Notes and Comment Blog

The very validity of their standing within society

Jun 20th, 2019 10:47 am | By

Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber has a more reasonable, less vituperative dissenting response to the letter to the Times.

Last Sunday at letter appeared in the Sunday Times attacking the LGBT charity Stonewall for its work with British universities as a threat to academic freedom.

That’s why I had to say “less vituperative” as opposed to “non-vituperative.” The letter doesn’t attack Stonewall.

The letter was signed by some reasonably prominent figures, such as Kathleen Stock (Sussex) and Leslie Green (Oxford) as well as motley others (including a Brexit Party candidate). It is no accident that the letter appeared in the Sunday Times, which together with its companion paper the Times has, for at least a year, maintained an almost daily campaign against transgender people and the organizations and individuals who support them and which has also been to the fore in attacking universities around largely spurious concerns about “free speech”.

That’s why I had to say “more reasonable” as opposed to “very reasonable.” It’s not true or reasonable to say that the Times has “maintained an almost daily campaign against transgender people,” because the campaign (or series of related articles, which I think are pretty far from daily) is not against transgender people, it’s in disagreement with some of the claims made by the transgender movement.

The letter to the Sunday Times was framed in terms of supposed threats to academic freedom posed by Stonewall guidance and training to universities. Of course, freedom of speech, inquiry and opinion within the academic community is of great importance. Stonewall too recognize that in their documents. But it is also vital that universities as places of education and as workplaces function as environments where everyone is able to participate and work together with dignity, rather than places where some are excluded or humiliated because of their race, sex, sexuality or gender identity.

Well, sure, depending on what we mean by certain words within that statement. Universities should be places where no one is humiliated; it’s pretty easy to assent to that. It’s not quite as easy to agree to the “excluded” part because (as I keep saying to the point of tedium) it depends what you mean. Universities do exclude lots of people – most people in fact. Universities have entrance requirements, and they charge tuition. Exclusion is key to their functioning in many ways. That’s not what Chris is talking about, but that’s just it – the words “inclusion” and “exclusion” are used more as slogans than as usefully accurate labels. I don’t know of anyone who wants to exclude transgender people from universities or disciplines or classes, and I don’t think simply declining to agree that transgender people are literally and in every sense the sex (gender) they identify as counts as unjust “exclusion.” I think Chris is saying, somewhat too indirectly, that trans people are excluded and humiliated unless everyone agrees that they are literally and in every sense the sex (gender) they identify as. I think that’s saying more than can be demonstrated.

The authors of the letter to the Times are, at best, cavalier in their attitude to the effects that this “debate” is having on trans people, who experience the very validity of their standing within society as put in question by the discourse around transgender.

I don’t really know what that means.

I wonder if it’s Chris who is being somewhat cavalier? I wonder if he’s considered the possibility that the validity of trans people’s standing within society depends much less on the compliance of the authors of the letter to the Times than it does on the population at large – people on the bus, people on the street, people at the pub, people at Waitrose, people at parties, and on and on.

Maybe the idea is that if academics “validate” trans people and their “standing within society” then the rest of the population will follow? But I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think it’s that easy.

 The letter alleges that Stonewall seeks to ban from universities any outside speaker who questions “that trans people are the gender they say they are” but I see a factual claim — and a true one — about the effect of outside speakers who hold a range of views (including advocating conversion therapy) namely that such speakers “cause LGBT people to feel deeply unsafe”.

So it’s a true factual claim that outside speakers who hold a range of views (including advocating conversion therapy) “cause LGBT people to feel deeply unsafe”. So all the views of these outside speakers, no matter which views they are, cause LGBT people to feel deeply unsafe. That’s quite a large claim, and not a very fair one.

Just as the effect of speakers preaching hate against other groups may reasonably be take into account by universities in deciding to invite them onto campus, so trans people are entitled to similar protections.

But first you have to agree that the Outside Speakers are preaching hate, and they and we their friends or allies or both don’t agree to that. Kathleen Stock doesn’t preach hate. None of the gender critical philosophers I know preaches hate.

Comments are turned off on the post, which is a pity. I’d be interested to see what other philosophers think.

What does “safe and sanitary” mean?

