Notes and Comment Blog

Only the best people turn up this road

Jan 6th, 2013 10:54 am | By

Speaking of righteous and unrighteous, I’m still reading the Jonathan Haidt book. (I read several books at once, so that I’ll be sure to confuse them all.) I’m quite liking Part One, which argues for the primacy of intuition over reasoning. I’ve seen a lot of it before but not all of it, and anyway it’s presented well. It’s convincing.

Like the bit on p 55 about William Wundt and “affective primacy.”

Affect refers to small flashes of positive or negative feeling that prepare us to approach or avoid something.

I’ve been noticing something like that recently, with amusement, about driving – about a ridiculous little sorting thing going on in my head while driving that has to do with approval of the road I take and disparagement of the road others take. That’s related to stuff like “I’m going fast enough here, so the people behind me will know I know my way and I’m not some pathetic outsider who doesn’t know the way.” I have thoughts like that constantly, and then once in awhile I notice them and laugh at how ludicrous they are.

That’s not related to the affect, really, but to the small flashes.

Anyway, Wundt said that

affective reactions are so tightly integrated with perception that we find ourselves liking or disliking something the instant we notice it, sometimes even before we know what it is.

Wundt said it in the 1890s. In 1980 a social psychologist, Robert Zajonc, revived the idea, to correct the then-prevalent one that humans are “cool, rational information processors.”

Zajonc urged psychologists to use a dual-process model in which affect or “feeling” is the first process. It has primacy both because it happens first (it is part of perception and is therefore extremely fast) and because it is more powerful (it is closely linked to motivation, and therefore it strongly influences behavior). The second process – thinking – is an evolutionarily newer ability, rooted in language and not closely related to motivation.

Affect is more powerful than thinking.

I knew that, but that’s a particularly vivid way of explaining it, or reminding us of it.

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

Righteous and unrighteous

Jan 6th, 2013 9:32 am | By

A very wise guy said on Twitter a few hours ago -

The desire to carve up the world into people-like-us (righteous) and people-like-them (unrighteous) is utterly pervasive. Nobody escapes it.

Yes. (Or almost yes. I wonder if it holds for psychopaths? They simply don’t care about righteous/unrighteous, so they wouldn’t carve up the world that way, would they? For them it’s just Self and everything else.) Yes, but – that desire isn’t always salient. It’s far from always salient. It depends.

It’s a bit like that shift I mentioned the other day, about walking the Pebble Beach golf course – from a distance I think of everyone as caricature Plutocrats, because after all – it’s Pebble Beach. It costs $500 to play a round on that course. But then someone stops to greet Cooper and talks about his Chocolate at home, and poof goes the caricature Plutocrat. Life is like that. We have little shifts like that all the time. If that guy had stopped to tell me what he thought of Obama, the “people-like-us (righteous) and people-like-them (unrighteous)” carvation would have come into play. If he’d stopped to ask me if I’d found Jesus, it would have come into play more sharply. If he’d stopped to tell me I’m a fucking feminist cunt, it would have come into play more sharply still.

The very wise guy who made the Twitter observation is a dedicated FTB hater, and the very wise tweet came immediately after one citing Richard Carrier, so that was pretty clearly another “you FTBullies are just as horrible as everyone else” snipe. Well it’s not quite that simple.

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

The victims never seem as important

Jan 5th, 2013 5:34 pm | By

The NY Times has an editorial on abuse in religious groups.

 the truth is, there are not two kinds of religions — the enlightened and the medieval. Every religion has evildoers stalking its corridors. They just survive, and thrive, with different strategies.

Take Zen Buddhism, the paragon of open, nonhierarchical spirituality. Anyone may practice Zen meditation; you do not have to convert, be baptized or renounce your old religion. Yet leaders of major Zen centers in Los Angeles and New York have recently been accused, on strong evidence, of exploiting followers for sex. This weekend, Zen teachers ordained by Joshu Sasaki, the semiretired abbot of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles, are holding a retreat to discuss sexual harassment accusations against Mr. Sasaki. The Zen Studies Society, in New York, is under new leadership after its longtime abbot, Eido Shimano, was forced out after he was accused of inappropriate sexual liaisons with students and other women.

Paul Karsten, a board member of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center, said the intense relationship between Zen teacher and student can be trouble. For example, in private meetings, some teachers touch students. The touching is never supposed to be sexual, but there can be misunderstandings, or outright abuse.

