Notes and Comment Blog

Well of course the queen is down with it

Dec 31st, 2014 11:50 am | By

Oh yay, Canada gets to have a Pope John Paul II Day.

It what? Why would it even want such a thing? Why would anyone want such a thing?

The Catholic Register gives us the skinny.

The bill to establish Pope John Paul II Day passed the Senate Dec. 16 and has received royal assent.

Conservative MP Wladyslaw Lizon introduced private member’s Bill C-266, an Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day, in 2011. The bill designates April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day, though does not make it a legal holiday or non-juridical day.

In a statement, Lizon described the passage of the bill as a “proud but very emotional moment.”

Lizon’s bill passed the House of Commons in the spring of 2013 with support from members of all three major political parties. But it faced some snags in the Senate due to concerns the bill was honouring a religious figure.

Well quite. If any one human being on the planet is unmistakably a religious figure, it’s the pope. What’s a secular government doing creating a specific-pope day?

Lizon had argued Pope John Paul II’s legacy was far more than religious.

“Pope John Paul II’s work transcended so many boundaries,” said Lizon. “He promoted the values of peace and tolerance along with his strong stand against human rights violations. These are values that resonate deeply in our country and with Canadians. This was the motivation of this legislation.”

Bullshit. The Catholic church ferociously opposes many core human rights, especially those relating to women. John Paul was a reactionary on that subject.

They should change the date of his day to July 37.

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

They tried to out-Catholic each other

Dec 31st, 2014 10:31 am | By

Donal O’Keefe at urges repeal of the Eight Amendment.

I’m in my mid-forties and the early 1980s were the backdrop of my early teens. I have odd, snapshot recollections of the time. I remember those frantic men and women with their rosary beads and their placards of aborted foetuses and the mania that seemed to grip the country. It was a very strange time in Ireland.

I remember Garret and Charlie like Saint George and the Dragon, seemingly locked in eternal conflict for the Taoiseach’s job, and I remember 1983, the year after GUBU, when they tried to out-Catholic each other as both agreed to support the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign’s amendment to outlaw abortion.

In later life, Fitzgerald at least had the decency to regret his actions.

You don’t want politicians trying to out-Catholic each other. That’s a party game out of nightmares.

Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion, the only such in the democratic world, is our abiding legacy of that bizarre and feverish time and here’s Ireland’s dirty little secret: the truth is there was no danger at all in 1983 that Ireland would legalise abortion. The Eighth Amendment, for all the pain and the confusion and the alphabet soup of A, B, C, D, (and now P) X and Y grief it has caused over the past three decades, was never really about abortion.

Article 40.3.3 only exists because 31 years ago Catholic fundamentalists saw this as their line in the sand. With the spectres of contraception, divorce and homosexuality looming, they saw an open goal. This was their show of strength, their bulwark against the liberal onslaught.

It said abortion on the tin but it was about control. That’s the key to the creepy, sex-obsessed dogma behind this Constitutional aberration: control, not over souls – because the next world is never enough – but control over women’s bodies. After all, if your body isn’t even your own, your soul is hardly likely to go getting any flighty notions.

Is there any surer way of keeping women away from freedom than making sure they can never avoid pregnancy? Short of just plain locking them all up for life, that is.

The Eighth Amendment remains a minefield from a long-lost war, blighting lives unborn when it was planted. We need political leadership (although God help any politician trying to sell that at the Church gate collection) and we as an electorate need to grow up too. It’s past-time we became a proper secular democracy and dispensed with the rank hypocrisy of outsourcing 11 terminations a day to Perfidious Albion.

Last week, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, asked the consultant obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan whether medical guidelines would be helpful in dealing with cases such as this latest tragedy. Dr Boylan said they would, before adding “repeal of the Eighth Amendment would be even more helpful”.

Hard cases make bad law, goes the old legal maxim. Look at all the hard cases this bad law has made.

Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

H/t Barry Duke.


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

Hard to ignore

Dec 30th, 2014 5:09 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz points out a comrade in Pakistan. Newsweek Pakistan calls him an unlikely icon.

Mohammad Jibran Nasir, a 27-year-old serial do-gooder from Karachi, has become the inadvertent leader of Pakistan’s post-Peshawar anti-extremist discourse.

Hours after the Dec. 16 attack, Nasir joined a 200-strong vigil for the Peshawar slain in Islamabad.

