Notes and Comment Blog


Nov 30th, 2014 9:43 am | By

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

The more humanist schools the better, I say.

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

Wholly inadequate for the issue of sexual offences

Nov 29th, 2014 5:28 pm | By

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

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

The Jian Ghomeshi trial will be very different.

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

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

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

The Facebook post is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saint Based of 17th Street NW

Nov 29th, 2014 4:08 pm | By

This will give you nightmares.

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

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

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

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

Weird and ooooooky.

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



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

More light

Nov 29th, 2014 3:41 pm | By

Saying good-bye to Tuğçe Albayrak.

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

John Sayles and negative capability

Nov 29th, 2014 3:03 pm | By

I’ve been re-watching Lone Star.

We talked about it last month, and this past week I’ve been re-watching it. There are a lot of threads in it, that weave together throughout the movie, so there’s a lot to keep track of. There are some things I don’t think I caught before.

To remind or inform you of the core story: there was a murderous corrupt sheriff in the Texas border town where the story takes place named Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson). His deputy Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey) challenges Wade, and when Wade starts to threaten him, Deeds threatens to expose his corruption. Wade disappears a few hours later (in 1957), and Buddy Deeds is the next sheriff. About 35 years later a skull is found on an abandoned firing range outside of town, with a sheriff’s badge nearby; naturally it’s Charlie Wade. Buddy Deeds has recently died and his son Sam (Chris Cooper) is the sheriff. Sam was alienated from Buddy but everyone else sees Buddy as a hero. Sam uncovers a lot of Stuff while investigating the murder.

Here’s what I don’t think I caught before. When Buddy challenges Charlie Wade and then threatens to expose him, at the start of the movie, the item he threatens to expose is a county road project from which Wade skimmed 2/3 of the funding.

Much later, after many crisscrossing threads and overlapping conversations, someone tells Sam about an old controversy in which a lot of Mexicans were displaced by developers of a land parcel next to a lake, and that Buddy wound up owning a lakefront property at 1/3 of the market value.

See what Sayles did there?

The other artfully planted pair: there’s another flashback to Charlie Wade, in which he’s bullying young Otis Payne in the town’s only bar where African-Americans feel welcome. Wade mentions that he just sentenced a guy to “the farm,” and menacingly asks Otis if he knows why he put the guy in jail. “Somebody wanted a crop picked, I guess,” is Otis’s reply – which is in fact a real thing: there were prison farms in the South and they did serve as a substitute for slavery and charges were often trumped up. This enrages Wade, who ends up sucker-punching Otis and then shooting up the bar.

In a completely separate place in the movie Sam is talking to a jail inmate who is tidying his office, pointing out that if the inmate quit growing loco weed he would get more fresh air. The inmate mentions that Buddy had arrested him years before for having a still. “I wouldn’t think he’d bother with that,” Sam says. “He was afraid I’d poison people,” the inmate says. Then the inmate talks about what a wonderful person Sam’s mother was – she gave him the nicest lunches when he was building their patio. “Better than what they gave us here in the jail,” he adds. There’s a little pause and then Sam says “You worked on our patio while you were doing time?” Sure, the inmate says, it was much better than sitting in jail.

See what Sayles did there?

Buddy Deeds was actually quite corrupt, in ways that parallel the ways his predecessor was corrupt, and yet, Charlie Wade was so horrendous that Buddy seemed like a great guy in comparison. Or, to look at it another way, Buddy was quite corrupt but he was also a good sheriff in many ways. Or both. It’s left open.



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

Tuğçe Albayrak

Nov 29th, 2014 11:09 am | By

I saw this via Tehmina Kazi…and I can’t bear it. I can’t stand this one.

The Independent reports:

Thousands of people have joined silent vigils across Germany to pay tribute to a student who was beaten to death after stopping a group of men harassing two women.

Tugce Albayrak, 22, intervened when she heard the women screaming for help in a restaurant toilet in the city of Offenbach on 15 November.

But later, in the car park, she was brutally attacked with a bat by one of the men and left with critical head injuries, theSuddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Her parents made the decision to switch off her life support on Friday after doctors told them she would never regain consciousness and declared her brain dead. It was her 23rd birthday.