It’s like therapy in that way – an intense but hierarchical one-on-one relationship. It’s no big surprise that the priest/teacher/shaman/therapist can parlay that into sex. Priests and teachers get to be seen as special, wise, “spiritual,” enlightened – they don’t get rich but they do get admiration. No doubt to some it would seem just plain wasteful not to leverage it for sex.

That is everyone else, not just religious people. The Satmar Hasidim may have wanted to protect a beloved member, the Modern Orthodox administrators probably worried about their community’s reputation — and the Penn State loyalists enabled Jerry Sandusky. Somehow, the victims never seem as important as the rabbi, the Zen master, the coach. In the words of a once-revered rabbi, Norman Lamm, may as well let the perpetrators “go quietly.”

Oh yes I forgot to say coaches.

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

Pacific clouds

Jan 5th, 2013 4:35 pm | By

Carmel beach again this afternoon, but a completely different kind of day – it’s cloudy, and it was very windy there. It was fantastic! Dramatic, and turbulent, and beautiful – also, oddly enough, more conducive to lingering. On a sunny day it actually gets glarey after awhile. No glare today, so I was able to walk all the way north on the beach, where it’s directly below the Pebble Beach golf course. You have the beach, and then these bluffs rising sharply out of it, and on top of the bluffs is the course.

I can see a surfer from here. [looks through binoculars] Gosh, the surfer is using a paddle. I didn’t know they did that. It looks like lousy surf – practically flat.

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

Rape culture? Whaddya mean?

Jan 5th, 2013 11:10 am | By

I’m catching up on the Steubenville (Ohio) rape-and-Twitter-and-football case. It’s not unfamiliar. Years ago I read a shocking but not surprising book about a New Jersey rape case that also involved high school jocks seen as heroes and the girl they raped seen as oh who cares. Our Guys, by Bernard Lefkowitz.

Lefkowitz’s sweeping narrative, informed by more than 200 interviews and six years of research, recreates a murky adolescent world that parents didn’t–or wouldn’t–see: a high school dominated by a band of predatory athletes; a teenage culture where girls were frequently abused and humiliated at sybaritic and destructive parties, and a town that continued to embrace its celebrity athletes–despite the havoc they created–as “our guys.” But that was not only true of Glen Ridge; Lefkowitz found that the unqualified adulation the athletes received in their town was echoed in communities throughout the nation. Glen Ridge was not an aberration. The clash of cultures and values that divided Glen Ridge, Lefkowitz writes, still divides the country.

Steubenville sounds as if it fits the pattern quite neatly. The Steubenville High School football coach didn’t bench the players involved. The Times tried to ask him about that.

Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, Saccoccia said he did not “do the Internet,” so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.

“You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.

Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”

Because football.



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

You used that word

Jan 4th, 2013 6:13 pm | By

India has other horrible rapes. (As does the US. I’m not claiming any national superiority here.)

On most days, Indian newspapers report shocking new atrocities – a 10-month-old raped by a neighbour in Delhi; an 18-month-old raped and abandoned on the
streets in Calcutta; a 14-year-old raped and murdered in a police station in
Uttar Pradesh; a husband facilitating his own wife’s gang rape in Howrah…

One of the most painful and lingering cases is that of the Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug.

Sodomised by a cleaner in the hospital where she worked, the 25-year-old was strangled with metal chains and left to die by her attacker, Sohanlal Bharta Walmiki, on 27 November 1973.

She was saved and survives, but barely so. For the past 39 years she has been lying in a hospital bed in a vegetative state, brain dead, unable to recognise anyone, unable to speak, unable to perform even the most basic of tasks.

Violence against women is deeply entrenched in the feudal, patriarchal Indian society, where for the rapist, every woman is fair game.

Ah ah ah – you’re not allowed to use the word “patriarchal.” There is no such thing. There are only women who fail to take proper precautions.


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

Come back little Gracie

Jan 4th, 2013 4:29 pm | By

Cooper and I walked (part of) the Pebble Beach course today. We walked a bigger part of it on Tuesday. It wasn’t as gorgeous today because it’s a little hazy, so the hills just southeast of Carmel were a bit blurry and flat as opposed to sharp and full of depth and detail as they were on Tuesday. But it was fun anyway. It’s on bluffs overlooking the ocean and Carmel Bay, so it’s a pretty dazzling place for a stroll, even with all the pesky people messing around with sticks and balls and buzzy little carts.