The numbers weren’t exactly bad, but the venue caused him some concern. “Why do people in Islamabad have to hold vigils at such places where no one can see you and no one can hear you?” he tells Newsweek. So he decided to take his protest to Lal Masjid, a “mosque” linked up with both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and whose cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, brazenly defended the Peshawar attack on TV.

That day, it was just Nasir and three others standing there in the cold, demanding Lal Masjid change course and Aziz apologize. The audacious act caused a stir on social media. The next evening, Nasir had scores by his side, with police keeping an uneasy calm between the unarmed protesters and Lal Masjid’s menacing, stick-wielding supporters. The second day of the protest also failed to get any coverage from Pakistan’s easily frightened media organizations, but Nasir’s crusade would soon become hard to ignore.

That’s because the police filed charges against him, for “disturbing the peace.” (The what??? In Pakistan?!)

On Dec. 19, Aziz used his Friday sermon to threaten suicide-bombings if any harm came to him. Two days later, with public sentiment having turned so sharply against him and Lal Masjid, Aziz was forced to apologize for his heartless Peshawar comments. Nasir rejected the expedient apology and continued with the protests.

Three days later, Nasir received a warning from Ihsanullah Ihsan, spokesman of the Taliban splinter Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, to back off. He didn’t. “We are standing firm,” he tweeted. The same day, police relented and filed charges against Aziz under the antiterrorism laws. On Dec. 26, a court ordered Aziz’s arrest. Aziz has vowed to resist any attempts to take him into custody.

I hope Nasir will stay safe.

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

One reason not to carry a loaded gun in a handbag

Dec 30th, 2014 2:17 pm | By

This is a sick country.

A young mother was shot and killed by her 2-year-old son today in an Idaho Walmart, police said.

Lt. Stu Miller of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said that the boy was sitting in the shopping cart when pulled the handgun from his mom’s purse and pulled the trigger. The victim, whose name hasn’t been released, was 29 years old.

Walmart of course sells guns among other things. One-stop shopping – you can buy a gun there and get shot with it in one easy trip.

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

Vocal fry with hash browns

Dec 30th, 2014 2:07 pm | By

So, I’ve learned something. I’d never head of “vocal fry” until I read that Slate piece, so I had to look it up. Apparently it’s big among the Kardashians. (I wonder if it’s also big among Rachel Zoe [who – gasp – dresses Kardashians omg!!] too. She’s like a walking textbook of bizarre vocal affectations – I bet she does vocal fry all the time.)

I’d never heard of it, but I recognized it when I watched this. Oh that; right.


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

Guest post: Pedram Razghandi on vaccination and resurgent pathogens

Dec 30th, 2014 1:48 pm | By

There’s a heated discussion of vaccinations on a Facebook thread of mine, on which Pedram made such informative comments in response to a claim that whooping cough was coming back because of “over use of vaccination” that I requested and got permission to quote them here. The rest is Pedram.

No, high vaccination rates in the population means that a pathogen cannot replicate as quickly–many fewer hosts will be available. Vaccination is just a way of inducing a regular adaptive immune response (the adaptive immune cells are exposed to antigens that mark the dead or inactivated pathogen used in the vaccine, without the danger of an infection). If this is done extensively enough, the pathogen can quickly be suppressed or even (mostly) eradicated. Preventing new infections is a very fast way of stopping a disease in a population.

And, those few people who cannot get vaccinated (those with severely weakened immune systems, lymphoma, or very rare autoimmune conditions) can be protected by the ‘herd immunity’–if others aren’t being infected, no one can spread it to them. Now if vaccination rates are low, the pathogen has a chance to replicate again, starting with the unvaccinated people. After enough rounds of new infections, that suddenly expanding, once-small population of pathogen strains would be carrying a *lot* of low-frequency new mutations, and gradually, increased exposure of vaccinated individuals to non-vaccinated individuals (who are basically walking microbial culture vats at this point) means more chances for the resurgent pathogen to spread to them. That in turn gives a significant selection pressure–those variants among the myriad low-frequency mutants which differ in key antigens will slip unnoticed past the vaccine-primed immune systems (which were adapted to the old strains), and the fast spread will begin anew. **And even worse, those low-frequency mutants will still be among a whole bunch of medium-frequency ‘freak’ mutants, since the previously severely contracted population of pathogen would have left various strains that possibly differ substantially from the wild type of the past, just by sampling error (i.e. genetic drift), but now supplemented with this explosion of new mutants.

