Notes and Comment Blog

The invention of metaphors

Dec 2nd, 2014 10:34 am | By

So Erdoğan is the David Barton of Turkey, I guess. He says “Muslims” (which ones? Indonesian?) arrived in the Americas three centuries before Signor Colombo.

Speaking on Saturday at a gathering of Muslim leaders from Latin America, Erdogan said contact between Islam and Latin America dated back to the 12th century.

“It is alleged that the American continent was discovered by Columbus in 1492,” Erdogan said. “In fact, Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178.”

“In his memoirs, Christopher Columbus mentions the existence of a mosque atop a hill on the coast of Cuba,” Erdogan said, adding that he’d like to see a mosque built on the hilltop today.

A mosque, eh? No chance it was just Colombo assuming a building he saw was a mosque simply because it looked somewhat like mosques he had seen in Spain? After all he assumed the place he was in was the far East simply because it was the first thing he bumped into sailing west from the Iberian peninsula.

Scholars have disputed the claim in Columbus’s writings, saying there is no archaeological evidence of Muslims having lived in the Americas before Columbus, an Italian, made his expedition in 1492 on behalf of the Spanish crown.

Yes but who needs archaeological evidence when you’ve got Colombo’s assumptions and snap identifications?

Erdoğan has been getting some mockery, and he’s mocking back. This should go well.

In an aggressive rebuttal of the criticism heaped on his comments in some quarters, Erdogan suggested that the purported discovery of the Americas by Muslims should be taught in schools.

“A big responsibility falls on the shoulders of the national education ministry and YOK [higher education board] on this issue,” Erdogan said at a ceremony in Ankara. “If the history of science is written objectively, it will be seen that Islamic geography’s contribution to science is much more than what’s known.”

So I wonder how Erdoğan knows that, exactly. A snap judgement by Colombo seems like a weak reed.

His claim had been mocked by some prominent columnists in the Turkish media. Mehmet Yilmaz, of the Hurriyet newspaper, suggested that Erdogan’s next claim should be that a Muslim, rather than Isaac Newton, discovered gravity.

I think Erdoğan should team up with David Barton and the pair of them should re-write all the history.

History books say that Columbus set foot on the American continent in 1492 as he was seeking a new maritime route to India. Some researchers believe Vikings reached America before the end of the first millennium. A tiny minority of Muslim scholars have recently suggested a prior Muslim presence in the Americas, although no pre-Columbian ruin of an Islamic structure has ever been found.

There is archaeological evidence for the presence of Vikings in North America in the 11th century. It’s not just a mention of a putative mosque by Colombo.

In an article published in 1996, historian Youssef Mroueh referred to a diary entry from Columbus that mentioned a mosque in Cuba. But the passage is widely understood to be a metaphorical reference to the shape of the landscape.

Metaphors weren’t invented until 1642. By a Muslim, by the way.



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

Feminism has gone Too Far

Dec 1st, 2014 5:31 pm | By

Apparently a guy called Peter Lloyd has for some reason gone to the trouble of writing a book that Christina Hoff Sommers wrote several years ago. I wonder what the point of that is.

spiked doesn’t though, spiked is all agog. spiked just can’t get enough of people saying edgy things like “well really when you get right down to it it’s men who are second-class citizens these days.”

Lloyd, who somehow combines writing for both the Daily Mail and the ‘women in leadership’ section of the Guardian, was prompted to write Stand By Your Manhood in response to the ‘dismissive, patronising and skewed narrative about heterosexual men’, which he suggests is apparent in the mainstream media.

He argues that it has become normal to consider masculinity as entirely negative and problematic, and to present boys as ‘defective girls, damaged by default’ who need to be medicated, educated and socialised out of their masculinity. Whereas once manhood was celebrated in all its stiff-upper-lipped glory, it is now considered threatening. Lloyd welcomes the progress society has made in recent years, and he is happy that homosexuality is no longer so stigmatised. However, he warns that there is a danger that things have gone too far in the other direction, and that shame is now attached to masculinity, with heterosexual men, in particular, being made to feel guilty if they don’t frequently display a more feminine side to their personalities.

Faaaaaaaaaaascinating. Please tell me all about it, while I just curl up here and take a little nap.

Lloyd suggests today’s men’s movement is a response to strains of feminism that first appeared in the late 1970s – these strains were far more explicitly anti-men than pro-equality. He claims today’s feminists perpetuate the idea that women are oppressed and ‘refuse to let go of old arguments’ despite the changes that have taken place in the real world. Often, Lloyd argues, there are monetary incentives for feminist campaigning groups, such as the Fawcett Society, continuously to propagate an image of women as victims of a non-specific patriarchy.