Actually the people are rather nice though. I always expect them to be parody millionaires, sniffing out my alien nature and ordering me to leave, but instead they get all googly over Cooper.

Cooper’s a fortunate dog, safe at home dropping sand on the carpet. Other dogs are not so lucky. As we were driving the bit of 17 Mile Drive between the lodge and the visitors’ entrance (where the trick is to turn left into an obscure parking lot next to the tennis courts, impossible to find unless you know about it, which places you at the most scenic part of the course) – the car ahead stopped for no apparent reason, then I saw that a car in front of that was stopped and the driver was getting out, then I saw a little red-brown terrier racing up the road as that driver tried to catch it. The driver in front of me jumped out and tried but the terrier raced away, I was too slow to jump out and instead tried to get Cooper to quit barking, the driver behind me jumped out and tried, and the terrier raced away and off the road in the direction of the course. Oh dear. Nothing to be done, so we all resumed driving, and Cooper and I did our walk and on the return leg as we were approaching the clubhouse next to the beach there was a woman far across the lawn calling, “Gracie! Gracie!” and whistling. Uh oh, I thought, I wonder if Gracie is a little red-brown terrier. Oh dear. I kept my eye on the woman so that I could ask her, and tell her what I knew, and as we converged she called, “Have you seen a little Yorkie?” making a Yorkie-size with her hands.

Gracie’s human left the car window open a little – so that Gracie wouldn’t overheat, for crying out loud – and foolish Gracie jumped out. Oh dear. The clubhouse is quite far from the place on the road where I’d seen Gracie, and it was about 45 minutes later. The woman works there. I’ll never know if Gracie got found.

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

There’s no place like home

Jan 4th, 2013 11:40 am | By

Another piece of good news (thanks to Maureen for sending me the link) – Malala is out of the hospital.

Over the past few weeks, Malala has been leaving the hospital on home visits to spend time with her father Ziauddin, mother Toorpekai and younger brothers, Khushal and Atul.

The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said doctors believe she will continue to make good progress outside the hospital.

The schoolgirl is due to undergo cranial reconstruction surgery in late January or early February.

Dr Dave Rosser, the trust’s medical director, said: “Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery.

“Following discussions with Malala and her medical team, we decided that she would benefit from being at home with her parents and two brothers.

“She will return to the hospital as an outpatient and our therapies team will continue to work with her at home to supervise her care.”

That makes me happy.


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

The UN v FGM

Jan 4th, 2013 10:54 am | By

Michael DeDora reports one bit of good news.

In a landmark move welcomed by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), the United Nations General Assembly has adopted for the first time a resolution calling for a global end to female genital mutilation.

The measure, A/67/450 A/C.3/67/L.21, calls female genital mutilation, or FGM, “an irreparable, irreversible abuse that impacts negatively on the human rights of women and girls” and “a harmful practice that constitutes a serious threat to the health of women and girls.”

Oyyyy. Couldn’t they have just said “damages”? What is this “impacts negatively” crap? I assume people made “impact” into a verb to save time/words in the first place, but now we’re always getting “will negatively impact” when we could just have “will damage,” so clearly the laudable stab at efficiency has backfired, and clarity has been negatively impacted at the same time.

But that wasn’t the point. The point was the the UN has called for an end to FGM, and that’s good.

The measure’s approval certainly sends a strong political message to governments, as well as one of hope to millions of women and girls. However, as noted by UN Women Assistant-Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director John Hendra, it is now extremely important that the UN and its member states work to implement and support the ideas outlined in the resolution.

“This is a very important step to bringing about cultural and attitudinal change,” said Hendra. “Just as important though, is working on the ground with governments, communities and other partners to end FGM. … while efforts to criminalize FGM are vital, they need to be backed up with services for victims, engaging key influencers and supporting community-based activities to change social norms, as well as practical actions to bring perpetrators to justice.”

No faffing around with re-naming it “cutting” or “surgery,” I’m pleased to see.


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

Pakistan’s education attaché

Jan 3rd, 2013 12:17 pm | By

Now for a piece of really good news. Malala will be staying in the UK – and thus will be much much less likely to be a target again. She is able to stay because her father has been made a diplomat. Good move. Full marks to whoever did it, even if it’s Tories.