Antibiotic overuse is totally different. It is most often the problem when they’re being misused–‘stretched’ in low doses, or the dosing is terminated prematurely. Most mutations which confer resistance to an antibiotic (or antivirals, for that matter) are also costly in terms of replicative fitness, since they involve changes in structure of key receptors or overactivity of some metabolic enzyme, so fully-resistant strains are extremely rare. Strong, sustained antibiotic dosing regimens kill off infections. But decreased antibiotic concentration means that partially-resistent strains (shitty replicators, but better against antibiotics than the wild type strain) can outcompete their nonresistant counterparts. Once enough of them survive, more replicative generations means more chance for some other mutation to appear which compensate for the resistance traits’ effects on replication, or complete the resistance without further reproductive cost, so the resistant strain takes off. Vaccines on the other hand aren’t killing off robust and diverse populations of pathogens–rather, they prevent new infections by small founding populations, which are overwhelmed by the vaccine-primed immune system’s fast adaptive response.

Nature doesn’t choose how to adapt. Adaptations happen because of changes in average genetic variants in the population, due to some variants replicating more frequently than other variants.

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

How shall we then talk?

Dec 30th, 2014 1:25 pm | By

Hmm. Is it sexist – or even misogynist – to advise women to talk with authority? Marybeth Seitz-Brown at Slate is more or less arguing that, and I don’t think I agree.

Last week, I gave an interview on NPR, and while most of the reactions were overwhelmingly positive, I also received several messages suggesting I change my voice so that people will take me seriously. Why? Well, I uptalk. But I’m not ashamed of it, and no one else should be either.

Uptalk, in case you’ve missed several years of media frenzy, is using a rising intonation at the end of a phrase or sentence. What’s the matter with that? Well, that rising intonation is similar (although not identical) to how any English speaker sounds when asking a question, so to some people it sounds as if uptalkers are speaking only in questions, and are thus not very confident.

Well I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of uptalking, but that’s not the issue. Talk of being ashamed seems like a deflection. And I gotta be honest: I hate uptalking myself, and I do think people should avoid it in places like interviews on NPR. (By the same token, I think Terry Gross should get rid of her many vocal affectations so that she would sound more professional and, yes, authoritative in a job she’s been doing for more than thirty years.) One thing I hate about uptalking is that it seems to demand a response from the listener at the end of each sentence – a grunt, an “uh huh,” a brief check of some sort – which is a burden, and silly. I do think it’s a bad habit to get into, at least for people who have to do some talking as part of their jobs.

And the same applies to talking in a baby voice, and to saying “like” every fourth word, and to any other leftover from childhood that adults should leave behind. I don’t think it is specific to women, and I don’t think women should be immune to the criticism.

I really do appreciate these listeners’ concerns, but the notion that my uptalk means I was unsure of what I said is not only wrong, it’s misogynistic. It implies that if women just spoke like men, our ideas would be valuable. If women just spoke like men, sexist listeners would magically understand us, and we would be taken seriously. But the problem is not with feminized qualities, of speech or otherwise, the problem is that our culture pathologizes feminine traits as something to be ashamed of or apologize for.

No, I don’t think it is misogynist and I don’t think it does imply that women should speak like men. I think adults should talk like adults, at least in situations like NPR interviews.

I believe we can do better than that. We can evaluate the merits of an idea based on the soundness of its reasoning, not the pitch range in which it’s articulated. We can reject the knee-jerk habit of dismissing people for the sound of their voices without actually hearing what they have to say. And—rather than telling women to talk like men or shut up—we can encourage each other to celebrate the different rises and falls, the creaks and quakes that make up our voices.

Well how about not creating a false dichotomy? It’s not a forced choice between talking like men and shutting up, it’s advice not to talk like a fumbler or a child if you can help it.

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

They are not like us

Dec 30th, 2014 12:57 pm | By

My new Freethinker column is posted. It’s stuff I’ve been saying here, but it’s chafing my mind rather, so I wanted to say it there too. It’s about police fascism in the US, and the way our mephitic heritage of genocide and slavery (notice how both are rooted in racism? funny coincidence, isn’t it?) has produced a stratified society which means police work can be a tough job. It’s a vicious circle, and to break out of that vicious circle we’d need to do things that are not part of the Church of the Free Market, so we don’t do them. We’d rather spend billions on locking people up than on ways out of the trap.

