Jaws didn't kill Ben Gardner. Maybe someone else did. Maybe they got away with it.

ED: Wow, you remembered that character's name. I am kind of blown away.

BD: "That's Ben Gardner's boat."

ED: Yeah, that is the line but like, what are you? A savant? I barely remember dad's character's name. I'm confused if it's hooper or hopper.

BD: Emily, I know all the lines to almost all of dad's movies. I watched them all dozens of times when I was young…It's Hooper.

ED: Where was I? I watched Always a lot…and cried.

BD: Yeah, Always is sad. I love the bit of that movie when Holly Hunter comes down in the dress dad bought her and that song "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" plays. That song makes me cry.

ED: That is a very good moment. Ok, but so, we can agree, Jaws makes no sense.

BD: Yeah. Great film.

ED: Wonderful film.

BD: Makes no sense.

ED: Makes little sense.

BD: It could make more sense.

ED: It could make more sense!

The end.

There's a Satirical, Naughty Musical About the Clinton White House Opening in New York. Listen to One of the Songs.

| Thu Jul. 3, 2014 3:37 PM EDT

If the musical-theater community could find it in itself to create a cantata telling the story of a Twitter war between Paul Krugman and the president of Estonia, then surely a musical about the Clinton administration couldn't have been that far behind.

On July 18, Clinton: The Musical will premiere at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. (The festival has previously hosted such successful productions as Next to Normal and Altar Boyz, prior to their respective Broadway runs.) The book for Clinton was written by Australian writing duo and brothers Paul and Michael Hodge, and music and lyrics were penned by Paul Hodge. An earlier, shorter version was nominated for best new musical at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and a subsequent incarnation was mounted at London's King's Head Theatre the following year.

The idea for the musical emerged out of a Hodge family outing. "My family and I went to go and see a musical in Australia about an Australian politician, back in 2006 or 2007," Paul Hodge tells Mother Jones. "And after the show, my dad said, 'Oh, it was good, but politicians don't make good subjects for musicals. The only politician who would make a good subject for that would be Bill Clinton.' And I said, 'Of course!'"

Clinton, a two-act musical satire, covers the eight years of Bill Clinton's presidency. According to Paul, the music ranges from more traditional American musical styles to burlesque to 1990s pop. As for comedic influences, Paul cites Arrested Development, The Simpsons, and 30 Rock.

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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"Snowpiercer": The Best Post-Apocalyptic Film About Class Warfare You'll See All Summer

| Wed Jul. 2, 2014 12:29 PM EDT

Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Chris Evans, is an ambitious, critically acclaimed new thriller. "While Transformers mucks up cineplexes with its ugly bombast, here, as an alternative, is something truly special, a unique and bracing science-fiction film that stirs both heart and mind," raves Vanity Fair.

Like so many action films that came before it (both the smart and the monumentally silly), Snowpiercer has political relevance pumping through its veins. In the future, a corporate attempt to reverse the devastating effects of global warming goes horrifically wrong: The experiment ends up murdering most of the planet. Survivors live aboard the Snowpiercer, a train—equipped with a perpetual-motion engine—where the rich and pampered live at the front and the poor and unwashed at the rear. Bloody class warfare ensues.

You get the message.

Here's Bong discussing the corporate critique and climate-change angle of his film, in an interview with CraveOnline:

In Snowpiercer, it's more about how big business tries to both use and control nature. And how it backfires on them. Nature takes its revenge and sends them back to the ice age. This is an aspect that is different from the graphic novel [source material] (by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette). I wanted to make a story change because I felt that climate change is more current of an issue and will continue to be, because it's not in the interest of big business to change, but to control.

Basically, it's an action movie in which corporate power takes extreme measures to attack the climate, instead of overhauling the way they do business for the sake of the world. They screw over human civilization, and the rest of the film goes the class-division route. "The poor are in the back and the rich are in the front," Bong told CraveOnline. "So this created an opportunity to talk about the political ideas involved and really examine human nature and why those systems exist. What would we actually discover if they were taken on? We don't know because it's so large and affects billions of people. Having a few survivors is a sci-fi element [that] makes it easier to explore these ideas."

