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.

Also, the sun rose and set during those weeks

Jun 25th, 2012 10:52 am | By

Bad journalism department. The Warrington Guardian reports on a guy who thinks his son’s autism was caused by the MMR vaccination.

A STOCKTON Heath father, who believes his son became autistic after being given the MMR vaccination, has welcomed a landmark Italian court ruling.

Judges in Rimini awarded the Bocca family £140,000 after the Italian health ministry conceded the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine caused autism in their nine-year-old son.

The result has given fresh hope for many parents with similar cases who feel the British legal process has failed them…

Oy. How to inspire new flocks of people to refuse to let their children be vaccinated.

Oliver’s family said he ‘markedly regressed’ within weeks of the jab from a bright boy who could point to every letter on a bedroom alphabet freeze to someone who lost all his skills and language  and was in a ‘world of his own’.



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

Solstice weekend

Jun 25th, 2012 10:31 am | By

Everyone says the CFI student leadership weekend was fantastic. Ed Brayton said so, and all the people tweeting about it at the time said so, and the pictures that Paul Fidalgo tweeted said so. (There was one of “James Croft with his invisible yo-yo” that cracked me up.)

CFI goes from strength to strength. Noticed that?

Maryam reports that the Council of Ex-Muslims 5th anniversary bash was also fantastic.

Good things!

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

More on Nussbaum’s book

Jun 24th, 2012 5:24 pm | By

So anyway.

Way back last month I did a brief post on Martha Nussbaum’s new book on religious intolerance. There’s more to say. I’ll say a little of it now.

The overall point is just that she leaves out a lot. She puts a thumb on the scales by leaving out a lot.

I had the same problem with the Opinionator articles the book expands on. I wrote about them on July 20, 2010 and July 22, 2010. Maybe I said it all in there, but I’ll say some things before I look to find out.

An example. On page 2 she says the US has not been free of what she calls “religious prejudice and fear” and gives as an example -

We need only remember, for example, that not until the 1970s did “white-shoe” law firms begin to hire Jews in any significant numbers, and only in very recent times could a majority of the Supreme Court be composed of Roman Catholics without public outrage…

One, the two items don’t go together very well, because it was never purely “religious” prejudice that kept Jews out of waspy law firms and country clubs. It was a weird, unpleasant mix, and usually didn’t have much to do with religion at all.

Two, more substantively – she completely ignores the possibility that there could be good reasons for not wanting the Supreme Court to be mostly Catholic. And that’s typical. She treats all concerns about religions as fundamentally irrational and like racism as opposed to like political disagreement. (She does sometimes address reasonable concerns, but not nearly often enough.)

It’s as if “Catholic” is a race, when in fact orthodox (so to speak) or Vatican-obedient Catholicism is a serious threat to many rights and freedoms, as we know all too well. The USCCB would get rid of contraception if it could! Let alone abortion and same-sex marriage.

Part of her argument (also discussed in her conscience book) is that

the faculty with which people search for life’s ultimate meaning – frequently called “conscience” – is a very important part of people, closely related to their dignity, or an aspect of it. [p 65]

And that’s religion, among other things.

But that’s a very flattering version of religion, and far from always true. Most people are born into and raised in their religion; they don’t search for it, they have it delivered to them or imposed on them, and they accept or obey. Obedient religion isn’t really about a search for meaning – it isn’t about a search. It’s about having already found.

I don’t like the book much, I’m afraid.

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

So much help, so unwanted

Jun 24th, 2012 3:20 pm | By

Meta. God this is boring. As briskly as possible -

Verbose S

to call the situations “threatening” runs a massive risk of saying that they were intentional threats, not that the person was reasonable to feel, at least, that there might be a threat.

What “massive risk”? There was nothing at stake. No one was named. What possible “massive risk” could there be? Harm to the reputation of [????????] That’s not a risk.