The one comment is from a UKanian talking about a one and only visit to the US.

Racism, in the affluent area I was living in, was blatant in the comments made. And I had the distressing experience of watching a Mexican, picked up in some queue, working furiously in hot sun in the garden while we enjoyed drinks. I caused surprise and resentment at deciding to take him a drink. My hosts wife said, “They are not like us. They don’t expect to have to be given a drink.” The worker seemed scared of me. I discovered he was an illegal immigrant. At the end of the day money was handed to the man who had brought him; not to the worker.

Alas, I recognize the picture.

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

The shy and nerdy persuasion

Dec 30th, 2014 11:59 am | By

So, working backward, let’s consider what Scott Aronson said.

First we need what Amy said, because he was responding to it.

As for the “shy and nerdy” bit…you know, some of the gropiest, most misogynistic guys I’ve met have been of the shy and nerdy persuasion. I can only speculate on why that’s so, but no, I would certainly not equate shy/nerdy with harmless.

In fact I think a shy/nerdy-normed world would be a significantly worse world for women. (Not least because so many nerdy guys are certain that they’re extremely fairminded and rational, when instead what they are is naive about both social structures and how many things play out in reality, and unwilling or unable to fathom that other people’s reactions to events might be both different from and as valid as their own.)

Also, you want credit for not being a supporter of keeping sexual harassers on payroll? Okay, but only if you’re going to give me credit for not being a supporter of brain tumors. I think I agree with the “baseline” comment above. Seriously, this is the kind of thinking that leads to divorces, where a guy wants applause for doing some (though not nearly half) of the house/kid-related work. I mean think about what you’re asking.

Now some of what he said (it’s long, and worth reading):

I’ve read many studies and task force reports about gender bias, and about the “privilege” and “entitlement” of the nerdy males that’s keeping women away from science.

Alas, as much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my “male privilege”—my privilege!—is approximately where I get off the train, because it’s so alien to my actual lived experience.

But I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me “privileged”—that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes—is completely alien to your way of seeing things. To have any hope of bridging the gargantuan chasm between us, I’m going to have to reveal something about my life, and it’s going to be embarrassing.

(sigh) Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault. I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year.

Well…to be honest, the thinking there does seem a little bit “entitled” – not privileged, maybe, but kind of entitled. It does seem to be all about what he wants from his female classmates rather than about what his female classmates might need in order to be safe and reasonably free to move.

All this time, I faced constant reminders that the males who didn’t spend months reading and reflecting about feminism and their own shortcomings—even the ones who went to the opposite extreme, who engaged in what you called “good old-fashioned ass-grabbery”—actually had success that way. The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances. Yet it was I, the nerd, and not the Neanderthals, who needed to check his privilege and examine his hidden entitlement!

It all sounds pretty Chuck Lorre-world, to me.


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


Dec 30th, 2014 11:41 am | By

How opportune: right after I post the latest, I see this:

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

Anxious nerds v alluring aliens

Dec 30th, 2014 11:30 am | By

Laurie Penny has some thoughts on nerd entitlement. She has them in response to an impassioned comment by Scott Aronson on his own blog about what it’s like to be a nerdy anxious teenage boy and why that makes it impossible for him to recognize any “privilege” attributed to him by feminists. Here’s some of what Penny has to say:

Women generally don’t get to think of men as less than human, not because we’re inherently better people, not because our magical feminine energy makes us more empathetic, but because patriarchy doesn’t let us. We’re really not allowed to just not consider men’s feelings, or to suppose for an instant that a man’s main or only relevance to us might be his prospects as a sexual partner. That’s just not the way this culture expects us to think about men. Men get to be whole people at all times. Women get to be objects, or symbols, or alluring aliens whose responses you have to game to “get” what you want.

This is why Silicon Valley Sexism. This is why Pick Up Artists. This is why Rape Culture.

Scott, imagine what it’s like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that. Or how about a triple whammy: you have to go through your entire school years again but this time you’re a lonely nerd who also faces sexism and racism. This is why Silicon Valley is fucked up. Because it’s built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least. People whose received trauma makes them disinclined to listen to pleas from people whose trauma was compounded by structural oppression. People who don’t want to hear that there is anyone more oppressed than them, who definitely don’t want to hear that maybe women and people of colour had to go through the hell of nerd puberty as well, because they haven’t recovered from their own appalling nerdolescence. People who definitely don’t want to hear that, smart as they are, there might be basic things about society that they haven’t understood, because they have been prevented from understanding by the very forces that caused them such pain as children.

