Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Check your funding

Feb 14th, 2013 9:08 am | By

The Ottawa Citizen reports -

OTTAWA – An evangelical organization that describes homosexuality as a  “perversion” and a “sin” is receiving funding from the Government of Canada for its work in Uganda, where gays and lesbians face severe threats.

Well that seems like bad planning. The funding is for unrelated activities, but the government of Canada should find non-homophobic organizations to fund for unrelated activities.

The federal government has denounced virulent homophobia in that East African  country and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has condemned plans for an  anti-gay bill that could potentially include the death penalty for  homosexuals.

At the same time the government is providing $544,813 in funding for  Crossroads Christian Communications — an Ontario-based evangelical group that  produces television programming — to help dig wells, build latrines and promote  hygiene awareness in Uganda through 2014.

Until Tuesday, the organization’s website carried a list of “sexual sins”  deemed to be “perversion”: “Turning from the true and/or proper purpose of  sexual intercourse; misusing or abusing it, such as in pedophilia, homosexuality  and lesbianism, sadism, masochism, transvestism, and bestiality.”

Not a good fit for work in Uganda.

To be fair, the government is apparently looking into it.

Crossroads defends its position on homosexuality as grounded in  scripture.

“Crossroads’ views on sexuality are informed by our Christian faith and values,” spokeswoman Carolyn Innis told The Canadian Press in an email.

And that’s the problem with letting one’s views on sexuality be informed by one’s Christian faith and values, isn’t it. The views are shitty, and the adjective “Christian” doesn’t make them one bit less so. On the contrary, the adjective creates a halo effect for the views, which shields them from careful reasoning.

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

A valentine for Karen Armstrong

Feb 13th, 2013 3:36 pm | By

Good old NPR, always middlebrow to a fault. Talk about atheism and religion? Well you know what will be said, because NPR wouldn’t allow anything else to be said.

Sometimes the debate between atheism and religion can be enlightening, showing us how both of these different approaches dive deeply into the currents of human experience. Sometimes, however, it can be deeply depressing, devolving into hard lines and acrimony. As an atheist, I often find myself exasperated with what I call “strident atheism.”

The banality, it…well it doesn’t burn. It stifles with fuzzy fluffiness. Atheism and religion are “approaches,” which are different but not more or less accurate. They are approaches that dive (how can an approach dive?) “deeply into the currents of human experience.” Well that sounds profound, but is it right? Not particularly. It’s approximate, and it sounds deep to the unwary and inattentive. If there’s anything I dislike it’s writing that sounds deep to the unwary and inattentive and to no one else.

And then the atheist winds up brightly informing us that he has a brand new label for argumentative atheism, and that brand new label is “strident.”


People in this vein seem intent on ignoring the long narrative of human spiritual endeavor. They often reduce it to histories of ignorance and intolerance. Believers in strident atheism convince themselves that it’s OK to ignore the scholarship on the long and ancient history of human spiritual endeavor. And that brings me to my Valentine.

Oh, god, that is shitty writing. Every word of it is bad. “People in this vein”? And what’s the long narrative of human spiritual endeavor that those people are ignoring? Religion isn’t that narrative. Religion isn’t history of religion. And nobody is a “believer in strident atheism” and the rest of the sentence is just baby talk.

It’s insulting, to use such bad writing on what’s supposed to be a serious news show.

Adam Frank ends with a hymn of praise to Karen Armstrong, despite admitting that she’s not much good.

Armstrong has been criticized for shallowness and for skipping over the subtleties that formal scholarship would reveal. I am sure some of that criticism is true. I can see that she is, indeed, often painting in broad strokes. But like a good science writer, she is opening doors into the history of ideas and experience that we can all follow.

No she isn’t. She’s giving people an illusion of knowledge and a distorted view of the subject.

There is another reason I, a scientist, love Karen Armstrong. All of her writings are illuminated by a deep and resonant compassion. As a scientist I am always interested in universals, things that are always true. Armstrong, who founded the wonderful Charter for Compassion, is interested in the same thing when it comes to human behavior as an expression of spiritual longing. Compassion, she tells us, must always come first, must always be the first concern of a religious life. I am not religious but I could not agree more.

Thank you Ms. Armstrong. Will you be my Valentine?