Verbose S again

 Thus, the “risk” I am talking about is another type of risk, the risk of using the word “threatening” to refer to the intentions of people as opposed to what people like Watson and Ophelia might feel based, which is wrong.  Thus, it opens up the risk of being wrong.

Oh that massive risk. So it’s massively risky for me to use the word “threats” to refer to threats but it’s fine for you to warn of the “massive risk” of…being wrong.

Verbose S again

If someone says that “X was threatening you”, then the implication is always that that was intentional, and not just that the person found it threatening.

But that isn’t what I said. I said I got email threats. The whole rest of your reply is subject to the same objection. Careless; points deducted.

S Beesley

your original post stated, unambiguously, that you had “got email threats about TAM”. No ifs, no buts, no nuance.

But getting threats doesn’t mean one thing and one thing only. I did get threats: threats about what was likely to happen, and how likely it was. Somebody telling me that it was very likely that I would be shot at TAM felt like a threat to me. That’s a perfectly normal use of the word. People talk about a threat of rain, for godsake.

My personal opinion is that you made a error of judgement in your original post.

By saying I got email threats when I did get email threats. That’s ridiculous.

I fear that you’re defending the indefensible

See above.

S Beesley again

The clear meaning here was that the emailer threatened her.

No. One possible meaning; not the clear meaning.

S Beesley again

My observation is that Ophelia is now complaining that reasonable people are not taking a nuanced approach which would not be possible from the original post.

Yes it would; see above.

It’s very kind of both of you to spend this much time and effort trying to show that I was wrong to say I got threats when I got threats, but really, it’s not necessary. I got this.

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

The flourishing of entrenched and vicious misogyny

Jun 24th, 2012 12:36 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte is familiar with the problem. She doesn’t stare in bewilderment if you mention it. She doesn’t tell you to lighten up or to ignore it or to grow a pair or to stfu.

I’ve got a toe in some geek stuff, but mostly I watch the culture from the outside, and I have to say, from an outside perspective, it actually looks like geek culture has allowed a form of entrenched and vicious misogyny to flourish. It’s not the majority or anything like that, but there’s a loud minority of geek men who have a hate-on for women that’s so grotesque that it often gets to fundamentalist Christianity levels.

That’s the problem. Amanda is familiar with it.

She lists six examples of battles within geek culture over misogyny and feminism. Number 5 will ring a bell.

5) Let’s not forget the ongoing battles over sexual harassment at geek-intensive skeptics events. It appears that women who speak out against sexual harassment with an eye towards making the conferences better and more fun for everyone can expect to be dismissed, minimized, and even directly lied about at Psychology Today. Apparently, a whole lot of people would far rather preserve their right to be hostile to the few women who show up at their events rather than create an atmosphere where more women show up and actual fun is had.

That first link is to the video we here at FTB did a week ago. The second is to that horrible article by Doctor Marty Klein telling a prettied-up version of how the swingin’ couple approached Elyse Anders.

There do seem to be a whole lot of people who are desperate to preserve their right to be hostile to the few women who show up at their events.


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

Dan Savage says it

Jun 24th, 2012 11:17 am | By

A very apposite tweet just now…

Dan Savage@fakedansavage Thank you for supporting marriage equality, @gopmommy, but respectfully: If you think I’ve bullied people, you don’t know what bullying is.

Been there! Been there, been there, been there.

So has Jason.

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

The door opens just a little

Jun 24th, 2012 11:04 am | By

A piece of good news, for once – thanks to Maureen Brian for alerting us.

Saudi Arabia is allowing women to compete in the Olympics.

A statement issued by the Saudi Embassy in London says the country’s Olympic Committee will “oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify”.

The decision will end recent speculation as to whether the entire Saudi team could have been disqualified on grounds of gender discrimination.

And it will also…you know…allow women to compete.

Mind you, because of the stifling rules women have to obey in Saudi Arabia, and the lack of provision for athletic activities for women, there are few women who can actually take advantage of this permission…In fact there’s one. But, baby steps.