Tugce, who was of Turkish descent, is being hailed as a hero across Germany, with thousands of people joining candlelit vigils in her honour outside the restaurant where she confronted the attackers and around the country.

Fuck. It’s breaking my heart.

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

Secrets and lies

Nov 29th, 2014 10:59 am | By

The whole interview with Chris Boyce is on the CBC website.

There’s one clear discrepancy between his account and that of other people. He says he asked people who worked with Ghomeshi if they had anything more to report, and to tell him about it. The Fifth Estate people (see what I mean about awkward?) polled all those people to ask if Boyce had asked them that and every single one said no, there was nothing like that at all.

So…yes, it’s all too reminiscent of the way the JREF and DJ Grothe and even James Randi dealt with reports of sexual harassment and even rape. Silencing and lies.

And it’s in the same cause – the protection of popular Star men, and the organization’s ability to profit from the popularity of the Star men.

It’s all too familiar.

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

He said he didn’t do it

Nov 29th, 2014 10:38 am | By

The CBC show The Fifth Estate last night was about…Jian Ghomeshi.

Imagine the awkwardness! Ghomeshi was a CBC star, his show was a CBC show, his bosses were CBC bosses, the institution that fired him was the CBC, the institution that didn’t fire him sooner was the CBC – and there was Gillian Findlay on The Fifth Estate discussing the whole mess.

It makes for a fascinating program, which is frequently squirmy to watch. The Executive Director of CBC radio, Chris Boyce, is deeply uncomfortable to watch. He’s also terribly familiar. There are so many echoes in this whole show, and especially in what Boyce says. Findlay asks him why he didn’t act sooner, and he says with great earnestness: “Jian told me he didn’t do it.”

Did it really not occur to him that Ghomeshi might be saying he didn’t do it because he preferred not to deal with the consequences of being known to have done it? Did he really think that if Jian said he didn’t do it that meant he in fact didn’t do it? Was he really not aware that Jian had an obvious motivation for telling his boss that he didn’t do it?

But at the same time, it sounds so familiar. Have we not all heard it a thousand times over the past year and a half or so.

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

Modern slavery

Nov 29th, 2014 9:49 am | By

The BBC reports that there is probably more slavery in the UK than had been thought.

There could be between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery in the UK, higher than previous figures, analysis for the Home Office suggests.

Modern slavery victims are said to include women forced into prostitution, “imprisoned” domestic staff and workers in fields, factories and fishing boats.

Make no mistake, that’s true of the US too.

The Home Office has launched a strategy to help tackle slavery.

It said the victims included people trafficked from more than 100 countries – the most prevalent being Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and Romania – as well as British-born adults and children.

Modern slavery minister Karen Bradley told the BBC she was not surprised by the figures.

She said: “This is very much a hidden crime and the important thing is that we get it out in the open. If we compare where we were 200 years ago, the anti-slavery campaigners there had to make people acknowledge that slavery was wrong.

“What we have to do today is not make people acknowledge it’s wrong – everybody knows it’s wrong – but we have to find it.

“It’s a hidden crime, it’s going on in streets, in towns, in villages across Britain and we need to help people find the signs of it so we can find those victims and importantly then find the perpetrators.”

But another piece is not deporting people after freeing them from slavery. The threat of deportation is what gives the enslavers their power.

Aidan McQuade, director of charity Anti-Slavery International, said the Home Office’s figures “sounded about right” but questioned whether the government’s strategy went far enough.

He told the BBC : “If you leave an employment relationship, even if you’re suffering from any sort of exploitation up to and including forced labour, even if you’re suffering from all sorts of physical and sexual violence, you’ll be deported.

“So that gives an enormous power in the hands of unscrupulous employers. And frankly the protections which the government has put in place are not worth the paper they’re written on in order to prevent this sort of exploitation once they’ve given employers that sort of power.”

But then if you gave immunity to deportation to former slaves that would create an incentive to be (temporarily) enslaved. I’m glad I don’t have to figure out how to solve this problem.

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

But are women really equal?

Nov 28th, 2014 5:00 pm | By

PZ pointed out James Taranto before, way back last February.


There is a political panic about sexual assault in the military, which is a genuine problem, but people are – you know – taking it out by trying to convict men whether or not they’re guilty.

