Notes and Comment Blog

Let Us Re-Accommodate You

Apr 11th, 2017 9:13 am | By

Hashtag New United Airlines mottoes:

They call in the brute squad

Apr 11th, 2017 8:57 am | By

The United story is still running, and I’m still as disproportionately fascinated by it as everyone else. I guess that’s just because it’s so perverse – so [I would have thought] blatantly wrong and yet so defended. It’s like Trump that way.

In the US, that is. Outside the US people are pointing and laughing.

The Times and the Post both are still reporting the story as if the guy did something wrong in refusing to be thrown off the plane, as if it were just obvious and taken for granted that a plane ticket isn’t what it seems to be. This amounts to saying: just expect to be mistreated, even when you’ve paid for the service in question and arrived on time and combed your hair neatly. I don’t want to expect to be mistreated, thanks.

The Independent, on the other hand, is less inclined to see things from the airlines’ point of view.

if you’ve ever wondered what happens when airlines can’t bribe a single paying customer off of a flight, now we know: they call in the brute squad.

This morning, newsfeeds across the globe were flooded with viral videos of some poor guy getting dragged kicking and screaming out of a seat he paid to sit in. It didn’t matter that he claimed to be a doctor who needed to get home to tend ailing patients, and it didn’t matter that his fellow passengers protested his removal. A profit-driven airline company wanted to make room for employees, and so private security staff were more or less given the green light to beat somebody up to make it happen.

Now we know. I must say I didn’t know before. I didn’t know they would just order me off if they felt like it. I sure as hell didn’t know they would back it up with force if I said no.

And what was United’s stellar PR response? To claim its staff were all “following established procedures” and call the customer “disruptive and belligerent”. Translation: the shockingly violent treatment of our passengers isn’t that big a deal. Shares in the company are already starting to take a slide, and by day’s end, United Airlines very well may have become the most mocked company in the history of the Twitter. “Board as a doctor, leave as a patient,” said one contributor to the #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos hashtag. “We put the hospital in hospitality,” wrote another.

OK, so people are forcibly removed from planes all the time. United had to kick 3,765 paying customers off flights last year alone. But the scary thing is, this blood-soaked guy who simply wanted to go home and get to work the next day could have been any one of us. The newly emboldened security services have rendered our airports xenophobic battlegrounds, and emboldened those who might otherwise have stopped to think before resorting to violence or abuse.

Or perhaps even not have wanted to resort to violence or abuse in the first place.

Calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent”

Apr 10th, 2017 5:41 pm | By

Unbelievably, the CEO of United is unrepentant. He says it was all the passenger’s fault – you know, the passenger who had a ticket and duly boarded the plane and sat in his seat, and then was told to get out of it because the airline wanted it back. It was his fault.

United CEO Oscar Munoz doubled down in a letter to employees on Monday evening, claiming that employees “followed established procedures” when removing a passenger from a plane because it was overbooked, and calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent.”

That’s established procedures? Smashing your face onto an armrest and then dragging you bodily up the aisle while you bleed freely from a broken lip?

Video circulated of the incident earlier in the day, showing the man being dragged from the plane and later returning with blood on his face. The incident drew scorn on Twitter and other social media, especially when Munoz used the euphemism “re-accomodate” in a public statement to describe the customers booted from the flight.

According to the letter, which was obtained by CNBC, when crew members first approached the passenger to tell him to leave, he “raised his voice and refused to comply,” and each time they asked again “he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.”

I don’t care. He’d bought a ticket. You didn’t warn him it was only provisionally his. How do I know? Because I have never once been warned by an airline that they might just decide to throw me off the plane if they want to fit someone else onto it. Not once. Yes no doubt it’s in the fine print, but that’s not the same thing.

And why is he the one who is disruptive and belligerent? Why isn’t it disruptive and belligerent of United to throw him off the plane simply because it wants his duly purchased seat back?

Crew members “were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight,” Munoz wrote, and at one point the passenger “continued to resist – running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.”

Munoz acknowledged to employees that the company could learn lessons from the incident, but said: “I emphatically stand behind all of you.”

Well I emphatically stand behind all of us in saying fuck you to United Airlines and its CEO.

Special flight offers

Apr 10th, 2017 5:07 pm | By

Fly the friendly skies of United.

The disgraceful law intended to close the Central European University in Budapest

Apr 10th, 2017 4:48 pm | By

Here’s a thing you can do. George Szirtes writes:


“Dear Mr Tajani,

I see my fellow Booker Prize winner, the translator Ottilie Mulzet has already written to you about the disgraceful law intended to close the Central European University in Budapest. The law, intended for this one specific purpose, is the latest of steps taken by Viktor Orbán to close out democratic institutions in the country, including press, media and NGOs. Please note I do not say opposition institutions since the CEU is in no way a political opponent of the government. It is simply an independent university.

This evening the president of the country, János Áder, has signed the law and for the second night students are out there, protesting. They are the last bastion against the establishment of a prospective authoritarian one-party state.

It will be a serious blot on the EU’s conscience to permit this act of the Orbán government to pass without response. It reduces Europe. It weakens it. It takes it one step further to the edge of disintegration.

We can watch and hear the students on YouTube as I write this. We implore you to address this matter with the seriousness due to it.

George Szirtes FRSL,FEA

To sign it go to his post and comment to that effect.

I know some of you don’t use Facebook so if you’d like I can add your names if you say so here.