Gag me. But she doesn’t only tell us compassion must come first; she also insists that all religions put it first, and that’s a damn lie.



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

Daily Mail stalks, harasses, invades privacy

Feb 13th, 2013 2:15 pm | By

Private medical records. Photos taken on the roof of a parking garage. Ultrasound. About as invasive as it could get.

Evan Rachel Wood attacks @MailOnline for horrendous privacy invasion @tabloidwatch @opheliabenson

H/t Stuart F Taylor.

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


Feb 13th, 2013 9:31 am | By

Update February 13 – Well that last update turned out to be a mistake. Anton Hill asked me to update to say there was a truce, so I obliged, but he was bullshitting me. There’s no truce. He’s still talking shit about me on Twitter (compared to my saying nothing about him at all) and he’s still blogging about me, and tagging me in the hopes that his blog posts will infect internet searches about me.

This entry was posted on February 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm and is filed under Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

February 8. Three days after he asked me to update saying there was a truce, and I complied.

Lee Moore is still trying to con people into having a “discussion” with people like this. Yeah right, that’s a good plan.

Update February 5 – We have managed to arrive at a truce behind the scenes, and Anton took the picture down, so that’s progress. He points out that I can’t know he was “pretending,” and he’s right.

Anton Hill hadn’t talked about me enough yet, so he did another post about me today…pretending he’s now in full truce mode.

But he helped himself to a picture of mine to publish (for no apparent reason, unless it’s in hope of inspiring new photoshops) on his post. That’s a peculiar thing to do. I don’t post pictures of people I blog about, except truly public (and powerful) people like the pope. It’s kind of…off, posting a picture of someone for no apparent reason. In the context of all the threats and jeers and photoshops and mutterings about acid, it has a bullying note. It’s not clear exactly which kind of bullying note – whether “look at this ugly bitch” or “here she is, this woman who has ‘chosen to be a public figure on multiple public forums’ but doesn’t want me hassling her on Twitter” or “got a funny caption?” or “hahahaha prune hahahahahahaha” or “photoshop please!” or “I bet you could take her down with one punch” – but it has the note.

I doubt that he has permission to post it. I asked for permission to post it, myself. I asked him on the post if he has permission. The comment got held for moderation, but now it’s posted, so he’s seen it – but he hasn’t bothered to reply.

That’s a “truce”? No, that is not a truce.

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

The home life of a “religious scholar”

Feb 13th, 2013 8:46 am | By

[inarticulate scream of rage and disgust]

PZ tells us what a Saudi father – a “religious scholar” – did to his five-year-old daughter. Read it, if you can bear horrors.

Maryam tells us too.

The father had to pay a little blood money. That’s all. Half the blood money he would have had to pay if Lama had been a boy. (But if Lama had been a boy he wouldn’t have done what he did to her.)

I know heinous child abuse, rape and torture occurs everywhere. I’ve heard some of the worst cases right here in Britain. But it is only under Sharia (and religious laws) that there is always some Islamic justification for leniency or for blaming the mother or child. This case reminds me of an Iranian asylum case I worked on years ago where the Sharia judge told the woman that she was responsible for her child’s sexual abuse as she was not satisfying her husband…

And in the wonderful Islamic tradition of obsessing about females, one Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa calling for parents to put burkas on their babies to prevent child sexual abuse…

Ana Lama

Ana Lama

Ana Lama…

I despise Sharia

I despise Sharia

I despise Sharia…

Sign a petition calling for justice for Lama here.

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

Global pushback

Feb 13th, 2013 8:04 am | By

Laurie Penny went to Dublin to report on women fighting to legalize abortion in Ireland, then she went to Cairo to report on women fighting sexual harassment in Tahrir Square. In both places, women told her they were sick of feeling ashamed.

From India to Ireland to Egypt, women are on the streets, on the airwaves, on the internet, getting organised and getting angry. They’re co-ordinating in their communities to combat sexual violence and taking a stand against archaic sexist legislation; they’re challenging harassment and rape culture. Across the world, women who are sick and tired of shame and fear are fighting back in unprecedented ways.

And because of the internet, we know about each other, we’re in contact with each other.