This seems to be turning into an effort to criminalize male sexuality, much as we see with sexual conduct codes on campus.


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

Guest post: Sexism squanders human resources

Nov 28th, 2014 3:27 pm | By

Originally a comment by Sea Monster on Guest post: Class and gender in Saudi Arabia.

The human resource thing interests me a lot. I first noticed it at Uni and it then at work. Loud mouth blokes wouldn’t hear a good idea if was uttered by a woman.

If I repeated it (sorry did you just say…) they would hear it.

I’ve mentored two successful projects at work where the winning ideas came from women. One of the projects received industry accolades.

Again when the ideas came from women the blokes never heard them. When I debriefed the team (did anyone notice…) there were ashen faces around the table when they realised the importance of what they had ignored. The loud mouths were decent enough to apologise on that occasion.

In the Anglophone world we’ve undergone a shift over the last few decades from calling managing people ‘Personnel’ to calling it ‘Human Resources’. The idea is we’re supposed to be extracting the value from the resource. And we need all hands on deck, in my opinion. We’re facing big challenges. We need to get at all the innovative and creative thinking we can get at. We need it to be diverse and not groupthink or echo chamber.

The Saudis have elected to lock up so much human resource. They don’t want to extract it. And it seems its not only locked up in women’s minds.

What your AEI types and your Gamergaters and your Dawkins and your Hoff-Summers don’t realise is that we in the West also lock up human resource by excluding women even if it is more subtle ways. Ignoring women’s input. Wearing that shirt. We’re ignoring good ideas. In management speak we’re leaving money on the table. What they don’t get is that affirmative action or assisted childcare (and the rest) is about extracting human resources. What they don’t realise is that making special allowances for women’s issues is actually congruent with their market capitalism. It produces better outcomes.

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

“Feminism is the new creationism”

Nov 28th, 2014 2:59 pm | By

I’m in a looking for sources mood today. I got curious about Sommers’s ridiculous claim that 3d wave intersectional feminism is the intellectual equivalent of creationism. I paid a visit to Google. I discovered a Wall Street Journal editorial by James Taranto January 14, 2013.

He gives a rundown of his inch-deep understanding of evolutionary psychology and his caricature of feminist criticisms of some of it. Then he asks what it all means.

Why would the New York Times, which scoffs at creationism, publish such an intellectually slipshod attack on evolution? Because evolutionary psychology contradicts the feminist dogma that the sexes are created equal, that all differences between men and women (or at least those differences that represent male dominance or superiority) are pure products of cultural conditioning.

Feminism is the new creationism. The left loves to scoff at people who believe that Genesis is literally true, but these days feminist beliefs are a lot more influential.

So, who is James Taranto? Well…he’s a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

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

Krugman on pretend-academic think tanks

Nov 28th, 2014 2:31 pm | By

A friend posted this on my Facebook autolink to the AEI post.

[I]n the late 1960s and early 1970s members of the new conservative intelligentsia persuaded both wealthy individuals and some corporate leaders to funnel cash into a conservative intellectual infrastructure. To a large extent this infrastructure consists of think tanks that are set up to resemble academic institutions, but only publish studies that play into a preconceived point of view.

The American Enterprise Institute, although it was founded in 1943, expanded dramatically beginning in 1971, when it began receiving substantial amounts of corporate money and grants from conservative family foundations. The Heritage Foundation was created in 1973 with cash from Joseph Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife. The libertarian Cato Institute relied heavily on funds from the Koch family foundations.

Media organizations are also part of the infrastructure. The same set of foundations that have funded conservative think tanks also gave substantial support to The Public Interest, as well as publications like The American Spectator.

We’re not talking John Stuart Mill here. This isn’t the Westminster Review.

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

Ray Rice is back in the NFL

Nov 28th, 2014 2:14 pm | By

Ray Rice appealed his indefinite suspension from the NFL and today he won the appeal.

The news does not come as a surprise, as many believed the NFL punished him twice for the same violation, breaking rules established in the collective bargaining agreement. In July, the NFL levied a two-game suspension on the player for a domestic altercation with his then fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator. But in September, the league decided to suspend Rice indefinitely after TMZ leaked video footage of the running back knocking out his now-wife in the elevator.