Jun 20th, 2019 8:45 am | By

Helen Christophi at Courthouse News:

The Trump administration argued in front of a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday that the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, despite a settlement agreement that requires detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

All three judges appeared incredulous during the hearing in San Francisco, in which the Trump administration challenged previous legal findings that it is violating a landmark class action settlement by mistreating undocumented immigrant children at U.S. detention facilities.

Tell us again that these are not concentration camps, that they’re nothing like concentration camps, that they have nothing to do with concentration camps.

“You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?’” U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asked the Justice Department’s Sarah Fabian Tuesday.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher also questioned the government’s interpretation of the settlement agreement.

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” Fletcher asked Fabian. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”

We get a useful explainer of the Flores settlement, which governs this:

The settlement at issue came out of Jenny Lisette Flores v. Edwin Meese, filed in 1985 on behalf of a class of unaccompanied minors fleeing torture and abuse in Central America.

Finally agreed upon in 1997, the settlement established guidelines for the humane detention, treatment and release of minors taken into federal immigration custody. The guidelines include the right to a bond hearing and requirements that immigration authorities timely release children to parents or guardians and place those not released in facilities that meet certain standards. The facilities are supposed to be “safe and sanitary.”

In an interesting plot twist, the Obama administration tried to tweak it:

The settlement landed back in court in 2015, when class members moved to enforce it following the Obama administration’s announcement that it would scrap bond hearings because they conflicted with newer immigration laws. In legal filings, the class contended the elimination of bond hearings and dirty and dangerous conditions at short-term holding facilities operated by the Border Patrol violated the agreement.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles granted the class’ motion and ordered the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure government compliance with Flores.

Gee said the administration had breached Flores by failing to provide detainees with adequate food and clean drinking water, or with hygiene items like soap, toothbrushes and towels. She also concluded that the children were being deprived of sleep and access to bathrooms, and were subjected to near-freezing temperatures.

So that wasn’t on Trump’s watch, it was on Obama’s watch.

Trump’s people argued that soap wasn’t included in Flores, the judges retorted that it was too obvious to be spelled out.

Problematic but perhaps useful

Jun 20th, 2019 8:03 am | By


He’s an academic himself – a historian – so he’s in one of those other fields.

By “transphobia” he of course means just not buying all the wack truth claims, and his theory for why there is less skepticism about the wack truth claims in the US is the fact that we buy other wack truth claims more easily so we also buy the truth claims of trans dogma more easily. That’s quite an admission for a transdogmaphile.

He ended up with this bit of wisdom:

Or to put it another way, philosophers are trained to analyze truth claims to see how well they stand up, so they’ve become well familiar with how quickly and thoroughly the truth claims of trans dogma go splat.

But that’s transphobia, so it must be bullied out of existence.

That only includes ‘some’ women

Jun 19th, 2019 5:33 pm | By

Oh yes, that weirdo type of feminism that is only for women, not women plus men who say they are women. So unreasonable.

Imagine talking smack about a brand of anti-racism that only includes people of color instead of being for people of color and white people who say they are people of color.

But that wouldn’t happen, because it’s only women who are seen as accommodating enough and supine enough and fucking stupid enough to accept this crap.

He doesn’t leave

Jun 19th, 2019 4:53 pm | By

Historian Heather Cox Richardson on the current mess:

Since Richard Nixon, Republican presidents have pushed the envelope of acceptable behavior under the guise of patriotism, and Democrats have permitted their encroaching lawlessness on the grounds of civility, constantly convincing themselves that Republicans have reached a limit beyond which they won’t go. Each time they’ve been proven wrong.

Nixon obstructed justice. Ford pardoned him.

When Ronald Reagan’s administration was exposed for having illegally sold arms to Iran to raise money covertly for the Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government, Reagan acknowledged that the evidence was damning – yet defended the principle behind the scheme. Reagan’s successor, George HW Bush, pardoned the six leading figures of the Iran-Contra affair because, he said, “whether their actions were right or wrong”, they were motivated by “patriotism”. The investigation into their actions was “a criminalization of party differences”.

Seeing a pattern, are we?