There is almost no public tradition of women participating in sport in the country.

Saudi officials say that with the Games now just a few weeks away, the only female competitor at Olympic standard is showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas.

But they added that there may be scope for others to compete and that if successful they would be dressed “to preserve their dignity”.

In practice this is likely to mean modest, loose-fitting garments and “a sports hijab”, a scarf covering the hair but not the face.

“Modest loose-fitting garments” could of course hinder their performance in most activities…But, baby steps.


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

Eye runny

Jun 23rd, 2012 5:50 pm | By

I hate irony. Or at least I hate “irony.” I hate the kind of “irony” that was those teenage boys tormenting Karen Klein on that schoolbus.

Justin thinks what Abbie Smith and the gang at ERV do is irony. I don’t.

How could it be? How would that work? Is the idea that they don’t loathe the people they call cunts and baboons and all the rest of it? That’s just silly; of course they do.

So where’s the irony?

It’s something about 4chan. Fuck 4chan. There’s not some special extra dimension where loathing becomes irony and where Karen Klein and those boys could kick back and lol at all those insults.

Fortunately, the sun is out from behind the clouds here and it’s not raining for the first time in three days, and I get to go out on a boat for awhile. A totally unironic boat.

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

A generation ago

Jun 23rd, 2012 4:36 pm | By

I was looking through The Random Things this morning and found this 1994 (yes! the clock goes back that far!) interview with Katha Pollitt. It reminds me that none of this crap is at all new or even surprising. I’ve been thinking and saying “But I thought everyone knew…” [that you don't call women cunts, that you don't assume women are lying if they even say some stranger made a pass at them, that you don't blame them for discussing sexual harassment], but that’s stupid.

For instance.

Q: Do you find yourself a feminist among civil libertarians and a civil libertarian among feminists?

Pollitt: Although there are certainly particular issues where you might find your wish to see women safe and cheerful conflict with your civil-libertarian outlook, basically I see these as having much more in common than opposed. The media have played a destructive role here in that when these two movements are discussed together, they are always discussed in opposition. So, for example, the major role played by the civil libertarians in reproductive-freedom issues is mentioned much less than the fact that some feminists would like to use the law to attack pornography, and all civil libertarians think that’s an infringement on the First Amendment. But mostly, I see these two movements as friends.

Q: You wrote a letter to the editor of The Nation right before you started your column – what was that an about?

Pollitt: Well, Carlin Romano wrote a review of Catharine MacKinnon’s book Only Words which was published in our magazine, in which Carlin pretends to fantasize about raping Catharine MacKinnon and someone else does rape Catharine MacKinnon. It was to say to Catharine MacKinnon, you think there’s no difference between words and deeds? I’ll show you the difference. And we got a tremendous amount of flak for this. It was one of a number of pieces that we published that, although you could defend each of them in some abstract and complicated way, the bottom line was that the magazine was not attuned to the frivolousness of making this sort of joke. So I wrote a letter saying, “What’s going on? I take a leave of absence and look what you do.” You know, The Nation is often criticized for having male-oriented politics and publishing mostly men, and I think the criticisms have some validity.

Everyone doesn’t know. Everyone should, but doesn’t.

Katha goes on:

I will say, though, that there is always a space on the “Left” to be against feminism – in a way that there’s not a space to be a racist. And although feminism came out of the Left and naturally belongs on the Left, sometimes you wouldn’t know it. You wouldn’t know it if you looked at what Andrea Dworkin likes to call the male Left. I think she draws much too harsh a portrait, but I don’t think you could find a person publishing in a progressive magazine who would, say, support capital punishment. But you can certainly find pro-lifers. You can certainly find people who think that mothers should be home with their children. You can certainly find people who have bought the media caricature, which is that a feminist is a banker in a power suit.

And you can find Carlin Romano writing about fantasy-rape of Catharine MacKinnon.

