Notes and Comment Blog

The free market in science denialism

Nov 27th, 2014 3:30 pm | By

You know…if you Google “american enterprise institute climate change” you get a lot of hits, useful relevant hits as opposed to ones that just have some but not all of the search terms. In other words there’s something there. The AEI does pay a lot of attention to climate change and it is the kind of attention you would expect – the kind that CEOs and lobbyists for oil companies want to hear and are willing to pay for. It’s one of their areas, and they take an interested position on it. They’re not disinterested scholars, they’re interested propagandists paid by corporations.

Here is Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, on the AEI’s chief climate-denier Benjamin Zycher.

Benjamin Zycher, the head of the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) energy studies criticizes an article I wrote earlier this week about the climate dangers of approving the Keystone Pipeline Project.

In that article, I said that the Earth’s climate is on a trajectory to raise the mean global temperature by at least 3 degrees C by the end of the century; that the world is experiencing a rapidly rising frequency of extreme climate events such as heat waves; and that keeping unconventional oil reserves like Canada’s oil sands in the ground is key to respecting the global climate budget.

Zycher accuses me of misrepresenting the scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has just issued its AR5 (Fifth Assessment Report) on climate science. Indeed, he calls my opposition to Keystone “fact free.” Yet it is Zycher who distorts, misrepresents, or simply ignores the IPCC conclusions.

Read the article for the details.

The AEI tried to buy articles disputing a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

That’s the lobby group that Christina Hoff Sommers works for. They pay her to bash feminism. (Because what? If feminism progresses further it will persuade people to stop driving cars and take the bus instead?) She’s accepted their offer. Mind you, I don’t think she’s changing her views in exchange for their money – but I do think she’s thrown away her own scholarly integrity and self-respect in exchange for their money.

Back to the Guardian article.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN’s panel as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work” and ask for essays that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs”.

I call that corruption. Frank, unabashed, shameless corruption.

The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.

“Right now, the whole debate is polarised,” he said. “One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don’t think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy.”

I might almost believe that if it weren’t for that $1.6 million from ExxonMobil.

Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific institute, said: “The IPCC is the world’s leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that ‘business as usual’ would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise.”

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: “The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration’s intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they’ve got left is a suitcase full of cash.”

And Christina Hoff Sommers, who is on the payroll of the AEI, has the fucking gall to announce that “today’s 3rd wave intersectional feminism” is “the intellectual equivalent of creationism.” She works for a highly partisan reactionary think tank that tries to bribe scientists to undermine a scientific report that they see as against their financial interests – yet she accuses feminists of being the intellectual equivalent of creationism.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

If that’s fantastic, what would execrable look like?

Nov 27th, 2014 12:51 pm | By

I’m curious about what standards Christina Hoff Sommers relies on to call a piece at “fantastic,” so I’m reading it. That tweet, just in case you don’t believe me:

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers 3h
Fantastic article by @Nero on #GamerGate, feminist melodrama, lazy journalists. …

I’m finding it not fantastic. I’m finding it very bad. I would find it bad even if I agreed with the politics of it.

Milo Yiannopoulos, the author (“Nero” on Twitter), is addressing Sheelah Kolhatkar, who wrote a profile of Anita Sarkeesian for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Since you have failed to perform a basic survey of the literature surrounding the GamerGate controversy, or, worse, purposefully elected to exclude it from your reporting, and since you have placed your critical faculties on ice in the manner the “listen and believe” feminists are always so insistent on—largely, it turns out, because their claims don’t stack up—allow me to sketch out the real reasons Sarkeesian is controversial in the video games industry, and, to fill in the blanks in your writing, to explain why her ideas are so universally loathed among gamers.

That’s not a promising start. It’s tendentious, it pretends “GamerGate” is a serious academic subject with a serious literature that journalists are supposed to survey, it’s rude, it’s horrendously badly written, and it ends up in just vulgar abuse.

Sarkeesian, however, believes in an old social-science myth, long since debunked, that culture creates behaviour. This idea is on its way out in academia, having been mortally crippled by the “cognitive revolution” epitomised by the works Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt and Daniel Kahneman, which emphasises the innate drivers of human behaviour.