With a smile and a wave

Apr 10th, 2017 11:28 am | By

From the ACLU:

Just a week after the Republican Party’s Affordable Care Act repeal bill was dramatically pulled from the House floor, the Senate advanced legislation that will have serious consequences for the reproductive health and family planning abilities of millions across the country. It’s now awaiting President Trump’s signature — and we have his vice president to thank.

On March 30, the Senate passed H.J. Res 43, but only because, without sufficient support, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote – a constitutional authority he holds as president of the Senate. He voted in favor, with a smile and a wave.

Here’s why that’s so disturbing: H.J. Res 43 would eliminate a regulation that enables Title X family planning grants to go to the most qualified health care providers. The regulation prohibits states from preventing providers from receiving federal funds for reasons that are unrelated to their ability to provide healthcare services. In other words, if a healthcare provider delivers high-quality care, it’s eligible to receive Title X money.

Why is this critical?

Title X providers offer vital services — such as birth control, cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted infections — to 4 million people, regardless of economic status. It’s a publically funded safety net for those who can’t simply go elsewhere. And it works because the network is diverse and includes reproductive health providers, which are often the most qualified and best-equipped to provide this care.

Ahhh yes, but what else are they? Besides the most qualified and best-equipped to provide this care? Likely to provide abortions, of course. Uh oh uh oh. Must prevent, must terminate.

By law, no Title X funds can be used to provide abortion services. But, in more than a dozen states, politicians have moved to block healthcare providers who also provide abortion, like Planned Parenthood and others, from receiving Title X funds.

Because abortion cooties.

But no; really it’s because let’s punish abortion and the women who need abortion. Let’s use our power to do our best to force all pregnant women to stay pregnant whether they want to or not…except of course in the case of poor women who need pre-natal care. They can just die or miscarry, but those sluts who want to stop being pregnant – they have to be forced to stay pregnant.

By law, no Title X funds can be used to provide abortion services. But, in more than a dozen states, politicians have moved to block healthcare providers who also provide abortion, like Planned Parenthood and others, from receiving Title X funds. That’s discrimination, and the courts agree. Excluding qualified providers does nothing to help public health. It actually hurts access to needed care.

The Obama administration recognized this, and in December of last year, the Department of Health and Human Services issued its regulation to protect against this discrimination. But the Congressional Review Act gives Congress the authority to simply undo regulations passed late in the previous administration. It used to be an extremely rare move. That’s no longer the case.

Prior to 2017, it had been used to overturn a rule just once. But with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, the process has become far more common: As of April 3, the president has signed 11 resolutions to overturn Obama-era regulations, with more headed to his desk. That’s how we ended up overturning Title X family planning protections by a margin so narrow — there was bipartisan opposition in the Senate — that the vice president had to step in.

It was a striking moment. Pence ascended the Senate dais, grabbed the gavel, and calmly, proudly, gleefully even, voted in favor of a resolution that will interfere with health care for millions of low-income women and insert ideology into reproductive health care.

Of course he did. There’s just nothing more gratifying than punishing those sluts who want to stop being pregnant.

Thank you for being beaten up with United today

Apr 10th, 2017 10:59 am | By

The CEO of United Airlines says it’s all rather upsetting. To them.

Videos of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged from his seat on a Sunday overbooked flight at O’Hare International Airport have been viewed more than 1 million times, and the airline’s CEO on Monday called the incident “an upsetting event to all of us here at United.”

Well that’s sad and everything but what about that doctor they beat up? What about his patients in Louisville who had appointments to see him today?

Another passenger on the flight, Audra Bridges, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that United asked for a volunteer at the gate to take a later flight, offering $400 and a hotel stay. Bridges, of Louisville, told the Courier-Journal that passengers were then allowed to board the flight.

Once the flight was boarded, passengers were told four people needed to give up their seats for stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville for a Monday flight and the plane wouldn’t depart until they had volunteers, Bridges said. United increased the offer to $800, but no one volunteered.

So they should have kept going.

Instead they said the computer would select four people to throw off. A couple left reluctantly, but the passenger who said he’s a doctor said he’s a doctor and refused. (So far it’s only his word that he’s a doctor.) Security came along to talk to him, and he still refused. So United called the cops, who got violent with him.

“After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” United spokesman Charlie Hobart said in the statement. “We apologize for the overbook situation.”

But not for the calling the cops situation or the beating a guy up situation or the dragging a guy bleeding up the aisle of the plane situation.

Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt questioned why United didn’t simply offer a larger sum.

“Everybody has their price. If they had allowed the agent to offer a higher incentive, we may never have heard about this,” said Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group.

Hobart said United tries to come up with a reasonable compensation offer, but “there comes a point where you’re not going to get volunteers.”

At that point, United’s contract of carriage says the airline can select passengers to bump to a later flight, based on a priority system that can take into account how much passengers paid, how often they fly, whether missing that flight could affect a connecting flight and how early they checked in. People with disabilities and unaccompanied minors are generally last to be bumped.

Usually, passengers — however angry — comply with the airline’s orders. But even if it’s an unusual situation, it raises questions about what rights passengers have when being removed from a flight against their will, Harteveldt said.

Yes, yes it does.

I know it’s very first world problem and all, but the high-handedness and casual violence of it grabbed my attention.

United refused to answer questions about the incident

Apr 10th, 2017 10:05 am | By


Videos showing a man being violently removed from a United Airlines flight have provoked a public outcry on social media.