It’s not entirely fair to call it a “domestic altercation” when he slammed her to the floor and knocked her unconscious. However mutual the quarrel was, the knockout punch was in no way mutual.

The situation landed NFL in as much trouble publicly as it did Rice, with many questioning the seriousness with which the NFL takes domestic violence issues, or more generally, if it values its female audience.

Rice will be able to immediately play for a team again, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, but it’s unlikely any team will pick him up. It’s both very late in the season at this point, and Rice’s image is still tarnished.

Ah. He’s allowed to play, but that doesn’t mean anyone will want him to play.

I hope no one does.

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

Guest post: Class and gender in Saudi Arabia

Nov 28th, 2014 12:17 pm | By

Originally a comment by Marcus Ranum on No unaccompanied women allowed.

Clearly men are allowed to ogle.

Not really. It’s more like complete separation. When I was in Saudi, in one restaurant, I got up to go to the bathroom and started to walk the wrong way – apparently heading towards the women’s section. I was quickly blocked and herded the right way; apparently it’s a pretty serious offense if you’re a single male and go into the women’s section.

I am not in any way attempting to downplay the general misogyny on display in Saudi. The net effect is totalitarian across all genders; everyone must bend in accordance with the rules cooked up by the parasitic wankers who get to make everyone jump through hoops to acclimate them to the monarchy, and to vindicate the monarchy’s existence. Undoubtedly, women have it worse, though everyone has it bad unless they are part of the royal family, or a wealthy citizen (most of the people in Saudi are not citizens, they are merely servants allowed to exist there as arbeiters for the citizens)

I was treated with rare levels of access, including dining in a Saudi’s home and meeting his children. His wife stayed in the kitchen, behind a screen, and listened to the conversation but did not participate, though I heard a brief smatter of applause when I correctly read off the spices that were in the main course she had made (apparently this shocked some of the guys, that a man would know how to cook) One of the lines of casual questioning I followed was dating and marriage customs. It sucks for both parties; marriages are arranged by a prospective couple’s parents on both sides of the equation and neither party has much choice if there is a significant difference in financial status, etc. My overall impression is a totalitarian society that is misogynistic, yes, but also extremely classist. The main axis of oppression is class, first, then gender – which means women get the worst of it both ways since they have no class mobility at all whereas for men there are slim opportunities to get a rung up now and then, though the key path to class is hereditary in all cases. One of the comments that really rocked me back was “It’s a pretty good thing to be born a Saudi princess” followed by a description that could just as easily have fit a Kobe beef cow: a pampered life with nearly no self-determination.

I have never spent time in India, but it matches the descriptions I’ve heard of the way class hierarchy and gender hierarchy intertwine to form a complex trap that makes sure that the rich stay rich and the poor shovel the rich’s poop, forever, always. It’s not bad being a Saudi man, compared to being a Saudi woman, but pretty much the only Saudi anyone would want to be is a Saudi prince — assuming that they wanted to live a luxurious life as a complete asshole. But that’s the birthright equivalent of being born in the top tier of America’s 1% – the 1% of the 1%, and it’s more or less the same.

One thing that also horrified me about Saudi society is that women, basically, cannot work. The fellow I was working with was considered to be extremely progressive and was trying to arrange a way of having a floor in his office building that was women-only, so he could actually hire some women to work for the company, at all. In Saudi, citizens can attend university for free, so the women there are some of the world’s best educated (if they are upper class) many of them holding multiple doctorates that they cannot actually do anything with. It’s a gigantic waste in terms of human capital; the whole kingdom is.

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

Meet AEI’s friends and benefactors

Nov 28th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

Now for Sourcewatch on the AEI.

Originally set up as a spokesperson for big business and the promotion of free enterprise, the AEI came to major national prominence in the 1970s under the leadership of William Baroody, Sr., during which time it grew from a group of twelve resident “thinkers” to a well-funded organization with 145 resident scholars, 80 adjunct scholars, and a large supporting staff. This period of growth was largely funded by the Howard Pew Freedom Trust.

Follow the link for citations.