Oh my goodness that is so interesting. Isn’t it?

Certainly it is not in the financial interests of groups like Hollaback and FCKH8 to question the facts promoted in their campaigns against sexism. Lloyd blames the media for unthinkingly picking up on such campaigns and escalating an anti-male sentiment. As a result, he says, feminism can seem like a ‘hate movement’ and men have not had a voice to challenge these newly dominant perceptions.

Huh. So Peter Lloyd thinks all men are sexist? He must think that, if he thinks campaigns against sexism equate to anti-male sentiment. But why would he think that? I don’t think that, and I’m not even an MRA.

Campaigning against racism isn’t anti-white, you know. Campaigning for LGBTQ rights isn’t anti-straight or anti-cis. Why would campaigning against sexism be anti-male? Why do people make these hateful false equivalencies? Saying “don’t keep pushing me down” does not equate to “it’s my turn to push you down now.”

Those promoting men’s rights through social media can appear to be the older brothers of lad culture: far less fun to be around but just as mindless in their instinctive reaction against a new social order that seems to have brought women, and feminism in particular, to the fore. Lloyd, however, is clearly intelligent and has thought these issues through. He’s unapologetic about lad culture, applauding ‘the utter enjoyment and raw expression of masculinity’ that it represents. If lad culture can be seen as a rebellion against feminism, it is, he argues, entirely unconscious and simply a manifestation of young men over[t]ly embracing their gender identity.

The way white people overtly embracing their white identity is only unconsciously a rebellion against anti-racism. Uh huh.

He hopes Stand By Your Manhood will provide a ‘reality check’ for today’s more militant feminists, and enable men to stop feeling like they have to apologise just for being themselves.

Does “just being themselves” mean catcalls on the street or groping on the bus or punching women who talk back?


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

“Because the fact is, Cosby is innocent of rape”

Dec 1st, 2014 4:56 pm | By

Good god – can Brendan O’Neill really be that thick? Confusing Bill Cosby’s ontological status with his legal status?

Bill Cosby – what a creep. Drugging all those women, molesting them, raping some. Can you believe we worshipped this guy when he played the joke-making everyman Cliff Huxtable in the Eighties? Well, now we know better. He isn’t the loveable avuncular dude we all thought he was. Rather, as those memes slicing through the internet like knives in Caesar’s back reveal, he’s a ‘serial rapist’. As one especially popular internet tag has it: ‘America’s fave dad by day – serial rapist by night.’

That has been the tenor of the discussion about Cosby on the web over the past fortnight. And it has been as ugly as hell: vindictive, gossip-fuelled, backward and positively medieval in its rush to condemn a man before he has been found guilty of a crime. Whatever you think of Cosby – I remember even as a kid I thought The Cosby Show was pants – this media-led public criminalisation of someone who hasn’t been convicted of a crime should chill you. Because the fact is, Cosby is innocent of rape.

Just as you are. Just as I am. At least until such a time as someone does the very hard job of proving beyond reasonable doubt that he did rape someone. There’s a phrase for this, I think. How does it go? Ah, yes: ‘A man is presumed innocent until proven guilty.’

No, not a man, Brendan. A person, an accused, a defendant – not a man. It applies to women too.

But never mind that. Dear god is he kidding? The fact that X is presumed innocent in a court of law does not equate to “X is innocent.” The “phrase” he trots out itself doesn’t say that – it doesn’t say “is innocent,” it says “is presumed innocent.” There’s a difference.

The presumption of innocence matters in court, and it matters for what can legally be said, which is why news media use the word “alleged” so liberally. But it doesn’t change the facts. It’s possible for a guilty person to be acquitted in court and it’s possible for an innocent person to be convicted in court. Neither of those changes the facts either. X is innocent if X is innocent, not if a court finds X not guilty.

So, no. O’Neill is completely wrong to say “the fact is, Cosby is innocent of rape.” He doesn’t know that, just as I don’t know Cosby is guilty of rape. He and I both don’t know what the fact is.

Does Bill Cosby rape women? Has he ever? We don’t know, but justice – Enlightenment itself – demands that we say, ‘No. Prove otherwise if you can.’

No, it does not. O’Neill is confusing how the legal system is required to treat defendants with what everyone else is supposed to say and think about them. Justice doesn’t require us to pretend we know defendants are innocent any more than it requires us to pretend we know they’re guilty.