The footage taken from inside the airliner shows a man being violently pulled out of his seat and dragged down the aisle as passengers prepared to take off from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday evening.

Well there must be a reason. It may be a bad or mistaken reason but there must be a reason – they think he harassed the person next to him, or someone thought he was A Terrorist, or something.

But no.

The airline in question – United – has acknowledged that the man’s only apparent crime was that the flight was overbooked and he refused to leave voluntarily.

Erm…that’s not a crime.

And, in fact, isn’t it a crime to refuse to deliver a paid-for service and then assault the paid-up customer? That sounds criminalish to me.

Jayse D Anspach, who posted the footage, tweeted: “#United overbooked and wanted four of us to volunteer to give up our seats for personnel that needed to be at work the next day.”

“No one volunteered, so United decided to choose for us. They chose an Asian doctor and his wife.”

“The doctor needed to work at the hospital the next day, so he refused to volunteer,” Mr Anspach added.

“Ten minutes later, the doctor runs back into the plane with a bloody face, clings to a post in the back, chanting, “I need to go home.”


Another passenger Audra D. Bridges, who posted a video of the incident on Facebook, that has been viewed over 400,000 times, wrote: “Please share this video. We are on this flight. United airlines overbooked the flight.”

“They randomly selected people to kick off so their standby crew could have a seat.

“This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning,” she added.

“He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted.”

The Washington Post has more details, which only make it sound even worse:

United Airlines says a man wouldn’t give up his spot on an overbooked flight Sunday.

So, according to witnesses and videos of the incident, he was pulled screaming from his seat by security, knocked against an arm rest and dragged down the aisle and back to the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

United refused to answer questions about the incident, which horrified other passengers on the Louisville-bound flight. An airline spokesman only apologized for the overbooked flight, and said police were called after a passenger “refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily.”

But why do they get to call police on passengers who “refuse to leave the aircraft voluntarily” when it’s the airline that’s at fault? Surely what they should be doing in that situation is offering bribes until they get the necessary number of volunteers? Genuine volunteers, not “volunteers” dragged screaming from their seats.

Tyler Bridges recalled trouble starting almost as soon as he and his wife boarded.

An airline supervisor walked onto the plane and brusquely announced: “We have United employees that need to fly to Louisville tonight. … This flight’s not leaving until four people get off.”

“That rubbed some people the wrong way,” Bridges said.

I should think it would. What happened to that whole “thank you for flying with us today” thing? Not to mention that the respectable way to try to get people to do you a favor you need because you fucked up is to ask them very nicely – not to start with a threat. “Hey, I made a mistake, so we’re not going anywhere until you fix it for me.” <— No.

Then there’s the video, which I just watched. It’s unbelievable. It’s horrifying.

What is wrong with us? Is this some kind of Trumpvirus spreading to everywhere?

In another video, the man runs back onto the plane, his clothes still mussed from his forcible ejection, frantically repeating: “I have to go home. I have to go home.”

“He was kind of dazed and confused,” Bridges said. He recalled a group of high school students leaving the plane in disgust at that point, their adult escort explaining to other passengers: “They don’t need to see this anymore.”

The airline eventually cleared everyone from the plane, Bridges said, and did not let them back on until the man was removed a second time — in a stretcher.

This whole “human beings” thing has been a mistake.

They found systemic compensation disparities against women

Apr 9th, 2017 5:47 pm | By

Speaking of systemic obstacles thrown in the path of women in STEM – Google does its part.

Google has discriminated against its female employees, according to the US Department of Labor (DoL), which said it had evidence of “systemic compensation disparities”.

As part of an ongoing DoL investigation, the government has collected information that suggests the internet search giant is violating federal employment laws with its salaries for women, agency officials said.

“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” Janette Wipper, a DoL regional director, testified in court in San Francisco on Friday.

Stay in STEM, girls – and if they pay you less than they pay the boys, just stay later and arrive earlier.

Reached for comment Friday afternoon, Janet Herold, regional solicitor for the DoL, said: “The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.”

Herold added: “The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”

Google denies it.

Google is a federal contractor, which means it is required to allow the DoL to inspect and copy records and information about its its compliance with equal opportunity laws. Last year, the department’s office of federal contract compliance programs requested job and salary history for Google employees, along with names and contact information, as part of the compliance review.

Google, however, repeatedly refused to hand over the data, which was a violation of its contractual obligations with the federal government, according to the DoL’s lawsuit. After the suit was originally filed, a company spokesperson claimed that Google had provided “hundreds of thousands of records” to the government and that the requests outlined in the complaint were “overbroad”, revealed confidential information, or violated employees’ privacy.

I’m surprised Trump hasn’t told the DoL to drop the case.

Google is not the first tech company to face legal action from the labor department over employment practices. In September, the DoL filed a lawsuitagainst Palantir, the Palo Alto data analytics company, alleging it systematically discriminated against Asian job applicants in its hiring process. Palantir has argued that the DoL’s analysis was flawed and the company has denied the accusations.

In January, the department sued Oracle, another large tech company, claiming it paid white men more than others, leading to pay discrimination against women and black and Asian employees. Oracle claimed the case was “politically motivated” and said its employment decisions were based on merit and experience.

In recent months, there has been uncertainty about the future of these kinds of aggressive DoL enforcement efforts under Donald Trump. The president has rolled back Obama-era protections for female workers, and some DoL staffers have raised concerns that the new administration will not embrace the agency’s core mission of supporting workers’ rights. An Oracle executive also joined Trump’s transition team, and the president’s close adviser Peter Thiel co-founded Palantir.