The Taliban have vowed to target her again. Her father, Ziauddin, has been appointed Pakistan’s education attaché in Birmingham, virtually guaranteeing that Ms. Yousafzai will remain in Britain. Her case has generated worldwide recognition of the struggle for women’s rights in Pakistan. In a sign of her reach, Ms. Yousafzai made the shortlist for Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2012.

It’s terrible that she’s been driven out of Pakistan, of course. It’s terrible that the girls of Pakistan are put at a distance from her. But it’s worth it.

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

To leaders of secular groups

Jan 3rd, 2013 12:09 pm | By

And another joy to read part -

Thunderf00t concludes with a call to conference organisers and leaders of secular groups:

“Seriously, those who organise conferences, get a grip. You do not have to appease the request of every PC whiner. The secular community can achieve great things, but it will never achieve anything while it has poison like this being dripped into its heart. Please forward this video to leaders of secular groups who you think need to hear this message.”

Thunderf00t, I’ll give you a straight answer. As an organiser of conferences and as chairperson of Atheist Ireland, I will oppose any attempts to ostracize the people you name, and I will also oppose any attempts to ostracize people like you who disagree with them.

I have a feeling that Thunderfoot’s plea to “forward this video to leaders of secular groups who you think need to hear this message” isn’t working out as he hoped.

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

Thunderfoot’s inflammatory video

Jan 3rd, 2013 11:48 am | By

Never enough time…

And then spending an hour walking on the beach with the dog first thing in the morning eats into the day something fierce. And yet – it’s walking on the beach first thing in the morning! And I’ve only just realized that it’s actually the best beach for the purpose on the peninsula. I tried to shake up our routine yesterday and go somewhere else for the sunset, but it wasn’t fun – too rocky, not enough beach, and too near the road. Gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but not right for dawn and sunset walks with a dog, or really even for long comfortable walks with or without a dog. This beach here is a strolly beach. Big, and strolly, and nowhere near a road.

So I’m reading Mick Nugent’s long reply to Thunderfoot. It’s a joy to read.

The part about Melody, for instance.

Thunderf00t then attacks Melody Hensley:

“Look, let me make this simple. I just got back from an experiment where I was surrounded by sane, rational, capable, able, intelligent people. And then you come back to the secular community, where you have people like Melody Hensley, the Executive Director of the Center For Inquiry in DC going creationist style ban happy on people who haven’t even mentioned her name yet, because they might say something bad about her someday.

And starting flagging campaigns against videos critical of her. Oh, and would you believe it, she labels herself a feminist. It’s just sickening to see someone from the Center For Inquiry embrace with such relish these silencing tactics which we have seen creationist use here on YouTube for years to protect their budget arguments from criticism. I mean, really an Executive Director from the Center For Inquiry running a flagging campaign. Shit, these people would give Scientology a run for their money.”

So let’s examine TF’s personal attack on Melody.

Who did she ban from where? She banned nobody from anywhere. She blocked people from following her on twitter, who were also following the Elevatorgate twitter account, which was posting tweets harassing her. That seems like a prudent and sane thing to do. She did not infringe on anybody’s right to freedom of expression.

Melody then asked her friends on Facebook to flag as ‘bullying’ a video about her, because she was tired of dealing with constant online harassment and bullying. What did this video say about her? It was titled ‘Melodramatic Melody’ and the description began:

‘Melody Hensley is executive director of CFI in DC, and has been acting like a total douchebag feminist this past week.’

Some of the content included:

“Yours truly, who had never even given a shit about this little twat until today… had she not made it known that she was doing this mass blocking on twitter, people would have gone about their business of not giving a fuck about her at all… The simple fact is she has now stirred the pot and has painted a large bull’s-eye on her ass… She doesn’t know how twitter works, but that’s understandable seeing as how twitter is a bit more complicated than a cappuccino machine… as for Melodramatic Melody, well, she’s off to stick her flag on the top of Mount Moaning Victim. Don’t worry though, it’s more of a small hill than a mountain, because we all know that feminists don’t fare well when faced with real challenges when trying to get to the top…”

This hate-filled video was published by a woman calling herself the Wooly Bumblebee. The video ends by seeking financial support for a website called a Voice for Boys, which in turn has a link to a website called A Voice for Men, which is so misogynistic a website that it reads like dark parody, and which is currently featuring Thunderf00t’s video which we are discussing here.