[W]hen George W Bush, a Republican, took office, Republicans once again deferred to executive lawlessness. In order to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq, administration officials falsely argued that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. To silence opposition, “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Dick Cheney, unmasked a CIA officer. Libby was ultimately convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice; no one else was held criminally responsible for the disinformation used to justify the Iraq war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Even before the 2016 election, Republican officials told reporters that they planned to impeach Democrat Hillary Clinton as soon as she was elected for her misuse of an email server or her ties to the Clinton Foundation. McConnell then led Republicans in refusing to join President Obama and Democratic leaders in a bipartisan statement alerting the public that Russian intelligence was attempting to throw the 2016 election to the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. This forced Democrats to accept the tilted playing field to avoid the appearance of partisanship.

Democrats kept largely quiet in the face of such bullying, afraid that Republican rhetoric would alienate voters and hurt their chances in 2016. Then Trump won.

And immediately the lawlessness became a 24/7 thing. The Republicans just smile complacently while Trump steers us over a cliff.

Trump is certainly aware of the power that acquiescent Republicans have afforded him and that as soon as he is out of office, he can be charged with crimes. He recently told reporters he was different from Nixon because Nixon left. “I don’t leave,” Trump said. “Big difference. I don’t leave.”

If only he would.

H/t Omar

Guest post: Subjective experience is just that

Jun 19th, 2019 4:22 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Feeling≠being.

Practically speaking, in most situations, I wouldn’t say anything, for the same reasons I generally don’t get into discussions about very personal matters.

But if this were one of those conversations that is an exception for some reason: no, I wouldn’t say “you’re wrong.” But I would ask — with genuine curiosity — “how do you know? What does being a woman FEEL like to you?”

Because frankly, I wouldn’t know how to answer the question “what does it feel like to be a man?” [Insert jokes about my inadequacies here. You can’t ask for a better setup.] I could tell you a bit about how it feels to be treated as a man in society, or to interact with others on that basis. I suppose I could come up with an answer about what it feels like to have male genitalia. But those are different questions, as I would think trans people would be quick to point out. I don’t have some internal sense that tells me I’m male, or have a “male brain,” or anything like that, and I can’t even imagine what that would mean. As with pretty much everyone, I conform to some of our culture’s gender stereotypes and not to others.

I think I can wrap my head around gender-related body dysphoria, meaning that I can grasp the notion of having some feeling that your body should be different than it is. But again, we’re told that being trans doesn’t necessarily entail that. So I’m back to being flummoxed.

It’s like that claim that humans have a “sensus divinitatis” that gives (most) people a knowledge of god. I mean, I assume that people who claim to have a sense of god, in their brain or their heart or whatever, to be speaking truthfully of their subjective experience. And I’ve never had any interest in trying to talk someone out of a religious belief that is essentially “well, I feel it/Him/Her in my heart.” But I do insist on my right to object to a claim that a sensus divinitatis is an actual objective thing, and that therefore God exists because your subjective experiences tell you so. (To say nothing of the rather offensive related implication that atheists are either lying or brain-damaged.)

Coercive misogyny

Jun 19th, 2019 3:20 pm | By

Daughters are not slaves.

Muslim father faces jail for psychologically abusing his daughters in the first case of its kind.

Salamat Khan, 63, exerted such domineering control over his household that his children felt like they were “living in a prison”.

His daughters felt as if they were living in a prison, not his children. His son joined in the psychological abuse of the daughters. Is there some sort of pattern here? To do with what kind of people abuse and what kind are the abusers? I have a feeling there is but I can’t quite pin it down.

The father-of-nine had already married off three of his daughters to selected husbands, but “cast out” two of his daughters, when they married men that he did not “approve of”.

As a result, Khan claimed the sisters were “dead to the family” and tried to stop two other unmarried daughters leading a Westernised lifestyle.

Khan was found guilty and will be sentenced next week.

Three of Khan’s daughters wed in Pakistan in arranged marriages, but two others married Muslim men who were not “arranged” for them.

Khan then refused to let his other two daughters – Madina, 21, and Maryha, 24 – go out in the evenings, or meet their friends, and forced them to cook and clean for him in their “traditional” Islamic household.

In other words he imprisoned and enslaved them.

Giving evidence to the court, Madina Khan said that her role was “staying at home, cooking and cleaning”, that she was forbidden from socialising with friends outside of college and that she was “scared” of her father.

She claimed that her “aggressive” brother had threatened to kill her more than once and on the night the police were called “this time I thought he was going to do something”. She added: “He was enraged. It’s been like living in a prison”.

