More good news: Another dozen reasons to celebrate

More good news: Another dozen reasons to celebrate January 9, 2013

• “‘Strong young woman’: Taliban shooting victim Malala Yousufzai leaves UK hospital

• A 13-year-old girl from New Jersey didn’t think it was fair to her little brother that Hasbro’s Easy-Bake Oven was marketed as just for girls. McKenna Pope found 40,000 people who agreed — including some celebrity chefs — and Hasbro has now agreed with her too.

• “Ireland has announced plans to reform the country’s restrictive abortion policies, allowing women access to abortions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.” It’s a start.

• Episcopalians and high school history students team up to foil hate church’s attempts to protest weddings in Maryland.

• Bishop Simeon Hall, former president of the Bahamas Christian Council, says he “acted in ignorance,” when he preached against LGBT people as a younger pastor. Now he’s speaking out against such condemnation, saying “The demonization of homosexuals by some pastors is the greatest hindrance to any positive dialogue or efforts the church might establish with them.”

• The “fiscal cliff” budget deal reinstates the wind power credit. Grist’s David Roberts says incentives in the law could make 2013 “a boom year for wind” power. (Juan Cole has more at Informed Comment.)

• Also from Juan Cole: “The Afghan Sk8ter Grrls of Kabul

Skateistan is a skateboard NGO in Kabul, which maintains a facility for skateboarding and gets as many as 300 youth to attend as spectators at competitions. The organization maintains that 40 percent of skateboarders in Kabul are girls and young women, and that it is one of few relatively gender-integrated sports.

• “Police recover stolen Bible after church’s string of bad luck

He called police, who were already scoping out local antiques stores after hearing from others that a man was trying to sell a big, antique Bible. Police picked up the Bible and returned it to Joan Potvin, secretary at the church.

The RNS story there attributes the church’s woes to “bad luck,” but then seems to credit the return of its stolen heirloom as divine providence. Hmmm. But kudos to the sharp-eyed book-dealer who recovered the 19th-century Bible for the church.

• America’s incarceration rate has been rising year after year for decades, making that whole “land of the free” claim sound bitterly ironic. But, as Keith Humphreys notes, in recent years, it’s been going down:

At the time of President Obama’s inauguration, the incarceration rate in the United States had been rising every single year since the mid 1970s. The relentless growth in the proportion of Americans behind bars had persisted through good economic times and bad, Republican and Democratic Presidents, and countless changes in state and local politics around the country.

If a public policy trend with that much momentum had even slowed significantly, it would have been merited attention, but something far more remarkable occurred: The incarceration rate and the number of people under correctional supervision (i.e., including people on probation/parole) declined for three years in a row. At the end of 2011, the proportion of people under correctional supervision returned to a level not seen since the end of the Clinton Administration.

• Joseph Ward III shares his list of “2012’s Top 10 Moments in Christian Faith and LGBT Equality.” (Ward lists his top moments in which Christian faith promoted equality, not in which it was used to deny equality — that’s still a longer list, but this is a good news post, so we won’t dwell on that here.)

• Grist offers “12 great cities stories from 2012.”

• And Alvin McEwen gives us one more happy year-in-review list: “NOM’s Top Ten Failures of 2012.”


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  • Am surprised incarceration rates are going down, in particular since crime usually tends to go up during recessions – mostly domestic violence and petty theft.

     I would guess that part of the decline may be due to law enforcement budgets being strapped enough for cash that police are probably being told to informally ignore nonviolent drug offences, particularly possession without the intent to traffic.

    EDIT: Yep, just saw that Obama also spearheaded an effort to divert drug offence convictions into rehabilitation instead of incarceration. So it definitely shows that one aspect is a top-down directive, but I suspect other grass-roots work like the above guess is also at work.

  • Actually, crime rates have been decreasing across the United States since the 1970s no matter what the economy has been doing. Kevin Drum had an interesting article in Mother Jones that posits lead poisoning (and the decrease thereof) as a baseline factor, and he’s got some good sources to back it up.

  • Jessica_R

    Also wasn’t there some legit studies that showed that Roe V. Wade and the availability of legal abortion, at first anyway, helped too? 

  • Daughter

    As someone who grew up in a “2nd tier city” and lives in another now, I really liked the great city stories.

  • Can’t complain too much, but I saw this:

    Gallagher Gets Called Out On MSNBC

    I thought it was going to be the now openly batshit (including homophobic) fruit-smasher. Ah, well. Maggie Gallagher getting called out is no less satisfying, really.