Sexism often functions as a pressure-release valve in times of social unrest – and when it does, it takes different forms, depending on local values. Right now, in Egypt, it’s groping, heckling and mob attacks; in Ireland, it’s rape apologism and a backlash against abortion and sexual equality; on the internet, it’s vicious slut-shaming and “revenge porn“. But this time, women are refusing to take it any more.

Like the Arab spring and Occupy in 2011, local movements with no apparent connection to one another are exchanging information and taking courage from one another’s struggles. The fight against misogyny is spreading online and via networks of solidarity and trust that develop rapidly, outside the traditional channels. I met Swedish and Iranian feminist activists in Dublin, and British feminist activists in Cairo, and have seen live information about the women’s marches in Egypt spread quickly through chains of activists from South Africa to the American Deep South.

What I’m saying. We’re linked up.

It’s too early to say whether the mood of mutiny will last. When people fight misogyny, they aren’t just fighting governments and police forces, religious organisations and strangers in the streets – they also have to deal with intolerance from their loved ones, from their colleagues, from friends and family members who can’t or won’t understand. Over the last few weeks I have been humbled by the bravery of the activists I’ve met, particularly the women. It takes a special sort of courage to cast off shame, to risk not just violence but also intimate rejection for the sake of a better future. And the thing about courage is that it’s contagious.

Dealing with friends who can’t or won’t understand is a tough one. Courage isn’t really even relevant to that. I’m not sure what is, other than resilience. At any rate, it’s a long game, to say the least.


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

Misogyny v sexism: the words

Feb 13th, 2013 7:00 am | By

You know that trope about the expansion of or meaning-shift in the word “misogyny”? The one that says it’s being used to mean the same thing as sexism? I don’t use it that way, but I’ve found an example that, I think, does.

It’s a petition to the White House asking the Obama administration to

Stop using the “wives, mothers, & daughters” rhetorical frame that defines women by their relationships to other people.

The petition is hopeless of course, but it’s a good point. But I think the word “misogyny” doesn’t belong.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said: “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence.”

This “our wives, mothers, and daughters” phrase is one he routinely employs, but it is counterproductive to the women’s equality the President is ostensibly supporting.

Defining women by their relationships to other people is reductive, misogynist, and alienating to women who do not define ourselves exclusively by our relationships to others. Further, by referring to “our” wives et al, the President appears to be talking to The Men of America about Their Women, rather than talking to men AND women.

I too hate the “our” usage, but every time I flinch when I hear it, I also realize why he does it and that it’s not going to change. It’s framing. It’s prodding the audience to remember that we’re all in this together. It’s not possible to do that without also seeming to be assuming that “we” are not women, that “we” are only related to women as opposed to being women, so that women are again – probably accidentally – shoved off into some other realm, in the very act of reminding everyone that women are right here. That’s language for you; it mends one thing only to break something else.

But in any case, “misogynist” is the wrong word there. There’s not the faintest whiff of hostility in the phrasing of what Obama said. The word should be “sexist.” Sexism can include hostility but it doesn’t have to; misogyny is hostility [to women].

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

Sensitive to their lackluster showing

Feb 12th, 2013 4:08 pm | By

The US Senate has renewed the Violence Against Women Act, 78 to 22. (It’s odd that I’m pleased about the 78 rather than appalled by the 22. Low expectations strike again.)

The act expired in 2011, putting efforts to improve its many federal programs on hold. Last year both the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate passed renewal bills, but they were unable to reach a compromise.

This year House Republicans, sensitive to their lackluster showing among women voters in the November election, have vowed to move expeditiously on the issue. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has taken the lead in negotiating the terms of a House bill.

So…”Ok, bitchez, if you’re going to get all bitchy about it and not vote for us, fine, we’ll pass your fucking Don’t Hit the Bitchez bill. But don’t come crying to us when all the men run away because they can’t stand you telling them not to hit you.” Is that how that went? Not in so many words, maybe, at least not in public, but that’s basically the thinking? The principle is hell no, no laws against violence against women in the Land of Libertee, but expediency, well that’s another story, but damn those…ladies for making us ditch our principles.

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

And just because something is not literally true does not mean it’s profound

Feb 12th, 2013 12:01 pm | By

Atheist leans over backward to find something contrarian to say about religion because of finding Dawkins too simplistic on the subject. Douglas Murray, in The Spectator. (It sounds like something piping hot and fresh from 2009, but oh well.)