In 1986, the Olin and Smith Richardson foundations withdrew their support from AEI because of substantive disagreement with certain of its policies, causing William Baroody, Jr. to resign in the ensuing financial crisis. Following criticism by conservatives that AEI was too centrist, it moved its program further to the right and became more aggressive in pursuing its public policy goals.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

David H. Koch is on the American Enterprise Institute’s National Council, whose members “serve as ambassadors for AEI, providing AEI with advice, insight, and guidance as [it] looks to reach out to new friends across the country.”

Between 2002 and 2013, the American Enterprise Institute received a total of $867,289 in funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

Ah but that’s not all the Koch brothers gave. There’s this conduit, see…

Ties to DonorsTrust, a Koch Conduit

DonorsTrust is considered a “donor-advised fund,” which means that it divides its funds into separate accounts for individual donors, who then recommend disbursements from the accounts to different non-profits. Funds like DonorsTrust are not uncommon in the non-profit sector, but they do cloak the identity of the original donors because the funds are typically distributed in the name of DonorsTrust rather than the original donors. Very little was known about DonorsTrust until late 2012 and early 2013, when the Guardian and others published extensive reports on what Mother Jones called “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement.”

Has AEI received any money from this conduit, this DonorsTrust?

The American Enterprise Institute received $19,840,954 from DonorsTrust between 2002 and 2011.

Wo. That’ll buy some decent chunks of Scholarly Opinion.

A report by the Center for Public Integrity exposes a number of DonorsTrust funders, many of which have ties to the Koch brothers. One of the most prominent funders is the Knowledge and Progress Fund, a Charles Koch-run organization and one of the group’s largest known contributors, having donated at least $8 million since 2005. Other contributors known to have donated at least $1 million to DonorsTrust include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.

Since its inception in 1999, DonorsTrust has been used by conservative foundations and individuals to discretely funnel nearly $400 million to like-minded think tanks and media outlets. According to the organization’s tax documents, in 2011 DonorsTrust contributed a total of $86 million to right-wing organizations. Many recipients had ties to the State Policy Network (SPN), a wide collection of conservative state-based think tanks and media organizations that focus on shaping public policy and opinion.

Then there’s a list of some of AEI’s pet issues, such as the folly of raising the minimum wage.

Casting Doubt on Global Warming

In February 2007, The Guardian (UK) reported that AEI was offering scientists and economists $10,000 each, “to undermine a major climate change report” from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). AEI asked for “articles that emphasise the shortcomings” of the IPCC report, which “is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science.” AEI visiting scholar Kenneth Green made the $10,000 offer “to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere,” in a letter describing the IPCC as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent.”

The Guardian reported further that AEI “has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil, and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees,” added The Guardian.

Since the time of that report, AEI has continued to receive money from Exxon Mobil — a total of at least $1,520,000.

AEI and the head of its energy studies department, Benjamin Zycher, have faced criticism for distorting scientific findings on global warming from Jeffrey Sachs, a leading environmental studies scholar, Columbia University professor, economist, and UN advisor. Zycher had once criticized Sachs for misconstruing the IPCC conclusions on global warming; however, Sachs responded, “It is Zycher who distorts, misrepresents, or simply ignores the IPCC conclusions.”

Sachs went on to write:

“It is time for Zycher and, indeed, the American Enterprise Institute, to come clean. The AEI, despite its roster of distinguished academics, has failed to be constructive in the climate debate. It’s time that the AEI puts forward a strategy to achieve the globally agreed objective of avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

There’s a list of trustees, emeritus trustees, officers, former officers…and then there’s a list of Academic Advisers.

“AEI’s Council of Academic Advisers … including distinguished academics from a variety of policy-related fields, advises AEI’s president on the Institute’s research agenda, publications, and appointments, and each year selects the recipient of the Irving Kristol Award.”