Any bets on how long it will take the Trump gang to shut that whole thing down?

Robert Reich – Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, don’t forget – said this:

When I visited Google several weeks ago, several women took me aside to mention how badly they were treated in terms of pay and promotions.

Shame on Google. It ought to be a model of equal opportunity for women rather than a model of gender bias. (By the way, I hope Trump’s new pick for Labor doesn’t stop this lawsuit.)

Drain that swamp.

You bought it

Apr 9th, 2017 5:22 pm | By

Robert Reich on Facebook:

Update for Trump voters.

1. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. You bought it. Then he bombed Syria.

2. He said he’d build a wall along the border with Mexico. You bought it. Now his secretary of homeland security says “It’s unlikely that we will build a wall.”

3. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.

4. He said he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “wonderful.” You bought it. Then he didn’t.

5. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White House into shape. You bought it. Then he created the most chaotic, dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history, in which no one is in charge.

6. He said he’d release his tax returns, eventually. You bought it. He hasn’t, and says he never will.

7. He said he’d divest himself from his financial empire, to avoid any conflicts of interest. You bought it. He remains heavily involved in his businesses, makes money off of foreign dignitaries staying at his Washington hotel, gets China to give the Trump brand trademark and copyright rights, manipulates the stock market on a daily basis, and has more conflicts of interest than can even be counted.

8. He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

9. He said he’d surround himself with all the best and smartest people. You bought it. Then he put Betsy DeVos, opponent of public education, in charge of education; Jeff Sessions, opponent of the Voting Rights Act, in charge of voting rights; Ben Carson, opponent of the Fair Housing Act, in charge of fair housing; Scott Pruitt, climate change denier, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Russian quisling Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

10. He said he’d faithfully execute the law. You bought it.
Then he said his predecessor, Barack Obama, spied on him, without any evidence of Obama ever doing so, in order to divert attention from the FBI’s investigation into collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives to win the election.

11. He said he knew more about strategy and terrorism than the Generals did. You bought it. Then he promptly gave the green light to a disastrous raid in Yemen- even though all his Generals said it would be a terrible idea. This raid resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL, an 8-year old American girl, and numerous civilians. The actual target of the raid escaped, and no useful intel was gained.

12. He called Barack Obama “the vacationer-in-Chief” and accused him of playing more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods. He promised to never be the kind of president who took cushy vacations on the taxpayer’s dime, not when there was so much important work to be done. You bought it. He has by now spent more taxpayer money on vacations than Obama did in the first 3 years of his presidency.

13. He called CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times “fake news” and said they were his enemy. You bought it. Now he gets his information from Fox News, Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and InfoWars.

More to come.

Making more bad things happen

Apr 9th, 2017 11:47 am | By

That evil piece of shit. EVIL.

The Trump administration informed Congress on Monday that it had terminated United States funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the world’s leading provider of family planning services, including contraception, to women in at least 155 countries.

The United States is one of the top donor nations to the United Nations, and the denial of funding was one of President Trump’s biggest moves yet to reduce financing for family planning.

Rich thieving rapist American white guy cuts off funding for contraception so that more poor brown women around the world will be forced to conceive and bear children they don’t want to conceive and bear.

In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs said it had determined that the Population Fund “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization,” a reference to the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, a 1980s-era law enacted in response to evidence of forced abortions and involuntary sterilization in China.

Women’s health advocates contend that evidence has repeatedly shown that the Population Fund’s work in China does not violate the amendment. But opponents of family planning have historically demanded that the United States end its support.

Opponents of the possibility for women to have a choice about getting pregnant. That’s what “opponents of family planning” really means. Opposition to contraception equals advocating the enslavement of women.

The Population Fund is the single largest international provider of contraception, family planning, and other reproductive health services. In 2016, health advocacy groups say, American support for the organization’s work prevented an estimated 320,000 pregnancies and averted 100,000 unsafe abortions, while ensuring 800,000 people had access to contraception.

The Trump regime wants an estimated 320,000 women to be impregnated against their will.

Lunch torture

Apr 9th, 2017 10:30 am | By

Well that’s a thing I didn’t know was happening.

What is “lunch shaming?” It happens when a child can’t pay a school lunch bill.

In Alabama, a child short on funds was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” In some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.

New Mexico has passed a bill outlawing that kind of bullying.

In some cases, cafeteria workers have been ordered to throw away the hot lunches of children who owed money, giving them alternatives like sandwiches, milk and fruit.

“People on both sides of the aisle were genuinely horrified that schools were allowed to throw out children’s food or make them work to pay off debt,” said Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, an anti-poverty group that spearheaded the law. “It sounds like some scene from ‘Little Orphan Annie,’ but it happens every day.”

Well let’s face it, the US fosters a culture that treats poor people as Losers and worse. Of course sadism is the result, and of course the sadism can be directed at children.

Lunch shaming can take a toll on the adults enlisted to carry it out as well as on children. A Pittsburgh-area cafeteria worker made national news when she quit her job rather than deny hot lunches to students.

Some school employees reach into their own pockets to pay for meals. Sharon Schaefer, a former chef at a high school in Omaha, said one cashier asked to be removed from her position because of the school’s “no money, no meal” policy. “She had been secretly paying for students’ meals,” Ms. Schaefer said, “and couldn’t afford to keep it up.”