  • There are two Gallegher comedians, and I think only one so far has been openly homophobic. Trouble is, you can’t otherwise tell the difference. 

  • I’m not entirely sure what the other one you mean is, but I definitely mean the curly-haired, moustachio’d one.

  • Dan Audy

    There have been some studies that found correlations between abortion legalization and reductions in crime on a 15-20 year lag.  However, the link between them is likely quite weak, if it exists at all, because the data does not find such significant drops in other countries that have legalized in other eras, rises in countries that have criminalized, or much difference between states that do and do not have easily accessible services.  It seems more likely a coincidence or very weak correlation that crime rates were falling (and continued to fall) roughly 15-20 years after Roe v. Wade.  As appealing an argument that abortion reduces crime by creating fewer unwanted children growing up in poverty is, it does not appear to be supported.

  • On the one hand; I’m glad Ireland is at least considering doing something…

    On the other hand I’m furious that it took someone DYING to even get to this point.  Fucking hell, it’s not like people didn’t say this was going to happen, but did they fucking listen? No.


    The rest is all good news though, and I’m happy to see it.

  • I admit, I am having issues seeing the Good News in the Street Scenes, #10. Why is the fact that the mass-murders in U.S. cities are ignored a good thing? Or was there just some aspect of the story that went over my head?

  • Carstonio

    Here’s the unleaded gasoline article that Aris Merquoni mentioned:

  • The_L1985

    Still, it would be fun to see all those anchorpersons get watermelon gunk on themselves…Or better, Maggie Gallagher getting that treatment.

    (The comedian went fundie too? The hippie comedian? Oh wow.)

  • The_L1985


  • The_L1985

     I figured Jessica was referring to the slight drop in crime rates that would have occurred immediately after the repeal, because now the women getting abortions weren’t committing a crime anymore when they did so.  (Although, if the Teapublicans have their way…)

  • connorboone

    The curly-haired, mustachioed one has a brother who borrowed large portions of his act, or did until the courts intervened.

  • Okay, that is both weird and silly.

  • Gallagher’s homophobic? Is that why he likes to bash watermelons to smithereens? I suppose it has to do with the different meanings of the word “fruit”, but still…

  • The Freakonomics guys were pushing the Roe v. Wade theory. It doesn’t seem as well-supported as the leaded-gasoline correlation, which holds up surprisingly well and has some neuroscience support for the mechanism. I’m not convinced that it explains as much of the variation as its proponents do, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the lead connection holds up as a major contributor.

  • Carstonio

    I’ve never cared for Gallagher’s act. I saw him on cable more than 20 years ago, and I’m not surprised that he’s aged into a bitter, bigoted reactionary. He was just as curmudgeonly back then but in a more generic way, with vague “what’s with people today” resentments about politically correct language and pop trends. The common but mistaken belief that life was better or simpler in the period of one’s upbringing. I’ve long joked that such people were even around during the cave era, grousing about the new trend of cooking meat.

  • Andrea

    Yay wind power!

  • Carstonio

    Why is that particular argument about abortion appealing? To me it feels too much like eugenics. Or at best, viewing abortion as a band-aid for the conditions that cause such children to grow up into lives of crime. Similar to attempts at preventing sex-selective abortions instead of addressing the root problem of sexism.

  • Stressfactor

    When I was a kid in the 1970’s I had an Easy Bake Oven and back in those days the thing was a lot more gender neutral.  I recall it being dark blue and made to look kind of like an old fashioned stove.  I’d love to know the point at which Hasbro decided the thing needed to be pink or purple…

  • Lori

    I don’t think Fred necessarily meant that each and every one of those stories was about good news. It’s a good piece of writing and it’s good that someone is trying to focus attention on the real issue, but the fact that we ignore so much on-going gun violence is obviously not good news in and of itself.

  • Lori


    The Freakonomics guys were pushing the Roe v. Wade theory. It doesn’t seem as well-supported as the leaded-gasoline correlation   

    The Freakonomics guys’ theories are often far more attention-grabbing than well-supported. I’ve stopped paying any attention to them because they’re too clever by half.

  • Jenny Islander

    Yes, this!  When the Hasbro “Cookery is for Girls” thing first hit the news, I wondered what the problem was.  I hadn’ t looked at an Easy Bake in years.  

    Man, if my old Easy Bake had looked like that thing they sell nowadays, I would’ve buried it in my closet.  I loathe pink.

