Notes and Comment Blog

Interim post in flight

May 19th, 2013 2:37 pm | By

On the plane, DC to DFW leg. To my surprise, I have free Wifi. I don’t know how that happened. (Then again the Wifi at National refused to connect, so it all comes out even.)

Sarah Moglia and I had a conversation with Ron later in the morning, shortly before I left. I’m not sure how much progress any of us made but at least we had a conversation.

Apart from that whole thing – the conference was amazing. I have so many terrific new friends – Sarah, Monette, Jason, Kim, Miri, Steve – and had so many good conversations with existing ones – Maryam, Melody, Michael DeDora, Debbie, Seanna, Steve W, Ania – oh shut up, I’ll make you all barf at this rate. But our Community is a good Community, don’t let anybody tell you different.

The panel I was on was fun, I thought. Maryam as always rocked the place. We took a solidarity picture with everyone holding a sign in support of the Bangladesh atheists.

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

Sunday morning

May 19th, 2013 6:11 am | By

I can’t begin to say how weird everything has become.

If you’ve been following the right blogs or perhaps Twitter you already know, but otherwise you don’t.


Nevertheless – this conference has been FABULOUS. Just really brilliant. It’s way too late to do anything about that. Sorreeeeeeeee.

Some relevant posts.

Rebecca replies to Ron’s opening talk.

Ron replies to Rebecca.

Opening paragraph.

Rebecca Watson inhabits an alternate universe.  At least that is the most charitable explanation I can provide for her recent smear.  Watson has posted comments on my opening talk at Women in Secularism 2.  It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.

PZ comments on the resulting situation.

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

The coffee is ready

May 18th, 2013 5:13 am | By

Oh and also – talk amongst yourselves. It looks so dead here when I’m busy elsewhere. Tell stories, complain, argue, explain, debate. Keep the lights on.

Twenty minutes before the first panel. Zoooooooooom.

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

Saturday morning at WiS2

May 18th, 2013 5:07 am | By

No time! I was going to do a quick post last night just to say Rebecca Goldstein’s talk was brilliant, but using the lobby Wifi means one sees all one’s favorite people right in front of one – so, in short, I had deeply interesting conversations with Amanda Knief and Michael DeDora and Seanna Watson and others and the post didn’t get written. So: Goldstein’s talk was brilliant. I’ll tell you why later – meanwhile Miri has a post.

Maryam is on in half an hour, along with others. It’s going to be amazing.

It’s too bad Ron elected to open the conference by using a lot of anti-feminist talking points like “sister punisher” and “privilege” and “shut up and listen” by way of telling us to be Good feminists. Sigh. A couple of people have said “sister punisher” on one or two occasions; it’s hardly a central platform of the demonic Secular Feminists. Telling us, essentially, not to be stupid and dogmatic and coercive wasn’t really a good welcoming intro. (Hint: we weren’t planning to be stupid and dogmatic and coercive, and we’re not children, and we’re not thick.)

So that was a sour note, and has caused a good deal of puzzlement and irritation, but other than that – it’s being amazing.

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

Having fun yet

May 17th, 2013 8:17 am | By

I’m hee-eere – in DC. Sorry for blackout day; technical difficulty due to obstincacy of travel notebook but I’m back now. PZ is over there finishing a post he started on the plane; lobby blogging.

Stephanie took this in the hotel restaurant last night. I don’t think she’ll mind if I share it.

That’s Jason and Simon. We were having a good time. I’m looking sarcastic on purpose. I wasn’t really being sarcastic.

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

Imad Day

May 15th, 2013 5:43 pm | By

Maryam has a lovely message from Imad. (It was Imad day today, which I forgot to promote because of a deadline and a thing and another thing and an extended errand and leaving tomorrow).

I don’t feel sorry for anything I have said or for the actions I have taken part in, including the 20th February MASAYMINCH Movement, and the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco – the first atheist organization in a country with Islam as the state religion.

Dear friends, we have a long way to go to break down those Middle Aged myths and ways of thinking, those oppressive and repressive rites in the name of religion or culture, those violations of human rights in the name of cultural relativism… We have to fight for this long awaited world, where people will live equally regardless of their gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientations, where we will live in harmony with our environment, a world where wars and un-civilisation will only exist in history books.