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

How to do civil disobedience

Jun 23rd, 2012 12:16 pm | By

Some people just will not get the point. Take the Taliban, for instance – they are so confused.

Taliban leaders in Pakistan are blocking a polio vaccination campaign that was to target 161,000 children in North Waziristan.

The Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur is demanding that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) halt drone strikes, which have heavily targeted the mountainous region, according to a story in the New York Times. The move could prove a setback for the global initiative to eradicate polio…

Oh, no no no no, that’s all wrong. You’re supposed to impose suffering on yourself, not on 161,000 children! It’s so basic. You go on hunger strike, you don’t block polio vaccinations.

Hopelessly confused.



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

What “we” know

Jun 23rd, 2012 11:30 am | By

Russell Blackford, surprisingly, has announced that

We now know that Ophelia Benson did not receive threatening emails (she received a couple of earnest, concerned emails from people who were on her side … unless the emails were actually intended as parodies).

The way that’s worded, and in the context where it’s worded that way, it’s clear that that is an accusation of having, at least, exaggerated – and at most, lied. That of course is the view of the troll who keeps dropping in here under various names, but I expect reasonable people to take a slightly more nuanced approach.

I expect reasonable people at least to see that the messages I got are very peculiar, and that it is not obvious that they are not threats disguised as “earnest, concerned” advice. That’s because it is not obvious that they are not threats disguised as “earnest, concerned” advice. It’s really not. The “earnest, concerned” advice is itself exaggerated, wildly exaggerated; so exaggerated that it made me frown in puzzlement and try to figure out exactly what was going on – was this really advice? Was it mockery? Was it a warning?

In fact, it was so exaggerated that it triggered skepticism – which is exactly what Blackford is urging. That’s what led up to his announcement of what we now know:

Note, however, how Chris Mooney fell for the Tom Johnson/Wally Smith story because it confirmed his biases. This should be a lesson to us all. Be sceptical about every such story, even if it tends to confirm your biases. In fact, especially if it tends to confirm your biases.

I was skeptical. I couldn’t figure out what the hell the first message was. I didn’t just read it and think oh, great advice, I’ll do that – I’ll book myself into a different hotel while keeping the one I’m supposed to be in, and make JREF pay for both; I’ll demand a “Green Room”; I’ll agree with the writer of the message that I’m a big star and of course JREF won’t mind obeying my every command because I’m such a big star.

No, I didn’t do that. Instead I thought wtf? This is ridiculous. Green Room?? Escape taxi??!

So I replied, to express my skepticism and try gently to calm the guy down. I’ve already reproduced my reply to him, but I’ll just remind you of what I said -

I really don’t think things will be as bad as that. I’ll have some friends there. I think it could be extremely awkward at times, and I’m dreading that, but I don’t think I’ll be torn limb from limb or anything. PZ went to the GAC and we know there were people there who hate him, but nothing happened.

See? I was skeptical. All I was expecting was extreme awkwardness. That’s all.

But the guy replied, and what he said at the end shaded into what looked more like a veiled threat than ever.

I’m happy that PZ was not shot (gun or uppants camera) at GAC, but that gives me scant reassurance that you will *not* be shot either way in Las Vegas.

Please do not respond to this message. If you adopt safety measures, whether I’ve suggested them or not. DO NOT TELL ANYONE, including me.

As I said in Closing the file, I went back and forth, and I asked friends what they thought. I didn’t say omg it’s certainly absolutely a threat! I just felt creeped out and wary and doubtful. I asked people, they replied, I swayed back and forth – and then I got fucking sick of the whole damn thing – of DJ’s putting a metaphorical target on me in the first place, and failing to take it off once it was on, and (however inadvertently) creating a situation where I was dreading that extreme awkwardness, and now this – I just got totally sick of it.

I don’t think I was terribly unskeptical in calling those two paragraphs threats. They certainly felt threaty to me, thank you very much. It’s easy for Blackford to sneer; they weren’t addressed to him. I wasn’t certain that they were threats, but they certainly did feel threaty. There’s a difference.