Flagging this ‘Melodramatic Melody’ video seems a prudent and sane thing to do. Flagging is an entirely appropriate facility put in place by YouTube to govern how YouTube oversees the privilege that it gives to people to post videos for free on its website. If you want to start your own video website without flagging facilities, you can do so. If you want to use YouTube’s video service to publish your videos, you have to abide by the rules that YouTube determine. Freedom of expression does not mean that you control the use of other people’s communication platforms.

A joy to read, I tell you.

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


Jan 2nd, 2013 4:03 pm | By

I took Cooper to Carmel beach this afternoon. When we got there I realized we had the Chuckit but no ball, because I took him to a crappy place for Chuckit yesterday and the ball went missing on the first chuck. Oh well, it’s a very doggy beach, I’ll probably find one, I told him, so we went down the stairs with the empty Chuckit.

As soon as we got to the water a guy in a family group said, “Lost the ball?” and I allowed as how we had, and did the rueful laugh thing, while Cooper danced around frantically as he always does. We went ahead north and I heard the guy’s daughter (I assume) telling him “We found a ball…” then a wave crashed as it always does.We strolled along, I looked around for an abandoned tennis ball, Cooper hopped and danced and jumped, the waves crashed, other dogs ran and danced and chased balls, then suddenly the little girl was next to me saying “Here’s a ball” and holding it out to me. Awww. So I said “Fabulous, thank you,” and chucked the ball into the ocean and Cooper raced into his paradise. The family group all laughed. The guy said they don’t know the difference, and I said we’ve donated lots of balls to the beach so it all comes out even.

Then for half an hour or so we did Cooper’s thing. It’s a great place for Chuckit because the water is so turquoise and clear but at the same time the waves are so thunderous. He loves flinging himself into them. He even seems to love having them break over his head and completely disappear him. He looks like a sock in a washing machine sometimes. Every now and then a wave breaks with a boom or even a bang – there was one bang that made me look around for the source for a second. I think those are the tubular ones – if they get rounded enough they hit with enough force to make a boom. The ones on Monterey beach do that every time.

As we were walking back to the car, looking down on the beach and Carmel Bay and Pebble Beach and over at the houses and trees, I remembered as I sometimes do that this is a prized and expensive tourist destination, and I get to come here as part of my job. Fun.

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

Bullied or cajoled

Jan 2nd, 2013 10:51 am | By

More anti-feminist rage, more pro-feminist pushback. No doubt you’re aware of Thunderfoot’s video, which (for my sins) I watched. That’s the rage. The pushback is…

Michael Nugent for instance.

Thunderf00t has published a video in which he includes me on a list of people who he claims have been “bullied or cajoled” into what he calls “a bullshit PC appeasement position” regarding feminism.

In my case he is referring to an article I wrote last August for Skepchick, without being either bullied or cajoled, as part of a series on speaking out against hate directed at women.

I’m republishing that article here, because it is still important to speak out against hate directed at women, regardless of your opinions about the internal politics of the atheist movement.

The article follows. Notice the sweetly indirect way Nugent points out that Thunderfoot lied about him and all the other men who wrote articles for Amy’s series at Skepchick. Thunderfoot said they were all bullied or cajoled, and that’s a falsehood.

Notice what the lie implies – that all men hate feminism, that all men naturally agree with Thunderfoot about feminism, that no men would have written articles for that series without being bullied or cajoled – and that feminists are manipulative bullies.

As Adam Lee put it in a comment on Nugent’s post -

The really bizarre part is how Thunderfoot and others are settling on the position that we can’t be saying this because we actually believe it, that someone must have somehow coerced or blackmailed so many prominent atheist men into speaking out against misogyny. This is black-helicopter territory, folks. I’d love to hear what leverage they think the evil feminists have over so many of us, that they can force us to make statements we don’t truly believe.

PZ for another instance.

It’s a new year, and Thunderf00t hasn’t changed a bit — he has a new video where he’s apparently ranting about how feminism is poisoning atheism, which I haven’t watched, so I can’t judge. But there are hints that it’s more of the same. It’s been picked up and praised by A Voice For Men.

Here are a few of the amusing reactions that the video elicited from that gang. Well, they would be amusing if they didn’t testify to a deep hatred of women.

Well, now I look upon these women as nothing but Clowns who have deliberately allowed themselves to brainwashed into believing stupid things like the Earth is flat or some other stupid crap. The vomit that spews from their mouths is not just stupid, it is absolutely laughable. I now sit here laughing my head off at what I read. In my own social movements in life, I laugh at the idiotic dialog of the females I come into contact with. It is unbelievable the level of childish trash that issues forth from the mouths of women whose ages range from 20 all the up to nearly 70.