So that’s heart-breaking.

More explosions

Apr 9th, 2017 9:32 am | By

I saw people yesterday saying this was going to happen. I thought they were exaggerating the level of predictability. BBC headline: Egypt’s Coptic churches hit by deadly blasts on Palm Sunday.

In Alexandria, an explosion outside St Mark’s Coptic church killed 13 people. Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, had been attending Mass inside and was unhurt, state media reported.

An earlier blast at St George’s Coptic church in Tanta killed 29 people.

So-called Islamic State (IS) says it is behind the explosions. The group has recently targeted Copts in Egypt.

Four police officers, including one policewoman, were among those killed in Alexandria, the interior ministry said. The suicide bomber blew himself up after they stopped him from entering the church.

It’s like the 16th century, but with better weapons.

The first explosion in Tanta, 94km (58 miles) north of Cairo, took place near the altar.

Security forces later dismantled two explosive devices at the Sidi Abdel Rahim Mosque, also in Tanta, the state-run Al-Ahram news website reports.

The explosions injured at least 71 people in Tanta and 35 others in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

The blasts appear to have been timed for maximum impact, as people gathered to mark Palm Sunday. It is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

Egyptian security forces had been put on alert in anticipation of attacks.

That concludes this chapter of Today in Religious Violence.

You’re talking to the wrong people

Apr 9th, 2017 9:23 am | By

Speaking of Searle’s girls…Monica Byrne wrote this brilliant retort to Microsoft the other day.

It has to do with your new ad campaign, which I happened to see while I was at the gym last week. Here’s the gist: brilliant young girls express their ambitions to cure cancer and explore outer space and play with the latest in virtual reality tech. Then—gotcha!—they’re shown a statistic that only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees. They look crushed. The tagline? “Change the world. Stay in STEM.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

Microsoft, where’s your ad campaign telling adult male scientists not to rape their colleagues in the field? Where’s the campaign telling them not to steal or take credit for women’s work? Or not to serially sexually harass their students? Not to discriminate against them? Not to ignoredismiss, or fail to promote them at the same rate as men? Not to publish their work at a statistically significant lower rate? Not to refuse to take women on field expeditions, as did my graduate advisor, now tenured at University of Washington? Where’s your ad campaign telling institutions not to hire, shelter, or give tenure to serial harassers or known sexists, as UW and countless others have done? Where’s your ad campaign encouraging scientific journals to switch to blind submissionsand blind peer reviewers? Or to pay women at the same rateas men?

In other words – don’t tell girls to Try Harder and Push Through; tell people and institutions to stop putting up all those barriers and obstacles.

It’s what we keep having to retort to Christina Hoff Sommers and Michael Shermer and Sam Harris: stop telling women to suck it up and try harder, because nobody should have to try harder simply because others throw obstacles in their path.

It’s that awful, smug, callous libertarian pseudo-Stoicism in which everyone is a pioneer hero surviving a North Dakota winter in a tent. This is not the first human exploration of Mars, this is people working in institutions that systematically disadvantage some people for reasons of sex or race or other arbitrarily disfavored category.

Among the comments:

  • So true. This is why I left STEM, years of being told repeatedly by mentors, teachers, and professors that I could not be in the field because of my gender and ethnic background meant I decided to make a career elsewhere.
  • Sadly yes. I saw the same adds, I was really excited about it at the first glance. And then I soon felt something is wrong, it’s missing the point. I have a STEM degree and work at this industry. I can clearly tell it’s way less friendly to women, I has to be over qualify for my job but still get a lower pay than my other male colleagues. So I left my job.
  • Yes – the sheer volume of hostility from my STEM professors and my advisor – all male – was what discouraged me into leaving STEM.
  • Amen. I left tech for my own health and survival, coming up on two years ago now. Until I see ads about lecherous VCs and abusive executives being fired en masse, I don’t want to hear it. Filling the pipeline doesn’t matter when the field can’t retain the women it does bring in, because of abysmal behavior, pay discrimination, and all the rest.And thank you for this: “Everyones’ noses have been pushed in these same data for decades and nothing changes.” Exactly. And in my anecdotal experience, it is worse than it was decades ago. If anything, it’s gotten worse.

That’s only about halfway down the page; there are lots more.

H/t ibbica

The No Impulse Control Doctrine

Apr 8th, 2017 5:02 pm | By

So now we’re pretending that Trump has a worked-out policy or plan or organizing principle or something, and that the word for it is “flexibility.”

As he confronted a series of international challenges from the Middle East to Asia last week, President Trump made certain that nothing was certain about his foreign policy. To the extent that a Trump Doctrine is emerging, it seems to be this: don’t get roped in by doctrine.

Please. Laziness isn’t a “doctrine.” Empty-headedness isn’t a doctrine. Toddler-level impulsiveness isn’t a doctrine. Being totally random isn’t a doctrine. Breaking all the rules and stamping all over the porcelain isn’t a doctrine.

“Our decisions,” Mr. Trump said in the Saturday address, “will be guided by our values and our goals — and we will reject the path of inflexible ideology that too often leads to unintended consequences.”

That concept, flexibility, seems key to understanding Mr. Trump. He hates to be boxed in, as he mused in the Rose Garden last week while contemplating the first new military operation of his presidency with geopolitical consequences.