I have news for these twenty-first-century Salemites: Bill Cosby, we must presume, is innocent. And given that the passing of the statute of limitations means he’s very unlikely to be brought to court to face his accusers, he will remain innocent. I’m sorry if that gets in the way of your search for a demon to yell about, but that’s life: liberty and justice are more important than your weird psychological need for evil.

Ah yes, so if a guy succeeds in getting away with rape for years by the simple expedient of drugging his victims so that their testimony becomes worthless, then hahahahaha statute of limitations you lose and HE’S INNOCENT so hahaha suck it.

Horrible man.

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

Publish and perish

Dec 1st, 2014 4:27 pm | By

I know nothing about this except what I read here, but it sounds like a wretched situation: David Colquhoun on bullying (of scientists by senior scientists) at Imperial College.

This week’s Times Higher Education carried a report of the death, at age 51, of Professor Stefan Grimm:Imperial College London to ‘review procedures’ after death of academic. He was professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial.

Now Stefan Grimm is dead. Despite having a good publication record, he failed to do sufficiently expensive research, so he was fired.

“Speaking to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, two academics who knew Professor Grimm, who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.”

Having had cause to report before on bullying at Imperial’s Department of Medicine, I was curious to know more.

And he found out more. Read it.

At the end he posts a bunch of horrified tweets by other scientists and academics.

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

They just sat there

Dec 1st, 2014 1:05 pm | By

A video of two young women fighting off a man on a bus has gone viral.

A video showing two sisters in northern India hitting back at men who allegedly harassed them on a crowded bus has drawn huge attention in a country where hundreds of thousands of women silently endure sexual harassment daily.

The video, filmed by a passenger and aired on several television channels Monday, shows the two young women hitting, punching and beating their harassers with a belt, as other passengers silently look on. The women, identified only by their first names, Arati and Pooja, told reporters that they lashed out at the men after enduring lewd comments and pawing from them.

Watch it; it’s quite astonishing. The man keeps on grabbing at them and the passengers just fucking sit there. One guy does finally pull the grabber back, but everyone else just sits like lumps, including whoever filmed the attack on a phone. They just sit there! The girls are small and slender, but the passengers just sit there.

I’ve seen altercations on buses and I’ve never seen people just placidly sit and watch. It’s a horrible sight.

“No one came to our help. In fact, they tried to stop us and scare us by saying the men would come for us and attack us or throw acid on us,” one of the sisters told New Delhi Television channel.

No Tuğçe Albayraks on that bus.

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

Try showing a little class

Dec 1st, 2014 12:44 pm | By

The Republican Congressional staffer who pissed on Malia and Sasha Obama the other day has resigned.

Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for congressman Stephen Fincher, gave up her post on Monday.

Ms Lauten earlier criticised Sasha and Malia Obama on Facebook following their appearance in short skirts at a Thanksgiving ceremony.

Yeah she “criticized” them all right.

Her deleted post reads: “Dear Sasha and Malia: I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play.

“Then again, your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter. So I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”

The post goes on to advise the girls to “rise to the occasion and act like being in the White House matters to you”.

“Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar,” she added.

That’s barely even coded. It’s all too easy to read what she’s really saying.

Good riddance.

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

Foundational daddy dearest

Dec 1st, 2014 11:47 am | By

Right Wing Watch discusses a scathing review by Gregg Frazer of a David Barton book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.

RWW says Barton likes to call everyone he approves of a “Founding Father” and includes this passage from Frazer’s review:

This leads to one last area of concern in America’s Godly Heritage which can best be expressed as a question: Who counts as a “Founding Father?”

This issue reappears frequently in Barton’s works. He seems to count anyone of whom he approves who was living at the time of the Revolution, the founding of the political system under the Constitution, or within fifty or sixty years of those times as a “Founding Father.” For example, he says that “the American Tract Society was started by the Founding Fathers.” First, not one of those listed as a Tract  Society founder signed the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. By what standard are they “Founding Fathers?” Furthermore, the Society was started in 1825 – 36 years after the Constitution was ratified. Madison was the last living framer an d he died in 1836. How many Founding Fathers were even alive in 1825? Similarly, in his discussion of Vidal v. Girard, he said it was decided in “the time of the Founders.” It was decided in 1844 –55 years after the Constitution went into effect and, a s was just mentioned, the last framer died in 1836! Barton refers to John Quincy Adams as a “Founding Father.” At the time of the Constitutional Convention, he was a 20 year-old just out of law school (he was 8 when the Declaration was signed) – by what standard is he a “Founding Father?” Barton also claims that the “Founding Fathers” established the New England Primer as a text, but the Founding Fathers did not establish any texts for schools – that was left to local communities to decide. Apparently, by Barton’s standards (whatever they are), local school boards were “Founding Fathers.” Finally, Barton says that the state constitutions indicate that the “Founding Fathers” wanted to be sure that Christians held public office. But the Founding Fathers, in Article VI of the Constitution, specifically disallowed any religious test for office. That would seem to be a strange and counterproductive prohibition to be put in place by those who want to ensure that Christians hold the various offices.