Sarkeesian, like many of her followers, believes gamers create an environment in which “women are excluded”. But the facts tell a different story. GamerGate, lazily stereotyped by the media as the highest expression of misogyny in gaming, successfully green lit a female developer’s game on the Steam marketplace via a Twitter campaign while opponents of GamerGate want to boycott her, just because she has “the wrong opinions.” GamerGate has also contributed over $20,000 to the Fine Young Capitalists, a feminist movement.

Feminists say they want to help women, but it’s always someone else—in the gaming world, usually a man—who gets their wallet out to do it.

In reality, it’s not women that some gamers have a problem with: it’s people like Sarkeesian and McIntosh. They have claimed hatred of them and people like them is tantamount to hatred of women. But it isn’t. People don’t hate Anita Sarkeesian because she’s a woman: they hate her because they see her as a disingenuous, divisive, sociopathic opportunist.

That’s enough; I don’t need to read the rest. It’s garbage; trashy, hack-y, MRA-ish garbage. It’s beneath the notice of a serious academic and philosopher – yet Sommers calls it “fantastic.”

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

14 years old when she was trafficked

Nov 27th, 2014 11:49 am | By

The BBC reports on slave brides in India.

The prevalence of gender-selective abortion has, of course, led to a shortage of female human beings. (Ironic, isn’t it. The men don’t want daughters but they do want wives [or female slaves]. Tragedy of the commons – it’s someone else’s job to bear and raise daughters for these men to have.)

In Mewat district in the northern state of Haryana the situation is particularly acute: there are 879 women for every 1,000 men. The national average is 927 women for 1,000 men.

As many men cannot find women to marry, bride trafficking has become prevalent. Girls are bought from their families in other states when they are still young and married to local men.

They are often badly treated both within the home and in the wider community where they are seen as outsiders.

Female people just can’t win, can they.

Salma was trafficked from the north-eastern state of Assam when she was only 12.

Her husband, Aas Mohammed, chose Salma over another trafficked girl and paid $60 (£38) for her to the trafficker.

Salma looks different from the women in her village in Haryana.

It took her a long time to get used to the language and social mores of her new home.

Over the years, Salma gave birth to nine children in quick succession. She says she was abused by her husband and was treated as a slave.

The trafficker openly admits to trading women for marriage in Haryana.

“I have helped so many men find a wife… It is a noble cause,” he says.

It’s stunning how normal it is to treat and consider men as people and subjects, and women as objects with no minds that matter. Men have to have “a wife” so somebody has to find a supply of these objects for the men to have.

Ghausia Khan was 14 years old when she was trafficked from Hyderabad in southern India and married to a man in Haryana.

Now she works for an NGO which supports trafficked women. She also wants to stand for election.

She says “laidback bureaucrats and obnoxious traffickers” are to blame for the situation, and is resolute about bringing change if elected to power.

The situation almost makes me hope the enslaved women don’t have much mind left. I almost hope they’re numb enough to stand it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

P D James

Nov 27th, 2014 11:00 am | By

She’s gone.

James’s apprenticeship in crime fiction became a lifelong commitment, as she came to believe “it is perfectly possible to remain within the constraints and conventions of the genre and be a serious writer, saying something true about men and women and their relationships and the society in which they live”. To suggest that the formal constraints of crime fiction prevent its practitioners from producing good novels “is as foolish as to say that no sonnet can be great poetry since a sonnet is restricted to 14 lines”, she argued.

Speaking in 2001 at the launch of Death in Holy Orders, her 11th Dalgliesh novel, James explained that her success was founded on the belief that plot could never make up for poor writing and that authors should always focus on the reader.

“At the end of a book, I want to feel, well that’s as good as I can do – not as good, perhaps, as other people can do – but it’s as good as I can do. There are thousands of people who do like, for their recreational reading, a classical detective story, and I think they are entitled to have one which is also a good novel and well written. Those are the people I write for. They don’t want me to adapt to what I think is the popular market. They want a good novel, honestly written and I think they are jolly well entitled to it.”

Her good was pretty good, if you ask me.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

No unaccompanied women allowed

Nov 27th, 2014 10:51 am | By

Petty tyranny in Saudi Arabia. I could also label it everyday misogyny in Saudi Arabia, or minor oppression in Saudi Arabia.