So less of the triumphalist “We now know that Ophelia Benson did not receive threatening emails,” please. “We” now know that only because I reported what came next, which was Tim Farley’s generous help, including a tense phone conversation with the guy who sent the messages. I wasn’t trying to con anybody when I said I’d had threatening messages, and I wasn’t being credulous, either.

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

Happy 5th, CEMB

Jun 23rd, 2012 9:13 am | By

If you want to feel inspired and hopeful (and who doesn’t?!), read the messages of support for the Council of Ex-Muslims at Maryam’s place.

Congratulations on 5 years, Maryam and Anne Marie and all the exes.


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

Because of a song

Jun 22nd, 2012 5:50 pm | By

Oh look, it’s Jessica Ahlquist and Twitter all over again. A primary school principal in Brooklyn says no to a rebarbative-sounding song titled “God Bless the USA” for the kindergarten graduation.  Well I should think so! If you want god, go to church.

But of course she’s getting the foul name-calling and threatening on Twitter.

Hawkins scrapping of the patriotic song has resulted in nasty hate mail aimed at the principal that’s being investigated by the schools and N.Y.P.D.

One letter says, “You are a filthy, dirty, ugly subhuman gorilla,” another says, “Lets hope that AIDS will do what sickle cell anemia failed to do, exterminate your whole simian race.”

And there’s this one “Niggers and their Jew commie bosses are the scum of the earth.”

Nice. They’d be right at home at ERV. (They’re going nuts here these days, by the way. Hundreds of hits every day. Hi Justicar! Hi franc, hi gang. Sure you don’t want to call Greta Hawkins names on Twitter by way of a holiday?)

It’s good that religion makes people nicer.


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

As praised on Twitter

Jun 22nd, 2012 2:46 pm | By

Heh. PZ takes a look at a post by Benjamin Radford saying how awful blogs are.

So he makes up a statistic and doesn’t bother to cite anything, so blogging is all noise and doesn’t include references (hint, Mr Radford: it’s called a “link”, some of us use them heavily.) And nobody reads them, except a few of the bloggers’ friends. He could make a case for that, I suppose; I sure don’t read Radford’s attempts at blogging, and only ran across this one because DJ Grothe praised it on twitter. (Oh, I so want to see Radford’s critique of twitter — I’m sure it will be as perspicacious as his complaints about blogs.)

DJ praised it on Twitter, huh? Gee, I wonder why. Actually I saw that myself, and I didn’t really wonder why. It was kind of obvious. (What was and is much less obvious is why, in that case, he invited me to speak in the first place. If blogs suck, why invite me? Not for my tweets, I assume.)

PZ’s last line made me laugh.

(Also, I have to add: DJ, your proxies aren’t helping.)


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

I would so subscribe

Jun 22nd, 2012 11:01 am | By

A tweet by Mary Beth Williams:

I’m going to start a feminist magazine called Holy Fuck We’re Really Still Arguing Over These Things Are You Shitting Me? Monthly

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

Yup, that would do it all right

Jun 22nd, 2012 7:59 am | By

Alex Gabriel alerted me to a gem: an EU promotional video to get girls interested in science.

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

No rights for you

Jun 21st, 2012 4:23 pm | By

The Southern Baptist Convention…

A day after electing their first African-American president, Southern Baptists on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing the idea that gay rights are the same as civil rights.

The resolution adopted at the denomination’s annual meeting in New Orleans affirms Southern Baptists’ beliefs that marriage is “the exclusive union of one man and one woman” and that “all sexual behavior outside of marriage is sinful.”

Oh give it up, baps. Drop it along with the “Southern.” Just let it go, you’ll feel better.

It’s sex. Do you take sneezing to be sinful? Eating? Scratching?

Give up “sinful” while you’re at it. You’ll be amazed at how much better you get along. You’ll know better than to bully people on buses, and you won’t try to take people’s rights away.