I would like to everyone taking a stand on International Imad Day, everyone who supported me, everyone who cared about me, everyone who helped or tried to help by any means, everyone who spread the word, everyone who thought about me…

Special thanks to Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Norwegian Heathen Society, Atheist Alliance International, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, all the friends who hosted me taking personal risks, everyone who supported and helped me by any means, Ahmed Benchemsi, Maryam Namazie, Daniel Salte, Kacem Al-Ghazali, Marjorie Bloom, Peter Breedveld & his wife, Diana & Roy Brown, and all the members of a so special club trying to change the world.

Keep supporting reason and free thought!

In Mickey Mouse we trust,

Imad Iddine Habib

15 May 2013

Love that guy.

See also Waleed Al-Husseini’s I’m Proud to be Atheist Facebook page, which has more about Imad Day.

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

“I will need a token woman”

May 15th, 2013 5:36 pm | By

From What Is It Like to be a Woman in Philosophy: “Don’t say shitty, undermining things”: how hard can that be?

I was scheduled to be a speaker at a workshop in my area, which was canceled due to lack of funding.  The conference organizer wrote this to me:

unfortunately for the only other workshop i have in mind the organizing theme is one where you won’t fit, but on the other hand for purely cynical political reasons i will need a token woman.

When I replied that I didn’t want to be his token anything and found his attitude disrespectful, he told me that the cancelled workshop

was 50% women, so if any of them were tokens they would have a hard time guessing this.

I tried one more time:

Yes, but please also don’t tell them shitty, undermining things.  “I will need a token woman” is a rotten thing to say to somebody you want to come to your conferences.  (Sometimes friends can say rotten things to each other as jokes, but that one definitely crossed a line.)

His reply?

sorry if you found the joke offensive, but that is the effect of the “gendered conference campaign” which it seems almost everybody but me thinks is a great idea.

I’m almost certainly not organizing any more conferences, thanks for your interest in participating in my nonexistent one.

So familiar. So, very, familiar.

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

Policy as an affirmation of masculine identity

May 15th, 2013 5:08 pm | By

Gender policing? What gender policing? Garance Franke-Ruta says what gender policing.

Niall Ferguson dismisses economist John Maynard Keynes’s work as the product of an “effete” sensibility more interested in talking ballet than building a family with his wife.

Daily Caller writer Matthew K. Lewis blasts coverage of the gun control debate and declares, “Newsrooms should also hire a few journalists who aren’t effete liberal p*ssies.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas dismisses fellow Republicans who considered voting for a de minimis gun-control bill as “squishes.”

Effete squish liberal pussies; we hates’em. We hates women too, because women are where all that effete squish liberal pussiness comes from.

This isn’t policy talk oriented toward coming up with the greatest good for the greatest number, reducing human suffering, or even securing the nation against foreign threats. This is something else — something far more primal. This is about perceptions of manliness, and about policy as an affirmation of masculine identity.

And what is masculine identity?

Not woman-like.

…today I think we see more and more expressions of cultural identity from white men qua white men, as they seek to claim a place of their own in the multicultural firmament. Sometimes this identity is described as being Southern, or rural; other times, as Lewis puts it, it’s about “redneck” culture. He contrasts this with having “a cosmopolitan background,” a.k.a. hailing from a racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse urban community.

“Cosmopolitan” also means Jewish, as does “New York.”

Lewis stuck with his insult against members of the press that they are pussies. By his use of asterisks I think we can all be certain he did not mean that they were kittenish; he meant that they are like women. That they are weak. Inferior. Because women are weak and inferior; they are vulnerable where men are impenetrable.

And they can’t throw. Effete squish liberal pussies throw like girls, and that’s why we hates’em.

Luckily, violence is not the only form of force. There are other ways of creating change.

Public shaming also has a power. Ferguson apologized because he was subjected to a great deal of criticism from people in his own world, people whose opinions mattered to his sense of group belonging. Cruz is getting some blowback from people in his own party who think that he’s acting like an immature jerk (not my words), though I doubt that will slow or stop his rise as a public figure unless it turns into high-level on-the-record shaming from his squishy party colleagues or cuts into his fundraising ability. Majority Leader Harry Reid has sought to help define him during these early days of Cruz’s tenure in the Senate, calling him a “schoolyard bully.”