Restaurants in Saudi Arabia have been asked to remove signs which forbid entry to single women, it appears.

The request comes from the kingdom’s National Society For Human Rights, which says the signs on the doors of eateries are “illegal”, the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reports. A restaurant owner says he put up the signs because of “numerous incidents” of flirting. “We’ll only remove these signs when we make sure such incidents never happen again on our premises,” he told the paper.

One wonders (ok I wonder) what the owner considers “flirting.” I suspect it’s anything beyond eyes down ignoring – on the part of women, that is. Clearly men are allowed to ogle. Why clearly? Because the owner wants to exclude women, not men.

And how much “flirting” is it possible to do when one party is enveloped in an abaya?

It’s interesting what seems to be assumed in all this kind of thing – which is that the only real people are men, and that real people (men) go about their business as they should when things are properly arranged, but that’s disrupted when the contaminant of women intrudes on the normal space of Men. Men are protagonists and subjects, while women are like a virus.

NSHR spokesman Khalid Al-Fakhri tells the Saudi Gazette that restaurants have no legal right to exclude single women from their premises, or insist that they [be] in the company of a guardian. “These signs are against the law and reflect the personal opinions of the restaurant owners,” he says, urging establishments to devise alternative arrangements if they think that customers are behaving inappropriately. The paper quotes one woman as saying, “If they’re going to ban us from entering restaurants, where are we supposed to go?” – pointing out that restaurants are some of the few establishments where Saudi women can go unaccompanied.

Well that’s a silly question. Women aren’t supposed to go anywhere. Good women stay inside.

Still. The right to go into restaurants is a trivial thing. Stoning is a worse thing, so we shouldn’t be talking about not being allowed to go into restaurants.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Sommers says feminism=creationism

Nov 26th, 2014 5:53 pm | By

Sommers is still being a hack.

Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers ·  8 hours ago
Dear liberals, When you side with today’s 3rd wave intersectional feminism, you are siding with the intellectual equivalent of creationism.

Don’t forget, she used to be an academic. There are standards in academia. Academics aren’t supposed to say flagrantly untrue things like that.

And she retweeted this piece of shit –


@CHSommers have you seen this? I think it’s pretty funny.

“This” is a four panel cartoon of a bratty little girl having a tantrum, shouting “Boys are icky and gross” and other classics of feminism, and an adult women with “BASED MOM” on her shirt giving her a bottle and sending her off for a nap.

Yeah. We’re all bratty little girls and Sommers is the calm wise adult. Sure.

Sommers used to be a philosopher. I’m not even making that up.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“This is a bona-fide culture war”

Nov 26th, 2014 5:29 pm | By

Another jerk who is still flailing away at Matt Taylor almost two weeks after his apology should have ended it.


Paula Wright ‏@SexyIsntSexist
.@RoyalAstroSoc Are you for progress or for regression? This is a bona-fide cutural war. @mggtTaylor

With the meme of Ayaan Hirsi Ali saying “I condemn whole-heartedly the trivial bullshit it is to go after a man who makes a scientific breakthrough and all that we as women — organized women — do is to fret about his shirt?”

So we get bashed for objecting to his shirt and then accepting his apology and moving on, but they keep endlessly ranting about our objections and even direct their ranting at Matt Taylor. They even send their spiteful trivial nonsense to the Royal Astronomical Society.

And we’re the ones engaging in trivial bullshit? Really?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Meta³ lesson on the history of slavery

Nov 26th, 2014 4:54 pm | By

Originally a comment by jesse on Guest post: A meta-history lesson on states’ rights.

One of the things about Brazil (and Jamaica for that matter) was that by the time Brazil abolished slavery slaves just weren’t that important to the economy any more, which was smaller than that of the US (in fact it was smaller than that of the American South, I think) in any case. In Jamaica, the slave system was much less entrenched and on it way out by the time they were emancipated in the 1830s (this had less to do with principled British planters and more to do with changes in the sugar market). In Brazil, ironically enough, mismanagement of the local economy by dependence on slave labor and lack of investment in roads and such meant that the whole economy was relatively unconnected to the rest of the world compared to the US. So the market forces that made slavery such a good deal weren’t there as much. Add in the British pressure on the slave trade, and by the 1880s you didn’t have a viable institution anymore unless they did what we did here in the US. In Brazil that wasn’t an option.