It’s almost funny, except that many people take Barton seriously. But it is quite funny to see such passion for the combination of founding and father. All the good things in one phrase and one kind of person! Daddies, and not just Daddies, but Daddies who Found things. And not just any things but THIS GREAT COUNTRY OF OURS.

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

No Hockney for you

Dec 1st, 2014 10:11 am | By

Adam Rutherford doesn’t have much sympathy for James Watson’s complaints of undue neglect.

The great scientist James Watson is to auction his Nobel prize medal. He told the Financial Times this week that following accusations of racism in 2007, “no one really wants to admit I exist”, and as a result his income had plummeted and he has become an “unperson”.

If his income plummeted as a result of people avoiding him, that can mean only that he no longer gets big fees for speaking or lecturing. Well…yes, and?

If people no longer want to pay to hear him talk, then they don’t. If that’s because he revealed himself to be a racist, then well done people who no longer want to hear him talk. He’s not simply automatically entitled to big speaking fees.

This sounds awful: an 86-year-old hero ostracised for his views, shooed from public life by the people who walk in his scientific shadow.

But it’s not awful. Watson has said that he is “not a racist in a conventional way”. But he told the Sunday Times in 2007 that while people may like to think that all races are born with equal intelligence, those “who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. Call me old-fashioned, but that sounds like bog-standard, run-of-the-mill racism to me.

And this current whinge bemoans a new poverty born of his pariah status. Apart “from my academic income”, he says, Watson is condemned to a miserly wage that prevents him from buying a David Hockney painting.

In short, he’s no longer popular, because of his bog-standard racism. Well there you go.

With Nobels, we put people on pedestals and gift them platforms to say whatever they like. Here, they represent science, but contrary to stereotype, there isn’t a typical scientist. We’re just people.

Some Nobel laureates say stupid ignorant things. Most say little beyond their expertise, and some, such as the president of the Royal Society, Paul Nurse, are great leaders and campaigners for science and society.

And the same applies to non-laureate scientists. A famous scientist can be both a great campaigner for science and a racist or sexist or both. This is a thing that can happen.

“No one really wants to admit I exist” says Watson. That’s not it. It’s more that no one is interested in his racist, sexist views. Watson, alongside Crick, will always be the discoverer of the double helix, to my mind the scientific breakthrough of the 20th century. Here’s our challenge: celebrate science when it is great, and scientists when they deserve it. And when they turn out to be awful bigots, let’s be honest about that too. It turns out that just like DNA, people are messy, complex and sometimes full of hideous errors.

And we can always look at David Hockney paintings in books or museums.


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

Didna foo

Nov 30th, 2014 4:21 pm | By

Jesus takes a stab at speaking in tongues. He’s a natural.


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

Curb the other one

Nov 30th, 2014 4:14 pm | By

Some terrible people in Pakistan accused the Bollywood star Veena Malik of “blasphemy” and hurting feelings and inflaming sentiments and the rest of the menu of bullshit. The other day a judge totes agreed and sentenced her to 26 years in prison.

What was the blasphemy? She acted in a scene loosely based on the marriage of Mo’s daughter.

The offending scene involved Malik re-enacting her own wedding to businessman Asad Bashir Khan while a religious song played in the background.

There was outrage following its original broadcast in a daytime programme on Geo TV in May, with blasphemy cases filed against the channel’s owner and the show’s anchorwoman, as well as Malik and her husband.

On 26 May, the senior vice president of the Gilgit-Baltistan chapter of Muslim religious organisation Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat lodged an official complaint alleging the show had defiled Ahl al-Bayt – the family of the prophet Muhammad – in playing “a contemptuous Qawwali”.

Nobody “defiled” anything. Go build a school or teach math in a school or make lunch in a school; do something useful instead of persecuting artists who don’t share your loathsome narrow view of the world.

Announcing the verdict on Tuesday, judge Raja Shahbaz ordered the police make arrests under Section 19 (10) of the Anti-Terrorism Act in case of disobedience, as well as sell the properties of the offendants.

“After evaluation of the entire evidence of the prosecution, I am of the considered opinion that the prosecution has proved its case against proclaimed offenders and absconders,” Shahbaz said.