On that note, here's a trailer for Snowpiercer:

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/
 

Man Tapped to Draw the New Wonder Woman Doesn't Want Her to Be Feminist

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 2:45 PM EDT
Lynda Carter is not amused.

David Finch, the artist who's taking over DC Comics' Wonder Woman, says he wants the feminist icon to be "strong"—but not "feminist."

In an interview with Comic Book Resources News, David and his wife, newly appointed Wonder Woman writer Meredith Finch, talked about their plans to reimagine the character. But David missed a step when he was asked about what he’s excited to touch on in Wonder Woman's character with the new book:

I think she's a beautiful, strong character. Really, from where I come from, and we've talked about this a lot, we want to make sure it's a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong—I don't want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.

[…]

I'm pretty visual and I'm really interested in that. She's got a great costume and she's got a lot of history—I'm really very visually attracted to "Wonder Woman." She just looks great on the page.

"That's pretty funny," Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, who created the film Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, said when I told her about Finch's comments. "She's an obvious feminist role model for many people for many reasons…It's like getting rid of her kryptonite to say that about her."

Feminist comics fans shouldn't panic quite yet, though. As Wonder Woman's writer, Meredith Finch is likely to have more control over the plot of the series, and she demonstrated a deeper grasp of the character's history than her husband:

She’s really a female icon from way back in the '70s when females were stepping up and taking such powerful roles. Being able to take on that quintessential female superhero who represents so much for myself and for millions of people out there—especially at a time where comics are coming more into the mainstream—I feel like it's really special, and that's really where I'm coming from when I'm writing this. I want to always keep who she is and what I believe her core is central to what I'm doing.

Meredith Finch isn't the first woman to write Wonder Woman. In 2007, Gail Simone became Wonder Woman's first female "ongoing writer,"  stepping into a role previously only occupied by male writers and designers.

Update: On Monday evening, David Finch responded via Twitter to criticism he received for his comment after Mother Jones highlighted it.

Finch's apology seems sincere, and he seems to understand that feminism is about equality. But his words suggest that being "human" and "real" means you can't be a feminist. Wonder Woman would probably disagree.

Belgium Might Not Be a Country by the Next World Cup

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 2:42 PM EDT
The Belgian team before its match against South Korea

When the Belgian soccer team takes the field today against the United States, it could be for the last time—and not just for this World Cup. By the time the next Cup kicks off in 2018, Belgium may not exist at all.

Belgium was an invention of the 19th century: culturally and linguistically, it's divided cleanly between the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south. Brussels, the capital of both Belgium and the European Union, is right in the middle. Recently, politicians in Flanders—which became wealthier than industrial, coal-mining Wallonia in postwar Europe—have pushed for independence, leading to serious strife between the country's two largest political parties.

Those parties, the Dutch-speaking New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and the French-speaking Christian Democrats, failed to form a government last week when Flemish leaders walked away from coalition talks. The last time Belgium couldn't form a government was in 2010; it took the parties 18 months to finally do it. The N-VA is a separatist party whose support has skyrocketed in Flanders; in Wallonia, right-wing politicians are asserting ties to France, and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen—who has compared Muslim immigration to Nazi occupation—said her country would welcome the Walloons "with pleasure."

The crisis happens to fall during one of the Belgian soccer team's best World Cup showings. The Red Devils won all of their group stage games and are favored to knock out the United States for a spot in the quarterfinals. The team's success is providing a rallying point for the country, if only for a short time. The team is made up of players from both Flanders and Wallonia; as a Belgian journalist told Yahoo, "When the national team plays everyone gets behind them, everyone supports them…No one is thinking about politics when the team is playing. Everyone is together and united."

Right now, there's no scheduled vote on separation in Belgium—like the one happening in Scotland later this year—but the situation could escalate. So while Belgian fans will cheer on their Red Devils in Dutch and French today, when it's time to fly home, those cheers just might turn into arguments.