Russian serfdom was also not really a human chattel system like in the US. You didn’t have people being bought and sold and forced to move great distances — serfs were tied to the land and the “market” for serfs was such that you wanted the serfs to stay where they were.

One of the things that made Cuban slavery (and in what was left of the Spanish Empire by that point) different was that a slave who married a free person had free children. There were mixed-race and black slaveholders in Brazil and Cuba as a result (that existed here and there in the US as well, but obviously in really tiny numbers).

Another interesting twist was the Cherokee and Choctaw nations in Oklahoma. The question of slavery split the nation; even there passing of slavery on through generations wasn’t done in the same way as in the white Confederacy and marrying slaves wasn’t such a problem — the miscegenation laws familiar to people elsewhere didn’t exist. And in some areas — Florida — slaves would run south because they could be free among the Seminoles.

One more interesting bit: slavery still existed in the US until 1880 or so, if you were a Native American. It was basically legal to claim the labor of any Native in California and while there were supposed to be terms for this, it was de facto slavery. I don’t know if any person was actually sold under that system, since the Civil War amendments were in place by that point.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Box of flowers

Nov 26th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

It’s late November, it’s dark at 4:30 (and darkish all the time), so have this.

Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

What’s the world coming to?

Nov 26th, 2014 3:09 pm | By

An apt strip by David Malki at Wondermark: Old Dog, Oldest Trick.

It's like you can't even unhinge your jaw and let the dark pour out unheeded into the world at large anymore, without the all-consuming void gushing from your black center devouring the stars and the birds and the sun and the elements that combine to make love possible!

© 2003-2014 David Malki

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Two dud beacons

Nov 26th, 2014 12:34 pm | By

The US is very far from being a beacon of human rights, and so is China.

Seven university students linked to jailed Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti have reportedly gone on trial in China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang.

Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment in September for separatism and fanning ethnic tensions.

The students are accused of contributing to a website run by Tohti on Uighurs.

Human rights? Not in evidence.

The BBC’s Celia Hatton in Beijing says the trial is so secret that even the Xinjiang court will not confirm the proceedings.

Tohti’s lawyer, Li Fangping, told the BBC that the students contributed to Uighur Online, a now defunct website run by their teacher that promoted discussion between Uighurs and other ethnic groups in China.

The authorities, however, claim the site advocated Xinjiang’s independence.

Mr Li, who was speaking on behalf of the students’ lawyer so as to protect his counterpart, said the students face between five to 15 years in prison.

The students disappeared after being taken into police custody last January, then resurfaced later giving testimonials on national television incriminating Tohti.

I’m sure those testimonials were very reliable.

The trial follows last week’s rejection of a court appeal lodged by Tohti against his sentence.

Tohti was known as an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighur minority, who largely live in Xinjiang.

And that could explain why he’s now in prison for life.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

To question America’s credentials as a human rights champion

Nov 26th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

The BBC reports on the global media response to the Ferguson protests and their cause.

There has been enormous headline reaction in the world’s media to the Ferguson protests, and many commentators have taken the opportunity to question America’s credentials as a human rights champion.

European papers highlight inequalities in American society, and a South African commentator sees echoes of his country’s own grim racial history.

Well yes. Of course they do, of course they have – because it’s true. As I’ve pointed out before, the US is an outlier among developed democracies in a whole shocking slew of ways. We suck on universal provision of health care, we imprison a shamefully huge fraction of our population, we have a huge racial disparity in prosecutions and convictions, we allow capital punishment, we’re up to our knees in guns, we have a sky-high murder rate, we have high maternal and infant mortality rates, we have grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality, we saddle college students with crippling debt, we do almost nothing to ensure that even poor people can have decent housing – and on and on. This country is just a bad place in a great many ways.

The death of Michael Brown, whose killing sparked the unrest, is “a stark reminder for Uncle Sam that there are a lot of human rights violations on its own soil,” says China’s official news agency Xinhua.