Well quite. What you get when you have people who hate everthing perceived as female and weak is, inevitably, a bunch of bullies. Not pretend bullies like “FTBullies” but real ones. Public shaming of that mindset is much needed.

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

Leaving tomorrow

May 15th, 2013 2:54 pm | By

Oh hey, I just remembered, the Women in Secularism conference starts on Friday.

No I’m kidding, I didn’t just remember, but it kind of feels like it. Despite all the anticipation and discussion, a moment did arrive last week some time when I thought, “Oh, it’s almost now,” as if it had crept up on me.

There’s a story on it in the Houston Chronicle, or in the Houston Chronicle’s blog (or both). Look at Amy there!

Women peruse a table with female freethought paraphernalia at the first Women in Secularism conference in Washington D.C. (Photo: Center for Inquiry)

photo by Brian S Engler

And Debbie Goddard over by the back wall, under the light.

From May 17-19 over 300 women will be convening in Washington D.C. for the Women in Secularism 2 conference, a sequel to the first successful gathering the year before. The aim for attendees is to hear from prominent female free-thought activists on this seemingly contradictory predicament.

While the initial conference was about celebrating female secular activists, this year is meant to take the cause one step further. Not only will the convention rally female free-thought voices and call for women in leadership positions in secular organizations, it will combat those in the secular movement who have shown hostility towards emerging feminine secular champions.

Well I’m not sure about combat – I don’t think fisticuffs are expected.

On the other hand our showing up at all is taken as combative, so I guess I am sure.

“We want to start a dialogue to resolve these issues,” said Melody Hensley, Executive Director of Center for Inquiry (CFI) D.C., and organizer of the event sponsored by CFI. “This conference will show people that there is something missing if women aren’t recognized as part of the secular movement,” she said.

Like half the population for instance.

“A lot of women are coming out as atheists and freethinkers,” said Hensley, “whether they want to become an active member of the community is another question.” Not only do women face backlash from religious groups opposed to their atheism and feminism, but there are sources of adversity within the secular community as well. Sites such as and A Voice for Men are countering Women in Secularism’s claim that atheism and feminism fit together hand-in-glove.

As Justin Vacula of Skeptics Ink said, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning long held beliefs about women and men.”

Hensley said that with all the reprisal, women are tentative to be outspoken freethinkers and feminist advocates. “We are going through a lot of growing pains with the backlash against feminism within our own free-thought movement,” she said, “it takes a very strong person to want to deal with that.”

Oh look, fame and glory for the slime pit. Or possibly not, if anyone actually looks at it.

To bolster the outspoken few, such as Deaton, and encourage other women to step out with secularity, Hensley is bringing in heavy hitting female free-thought activists. Included in the program are  Maryam Namazie, who speaks on Islam and female oppression; Katha Politt, who writes on political and social issues for The Nation; Susan Jacoby, an expert on the history of women in the secular movement and Amanda Marcotte, a popular feminist blogger who argues that atheism is consistent with feminism and pro-choice positions. Perhaps these women, she hopes, will inspire others as O’Hair did.


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

When hashtags collide

May 15th, 2013 10:35 am | By

A guest post by Athyco in a comment on A new way to stir up trouble.

It has been a knotted mass of stupid from the beginning, and each one contributes their little bit to the mess.

I looked over the comments to Karla’s It’s Personal blog post dismissing this WBC contact, then clicked on her banner to look at some other post titles. I wasn’t looking for anything that would relate to a tweet/con problem, but one surprised me.

Did you know that Karla, as one of four organizers, was not at all happy to have a tweet to #NEPABlogCon (single day September 2012 con for Northeast Pennsylvania bloggers) from someone who wasn’t interested in promoting/attending the con?

She writes:

I used TweetChat to livestream hashtagged tweets on the screen behind a presenter who did not bring a visual presentation. As the presenter was half way through his excellent talk on how to monetize a blog, the audience was exposed to the following tweet on the screen behind him:

How many people were raped at #NEPABlogCon? Like, 50/60? I trust fake neck things were banned; they always lead to rape.