These new atheists remain incapable of getting beyond the question, ‘Is it true?’ They assume that by ‘true’ we agree them to mean ‘literally true’. They also assume that if the answer is ‘no’, then that closes everything. But it does not. Just because something is not literally true does not mean that there is no truth, or worth, in it.

Schopenhauer said that truth may be like water: it needs a vessel to carry it. It is all very well to point out — as Dawkins did again the other night — that Adam did not exist. But to think that this discovery makes not just the story of Eden but the narrative of the crucifixion and resurrection meaningless is to rather startlingly miss a point. You can be in agreement with Professor Dawkins that Adam did not exist, yet know and feel that the story of Eden speaks profoundly about ourselves.

Oh come on. The story of Eden? Speaks profoundly about ourselves? Really profoundly, more profoundly than most stories, to say nothing of psychology or history or journalism?

No it doesn’t. It’s a crude little story, taking up all of 13 verses, and its “profound” speaking amounts to saying obey imaginary rules from imaginary gods, and by the way you’re supposed to be ignorant. What’s profound about that?

People do talk such bullshit about this kind of thing. It’s the old magic of reputation – priests are always saying The Fall is a profound story, so because repetition trumps truth, lots of people believe it. It’s crap. Shake off the prestige of the story and look at it without mystification. It’s not profound. It’s the theocratic version of The One Forbidden Thing. It has a talking snake. Next contestant please.


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

One final verdict

Feb 12th, 2013 11:39 am | By

Frank Bruni wrote a pretty blistering op-ed in the NY Times last week on the Catholic church’s funny way of veering between theocracy and secularism depending on which is most convenient at any particular moment. He pointed out things that don’t get pointed out nearly often enough, especially by hyper-respectable newspapers like the Times.

On the one hand, he notes, you have the bishops shouting about contraceptive coverage in health care plans, and on the other hand, you have lawyers for a Catholic hospital chain arguing that fetuses aren’t persons. And then you have those pesky child-raping priests…

We’ve been getting a fresh and galling peek into that with the court-compelled release of documents from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which engaged in a pattern of willful blindness and outright cover-up so egregious that the current archbishop, José Gomez, took the shocking step last week of publicly reprimanding his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony.

The documents show that Mahony and his lieutenants repeatedly failed to report allegations to law enforcement officials and urged accused priests to leave or stay out of the state, lest they face prosecution. They decided, in short, that the church’s representatives and reputation mattered more than justice: that the church could hold itself above laws that governed everybody else.

Because free exercise. It’s in the Constitution! It totally means that churches can just make up their own laws and ignore all secular laws and legal institutions!


Around the country, the church has beaten back lawsuits by priests’ victims and tried not to furnish information about priests’ wrongdoing by claiming that such scrutiny violates the free exercise of religion, said Jeffrey Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer who has represented hundreds of victims over three decades. “It’s audacious, it’s bold and it’s across the board,” he said.

But the church has simultaneously reserved the right to behave just like any other institution, leaning on legal technicalities, smearing victims and demonstrating no more compassion than a tobacco company might show.

Having it both ways is totally part of free exercise, which is in the Constitution.

From my extensive reporting on the sexual abuse crisis in the 1990s, I don’t recall any great push to excommunicate priests who forced themselves on kids. But when Sister Margaret McBride, in 2009, was part of a Phoenix hospital’s decision to abort an 11-week-old fetus inside a 27-year-old woman whose life was gravely endangered by the pregnancy, she indeed suffered excommunication (later reversed).

So a fetus matters more than the ravaged psyche of a raped adolescent? And Sister McBride deserved harsher rebuke than a rapist? It’s hard not to conclude that a church run by men shows them more mercy than it does women (or, for that matter, children).

Definitely children. That woman with the life-endangering pregnancy? She has four young children. Their lives wouldn’t have been improved much if she had died along with her fetuses, I think.

One final verdict is already in. On the charge of self-serving hypocrisy, the church is guilty.


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

Just stay home

Feb 12th, 2013 10:40 am | By

More from those fun-loving woman-haters in Egypt.

Shura Council’s human rights committee members said on Monday that women taking part in protests bear the responsibility of being sexually harassed, describing what happens in some demonstrators’ tents as “prostitution.”