As of June 23, 2014, they were:

  • George L. Priest, Edward J. Phelps Professor of Law and Economics, Yale Law School
  • Alan J. Auerbach, Robert D. Burch Professor of Economics and Law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Eliot Cohen, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
  • Eugene F. Fama, Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
  • Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
  • Aaron L. Freiberg, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Director, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University
  • Eric A. Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hana Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • R. Glenn Hubbard, Dean and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School
  • Walter Russell Mead, Dean and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School
  • John L. Palmer, University Professor and Dean Emeritus, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University
  • Mark Pauly, Bendheim Professor, Professor of Health Care Management, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Sam Peltzman, Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, Booth School of Business University of Chicago
  • Jeremy A. Rabkin, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
  • Harvey S. Rosen, John L. Weinberg Professor of Economics and Business Policy at Princeton University
  • Richard J. Zeckhauser, Frank Plumpton Ramsey Professor of Political Economy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

I do find it odd that Richard Dawkins, who taught at Oxford for decades, sees fit to promote the work of this Hack Institute.

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

Meet the AEI

Nov 28th, 2014 11:28 am | By

I find myself wanting to know more the American Enterprise Institute in more detail.

Right Wing Watch has a very out of date page on them, with stats from 2003 and updated in 2006. That makes a useful snapshot from the past, though. Check out its board of trustees at that time, not to mention its finances.

Established: 1943

President/Executive Director: Christopher DeMuth

Finances: $24,934,545 (2003 income)

Employees: more than 50 resident scholars and fellows

Board of Trustees: Chairman Bruce Kovner (Caxton Associations, LLC); Vice Chair Lee R. Raymond (Exxon Mobil Corporation); Treasurer Tully M. Friedman (Friedman, Fleischer, & Lowe LLC); Gordon M. Binder (Coastview Capital, LLC); Harlan Crow (Crow Holdings); Christopher DeMuth (American Enterprise Institute); Morton H. Fleischer (Spirit Finance Corp.); Christopher B. Galvin (Motorola); Raymond V. Gilmartin (Merck & Co.); Harvey Golub (American Express Co.); Robert F. Greenhill (Greenhill & Co., LLC) ; Roger Hertog (Alliance Capital Management Corporation); Martin M. Koffel (URS Corporation); John A. Luke, Jr. (MeadWestvaco Corp.); L. Ben Lytle (Anthem, Inc.); Alex Mandl (Gemplus International); Robert A. Pritzker (Colson Associates, Inc.); J. Joe Ricketts (Ameritrade Holding Corporation); Kevin B. Rollins (Dell, Inc.); John W. Rowe (Exelon Corp.); Edward B. Rust, Jr. (State Farm Insurance Co.); William S. Stavropoulos (Dow Chemical Co.); Wilson H. Taylor (CIGNA Corp.); Marilyn Ware (American Water); James Q. Wilson (Pepperdine University) Publications: Monthly newsletter, dozens of books and hundreds of articles and reports each year, and a glossy policy magazine, The American Enterprise.

It’s considered a think tank; RWW calls it that; but its board is corporate corporate corporate. James Q Wilson is the only one identified with a university as opposed to a corporation.

Principal Issues

  • American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a think tank for conservatives, neoconservatives, and conservative libertarians.
  • Areas of interest include: America’s “culture war,” domestic policy and federal spending, education reform, neoconservatism, affirmative action, and welfare reform.
  • President George W. Bush has appointed over a dozen people from AEI to senior positions in his administration. AEI claims that this is more than any other research institution.

Can AEI really be considered a research institution? Is it considered as such by any actual legitimate researchers? Is it, in short, an “Institute” in the same sort of way the Tobacco Institute is an “Institute”? Does it do any kind of research other than searching for the conclusions its sponsors are looking for?

I suspect the answer is no, but I don’t know for sure.

Background and History

  • Most of AEI’s Board of Directors are CEOs of major companies, including ExxonMobil, Motorola, American Express, State Farm Insurance, and Dow Chemicals.
  • Big donors include the top conservative foundations, including Smith-Richardson Foundation, the Olin Foundation, the Scaife Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
  • Corporate supporters have included: General Electric Foundation, Amoco, Kraft Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, General Motors Foundation, Eastman Kodak Foundation, Metropolitan Life Foundation, Proctor & Gamble Fund, Shell Companies Foundation, Chrysler Corporation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, General Mills Foundation, Pillsbury Company Foundation, Prudential Foundation, American Express Foundation, AT&T Foundation, Corning Glass Works Foundation, Morgan Guarantee Trust, Smith-Richardson Foundation, Alcoa Foundation, and PPG Industries.
  • Kenneth Lay, CEO of Enron, was until recently on the board of trustees of American Enterprise Institute. Other famous former trustees include Vice President Dick Cheney.