“It should first fix its own problems before criticizing other countries.”

Xinhua adds that few other countries are “as self-righteous and complacent as the United States when it comes to human rights issues, but the Ferguson tragedy is apparently a slap in the face”.

True. On the other hand China has little to brag of. Uighurs, anyone?

Iran’s State TV said the grand jury decision “indicates the existence of racial discrimination in the USA”.

The protests in Ferguson are also one of the top stories in the Iranian press.

The conservative newspaper Kayhan carried a collage of pictures from Ferguson, including a US flag being set on fire. Its headline said: “A rebellion in 90 American cities as a result of the non-indictment of the murderer policeman.”

They’re not wrong.

Ferguson is also a front-page story in the German press.

Uwe Schmitt, the former Washington correspondent for Germany’s centre-right daily Die Welt, writes it is a “predictable explosion” given the juxtaposition of a “grotesquely over-armed police force” with a black community “untouched by economic recovery”.

He accuses many Americans of “self-delusion” when they ask how such violence can recur again and again, while abroad “people shake their heads unsurprised, either in mourning or glee”.

One more thing – it’s also the juxtaposition of a “grotesquely over-armed police force” with a grotesquely over-armed population. The police might not be so over-armed if the population were not so over-armed. Thanks a lot, NRA.

An editorial in France’s Liberation newspaper says: “Ferguson is a long way from being the post-racial America dreamed of by Barack Obama.”

In Spain, Pere Vilanova writes in El Periodico that “perhaps the symbolic value of the election of a black man as president in 2008 has been overestimated and inter-communal wounds will never be healed”.

In Italy, La Stampa‘s New York correspondent Paolo Mastrolilli says the discussion has become one about the race problem “connected to inequality and economic disparity”. He notes that some of the white demonstrators in New York and Los Angeles wanted to broaden the debate in that direction.

Indeed. The debate should be about all of it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Ghomeshi has to live with his mother

Nov 26th, 2014 11:33 am | By

Jian Ghomeshi has been arrested. The CBC – his former employer – reports:

Former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi was granted bail today during a court appearance in Toronto to face four sexual assault charges, among the five he faces.

Ghomeshi’s bail was set at $100,000. He must live with his mother and stay in Canada.

The charges come several weeks after he was fired by CBC.

Ghomeshi, 47, surrendered to police on Wednesday morning and was formally charged under the Criminal Code with four counts of sexual assault and one of overcome resistance – choking.

I hope Julien Blanc is paying close attention.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said he could not shed any more light on the charges.

“I have no additional information other than what was released by the office this morning,” he told reporters. “All matters will be dealt with before the court.”

Blair did add that police are encouraging any other victims to come forward

“I want to offer them my assurance that they will be treated with dignity and respect,” he said.

The police department’s sex crimes unit began investigating Ghomeshi on Oct. 31 after three women filed complaints alleging he was physically violent without their consent.

Coincidentally, or not, Ghomeshi has withdrawn his lawsuit against the CBC.

News of the charges against Ghomeshi came a day after it was revealed a $55-million lawsuit he launched against the CBC last month, after he was fired in late October as host of the program radio arts, culture and entertainment program Q, was being dropped. CBC has said Ghomeshi will pay $18,000 in legal costs.

But Ghomeshi is fighting the dismissal through the CBC union, having filed a grievance through the Canadian Media Guild.

CBC has said it decided to terminate his employment after seeing “graphic evidence” that he had physically injured a woman.

Ghomeshi admitted in a lengthy Facebook post, published on the day he was fired, that he engaged in “rough sex,” but insisted his encounters with women were consensual.

Since his dismissal, nine women have come forward with allegations, some dating back a decade, that Ghomeshi sexually or physically assaulted them.

Nine is a substantial number.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

No polio vaccination for you and you and you

Nov 26th, 2014 10:49 am | By

News from Baluchistan Province – yet again men with guns have murdered polio workers in a region where polio is endemic.

Pakistan is one of three countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio remains endemic. But even as Nigeria has managed to halt any rise in new cases, the virus has spread at alarming rates in Pakistan, with 260 new cases reported so far this year, compared with 64 at the same point in 2013, according to Global Polio Eradication Initiative statistics.