Major General Adel Afify, member of the committee representing the Salafi Asala Party, criticized female protesters, saying that they “know they are among thugs. They should protect themselves before requesting that the Interior Ministry does so. By getting herself involved in such circumstances, the woman has 100 percent responsibility.”

That’s right! By engaging in protest, women are formally requesting to be raped. If they don’t want to be raped, all they have to do is  stop participating in political life. What’s the problem with that?!

Salah Abdel Salam, a member representing the Salafi Nour Party, said that as long as women protest in places full of thugs, they should take responsibility for the harassment they face.

Mervat Ebeid, member representing Wafd party, said all societal categories are to be blamed for sexual harassment. She also said that knowing there are many thugs present at demonstrations, women should take responsibility when deciding whether to attend protests.

Yes indeed. The solution to sexual harassment of women is for women to stay away from any place or event or activity where many thugs could be present. Simple! Easy! Quick!


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

No one to control them

Feb 12th, 2013 9:19 am | By

When in doubt, harass women.

Shahira Amin has an article at Index on Censorship about the harassment of women in Tahrir Square.

Egyptian Salafi preacher Ahmed Mahmoud Abdulla — known as Abou Islam — recently made remarks justifying sexual violence against female protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, claiming that women who join protests are asking “to get raped”…

In a video posted online last Wednesday, Abdulla said that women who join the protests are “either crusaders who have no shame or widows who have no one to control them”. He also described them as “devils”, and added that “they talk like monsters”.

Yes that’s right, just throw everything. It all sticks, so it’s all good to throw.

It’s interesting how familiar and domestic the preacher sounds though. A mere two years ago I wouldn’t have had that thought, but now it jumps off the page at me. The Salafi preacher sounds exactly like our more local harassers.

BBC World had a distressing – not surprising, but distressing – report on harassment of women in Tahrir Square yesterday, by Aleem Maqbool. He talks to some boys/young men in the square, who are frankly there to leer at and assault women, and who think rape is a joke.

Back to Shahira Amin.

While the increased violence against women has been cause for growing concern, the long-awaited new legislation, the increased willingness of women to speak out and the growing number of NGOs fighting harassment (either by spreading awareness about it, encouraging women to speak out or protecting women during protests) are all encouraging signs of positive change to come. Rights activists welcome the change but insist that more needs to be done to end gender-based discrimination.

“Changing the attitudes of men and women can only take place through education and awareness campaigns, ” said activist Azza Kamel of Fouada Watch, an NGO that has established a round-the-clock hot line for victims to report incidents of sexual harassment, verbal abuse or assaults against women. Kamel also advocates training of the police, traditionally known to take harassment reports lightly . “But above all”she said, there must be zero tolerance for those who incite violence against women (referring to the recent comments by Salafi preacher Abou Islam.)

“Such extremists must be silenced. Incitement is as big a crime as the assault itself”, Kamel added.

Don’t get your hopes up.

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

Bye bye popey

Feb 11th, 2013 5:20 pm | By

Michael Nugent gives ten reasons to be pleased that Ratzinger is hanging up his red shoes.

One, because of the Vatican’s (ridiculous) international clout.

Because the UN takes most decisions by consensus, the Holy See has been able to frustrate negotiations on population, contraception, reproductive health care and women’s rights. And Pope Benedict has ensured that the Holy See’s work at the United Nations is based on his own conservative theology.

Four, his church claims that atheists are not fully human.

The Catholic Church makes a distinction between being human and being fully human, and it does not consider atheists to be fully human. It believes that being fully human requires a relationship with its imaginary God, and that by excluding this from our philosophy we are not fully human. Most of the time they phrase it subtly, by saying that you require religious faith to be fully human, and sometimes they let the mask slip and explicitly say that atheists are not fully human.

Funny idea, isn’t it. To be “fully” human you have to subscribe to and bend the knee to a non-human imaginary other-world being. If you accept that you’re a human among humans and have no access to other-world beings, you’re less than “fully” human.

Ten, he silences priests who want a more democratic Church.

In Ireland, the Vatican under Pope Benedict has silenced several priests, including Sean Fagan, Tony Flannery, Gerry Moloney and Brian D’Arcy. Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, who is studying for a doctorate in canon law at Rome’s Gregorian University, has described this development as dreadful. At the launch of her book ‘Quo vadis: Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law’, she said that:

“There is a fear at the centre [Rome] of how they can cope with these voices”

She said that the Vatican was dealing with dissent by demanding obedience, and that this demand:

“was translated into a really, really dangerous silence where children suffered abominably”.