As she goes on to say, it’s an impasse. The points of view stare at each other uncomprehendingly across an abyss.

Scott Aronson was a tortured nerdy anxious boy desperate for sex which his nerdiness and anxiety prevented him from having. If only he’d grown up in the shtetl…

Penny again:

…people’s sexuality and self-esteem get twisted into resentment of the (usually opposite) gender; they start to see that gender as less than human, particularly if they are men and learn at every stage of their informal and formal education that women are just worth less, have always been less, are not as smart, not as good, not as humanly human as men. Aaronson goes on to comment that this “death-spiral” is a product of the times. I agree. “In a different social context — for example, that of my great-grandparents in the shtetl—I would have gotten married at an early age and been completely fine,” he writes. Scott, my great-grandparents also lived in a shtetl. I understand that you sometimes feel you might have been better adapted to that sort of life – when dating and marriage were organised to make things easy for clever young men. On the same Shtetl, however, I would have been married at a young age to a man who would have been the legal owner of my body, my property and the children I would have been expected to have; I would never have been allowed to be a scholar. I would have worked in the fields as well as the home to support my husband in his more cerebral pursuits, and with my small weedy nerdy frame, I would likely have died young from exhaustion or in childbirth.

It’s interesting that he didn’t think of that, isn’t it. Early forced marriage would have meant plenty of sex for him, sex on demand, because that’s what forced marriage is for. Whew. It’s all taken care of. For him – but it’s not such a treat for her.


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

Whooping cough could be edging back

Dec 29th, 2014 6:08 pm | By

Whooping cough may be evolving to resist vaccinations. That would be bad.

Analysis of strains from 2012 shows the parts of the pertussis bacterium that the vaccine primes the immune system to recognise are changing.

It may have “serious consequences” in future outbreaks, UK researchers state in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

But experts stressed the vaccine remains highly effective in protecting the most vulnerable young babies.

There has been a global resurgence of whooping cough in recent years.

In 2012, there were almost 10,000 confirmed cases in England and Wales – a dramatic increase from the last “peak” of 900 cases in 2008.

The outbreak led to 14 deaths in babies under three months of age – the group who are most vulnerable to infection.

The BBC doesn’t make clear whether researchers think that dramatic increase is due to the new resistance as well as or rather than reduced rates of vaccination. I guess I should read the Journal of Infectious Diseases to find out.

Prof Adam Finn, a paediatric immunology expert at the University of Bristol said the importance – or not – of the subtle changes found in the study was as yet unclear.

“But the control of pertussis is a significant worry,” he added.

Only 60% of pregnant women have had the pertussis vaccine and we should be doing more to raise awareness of its benefits, he said.

“There is very good new evidence that vaccinating pregnant women protects their babies. And the group we really want to protect is newborn babies,” he said.

Because pertussis can kill newborn babies all too easily.


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

We command no worship, do we?

Dec 29th, 2014 5:30 pm | By

From a story about Chicago courts dismissing most tickets issued to cab drivers in 2011…

Most tickets for the 28 cabdrivers were heard in the Daley Center, in one of seven white-walled courtrooms decorated only by the words “In God We Trust” on one side.

Um…why? Why do courtrooms have the words “In God We Trust” on their walls? I don’t trust in god, and if I don’t think judges or lawyers should be trusting god either, any more than pilots or surgeons or engineers should.

Oh yeah? So why aren’t we doing it that way then?

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

Kentucky legislators propitiate their god

Dec 29th, 2014 5:05 pm | By

In news from Kentucky

State lawmakers will debate legislation in committees next year beneath “In God We Trust” signs.

Ok what the hell, man. How is this even legal? Why can’t we just have a secular government? Why do they have to keep pushing the Allahu Akbar-In God we trust shit in our faces?

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports state officials hung the new signs in 11 committee rooms in the Capitol and Capitol Annex, where legislators have offices and meeting rooms. Legislators approved the signs in March.

That’s not right. It’s not neutral, and the state is supposed to be neutral.

The ACLU of Kentucky and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are not happy about the signs, but say there is little chance a judge would order them removed.

So suck it up, non-Christians. We can so we are so you lose so ha.