“We deny that the effort to legalize ‘same-sex marriage’ qualifies as a civil rights issue since homosexuality does not qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender,” the resolution says.

Because they say so. It was good enough for Moses, so it ought to be good enough for us.


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

What is bullying

Jun 21st, 2012 3:19 pm | By

Now this is bullying. A 68-year-old woman driving who’s a monitor on a school bus was taunted by four teenage boys.

ABC News says that despite the relentless taunting from the group of boys about her weight and physical condition obviously bothering her, 68-year-old Karen Klein will not leave position as a school bus monitor.

In the video, shot on a school bus in Greece, N.Y., four teens repeatedly call Klein fat, make fun of her hearing aid and, and one point, call her “dumb, poor and sweaty.”

I haven’t looked at the video and I’m not going to. I can’t stand that kind of thing – and I mean literally can’t stand; I’m going all scrunched inside just thinking about it. I’ve told you the story about that time I was on a bus…

…well I say “you” but it’s not the same “you” over time, so I’ll just tell it again. I was on a bus and a woman got off and then a teenage boy in the back got up and rushed to the door to call after her – and I felt faintly pleased, thinking he was going to tell her she’d forgotten her sweater or something helpful like that – to call after her, “Miss? Miss? Lay off the doughnuts!” Some other asshole laughed. It was well over ten years ago but it’s scorched into my memory.

That’s bullying. Humiliating people because they’re fat, ugly, old, brown, black, poor, sweaty, wearing a hearing aid, spotty, shabby, foreign – that is bullying.

You browse #bullies at Twitter and you see a lot about Karen Klein and a lot about school kids…and some guy ranting about “FTB.”

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

Closing the file

Jun 21st, 2012 11:41 am | By

I’m as bored with the subject as you are now, but there were some questions outstanding and I can answer some of them now, so I’ll do that.

To put the conclusion first: I think the threats weren’t really threats. They were advice about my safety at TAM, but they were so over the top that they read more like veiled threats than like advice. But I now think they weren’t.

Jason checked out the headers for me on Tuesday, and found nothing sinister. Tim Farley, with my permission, investigated further yesterday and today. Tim did useful investigating of Dennis Markuze last year, so I was very glad to have his help. He phoned the guy who sent me the “advice” this morning, and what he told me was enough.

But I’ll show you the substance of the emails, so that you can see for yourselves. The sender told me to feel free to share anything from them when he first sent them. I’m not going to give any personal details about him.

The relevant part of the first one:

Please honor (and that word is chosen sincerely) your commitment to TAM by appearing there for your scheduled talk.

I share your concern that for you, things will not simply be as bad as they ever were for a female at any previous TAM, but may even//will likely be worse now that you are somehow associated with those who are said to “have it in for TAM.”

BUT, if you attend, Ophelia plan seriously, and seriously plan, for your own safety. That is, forget any philosophical nuances between “safe places,” “feeling safe,” and places that may be “unsafe.” Ophelia, please plan to actually BE safe wherever and whenever you are at TAM.

(a) Please plan to take a “secret” hotel room far away from the TAM venue, without giving up your assigned TAM room. Insist that JREF reimburse you for that room, and that JREF *not* know, during TAM, the whereabouts of that secret hotel room. In addition, take, for the week, a cell phone with a number hitherto unassociated with you.

(b) Please don’t show up at TAM one second before you must be on stage.

(c) Don’t stay at TAM one second after you have finished your talk and left the stage.

(d) INSIST that you have access to a secure “Green Room” immediately before your talk, and that you have access to that secure “Green Room immediately after your talk, while you await your escape taxi. (This is, Ophelia, nothing more than a star performer would expect, and you are certainly a star performer for JREF!) If JREF cannot accommodate you in this respect, then PLEASE decline, even at this last minute, to attend TAM. Then blog about it.