“I like to think of myself as a very flexible person,” he told reporters. “I don’t have to have one specific way.” He made clear he cherished unpredictability. “I don’t like to say where I’m going and what I’m doing,” he said.

He’s not making a serious argument there. He’s explaining how awesome he is. What he means by not having to have “one specific way” (such an elegant way to put it) is that he doesn’t want to do the work of figuring out what he thinks and what that tells him he should do. It’s so much easier to just do what you feel like in the moment and then praise yourself to an admiring world for being so “flexible.”

That flexibility was a hallmark of his rise in real estate, and if critics preferred the word erratic, it did not bother Mr. Trump — it has since worked well enough to vault him to the White House. But now that he is commander in chief of the world’s most powerful nation, leaders around the world are trying to detect a method to the man.

Well quite. He’s erratic, which is to say random. That’s because he’s lazy, ignorant, and thick. That’s all. Let’s don’t complicate it or big it up with talk of doctrine.

“There is no emerging doctrine for Trump foreign policy in a classical sense,” said Kathleen H. Hicks, a former Pentagon official who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There are, however, clear emerging characteristics consistent with the attributes of the man himself: unpredictable, instinctual and undisciplined.”

There you go. That’s what I’m saying.

If the girl had the sword and the boy had to wait for her

Apr 8th, 2017 11:28 am | By

Is it a crime against childhood to teach children to read critically? Kathryn Heyman thinks not.

This week, the Victorian Education Department released their Respectful Relationships program for state primary schools. In spite of the shock headlines reporting fairytales being ‘banned’, the program simply helps teach children how to deconstruct those stories. In other words, it teaches them how to read. As Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said, with admirable restraint, “We are very much in favour of kids reading stories and then sitting down and talking about them. It is called learning.”

If you don’t look at stories (of all kinds) with a critical eye you can’t think about how they’re shaping you. It’s quite a good idea to think about how various bits of culture are shaping us, in case we don’t want to be shaped in that way.

Critics of the Respectful Relationships program seem to want it both ways. On one hand, fairy stories are sacred, innate to human life and, like the Bible, have been handed to us by divine forces – but have no real impact on the listener or the reader. Harmless, innocent, fun. On the other, if we change them, or merely critique them, terrible things will happen. Boys will grow breasts, girls will wield swords, society will fall apart.

Servants will talk about what chumps the people upstairs are.

In one interview, Australian Catholic University academic Kevin Donnelly said, “It’s a concerted campaign across kindergarten to year 12 to indoctrinate children with a gender and sexuality program that is biased and ideological.” Which seems to suggest the stories in which men lock women up for failing to be meek, or stories in which women are loved when they are pretty and silent (ideally asleep) – that these stories are not concerted campaigns to indoctrinate children with an ideological position.

Well I would say they’re not necessarily concerted campaigns. They can easily be just based on everyone’s unquestioned assumptions.

In fact, the Respectful Relationships program aims to have children look at traditional fairytales and take on a “fairytale detective” role, asking what the messages are, and what might happen, for instance, if “the girl had the sword and the boy had to wait for her to rescue him”. It does not – as far as I can tell – advocate locking boys up in towers or making them wait to be rescued. It simply suggest interrogating the text. As the Premier said, “That’s called learning.”

But it questions the unquestioned assumptions that wrote the girl as imprisoned and the boy as her rescuer, and that makes people who share the unquestioned assumptions feel very uneasy.

When children hear stories, they are making sense of the world, and casting themselves in the various roles. That’s one of the reasons girls grow up wanting to be princesses, if they’re not careful.

That plus all the princess merchandise in the toy shops and all the pink frilly stuff in the clothes shops.

Question all the things!

Image result for question all the things

This sort of thing still happens

Apr 8th, 2017 11:01 am | By

From Sally Haslanger’s Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone):

Why there aren’t more women of my cohort in philosophy? Because there were very few of us
and there was a lot of outright discrimination. I think a lot of philosophers aren’t aware of what women in the profession deal with, so let me give some examples. In my year at Berkeley and in the two years ahead of me and two years behind me, there was only one woman each year in a class of 8-10. The women in the two years ahead of me and the two years behind me dropped out, so I was the only woman left in five consecutive classes. In graduate school I was told by one of my teachers that he had “never seen a first rate woman philosophy and never expected to because women were incapable of having seminal ideas.” I was the butt of jokes when I received a distinction on my prelims, since it seemed funny to everyone to suggest I should get a blood test to determine if I was really a woman. In a seminar in philosophical logic, I was asked to give a presentation on a historical figure when none of the other (male) students were, later to learn that this was because the professor assumed I’d be writing a thesis on the history of philosophy. When I was at Penn as a junior faculty member and told a senior colleague that I was going to be married (to another philosopher, Stephen Yablo, then at UM), his response was, “Oh, I’m so sorry we’ll be losing you.” This was in 1989.

I mention these anecdotes (and there are many more) not in order to gain sympathy, or because they are especially egregious, but because this sort of thing still happens all the time. When I was at the University of Michigan in the mid-90’s there were three consecutive graduate student classes with no women. When this was raised as an issue, the majority of faculty hadn’t even noticed it. In many departments women find themselves solos on faculties or in graduate school cohorts. Virtually all minorities in philosophy find themselves solos. Surviving as a solo is a painful and difficult process I’ll discuss more below.