Two hundred sixty – I didn’t know that. That’s appalling. Polio is a horrible disease.

Immunization workers have repeatedly come under fire by Pakistani militants, and that appeared to be the case again on Wednesday, though no group claimed responsibility. Militants have widely viewed immunization workers as potential spies and agents of the West.

They have reasons to think so, as that link confirms. Which was the worst threat to the people of Pakistan – bin Laden, or polio? I don’t know.

The vaccination campaign in Quetta and the surrounding district was immediately halted, but officials said it would continue in other districts of Baluchistan.

“Three women and one man died in the attack,” Noor Baksh Mengal, the police official in charge of the neighborhood where the killings took place, said by telephone. “Three other females workers are also wounded.”

They were on their way to meet up with their security detail.

In most cases, however, health workers remain vulnerable to militant attacks even with a security detail. Baluchistan and northwestern regions, like Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province and the tribal areas, have seen both the most intense violence against health workers and the biggest rise in polio cases.

An ongoing military campaign against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region has factored in as well, causing a huge flood of refugees out of an area that had many polio cases.

And polio is contagious – more contagious, if I have my facts right, than Ebola.

It’s an ongoing nightmare.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Most Important Things consultants on the job

Nov 25th, 2014 5:56 pm | By

So Team We Hate Feminism is pleased that Dawkins withdrew his apology for Dear Muslima by telling Kimberly Winston that he gets impatient with American women who talk about things that he considers trivial instead of about women being stoned to death in Iran. Team We Hate Feminism wants more of that kind of thing. Team We Hate Feminism thinks it’s worthwhile to summon other Team Members, or rather Thought Leaders, to chortle over more of that kind of thing. Team We Hate Feminism can’t see a tweet about contempt for women in Turkey without making it a rebuke of feminists who have the gall to talk about sexist culture in STEM fields.


Ryan J Holder ‏@RyanJamesHolder Nov 24
Turkish President says women arent equal to men “our religion has defined a position for women: motherhood” @SamHarrisOrg @RichardDawkins

Russell Blackford ‏@Metamagician
@RyanJamesHolder @RichardDawkins @SamHarrisOrg Hmmm, this just *might* be a bigger problem than pop art imagery on men’s shirts.

So let’s see, now. The Turkish President’s expression of contempt for women is a bigger problem than pop art imagery boob art on men’s shirts. How big a problem is feminists talking about boob art on men’s shirts compared to the Turkish President’s expression of contempt for women? Shouldn’t Blackford be talking about the Turkish President’s expression of contempt for women only instead of talking about it as an excuse to talk about feminists talking about boob art on men’s shirts?

How do we calibrate these things? How to we adjudicate them? How do we know which Thought Leader on Twitter to listen to on the subject? How do we know for sure what problems we should be talking about? I suppose we could run everything past Blackford and Dawkins and Harris first, but then how would they have any time to talk about the most important things? Because there are more important things than telling feminists what we should be talking about, surely. Aren’t there?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“That would have been great”

Nov 25th, 2014 5:08 pm | By

A friend on Facebook recommended this segment of The Newsroom and someone else found the link and I see why the friend recommended it.

The Jeff Daniels character interviews an EPA guy, who says it’s too late.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: A meta-history lesson on states’ rights

Nov 25th, 2014 1:35 pm | By

Originally a comment by freedmenspatrol on Guest post: A history lesson on states’ rights.

Kongstad, you’re dead on about neo-confederates and the actual confederates alike. The level of blatant hypocrisy in period texts about the issue gets pretty extreme.

When South Carolina finally staged the counterrevolution that it had threatened in one form or another for decades, they published a list of reasons for it. The document included this complaint:

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

This from the same state that pioneered the theory that states could nullify federal law within their bounds whenever they felt like it. “States’ rights” was always a strategy employed for particular ends, chiefly the protection of slavery, and never an end in itself. Specifically, it was a strategy for preserving slavery in the minority section against a majoritarian threat to its continued existence. When Southerners had control of the national government, as they did almost constantly until March of 1861, they rarely cared much about limiting its power. Quite the opposite, so long as they considered slavery viable within the Union they were quite committed to extending that power.