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

Ben Jonson would have ratted him out so fast

Dec 29th, 2014 11:35 am | By

Oh yay, Amanda Marcotte has a poke in the eye for the people who think Shakespeare was just the front guy for the Earl of Oxford or some other more aristocratic type because how could a nobody from the provinces possibly be Shakespeare?

Newsweek has a surprisingly sympathetic piece about Shakespeare truthers, republished here at Raw Story, and I just have to take some time to point out that, like with other conspiracy theories and denialist obsessions, there’s more going on here than some kind of legitimate dispute over the facts. For those who are unaware, Shakespeare truthers are people who believe that William Shakespeare was just a half-literate actor who was the cover story for some no doubt wealthy nobleman who secretly wrote the plays and didn’t want credit because, as we all know from our fairy tales, wealthy noblemen are noble, honorable creatures who have small egos and little desire for respect and adulation.*

*This is sarcasm, truthers.

Seriously. Shakespeare truthers drive me batty, because there are so many reasons not to think anyone other than Will Shakespeare, co-owner of one of the two great acting companies of Elizabethan London, colleague of Richard Burbage et al., colleague and rival of Ben Jonson et al., published author of two long poetic narratives, wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare. He was known to a shit-ton of people, and a good few of those people left written records of him.

Newsweek treats the controversy as if it were mostly one of competing camps who are arguing over facts, with only a whiff of acknowledgement of the political forces that are driving this controversy and always have. The one acknowledgement is dismissive: “Yet no matter how much the scholastic Shakespeare establishment insists that the doubters are fruit loops, flat-earthers or simply snobs, who can’t bear the idea that the world’s greatest poet was a mere grammar school boy and not a glamorous aristo, the case against Shakespeare is as vociferous today as at any time since it first gained credence in the mid-19th century.”

Of course it’s as vociferous! There are a lot more people, for one thing, and there are always a lot of people who don’t know their ass from their elbow and so are suckers for dopy conspiracy theories. So what? That doesn’t make the theories reasonable.

The implication that a theory cannot be crackpot because it persists is handily disproven by the existence of all major religions. The same political desires that drove Shakespeare trutherism back in the day have not gone away, however. It’s still fueled by an unsavory classism and hostility to bohemianism that manifests in an unwillingness to accept that someone could develop as a great poet without a formal education but merely by practicing through his work as a writer and actor.

It’s true that it’s mysterious how Shakespeare got to be Shakespeare, but you know what? It would be no less mysterious if he were Edward Vere or Elizabeth Tudor or John Dee or anyone else. He’s a one-off, and a childhood in a big house would not explain him. In fact a childhood of that kind would make him a good deal more of a puzzle, because in that case why would he have been doing something so vulgar as writing plays for the big theatres where any ruffian could enter? If an aristocrat, he should have been at most writing unpublished sonnet sequences, not plays.

The notion that being an educated or erudite person precludes being suckered by bullshit is bound up in the same knee-jerk respect for wealth and authority that gives rise to Shakespeare trutherism to begin with. Granted, Mark Twain is a bit of a surprise in there, but he wrote his anti-Shakespeare screed a year before he died, deep into his cranky old rich man years. Wealthy, educated people are just as prone as any other group of people to falling for conspiracy theories that flatter their sensibilities, and a conspiracy theory that purports to prove that great poets cannot come from the masses just so happens to be exactly what many rich, educated people want to hear.

Thought leaders. Only rich men can be thought leaders. It’s common knowledge.


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

And matching plaid bras

Dec 29th, 2014 10:43 am | By

And another such chain of girls-showing-tits drinking and dining establishments, courtesy of Orac commenting on the last one. This one is called, winsomely, Tilted Kilt. I thought it must be the flipped version, with male servers in kilts and nothing else. How silly can you be? Of course it’s not.

While the Tilted Kilt concept has its roots deep in the rousing tradition of Scottish, Irish and English Pubs, it actually first came to life in America’s own sin city, Las Vegas. The brainchild of successful restaurateur Mark DiMartino, Tilted Kilt was conceived to be a contemporary, Celtic-themed sports Pub staffed with beautiful servers in sexy plaid kilts and matching plaid bras.

Well actual – “Celtic” – kilts are worn by men rather than women, but whatever. The point is the matching plaid bras anyway. (Or tartan, if you want to get it right, which they don’t.)

There are three years’ worth of Kilt Girl calendars, so you can check out their levels of hottitude.

Also, they have food, and beer.