The order reads: “The malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt the feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendency.”

No there isn’t. That is not the tendency that needs to be curbed in Pakistan. You’re looking in the wrong place altogether.


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


Nov 30th, 2014 4:03 pm | By

Football. Germany. Frankfurt v Dortmund. Frankfurt’s Hans Seferovic scored the winning goal. He dedicated the goal to Tuğçe Albayrak.

Seferovic lifted his jersey after the goal to reveal a written tribute to Tugce on his undershirt, with the hashtags “civil courage,” “angel,” “courage,” and “respect.”

Embedded image permalink

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

They can keep their computer models

Nov 30th, 2014 3:11 pm | By

Curious as always, I naturally looked around this Young America’s Foundation place to see what it’s like. I found a link titled UCSB Students Believe Global Warming is One of the Biggest Threats to the World. I could feel the scorn rising off the words. Silly silly UCSB students – what does it matter if sea levels rise and glaciers melt and rivers dry up and crops fail?

And yet, I was still surprised by Ashley Pratte’s style of argument.

According to Weather Channel founder John Coleman, man-made climate change is a myth.  Well, college students at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) would strongly disagree.

In a statement Coleman said, “The ocean is not rising significantly.  The polar ice is increasing, not melting away.  Polar bears are increasing in number.  Heat waves have diminished, not increased.”

However, the students at UCSB feel very differently.

Uh? A tv weather guy said something, and that’s supposed to be conclusive?

Snopes has a page on Coleman.

As Coleman’s critics have noted, he does not hold a degree in climatology or any related discipline, nor has he studied or conducted any research in that field; he merely parrots arguments advanced by others.

So just saying “In a statement Coleman said” isn’t quite good enough.

Critics of Coleman who do study and work in the field of climate science have produced detailed line-by-line rebuttals of his arguments against global warming.

Young America’s Foundation people please take a look.

Now back to Ashley Pratte:

There were a few students who made it clear they are doing all they can to reduce their individual carbon footprint.  One student claimed that he bikes 15 miles to school everyday, and another student said she’s vegan.

When asked what they would say to climate change deniers the answers were unanimous, “Educate yourselves.”

Well, maybe these students should take their own advice and realize that science isn’t on their side.  Over the years global warming has become a policy agenda spurred on by leftists and environmentalists, but the science just isn’t there.

This year marks, an 18-year “pause” in global warming-which leaves environmentalists scratching their heads to come up with excuses to combat climate-change deniers.

They can keep their computer models and we will keep our science-based in fact, not projections.

Yeah none of your god damn computer models for projecting what’s going to happen next, we prefer surprises!

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

How boys are faring in a society that now favors girls

Nov 30th, 2014 2:42 pm | By

anthrosciguy pointed out that something called Young America’s Foundation has a speaker’s page for Sommers.

Topics:Education, Feminism, Law / Constitution, Political Correctness, Race & Culture
Fee: 3,000 – 5,000

Not bad for an hour’s work.


1. The Case for Conservative Feminism (How the once noble cause of feminism lost its way and why it may take conservative women to put it back on track)

2. Guilty Because Accused: Why the new federal regulations on campus sexual assault are a travesty of justice. (Pressured by the Obama administration, our colleges and universities have abandoned all pretense of due process in cases of sexual assault.)

3. When Bad things Happen to Good Laws: The Truth About Title IX (How an idealistic law intended to eliminate discrimination against women turned into a quota law that discriminates against men.)

 4. The War Against Boys: Is it Over?  (How boys are faring in a society that now favors girls)

5.  Say No to CEDAW: Why the UN Women’s Treaty Should Not Be Ratified (CEDAW contains many noble declarations, but its key provisions are 1970s feminism preserved in diplomatic amber. Releasing those aged provisions in 21st-century America would be harmful)

She’s making a lot of money as a parasite on feminism. What a pestilent niche she’s created for herself.


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

Sinn Fein is refusing to say

Nov 30th, 2014 12:37 pm | By

Oh dear god here we go again.

Sinn Fein is refusing to say if it will hand over to gardai the minutes of a star chamber-style inquiry into 100 cases of suspected sex abuse involving members of the Provisional movement, held in Dublin eight years ago.

The secret investigation flies in the face of repeated denials by Sinn Fein leadership of their knowledge of a culture of sexual abuse within the Republican movement.

I guess Sinn Fein learned from the bishops? And Holy Mother Church?