Moreover, blatant discrimination has not disappeared. I’ve witnessed plenty of occasions when a woman’s status in graduate school was questioned because she was married, or had a child (or took time off to have a child so was returning to philosophy as a “mature” student), or was in a long-distance relationship. For some reason, this never seems to be an issue for men. I know many women who have interests and talents in M&E who have been encouraged to do ethics or history of philosophy. I’ve been contacted as recently as this year by graduate student women’s groups and individual women to help them strategize about problems they are facing as women in their programs, problems that include alleged sexual harassment, hostile or chilly climate, and various sorts of unfairness. I am contacted by Deans who are reevaluating tenure decisions of women (and minorities) to comment on norms and practices in philosophy that seem to have disadvantaged the tenure candidate in question. And I never cease to be amazed.

My point here is that I don’t think we need to scratch our heads and wonder what on earth is
going on that keeps women out of philosophy. In my experience it is very hard to find a place in philosophy that isn’t actively hostile towards women and minorities, or at least assumes that a successful philosopher should look and act like a (traditional, white) man. And most women and minorities who are sufficiently qualified to get into grad school in philosophy have choices. They don’t have to put up with this mistreatment. Many who recognize that something about choices is relevant have explained to me that women choose not to go into philosophy because they have other options that pay better or have more prestige. This may be true for some, but this doesn’t sound like the women I know who have quit philosophy (and it sounds a lot more like the men I know who have quit). Women, I believe, want a good working environment with mutual respect. And philosophy, mostly, doesn’t offer that.

Editing to add:

And this, via Bernard Hurley:

Searle’s Girls

Apr 8th, 2017 10:25 am | By

Another “prominent male philosopher suddenly found to have long history of sexual harassment accusations” story, where “suddenly found to have”=”has long been known to have but we tried to keep it quiet for a few decades.” The long history this time belongs to John Searle.

Documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show that Joanna Ong, 24, who filed suit against Searle and the University of California Regents last month, was not the first woman to report the 84-year-old professor to the university. Ong’s suit alleges that she was fired from her job as Searle’s research assistant after rejecting his advances.

In 2014, an undergraduate student said Searle told her she couldn’t be his research assistant because she was married and thus wouldn’t be as dedicated to the job.

In 2013, a foreign exchange student said Searle lunged at her and tried to kiss her in his office.

In 2004, a graduate student was so shocked by Searle’s behavior at a dinner event for prospective students that she wrote to the chair of the philosophy department condemning Searle’s “highly inappropriate” actions, which included Searle trying to play footsie with her under the table.

Searle denies Ong’s claims, and questions her motives. There’s a surprise. The university says the usual thing too. Looking into it, mutter mutter.

Some of Searle’s inappropriate behavior was an open secret among the philosophy students and faculty at the flagship University of California campus, which has been grappling with professor–student sexual misconduct scandals since 2015. His rotating stable of young, female assistants were known around campus as “Searle’s Girls.” Before Ong filed her lawsuit, which also alleges Searle watched porn in front of her and made sexist comments, philosophy graduate students struggled with how to address concerns about their department’s star philosopher. Those who did report him said their claims seemed to go nowhere.

If you’re a star philosopher, they let you do it.

Philosophy has a pervasive gender gap, and female philosophers have long said sexual harassment is one major factor that makes it difficult for women to succeed in the field. That’s why Kristina Gehrman wrote a letter to the then-chair of Berkeley’s philosophy department after what she called a “degrading” experience with Searle in 2004.

“I am concerned with the need to raise awareness among the faculty about gender-related issues in general within our community, and with the need to develop some concrete department level practices to prevent and/or respond to specific experiences like mine in the future,” Gehrman wrote in the letter, which was signed by eight other female philosophy graduate students.

Gehrman, then a graduate student in her twenties, met Searle at a department dinner for prospective students, she wrote in the letter, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News. Searle never asked her name, instead calling her “his girl,” she wrote. He invited her skiing in Tahoe and said he had taken an undergraduate female research assistant there before. He rubbed her foot with his under the table, she wrote, and when it was time for dessert, Searle insisted Gehrman share his plate.

He was being friendly.

Gehrman sent her letter, she met with administrators, they told her Searle would get training, and…that was the end of the matter. She transferred to UCLA – she thought about quitting philosophy altogether. Remember that gender gap in philosophy? There it is.

One grad student reported he invited her to his office and then pounced on her. Another reported he refused to hire her as a research assistant because she was married.

“I just worry that you won’t be as dedicated to the job,” she said Searle told her, even though she had received an A- in his class.

Well it is of course true that when women get married a portion of their brain dies.

A graduate student who passed on V.’s complaint about Searle to the philosophy department in 2014 said she never heard from the OPHD until this week, when the department emailed to say it heard she “might have information regarding potential behavior that may be in violation of university policy.”

“At the time, I assumed OPHD was handling the situation,” the graduate student said. “Now that I know about similar complaints, it’s clear that they should have done more.”

Jackson Kernion, a graduate student in the philosophy department, said he understood the faculty was limited in scope and had incomplete information about Searle’s behavior. Still, he said, he felt “there could have been a more vigorous response, given the serious concerns raised by grad students” at both formal and informal meetings.

“A number of Berkeley students had their first contact with academic philosophy by taking one of Searle’s classes,” Kernion said. “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that women and minorities sitting in his classes came away with the impression that they were less than fully welcomed in the field.”

It’s always worth re-reading Sally Haslanger’s paper.