Do you know who this horrid FTB/Skepchick/A+/Social Justice Warrior was?  (/sarcasm)  It was ElevatorGATE. The very one who started the Brave Hero stuff that Justin Vacula and Karla Porter use as the title of their radio show. The one who has AmbrosiaX (declared “twitter sister” by Karla Porter) as his co-author on WP. Karla continued:

Can you imagine the confusion and even horror experienced by attendees of a blogger / social media conference seeing this on the screen behind an internationally respected presenter at the conference they were attending? The looks on their faces were quite telling. How would they know the tweet by @ElevatorGATE was a joke?

I knew what was going on, what the reference was to but no one else in the room did except Justin Vacula. I couldn’t allow attendees to feel uncomfortable and so I didn’t hesitate to reply:

Well, if you must know, 0.  Model attendees without a con policy. RT @ElevatorGATE: How many people were raped at the #NEPABlogCon? Like 50/60?

As you can see Matt [Dillahunty], attendees did not understand the context of @ElevatorGATE’s remark – because they have no idea whatsoever about the drama of the paranoid, sick and dysfunctional element of the online atheist ‘community’. [Excuse me, but exactly which part of the online atheist 'community' sent this tweet to your con?]

But I did, and I felt rather fortunate that I was in the room at that moment to provide the response I did to calm rather than incite. It’s called damage mitigation. If it would have been one of the other organizers in the room instead of me, I can only imagine they would have felt the event was being hijacked and assaulted for no apparent reason. [But you can't imagine the feelings of WiS2 conference organizers only a few months later. Huh.]

I’m not happy at all that any of the content filtered to this event, completely removed from the freakish sideshow that occurs on a daily basis on the Internet by people proselytising in ways harmful to one another about the viscosity of mud.

All typographical emphasis above is mine. The emphasis of “confusion and even horror,” “hijacked and assaulted,” “paranoid, sick and dysfunctional,” and “freakish sideshow” are all Karla’s.

She wrote this angry stuff to Matt Dillahunty because he commented on the situation, but I can’t find a word of reproach to ElevatorGATE for his hashtag “joke,” and I’m positive that she never reminded Justin Vacula of it when he later camped on a couple of con hashtags. I wonder if she ever explained to the other three women organizers of NEPABlogCon what it was all about.


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

A bad trend

May 15th, 2013 10:10 am | By

Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three states in northern Nigeria because of the way Boko Haram keeps killing people.

It is not the first time that the president has declared a state of emergency, but this is a clear admission that far from being weakened by the army offensive, the threat of the Islamist militants is growing, says the BBC’s Will Ross in Lagos.

And it is the first time that Mr Jonathan has admitted that parts of the country are no longer under central government control, says our correspondent.

The Beeb says 2000 people have been killed in “the violence” since 2010. It doesn’t say how many were people blown up or shot down by Boko Haram, but it was probably most or almost all, since that’s what Boko Haram does.


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

And Dickon can be a pimp

May 14th, 2013 4:55 pm | By

Sigh. Really?

The Huffington Post on Disney’s makeover of Merida, the heroine of Brave.

merida makeover

She wasn’t hot enough for nine-year-old girls? Nine-year-old girls want hotties for their hero-characters?

Sure. Now let’s put a G-string on Mary Lennox. Let’s give Laura Ingalls Wilder silicone injections. How about a pair of stilettos for Harriet the Spy?

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

Focus on the Dobson

May 14th, 2013 4:10 pm | By

James Dobson. I don’t talk about James Dobson enough, do I.

James Dobson has a question for his Friends.

Are you tired of hearing about same sex marriage coming from President Obama, liberal Congressmen, media spokesmen, leftist commentators, activist judges, entertainment moguls and homosexual advocates? These and other powerful influencers have set about redefining marriage as it has been known for 5,000 years.

Yeah, 5000 years. Or wait – wasn’t it more like 50? The Donna Reed Show – that wasn’t 5000 years ago was it?

Marriage 5000 years ago meant men with whole stables full of women, which I don’t think is what James Dobson is urging on our attention, although maybe underneath he is, the filthy devil. You rogue you, James Dobson!

Do you get the feeling that James Dobson is kind of haunted by President Obama, liberal Congressmen, media spokesmen, leftist commentators, activist judges, entertainment moguls, and homosexual advocates? I do. I think he should add folksingers, too, for that retro touch.