The 2006 ‘review’ was carried out in the wake of information which emerged in Northern newspapers and the Sunday Independent that a “rape victim” had been summoned to appear before a Provo kangaroo court. This was a reference to Mairia Cahill, though she was not named at the time. This was the meeting Ms Cahill was ordered to attend at an apartment belonging to a Sinn Fein member in west Belfast and at which Martin Morris, her alleged abuser, was given her statement. After Ms Cahill’s allegations against Morris, Sinn Fein apparently moved him to a more prominent position in the ‘policing’ body.

It was only in 2006 when Sinn Fein was pushing for more British and Irish government money for their community policing project that the matter over the rape allegations came to a head. The rape allegation was brought to the attention of the Irish Government by the SDLP in a damning document about the conduct of Morris, who was referred to as ‘CRJ’. Only then was Morris moved out of Belfast, initially to Donegal.

No attempt was made to bring the allegations about Morris to the PSNI, and gardai were not notified of his ‘re-settlement’ in Donegal. Morris subsequently moved to England and remains living in north London.

So the answer is yes – Sinn Fein learned from the bishops and the church. Well done.

On Friday, SF’s Martin McGuinness, the North’s Deputy First Minister, refused to apologise to Ms Cahill for the IRA’s handling of her abuse allegation. “I suppose the sad thing about the Mairia Cahill case is the alleged abuser has disappeared into the smoke and people are focusing their concentration on people who were not involved in the sexual abuse of Mairia Cahill, and I think that’s a mistake,” he said.

Oh that’s the sad thing, is it? And people who didn’t themselves sexually assault Mairia Caihill but who did cover it up and protect the perp – they have nothing to be sorry for, is it?




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

Guest post: On gaydar and growing up

Nov 30th, 2014 12:11 pm | By

Again Josh, Official SpokesGay writes a Facebook post that I have to put here.

Had a long conversation with one of my best friends last week. We talked a lot about how different life, sex, love, politics look as we enter middle-age as compared to how it looked to us in the late 80s when we were just coming out.

About the double-edged sword of cultural ghettoization. How the closure of a famed gay bar provokes sadness and outcries about how those young baby fags don’t understand what they’ve lost. And they don’t, but not necessarily for the Very Important Reasons we middle-aged are thinking of.

So gaydar. That way “you can tell” if someone is gay. Maybe he’s a bit “artistic.” Maybe she cuts her hair short and doesn’t speak with the melodic pitch intervals associated with women’s speech.

Those old heuristics work less and less well. I’ve complained about how it’s hard to tell the straight boys from the gay ones anymore. Men can be foppish just a little bit more, even if they’re straight. Women can be just a bit more tomboy-ish even if they’re straight. Yes, the change is halting and punctuated with backlash. But it is happening. Because, millimeter by millimeter, non-negotiable gender roles and their behavioral cues are becoming more negotiable.

So what am I complaining about? The fact that the codes and tells developed as self-defense mechanisms aren’t as relevant anymore because there’s a tiny bit less of a need to self-ghettoize? Yes, that’s what I was complaining about.

This is to mistake the edifice, the costumes, the arbitrary behavioral etiquette, for the essence of what it means to be gay or queer. It’s fetishizing a subculture that arose in reaction to violence and squelching. It’s bemoaning the loss of a cultural identity that only ever existed as a way to give some solidarity to a terrified group of people who had to hide in the shadows.

But then, we are all nothing but the people and identities who emerge from a specific time, a specific place, with specific vocabularies and restaurants and film stars and laws and brands of coffee. There is no Platonic essence of us. We are only emergent manifestations of our when and where. That’s the really-real, the there-there. So maybe we can be forgiven a bit for mourning the loss?

Affection for one’s subculture is complicated. It’s always bittersweet. And it almost always misleads one by emotion; you have to second-guess yourself when you start pining for how it used to be.

I don’t know where to go with it all. But I do know it’s no good to age into a comfortable but reactionary nostalgia. Even if it seems like a loss, one must remind one’s self that longing for the comfortable, familiar signals of the ghetto one grew up in is not an unalloyed good. It may not be a good at all.

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

Think-tanking and lobbying

Nov 30th, 2014 11:38 am | By

The New Republic ran a piece by Ken Silverstein about salary inflation at DC think tanks in February 2013.

Jim DeMint had recently left the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation, going from $174,000 a year to $1.2 million or more.

Once upon a time, the only way for a pol to cash in like that was to leave elected office in order to become a lobbyista nice living, but one that carries with it a stigma that would likely kill any future ambitions for high office. By contrast, a gig at Heritage, the main voice of the conservative movement, could be a good launching pad for a potential 2016 presidential bid. Candidate DeMint could run as a man of ideas, not another pol out shilling for his donors.