Welcome to Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, where good times are always on tap. That’s because we’re more than just a restaurant, and so much more than a sports bar. Our fun, festive atmosphere makes us the go-to place to watch sports, enjoy a cold beer and hang out with friends.  We offer a delicious, mouth-watering menu, more than 30 draft and bottled beers to choose from and an extensive spirit selection.  All this, plus year-round, nonstop pro and college sports action on all of our HD screens.

Of course, there’s also our World Famous Tilted Kilt Girls.™ Beautiful and ever so friendly, everyone is eager to put a smile on your face and an ice cold beer in your hand. So, when you’re in the mood for fine Pub food and cold beers, get into your nearest Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery. All across America, everyone agrees that “A Cold Beer Never Looked So Good.”®

It’s interesting how both the kilt place and the bikini place insist on the friendliness of the beautiful wait staff. Clearly the customers are being assured they will have no trouble fantasizing that their server would happily serve them in any way they asked, maybe out back next to the dumpster once the clients have eaten their TK Irish Nachos.


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

Life suddenly made sense to him

Dec 29th, 2014 10:02 am | By

So this is something I didn’t know about – a chain of “sports bars” called Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill. “Bikinis” isn’t the name of the owner but what the servers – all women, of course – wear.

How “America’s Only Breastaurant®” got started…

It all started back in the winter of 2001. Weary of the technology world, and discouraged by the “dot-com” implosion that was happening all around him, Doug Guller packed his bags and headed to Australia for a much needed vacation.

While sitting at a bar on the Australian coast, watching some rugby on a small TV nearby, an attractive server approached and asked, “Wanna beer, mate?”

At that moment, all Doug could do was smile. Life suddenly made sense to him. He thought to himself, “This is a nearly perfect combination: relaxing, drinking, sports, girls, service. … plus great food.

The idea behind the Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill® concept was soon born.

There are a few words left out. It should be “an attractive server in a bikini approached.”

It wasn’t long afterward that the first Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill® location opened in Austin, Texas.  The popularity of the concept which offered an unbeatable mix of sex appeal, sports, and delicious food soon led to the opening of 10 more locations over the next 5 years… in Texas and beyond.

Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill®, “Americas Only Sports Breastaurant!®”

Well not exactly “sex appeal” tout court. The sex appeal is, obviously, for straight men. It’s a Breastaurant!®, after all; there are no men in bikinis shown or mentioned. It’s like Hooters only – well no it’s just like Hooters.

There are eight of them. They’re all in Texas. Or, if you look at the Careers page, there are ten, or eleven if there are two in Austin as the Location page says, and one of the ten (or eleven) is in Oklahoma City. There are some manager jobs and some server jobs. The managers wear shirts and the servers wear bikini tops.

Let’s look at the job requirements for servers (who are also bartenders).


Bikinis Babes at Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill are more than your average food and cocktail servers. They are the physical embodiment of Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill: sexy, fun, friendly and entertaining. The environment you create is the reason our customers choose to spend time with us.

Basically sex workers, but paid less.

Job Duties

  • Provide customers a fun, entertaining and visually appealing experience.
  • Greet and attend to customers in friendly, upbeat and welcoming manner.

Then there’s some strange alien bafflegab about serving food and explaining menu items and shit, but nobody cares about that when there are tits to look at.

Then there’s how to deal with problem customers.

  • Visit with customers, as time permits, to ensure they have a good time—take an interest in them and be able to converse about current sports events.
  • On occasion, a customer may conduct himself/herself in an rude, offensive or inappropriate manner. Such conduct may, at times, be due to excessive drinking. Such behavior is not condoned. When this occurs, please notify your coach or another manager, who will handle the situation.

It’s like this. We put you out there, in your bikini top and your sexy fun friendly entertaining physical embodiment of Bikinis Sports Bar and Grillitude, and the result is that some customers grab your bum or your tits or maybe just plain try to yank your pants down. Such behavior is not condoned. (By whom? Oh, that would be telling, we can’t answer questions like that. It just isn’t, that’s all.) When it happens – as it will, because of the way we present you – tell someone else rather than emptying a pitcher of ice water on the guy’s head.


  • Must wear Bikinis Babes uniform, and present herself in a favorable, appealing manner to our customers. Must be well groomed, and maintain good personal hygiene.

And Bikinis Babes uniform is? I bet you can figure it out.

Then there’s a bunch of palaver about showing up on time and serving customers while remaining sexy – but of course all that is way second to wearing the Bikinis Babes uniform. First duty: show us your tits!