Her mother added that Salamat Khan and her son “make the decisions” and she was encouraged not to contact her rebel daughters.

It’s almost as if religion tells men it’s ok to hate women.


Jun 19th, 2019 12:48 pm | By

Another strange thing to think.

Universities & colleges should be sanctuaries, not spaces where staff & students are exposed to oppressive attitudes from those charged to teach them.

Really? Universities and colleges should be sanctuaries? What about being places where people on the edge of adulthood learn things they didn’t know before, and learn how to learn new things, and learn to question things they thought they knew, and to ponder why they thought they knew them?

In short, no, universities and colleges should not be sanctuaries. They should of course be places where people are treated decently, and where the older professionals in charge don’t use their status to bully or abuse students or other underlings…but sanctuaries, no. Education isn’t always soothing; it doesn’t always even feel “safe” in the sense of cozy and reassuring. New ideas and new ways of thinking can seem threatening, but they’re worth the discomfort.

Also, I suspect Grady’s claim rests on the pervasive trope that trans people, mostly meaning trans women, are especially “vulnerable” and fragile and in need of protection…which is odd when you remember that trans women are not literal women. Yes, boys and men can be bullied and abused for not being Manly enough, but male bodies are still not fragile as cobwebs.

Several people share my skepticism of the idea that universities should be sanctuaries.


Jun 19th, 2019 11:56 am | By

Trump loves to say US air quality is getting cleaner and cleaner thanks to him. Is he right?

Pfffffffff. Of course not.

Over the last two years the nation had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, federal data shows. While it remains unclear whether this is the beginning of a trend, health experts say it’s troubling to see air quality progress stagnate.

There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its fewest number of those days since at least 1980.

Some of that has to be because of the summer wildfires problem, I would think.

Air quality is affected by a complex mix of factors, both natural and man-made. Federal regulations that limit the emissions of certain chemicals and soot from factories, cars and trucks have helped dramatically improve air quality over recent decades. In any given year, however, air quality can be affected by natural variations. That may be what’s behind the stalled progress, scientists say.

Scientists say that it is too early to see the effects of changes in environmental policy of the Trump administration, which took office in January 2017.

But they say looser restrictions and lax enforcement would almost certainly reverse the gains that have been made in recent decades, potentially turning what has so far been a modest, two-year backslide into a dangerous trend.

In an email, the EPA told The Associated Press the increase in unhealthy air days in 2017 “is largely associated with wildfires” in the west and it is studying 2018 before officially announcing its annual air trend data.

Air pollution experts agree wildfires likely have had a role, along with random variation, a stronger economy which leads to more consumption of fuels, and a changing climate. Higher temperatures increase the chances for fires and smog.

But moves to deregulate industries that pollute do not make the air cleaner.

She FEELS she has executive privilege

Jun 19th, 2019 11:16 am | By

Hope Hicks is refusing to answer questions. They think they’re gods, don’t they.

Former White House communications director Hope Hicks is not responding to any questions about her time at the White House in a closed-door congressional interview Wednesday, angering Democrats who say they expect to go to court to force her to answer their questions.

White House attorneys are objecting to all questions related to the White House, Democrats say, all the way down to where Hicks sat in the West Wing. But Hicks is answering questions about her time on the Trump campaign, which is not covered by executive privilege.

None of it is covered by “executive privilege.”

The White House is not asserting executive privilege, but arguing that Hicks has absolute immunity from testifying as a senior adviser to President Donald Trump. Democrats called that legal claim “ridiculous” and “absurd” as they signaled they will likely challenge it in court.

“There is no such thing as absolute immunity that prevents someone from answering questions about any subject related to their work in an administration. It just doesn’t exist,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat. “This is an ongoing effort by the president of the United States to obstruct, to prevent Congress from finding the facts and behaving as if he’s above the law.”

Well he feels like someone who is above the law. Don’t we have to respect that?

The White House’s objections to Democrats’ questions were expected, as White House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent the House panel a letter Tuesday evening arguing that Hicks was immune from testifying about her time at the White House as one of the President’s senior advisers, citing executive privilege protections.

“Because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of President, the President has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the Committee relating to the time of her services as a senior adviser to the President,” Cipollone wrote.