None of that inspires confidence, or suggests that AEI is anything other than a conservative corporate advocacy organization.


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

Discourse matters

Nov 28th, 2014 10:01 am | By

Turkish women talk back to Erdoğan.

Sixty-five Turkish women‘s rights organizations took out a full page advertisement in a mass circulation daily newspaper Thursday condemning President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his remarks this week that equality between men and women goes against “nature.”

The advertisement in Hurriyet newspaper, one of the best-selling dailies in the country, comes three days after the president said Islam dictated that women should prioritize motherhood and slammed feminists.

“Women and men have equal rights,” the women‘s groups wrote, adding that Turkey already lags behind international indices in terms of gender equality.

They noted that Erdogan has made similar disparaging statements towards women in the past and charged that the president‘s remarks violates the constitution and international treaties Turkey has signed.

“We are not going to give in to inequality,” the statement said, calling for women to rise up and defend their protected rights.

Well hey now. He was just talking. It’s just something he said. It’s just culture. Hasn’t Christina Hoff Sommers been telling us to stop objecting to sexism in the culture? That’s certainly the message I’ve been getting from Sommers and her allies – that feminism has already done the necessary and we have total equality, so all this talk about stereotypes and tropes is just melodrama and victim feminism.

Let’s see what Erdoğan did say. The Guardian reported on Monday:

“Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women: motherhood,” Erdoğan said at a summit in Istanbul on justice for women, speaking to an audience including his own daughter Sumeyye.

“Some people can understand this, while others can’t. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.”


Does he think feminists deny that it takes a uterus and Fallopian tubes to gestate a baby?

More likely, that’s how he chose to frame the fact that feminists think women should not be restricted to motherhood. Feminists don’t accept the claim he started with: that any religion or any other system of ideas gets to define a single position for all women. That’s the claim that we don’t “understand” in the sense that we flatly reject it.

“Motherhood is something else,” he said, claiming that it should be a woman’s priority because Islam exalts women as mothers.

He went on to say that women and men could not be treated equally “because it goes against the laws of nature”.

“Their characters, habits and physiques are different … You cannot place a mother breastfeeding her baby on an equal footing with men.”

Sure you can. Everybody is different. Individuals are different. People are different. That by itself is not a reason to take away their rights.

Aylin Nazliaka, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s party said Erdoğan “ostracised” women by portraying them as delicate, weak and powerless and limiting their role to motherhood.

“Erdoğan has publicly committed a hate crime … But I will continue to fight this man who sees no difference between terrorists and feminists,” she said in a written statement.

Sule Zeybek, an anchorwoman at the Turkish broadcaster Kanal D, hit back at Erdoğan’s comments live on television during a news bulletin.

“I am a feminist and thank God I’m a mum. I wouldn’t kiss my mother’s feet but I have great respect for her,” she said.

Culture. They’re all talking about culture. They’re talking about expectations, and stereotypes, and discourse. Soft stuff. Not stoning and FGM and child marriage, but more abstract oppressions and subordinations.

Why? Because all of that matters. It matters in Turkey, it matters here, it matters in the UK and Australia, it matters in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. All the places.




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

The free market in science denialism

Nov 27th, 2014 3:30 pm | By

You know…if you Google “american enterprise institute climate change” you get a lot of hits, useful relevant hits as opposed to ones that just have some but not all of the search terms. In other words there’s something there. The AEI does pay a lot of attention to climate change and it is the kind of attention you would expect – the kind that CEOs and lobbyists for oil companies want to hear and are willing to pay for. It’s one of their areas, and they take an interested position on it. They’re not disinterested scholars, they’re interested propagandists paid by corporations.

Here is Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, on the AEI’s chief climate-denier Benjamin Zycher.

Benjamin Zycher, the head of the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) energy studies criticizes an article I wrote earlier this week about the climate dangers of approving the Keystone Pipeline Project.

In that article, I said that the Earth’s climate is on a trajectory to raise the mean global temperature by at least 3 degrees C by the end of the century; that the world is experiencing a rapidly rising frequency of extreme climate events such as heat waves; and that keeping unconventional oil reserves like Canada’s oil sands in the ground is key to respecting the global climate budget.