I don’t care how they put it, because the simple overwhelming fact throughout the history of Mankind, is that women have NEVER been equal to men and they never will be.

Will at Skepchick for another instance.

Thunderfoot has published a video (it’s getting rave reviews from the MRA blog A Voice For Men) in which he accuses Skepchick Surly Amy of “bullying or cajoling” men into contributing to her awesome series of posts “Speaking out against hate directed at women.” Michael Nugent has a blog post up about it, noting that he was never bullied (or cajoled, which is kind of the opposite of bullying) into writing the article and then reposts the article in question. I’m not going to link to Thunderfoot’s video here, but the link is on Nugent’s post for those with the intestinal fortitude.

I have two major issues with this sort of discourse. First, using “bullying” to poison the well against people because you disagree with them is the exact opposite of rational. And for people in a community that prides itself on rationality and skeptical/critical thinking, there sure is a whole hell of a lot of this kind of nonsense going on.

The second (and more important) concern that I have about this sort of thing is that it has the effect of diminishing the experiences of people who are actually bullied. It lessens the impact of accusing actual bullies. It’s the same sort of shit that these same people complain about with the use of the word “misogynist.” They’re right about one thing—labeling every instance of sexism directed at women as misogyny does lessen the impact that that word has. So stop fucking doing it with “bully.”

Of course poisoning the well is the whole point, so they’re not going to stop.

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

Kill all the teachers

Jan 2nd, 2013 9:00 am | By

And in Pakistan, seven Pakistani teachers and health workers, six of them women, were shot to death in the Swabi district of the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

India needs rape jokes in the form of cocktails, and Pakistan needs fewer teachers and health workers and women. That’s the way to make a better world.

The attack on Tuesday, near the village of Sher Afzal Banda, was conducted by two men on a motorcycle who followed a van taking the workers home and then opened fire on it with assault rifles, the police said. The victims worked for the private Pakistani aid group Support With Working Solution, which works in the health and education sectors.

The aid group was founded in 1991 and, in conjunction with other aid groups, has focused on Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province and on South Waziristan in the tribal region, both deeply affected by poverty and militancy.

Five of the dead were young women who worked as teachers at a primary-level school the charity ran in the area, Mr. Akhtar said. The other two were health workers.

Teachers and health workers. People who work in a region deeply affected by poverty – killed by people who want more poverty and disease and ignorance and murder.

Perhaps humans were a mistake.

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

Next up: a cookie called “the torturer”

Jan 2nd, 2013 8:42 am | By

Good thinking, Bonobo bar in Bombay: selling a cocktail called “the rapist” is a brilliant idea. It’s so convivial and amusing, so jolly and sociable. Rape is such a funny joke, and it’s so hilarious to encourage people to find rape and rapists a source of humor.

Rape culture? What rape culture? Don’t be silly.


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

Where do hate crimes come from?

Jan 1st, 2013 11:47 am | By

Taslima has been writing about the Delhi rape since it happened.

She wrote about the patriarchal mindset.

About India, the land of eroticism, sexism and rapism.

She wrote about saying a woman who was brutally gangraped, tortured, mutilated and killed has “died peacefully.”

And she wrote about the fact that this kind of thing doesn’t just burst out of nowhere.

For the very first time, folks were angry. Or did it wake them up? Does wakefulness appear so easily? It is true that for the first time, thousands of men and women of all ages took to the streets demanding from their government the safety and security for the womenfolk. It has also been demanded that the perpetrators should be hanged by the neck till death. Capital punishment by hanging is not a major issue to this government – it is a rather easy, hassle-free solution. But it is a lot more difficult to take measures so that men cease to see women as sex objects, so that from a tender age, human beings learn to recognize and treat other human beings as human beings.

This is what I was saying yesterday, only to receive a barrage of stupid vicious comments shouting that I was making it all about me despite the fact that I said the precise opposite in the post.

Taslima is making the same basic point. What happened to the Delhi woman was a hate crime. Where do hate crimes come from? A culture that fosters hatred.