He haz a sad because there was women’s liberation and then women felt all ashamed about wanting to be WivesandMothers.

I was counseling a “co-ed” (oops, wrong word,) one day about some things that were troubling her, and I asked what she wanted to do with her life.  She paused, leaned forward and said in a hushed tone, “Can I be honest with you?”

“Of course,” I said. “That’s why you are here.”

“Well,” she replied, “I really don’t want to have a career at all. What I most want is to find someone to love and to have a bunch of children and to be a full-time homemaker.”

So he helped her escape the country via the underground railroad, and she is now happy amongst her 23 children in Yellowknife.

My purpose in recounting the Mommy Wars today is not to express disrespect for women who want or need to work outside the home. Again that is nobody’s business but women and their husbands.

Nice touch!

Perhaps you have been reading in the secular press that millions of women, including some who call themselves “liberal feminists,” have begun leaving the workplace and found joy and fulfillment in doing what their grandmothers did: staying home with their children and devoting themselves to domestic duties.

No no no no, honey, not millions of women – just Caitlin Flanagan millions of times.

But seriously. The secular press has been running stories like that all along, dude. The secular press tells us and tells us and tells us that it was all a bit of a mistake and really women just want to let go and let daddy. James Dobson has spotted an exciting new trend that started 5000 years ago, or was it 50,000.

It’s about time the culture began applauding the contributions made by families, and recognizing what a division of labor can accomplish in the lives of children. It’s all about the kids. We must reexamine the chaos of modern life with its constant obligations and impossible schedules, where every member of the family, children included, careen through endless days with their hair on fire.  Children are not designed for frantic lives. They need moms and dads to guide them as they are growing up.  Obviously, my bias is that the family, if possible, should have a full-time manager to keep everything on an even keel.  (Moms make great managers.) Indeed, there has to be a better way of running our families than how we are doing it now!

There has to be a way to make sure that all women will do what James Dobson thinks they should do and not what they think they should do. There simply has to!

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

Bill has spoken

May 14th, 2013 3:44 pm | By

Wahay – Bill Donohue (who likes to call himself “The Catholic League”) says there’s no sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church! Whew, we can all pack up and go home.

Bill Donohue comments on the 2012 Annual Report by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the subject of sexual abuse:

The survey, done by an institute at Georgetown University, shows how utterly absurd it is to maintain that the Catholic Church continues to have a problem with priestly sexual abuse. Of the nearly 40,000 priests in the U.S., there were 34 allegations made by minors last year (32 priests, two deacons): six were deemed credible by law enforcement; 12 were either unfounded or unable to be proven; one was a “boundary violation”; and 15 are still being probed. Moreover, in every case brought to the attention of the bishops or heads of religious orders, the civil authorities were notified.

And we can be totally sure of all that, because Bill Donohue. We can also be totally sure that all children who were abused strode confidently and happily up to the police sergeant’s desk to report it. We have no need whatsoever to worry that there might be any children who have been intimidated by priests into shutting the purgatory up lest god tear them into pieces and eat them.

Anyone who knows of any religious, or secular, organization that has less of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors these days should contact the Catholic League. We’d love to match numbers.

He’s so funny, the way he says “we” when he means himself.

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

Sir, permission to report a rape, sir

May 14th, 2013 10:44 am | By

I saw The Invisible War on Independent Lens last night, and was duly and thoroughly horrified.

It’s about sexual assault in the US military. There’s a lot of it, and it goes almost completely unpunished. 20% of women are raped during their service, and 1% of men are. Because there are a lot more men than women in the military, the 1% is a big absolute number.

The military is exactly like the Catholic church in this respect – sexual abuse including rape is dealt with in house – with the major difference that in the case of the military that’s legal.

But guess fucking what - that doesn’t work. It’s in house, so the people who should be policing are instead protecting. Rape victims have to go to their superiors to report a rape, and their superiors don’t want to do anything about it.

There was a lawsuit about this…and the court ruled against the victims. Rape is an occupational hazard in the military, the court ruled.

There were 26,000 sexual assaults in the military in 2012, which is a 35% increase over 2011.