In 1860, the state of Virginia was actually pursuing a Dred Scott style case that would have put before Roger Taney’s Supreme Court whether such a thing as a free state was even legally possible. They wanted to strike down New York’s law that slaves taken into the state in transit and resident there too long became free. If that went, then slaveholders would have gained the power to hold their human chattels indefinitely within the free states. At that point, the distinction between a free and slave jurisdiction became meaningless. But when Virginia decided that while it would not rush to join South Carolina and the rest for its own sake, it would rush to join the movement against suppressing the Deep South’s counterrevolution. That more or less killed interest in the lawsuit.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The pope rebukes Europe for not being hawt

Nov 25th, 2014 1:12 pm | By

Huh. Pope Cuddly went to Strasbourg to scold Europe for being too old and ugly.

Jeez. What about Mesopotamia?! What about the Rift Valley?!! Older and much older, so nyah.

Besides, does Mr Cuddly think he’s another Justin Bieber?

Pope Francis has warned that the world sees Europe as “somewhat elderly and haggard” during a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“Warned”? What does Mr Cuddly expect Europe to do about it? Botox? The knife?

At the European Parliament, he spoke of a need to reinvigorate Europe, describing the continent as a “grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant” and saying it risked “slowly losing its own soul”.

Ooooooooh, that’s harsh. Why doesn’t he just call Europe a witch and be done with it?


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Where all the homicides are justifiable

Nov 25th, 2014 10:47 am | By

Jamelle Bouie at Slate explains why “the simple fact is that the police can kill for almost any reason with little fear of criminal charges.”

It’s extremely rare for a police officer to face an indictment for a shooting, much less criminal punishment. “The FBI reported 410 justifiable homicides by law enforcement in 2012,” noted Talking Points Memo in an August story following the events in Ferguson, “The number of indictments appear to be minimal after a TPM review of available press reports.” And it’s not just shootings; earlier this year, Georgia police mistakenly raided a home and seriously injured a young child. Prosecutors convened a grand jury, and the grand jury voted against an indictment. “The drug investigation that led to these events was hurried, sloppy, and unfortunately not in accordance with the best practices and procedures,” wrote the grand jury in its decision. Still, no one from the police force was held accountable.

In other words the police are presumed innocent and then found innocent in almost all circumstances. Police conduct is protected by a very high wall indeed.

When you add this climate of legal deference to the particular circumstances of the grand jury trial—including McCullough’s reputation for supporting police officers, and his decision to avoid a recommendation for charges—the non-indictment was almost inevitable. Barring something extraordinary, Wilson was going to walk free. The judicial system as we’ve constructed it just isn’t equipped—or even willing—to hold officers accountable for shootings and other offenses. Or put differently, the simple fact is that the police can kill for almost any reason with little fear of criminal charges.

Which is to say this: It would have been powerful to see charges filed against Darren Wilson. At the same time, actual justice for Michael Brown—a world in which young men like Michael Brown can’t be gunned down without consequences—won’t come from the criminal justice system. Our courts and juries aren’t impartial arbiters—they exist inside society, not outside of it—and they can only provide as much justice as society is willing to give.

And that’s clearly just not very much.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

What Frederick Douglass saw

Nov 25th, 2014 10:17 am | By

We read a couple of passages from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative recently. Let’s read some more from Frederick Douglass today.

Mr. Hopkins remained but a short time in the office of overseer. Why his career was so short, I do not know, but suppose he lacked the necessary severity to suit Colonel Lloyd. Mr. Hopkins was succeeded by Mr. Austin Gore, a man possessing, in an eminent degree, all those traits of character indispensable to what is called a first-rate overseer. Mr. Gore had served Colonel Lloyd, in the capacity of overseer, upon one of the out-farms, and had shown himself worthy of the high station of overseer upon the home or Great House Farm.

Mr. Gore was proud, ambitious, and persevering. He was artful, cruel, and obdurate. He was just the man for such a place, and it was just the place for such a man. It afforded scope for the full exercise of all his powers, and he seemed to be perfectly at home in it. He was one of those who could torture the slightest look, word, or gesture, on the part of the slave, into impudence, and would treat it accordingly. There must be no answering back to him; no explanation was allowed a slave, showing himself to have been wrongfully accused. Mr. Gore acted fully up to the maxim laid down by slaveholders,—”It is better that a dozen slaves should suffer under the lash, than that the overseer should be convicted, in the presence of the slaves, of having been at fault.”