The last item is interesting though.

  • Able to handle difficult customers, or any customer complaints, in a tactful, courteous and professional manner.

The difficult customers we set you up to have to deal with by making you serve people food and alcohol while wearing a bikini.

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

Jean-Pierre Biemlfdlkk

Dec 28th, 2014 5:10 pm | By

Gawker has an entry in the Brand Names News category.

On Friday, The New York Times profiled some of the Chinese companies that have taken nonsensical branding to its postmodern conclusion, selling products under Western-inspired names like “Biemlfdlkk” and “Marisfrolg.”

Other brands mentioned in the article:

  • Frognie Zila
  • Helen Keller (a sunglasses maker)
  • Chrisdien Deny
  • Adidos
  • Orgee
  • Cnoverse
  • Fuma
  • Johnnie Worker Red Labial Whiskey

With ginger ale!

Of course, giving your company a meaningless, foreign-sounding name can present unique challenges when dealing with journalists.

A Biemlfdlkk saleswoman in the southern city of Guangzhou explained, “It’s a German name.” An employee at another Biemlfdlkk shop had a different explanation: “It’s the name of a French designer.”

Ah yes, Jean-Pierre Biemlfdlkk.

Non. C’est Jean-Claude.


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

Even when we think about temperature

Dec 28th, 2014 1:37 pm | By

A Fox “News” personality wondered on live tv if it might be the metric system that caused the AirAsia flight to go missing.

Fox News host Anna Kooiman speculated on Sunday that an AirAsia flight could have gone missing because international pilots were trained using the metric system.

During breaking coverage of missing Flight QZ8501, Kooiman asked former FAA spokesperson Scott Brenner if the “real reason” the plane had disappeared was because of the “different way other countries train their pilots.”

“Even when we think about temperature, it’s Fahrenheit or Celsius,” she pointed out. “It’s kilometers or miles. You know, everything about their training could be similar, but different.”

Also? They’re upside down. That must make it hard to fly planes correctly.

Plus they’re probably Mooslims.

In addition, they eat unfamiliar food items.

Too, they’re far away from here.

And furthermore they probably don’t watch Fox News.

So no wonder.

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

Somebody has to do the managing

Dec 28th, 2014 12:08 pm | By

One more good point, this one from Mychal Denzel Smith.

The rhetoric Lynch, Giuliani and others employ only reinforces the message protesters have been trying to get across. Lynch and Giuliani can see the tragedy of Liu and Ramos’s deaths, but do not extend that same sympathy to the families of those killed by police officers. The lives of officers Liu and Ramos are held up as more valuable than the lives of Garner, Brown and so on. That’s the reason the protests must continue, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for them to be suspended.

But also, you’d have a hard time convincing me that the reason Lynch and Giuliani mourn Liu and Ramos is because of their humanity.

By all accounts, Liu and Ramos were well-liked members of their community, but that’s not what has inspired Lynch to attribute the violence that killed them to nonviolent protesters. Liu and Ramos were police officers. Their jobs represent institutional power. The protests are a challenge/threat to that power.

I think it’s also runaway tribalism though. Esprit de corps. Out of control in-group loyalty.

The protests are not meant to be a challenge/threat to the lives of police officers, which is why it is disingenuous to link the actions of Brinsley to the movement. Activists, organizers, protesters involved in this fight for justice are not looking for more blood in the streets. They are seeking an upheaval of the American system of racism.

And yes, that directly implicates the police. The police are a violent and racist arm of oppression. That’s not because every person hired to be a police officer is a violent racist. It’s simply the job they’ve been given by the American people.

And why is that? Because that’s how the country started out, for one thing – with racist oppression – and the legacy is still very much there. And because the country favors inequality, for another thing, and inequality has consequences, such as high rates of crime. That has to be “managed” and the police are hired to do the managing. It’s a depressing arrangement.

The rejoinder to that assertion is typically some form of “not all police are bad/there are good cops.” There are certainly good people who are police officers. But good people sign up to do terrible jobs every day. They don’t, however, deserve to be killed for doing so.

As such, we all should mourn the deaths of Liu and Ramos, as well as send supportive energy to a recovering Shaneka Thompson, whose shooting has been lost in all of this. But that mourning doesn’t mean we become less critical of the police as a violent and racist tool of oppression.

I don’t suppose we could consider tackling the inequality itself? No I didn’t think so.

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