Guest post: A bit of firsthand experience in the region

Apr 7th, 2017 5:35 pm | By

Originally a comment by Helene on Rhetoric and imagery which is pure and simple Jew hatred.

I hold no brief for the Israeli government, especially not Netanyahu and his rightwing coalition. In particular, I loathe the meddling by ultra-orthodox rabbis and the haredi community in many civil matters (e.g. marriage, divorce). But there is little doubt that Israel is by far the most liberal (full women’s rights, gays rights — gays serve openly in the military and the only gay pride parade that I’ve seen bigger than Tel Aviv’s is the one in Berlin — press freedom, general civil rights, etc.) and democratic country in the Middle East, with a better record on many of these issues than many European countries.

The “apartheid” epithet is nonsense. If you mean it to apply to Israeli Arabs, you’re utterly wrong. Their main disadvantage is that they are exempt from military conscription and therefore do not enjoy the special government benefits extended to ex-servicemen/women. Nevertheless, some Arabs (mainly Christian Arabs), many Bedouin – and most Druze – (altogether Muslims constitute about 20% of the Israeli population) do volunteer for military or public service and then do qualify for the government benefits. In all other respects, Arabs are full citizens. All religions are fully acknowledged. The Islamic WAPF controls the Muslim religious sites and various Christian denominations control their churches and religious sites. Arabic is an official language and Arab schools have their own curriculum in Arabic. Arabs are elected to the Knesset, head scientific, medical, educational, artistic and political institutions: ambassadorships, government agencies, even seats on the Israeli supreme court.

If you mean to apply the “apartheid” epithet to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, you’d be closer to the mark. Israel controls the borders militarily but civil and domestic matters, including police, are under Palestinian Authority or (in Gaza) de facto Hamas control. Many of the Jewish “settlers” in the West Bank enclaves are vile bible-thumpers but, as the various Israeli peace proposals over the years (in particular the one brokered by Clinton in 2000 and the even more generous one made in 2008 by Olmert) showed, many of these settlements would have been closed and with border adjustments the Palestinians would have received 95- 97% of their territory, plus compensation, upon ratification. But Abbas, and even Arafat before him (about whom Clinton said: “I regret that in 2000 Arafat missed the opportunity to bring that nation into being and pray for the day when the dreams of the Palestinian people for a state and a better life will be realized in a just and lasting peace”), perhaps remembering what happened to Sadat, who was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood when he signed the first Egyptian peace treaty with Israel, declined to ratify any sort of real peace with Israel. After Israel fully withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it didn’t take long for Hamas to throw Fatah members off rooftops and begin sending rockets into Israel.

If you mean “apartheid” in a strictly racial sense, there are about 125,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, not to mention smaller groups from other African countries and, being brown myself, I could not help noticing many more dark faces in Tel Aviv than in Ramallah … or, for that matter, Beirut.

If you mean to apply the “apartheid” epithet to the separation wall/fence that Israel built along some sections of the border with the West Bank, it is undeniably repugnant, but (from the Israeli point of view) it helped put a stop to the attacks and bombings that claimed the lives of over a thousand Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada.

I gave two lectures in Birzeit University (my mother’s family is from Lebanon so I have a bit of Arabic) and I attended a conference at the Technion in Haifa… just to indicate to you that I have a bit of firsthand experience in the region.

By comparison, Lebanon, which comes closest to Israel in being multi-ethnic and multi-religious, used to have a precarious political balance between various religious and ethnic groups (Maronites, Orthodox, Sunni, Shia, Druze, &c), but it is now utterly under the sway of Hezbollah, next to ISIS the worst bunch of theocratic tyrants in the entire region (along with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, they are the ones supporting Assad’s murderous campaign against his own people). Though most left years ago, my mother still has some relatives in Lebanon, but they are Sunni (Iran and Hezbollah are Shia, Assad is Alawaite, generally subsumed under Shia, but the majority of Syrians are Sunni, including the Kurds in the north) and they see the writing on the wall. Half a million Syrians have died in this civil war, most, horrendously, at Assad’s hands, and several million more have been driven from their homes. But for some people, if it can’t be blamed on the West (or on Israel, which has quietly been treating Syrian wounded in its hospitals), it isn’t worth protesting.

DHS says never mind

Apr 7th, 2017 5:20 pm | By

That ended quickly. Good. The Washington Post reports:

The legal battle between Twitter and the U.S. government ended Friday as the Department of Homeland Security withdrew its demand that the tech company release information to identify an account holder whose tweets have been critical of President Trump.

The lawsuit threatened to become a major battle between Silicon Valley and Washington over free speech. But it was over almost before it began. The social networking site filed a lawsuit Thursday to protest the order, saying that it violated the user’s First Amendment right to free expression. But Twitter dropped its suit Friday, saying in a court filing that because “the summons has now been withdrawn, Twitter voluntary dismisses without prejudice all claims.”

Alt Immigration thanked Twitter and the ACLU.

Ron Wyden sent a letter urging Customs and Border Protection to do an internal review into how and why CBP issued the summons.

The Post continues:

Courts have traditionally given a high degree of protection to political speech, including the right to speak anonymously or with a pseudonym. That includes, in many circumstances, government employees who are critical of the agencies for which they work.

“This is just, as best as I can tell, the government trying to figure out who is expressing criticisms, and that is chilling,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

If the goal was to quiet the dissent, it seems to have failed. The number of followers for the Twitter account grew from “over 32,000” to more than 150,000 in less than 24 hours.

I’m one.