In units where sexual harassment is tolerated, the incidence of rape triples.

Let me repeat that.

In units where sexual harassment is tolerated, the incidence of rape triples.

One woman was called a whore and a slut and a walking mattress after she was raped. She was told she should deal with it like a marine officer: ignore it and move on.

Rape is obsessive. People who do it once do it over and over. It’s not about ordinary soldiers run wild, it’s about sexual predators who go into the military.

(That last item seems inconsistent with things like Tailhook.)

One more obstacle – soldiers can’t sue.

Add the Feres doctrine to the list of hurdles. In 1950, the U.S. Supreme Court passed the doctrine in response to three cases of military members injured from causes unrelated to the battlefield — one man in a building fire from a malfunctioning heater, and two from botched surgeries. As such, they weren’t liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which at that time prevented individuals from suing the military for injuries on the battlefield. The military didn’t want to worry about getting sued for the very thing servicemembers had signed up for.

But with Feres, the court expanded the Tort Claims Act to ban servicemembers for suing based on any injuries that “arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service.” The Feres doctrine’s domain has stretched to prevent just about anyone from suing the military, including victims of rape. Servicemembers have been effectively blocked from civil courts, according to The Baltimore Sun.

“As strained and improbable as this analysis may be, its true danger has rested less in its immediate application to tort cases than in the foundation it has laid for a widely-metastasizing theory of intra-military immunity from any civil claim at all,” writes Rachel Natelson, Legal Director at Service Women’s Action Network, in Time magazine. “Over half a century later, Feres is not only a judicial invention, but, more alarmingly, the seed of an ever-increasing body of flawed doctrinal offspring.”

Judges have cited Feres to block the use of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects workers from sexual harassment and assault.

Even the Catholic church doesn’t have that on its side.

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

Pas du tout

May 13th, 2013 6:06 pm | By

Melvyn Bragg doesn’t like the way A C Grayling and Richard Dawkins talk about religion.

He said: ‘The intellectual slackness and terrorism of these atheists, people who I otherwise respected – Richard Dawkins as an explainer of zoology is peerless, and AC Grayling is a great explainer of philosophy. ‘But when they start discussing religion, it’s disgraceful. Religion is basically a great body of knowledge, and we don’t have many bodies of knowledge.’

No it isn’t. That’s just what it isn’t. It’s anti-knowledge. It’s un-knowledge. It’s a huge body of claims to know things that no one knows. It’s an insult to the very idea of knowledge.

Granted it is certainly possible to know a lot about religion…but it’s possible to know a lot about bears, too; that doesn’t make bears a great body of knowledge.

But he said “basically.” Maybe by “basically” he actually meant “not at all.”



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

That was my seal carcass

May 13th, 2013 4:07 pm | By

I watched quite a good show on the Discovery Channel last night, about grizzly bears. A crew got (we were told) closer than anyone ever before had gotten for an extended period to a bunch of grizzlies at a bay in Alaska where more grizzlies gather than anywhere else. They gather for the salmon.

I confide this bit of gossip to you for a reason. I noticed an interesting thing – not at all surprising, but interesting. It’s a hard life being a bear. You have to pack in the food in order to survive the winter. You can’t decide oh well it’s ok I’ll just keep hunting all winter, because you’ll be hibernating instead.

It’s a hard life, so naturally it’s a competitive life. The males grab food away from the females.

One unfortunate seal got into shallow water and was surrounded by bears so couldn’t get out again, and a female killed it and carried it off. The biggest male followed her, she tried to outrun him for a bit but when that didn’t work she just gave up. The male buried the seal on the beach…at low tide. (The tv crew wryly noted that he had more brawn than brains.) The tide came in, and next morning the seal was gone. The male bear sniffed around the burial spot, and considered killing the tv crew in case they’d done it, and then wandered off and went fishing. Then the seal carcass washed up and a different female, with a cub, found it. A different male came ambling up to take it away from her, and she fought him. The tv crew advised against this, and after he knocked her around a bit she did give up.

That’s life with the bears.

All those big tough males who take all the food off the females – they’re there because their mothers managed to get enough food for both of them to survive. The whole thing depends on the females and their cubs surviving, but the males simply grab the food when they can. It’s a wonder any of them survive to grow up.