  • I remember wanting one of those ovens because they looked cool. I never did get one though :P

  • The_L1985

     The same point at which toy companies in general suddenly decided they needed to brand every single item as being either Just For Girls!! or Just For Boys!!

    I don’t remember it being nearly this bad in the 90’s, either.

  •  Ditto. The Easy Bake oven my sister and I had in the 80s was yellow. The same color as the real oven.  Why in the world did they think it was a good idea to make the Easy Bake Oven in a color that you would never see a real oven in?

    (My son just got a play kitchen for christmas from my parents. It’s red and white. Not unheard of, but a red fridge and oven are still kinda weird.

    Tangentially, my parents got out my kid sister’s old play kitchen for her daughter to play with when they babysit her. But they had to cut the cord on the little plastic phone, because my niece could not even comprehend the idea of a phone having a cord.)

  • Tricksterson

    My sisters was white IIRC

  • The_L1985

     The idea of tangled phone cords is such a deep-rooted one for me that it’s still weird to think of how many years it’s been since I’ve had to deal with one outside the office.

  • VJBinCT

     do you mean :D ?

  • Isn’t this why Margaret Sanger originally promoted birth control/abortion, to cut down on the numbers of the poor, ie, thieves and troublemakers? At least that’s one theory I’ve heard, hope I’m wrong.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sanger was a eugenicist, yes.

    Knives can and often are used for inflicting injury. Does that mean knives should never be used, even to open boxes and chop vegetables?

  • People often like to haul that out in order to discredit Sanger.

    Tommy Douglas (yes, that Tommy Douglas) also approved of eugenics in the 1930s. Should the rest of his ideas be thrown out too?

  • Kiba

    I wanted one when I was little too and I never got it either. This was back in the 80s and one of the reasons I was given was “It’s for girls.” My basic response to this was along the likes of “fuck you, I just want to make my own damn cookies!” 
    Without the swearing of course. 

  • Exactly my point. And the sad thing is that you’d find a few stubborn souls who would advocate just that. 
    Seems there’s always something to think about, no matter how righteous the cause.

  • No, only that even the best ideas sometimes spring from unhappy sources. For that matter, Adolf Hitler hated smoking, wanted to put warning labels on cigarette packs; but I doubt anyone outside of the most obdurate RTC-GAWD-Bless-Amurica types would purposefully advocate smoking because of that.

  • Dan Audy

    It is an appealing liberal argument because it shifts the cause of crime onto poverty and dysfunctional families which are something that we already have a desire to eliminate/mitigate rather than a comprehensive set of factors that include culture and human nature.  It is a form of ‘othering’ crime to those people in a way that allows people to feel self righteous about fixing the problem.  When you mix in the fact that disproportionately non-whites are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder it also allows a way for people to express mild racism in a socially acceptable fashion, it hits a lot of triggers that make people feel good.  It is exactly like eugenics in terms of the appeal just without the fact that we’ve experienced and theorized about how eugenics is vulnerable to evil means and ends to vilify it.

  • Lliira

     Gender policing in general seems to have gotten way, way worse in the 2000s.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I wasn’t paying much attention to this sort of thing for most of that decade–were there any major advances in queer rights coincident with or immediately previous to the upswing in gender policing?

  • I think the reason for that has to do with the retro-stalgia phenomenon that’s been permeating our society in increasing amounts starting in the late 1990s (see: Gattaca, the introduction of the PT Cruiser), aimed squarely at the Baby Boomers. Concomitant with this has been the reintroduction of sexist language in some movies and in popular media.

    This likely translates to a societal reversion to promoting more rigid gender roles and with it, a rebellion against the general trend of broader tolerance of minority sexual preferences.

    There are things I like about the 1950s and 1960s, but the rigidification of society into “tab A into slot B” roles for people is not one of them.

  • Carstonio

     Without disagreeing with your point, I’ve seen similar othering from folks who insist that culture and human nature are the cause of crime. They apply that argument just as selectively as the people that you describe. Wayne LaPierre’s response to Sandy Hook was simply the fallen word theology translated into pseudo-secular terms.

  • Dan Audy

    Absolutely.  People will blame pretty much anything to convince themselves that it is something different about others that leads to all the bad things and thus they don’t need to examine things within themselves.  Not saying that it is all culture or human nature nor that poverty and family disfunction aren’t factors but that blaming any one or two causes is simplifying it beyond reason.