Married women bear various marks on their bodies to advertise their marital status. Just as lifeless photo-frames are sometimes marked with a red mark as ‘sold’, the application of the vermilion mark on the forehead and the parting of hair suffices as a veritable purchase notice for married women; for them, from the hair on the scalp to toenails are considered property of their husbands. Married men, however, are never properties of their wives. If protests against the rape of women carry on while leaving such patriarchal traditions intact, would rapes ever stop? On one hand, ninety-nine percent of Bollywood movies portray women as sex-objects, television carries the same message, newspapers splash images of barely-clad women; everywhere the women are merely bodies – smooth, soft skin; only breasts, only genitalia; their brains are not brains – women philosophers are not philosophers, scientists are not scientists, intellectuals are not intellectuals, professionals are not professionals. Once they are within reach, are men going to discuss science and philosophy, or are they going to be more inclined towards rape? I don’t think men don’t know that whatever a woman might wear, be it a short skirt or nothing, no one has the right to rape her. I think men know it well. At the same time, they also know that they are the decision makers! Men have more muscles, more brains, more courage; they can take greater risks, and they are beyond shame and fear; men are brave, fearless, powerful, stronger both physically and mentally – there is nothing they cannot do. This is what they have learnt, this is what they have been taught every moment of every day since their birth. The act of rape, to these men, is an evidence of their virility. The truth is, however patriarchy has raped women’s bodies, it has raped women’s minds even more; it has raped their vitality, their lives and liveliness, their limitless possibilities, dreams and freedoms. A physical injury often heals, an emotional injury doesn’t.

We’re allowed to say this.


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

Reading Jonathan Haidt

Jan 1st, 2013 11:03 am | By

I’m reading Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. So far I’m finding it less annoying than other stuff of his I’ve read. I think I’m seeing a flaw, though, but maybe he gets to what I think is missing later on.

Groups are useful, so cohesion is useful. Religions foster cohesion, and are an efficient way to discourage cheaters and free riders. People behave better when they think someone is watching.

Groups can do things that individuals can’t do.

Haidt thinks modern intellectual types – people like him, people like me – overvalue individuals and undervalue groups.

I suppose that’s true of me, at least up to a point. But but but

Well for one thing, modern intellectual types do a pretty good job of managing groups that can accomplish more than individuals can. Far from perfect, but pretty good. For another thing, anti-modern anti-intellectual types who love the group more than the individual can create hells on earth.

There’s an interesting bit on pp 256-7 though, about a study by the anthropologist Richard Sosis, of 200 communes founded in the US in the 19th century. Some were religious, others were secular and mostly socialist. The religious ones survived longer. Why?

He found one master variable: the number of costly sacrifices that each commune demanded from its members.

But that worked for religious ones and not secular ones. Why?

Sosis argues that rituals, laws, and other constraints work best when they are sacralized. He quotes the anthropologist Roy Rappaport: “To invest social conventions with sanctity is to hide their arbitrariness in a cloak of seeming necessity.”

Pesky secular people ask why, and refuse to do it if they don’t get a good answer. Then everything falls apart. Costly sacrifice is a good solution to the problem of cooperation without kinship, and secular people are bad at it.

Interesting. Suggestive. But…

Well, what if for instance the costly sacrifices are made by just one part of the group? Like, say – oh, just wildly at random here – women? Other races? People branded “untouchable”?

Haidt can be surprisingly bad at seeing this, or at least at mentioning it. But I’ve read only a little so far (I jumped ahead to 256), so maybe in this book he does better.

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

Fan Shell Beach

Dec 31st, 2012 4:34 pm | By

So Cooper and I went for the walk at Asilomar and  (then around to Pacific Grove, but the PG library is closed on Mondays and then closed tomorrow because New Year, so I went to Carmel and its library. We took 17 Mile Drive instead of 68 and 1, and we stopped at Fan Shell Beach so that Cooper could hurl himself into the surf. The tide was coming in and I managed to get caught by a high wave and got soaked from the knees down – jeans, socks and shoes. Squelch squelch squelch down Dolores Street to Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Stree, squelch squelch squelch up the steps and into the libe. I got four appetizing books though.

It’s 4:30. The sun sets a little after 5. (Which is so late! In Seattle it sets at 4:15.) Nearly time to leave for the sunset walk to the beach.

Yes travelogue. Usually I’ve got nothin! A month of rain and thick dark clouds. When I go somewhere, I talk about it.

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

Facing the Pacific

Dec 31st, 2012 11:21 am | By

I forgot to mention that I’m in California. Monterey Peninsula. I got here Saturday.

I thought I was going to take Cooper out for a walk along the coast at Asilomar at about ten this morning, but here I still am. Ok after lunch then.

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