Monday, October 20, 2014

Scientology At The Airport

   Scientology's got to be sciencey, right? I's got both 'science' and 'ology' in it...
   Here's some of the top cultists ambushing a "suppressive person" at the airport.
   And here's some even cultier cultists freaking out at an anti-Scientology German government official, also at the airport.
   I was worried that they might use the Force or whatever to make these people's brains explode...but fortunately they didn't. They just mostly used their creepiness powers to...act totally freaking creepy.

(via Reddit)

[And another, even loonier, Scientology freak-out...though not at the airport this time :(  ]

BS Watch: "The Problem With 'Deaf Person Hears For The First Time' Videos

   That's some high-octane BS right there.
   The "Deaf"-with-a-capital-'D' community is known for saying some pretty nutty stuff, and a fair bit of it is on display here. (This is, in fact, far from the craziest thing I've seen written on the subject.) Basically none of the major points in this are any good at all. The only point of any value anywhere in the vicinity would go something like this: videos of people gaining their hearing are likely to make deaf people who will never hear feel even worse. And that does, indeed, suck. It really sucks. It really, really sucks. But that's not a sufficiently good reason for people not to make such videos, nor for others not to enjoy these genuinely moving moments. And that point--the only real point in the vicinity--is never made in this piece.
   It's pretty hard to believe nonsense like this gets posted on the Atlantic site.

Drum On "Yes Means Yes" (And Some Subsequent Reflections)

   This is reasonable.
   Personally, I'm unsure about the law, too...
   But it's clear that it is not accurately described by the phrase "'Yes' Means 'Yes'." A more accurate descriptive phrase would be: "No 'Yes' Means 'No.'" I have no Earthly idea why anyone would associate the phrase "'Yes' Means 'Yes" with this law. (Though I have just discovered that 'yes' is one of those words that starts looking wrong if you write it over and over...) Perhaps this is some sneaky attempt to make the law sound "sex positive"--something the law, whatever its other virtues might be, definitely is not...  But I don't know.
   I'm very much interested in anything that will minimize rape and sexual assault, but I'm wary of this law. For one thing, I don't see why there should be special laws about sex at college. For another, I suspect that this legislation has largely been pushed by the neo-PC/SJWs--and that's a decidedly irrational and illiberal bunch. So I worry that there are irrational implications that the rest of us haven't yet noticed. I do think the general admonition to make sure everybody's consenting and having a good time is Very Good Advice Indeed...  But there's just something weird about the state reaching down into the bedroom and demanding that a new contract be approved at every "phase" (as if there really were such things) of sex. Not obviously crazy...but not something we should be unreservedly happy about, either.
   OTOH there's one thing that really does incline me toward the law. There was a massive Reddit thread a few years back in which the OP asked sexual assailants to explain themselves. This is one of the kinds of things that makes Reddit really interesting. There were, of course, a couple of real psychopaths responding...but, by far, the most common kind of response was from guys had been accused of sexual assault and were astonished by the accusation, or who had not been accused, but worried retrospectively that they had unwittingly committed some kind of quasi-assault. There were a striking number of respondents who said that the woman had given them no clear sign that she was not interested. I've also seen accounts by female college students in which they report being too embarrassed or afraid (though: in the absence of any reason to fear violence) or uncomfortable to speak up and say that they don't want sex. If these stories are true, then that is actually the best reason I know of for the law. Women who fail to speak up are violating their obligations to themselves and their partners. If they fail to make it clear that they do not want sex for some bad reason (such as those listed above), then they are the ones at fault. Now...this law shifts their responsibility over onto the guy...and that isn't right. It isn't fair, it infantilizes women, and it's the kind of lunacy we have come to expect from the neo-PC/SJWs...however, it seems to beat the alternative of one person enduring unwanted sex and the other person doing something that resembles (but is not) sexual assault. For ordinary cases of person A changing her mind mid-sex, the moral obligation is on her to make that clear. It is not B's obligation to continually prompt A to make her desires known. And the view that it is B's responsibility is associated with current extreme lefty fads that have it, basically, that women have no responsibility for anything in this vicinity, and men have all of it. (In fact, they are even responsible for things they haven't done...but I digress...) And yet...though unfair, it might be better for males overall in that it gives them an extra incentive to make sure that they aren't participating in sex that the other party doesn't want. I'm not sure it's worth the price--because it sounds as if the law will deem a male guilty of rape if the female changes her mind but fails to indicate that. And that is clearly not rape. So: we can expect at least some non-rapists to be classified as rapists by this law. And that is obviously bad.
   On the other other hand, the idea is probably to make a law that covers both ordinary cases and cases in which the woman is too intoxicated. In a case in which A is too intoxicated to meaningfully consent or withhold consent, then the relevant responsibility does fall to B...though obvious problems arise if, as is usually the case, B is also too intoxicated...  Some are concerned that only the male will be declared to be a rapist under such conditions...and that, too, is clearly wrong.
   Yet, this law might still be worth trying.