Because of this constitutional immunity that doesn’t exist.

Three little words.


Jun 19th, 2019 10:24 am | By

Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham and President of Humanists UK, has been Twitter-arguing with people who found the Natural History Museum’s tweets about queer giraffes and non-binary gorillas absurd.

This one is particularly interesting to me:

It’s her reply that interests me, but I’ll just note about the quoted passage from her book…I wonder if she would write that now. I wonder if now she would stop, and think, and frown, and then censor herself. I wonder if she would stop to think about it and then decide that it would be “transphobic” to allow that sentence to appear.

That’s a hypothetical though. Her actual reply today says “If someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes tells me he feels female – I cannot tell her she is ‘wrong’. Would you?” That’s what interests me.

Of course, first of all, it depends what she means. (I asked her but don’t know if she’ll reply.) Maybe she just means it’s not comfortable or polite and usually probably not even ethical to tell strangers they’re wrong about what they “feel” about themselves. But if she means it more generally and abstractly, that we can never think people are wrong about what they “feel” about themselves – that’s nonsense, and it’s antithetical to a scientific outlook. Why? Because people can be wrong about themselves, even if it’s an inner feeling, even if they feel the inner feeling strongly. Treating self-feelings as absolutely true and immune to rebuttal is sheer dogmatism.

That is, naturally, all the more germane when people are making factual claims that contradict what shows on the surface. Trump “feels” he is a stable genius, but there is much external evidence that points to a different conclusion.

Roberts’s hypothetical someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes may not be wrong about what he feels, but he’s probably wrong that what he feels=what he is. What we “feel” we are doesn’t necessarily determine what we actually are. It’s not that easy.

Come on where?

Jun 18th, 2019 5:41 pm | By

A woman expresses passionate eagerness to erase the very category of women and girls.

So after all these years of trying and trying and TRYING to get marketers to stop dividing humans into strong bold brilliant boys and weak pretty stupid girls were a big mistake? So we actually shouldn’t be trying to tell girls they can be strong and bold and brilliant? We should actually stop doing that because her “trans son” wants to rise above the muck of being a female person? Well fuck that for a game of soldiers.


Jun 18th, 2019 5:22 pm | By

The Smithsonian Magazine notes that concentration camps started long before Hitler took power.

Spain was having trouble persuading the Cuban people to stop rebelling, so they decided to round up the peasants who were supporting the rebels.

Civilians were forced, on penalty of death, to move into these encampments, and within a year the island held tens of thousands of dead or dying reconcentrados, who were lionized as martyrs in U.S. newspapers. No mass executions were necessary; horrific living conditions and lack of food eventually took the lives of some 150,000 people.

These camps did not rise out of nowhere. Forced labor had existed for centuries around the world, and the parallel institutions of Native American reservations and Spanish missions set the stage for relocating vulnerable residents away from their homes and forcing them to stay elsewhere. But it was not until the technology of barbed wire and automatic weapons that a small guard force could impose mass detention. With that shift, a new institution came into being, and the phrase “concentration camps” entered the world.

You’ll never guess who resorted to them next.

After defeating Spain in Cuba in a matter of months, the United States took possession of several Spanish colonies, including the Philippines, where another rebellion was underway. By the end of 1901, U.S. generals fighting in the most recalcitrant regions of the islands had likewise turned to concentration camps. The military recorded this turn officially as an orderly application of measured tactics, but that did not reflect the view on the ground. Upon seeing one camp, an Army officer wrote, “It seems way out of the world without a sight of the sea,—in fact, more like some suburb of hell.”

The US “liberated” Cuba and the Philippines and promptly unliberated them by taking over the colonial rule. Just kidding about the anti-imperialism thing!

The Boer War, Namibia, and on it went. The Nazis drew on a long and much-used tradition. Trump is reviving it, because that’s the kind of evil sack of shit he is.

If you don’t want Auschwitz, don’t stand by while they build Dachau

Jun 18th, 2019 4:53 pm | By

Many people have reacted to Liz Cheney’s “internment camps for migrants are not the Holocaust, learn some history” tweet.

And in the “massively missing the point” category, step up Dinesh D’Souza.