In a comment I suggested an eleventh: telling people in Africa not to use condoms. I think that’s the worst thing. I had a discussion about this with a woman in South Africa on Twitter, and we feel exactly alike. (Maybe I should RT her tweets to the pope, now that he’s on Twitter. He hasn’t retired yet.)

That was just a sample, as you’ll have figured out from the numbers. Read the whole thing.

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

Ooh Dean Esmay says I’m a public figure!

Feb 11th, 2013 4:04 pm | By

Update I didn’t even see that there’s also a post on AVoiceforMen. I can’t keep up. I have so many fans haters now I cannot keep up.

He also says I’m a fassist Stalinist thug. He says a lot of things. He pronounces “fascist” as “fassist.” I’m a fassist Stalinist hate-mongering bigoted book-burning censoring thug.

The book burners of the world and the censors of the world, the crypto-fassists and the outright fassists of the world, they just never go away, do they.

Wussup? we wonder as we listen. Wussup is that “Wooly” Bumblebee did a video and then got banned from YouTube.

What was so outrageous? She was critical of a public figure. That’s right, a public figure. A public figure who regularly makes outrageously bigoted and hateful statements, in a very high-profile forum called Free Thought Blogs. Now the last I checked, criticizing public figures is protected speech in the United States and most other countries. And in my book, only a hate-mongering, book-burning, Stalinist thug would false-flag a video just because they didn’t like that someone was critical of them or someone they liked. Fortunately, there is a solution when crypto-Nazis try to censor points of view they don’t like, and when they make up phony stories about how they feel “threatened.” You know, like how German Nazis pretended they were “threatened” by the Jews? Yeah, right, fuck you, bigots, that’s not what’s goin on here. Your false threat narratives are a bigoted lie, and your efforts at censorship show everybody what kind of fassists you really are.

Then there’s the “Wooly” Bumblebee part, and it turns out that all those people are me. WB did a video and I “false-flagged” it so WB got thrown in prison her YouTube account shut down. Only I didn’t flag it. As I mentioned earlier today, it was taken down before I knew about it, let alone saw it. I haven’t seen it. I don’t plan to see it. I’m told it’s disgusting even by her standards, which are low enough to begin with. Judging by the tweets I got this morning, I believe it. So anyway – WB made a nasty video about me, I never saw it or did anything about it, and Dean Esmay says I’m a hate-mongering, book-burning, Stalinist thug because YouTube watched it and then booted her out. That makes a lot of sense.

Only it doesn’t. It doesn’t because I didn’t see the video and didn’t flag the video or do anything else about it. It doesn’t also because flagging doesn’t do the job anyway. Flagging is just flagging. YouTube watches, and then YouTube makes the call. Not the flagger. YouTube.

Flagged videos are not automatically taken down by the flagging system. If it doesn’t violate the YouTube Community Guidelines, no amount of flagging will change that and your video will stay on the site. If you encourage others to attempt to flag a video off the site, your account may receive a penalty for harassment.

So any way you look at it, Dean Esmay is telling big ol lies about me, and so is “Wooly.”

But it’s quite all right because I’m a Public Figure (I am?) and also Nazi Stalinist fassist plus in addition Freeze Peach.

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

The wot is feminism chart

Feb 11th, 2013 11:37 am | By

Also known as antifeminism bingo, I believe.

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

Buy me shoooooooooooes

Feb 11th, 2013 11:22 am | By

Ok I put up the personal me me me me give it all to me PayPal buttons. They’re over there. On the left. Not as far down. Easy to spot.

This is the perfect way to spite the harassers. They will be so disgusted their nostrils will ache, and I will treat myself to a package of Pepperidge Farm orange Milano cookies on sale this week at Safeway for ONLY TWO DOLLARS.

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

God is too old to continue at the age of infinity

Feb 11th, 2013 9:51 am | By

Well now really, the pope seems to have his theology all in a tangle. He says he’s resigning the pope job because he’s too old for it. How can that be possible? He’s god’s deputy! Why doesn’t god just make him not too old for it? Why doesn’t god just fix whatever age-related problems he has so that he can go on being god’s deputy until his “natural” death (“natural” apart from whatever secular medical interventions take place, of course)?

Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85.

The unexpected development – the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years – surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even his closest aides.

Because always before until now god made the popes not too old to be pope until they were too dead to be pope.

A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said that even Pope Benedict’s closest aides did not know what he was planning to do and were left “incredulous”. He added that the decision showed “great courage” and “determination”.

Of course! And if the pope had said he had considered resigning because old but had decided not to, that decision too would have  showed “great courage” and “determination.” Win-win. It’s actually pretty funny when a decision to quit is described as showing great courage and determination. Hmm let’s see – I won’t run a marathon today. That took great courage and determination. Are you impressed?

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

Or just put “na na na na na”

Feb 10th, 2013 5:06 pm | By

Hey have you noticed that button way down in the left hand margin?


Feel free to use it. Don’t feel obliged, but do feel free. It’s like PBS and NPR, or like museums with those boxes for cash in the hall. If you feel like supporting FTB, there’s the button.

We got a big donation the day before yesterday. From what it said in the line for “purpose” and from the timing, I strongly suspect it was motivated by the upsurge in harassment in the past few days. It would be a beautiful, a moving way to cause regret and disappointment to the harassers, if every time they ratcheted it upward, we got a surge in donations. They’ll be feeling it right now, because I’m saying this. Thanks, harassers!

We would love to be able to drop advertising altogether and rely on donations and subscriptions instead. You can put “to say fuck you to the harassers” in the purpose line, if you want to.

The button is for FTB as a whole, by the way. Some of us have individual tip jars too, but I haven’t done that yet.

Update via Josh:

You do not have to have a PayPal account to donate.

You can just use your ordinary debit/credit card and PayPal will process it like a normal credit card transaction. PP makes it hard to notice, but go back to the donate button, click it, and you’ll see there are options to log in to PayPal or to simply pay with your credit card.

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

If the environment is sufficiently regular

Feb 10th, 2013 3:25 pm | By

Lyanna pointed out that I was unclear about the boundaries of when expert judgment is better or worse than an algorithm. Kahneman gets into that in the next chapter. He collaborated with his main opponent to try to figure that out. The takeaway -

At the end of our journey, Gary Klein and I agreed on a general answer to our initial question: When can you trust an experienced professional who claims to have an intuition? Our conclusion was that for the most part it is possible to distinguish intuitions that are likely to be valid from those that are likely to be bogus…If the environment is sufficiently regular and if the judge has had a chance to learn its regularities, the associative machinery will recognize situations and generate quick and accurate predictions and decisions. You can trust someone’s intuitions if these conditions are met. [p 243]

There, that’s more tidy than the way I said it.

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

Experts try to be clever

Feb 10th, 2013 12:36 pm | By

One terrific chapter in Thinking Fast and Slow is 21, Intuitions vs Formulas. There Kahneman tells us a brutal unsettling truth, which is that for certain purposes in certain situations, algorithms do better than expert judgement. Thick detailed rich experiential knowledge does worse than a boring quick little formula. A psychologist called Paul Meehl made this claim more than 50 years ago and the research he inspired is still pouring out. Clinical psychologists don’t like the claim! (You can see the insurance people licking their chops, although Kahneman hasn’t mentioned that as far as I’ve read.)

This is about prediction, and for a moment I consoled myself with “oh well just for prediction…” but really, that won’t do. Prediction is the whole point of having a theory of mind, isn’t it.

It’s what people mean when they complain about “scientism,” I think – they’re resisting the horrible idea that a few questions could get a better handle on them than years of experience and conversation and deep thinking. We all want to be Isabel Archer, not a handful of ticked boxes.

Why are experts inferior to algorithms? One reason, which Meehl suspected, is that experts try to be clever, think outside the box, and consider complex combinations of features in making their predictions. Complexity may work in the odd case, but more often than not it reduces validity. Simple combinations of features are better. [p 224]

Isn’t that awful? That’s awful! All our beautiful complicatedness, tossed out the window because simple combinations of features are better. We’re not so complicated! The final scene in the movie, when the cops have shot us down, is no longer “I ain’t so tough,” it’s “I ain’t so complicated.”

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