GamerGate, Pro- and Anti-

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Borderism" is "Problematic"

   Forgot to express my annoyance at the following:
   The Washington Post saw fit to publish some SJW/neo-PC nonsense.
   I wish it were feasible to admit everyone who wants to come to the U.S.. In particular, I wish we could admit every last political refugee on the planet. And then there are the economic refugees...
   And, of course, there is something philosophically puzzling about refusing people admission to your country when that means that they will be denied rights that you acknowledge as universal human rights.
   However...for rather obvious practical reasons, we cannot admit everyone who wants to come to the U.S. We'd almost immediately become radically overpopulated, and probably end up on  a trajectory toward third-world status.
   It's not an option, and it's obviously not an option.
   Also, of course, such policies worsen world overpopulation because less-populous countries act as safety valves, bleeding off excess population from countries with higher populations. But that's a rather different kind of problem.
   At any rate, there's nothing wrong with thinking hard about the situation...but that "borderism" op-ed is mindless crap. The lefty-left seems to think that simply slapping "-ism" (or "-phobia") on the end of words constitutes some kind of argument. And liberals have a bad habit of falling for that nonsense. I doubt that they'll fall for this one, but given the recent rise of the neo-PCs, who knows? There does seem to be some tendency among many contemporary liberals to frown on the enforcement of immigration policies. And who can be happy about chasing down and kicking out people who are simply looking for a better life?
   (And, of course, the red herring of Loving v. VA has no place in this conversation at all. Another tactic of the lefty-left: pretend that anyone who disagrees with you is a racist. Jebus, these people...)
  Anyway. There are real questions in this vicinity, but the mindless nonsense in this op-ed isn't anything like a serious answer to any of them.
   [Oh, and don't forget...everything is "problematic"! The paleo-PCs loved "offensive", but the neo-PCs are dedicated to "problematic"...thus having ruined another perfectly good word for me...]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Imagine a GOP-Controlled Senate...

...then give to the DSCC

The Virus You Should Really Be Worrying About

Ruth Marcus is right: gitcher damn flu shot.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jacob Zuma Wants Corruption Charges Dropped Because Corruption Is A "Western Paradigm"

Yeah you can't make this shit up.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Do Clines Cluster?

Some evidence for a 'yes'.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Killer Whale...

The Mystic On Islamic Doctrine

   I think this, posted in comments, is well worth a read.
   I've been really frustrated over the years by how hard it is to get the straight dope on Islam (that is: the actual doctrine). Of course from the right we get the view that Islam is monstrous abomination. (Though we also get that view from people with very direct experience of it...but that leads us down a different path...) Most academicians are on the left, and they tend to be inclined to make excuses for non-Western-ish cultures and religions. So it's pretty hard to find someone. Anyway, I trust the Mystic's objectivity, so I'm really happy to see this post.
   It's also good news with respect to the actual content, i.e. the assessment of the details of Islamic doctrine. I don't pretend this is the last word in anything, but it seems to me to be valuable information, and to move the ball down-field a bit.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sam Harris: The End Of Liberalism?