Nazi concentration camps weren’t for “illegal immigrants” because oddly enough Germany wasn’t a hugely popular destination for immigrants during the Third Reich. They were for despised people the Nazi regime wanted to control and, with any luck, destroy. Putting migrants and asylum seekers in camps is not radically different from putting dissidents and Jews…and gays and gypsies and the disabled in camps. The whole idea fits in the category Putting Despised People in Camps. It’s not a good look. We did it with the Japanese internments, we’re pretty much doing it now with mass incarceration, and putting migrants and asylum seekers in camps will be the same bad look and the same horrendous disgraceful brutal way of carrying on. Don’t bother trying to defend it.

We’ll leave it at that

Jun 18th, 2019 4:13 pm | By

“Dreyfuss était coupable!”

Trump says “You have people on both sides of that” when asked if he has any plans to apologize for trying to get the Central Park 5 executed.

H/t Acolyte of Sagan


Jun 18th, 2019 12:17 pm | By

Speaking of climate and emergency – Chennai (formerly Madras) has run out of water. That’s 11 million people.

The southern Indian city of Chennai (formerly Madras) is in crisis after its four main water reservoirs ran completely dry.

The acute water shortage has forced the city to scramble for urgent solutions, including drilling new boreholes.

Residents have had to stand in line for hours to get water from government tanks, and restaurants have closed due to the lack of water.

In the Arctic the permafrost is melting, and in southern India the water supply is drying up.

The water crisis has also meant that most of the city has to depend solely on Chennai’s water department, which has been distributing water through government trucks across neighbourhoods.

“The destruction has just begun,” an official said. “If the rain fails us this year too, we are totally destroyed.”

A city of 11 million people.

Camps are an early step

Jun 18th, 2019 12:04 pm | By

Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, thought she had a gotcha on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

It’s Cheney who needs to learn some history. The Nazis didn’t go from zero to Auschwitz in 30 seconds; it took them years to get to Auschwitz. It was a process, with stages. Herding people into camps was an early stage. Trump is putting us at that stage. There is no magic mechanism guaranteeing that we won’t go on to further stages. That’s AOC’s point, and it’s dishonest and malevolent of Cheney to pretend not to get it.

Look at all the thermokarst

Jun 18th, 2019 11:53 am | By

Turns out permafrost isn’t perma.

Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared.

A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said they were astounded by how quickly a succession of unusually hot summers had destabilised the upper layers of giant subterranean ice blocks that had been frozen solid for millennia.

They flew an old prop plane to extremely remote areas up there.

Diving through a lucky break in the clouds, Romanovsky and his colleagues said they were confronted with a landscape that was unrecognisable from the pristine Arctic terrain they had encountered during initial visits a decade or so earlier.

The vista had dissolved into an undulating sea of hummocks – waist-high depressions and ponds known as thermokarst. Vegetation, once sparse, had begun to flourish in the shelter provided from the constant wind.

People in the Trump administration are no doubt composing a press release saying hooray more land for farming plus shipping in the Arctic at last hooray hooray.

Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.

It’s already going much faster than predicted.

Even if current commitments to cut emissions under the 2015 Paris agreement are implemented, the world is still far from averting the risk that these kinds of feedback loops will trigger runaway warming, according to models used by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With scientists warning that sharply higher temperatures would devastate the global south and threaten the viability of industrial civilisation in the northern hemisphere, campaigners said the new paper reinforced the imperative to cut emissions.

“Thawing permafrost is one of the tipping points for climate breakdown and it’s happening before our very eyes,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. “This premature thawing is another clear signal that we must decarbonise our economies, and immediately.”

And we’re not going to.

That domestic violence was PRIVATE

Jun 18th, 2019 11:29 am | By

It’s strange how men who assault women, or defend other men who assault women, keep turning up in Trump’s administration. The acting secretary of defense just resigned.

The Washington Post pressed the button to launch this story at 12.58PM ET today, one minute ahead of the time logged when Donald Trump announced Shanahan’s withdrawal from the process to find his forever home at the Pentagon.

It’s pretty raw, beginning:

In the months that he has served as President Trump’s acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan has worked to keep domestic violence incidents within his family private. His wife was arrested after punching him in the face, and his son was arrested after a separate incident in which he hit his mother with a baseball bat. Public disclosure of the nearly decade-old episodes would re-traumatize his young adult children, Shanahan said.