(Then again because of the salmon it’s a crowded spot. Bears usually don’t crowd together. The salmon is abundant but the crowding means that females don’t get to keep big carcasses. It would be interesting to know if it all balances out for the females or if they would do better elsewhere.)

It reminded me of Haiti after the earthquake, when men simply pushed and shoved in the food lines and women and children couldn’t get any food.

Pitiless Nature.

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


May 13th, 2013 3:42 pm | By

The Minnesota Senate approved the same-sex marriage bill which the governor has already said he will sign.


Twelve and counting.

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


May 13th, 2013 1:09 pm | By

One of the things that proud or “movement” skeptics like to say is “you have to be skeptical of everything.” No sacred cows!

But I don’t think even proud or “movement” skeptics really believe that, apart from a few psychopaths. I can think of lots of things I think no one should be skeptical of, and I’d be surprised to get much disagreement.

  • you must not push small children in front of speeding cars
  • you must not punch a child in the face
  • you must not kill all the Jews
  • you must not commit genocide
  • you  must not kidnap and imprison women
  • you must not force a woman to abort a pregnancy by first starving her and then repeatedly punching her in the abdomen as hard as you can
  • you must not set fire to people’s houses
  • you must not enslave anyone

That observation could be a route to linking skepticism with feminism. One could argue that systematic inequality is much more likely to foster violations of the rights of the subordinated groups than egalitarian arrangements are. It helps that history offers an abundance of examples where that is exactly what does happen. You’re still left with the fact that commitment to universal human rights is still a commitment as opposed to a fact, but you could perhaps argue that human brutality is a reason to be extra skeptical of anti-egalitarian arrangements.

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

No “dialogue” to be had

May 13th, 2013 12:06 pm | By

Rebecca has a post about the fetish for “dialogue” which starts with some great tweets by Jeff Sharlet pointing out how stupid the fetish is.

What I keep saying. There is no “dialogue” to be had with people who just enjoy harassing people. They’re not confused or uninformed, they’re just people of that type, who have found a safe way to engage in harassy behavior without paying any social costs. That’s all. Normally adults have to give up that kind of thing, or displace it into more covert and disguised forms like office politics. They are very lucky to be alive now when it’s possible to go on acting like a pubescent shit for the rest of your life. Trying to have (let alone force) a “dialogue” with them is futile at best and yet more harassment at worst.

The last Sharlet tweet Rebecca quotes is very apt.

Well-intentioned liberals always ask how we can “educate” haters. Elite haters don’t need “education”; they need to be challenged.


Rebecca comments:

Can I get an a-fucking-men?

Sharlet’s points are relevant to the continued harassment of women in the skeptic and atheist communities and the attempts by some to build bridges with harassers. One prime example is Michael Nugent, whose heart was surely in the right place when he began engaging with MRA harassers and then escalated to organizing a formal dialogue between Stephanie Zvan and a few mostly pseudonymous people who have no apparent objection to representing the “side” that harasses women. This dialogue was at the outset insulting to many of the women who are being harassed and almost immediately became arduous and confusing as well: “This is a response by Stephanie Zvan to the response by Skep Sheik to the first response by Stephanie Zvan to the Strand 1 Opening Statement by Jack Smith.”

If it had been someone like Stephanie herself organizing this “dialogue,” it would be bad enough, but the fact that it was organized by Nugent, a person who is completely unaffected by the actions of the harassers, and that he did it over the repeated objections of many of the women being harassed, is, as Sharlet says, the very definition of paternalistic.

I’m one of the women who repeatedly objected, and whom Nugent ignored. I thought at least the insults on Nugent’s blog had stopped now that the arduous and confusing “dialogue” had begun – but silly me, they hadn’t stopped at all. I just looked at Nugent’s blog for the first time in weeks and the insults were still rolling in as late as May 6. I wouldn’t even call that paternalistic, actually, because it’s so obviously not in any way a good thing for the women being harassed. I don’t see any reason to think Nugent thinks it is a good thing for us; he thinks it’s a good thing for Atheist Ireland and the atheist movement, which are being torn asunder by the deep rifts. He’s trying to bridge the rifts and he’s doing it at our expense and without (ironically) engaging in “dialogue” with us.

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