   A rabid Anonymous left a link to this in comments. It was apparently supposed to be proof that Harris is a nut...but...didn't work...
   Well...the guy is weak when he discusses philosophy, but I think he sometimes says plausible things about other stuff. I'm not a fan of the New Pop Atheists in general, but there's no reason to worry about such summary judgments overmuch.
   This op-ed is interesting. I've had similar worries myself, and expressed them here. Harris claims to have fair knowledge of the relevant empirical questions about Islam. I don't claim any such knowledge. But there are some things we seem to be able to say independently of that knowledge:
For example:
1. It's reasonable to have some prima facie concerns that Islam may be notably illiberal.
2. Empirical evidence (in particular, survey data) is relevant to confirming and disconfirming such concerns.
3. Liberals (God bless 'em) are extremely hesitant to criticize Islam (or anyone else's religion, culture, etc. for that matter)
4. If we did, hypothetically, face a threat from a particularly illiberal religion or culture, liberals would be bad at recognizing this.
   One way to put the concern goes like this: liberals have a tendency to shout down concerns such as those expressed above rather than answering them objectively and dispassionately. But if the relevant propositions are false, one would expect that the falsifying evidence would simply be produced. Often, however, outrage is proffered instead of evidence.
  Liberals often presume that it is wrong to make negative judgments about other religions and other cultures, and assume that anyone who would do so is doing so out of racism, ethnocentrism, or some similar type of prejudice. (Note: they typically do not think that it is wrong to make positive judgments about other religions and cultures...)
   Unsurprisingly, liberals are approximately as bad at recognizing the failures of liberalism as conservatives are at recognizing the failures of conservatism.
   But: the point is that Harris's conclusions all seem to be in order so long as his premises are true. If there really is a strong tendency among Muslims to be illiberal, then that is a cause for concern--and should be a cause for concern among liberals. (I didn't understand the stuff about 9/11 truthers, though...I never saw that as a particularly liberal phenomenon...)
   The question, then is: are his premises true?
   I think it's often a good policy to settle questions like this before looking at the empirical evidence.  Afterward, it's easier to make excuses.
   Incidentally, the rabid Anonymous pointed specifically to Harris's alarming line:
The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.
It was probably injudicious of him to include that line, but I respect him for not concealing the fact that he believes it. The Anonymous presumably wanted this to show that Harris is sympathetic to F
fascists. But that is not what Harris intends nor says. Immediately after this line he writes:
To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.
That is, he is not praising European fascists, but, rather, saying that they happen to be right about this one issue. The point seems to be something like: liberals have become so confused about this point that even the fascists are righter than they are...  Granted, a line like that should always send us to red alert...but in this case there's nothing nefarious afoot. The Nazis were environmentalists. That doesn't make environmentalists Nazis.
   At any rate, it's worth looking at this question with a clear eye. I don't know what the answer is, but I have little time for those who refuse to ask the questions, nor for those who try to answer them with wishful thinking.

What Are Bill Mahr (and Sam Harris) and Ben Affleck (and Nicholas Kristoff and Michael Steele) Disagreeing About?

So here's a pop-culture dust-up about Islam on Bill Mahr's Show, and a response by Reza Aslan.
Seems to me that basically everyone involved here has (or at least may have, depending on some facts I don't know) good points.
I think Mahr and Harris are right, and liberals are overly hesitant to criticize Islam. This is just an instance of their general hesitance to criticize other countries and cultures, and is almost certainly in part a consequence of liberalism's on-going tryst with various versions of "relativism" (note: a term and a concept that barely make any sense...but the term conveys a general sense of the idea, and it's the term we're familiar with...)
OTOH, the other guys make some decent points, Aslan in particular. Steele is admirably clear and calm at a point in the discussion at which it is threatening to go off the rails.
What's really at issue here? Both sides cheat by emphasizing uninteresting versions of the question at various points, though on one hearing it sounded like Mahr and Harris cheated less on that point. Affleck and co. often slide fairly close to simply arguing that not all Muslims are illiberal, which no one doubts. Mahr and Harris are better at sticking to claims about majorities/pluralities/large minorities of Muslims.
Seems to me that there are two descriptive questions here and a prudential one:
Do Muslims tend to be more illiberal and/or violent than, say, Christians?
Are the doctrines of Islam more illiberal and/or violent than, say, those of Christianity?
Even if the answer to one or both of those questions is affirmative, should we continue to pretend that they are in the negative, in the hopes of achieving practical ends?
Aslan seems to be arguing that there is no tendency whatsoever of Muslims to be illiberal and/or violent, and his general strategy seems sound: if Islam is sometimes illiberal and sometimes not depending on the country it's practiced in, then that seems to count against the relevant accusations, and for the claim that it is the political system of the country that is the controlling factor here. OTOH--and in a way I find this point most interesting--he commits a massive error when he falsely claims that religions cannot be illiberal or violent, but only people can be. That's a common view, but it's completely wrong. Ideas matter, and a religion that has but one tenet which is "kill everybody" is doctrinally more violent than a religion that has only the tenet "Don't kill anybody." It might be true that actual doctrines have little effect on action...but I rather doubt that. The interviewer tries to press Aslan on this point, but he seems to dodge it. He might just be frustrated at that point, but I can't tell.