The son hit his mother in the head with a baseball bat, and fractured her skull. Shanahan defended the son.

Welcome to Club Trump.

Map of what is not up for debate

Jun 18th, 2019 10:21 am | By

A philosopher sent Brian Leiter a guide to Philosophical Discussion of Trans Identity.

Members of the profession have doubtless seen the recent letter from MAP, objecting to the participation of Kathleen Stock at a recent meeting of the Aristotelian Society. As the letter writers thoughtfully advised: “scepticism about the rights of marginalised groups and individuals, where issues of life and death are at stake, are not up for debate. The existence and validity of transgender and non-binary people, and the right of trans and non-binary people to identify their own genders and sexualities, fall within the range of such indisputable topics”.

Junior members of the profession may be wondering what sorts ideas may be discussed and debated by philosophers, and which may not. Which may be subject to skeptical inquiry and which may not.  Which may be discussed at the Aristotelian Society and which may not. Following is a helpful guide.

You MAY question whether race exists and whether gender exists, you may question whether social kinds exist.  For that matter, you may question whether any kinds at all exist, and for the measure, whether abstract objects or even whether the external world exists.  You may NOT, however question whether people can identify their own genders.

You MAY question whether other minds exist, or whether anything at all exists except for yourself.  You may even question whether time exists and space exists.  You may ask whether all change is illusion.  You may NOT, however, question whether people can identify their own genders.

You MAY also question whether you yourself exist or are a social construct.  You may question the existence of the Cartesian ego and you may even wonder if there are such things as Cartesian egos.  You may reject them or endorse them.  However, you may NOT question whether people can identify their own genders.

The same for God, God and evil, mathematics…

You MAY feel free to argue that everything is made of water or air or apeiron or numbers or soul stuff or mind or matter or whatever.  You may ask whether cats are robots from mars, whether there are zombies, whether everyone you know is a zombie, whether you might be a swamp man and if so whether you have any thoughts at all, but you may NOT question whether people can identify their own genders.

You get the idea. You can argue about the ontology of anything and everything…except gender.

But you can argue about how we know that? Yes?


I hope you agree with me that you ought not question whether people can identify their own genders.  It is, after all, just an indisputable fact and not up for debate!  But you might think it is an apt philosophical exercise to ask how we how we came to have this knowledge that people can identify their own genders.  This would be an error.  You may not query the source of this knowledge.

You may ask how we know we are not brains in vats, or how we know there isn’t an evil deceiver or how we know we are not in the Matrix with Neo and Morpheus.  You may ask if we are in Plato’s cave, not really seeing things as they are.  You may ask how we know that we don’t live in a land of fake barns and how we know that the zebras in our zoos are really zebras.  You may NOT ask, however, how we came to know that people can identify their own genders.

You can argue about the epistemology of anything and everything…except gender.

Hopefully you agree that one should not question whether people can identify their own genders.  It is just an indisputable fact after all.  And hopefully you are also thinking that it is wrong to question how we came to KNOW that people can identify their own genders.  But perhaps you are thinking it is your job as a pedagogue to teach material that considers these obviously harmful questions.  Well, wrong again.

There are many much more worthy doctrines to teach.  For example, you should feel free to teach Aristotle, who said that women are “more mischievous, less simple, more impulsive … more compassionate … more easily moved to tears … more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike … more prone to despondency and less hopeful … more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive.”  You may write papers about this idea and you may teach the passage to your students.  You may name your prestigious societies after Aristotle.  You may NOT, however, teach Kathleen Stock on the subject of whether people can identify their own genders.  You may not invite her to conferences. Especially not to meetings of The Aristotelian society.  Professor Stock is to be deplatformed.

For that matter, please do not informally question the source of our knowledge that people can identify their own genders. If a philosophy blog should raise these issues it is to be shunned.  Do not link to such a blog.  It must go dark. It is a fact that people can identify their own genders, and it is not to be interrogated, or discussed, and the source of such knowledge is not to be queried, challenged, or in any way shape or form investigated or discussed as an act of pedagogy or as a matter of curiosity amongst philosophical peers.  Doing so would constitute an act of violence against trans people.  I’m sure it is clear why.

I trust that this has been helpful.

Can we discuss the meta question of why there is this one exception?

Don’t be silly.