Ophelia: It is absolutely none of my business except to have one of my favorite bloggers continue blogging and one of my favorite callers of bullshit continue to call bullshit, but things have changed since you agreed back in the early spring to speak at TAM. You now know that you, and only you, will be responsible for your own safety at TAM and for your own sense of safety. You cannot count on JREF and/or on DJ Grothe and/or (unfortunately) on James Randi … to give you any comfort, or any reassurance, or any protection, or any hearing, fair or otherwise, or any redress (or even any address!) if anything untoward happens. Any of these (comfort…address) MAY be proferred, but you cannot count on any of them!

Ophelia, Schroedinger’s rapists are real and they inhabit spaces other than elevators. You, especially you, have no RATIONAL reason to feel safe anywhere at TAM or anywhere in TAM’s conventional hotel. In light of the past two or three weeks, you, of all persons, have every reason *not* to feel safe. Go into TAM space seldom, go there sparsely, and when you do go there, Ophelia, go with the utmost caution.

But go. If you get the minimalist security you need, the security I’ve adumbrated above, then go to TAM. Go because you promised to do so. Go because you can deal with assholes, because you can deal with misogyny, because you can deal with cluelessness. I know all of this is true because I’ve seen you do it over and over again, and I’ve seen you do it extraordinarily well.

Go, above all, because you have something to say — something important to say to the TAM audience — something that might wake up Randi — something that might finally get through to D.J. Grothe. But above all, go because you have something to say that almost certainly will both instruct and inspire those who have come to hear you.

I thought that was way over the top. Kind, in many ways (and I feel mean revealing it, but I think I kind of have to), but way way way over the top. I was dreading TAM because I did think it likely that I would get very overt in-my-face hostility, but that’s all.

I replied to that effect:

I really don’t think things will be as bad as that. I’ll have some friends there. I think it could be extremely awkward at times, and I’m dreading that, but I don’t think I’ll be torn limb from limb or anything. PZ went to the GAC and we know there were people there who hate him, but nothing happened.

The second message was the one that made me get nervous, and ask others what they thought.

Ophelia, it really, really, really may well be “as bad as” all that. This stuff has gotten nasty in the past several weeks, including a message today or yesterday about “we don’t want you (Ophelia) at TAM.” The past several weeks’ nastiness changes the equation IMHO, from when you agreed to be there.

Please consider, at least, staying at a non-conference hotel and going back and forth in taxis or limos.

I’m happy that PZ was not shot (gun or uppants camera) at GAC, but that gives me scant reassurance that you will *not* be shot either way in Las Vegas.

Please do not respond to this message. If you adopt safety measures, whether I’ve suggested them or not. DO NOT TELL ANYONE, including me.

The last two paragraphs, especially.

It just creeped me out. I went back and forth for a few hours, and then I decided I just couldn’t stand it any more. That’s all.

So that’s it. No, I’m not going to report it to the cops. No, I don’t think I over-reacted.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a much nicer invitation today (TBA), so my mood is improved beyond all recognition.

The end.

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

Very far

Jun 21st, 2012 10:57 am | By

There’s a thing I don’t understand. Well there are a lot of those, but one in particular. I saw a re-run on Nova last night of a 2010 episode about telescopes and the universe. (As usual I was multitasking at the time, so I probably missed some technical information.)

They showed us one of the giant telescopes, this one in Arizona; the narrator said dramatically that they open the eight-story doors while we saw the doors opening. We saw lots of images via that telescope and the Hubble and others, while various people explained that they can see to the very edge of the universe.

That’s what I don’t understand. Eight stories tall, that’s all very well, but it doesn’t amount to much when stacked up next to the universe. Hundreds of billions of galaxies, you know, each with hundreds of billions of stars, all howevermany light years apart. Eight stories, one story, sixteen stories – what difference does it make?

I don’t understand how we can make a telescope that can see these distances. That’s all. I accept the brute fact, because I’m obedient that way, but I can’t get my head around it.

It’s fascinating though. Humans, eh?

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