Zycher accuses me of misrepresenting the scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has just issued its AR5 (Fifth Assessment Report) on climate science. Indeed, he calls my opposition to Keystone “fact free.” Yet it is Zycher who distorts, misrepresents, or simply ignores the IPCC conclusions.

Read the article for the details.

The AEI tried to buy articles disputing a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

That’s the lobby group that Christina Hoff Sommers works for. They pay her to bash feminism. (Because what? If feminism progresses further it will persuade people to stop driving cars and take the bus instead?) She’s accepted their offer. Mind you, I don’t think she’s changing her views in exchange for their money – but I do think she’s thrown away her own scholarly integrity and self-respect in exchange for their money.

Back to the Guardian article.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN’s panel as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work” and ask for essays that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs”.

I call that corruption. Frank, unabashed, shameless corruption.

The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.

“Right now, the whole debate is polarised,” he said. “One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don’t think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy.”

I might almost believe that if it weren’t for that $1.6 million from ExxonMobil.

Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific institute, said: “The IPCC is the world’s leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that ‘business as usual’ would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise.”

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: “The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration’s intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they’ve got left is a suitcase full of cash.”

And Christina Hoff Sommers, who is on the payroll of the AEI, has the fucking gall to announce that “today’s 3rd wave intersectional feminism” is “the intellectual equivalent of creationism.” She works for a highly partisan reactionary think tank that tries to bribe scientists to undermine a scientific report that they see as against their financial interests – yet she accuses feminists of being the intellectual equivalent of creationism.


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

If that’s fantastic, what would execrable look like?

Nov 27th, 2014 12:51 pm | By

I’m curious about what standards Christina Hoff Sommers relies on to call a piece at “fantastic,” so I’m reading it. That tweet, just in case you don’t believe me:

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers 3h
Fantastic article by @Nero on #GamerGate, feminist melodrama, lazy journalists. …

I’m finding it not fantastic. I’m finding it very bad. I would find it bad even if I agreed with the politics of it.

Milo Yiannopoulos, the author (“Nero” on Twitter), is addressing Sheelah Kolhatkar, who wrote a profile of Anita Sarkeesian for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Since you have failed to perform a basic survey of the literature surrounding the GamerGate controversy, or, worse, purposefully elected to exclude it from your reporting, and since you have placed your critical faculties on ice in the manner the “listen and believe” feminists are always so insistent on—largely, it turns out, because their claims don’t stack up—allow me to sketch out the real reasons Sarkeesian is controversial in the video games industry, and, to fill in the blanks in your writing, to explain why her ideas are so universally loathed among gamers.

That’s not a promising start. It’s tendentious, it pretends “GamerGate” is a serious academic subject with a serious literature that journalists are supposed to survey, it’s rude, it’s horrendously badly written, and it ends up in just vulgar abuse.

Sarkeesian, however, believes in an old social-science myth, long since debunked, that culture creates behaviour. This idea is on its way out in academia, having been mortally crippled by the “cognitive revolution” epitomised by the works Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt and Daniel Kahneman, which emphasises the innate drivers of human behaviour.


Sarkeesian, like many of her followers, believes gamers create an environment in which “women are excluded”. But the facts tell a different story. GamerGate, lazily stereotyped by the media as the highest expression of misogyny in gaming, successfully green lit a female developer’s game on the Steam marketplace via a Twitter campaign while opponents of GamerGate want to boycott her, just because she has “the wrong opinions.” GamerGate has also contributed over $20,000 to the Fine Young Capitalists, a feminist movement.

Feminists say they want to help women, but it’s always someone else—in the gaming world, usually a man—who gets their wallet out to do it.

In reality, it’s not women that some gamers have a problem with: it’s people like Sarkeesian and McIntosh. They have claimed hatred of them and people like them is tantamount to hatred of women. But it isn’t. People don’t hate Anita Sarkeesian because she’s a woman: they hate her because they see her as a disingenuous, divisive, sociopathic opportunist.

That’s enough; I don’t need to read the rest. It’s garbage; trashy, hack-y, MRA-ish garbage. It’s beneath the notice of a serious academic and philosopher – yet Sommers calls it “fantastic.”

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