Yes and that’s the thing – these think tanks are only tenuously related to ideas.

The problem with that wholesome imageand the anachronistic thing about Rubin’s lament over Heritage’s potential loss of intellectual virginityis that think-tanking and lobbying have come to look more and more alike. Just like lobbyists, think tanks can frame policy debates and generate political pressurefor the right price.

Heritage had $109 million in assets in 2002, a figure that has ballooned to $174 million in 2011, according to its tax filings. During the same period its annual fundraising haul (in contributions and grants) climbed from $40 million to more than $65 million. Donors include major companies like Boeing and Chevron and conservative foundations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. In addition to Feulner, at least 19 other officials there cleared $200,000, including former attorney general Ed Meese ($420,000), former congressman Ernest Istook ($303,000), and former labor secretary Elaine Chao ($290,000).

AEI makes an appearance.

  • The American Enterprise Institute had assets of $155 million and raised $37 million from contributions and grants, up from $40 million and $16 million, respectively, in 2002, according to tax filings. According to its2012 annual report, AEI gets 39 percent of its funding from foundations and 15 percent from corporations. Arthur Brooks, head of AEI, took in $645,000 in 2011. Meanwhile, AEI’s 2011 tax filing shows Dick Cheney received $210,000 for toiling an average of one hour per week as a board trustee.1 Poor John Bolton, a senior fellow, took in roughly the same as Cheney even though those same tax documents say he spends 60 hours per week on AEI work.

Brookings and the Center for American Progress show the same pattern (and have more money than AEI).

There are plenty of well-respected scholars at prominent Beltway think-tank positions. But supporting such large organizations requires the same ceaseless fundraising that politicians conduct when running for reelectionand the same sort of ignoble temptations. “Things have to be paid for, I respect that,” one former think tank staffer, who quit his job in disgust due to the intellectual horse-trading he observed, told me. “But at some point it becomes hard to turn down money from [big donors] and then it becomes hard not to do their bidding.”

I can’t see that applying to Sommers though. Her contribution is political, not corporate.

“Think tanks have become more like PR and lobbying shops than research organizations,” says Steve Clemons, a former executive vice president at the New America Foundation. “That they’re lesser regulated than lobbyists makes them especially attractive to some funders.”

Intellectual promiscuity, of course, doesn’t just happen because a donor wants to steer research in some particular direction. The more partisan outfits, like Heritage and CAP, display high a degree of deference to political allies (a group that often overlaps with financial patrons).

When George W. Bush was president, CAP tended to view U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as a bungled failure and the war in Iraq as a neoconservative-spawned debacle. It became far more supportive after Obama took office…

So that’s where Sommers fits – the partisan box as opposed to the corporate box.

The end result of all this has been a general degradation of think tank research. Bruce Bartlett, who was fired from the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis after writing a book critical of George W. Bush’s policies, says much think tank scholarship today is akin to market research. “You don’t study data to see what position you should take, because you know your position in advance,” he says. “Now you do research to help better advocate for your position and identify constituencies that you can target and bring along. It’s like P&G studying the coffee market to see if it can come up with a new niche brand and take a few customers away from the competition.”

So Sommers represents the outreach to Republican-style “feminists” – the lean in crowd, the toughen up crowd, the we already have equality crowd.

Political messages do need testing and tweaking in order to be more effective. But that’s a job for well-paid market-research typesDeMint’s avocation before entering politicsrather than humble scholars. Anyone confused as to which category describes large chunks of Washington’s think-tank output need only to look at their payrolls.

It can be informative to check their Twitter timelines, too.


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

Follow the money

Nov 30th, 2014 10:40 am | By

You know how I keep expressing astonishment at the way C H Sommers has gone from being an academic to being a shameless hack. It occurred to me to wonder if it’s just a simple matter of being better paid as a hack. Having wondered that, I decided to see if I could compare her salary as an academic to her salary as a hack for the American Enterprise Institute.

The bulk of her teaching career was at Clark University; she was an Associate Professor when she left to be a scholar at AEI. Clark reports the salary for associate profs to be $107,580.

The 990 tax form for the AEI reports some scholars’ salaries but not all.


That lists Gary Schmitt, John Bolton, Charles Murray, Thomas Donnelly, and Frederic Hess as scholars. Their salaries range from $170,500 to $178,500. It seems safe to conclude that Sommers’s pay is in that range or lower (as a more recent hire).

So…maybe 60 or 70 thousand more. Worth having, certainly, but it hardly seems enough to motivate palling around with the MRA crowd.