Does that remind you of anything? Does it sound like anything in the news yesterday and today?

His savage barbarity was equalled only by the consummate coolness with which he committed the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge. Mr. Gore once undertook to whip one of Colonel Lloyd’s slaves, by the name of Demby. He had given Demby but few stripes, when, to get rid of the scourging, he ran and plunged himself into a creek, and stood there at the depth of his shoulders, refusing to come out. Mr. Gore told him that he would give him three calls, and that, if he did not come out at the third call, he would shoot him. The first call was given. Demby made no response, but stood his ground. The second and third calls were given with the same result. Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with any one, not even giving Demby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and in an instant poor Demby was no more. His mangled body sank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood.

A thrill of horror flashed through every soul upon the plantation, excepting Mr. Gore. He alone seemed cool and collected. He was asked by Colonel Lloyd and my old master, why he resorted to this extraordinary expedient. His reply was, (as well as I can remember,) that Demby had become unmanageable. He was setting a dangerous example to the other slaves,—one which, if suffered to pass without some such demonstration on his part, would finally lead to the total subversion of all rule and order upon the plantation. He argued that if one slave refused to be corrected, and escaped with his life, the other slaves would soon copy the example; the result of which would be, the freedom of the slaves, and the enslavement of the whites. Mr. Gore’s defence was satisfactory. He was continued in his station as overseer upon the home plantation. His fame as an overseer went abroad. His horrid crime was not even submitted to judicial investigation. It was committed in the presence of slaves, and they of course could neither institute a suit, nor testify against him; and thus the guilty perpetrator of one of the bloodiest and most foul murders goes unwhipped of justice, and uncensured by the community in which he lives. Mr. Gore lived in St. Michael’s, Talbot county, Maryland, when I left there; and if he is still alive, he very probably lives there now; and if so, he is now, as he was then, as highly esteemed and as much respected as though his guilty soul had not been stained with his brother’s blood.

That’s our background.

I speak advisedly when I say this,—that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of St. Michael’s, killed two slaves, one of whom he killed with a hatchet, by knocking his brains out. He used to boast of the commission of the awful and bloody deed. I have heard him do so laughingly, saying, among other things, that he was the only benefactor of his country in the company, and that when others would do as much as he had done, we should be relieved of “the d——d niggers.”

That too is our background.

The wife of Mr. Giles Hicks, living but a short distance from where I used to live, murdered my wife’s cousin, a young girl between fifteen and sixteen years of age, mangling her person in the most horrible manner, breaking her nose and breastbone with a stick, so that the poor girl expired in a few hours afterward. She was immediately buried, but had not been in her untimely grave but a few hours before she was taken up and examined by the coroner, who decided that she had come to her death by severe beating. The offence for which this girl was thus murdered was this:—She had been set that night to mind Mrs. Hicks’s baby, and during the night she fell asleep, and the baby cried. She, having lost her rest for several nights previous, did not hear the crying. They were both in the room with Mrs. Hicks. Mrs. Hicks, finding the girl slow to move, jumped from her bed, seized an oak stick of wood by the fireplace, and with it broke the girl’s nose and breastbone, and thus ended her life. I will not say that this most horrid murder produced no sensation in the community. It did produce sensation, but not enough to bring the murderess to punishment. There was a warrant issued for her arrest, but it was never served. Thus she escaped not only punishment, but even the pain of being arraigned before a court for her horrid crime.

And one more:

Colonel Lloyd’s slaves were in the habit of spending a part of their nights and Sundays in fishing for oysters, and in this way made up the deficiency of their scanty allowance. An old man belonging to Colonel Lloyd, while thus engaged, happened to get beyond the limits of Colonel Lloyd’s, and on the premises of Mr. Beal Bondly. At this trespass, Mr. Bondly took offence, and with his musket came down to the shore, and blew its deadly contents into the poor old man.

That was then, and this is now.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)