On the other hand…there’s no teaching. It’s in DC. It’s among a bunch of like-minded reactionary lobbyists as opposed to a bunch of PC liberal academics. All that and a 2/3 bump in pay. Maybe it’s worth it.

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


Nov 30th, 2014 9:43 am | By

Here’s a good thing. I saw it via Leo Igwe on Facebook: he posted a picture of himself with a young girl who was fundraising for it at the Foundation Beyond Belief conference last July. The good thing is the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda.

The more humanist schools the better, I say.

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

Wholly inadequate for the issue of sexual offences

Nov 29th, 2014 5:28 pm | By

Sandy Garossino, a former prosecutor, explains at the Huffington Post Canada how Jian Ghomeshi threw a wrench into his own defense by writing and publishing that Facebook post.

Normally in sexual assault trials, the accused doesn’t have to do anything and all the hassle falls on the complainant. The defense strategy is usually to batter the complainant’s credibility to death while the accused just looks on.

The Jian Ghomeshi trial will be very different.

Apart from the media notoriety and Ghomeshi’s status as a public figure, the most outstanding evidentiary feature of this case is his own widely disseminated statement on Facebook (now removed). This one act, seemingly taken in solitary desperation, radically re-set the trial dynamic by putting Ghomeshi’s own credibility and even his character on trial.

In light of multiple but very consistent versions of events from a variety of sources dating back many years, that Facebook statement is devastating.

While there will be many legal technicalities, the complainants’ evidence will be measured against Ghomeshi’s own publicly stated defence. That defence, almost lost in an effusion of highfalutin malarkey, amounts to a claim that his sexual relations were not merely consensual but unambiguously and consensually violent; any statements to the contrary are all lies and the fruit of embittered female collusion.

The Facebook post is here.

Assuming one or more of the complainants are described in the Facebook post, how is Henein now supposed to claim they drank too much to remember clearly or that the accused had a mistaken but honest belief in consent? Her client left virtually no room for any strategy but an all out attack on his accusers. Her problem is that she’s dangerously low on ammunition.

And Jian’s biggest problem is Lucy DeCoutere. A 43-year-old captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force and a public figure in her own right, Ms. DeCoutere came forward apparently out of a sense of civic duty. Her riveting account of being choked by Mr. Ghomeshi without warning on a date some 11 years ago will colour every other aspect of the trial.

But this is the exception. Normally – the targets of the abuse are out of luck.

And yet what’s become starkly clear in the allegations engulfing Jian Ghomeshi, the MPs in Ottawa, and Bill Cosby, is that our justice system, civil procedures, and even our press and media traditions are wholly inadequate for the issue of sexual offences and crimes.

Had Ghomeshi not posted his Facebook statement, the Toronto Star would never have published its story. Even when the Star went to print, it faced an overwhelming barrage of criticism that anonymous sources shouldn’t be permitted to besmirch a man’s reputation. The clear implication being that if women were not prepared to file police reports, they weren’t credible.

Also known around here as the Michael Nugent Doctrine: it’s the police or nothing; call the police or shut the fuck up.

Notice anything about the complainants who’ve surfaced in all these cases?

Most of them are white, and all of them (as far as I know) are middle class.

Yet millions of our weakest and most vulnerable (including children) are neither, and they live in daily fear of sexual violence from assailants who know society will never believe them.

That could be called the Priest Doctrine – they’ll never believe the targets, so help yourself and have a good time.


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

Saint Based of 17th Street NW

Nov 29th, 2014 4:08 pm | By

This will give you nightmares.

David Futrelle at We Hunted the Mammoth collected some “fan art” devoted to Christina Hoff Sommers by her adoring admirers who call her (god I hate this, it’s so fucking twee) “Based Mom.”

GamerGaters sure do love their Based Mom! Christina Hoff Sommers, as you may or may not know, is a libertarian think-tanker who’s been grinding away at feminism for two decades, while still, rather perversely, claiming to be feminist.

Right? Right? That’s exactly what I say. Yes, of course, feminists can be critical about feminism; feminists can separate good feminism from bad feminism; feminists can say some ideas and claims that file themselves under feminism are shitty ideas and claims. But non-stop sniping and sneering at feminism, not to mention solidarity with GamerGaters, is not compatible with being a feminist.

Though not a video gamer herself, she’s jumped aboard the GamerGate train, and GamerGaters have repaid her interest in their little crusade with interest, anointing her their “Based Mom” and talking about her with weird reverence.

Weird and ooooooky.

Futrelle has five samples of fan art; check them out. This one is by far the creepiest.



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